Monday, December 26, 2011

THE HANGOVER II (And Things That DIDN'T Suck In 2011)

(And the Things That
DIDN'T Suck In 2011)

I began 2011 wrapping up the
promo phase for my first book.
12 months later, I had completed
my second book and I'd become
immersed in a sea of pre-release
activity. But aside from my
writing-related endeavors, I
also enjoyed a host of other
incredible experiences since the
last New Year's celebration.

Last summer, I enjoyed an action-packed pre-senior-year getaway excursion to NYC with my 17-year-old son, Jesse. We had a fabulous time taking in the sights, sounds and smells of "the Big Apple" and it proved to be one of our most memorable father and son adventures.

In August, I enrolled at East Coast Christian Center University in Merritt Island, Florida. At age 48, I returned to school for the first time in 30 years. Although my mission will take several years to complete, my goal is to earn a Doctorate in Theology.

I've been blessed recently to see my website audience grow to enormous proportions and I want to thank all of my readers, friends and foes for being part of making this such a fantastic year.

Me and my kid in "the Big Apple."
(August 2011)
Okay, now for what I (supposedly) do best. Here are a few personal anecdotes, reflecting on the world of entertainment in 2011.

Given the lack of quality content currently coming out of Hollywood, I find myself going to the movies less frequently these days. And this past summer's bumper crop of such high-profile and over-hyped stinkers as Bad Teacher and The Green Lantern  further reinforced my desire to stay at home.

And the winner in
the "Worst Movie"
category is...

To lump The Hangover II in with the world's all-time most horrendous atrocities would be probably a bit unfair. Uh, wait a second — now that I think about it, that is actually a fairly accurate description.

Like many of my fellow conservative, Christian-types, I have no problem accepting and embracing a little adult, movie-related content now and then — especially when there is a payoff. Yes, it's true — Christians not only go to the movies, but we also buy music, watch TV, read books and we sometimes even have sex  — GASP! Hence, despite the F-bomb showers, graphic scenarios and non-stop glorification of substance abuse, I could still appreciate the entertainment value of The Hangover. The wacky hijinx of four goofball friends during their overnight bachelor party romp in Las Vegas made for a clever, edgy and laugh-out-loud-funny story. And the 2011 sequel to that 2009 blockbuster was one of the year's most anticipated films.

At least the monkey was funny.
Serving as nothing more than a predictable and watered-down regurgitation of the original, The Hangover II is simply unwatchable. In fact, as with other such cinematic abominations as Grease II, Caddyshack II, Arthur II - On the Rocks and The Whole Ten YardsThe Hangover II is such a poorly written and ill-conceived farce that it actually dilutes the cool factor of the original film.

Despite their idiosyncrasies, Stu, Phil, Alan and Doug were all lovable characters, the first time around. However, in The Hangover II, not even Bradley Cooper's "OMG" good-looks and chiseled abs can make "Phil" even remotely endearing. In fact, the promotional movie posters should have read: The Hangover II — In 3-D (A Disastrously Dumb Disappointment). 

A rose among thorns...

The 2011 film adaptation of author Kathryn Stockett's 2009 best-selling novel, The Help, tells a compelling fictional story, while also tearing an authentic-looking page from a not-so proud chapter in American history. I spent much of my youth growing up in the South during the 1960s, and despite some of the criticism leveled at the book, I found the movie version to offer a pretty darn accurate account of what I witnessed personally during the Civil Rights era.

Emma Stone (as aspiring writer Skeeter), Viola Davis (as maid Aibileen Clark), Bryce Dallas Howard (as hometown racist Hilly) and Jessica Chastain (as "trophy wife" employer Celia Foote) all offer award-worthy performances.

In short, I laughed, I cried, and I found The Help to be a rare gem during a year that overdosed on inane box office blunders.

Over the summer, longtime Florida metal scene veteran Ty Oglesby released his long-awaited debut solo record, Demons Within. Despite the rather evil-looking cover as well as the disturbing album and song titles, this raw and traditional-style, seven-song slab-o-metal merely offers an open and honest introspective acount of Oglesby's personal life-struggles. I expect it to particularly blow up in the European market.

Invisible Empires, the latest from singer, songwriter Sara Groves dropped this past fall and along with it came the amazing first single, "Eyes on the Prize." Simply put, in my view, it's without a doubt, THE song of the year.

I also discovered a new musical treasure just a few weeks ago...

Since attending my first concert event in 1977, I've rarely witnessed a support act completely "spank" a headliner. But that's exactly what happened when Nashville's The Wild Feathers opened for pop music icon Paul Simon at Orlando's UCF Arena in December.

To me, Paul Simon got totally "served"
by opening act, The Wild Feathers.
Combining quality-crafted songs with pure harmonies and an abundance of down home pickin', The Wild Feathers create a kind of true-blue, authentic roots-style music that would make Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm's chests swell with pride — an observation that's even more remarkable considering that no one in the band looks to even be old enough to buy beer.

In short, if J.D. Souther and Bonnie Raitt had made bastard love babies back in '75 and they grew up and formed a band, that band likely would be The Wild Feathers

I took in several stellar live concerts this year including performances from AmericaBuckcherry, Hinder, Coheed and Cambria, Anthrax, New York Dolls and Chicago.

The April 2011 Orlando, FL performance by
Chicago, was for me, one of the year's best!
I spent considerable time this year catching up on my extracurricular reading. Although it was originally published in 2007, Joseph Prince's Destined to Reign was recently re-released in paperback. Too often, when praising a book, I'll say, "I couldn't put it down." But with its bold, Grace-based message, this is one of only three books I've ever read to which that praise truly applies!

I rarely watch TV these days. In fact, I don't even have television service in my home. I just no longer have any interest in such mind-numbingly foolish content. However, when I do occasionally glance at the ol' "boob tube" at someone else's home, typically I'm tuned into various news-oriented programs. This past fall, after discovering her CNN news-type program, OutFrontI came to grips with the fact that I'm in love with host Erin Burnett. And last October I publicly confessed my obsession.

Get the full story HERE

2011 was certainly a cool ride and I expect 2012 to be even greater. My second book, C'MON! - My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation will be released in January and by next spring I'll be embarking on a national speaking tour, sharing my personal faith-based testimony in churches, book stores and nightclubs across the country. And next summer, my son will graduate with honors from high school as well as receiving an early college AA degree. Now, if the Lord will just "move" Tal & Acacia to tour next year, 2012 will be a complete "slam dunk!"

Thanks, everybody for an amazing 2011. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

-Christopher Long
(December 2011)



C'MON! -

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


(Pt. V)


I DJ'd a wedding a few years ago for a bride named "Mary" who was, to say the least, more than a little stressed out. As we sat together one afternoon planning her ceremony and reception itineraries, she began bombarding me with a seemingly endless list of music-related details. She informed me of each selection that "must" be played, the song order and the exact amount of time (to the second) that each piece would play before segueing into the next. "Wow, that's quite a bit of info," I commented. "Well yeah," she replied, appearing to be as overwhelmed as I was. "My mother and my aunt told me that this is how it has to be done because it's tradition," she added. After years of working in the wedding biz, my first thought (which I kept to myself) was, whose "tradition?"

One thing I've learned since my first (working) bridal experience back in 1984 is that "TRADITIONAL" IS OPTIONAL. "Traditional" is a buzz-word that I believe a lot of industry-types like to throw around to intimidate brides and grooms in order to enhance the perception of said professional's importance — they know about "tradition" and boy are you lucky to have found them! As with Mary, often, family members also can get hung up on the notion of "tradition" and further intensify a bride's stress-factor.

I've been involved with various scenarios from casual, short and sweet beachside ceremonies with the bridal party, family and guests all dressed in Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip-flops to the most formal (and lengthy) Mass-like church events. Some ceremonies include pre-recorded music, while others feature live singers and musicians. And sometimes, there's no music at all. But in the end, each bride and groom successfully all said, "I do."

In the '90s, I was involved with a very "unique" wedding. To say that the bride and groom were both Star Wars enthusiasts would be an understatement. In fact, this couple was so passionate about the legendary movie franchise and its iconic characters that they chose to create a complete Star Wars  theme reception.

As I entered the very elegant hotel ballroom to load in my sound equipment on the day of the event, I noticed that from movie-related posters pasted on the walls to the theme-oriented napkins, cups and plates placed on the guest tables to the Princess Leia and Han Solo figurines atop the cake, the atmosphere more closely resembled a kid's birthday party than a "traditional" wedding reception. And guess what? The newlyweds and guests alike all had a blast as everyone partied and danced the night away.

More recently, I DJ'd a wedding event in Orlando. Although this wasn't a full-on theme reception, the newlyweds clearly were passionate about all things Disney. Per the bride's instructions, I played "It's a Small World" during the Grand Entrance and as the song reached its well-known chorus, the newlyweds leaped through the doorway of the reception hall, hand-in-hand, donning matching Disney-style mouse ears as they gleefully waved to their cheering family and friends.

A new twist in recent years is the growing popularity of serving cupcakes at receptions as opposed to a "traditional" cake. If I may offer a slice of personal philosophy, let me say that I believe there is NEVER a bad time for cupcakes! And by thinking outside of that "ol' box," brides currently are adding some fun and fresh pages to the standard traditional wedding playbook.

FYI, Heather's not-so "traditional"
cupcakes were fun AND delicious!
And then there was the reception a few years ago where the groom actually played an active role in planning the party. He indicated to me that he was struggling with choosing a song for the  "Mom and Groom" dance. Immediately, I suggested such tried, true and traditional choices as Kenny Rogers'  "Through the Years" and Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings," but he wasn't connecting with  any of my recommendations.

On the day of the event, the groom approached me during setup and informed me that he had chosen the perfect song. Do you have Gladys Knight and the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia?" he asked. Of course I did, as it's a timeless classic and one of my personal all-time favorites, but for the "Mom and Groom" dance? Noticing the perplexed look on my face, the groom confessed to me that he and his mom frequently danced to the song when he was just a boy. "We used to have the 45 record," he added. His song choice was anything but traditional, and although it made no sense to me, it did make perfect sense to the groom, his mom and many of the guests. Ultimately, it proved to be the perfect choice.

My point is simply this — in my view, if there is ONE tradition, it's that the bride and groom must feel comfortable coming into their "big day" and then be happy with the outcome. I'm not suggesting that anyone should go overboard by taking a "Bridezilla" approach to their wedding. However, I do encourage brides to focus more on choices and decisions that make sense for them, and not be dissuaded by someone else's perception of "tradition."

To be continued...

-Christopher Long
(December 2011)

I'm very accessible and I'm happy to assist folks at any time regarding wedding-related questions, concerns and comments. I can be contacted through either the "Comment" forum of this blog or directly via my personal email address.





C'MON! -

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CONCERT REVIEW: America (Melbourne, FL - 12.11.11)

w/ Michael McDonald
King Center / Melbourne, FL

"You forget just
how many great
songs they have."
-Michael McDonald

Opening the show promptly at 7PM with their 1974 Top Ten hit, “Tin Man,” the guitar-slinging, singer / songwriter combo of Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley delivered a high-energy 60-minute set that was packed with non-stop hits and holiday classics.

Donned in designer jeans and fashion-forward regalia, the nearly 60-year-old Bunnell and Beckley appeared younger, and displayed more vitality than some performers half their age as they plowed through their plethora of such pop / rock staples as “Horse with No Name,” “Sister Golden Hair,” "Don't Cross the River," “Ventura Highway,” “Lonely People,” "Daisy Jane" and “You Can Do Magic.”

Still reeling from Paul Simon’s recent deadpan Orlando performance and the F-bomb shower I experienced at last summer's Tampa Mötley Crüe show, I found the duo’s engaging and articulate in-between-song banter with the Melbourne audience to be a particularly refreshing change of pace.

Bunnell (left) and Beckley (center) with
America as a trio during their 1970s
chartbusting hey day. Co-founder
Dan Peek (right) left the group in 1977.
(Peek died in July 2011 of fibrinous pericarditis.)
Despite a few intermittent audio glitches, overall, the band sounded as good as they looked. And although it often can be jarring and actually serve as more of a distraction for the audience, America's use of onstage video imagery only enhanced their live presentation.

Additional kudos also must go out to Fountains of Wayne drummer, Brian Young, who reportedly “caught the red-eye” in order to fill-in at the last minute for the band’s longtime drummer, Willie Leacox, who sadly was absent from the concert due to a family emergency.

In addition to their string of hits, America
also performed several selections from their
seasonal 2002 record, Holiday Harmony.
With  the holiday season upon us, America also incorporated a fistful of festive favorites into their set, including such original tunes as “A Christmas to Remember” and “California Christmas,” as well as standards including “Silent Night” and the rousing, show-ending Burl Ives classic, “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

Although headliner Michael McDonald certainly did deliver a quality show, it appeared to me once again that the best act doesn’t necessarily always play last!

-Christopher Long
(December 2011)



C'MON! -

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


(PT. IV)

When I began this series
several weeks ago, I had
no idea that it would be
so well-received. I'm
apparently not the only
person who's fascinated
with behind-the-scenes
real-life wedding tales.

Initially, I was illustrating these stories by posting my own random pics from various weddings in which I've been involved over the years. Unfortunately, I don't have a huge collection of photos from which to choose, and most of the ones I do have either were taken with my phone or with disposable-type cameras. But after speaking recently with a longtime bridal photography veteran, it occurred to me that this series would be enhanced by featuring samples of work by various professional  photographers.

As a result, I'm delighted to have the privilege of presenting the work of John Sluder in this edition of Here Comes the Bride. I've known John for years. His work is impeccable and he is one of my all-time favorite bridal photographers to work with here on Florida's east coast. I hope that you enjoy John's contribution and I look forward to showcasing the work of other talented photographers in future Here Comes the Bride posts.

Bridal photography courtesy
of my friend, John Sluder.

In previous posts, I've commented on how the wedding and reception industry / experience is geared towards the ladies. As I've pointed out, the song ain't called "Here Comes the Bride" for nothing. Fellas, the truth is, as grooms, we're lucky to get an invitation. In fact, if brides effectively could pull it off without us, they probably would. My advice for grooms — do as you're told and stay out of the way. (LOL) Grooms, it will also serve you well to arrive at all wedding-related functions (i.e. the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner and the ceremony) in a timely fashion — clear-headed, smiling and not reeking of liquor.

Another subject that I also have addressed throughout this series is what I refer to as the "crowning jewel" of any wedding reception — the cake.

Both of these topics will collide in this edition of Here Comes the Bride...

As a wedding reception DJ, I also find myself frequently assuming the role of "event coordinator." I recently was faced with a groom who proved to be a bit of a "challenge" as I attempted to organize the bridal party for the Grand Entrance. He clearly was focused more on getting to the bar than getting to the first dance. "I just wanna get my 'drink on' with my 'boys'," he commented, more than once. In his defense, I'll say that his passionate and well-articulated "mission statement" speaks volumes to the mindset of many grooms with whom I've worked.

On another occasion, the groom and groomsmen arrived at the ceremony an hour late. Finally, their car pulled up and parked in front of the church. As the chauffeur opened the back door of the sleek, white, stretch limo, the groom and his "boys" all spilled out, one on top of the other, into the street — still red-eyed and reeling from their adventurous pre-wedding day all-nighter. Let's just say that neither the bride nor her mother were terribly impressed.

And then there was the groom who, to his credit, did participate in assisting with setting up tables and hanging decorations for his reception. However, as I was bringing in my DJ equipment, I couldn't help but overhear him announce, "I'm headin' to the hotel to git me a beer. I ain't doin' this if I ain't drunk!" He then lovingly suggested to the bride, "Girl, you need to go git a shower, 'cuz you smell like sh*t!"

This one says SO much!

Ah yes, THE quintessential reception photo op — bride and groom, nestled together, sterling silver knife in-hand, slicing up the second-most acknowledged symbol of their blessed, holy union...

Grooms-to-be, if you're reading this, I'm throwing you a bone here and you truly can benefit from my words of wisdom. Despite the obligatory egging-on from your "boys," it is in the best interest of all involved to take the high road regarding the cake cutting.

I remember one groom in particular who had been obviously "getting his drink-on" throughout the reception. When it came time to cut the cake, he surmised that it would be funny to adhere to his "boys'" advice and "smash it!" However, this groom clearly went too far as he shoved both of his bare hands into the cake and pulled out two globsful of white cake and red icing. FYI, icing isn't red naturally. It's created as a result of food coloring — which stains! The groom apparently hadn't considered this as he smashed one handful of the confection into his bride's face and then began flinging the other handful at guests. I can't make this stuff up, folks.

Now appearing to be riddled with bloody bullet holes, the bride burst into tears as her once beautiful white gown became stained from the red icing. Guests gasped in horror as they too became the victims of the groom's lack of judgment and marksman-like accuracy. For me, it took hours after the reception to chisel off the dried icing from my new DJ rig that also now was covered with red stains. Smooth move, dude!

Oh yeah, let's not forget the equally overzealous groom who smashed the triple chocolate cake into his unsuspecting bride's face. Although I wasn't in the direct line of fire that time, the groom did successfully manage literally to shove cake up under the bride's eyelids while smearing the chocolate icing all down the front of her dress and the venue's elegant white drapes.

Thanks again to John Sluder
for sharing his stellar work.

Yes, weddings and receptions are festive celebrations indeed. But fellas, for heaven's sake, hear me now and believe me later, you'll never regret taking the high road — especially on the biggest day of your life.

To be continued...

-Christopher Long
(December 2011)

I'm very accessible and I'm happy to assist folks at any time regarding wedding-related questions, concerns and comments. I can be contacted through either the "Comment" forum of this blog or directly via my personal email address.


Don't miss my entire
Here Comes the Bride 



C'MON! -