Saturday, December 31, 2011

#MyFive Days of Our Lives Tearjerkers

Happy New Year's Eve! Is celebrating a new year about fresh starts and new beginnings? Absolutely. But do I think we can effectively create those new beginnings until we deal with and release the feelings of the past? Absolutely not. So combine this philosophy with some outstanding work from the cast of Days of Our Lives this week, and you will find one very inspired blogger. Click on the links to check out my five top tear-inducing clips from Days! :)

5) - Bo & Hope say Goodbye to JT - It wasn't the first time these two lost a child, and it wouldn't even be the last (more on that later), but it was the episode so depressing it was sponsored by Kleenex (totally not kidding). At the end, each Brady silently dealt with the loss their own way, but it was Peter Reckell who broke my heart the most, demolishing and then sadly-clutching the punching bag in his garage over the loss of his son.
4) - Marlena Mourns Roman - Deidre Hall probably holds the record for the most grievings on the show. When you think of all the husbands, children, and sisters who've died, been brought back to life, and died again, it's hard to believe she hasn't snapped altogether (and she was never a serial killer, let's just forget about that okay?). Her most moving moment of mourning came when Roman died in the 80s. The music in this clip is just as powerful as Deidre's acting, and it gets me every time.

3) - Hope Opens The Puzzle Box - Finally. Some happy tears. After several months of not knowing who she was, Hope finally opened a puzzle box that proved her identity, and every Bo & Hope fan on the planet heaved a sigh of relief. And when the two read a poem that Hope wrote on her wedding day...well let's just say that my 14 year old self hid his tears behind his sister's neon-yellow curtains, for fear of anyone seeing just how moved he was :).

2) - Will's Coming Out to Marlena - Chandler Massey has been breaking my heart as Will deals with his confusion and pain. He hasn't even expressed his feelings yet, but Chandler's nuanced acting and inability to find the words he needs is speaking volumes. Plus, hearing Deidre Hall tell her grandson she will love him no matter what is very moving. These two actors are helping so many people who just need to see love and support like this, even if it's only on a TV show.

1) - Hope Loses Zack - I will never forget the sound of Hope screaming as she learned that her son Zack had died. It is the single most gut-wrenching moment on Days of Our Lives in its entire history, and I'd make the argument in all of Daytime TV history. This scene was horrifying, yet captivating, and you immediately couldn't help but think of real mothers who go through this. This is the most tragic Emmy snub of all time, folks (sorry Ms. Lucci).

And there you have it. And just as a sidebar, if you were ever a Days fan, you should totally start watching again. The stories, acting, and heart of the show hasn't been this impressive since the 90s. Hope you got all of those tears out of the way now, and that you have a non-eye-leak-inducing New Year's Eve :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

#MyFive Songs of 2011

Fair Warning: MyFive favorite songs of the year are likely not already on your Ipod. I'm constantly listening to music, so by the time radio or the casual listener catches on, I'm over it. So take a song like Adele's "Rolling in the Deep", which is amazing, and which I loved from January until around May. But by October, I literally verbally assaulted anyone who was singing/playing/quoting it. I get really excited sharing music with people, so click on the song names to check out these gems.  Hope you like!

5) "Someone Like You" - Jay Brannan: Okay, Hypocrite Warning. I just ranted about overplayed songs, but Adele is truly amazing, and her impact on music this year is undeniable. I actually prefer this version, by one of the best singer/songwriters who's ever lived. Jay can rip your guts out with the pain and loss in his voice. He's felt this ish before, and you can hear it in every note.
4) "Cold as Stone" - Lady Antebellum: I really love Lady Antebellum, but the album tracks that make it to radio are rarely my faves. Case in point, this gorgeous ballad. Charles and Hillary's harmonies always give me goosebumps, and they can tell a country story of a lost relationship better than anyone. Throw in some beautiful and tear-inducing strings at the end, and you've got a song that could (and likely will) break your heart.

3) "Strangest Love" - Britney Spears: You can judge me if you want, but I don't have to defend my love for well-constructed and fun pop music. Her Femme Fatale album surprised me by becoming my favorite Britney album ever (don't tell Blackout), but I honestly wouldn't be able to decide which song I like best. Luckily for me, this track leaked and made the choice for me. It is one of the 5 best Britney songs ever. It's sexy and sleek, but you can hear the emotion in there, subtle but powerful. Just like Brit-Brit. Stop judging me.

2) "Love Too Much" - Kris Allen: Another unreleased track jumps in and makes my year so much brighter. Apparently co-written by Kevin Rudolf, this song has passion, catchy rhythm, vocal prowess, and most importantly, the emotional tone in Kris's voice that makes you scream it out in the car, forget you're at a stoplight, and be judged by angry drivers who have to pass you and wonder what asylum you escaped from. No? Maybe that's just me then....

1) "Holding Out For a Hero" - Ella Mae Bowen: I love a classic song that gets flipped into something new and different. I love a singer who can effortlessly use their voice to make you feel their desperation and sadness. I love a musical arrangement that completely conveys the emotion of the song without the need for any vocals. So when you can combine all of these things together, you get perhaps the most beautiful song I've ever heard. Ever. I'm not kidding. Check it.

The only thing I love more than sharing my favorite music is people sharing theirs with me :). What are YourFive songs of 2011?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

#MyFive Comic Fresh Starts

With the New Year rapidly approaching, it's likely many of us are reflecting on the last year, and are thinking of ways to make changes that may lead to a better life. I don't think that's always an easy task, and as I've had lots of free time this week to catch up on some old (and new) comic book faves, I noticed a lot of parallels between fresh starts in comics and rebooting your real life. How do you take the elements of your life that have always worked, eliminate the ones that don't, and create something organic, new, and even better? While I figure out how to do that in the real world, I thought I'd admire those who have done it brilliantly in comics.

5) X-Factor #71 - When a book covering the lives of the original 5 X-men lost its entire cast, Peter David took the reins and created something completely new and different. The new characters were very similar to their predecessors on paper (Summers brother, his girlfriend, the jokester, the wild card, and the strong guy), but the tone and adventures of the comic were completely different. David created a unique X-book, one with humor, satire, and a psychological approach to understanding the characters (I'd argue that the issue where the characters go to therapy is one of the best-loved Marvel issues of all time). The concept of this fresh start was so pervasive and appealing, that the relaunch of this relaunch became relevant and popular almost two decades later, and is still going strong.

4) Batgirl #1 - I know this is a controversial one, but I grew up watching Barbara Gordon on the reruns of the campy Batman TV show. I simply adored her spunk (and oh-so-shiny purple costume). But by that point, Barbara Gordon was no longer Batgirl, and DC comics felt very inaccessible to me (depending on which comic or comic card I was reading, I felt like the same character could have vastly different pre-crisis, post-crisis, pre-post crisis, or Earth 137-329 histories.) Fast forward to 2011, when DC rebooted their entire line, put Babs back in the suit, and gave people like me the opportunity to jump on the Barbara-as-Batgirl ship for the first time. I understand why the decision offended some people, but the end-product is a beautifully written book. Gail Simone has written what I consider to be the most realistic character in comics today. I understand the motivations for all of Batgirl's decisions, but am still surprised and excited by them. That's true talent from a writer.

3) X-Force #19 - This is probably the least dramatic of the "reboots" in my list, but it's a personal favorite for many reasons. At the risk of spoiling future blog countdowns, Cannonball is, and will always be, my favorite X-character. Skinny, nerdy, insecure son of a coal-miner from a tiny mountain town? That was me. Which is why it was so cool for me to see him become a confident and effective leader without losing his sensitivity and compassion. Throw in the return of some of my other favorites, Rictor and Sunspot, and some beautiful new costumes, and this issue got me excited in a way few comics ever did. Watching Sam stand up to Professor Xavier, take control of his life, and start down a new and uncertain path was inspiring. I went along for the ride (which was way too short, thanks to Cable's return), and it remains one of my favorite comic runs of all time.

2) Avengers #1 - The original run of the Avengers had so many well-loved characters and stories, but after The Crossing, Onslaught, and Heroes Reborn attempts at rebooting misfired, the Avengers pool felt so muddied and stagnant that nothing could revive them. Enter Kurt Busiek and George Perez. They didn't immediately erase anything that had happened, but created an organic reboot where it made complete sense for these characters to come back together. They also managed to work in roughly 40 Avengers in a 3-part kickoff arc, where everyone got a moment to shine and introduce not just their powers but also their personalities. You felt the proud history of the series but were also intrigued by where these characters were going. Throw in the beautiful art of George Perez, and you've got a near-perfect Avengers run.

1) X-men #70 - The X-men were splintered into several different teams in several different places with several different objectives. This issue, conveniently titled "Homecoming", brought them all back together. Joe Kelly brilliantly used a health crisis for one of the characters (there's a bomb in Cyclops, wow) to explore every single X-man and who they were as a person.  He honored past connections (Storm pulled out Marrow's heart, there's probably some tension there) while creating exciting new ones (Wolverine vs. Beast?, Marrow <3's Cannonball?). To have these characters back under the same roof, with so many potential conflicts and connections, was so exciting. I literally couldn't wait for each new issue. I was also so devastated when the vibe of this series abruptly shifted only 10 issues later, that I pretty much quit comics for 5 years.

With only a few days left in 2011, I will be thinking of how to successfully "reboot" my life for a new year. Hopefully I do it as well as some of the creators mentioned above. Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

#MyFive Favorite Christmas Movies

Ho ho ho! Hope this blog finds you all celebrating the holidays with those nearest and dearest to you! I'm a little bit farther away from my family than I would like on this particular Christmas eve, so I thought a blog celebrating my favorite Christmas movies would lighten my spirits and spread a little Christmas cheer. Here are #MyFive!

5) Home Alone - C'mon. What kid doesn't want to wish his family away when he gets in trouble, having free reign over his house, his town, and the poor pizza delivery guy assigned to his neighborhood. It was tons of fun watching lil McCauley Culkin thwart the efforts of two bumbling criminals, with only broken ornaments and tar-soaked nails at his disposal. But the true joy of this film, like all of my choices, comes from its message. That we don't always appreciate our loved ones, even the irritating ones, until we lose them. Watching Kevin realize that the hard way meant we didn't have to. And we also learned to take it easy with the aftershave.

4) A Diva's Christmas Carol - There's a bajillion versions of this classic, but I'll tell you why this one slightly edged out Mickey's. The spirit of A Christmas Carol could appeal to everyone, but most of us are fairly certain we're not as Scroogey as ol' Ebenezer. I don't have to worry about hoarding gold coins when I don't have any, and hoarding quarters just doesn't make me feel as naughty. The richest person I've ever met is probably the owner of the Pizza Hut I just ordered from. I have met, however, a few self-absorbed divas in my life, and have maybe even had some of those moments myself. Nobody plays a diva more ferociously than Vanessa Williams, who I have worshipped since she first told me about The Right Stuff with her fabulous 80s hair. Throw in some pre-D-List Kathy Griffin, and you've got some joyous Christmas gold.

3) How The Grinch Stole Christmas - The original cartoon version, not the 2 hour live-action version. Sorry, Jim.  All the who's in Whoville had everything stolen from them, and they still woke up smiling and singing. I think we all wish we were that un-materialistic. We also probably wish our love and goodness could change even the grinchiest of hearts. It might not be able to in the real world, but at least it will once a year on TNT, damn it. So pass the roast beast and get lost in an innocent land of bingle balls and whofoo fluff. But someone release poor Max from that outfit. It's just cruel.

2) A Christmas Story - Speaking of horrible outfits.... This movie tends to be quite the controversial ornament on the Christmas tree of films. People either it loathe it, like my father, or love it, like anyone cool. Sorry Dad, I love you, but you're just wrong. Ralphie and his ridiculous hijinks entertain me multiple times each year (for 24 hours even on Christmas day!). Each vignette stands on its own as pure hilarity, from that obnoxious, "fra-gil-e" leg-lamp, to dropping the f-bomb with tire lugs flying, to the climatic shooting out of one's eye. Together, all of these scenes create a family that you can't believe could be for real, but that you totally wish were. And I refuse to remember to drink my Ovaltine. Little Orphan Annie is a jerkstore.

1) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Nothing holds a candle to this one for me. I think everyone feels like a misfit from time to time, especially those of us who some parts of society would gladly ship off to an Island of Misfit Toys if they had the chance. That's why seeing poor Rudolph being treated so horribly just for being different was so depressing. It's also why seeing him find a place where he belonged, and ultimately being needed and celebrated for his uniqueness, makes my heart so warm. There are so many lil Rudolph's in the world who need to feel loved and supported, and it's up to all of us to be a little more like King Moonracer, and a lot less like Coach Comet (who also was a total jerkstore).

On this Christmas Eve, I wish you all lots of peaceful and joyous moments, and the fewest number of jerkstore encounters one can have :). Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays folks! Peace out.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

#MyFive Favorite American Idols

It's almost that time of year kiddies. No, not Christmas. Or New Years. Or my birthday (which you should all celebrate beeteedubs.) Nope, it's almost American Idol season! To remind myself that some true talent has come out of this show and to try to get excited for the upcoming crop, I've put together the rundown for my favorite idols, complete with some lesser known song links you should check out. And we're off....

5) Daughtry - He actually wasn't my favorite on his particular season, but it's hard to deny his talent and impact on music. His voice is a man-rocket of passion, anger, and soul, and several of his songs have blown radio a new one. The casual listener may not be aware, however, that his last album showed some skill on amazing down-tempo slow jams, that were much more country-twinged and reflective than angsty and rocky. Plus, the man can throw down a hot collaboration like nobody's business. Check out Tennessee Line with Vince Gill or Fast Car with Kelly Clarkson for undeniable proof. And more on Kelly later....

4) Blake Lewis - You probably only remember him as "that beatbox guy", but that's a damn shame.  His skills at crafting an amazing pop song are on point, and he's put out two amazing albums that flew under the radar of even the most diehard Idol fans. With a unique sound and the ability to combine depth and dance, Blake is someone who I hope will keep putting out music, whether or not the rest of the world catches on to his charm. Not to mention he knows his audience and isn't afraid to embrace them. He celebrates and reaches out to his underground gay following, playing pride concerts and sticking up for equal rights when he can. Check out Heartbreak on Vinyl and Our Rapture of Love for some sexy poppy bliss.

3) Carrie Underwood - I'mma stay clear of the Carrie/Kelly debate that seems to drive any conversation about either lady and just comment on why Carrie is awesome. And the answer is, very simply, her voice. I don't follow a lot of country artists and the actual songs Carrie records probably wouldn't even end up on my Ipod if it wasn't for the incredible voice that drives them. From the second she belted out and took ownership of Heart's "Alone" on American Idol, anyone who loves true vocal talent has been cheering her on. Her i-hate-man anthems are fun, but she can make even the grinchiest grinches tear up with performances like Temporary Home and Just a Dream. Pass the Kleenex please.

2) Kris Allen - I'm incredibly passionate and defensive about this man, and get a little irritated when I have to convince people of his awesomeness. It should really be very clear. When he sings a song, even if you've heard it sung by a million other people, he pulls the emotion out of it in a way that no one else does. On top of that, he doesn't care about fame, or headlines, or the excesses that drown so many people and their talent. He spends his free time supporting lesser-known charities, actually doing mission work to help those less fortunate, and being there for the actual people in his life. A simple guy with a huge heart, kind soul, and amazing voice. And he's actually a great songwriter, as evidenced by his work both pre and post Idol. I'll stop gushing, but only if you check out Love Too Much or I Need to Know.

1) Kelly Clarkson - To put it in Kellyspeak, "well duh". The first is still the best, and likely always will be. Having rooted for this nerdy, silly, country girl on the fledgling reality show that was still finding its way makes me feel like a proud parent. After a great first album that didn't really connect, she took over the world with Breakaway, and everyone fell in love with her. She may never achieve that mega-star impact again, but I honestly don't think she wants to, nor do I care if she does. Any Kelly fan knows her true gold is found in her acoustic, often unreleased, slow-jams, which combine her unbelievable vocal talent with her ability to inject gut-wrenching sadness into a song. If you haven't witnessed All I Know or I'm Not The Only One, then you don't know the real Kelly. And you should.

And there you have it. Those are #MyFive American Idols. Who are yours?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

#MyFive Very Special Gay TV Episodes

Before there was Glee, Modern Family, and the entire Logo network, there was a young, closeted, terrified gay kid growing up in the mountains of Virginia, who had only the occasional "very special episode" of his favorite TV shows to help him feel understood. I still remember the excitement of seeing my favorite characters not only openly discuss gay relationships, but show support and love for the gay characters who needed it so badly. In doing so, they showed that love and support to me, and as a result these shows had a major impact on my life. Here are the moments from those shows, ordered by how much my lil heartstrings still get tugged when I think about them :) .

5) Willow & Tara Slow Dance - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I joined the BTVS wagon a little late in the game (my first episode was when she died at the end of season about a buzzkill). But I remember seeing the closeness between Willow & Tara as they danced to Melanie Doane's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and totally bought into their girl-on-girl love. There really hadn't been an LGBT relationship between 2 main characters on a major show at the time, and it's one of the sweetest relationships in TV history, gay or straight.

4) Steve Sanders is a Homophobe - Beverly Hills, 90210

All the 90210 kids were cool in my eyes. Except Steve Sanders. He was the screw-up, the insensitive guy who usually chose to do the wrong thing. Which is why the episode when his homophobia led him to out a fraternity brother, ultimately leading even him to see that gay people are no different inside, worked so well. If Steve Sanders was accepting of his gay friend, then everyone should be. Also, Kelly Taylor spoke up for gay rights while creating a "Men of CU" calendar. And when Kelly Taylor speaks up for anything, the world should listen.

3) Luke's Dad is What Now? - The O.C.

Luke was the jerky jock who tossed homophobic slurs around as often as Ryan Atwood wore wifebeaters. Which is why it was so captivating to watch him deal with the bigotry and secrecy revolving around his dad's coming out. In the end, this was the episode that made Luke likeable, which was no small feat. It also was the show I made my parents watch to test them on their reaction to gay people, just months before I came out. The courage it took to make my parents watch 2 gay men kiss on a TV show was no small feat either.

2) Blanche's Brother is a Hobo? - The Golden Girls

It's hard to take a topic that's so sensitive, and create 30 minutes of hilarity and gut-wrenching emotion. But that's what the Golden Girls excelled at. Blanche's brother's coming out was only one of a handful of gay-themed episodes, during the 80s no less. Rue McLanahan's initial reaction was cringe-worthy, yet honest to what a lot of families experience.  But that made her eventual acceptance of him all the more powerful. I didn't even know I was gay yet, but I knew there was something really cool about a family accepting someone despite not understanding such a big part of their life.

1) Danny - The Real World: New Orleans

Sigh. Just typing his name makes me smile. He was the first real person I'd ever seen talk about his life as a gay man, and he's the reason I finally figured out that I was gay too. He filmed a special with his then-boyfriend about how hard it was hiding their love due to Don't Ask Don't Tell, during a time when I was hiding my life as well. I was so inspired and encouraged, that I came out to my friends just a few days after that special. Imagine my joy when he came to my college campus a few months later, and I got to share my story, and his impact on my life, with him in person.

People don't always get the acceptance, support, or inspiration that they need in their own lives. I think that's why all kinds of entertainment (TV, music, books, and more) can mean so much to people. That's where my love of these mediums comes from, and I thought it a perfect way to kick off my new blog. Peace.