Friday, June 30, 2017

Hey, Look, It's the Piano Girl! - YouTube Channel Review

Greetings Pups,

About a week and a half ago, I did something I had never done before, which was review a podcast. May as well keep this thing going by, once again, venturing into new territory by reviewing a YouTube channel. I don't know why I never did it before, as I am a fan of so many, but I guess it took a very special one to get me to do this. So, let's discuss one of my most favorite of all the YouTube channels out there - Hey, Look, It's the Piano Girl.

The titular "Piano Girl" is Jen Msumba and she started her channel almost five years ago. In case you can't figure it out, the main premise is that she plays the piano. Good times. Now I know what you may be thinking - 'Aren't there a million YouTube channels with piano players covering popular songs?' Yeah, technically, that's true. But, because there are so many, it takes, as I said, a special person to stand out in the crowd. Jen Msumba is definitely a special person.

Let's get the obvious out of the way. She is a fantastic musician. In addition to playing the piano, she occasionally picks up the guitar and I believe she even uses a ukulele at times, just to shake things up a bit. While she does mainly do covers, and a wide array of such when it comes to genre, she also shares a lot of original music as well. Either way, each performance just has a unique touch and somehow, she manages to make every one her own. It's just a personal spark she adds that not everyone can achieve. That is something that makes her different from all the rest.

And while we are still discussing the music, I must say that Jen has been quite helpful to me as a writer. Because I am a writer who gets easily distracted from my work, and I need something to keep me focused. Enter one of her long playlists or videos with an seemingly endless amount of beautiful, instrumental music. I let it play in the background as I write, and it helps me to keep going with my work and calms me enough to do it well at the same time. Now THAT is something for which I am very grateful.

Oh, and I should probably mention that she did do a cover of my favorite son, I Started A Joke, as I requested. It made me very happy.

However, music aside, Jen has done a few vlogs on the channel as well, so we can get to know her as a person. And as a person, she is an absolute delight. She really can brighten up anyone's day just by sharing herself with us, but she also has discussed some more serious issues she has had in life. Whether being silly or somber, though, there is a sincerity to everything she says. That's another thing I appreciate. Now, I have to let you know that the few vlogs and non-music videos she put up on this main channel have led to a second channel, Jen Adventures TV, which you should also check out. Again, it is an absolute joy. Plus, you get to see more of her dog, Yerby!

In closing, I would like to say that finding people who are really...real in this world, and especially on the internet, is a bit of a challenge these days. So, when you CAN find one, you hang on and you spread the word about them. That was my purpose in writing this review today. Jen Msumba is one of those people who brings such positivity into the world, both through her music and her upbeat outlook on life. I'm glad I found her videos, and I hope you all check her out, too. Links below. You will NOT be sorry.

P.S. I may just have to add her to my list of people I'd love to write a song with. Just kidding. She's already on it!

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Leading By Example

Greetings Pups,

Yeah, here's the thing. I don't mean to be interspersing this real life talk with the fun stuff I do, like reviews and all that. But, as some famous guy once said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." It was John Lennon, BTW. In case you were, ya know, curious.

Anyway, I have quite a few of those things lined up to talk about, but I've been rather busy with other forms of writing. Did I mention that editing books is difficult? Because it is. Very! Still, I heard about some things going down in the real world...ish, and they prompted me to talk about something that is rather important to me - leading by example. I bet you never would have guessed that based on the title of this post.

During my life, I have realized that the old saying, "Do as I say, not as I did" is okay when it's a situation where a parent is saying that to a kid...I guess. I mean, I understand that the meaning is that the parents have made mistakes and the kid shouldn't emulate that, but rather take the advise that the parent can give from the wisdom they've gained over the years from those mistakes. However, when it concerns just random people in the world, this saying is about the worst thing ever.

There are quite a few things that annoy me in the world. I can admit. I can even admit that I may be the annoying thing for others. But one of the things that annoys me is when people say one thing and do another. We call them liars, or more specifically, hypocrites. I get very infuriated when people talk, talk, talk about how bad certain acts are, and how it hurts them so much when other people do it to them, but then - BUT THEN! - they turn around and commit this horrendous behavior against someone else. Hello? Kinda missing the point there, no?

I mean, look, I know we all mess up sometimes and do things we shouldn't, even things we say ourselves are bad, whether out of anger or frustration or whatever. We all make mistakes, but we all need to learn from them. We also need to learn how to be humble enough to admit those mistakes and try to do better to avoid them.

However, if you are the kind of person whose way of life is contradicting yourself in the worst possible ways, then you have a problem and you need to fix it. You have to stop being a hypocrite, because you can only fool people for so long with your false sincerity. Not everyone is that dumb. Some are, don't get me wrong, but most can start to see the layers of a person's deception peeling away.

Listen, we learn a lot of lessons in life. A lot. One of those lessons is that your reputation, your name, your word, your honor, even, are things that you need to hold on to very tightly. Because, believe it or not, while they are easy to keep a hold on, they are extremely difficult to get back once you've lost them. Once people lose trust in you because of what you say or do, getting them to trust you again is hard. It is near impossible to get that trust back completely. So, if you want people to trust you and continue to do so, don't rock the boat, as they say. And certainly, do not purposely be two faced, being so arrogant that you think no one will notice. They will. Trust me, they will. And I just used the word 'trust' way too much, didn't I? Well, so be it. Hopefully, it helped me get the point across.

So, again, sorry to be so preachy and...unfun (?), but I think this is another important thing that needed to be addressed. Look, I'm no angel I've screwed up a lot in life when I wasn't keeping tabs on myself and my own behavior. Once you start doing that, once you start keeping a close eye on what you do, once you start really caring about maintaining who you are as a person and being an honest person, you can start leading by example and showing others how much value there is in that.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rewrites - Podcast Review

Greetings Pups,

I don't think I've ever done this before, reviewing a podcast. I have mentioned a few in the past, but never a full on review. But I like doing new things and when I find something great, I get excited to share it. Such is the case with this new scripted podcast called Rewrites. And most of you who have read this blog before are probably asking the same question: "This is about writers, isn't it?" Yes, it is. It's common knowledge that I love stories, movies, books, so on and so on, about writers. Sue me.

Anyway, Rewrites is a recently released podcast written by bestselling author, Tawni O'Dell, whom you may have heard of when her book, Back Roads, was one of Oprah's picks several years ago. Now, disclaimer. I actually met Tawni O'Dell last year at a book festival. She was very nice, signed my old copy of Back Roads and even bought one of my books, but as always, I will be completely honest. Lucky for her, and all of us, this is very good. Actually, Rewrites was originally written as a screenplay for a film, but Tawni decided to switch it up and make it a "podplay". I find that quite interesting and fitting for what the story is about. Movies are a visual medium, but this is about books, which are not. At least, not on their own. You have to create your own visuals from the words you read. And with something like this, a scripted podcast, you have to create the visuals from the words you hear. So, this method ended up being quite perfect.

Anyway, the seven episode series is about a guy named Theo, who absolutely loves books, and he feels that people just don't read enough. Gee, I can't imagine why I was drawn to this. Ironically, he gets an idea wherein he will use something that distracts people from reading to get them to read more - television. Specifically, a reality TV show that just so happens to be about writers. They will compete to win a chance to have their novels published, dealing with weekly challenges, each other and possibly even the effects of notoriety. After much resistance, struggles to be funded and trying to find the writers to participate, Theo manages to assemble a unique cast of characters for a unique show. We get to learn so much about Theo, his family, his friends, his past and through him, we get to learn much more about the people who go on this journey with him, the writers. In the end, everyone who listens to this will probably have their favorite characters, but they will also, most likely, find themselves rooting for all of them to land on the path that is meant for them. And I really don't want to go into too much detail on what unfolds over the course of this series, because I want everyone to experience all of it as they would a book. New surprises with every turned page and all that. Although, I will link their website below, so you can learn more if you like, particularly about the people involved.

To be honest, I don't think I've ever even listened to a scripted podcast like this before, so I didn't really know what to expect as far as production goes. But I must say, I was very impressed by the way this was put together. The direction, the sound effects, the wonderful cast of actors who brought it all to life, it's just so well done. But, of course, I do believe that the heart and soul of this is the writing. And, no, that is not my being biased, as I am a writer myself. I'm just being honest. Tawni O'Dell is absolutely brilliant with characters and that is what really drives this whole thing, not to mention how skilled she is at writing from a male perspective, as anyone who has read her books will know. As I mentioned before, each one of these characters is so distinct, yet they blend together so well and have great chemistry. That is actually a very fine line that, I think, many writers have to walk, between having characters who are so similar that the whole story seems monotonous and having ones that are overly different to the point where it's not believable in the least that they would ever associate with one another. Thankfully, Tawni has created a wonderful mix of personalities that come together, like puzzle pieces, making a fantastic work of art.

Now I know I said the whole series was seven episodes, but I truly hope it goes beyond that. I honestly wouldn't even mind if it did become a movie someday. Though, if not, I'm still glad that we got what we did because I highly recommend Rewrites for everyone. I especially recommend it if you're a writer. I personally found it very inspiring. It made me want to write more, which seems impossible, considering how much I already do that. Still, sometimes the things about which we are passionate can go through times of feeling mundane when we do it, day in and day out. Every now and then, we need something to remind us why we love what we do. We need something to be the spark to start the flame up again. Well, for me, Rewrites has become one of the things I turn to when I need exactly that.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Taking Back Control In Life

Greetings Pups,

I'm sorry to say, I have to get a little personal today...again. But, hopefully, what I'm going to say will be something a lot of people can relate to. I'm sure it will, because I want to talk about something that affects all of us - control. More specifically, how to get back control in our own lives.

In my lifetime, I've seen many people give up control, in many different ways and for many different reasons. And a lot of that was just in my own life. I have let the actions and the words of others dictate how I live quite a few times over the years, and I realize that this is quite a few times too many. It has even happened very recently to me. I won't go into any heavy details, but something happened to me, something I had no say in, and it was not a good thing. Instead of doing what I should have done, I let my anger and, even worse, my fear about the situation steer me away from something that I wanted, a very important goal for me. As soon as I made the decision to respond in such a manner, I immediately handed a big part of my life over to the despicable people who did this to me. They are certainly not people who deserve to have ANY effect on my life, and yet, I just let them and their actions decide where I was heading. I let them take me off course, and I'm kicking myself for letting that happen. Yes, I had no say it what they did, but I did have a say in how I responded to it. We ALWAYS have a say in how we respond. But I have good news.

I said that they took me off course, but it only lasted for a while. I'm back to where I'm supposed to be, because I'M the one in charge, not them. I made a decision to change important plans for my life, again out of anger and fear, but I can see how wrong I was to do that. Especially since those who did this thing to me probably don't even know how it affected me, nor do they care. I was the only one who was damaged in this situation, and it was my own fault. Because I let the scratches and scrapes turn into cuts and, almost, into scars. Thankfully, I got them all patched up and healed before that happened. Now I am back in control and on the path that I am supposed to be on. And when people or circumstances or mountains get in my way, I just tell them to move.

My point to this brief, but hopefully useful, post, is that I want everyone who reads it to make sure that they are in control. I want all of you to look at your life and know that you are the one steering things and keeping yourself on your correct path. I want you all to not let anything or anyone else take you from what you are meant to do and be. Yes, I know that many things happen that we can't control at all, but like I said, it's how we react to those things that matter. Once we let the difficult things we encounter start running us, that's when we give up power. And we shouldn't do that, especially to those who don't even come close to deserving. So, if you've lost control of some things in life because of people or circumstance, try hard to get it back. It may be difficult, but in the end, trust me, it will be so much better.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Small is Beautiful: A Tiny House Documentary - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

A while back, I wrote about my love/hate relationship with the show House Hunters. It's complicated. Well, as it happens, that show has a spin-off called Tiny House Hunters, which I find even more interesting...and more infuriating. Seriously, the amount of times I hear people on that show walk into a TINY house and say "I don't know. This is kinda small" makes me want to punch a wall. No kidding, it's small! That's the point. But whatever. I still watch, because I find the concept of the Tiny House craze quite intriguing. And if you can do it? Well, God bless. You go right ahead. So, when I noticed this doc, I had to check it out.

Small is Beautiful is from 2014 and, keeping in the spirit of tiny things, it is barely over an hour long. That might be a good thing, because there is really only so much you can say about this whole phenomenon. This documentary chose a few people to tell their stories, and they just so happen to also be people who are into the tiny house movement. They talk about what led them to choosing this way of life, how they've dealt with the process and we even get to watch the process of building the houses, which is a task that many of them take on themselves. Now as much as I enjoy watching house building shows on HGTV, that was probably the most boring part of this film. Not that the rest of it fared much better.

Look, there were some moments that I found interesting, but not too much of it. I mean, I do like hearing stories of people who have lived different lives than I have, and especially with this, I was hoping for more about the actual experience. That does interest me. As much as I think that some people are just buying into a fad when they go the tiny house route or they just want to not spend as much money, I know that some of them are just natural vagabonds who never want to stay in one place for a long time. And I know that there are people who have occupations like photography or music, where they travel constantly and would do well to invest in a very small and mobile home. I guess I just wanted to hear more of their stories. I would have even liked it if they followed someone who was traveling across the country with their house. That would have been something. Then, it could have been a road trip movie, and I love those.

I suppose, if I could change anything else about this, it would be adding some of the history of people living like this, not just those who do it nowadays. We could have learned more about how it was done hundreds of years ago when it was the only choice to live with limited means. It may have been interesting. I also would have loved to hear more stories from people who tried it and regretted it. You know they're out there.

I guess that's all I can say about this documentary. Keeping my analysis tiny, as well, it would seem. Look, if you're someone who likes the Tiny House Hunters show, you might enjoy this. Like I said, it's not that long, so you wouldn't be spending too much time on it. But I certainly wouldn't call it a must-see. It does have a few stand out moments, but altogether, this just wasn't completely a film about what the title implies. The tiny house aspect was almost incidental. I wish they either would have delved deeper into the history of it, as I said, or have it be completely about the process of the experience, the cost, the labor and all that. The technical side of it, if you will. Rather, they had a mix of both of those things, but I'm not sure it was executed in the best way from those angles. So, I can't exactly highly recommend it, but if you do take a look, you might find something you like.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, June 5, 2017

Winter Passing - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

The world of independent film is a fascinating one. I don't know of any other genre that is such a crap shoot for whether or not you are going to get something decent. There are many people, myself included, who believe that this is the place where one can go to find hidden gems. Still, sometimes we forget that a lot of not so great stuff comes out of it as well. And what of those indie films that fall somewhere in between, where you watch it and think you should be liking it more than you do? That's kind of how I feel about today's movie, Winter Passing.

Winter Passing is a 2005 film starring Zooey Deschanel as Reese Holdin, a young woman who splits her work time between bartending and acting in, where else, New York. She suffers from depression and tries to deal with it through drugs and self-harm. One night, she is approached by a publishing agent, played by Amy Madigan, who is interested in a series of letters that were exchanged between Reese's parents. Her father, Don, played by Ed Harris, is a once-famous writer and her mother passed away nor long ago. Reluctantly, Reese heads off to Michigan to try to locate them, but she finds her father not doing well and living with a musician, Corbit, played by Will Ferrell, and Shelly, a former student of Don's, played by Amelia Warner. Reese just wants to find the letters and leave, but she gets sucked in to everything that is happening in her father's life and house, and many things are revealed to her that she may not have wanted to know but needed to know.

I would call this another of those character heavy films, though there is a steady narrative to it. But watching these characters learn about each other is what pushes that narrative forward. I think that, for the most part, they are interesting enough to keep you engaged, and I do like a story where the players are finding things out about each other right along with the audience. In addition to that, all the while, there is the mystery of these letters. Will they be found, what is in them, and will it have an effect on the strained father/daughter relationship? And on a personal note, I am someone who is infatuated with handwritten letters, so, naturally, this aspect of the story tugged and my heart.

So, since I find this very character driven, I should talk about the actors portraying them. The performances here range from brilliant to passable. The brilliance, of course, comes from Ed Harris, who is pretty much always great. And this was a heavy role to play, difficult even, but probably not for him. Don is a heartbreaking character, being this once amazing writer who is just struggling to live, and he goes for the emotion hardcore on this one. Will Ferrell and Amelia Warner handle their roles very well, the former with some familiarity, as Ferrell, in these kinds of films, always tends to replace the energy he usually puts into straight forward comedy with injecting a lot of heart into his performance. Sadly, the weak link in the movie is Zooey Deschanel. I personally think that dramatic acting is not her strong suit, and her style of acting is a better fit for comedy. Yes, she has been in good dramatic movies, but usually as a supporter, not the lead. She's not terrible, by any means. In fact, there are moments when she can be effective. But, overall, I just don't think I buy her performance as much in this role, and when it IS the lead, that can weigh everything down a bit.

In closing, I would say I give Winter Passing a soft recommendation. If anything, it's worth seeing just for Ed Harris, so, in that regard, it won't be disappointing. But if the story doesn't interest you, I wouldn't say it's something you need to see right now. Still, if you are ever at home channel surfing and it pops up, I say give it a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer