All Eyes on the Past

It’s always been fascinating – those happily ever after stories that we fervently believe when we’re younger, but that we eventually dismiss because after a while, it seems silly. After all, everyone knows reality is anything but “happily ever after”. Those pesky grown up truths get in the way and somehow, we lose that simple belief that sometimes our future is patiently waiting… right smack dab in the past. Apparently, Hollywood is all for challenging the status quo. It’s interesting because nothing is forever in Hollywood – yet, writers and producers are taking huge leaps of faith by building their fantasies on an actual truth:

A new study from California State University shows that people who come back together after at least five years apart have an impressive 76 percent chance of staying together. That’s especially interesting considering only 40 percent of other marriages work out.

Luke Bracey

Luke Bracey

And what better time than the holidays to plant those seeds? At least, they’re banking on hitting a nerve that one time of the year when most of us live for the thought that anything’s possible (including actually surviving the holidays minus the maxed out credit card).

Up first, we’re going back to 1984 with a new film that’s not getting nearly as much attention as it will when it actually opens at the theatre.

The Best of Me

The trailers have begun airing for this Nicholas Sparks film and it’ll find its way to a movie theater near you on October 17th. The plot sounds “done to death”, as my Maw-Maw would say, and that’s a shame since it’s so much more than what it’s officially claiming:

Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they’re drawn back to their small town. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten. This epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.

Make no mistake – The Best of Me is not for lovelorn teens – I mean, it works for that, but this is one of those stories that goes far deeper than any teenager ever expects for his or her life. It’s dark and it’s set in the south – which is always a bonus for this southern girl.

If you’re not OK with your past and things left unsaid or undone, it could be a challenge to watch. Also, too, Nicholas Sparks is an incredible writer and the book is exactly what we expect from him. This time, the movie goes deeper, which is rare with novels brought to life on the silver screen.

Don’t let the different actors fool you, either. Initially, we meet Amanda and Dawson as teens. It simply sets the stage for what’s to come. And by the way, James Marsden has never looked better. It’s beautiful and simple and then it turns dark. Honestly, I’ve no idea how the last moments play out. I know how it ends, but that’s just me – I made my own ending. The gorgeous cinematography and really, one of the more authentic southern settings I’ve seen in a film in a long time help bring the story alive. It’s hard to believe it doesn’t end as beautifully as we expect. That said, you still leave content.

And changed.

Here’s the extended trailer and be watching for it October 17th.

And, of course, here are three (and there are actually five or six storylines that come to mind) of the latest gambles on rekindled love that we can expect to see on TV this fall.

Sons of Anarchy

Kurt Sutter has this magical way of making viewers hate and love his characters at the same time. There’s something so authentic in these stories, even though most mothers-in-law would never kill their son’s wife with a carving fork to the skull.  The reasons make sense, the violence? Not so much – but that’s what we like about TV. We want to see some of the darker sides of the human condition. Something tells me we’re going to get a healthy dose of those darker sides as the storyline between Jax and Wendy appears to be heating up.

Now that the missus is out of the way, thanks to the ever-helpful Gemma, Jax the widower just might find solace in the mother of his first son. In the first season, we didn’t like Wendy. We didn’t like the fact that her addictions nearly killed her son and while some of us might have thought Gemma loading the needle for Wendy hours after she gave birth to Gemma’s grandson was disturbing on a new level, there just wasn’t much sympathy for the woman lying in the hospital bed.

Now though, Wendy’s returned and after a relapse (again, courtesy of Gemma), she’s on track for becoming a good mother – and maybe something more for Jax. The third episode of this final season, Playing with Monsters, sheds new light on Wendy, especially when she says to Brooke the babysitter, “I still love Jax.” As if we didn’t already know. Catch the latest and final season of Sons of Anarchy on FX Network Tuesday nights, 9 p.m. CT.


Oh, that crazy Rayna! Two marriage proposals? You go, girl. Deacon’s still trying to woo her and she’s struggling with what he put her through all those years ago. Pretty sure she’s ultimately going to pick Deacon -even though she chose the other guy. See? Does anyone even know his name? She’s fooling no one, except herself. And, of course, in true Hollywood – and Nashville – fashion, she’ll magically realize it moments before walking down the aisle to marry what’s-his-name.

But the best part with this Nashville gem? You know we’re going to get a few honkytonk heartbreak songs. And those are the best!

Lost in Love

One of the best new shows this summer was brought to us courtesy of a little network known as FYI. Married at First Sight was absolutely mesmerizing. Now, the network is going to double down with another reality-love-story show. This time, Lost in Love brings people together who are carrying old flames for someone in their past. This one’s iffy because of social media and by the way, God bless Mark Zuckerberg. Thanks to him, we’ve become a nation of stalkers; and really, isn’t that a good thing?

Do people really need a TV show about lost loves when we have Facebook? And especially one that could result in heartbreak? We’ll see. The tentative release is late October.

Our Dumbed Down Society

A few weeks ago, I watched in sheer amazement the so-called catastrophic damage done to a few celebrities over leaked photos. I’m still trying to figure out how and why that became a national tragedy. There’s no doubt it was embarrassing for those whose accounts were hacked, but really, to expect any kind of privacy in an online environment shows just how unplugged some folks are. Our society picks and chooses which “tragedies” deserve its undivided attention, not to mention the bulk of its tweets. If you’re struggling with that truth, consider this:

With the nude photo leak scandal, anyone who dismissed it as yet another stunt by some entitled celebrity was surely going to burn in hell and God forbid you refer to it as the nonsense it truly is (I’m still getting emails from that post about how I need my ass kicked for ridiculing these precious celebrities). Even Twitter and Reddit got into the mix and said they would ban anyone who passed any of the photos in their newsfeeds.

Meanwhile, it’s impossible to scroll through the #breakingnews hashtag without being subjected to the thousands of photos of the recent beheadings, courtesy of Isis. It’s also impossible to scroll through that same feed without being assaulted with thousands of still images, as well as the actual video, of Ray Rice knocking the hell out of his then-fiancé (they’ve married since then). In other words, those disturbing images of how these vulgar terrorists put their work on display as well as the truly tragic example of what domestic abuse looks like in this country are all fine and good as far as Twitter and many folks across other social media platforms are concerned. Just don’t piss off a Hollywood princess.

That brings us to my “dumbing down” reference.

Remember 11 years ago, when The Dixie Chicks, on tour in London, made one comment that got them kicked out of country music? The exact quote from Natalie Mains:

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

It exploded faster than a bull rider getting his eight seconds in. There weren’t many who weren’t upset – and rightfully so (in my opinion), but here’s the thing: I like their music more than I disliked the comment. And apparently, the trio are as adamant about their First Amendment rights as I am about my Second Amendment rights. It was probably the most difficult time in America’s history; nerves were raw and our nation as a whole was grieving fierce and hard. Anyone who knows me knows what I think of Dubya (and Ronald Reagan, but I’ll save that for another time). President Bush was the aggressive badass we needed at that time (and frankly, still do), but the Chicks never backed down. Instead, they doubled down with a powerful tune, Not Ready to Make Nice, that said it all:

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
with no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’
It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
send somebody so over the edge
that they’d write me a letter
sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
or my life will be over

See, that’s what it’s all about: speaking your peace with no apologies. Too many folks are trying too hard to please everyone. What happened to never apologizing for what you believe?

dumbed down societyWhatever scandals or tragedies are playing out, we’re killing ourselves to make it to Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else we can stir trouble – first so we can annihilate whoever it was that made such an inflammatory remark and then to hound them relentlessly to delete the tweet and offer an apology.

It’s become so disturbing that our government is actually indicting and suing itself. Governor Rick Perry is a perfect example of one who’s paying a high price for….wait for it….speaking the truth. A Texas DA is arrested for driving at three times the legal limit and it’s the governor who’s indicted? And by the way, the same ones who are crying foul because of Perry’s insensitive comments in the days following his arrest are also the very ones who are quick to say, “You drive drunk and kill someone I love? I’ll see to it you never drink another drop of anything.”

Perry’s sarcastic tweet (speaking from the perspective of the drunk D.A.) that he was pressured to delete:

“I don’t always drive drunk at 3x the legal blood alcohol limit… …but when I do, I indict Gov. Perry for calling me out about it. I am the most drunk Democrat in Texas.”

Bringing it full circle, Ricky Gervais imparted a bit of his own common sense wisdom into the nude photo leak (and was then pressured to delete it):

“Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude picks of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer.”

Sounds reasonable to me. It’s common sense, right?

Maybe it’s time folks adopt a mindset of “If it’s on my mind, it’s on my tongue.”  Remember, a forced apology is never a sincere apology. Doesn’t matter if you’re Holly Fisher, or Holly Hobby Lobby as many people know her or The Dixie Chicks.

You might as well toughen up, because you can be sure the voices of a few are the very ones who are forcing schools to send kids home for wearing American flags on their tee shirts. We’ve allowed entirely too many dumbing down efforts to pass.

Here’s the video of Not Ready to Make Nice. The symbolisms that play out are remarkable. Note the use of black and white (good and evil), the x-rays of spines, the drinking of the “Kool Aid” and the physical restraints used as a symbol of the First Amendment. Oh – and be sure to read the chalkboard – the video was released a few weeks after Vice President Cheney’s accidental shooting during a hunting trip.


Nude Photo Leak Bothers You? You’re an Idiot

capture-20140902-125858The tragedy that is Hollywood…bless their hearts. Over the extended holiday, a purely evil scandal broke amongst our most worshiped in this nation. Apparently, more than 100 women who grace our silver screens…wait, scratch that….more than 100 of this nation’s most narcissistic celebrities who grace the covers of every tabloid we see when we’re checking out of Wal Mart were hacked. More specifically, their iClouds were hacked. As the nation mourns this tragic incident and as the hacker is on the run; a dangerous criminal who threatens world peace, the rest of us focus on those other aspects of life.

The reactions of those coming to their defense are both funny and really, kind of sad when you think about it. Twitter has come to their defense and has said anyone who posts the leaked photos will be banned from their platform. Where was that outrage when photos by some of the most vile humans who are wasting oxygen on this planet surfaced? You can see the worst of human nature as these images of beheadings are easily found on Twitter feeds around the world. Way to go, Twitter.

Now, it seems Congress is preparing to ride in gloriously and save the reputations of those poor, mistreated celebrities. Such hard workers, they are. Meanwhile, Ricky Gervais, controversial though he is, made a comment that the one sure fire way to halt the criminal is for the “victim” to not upload photos that don’t include clothes. Seems like the kind of paternal advice most of us have heard our entire lives. And yes, I know that using the name “Ricky Gervais” and “paternal” has its own irony, but he has a point. He’s caught ten different kinds of hell over the past 24 hours. He took the tweet down, which is ridiculous to me. He posted another photo of himself, though, and dared anyone to retweet the “leaked” photo. He makes me laugh.

When are we going to begin taking responsibility for our own actions? These women are not “victims”. In fact, they have had complete control over these photos, which they should have exercised by not uploading them to start with. At the very least, they should have incorporated the 2 step authentication Apple provides. Consider these facts:

Fifty percent of those who responded to a recent Maryland poll said they had texted compromising (nude) photos of themselves to someone who is now their ex. Fifty percent!

Revenge porn is now the fastest growing trend on the web. This is when an angry ex posts to any number of sites those compromising images that were sent to him by the one who took the photo. It’s funny, because most breakups (not to include divorces) in this country happen because of betrayals that happened months before the actual break up. We all know that couple: one cheats, gets caught, begs the other to forgive him and then goes through months and years of being accused of cheating again. My question is: why send photos to someone you don’t trust?

If you know how iffy the internet is and how formidable today’s hackers are, why in God’s name would you upload anything that could be construed as scandalous? And when your account is hacked, why are you so surprised?

As Congress steps up to the plate, ready to save the day (I make myself laugh), here’s a better question: Where is the outrage for the hackers who are compromising our financial and banking sector? Where’s the immediate response to those who are in the middle of a drawn out process to recoup the funds and their identity that was stolen, courtesy of some Russian hacker? I’ve written about the DDoS hacks for years. I’m more interested in keeping my banking information safe than I am some twit in Hollywood who feels she’s entitled to more life perks and Congressional protections because she made the choice to upload a series of compromising pictures.

And for those screaming about protecting the “victim”, here are far more deserving “victims” you should consider defending:

Those who are forced into child pornography (it’s a $13 billion industry in the U.S.)

The lack of proper veteran’s medical and mental assistance upon returning home (Half of returning veterans with PTSD go untreated)

The fast rising child poverty and hunger realities in the U.S. (22% of our kids live in poverty and go hungry and another 45% are nearing that status)

Here’s the truth: one year from now, this latest Hollywood tragedy will be as murky in our minds as the New England Patriots releasing Tim Tebow (which happened one year ago today).

MS Senate Race: Are We ‘Bout Done?

Anyone raised in Mississippi knows that when a frustrated mother asks a mischievous child, “Are you done,” she’s really saying, “You’re done.” That’s exactly how many Mississippians are beginning to feel with this entire “McDaniel won’t concede” brouhaha.

Maybe what’s more interesting is the way we’re all beginning to behave. Supporters on both sides, but especially on Team McDaniel, are defending him as though he’s their own grandson. I get it – I had a fireball Maw Maw too. (To my mother’s horror, I can remember my Maw Maw Nellie telling me that sex was like candy, once you had it, you always want more. That was her way of saying, “Don’t do it.” On the other hand, I felt my own horror when my mother told my son that he needed to “keep the pony in the barn”. That was her own way of saying “Don’t do it.” I can’t wait until I have grandkids.) Again though, it goes back to the southern women. We’re vicious when we need to be and typically, we can always find a way to stir the pot, but we can – and should – keep perspective. And perspective is exactly what’s missing in the political back and forth that continues to unfold in Mississippi. The minute we forget that it’s politics, everything changes. We’re doing battle with our neighbors. We’re declaring war on Twitter and Facebook. And for what?

MS Senate Chamber

Two men with more money than God who really don’t give a rat’s ass what any of us think? Contrary to this misconception that it’s the constituents they answer to, the one dynamic that matters least are those constituents. I don’t care which party has your loyalty. It has always been and will always be politics.

The reality is, despite dragging this out for all of these weeks, McDaniel has not used this opportunity to further his commitment. He’s not reiterated what he will do for our state. Hell, he’s not even come out publicly unless it’s been for a small group of supporters who bothered to show up in his “Truth and Justice” tour (I still say that would’ve been a great name for one of Bon Jovi’s tours in the ‘80s). Don’t believe me? Go take a look at his Facebook wall and his Twitter feed. There are tons of quotes he’s posted from other people (including an 11 year old kid), links to columns or blogs written by supporters (including those with questionable ethics) and various graphics created by others. Where are his reiterations of his specific commitments? Where has he said, “My goal is…”? He’s quick to provide links to what others have written about race baiting, but what has he said? I’ve said it before – anyone who’s not the only thinker in their own mind is dangerous.

The crazy thing is, I had made up my mind early on that I’d support McDaniel. It wasn’t because I believed Cochran was not right, I figured it was time someone else step up to the plate. Because I believe we all have a responsibility to ourselves and ultimately, our children, I dug a bit deeper and learned that McDaniel didn’t represent my beliefs. That resulted in a huge disagreement with a family member who I adore and we’ve yet to find a way to put it behind us. I’ve lost friends because of it.

The way I see it, if The Dixie Chicks and President Bush can find a way to co-exist in Texas, surely Mississippians can find a way past it, too. The challenge is getting the rest of these out of state folks out of the mix. And the question to McDaniel is, “Are you done?”

Oh, and by the way – no worries on usage rights of the photo. I checked – no broken laws.

Maybe We’re Looking at the Wrong Numbers

The media is masterful in its efforts of creating headlines that strike fear in the heart of all Americans, especially if the news is bad. From the Labor Department’s unemployment numbers to the “independent” bodies exploring the truths behind health care, finances and the economy, those headlines are what make us click the stories. But what if we’re focusing on the wrong numbers? What if we allow so much of this carefully concocted “truth” seep into our minds and hearts? It’s little wonder Americans are feeling more isolated than ever before – we can’t compete with what the media insists our lives should be. We read the headlines, but little more.

Once you shift perspectives, just slightly, you can begin to understand a more reality-based truth. And the truth is more of us are redefining our lives based on what we want, not what the media or the government insists we want.

During the darkest days during the recession, the network shows that fared best were the ones that brought affluence into our homes. The most successful were those shows that revealed money doesn’t buy manners, taste or common sense. Of course, I’m referring to Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise. Those were the shows everyone was watching – so much so that a new city was being added every season. It started with Orange County, took a trip to New York (Real Housewives of New York City ratings were down a whopping 20% this season), New Jersey, Miami, Beverly Hills and even included a DC franchise.  The women on all of the shows were catty, mean, wealthy (even if it was illegal wealth they enjoyed) and just enough ego to convince themselves that no matter what editing did to their scenes prior to airing, they looked great while doing it. Passive aggressive souls that humans are, the viewers loved it because it gave us the opportunity to scream at the TV with no fear of going to jail for, well, you know…that pesky free speech part of the Constitution.

Now, though, the entire Housewives franchise (with the exception of Atlanta) is suffering from massive drops in ratings. They’re dropping faster than Teresa Giudice’s confidence that she and her husband will escape jail sentences for bankruptcy fraud and other federal finance laws.

If we’re no longer watching grown women makes asses of themselves, what then, are we watching? Maybe the more important question is which networks are we watching? Take a look–

Alaskan Bush People is one of Discovery’s newest families. It’s unbelievable – as in fake. Until you get past the first episode, begin a bit of research and see that indeed, these people are not actors, they’re not sugarcoating their truths and what you’re seeing is a true reflection of how they live their lives. Want proof that this is gold?

And let’s talk about Dual Survival. Allow me this disclosure – I’d marry Joe Teti in a heaven’s heartbeat. He’s everything that men should be: assertive most of the time, aggressive when he needs to be; has the ability to make the hard choices; has lived life in such a way that he has a perspective most will never know and he has common sense and self-discipline. Like the Brown family in Alaska, this show – and especially Teti – has its share of haters. And that’s OK. It keeps the networks focused on the importance of the viewers; and specifically, what the viewers don’t want.

There’s one particular scene that’s real and raw and powerful. This clip leads you to that moment, but if you want to see what happens, here’s a link. It looks like someone filmed it from their TV screen, but fair warning – it’s gruesome, not because of the kill, but because of the mindset of Teti. He’s seen the darkest of war and human nature and this clip is quite remarkable. Note his face and his eyes in the seconds following the kill.

And by the way – these nature/survivalist shows? The demographics reveal close to half of the viewers are women. I don’t know why that is, but it speaks volumes about women and their priorities. No longer do we care about spoiled women with too many handbags and instead, we’re focusing on the fascination of life without modern conveniences. Maybe we’re drawn in because it’s so far removed from how we live our lives (just as the Housewives franchise is also far removed from how we live our lives), but the difference is that many of us sense some type of authenticity. Will any of us – man or woman – ever have to find our way out of the Sri Lanka jungle? Well, I mean, I will…as soon as I pull the brownies out of the oven, do my makeup and turn the AC down because the hot rollers and hairdryer heat up fast.

The point is it’s fascinating. It’s a break from whatever it is the media’s selling and hoping we’ll buy. More importantly, these shows and those who agree to have their lives followed for weeks and months are the ones we all want to be. They’re the ones who say to themselves, “To hell with the government, the media’s bought and sold to the highest bidder and I’m sick and tired of paying for honey when I know I can find the source at that old abandoned building on the river.”

And just to drive that home – there are many new shows headed our way that focus on living off the grid (that phrase is going to be one of the 2014 catchphrases and don’t look for it fade away anytime soon).

Turns out, we really don’t care about following despicable greed, competitive women who are always looking to outspend their best friends and who have no concept the English language. Click here to see Teresa (who was completing her second cookbook, by the way) annihilate the word “ingredients” in one of last season’s episodes of Real Housewives of New Jersey.


Does Rising Star Equate to Rising Ratings?

It was just a matter of time before advertisers tossed in their way of offsetting the modern marvels of fast forwarding through commercials in our favorite TV shows. There has been no better invention than DVRs. It’s better than peanut butter on pancakes. Unless you’re in the advertising industry.

Now, though, we’ve begun to see a number of shows with live voting opportunities for viewers. Here’s the deal they offered: watch our shows live and you can log in and vote on matters such as, “Is she cray-cray for taking him back?” Your options being “yep” or “nope”. Nothing like a bit of modern slang, right? On the other hand, if you could care less who she chooses to break up with or if it matters little whether he admits to cheating, those polls that gobble up about one-third of your TV screen are nothing more than annoyances.

capture-20140623-055252As of tonight, ABC has upped the ante. Sort of. Because there simply aren’t enough singing contests on TV, the network caved in to advertisers whose hard work was being zoomed past, courtesy of the fast forward option on our DVRs, and introduced the next wave of modern viewing. We now have “The Wall”. And it’s live, apparently.

Rising Star is similar to The Voice in that we have the obligatory rapper, hysterical country swooner and “girl who plays by her own rules”. Oh, and we also have Josh Groban. Josh Groban! Using that formula, Blake Shelton’s role is filled by Brad Paisley, CeeLo and Usher are now Ludacris and the Christine Aguilera/Shakira combo has now morphed into Kesha. Admittedly, I know nothing about Kesha, but I have to say, Paisley, Ludacris and Groban? Doesn’t get much better than that.

In order to prove that it’s live TV, Groban was told right before going live to toss in a current event that was unfolding. That current event was, of course, the men’s national soccer game between the U.S. and Portugal that had just ended in a tie. OK. We’re convinced it’s a live TV show.

The fact that the advertisers are Nintendo, pushing its latest attraction for elementary age kids; Kraft Mac & Cheese (again, with an elementary age kid touting the message) and the new Fall lineup for ABC, you have an idea of who the show is targeting for those ever-important votes.

ABC was pushing for a fresh approach, but how fresh can it be when it’s been done to death? We have the tearjerker stories, the 15 year old kids whose lives are over if they don’t win and the awkward comments made by the hosts/judges/experts/whoever they are (I’m really not sure what role Ludacris, Paisley and Kesha play except to vote for those they really like). My favorite awkward comment so far: Paisley retells a conversation he had recently with President Obama. He explains the 70% mark each contestant must hit, only to have the prez say, “I’d be happy with 45% approvals.” But it didn’t stop there – Groban then turns to Kesha and says, “Have you ever hung out with a president?” She gets out, “Not yet,” before Paisley says, “I think Bill Clinton’s her type.” Did I mention how much I adore Brad Paisley?

I’m not sure how ABC or any network handles bummer live shows. Do they have to continue the season if it’s a fail? After all, they’ve brought all of these singers with big dreams into the mix. What happens if ABC cuts off life support? I say put them out of their misery sooner rather than later. You can be sure it’s the Paisley/Groban/Ludacris combo that pulls this through past, let’s see, the 4th of July. Anyone care to put money to it?

Besides, what network would actually cut a series that has powerful story lines and opt to run with another show that doesn’t hold a candle?  Betrayal was a far better choice for the network – and I’d even be willing to forgo the DVR and actually watch the commercials if they’d bring it back.

Oh and if you’re wondering what the best Josh Groban song might be – check out the video. This is right up there with Julian Lennon’s Valotte and Ty Herndon’s Hide. Nothing better than a man who plays piano.

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An Occupy founder says the next revolution will be rural


The After Party – has great potential, built on a solid foundation and with the right motives.

Originally posted on Grist:

In a boarded-up hotel along a windy country road, a couple dozen activists are gathered for a workshop. They are mostly women, and mostly over 40. The workshop is being held by Micah White, one of the instigators of Occupy Wall Street.

After the dust settled from Occupy, White packed up his bags in the Bay Area and moved here to Nehalem, a small town in one of the poorest counties in rural Oregon. Nehalem sits on the Pacific Coast, in the shadows of popular vacation destination Manzanita. But White isn’t here for a vacation, and he came to town with a mission.

The demise of Occupy left everyone with one question: “Now what?” Almost three years later, White is helping the founders of Occupy, US Uncut, and others to launch The After Party, a new political party on “a mission to restore democracy” and occupy the ballot box…

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