Sunday, July 31, 2011

On Insane Summer Storms

It would appear we've hit the flash flood season again here in the desert. Thunder and lightning storms are striking several times a day, the parched ground can't absorb the onslaught of water fast enough, and alleyways, driveways, and streets are becoming streams.

I love the heat of the desert, the high temperatures, and the dryness of the weather, but a few times a year the temperatures rise, the clouds roll in, and moisture accumulates causing the humidity to climb and days of mugginess to begin.

I could live my entire life without this weather change.

The past few days have been like this. The skies are gray and filled with dark clouds, rain sporadically falls in torrential buckets, and the humidity is enough to make someone want to stay in the shower all day. Even with AC on it's stuffy and sticky.

Picture by: James Bo Insogna
 Last night, the storm took on new proportions, and in the dark early hours of dawn, my already restless sleep was disturbed by bolts of lightning tearing through the sky like serrated blades through pudding. They lit up the sky like industrial strength fluorescent lights. The thunder accompanying the impressive display of natural electricity was strong enough to shake the walls of my house.

My husband, amazing man that he is, slept through it.

I remember, when I was little, and a storm would rage outside the warmth and safety of my home, thinking it was the God's bowling. Some people say it's God laughing, or Angels clapping. Whatever you believe, one thing is undeniable.

Storms are beautiful.

They're also enthralling, dangerous, and worthy of the art dedicated to them. There is a reason so many stories have a dark and stormy night in them. They are the perfect backdrop for the battle between good and evil, right and wrong, and life and death.

What is your favorite part about storms?


Saturday, July 30, 2011

On Today's Happiness

I find that I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to blog about, and half the time nothing I come up with seems interesting enough.

Today, while I was contemplating a topic, I realized something.

 I'm happy.

 Yes, it's still relatively early to most people, though I've been awake since six--just like everyday when my three year old daughter/personal alarm clock, wakes up, but to me it's well toward 'mid-day'.

I'm feeling good about myself, and with myself (and yes, there is a difference).

I have an amazing daughter who even when she's driving me batty, is  still the most amazing person in my life. I've got great friends who love me, even though they're hundreds of miles away; family who loves me--both those who live with me, and those who also live their daily lives in various states across the country.

I'm happy.

I'm happy, because I realized all the choices in my life have led me here.

Right here.

To this day.

To this blog post.

To this city in the middle of the desert that most people have never even heard of, let alone visited.

Every bad decision, painful experience, emotionally dark period, and wonderful highlight, has led me to the person I am today.

A mother, a wife, a writer, a photographer, a friend, and a confidant.

I'm not the world traveler I someday want to be, and I haven't been published...yet, but all of those are on my personal horizon.

If I had a chance to go back and change anything in my past... any of the horrible experiences, the loss of innocence, the dark days after the death of my son, the heartbreak I wasn't sure I'd survive... I wouldn't change it.


Because I wouldn't be where I am, who I am, or what I am today.

Today wouldn't be... today.

Life is a precious, precious thing. Don't take it for granted, and don't regret the experiences in your past. Always remember who you were, where you came from, and who was there to help you along...


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On America's Priorities

The other day I was perusing the never ending status updates on Facebook when I came across this one:

Another (booze and drug addled) celebrity dies and now the whole world is gonna talk about it, but quick question, who can name a single US Servicemen who died in the last week? We have had 14 KIA's since July 15th but they are not in the news I can clearly see where America's priorities are .... God Bless those that sacrifice so much for us.
Now, far be it for me to trust anything I read on a Social Media network, after all, they're not much different than the tabloids at the checkout stands. The ones screaming, "Elvis was abducted by aliens and now has squid-like love child." 
With this in mind I did a little research of my own and found the statement to be pretty accurate. In the six days between July 12 and 17, 2011, the United States lost eight citizens in the ongoing 'War on Terror' in Afghanistan. This information was not found in a national newspaper, or even broadcast on local news stations. Instead, I discovered it, after considerable research, in a tiny newspaper serving the Silicon Valley.
These men lost their lives fighting under our flag, for the rights and freedoms of not only ourselves, but those in a country without the basic benefits we're afforded simply for being United States Citizens; yet the barely rated acknowledgement. 
On July 23, 2011, admitted drug addict and alcoholic singer, Amy Winehouse died in her home under unknown and questionable circumstances. Unless you've been living under a rock, lack the ability to read, or have roommates and friends who have taken a vow of silence, you've heard of her death. 
On July 26, 2011 among family, friends, and HUNDREDS of people who knew nothing about her other than she sang and had a penchant for illegal substances and erratic behavior, she was laid to rest. 
Her death is still being talked about (Hell, this blog right here is spotlighting her death--go figure), and will continue to be talked about for days, weeks, months, and years to come. Every year on the 'anniversary' of her death, tribute will be paid her. 
Will those eight men be remembered by anyone other than their close family and friends? 
Not likely. 
What makes a single  celebrity's life so much more valuable than the lives of the men and women who are actually doing something more useful than entertaining us with their questionable talents and shocking public behavior? 
Every day more and more American Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen, lose their lives in the continued battle under the Red, White, and Blue... and every day, their sacrifices are ignored, forgotten, or overshadowed because some rich socialite made their personal, private demons, public grist for the gossip mill. 
How many more American citizens need to die to over shadow one self indulgent entertainer? Two-thousand? A million? 
One more American death is too many.
I for one will not be offering remembrance to those whose lives were taken by their own demons, and touted in the public eye as martyrs to their art-- though I feel for their families, and the friends who actually knew them. 
I will hold each day, a special place in my heart for the memories of every man and woman whose loss is remembered only by those whose lives are now a little emptier, a little darker. In my world, they are the celebrities, the martyrs who died for a worthy cause. They deserve the moment of silence, the burning candle, and the tears shed. 
Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth B. Elwell, 33, of Holland, Pa; Pfc. Tyler M. Springman, 19, of Hartland, Maine; Spc. Frank R. Gross, 25, of Oldsmar, Fla.; Sgt. Lex L. Lewis, 40, of Rapid City, S.D.; Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith, 28, of Colville, Wash.; Sgt. Jeremy R. Summers, 27, of Mount Olivet, Ky.; Seaman Aaron D. Ullom, 20, of Midland, Mich.; Lance Cpl. Robert S. Greniger, 21, of Greenfield, Minn.; and all other Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen who put your lives on the line each day, or selflessly gave your lives for the lives and freedom of those less fortunate-- I thank you. May your lives and memories never be tarnished. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hollywood's Effect on the Music Industry

     If you'd been plugged into the television on August 1, 1981 when MTV launched for the first time you would have been greeted with footage of the Apollo launch, and John Lack saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll."   For the 80's generation this was a whole new experience in music appreciation, but it wasn't the first time that the music industry had been tied to television, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. For as long as people have been watching television, music has been tied to it. In this essay you will see how Hollywood has directly and indirectly affected the music industry.
            As early as the late 1940's families gathered around the television to watch variety shows; shows that we would come to know by another, quirkier title, 'reality television'. Much like American Idol, Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, a show that aired on various channels from 1947 until 1992, introduced the audience to unknown performers; allowing them to vote for their favorites.  For over sixty years, musically themed television shows have ran prevalent across the network airwaves, although, not all of them have been of the variety/reality show genre.
            When musicians began appearing on television shows like The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Perry Como Show, music, and by default the music industry had another medium to sell through.  Television was bringing the talents of Bo Diddly, Elvis Presley, and the Everly Brothers straight to the viewers in the comfort of their homes. Young girls who screamed and swooned at the sexual gyrations of Elvis' hips, could see his performances regardless of where they were located. On September 9, 1956, Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and introduced the world to his ballad, Love Me Tender. This advancement was a boon to not only musicians, but to music executives as well. RCA, the recording company that held Elvis' contract, received over one million advanced orders for the song the following week.
            June 11, 2002, Hollywood once again made huge waves in the music industry with the launch of American Idol. Similar to the variety shows of the mid to late 1900's, American Idol brought the music of unknown performers to the television masses. Idol which is in its tenth season, has created several music superstars including: Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and [Chris] Daughtry, not to mention a handful of other not-so-well known singers.
            In season one, Kelly Clarkson wowed America with her voice and style; taking home the honor of being the first winner of American Idol. Since her jump to fame she has released four albums, with her debut album, Thankful, reaching double- platinum, and her sophomore album, Breakaway, reaching multi- platinum. According to Nielson SoundScan, the company responsible for compiling album sales data for Billboard, Clarkson has sold more than 36 million singles and 23 million albums, making her the most successful American Idol winner, to date, worldwide.    
            Underwood, the winner during season four of the show has released three solo albums; the most recent one, Play On, sold 318,000 copies during its first week of sales, and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. With the debut of Play On, Underwood has been certified as a seven-time platinum recording  artist with a slew of prestigious awards including being the first ever female singer to win back to back Academy of Country Music Awards for Entertainer of the Year.
            Daughtry, though not the winner of Idol's fifth season, is currently the lead singer and guitarist for the self-titled band, Daughtry. Their debut album, also self-titled, Daughtry, sold more than 5 million copies after five weeks of sales, and made it to the number one spot on Billboard's top 200. American Idol, has since adopted his single, Home, as the song they play each time another singer is knocked out of the running. In 2007 at the NBA playoffs the single, Home, was also used by the eliminating home team.
            American Idol, might be the most recognized show that has turned out singers, and changed the way the music industry does business, but it's not the only one. Other musicians have come straight out of Hollywood planning meetings. O-Town, the boy band created in 2000 for the MTV show, Making the Band, as well as the 1960's sudo-Beatle's band, The Monkees, were both created by auditions. The television executives, and show creators had a specific idea in mind, and they hand selected the actors/musicians that would best fit the dynamic they were looking for.  These bands, though not as successful as those from Idol, still had a modicum of success; The Monkees, more so than, O-Town
            Even though American Idol would appear to be the standard for television created musicians, that wasn't always the case. Many well known, successful singers of the last decade came from the Disney Channel. The Mickey Mouse Club, introduced the world to superstars: Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears. These three singers have known great success during the last ten years; with the former N*Sync, boy band member, Justin Timberlake, having the most continual success, first as a member of a group,  then as a solo artist.
            Hollywood has managed to infiltrate the music industry in another way as well. An increasingly large number of Hollywood actors and actresses have tried their hand at making the crossover between acting and singing. Well known actors;  Kevin Bacon, Stir of Echoes; Keanu Reeves, The Matrix Trilogy; Jeff Bridges, Stick It; and Russell Crowe, The Gladiator; along with fellow actresses; Jill Hennessey, Crossing Jordan; Minnie Driver, Return to Me; and Amy Jo Johnson, Flash Point; have each put out at least one album, with varying degrees of success. Other actors have used the name notoriety they'd achieved in Hollywood, and created bands, and a following that way.   
          Gary Sinise, the actor who is best known for his role as Lt. Dan, in Forrest Gump, created The Lt. Dan Band, in 2004. He, along with his band mates, tour the world in support of the military; making stops at military bases stateside, as well as overseas, and giving free performances while attached to the USO.    
            It is becoming increasingly noticeable that Hollywood, and the music industry are closely tied together.  This has been the case since the very beginning, and it is unlikely it will ever change. Hollywood's effect on the music industry is noticeable in almost every genre of music, in one way or another. Whether the artist was discovered on a talent show, has performed on Saturday Night Live, or started their career acting, Hollywood has had an influence and affect on the music we listen to, enjoy, and buy.   

Monday, July 11, 2011

Reading, Editing, and Revamping

What's playing on my streaming music: Love the Way You Lie-- Eminem ft. Rihanna.

For the better part of the last month, my house has been filled with visitors from out of town. Family and friends came from Washington State to enjoy the sun and warmth of the desert (and possibly to spend time with the most awesomeness that is me), and though I enjoyed their visits, it was hard to find time or motivation to actually get any work done. 

I've been guest-less for a few days now, and I am just now moving towards actually working. 

What have I been doing instead?


I reread the Shelly Fredman series I mention in an earlier blog: There's No Such Thing As...and as of today I'm almost finished with the second book in the Lois Greiman series about Psychologist Christina McMullan, entitled Unplugged. 

Of course, this isn't what I should be doing. So, I've forced myself to set my Kindle down and actually spend some time editing and revamping both my YA novel Immortalis as well as my adult fiction Law of Murphy. I'm actually impressed with the changes and edits I've already made. I'm hoping to send my first few chapters of each to my new Critique partner I met through RWA's Online Chapter. 

I've also been plagued with the idea for a short story, so I've spent some time sudo-plotting that as well. I'm looking forward to getting it written. I've never been great at writing actual short stories. They always seem to take on a mind of their own and end up much longer than I originally planned, so I hope things work out this time. I'd like to publish a few shorts to start getting my name out there before I publish the first installment of Immortalis. 

Okay, enough procrastinating. Back to the main event.