Writing

One Night with Blanche

 

On May 18, 2007 I finally met Rue McClanahan who played my idol, Blanche Devereaux, on “The Golden Girls.”

On the show, Blanche is a man-crazy sexagenarian looking for love in all the wrong places. Anyone who knows me will understand the disconnect/similarity there.

However, the person who portrayed Blanche was, in my experience, a nice, occasionally witty, woman who was patient with the hordes of autograph seekers that had gathered in a bookstore that evening at a tour in Chicago promoting My First Five Husbands and the Ones Who Got Away.

Comparing the woman to her character, Blanche Devereaux is pretty unfair. By the time it was my turn, Rue McClanahan seemed tired.  Bored, maybe.  Definitely ready to be done.  I mean she was seventy-three years old.

I read her book cover to cover and I hope I do half as many things as she has done.

We can all be dynamic at some points, and it would be nice if we were remembered for those moments, rather than brushing our teeth, drinking our coffee, and our feeble attempts at being amusing.

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At the time that I met her, McClanahan acted as a timeless classic.  Even today, if I’m in a bad mood, I can just put in any one of the seven seasons of “The Golden Girls” and within ten minutes, my mood has lifted and I am lost in the brilliant writing and acting of a great team of showbiz veterans.

When I met her, I told her this. Not as eloquently as I have stated above, but in my own rushed and socially awkward way.

“Ah, the power of laughter,” she said, politely.

Those were Blanche’s five words to me.

I will live by this.

Forever.

 

 

 

 

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Tequila Tuesdays: TSA Stands for What?

It was the shortest airport security line I had ever seen. That should have been my clue that something was amiss.

There have been a few airline incidents lately where passengers, or in some case, potential passengers, have been treated less-than-stellar. With that in mind, I will share a fun anecdote from a recent flight of mine.

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I was going through security, minding my own business when something truly unexpected happened. After setting off the nuclear-radiation, full-body molecular scan sensor, I was herded over to a giant man who growled something indistinguishable.

Suddenly a lady appeared and groped my crotchal area noting that my pants were “saggy.”

“Well, you took my belt,” I offered helpfully.

She asked if I wanted to go someplace private. I figured the genital exam would go much faster, with fewer liberties taken, if I allowed them to perform it in the middle of the concourse. It reminded me of my last trip to Vegas – minus the cocktails.

By the time my clothing and personal effects were returned to me in plastic bins, I wandered unsatisfied to a bar for two shots of Patron (not enough). I also ate nachos and my wife and I posed with matching sweatshirts in front of a Minnesota Twins sign for an impromptu selfie. A girl striding by this red carpet experience took pity on our contortionist routine as we struggled for the perfect shot and offered to snap our picture.

Some time after that we boarded a plane.

Oh, and TSA stands for Tequila Somewhere Ahead. Just remember that.

Tequila Tuesdays: I’ll tell you a story, often involving tequila. You can drink.

 

P.P.S – I usually post stuff European time because they get up earlier. Go figure! LOL 🙂

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Front Woman Shines at First Avenue

 

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the Curve Magazine blog, She’s Electric in September, 2010 as “Un-Jaded with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.”

By Melany Joy Beck & Janelle Beck

It’s easy to write off Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as one of L.A.’s newest musical shticks. With their psychedelic prairie garb, dreadlocks and obvious appreciation of a certain herbal substance, the band is easy to stereotype. It is also true that their lineup includes a former ABC Family star, an American Apparel model and a cadre of west coast scenesters, including former Ima Robot front man, Alex Ebert who now dresses like the next messiah. However, Edward Sharpe and their free-loving ethos is a Kool-Aid worth drinking.

One of two women in the ten-person ensemble and the ingénue behind their breakthrough single, ‘Home’ is Jade Castrinos. Channeling Grace Slick at her most affable and Janis Joplin at her most lucid, Castrinos’ voice conjures images of wide open spaces and the fantasy of some nameless, long-forgotten west. But the singer becomes humble at the evocation of such icons and seems hard-pressed to claim any rock-idol throne.

“That’s a fucking honor, man. My dad and I were in a jam band and we would jam Janis Joplin,” she says, taking a seat backstage at Minneapolis’ First Avenue nightclub. “Strangely, I just picked up a biography on her and the first page I opened up to was a story about her sleepwalking as a kid and her mom woke her and asked what she was doing and she said, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home.’ That instantly hooked me.”

The sentiment of ‘Home’ has hooked a lot of people on Jade Castrinos too.

“The other night we had a show in Montana and it was just incredible,” she muses. “We had one of those moments when everyone is jamming and we become a unit and everything syncs up in the room.” She shakes her head and focuses her eyes on a seemingly empty patch of dressing room wall. “Those are the ones. The soul shakers. The moments when I understand why I’m on earth.”

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In an industry where competition is par for the course, Castrinos maintains an holistic view of her musicianship and why she twirls and wails and bangs the tambourine in the Edward Sharpe rock collective.

“It’s not just about me,” she says. “It’s about us making a sound together and being of service to song and love and supporting each other. The opposite of jealousy and competition is admiration and sharing. That’s the side of it that I’m on.”

The overall essence of Castrinos reaches beyond the notion of taking the stage. Marveling at the state of the world, our country, and even the music being written she is visibly struck by the sudden magnitude of import.

“What really matters when you go to your death bed?” she asks, raising her hands up and letting them flutter back down to smooth her tunic. “It’s not about the fuck-you songs to the government. I don’t think that’s what it should be about. It’s about shining a light and being a light and not cursing the darkness. We are all born into a world that is at war. Brothers and sisters don’t recognize each other and we all are living in this illusion of duality.”

At the sold-out show with opening act, Dawes, there is no hint of disharmony as Castrinos and Ebert echo the anthemic chorus of ‘Home’ to close out the night. In this band of brothers, sister Jade shines.

 

About the Authors:

Melany Joy Beck and Janelle Beck are writers and filmmakers. Their short documentary Bring It 2 Peter was awarded Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival, and Official Selection honors at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. They can also be heard in vocal harmony on the Delavan song, Pistols Blazing.

All content and images copyright Melany Joy Beck, Janelle Beck 2016©

Motorcycle Giant Sends Cash

Besides the occasional birthday card from Grandma, most of us are unaccustomed to receiving cash by mail. That’s why Honda’s new marketing campaign is so shocking.

I first became interested in motorcycles after working on the award-winning documentary Bring It 2 Peter. As part of the shoot, we retraced the steps of  Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper from the 1969 counterculture classic, Easy Rider. While interviewing riders, and traveling along the original Route 66, I fell in love with the sense of freedom that’s inherent to owning a bike.

Last summer I finally became a licensed motorcyclist myself, and as a smaller, fairly cautious rider, I wanted to buy a machine that wouldn’t be too overwhelming right out of the gate. The 250cc Honda Rebel was the perfect choice and, as an owner, I often receive correspondence from the company.

Usually, the mail I receive from Honda is fairly uninteresting warranty information or welcome-to-owning-a-motorcycle type of material. But when I rip open this particular envelope, a crisp new dollar bill falls out.

My first thought: “Is it fake?”

Having received many fake plastic credit cards in the mail and “too good to be true” checks, I immediately smell a rat.

Why is Honda sending cash through the mail?

I read the letter, and scan the accompanying survey. It is indeed an actual dollar. In addition, the company wants to ask me a few lifestyle questions so they can compile marketing insight.

As a product marketer and content strategist myself, I know how valuable these insights can be. They can help to more effectively target potential buyers, upgrade product features, and in some cases learn some embarrassing truths about your brand.

Do I fill out the survey? Of course I do. And I take the trouble to drop it in a mailbox. Why?

One of the reasons is that it is unexpectedly delightful to receive cash (even a small amount) by mail. This company just gave me something of immediate value, never knowing if I would fill out the survey.

As humans, we are often taught that “one good turn deserves another.” Plus, compared to the general public, I’m sure motorcyclists are statistically more likely to take risks and approve of risk-taking behavior (like sending money through the mail).

“Wow, how gutsy and irreverent – like me,” I think.

Now Honda (in my mind) is like me, they’re my pal. They give me money. It’s no big deal to answer a few questions – especially since they are fun. One of the survey questions asks if I feel that motorcycling increases my sex appeal (duh), or gives me a “sense of freedom” (double duh).

Of course, I have no idea what kind of response rate they get from these surveys. It would be a great A/B test. Maybe I’ll think about that later. Right now I’ve got to drive my sexy motorcycle down to the corner store and spend my free cash.

Like motorcycle movies? Check out Bring It 2Peter.

 

About the Author

Melany Joy Beck is an award-winning independent filmmaker. Her Kickstarter project, Bring It 2 Peter (co-produced with Janelle Sorenson) was selected Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival 2011, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival and Official Selection at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival.

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Top 5 Gifts for Eccentric Relatives

Let’s face it, everybody has a couple of relatives that are just a mystery. Their love of trilogies, puns, and small bits of wire confound the most well-meaning family members. What do you buy these people? Don your tinfoil hat and get a load of the Top 5 Gifts for Eccentric Relatives.

  1. SmartWool PhD® Slopestyle Medium Lincoln Loop Socks

While most of the northern hemisphere is plunged into darkness and glacial chill, a good pair of warm socks are always appreciated. Interesting patterns and colors are a hit with creative folks of many stripes.

$26.95

http://www.smartwool.com/shop/men-socks-shop-all-socks/phd-slopestyle-medium-lincoln-loop-socks-sw0sw327?variationId=109

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  1. Raspberry Pi™

For the tech geek who has everything comes the Raspberry Pi. Never heard of it? It’s a tiny little computer thing that can be used to build pretty much anything. Give your anti-social loved one a reason to hole-up in the extra bedroom and figure out how to sync the Christmas lights to Rock Me Amadeus.

$35.00

http://www.alliedelec.com/raspberry-pi-raspberry-pi-2-model-b/70465426/

raspberrypi

  1. Crafting with Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with your Cat Book

Yes, this is a real book. It’s perfect for the crazy cat lady in your family, young or old. Take that raggedy old calico, brush it profusely and you too can enjoy hours of fun with cat hair finger puppets, tote bags, coin purses, and more.

$9.96

http://www.amazon.com/Crafting-Cat-Hair-Cute-Handicrafts/dp/1594745250/?tag=dodogag-20

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  1. Game of Thrones Stark Infantry Shield

Your quirky kin can pretend he or she is one of the brave Starks of Winterfell with this officially licensed Game of Thrones shield product. Fans of the hit HBO series will be howling about the realistic direwolf sigil emblazoned on cold rolled steel (and you’ll feel extra safe that you didn’t buy them a sword).

$300.00

http://www.valyriansteel.com/shop/swords/stark-infantry-shield/prod_19.html

Stark Shield

 

  1. BioLite® Wood Burning Camp Stove

From doomsday preppers to friendly tree huggers, everybody loves the BioLite wood burning camp stove. And why not? This handy gadget allows you to gather a few twigs and charge your cell phone – while cooking a hearty dinner off the grid.

$129.95

http://www.biolitestove.com/products/biolite-campstove

 

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About the Author: Melany Joy Beck is a writer, filmmaker, and content strategist who frequently fraternizes with techies, musicians, artists, and other eccentric individuals. She understands that it is difficult to shop for anyone who doesn’t want a Keurig. You can watch her award-winning short film Bring It 2 Peter on Amazon Instant Video.

Devil Music

I have a terrible song stuck in my head.

Something about a devil inside. This guy moans really breathy and he’s talking about this “devil inside, devil inside,” over and over again and it’s freaking me out because I really believe in the devil. And if there is a devil and it has to be inside someone, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to choose me.

I’m the perfect devil host even though I have been trying my whole entire life to not be the devil. I even used to read the Bible every night before I went to bed and said this really long prayer where I blessed every single person I had ever known because if I didn’t, they would probably meet some horrible carnival-ride decapitation death.

I wonder when I stopped doing that.

When do little kids stop saying their prayers? I can’t picture an adult saying ‘Now I lay me down to sleep,’ but there isn’t any kind of alternative adultish prayer that is widely publicized. Maybe more people would pray if they didn’t feel silly saying a nursery rhyme about it.

Devil inside.

It’s back. Like hiccups. I try holding my breath.

My mom had this article one time about rock music being the work of Satan. Or maybe it was at church, I forget. It seemed true, though, when they were talking about all these different lyrics and old vinyl record albums that could be spun backwards on a turntable to play hidden messages to teens that would make them want to worship evil or do other bad things. Skin cats. I don’t know.

Devil inside.

I assess my music collection. There’s probably some devil stuff in there. I can’t have that kind of bad juju in my life.

I decide to take the obvious next step and destroy every CD, every album, and every cassette tape that I own beginning with the genre of Metal, since it is the most egregious offender.

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I slip on my high-heeled boots and place a handful of media into a paper grocery bag.

My mom washes the supper dishes. My sister plays quietly with her My Little Ponies. I disappear out the side door with a bag of classic satanic loot; Guns ‘N Roses, Mötley Crüe, Cradle of Filth.

I lug the sack over to the side of the house, out of the glare of prying eyes, and set it down. A gust of wind blows through the tree branches above my head sending a flurry of wet maple leaves toward me. Some of them stick to my face.

I lift my foot and step onto the bag. It lets out a little crunch underneath my heel, which infuses me with a new burst of confidence.

I do it again, harder.

The snapping of plastic jewel cases echoes through the naked trees. I am doing God’s work. I can feel it. So I stomp those suckers into a mosaic of plastic bits.

I jump up and down, panting, and wheezing with great physical effort and little restraint.

When there is nothing but dust and shards, I gather up the torn bag and its contents and hurl it off the side of the hill where the septic system drains.

I climb the porch steps, back to the house where a bowl of corn flakes and a Saved by the Bell re-run waits for me. These are good things. Wholesome things.

Tiffany Amber Thiessen has noticeably larger breasts in season three than she had in season two.

Devil inside.

How Writing About Boring Stuff Made Me a Better Writer – and Rich

When I graduated from college with a Master’s Degree in Writing I was ready to write the Great American Novel, a few cover stories for Rolling Stone Magazine, and probably an Oscar-Winning independent film.

Looking back at my hubris, I can only shake my head. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting those things. In fact, it’s important to have long-term goals.

In my case however, I thought I should have all of these things immediately. When immediately turned into a year, two years, a couple babies, and a divorce later, I became panicky. My empty bank account let me in on the sad truth that in order to make a living I was going to have to write about *gasp* boring things.

Omigosh, boring things. healthcare, computers, vitamins, exercise, insurance, you know, boring things. Things my parents did.

I did not get to write about rockers with hot tattoos, or moody declarative statements about the world, or the Cannes Film Festival, or the tiny house movement, or if I did, it cost me more to research the article than I ever made from it.

What was I supposed to say about boring things? Yay, insurance. You pay too much and it’s boring. Vitamins: Healthy people take them. Boring. Fish oil and male enhancement supplements, eww (and boring).

I was a writer, a real writerly writer. I had deep stuff to say, epic stories to tell. But noooooooo, I had to sit at a desk and write about boring things.

I kept this attitude up for a year. Okay, three.

Then something happened. I dug in and started understanding and researching. Not the products themselves, but the stories. What the products did and how they made people feel. I stopped phoning it in and imagined life being better. Conflict. Resolution. Concrete words. Stories.

Suddenly the stuff I was writing wasn’t boring anymore. Not because insurance, vitamins, exercise, or missile technology is any more inherently interesting, but because I can make them interesting.

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I didn’t ramble on and on, stating the same idea three times. Sentences were leaner due to the strict editors and creative directors with whom I worked, even though in the beginning I hated these boring people just like the boring things. But with their patience and insight they got me to the point where I could make toothpaste sound like a chapter in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. For that I will always be grateful.

Then the money came. Well, the numbers came first, as in people were responding to the copy in a way that made the analytics guy smile, so I got a raise. You know, that whole corporate, measurable results thing. That’s real if you actually have results to show.

MORAL: There’s no such thing as boring stuff, just bad writers.

HOMEWORK: If you want to be a better writer, pay your dues and, if you can, spend a few years writing about “boring stuff.”

In the process you will:

  • Make more money
  • Learn to employ more effective storytelling techniques
  • Become a better editor
  • Become a better researcher
  • Write tighter copy
  • Learn humility**
  • Act less entitled**

*What I am would not be considered rich to some people. But I’m a writer and I pay my bills, so there’s that.

** I think the last two were more of a gift for the people around me, as these qualities made me more likable as a teammate, friend, mother, wife, adult, person, human being.