Spring is back! After a very long winter, you can’t help but to be grateful for the longer days, the warm and comfortable weather and more importantly, that you can put away all those heavy clothes and boots. It is priceless! You breath better, you walk straighter and you feel happier. I am a true believer that different weather conditions can affect your mood. I think this has to do with the amount of sun exposure and the fact that you enjoy being outside in contact with nature and other human beings. For a while I couldn’t decide if spring or fall were my favorite seasons, but after a couple of years living in the US I have decided that Spring is the winner. While fall is beautiful, with leaves falling on the ground in amazing orange and yellow tones, it is also a reminder that winter is coming. You don’t know how much I dislike to start putting more and more clothes on, to leave work “at night” and wake up “at night”. To me fall is a reminder that tough times are ahead. You might think I’m whining, and to be honest, I am, but when you are born in a tropical country, your DNA is not used to months of cold temperatures and darkness. Spring, is nature’s way of telling you that the misery is over, that better times are coming ahead and that once again you made it through the nasty winter! Mother nature is rewarding you for surviving all those months of cold weather.
Since my daughter’s birth, more than ever, Spring has become the season when outdoor activities begin. It is the time when you go back to the playgrounds and run into the moms you met the year before. You get to have meaningless conversations about children and then run fast to avoid any fall or fight with another kid. Mother’s world is a complex world; interacting with other moms can be challenging at times. Under that blanket of politeness and friendliness there are all sorts of characters you start to discover when you start going to the playground – It is like a microcosmos. There is the nice mom, the chatty mom, the quiet mom, the mom that can’t stop talking about how great their kids are, and the bullying mom. Let’s face it, even as grown ups, we all have to deal with bullies…
As my daughter grows, and becomes more interactive, I notice these characters more and more. The more I’m aware of them, the more I’m amazed at how different and sometimes difficult it is the interaction with other moms. When children are around, you always have to behave your best; at the end, you are a role model. However, when faced with uncomfortable situations, mothers get stuck between doing what they would normally do and doing what a “role model” would do. This is specially hard for the bullying moms, who hide behind words such as “share” to “run over” other people. For instance, the other day I was at a playground and my daughter was on the swings. A mom that came after me and was waiting for the swings to be available said to her daughter “Don’t worry, that girl will SHARE the swings with you soon”. Then she looked at me to make sure I got the message…. I got really upset! My daughter had been in the swing for less than 2 min. and that woman wanted me to give it up so she could use it right away. I guess what upset me the most was that she was forcing me to give up the swing by hiding under a nobel concept such as sharing. Off course, I didn’t SHARE the swing with her, and didn’t care if she thought I was being selfish for not leaving when she wanted. This has happened to me a couple of times. On another occasion, a mom wanted my daughter to “share” (give up) a toy she was using so her son could play with it. If my daughter is using the toy, shouldn’t the mom teach her son to be RESPECTFUL and wait for his turn?
The point I want to make is this: I know that sharing is an important concept, specially for toddlers who have a very difficult time learning how to share. At the end, most of us learn how to share, right?. However, there are situations when some parents bully other parents by using the word sharing to get what they want. I’m sorry, and if you run into me at a playground you might not like me, but I’m not going to teach my daughter to give up her stuff when someone feels like taking them from her. It might be called sharing now, but when they get older, the kids that take things from other kids will become bullies. And what do you do with a bully? you have to defend yourself. So no, I’m not teaching her to share that way, sharing should come naturally, and from the heart, not from a forced situation.
This song is by Jack Johnson, my daughter’s favorite artist.
Yesterday after I posted “I can’t remember the 90’s”, many songs from that decade started to pop in my head. One song lead to another and millions of memories of friends, places, and stages of my life came to mind. I love remembering and I specially love when the memories are weaved into the music. So here they are, my second batch of songs from the 90’s.
This one is for my friend Melissa F.
Since I started writing this block, I noticed that every time I think of the “good old days”, I always go back to the 80’s. I remember this decade as it had happened yesterday; the fashion, the music, the T.V. shows, everything is vividly inserted in my mind. What is strange about having these clear memories, is that I was only 2-years old in 1980 and 11 in 1989. Most people start building their memories at the age of 3 (on average). If I try really hard, I can remember when I was 4 years-old, but I’m certain I can not remember 1980 and 1981. Even if I was able to remember those years, you are not really aware of a decade’s music, fashion and trends until you are much older. Probably I was only aware of the 80’s culture from 1986 to 1989. So, how come I can remember it so well? And how come the 90’s are only composed of vague images that pop in my head once in a while? From age 11 to 21, technically my golden years, I can’t seem to remember much. After thinking about it, I came up with a couple of theories, actually 2 theories, about the mental tricks my mind is playing with me.
1. A lot of the culture of the 80’s extended into the 90’s. Many important bands like Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Poison, etc. from the 80’s were still big in the early 90’s. The same goes for the fashion, and TV shows. In general, there is not a clean break between the 80’s and the 90’s; much of what we catalogue as 80’s continued to exist in the early 90’s. I guess, what I’m trying to say is that when you think of big hair, colorful make up and tight pants – mostly on guys, you think of the 80’s, but technically many of these images are also from the early 90’s.
2. In my mind, the 90’s didn’t happened that long ago, I have a hard time telling myself that this decade ended 11 years ago. Maybe it is because since then, life has speed up and it feels like, every thing has happened really fast. What ever the reasons are, in my mind, there is nothing distinctive about the 90’s that would let me separate it from the 00’s and it all blends together in a category I like to call “recent past”. However, I must accept that it has been a while since the 90’s and that there are special memories that should be pulled apart and filed in their own folders. Basically, I need to separate the 90’s from the “recent past”, archive my memories and let it go.
In order to do this, first I have to find out what exactly happened during those years. I did some research and found my favorite TV shows, movies and songs from the 90’s. I think this will help me identify the 90’s with its distinctive memories and at the same time pay tribute, to a fantastic decade!
So here we go:
Seinfeld – This is the best show ever! No other show makes me laugh like Seinfeld
Alley McBeal -“My first, my last, my everything”
Dawson’s Creek – Poor Dawson, he started to lose his hair and at the end, nobody wanted to date him.
Felicity – I Loved this show!
The X Files – Did Mulder and Scully ever got together? I have to admit that these was a very long show and at the end I lost interest.
Beverly Hills 90210 – Classic
Friends – Central Perk
Fraiser – I always thought that Niles – Fraiser’s brother was hilarious
Melrose Place – Classic
3rd Rock from the Sun
Shindler’s List 1993 – I still remember the scene where everything is black and white except for the girl on the red coat
The Usual Suspects 1995 – After this movie I became a big fan of Kevin Spacey
The Sixth Sense 1999 – “I see dead people”
Se7en 1995 – Brad Pitt! – I still remember the guy that die from gluttony – Nasty!
L.A Confidential 1997 – Kevin Spacey I love you!
Pulp Fiction 1994 – Best Soundtrack
The Silence of the Lamps 1991 -” Good evening, Clarice”
Forrest Gump 1994 – “Run Forrest”
Titanic 1997 – “I am the king of the world”
Jerry Macguire 1996 – “Show me the money”
So, these are my favorite songs from the 90’s. It was hard to pick only 10, but I think theses songs have been somehow “Iconic” in my life. Enjoy!
Ok. I like these ones too!
In 2009, I rediscovered one of my favorite TV shows; Sesame Street . This, off course, coincided with the birth of my daughter, and I must say that it was great to find some familiar faces among the new and unknown children’s shows that have populated the TV in recent years. Have you heard of the Wiggles? if not, you are safe, don’t even goggle them. Sesame Street or Plaza Sesamo has been on the air for more than 40 years, generations of kids have grown learning the alphabet, numbers and colors with the Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Count Von Count (my favorite), Ernie, Bert and many other muppets. Their legacy is enormous and I’m glad that Sesame Street is something my daughter and I will always have in common. Just watching the show brings happy memories from my childhood. I must say though, that the Sesame Street of today is putting too much emphasis on Elmo, (a character that didn’t exists in my younger years and who I find particularly annoying) leaving traditional and important characters such as Kermit the Frog and Grover reduced to special appearances – This makes me a little nostalgic.
Sesame Street 40th anniversary was in 2009, by then, it was the fifteenth-highest rated children’s television show in the US. Sesame Street is the most widely viewed children’s television show in the world, it counts with 20 international versions, and broadcasts in over 120 countries. A 1996 survey found that 95% of all American preschoolers had watched the show by the time they were three years old. In 2008, it was estimated that 77 million Americans had watched the series as children. As of 2009, Sesame Street has won eight Grammys and 118 Emmys—more than any other children’s show. 1
Only recently I noticed how influential Sesame Street has been to generations of kids around the world. Many famous actors, musicians and celebrities have been guest of the show, these include: Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Michelle Obama, Kobe Bryant among many others. I guess you are not a celebrity until you appear on Sesame Street. Anyway, I have been looking though videos and found pretty amazing performances. I specially enjoyed how great songs were adapted into educational and fun song for children.
Famous Tito Puente, El Rey del Timbal!
This is a bonus video, while searching for music for this post, I found a spoof titled “Law and Order; Special Letters Units” It is hilarious!
One thing I like about my job is that I can listen to music while I’m working. If it wasn’t the case, I would probably had injured a couple of co-workers and consultants by now. Ok I’m exaggerating, but the truth is that music helps me get through stressful days. That is why I keep handy my “little bit of feel good” playlist, composed of uplifting and happy songs that distract my mind from the daily craziness. I thought I might post some song from that playlist for when you are having a rough day,
The idea of writing a post about cover songs has been on my mind for a while. I’m a big fan of cover songs and lately I have run into a couple of them that, I must say, are not that great. It is really hard to make a cover of a song that is already fantastic; the chances of not getting it right are very high. For instance Mary J Blige, did you really think you could sing One better than Bono? We all have our boundaries, no matter how famous we are. Cover songs are a tricky business; the way I see it, they have to be different enough from the original song to make it memorable, but at the same time, they have to capture its essence and original intent. That is why when you listen to a great cover song, you find new elements and meanings in the same lyrics you have listen to, many times. There are no rules for cover songs, its success only resides on pure talent, and that’s the bottom line.
Since I feel passionate about this topic, I had no option but to create a top 10 of my favorite cover songs, I hope you enjoy it:
10. Everywhere – Vampire Weekend (Fleetwood Mac) : This Fleetwood Mac song from 1988 is found in their album Tango in the Night. I always liked this song and The Vampire Weekend version from 2008 is a great re-make.
9. Dancing in the Dark – Pete Yorn (Bruce Springsteen): Dancing in the Dark from Bruce Springsteen was in the first cassette I ever had. My cousin gave it to my for my birthday in 1985 and every time I listen to this song I remember my younger years. Wake me up before you go-go was also in this cassette. Pete Yorn’s version is more mellow and slow bringing a new dimension to this song.
8. Nobody Does it Better – Radiohead (Carly Simon): I must say I’m not a big Carly Simon fan; I only like her song You’re so Vain. However, the cover of Nobody does it better by Radiohead is fantastic. The transformation of this song into a rock ballad makes it a more interesting song. Thom Yorke’s voice captured my heart and allowed me to enjoy this song.
7. Thank you – Chris Cornell (Led Zeppelin): I’m a big Chris Cornell fan, I like this version of Thank you more than the original. Thank you Chris Conell!
6. Bizarre Love Triangle – Stabbing Westward (New Order): This New Order song was released in 1986. I remember dancing to this song in the 80’s and early 90’s. There have been many covers of Bizarre Love Triangle, but this version by Stabbing Westward adds a rocker side to it that I think is great.
5. Just Like Heaven – The Watson Twins (The Cure): To make a cover of any of The Cure’s songs is a big risk. I think The Watson Twins were smart by transforming this song into a slow ballad. You don’t notice how sad this song is since The Cure’s version has a faster bit and sounds more cheerful.
4. Modern Love – Last Town Chorus (David Bowie): This is a classic example of a great song and a great cover. It is hard to pick one over the other. The David Bowie’s version, released in 1983 has more synthesizers and a faster tempo. The last Town Chorus version transforms this song into a slow, sad but beautiful ballad.
3. High Tide or Low Tide – Jack Johnson and Ben Harper (Bob Marley): Jack Johnson + Ben Harper are a perfect duo. These two individuals can sing anything they want and it will always be beautiful. I discovered this song when my friend posted it on Facebook and since then it has become one of my favorite songs. Unfortunately I have not been able to find it in any album. There is another version of this song by The Belle Islanders that is pretty good too.
2. Sea of Love – Cat Power ( Phil Phillips): This song by Phil Phillips, released in 1959 was a great success in the US. It hit the #1 spot on the Billboard R&B Chart. Its most famous cover was made by The Honeydrippers (1989). The Cat Power version was featured in the film Juno from 2007. This song also appears in the Cat Power’s The Covers Record, I just downloaded it and it is pretty good. There is not much to say about this cover other than it is fantastic!
1. If you Leave – Nada Surf (OMD): This is one of my favorite songs! I love it! The OMD version is great, but the cover by Nada Surf, in my humble opinion is simply amazing.
Last week was Valentine’s day; a holiday created to remind your special one of how much you love him/her. I have never felt inclined to celebrate this holiday, it was never been a tradition of mine and I don’t feel compelled to adopt it, as I adopted Thanksgiving; my favorite holiday since I moved to the US. The fact that this holiday is just for couples, leaves all the single population without celebrating, making them feel lonely and frustrated for not having a Valentine. It also puts pressure on couples that expect something extraordinary from their loved one, possibly creating anxiety and disappointment. This holiday is not for me – no Sir, the calendar keeps me very busy between birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, and father’s day. I think that these are all I can handle and that is the reason I have chosen to ignore Valentine’s day.
Despite the fact I don’t celebrate Valentine’s day, it is really hard to get away from the commercials and sale events that come up around this time of year. This year, all these media bombardment got into me and I started to think that if I wanted to celebrate Valentine’s day, I would have a hard time selecting my ultimate favorite love song. If you think about it, selecting a favorite love song is a very difficult task. Most songs are about love. Love is what makes our lives worth, it’s what inspires men and women of all ages; it is the essence of humanity. I’m not only talking about crazy, passionate love, I’m talking about relationships in general. Everything in our lives is about relationships and we are better or worse human beings because of the people in our lives. That is why, man throughout history have felt the need to sing about love.
When I started to think about a favorite love song, or even 10 great love songs, millions of songs started to pop in my head, I immediately realized that there are two variables that make this selection process particularly difficult and these are: Love Stage and Genre. Love Stage: The first question I asked myself was: what king of love are we talking about? There are 6 essential categories that songwriters have used when writing about love, these are: Wanting Love, Crushes, Recently Found Love, Passionate Love, Steady Love, Lost Love and Heartbreak. So if we are talking about Valentine’s day, we could easily narrow it down to three categories: Recently Found Love, Passionate Love and Steady Love. Still among these categories there are millions of songs that could easily be on my top 10. Genre: The second thing that came clear to me was that genres could not be ignored. In other words, it is impossible to compare songs that don’t belong to the same genre. As you can see, these two factors create a matrix that could be used as a method for song selection. However, this process can take a very long time since each section of the matrix could bring a series of subcategories that would make this task almost impossible to complete.
Having hit the wall on the music matrix, another idea came to mind, I decided to narrow my search and pick only one Love Stage and one Genre, so I decided to use Steady Love and Alternative Rock, and that was easier to do.
Not Long ago I rediscovered The Cure, I started to listen to their albums after a 15-year boycott and fell in love with their songs. This time, I found their lyrics to be the most beautiful ones I have heard in a long time. When I started to think about love songs, The Cure was on my top list. I guess Robert Smith doesn’t hold back when writing songs about love. The difficulty was in the song selection. I narrowed it down to two songs that, in my mind are particularly beautiful: Lovesong and Mint Car. Below are my favorite parts of both songs, and since I couldn’t make up my mind, you can decide which one you like the most.
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again
The sun is up
I’m so happy I could scream!
And there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be
Than here with you
It’s all I ever wanted
I almost can’t believe that it’s for real
I really don’t think it gets any better than this
And a gorgeous strawberry kiss!
Birds sing we swing
Clouds drift by and everything is like a dream
It’s everything I wished