Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Top 5 Weird Al Songs That Are Better Than the Original

In a passing conversation recently, I mentioned "Eat It" to my son, and it became clear that, not only did he have no idea who Weird Al Yankovic is, he was equally unfamiliar with Michael Jackson's "Beat It", the song that "Eat It" was based on.

I wanted to show him the Weird Al song, but "Eat It" is only funny if you know "Beat It."  After showing him the videos for both tunes (he laughed), he went off to do this own thing, while I remained at the desktop and allowed myself to get sucked into Youtube's collection of Weird Al songs and clips.

The realization hit me: many of the songs that Weird Al made in fun are actually better tunes than the ones being parodied. Here, then, is my list of the best Weird Al creations that are better than the original:

5. "Achy Breaky Song"

Original: "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus

Comment: This one is unique in that the entire point of the Weird Al song is to dis the Billy Ray original.


4. "Do I Creep You Out?"


Original: "Do I Make You Proud" by "Taylor Hicks"

Comment: Most "American Idol" winners are contractually obligated to issue an embarrassingly bad first single composed by music-mill writers, and "Do I Make You Proud" is one of the most bloated of the lot.   "Do I Creep You Out" captures the song's soap-opera-ness and adds lyrics which exploit the melodrama in the best way possible.


3. "Jurassic Park"


Original: "MacArthur Park"





Comment: Weird Al uses Steven Spielberg's movie adaptation of Michael Crighton's novel to take a swipe at Barney the Dinosaur as he takes on the song with the worst lyrics in music history (low point: "Someone left the cake out in the rain/I don't think that I can take it/Cause it took so long to bake it/And I'll never have the recipe again/Oh NOOOOOO!")

2. "Ricky"




Original: "Mickey"



Comment: Basing it on "I Love Lucy" is genius. Toni Basil's "Mickey"is one of most irritating songs of my lifetime. 

1. "Yoda"





Original: "Lola" by the Kinks



Comment: Although "Lola" is highly regarded among critics and even made the list of 500 Greatest Songs by Rolling Stone magazine, in my view, it's pretty lousy.  I fully realize that my assessment of "Lola" makes me lose credibility with music snobs, and I'm comfortable with that.

How about you? What is your favorite Weird Al song?


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Samantha Sanderson On the Scene


"Samantha Sanderson On the Scene" is the second book in Robin Carroll's series about a girl who strives to be an investigative journalist. The main character, Sam Sanderson, is a 7th grade cheerleader who wants to be a journalist, so she investigates crimes so she can write about them in the school paper. The focus on these books is to look at issues faced by middle-schoolers, and for this book, the issue is a tough one: a character's parents are getting divorced. The complication is that Sam finds it hard to sympathize with the girl, Nikki, who's kind of mean. But when Nikki becomes victim of a string of attacks, Samantha steps up and works to put a stop to it.

Because this is a line of Christian books, parents should know that this books contains some bible verses, a chapter about Samatha's church. Also, Nikki turns out to not be so mean after all.






My 12-year-old daughter liked the book, and she's in the target demographic. I received a free copy of the book as part of Book Look program, in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Crater Trueblood, by Homer Hickam

Crater Trueblood is the third in Homer Hickam's Helium 3 series of novels, after "Crater" and "Crescent".  The main character in all 3 novels is Crater, who, in the course of the story, transforms from a young man who works as a Moon-based miner to an owner of a search-and-rescue business who ends up saving the world. And in this case, "the World" means what remains of humans, who no longer live on Earth but on the Moon.

A young female protagonist, Maria, is an antagonist for part of the story, but it's fairly obvious from the get-go that she and Crater are meant to be. Other characters include Crater's brother and business partner, and then there are litle creatures called gillies, kind of like pets but who have minds of their own.

My son read the first Crater book at the age of 10, and now, at the age of 12, has completed the new one. This series is among the very few works of fiction being offered by Christian publishers these days in which the target audience is young pre-teen or early-teen boys. If you have a son in that age range who likes adventure, the Helium 3 series is well-written.

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The publisher, Thomas Nelson, offered me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: Billy Coffey's "The Devil Walks in Mattingly"

The Devil Walks in Mattingly, Billy Coffey's 4th book, extends his string of getting better with each new novel. Like his previous works--Snow Day, Paper Angels, When Mockingbirds Sing--The Devil Walks in Mattingly is set in the fictional town of Mattingly, Virginia. 

Although the setting is same as from novel to novel, the Mattingly books are not about the same recurring characters.  In this story, Jake Barnett is the town sheriff, in addition to being husband to Kate and father to Zach. Jake lives under the shadow of his harsh, disapproving father, Justus. Kate briefly befriends teenager Lucy Seekins, who in turn connects with a hermit named Taylor Hathcock.

As the title suggests, The Devil Walks in Mattingly is darker than Coffey's previous novels. Twenty years before the events in the novel, a teenager's death affects the lives of Jake and Kate, and in the present-time setting. they are still haunted by it. Then a murder occurs, disrupting the town's peaceful existence, and the investigation yields an uncovering of old secrets that two people had hoped would remain buried.

Although published by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson and sold in Christian outlets, The Devil Walks in Mattingly does not preach an overtly Christian message. By the story's end, the reader experiences a demonstration of grace, forgiveness, humility and the freedom that comes with shedding of shackles we create when we choose to lie, to keep secrets, and to rationalize. That said, you don't come away from this story feeling you have been preached to or lectured. "The Devil Walks in Mattingly" is a genuinely inspirational and refreshing story. 

I give "The Devil Walks in Mattingly" a big thumbs-up. My favorite quote: "To the heirs of grace, grace is free. But what does grace cost the giver?"

This book is ideal for anyone interested in the following topics:

Grace/forgiveness
Our efforts to make things right when we screw up
The damage done by unhealthy relationships with our fathers
The healing that begins when secrets are exposed

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of "The Devil Walks in Mattingly" in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Book Review: Manfield's Book of Manly Men

When the men's movement in Christianity started in the mid-90's with Promisekeepers, it was badly needed for me as I approached my 30's and entered married life. A few years later, I was introduced to John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart" as I became a father.

It's my stance that movements like these are needed, not because men need to assert their place as top of any hierarchy, but because many of our nation's and culture's troubles are caused by the failure of men to be who God called us to be, and to act as God has called us to act. Moreover, as one who grew up without anyone to model manhood for me, I have personally benefited from these books and teachings.

Now, 20 years later, it's likely that many who appreciated the men's movement may have concluded that all has been said that needs to be said; I don't share this point of view. I love the message of Wild at Heart. It was life-changing. But it did leave me at a place where I realize my father wound, prayed about it, sought healing, and then talked about it.  But that's not the ultimate goal. If our families are to flourish, if we as Christians are to bring about God's kingdom in the lives of those around us, we men need to stop talking about our father wounds and apply what we now know. We need to be the husbands, fathers, workers, teachers, coaches, and ministers that we are called to be.

That, readers, is the goal of Stephen Mansfield's new book, "Mansfield's Book of Manly Men".  Don't be fooled by the humorous cover and title. This substance in this book is, well, substantial. It's meat for those who have been drinking milk. It challenges the reader. It contains great stories and examples, but ultimately, the point of the book is simply to explain what men are called to do, then calls men to do it. If Promisekeepers was the trumpet call, now is the time to move forward, and Mansfield is leading the charge.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book review -- Ragamuffin Gospel Bible: Meditations for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Brokenhearted

Although I probably have too many bibles in my house, I had read just enough of Brennan Manning's writing to pique my curiosity about this new bible. Manning, who died last year, is best known for "The Ragamuffin Gospel", which is but one of many Manning books from which quotes, paragraphs, and statements were pulled for this devotional bible. 

The selected writings are, in many cases, perfect for each passage they accompany. Manning had a rare gift, and this bible is a perfect introduction to those who have never read his work before. This devotional accomplishes its purpose of providing excellent commentary alongside scripture. 

The closest thing to a negative, and it's a small one, is that the Ragamuffin Bible only comes in one translation: the NIV. 

The Booksneeze book review program  provided a copy of this book to me in exchange for an honest review.