Monday, July 31, 2017

Honoring Sacrifice

Greetings Pups,

I'd like to discuss something quickly today that a lot of people save for times like Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, and even the Fourth of July. But I think we need to talk about this more. Honestly, as much as we can. I would like to say a few words about those who have sacrificed so much for so many others, including us.

I don't know when it happened, but showing massive support for those who have fought for their country has become almost a controversial thing to do. I often wonder if people think that doing so means that you approve of every act of war ever carried out, which it doesn't. However, as of late, I've noticed that many have decided to shove aside the efforts and acts of all of them for the most foolish reasons. I have even personally seen it amongst some ex-friends of mine. They are ex-friends because they basically shamed me for saying that it's a disgrace for us to have 50,000 homeless veterans in this country, and maybe, since they made us a top priority, we should do the same for them. I guess they think we shouldn't. And whilst I think it's good to have friends with whom you can disagree, we all reach our limits. This was mine. I may have actually mentioned this incident in a previous post. So, my apologies for being repetitive.

And then, I recently saw a certain publication complaining about a historical, true story movie because it dared to depict some men who fought in WW2 as heroes, celebrating their incredible actions. Ya know, that thing that actually happened. But cursed be historical accuracy. We have a narrative to push...apparently. What they don't realize is that, by refusing to acknowledge these heroes, they are ultimately disrespecting everyone who ever fought, was injured or died in any war. And I do mean everyone, not just the guys. And it certainly disrespects those who have had their lives changed by partaking in those wars, which applies to all of them. Especially upon returning home. It was actually this particular article that made me want to talk about this subject, but there are a lot of things out there, a lot of people out there, that are trying to convince me, for one reason or another, to not honor those who have sacrificed so much for their country and the people there in. Ironically, they, as well as my ex-friends, are able to say these things because someone fought for the right for them to do so.

Look, I'm not trying to be preachy or political, and I certainly am not implying that every single person in uniform is some kind of angel saint. They're not. There are bad people in every group. But, for the most part, I believe that those who have served their country deserve to be respected for doing that. I'm one of those folks who says that respect needs to be earned, and I'd say they've earned it. And no matter what, I am a staunch supporter of our troops, past, present and future. They give up a lot, so that we never have to. However you feel about war or the reasons why certain ones happen, I'll say this yet again, never forget to honor the ones who sacrifice the most.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Top Ten Carpenters Songs

Greetings Pups,

Someone once said that you'd have to dislike music to dislike The Carpenters. Agree! Okay, fine. I know that they weren't everyone's cup of tea, perhaps, due to their being a tad lightweight, according to some people. But they were a much loved act in their day. And why not? They were, and still are, a soothing escape from the craziness of the world.

I've been a fan of theirs for a huge part of my life, and their music had a wonderful effect on me. So did their story. Richard and Karen Carpenter created something very unique together. While there has always been a nice, massive bunch of the easy-listening type of pop music available to us, they were able to add a spark to it that no one else could. Yet to this day, as remembered as they are, I think that, at times, they are quite underrated. And that's a shame.

So, I thought I would do my part, to spread the word to a new generation, and tell them about The Carpenters. What better way for me to do it than through sharing my favorite of their songs. Okay, let's do this.

#10. "Yesterday Once More" - Yes, I know that the chorus of this one may be considered lyrically cringe-inducing by certain people. I get it, okay? It's hard not to make a face when you hear the words "Shing-a-ling"! But I happen to like the way it talks about music, and how all of it can affect you and bring back memories. Perhaps, almost to the point where it's all the same. Like sad songs are all the same to a broken heart.

#9. "Top of the World" - The Carpenters go country! How many groups go through that phase? Well, that's what happens when you visit Nashville, which is apparently where this song was inspired. This gets put on the list because of that great vocal arrangement near the end of the song. It's my favorite part!

#8. "(They Long To Be) Close To You" - This is probably the first song I ever heard from The Carpenters. It might be that for quite a few people, since I'd say it's one of their signature songs. It's just a sweet, almost sappy, love song, but in the best way. And let's be honest. We need songs like that. We knew songs that remind us of the sweet side of being in love with someone.

#7. "We've Only Just Begun" - As an artist, I can confirm 100% that we can get inspired by anything. Richard Carpenter heard this song on a commercial of all things, and he loved it so much that he wanted to record a full version. Turns out, he was able to get in touch with the writers, one of whom was the legendary Paul Williams, and got a full version. The rest is history and all that.

#6. "For All We Know" - Well, this would make a good wedding song...for an arranged marriage. No, for real. Listen to those lyrics! Either way, though, this is a beautifully written song, and maybe it's actually about how, when you make a full on commitment to someone, you get to know them in a whole new way.

#5. "Rainy Days and Mondays" - So...I may or may not have sung this song in the talent show back in my high school days. I may have. Look, I'm ashamed of myself for thinking that I could dare to sing anything that Karen sang first. I mean, as a singer, I'm not bad, but I'm not her. What a fool I was! Still, I do love this song. Strange, because I also love rainy days, so they never get me down. Mondays? It depends.

#4. "Goodbye To Love" - And here we have another interesting story of inspiration. There's a movie called Rhythm on the River, and in it, they keep talking about this masterpiece song called "Goodbye to Love", but the song is never in the movie. So, Richard decided to write that unheard song. Best writing prompt ever. And it is often said of writers that we need to write the story we want to read. Same goes for songs, it would seem. We write the ones we want to hear.

#3. "A Song For You" - So, this one was never released as a single for the group, but it was actually the title track for an album. Why they didn't release this, I'll never know. I mean, Karen's vocal is amazing on this song. How unusual, right? But it is kind of a testament to how incredible this song is when both the writer, Leon Russell, with his gravelly voice, and Karen with her smooth as silk voice, can both make the song sound like magic.

#2. "Superstar" - And yet another song that has Leon Russell's fingerprints on it. Of course. Anyway, I heard that the original title of this was..."Groupie". Oh, my, indeed. I mean, let's be honest. With or without that title, we all know what this song is about. I guess it just sounds more innocent with this newer title. And that certainly fit the persona of The Carpenters better. Also, I don't care that they say the word "Baby" like 100 times. I still love this song.

#1. "Hurting Each Other" - I didn't know this little fact until I started researching for this list, but, apparently, one of my other favorite singers did a version of this song - Rosemary Clooney! What I wouldn't give to have been able to hear her and Karen sing this song together. Can you even imagine the spectacularness of such a thing? Anyway, there's just something about this one that makes me love it the best. Everything just came together so perfectly. The music, the arrangement, the vocals, of course. Seriously, I always get chills when Karen hits that "Tearing each other apart" line. Just unbelievably wonderful. All of that makes it my absolute favorite song by The Carpenters.

As I said at the start of this post, I know that The Carpenters may not be for everyone, stylistically. But I don't think anyone can deny that they had something special. Richard was a master arranger, and what more can I say about Karen's voice. Even though, we have tons of new music acts coming out all the time, not all of them have a spark that could make them classic and memorable and very much loved for a very long time. The Carpenters were exactly that kind of artists. And while we sadly lost Karen far too soon, I know that Richard has always does his best to preserve their legacy. I think it's our job, as admirers of their work, to do the same.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Shark Night - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

It's a day before the best week of the year. Oh, yes. I am talking about Shark Week! Squee, indeed! So, I thought, to kick things off a day early, I'd do a review of a shark related movie. No, not that one. Not that one either. Listen, I'll give you a minute to sift through the oeuvre of SyFy movies. Done? Good, but I'm sorry to say that today's discussion will not be centered around any of those. We're gonna talk about Shark Night. Not the best of this genre, but definitely not the worst.

Shark Night is a 2011 horror film directed by David R. Ellis, who was also a stuntman and who also directed the cult classic Snakes on a Plane. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago and this was his last film. The plot follows a group of college students on a vacation where things get unfortunate. Maybe not the most original of stories thus far. But let's set that faux pas aside for now, because things in this film do make a turn with some never-before-seen ideas. As far as I know.

The group of friends head to the vacation home of Sarah, played by Sara Paxton, and since this is her home, we get introduced to some of her old friends, who she may or may not be on good terms with, including an old boyfriend, Dennis, played by Chris Carmack. Calm down, Nashville fans. He doesn't sing in this movie. Now, the aforementioned house just so happens to be on a lake. A private lake. Or is it? No, it is. But no one told the sharks that!! Yeah, as you may have guessed, sharks start showing up. And they're hungry. Because movie sharks are always hungry. ALWAYS!

As the story goes on, the friends, as expected, start getting picked off one by one, though some of these incidents happen in very UNexpected ways. Ways that are extremely entertaining and quite memorable in some cases. I'll just say "Jet Ski". If you've seen this movie, you'll know what I mean. But what I really like about this film is the twist. Yes, it has a twist, which explains why there are sharks in a place where sharks don't tend to be. Again, as far as I know. And I think it was a pretty decent twist. I mean, it was decent enough that when I heard it I said, "Wait, what?" And it was the part where we got some of the most entertaining acting. I may have even chuckled a bit, and for the right reasons. Because I think it was supposed to be a thing that is meant to be frightening for the characters in the film, but rather amusingly ridiculous for the audience.

Oh, and speaking of acting, how are the actors in this film? Not too bad. And we get some familiar faces, like Joel David Moore (that one guy from Avatar). Josh Leonard (that one guy from The Blair Witch Project), Katherine McPhee (that one girl from...OK, I'm done with this) and the awesome, awesome Donal Logue. I have loved him since I first saw him on an a rerun of The Commish! Good times. Yeah, he is definitely the best thing about this movie. He tends to be that.

All in all, I'm not gonna say this was a great movie, but it was definitely entertaining. It's no Jaws, of course. It's not even Jaws 2. But there are moments that you will remember, and like I said, I thought the twist was not a bad story element. Look, it's a shark movie. These days, we haven't exactly been trained to consider them synonymous with high art, but who says it has to be? Shark Night is a fun time with a movie, and I've never even seen it in 3D. So, if you get sad when Shark Week ends and you still want some teeth and fins, this isn't a bad way to get them. That sounded a bit menacing. Sorry.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hang In There

Greetings Pups,

In the past few years, I've been dealing with some especially difficult issues. I could go into detail, but I'd rather focus on the positive more so than the negative today. Let's just say that things have been very shaky, and I've been teetering on a high wire the whole time. But even in all that time, I was well aware that things could change for the better at any moment, so long as I did my part. I kept my faith and worked as hard as I could, knowing that, when the time arrived, things could improve. And not necessarily in MY perfect time. That's something I think many of us make the mistake of doing. We want this particular thing at this particular time and never stop to think if it's the right time.

But I've learned in my life that things happen when they're supposed to happen. Yes, that is a total cliche, but those exist for a reason. Because they tend to be true. Oh, and keep in mind, sometimes certain things that you're waiting for are supposed to happen...never. That's just how it is. As soon as you realize that fact, that your "wants" and your "meant to be's" are rarely the same, the better off you'll be. The better you'll be at accepting your path for what it is, instead of what you think it should be.

The good news is that I have officially, and once more, become a living testament to how patiently waiting for something to happen is worth it. Again, not to go into detail because others are involved, but I recently made some contacts in my chosen field of profession who may possibly be able to help me with some of my upcoming and current ventures. Now, calm down. This isn't exactly some big "I've been discovered!" moment. Like, Oprah hasn't chosen my for her Book Club, which is still a thing apparently. Though, she would be wise to eventually choose one of my books. But I digress.

The point is that I waited patiently for my hard work to pay off, and now it might just be doing that. And let me tell you, I am not a patient person. I know it's a virtue and all, but it's one of the virtues with which I have a long-distance relationship. But I did manage to hang in there, suffer through the difficult times, and now things may be looking up. I am wise enough to know that this, too, may not work out exactly as I want it to, but I'm keeping my hopes up a bit and continuing to push forward. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, and it just means that something better is waiting out there for me. Maybe not a better opportunity, speaking generally, but one that is better suited to me, specifically. I certainly don't want something that is tailor made for someone else.

So, what I'm trying to say with this very preachy post is, as the title suggests, hang in there. I know it's hard to wait for your day to come or whatever, but it will, one way or another. Just always remember that what happens in your life is what is meant to happen. I know there are so many things that we set our hearts on, but many times, they are what we tell ourselves we want, not what we really want. I mean, a lot of stuff looks good from far away, but once we get them in our lives, we start to wish they weren't there. I have to address this a lot when people ask me about that Bible verse that talks about God giving us "the desires of our heart". They think it means He'll give us everything we ask for, but the truth is that He knows our desires better than we do. And that is what He gives us. Oh, and calm down, once again. You may replace God with...I don't know...universe or something, if you're not "religious". Be my guest.

All that aside, just don't give up. Don't be the person who stops digging two feet from the treasure. Your time will come when the right time comes.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

I often tell people about how much I love going to bookstores, and how sad I am that there are no longer any bookstores in my area. The reason I love them so much, and why I'm willing to travel a bit to get to one, goes beyond just what you may think. I don't only go there to buy books. I go there for the atmosphere and the feeling of being surrounded by all those books. It's not unlike why I and many other people still enjoy going to stores that sell music as well. Yes, those still exist, believe it or not. But, as we all know, many have been forced to close down. Even ones that bore a name that is pretty much legendary. And they are the subject of the documentary I will discuss today, All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records.

All Things Must Pass is a 2015 documentary directed by Colin Hanks, and, from what I heard, it took him quite a few years to put this together. It tells the story, obviously, of Tower Records, from its very humble beginnings to being synonymous with music buying to its eventual demise, which did not happen exactly for the reasons you may think and isn't exactly complete as some stores still exist overseas. The journey through this tale is told much in the way of most documentaries with a lot of archival footage and talking heads. Of course, the stories that those talking heads are what make this really enjoyable.

The most amazing thing about this film is the way we find out how this store affected so many people's lives. Whether it was the employees who absolutely loved working there because they loved music, or the regular customers who could find the artists they were into that never got radio airplay, or even the artists themselves who often visited the store to find new music for themselves. It was just a special place that, whilst becoming a massive, worldwide corporation, still managed to keep the feel of a neighborhood record store. Again, I think the reason for that is because everyone who was connected to it had a true love of music. It was even something of a hangout spot in some areas, a place where people with a common interest could gather and discuss and have a lot of fun.

Now, I personally never went to a Tower Records, as far as I can remember, because we did not have a Tower Records in my where I lived. We were more of a Sam Goody and The Wall kind of a town. But I knew of the legend. So, I can't actually speak firsthand on it, but there are enough stories where anyone can feel like they know the place.

Hearing the story of Tower Records from start to finish is fascinating. It has its own arc as though it was a living breathing being, and in some ways, it was exactly that. It had a birth and a kind of death and a lot of living in between. It had friends, enemies, loved ones, highs, lows, but most importantly, it had a lot of heart. And I think that's what the message at the core of this film is.

How many people start businesses everyday? A lot. How many people start businesses concerning something that they are hardcore passionate about? Probably not as many. I know I keep saying this, but it should be said. Tower Records was started and nurtured by people who had a very real love of music and those who created it, and all kinds, not just what was popular at the moment. It was that passion that led to its success, and what makes the fact that these places aren't as plentiful anymore all the more tragic. Yes, the music is still out there and you can still get it, just like books. But there is something magical about going to one place, a journey to a destination, to seek it out and share it with others face to face. It's sad that this doesn't happen much anymore, but at least, films like All Things Must Pass can remind us of that time and help to ensure that we never forget it.

So, I do recommend this documentary. I'd say it's for music lovers most of all, but I bet there are a few history buffs out there that might find it intriguing. This story, this place, after all, are a very important part of history.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

So, it's summer, apparently. And what do people do in the summer? Well, don't the kids go to summer camp or something? At least, that's what I was told. I personally never did anything like that, as my summers were more...indoorsy. But I could live vicariously through the stories I heard from my friends, and also through the stories of a little round-headed boy and his friends. So, let's talk about one of my favorite animated movies, Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. It's not as serious as it sounds. Or is it?

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown was released in the summer of 1977. Hey, that makes this year its 40th anniversary. Congratulations. The plot is about our titular character and his group heading off to summer camp. It's entertaining from the start, with a pretty fun theme song, IMO, and an amusing ride on the bus. Or, lack thereof, for some of them. Once they arrive, the kids try to settle in and get used to the way the camp is run, like using what I believe is military time and all that. The boys and girls split up into their respective cabins, and we get some interesting voting strategies from Peppermint Patty, as well as an hilarious scene on a waterbed. Oh, 70's. You had weird things.

One issue that both the boys and girls must deal with, however, is a group of bullies, who have, of course, a cat. And as we all know, cats are evil. Okay, to be fair, we've got Snoopy and Woodstock, so what else would be part of the nemeses. Anyway, these kids are legit awful. I mean, they do some things that would make Eric Raymond and the Misfits say, "Whoa, kids. That's a bit much." Although, the bully group did wear matching outfits, if memory serves, so it's not like the kids had o ammunition to fight back. Oh, well. Maybe they didn't want to risk it, because like I said, those guys were vicious.

And nowhere is this more evident than in the main event of the summer and the film, the big river race. So, ya know how, in the Charlie Brown specials, we often ask the burning question "Where are the parents?" Well, in this movie, we are asking "Where are the camp counselors?" Of course, even if we could find them, I don't think I'd trust them. Who in the heck lets children take part in, what ends up being, a very dangerous river race, and in rafts that they made themselves, no less? I feel as though, come September, there may be some lawsuits.

Anyway, this is where the real adventure begins, because the kids face all kinds of interesting things whilst on this race, including, but not limited to, explosions and blizzards...in the middle of summer. Yeah, I know they're kind of in the mountains, but...no. And while we enjoy these ventures, we are also wondering who, indeed, will win the race. I mean, we do have more than one team that we can be rooting for, so the ending isn't totally easy to predict, certainly not for a child seeing it for the first time. But, even as an adult, I do find the ending rather satisfying. So, it fits the rest of the film quite nicely.

As it is probably evident, I have always been a fan of the Peanuts gang, and like I said, this is one my favorites of their productions. As usual it has some great writing with great comedy, but it also has many elements of an adventure movie. Even some moments that, dare I say it, may be a bit tense. At least for the kids. Either way, I still find this one extremely enjoyable, and not just because of the nostalgia goggles. I'd say that most of the Peanuts stuff holds up, and if you haven't seen it yet, or if you've some kids and want to give them something better than the crap movies they've been releasing lately, I say this one should be very high on your "To Watch" list. It might just be the perfect summer movie. It might be.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer