Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Here!

I am thrilled to announce that today is a very special day. Why? It's Blogging from A to Z sign-up day! Sign-ups are officially opened and we're putting out a call to all bloggers to join us in the best blogging challenge in the blog-o-sphere! If you're interested in learning more about the challenge, check us out . . . 

Please read and follow the sign-up instructions outlined below so you sign onto the list correctly!

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day.

The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE

We recommend short posts, turn off Word Verification, and visit five blogs (or more) a day beginning with the one after yours on the list.


Blogs must be on an open platform – no Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. – and comments enabled.


To streamline legitimate blogs from advertisement blogs, the Co-Hosts will be visiting each blog on this list throughout the Challenge. Blogs on the list showing no activity once the Challenge starts or miss five days in a row will be removed.

Please note your blog name and number in all correspondences. Remember that as blogs are removed, your number will change.

There are categories for those looking for like-minded blogs. Select ONE category code and enter it after your blog’s title/name. The code applies to your blog, not your theme for the Challenge and is purely optional. See the first few blogs on the list for examples. However, if your blog has adult content, you MUST mark it (AC) or it will be removed from the list. Codes are as follows:

ANIMALS: (AN)
ART: (AR)
BOOKS/REVIEWS: (BO)
CRAFTS: (CR)
CULINARY: (CU)
EDUCATION: (ED)
FASHION: (FA)
FILM/MOVIES: (FM)
GAMING: (GA)
GARDENING: (GR)
HISTORY: (HI)
HUMOR: (HU)
LIFESTYLE: (LI )
MEMOIR: (ME)
MUSIC: (MU)
MYTHOLOGY: (MY)
PERSONAL: (PR)
PHOTOGRAPHY: (PH)
POLITICS: (PO)
SCIENCE: (SC)
SOCIAL MEDIA: (SO)
SPORTS: (SP)
TRAVEL: (TR)
WRITING/STORYTELLING: (WR)
ADULT CONTENT: (AC)

Be sure to grab the badge and display it in your sidebar so we know you are participating and link to the A to Z Challenge Blog.

For more information we recommend you follow the A to Z Challenge Blog and the hosts:

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy @ Hollywood Nuts
Nicole Ayers @ The Madlab Post
Author Stephen Tremp
Heather M. Gardner
AJ @ Naturally Sweet
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian
Matthew MacNish @ The QQQE
Zalka Csenge VirĂ¡g @ The Multicolored Diary
S. L. Hennessy @ Pensuasion
C. Lee McKenzie @ The Write Game
Joy Campbell @ The Character Depot
Susan Gourley @ Susan Says
John Holton @The Sound of One Hand Typing
Lisa Buie-Collard, Author

We also have a Facebook Page
Email address is contactatozteam@gmail.com
Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge and Twitter id is @AprilA2Z

Sign up below and join us for a month of alphabet fun!



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Friday Night Lights

I recently started watching NBC's 2006-2011 series, Friday Night Lights. I remember seeing the original film in theaters and, apart from my appreciation of Billy Bob Thornton's depiction of Coach Gary Gaines, didn't think it was much to write home about. However, when I was shopping around for a new TV show to watch in my off-time, Netflix recommended that I give Peter Berg's series a second look. 

I'll admit that initially I had very little interest. I come from Texas, and actually went to college about ten minutes away from the filming location, so watching a TV series about small town Texas seemed a little redundant. But Netflix has rarely lead me astray, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Boy ever am I glad I did. 

The series is, to put it lightly, complex. It deals with a multitude of series issues, everything from socioeconomic disparity to rape, abortion to domestic abuse -- and it does so with a poise I hadn't really expected of a mainstream television show. With the controversy surrounding Ferguson making media headlines the last few months, the light this show cast on racial tension within the United States seems more salient than ever. 

And as for the cast, I don't think I've ever been more impressed with such an ensemble before. I fell in love with just about every character, though I have a special place in my heart for the tragically stoic Tim Riggins, played to perfection by Taylor Kitsch. The characters feel real, much more than the stereotype I'd come to expect from sports dramas.

It's a show that goes beyond mere entertainment. It has something to say. And with every frivolous sitcom, hyper-dramatic "reality" show, and vacant drama about teen vampires or lawyers skirting the justice system, my appreciation for a series that talks about real-world issues grows. If you haven't seen Friday Night Lights before, I'd recommend giving it a look.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Top 14 of 2014

I can't believe that another year has come and gone, and we're already into the fifteenth year of the new millennium. It was just one hundred years ago that World War I was still going on. Crazy, right?

I'll admit this year gave me some big disappointments. Movies I expected to love and didn't (X-Men: Days of Future Past). TV shows I've been waiting for but instantly fell flat (I still can't even talk about how much I hated the How I Met Your Mother series finale). However, there were some serious high notes as well, and I wanted to take a moment to highlight what I considered some of the best this year had to offer. (Side note: some of these are not new to 2014, just new to me.) So without further ado, I give you . . .

The Top 14 of '14:

1. Guardians of the Galaxy
This one surprised me perhaps more than any other this year. The Marvel bar was set high with The Avengers (2012), but Guardians had no trouble keeping up. In fact, this movie set off quite the argument in my friend group as we tried to pick a favorite between these two superhero ensembles. All I can say is, game on Avengers 2. 

2. Awesome Mix - Vol. 1 (aka. Guardians of the Galaxy Soundtrack)
In some cases a soundtrack can enhance the film. In this case, the the soundtrack was the film. Amazing.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I wasn't a huge fan of the first Captain America film (probably more to do with my aversion to movie portrayals of WWII and Nazis than anything else), so I didn't know what to expect from The Winter Soldier. But it really blew me away. Perhaps one of my favorite Marvel movies to date.  

4. Big Hero 6
I can say little more to describe this movie than it was simply heartwarming and fun. 

5. Edge of Tomorrow
As I understand it, this movie received mediocre reviews. I struggle to understand that, as it was my second favorite movie of the year after Guardians. The end was perhaps a little muddled, but I found it entertaining beyond measure. 

6. Heroes of Olympus: Blood of Olympus
My heart hurts a little to see this series come to a close, but it ended with a bang. Au revoir Percy Jackson and company. 

7. Selfie
Poorly named, but a fun concept. It didn't do well enough to make it past the first season (darn you ABC), but my husband and I got a real kick out of this Pygmalion/My Fair Lady adaptation. And a big thank you to Hulu for airing the entire season. 

8. All About That Bass
I don't know whether I love this song or hate it, but one thing's for sure. It's catchy as hell.

9. Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)
I never know what to expect of these YA novel film adaptations (you could't pay me to sit through another one of the Divergent movies). But the third installment of the Hunger Games series was really great. And I'm looking foward to next winter's Mockingjay (Part 2). 

10. Friday Night Lights
This show aired it's final season in 2011, but it wasn't recently that I gave it a try (and by "gave it a try" I mean binge watching all five seasons via Netflix). Stay tuned for my review later this month, but it's one of the best series I've come across in a long time. 

11. Uptown Funk 
This goes down as my favorite song of the year. 

12. Serenity: Leaves on the Wind
I'm always hungry for more Firefly, and was thrilled to hear a new comic miniseries was on the way. I felt a bit skeptical when I hear it was being written by Zack Whedon rather than Joss, but it scored well in my book. It didn't quite meet the same level of perfection as the previous works, but was a good read nevertheless.   

13. Twelve Days of Pottermore 
More backstory into Harry Potter. Enough said. 

14. Godzilla 
Maybe it's the child within me, but I'll just never stop loving a good monster movie. And this new addition to the Godzilla franchise was a great throwback to some of the original movies. Definitely a crowd pleaser. 

Well, that completes my list of 2014 favorite. Are there any other TV shows, movies, books or songs you think should have made the list?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group

It's the first Wednesday of the month and time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. A big shout out to our fearless leader, Alex J. Cavanaugh, for starting this amazing group where writers can connect with one another. If you're an insecure writer or a writer interested in supporting others, check us out here!  

Today each IWSG member has been asked to write a little introduction before their post, so keeping that in mind, my name is S. L. Hennessy and I'm an insecure writer. I double majored in English Lit and History in college, and reading is my absolute favorite activity. I've completed my first novel, a middle grade piece about superheroes, and I have an agent representing me. As of yet, I have no publisher, but fingers crossed. 

As for my insecurities this month, well, they are legion. But it's the dawn of a new year, and the perfect time for fresh starts. I encourage everyone who struggle with writing last year (as I certainly did) to brush off their past troubles and dive in with a newfound sense of determination. That's my goal for 2015!

Happy blogging fellow IWSG-ers, and a happy new year! Can't wait to check in with everyone and read some of your introductions.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Into the Woods

Many years ago I watched the American Playhouse version of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods for an elective college course. An avid fan of fairy tale adaptations and Sondheim's work, I remember enjoying the experience and to this day I have a hazy sort of love for the story I wish I remembered better. So when I saw the preview for the new Disney adaptation, I felt nothing but excitement to once more see this story come to life. 

And now having seen the film, I can honestly say it was . . . nice. Which left something of a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, for I'm fairly well versed in Sondheim and Lapine's work and it usually feels a lot more than . . . nice. 

Something about the movie just felt off. The characters were likable. Emily Blunt in particularly impressed me with her comical and endearing version of the Baker's Wife. And while I'm getting a little bored watching Johnny Depp play a never-ending supply of quirky and strange characters (which he continues to do brilliantly, if monotonously), I'm always a fan of Meryl Streep's work. Though even that felt somehow just . . . nice. 

Note: Spoilers Ahead

As we left the theater, my husband and I both commented that we would have been fine if the movie had ended a half-hour earlier with the wedding of Cinderella and her Prince, when all good characters were happy and all the bad characters were punished. Maybe a little bland, but that ending would have a least fit the story they presented us with. Instead, the last half hour felt messy and out of place. 

But thinking about it later, something about that statement felt wrong. I'm rarely a fan of cookie-cutter endings, and if there's one thing I never expect of Sondheim's work, it's banality. So I went to the internet for some answers and a little refresher course on the real Into the Woods. 

For those of you who know the original story, is it any wonder it felt like something was off about the movie? They cut out most of the content. The Little Red Riding Hood pedophelia. Rapunzel's death. And of course they axed the role of the narrator all together (who I recall being my favorite part of the play). They kept the general plot and many of the songs, but they stripped the film of it's meaning. Granted, the actual content is much too mature for a PG rating, but then why in God's name did they make the movie PG to begin with? 

It seems to me that they had two options: A) make the movie a PG, Disney-fied version and have everyone end up happily ever after, or B) give it a more mature rating and film it as Sondheim and Lapine originally intended. Instead the movie winds up somewhere in between, and just doesn't quite jibe. 

It's a story that doesn't lend itself well to the feel-good family romp they were aiming for. Though they did their best to white-wash the songs and substituted younger actors for traditionally older ones, the suggestive lyrics don't go unnoticed. It winds up a muddled mess in which the character's motives are unclear and the audience is left wondering if they're missing part of the story. Which in fact, they are. 

Like I said, the film is . . . nice. And the songs are terrific. But in the future I'll be sticking to Into the Woods on Broadway. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

12 Movies of Christmas

It's Christmas time, the most wonderful time of the whole year! And with the metaphorical Jack Frost biting at my nose (metaphorical because it's only about 68 degrees where I live - much too warm for snow), I am feeling the Yuletide spirit. So in preparation of my favorite holiday, I've got my TV queued up to some of the very best films this season has to offer. And what are they you might ask? Without further ado, I give you . . . 

The 12 Movies of Christmas:

1. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
2. Die Hard
3. Elf
4. Home Alone
5. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
6. Love Actually
7. Rise of the Guardians
8. All I Want for Christmas
9. Fred Claus
10. The Santa Clause
11. A Charlie Brown Christmas
12. Muppets Christmas Carol

What about you guys? Any Christmas movies you like to watch every year? 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cabaret

This year for Thanksgiving my family all headed up to New York City for a fabulous vacation together. We went to Rockefeller to see the tree, Times Square (on Black Friday, so it was a bit crazy), and the 9/11 Memorial (where I almost lost my cool watching a group of girls taking duck-faced selfies in front of the memorial fountain).

In keeping with tradition every time I go to NYC, I couldn't leave without checking out at least one Broadway play. There were a lot of options to choose from, but after great discussion, we all agreed upon Cabaret -- in large part because we found out that Emma Stone and Alan Cumming were headlining. And believe me when I say, it did not disappoint. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the storyline, it's based on the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood and set in Germany during the Nazi rise to power. This surprised a number of our party who recognized many of the more well-known songs but weren't initially aware of their context in the story's overarching plot.

However, despite Miss. Stone's brilliant performance as Sally Bowles, I think what impressed us most was the role of the Emcee. Equal parts narrator to the audience and character within the play itself, he has the unique metatheatrical ability to critique the story and call the audiences' attention to some of the darker themes hidden beneath the bright lights of the cabaret. In many ways the Emcee is reminiscent of the Shakespearean Fool, characters most known for their veiled examination of misdeeds within Shakespeare's works. 

It was a fantastic play that reached far beyond it's popular soundtrack, with characters whose depth reach far beyond the surface. I'd recommend it to anyone who has the good fortune and opportunity to see it.