Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The many faces of "Ally McBeal"

I have been in a nostalgic mood, and am watching TV series that I remember loving but need a refresher on.  This week I watched Season 1 of "Ally McBeal," and, in part, I'm glad I did.  I had forgotten just how cooky Calista Flockhart is in the show, but I also forgot how much I relate to her character, Ally.

Flockhart plays the title character, who is anything but graceful and poised.  This role had to be non-stop fun for the Flockhart as she rarely made it through a complete episode on her feet.  Her character was just normal enough to be believable, and just crazy enough to be lovable.  Ally spends most of Season 1 trying to get over her ex-boyfriend, Billy, played by Gil Bellows.  Billy was the love of her life who left her to go to law school.  Since then Ally became a lawyer and, as luck would have it, winds up working at the same firm Billy and his new wife Georgia (brilliantly played by Courtney Thorne-Smith).  The owners of the firm, Richard Fish and John Cage, are who really make the show.  Greg Germann and Peter MacNicol play these roles respectively, and the character nuances they bring to the screen are never-ending.  I love watching them work, and I love watching the cast together.  They are truly a team, and it is easy to see that each member of the cast trusts the others completely, enough to let them take their characters and each scene as far as it can go.  We see the human side of each character throughout the season, endearing some of them more to the audience than even Ally.

While the show is set in a lawyer's office, it does anything but tackle big political issues.  This firm takes simple cases that most would assume are easy losses, and they win.  We see the way the law is twisted to fit each individual, and the arguments given to support their ridiculous cases actually make you think.  A woman sues her boss for sexual harrassment because he didn't ask her to sleep with him after asking all the other women in the office; a man is sued for breaking into his girlfriend's house and fondeling her toes, but the lawyer's chalk it up to his zealous love her her and actually win; and a woman sues her ex-fiance for leaving her at the altar, and he is brought before the judge for questionning.  They really make you think, but in a quirky enough way to keep you interested.

I highly recommend giving this series a chance.  If you need to get used to it, try just the first season.  Or, if you already have a love of these characters and the show, get Ally McBeal: The Complete Series (Includes Soundtrack).  Give it a few episodes - you'll be surprised how much you laugh!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The rush of "Ranch Rush"!

If you're sitting at your computer and thinking to yourself, "I need a new game to be totally addicted to," then "Ranch Rush" may be for you!

I am a huge fan of games where you start from scratch and build:  whether it be a city, a house, a mall, a farm, a train station... you get the idea.  When I first started play "Farm Town" on Facebook I thoroughly enjoyed planting, harvesting, and selling my crops.  However, that's where the fun ended.  There was no point or purpose; I just kept doing more of the same thing over and over.  Luckily, "Ranch Rush" takes care of that problem. 

The goal in "Ranch Rush" is to complete a customer order each day.  You are given a specific time frame to complete this order, and it may involve anything from harvesting wheat to making bread to taking honey out of a bee hive.  Each day gets a little harder, and each week in the game you add more products to offer to customers.  The game is very fast-paced, but luckily begins with a slower tutorial and helpful hints that pop up until you get the hang of everything.  I love that I control how much to plant, how many animals to have on my ranch, and what machines to buy in order to fill orders.  There are obstacles, of course, such as bugs in the crops, broken machines, and bee stings.  These only add to the challenge of the game, making it much more entertaining.

"Ranch Rush" is available for individual download, or as a pack from  I highly suggest giving it a try, but not in a time frame where you need to get something else accomplished!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yakov's Moscow Circus Lacks Spectacle

While the animal tricks were intriguing to watch, the rest of the acts at Yakov's "Moscow Circus" left me unimpressed, to say the least...

While the show is primarily geared towards children, the performances in the show left most of the kids in the audience bored and wanting more.  The circus was rolled out as a story, with Yakov reading from a storybook as the pre-recorded narrator on the multi-media screens on either side of the stage.  The story itself didn't hold my interest at all, and some of the ties to the performers were pretty far fetched.  I would much rather have seen just the acts go one to another without some cheesy narrative about how Ivan the unicyclist needs to jump through the flaming hoops of despair to reach his one true love, Yvonne the circus ballerina.  It was too overdone and lacked entertainment value.

That being said, the two sets of animal acts were worth the wait.  The circus bears were outstanding and incredibly human-like.  Most walked on their back legs the entire act, and did everything from ride a bike to a full dance number.  The dog tricks were equally entertaining, and this act showed off a few tricks I have never seen in a dog circus act before.  Unfortunately they dressed the dogs like lions, which covered their entire heads in a plastic mask, and I felt so sorry for the dogs that I had trouble enjoying all their antics.

"Moscow Circus" comes complete with aerials, fire breathers, and a pretty entertaining opening act from a single clown.  The audience was asked to participate several times, including playing audience volleyball, throwing frisbees for the clown to catch around his head, and a few surprise tricks for the kids.  While your children may be mildly entertained, there are definitely cheaper ways to entertain your family than the $35 adult ticket and $15 child ticket.  The performance does come with a Russian dinner, but, again, better food for less money isn't hard to find in Branson.  The show runs every Tuesday - Saturday through August with 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows.  You can purchase tickets here, or by calling the Yakov theater at 800-728-4546.  Yakov's theater is located near the corner of Highway 65 and Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A "Greatest Hits" Album That's Missing A Few of the Greats...

I recently picked up Melissa Etheridge's Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled album, and I must say, in some ways it definitely lives up to it's name, and in others, remarkably it doesn't.

By no means are these songs actually her greatest hits:  this is by far more of a showcase of a few mega-hits along with her post-cancer power songs.  But to include the song "Lucky" from her album of the same name is absurd: that album was her lowest selling album to date.  And while I do appreciate an artist releasing new material on a greatest hits album, I AM BUYING IT FOR THE GREATEST HITS!  Just being honest...

The opening track is a wonderful cover of "Refugee" by Tom Petty, and Etheridge's raspy voice is a perfect fit for the rock song.  We are then ushered back to the beginning with a few early tracks from Melissa's first album.  I have heard her perform "Like The Way I Do" many times, but still, listening to the original version and it's haunting sound is the best way to go.  One thing I've always admired about Melissa is that her songs are real, from the gut.  I have no doubt that these songs were written out of personal experience, which makes songs like "You Can Sleep While I Drive" all the more beautiful and sad at the same time.

The album then thrusts right into early 90s powerhouse Etheridge with her biggest commercial hit, "Come To My Window."  Although, in Melissa's own words, this is the most misunderstood song she has written and is not actually a love song at all, the tune is still as catch as ever.  The 90s were Melissa's best-selling decade, so I was shocked to find that there were only three songs from that entire decade on the album.  The last half is filled with tracks from her albums Breakdown and Lucky, then four unreleased tracks finish up the set.  It made me sad that several of my favorite Etheridge rock songs were nowhere to be found; including a few released just two years before her this album.  The unreleased tracks are powerful, including her breast cancer survivor anthem "I Run For Life," which I immediately uploaded to my computer and intend to play at every Relay For Life my DJ company is involved in.  But it doesn't change the fact that there are several key songs missing from this release.

All in all this is a great taste of Melissa over the years, and I highly suggest picking up a copy.  Then I more highly suggest going back and finding copies of her albums to find the favorites that weren't included, but that you will love and be singing in the car for years to come.

You can pick up this great album from below:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Day My Music Died

It's been nearly a year since the unthinkable happened:  the King of Pop proved he was, in fact, a mere mortal.  It was the day my music died.

Say what you will about Michael Jackson; his quirks, his looks, his financial status.  But let's be honest; the man was an amazing entertainer and the undisputed King of Pop.  Michael Jackson completely transformed the music world, from bridging the gap between racism in music, to showing the world how a music video should be done.  There are few arenas of music that this man didn't touch during his lifetime, and I, for one, am still recovering from the shock and sadness of his passing.

I have been in the mobile DJ business for just over nine years, and I can literally count on two hands the number of events I have played music at that didn't have a Michael Jackson song in the lineup.  No matter what type of gathering I was at, his music transcended age, gender, and race.

It always amazes me to see how many junior high and high school age kids can sing along to every word of "Beat It;" how many wedding parties learn the entire "Thriller" dance and show it off during their wedding reception; and regardless of what they are doing, how many people stop and begin to cheer and attempt their version of the moonwalk when the opening beats of "Billie Jean" are heard through the sound system.  The man was a legend, and lucky for us his music will always live on.  My favorite MJ song?  "Wanna Be Startin' Something."  I will never hear it the same way again.

I ran into an older acquaintance of mine the day after Jackson died, and this gentleman said a few things that stuck with me.  "This is your generation's Elvis," he told me.  "You will never forget where you were when you heard the news.  I can still remember exactly where I was when Elvis died.  There are only a few moments like that in your lifetime."  And he is exactly right.  I will never forget my drive home from work that day as I listened to the news.  At first, like many others, I thought it was some kind of joke or prank, but once I realized how true the story was, I couldn't get my brain to believe it.  With an amazing world tour on the horizon, a tour that could have easily rebooted his career and reminded the world exactly why he was a megastar, Michael Jackson died of cardic arrest.  Unbelieveable.

My generation has truly lost its King.  It is a moment I will never forget.