I Love Sneakers (and Other Birthday Musings)

My birthday this year (as well as the 34 birthdays prior) falls 2 days before Christmas. Most people, upon hearing that say, “Oh man, that’s gotta suck.”

I don’t see it that way. My family has always been amazing at keeping my birthday festivities separate from Christmas, which I truly appreciate. Plus, I get to open presents like 4 days in a row, which rocks.

This year, the celebration of my birthday was on a level that is just about unparalleled. My lovely wife Alli and I started the 22nd by using our Groupon to Trezo Vino, where we dined on amazing bruschetta and I had a terrific pasta dish – trofie with lump crab and prosciutto, bread crumbs and chili flakes. It was as delicious as it sounds.

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We saw The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (if you like the books, I’m assuming you’ll like the movie, but man, is it ever brutal.

On my actual birthday, Alli and I woke up and had breakfast at my favorite place in Olathe, Old 56 Family Restaurant. Seriously, if you haven’t been there, go if only for the hash browns. We then headed to the movies again to see one of my favorites of the year, The Muppets. After the brutal nature of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, it was fabulous for the second time. Seriously, it needs to win an Oscar for Best Song.

Had to run an errand, then after a quick nap and massage, we met my family for dinner at J. Gilbert for steak and family celebration. There, I was able to wear my new shoes from Alli and I got another pair from my folks.

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The New Balances on the left are my new kicks from Alli. Old-mannish and retro-y, yet a little dressy…you know…because they’re leather. On the right, my new Muppet-inspired Kermit Adidas from my folks. They combine both my love of sneakers and my love of the Muppets. Plus, they are green. And they have the Kermit points around the tongue. So cool.

I also got a fancy new pen/stylus for my iPad and a bowtie from The Tie Bar from my brother and his family. Also awesome.

After dinner, we headed to another one of my favorite places, Christopher Elbow’s Glacé Artisan Ice Cream.

We topped it off by heading back to the movies to see the critically acclaimed silent movie, The Artist, which was completely charming in its simplicity.

All in all, my 35th birthday was freaking awesome. Family, movies, food, delicious food and rad sneakers. Yeah. I’d say it rocked.

Merry Christmas!

Why The Muppets Should Win an Oscar

Consider this the beginning of my official letter-writing campaign to get at least one Oscar for The Muppets, one of my favorite movies of the year.

I looked forward to Jason Segel and James Bobin’s take on my favorite Jim Henson characters for a while and when it finally reached the screen, it was everything I’d hoped for and more. It had the feel of one of the classic Muppet movies and yet, it felt updated for today’s audience.

One of my favorite parts of the movie was the terrific soundtrack that was overseen by music supervisor, Bret McKenzie, aka Rhymenocerous, aka one half of Flight of the Conchords.

McKenzie was responsible for the opening number, “Life’s a Happy Song” and the pivotal “Man or Muppet” song:

My favorite musical moment of the movie, however, comes early on in the plot, when Gary and Walter are trying to convince Kermit to get the gang back together and put on a show. Kermit sings this very sweet, heartfelt tune in the hallway of his office called “Pictures in My Head,” written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis, and Chen Neeman (produced by McKenzie).

That song represents what I think a lot of people love about the Muppets. Sure they are nostalgic and a little corny, but they are also a beloved part of pop culture and American society. Jim Henson’s creations have always been a favorite of mine and I’m so glad that their movie delighted so many people this year.

My hope is that the Academy Awards this year will acknowledge the great songwriting of McKenzie and his team and at least nominate one song for an Oscar. I’d prefer if it was “Pictures in My Head”, but honestly, the whole soundtrack is great and I’d be happy with just one song being recognized. I truly can’t think of a reason why they shouldn’t be nominated. Randy Newman’s been nominated time and time again. Why can’t The Muppets?

Clever songwriting at pivotal times during the film…what are the actual requirements for a song to be nominated for “Best Song”? Whatever they are, I am unaware of any reason why The Muppets don’t qualify or are not deserving.

I encourage you to tweet #muppetsbestsongoscar if you agree with what I’m saying. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to inspire some voters online.

Inspiration vs. Derivation

On the way home, I had my iPad on shuffle and came upon Sara Bareilles’ fantastic track off of Kaleidoscope Heart, Bluebird.

What struck me when listening to this song was how similar the first few bars on the piano are to the banjo notes that we all know from our childhood.

What was funny about that realization was how it reminded me of another song comparison from when I was much younger.

I remember when Oasis was one of the biggest bands on the planet and their sophomore album, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, was (and continues to be) one of my favorite albums of all time. I remember the comparisons that were continually made to The Beatles and I particularly remember how Noel Gallagher caught a lot of flak because the opening of his opus, “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” sounded so much like John Lennon’s iconic, “Imagine.”

And it does. The comparison is obvious.

You know what I have to say?

Who freaking cares.

There’s a big difference between inspiration and derivation.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 states:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

I don’t agree with this statement. While our lives are informed and inspired by our experiences that precede us, we are blessed with the ability to build and to create something anew.

We all have that ability. That’s why out and out stealing other people’s content and repurposing it as your own is so unfortunate.

There’s a lesson here somewhere.

It’s OK to be inspired by others, to even use something as simple as an opening hook to a song to help you tell your own story. “Bluebird” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” may be inspired by “The Rainbow Connection” and “Imagine”, respectively, but that doesn’t make them any less great on their own.

Find inspiration in your life and use it to create new things, things that are your own. What inspires you?

Weekend Goodness. And Badness.

What a great way to begin my 2-weeks off before I start my new job.

First off, my last day was great. I had a bunch of work to finish on Friday before 11:30, when Alli was meeting me at work to go with the whole Marketing group to lunch. They treated everyone to a terrific lunch out at the Yard House by the Legends and then took all of us bowling next door at Pin-Up Bowl. I had the highest first game score, but as is often the case, I tanked the second game. That’s why I hate bowling.

I got some great well-wishes and a really nice presentation from one of my friends at work. They made me a huge card too, which all of them had signed…it was really great.

Friday night was fun too. I was pretty ambivalent towards what I wanted to do, so Alli and I went to Target to pick out a couple DVDs to watch. Once we got there, we decided that, without question, we had to have all of the Muppet movies that we remembered from when we were kids and we planned on watching all of them on Friday night.

Target didn’t have them, so we ventured out to our friendly neighborhood Best Buy, where we asked an employee and they were found within minutes. How happy we were to have:

The Muppet Movie - Kermit\'s 50th Anniversary Edition The Great Muppet Caper - Kermit\'s 50th Anniversary Edition The Muppets Take Manhattan

We went home and popped the first one in the DVD player as soon as we could.

Now, it’s true…we both fell asleep 30 minutes into the first one on Friday night, but we watched them back-to-back-to-back on Saturday morning. And they were just as enjoyable as I remembered they were. We both found ourselves singing along to songs like “The Rainbow Connection” and “Movin’ Right Along” and my face felt like it was sore from permanently smiling. It was a real blast.

On Saturday, we also watched both Spider-Man movies…now I’m really excited for the new one next summer.

Sunday started with an early (7:45 a.m.!) church meeting and then a great service. We followed that up with lunch at Chili’s with mom, Jake, and his new lady-friend Kelly before going home to watch the DVR’ed Chiefs game. What a traveshamockery that game was. The Chiefs deserved to lose that game by about 30 points, but Miami just kept on trying to give it to us. Go figure. It makes Herm Edwards’ (who, by the way, WORST COACH EVER) decision on who to start at quarterback a lot easier. Huard was TERRIBLE and I can’t wait to see Green back on the field. It really was inevitable that his play would have to slow up sooner or later, but it doesn’t help that Edwards refuses to give the ball to Larry Johnson any less than 50 times per game. If it weren’t for Tony Gonzalez, we would have lost that game by more than we did. And of course, he has to go and get hurt.

Besides that little setback, though, it was a great start to my long weekend. The 2-week weekend continues…