John Mayer Goes Country

Since John Mayer’s debut, he as assumed a number of different roles; a comedian, a gifted songwriter, a talented singer, a maestro guitar player, and a tabloid darling with his T.M.I interviews about his love life. After his critically acclaimed album Continuum, Mayer had a lot to live up to with his follow up. Unfortunately, Battle Studies didn’t exceed many of the fans expectations (including my own). His fifth album, Born and Raised, is a return to the John Mayer fans know and love.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about an artist exploring new sounds and experimenting, but the songs on Battle Studies were so trite that even an ego-maniac like Mayer could not make them work. The one redeeming track was a duet with Taylor Swift called “Half of my Heart.”  With Born and Raised, John Mayer channeled the country-folk sound that made “Half of my Heart” so great, then added a bit of his signature blues sound to make it even better.

The first single, “Shadow Days,” gets back to the roots John Mayer came up on; heavy on the guitar with his soft raspy voice lamenting over it. The lyrics of the song make it sound like an epiphany he had (perhaps over his tabloid days?). This is definitely one of the stronger tracks on the album.

A favorite of mine starts with a crescendo of a trumpet leading into the song, from there, the song takes another turn. “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967” goes from a trumpet to a simple little diddy with drums, vocals and guitars (and a little bit of piano later on). I really enjoy the stripped-down feeling to the song. Songs don’t always have to be auto-tuned and overproduced to be brilliant.

Of course, no John Mayer album is complete without a love song to keep his female fans in heat… err… to keep them swooning. “Love is a verb” does not disappoint. Garnering the same amount of steam as “Come Back to Bed” or “Your Body is a Wonderland,” this slow-dance anthem will sweep you off your feet. “When you show me love, I don’t need your words. Love ain’t a thing, love is a verb.” What the verb is exactly, Mayer doesn’t really give that answer. However, given his record with seductive love songs, one can only imagine what that verb is exactly.

The title track, “Born and Raised”, is a classic folk-rock fan’s dream with sounds that resemble the likes of America, The Allman Brothers, and Crosby-Stills and Nash. This shouldn’t be shocking to many, seeing as David Crosby and Graham Nash added harmonies to this proclamation of self-awareness.

As a long time John Mayer fan, I was happy to see him return to a sound that is more his speed. While he is still experimenting with new elements of his music, this album feels more organic than his last. Here’s to hoping John Mayer stays devoted to the music and out of the tabloids from here on out.

 

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Written by:

Katie Sperduti

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Simon Berkley Reviewed

Tales of the supernatural are popular these days, especially with the releases of both the Harry Potter and Twilight series. The problem with those stories though is that while they have a fan base of all ages, not everyone is into sparkling vampires or schools for wizard even if the reader enjoys the genre. If you’re looking for a mature, witty, and entertaining story of the supernatural, look no further than Simon Berkley by Eat Your Serial’s very own Leon Noble.

Simon Berkley is a man with a psychic gift. In order to pay the bills, he uses his powers as a clairvoyant to ease the pain of lonely widows looking for lost loved ones. He’s also regularly haunted by Alice, a nuisance to him and his business, while also hanging around with the last wizard on earth, Phil (think Harry Potter, retired with a drinking problem). After a near death experience while investigating a case for a client and a string of gruesome murders in the supernatural community, Simon begins a journey to solve the mystery of who’s committing these heinous crimes, and stop it before it gets worse.

As a fan of tales of the supernatural and dry humor, this twisted tale was right up my alley. Simon Berkley, delightfully cynical with a seemingly know it all attitude, paired with Alice, a sarcastic, alpha female with a no b.s. policy, makes for entertaining dialogue between the two characters throughout the story. It was conversational and realistic, well, as realistic as a conversation with a ghost can be. The story is extremely detailed and descriptive, even down to the smallest detail. For example, in chapter two, Noble mentions the change of color in Alice’s Irises, from a “heavy grey to a flashing red.” It’s a simple detail, but it adds to the tension and struggle of the situation she was in.

Another interesting and amusing part is in chapter three when Simon goes to his ex-girlfriend for some help. Who likes running into their ex? Even worse, who likes to swallow their pride long enough to ask an ex for help? It’s a completely realistic and awkward situation that was done both humorously and tactfully.

This story was a nice switch up to the norm of paranormal and supernatural stories. Yes, some of the elements are the same, but the story is told in a fresh and entertaining fashion. This was a quick read for me because I got so involved with the story and the characters that I wanted to keep reading. Will our unwilling hero find the murder in time to spare the lives of other members of his community? I could tell you, but what would be the fun in that?

 

Read Simon Berkley HERE for yourself!

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Written by:

Katie Sperduti

Finally, A Use for Justin Bieber

When I sat down to write this piece about using music as inspiration, I knew I needed the right music to set the mood. However, I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed to feel in order to write a blog post about inspiration. Something inspiring, obviously. Overwhelmed by too many choices on iTunes, I instead turned to the limited vinyl collection of my Dreadhead Husband and me. It’s mostly filled with Zeppelin and Beatles albums (and the solo albums that followed), as well as a healthy dose of Supertramp, but I found what I felt I needed: The Jimi Hendrix Experience. I flipped to side two, set the needle in the groove, and sat back as the opening chords of “The Wind Cries Mary” crawled out of the speakers.

Aaah.

My mind cleared and it felt like all the clowns had gone to bed.

The use of music as writing inspiration was first introduced to me in college during a workshop. My teacher, the extremely talented Dan Crawley, would play a song or two at the start of class and told us to write something—anything. When I stopped worrying about producing perfectly polished prose, I found myself creating some surprising passages of writing. Intrigued by this exercise, I started experimenting outside of class. I found that music had a way of unblocking my mind when I had written a story into a corner. Certain fictional situations felt enhanced by the music to which I listened: Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for a high school party, “Black and Gold” by Sam Sparro for a nightclub, and, perhaps my favorite instance of musical inspiration, “Brooklyn” by Buckcherry. Wanting one day to write, but feeling utterly uninspired, I put on that song and let my mind go. Almost immediately I had the mental picture of a young guy walking down a New York City street, and from his strut, I just knew he’d gotten laid. From that simple idea, inspired by a song, a novel bloomed forth (shameless plug: this novel, Stick Figures, is planned for release through Eat Your Serial).

What does this have to do with anything? Who cares if I find music inspiring? What does it matter if an upbeat song by Buckcherry spawned what could possibly be the next great American novel?

My only point is that it worked for me. If you’re reading this post through Eat Your Serial, I presume you have some sort of vested interest in writing. The next time you feel stuck (and there will be a next time, there always is), try listening to a song. Pick one that expresses the mood that you want to convey, or just pick that really irritating song that’s stuck in your head on that particular day (Justin Bieber could finally have a purpose). You have nothing to lose, especially if you’re stuck, and the results could surprise you.

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Written by:

Emily Regan

Introducing…Kinemortephobia, From Pillar to Post, and Inventing Through Inventing

Dear Flakes,

Well, we’ve made it. This weekend marks the end of our debuts of brand-spanking new weekend Feature Content for a while. Notice all the qualifiers in there? Weekend Feature content. We’ve still got some stuff up our sleeves, only now it’ll be coming to you during the week! But more about that later. Since it’s a three-day weekend and all, we’ve got three brand new features lined up for ya, and boy are they sure to please!  So without further ado…

Kinemortephobia- Katie Sperduti

Yes! Our very own Staff Writer, Katie Sperduti, whom you’ve all come to know and love will be offering you even more to know and love in her monthly column “Kinemortephobia”. For those of you who cannot break down this super awesome word to its meaning by its ancient linguistic roots (don’t worry we couldn’t either) it means fear of the moving dead. Yup. Katie is going to bring you a column dedicated entirely to zombies week after week, because she loves to feat the moving dead. Appropriate to that, her first set of features are going to focus on the similarities and differences between Walking Dead the comic book and Walking Dead the TV show. There’s aplenty of aboth!

 

From Pillar to Post: Wrestling the E-Z-E Way- Ezenwa Anyanwu

From Pillar to Post is a monthly column dedicated to exploring and explaining the world of Professional Wrestling. Yes, some of you may not give Pro Wrestling the respect it deserves but did you know that Monday Night Raw is the longest running episodic television show in history as it is nearing its 1000th episode? This country, and the world, has a long tradition of following the stories of the squared circle and Ezenwa has been doing so his entire life. Come along as he explains, not just the WWE or TNA, which are companies most of you probably know, but as he takes you on an exploration of the companies you should know, and that you didn’t know that you should know but what to know all about! E-Z-E is the man to guide you through your education of the ring as his column will take you all around the world from the US, Mexico, Japan, and beyond!

 

Inventing Through Venting- Marc Polite

Now, many of you may know Marc Polite as the 2011 National Black Press-All Star Award winning blogger and voice behind the “Polite on Society” blog—we certainly do—but what you may not know is that this massive political intellect is also a huge video game, sci-fi, and film head.  We are excited to announce that he will be bringing his talents to Eat Your Serial in a new monthly column called Inventing Through Venting where he will bring all those surprising interests and knowledge to the table. Marc is going to lay it out on what we’ve been expecting from the future through science fiction and what we haven’t gotten, what movies are winning his thoughts or losing his respect, and what games are worth your time. Is it that one dimensional?  Of course not! Marc’s knowledge base is so deep that you’re gonna get to the end of his posts with an education from his venting. How have science fiction, games, and movies affected our culture—or not affected it? Let Marc tell you!

 

And there ya have it folks! Now, if you think that’s all we’ve got you are so so so so so so so so so so so so wrong! But by the end of this weekend you’ll have experience all our currently slated weekend content. Does that mean we don’t have something else up our sleeve? Hell no. Check back next time. We’ve got something else for ya!

Until then….eat it.

 

Writers Who Influence Writing

I’ve been gearing up to work on another long form piece of fiction recently (several in fact), and as I do, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about voice, style, and word choice. The way a writer structures his or her tone, designs sentences, and employs personal vocabulary all have a powerful effect on the reception of a piece. Some of this is simply trial and error: writing a sentence and deleting it, scribbling an outline and crumpling it up, thinking about an idea in the shower then writing it on the train. At least that’s the brainstorming process for me—I assume it varies. There is another component to writer’s introspection, however, and that is taking a good look at your influences.

Writers influence other writers just by the act of being read. It doesn’t matter if a work is good or bad, or if the reader either loves or hates the work—it is going to make an impact. If the story is well received, the reader will attempt to breakdown the parts that work, reverse engineer it in their mind, and awe at the way words were honed and crafted to deliver the message. Conversely, if the work is bad, the writer will inspect what doesn’t work and likewise reverse engineer the problems and view the work as they might have written it (if they feel it was worth writing at all). Once again, this is my personal experience but I’d venture to say it’s this way for many writers out there.

Either way, it comes back to Oscar Wilde’s assertion, “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” It is, through a particular lens, inevitable. Your writing craft only gets better through continued reading and practiced writing—otherwise you will plateau. If you don’t expand from your reading and writing comfort zone, your own style (and indeed your very mind and soul) will become stagnate and still. My general comfort zone is science fiction and fantasy, however, my first novel was semi-autobiographical, and most of my blogging is review based. Overall I’ve read more comic books than 99% of people, which generally informs the style of my storytelling, if not my writing.

Comic Books continue to influence me throughout my adult life, but as a child, the most influential creative teams, for me, included the likes of Gail Simone, Dan Jurgens, Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Brett Breeding, and Jon Bogdanove. Moving into my teens, Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuiness, Grant Morrison, Akira Toyatama, Brian Azzarello, and Eduardo Risso made a strong impact. As I came into my twenties, I discovered creators like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Brian K. Vaughn, Mark Millar, and many, many more. This is essentially a name drop list really—and it also mixes illustrators and inkers with writers because of the nature of comic book storytelling. Each of these creators has infected my mind and directed my personal style. Comics have a different impact than novels, and as such, the creative teams mix imagery with word-craft to create a sense of continuity, development (of character and story), and above all else, a cliffhanger. Comics have to keep you continually coming back.

When I think back about the novels that have influenced me most, I find that some fall in my comfort zone and others do not. Certainly the Incarnations of Immortality Series, by Piers Anthony, and The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny, had an effect on my perspective on the spectrum of quantum possibility; mixing theology, mysticism, science, and mysterious origin. Humor in narrative for example is something that developed in me through reading both Zelazy and Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide series. Redemption of the villain is well rooted in Anthony’s Incarnations books. My all-time favorite book, The Once and Future King by T.H. Whyte, showed me that even dry legend can appeal to modern sensibilities if it is worded in a lively and engaging fashion. The Autobiography of Malcolm X with Alex Haley, though not a work of fiction (all criticism and meta-commentary aside), showed me how an character can evolve in narrative as well as in events. Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents was an educational trip not only in the perspective of relating to a story through another gender, but also through a filter that was not entirely Germaine to my experiences (or so I thought).

When I try to take in the totality of my influences, I’d like to think I am unique among them because I borrow and steal from all of them. I don’t live in a bubble, and I didn’t independently invent writing, so as I embark on another long form writing project (or ten), I give heed to the writers who have helped form my craft. Of course, this isn’t all of them. I probably couldn’t list them all—and I certainly didn’t make a hit list of writers that have shown me what not to do. That would be a painful list to compile.

So, now that I’ve shared with you, I pose the question to all you writers out there (and indeed you readers, too), what creators influence your style?

 

The Least Objectionable Programming and You

It’s that time of year when the flowers are blooming, the weather is beautiful, and the warmth of the sun shines down on you, making you feel as if everything is going to be alright. It’s that time of year when, generally, my body decides to throw a monkeywrench in any great plan and just get bonkers sick for no particular reason. This past weekend, while the weather in New York was comfortably in the high 70s and 80s, I was cocooned in a comforter on the couch drinking water and Emergen-C; shivering, sweating, dry, and unable to breathe. Did I have a fever? I’m not sure, it may have been menopause…but I’m too young and the wrong gender for that.

At any rate, in my convalescence and burritoed as I was, I turned on ye ol’ Netflix on my Xbox and looked for something to comfort me. Luckily, Netflix is just the sort of service to help me along on that, with its handy-dandy suggestions and impossibly specific genres. Eventually, I settled on two early 90s classics which happen to be all-time favorites of mine: Groundhog Day and The Addams Family. Watching these familiar movies was comforting and allowed me to escape my revolting health situation via a vicarious fantasy that I’ve already experienced many (many!) times before. I won’t spend too much time here talking about how amazing the two particular movies I chose are…Harold Ramis and Bill Murray’s amazing story of a curmudgeon stuck to endlessly live the same day over and over again, or Barry Sonnenfeld’s clearly Tim Burton-esq take on Charles Addams’ property starring Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, and a young Christina Ricci. Another time, perhaps, just rest assured I know just as well as you do that these are kick-ass, fun movies.

As I lay there, illin’, I was thinking about how comforting these movies are/were to me, which inevitably led me to think about why they are comforting. You would think that after a certain amount of time I would never want to see them again. My wife often asks me how many times I can watch: Superman, Ghostbusters, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Back to the Future, etc. and I always tell her, ”not enough times.” No doubt the same reason she can never see Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Wedding Singer, and so on, enough times (and me neither, come to think of it). I’m sure you’ve also wondered about your own favorite movies.

Well, it was theorized by NBC’s Paul L. Klein in the 1960s that people tend to gravitate towards the “Least Objectionable Programming” or “LOP.”  What he found was that no matter what day, time of year or what was on the TV, generally speaking, the same number of televisions were being viewed consistently per time slot. He claimed, and I agree, that this was because television is a medium unlike reading, theater, or cinema. The difference is that watching television itself is the desired activity and desired object. Viewers turn on television and then consider what will be watched because the act of watching television is comfortable, passive, and in the home. It trumps all other forms in terms of effort and travel, and changing channels is much easier than perusing a bookshelf or marquee.

As such, you turn on the TV and surf the channels looking for something that bothers you the least rather than entertaining you the most. We’ve all done this. It’s practically the defining characteristic of the American Living Room. The experience is no different when you are streaming movies or a series on a device like an Xbox, or some other internet powered device, through a service like Hulu or Netflix. In fact, I daresay it’s even more true. I’ll watch the same things over and again on my queue rather than braving my way through the endless tide of New Releases. In my illness, I took suggestion of “Like Ghostbusters” to heart, and since you can’t get more “Like Ghostbusters” than written by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray, I got right to business on Groundhog Day. Then it routed me to Addams’ Family. Netflix offered me to LOP with no problem, and eliminated the thinking and choosing process for me altogether. It’s a hell of a service, and worked almost as well as chicken soup. A few hours later (in conjunction with that wonderful Emergency-C, Musinex, and Advil cold and Sinus cocktail I took) I was feeling better.

So, the next time you sit down to watch an old favorite you might want to ask youself, am I watching this because I actually want to or am I watching this because I don’t want to invest in something new? There’s no judgment on which it is, but you might want to experiment on your personal consumer psychology and learn something about yourself.

 

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Written by:

Brandon Melendez

 

The Innkeepers – Movie Review

The Yankee Pedlar Inn is a real haunted hotel in Torrington, Connecticut. It is also the inspiration for horror director Ti West’s 2011 film, The Innkeepers. In the film, the old Yankee Pedlar is closing its doors for good. The inn’s two employees, Claire (Sarah Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), are determined to prove that the spirits dwelling inside the inn are real and make contact with them. The film is split into three acts and is more comedy than horror in the beginning. However, towards the end of the film, we meet the apparitions that live inside the inn and come to know their tragic stories.

The narrative in the movie and the actual story of why the inn is haunted differ. The actual account begins at the end of 1890 when Irish immigrant Frank Conley and his wife Alice buy the lot where the inn now stands. After months of construction, the Conley Inn opend in July of 1891. After the death of the Conleys in 1910, their niece sold the inn and throughout the years, the property was owned by a number of different individuals until 1997 when Anil and Dee Patel took over, and are still the current owners. A popular story claims that Alice Conley died in room 353, and she still roams the hall of her beloved inn to check in on the guests. It has also been reported that a rocking chair in the lobby, said to be Alice Conley’s favorite, has been seen rocking on its own. There have also been alleged sightings of Frank Conley in the inn’s pub using the phone.

After staying at the Yankee Pedlar inn while filming The House of the Devil, West was inspired to make the film after hearing some of the infamous ghost tales and speaking to the staff. The film’s ghost story depicts a tragic tale of Madeline O’Malley, who died in the hotel after hanging herself. Her fiancé left her at the altar on their wedding day. The owners of the hotel decided it would be bad press for the hotel if word got out about the suicide, so they hid the body in the basement of the hotel for three days until the body could be snuck out. After the townspeople caught wind of these shenanigans, they were so angry that the hotel had to be shut down. It remained closed until the 60s. Since then, people have reported seeing the fallen bride’s ghost wandering through the hotel.

During the final open week, Claire and Luke step up their paranormal investigations in order to make contact before the hotel closes. When hotel guest and former TV star Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis) makes contact with the spirit, Claire starts to witness eerie happenings. For instance, while doing EVP recordings, she hears a piano that is not actually playing. With time running out on her stay at the hotel, Will Claire herself ever make contact with the spirit of Madeline O’Malley or will she leave the hotel behind, forever wondering just what happened to the spirit of Madeline O’Malley?

In my opinion, the film was exceptionally done. Visually it was amazing with incredible attention to detail. The actors were engaging and funny in an atmosphere  that was both subtle and scary. However, the scares were nothing to write home about and at times, the film dragged on very slowly.

The Innkeepers is worth seeing. It’s funny and scary at all the appropriate times, and tells an old haunting story from a different perspective.

 

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Written by:

Katie Sperduti