Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Year's Music

When people think of Holiday themed music, Christmas obviously dominates, with hundreds of songs for the season. Halloween follows in the distance with a good chunk of music. Yet, there are numerous songs you can listen to as you ring in the New Year as well! So while you

"What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" by Various Artists. This gem dates back to 1947, when it was independently written by Frank Loesser. It has since been covered by numerous artists, and my vote for the best versions go to The Carpenters and Ella Fitzgerald. Nobody did Christmas songs quite like The Carpenters, and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" was added to their album "An Old-Fashioned Christmas". Fitzgerald also delivers a perfect rendition of the classic, as expected from a legend.

"New Year's Day" by U2. Released in 1983 on their album War, "New Year's Day" has stood the test of time as one of U2's most well known singles. It wasn't meant for that though, being a more politically charged song. The lyrics were inspired by the Solidarity Movement in Poland. So while New Year's isn't the main subject of the song, it is a piece of it.

"Auld Lang Syne (The New Year's Anthem)" - Mariah Carey. "Auld Lang Syne" is the most well known New Year's song, played every year on New Year's Eve. So for this list I just decided to include the Mariah Carey version from her 2010 Merry Christmas II You album, being one of the more recent versions, and from the woman who gave us a modern Christmas classic in "All I Want For Christmas Is You".

"Happy New Year" by ABBA. Released in 1980, this New Year's song from ABBA was a big hit in Europe, though a lot of its success came during reissues after the initial recording of the song. The English version wasn't released as a single until 1999. It did get a cheesy music video though even without a single release in 1980, which is worth watching:
I mean, I know the video was probably filmed on some sound stage, but did the party need to be surrounded by total blackness? Not even a disco ball? And what was with the random horses in the background? Its cheesy, but you just can't help to love it.

"1999" by Prince.  Leading up to December 31st 1998, this song was played by pretty much every radio station and on every TV broadcast, as well as a year later in the lead up to Y2K and the new millennium. It was originally released in 1982. It made the Top 40 in 1998 as well, becoming the last single by Prince to chart that high. You can still party like its 1999, so fire this track up.

"Sleigh Ride" by TLC. Released on the Home Alone 2 soundtrack, Sleigh Ride is mainly a Christmas song that also gives some love to New Year's, so why not celebrate both?

"Maybe Baby (New Year's Day)" by Sugarland. Much like "Sleigh Ride" this song shows some love to both Christmas and New Year's. The country/rock/pop duo released it on their Christmas album "Gold & Green" in 2009. It features Kristian Bush on lead vocals rather than Jennifer Nettles, who gives background vocals this time around.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Best Christmas Episodes of 'The Simpsons'

'The Simpsons' have always been known for their Halloween "Treehouse of Horror" episodes they do every year. However, there are plenty of great Christmas themed episodes as well, including the very first episode of the series.

1. "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" (1997) - Bart wakes up early to play with presents before everyone gets up, where he ends up burning down the tree and destroying everything. He buries the remnants outside in the snow and tells everyone a burglar stole it all. The entire town finds out and gives them money, and of course they soon find out it was all a lie. While its not the most memorable Christmas episode, it delivered the most laughs for me.

2. "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" (1989) - This is the episode that started it all. Bart gets a tattoo and to have it remove they have to spend all their Christmas money. Homer tries being a mall Santa but that doesn't work, so he goes to the race track and blows the rest of it on Santa's Little Helper, who ends up becoming their dog and completing the family we still love to this day.

3. "She of Little Faith" (2001) - Bart & Homer blow up the church with a rocket, and to pay for the repairs the Church sells out to Mr. Burns, who then sells ad space and makes the Church into a corporate entity. This causes Lisa to leave it and become a Buddhist, which continues on the series to this day. At first she refuses to celebrate Christmas, but eventually agrees to pay lip service and celebrate, which is all Marge wants.

4. "Marge Be Not Proud" (1995) - One of the best Bart & Marge episodes that really delivers a great storyline. After Bart shoplifts, he is left out of Christmas activities. Eventually he is back in her good graces when he gives her a picture as a Christmas present. Bart even pretends to enjoy a lame video game that Marge thought was the hot new game, giving us an episode where Bart shows a softer side. And we also get to see him being forced to make a snowman out of the dirty snow under the car.

5. "Holidays of Future Passed" (2011) - This is one of the better episodes in the series that deals with the future, featuring numerous gags that stand out to make it one of the more enjoyable Christmas episodes as well. Besides having numerous laugh out loud moments, it has a heartwarming story without being too sappy either.

6. "Tis the Fifteenth Season" (2003) - Mr. Burns gives Homer a Joe DiMaggio rookie card, not knowing anything about it. Homer then takes it to Comic Book Guy who empties his cash register for it, leading the Simpsons to shop at the expensive mall, Springfield Heights Promenade, where Homer blows all the cash on a talking Astrolabe.

7. "Grift of the Magi" (1999) - A toy company takes over Springfield Elementary to pay for ramps to be installed after Bart breaks his coccyx and is in a wheelchair. They then use the school just to create a toy called Funzo who ends up killing other toys and terrorizing people. Gary Coleman also makes an appearance as a security guard in a well done cameo.

The rest of the Christmas episodes are fine as well, though these are the best of the bunch.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sarah Palin "Wrote" a Christmas Book

It's been ignored for far too long by the lame-stream media, as we've all been too preoccupied with the Iraq War and terrorism. Another war waged right here in America from sea to shining sea. It's the War on Christmas, and thankfully Sarah Palin-Kardashian wrote a book about it.

I was right in the middle of this war, member of the Sugar Plum Battalion, where I lost 3 of my toes before returning home. I also now have a glass eye from when my squadron was assaulted during the infamous Candy Cane Offensive. I fought alongside some brave men and women, and there are also stories of heroism, which I hope Ms. Palin will touch upon.

One morning we woke up to see a swarm of turtle doves above us, what must have been hundreds. This was odd, but nobody thought much of it. Then it happened. Out from the clouds came an explosion of gingerbread, crashing down towards the Earth (which was littered with gingerbread and gum drops as far as the eye could see.) The atheists had struck at the very heart of us. It could have been disaster if not for the brave souls who quickly moved us into a forest of Douglas Firs, which softened much of the blow to leave us with some scrapes but nothing more. The nazi's who dare say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" may have knocked us down a few times, but we just got back up time and again.

Speaking of Sarah Palin, of course she would give her two cents on the whole Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty-A&E thing. Why can't people mind their own business? This whole thing about "Stomping all over our freedom of speech!" is entirely misguided, and for people like Palin just an attention seeking moment to keep her name in the press. The first Amendment protects us from being persecuted by the US doesn't protect anyone from being criticized by people who disagree. It also doesn't protect reality TV stars, who are locked under contracts that basically makes them owned by the network. A&E is not the government, they are allowed to do what they want as well. And I may completely disagree with Robertson, but I don't think he should be fired. The over-reactions to these situations from both sides can be quite annoying.

I'm just wondering where all this uproar was when Martin Bashir was fired by CNN for his lewd & controversial comments about Sarah Palin? And then Bristol Palin comes out and says the gay community and its supporters are hypocritical. Wow, really? What's hypocritical is the convenience the Palins have of acting like they are this high and mighty holy family that lives by the Bible and is better than everyone because of it. Apparently the part about having pre-marital sex and getting knocked up as an unwed teenager, then forced to get engaged and put on a fake smile with Levi Johnston to try and save face during her mothers failed Vice Presidential run is okay? Talk about hypocrisy... And hey, did you know that there are 29 states where it is technically legal for a person to be fired for being gay? If the Palins are all about "Freedom for all", I find it curious they aren't working to change those laws. You know, since they are so concerned with freedom. Or maybe that's only when it suits their interests and beliefs? Mhm, though so.

Sarah Palin has another reality show on the horizon for 2014 as the Palins continue their battle with the Kardashians for most overexposed reality tv personalities.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Michael Thomas Steps Up For Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins
Michael Thomas, an NFL player who was part of the 49ers Practice Squad a week ago, was claimed this past week by the Miami Dolphins when one of their cornerbacks went onto Injured Reserve. Many Dolphins players didn't even know his name yesterday, and neither did most fans. Yet, with the Dolphins leading the Patriots 24-20 and the Patriots at the goal line in the final seconds of the back and forth game, Thomas intercepted future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady in the endzone to seal the big victory for the Dolphins. Is there a better feel good story? NBC really dropped the ball by not making this late season clash a Sunday Night Football game before the season (CBS protected it from being flexed). Though it may have worked out for the Dolphins, as the Patriots defense seemed to wilt in the heat.

To add to it, Thomas was only in the game because the two starting Cornerbacks for the Dolphins had to leave the game after being banged up. He is primarily a Safety, but Miami needed him at Cornerback. He knew Brady would throw at him, and he stepped up to deliver a memorable victory for Miami and put them in the drivers seat for the playoffs. After that whole Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito drama, the Dolphins are playing better, going 5-2 since then and easily the hottest team in the AFC. How long can they keep it going?

A frustrated Tom Brady cursed and walked off the podium during a press conference. Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is currently outshining the rest of the 2012 draft class, Andrew Luck, RGIII and Russell Wilson, all of whom get talked about more than Tannehill. The Dolphins went from a team being attacked and debated about across the country to a storybook team playing exciting football. Let's hope this keeps up.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Amy Poehler & Billy Eichner Go Caroling

The streets of New York City are always an interesting place, so Amy Poehler and Billy Eichner decided to go Christmas Caroling and trying to get people to join in with them for a dollar. Of course, hilarity ensues. It's quite amazing how many times they were snubbed! I would carol with them in a heartbeat. Be sure to watch Billy on the Street's hysterical videos with SNL alum Rachel Dratch as well.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Greg Hardy...Hogwarts

Key and Peele aren't the only ones who can have some fun with the NFL introductions.

On Sunday night during the Carolina Panthers-New Orleans Saints Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Panthers defensive lineman Greg Hardy, while donning a pair of shades, did the greatest thing ever and introduced himself as "Kraken... Hogwarts". This also led a fan to change his college on Wikipedia to Hogwarts as well, though briefly. It's clear that his patronus would be one mighty Kraken capable of sending dementors away for good. Watch the Harry Potter shoutout below.

Friday, December 6, 2013

2014 FIFA World Cup Groups Set

The 2014 FIFA World Cup draw just took place...and its safe to say England & the United States have a tough road after getting drawn together in a manageable group in 2010. Australia also has a brutal road ahead... FIFA was not kind to the English speaking countries this year. Well, FIFA's plastic balls weren't kind. The groups are as follows:

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon
Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia
Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy
Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia, Iran, Nigeria
Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

As you can see, the United States and England were both drawn into what can be called a Group of Death. USA plays two of the top teams in the world in Germany and Portugal, plus a Ghana team who knocked the United States out of the 2006 & 2010 World Cups. USA will open up play against Ghana on June 16 at 6PM ET. They'll then face Portugal on June 22 and Germany on June 26. They must beat Ghana in the first game to have a hope of moving on from the group. They will then have two rematches from the 2002 World Cup. USA shocked Portugal in the group stage, defeating them 3-2 which helped them move on and sent Portugal home early. They faced Germany in the Quarterfinals after defeating Mexico, losing a tight contest 1-0. USA would have had a goal, but a German handball that kept it out went unnoticed by the refs. We'll see if these 2014 contests will be as memorable. One thing you can say about this group is it will be exciting. USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann is a German legend, adding yet another storyline to Group G. This could be the final World Cup for Landon Donovan.

England also has a tough group, taking on Uruguay in South America (which is never fun for European countries) and Italy. Poor Costa Rica has an uphill climb there. Japan could be dark horses much like the women who became 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup champions. They landed into a manageable group and can definitely take on Greece and Colombia. We'll see how they handle the physical nature of Ivory Coast. Spain and Netherlands, who played each other in the final of the 2010 World Cup, will meet in the same group. France & Argentina lucked out by getting into the easiest groups, and Belgium should be clear favorites to win Group H. The battle between South Korea and Russia should decide 2nd place there.

Draw winners: France, Argentina, Belgium. Losers: English speaking countries Australia, England, USA, who got hosed by the plastic balls much like they did by the voters for 2018 & 2022 in favor of controversial human rights violating countries Russia & Qatar.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Batman vs. Superman and Wonder Woman

The upcoming 2015 film 'Batman vs. Superman' will officially be introducing Wonder Woman/Diana Prince into the DC film franchise. The iconic character will be featured in a movie for the first time (Lynda Carter played her in the Wonder Woman TV show from 1975-1979), and be played by Gal Gadot (Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6). Much like when Ben Affleck was announced as the new Bruce Wayne/Batman, there has been a lukewarm internet response to the casting, though not quite as much as with Affleck.

Gadot comes from a modeling background rather than an athletic/fitness one. However, she can obviously hit the gym and build up her muscle some more, plus she has been in action films before. Also, the Wonder Woman character comes from another planet and wouldn't need huge muscles to be powerful on Earth. I think people should just wait for the film to come out before judging Affleck & Gadot or the idea of the film as a whole. There still haven't been any pictures or plot released, so for now people should just take a wait and see approach. 

The goal is to build to a Justice League movie with numerous other DC superheroes joining the action. You can also expect a solo Wonder Woman movie at some point should 'Batman vs. Superman' be a success...which it probably will be considering you have Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in a summer action movie together.