My Very Own “Awesome Mix”

If you follow our social media feeds, you know that J and I are all about Guardians of the Galaxy. J has cosplayed as Rocket Raccoon one day of almost all conventions that we’ve attended. We watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1 ten times before the premier of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, and J has even curated his own “Awesome Mix” with his iPad on my Spotify account. To celebrate the digital release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, I was asked to create an “Awesome Mix” of songs that have shaped my life and have inspired me.

This playlist was hard for me to make because there are so many songs that have shaped my life. When I was a kid, I wanted a career in the industry as either a rock star or a talent scout for a record label. My parents raised us on every genre of music they could from country to rock and everything in between. We listened to show tunes, classical, mariachi, and banda. They had their favorites, but they wanted my brothers and I to develop our own taste in music. My playlist started as my top 10 favorite songs, it then stretched to 20 songs, and finally rounded out to a cool 30 songs.

I would like to think that after Peter listened to Awesome Mix Vol 1,  Meredith (his mother) sat down with him and explained her reasons for putting those specific songs on her mix. And, she probably would have done the same with Awesome Mix Vol 2 had she survived her cancer. So, like any parent wanting to share something they love, please click here to listen to the playlist and read along while I explain why I chose the songs for “James’ Awesome Mix”.

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  1. Superstition by Stevie Wonder: Superstition gets me to that place. Any time I’m feeling like something can’t be done, I turn on this track and just let the arrangement go straight to my veins. I always feel like I can accomplish anything after listening to this song.
  2. La Bamba by Ritchie Valens: Ritchie Valens was an inspiration for me as a young latino wanting to be a musician. He showed that at times when the racial divide was so great, a young latino man could cross a racial barrier and be successful.
  3. Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang: I’ve always loved Rapper’s Delight, but it became a special song in my life. I didn’t always have the greatest relationship with my step mom, and that was always on me. She always tried to make a connection, but I would just put up a wall. Long story short, those walls came down and my step mom and I have a great relationship. This song is on my mix because this is her jam.
  4. Oye Como Va by Carlos Santana: Carlos Santana, what can I say? Santana has been a major inspiration in me wanting to play guitar. This man is pure skill and I couldn’t have a mix without a Santana song.
  5. Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix: One of the most influential guitarist of all time. Jimi broke down walls with his experimental sounds. Purple Haze was the first Jimi Hendrix song I learned how play on the guitar
  6. Spanish Caravan by The Doors: My oldest brother introduced me to The Doors. I immediately fell in love with Jim Morrison’s lyric style and with the music. Spanish Caravan is one of my favorite Doors song and had to be on my mix.
  7. Sunshine of Your Love by Cream: In my opinion, Sunshine of Your Love is one of the best rock songs in the history of music. Its simplistic melody and guitar riff brings you in and the rhythm just gets you to that special place.
  8. Come Together by The Beatles: The Beatles played quite often in our home when I was a kid. I remember my dad’s love for The Beatles music. He would turn on the music and just lose himself in the music. He’d sit in his chair and just close his eyes and I remember wanting to be just like him. So when I got a job, i bought a stereo with a record player, some headphones and a Beatles album and would just lose myself like I saw him do years earlier.
  9. Careless Whisper by George Michael: Carless Whisper is one of those songs that I never knew what it was about as a kid. I just loved the saxophone and melody. As an adult I love the song because of the passion of the lyrics, but I still love that saxophone.
  10. Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters: Under the Boardwalk was the first song I had the opportunity of singing a solo for when I was in my middle school “jazz choir”. Listening to this song takes me back to a time when I knew that I could face my own fears.
  11. Runnin’ Down a Dream by Tom Petty: Like “Superstition”, this song makes me feel like I can do anything. The rhythm makes you want to move and the lyrics inspire me to work hard on whatever project I’m working on.
  12. Yakety Yak by The Coasters: The Coasters were a fun group. They had imaginative songs and fun melodies. We would listen to The Coasters a lot on weekends when we were doing house work. Yakety Yak was one of those songs that reminded us that we could have fun while doing chores.
  13. Africa by Toto: I have so many memories of me just singing this song at the tops of our lungs. For me, Africa is a song that reminds me to not take myself seriously and always be ready to drop whatever you’re doing and start singing whenever this song comes on.
  14. Strutter by KISS: This is another song inspired by my dad. My dad was a huge KISS fan, he made KISS costumes for us one Halloween, and it was one of my favorite Halloweens ever. The first concert my dad took me to was a KISS concert in 1993. This one is for you dad!
  15. Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen: You can’t have an “Awesome Mix” without Queen. One of the most influential groups of the 70s and 80s needs to be represented on this mix. While Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, and Another One Bites the Dust are fantastic songs, I have always been drawn to Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
  16. The Cisco Kid by War: This is another song that would play often while we were doing chores. My grandpa used to watch reruns of The Cisco Kid when he was babysitting my brothers and I, and the 1994 remake movie with Jimmy Smits and Cheech Marin was our family movie, next to Three Amigos.
  17. Heartland by George Strait: I grew up in the Colorado farm town known as Sterling. Before we got our first Wal-Mart your choice of employment was fast food or farm hand. This song reminds me of home. My mom is a big George Strait fan and when my parents were going through their divorce, I was pretty sure he was going to be my step dad. This one is for you mom!
  18. Lithium by Nirvana: Growing up in a farm town and not really feeling like I fit in was rough. Losing myself in Nirvana’s music made me discover that it was okay to not fit in and that everyone had struggles they were dealing with.
  19. Basket Case by Green Day: i firmly believe that I would not be the person I am today without Green Day’s influence. While other kids were getting invited to parties, I was in my room with headphones listening to Green Day and playing along on my guitar. You’re probably thinking, “how sad”, but honestly I look at it as a god send. I wasn’t out getting in trouble, and I wasn’t sad.
  20. Girl’s Not Grey by AFI: It took me a while to really get into AFI. I started listening to them when I joined a band the summer going into my senior year of high school. I loved the guitar riffs and would try similar things in our music.
  21. Soco Amaretto Lime by Brand New: The soundtrack to my senior year. This song reminds me of when I started getting invited to parties with kids in my grade. One of the funnest times I had at school was playing this song at the school talent show with one of my best childhood friends. Sterling High School Class of 2004, this one is for you.
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  22. Papercut by Linkin Park
  23. Numb by Linkin Park
  24. Leave Out All the Rest by Linkin Park
  25. One More Light by Linkin Park
    I have Linkin Park grouped together because of the importance of their music in my life. Like other people, I’ve dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts in my life. One of those bouts of depressions came around the same time I discovered Linkin Park. Their songs spoke to me in a way that music never really did up to that point. I always saw music as speaking to me, and this was the first time that I felt like music was speaking for me. Chester was singing and screaming things that I wanted to say but that I didn’t have the courage to say. Linkin Park’s music was a life changer and I don’t know if I would have come out of some of those dark times without their music. Thank you Linkin Park. My heart is broken from the loss of Chester Bennington, but I think it’s a wake up call that we need to make sure that if we are feeling low that there is a way out. Please talk with friends and family. We can’t keep things inside anymore. If you need someone to talk to, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.             ______________________________________________________________
  26. Amie by Damien Rice: As I grew in my age, I found a love for acoustic music. Damien Rice’s music is so amazing. If I ever feel nerves rising, I can sit with my guitar, play some Damien Rice songs and just feel the tensions of the day melt away.
  27. Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: All of the songs from Once are amazing and that story reminds me of my young dreams of wanting to be a musician. This song reminds me to keep following my dreams, even if circumstances change.
  28. A Beautiful Mess by Jason Mraz: This song helps to try and see the beauty in heartache. It has helped me get through the pain of losing my grandfather a week before my son was born. There is a beauty in looking at your situation and just stating, “we’re still here.”
  29. Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers: The soul of this song is amazingly inspirational. The harsh reality of the lyrics taught me that life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and that we have to make our own sunshine.
  30. I Caught Fire by The Used: My wife and I got married when we were pretty young. We were both fans of The Used when we were dating, and this became “our song.’ Whenever I listen to this song, it reminds me of the spouse I want to be, because my wife deserves every feeling this song shares. My partner in life and love, this one is for you.

There you have it! My very own “Awesome Mix” has been fully explained. I hope you enjoy the playlist and the peek into my life as you are listening to the music and reading this post. What would your “Awesome Mix” look like? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is now available on Digital and will be available on 4K/BluRay/DVD on August 22. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.

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***Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I was compensated for creating a playlist and writing this post. I chose all the songs for the playlist and all the thoughts in the explanations are my own.***

J’s Top 10 Netflix Downloads

Netflix has changed holiday road trips forever! Recently Netflix added a certain feature that allows subscribers to download some of it’s vast library to their devices. J has gone through all of the kids movies to help me create a top 10 list of the best downloadable movies on Netflix (for kids under the age of 8, probably).

10) Thomas & Friends: Santa’s Little Engine & Merry Christmas Thomas 

 

These have been  J’s favorites to watch on PBS Kids. In Santa’s little Engine, Thomas helps guide Santa’s sleigh, gets trimmed like a Christmas Tree, and learns about being safe on the snow. Merry Christmas Thomas has Thomas searching for the best tree in Sodor, helping one of his friends out of a snowy jam, and a few other fun stories. J wanted to put both on his list, but didn’t want them to take two spots. So if you’re kids love trains and especially love Thomas, make sure you are a useful engine and download these one for your kids today! Santa’s Little Engine has a 58 minute runtime and Merry Christmas Thomas clocks in at 1 hour.

9) The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About Christmas ©Random House Children's Entertainment

Another one of J’s PBS Kids favorites has made the list. In the Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About Christmas, Jake, Sally, the Cat, and Fish must help a reindeer find his family after being separated at a Christmas Party. If you grew up loving Dr. Seuss, this is the perfect download for you and you kids. Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About Christmas comes in at 58 minutes.

8) DreamWorks Holiday Classics ©DreamWorks

Do your kids like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, and of course The Penguins of Madagascar? If yes, they will love DreamWorks Holiday classics. In one story, Donkey creates his own Christmas caroling stage show, in another one Santa crashes his sleigh on the island of Madagascar leaving Alex, Melman, Gloria, and Marty to save Christmas. You can download all 4 shorts for 1 hour and 9 minutes of silence in the car, or your kids can pick and choose which stories they want to download.

7) DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda Holiday ©DreamWorks

This is a fun short for those who are fans of the Kung Fu Panda movies. We see Po struggling to balance his duties as the Dragon Warrior and the holiday traditions of his family as the town prepares for their annual Winter Feast. This short has a runtime of 26 minutes.

6) Puffin Rock: Sliky’s New Friend/The First Snow/Oona’s Cave (Season 2 Episode 7) ©Penguin Random House

J absolutely loves Puffin Rock. Around this time of year, he especially loves shows that have a “Christmasy” feel, meaning anything with some snow. Which is one of the reasons that Puffin Rock made his list. This Episode has a runtime of 19 minutes.

5) The Magic School Bus Holiday Special (Season 3 Episode 10) & The Magic School Bus In the Arctic (Season 3 Episode 1) ©Scholastic

In the Holiday Special, we join Ms. Frizzle and her first cousin as they teach the class all about recycling. In The Magic School Bus In the Arctic, Ms. Frizzle takes the class to the Arctic for a magical field trip to learn about why it gets cold. I love the idea of this episode because on past road trips J has asked why it’s cold, and he never seems to understand when I say it, so maybe Ms. Frizzle can finally teach him what I seem to not be able to. Both episodes have a runtime of 25 minutes, totaling 50 minutes of car silence.

4) Super Why: Twas the Night Before Christmas & Other Stories (Season 1 Episode 17) ©PBS Kids

Another fantastic PBS Kids show has made J’s top 10 list. In this episode, Whyatt wants to know why Santa visits on Christmas. Join Super Why and the Super Readers as they read Twas the Night Before Christmas in hopes of answering Whyatt’s question. This episode has a 26 minute runtime.

3) Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas ©Universal Animation Studios

If you can’t tell, J really likes the PBS Kids shows. Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas has been one of J’s favorites since he was but an infant. In this Curious Christmas special, George and the Man in the Yellow Hat are having a hard time trying to decide what to get each other for christmas. J has always enjoyed Curious George’s methods for solving his problems, and his methods in this special made him smile. This is a great download for the little ones. This special has a 58 minute runtime.

We have made it to J’s top 2 downloads, and as you will see these are not Christmasy movies. These are movies that J loves to watch and would watch all day if given a chance. So far we’ve given about 7 or 8 hours of car silence for your big upcoming road trip. These last two movies may put you in the 11-12 hour range, so lets get to the reveal!

2) The Angry Birds Movie ©Rovio ©Columbia Pictures

That’s right, the app that took the world by storm a few years ago is now one of J’s favorite movies. He knows all the birds’ names and will sing the song at the top of his lungs. I know what you are thinking, “could a movie based off an app be that good?” Well, it definitely has it’s moments. I found myself laughing at some of the jokes and the movie got me playing the game again. So download the movie and let your kids join Red and the other birds as they fight the evil pigs and try to get their eggs back! This movie has a runtime of 1 hour and 37 minutes.

1) YO KAI WATCH: THE MOVIE ©LMYWP2014

This has to be the TV Movie of the Year in J’s eyes. J has loved following Nate on his journey to discover all the Yo Kai (invisible beings that cause all of life’s little mishaps), so of course he would love a movie expanding that story leading into Season 2. I never really watched the show with J all that much, but I thought the movie was funny while also tugging at the heart strings. If your kids are anything like J, you will want to download YO KAI WATCH: THE MOVIE before your road trip for 1 hour and 35 minutes of silence with the occasional whoop and holler. If you need any more convincing, check out this trailer for YO KAI WATCH: THE MOVIE.

There you have it, J’s (and a little bit of mine) Top 10 (or 12) Netflix Downloads for your upcoming holiday road trip. While silence is nice sometimes when you are on the road, make sure you engage with your kids. Don’t just let them stare at the screen for 8-12 hours, have them take breaks in between each show/movie so you can sing a road trip song or two. You could even talk with them about what they watched. Take an interest in what your kids are watching. You might enjoy some of it. Travel safe, and travel smart this holiday season. If you made it this far, thank you for joining J and I on this wonderful journey. Merry Holidays everyone!!

Kids and Gaming

The debate about kids and video games has been going on for decades now. Thanks to Mortal Kombat we now have a rating system that tries to prevent younger gamers from playing the more violent/adult content heavy games, and we now have people advocating for minimal screen time for kids. I want to go on the record as saying that ratings and moderation are not a bad thing, but also I want to say that every kid is different and that you the parent should decide what is best for their kids.

Back in June of 2014 Medical Daily did a write up of a study done by researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore that studied if certain mobile games could improve memory and problem solving skills. The study showed that, “while some games may help improve mental abilities, not all games give you the smae effect.” It showed that after people played “Cut the Rope” for 20 hours, they were able to “concentrate 60 percent better, and switch between tasks 33 percent faster, and adapt to new situations better.”

In October of 2014 the University of Toronto set out to find if playing video games would improve sensorimotor skills. The performed a series of tests between regular gamers and non gamers. Graduate student Davood Gozli said the purpose of the tests was to, “…understand if chronic video game playing has an effect on sensorimotor control, that is, the coordinated function of vision and hand movement.” The tests showed that while gamers did not show improved sensorimotor skills, it did show that gamers were able to recognize the patterns of the tests faster than the non gamers.

Gaming also leads the way for kids to be interested in the tech world. One day after playing some games on his Nintendo 2DS, J came up and asked my wife and I how video games were made. My wife pulled up a video on how motherboards are made, and J thought it was amazing. I thought we could even go deeper and check out code.org to intro him into the world of coding. Talk about an amazing resource, if you click here you will be taken to a game that has Anna and Elsa from Frozen teaching your kids how to code. Click here and your kids will learn how to code their own little game with Disney Infinity characters.

Technology is the business of the future, and our kids need to be tech literate if they are going to be successful. Yes moderation is necessary, but we the parents need to decide how much is too much for our own kids. We also need to realize that playing games with our kids can be a great bonding moment. Maybe not while getting yelled at by random 12 year olds on Call of Duty, but maybe by taking down some Frost Giants together in Disney Infinity 2.0 Marvel Super Heroes. It doesn’t even have to be video games. If you are a board game person, find a game that you and your kids will enjoy together. If your kids like RPGs, maybe you should look into something like Dungeons and Dragons and get their imagination going. It doesn’t matter what kind of games you play with your kids, just take some time and play.

***Salt Lake Gaming Con is just around the corner.  I have 6 tickets to Salt Lake Gaming Con that I will be giving away on Monday August 3rd at 6:00pm, so make sure you stop by my Facebook page, because***

What games did you like to play as a kid that you would pass on to future generations?