Best Christmas Songs Never Played On The Radio

Once Thanksgiving hits, I am all about the Christmas music. The fact that there are multiple radio stations devoted to playing nothing but Christmas music around this time makes my morning commute a whole lot cheerier, which is quite a feat as I am not what you’d call a morning person. However, like radio is apt to do, they tend to cycle the same 20 songs over and over and over again. Now, you can play Sinatra every hour on the hour and won’t hear me complain, but enough Mariah Carey already! All I Want For Christmas Is You wasn’t that great the first time around, let alone by the 100th listen! Here are some of my Christmas favorites that for whatever reason don’t make the radio.

First of all, I want that Jack Skellington pillow in the background of this music video. I liked The Raveonettes quite a lot in high school, and I have to say they have some mighty fine dreamy, atmospheric Christmas tunes.

I think this next one is the most beautiful Christmas song I’ve ever heard in my life. I can never get tired of it. I still have yet to listen to any of Calexico‘s non-holiday music, mainly because all I’ve been listening to is Christmas music … need to get on that!

Classic, what can I say?

Pretty much anything Christmas by The Polyphonic Spree gives me chills. Their videos are such fun too, aren’t they?

I always hated the song Blue Christmas, mainly because I’m never a fan of whiny breakup music at any point in the year but at Christmas, man? Don’t be a downer. Also, Elvis = intense need for earplugs. However, apparently Conor Oberst is magic (like I didn’t already know that), and turned me around on the whole thing.

Another classic … punk rock Christmas forever! Give all the toys to the little rich boys.

Ok, this last one is a little cheesy but I included it because I have fond childhood memories of this song. The 60s/70s were big on family bands, and my mom loved The Partridge Family TV series growing up and had a couple of their cassette tapes. This band was my first introduction to music that wasn’t Disney. Well, them and ABBA. This was definitely a dance around in the basement in my tutu kind of song. My tutu was black with silver stars on it, however, so I was still kind of punk rock ;).

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs or covers?

Movies To Watch This Halloween Weekend

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am a huge movie enthusiast, and definitely classify movies as works of art themselves. Halloween is one of the best times for movies. I live in Michigan, and we actually had our first snow yesterday, making curling up on the couch an even more appealing way to spend an evening. I wanted to share my personal favorites, some theatrical, some funny, some disturbing … I don’t do straight up slasher horror films so for fans of Freddy, Jason, Michael, or the Exorcist I apologize. Lo and behold this is my personal, (quite pared down – It was hard!), best of Halloween list … enjoy!

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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This goes without saying. Viewings of this film and/or play are a Halloween tradition for a reason. If you have lived on this earth for more than 10-12 years and have not seen this movie yet I’d highly suggest you get on board. The original is best. I know there’s been some buzz about the remake, but I feel like this is an “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” situation, and though Laverne Cox is a fabulous actress, she just didn’t do it for me as a replacement for Tim Curry. I mean, Tim Curry was Hexxus in Fern Gully, the Lord Of Darkness in Legend, the scary clown in It … We have a lot of memories together.

Eraserhead

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This is actually the only David Lynch film I like. I had a lot of friends in college who were super into his work, and this was the only positive experience that came out of a coerced viewing of his library. I’m sorry guys, Blue Velvet is just not a good movie. This movie isn’t so much horror as an extreme-surreal sort of creepy. To me it reads like a really long stress dream. A guy accidentally got his girlfriend pregnant, her family is pissed, he’s not even sure he likes her that much … This resulting odd film is filled with situations and human interactions that would never happen in real life, a really sick baby that looks like a space alien, and even a really fun song courtesy of a woman living in the radiator. Just watch, you’ll see what I mean.

Donnie Darko

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This movie centers around Halloween, so of course it’s a shoe-in. This is one of those movies I can never get sick of. It’s very detailed and you tend to notice more and more as you re-watch.

Santa Sangre

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I’ll be honest, not to sound like an indecisive 8-year-old pondering her crush of the moment but I don’t know if I can even really say I like like this movie. Parts are super inspiring and sadly beautiful, others are plain hard to watch. The premise and visuals are just so bizarre and unlike any other movie I’ve ever seen, and that in and of itself makes it entertaining. It’s an Alejandro Jodorowsky, so you know it’s not going to be normal – It’s an experience. The premise is a far more interesting twist on the whole Alfred Hitchcock Psycho mother-son situation. This film centers around a troupe of circus performers. The mother is a dancer/gymnast who lost both her arms in quite an unpleasant fashion, and she now forces her son to literally be her arms. Like he is pretty much bound behind her at all times.

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He meets a cute little mime, falls in love, trouble ensues. Oh, there is also a crazy religion/cult that worships this saint who had both her arms chopped off in martyrdom. So there’s that.

Sweeney Todd

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Halloween musicals are where it’s at. This movie is pretty much a year-round choice for me, but I think the morbid theme makes it especially fitting for Halloween time. I’d always liked this play – It’s both emotionally moving and laugh out loud hilarious, and the music is amazing – and Tim Burton certainly did it justice in his film version. This specific cast was so great, I worry if I went and saw the play now I wouldn’t like it as much.

Dead Alive

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This is a weird little zombie-comedy that is ultra campy. It’s also ultra gross. Like, if the Garbage Pale Kids made a movie, this would be the end result. I normally am not one for super violent movies, which is odd because this number is chock-full of grotesque situations. However, it’s so 1980s-claymation-and-ketchup-fake and so gratuitous to the point of being silly that it doesn’t bother me. I don’t like violent films that show situations that could actually happen in real life; murders, muggings, all that noise; but goofy looking zombies ripping apart people’s heads and play-doh-spaghetti insides falling out? I can deal. There’s another awkward possessive mother situation here, too. I don’t know what’s with the entertainment industry and demonizing mothers – I can’t tell what’s worse, the horror genre or Disney movies.

The Evil Dead Trilogy

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Again, this is pretty much a Halloween classic so not much explanation is needed. I had the extreme pleasure of watching the musical version of this film in Detroit 2 years ago, and it was everything I’d thought it would be and more.

They Live!

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It’s the 80s … unemployment is rampant, income inequality is out of control, race relations are at an all time negative … so says the hackers breaking into the TV broadcasts that are turning people into mindless zombies. (Sidenote: I’m so glad things are so much better a quarter of a century later, am I right?) This same hacker society has developed glasses that show the truth … I want to give it away but it’s too great. You have to just watch it. Look at that screenshot!

So, what are your favorite movies to cuddle to once the calendar turns to October?

 

Your New Summer Reading List

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I’ve always loved reading in general, but there is just something about summer and sitting down with a good book. Even as a kid, I was always so pumped to join the summer reading challenge at the library. If you read x number of pages by the end of the summer, you got a free book, and there was always a really cool treasure map you could color in to track your progress! Back then, my reading list looked something like this.

As I am trying to decide what books to pile onto my “to read” list for this summer, I figured I might as well pass on some of my lesser-known personal favorites to you: life-changers if you will, or at the least very much worth reading.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – If nothing else encourages you to read this book, a film titled The End Of The Tour just came out last year chronicling a famous 5 day interview between the author and a Rolling Stone reporter. So basically, DFW is pretty important in the literary world. I knew nothing about his work until I by chance picked up this book at the local library, his explosion of fame having taken place after its completion in the 90s, when I was still reading picture books. This book takes place alternately between a tennis academy and a rehab facility, and hosts a strange casts of characters. It is an odd comedy at the same time as it is a philosophical meditation on addiction, the powerful role of entertainment, and what the pleasures we choose say about who we are. Don’t go looking for a cut and dry interpretation, though. For there is still much speculation about what certain parts of this book really mean or what truly happened. This is not a book of answers but of questions, and I think that is why I love it.

The Girls by Lori Lansens – This book follows the life of 29-year-old conjoined twins Rose and Ruby. It puts a totally new kind of character in the spotlight. Readers will be surprised by the girls’ independence and the unexpected differences in their personalities and the separateness of their lives. The novel is written from the perspective of Rose, an aspiring writer, as she pens her autobiography. These unique main characters are treated with respect, awe, hilarity, and tenderness.

Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum – This novel chronicles the triumphs and trials of a group of adolescents. Only – these adolescents happen to live in an institution for juveniles with disabilities. It confronts important issues such as abuse and neglect within institutions and group homes, disability activism, and the infantalizing of individuals with disabilities.  It also shows that disability does not define the individual’s hopes, desires, emotions, and dreams.

The Memory Artists by Jeffrey Moore – This novel revolves around a cast of characters who are all involved or affected in some way by the neurology of memory, from an Alzheimer’s patient to a neuropsychologist to a young woman suffering from blackouts and a young man with synesthesia. It is a moving and uplifting story that celebrates the power of relationships within struggle.

The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer – I swear I don’t only read books with the word “artist” in the title. This moving, detailed story deals with loss, family secrets, inherited beliefs, societal prejudice and oppression specifically of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, and how our ancestors’ passions, perspectives, and experiences shape our own search for meaning. It is one of the most fascinating historical novels (which also branches into present day) that I’ve ever come across.

Requiem by Francis Itani – This book revolves around our need as human beings to revisit the places and people who shaped us, and confronts the harsh reality of the displacement of Japanese-Canadian and Japanese-American citizens after Pearl Harbor. It is also a sobering look at how easy it is for us as a society to turn our friends and neighbors into enemies simply because of their country of origin.

Darkmans by Nicola Barker – Nicola Barker’s favorite subject matter is described as eccentric or damaged people in mundane situations. I love heavily character-driven works as you can see from this list so far, and when I think about it, I hardly read anything that only has one central figure at the action’s center. This book is filled with strange people linked only loosely by a myriad of intertwining webs. It is strange and surreal, and I can’t really describe the plot outright. But, I promise while reading you will be tickled, emotionally moved, astonished, and entertained.

The Interestings by Megan Wolitzer  – This book follows a group of four friends who meet at summer camp as their relationships grow and change far into adulthood. I may have found this story particularly interesting as one who is nearing 30 and still maintains my core group of high school friends, some of whom I have known since 1st grade or earlier! It explores how as people grow older, talent, success, money, achievements, and social class can affect one’s long term relationships. It is a fascinating character study, and highly relatable to anyone with long term friendships and connections.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – Murakami is another writer who favors more surreal, philosophical, complex stories. However, this novel is one of his most straightforward with no strange, unexplained dream-sequence-like descriptions or complicated metaphysical symbolism. It is a story about young love and coming of age, the loneliness of beginning collegiate life, and the life altering experience of dealing with a good friend’s suicide. I normally am not one for either romantic based plots or books I know are going to be sob stories revolving around dying. I also am not one to be moved to tears during books or movies usually. I absolutely loved this book, read it multiple times, and cried.

What books do you recommend I attack this summer? Help! I need suggestions! 🙂

10 Documentaries You Should Watch Yesterday

Not everyone thinks of documentaries when they think of “art”, but I believe they certainly fall into that category. Documentaries tell a story. They take facts and true events and make them dance before our eyes in an engaging manner that connects internally with viewers. My top 10 favorites cover a range of subjects : personal narrative, psychology, science, creativity, abuse, love.

Enjoy!

 

Monica and David

This documentary chronicles the romantic relationship of two adults with down syndrome in their journey towards moving in together and getting married. I love this documentary not only because it obviously pulls at your heartstrings, but it also takes the “otherness” away from disability. It is honest about Monica and David’s struggles, while at the same time showing that they aren’t that different from you or I in their dreams, hopes, and concerns for the future.

 

The Wolfpack

I just watched this one recently, and it stuck with me long after finishing. The story revolves around a group of brothers living in a family with an unstable father who for years would not allow them to leave the house or interact with others in society. Trapped in their own world, they turned to movies as a way to feel like they were living and experiencing the things that others outside did. They go as far as writing out entire scripts by hand (no computer/internet access) and then acting them out themselves, complete with amazing costumes and props made from things like painted cereal boxes. What they went through is horrible, but they have channeled their experience into something positive, and a couple of them ended up going into film production. The end of the documentary shows them working on a short film that you can view in it’s entirety, titled Mirror Hearthere.
We live in public

This documentary was absolutely fascinating to watch back in 2009 when it came out, and even more so when I think about it compared to how we interact with social media now in 2016. It centers around the life of dot-com entrepreneur Josh Harris, and his social experiment which was a combination of reality TV and a live action version of Myspace. His predictions of social media in the future were so spot on it’s eerie. Definitely an enlightening if not somewhat disconcerting watch.

 

Bergman Island

This documentary chronicles the life of legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Much of it is done in an interview style. He issuch a character, equal parts insightful and hilarious, it makes for a fun watch even if you haven’t seen a ton of his films (which you should go out and remedy now, by the way, if this applies to you :)).
Advanced style

This documentary was created by Ari Seth Cohen, who has a blog of the same name. The story centers on a few of the stylish older ladies he’s spotlighted. Cohen has always been interested in fashion, and grew up very close to his grandmother. Because of this strong bond, he always admired and felt closer to older women, who incidentally are systematically excluded from the fashion world. Thus, Advanced Style was born. These ladies are so much cooler than I, or anyone else I know, will ever be.

Honor Diaries

This documentary is an open conversation between nine women’s rights advocates with roots in Muslim societies working to change their communities. What makes it even more powerful is the fact that there are a variety of faiths represented. Though the documentary starts out by discussing the issue of honor based abuse abroad, it ends by bringing to light the fact that these incidents are not isolated to outside of the US. Contrary to popular belief, surprising number of these killings and abuse stories happen in the states, in the UK, and throughout Europe. As I watched the women discuss the mindsets that lead to this type of violence and extreme male entitlement, it was hard for many of those same dangerous mindsets I see present in my own society not to come to mind. People like to dismiss hateful or repugnant attitudes as “Oh, it’s just their opinion, everyone is entitled to their view”. But, this documentary shows the havoc “just an opinion” can wreak when left unchecked, and when it grows into a group mentality.

WAR: Women Art Revolution

As I explain in an earlier post about women in art, this documentary completely reeducated me on the subject of feminist art. I was born at the tail end of the 80s, and since growing up in school I’d always been given the impression that art was a “girl thing”, I never gave a thought to inequality in art. I never thought to ask why all the famous artists we learned about were all men. I just figured that those men happened to be who was best at art way back when. I had no idea the struggle and the war that those women artists who came before me had to fight simply to be allowed to practice their craft, to be allowed to show in galleries. Spoiler: the fight isn’t over. This is an important documentary to watch for anyone interested in art and creativity. Am I suddenly in love with the aesthetic of feminist art from the civil rights era? No, but I have gained a huge appreciation for those ladies who took a stand so that I can do what I do today.

Alive Inside: Music and Memory

I work with a lot of older adults teaching painting classes, and I’d heard about the benefits of painting in improving memory and motor skills in the elderly, but never music. This heart warming and inspiring documentary shows an alternative way we could be nurturing and interacting with our older communities.

PBS This Emotional Life

This PBS series explains scientifically why we experience emotions the way that we do, and the role different emotions play in our day to day lives and how we function. Explanations are simple and accessible to all, even those with no background in science or psychology. I have always been an anxious person, and understanding the science between what is going on in my body when I start to panic actually helped me deal with anxiety situations better. To be able to tell myself “Ok, your body is signaling a fight or flight response but you aren’t actually in danger right now … what you are feeling is just chemicals in your brain tricking you … don’t let a bunch of chemicals ruin your day!” helped me to calm down, silly as it sounds. It doesn’t always help, and it may not work for everyone, but this is certainly an enlightening series regardless.

Earthlings

Growing up, I’d honestly just never really liked the taste of meat compared to other things (It always reminded me of cardboard with seasoning sprinkled on it), and it’s origins always left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. This documentary is in part what pushed me to finally eliminate most meat from my diet (I still occasionally eat seafood). I understand the importance of the food chain to our ecosystem, but in our present day we consume far more meat products than we should for either our health or sustainability. To keep up with this demand (and make a higher profit – Greed continues to be the unifying reason for most questionable decisions.), some pretty horrifying, unethical farming and slaughtering processes are being put to use. If you haven’t heard of Temple Grandin, she is an amazing woman on the autistic spectrum who has done groundbreaking work towards animal welfare in the food industry.

I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect. – Temple Grandin

I hope this list helps pass the time on those rainy Spring days coming up, and that something here stirs or inspires you. What are some of your favorite documentaries that I should add to my “Watch ASAP” list?

Music to Make Stuff To

Hello all! I’ve been super busy lately so this is not going to be one of those deep, introspective posts – sorry! However, I hope it will provide some fun artistic inspiration for some of you. I constantly get asked “What do you like to listen to when you work?” I definitely have certain types of music I enjoy in the car or while cleaning the apartment or on long walks, types of music that don’t always work while creating for whatever reason (see Finnish metal bands ^_^). My brain seems to enjoy a mix of 60s-80s oldies, and drama-infused artsy indie rock to aid in the creation process, so, here are some of my constant go-tos on any Music To Make Stuff To playlist, as I like to call it.

I was obsessed with listening to 50s and 60s music as a kid and would practically cry if my parents had any station other than the oldies on in the car. They were a kid themselves in the 60s and weren’t half as into it as I even was. My heart would always get a little happier when this particular song came on, before I even knew who The Doors were. Still love it.

Everything by the Smiths, enough said.

I think drama through song is creativity’s lifeblood.

And remember what I said about drama?

Another of my favorite oldies from childhood. My parents did actually have this tape. I included the song with clips from the film “Chungking Express” because I have hardly ever seen a song used so seamlessly as a motif throughout a film. Also, the main actress is absolutely adorable and makes the song even better.

Enter: Turkish psychedelic music. What’s that? You never knew such a thing existed? You don’t say … I have always found Middle Eastern chords to be so hauntingly beautiful, and that is especially true in this song.

Anything Michael Nyman, and I repeat, ANYTHING MICHAEL NYMAN! His pandora radio station embodies just about the most soothing art-making-friendly music known to man. If you like his piano music, check out Phillip Glass, also.

The Velvet Underground can certainly be hit and miss, but I cannot be in a bad mood when I hear this song.

First of all, this music video alone is worth a watch – it’s pretty impressive. I have found Grizzly Bear to have great calming, atmospheric music for in the background while creating.

The late 80s/early 90s had fantastic music, in quite a contrast to their clothing. I really missed out being born a bit too late. I was still listening to Disney tapes when this stuff was big.

Lastly, who doesn’t feel empowered to do great things while playing this song? I included the video from Guardians of the Galaxy because, come on, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy!

Don’t let me forget, if any of you have any particular music you love to listen to while making art feel free to share, I love suggestions! Au revoir!