Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Owen Benjamin & Why Didn't They Laugh

Okay, so yesterday, I mentioned Owen Benjamin's podcast, Why Didn't They Laugh, in my list of things that make me happy. And I realised that that one tiny post wasn't really giving him enough credit - because for the last few weeks since I've known of his existence, he's more than made me smile. He's made me laugh out loud, and he's made my addled little writer brain think.

I heard about Owen Benjamin via reviews for the Impractical Jokers UK tour. Every single review that mentioned him said how much they enjoyed him and how funny he was. As a lifelong fan of comedy, my interest was piqued and I followed him on Twitter immediately.

One thing that's cool about Twitter is the interaction - and not all people with a massive following will interact because it must be overwhelming to keep up with all the tweets. Not an issue with this guy. He thrives on conversation, and this was where it became clear that not only is he face-achingly funny, but he's smart. Super smart. And not afraid to share his opinions. Over recent weeks, he has discussed the terror attacks in Manchester and London, talked about Sharia Law, about the Kathy Griffin controversy, about religion in general, and most recently, J.K Rowling's 14-tweet long rant about the use of the word "whore".

Criticism of people who are extremely well-loved, or voicing potentially unpopular opinions is something many shy away from, but actually, it's a really good thing to open up conversations about subjects that are quite often avoided. Do I  always agree with him? Oh, hell no. But hearing out others is about listening, learning, considering other angles, and I love that. (Unfortunately, I have a major affliction when it comes to joining in these conversations online because I cannot fit my point into 140 characters. I can hit that 'like' button like a demon though :p) Opening up a dialogue - even if it's uncomfortable - is okay, and more than that, it's important.

Taking it back to the less serious stuff - the comedy  - if you want to check out Owen Benjamin in action, you can see some of his stand up on YouTube, check out his podcast (link is at the top of the page), or take a glimpse at his Instagram - and, honestly, this was the moment I knew I was in the presence of a genius.

Do yourselves a favour, friends. Check him out. If you're lucky, you'll catch him on Periscope - where he will make you laugh in between playing piano, taking requests, and answering questions.

You can see Owen Benjamin live both in the US and the UK, so if you like what you see, check out the dates here.




Monday, 12 June 2017

Miles of Smiles Bloghop



The Rules:

Several years ago, I created the Bloghop of Joy with Clare Dugmore. The idea behind it was for people to sign up and tell each other about the small things in their lives that always make them smile. Miles of Smiles will run along those exact same lines BUT we’re doing this all over social media. That means you can use your blog, your Facebook, your Twitter or your Instagram to share your joys.

The reason we’re opening it up is to spread this as far and wide as possible. Things on your list of joy could be a random memory, something you see on TV, overhearing something that makes you laugh out loud - just that one thing that makes the clouds part, and the sunshine appear again.

We all know that our friends and families makes us happy – that is pretty much a given. We're not talking about life-changing moments, just the little things that inexplicably make us smile and forget our worries for a while. We would love it if you would join us on our #MilesofSmiles mission!


My List of Joy

So, I already did this hop on my writing blog, but I'm joining in over here because there are some entertainment specific things that make me happy! 

Podcasts

I rarely have time to listen to podcasts BUT there are some that I just have to make time for. Specifically, Why Didn't They Laugh by the awesome Owen Benjamin (will talk about him more at some point!), and Tell 'Em Steve Dave (this is not for the faint-hearted. These guys are hilarious, but not necessarily family friendly!) 

Ed Sheeran

I have a confession. I didn't like Ed Sheeran much at first. I didn't really get what the big deal was, but now? Now I cannot get enough of his music. 

British Comedy

I love comedy of all kinds, but - and I may be biased - British comedy is amazing. Quite recently we had a TV show on here called The Keith and Paddy Picture Show, where to of Britain's finest comedians/actors/presenters "remade" classic movies. Their version of Dirty Dancing was infinitely better than the genuine remake that happened recently!


So, tell me, what are the little things that make you smile?

 To join in with a blog, sign up here:


Monday, 5 June 2017

One Love Manchester


So... last night Ariana Grande returned to Manchester after the horrific attack at her show on May 22nd, and she brought with her a whole host of amazing artists, who call came together to help raise money for those who were affected by the attack. 

Honestly, I wasn't absolutely sure what to expect. What I always knew for sure about Ariana Grande was that she has an amazing voice - other than that, I didn't know a whole lot. So, to witness this beautiful young lady on stage, doing what she does best while fighting back her emotions, was just phenomenal. She's a petite little thing, but she commanded that stage and that audience with ease - and she made a fan out of me the moment she sang with the Parrs Wood High School choir and held onto the sweet young lady who sang My Everything as she broke down. Also, One Last Time was a moving moment as that was reportedly the last song played at Grande's concert on May 22nd. And can we just talk about Ariana's stunning rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow? It could not have been a more perfect song to end on.

Other amazing moments during the concert included the always awesome Robbie Williams trying to hold it together in the city that means so much to him. My inner teenager could not handle seeing him so upset, and his chants of "Manchester we're strong" were truly moving, as was him singing Angels. 

The Black Eyed Peas singing Where Is The Love with Ariana was where I lost it. That song has been in my head since the first attack on London earlier this year, and to see it performed at this event was amazing. Also, will.i.am is the shiz. 

Coldplay took to the stage to sing what has become Manchester's anthem - Don't Look Back In Anger. Not everyone was crazy about them covering the Oasis classic, but it felt important that that song had a place at the concert. The crowd seemed to love it, and then Coldplay went into a few of their own songs. Love them or hate them, they know how to put on a show, as the audience was showered in coloured stars which rained down from the sky.

One of the bigger moments of the night came from Liam Gallagher's appearance on the stage - dressed in orange and looking pretty much as he did back in the nineties. Read into that what you will :p but it was great that he was a part of the night. 

All in all, it was an incredible show to witness. There were tears and smiles, and a feeling of oneness, firstly with my fellow Brits who were all talking about the concert, talking about the parts they enjoyed and the parts that made them cry - not one of them forgetting why this concert was happening. But also with the rest of the world who watched as some of the world's best known performers united for this event. 




Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Where Words Fail, Music Speaks - A Charity Anthology

Generally speaking, I tend to keep posts about my books off this blog - unless it is a charity anthology! And since this particular anthology has a very strong link with music, I'm okay with talking about it here.

Where Words Fail, Music Speaks is a collection of short stories and poetry by writers from all walks of life.
Each story and poem is based on the titles of 90s Britpop songs, including Come Back To What You Know, Bittersweet Symphony, Animal Nitrate, Disco 2000, and more.
Our list of authors is: Kyra Lennon, Clare Dugmore, Annalisa Crawford, Ker Dukey, Wesley Copeland, Robb Turburville, D H Sidebottom, Audrina Lane, M.B. Feeney, Karen Frances, S.J Warner, Scout Dawson, Kimberly Morgan, Maddie Wade, Rebeccalou Heronpontin, and Andrea Coventry.
All proceeds from the sales of this anthology will go to Clusterbusters.


Those of you who follow me on social media will know what this is all about, but for those who don't - I have several friends who live with the debilitating pain of cluster headaches. While research is being done all the time into a better way for people to manage the pain, there is still a long way to go yet, and I wanted to do something to help. Raising money is key to continuing research, so I pulled in a team of some of the coolest writers I know to put this amazing book together. 

There is something for everyone inside. There's heartbreak, there's hope, there's pain, there's joy, there's growing up, and for good measure, a little bit of bizarre! You can't fail to find something inside this book you will love! 

If you would like to donate to this fantastic charity and bag yourself a brilliant book, you can do so at the following links:

Thank you! <3 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Mad Love for Black and White Rainbows

I have a confession to make. I had always heard of Bush - of course, I grew up in the nineties - but back then, I was all about the cheesy music. While I was singing along to the Backstreet Boys and learning Steps' latest dance routine, I didn't realise what I was missing out on.

Fast forward to the present. Well, last December, to be more specific. I'm working on a project that involves me looking deeper into the nineties music scene, and I stumbled across a few tracks by Bush. I started listening. I loved their music.

Fast forward again to an average Saturday night watching TV - when I heard Mad Love for the first time. That was enough to sell Black and White Rainbows to me. Since then I have been listening to the album from the time I get up until the time I go to bed. When I have to stop listening to do other things, I have one of the songs from the album in my head. Just in case you were curious, today, I wandered around the supermarket singing Sky Turns Day Glo to myself. :p

This is not going to be your average music review - that's not really what I do. I can't talk to you about what is technically brilliant, or speak with any great authority about how this album compares to previous albums, because my knowledge is not strong enough. 

But what I can tell you is this. I haven't been gripped by an album this way in years. In fact, I don't think I have been this gripped by an album ever. And I listen to a LOT of music.

I wish I could explain what the hell it is about this album that makes me want to get shit done... but maybe that's a mark of how damn good it is. It's rendered me incapable of finding the right words. All I can tell you is that it's crawled under my skin and awoken something inside me that has been sleeping for WAY too long.

If there is only one album you check out this year - for the love of God - let it be Black and White Rainbows.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Making a Murderer - One Year On

So... you know that magic thing Facebook does, where it shows you your memories from previous years? Well, yesterday, mine informed me that it was a year since I finished watching Making a Murderer. One. Whole. Year.

Making A Murderer, in numerous ways, changed my life. Changed me. My recollection of watching it for the first time is that I was totally gripped by every single episode. Not in a "well this is entertaining, I need more" kind of way, but in a "what in the hell is wrong with the world?" kind of way. It felt dark, to me. Chilling that a man such as Steven Avery could be jailed for a crime he didn't commit, and then, just when he thought the nightmare was over, it all started again, and his sixteen-year-old nephew was dragged along for the ride. It broke me. It kept me awake, wondering how the system could have failed these people. How people in positions of power could manipulate the public with such skill that, even now, many still don't see past those awful press conferences.

Like everyone else, I wasn't there when Teresa Halbach lost her life. I can't say with 100% certainty who killed that young lady who had so much life left in her. But I do know this. There are a lot of people who had a deep desire to see Avery behind bars - that is clear from the documentary. Remember the way some of those people spoke about him? The way the investigation focused mainly on Avery and his family right from the start? It was and still is troubling to me that this kind of thing happens, and the last year has highlighted just how many more Steven Averys and Brendan Dasseys there are all over the world.

Making a Murderer inspired many people to get out there and make a change. Protests were arranged, various fundraisers were set up, petitions were launched, research was done. Even those who didn't think their voices were that loud were ready to stand up and say SOMETHING. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos set the wheels in motion for the world to stand up and make some noise. The enormity of their achievements is almost impossible to put into words.

While the fight is still ongoing for Avery and Dassey, the tables are turning, make no mistake. Those men will get back to their families because of the hard work of legends like Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin. Kathleen Zellner has frequently tweeted about progress being made in Steven's case. Justice will be done.

On a personal level, what's changed for me since this time last year? So. Many. Things. In March last year, I wrote this. It was kinda like this post, noting the things people have done since MaM first aired. But you know what's really cool? During this fight to correct the injustice, the friendships I mentioned have grown. Now, the people I used to discuss the case with talk on Skype about... everything. They're people I turn to when my days are rough. They are the people I go to when I have good news to share, and vice versa. And it never fails to fascinate me that some of my favourite people were found because we watched the same documentary.

It never fails to fascinate me that one year later, there is still an army of Making a Murderer fans who see the big picture, and are still standing up for something they believe in so passionately. At a time when so many people think only of themselves, it's constantly inspiring and exciting to know that there are some incredible people out there.

Keep fighting the good fight, my friends.