Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top Ten Dream Songwriting Partners

Greetings Pups,

Over the past couple of months, I've been referring a bit to my life as a songwriter. I've spoken of my insecurities, my longings for collaboration and my attempt to take part in such collaborations. Well, in the spirit of that subject, I thought I'd share a list of people with whom I would most love to write some songs. I guess. At least, for now.

Okay, here's the thing about this list. It is certainly one that will be written in pencil as opposed to ink. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I mean, I could probably do a Top One Hundred list of songwriters with whom I want to work, easily. Like I said, I thirst for collaboration, so much so that I would be pretty open to working with anyone who could help me, or give me a great experience in the creative process. My opinions or feelings about these people may change, or they may do or say something to get them ejected (that has happened to some in the past). For now, though, these ten are at the top of the heap, and many of these names may sound familiar in the context of my blog, since I have mentioned many of them before.

Oh, and one more thing. I know I'm using the word "dream", but I do have limitations. Namely, no dead people. Would I love to write with the likes of John Lennon, Jeff Buckley or all THREE of the Bee Gees? Sure, I would, and perhaps they will get their own list one day. But I'm going to throw some realism and hope, even, into this particular group. I mean, the best dreams are ones that really do have the possibility of coming true, no matter how out of reach they seem. So these are a bunch of talented songwriters who make me say, "Hey, you never know what could happen!"

#10. Amy Grant - I have made it quite clear several times that Amy Grant was the first musical artist that I truly fell in love with as a child. She was a huge inspiration to me as I grew up in many aspects of my life. Now I did place her at only number ten, since, as writers, we do differ a lot when it comes to style and, sometimes, subject matter. I could seriously make her more edgy, if she wanted that. Still, I do love her work, and no matter who comes and goes on this list, she will permanently have a place here.

#9. Jonathan Coulton - Even though I can come up with some decent melodies for my songs, I do need someone to take it and give it a really good arrangement. Well, if there is one person who can do such a thing, it is Jonathan Coulton. Not only does this guy have a wonderful voice and style and knows how to write catchy and clever tunes, he is great with putting it all together. And it's all good to a theft-worthy degree. Yep. Because people have literally stolen his work. People who are pseudo-creative hacks who like to pretend they are innovative and that they truly care about giving artists credit for what they do. Not me, though. If we were to make a song together, I would totally tell everyone that his brilliance was a part of it.

#8. Christian Kane - I often wonder if actors are anything like the characters they portray. For instance, I know that Elliot Spencer, the character that Christian Kane played on Leverage, is good at music, cooking and beating people up. Well, I don't know if Christian can cook, but I have high hopes. I know he can beat people up, because he pretty much always does his own stunts. And music? I know for certain that he excels at that. I did, after all, give his album, The House Rules, a very positive review. So, if you put all these things together, I could have a guy who could write a song with me, punch someone who gives me a hard time, if necessary, and then make me dinner. For what more could a girl ask. Seriously, though, I think that it would be fantastic to write with someone as talented and fun as Christian Kane. And I don't really think he goes around punching people all the time. Maybe.

#7. Jimmy Wayne - Here's someone else whose album got a great review from me. One of the reasons why I liked it so much was the way that Jimmy exposed a lot of things about his personal life, mostly his past, in so much of the music. If there is one thing that bothers me, it is artists who just do not have the courage or need or even want to be heartbreakingly honest. I'm not saying it has to be done to the point of nausea, which I've seen happen, but it has to be done at some point. And it has to be done enough for people to see who we really are, so what we create will be enough for them. This is something I try to do, and obviously, I think Jimmy has also done it beautifully in his own work. It makes me believe that I wouldn't feel so insecure about sharing all the personal things in my own work with him.

#6. Fiona Apple - I could be wrong, but I think I heard Fiona say in an interview that she doesn't write songs constantly. She writes when she has something she wants to write about. I think some people could take a lesson from that, not that there's anything wrong with being a compulsive writer (guilty!). Do I wish that she wrote so much that she had a new album out every year or so full of her unique and stunning material? Yes, I do. But things like that cannot be forced. And why would we want it to be? Much like my beloved Daniel Day-Lewis who gives us a movie maybe once every couple of years, but always having it be excellent work, Fiona seems to create great things when they are ready to be created, and then she shares them with us. It may not be as often as her fans want, but I choose quality over quantity. I just hope that our paths cross when she is in a ready-to-write mode.

#5. Glen Hansard - I'm sure I would never refer to myself as a "fangirl" on anything, but if I ever come close, this would be the time. You may recall my love of a movie entitled Once, which is the reason for all this. If you have not seen that film, it is about two strangers, a guy and a girl, who meet one day and then start writing songs together, and said guy was portrayed by Glen Hansard. Yeah, believe it or not, that scenario is fairly high on my fantasy list. So, seeing this film always sparks that in me, which in turn led me to thinking how amazing it would be to meet this specific guy on the street and start writing with him. To actually be the girl (no offense, Marketa!) Initially, that would be kind of "fangirl"-ish, but I have had the pleasure of listening to more of his music and seeing some live performances. The passion this man has for his art is like nothing I've ever seen, and, frankly, working with someone who is so intense and gifted would be phenomenal.

#4. Stevie Nicks - If memory serves, I believe I have done three individual posts on Stevie Nicks. Yes. I am a fan. I guess that makes this choice pretty obvious. Or maybe not. Who knows? Funny thing, though, it was seeing Stevie's In Your Dreams documentary that gave me a good idea of what I would want an album making experience to be. But that aside, I have always had such massive admiration for Stevie as a writer, despite the occasional faux pas, which we aren't going to discuss now. Again, she is someone who is unafraid to tell the stories of her life, the good and the bad, through her songs. I have already learned so much from her, and I don't doubt I can learn more.

#3. Nina Gordon - If there is anyone of whom I am speaking today that I really want this list to reach, it is Nina Gordon. First, because she has placed quite high on this list, and second, because I have no idea where she is. I may or may not have mentioned this when I reviewed both of her albums, but she really hasn't been heard from in about seven years. Not to say she fell off the face of the Earth or anything. I mean, she did have a baby in, I think, 2007, and may have wanted to take some time off to be a mommy. I respect that. But as far as being in the public eye, she hasn't been. At all. Again, if she has chosen to retire from making albums and being famous, I do respect that as well. Still, I love her work a lot, and it is very much the kind of music I would want to make. So, here's hoping she makes some kind of comeback, and that maybe I can give her a hand with that.

#2. Gotye - That's right. Kind of a new guy on the list. And before you go accusing me of trying to be trendy by putting someone on here that is so recently and currently successful, I am not doing that. If I wanted to be trendy, I would be talking about One Direction or the "Call Me Maybe" girl. And THAT will not be happening. Look, I can admit that I found out about Gotye (Or Wouter "Wally" De Backer as he is known to his friends) the same way that everyone else did. I heard the song "Somebody That I Used To Know", and I liked it. Then, I heard some of his other stuff, and I liked that. But what really made me become incredibly drawn into him was a couple of short but effective documentaries I found on the You Tube. One was about how he made his album, Making Mirrors, and the other focused on the making of one specific song, "Eyes Wide Open". I was utterly floored at how creative and innovative this man is in his process of making music. I literally felt like a little kid watching a grown up do something and being so fascinated that I just wanted to be a part of it any way I could. Now I don't want to go into too much detail, since I am planning to review that album soon, but it's been awhile since someone got me this excited about being creative. And that easily gave him this spot on the list.

#1. John Rzeznik - So, you know how I just said that I am not into being trendy? Well, that is true, but sometimes I am so into not being trendy that I nearly miss out on good things that I think won't be good because everyone else thinks they're good. Yeah. Case in point, The Goo Goo Dolls. Back in the nineties, when that band got huge, I really did not get into them so quickly. I wasn't a fan of "Name" at first, nor was I a fan of "Iris", which ironically ended up making it onto my Top Ten list of movie songs. It may have had to do with overkill, but eventually, I came around. And what got me to do that? Enter Behind the Music. I was going through some life difficulties, and one day, I sat down to watch television, and their episode was on. I listened as band member John Rzeznik spoke of his own troubles and depression, leading to a bout of writer's block, which he described as doing tons of writing, but just thinking everything sucked. I have dealt with those same issues, and I certainly was at the time. And, believe me, it is hard when you suddenly think that you are no longer good at the one thing you always thought you were good at. Well, from that moment on, I became a great admirer of his and his band, and I have wanted to write with him ever since. Ever since I was nineteen years old. That is a long time. Still waiting, but, of course, still hoping.

So there you have it. As I mentioned, this list is subject to change at any time, especially if anyone on it decides to do something to annoy me or what have you. Also, should I get any comments on this post, they will probably consist of people asking "How could you forget about (insert name of legendary songwriter here)?" And I understand that. Like I said, this could have easily been a Top One Hundred list. I could have filled it, no problem. But I must have self-control. Thus, these are the ones who are my current top ten. Still, I would love to work with so many people. May I one day be blessed to do so.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How Duck Dynasty is Saving Television

Greetings Pups,

So...television. It's kind of not that great these days. Maybe it's just me, but I have a very hard time finding a lot of really good shows. The amount of bad quality one can find is overwhelming, and you can take my use of the word 'quality' any way you want, since I am including both how shows are produced as well as content. I mean, does anyone even care anymore? And I think a lot of people put tons of blame on reality television, such as it is. Not to say that I disagree completely on that one. However, a miracle has sprung up from that pile of reality...whatever, making me believe that there may be some hope for television after all. I am, of course, speaking of the phenomenon known as Duck Dynasty. If you don't know what that is, first of all, welcome to our planet, and second, let me tell you about it.

Duck Dynasty is all about the Robertson family who run Duck Commander, a company that makes duck calls and other hunting whatnots. And it is truly all about the family, which is where all the entertainment comes in. The Robertsons are a fun-loving, hardworking, wholesome bunch, and I enjoy them heartily. Wait. Did I say fun-loving? I should also add beard-loving to that, since pretty much all the guys have beards, hardcore. They're kind of known for them. And all the wives put up with them. God bless.

Seriously, I think whomever was the first person to refer to real people as being "characters" may have been talking about this family. Oh, they are characters, alright. And yet, somehow, very not fake. As matter of fact, it's about the only reality show of which I can think where I don't have to put the word reality in quotations. I have never seen people be themselves so much ever, and that is what everyone loves about them. They are just who they are. And who are they? Well, let's look at the family tree. And this may take some time, because they have a big family. Not Osmond style or anything, but close.

The patriarch is Phil Robertson, a former college football player who created the first Duck Commander duck call about 40 years ago. He is married to the lovely Miss Kay, who might be the most wonderfully mama-like woman I've ever come across. I kid you not. You will, at some point, want to give her a hug. I do, every time I see her.

The loving couple, Phil and Kay, were eventually joined by four sons. First, there's Willie, who is the current CEO of Duck Commander and also something of a narrator for the show. He is the boss, through and through, which is good, because every business needs one of those. Next is Jase, who is usually seen tuning the duck calls or leading the charge to torment Willie. I kid. Sort of. See, Jase is more laid back, in contrast to Willie, but he tries hard to get his little brother boss to loosen up, succeeding occasionally. Then, there's Jep, the baby of the family. I hear he films and edits all the Robertson hunting DVDs, so I suppose we can call him the artistic one. Or the tech guy, whatever you like. And being the baby boy, he is, of course, Miss Kay's favorite. Not to worry, though, they don't tease him too much about that. And finally, we have the oldest son, Alan. Now he actually left the family business to become a pastor and hasn't been a part of the show. But, now that season four has arrived, he has decided to join in. This may be difficult since he is the black sheep of the family. By that, I mean, he has no beard. Not even a little bit. I often wonder if that may change.

Now the Robertson brothers are pretty different when it comes to their personalities and other things, but they do find common ground in one area. They all have superior taste in women. Enter the Robertson wives; Korie, Missy, Jessica and Lisa. These ladies are drop-dead gorgeous, and that's not even factoring in how beautiful they are on the inside. The Robertson boys were certainly blessed to find such amazing women, even if they are 'city girls'. Yeah, that comes up quite a bit and has made for some interesting incidents. But it also shows that, when you love someone the way these husbands and wives love each other, nothing can stand in the way.

And from these blessed unions have come several beautiful children, namely Sadie, John Luke, Will, Bella, Rebecca, Reed, Cole, Mia, Lily, Merritt, Priscilla, River, Anna and Alex. And take a breath. I think I got them all mentioned there, and thank you, A&E, for the family tree diagram. Clearly, from what I have seen, these kids are being raised phenomenally. Do they live in the world of 'kids will be kids' and, even worse, 'teenagers will be teenagers'? Sure they do, but they are still such respectful, upright, well-behaved and just plain good, young people. It literally makes my heart sing to know that this is our future. So I guess it pays to be an attentive and loving parent that teaches their kids right from wrong. Who knew?

Besides the family, we've got some other fun folks. Like Duck Commander employees, John Godwin, who has worked there for over a decade and Justin Martin, who is also working on his master's degree. That's a good thing, because it led to the escaped lizard episode. Just trust me. And, of course, there's Mountain Man, whose real name I don't know. I don't think anyone does actually. And Mountain Man talks very, very slowly. That makes him awesome. All these guys are awesome, as a matter of fact.

Now I feel like I'm forgetting someone. Who could it be? Oh, right! The best thing about this entire series - Uncle Si Robertson. Where do I begin? Honestly, I think the word that bests describes him is indescribable. There are just too many words and not enough. He kind of reminds me of all those fun, eccentric older people who are so interesting because they've lived these amazingly full lives. And Si's not shy about telling us all of his life experiences. We know he was in Vietnam,that's for sure, and it turns out that he possesses skills that sometimes even his own family is not aware of. I refer you to the time he sewed an apron from scratch, because the women couldn't do it. And it was really nice! No kidding, if they ever have an apron sewing challenge on Project Runway, he should totally be the guest judge. Just sitting right there with his sweet tea, next to Tim Gunn. Wow, I REALLY want this to happen now. But Uncle Si is just so much fun. I dare you to witness this man and not have a smile on your face. Oh, and I heard that Si's wife, Christine, may be showing up this season as well. Here's hoping.

So besides all the talk about how entertaining and fun this show is, let's get to what I find most appealing and the thing that makes me love and admire these people above all other reasons. The Robertson family members, one and all, are born-again Christians. Now, technically, these people are celebrities, and my usual response to celebrities claiming to be Christians is to say, "I doubt it, but maybe." I just rarely see them follow through with any Christ-like behavior. But with this family, I have never once doubted their faith. Not that they've had to do so, but they have proven it to the world time and again. And they haven't been free from some bouts of spiritual warfare. I mean, when the show first starting airing, the producers were adding in swear beeps, as if they were swearing. They don't swear, and Papa Phil asked them why they had to do that when you can literally turn on any other show and get plenty of profanity. Needless to say, the beep stopped there. And, then, there was the infamous 'the way they pray' issue. See, every episode ends with the family gathered around the dinner table to eat, and, of course, they say a prayer beforehand. And they pray in the name of Jesus, as you tend to do when you're a Christian. Well, again, the producers were editing out the mentions of Jesus. I guess they thought they might offend someone. Seriously? This is who these people are. If the producers didn't want that, then why did they give them a show? And I can't even talk about the criticisms they've gotten because they hunt for their food. I can't talk about it, because those criticisms are downright ridiculous. Still, the Robertsons, and the Lord, are continually winning all these battles.

Look, I can understand that not everyone is going to be into this show. To be perfectly honest, even I wasn't into the show at first. But that's just because my entire family loved it, and I thought if they loved it, it couldn't be that great. See, we agree on pretty much nothing when it comes to television. I'm happy to say, though, that I gave it a chance, and it is that great. In the vast ocean of all the junk on TV, this show is about the most refreshing thing I've ever seen. How wonderful to get to witness the lives of this Godly, loving, diligent family, not to mention getting to see how God is faithful to bless His children for keeping their faith strong. As a Christian myself, I look to these people for inspiration in my own life. I see, through them, that working hard and being steadfast in my commitment to God will help me to achieve my own dreams as a writer. And, therefore, I consider this family one of the greatest blessings to me, as well as one to millions of other people.

And that is how Duck Dynasty is saving television. May God continue to bless them so that they may continue to do so.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tuesday Night Music Club / Sheryl Crow - Album Review

Greetings Pups,

I know I've mentioned this before, but it may bear repeating before I begin. I do not hate anybody, okay? As much as I want to do it, I just don't. It's, legit, one of the hardest things about being a Christian. However, there are people (many) who have fallen out of favor with me. These are people who I once really enjoyed, but, due to things they've done or said, I enjoy them not so much anymore. And one of these is Sheryl Crow.

Boy, did I love Sheryl Crow and her music! Seriously, I was a huge fan. I loved her songs, the way she sang, and I even went so far as to say I wanted to write with her one day, because I thought she was a person with whom I would feel most comfortable sharing my ideas. Yeah, I think I mentioned before how insecure I tend to be as a songwriter. Anyway, she was someone I almost wanted to emulate as a writer, for a long time, too. I can't even tell you how many times I watched her Behind the Music episode. Ballpark figure? A lot of times. Then, something happened. I honestly can't remember exactly what it was that made me change my feelings about her. I will, however, guess that it happened during an election year. Those times usually make me stop enjoying certain celebrities. Whatever it was, though, I just don't feel the same way about her. Still, love her with the love of the Lord, as I must do, but from a long distance.

Anyway, I thought I might go back to a simpler, friendlier time when I could just sit back and get a kick out of the music. And that brings me to today's review of Sheryl Crow's first album, Tuesday Night Music Club.

Despite the fact that this is her debut album, Sheryl Crow actually had a long musical career prior to its release. She was a music teacher, did jingles, sang backup for a ton of people, most infamously, Michael Jackson, had other people record her songs and even had the obligatory scrapped first attempt at an album. Then, Sheryl got together with a bunch of songwriter/musicians (namely Kevin Gilbert, David Baerwald, David Ricketts, Bill Bottrell, Brian MacLeod and Dan Schwartz) and they ultimately named themselves the Tuesday Music Club, which led to the title of this album and the album itself. Even though, Sheryl got most of the credit. I guess this is kind of like what happens when a band is all guys and a girl leader singer.

Anyway, from what I've heard, album sales were initially kind of ... meh, as can often happen with a debut. But, then, the third single was released, and things really took off. That single was, of course, "All I Wanna Do". Now, apparently, this song wasn't exactly considered a stand out, barely making the album at all. Ironic, isn't it? However, if I'm being honest, I have to say that this is definitely not a favorite of mine. I guess I just consider this a party/drinking song which is not my cup of tea, especially knowing that Sheryl Crow can do much better. But, obviously, this one led to the rest, which is ultimately a good thing.

One of the things I like about this album is how it mixes a few genres together and does it quite well. Therefore, you never really know what to expect, but not in a way that makes anything feel unnatural or out of place. I really like the first track, "Run, Baby, Run". It was actually the first official single released, but it didn't do well. I can understand that, since it feels like an acquired taste type of song. With the fairly slow tempo and all, it also seems like an unusual pick for the opening track, but I personally enjoy this one, particularly the lyrics.

The other big single from this album was "Strong Enough", reaching #5. I love how stripped down this song is, both lyrically and musically, what with the acoustic sound of it. It's pretty straight forward on both counts, but there is something about it that has an emotional effect on the listener. Then, there's "Can't Cry Anymore", which was a minor hit. It has its moments, but I personally don't listen to that one very often. Apologies.

Now, I know a lot of people would consider "All I Wanna Do" the fun song of the bunch, but, frankly, I get a huge kick out of "The Na-Na Song". I really have no idea where this thing must have come from, but it is quite entertaining. The music is good, but the lyrics are crazy-fun. There's just so much clever wordplay, and you never know what's coming next from phrase to phrase. It also helps to show the range of the album, considering it lies in stark contrast to the closing track, "I Shall Believe". Now that one could certainly not be called fun, but it is very good. It always seemed to me to be a song of survival, and since Sheryl, herself, went through a bout with depression, I may be right about that. And it is also quite a good way to close the album.

And so I will now speak on my favorite song here, "Leaving Las Vegas". I'm not sure what it is about this one that makes it number one for me, but it is. I do like Vegas, and I like that this is kind of a modern day story song. It does seem to be about a character, which is interesting since it was inspired by a book, in a way. But we won't discuss that considering there was a bit of controversy surrounding that incident, which is most likely still sensitive to those involved. So moving on. As much as I like the lyrics, I also enjoy the performance that Sheryl gives here vocally. I'd even say that it's her best one ever, the way that it's raw and a bit rushed, but in a good way, like she's trying to keep up with the music so she can say every last thing she wants to say. All in all, thumbs up.

So, there you have it. Despite my aforementioned issues with Ms. Crow, I can't be dishonest. Tuesday Night Music Club is a very good album. I assume that most people have already heard it or already own it, but if not, I recommend you giving it a listen.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, August 19, 2013

So NOW You're Grown Up?

Greetings Pups,

It's been a while since I've had to think about this, but I seem to recall the act of growing up as something that can be tricky to figure out. I think we all have our own definition of what exactly it means to be grown up. Still, there have to be a few things on which we can all agree should not be a part of the journey into adulthood. One of those things just came to my attention recently.

Now I don't really listen much to the radio anymore. I just find that there isn't much on there these days that I would find particularly interesting. But I know enough to comment on some of it. I also notice when similar acts do similar things. For example, think about these two songs; "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus and "Come and Get It" by Selena Gomez. These two young women seem to be using these songs to show off how grown up they are now, how they are no longer the Disney princesses that they once were. Whatever.

Look, I really have no beef with Selena Gomez. I don't know if I'd call myself a fan exactly, but I've always thought she was a nice, sweet girl, who now appears to be, slowly but surely, transitioning into adulthood without any crazy incidents. So far, so good, anyway. Miley, on the other hand, not so much. Over the past few years, she seems to be making some decisions that may not be good for her now or in the future. Now, I've been informed that her new song contains straight up references to cocaine and ecstasy. And not "Hey, these things are bad" references. So, is this how we define being an adult these days? My word, times have changed.

I, personally, came into my adulthood around the same time as the likes of Britney and Christina. I was moving out of my teens and into my twenties when Britney did the whole "I'm a Slave 4 You" thing and Christina made her Stripped album. The point I'm trying to make here is that, in my day, if a girl wanted to prove herself to be a grown woman, she had to go whore(ish), to varying degrees depending on to whom you might be referring. It was so sad for me, because I always thought that moving from childhood into adulthood would consist of my becoming wiser, more thoughtful and intelligent, more responsible. That's for what I was preparing. But no. According to those gals, I was expected to celebrate my 18th birthday by filling out an application at a strip club. It also bugged me when they tried to justify it. Like Christina saying that her album was her being "emotionally stripped" because she was talking all about the troubles of her past. I would buy that if I bought any of the stories she tells about her past, but I kind of don't. Plus, when you're also topless on the album's cover and half-naked in the first video, you might not want to act so surprised at peoples' reactions. But moving on.

Look, I know that many of you out there may call me a prude for feeling this way. That's fine. I'm not one of those, but you can think it. The thing is that I know there is a vast landscape of womanhood between nun and prostitute, and I don't think any woman has to be all one or all the other. There is really no need to go to an extreme where this is concerned.

But back to my original point of this post. As troubling as it was for me and those who grew up in my time, it seems to be much worse for girls now. Not only does one have to be kinda skanky to get her "Now I'm a Woman" card, but, apparently, she also has to be on drugs. Maybe that was just added to the song for shock value, but, even so, why? And, frankly, it's not that shocking anymore. So, wonderful.

Seriously, what is going on in this world? There are so many things that people are doing to be edgy or grown up, and they are things that were once considered to be kind of immoral. I mean, I remember watching a movie from the early sixties wherein there was only one -ONE!- girl in the high school who was the "loose one", if you will. And, apparently, they could tell her apart because she had short hair. Yeah, I still don't get that. Clearly, times have changed, though. Look, I get that (some) people have become much more accepting of all things sexual these days. I may not agree with that, but, again, whatever. They have the God given free will to think and feel however they want. But, really? The drug thing? I thought we were all pretty much in agreement that drugs are bad. Maybe not. Maybe I'm wrong about this. Maybe I'm wrong about everything. I know according to most of the world I am.

But the reason why I'm even bringing all of this up is because it makes me sad to look at young girls today. It really does. Sometimes, I feel like a lot of them have no idea how valuable they are. They are so concerned with trying to be what everyone else is telling them to be, or trying to be someone else, that they have no time left to devote to becoming the greatest woman they can be. So, listen up, girls. Obviously, I can't stop you from doing what you want to and are going to do, but let me just say this. You do not need fame, money, substances, a guy, or anything else, to be at your best. Just look at yourself and know that God loves you and created you in such a way that there is no other one like you in the world. So why be something else? Why stop in the middle and veer off into being like another person instead of just going straight to your own highest point? You DON'T have to do that, so just be a great you.

And, yeah, I know that sounded preachy and After School Special-y, but that doesn't make it untrue. It's also true that you may have bumps in the road along the way, some more than others, but just stay on course. And, hopefully, one day you will become a grown up who is proud of the road behind her. May God bless you in that attempt.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Top Ten Episodes of The Pretender

Greetings Pups,

A couple of weeks ago I published a post wherein I expressed my excitement over the return of one of my all time favorite shows, The Pretender. Not to say that I don't give my DVDs of that show a good workout on a regular basis, but this news certainly made me go back to and start diving into it again. And that made me remember how many good episodes there were, on an individual basis. So, naturally, I thought a good way that I could help usher in this new chapter of The Pretender would be to go back to the fantastic original show and do a top ten list of my favorite episodes. As I do.

Now, as always, you can read this whether you've watched the show or not, but this is, probably more than any list I've ever done, for the fans of The Pretender. First off, there will be some major spoilers. Second, I'll be talking about a lot of things that will be best understood by those who know the ins and outs of this show, its plot, its characters and so on. And explaining all of that here would take far too long. That's why I did a post all about this show, as I've mentioned before, called "The Great Pretender", where I went into a lot of detail. So you can read that first to see what all my fuss is about, and if you're interested, you can go and load up your Netflix queue with the DVDs. Then come back and read this. But, for now, my fellow fans, we will embark on my top ten episodes of The Pretender. Oh, and by the way, this was an EXTREMELY difficult list to narrow down.

#10. "Scott Free" (Season 2) - I noticed through the run of this show that many of Jarod's "projects" had to do with repairing families that had been broken in some way. I will assume that this was a conscious decision by the writers, due to his constant longing for the family he lost long before. Here, he tries to help an ex-con who is being blackmailed into committing a robbery. That's bad enough, but the guy has a son with whom he was just reunited and does not want to risk going back to jail and losing him again. Now, one of the things that makes this episode especially good is the presence of a great guest cast. We have Justin Louis a.k.a. Louis Ferreira, who some of you may know as Art Blank from Saw IV, and a fantastic character actor named Dennis Arndt, who has been in everything from CSI to Life Goes On to Ally McBeal. Oh, and hey there, baby Drake Bell! Good things are in store for you, my friend.

#9. "Hazards" (Season 2) - The basic plot of this one is that Jarod acts as a hazmat expert investigating some violations at a plant. But really, there is something so topical about this episode, and I mean topical today. You see, Jarod's big, real world discovery in this episode is the Twinkie, his first of which he offered to pay twenty dollars for. And did. Now, we all know that we've had some ups and downs with Twinkies in the past year or so, but I can't help but feel the decision to bring them back was made by a person who saw this episode. Why? Well, frankly, it comes in handy when Jarod gives the bad guy his comeuppance. Seriously, though, being trapped in a vat of Twinkie cream doesn't really feel like that much of a punishment, even if someone tries to trick you into thinking it's something else.

#8. "Not Even a Mouse" (Season 1) - Or "Jarod's First Christmas" as I call it. Or "Hey, Jarod, Let Me Teach You About Mistletoe". Moving on, before I embarrass myself ... more. In this one, Jarod is posing as a medical examiner in order to find out what really happened concerning the death of a homeless man named Christmas George. And, again, it is a pastry which helps us get justice for the victim. Of course, being that it's Christmas, that pastry would be fruitcake, which Jarod apparently thinks is delicious. You know, for a guy who is pretty much a genius, he has a thing or two to learn about blending in with society. Being in the Fruitcake Fan Club is going to make one very conspicuous.

#7. "Pilot" (Season 1) - I love a good introduction episode, and this is one of the best. You would expect a show like this to have its pilot be a full on origin story for the main character, but it's really not that at all. Probably because the entire series is based on Jarod trying to find out what his origins are. No, in this first episode, we jump right into the foundation of what the show will become. Jarod's helping a wronged person, whilst Sydney, Miss Parker and The Centre are chasing after him. Good. Let us know what we're in for straight away, so we can start falling in love with it.

#6. "School Daze" (Season 4) - Hey, remember that awesome movie Kindergarten Cop? Well, this is kind of like that movie, except no kindergarten. This time Jarod is tasked with educationally babysitting some fifth graders. He is also searching for a boy on the run because he was the sole witness to a murder, and now a hit man is after the kid to keep him from testifying. So Jarod has to protect him, as he does. Now, despite the heavy subject matter, this episode actually has a lot of funny moments. And none rings truer to me than when all the single moms find out that Mr. Brody (Jarod's name du jour) is not married, thus prompting them to show up at his door with - what else? - food. Hey, I'm not judging. I would have been right there with those ladies and a crock pot of stew. Oh, there I go again.

#5. "Donoterase" (Season 3) - Okay, let's just get this out of the way. The title - what's up with that "word"? Funny story. Apparently, one day, to ensure that nothing written would be lost, the writers wrote the words "Do Not Erase" on the top of their idea board. Makes sense. But then someone else saw it and asked what "Donoterase" meant, because it would seem that those three words were squished into one. Alrighty. Now the writers could have just said, "No, that's not a word", but, in the spirit of the mythos, they just said it was a secret of the show. And it did, in fact, makes its way into the episode. Moving on. This is easily the best of the season finales. There is just so much that happens here, and it is done brilliantly. We get to see Jarod reunited with his daddy, who is played by George Lazenby, and it's really quite moving. Also, Miss Parker starts to discover some secrets about her mother's death, which is her own mystery that she's always trying to solve. And then, there's airplanes and shootouts and cloning. Of course, The Centre starts cloning people. It's The Centre. What did you expect? And who did they clone? Well, not only did Jarod get to meet his father, but himself as well. Yes, he kidnaps his own clone. FANtastic! Best thing about that, actually, is that we finally get some scenes with Michael T. Weiss and Ryan Merriman, who had been playing young Jarod in the flashbacks. So, yeah, this one is a serious thumbs up moment.

#4. "The World is Changing" (Season 4) - And from the season three finale to the season four premiere. I didn't say this previously, but in that last episode, Jarod got captured by The Centre at the end. It was a good way to close a season, and having him back at The Centre was a good way to start a season. No doubt the fans spent the summer trying to figure out what exactly was going to happen to Jarod once he was back in that prison. Well, a lot. And I blame it all on Mr. Lyle. I mean, he's always pretty vile, but he was absolutely atrocious in this episode. Being all mean to my Jarod, throwing him in cages, hosing him down so he's all dirty and wet and shirtless and ... okay, you know what, I can probably forgive Lyle for some of this. As could many of the female fans. But still, must we be so vicious. Relax, though, Jarod escapes yet again. Of course, he does. Now I must take this moment to mention one of the guest stars here. It's none other than, someone else from the Saw franchise, Tobin Bell, one of the best and most underrated actors ever. He plays an albino...named Mr. White. Yep. Because, much like a gorgeous woman who does things to make herself less attractive, even the most creative of shows must be unoriginal sometimes. Balances out the universe and whatnot.

#3. "Murder 101" (Season 3) - And Jarod is a teacher again, but this time in college. He's a professor in a criminology class, which was previously taught by a man who disappeared, leaving behind his pregnant wife. A man who is later found to be dead. Jarod tries to solve the case with the help of these students, because they are in something called the Vanguard Program for the super smarties. Oh, and because he thinks the murderer is one of them. Well, at least, he didn't feel that way about the fifth graders he was teaching before. Or after, because that was season four and this is ... oh, forget it. Again, I have to give a shout out to one of the guests, Tamara Braun, who does a great job playing a very arrogantly intelligent, and kind of sassy, young woman named Claire. She actually almost came across like a baby Miss Parker. And that is what the world needs.

#2. "Wake Up" (Season 3) - Okay, I know that most of what I'm writing here centers around Jarod. He is the main character after all. But not with this one. No, this episode belongs to Miss Parker. Not only the character, but the actress, Miss Andrea Parker. I cannot even begin to tell you how phenomenal she was here. I mean, we have seen Miss Parker from so many angles. We've seen her annoyed, determined, deliciously evil, sometimes compassionate and even amusing. But here, she is ruled completely by her emotions of grief and anger over the loss of a man she loved, and it is so heart wrenching. I was completely blown away by the performance she gave here. If there was ever a doubt in anyone's mind about Andrea Parker's gift as an actress, this should take care of any of that.

#1. "Ghosts From the Past" (Season 4) - I think it goes without saying that The Pretender was never a series that would have a clip show, but they kind of do it here,just a little bit. That's mostly because this is an episode wherein Jarod's past "pretends" are revisited by Sydney, Broots (What's up, Uncle Rico?), Miss Parker and Angelo, played wonderfully by Paul Dillon. They get word that one of the enemies Jarod has made is out to get him, and they try to figure out who it is, so they can helo him. Or catch him, depending on which one of them you're talking about. All the while, Jarod has infiltrated a white supremacist group in order to stop the bombing of a church during a unity rally. I really can't explain why this is my favorite episode; it just is. Perhaps, there are too many reasons. Maybe it's the great acting or the fantastic story. Maybe it's the hilarious way that Miss Parker acts when she sees Broots' excited reaction to being in something of a revival meeting. Maybe it's the sight of Jarod, sitting on the roof of a church, getting down with his bad self to some gospel music, as only Jarod can do. Or maybe it's all of that.

And there you have it. I certainly hope all the fans of The Pretender enjoyed reading this and reminiscing with me about such a wonderful show. And I hope no one was annoyed at my schoolgirl crushing on Jarod. But, most of all, I hope you're all as excited as I am about it coming back. I hear books will be involved. May they, one day, let me contribute, so all of that fan fiction I wrote won't go to waste.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Room - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Sometimes I get into a mess, and it's totally my own fault. A while back, I jokingly wrote a post on my personal Facebook page asking if I had to review the movie The Room in order to be considered a legit reviewer. I didn't expect any responses, since it was a rhetorical question, as well as, like I said, a joke. Well, I got responses, and people said yes. Yes, they wanted me to review this movie. I am shaking my head now, mostly at myself, because I am going to make an attempt at this. Just keep in mind that with an attempt rarely comes a promise of success. Now off we go.

I will assume that there are at least a few of you out there that have never seen The Room, maybe some of you have never even heard of it. So let me explain. The Room is a 2003 film that was directed by, written by, produced by and starring a guy named Tommy Wiseau, and Tommy Wiseau is something of an anomaly. I don't even know if I can explain him with the proper words. He's just some guy who is of questionable origin (seriously, no one can figure out what nationality he's supposed to be and the accent does not help), and he somehow managed to get enough money together to make this film. And it is famously terrible. However, it is widely considered also very a terrible way. I suppose that, in the pantheon of good bad movies, The Room ranks extremely high, even being referred to as 'the Citizen Kane of bad movies'. Hopefully, that will put things into perspective for you.

Now I have experienced a boatload of reviews of this movie, mostly in video form, which means they just show clips and make jokes about them. And that is really all you can do with The Room. Just mention something that happens, and then say something funny about it. Seriously, that is one of the reasons why I was hesitant to even do this, because it's hard finding any jokes that haven't been told. Then again, there is much to be mocked here. So, I guess I can give it a shot.

So The Room centers around a guy named Johnny, played by Tommy Wiseau, who lives in San Francisco with his fiance, Lisa. She starts to get bored with him and cheats on him with his best friend, Mark. And, yeah, that's about it for the main plot. I kid you not. When it comes to this story, which I assume was meant to be the foundation of the whole thing, nothing really happens other than that. It's just Lisa with Johnny, Lisa gets bored, Lisa with Mark, back to Johnny, back to Mark, and on we go. And speaking of going back and forth, there are so many completely gratuitous and way too long sex scenes here. Now, I know you guys know that I generally do not care for scenes like that in movies very much, but, with this, it goes far beyond just my opinion on the matter. The consensus with a lot of viewers about how long the scenes are seems to be that, if they were going to pay to use a song in the film for these certain scenes, they were going to use the whole thing. And they did. Anyway, back to the...whatever. As I recall, Johnny suspected Lisa of cheating and tried to catch her, but he was unaware that she was cheating with Mark. Actually, most of the time, Mark himself seems unaware of the affair as well, since every time she puts the moves on him, he acts like he just doesn't get what she's trying to do. To a point of downright hilarity. And that's it. For this part.

Rest assured, though, there is plenty going on in the outskirts of those three characters' lives. There are actually about 87 subplots happening, but each of them gets either a beginning, a middle OR an end. But no more than one of those things. And so many secondary characters. Oh, mercy. I mean, there's this weird, creepy kid always hanging around them named Denny, and I am not exaggerating on the 'creepy' here. He makes it clear, in fact, that he really likes being around Johnny and Lisa. Like, really. At one point, he says he's in love with Lisa, only to forget about it a minute later. Then, he's getting attacked by a drug dealer named Chris R. Really? Chris R.? I'll guess he took that on in second grade when they had to distinguish him from Chris H. and Chris M., but no one ever told him he could stop using the "R" once he got out of school. And then, there's Lisa's mother, who comes in to have a conversation with her about three or four times. And I mean they have the SAME conversation three or four times. It's almost unreal that they thought no one would notice that. And then, we have all these random people just showing up and disappearing for no other reason than to pad the movie. Most of the time, people will just come on screen and start talking about "important" things, and they had never been seen before. You spend a good portion of this movie looking at these "characters" and saying "WHO ARE YOU?". Not that it matters who they are, because they probably won't be back. I even heard that one actor just quit in the middle of filming, so his character just stopped being there. Oh, well. And all of that is what happens in between and around our plot of cheating and betrayal. Yeah, it's not as good as I made it sound.

And the last ten minutes or so of the film, I can't even tell you about it, because it is far too epic. It's just the whole experience in a nutshell, I suppose. Although, if you've ever wondered if it's possible for someone to overact and underact at the same time, this ending will take care of that for you.

Truth is, this is a difficult film to discuss in text form. It's easier for the people who can show clips. So I have no problem with saying that my review here is no competition to those of the Nostalgia Critic, Obscurus Lupa, the Bunny Perspective or the guys at Cinemasins. I just don't even know what to say about it that hasn't already been said better or that would do it any justice, so to speak. You just have to see it. Not to say that I am recommending it, exactly, though, I can admit that it is certainly ... something. And I guess if you're into severely bad yet somewhat entertaining films, this one would be on your to-do list. Just promise me to fast forward the ridiculousness of the sex stuff. Unless you find yourself at a midnight screening of the thing. Yes, it does have so big of a cult following that it gets midnight screenings. Wow.

Okay, I'm done, you guys. I did my best, and that's all I can give on this one. And to all the people who wanted me to review this? I have no words for you.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Swell Season - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

Last year, I reviewed a fantastic movie called Once. Obviously, I liked it. If you haven't seen it, first, shame. Second, read my review and see it. Or just see it. I'm supportive like that. Now if you did see it and like it, then you will probably enjoy what I am talking about today, a 2011 documentary entitled The Swell Season.

The Swell Season is a doc all about a musical duo called...The Swell Season. Genius. And what does this have to do with the movie, Once? Well, the members of the Swell Season are Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the stars of that movie. You with me so far? Okay. This film takes us through their journey of dealing with sudden success and their personal relationship.

I suppose you could call it a behind the scenes documentary. We do get to see them preparing for shows and even working on song writing (LOVE!), but we do get a lot of conversations with them, as well as others, about how how they got into music, how they met and how becoming so popular has affected them. I'm not certain of the timeline of the shooting for this documentary, but I'm guessing it was over a couple of years, since it takes us from the beginnings of their major success with Once, which spawned their romantic relationship, to their break up. So...spoilers on that one? Whatever. Anyone interested in watching this probably knows that they are no longer together. I suppose that would be a synopsis of the plot, if a documentary can have a plot, but it's more about what is said and seen here. So let me discuss that.

One of the things I found interesting was finding out how both Glen and Marketa reacted to the fame and why, because they do, at times, feel the same about it, whilst other times they are on completely opposites sides. And sometimes they change sides. So I guess dealing with fame can toss you around your own self quite a bit. Interestingly enough, a lot of these similarities and differences, I think, have to do with the places they are in their lives and their pasts as musicians. First off, Marketa was only eighteen or nineteen when Once was made, so she had to deal with all of this at a very young age. It seems as though she could be a bit intimidated by all the crowds of people gathering just to say hi to her after a show. Never did she seem ungrateful, and she even said that once she got out there and started talking to them, she enjoyed it. But it can be overwhelming, particularly for someone so young who truly was not prepared for this massive amount of popularity. Glen, on the other hand, is much older than Marketa, by nearly twenty years, and he has been performing since he was a teenager. So, whilst this major success was new to him, he did have some more experience dealing with fans, though never as much as he currently is. He knew the feeling of doing shows for a handful of people and then thousands of people. I suppose the lesson of this film is that there is no set in stone way to prepare for this kind of thing. But, again, Glen, like Marketa, never once came across as unappreciative, especially not toward his fans.

I recall taking notice of the way people reacted to Glen and Marketa as they began to exist in the wake of the success of Once. People seemed to really embrace these two, very closely, and after what went down and what was said at the Oscars by both of them (thanks again, Jon Stewart), I was hard pressed to find anyone who didn't like them. And here, we get a closer look at them, and some kind of confirmation, I feel, about our initial response to them. It was just so nice and refreshing to see people who are talented and so passionate about their work get recognition and success for it. These days, it seems as though anyone can get famous for anything or nothing, and a lot of us, I'm guessing, are extremely tired of that nonsense. But with Glen and Marketa we see two amazing artists who truly deserve their success. Bottom line, they just seem like really good people.

So, yes, I am recommending this to one and all, but particularly to those of you who are already fans of Once, and anyone who is a songwriter. This is definitely a movie for us.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, August 5, 2013

Computer Troubles Break

Greetings Pups,

Okay,short post today. Due to some current computer issues, I may not be able to put anything new up for a little while. Here's hoping and praying that the nice computer guys I go to can fix mine,and I won't have to get a new one. So send prayers please so I can get back to work entertaining you all.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The One Seasoner's Club - Kitchen Confidential

Greetings Pups,

So, here's the thing about me and Bradley Cooper. I like the guy, generally speaking, but when we start getting specific, it can go either way. For example, I am not a fan of The Hangover. I don't mind looking at him in The A-Team, for obvious reasons, but he offers me little else there. And All About Steve? Do we even to go there? However, I do think he can do some very good work as an actor. He was obviously great in Silver Linings Playbook, and I thought he was stellar in a fantastic movie that few people saw called The Words. So, as I said, either way. Of course, there, I merely spoke of his film career, but Bradley Cooper has also been seen on television a few times. One of those times was when he starred in a short-lived comedy called Kitchen Confidential, and today, we're going to discuss it and decide if it should have been long-lived. Either way, pups, either way.

In 2005, this show was developed for Fox (of course) having been based on the book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. It was so inspired by the book that the lead character played by Bradley Cooper was named Jack Bourdain. The premise of the show was centered around Jack, the chef, and the people with whom he worked at an upscale restaurant called Nolita. Now I don't know exactly how much of what happened here was based on real life events or people, but I hope not much. Although, I think they took the word "underbelly" from that book's title and ran with it. Okay, let's talk about the cast and characters.

Well, there's the aforementioned Jack, who, whilst being a chef, was also a bit of a - oh, let's just say it - man whore. Not to mention the fact that he was a bit of a jerk. I guess he was just trying to fit in with everyone. And so we move on. We have a pastry chef named Seth, played by Nicholas Brendan, who I think a lot of us Buffy fans had high hopes for on a return to television; John Francis Daley as Jim, the new guy chef at the restaurant, who might just get picked on a little; Jaime King plays the hostess Tanya, who both Seth and Jim have the hots for, what a shock; Bonnie Somerville as Mimi, head waitress, daughter of the owner and a little uptight; and Owain Yeoman as Steven, the sous chef, who makes Jack look like a guy who hasn't even kissed a girl yet. That's the main cast, but there are a few recurring characters, like John Cho aka new Sulu, as the seafood chef, Teddy, and Erinn Hayes as Becky, Jack's obnoxious nemesis from when they attended chef school together. Oh, and there's also the restaurant owner, Pino, played by Frank Langella, of all people. Sigh.

Okay, so you know how Gray's Anatomy is technically called a medical drama, but it's really about who's banging who? Well, replace the hospital with a kitchen and the scalpels with parring knives, and you've got this show. Look, I get it. I didn't expect it to be a full on cooking show. I knew it would be about the characters and their personal goings on, but seriously, these people were so sexed up, and I'm talking IN the kitchen sometimes, that I would never want to eat there. But, I'm certain, by most viewer's standards, it was probably tame.

But, even if I forget about the hormone-y aspect, I have to say that, in my opinion, there was not a single, likable character on this show, not one! Not even the alleged 'underdog'. That is not good. Look, I'm not saying you can't have morally ambiguous characters on a series, though it tends to work better in a movie, but they can't be that and one dimensional. It just won't work. And maybe that's why this show just didn't work.

And here was the sad timeline of this show's life. It aired three episodes in September of 2005, then got put on hiatus because of baseball, then they didn't want to air it in November, which is a sweeps month, then they aired the fourth episode in December to such dismal ratings that it was cancelled four days later. Now they did make thirteen episodes, which eventually got sporadically aired in syndication, as well as being released on DVD, which is what I rented to do this post. That was more hours than I ever wanted to not be able to get back in my life.

So, did this show deserve a second season? Yeah, that's going to be a 'no' on this one. It just wasn't good, plain and simple. What bugs me most is that it probably could have been, especially considering the cast, but Maybe if the appearance of Andrea Parker, my beloved Miss Parker, would have been more than one episode, but I don't think even she could have saved it. Now obviously I am not going to tell any of you to watch this, but if you're a hardcore Bradley Cooper fan, you may do it, just to look at him. However, please do not say I didn't warn you. I suppose, though, that we should look on the bright side. Sometimes things don't work out for a reason, and it all seems to have worked out well for Bradley Cooper. Just stop making those Hangover movies, my friend. Just stop.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer