Saturday, June 28, 2014

LIVE IT UP TODAY! (Guest Post)

Live It Up Today, 
Because You Never 
Know What Might 
Happen Tomorrow

I first received today's
"Guest" feature back in 2001
Kelly was only 13 when she
wrote her honest and deeply
personal story. I loved it so
much that I framed a Xerox
copy and displayed it in my 
home. Now in her 20s, Kelly 
has graciously allowed me 
to share her work with my 
readers. Enjoy!

"Live it up today, because you never know what might happen tomorrow" is a sentiment that's very personal to me. I've heard many people say this, but it rang true for me in May 1999 — when my grandmother passed away.

My grandmother was an angel on Earth. She was the world to me. She was the only person in my family who I could really talk to, and I didn't worry about what I said. We would always go to the beach when I went to visit her in Florida. Even when she couldn't go to the beach with me, I never stopped loving her. We shared a few jokes now and then that were just between us. She was basically my best friend. While we were having such a great time, I usually forgot that she had a rare cancer called multiple myeloma which is a cancer that affects the bone marrow and plasma cells.

In May 1999, I was called out of class and was told that my dad was coming to get me. When I heard this, I secretly started panicking. My mother was already down in Florida with my grandmother. She told me that my dad would come and get me out of school if something was wrong.

I knew that my grandmother was on the fast track downhill. On the beginning of the first week I was in Florida, they told us that she was brain-dead. That was so hard to hear for anyone who is losing a loved one. The next day we got the phone call that I wished never came, but did. They called to say that my grandmother had just died. All the memories of the times that we had shared came rushing back to me. I loved her so much. I still do. She was my angel on Earth, but now she is my guardian angel in heaven.

"Live it up today, because you never know what might happen tomorrow." Life is very precious and fragile, and you have to enjoy every second  that you have like it's your last. Never take anything for granted.

-Kelly Nale

Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.


Friday, June 27, 2014

CONCERT REVIEW: Badfish / 6.26.14 (Guest Post)

w/ Shrub
Capt. Hiram’s / Sebastian, FL / 6.26.14

Michelle Wilson recently 
was doin' time at another
Florida concert spectacular. 
And she's returned with
a sublime "Guest" review.

It was one of those sublimely cool Thursday nights on the Indian River, as I found myself ensconced among throngs of potential body-surfing fans, all eagerly anticipating the Sublime Tribute Band, Badfish. With the river breeze holding its own and the T-storms remaining at bay, the abundant crowd at Capt. Hiram’s was about to get rocked double-fold.

Taking the stage promptly at 7:30pm, the Columbus, Ohio-based independent band Shrub opened the show with an energetic, one-hour reggae / rap / rock set featuring material from their first record, Señorita as well as their latest effort, the creatively titled Highceratops. They are in the midst of a 13-show tour with Badfish. Cleverly adorning the stage with potted “shrubs” and fronted by reggae / rapper Jay Shrub, the group garners comparisons to such bands as The Dirty Heads and G. Love & Special Sauce. Comprised of two guitarists including Josh Altfater and one-time member of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, Kevin Oliver, who joined the band in 2013, as well as bassist Benny Coles, keyboardist Alex Willard and drummer J. Baskette, the colorful, high-energy lineup offered a rousing round of rap-reggae based tunes with graceful harmonies and stellar guitar work thrown into the mix. Opening with “Go Run” and the harmony-laden, reggae-infused “Fast Lane” off their newest release, the multi-talented artists also performed “Cherries” from the same collection and a great cover of “All Along the Watchtower” featuring Kevin Oliver on lead guitar and vocals. One of the real highlights (and I’m still laughing) was “Dick (In the Mashed Potatoes),” seemingly inspired by the Beastie Boys’ “B-Boys Makin’ With the Freak Freak,” and also reminiscent of Florida-based Dead Serios-type humor. A thoroughly enjoyable 60-minute set was over in the blink of an eye, and a more fitting opening act couldn’t have graced the stage to precede the boys of Badfish. 

Kevin Oliver of Shrub.
Exploding onto the Hiram’s “Grand Sand Bandstand” at 9pm, Badfish guitarist / vocalist Pat Downes, bassist Joel Hanks, drummer Scott Begin and keyboardist / saxophonist Gerard Ramm delighted the apparent diehard Sublime fans with a smorgasbord of career-spanning songs including “The Wrong Way,” “Caress Me Down,” “Doin’ Time,” “Santeria” and “What I Got.” At times, the mix tended to overpower the vocals for their nearly two-hour set, but this was a minor distraction for the body-surfing fans who reveled in hearing all of their favorite Sublime tunes executed so deftly. A flurry of female fans found their way on stage and danced with band, and the night came to a quick conclusion as the lightning and thunder moved quicker and closer. 

Michelle Wilson w/ Scott Begin of Badfish.
Michelle Wilson w/ members of Shrub.
There was nothing about this show that I didn’t love. Cooperative weather, a great crowd and talented and vivacious bands all combined to offer a stellar night of live music at its best.

-Michelle Wilson
(June 2014)

Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Ginny Owens "Get In, I'm Drivin'"

Get In, I'm Drivin' 
(SoulStride Records)

Simply put, I don't
discover my music.
My music discovers me!

There I was, en route from a recent morning Starbucks experience, when suddenly, a Godzilla-sized earworm grabbed and hooked me — even before the first super-catchy chorus. And I literally shouted out loud with delight as the snappy R&B-flavored pop tune ripped through my minivan hi-fi speakers. "YEE-OW! This is freaking amazing!"

Like a maniac on a mission, I raced up A1A with the pedal to the metal, hoping to arrive back at my beachside home before I forgot any key lyrics to the solid gold nugget. Spread your wings, in the sun. Don't give up, there's more to come — Google search to the rescue. In short order, BINGO! — I found it. The artist — singer / songwiter Ginny Owens. The song — "Before You Fly." The album — Get In, I'm Drivin'... iTunes to the rescue. Click to buy full album now. YOU BETCHA! Click.

Channeling enough "Roberta" to be authentic, yet possessing enough "Alicia" to not be nostalgic, Get In, I'm Drivin' is a noticeable stylistic departure from Owens' sanitized, safer-sounding previous work.

Bursting with highlights galore, this 11-song collection is a bona fide start-to-finish winner. The record kicks off strong with the title track, followed by "Mystery of Grace" — organic gems that offer delicious layers of Rhodes, woven into the fabric of Owens' angelic vocals. Right off the bat, these two songs kissed me so sweetly, that I was filled immediately with a yearning to buy them pancakes — long after the honeymoon.

In addition to the afore-touted, "Before You Fly," other diamonds and rubies include the heartfelt break-up song, "Rain" and the more upbeat, yet equally heartfelt, piano-driven break-up song, "Better Off." But for my money, it's Owens' chilling interpretation of Stevie Wonder's 1973 classic, "Higher Ground," that made this record truly worth the $9.99 investment. A huge payoff, indeed!

Oozing sultry soulfulness and honest purity, Get In, I'm Drivin' provided a breath of fresh air when it arrived on the scene in the fall of 2011. Unfortunately, it took the record nearly three years to find me. Better late than never. (

-Christopher Long
(June 2014)



C'MON! -

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: "22 Jump Street"

22 Jump Street

Q: How can you tell 
when a critic or an iTeen 
is totally clueless?

A: When they're blathering 
about how this blockbuster 
is even remotely funny
or entertaining.

This was less painful than 
enduring 22 Jump Street.
In the spring of 1983, I was a 20-year-old with two impacted wisdom teeth. I was working full-time, but I had  no medical insurance. As a result, I managed to scrape up the necessary scratch to finance the surgery, yet I couldn't afford the "good" drugs. Hence, local anesthesia was my only viable option. Although much of the procedure-related pain was deadened (to an extent), I was completely awake the entire time. For nearly half an hour, I could hear and feel my jaw cracking and breaking — with the oral surgeon literally standing on my lap, with his one knee digging into my chest as he battled to extract the two teeth. At one point, he became so frustrated that he had to stop and take a break — at which time, I may or may not have even heard him drop an F-bomb. It was horrible. The ensuing week-long recovery process was even worse. For days, I drifted in and out — occasionally regaining consciousness just long enough to vomit from the pain meds and to clean up the freshest pools of blood from the bed sheets and pillow cases that continued to gush from my head. As of last night, this tale from 30 years ago now recounts the second most traumatic experience of my life.

Hill and Tatum recite shallow dialogue and
deliver flatline performances in 22 Jump Street
Moviegoers venturing out to the air-conditioned comfort of their local multi-plex, seeking a smart and snappy summertime comedy might want to think twice before plunking down $8.50 to see the new Jonah Hill / Channing Tatum blockbuster, 22 Jump Street. In fact, despite the seemingly unanimous "oohing" and "cooing" from savvy film critics, the sequel to 2012's 21 Jump Street is an epic fail.

But in terms of "supply and demand," the movie does succeed in delivering what today's sophisticated iGeneration craves — non-stop F-bombs, showering a barrage of graphic sex acts, drug use, unabashed foolishness and blasphemy — all splattered against a Skittles-flavored, pro-gay message. Taste the "Rainbow," indeed.

$50 says that Ice Cube is the only one in this shot
who ever has actually handled a real firearm.
Typically speaking, when it comes to comedies, the audience laughs at the movie. However, in the case of 22 Jump Street, it's the other way around. The film's dialogue actually seems to mock ticket buyers for paying to see another disastrous sequel that is touted as delivering everything the same way as the first time — just not as well. The storyline is as complex as any of the Hangover sequels, yet it's not nearly as compelling or funny. In fact, I'm not quite sure that there even was a storyline.

Played by Hill and Tatum, neither of the film's two primary leads are particularly funny, or very likeable. Amber Stevens as Maya Dickson is fetching indeed, but not even her stunning, Beyoncé-in-training sizzle factor could salvage her scenes. And while Jillian Bell  as Mercedes is the movie's most compelling character, the Xerox of her Workaholics shtick failed to plug the gaping hole at the bottom of this "Titanic." As for Ice Cube, I love him — his work consistently makes me laugh. However, the one-dimensional, always-angry Captain Dickson is a considerably less engaging role. It's been reported that Kurt Russell's son, Wyatt Russell, turned down a Hunger Games gig in order to accept the role as Zook in 22 Jump Street. Hmm, I don't know, dude — it might be time to start looking for a new agent, bro. 

Amber Stevens as Maya.
Despite (or due to) its gratuitous trash-type content, 22 Jump Street grossed nearly 100 million smackers at the box office worldwide in its first few days of release. Oh well — keep lining those lambs up for the slaughter — the next showing begins at a theater near you in 45 minutes!

-Christopher Long
(June 2014)

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
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Monday, June 16, 2014

DVD REVIEW: "Song of the South - Duane Allman & the Rise of The Allman Brothers Band" (Guest Post)

Duane Allman & the Rise of
The Allman Brothers Band

Sexy Intellectual Productions
131 Minutes (2013)

Guest contributor and
leading Allman Brothers 
authority, Craig Ruskey 
returns to offer his stamp
of approval on a hot new
DVD release.

Simply put, this highly-anticipated two-hour DVD has been long overdue, and although it took a British outfit to develop and release it, the finished project proves to be well worth the wait. Most Allman Brothers fans will have a fairly keen understanding of the band, its beginnings and its now lengthy history. But writer / director Tom O’Dell digs deep and prevails upon several significant people to offer their memories and thoughts of Duane, Gregg and the somewhat meager foundations of what would later blossom into a driving force in rock music in the 1970s.

Following a brief recap and refresher course on the early days of rock n’ roll and the varying social climates in the North and South, the documentary digs right into the formative days of Duane Allman, his younger brother, Gregg, and the fascination both shared for blues and rhythm & blues music by the time they were young teenagers in Daytona Beach, Florida. While it would have been easy enough to skim lightly over this period, we’re instead given an in-depth idea of what some of their contemporaries thought, and those first inside views come from Ted Petrucianni and Sonny Fussell, two members of the Uniques, one of the initial outfits Duane and Gregg launched in the early 1960s. Also covered are the Escorts, the Allman Joys, the Hour Glass and how the contract with Liberty originated, and later fell apart. Insider views on this period are provided by Pete Carr and Paul Hornsby, two prominent players and longtime friends.

While the Hour Glass seemingly made a doomed decision heading for the golden shores of California with promises from Bill McKuen, what was brewing underneath was the determination the brothers had to wash their hands of the pop music they recorded for producer Dallas Smith. Hornsby gives a fairly detailed account of their hiatus from Los Angeles and the combined decision of all involved to book time at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where the earth-shattering “B.B. King Medley” was tracked in the first quarter of 1968. Although they were more than satisfied with their Muscle Shoals departing tape, Smith quickly rejected it as subpar material upon the band’s return to Los Angeles. Dejected after fighting an uphill battle with a record company that produced mostly pop and surf efforts, Duane decided to beat it back to the South while Gregg remained in California to finish out the contract.

The two-hour disc is evenly split between the formative period when Duane and Gregg were basically playing covers to the actual formation of the Allman Brothers Band following the now-famous Jacksonville Jam. This is where the meat and potatoes really fulfill the insatiable appetite that Allmaniacs share. Key figures in the second half of the feature are longtime road manager and friend Willie Perkins, and authors Scott Freeman (Midnight Riders) and Randy Poe (Skydog), all who offer definitive insight into Duane’s vision and the looming reality of finally fulfilling his musical destiny. One of the more intriguing aspects of the second half of this DVD is the improbability of success that faced Duane and Gregg, as well as Phil Walden, head of Capricorn Records, who in fact launched the label based solely on his confidence in Duane Allman’s abilities. The powerful record labels in the late 1960s and early 1970s weren’t based in the South. They were mostly located on the opposite coasts of New York and Los Angeles, and rarely anywhere else between the two. Another hurdle facing Duane and his ideas was the dearth of successful music emanating from anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line prior to this era. What was gaining traction, importance and critical acclaim before the ABB was formed included power trios and rock groups fronted by guitar heroes in the shape of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and others. A large six-piece outfit, now based in Macon, Georgia, and featuring twin lead guitarists, two drummers, a bass player who played anything but conventional bass guitar and a Hammond B3 organist who was saddled to his keyboard all night, surely wasn’t going to be accepted with open arms by the music industry or its fans. Or was it? Against all odds, Duane pressed forward with only Phil Walden, his Capricorn label, and very few others standing in his corner.

Other on-camera luminaries discussing Duane, Gregg and the importance of the Allman Brothers Band include E.J. Devokaitis (former curator / archivist of The Big House Museum Macon, Georgia), critics Bud Scoppa and Robert Christgau, author Mark Kemp, musician David Hood and producers Ron and Howard Albert (Criteria Studios). While the DVD isn’t authorized by the band itself, the producers thankfully managed to include various samples of ABB music (Don’t Keep Me Wondering / Dreams / Midnight Rider / In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed), several snippets of radio interviews with Duane and some film. The band’s Fillmore East performance in September of 1970 is incorporated, as well as some footage from the Atlanta Pop Festival courtesy of the Alex Cooley archives. The eminent roles of producer Tom Dowd and promoter Bill Graham also are discussed, as well as pivotal moments in Duane’s session career, and the feature concludes with the devastating losses of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. While there is some stock footage tossed in, it all ties together seamlessly, and there are plenty of vintage photos used throughout, some rarely seen.

Although we might wonder why it took a UK outfit finally to produce and release a full-length film of this magnitude, we should all be celebrating the finished outcome. It’s been lovingly and thoughtfully assembled and edited, and touches on almost everything longtime Allman fanatics want to see and hear. It’s broken down into selectable chapters and also contains a few bonus features, including detailed interview segments with Willie Perkins and the Albert brothers. Brother Duane Allman is no longer with us in the physical sense, but the deep and lifelong spiritual connection he undoubtedly left behind with many of us still looms large. He almost always played against the odds, and unlike most who gamble, he usually came out on top. He believed in himself, his brother, his band-mates and his vision, and he left behind both an incredible legacy and an indelible mark. He has been honored respectfully and given the focus he has deserved for decades and it’s a safe bet that he would be proud. Scott Freeman wraps it up best with this closing quote: “Duane Allman’s the greatest guitar player that ever lived.” (Available on Amazon)

-Craig Ruskey
(June 2014)


Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "Sky Zone" by Creston Mapes

 Sky Zone
- Creston Mapes -
(David C. Cook Publishing)

Like a crack dealer, enticing wide-
eyed customers down at the local
schoolyard, Creston Mapes once
again lures, hooks and reels readers
in from the first tantalizing toke.

Creston Mapes solidifies his impeccable reputation as the "Jimmy Page" of suspense authors with his newly released edge-of-your-seat saga, Sky Zone — the third and final installment of his gripping Crittendon Files series.

It's been a tumultuous last few years for Ohio newsman, Jack Crittendon. The ace reporter recently has cracked major crime mysteries and his family has been the target of a violent, lunatic stalker. He's also survived serious physical injuries and faced the loss of loved ones. And things continue to rev up for Jack in the pages of Sky Zone. His wife, Pam, will soon be giving birth to the couple's third child. Yet despite the excitement of Pam's pregnancy, Jack's life hasn't suddenly become a bed of roses.

It's been eight months since Jack Crittendon was relieved of his position at the Trenton City Dispatch and the now unemployed journalist finds himself working a rather humbling, part-time minimum wage security job at the nearby 12,000-seat Festival Arena.

"Sky Zone crackles with Creston
at the top of his game."
-Jerry B. Jenkins
(Bestselling author of Left Behind)

But a seemingly routine night at the venue soon takes an outrageous turn as a potential terrorist attack is uncovered — a plot designed to thwart a campaign rally being held for independent Presidential hopeful, Senator Martin Sterling.

Given Sterling's hardline pro-America, anti-terror platform, an attack of this nature seems logical, if not expected — and Jack's friend and co-worker — conspiracy obsessed, survivalist and Desert Storm war vet, Brian Shakespeare, comes to the party prepared and "ready to rock." Let the drama ensue!

In addition to introducing a cast of compelling new characters, Sky Zone also reunites readers with popular characters from Mapes' previous books — Everett Lester, the charismatic world-famous rock star, his wife and young son, as well as various members of the Crittendon family. For longtime Mapes fans, these reunions create a nice comfort zone in which to experience this wild and fresh  adventure.

Mapes plays all of his best cards — good guys and bad guys, terrorists and politicians (there's apparently a difference), FBI agents, friends, family and a menagerie of heroes — all woven neatly together into the fabric of a tension-filled, Five-Star thriller that also offers a super-sized, faith-based bonus payoff. (CRESTON MAPES OFFICIAL WEBSITE)

-Christopher Long
(June 2014)


Rock Star Chronicles Series:
Dark Star - May 2005
Full Tilt - March 2006

Nobody - September 2007

The Crittendon Files Series:
Fear Has a Name - June 2013
Poison Town - February 2014
Sky Zone - June 2014



C'MON! -