C’mon Get Happy

It’s been a stressful few weeks for me here at the ol’ day job; while I am grateful and appreciative that I’ve been promoted, it’s been an adjustment period as I get used to spinning a lot more plates at the same time. I am tremendously lucky that they created a new position for me based on what I said I was interested in doing, but I’ve also been putting tremendous pressure on myself to prove that I deserve this faith being instilled in me. Being giving a blank piece of paper to define a position however you want is a true luxury, but it also can be extremely daunting, especially for a person like me who holds herself to ridiculously high standards and is my own worst critic. Uncertainty and a type A personality aren’t a great combo, nor am I one to delegate to someone else. Add in the fact that I’ve been out of the office a lot for meetings and that it’s been difficult to get some of the necessary information I need to do my job and things were sort of at a boiling point last week. It’s sorting itself out and I’m adapting, but for a while there it was just really nerve-wracking. Change and I are not pals and I hate not having control.

One of the things that helped me get through this stressful time was music. Everyone has a list of songs that simply make them happy; they aren’t necessarily your favorite songs or even necessarily good songs. You may recognize that these songs aren’t all that artistic and that they might even be cheesy. But for whatever reason, these songs are the best remedy to a bad mood; they make you smile when you don’t want to and by the time the lyrics come to an end you already feel yourself feeling just a little bit better. These songs are an instant mood booster; sometimes in life you just have to dance it out. I’ve never seen anyone stay mad or upset after a mad phat dance party.

 

These are the songs that, for whatever reason, do that for me. There’s no real logic to it; I couldn’t break it down and explain it for you if I tried. I can’t distill why these songs do it for me and other similar songs don’t. All I know is that if I throw these tunes on, suddenly a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day suddenly doesn’t seem quite as bad.

  • Don’t Stop Believin’” – Journey

 

Almost any Journey song would work in a pinch, but if you have real issues you have to go the granddaddy of all Journey songs.  The smart guys I’ve dated have known that if they put this song on, whatever I as annoyed with them about will suddenly be forgotten (I’m not joking – this has happened). If they just played “Don’t Stop Believin’” on a loop in the Middle East that might solve all problems. This is my absolute go-to song after a really crappy day.

 

  • Crush” – Dave Matthews Band

 

  • “Mr. Jones” – Counting Crows

 

  • “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell

 

  • “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” and “Glory Days” – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

 

 

The Boss gets two songs on this list – anyone who has a problem with that should meet me out back.

 

  • “Supernatural Superserious” – R.E.M.

 

  • “Something to Talk About” – Bonnie Raitt

 

  • “The Way We Move” – Langhorne Slim & the Law

 

  • “Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen

 

Yes – I know this song is silly and has been overplayed, but I still like it. So there.

 

  • “California Love” – Tupac

 

  • “Rich Girl” – Hall and Oates

 

  • “Tell Her About It” – Billy Joel

 

  • “Back in the New York Groove” – Ace Frehley

 

  • “Good Vibrations” – Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch

 

  • “Touch of Grey” – Grateful Dead

 

I know that this is the most “mainstream” of the Dead songs, but it was my first real exposure to the band and I still think it is a great song.

 

I could go on and on, but that’s a good collective sampling of the music that is on my “C’mon Get Happy” playlist on my iPod (and I’ve frankly embarrassed myself enough for one day).  I’m not necessarily proud of some of these songs, but they get the job done when they are needed. I’m actually in a better mood just writing about these tunes. Every once in a while you just have to bust a move to work things out of your system.  Look how blissed out these guys are:

 

What are your go to happy songs? Sound off in the comments below – and do not judge me on this list. You have to go with what speaks to the soul and apparently what speaks to me is some songs that are questionable in quality.

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The Bobblehead Army

Most people have had a collection of some sort at some point in their lives. When I was little, I collected stickers, stamps and Garbage Pail Kids cards (the latter of which, according to Storage Wars, might be worth some cash if I can find them).  My shot glass collection was born out of a trip to Rome, Italy in high school and the desire to bring back some cheap souvenirs for my friends (a possibly troubling development for my parents – a fifteen year old with a shot glass collection might raise some eyebrows). That collection carried through into adulthood, until I moved multiple times and tired of packing up and transporting 50+ shot glasses. It’s a miracle that more didn’t get broken as they made their way to Oneonta, Connecticut and various places in Albany. RIP, shot glass from Japan.

Naturally, this was my favorite Garbage Pail Kid.

Naturally, this was my favorite Garbage Pail Kid.

 

I thought I was retired from the collection game after I decided to stop adding to my shot glass collection. The downside of collecting something is that people keep buying things for your collection long after you’ve lost interest or have run out of space; it becomes an easy go-to gift for people, but sometimes you get tired of everyone giving you some variation of the same thing. So I was content to go about the rest of my life as a non-collector.

The bobblehead thing started off as a joke; a friend of mine gave me the Dwight Schrute bobblehead from The Office, which was featured prominently in the show. This was back when I was a really big fan of The Office and it was actually still really funny (ahh….memories). One bobblehead does not a collection make, however. Things escalated when the minor league team of the Houston Astros that plays nearby gave away bobbleheads of the local mayors as one of their promotions. I found this hilarious and decided that I had to get the bobblehead of the Albany mayor to see if they made his skin tone the right shade of orange to reflect his perma-tan (sadly, they didn’t). I decided that I had to get the complete set of the other two mayors; it was a fun excuse to go to some more games and it was such a weird thing to have that it made me laugh. Most people have bobbleheads of sports figures, while I had local political officials which seemed more fitting given my love of politics. I kept the bobbleheads in my office, as we do research on state and local government and I thought that was apropos. This would turn out to be a critical decision.

The bobblehead that started a collection.

The bobblehead that started a collection.

My co-workers took notice of my burgeoning collection and the interns in the office took it upon themselves to give me the piece de resistance of my collection: a bobblehead of me! That Christmas, the little sneaks, with some assistance from other co-workers, took a photo of me and sent it off to some company in China that would create custom bobbleheads. They picked out what my outfit looked like (they thankfully went for the cute skirt option, since I always wear dresses or skirts at the office, rather than the bikini) and patiently waited for the bobblehead to be created. I knew that they were up to something, but I never would have imagined that this was what they were scheming. As many of them were leaving at the end of the semester, they expedited the shipping to make sure that the bobblehead was delivered in time for Chirstmas. When they gave it to me, I burst into tears – it was such a thoughtful gift and I knew that it was expensive especially on an intern’s salary. The company did a pretty great job – I have to say that the bobblehead actually looks like me, which cannot be said for a lot of the other items in my collection.

I assure you that my head is not actually this big.

I assure you that my head is not actually this big.

Once I had my own personalized bobblehead, the collection sort of took on a life of its own. People started buying me bobbles for holidays, usually with a preference toward Yankee players. I continued getting bobbleheads at stadium giveaways and before I knew it I had a fairly sizable collection. We started referring to my collection as “the bobblehead army” and it has become a real conversation starter when people visit my office. One of my former student assistants even wanted to write a short story about what would happen if the bobbleheads came to life at night, like A Night at the Museum. People are fascinated by the collection and it has led to some interesting small talk over the years. I guess there aren’t a lot of women who collect bobbleheads as most people are surprised that this is my collection (though, it’s in my office, so who else’s collection would it be?). Fortunately my bosses have all been very cool with my collection and have even contributed to its growth; keeping the bobbles in the office also eliminated the worry about moving. I’ve lived in three different apartments since the collection started, but I’ve been in the same office that entire time. What people don’t know (until now) is that one entire drawer of the filing cabinet in my office is filled with bobblehead boxes, just in case I ever do need to move the collection to a new location.

Though most of my bobbleheads are related to sports or politics (I have both a Michelle and Barack Obama  bobblehead), I’ve started branching into the world of pop culture (naturally). I have a bobblehead of “The Old Man” from A Christmas Story, complete with the leg lamp.

 

The Old Man from A Christmas Story

The Old Man from A Christmas Story

 

I’ve also just ordered a Heisenberg bobblehead from Breaking Bad and anxiously await its arrival.

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This weekend, I made the trek to Yankee Stadium, partially to obtain a bobblehead. The Yankees had discontinued their bobblehead giveaways for a while, but decided to bring them back this year (I’d like to think I had something to do with this). Sunday was the Hideki Matsui bobblehead; the former Yankee was signing a one day contract and then retiring so he could end his career as a Yankee (he left the team in 2009). There was a nice ceremony and his family flew in from Japan; a nice way to commemorate his career. I’m glad that I got to be a part of it, but it was the promise of a bobblehead that first convinced me to get a ticket for a game that was just a little over a week after my last trip to the Stadium. Thankfully, I was one of the first 18,000 people in the doors and added another member to “the army,” which has now spread to a second bookshelf. I’ve told my boss that I need a bigger office soon, not in reflection of my recent promotion, but simply to accommodate my ever growing collection. It’s a really good thing he has a sense of humor.

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The bobbleheads also reflect how I feel about a certain person at any one time; the bobbleheads that closest to my bobblehead tend to represent my favorite people. My Ryan Braun bobblehead has been demoted to the back row after his steroid scandal (it probably should have been a sign that the Braun bobblehead had a huge head). I spent more money than I should have on a Paul O’Neill bobblehead on eBay, but I couldn’t imagine my collection without him. He’s now in a prime location in the front row.

I’m sure I’ll eventually tire of this collection as well, but for now I’m happy to keep selectively adding to it. The Army will gain yet another member in August when the Saratoga Race Track gives away a bobblehead of a horse, which will be my first non-human entry. I try to limit how many I buy as bobbleheads aren’t always inexpensive; I tend to focus on bobbleheads that mean something to me, like a favorite athlete or to commemorate a vacation. For example, I had to buy the Polish Sausage Mascot bobblehead after a road trip to Milwaukee.

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To have walked out of Miller Park without it would have been sacrilege.

For now, I just know that coming to work is a lot more fun because of my collection. It’s now position so that it is in my sight line and it never fails to make me smile when I look up and see my very own mini-me. It is one of my favorite gifts of all time and reminds me of the thoughtfulness of others. Plus my bobblehead is a way skinnier version of me.

The current Bobblehead Army

The current Bobblehead Army

Do you have a pop culture inspired collection or do you think the whole collecting of items is silly and a waste of money? Sound off in the comments below.

The Wolverine – A Review

Hugh Jackman is a real Renaissance Man; I don’t know many other actors that could successfully star in a movie based on a comic book superhero and the lead in many a musical. Robert Downey Jr. might be able to pull it off, but for most actors you are either in one camp or the other. Jackman, however, has managed to straddle both the worlds of action movie star and sang and dance man. He can easily transition from affable and charming to dark and broody with seemingly little to no effort. He even proved adept at hosting; his emcee job at the Academy Awards in 2009 was one of my favorite in recent memory (and also was surprisingly proficient in seeing the future, as it paired Jackman with eventual Les Mis co-star Anne Hathaway).

 

The guy can do it all.

The Wolverine finds Jackman reprising his role from the X-Men franchise for the sixth time; as the prerequisite origin story was taken care of in the appropriately titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this film can focus on telling its own contained story of one of Logan’s adventures when he is away from the rest of his mutant pals. The Wolverine finds Jackman in Japan and ensnarled in a multi-generational family drama of a man that he had saved many years before. Logan is at his most broody, as this story takes place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand and the death of his true love by his hand (or claw). While I like Jackman a lot in this role and there were some pretty exciting action sequences (the scenes on the bullet train in particular stand out), I ultimately can’t say that I really loved this film. I found the pacing too erratic and I was somewhat bored by the story. The Wolverine was a lot better than the previous stand-alone Wolverine movie and when it works it is really exciting, but there were far too many moments where I was uninterested in the overly complicated storyline and lack of action for me to fully get on board with this film.

The most interesting facet of The Wolverine is that is teases out the idea of what it is like when Logan loses some of his power. He still has his crazy claws, but for a large portion of the movie he is without his regenerative gifts. When Logan is shot, his wounds do not automatically heal themselves; he carries the pain like any ordinary person. Previous X-Men films have dealt with the idea of Logan’s mortality and him losing his will to live; The Wolverine allows Logan to have a taste of what life would be like without his immortality. Will he still long to end his suffering when his death is now a real possibility? This philosophical character study was by far the most compelling part of the film; Jackman is able to portray the many different emotions that Logan goes through as he faces something of an existential crisis. This is a story that they have played with before, but it was always more in the abstract. In The Wolverine, the stakes are much more real.

While I enjoyed some parts of the rest of the story line in Japan, I felt like they really tried to cram too much plot into the film and it would up feeling too complicated and not fully formulated. In my opinion there was just too much going on – in just this one film there were ninjas, robots, other mutants, grizzly bears, the mob, complex relationships and a ghost. It’s just a lot to process and I think the story overall would have benefitted from editing. Removing one or two of these elements and spending that time developing the others would go a long way in improving the overall quality of the film. The story would have been tighter and far more exciting – even with so much going on I found my mind wandering for portions of the film. Now, I’ll fully admit that I probably wasn’t at my sharpest when I watched this film; a 10 pm start time in a week where I have really been drowning in work obligations are far from ideal circumstances, but even with a calmer mind I am confident I would have walked away from this movie with the same impression. There was more than one occasion when I thought that I might just close my eyes and take a little nap out of sheer disinterest in what I was watching.

The action sequences did greatly liven things up, though I was not a huge fan of the camerawork used for some of them. The herky jerky motion and quick cuts were a little discombobulating and made it difficult to follow all the action. Chaotic fight scenes are nothing new to action movies, but there were a lot of cool things happening in The Wolverine and I wished it would have been easier to enjoy the battles and keep track of where everyone was, especially since these were the scenes that I liked the most. This is perhaps another reason that the bullet train scenes were so enjoyable; the number of combatants was winnowed down and it was much easier to watch everything unfold. It also was an innovative twist on a sequence that we have seen many times before; most movies (from Skyfall to The Lone Ranger) feature some sort of combat on top of a train, but The Wolverine uses the speed of the bullet train to add to the complexity of this endeavor. It really was kind of cool to see.

Some other thoughts:

  • This is the second movie in a row that I’ve reviewed where I thought that the potential love interests did not have very good chemistry with the star or that the pairing seemed kind of ludicrous. I don’t know that I buy that the same Logan that is mooning over Jean all the time is suddenly ready to start making out with some girl he barely knows. Seemed out of character.
  • Speaking of Jean – I have never been a fan of Famke Janssen’s portrayal Jean Grey or Janssen’s acting in general, but I thought that she was particularly useless in The Wolverine. She’s just so wooden and robotic.  Every time she shows up in ghostly form, I lost interest. She seems completely disinterested.
  • That being said, she is far better than Svetlana Khodchenkova, who has all the personality of a paper bag. She’s pretty, but that is about all that she is bringing to the table. It doesn’t hurt that her character is barely developed – I have no idea what her motivation is or why she’s involved.
  • However, not all the women are useless in the film – Rila Fukushima in particular kicks butt as Yukio. She’s a lot of fun to watch.
  • I probably need a refresher as it has been a while since I revisited the X-Men universe, but I somehow remember Logan having more of a sense of humor. The Wolverine continues the recent trend of comic book movies that are pretty sparse on the laughs. Logan does say “bub” a few times, so there’s that.
  • A character flips his allegiance in the climactic scene of the film for really no good reason; one minute he’s totally on board with what is going on, the next he’s inexplicably fighting on the other side. Stuff like that drives me crazy.
  • I have no idea how they pulled this off, but the final big showdown is both totally predictable and ludicrous.
  • Apparently the archery craze is still alive and well in 2013 – lots of arrows are shot in this one.
  • This is a decidedly PG-13 action movie – they cut away a lot from some of the more violent stuff.
  • I have to totally agree with a statement that Jimmy Fallon made – Hugh Jackman should change his name to Jacked Hughman. He is absolutely RIPPED in this film. His arms are crazy and the dude is in phenomenal shape. Hard to believe this is the same guy that played Jean Valjean in Les Miserable.
  • Just for fun, here’s Jackman on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon playing a drinking game:

I think Hugh and I could be friends.

  • There is absolutely a bonus scene after the credits that sets the stage for next year’s X-Men Days of Future Past. I won’t spoil what happens, but there was a collective “WHAT?!?!” uttered by the fan boys (and girls) in attendance.

The Wolverine is a fairly mediocre movie in my opinion; it certainly isn’t terrible, but I had enough problems with it that it prevented me from enjoying it as much as I hoped to. Jackman was solid as usual, but I found the plot boring and too convoluted to fully engage me. I am still looking forward to X-Men Days of Future Past, as I’m hoping that reuniting Wolverine with the other X-Men will be just what this character needs to recapture my interest; I may just like Wolverine more as part of an ensemble rather than in his own movies, as neither of his solo outings have impressed me. Despite my underwhelming reaction to The Wolverine, I still think Hugh Jackman is awesome; if he wants to try out a musical version of Wolverine, I’d definitely check that out.

The Wolverine opens nationwide today.