A blog for my assorted thoughts and rambling inner monologue.
Welcome to my blog!
I would make some sort of clever introduction here, but most of us already know how blogs work; if you like me and like my writing, you might also enjoy my personal ramblings. If you don't like me, you're probably not reading this anyway... and if you're undecided in your opinion of me, I invite you to read as much or as little as you like and decide for yourself.
Please read on and, if you find something worth discussing, don't be shy about submitting a comment!
My blog is proudly associated with:
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 21): Free Day! You can write about any song you want, for any reason you want. Tell us something!
For the final day of music blogging, I'm going to go with one of the songs in regular rotation for me these days. "This Feeling" by Abby Anderson is a song that I think I discovered just listening to a random Amazon Music playlist one day and it's stuck with me ever since. I'd never heard of Abby Anderson before; apparently she's only twenty years old and got her start on Glenn Beck's show of all places, singing a rendition of "My Country Tis of Thee" (her version is titled "Let Freedom Ring") that became so popular it landed on both the Billboard and iTunes charts.
As she works on her debut album, she's released a handful of songs, covers, and other performances to get her career off the ground. Most of them are pretty good, but "This Feeling" is still my favorite:
I think it's a fun song and she's got a great voice for such a young performer; she's already made a handful of "up and coming" lists, especially in and around Nashville where she moved after graduating from high school early to focus on her music career. I'm really interested to hear her first album and see what she comes out with next, but in the meantime I'll be enjoying this song on repeat for a while longer.
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 20): It's Karaoke Night! When it's your turn to go up on stage, what song will you perform and why?
I am not a karaoke person. Mostly because, unlike those crazy audition people on American Idol, I fully recognize that I'm a terrible singer and I'm completely okay with that. Which means that choosing karaoke songs gets a bit complicated because I can't pick a song that requires any sort of decent vocal range to perform, but I also refuse to pick cliched or bad songs. Which means that I can't really go with songs like "Hello" by Adele or "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston but I won't pick easier songs like, "Build Me Up Buttercup" by The Foundations or "Stay" by Lisa Loeb.
I was tempted to go with something ridiculous and over the top. I mean, no one cares how bad you're singing when you're performing "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot or "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice. They're supposed to be bad songs. And even though there are some true classics that are always crowd-pleasers, I wouldn't want to be the fifth person singing Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" or Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" that night.
For a long time, I thought my karaoke song would either be "I Love Rock & Roll" by Joan Jett, or some kind of a hip-hip song with fun lyrics... so I figure why not make the best of both worlds and pick a hip-hop song that samples the Joan Jett classic? "Mind on the Road" by Rev Run.
Joseph Simmons a.k.a. Reverend Run from Run-D.M.C. fame is a talented rapper from a talented family (he's also the brother of Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons), and there's no question about the influence he's had on the hip hop world. He's also an actual ordained minister, although I'm less enthusiastic about his Christian leadership, mostly because he's a proponent of the controversial prosperity gospel (which has widely been criticized as promoting idolatry and exploiting the poor). That said, he's still a hell of a rapper!
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 19): Pick a song that brings you back to a specific event in your life. But the catch is... LOVE SONGS ARE NOT ALLOWED!
Even though it's kind of a romantic song depending on how you interpret the lyrics, the reason I picked this song is most definitely not romantic. Mostly because it involves several male teachers in my high school's history department.
For years, our high school had problems with its pep rallies. Not much enthusiasm, pretty bland and predictable activities, etc. Imagine your stereotypical high school from any teen show; they have the marching band play, the football players and cheerleaders pump up the crowd, the class president making some announcements... literally, it's every stereotype you could possibly imagine.
One school year (I think it was my sophomore year), the school hired a bunch of new history teachers. It was a weird situation where a few had left and a really large class was coming in, so they needed extra teachers in all departments but especially history. Three of the new history teachers talked two of the existing ones and convinced them to put on a little skit. Unbeknownst to pretty much everybody (even the administration who thought they were going to do some kind of boring history presentation), they instead dressed up in the all-white outfits from this video and lip-synched "I Want It That Way," complete with choreographed dance moves and a handful of female student they conspired with to scream and cheer and hold up signs and throw flower petals at them.
It was definitely one of the more memorable pep rallies at our school and the best part was that it actually kicked off an unofficial competition among the departments to come up with increasingly "out there" stunts to keep the students interested and excited to show up at pep rallies. The chemistry teacher blew up a piñata in the middle of the football field, the physical education teachers had a "strong man/woman" competition. It was the tipping point that made the last couple of years of high school go from dull and uninspired to really fun and entertaining.
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 18): What cover version of a song do you think is better than the original?
I can't help it. This time I'm doing a two-fer. I can't pick just one cover song!
First up, is "Burning Down the House" by The Used (previously by Talking Heads). As much as I hate to admit that I discovered this song watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, mostly because I don't ever want to admit that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has any redeemable qualities whatsoever, this is actually a really good cover. Talking Heads' version is a classic, but I really dig the industrial sound The Used were able to get on this track. It feels retro and modern all at the same time.
Second, I can't in good conscience talk about covers versions without mentioning Jay-Z's cover of the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" from the All Points West Music & Art Festival in 2009. If you're not familiar with the story, 2009 was the year when Beastie Boys vocals/bassist MCA (Adam Yauch) was diagnosed with cancer. They ended up having to pull out of their Friday night headlining gig at All Points West and the festival got Jay-Z to fill in as the last-minute headliner. He thought it would be appropriate to open his set with a tribute to the band he was replacing and it... is... amazing.
There aren't many people that can pull off the energy and rhythm of a Beastie Boys track, but Jay-Z handled it like a pro. Maybe it was his practice doing rap/rock mashups with Linkin Park on their amazing Collision Course album in 2004... or maybe it's just the fact that Jay-Z is an incredible entertainer. Either way, he nailed it. I don't necessarily think it's better than the original, but I think he did a really great job trying to pay tribute to the Beastie Boys at a time when they were really struggling.
There are actually a ton of cover versions of songs that, for various reasons, I like more than the original. Some other finalists that were in close contention for this blog entry include:
"Tainted Love" by Marilyn Manson (previously by Soft Cell and Gloria Jones)
"Smooth Criminal" by Alien Ant Farm (previously by Michael Jackson)
"I Fought The Law" by The Clash (previously by The Crickets and The Bobby Fuller Four)
"Landslide" by The Dixie Chicks (previously by Fleetwood Mac)
"Twist and Shout" by The Beatles (previously by The Isley Brothers)
"Blue Monday" by Orgy (previously by New Order)
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 17): Moment of truth time. If someone were to put your entire music collection on random, what would be the most mortifying song to come up? In other words, of all the songs you own, which one is the most embarrassing to admit to? C'mon... fess up!
Yes, I purchased this song on iTunes. Yes, I'm one of the 119 million people who have viewed the YouTube music video. No, I am by no means proud of it. Actually I own two versions of this song; the original and the cover from the cast of Glee. Which is actually an interesting existential question, if you think about it. Is it worse to buy a terrible song? Or a terrible song covered by someone else? I mean, I suppose the Glee kids at least have decent voices...
The best part of this song (and video) is that it's produced by ARK Music Factory, a label created by Clarence Jey and Patrice Wilson (the latter of whom also features in the song but insisted on not being credited) which is clearly in the "I'll produce any album you want as long as we get our fee" music space. What I love more than anything is that this is - by far - the biggest hit these two guys have ever had and I'm pretty sure it was completely unintentional. Not that it's stopped them from subsequently claiming to be geniuses and taking other people's money...
While I do grudgingly admit it's a little catchy, this song abuses Auto-Tune like it's going out of style. Auto-Tune was "originally intended to disguise or correct off-key inaccuracies, allowing vocal tracks to be perfectly tuned despite originally being slightly off-pitch" (Wikipedia). Or, you know, apparently it can be used to engineer a terrible voice within an inch of its life until a robotic, overly-processed version meets the bare minimum of what could be technically considered music. Using Auto-Tune in this manner is like using the drive assist feature a lot of cars have these days and, rather than correcting for minor curvatures in a relatively straight road, expecting your car to drive you around town while you run errands. That's not how it's supposed to be used, and it's going to result in a wreck!
And yet I still bought the song. Twice. And at least a dozen of the video's views are mine, if not more. So who's the real idiot here?
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 16): Soundtrack songs. Which song from a movie/TV/game/etc. soundtrack has the most emotional impact on you? What song, when you hear it, brings you right back to the scene in question and gets you teary-eyed, overjoyed, amped up, etc. all over again?
It's pretty hard to top the iconic Kenny Loggins song "Danger Zone" from the action blockbuster and allegedly homoerotic fantasy film Top Gun. From the opening montage (which is actually the "Top Gun Anthem" and another iconic song), you're immediately thrown into the world of fighter pilots. Later on, when "Danger Zone" kicks in while jet engines ignite and fighters taking off from the deck of an aircraft carrier, you can almost feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins.
I always forget how much fun it is to watch this film until I catch a glimpse of it on TV or catch some clips on YouTube. It's delightfully over the top in the way that only an 80s action movie can be, and so most of the iconic moments only get cheesier and cheesier with time. I was a little too young to catch this on the first run in theaters, but I remember watching it on home video years later and being amazed at how they shot all of the plane stuff. It's kind of a cliche these days that a movie should show you a world you never knew existed, but it's a cliche precisely because of movies like these where audiences were awestruck at the idea of actually getting a sense of what it's like to be a fighter pilot. Or, in the case of Backdraft, a firefighter. Or, in the case of Lethal Weapon, a renegade loose cannon of a cop who plays by his own rules.
Enjoy the video for this song too; it's 80s Kenny Loggins at his best, back when music videos for movie soundtracks were basically clips from the film intercut with the artist singing in one of the film's cheapest-to-recreate scenes. I mean, seriously, is the idea here that Kenny Loggins is singing from the same bed that Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis boned in? I guess so!
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 15): Songs you hate. Tell us about one or more songs that you would be perfectly content to never hear again in your life, ever.
The irony of having to find (and therefore) listen to a song in order to link a video to it in a blog post about songs I hate and would be happy to never hear again is not lost on me. And all that said, while I ultimately picked "Dreams" the song to feature, I would be perfectly content to never listen to another track from The Cranberries ever again. "Dreams," "Zombie," "Linger" ... you can keep them all. My wife loves them but I just find their music so... whiny.
There's no doubt their music has made an impact on people. 40 million records sold and eight Top 20 singles is no fluke. In fact, there's probably a lot of people in my generation who would list them as one of the most important bands of their formative years. And, sure, I can appreciate the complex emotions in their songs and the whole tortured artist thing. I really can. It''s just that their music is so... whiny.
Despite my distaste for their music, I was sad to hear that lead singer Dolores O'Riordan died earlier this year. It's never easy when a music icon passes away, especially someone who passes at the relatively young age of 46. She and her band had an immense influence around the world and I really wish I liked The Cranberries more than I do. It's just that their music is so... whiny.
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 14): Blogger's Choice! All you have to do today is write about any movie and tell us why. What are you dying to talk about? Do you want to praise or rip on a movie you just saw? Mention your favorite movie that didn't fit into any of the prompts so far this week? Talk about your most eagerly-anticipated movie of this year? As long as you talk a little about why you picked it, write about any movie you want, past, present, or future!
I've mentioned this movie a couple of times in my blog entries this week, but today I'm featuring it all by itself because this is probably the movie in the entire course of my professional career that I'm most proud to have worked on. The Right Girl, which is the only film that I actually have a writing credit on, is up there, but I still think Avengers: Infinity War ekes out a slight lead. This is just such a huge, momentous movie, I feel privileged to have been a part of working on it, even as someone behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight.
This movie is truly unprecedented in a couple of ways.
First, the size and scope of the film is massive. I can't think of any movie that has as many A-list stars in it. Even if you only count the actors who have been the primary lead in another movie, there are over twenty. If you count all the actors with at least a modicum of name recognition, you're up to nearly fifty. Put all of those actors in a movie that's one of the highest, if not the highest, budget film of all time and we're talking about a movie with a size and scope that few people have ever seen before. It makes the Pirates of the Caribbean movies seem like modest fare.
Second, and more importantly, though, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has accomplished what no other franchise in history has done; it's pulled together eighteen films that have come before it, each connected in some way to the other movies. The only other film franchises that come even close to having eighteen entries are James Bond (24-26 depending on how you count them), Amityville Horror (18), and Star Trek (13), all of which have had a number of films not relate to one another. The fact that Marvel Studios has made not just eighteen blockbuster, box-office-record-toppling films, but blockbuster, box-office-record-topping interconnected films is nothing short of amazing.
I'm really proud of this film. Even for people who aren't huge Marvel movie fans, I think there's something to enjoy here. It's a good movie. But for fans of the Marvel universe? Oh man, it's going to blow you away. The size and scope of what the filmmakers have done on this movie will shock you. If you got a giddy feeling seeing the team assemble for the first time in The Avengers, imagine what it'll feel like to see eighteen films' worth of heroes assembling. The Avengers meet Guardians of the Galaxy meet Doctor Strange meet Black Panther meet Spider-Man.
It's been such an immense amount of work, and such an amazing experience to be a part of. I always get a little twinge of pride when the credits roll and I find my name in that long end crawl... and this one is particularly special. I can't wait until the world can see it. Only a few more days to wait!
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 13): Adaptations! You're still the head of a major studio, so what piece of material (can be anything except another movie: a book, comic, TV show, toy, news article, real life true story, etc.) would you choose to have adapted into a feature motion picture? Also, which movie do you think was the absolute best adaptation of the source material (best can be either most faithful or most improved, your choice)?
Apparently I really like this prompt because I also used it four years ago during a prior Blog Harbor activity ("Sleeping In & Rifts" ), so even though I still think Rifts is a great choice and the first thing I thought of, I'm going to challenge myself to think of something new this time around. And since they just made Ready Player One, cue Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards Sequence.
Set in a low-magic fantasy world, the three books (The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and The Republic of Thieves are immensely entertaining books about a team/adoptive family of con artists and criminals who make their way in the world by utilizing disguises, clever schemes, and subterfuge to make a living... only to get embroiled into the much larger schemes of much more powerful people.
The books are smart, irreverent, and action-packed. I listed to all three audiobooks over the course of about two weeks (and they're not short books!) because I was constantly staying in the car an extra twenty minutes (after a two-hour commute, mind you!) just so I could finish a little more of a chapter. If you don't mind a bit of vulgar language and some mildly gross descriptions, this is actually a great book for those who are looking to venture into fantasy. It's as much a crime story as it is a fantasy one, and the magic and fantastical elements of the story are minimal rather than being pervasive. This isn't a story where everyone's running around casting spells and fighting dragons. It's mostly a funny urban crime tale that just happens to be set in a medieval-era secondary world.
Each of the three books builds upon events in the previous installment, but are also complete tales on their own. I really enjoy stories like this where, if you haven't read the earlier installments you can still enjoy the story... but if you have, you'll really appreciate the way some of the subplots and backstory are fully explored through all three installments. And, more impressively, each of the three books takes place in a different city of the world, so the reader gets the feeling like they're exploring a larger world when the second book takes them to a location that was only peripherally mentioned in the first, and the third takes them to a legendary place to fight a legendary enemy that's been built up to legendary status over the prior to volumes.
Scott Lynch, to me, went from unknown author to one of my favorite fantasy authors in just three books, leapfrogging some authors that I've been reading for years. I will read anything this guy writes from here on out, no questions asked, because of how enjoyable I found these books. If you're a fantasy-lover, or someone who's interested in giving low fantasy a try, I'd definitely check these books out... and I'd love to see these made into a movie trilogy by someone who sees the same potential in them that I do.
"Blog Harbor from The Talent Pond" PROMPT (DAY 12): Congratulations, you're now the head of a major motion picture studio! You have the final say over what films get made and how much money is spent on them! With your newfound authority, you can remake or reboot any film from the past. Which will you choose and why? And, more importantly, how big a movie would you make? Would you want to do a big budget remake of a cult classic? A Star Wars movie with a small indie feel? A complete reboot of the Transformers franchise? A future-set sci-fi adaptation of Titanic? This is your chance to overhaul a movie of your choice from the past... tell us a little about what that project is and how you see the new version turning out!
When thinking about today's blog entry, I briefly considered flat-out remaking a movie I loved as a child (wouldn't it be awesome to see a live-action update to the animated classic Transfomers: The Movie with all that our visual effects can accomplish today? It's still the best Transformers movie, IMHO), and then entertained the idea of completely rebooting a franchise that's gone a little off the rails but has a lot of potential (The Transporter franchise, for example). But ultimately I decided to go with a beloved childhood movie that I think could be really successful without necessarily having a full on reboot or just trying to remake the original. I'd choose:
What kid wouldn't want to go on a treasure hunt? And you could totally do this as a sequel to the original. Bring back one of the kids (Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, etc.) who's now in the role of a parent, and their kids get to set off on a new adventure of their own. You could tie the new adventure into the same One-Eyed Willy plotline from the original movie, or you could come up with a completely different legend behind a new buried treasure. Either way, it would be a blast (and I think really successful) to introduce an entirely new generation to the fun of a family movie that centers on a bunch of kids trying to uncover the secrets to a buried treasure. Then again, maybe I just love these kinds of movies in general, because I would totally consider a National Treasure or Romancing the Stone reboot too.
I'd probably give the movie a modest budget and modest release plan. Over the years of working in this business, I've learned that having a huge amount of money to spend doesn't always guarantee success. Sometimes the truly memorable moments come when you have to find creative ways to work around budgeting or logistical problems. A huge studio blockbuster titles like the Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Jurassic World fare have budgets in excess of $200 million, which I don't think you'd need for this. A modest budget mainstream film (The Shape of Water, Hidden Figures, the Tyler Perry movies, etc.) might have a budget of around $20-$25 million. And a standard studio film (including Goonies if you adjust its 1984 production budget for inflation) would be around $50 million (Ted, The Nice Guys, 22 Jump Street, Central Intelligence, Erin Brokovich, The Emoji Movie, Moneyball, Peter Rabbit, etc.). I think someone could make a perfectly serviceable Goonies sequel for around $50 million, without needing to go all crazy with the costly visual effects or special effects. And on a modest budget, there's a much higher likelihood of becoming solidly profitable than spending a huge amount of money and hoping it's a home run.
On a completely separate note, while I was researching this blog post today, I started looking through a list of cult movies just to see if anything would inspire me... and whoa boy did I find a lot of really, um, unusual movies. I'd heard of a couple of them before (Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Sharknado), but most of these are new to me and I just had to share them based on their synopses alone. All synopses are borrowed from Wikipedia... most of them are just quick blurbs but there are two that are much more detailed because you almost need the longer description in those cases to fully appreciate how bizarre and/or gross those films are:
Gayni**ers From Outer Space ▼
I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle ▼
Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter ▼
Killer Klowns from Outer Space ▼
Nude on the Moon ▼
Nekromantik (GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING!) ▼