Best Songs of 2013

As some of you probably know about me already, I used to be a DJ and I’m a HUGE fan of all types of music. Heck, search my site for Fun Music Fridays and you’ll see just how much I love to share music with the world.

I decided to check out my Last.FM account and share my most-played songs of 2013. So without further adu, here’s a little “year end countdown” of my top 10:

10. Pompeii – Bastille

9. Troublemaker – Olly Murs

8. Speeches – Walk Off The Earth

7. Inner ninja – Classified feat. David Myles

6. Get lucky – Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams

5. Blurred lines – Robin Thicke

4. X-Kid – Green Day

3. REVO – Walk Off The Earth

2. Gang of rhythm – Walk Off The Earth

And this one was, without a doubt, the most played song on my iPod all year. Absolutely love this song!

1. Candy – Robbie Williams

Best & Worst Movies of 2013

As you may know from my blog, I’m a HUGE movie fan. I’m not one of those movie “snobs”, though, who only likes indie films or period pieces. I’m someone who loves “pop culture”, so I do my best to appreciate all films.

Having said that, I thought 2013 was a pretty weak year for quality movies. There were very few REALLY good movies and a TON of bad ones. Therefore, here is my list of the best and worst of the year…

The HeatBEST: The Heat – I can’t remember the last time that Sunshine and I walked into a movie theatre to watch a comedy and laughed practically the entire way through. I’m a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy and I think this movie was tailor-made for her and for Sandra Bullock. This movie was crude and vile and offensive…and we loved every minute of it.  The characters were predictable, but the writing and the acting totally made up for it. We don’t have very many blu-rays in our collection, but this is one of them.

Identity ThiefWORST: Identity Thief – Here’s the thing…as much as I’m a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy, the same character doesn’t work for every single movie. This movie was not only ridiculous in terms of the set-up, but the completely unrealistic storyline and the irredeemable characters made this film torturous to watch. In fact, Sunshine and I stopped watching and turned this movie off with about 20 minutes left to go. We just couldn’t take it any more and don’t even care that we have no idea how the movie ends. There was simply NO WAY to turn it around.

Pacific RimBEST: Pacific Rim – I completely realize that this movie isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and that’s fine. I also completely realize that this is a by-the-numbers movie that just happens to have incredible special effects. It is the effects, however, that propel this movie to the top of my favourites list for 2013. To watch the Kaiju face off against the Jaegers is something that looks incredibly realistic, and that’s the whole point of this movie. I’ll ignore the mediocre acting and sub-par character development just to appreciate the amazing CGI.

Grown Ups 2WORST: Grown Ups 2 – Sunshine and I turned this movie off after 15 minutes. Seriously. The opening scenes reminded me of cheesy 80’s comedies and not in a good way.

Just horrific to watch. HORRIFIC.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugBEST: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – I saw this movie in IMAX 3D and I’m already looking forward to seeing it again, this time on a smaller screen so I can appreciate the more finer details. The movie was fantastic and completely made-up for the silliness of the first movie. While it wasn’t as epic as any of the Lord of the Rings films, it was still an excellent movie worthy of being considered one of the year’s best.

After EarthWORST: After Earth – This was yet another movie that was turned off after 15 minutes. Actually, we may have lasted 20 minutes before giving up. The storyline was convoluted and Will Smith’s character was ridiculously over-the-top and unbelievable. Sorry Will…I’ve seen you act a LOT better.

EpicBEST: The Croods/Despicable Me 2/Epic – There were a lot of animated movies this year, many of which I watched due to being the father to the movies’ target audience. These three stood out to me primarily because of their overall entertainment value. The Croods was unique in its premise and, quite frankly, was extremely well acted and presented. I really enjoyed the characters and thought it was a fun movie. Despicable Me 2 wasn’t as entertaining as the original movie was, but it was still a LOT of fun. Epic was one of the most unique animated movies I’ve seen in quite some time. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about it and, if I had to choose, I think I’d go with it as my favourite animated movie of the year.

Hangover 3WORST: The Hangover 3 – I don’t know what made us think that the third movie would be any good, especially knowing how bad the second movie was. Again, if we lasted 15 minutes I’d be surprised. Just abysmal. The ridiculous premise negated the patience I had to sit through more than 15 minutes of UNfunny movie. They really should have stopped after the first one.

There are still a number of movies that I want to see that I haven’t yet (Gravity, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Frozen) and a lot of movies that were just “okay” (Man of Steel, Thor 2, Star Trek Into Darkness, We’re The Millers), but overall the above mentioned movies were the ones that stood out the most for me.

What about you? What was your favourite movie of 2013? What was your least favourite?

Sound off below!

My Concert Bucket List

I was looking at my Last.FM stats the other day and looked at my “Overall Top Artists Played”. I realized that I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen five of my top eight artists live in concert. For a guy living in a fairly remote part of North America, that seemed pretty impressive to me. It also got me thinking about revising a list I had done a couple of years ago, only because I find my tastes in music have varied a bit and priorities have changed.

Some artists, like KISS and AC/DC, I’ve had the good fortune to have seen live and in person. Some artists, like Van Halen, are no longer together in the version I’d prefer to see (I admit…I was a “Van Hagar” fan). Others, like INXS, don’t have a lead singer anymore that I’d want to listen to (original lead singer, Michael Hutchense, passed away in 1998 and their other lead singer, JD Fortune, has been kicked out of the band twice).

So after much thought, I have decided that these artists make up my Concert Bucket List…

1. Phil Collins

How can you NOT want to sit back and enjoy the musical stylings of one Phil Collins live and in concert?  I have always considered Collins to be a guilty pleasure of mine and I’m a massive fan of his. I know that he’s retired from live performing, but I’m still hopeful that he will come out of retirement and do a huge “one last time” worldwide tour that includes smaller markets like Halifax, Nova Scotia.

2. Walk Off The Earth

I can’t tell you just how much of a fan of this band I’ve become in a short amount of time. I first heard them three years ago when they did a cover version of the autotune hit song, Backin’ Up Song. I didn’t follow-up on them until they released that hugely popular  5 person/1 guitar version of Somebody That I Used To Know (which is 100% better than the original version). At this point, I went through their back catalogue and immediately fell in love with the band. They have been my favourite band ever since, with me constantly buying and downloading their combination of original releases and incredible covers. I love this band and would pay $100 (easily) to see them perform live.

Green Day

This is a band that I have been a fan of since before they hit it big. To the best of my knowledge, they’ve only been in my neck of the woods once and that was about a decade ago. While some may argue that their music has turned too “mainstream”, I only hear the same pop/punk fusion that I initially heard back in 1992. And from what I can tell, they’ve only gotten better with age. This would be one helluva concert!

Billy Joel

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this man’s catalogue of music. I know he’s not the performer that he once was, I would pay big bucks to just sit there and listen to him sing for two straight hours. Or more, for that matter. His songs speak to me like no other artist…and I’m at an age where I can truly appreciate that.

Roxette

This is a huge guilty pleasure, much like Billy Ocean was for me before I got to see him in person a couple of months ago. While there are still a lot of other artists I’d love to see, too…but this one is definitely high on my list just for the “fun factor” of it all. I would know almost every single song performed…and that’s the sign of a concert I’d want to attend.

Honorable Mentions (because I can’t be contained to just five):

  • Journey (as much as I love Steve Perry, I think it would still be incredible with Arnel Pineda on vocals)
  • Honeymoon Suite (I saw them back in 1985, but as one of my favourite Canadian rock bands I would love to see them again)
  • Richard Marx (this one’s more for Sunshine than for me, but after having seen a live acoustic dvd I think this would be a very enjoyable concert)
  • Poison (how can you go wrong with this???)
  • P!nk (this is close to being my #5 pick…she’d rock live)
  • Rick Springfield (again, another pick primarily for Sunshine but I had his “Greatest Hits” cd long before Sunshine entered my life…so I’m definitely a fan)

What about you? Who would YOU like to see live?

Would You Rather…?

I found a post on TheChive.com recently that made me think about what’s important in life. If given the opportunity, what would be more important to me?

By all means, feel free to play along at home.

Would you rather…

Your own private island or your own private jet?

Would you rather?

My problem is that I’m trying to work the analytics through in my brain. Would the plane be more expensive to run on a regular basis than the costs involved in running a private island? Would it be more difficult to travel back and forth to the island than it would to arrange travel around the world on my own plane? I’m more of a traveler than a sit-on-the-beach guy, so I guess I’d probably go with the private plane.

The ability to never have to sleep or never have to exercise?

Would you rather?

Without question, I’d much rather not have to exercise. I enjoy sleeping and I don’t know if I’d have much more of a fulfilling life if I didn’t have to sleep…plus the fact that I wouldn’t mind having some rock-hard abs…so this one is an easy choice for me.

Be able to stop time or be able to travel through time?

Would you rather

When you really think about it, this is a really tough one. I would love to have moments stopped in time so I could truly cherish them, but I’ve made so many mistakes in my life that I’d like to travel back in time in order to correct a few things. The problem with that? I’ve seen Back To The Future too many times to realize that anything I did in the past could forever change my present…and right now, my present is looking pretty darn good.

Free tickets anywhere in the world or free tickets to any event in America?

rather-3

As many of you already know, I absolutely LOVE to travel. I think having free tickets to travel anywhere would be a chance of a lifetime. There may be times when I’d love to see something like the SuperBowl, but I’d rather share in a trip with my wife than attend a sporting event without her (believe me…she wouldn’t want to go).

A grand estate in the countryside or a penthouse in the city?

rather-4

I know what Sunshine would prefer, but now that I’ve had the taste of city living I don’t think I can ever go back. There’s just something about living in a city that keeps the blood pumping and gives you excitement that you just can’t find in the quietness of the countryside.

Have the world’s fastest internet or the world’s fastest car?

rather-7

I’m actually quite happy with the internet speed I’ve already got. I’m also not much of a “speed demon”, either. In fact, after the unfortunate Paul Walker accident recently, I’m even more wary of traveling at super-fast speeds. I guess I’d go with the internet option, then.

Be the world’s greatest athlete or the world’s greatest actor?

rather-8

I always wanted to be an actor. I’ve never been much of an athlete. This one’s pretty easy for me. I’d much rather end up being Harrison Ford than Michael Jordan.

Get screamed at by Gordon Ramsay or get criticized by Simon Cowell?

rather-11

LOL…this one cracks me up. I’d love to get BOTH, actually. This one’s a toss-up.

Hang out with the cast of Friends or the cast of Seinfeld?

rather-13

As much as I’ve got a MASSIVE crush on Jennifer Aniston, this one’s an easy choice for me: Seinfeld all the way. I mean, can you imagine the fun discussions or the laughs to be had? Good times!

Live in a world where lightsabers exist or hoverboards exist?

rather-15

I can only imagine the damage I could do to myself with an actual lightsaber. I’d turn it on and probably cut off a limb by accident. No thanks. I’d rather try my luck at a hoverboard, instead.

***********

What about you? What would YOUR choices be?

Financially Speaking…

As I mentioned yesterday, after almost a month of hitting the unemployment line I not only found a job, but found something that I could easily turn into a career until I retire.

With the additional income that will come from this new position will also bring more responsibility. I realize that just because I’ll have more money, I won’t have to blow through it and that there are definitely easy ways to save money. While there isn’t a ton of time left to save up for the holidays, there are definitely things that I’m planning on saving up for.

Disney1. A family trip to Disney World. This is a top priority for Sunshine and I. None of the smaller kids have ever been on a plane before, much less been to Florida. And I’ve always promised my daughter that I would take her to Disney, so that’s a promise that I really want to fulfill. For a family of six, we’re looking at a pretty large cost for a week of vacation in Florida…so it’s going to take some solid saving to make this become a reality.

Debt-Free-Sign2. Become debt free. I’m extremely fortunate in that I’m not owing on a house at the moment. Sure, I’d prefer to have a home with Sunshine but right now my total debt (less my car) is under $1,500. That’s a manageable number and one that I can pay off as long as I’m careful with my money over the coming months.

rainy-day-fund3. Saving for a “rainy day”. I’ve never been in a position to set money aside for the future. I have a friend of mine who lost his job of only six months, but had actually saved up a bit of a nest egg and was okay for awhile. I’d really love to be able to save up SOMETHING…whether it’s for a possible unexpected situation (car issues?) or even for retirement.

Cruising4. Another Caribbean cruise. We’ve been on two cruises and are in love with that form of vacation. Because of the relatively inexpensive nature of cruising, this is another thing that we want to save up for.

House5. A down payment for a new home. This is the long-term dream for Sunshine and I. We’re in a nice spot in the city, but we’d love to live the “white picket fence” dream of owning our own house one day.

At the end of the day, there are a LOT of dreams that are a lot more possible thanks to this new career opportunity. It’s fun to dream, but it’s even more fun to know those dreams are not that far from becoming reality.

Hired~!!

You're HiredI have to be honest…things were beginning to look a little bleak two weeks ago.

Here I was, fired at the beginning of November from a going-nowhere job due to financial reasons, going weeks without as much as an interview. With the holidays coming up, I was getting really nervous.

Sunshine then sent me a job posting from her own workplace that I hadn’t seen myself. It seemed like it was right up my alley, but because of my last job (one that went from filled with long-term sales potential to glorified front desk secretary) I wasn’t really confident that I would be considered. Still, I sent in a resume and cover letter that afternoon and continued on with my day.

I was contacted the next day, asking me to come in for an interview the following day. Needless to say, I was excited for the opportunity. I studied up on the company, I studied up on the role, and I entered the interview wanting to be the best “me” that I could be…admittedly not realizing the size and scope of the position I was interviewing for.

I went the weekend thinking that while I had a good interview, I was sure that there were more qualified candidates that would surely be asked for a second interview. Imagine my surprise when I got the email last Tuesday asking me to come in once again.

Again, I researched the company and I researched the role. I felt comfortable being myself and I felt that my previous experience would speak for itself. While the first interview had gone over an hour, the second interview only lasted 40 minutes. I felt as though I did everything I could do, but I wasn’t 100% comfortable with how everything went. I was told that I was one of two people being considered for the position, so my thought process was that it was great being considered and I could use this as a positive experience going forward.

I was driving to visit my son on Friday when the phone rang. I’ve got Bluetooth so I answered the phone and was pleasantly shocked to hear the company’s HR representative on the phone. She told me that pending a reference check, I was going to be offered the position. That happened yesterday and I start on Thursday.

Needless to say, I’m walking on clouds right now. This job isn’t just a job…it has the potential to be a career that I can retire from. It’s a management position that has a ton of responsibility and challenges that will change on a daily basis. It’s a dream opportunity and I couldn’t be happier.

It’s also an opportunity to live up to my potential. I’ve said for years that if I was only given a genuine opportunity that I would shine. For numerous reasons, I was my own biggest obstacle and felt as though I would always be the perennial underachiever. This opportunity has instilled a confidence in me that’s been missing for quite some time.

I’m now hired…and I plan on making the very most of this chance to make a major difference in my life.

The Difference of Opinion

agree disagreeSunshine and I got into a heated argument a couple weeks back. Unusual, I know. What’s worse is that it happened in the morning in front of the girls, pretty much ruining everybody’s day.

Ugh.

The argument escalated quickly, as is the case most of the time we argue. Normally it’s not a “slow build”, but rather one or two things set off one person who then throws a hurtful barb or comment to the other than then BAM~!! Full-blown argument with a ton of anger.

Thankfully, this is not a common occurrence. Sunshine and I have the most solid relationship I’ve ever had in my life…I’m certainly not worried about the occasional argument. I’m also not worried about how we deal with the arguments, as we normally calm down a bit and discuss not only the details of the argument, but the real underlying issues that led to the escalation in the first place.

In this particular instance, it was a difference of opinion. It wasn’t just a difference of opinion, though…it was a difference of opinion on how to raise the girls.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have any real right to impose my thoughts and/or feelings on how to raise the girls onto them or Sunshine, so this isn’t about what I think is right or wrong. It’s about how we express these opinions and the reactions we develop from them.

Sunshine is defensive about what she perceives as criticism about her parenting style. And you know what? That’s completely valid on her part. They are her children and she can choose to raise them in whatever way she wants to. If somebody questions her choices, then she has every right to get defensive…I certainly do when it comes to my own children.

I’m a little harder on the girls than I probably should be. I don’t “drop the hammer down” or anything, but I’m not as laissez faire or carefree as Sunshine or her ex-husband is when it comes to raising the girls. That’s absolutely NOT a knock against them, either. To me, it’s just how I would describe their parenting style.

It’s tough to sit back and not give my opinions on certain situations, and sometimes my opinions don’t come out the way they’re intended. That was the case when Sunshine told me that one of her girls was going to stay home because her stomach wasn’t feeling great. I immediately questioned it, because she seemed fine to me. That, I realize, was a mistake on my part because now I wasn’t only questioning the authenticity of how the child felt, but I was questioning the parental decision by Sunshine to let her stay home.

This, in turn, escalated into the nasty argument. I attempted to explain that I felt the way I felt because of how I was raised: when it came to my parents, you went to school unless you were SICK. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, that’s how I was raised as a kid and that’s how I’ve continued on as an adult: I go to work unless I’m REALLY sick. To me, it was a lesson that I learned as a child and it helped me grow as an adult.

But again…that’s simply my opinion. Another view or decision is also completely legitimate, it’s just different from mine.

There are definitely other ways the conversation could have gone. I didn’t have to be so sarcastic in my “…if she’s sick, then she’s sick…” comments and Sunshine didn’t have to attack my father’s parenting style. We also should have reigned it in long enough to get the girls to school so that they didn’t have to see or hear what transpired.

Again, we were able to work out the issue that day (before noon, if I’m not mistaken), but it was definitely a learning situation for both of us on how to handle issues like this on a go-forward basis.

Differences of opinions happen in all relationships. The key to building better relationships is finding a way to communicate those differences in a way that encourages conversation, not confrontation.

Obviously, we’re both still working on that.