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 Amazon.com.  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 Amazon.com 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.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Feeling Desperate for Some "Desperate Housewives"

I, like many others, have begun the trek of watching my favorite TV series on DVD.  The benefits are massive - no commercials, I can watch it anytime I want, no commercials, the special features are usually entertaining, and, of course, there are NO COMMERCIALS!  This trek has led me to discover a series I was unsure of at first, but have now grown to love:  Desperate Housewives

While Season 1 of any show is normally a "growing and discovering" year, the show picked up its rhythm early on and threw out powerful and gripping storylines from day one.  Seasons 2 and 3 introduced new characters, mysteries, and a few key plot points, but Season 4 is the real show-changer.

Through the first three seasons we have come to know the women of Wisteria Lane in a personal way; we know their good qualities and most of their faults, and we get a real understanding of how they relate to each other and the situations around them.  Susan, played by Teri Hatcher, is the adorable clutz with the "girl-next-door" appeal.  Felicity Huffman plays Lynette, the over-worked mother that most women can completely relate to.  Gabrielle, the resident former-supermodel-turned-suburban housewife, is beautifully played by Eva Longoria Parker.  And the true Stepford Wife of the group, Bree Hodge, is brought to life by Marcia Cross.  These women feel like our neighbors and, in some cases, our friends.  We have seen them love, lose, learn, and continue to live no matter what they face personally or as a group.  Season 4 really seems to highlight the best in each woman as they go through new difficulties on every level.  Susan and her new husband Mike (James Denton, who doesn't have his shirt off nearly enough in this season...) find out they are pregnant, deal with Mike's drug addiction, send Susan's daughter Julie off to college, and calculate the risks of being "older parents"; Lynette battles cancer, a former employee comes back to threaten Lynette and Tom (played by the always sexy Doug Savant), and Tom and the kids are nearly killed after a tornado rips through Wisteria Lane; Bree continues to fake a pregnancy so she can keep her daughter Danielle (Joy Lauren) from suffering public humiliation, her husband Orson (the impeccable Kyle McLaughlin) comes clean about a past crime, causing Bree to force a separation, and Bree learns a hard lesson of friendship with a new neighbor;  Gaby begins an affair with her former husband Carlos (Ricardo Chavira) after several attempts to end her marriage with Victor (played by the amazing John Slattery), her husband is killed, she and Carlos are remarried after an accident in the tornado makes him permanently blind, and the two accidentally house a drug dealer (Justine Bateman).  A new couple moves in down the street, opening the eyes of the women to gay life.  But the true heart of the season unfolds as the women of Wisteria Lane are forced to accept a new neighbor into their midst.  Dana Delany joins the cast as the jaded former resident of Wisteria Lane Katherine Mayfair.  While Katherine did used to live in Mike's old house, which she has repurchased, she brings with her a whole new set of problems and demons.  As the season unfolds we learn of Katherine's ex-husband, played by the semi-creepy Gary Cole, who is out on a mission to find Katherine and her daughter, and serve his own brand of justice.  There are many secrets that Katherine is keeping; the truth about her ex-husband, whether the girl we see is truly her daughter, and what really happened in Chicago with her current husband Adam (a surprising role for Nathan Fillion) and his medical practice.  Katherine befriends the girls, slowly but surely, as different events force them together.  She makes a special connection with Bree, and the two discover how alike they really are.  Which brings it all down to the finale...

After a tension-filled episode full of answers to Katherine's mysteries the women are thrown together by one vengeful act; Katherine kills her ex-husband and the women cover for her to the police.  An instant and unbreakable bond is formed between them, and Katherine, unlike any of the other neighbors, is brought into the fold and now considered one of the group. 

The show then takes an unusual turn:  it jumps ahead five years.  In less than two minutes we are brought up to speed on where the women are now - the kids are more grown up, marriages have been reconciled, couples who swore they would never have kids now have several, and others have ended their marriages and move on.  It is a well-calculated move by creator Marc Cherry; after all, we've seen four seasons of the women in their current situations.  Bumping the time frame up five years puts them all in a new and exciting period of life, and gives Cherry the opportunity to fill us in on what has happened in those five years and how the women's decisions affect where they are at now.  On a casting note it is also a way to introduce new characters who have steady relationships with the women, as well as replace actors playing children with actors playing teenagers.  All in all I think it was a brilliant move, and it really changed the course of the show.

So what happens next?  As soon as Netflix sends me Season 5 you'll be the first to know... 

Desperate Housewives is currently on ABC.  You can also purchase Desperate Housewives - The Complete First Season, Desperate Housewives - The Complete Second Season, Desperate Housewives - The Complete Third Season, Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season, Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fifth Season, and Desperate Housewives: The Complete Sixth Season all from Amazon.com.  Or if you just want to take them all home in one swoop, getDesperate Housewives: The Complete Seasons 1-5 here.