My seven favorite non-standard Christmas songs

Well folks, Christmas 2014 is upon us, and I hope you're having a good one. In honor of the day, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite Christmas / Holiday songs that you may not hear on the radio or in your local Target as much. (Hence the list not including "Last Christmas" by Wham! and "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney & Wings, both songs I love, but that everyone knows and loves too) Anyway, let's get started!

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  • Current Mood
    hungry hungry

REJUVENATED - 9 months into my life in Japan, a status report

It has now been nine months since I moved to Japan, and essentially "rebooted" my life. One year ago at 6am, November 30th 2012 (okay, 11 months ago, but hey, close enough), I got a surprise call from the JET Program, offering me a position as an English teacher in Nagasaki. This was the end result of a long process. I'd applied for the position over a year prior, in October '11, as sort of a "Hail Mary" move (forgive the sports / religion metaphor). I was out of options and tired of repeating the same mistakes in my attempts to jump-start dead dreams. In February '12, I interviewed at the Japanese Consulate in Detroit. A couple months later I found out I was neither accepted or rejected: I got listed as an "alternate", meaning I was in a purgatory of sorts as to whether I was accepted or not. The new batch of ALTs comes to Japan every year in late July, and I watched that time come and go, assuming that I didn't make the final cut. By October, I'd given up on my chances, so I chalked things up, said "Hey, at least I tried", and moved back to California, making that same 40 hr slag that I'd made too many times in the previous four years. Just a little over one month after arriving in The City of Angels, quickly succumbing to another tidal wave of depressing job-hunting and desperation, I got the fateful call. Because of the time difference between the Midwest and the West Coast, the 6am call rocked me from a deep sleep. I didn't recognize the caller, and assumed it was another wrong number. (My San Francisco area code number apparently belonged to an old Chinese lady or guy since I would almost weekly get a call from a member of an enclave of elderly Chinese folks, but I digress..) I groggily greeted my unknown caller and was offered something quite special. It took about 2-3 weeks before everything was absolutely confirmed - had to get a physical and send in some special IRS forms - but once the word came through that YES, I was moving to Japan and would have a steady job, I feel as if I "reawakened". Nine months later, I can say with confidence that I made the right call in coming here. I'd thought about applying JET all the way back to 2000 when I first heard about it from my Japanese professor, Dr Hara. I was always tempted, but kept skipping applying in favor of my art career. After 2008, this rang hollow, as I started to feel more like "What art career?" I had some apprehension about the job type as well. I'd not done much related to teaching and I was convinced that I hated kids. Turns out they're not so bad. Also, Japanese school kids from my experience so far seem to be better behaved than their American counterparts. At least I remember my junior high as populated by a bunch of little bastards, but these kids are alright, and the elementary kids are adorable. (Did I seriously just say that? Am I getting paternal urges?)

Now that a decent chunk of time has elapsed since moving here, I feel as if I can reflect upon the life I led prior to it with a more lucid outlook. You know how the president will occasionally present a "State of the Union" on TV, talking about how the US is doing? (usually with a ton of euphemism and misdirection, no matter the political party) Well, I wanted to do something like that, but for me. This may come off as self-indulgent, and if it does, that's fine. It's mostly for me to use to organize my inner narrative, but I'm sure that it might also be of interest to those who have known me a long time, and saw me plunge into a deep pit this past few years. At the time, I was unable to make sense of a lot of things in my life, and I probably inadvertently pushed a lot of people away. Maybe this will make sense of some of that. Also, maybe it'll be of some interest to people I've met recently in this new period, who knows? It's not all doom & gloom. Remember, this story has a happy... not ending (I'm not dead yet)... but a happy NOW. How long this happy period will last, I don't know. Every wave has a trough, every trough a wave. I've emerged from a long deep trough, and am on my way to another crest. Hopefully that crest will ride high for a while. Anyway, I've decided to break down this whole thing into an easier to parse list-mode, divided into past, present, and future, further dividing them into sections based around some of important ingredients to making a happy life: creative outlets, financial security, health, love, friends, and state of mind. It's not a binary thing. There are things I miss about the US, and things I dislike about Japan, but generally my life is better these days than the preceding few years. A similar kind of happiness could have happened in the states, or some other country, had my luck been better, but for now, Japan's working pretty well for me. So let's dive DEEP into this stuff, shall we? I have to warn you, the first half of this epic post gets pretty dark, and might worry some people who know me, but I can talk about this stuff better now that I've been out of the woods for a while. I dealt with a deep depression for four years there, and I've crawled out. I'm not back to 100% yet, but I'm close enough now that I feel pretty dang good. I can finally see the road map again, on how to live a happier life. I'll get to that in the second half, but for now, let's start with the bad old days...

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  • Current Music
    Carpenters - "Close to You" (among a million other songs since it took forever to write this)

3 years

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted here. Three years and one month, in fact. Truth is, I always loved LiveJournal for the community aspect, and with the rise short-form social networks such as Facebook (and MySpace before it) and Twitter / Tumblr / Pinterest / myriad other web 2.0 sites, a lot of my community vanished. I as well, abandoned this old friend. I posted on a regular basis on my LJ from 2001 until the late 00's and sometimes I miss it. A lot has happened in the past few years, and I'm gearing up for a big "state of the union" sort of post, but for my life. I moved to Japan nine months ago and my life has gone 180° since then. More on that soon, but in the meantime, let's get caught up on things, but in an easy and quick list format. I'd post relevant photos, but I'm terribly behind on updating my Flickr. If you're my Facebook friend, you've likely seen a lot of interesting, funny, or stupid photos anyway. I'm sort of reviving this LJ on a periodic basis, just to have a place to dump my thoughts in long-form, since Facebook isn't really made for that... and perhaps neither are our attention-spans these days. Anyway, here's the recap, picking up roughly where I left off:

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Toronto trip pics are up!

Oooog, busy busy busy.... Only a week left until I move to LA (more on that soon).

In the meantime, I've uploaded pics (lots of them) from my visit to Toronto last month. Click here, or any of the pics below to see all of them!

  • Current Music
    Kylie Monigue - "Burning Up" (I miss you Laini)

MASSIVE catchup post (June 2009 - August 2010)

Hey peeeeople! I sort of lost my zest for posting on LJ for a while there because I felt like a lot of people were abandoning the site, and there wasn't as much community. Since I haven't been on here much in a while, I should check it out and see what the state of that is nowadays. I think it's good for me to post here again for the personal bonus of having a time capsule to look back at later on.

Since I haven't been on LJ very much in the past, say, 14 months, here's a massive post to catch the journal up on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the latter half of 2009 and of 2010 so far...

warning, this update is graphic intensive! (with pretty pictures, so be sure to take a look!)

June 2009

- visited Dawon in LA. Had a baaaad cold for most of the time, unfortunately. Click the above, or here to see pics from that LA visit.

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  • Current Music
    Dance Reaction - "Disco Train"

long time no see...

I miss LiveJournal. Well, I miss the old days where there was a big vibrant community where people would have some pretty in-depth conversations on here and you could really get to know your online buddies. All of the LJ friends who eventually because real life friends were easy transitions because I already knew them! (I'm looking at you Vivian, Vanessa, Leigh, Maggie, etc!)

Nowadays everyone goes for the brevity of Facebook or even more so Twitter. I am on both of these as well, and I tweet now and then, but sometimes it's just not as satisfying as really stretching out the old writing muscles! I might try to revive my LJ a bit, and use it as a dumping ground for long-form thoughts to link to on FB & Twitter. My actual LJ looks like shit right now, as I let my pay account lapse, had a URL die and take tons of my pics with it, and seem to have no background on my posts at the moment (fixed). I will fix as much of this as possible, eventually.

Lots of stuff is going on right now in my life. I shall post that soon. But for now, I gotta sleeeeeeeeep!
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    sleepy sleepy

catching up: May '09

Hello my cats and kittens. Aggh, I've gotten very bad about updating ye old LJ. Sad, since I've had this since 2001, so it's my longest-lasting web presence. Well, I don't feel like there's really much to talk about, but I figure I'll break catching up on things into a couple posts, since it's been almost four months since updating...

Let's see... May 2009. I dunno, I actually don't have much to say about May. After I posted last, I ended up being very swamped all month with the freelance project I've been doing this summer. It started as a small project that was only going to take a couple weeks to do, and transmogrified into something huuuuge, that I still have some occasional work to do for.

Really all May entailed was working a lot at scattershot hours, hanging out with Ryan and Tom a lot, and going clubbing once a week.

Speaking of Tom, he sadly moved away a the beginning of June. He spent the summer in Japan, and will be doing grad school in NYC this fall. Click one of the pics below to see to see photos from his birthday / going-away party...

And speaking of birthdays, I posted pics from my birthday party this year - which I mentioned in my last entry. Click the pics below for more.

Anyway, next up... June catchup.
  • Current Music
    Perfume - GAME

like a plug without a socket

Woooo, I'm getting pretty bad about updating this LJ...

That image has nothing to do with the post. It's one of the shots I took at NAIAS back in January. It's merely a shameless ploy to grab your attention. Also, I'm too lazy to upload anything new to Flickr right now, so... Anyway! Recent things:

+ So I'm all moved back into San Francisco now. I got here on April 17th. I had a fun trip out. I took a long route, swing down south quite a ways on the way. Visited my pal Vanessa (sharpelbows) and her boyfriend Bryan, and his wonderful dog Chelsea in Dallas. We went all over the city, looking at interesting things, went record shopping, bar hopping, gelato eating, and photo shooting. It was really a great time, and I was actually pretty impressed by Dallas. I tend to live in a bubble sometimes thinking that for me, the only US cities I could live in at this point would be San Francisco, LA, or NYC. I forget that there's a lot of other charming places that are less stressful, and still have a lot going on.

Also on the way out, I stopped in Tucson Arizona and stayed at my aunt's house. Had brunch the next day with her, her husband, my cousin, his wife, their two daughters, and my cousin's wife's mom. It was a nice family reunion. I hadn't been to Tucson since 1997.

From there, I went to LA and stayed with Dawon in Koreatown. We had fun hanging out, and we did some thrift shopping, drinking, and catching up on stuff. After a quick LA visit, I went up to SF.

+ So my new place in SF is pretty interesting. Very different from my old place. I live with 7 (!) other people, in a huge apartment. It's an older building, an old Victorian, and has some charm. My room is super tiny, and has a weird, sort of scary loft bed setup built into it. While it in some ways makes more room, it also takes room away (I have to duck my head in most of the room). Also, it's a good thing I'm single right now. I'd be terrified to have "extracurricular activities" in that loft. It seems like with any sort of rambunctiousness that it would collapse. I'm dealing with the lack of space by keeping most of my stuff in storage. I basically just have two carloads worth of stuff in this roonm and it feels sort of liberating to not be buried in clutter.

There are some major plusses about the place. I finally have a living room again (I didn't at my old place, as we had to rent it out). There's an awesome sunroom/penthouse on the top floor. Since it's on the 4th floor on the top of a hill, it overlooks the whole city. Windows all around, and roof access (finally!) I can't wait to do photo shoots up there. Also, the neighbor hood - Lower Haight - is really sweet. There's more stuff around my immediate area, and it's not annoying and filled with gutter punks and hippies like Upper Haight.

+ This past couple days, my longtime internet buddy / excellent artist Maggie (machiney) has been in town for her art show, and I've been showing her around the city a bunch. It's been fun. Also, I'm going to get to drive her moped while she's here. It'll be my first time really driving one (other than the 10 feet I drove one in the hallway of my old workplace). I'm pretty stoked about that. (Don't tell my dad. He'll have a heart attack of worry)

+ Been busting my ass on the freelance graphic design I've been doing for this start-up. And with the return of constant graphic design work has come the return of my crazy wrist and arm pains. It's either Carpal Tunnel or RSI. Not sure. Probably the latter. I've had to cut down the workload this past few days because my wrist, hand, arm, elbow, and shoulder have been aching so badly. I ordered an ergonomic vertical mouse, so hopefully that'll alleviate the hellaciousness.

+ It's sort of interesting to be back in SF. It's fun, and I'm very inspired to be back, but it definitely feels different. I feel like it's a lot harder to get time with my friends these days, and it's also sort of weird being in a house with so many new people, and not really interacting with any of them that much. I sort of feel like SF is this huge, awesome electric creature, full of potential and new experiences, and I'm just hanging out off to the side, instead of being absorbed into its awesomeness. The old feeling of SF not being a good place for my photography career is also still true, and job hunting is totally shitty right now, but I'm still happy to be back. Come August, I might have to think about LA again, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I'm at a very odd place right now in that I've really lost my direction. I know a lot of people have this past year. I'm considering some radical changes. Maybe grad school... Maybe working retail again or in a factory / shipping job (graphic design is killing my wrist, and making he fatter, so I need a more on-my-feet job), and supplementing my income with creative freelance gigs... Maybe changing career direction entirely.... Maybe moving off to a new city at some point that I've never thought about before, just for a change of pace for a while... Who knows? I'd really really just like to get a decent job again, with some health insurance, and enough pay to not be terrified all the time.

+ Late last month I had a really awesome belated-birthday party with some friends (Ryan, Tom, Melania, and Oliver). We went out for dinner (okonomiyaki), drinking, and of course, wild drunken karaoke. Man, I love karaoke. It's weird. I'm very reserved at times, and my self-esteem keeps me from doing a lot of things, but I surprise myself at how much I love singing, and how comfortable I've gotten doing it (around friends at least). That's also how I've been about dancing, ever since my raver days, up until now. I was very shy about it at first, but once I got over that, I can't be stopped.

+ Now that I'm back in SF, I've been sort of trying to get back into the dating scene again, after shutting that part of my brain off since August. It's funny because my self-esteem is rock-bottom right now, and I basically have no illusion that the type of women that I'm into would be into me right now, but who knows... I was overweight a year ago, and that's when Queena fell for me (too bad that went to shit). I've started going to the gym again, and all this walking in SF, combined with eating better, is starting to make me feel a bit better... but not fast enough for my satisfaction. Anyway, back to girls. Trying to date.... I'm reminded why I hate that shit. At least when I'm a crazy art-making, video-game-playing hermit, like I've been these past few months, I don't have to deal with rejection. It's usually easiest for me to meet girls online (OkCupid is my favorite these days), but it always sucks when you have a long spirited exchange of emails & texts, and then meet the girl in person at a bar, and you can sense she's not into you anymore. I haven't gotten anymore emails from her since then. In a fit of desperation/curiosity, I've been looking on Craigslist, with some correspondence happening, but no real dice yet. I've also been forcing myself to engage with girls more often at clubs (like this cute blonde yuppyish*ick* girl I was chatting with at a party the other day, just for practice) or even just out on the town (cute girl I was chatting with today, about her dog). I'm just trying to come out of my shell again. I've been very insular this past few months, and I'm relearning how to be congenial. I know there's gotta be more girls out there that I'm into that are into me, and willing to look past my current body type (I've been much thinner several times before, and just need to get back to it). It just seems like in SF, USA's statistically most-fit city, and where there's far too many women that are so-hip-it-hurts, that this is an illusion. Argh. hipster girls... I love/hate you. As for dating, I hate/hate you. And as for meaningful relationships, I love/love you. Ehh, we'll see what happens. I'm still sort of a bitter guy, after the sort of stuff that's gone on in my love life this past 2-3 years, but hopefully I will perk up soon. I'm sure as soon as I get my next lady I will forget everything all over again. For a little while at least.

+ What else? Been playing the 360 a lot. Played through the "Lost and Damned" DLC pack for GTAIV. Playing "Braid" a lot, as well as another indie game, "A Fading Memory" (which looks very pretty, but is a tough as nails platformer!). Finished Resident Evil 5, and have been doing some new game +. Also, just traded my PS3 version of Fallout 3 (which I already put over 120 hrs into in Michigan!) for the 360 version, and am going to download all the 360-exclusive stuff for it.

I bought a HDMI to DVI converter, and now am using my large widescreen computer monitor for video games, (as opposed to my old 13 in. TV), and it looks magnificent!

Again, I need some XBox Live buddies! Add me, I'm "Hell Dimension".

+ Speaking of video games, and how I formerly mentioned doing something drastically different... I've been thinking that I really wish I could be working in the game industry somehow. I've been into it for so long, and it just seems like it would be great. I torrented (shhh!) some rendering software that I'm going to toy with and try to figure out. I dunno if I'd want to go that route though... Again, it would be more RSI and shitty-feeling in front of a computer all day. I'd love to try to go down the games journalist path, but writing is not my strongest point, and I don't have the background. Who knows... Anyone wanna make an indie game with me? You can program it, I'll be the creative director (and design characters and make the music), we'll get another person to do the marketing, and we'll make something great!

Anyway, that's about it for now.
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    tired tired


+ So when I was last in San Francisco, last month, I managed to secure a sublet. No job yet, though. I'm leaving Michigan on Wednesday (the 8th), and driving back out west. I'll be taking a slightly longer than straight-shot trip, but not as long as the trip I took in November. I'm going to swing way south, visiting my friend Vanessa (sharpelbows) in Dallas, then my aunt in Tucson, then Dawon in LA, then arriving in SF. This is partially to avoid any dregs of winter weather that may be in the mountains, and also just because I don't have a strict deadline date for getting back to SF (even though I'm not paying rent for a room I'm not living in yet, so I guess that's some fire to move me.)

The room itself is pretty small, and has a weird makeshift loft (didn't seem super strong), but I'll be leaving most of my stuff in storage so it doesn't matter. What I do like is that the apartment has a living room (I lived without one in SF for four years), and an awesome sun room on the top floor, with windows all around and great views of the city. Also, the people living there seem really awesome. The sublet is until the end of August. I'm not employed right now (still), but I'm making a little freelance money here and there, and my unemployment insurance is taking care of me, thankfully.

Once August hits, that will be a time of reevaluation. Hopefully I will have a job in SF by that point that I don't completely hate. I don't have much hope of getting anything that really makes me happy, but I'd like to at least get something that doesn't make me wish I'd stayed in Michigan. If things are looking bad, I might take Dawon up on her offer to put me up in LA for a bit, and I might retry moving down there. Who knows... its all up in the air.

+ I'm 1/3 excited, 1/3 nervous, and 1/3 melancholy about moving back to San Francisco. I'm excited because, duh, it's San Francisco. I have great friends there and it's more the kind culture I prefer. That second 1/3, nervousness because this move to SF is going to be very different than my 2005 move. Back in '05, San Francisco to me was emblematic of great opportunity and a personal paradise of sorts. Things are a bit different now. First, the economy sucking so bad, combined with an extreme dearth of creative jobs this past few months has got me expecting that even if I have the drive to succeed in photography, it's not going to really happen there, or anywhere right now. Also, I built SF up to be a panacea for all of my personal problems, thinking that just being there would really set things in motion. Now I certainly was able to achieve quite a bit there (I'm sure more than if I'd have stayed in Michigan), but I've come to realize that it doesn't matter where I live, who I know, or how much art I make. The problem is me. I need to find a way to:
A: really believe in myself, and believe that there's a place in the world for my art.
B: be better at self-marketing and "selling myself" and my art to other people.
C: be more persistant. I need to be submitting to galleries / ad agencies / competitions / etc all the time.

We'll see if I'm a different enough guy when I come back to San Francisco. I'm hoping to hit the reset again (partially)... being in a new neighborhood, getting a new job, meeting new people, keeping those closest to me close & and forgetting about the people who hurt to think about, and getting back in good health again. I fear that I haven't changed enough though.

The final 1/3 - melancholy - is simply because I've been back in Michigan for four months now. Juuuust long enough to feel sad about leaving. It's been nice to spend a lot of time with my Midwest friends, meet new people, and have the comparative freedoms that come with living here. I'm definitely making some trade-offs in returning to SF. I'll have access to more culture, more opportunities to be healthy, and (possibly) more art opportunities, but... I'll miss having the setup I have here for making art, listening to music (loud), going on walks in tree-lined neighborhoods with my dad, playing with my cats, actually being able to drive and park places without it being a total pain in the ass, eating more good Middle-Eastern food, and just having a more relaxed pace of life.

+ I turn 29 tomorrow. Oh shit. One year away from having that turning-30 total mental breakdown. I'm sort of having a preview of that feeling lately. My 20s really came in like a lion, and I fear that they are going to go out like a lamb. It sort of feels like it doesn't matter if I get my shit together anymore this next year or now. The opportunities seem so much more scarce now. Guess I'll just have to hope to be a late-bloomer in the personal achievements arena. Man, I've always been so terrified about growing older. I remember when I was in junior high, drawing comics all the time (40-50 pps per month), I was determined to be one of those rising young stars in my early 20s. Didn't happen, and I felt crappy about it. I made a lot of music for a long time there, lots of albums. Played live a few times. Never got anywhere with it because I didn't believe in myself. I'm worried my photography might be on the same track. Hopefully this year of being 29 will be the year that I learn to defeat my greatest enemy - myself.

+ In cheerier news, I got a couple of really nice new toys recently. First off, I got a wide-angle lens for my 30D (finally!). It's a Sigma 10-20mm, and I LOVE it. I did some fashion shots with Kat a few days ago, using it, and I'll post pics soon.

+ I also got an XBox 360, the Resident Evil 5 edition. I love it so far. If you are on XBox Live, add me! My gamertag is "Hell Dimension".

+ I started getting a cold today. Of course I had to get one a little over a day before I'm set to drive across the country. Yayyyyyy.

+ The pics I've scattered through this post are from a new Flickr set I posted, "Mangled".

+ More later. I'll try to post again before I hit the road, but you know me...
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    sick sick