Countryfied – Pride
bymagajones
When they hear that I’m a country fan, people tend to shoot me looks ranging from incredulous to confused. I can picture the person across from me hearing in broken Southern drawl, “I bet you can squeal like a pig” in his or her head. What they don’t realize is how varied the songs are in country music. Sure, there are tons of songs about trucks, and there are quite a few love songs, but country music offers much more variety. So, from time to time, I’m going to share some of my favorite kinds of country music.

Today I'll start with Pride.

Pride in Country: Right after 9/11, Toby Keith released “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”, a rallying song to help us cope while we were all trying to make sense of a world that would never be the same. Nowhere else can you find lyrics like, “…we’ll put a boot in your ass/It’s the American way”. Some said it went too far; as someone who’d lived in New York city for seven years and still had many friends there, I needed something that gave me more to focus on than just our loss of life and innocence.

Pride in your city: One of the great things abut Montgomery Gentry’s “My Town” is that it could be any city. “Where I was born, where I was raised/Where I keep all my yesterdays…/Where I came back to settle down/It's where they'll put me in the ground”. I love to travel, visit other parts of the country and other cultures in farther lands. But there’s something about the feeling of home, of the familiarity of where I came from that Montgomery Gentry brings forward with such clarity.

Pride in your ‘hood: For those who identify more with their region, country music has songs like Little Big Town’s “Boondocks”, which features a fun round at the end that’s fun to sing even for people who never lived close to a fishing hole.

Pride in Southern food and the things that matter: Zac Brown Band gives us “Chicken Fried”, whose title kind of says it all. To be fair, they also raise their glass to “cold beer on a Friday night” and “a pair of jeans that fit just right”. But they also remind us that “…it’s funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most/Not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes”. Preach, Zac, preach!

Pride in where you live: Miranda Lambert literally takes us home with “The House That Built Me”. Her voice drips with longing for a taste of the girl she’d once been in the house where she grew up. In her voice, the words, “I thought if I could touch this place or feel it/This brokenness inside me might start healing/Out here it's like I'm someone else/I thought that maybe I could find myself” are heartbreaking.

Pride for Self: In “She Couldn’t Change Me”, the singing duo Montgomery Gentry tell of a woman who wanted to change a man once she’d gotten him, but he stood firm with who he was. It pays to pay attention until the very end.

Pride in your roads: Yeah, I know. It sounds random – until you listen to Brooks & Dunn talk about that “Red Dirt Road”: It's where I drank my first beer/It's where I found Jesus/Where I wrecked my first car/I tore it all to pieces/I learned the path to Heaven/Is full of sinners an' believers/Learned that happiness on earth/Ain't just for high achievers/I've learned; I come to know/There's life at both ends/Of that red dirt road.” The verses are just as impactful as that chorus.

Pride in the escape: Jimmy Buffett has managed to turn Margaritaville into a brand of its own, with hotels and resorts, apparel, and casinos (although as the site says, “Where is Margaritaville? It's in your mind.” And any Parrot Head knows that to be the truth.). I make a point of stopping at the Margaritaville gift shop every time I’m in New Orleans and try to eat at the Margaritaville restaurant at least once while I’m there. But it all began with the song that college students all over the country (and possibly the world, especially in those higher education establishments located in tropical locales) know by heart: “Margaritaville”. I don’t drink margaritas or lay out at the beach, but I can still relate to the heart of “Wastin' away again in Margaritaville/Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt”, the idea of being idle, relaxing with a chilled beverage of my choice, and letting the world wash over me for a while.

Even if you aren’t from the south, you don’t own a vehicle – much less a truck – and you aren’t interested in fried foods, you still have quite a few chances to find country songs that can still speak to you. So the next time the words, “I hate country music” start to force their way out of your mouth, push them back in and try a country station. You might just be surprised that you have more in common with some of those songs than you might think.




Credits: allmusic.com, cowboylyrics.com, “squeal like a pig” from the movie “Deliverance”, margaritaville.com, metrolyrics.com, wikipedia.com
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Wickedly Awesome
bymagajones
Sunday night, I went with some friends to see “John Wick: Chapter 2”. I can’t remember the last time I went to see a movie on opening weekend; in fact, I can’t remember the last time I wanted to see a movie on its opening weekend. But there I was, at the 4:45pm show with two friends on either side of me.

None of us had seen the first movie in the theatre. All but one of us had encountered it on cable or elsewhere, watched it out of curiosity, and gotten hooked. Kind of like the character itself, the movie snuck around our blind side and shot us right between the eyes, those same eyes that now light up with excitement at the whisper of two words, John Wick.

According to IMDB, “John Wick” made $14,415,922 on its opening weekend, which means that there must be plenty of people out there who were more aware about this movie than my friends and me. But as I don’t seem to know any of them, I can easily forgive them for not sharing that information.

A while back we learned that they were making a second installment, and there was much rejoicing throughout the land (or at least around my neck of the woods).

I’m not going to spoil the movie – I purposely didn’t watch a single interview or commercial and only listened to one review before seeing it, because after watching the first movie every time I run into it on television (broadcast or cable), I wanted a pure experience on the big screen. Let me just say that this one has a little more humour, and some of the action had everyone in the theatre wincing and shouting, “ooh!” in unison, as if we’d practiced beforehand. It’s still violent, still action-packed, and absolutely fantastic. I can’t wait for it to go onto cable so I can watch it just as frequently as I watch the first one (and, I must admit, as much as I still watch the first two “Underworld” movies).

I know a lot of people went to see the newest “Fifty Shades” movie, which is appropriate considering the time of year (and where I’m going to end up going to support a friend). But I can’t think of a better movie to watch for Valentine’s Day than “John Wick: Chapter 2”. It has everything a woman could want: a man who can take care of business but who also knows how to love his dog, exotic locales, and plenty of action. Oh, and did I mention Common? Yep, Common’s all up in there too. Happy Valentines Day. And you’re welcome.

P.S.

According to nerdist.com, there are already plans for “John Wick: Chapter 3” (http://nerdist.com/john-wick-3-chad-stahelski/). I know Keanu Reeves has one movie in pre-production (“Rally Car”) and the new Bill and Ted movie in development, but revisiting John Wick’s world sounds like the perfect recipe for a Valentine’s Day in the near future.

Did you go see “John Wick” when it was in the theatres? Have you seen either of the John Wick movies? Did they leave you wanting more?

Badassery on Board (and Off) the Nathan James
bymagajones
Badassery on Board (and Off) the Nathan James

When it comes to female badassery on television, a few women automatically come to mind: Melinda May (Ming Na Wen kicking butt as Coulson’s trusted confidant in “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Kono Kalakaua (hard-hitting Grace Park on “Hawaii 5-0”), Michonne (Danai Gurira expertly wielding her katana in “The Walking Dead”), and Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga playfully lethal in “Preacher”). But as I was watching reruns of “The Last Ship”, I realized that sometimes badassery comes in quieter, but no less impressive, forms.

She started off as Commander Kara Foster, a tactical action officer (TAO) on naval destroyer USS Nathan James, and at first, I’ll admit that I was so occupied with other characters and that whole deadly virus thing that I barely noticed her. She did her job well and had a little illicit romance with Lt. Danny Green (which, well, yeah. He’s hot and kicks his own share of ass regularly and with panache.).

Of course, that whole thing blew up in their faces, and I became a little worried. I totally get why romances on board a military ship are forbidden, but it does make storytelling a little less romantic and spicy. How does one stay away from a tasty mealcake like Danny Green when he’s being all manly? Plus, we learned that she was pregnant with his baby! There’s no nursery on board ship! I figured she’d be written off or maybe be seen every so often calling him on board ship or whatever they do to keep in touch with loved ones, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t really thinking that much about her then either.

But then season three upped its game, and Lt. (Mrs.) Green was working in the White House, radiating confidence and competence with her mom to help her with the baby, and suddenly she had bumped herself up in my radar. She was the badass Nathan James representative on land, a one-woman force without the backup of a ship, a Wolf (who’s hot too – where is this ship, and when does it dock? I definitely need to visit), and an arsenal of guns. She finds an old friend (another hottie who’d pitched a ride on the ship in the first two seasons – hello, Tex!) and ends up in charge of one of those rag-tag groups of fighters I love on shows, a member of which, as it happens, is the President.

That’s right; she was protecting the President of the United States.

She showed off her marksmanship with various guns and had no fear in doing what she needed to do, but what impressed me more than the physical show of force was her intelligence. She figured out that something hinky was going on and used her cunning to learn who was responsible while at the same time saving the President. And then, after she got the President to safety, helped break into the White House and take out the

I give TPTB, the writers, and actress Marissa Neitling props for taking a character who could’ve easily been written off after providing a little office romance and giving her her own relevant storyline without sacrificing her love for her daughter, her husband, and her teammates still on board the Nathan James.

And then there’s red headed Lieutenant Commander Andrea Garnett, Chief Engineer on board the Nathan James. She suffered more tragedy and setbacks than anyone else on the show to date: she received a shrapnel wound in the first episode, was exposed to the Red Flu during the human trials of the vaccine, and learned that both her husband and daughter died from the virus while she was on board ship. Along with many other members of the crew, she was kidnapped and held hostage in season 3, helping in their own rescue. But she remained tough, helping to regain control of the ship in season 2 and was promoted to Commander to become the Executive Officer of the Nathan James. She might not have her own storyline, but she remains vital in the success of every operation, each maneuver. Strong, steadfast, and reliable, she is one of the backbones on the show.

What badasses.

Review: "Powerless" and "Superior Donuts"
bymagajones
Last week we saw the introductions of two new sitcoms, “Powerless” on NBC and “Superior Donuts” on CBS. Between the two of them, “Powerless” was more my kind of show nowadays:

“In the first comedy series set in the DC universe, Vanessa Hudgens plays Emily, a spunky, young insurance adjuster specializing in regular-people coverage against damage caused by the crime-fighting superheroes. It's when she stands up to one of these larger-than-life figures (after an epic battle messes with her commute) that she accidentally becomes a cult "hero" in her own right... even if it's just to her group of lovably quirky co-workers. Now, while she navigates her normal, everyday life against an explosive backdrop, Emily might just discover that being a hero doesn't always require superpowers.” (credit: NBC.com)

Alan Tudyk, Run Funches, and Danny Pudi provide the comedic muscle, and Vanessa Hudges is the bright-eyed innocent who’s come to the big city to make good and make her daddy proud.

Unfortunately, the jokes fall flat, and I can’t help but think that this could’ve been –and needed to be better. Granted, this was only the first episode, and all it takes is watching the first, horrible episode of “Friends” to remind a person that shows can improve dramatically, so there’s still hope for “Powerless” .

CBS’ offering: “Superior Donuts is a comedy about the owner of a small donut shop that’s located in a quickly gentrifying Chicago neighborhood. Arthur is a gruff, to the point Chicagoan who refuses to sell newfangled cronuts and macchiatos or renovate his dated shop that hasn’t changed since it opened in 1969. That all changes when enterprising go-getter Franco fast talks his way into Arthur’s life as his new (and only) employee, and convinces him that he can bring the shop – and Arthur – into the 21st century. Arthur’s supportive regulars include loyal patron Randy, a cop whose late father was Arthur’s best friend; her overeager rookie partner, James; Tush, a colorful customer who uses the shop counter as a makeshift office, where he keeps tabs on a variety of odd jobs via fax machine; Maya, a privileged grad-school student working on her Ph. D; and Sweatpants, Franco’s longtime friend who’s willing to dress as a donut to help drum up more business. Looking to cash in on the urban renewal is Arthur’s over-caffeinated neighbor, aspiring real estate capitalist Fawz, who pushes Arthur on a daily basis to sell the building to him. With his business in jeopardy, Arthur grudgingly realizes that he had better embrace the change around him and that Franco could be exactly what he – and the donut shop – need to thrive. Based on the play by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning writer Tracy Letts.” (credit: CBS.com)

This sounded pretty old-school (all the way down to the fax machine), which isn’t necessarily a deterrent, but it’s pretty far away from the superhero world of “Powerless”. Judd Hirsch, Katey Sagal, David Koechner, and Maz Jobrani are the vets in this one, and they all know how to deliver even the most innocuous of lines with maximum impact. Jermaine Fowler, whose IMDB credits tell me that I should’ve known him by now, brings energy and a fresh-faced appeal, and he delivers his lines with an agility and deftness that allows him to hold his own among those who’ve more than made their mark in the industry. Anna Baryshnikov (yep, the ballet great’s daughter) plays the grad-school student, and while she didn’t have a lot to do in the pilot, she showed potential.

Watching this brought me back to the days of rapid-fire delivery, witty rejoinders, and a batch of brashness mixed with a dash each of sentimentality and sweetness that I remember from sitcoms from back in the late seventies and early eighties. Instead of sidestepping current issues, they address them with well-written humor and sarcasm.

I went into the evening thinking that I was going to be adding yet another superhero/supernatural show to the brimming cupful that makes up my TV viewing (“The Flash”, “Supergirl”, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, the last season of “Grimm”, “Emerald City”, the soon-to-return “The Walking Dead”, and on-hiatus shows “Preacher”, “Lucifer”, and “Gotham”). Instead, I ended up adding a sitcom that reminds me that a well-written joke deftly handled by actors up to the task never gets old.

Signs of Life, by Bymaga Jones 1/1
bymagajones
Signs of Life, by Bymaga Jones


Fandom: “Signs” (2002 feature film)

Characters: Office Caroline Paski, Graham Hess

Rating: K

Word Count: 2,400+

Summary: Officer Caroline Paski finds herself checking on the Hess family, and she tells herself it's part of the job.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

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The Friends You Make Here… by BymagaJones 13/13 - Epilogue
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Chapter 12


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A/N: The final installment. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Comments and constructive criticism are welcome, no matter when you read this. I hope, if you have time, that you drop me a line and let me know what you think.

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The Friends You Make Here… by BymagaJones 12/13
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Chapter 11

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On to Chapter 13 – Epilogue

The Friends You Make Here… by BymagaJones 11/13
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Chapter 10

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On to Chapter 12

The Friends You Make Here… by BymagaJones 10/?
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Chapter 9


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On to Chapter 11

The Friends You Make Here… by BymagaJones 9/?
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Chapter 8b




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Chapter 10

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