Whatever your thoughts on gun control, it is a reasonable reaction to the Sandy Hook tragedy to assess our accessibility to military level weapons and ammunition. I could go on at length how the Gabby Giffords shooter was only stopped when he paused to reload (story) or how children escaped Sandy Hook when the shooter had to reload (story), so the capacity of cartridges should be evaluated, but that would not have stopped the Boston Marathon explosions.
The bombs used in Boston were probably made in a home not so different than yours or mine. They were placed in backpacks. They were surrounded by metal pieces that would later get lodged in the flesh of families cheering on their loved ones. What is the reasonable reaction to that?
As a resident of Los Angeles, I can tell you first hand that backpacks are searched at places such as Disneyland and the Staples Center. I always naively assumed this was to check for knifes, or maybe guns. It now occurs to me that this simple search could prevent bombings as well. This type of search is not feasible at large, outdoor events like the Boston Marathon. So, if we can’t prevent individuals from making bombs and leaving them in public areas, what can we do?
When “news” broke that an international (read: middle eastern) man was arrested, it felt forced and false, a knee-jerk reaction that gives us an enemy we Americans are comfortable with. Didn’t we have a similar reaction to the Oklahoma City bombings, only to find out it was the work of a United States Citizen with ties to a right-wing paramilitary organization?
We don’t know who caused the Boston bombing, yet, so I am left with many questions. Did friends, family or mental health professionals fail the person responsible for the bombing? Did he or she fall through the cracks? Was this heinous act caused by someone who was pushed over the edge by words of hate?
I do not personally have the power to change our gun laws or to search for bombs at large gatherings. I do, however, have control over what I put out into the universe. I believe that words matter. I believe that everything we say and do can affect others. I believe it is possible for someone who is filled with anger and fear to get motivated by the words of a stranger to commit a terrible crime.
We know that The Turner Diaries and its depiction of an overthrow of the U.S. Government inspired the Oklahoma City bomber (story). We know that the killer of the physician George Tiller had a network of supporters who encouraged his actions and applauded his violent act (story).
What I’m trying to say is that you never know who is reading or hearing the hatred you put out into the world. You want a reasonable response to the tragedy in Boston?
LEAN TOWARDS EMPATHY. LEAN TOWARDS LOVE.
Everything else can only cause pain. Do not accept it when you hear politicians preaching hatred. There are thousands of people who believe that President Obama is the actual, literal devil. There are pundits who will tell you that the world is going to end when the wrong person is elected. What is the reasonable reaction to that form of rhetoric if you struggling with mental health issues? What do you do when you are told to exercise your second amendment rights before it is too late?
Leaders and dangerous organizations have the right to say whatever they want, but they need to know how dangerous their rhetoric is. Choose where you get your news from carefully and don’t support those who may encourage people on the edge to act out in violence.
LEAN TOWARDS EMPATHY. LEAN TOWARDS LOVE.
Where has the time gone? It is so easy to get caught up in whatever shiny thing is in front of me, that I neglect things… like my blog… like my playwriting.
The reading of my latest drama, “I’ll Be Waiting” was great. The feedback was excellent and incredibly useful. I even changed the ending after considering the questions that some of the audience had at the end of the show. I love ambiguity, but some things were not clear enough. Sadly, I have not thought about writing that much since then. What I need to do is finish tweaking the new play and start submitting it. Maybe writing that here will get me moving.
The photography is going well. I am really focusing in on just specializing on headshots. I took this new profile pic of myself today:
What else, what else… OH! I’ve been doing a TON of songwriting lately. I have written the theme song for two different, great webseries. More information to come on those soon. Also, I wrote a plug theme for my favorite comedy podcast, Comedy Bang Bang. They played on their first ever videotapped podcast and broadcast on youtube. So, I was the first plug song composer to get to see the comedians dance / react to my music. It was pretty great. Pretty freaking great. You can view and hear my song at the 57 minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=tpBLYhbljFI#t=3443s
It is by far the oddest song I’ve ever written since normally I stick to musicals and singer/songwriter stuff. Doing an R&B song in falsetto surprised even myself, which is why I think it worked.
Anyhow, I apologize for not having more to say. I just wanted my placeholder to be something more recent. If anything exciting happens, I’ll let you know :)
This list contains no synths, drum machines or auto-tuned vocals (my apologies to Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber). These are my favorite versions of the best 50 Christmas songs. Feel free to comment below regarding the songs I egregiously missed, as I’m sure there are many.
If you want to listen to the first 30 songs of this playlist, here they are on Spotify: http://t.co/NUco4TTb
- The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole: If God doesn’t sound like Nat, I’m going to be sorely disappointed. His buttery, soulful voice rests gently on a bed of strings and jazz guitar. It’s perfection. (Alternative version: Mel Torme wrote this classic and his live version on the Traditional Christmas Classics album is a tour de force of loveliness)
- White Christmas – Bing Crosby: I prefer the slightly less racist version from the White Christmas movie than the one from Holiday Inn. The strings and choir take turns backing up Bing’s deep, deep, deep tone. Besides, there is a brief whistle solo. How great is that?
- Merry Christmas Darling – Carpenters: This song has AMAZING harmonies, a gorgeous performance by Karen and the word Christmasing used as a verb. Sidebar: Every time I hear this song while in Los Angeles it makes me wish I was with my family in Michigan. Sidebar2: It has an 11 second saxophone solo. Any longer and it would be that song with a lame saxophone solo.
- This Christmas – Donny Hathaway: Donny co-wrote this classic. Do not accept alternative versions. Chris Brown’s version is the version that pops up first when you search for this song. Fix this, America.
- Skating – Vince Guaraldi Trio: No one made jazz music as accessible as Vince. The change that happens in this song at the one minute mark is extraordinary. How can you hear this and NOT think of skating?
- Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow – Frank Sinatra: 1:38, Frank says, “but that fire is mmmmmmmmm delightful.” (Alternative version: If it wasn’t for the “mmmmmmm delightful,” I was going to choose Harry Connick Jr’s version)
- Baby It’s Cold Outside – Johnny Mercer, Margaret Whiting: It’s difficult to get the right chemistry for this song. It has to be sexy, but subtle. James Taylor is too sweet and Dean Martin is trying too hard to liquor her up. This classic version is tonally perfect.
- Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) – Duke Ellington: If you saw the Nutcracker a million times but haven’t heard Duke Ellington’s versions, do yourself a favor and do it, like now. You will instantly feel cooler. They are all great.
- Christmas Scat – Muppet Christmas Carol: It’s only 23 seconds long, but it is perfect. Try to picture Robin on Kermit’s shoulder and NOT smile.
- Carol of the Bells – George Winston: I LOVE this song and George’s piano version is freakin’ gorgeous. For some reason I imagine myself eating waffles while listening to it. You’ll have to ask my mom why that is. (Alternative versions: Pentatonix has a really cool acapella version and the Piano Guys has a great string version.
- Happy Christmas (War Is Over) – John & Yoko: Imagine a world where this song will no longer be relevant. (This would be higher if it weren’t for Yoko’s backup vocals – I don’t think she broke up the Beatles or anything, she just can’t sing)
- Dona Nobis Pacem – Richard Stolzman: If you don’t know this GORGEOUS song, check it out. It is beautiful and peaceful and has a 100% chance of calming you down at all times. (The translation means “Give Us Peace”)
- (It Must’ve Been Ol’) Santa Claus – Harry Connick Jr: This may be the most fun song on this list. You just want to hang out with this band.
- Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio: I prefer the instrumental version, but it’s great with vocal too. Vince is simply integral to all of my holidays.
- All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey: This is probably the best modern Christmas song. This song explodes with energy and Mariah is at her best. (Alternative Version: Michael Buble’ has a nice version, but it doesn’t match Mariah’s energy)
- That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! – Sufjan Stevens: This is the only song on the list that I listen to year round. It’s so beautiful and sad.
- All That I Want – The Weepies: I lied in #16, I listen to this song year-round too. This is right up my alley.
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings – Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan: Both of these songs can be slow. Combining them and picking up the tempo was a brilliant choice. This song is fun and the harmonies are kind of brilliant. (Alternative versions: For an instrumental We Three Kings, look upSteven Sharp Nelson. I also recommend Harry Connick Jr’s ragtime version of We Three Kings)
- Sleigh Ride – Ella Fitzgerald: I love the instrumental version of this song (particularly the Boston Pops classic), but if you are looking for vocals, go with Ella. Always. As a rule. (Alternative version: The She & Him version is pretty fun, but it is a little too rockabilly for my taste)
- Jingle Bells – Michael Buble’ featuring The Puppini Sisters: He was born in the wrong time period. Such a classic voice. This is an upbeat, big band version that has the Puppini Sisters sounding like they are from a 1920’s radio show. (Alternative version: I really like Barbara Steisand’s double time Jingle Bells too)
- Christmas Waltz – Carpenters: Again, Karen Carpenter’s voice is all sorts of Christmas and the arrangement is amazing. Plus, not many songs talk about the meter: “And this song of mine, in ¾ time…” I think I’m going to start all of my songs this way in the future. “Coming to you in 4/4, as I march you out the door.” (Alternative version: Nancy Wilson has a lovely take on it)
- It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Johnny Mathis: This would be higher but I hate his A Marshmallow World so much it taints all of his music for me.
- Winter Wonderland – Peggy Lee: This is a great version of the only song I know of that asks you to conspire by the fire.
- Twelve Days of Christmas – John Denver w/ the Muppets: This repetitive song is almost unlistenable unless you are singing along, UNLESS you have the Muppets singing it. This version still makes me laugh and I’ve heard it more than you. Trust me.
- I Saw Three Ships – Sting: This version is a bit of a song cycle with great percussion and flutes. It sounds nothing like any other Sting songs I can think of. The bass that kicks in at 1:20 is perfection.
- Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt: Yes, Madonna does a great job covering this song, but she is just doing an impression of the AMAZING Eartha Kitt.
- The Holly and the Ivy – Mannheim Steamroller: I’m hesitant to include work by Steamroller because they often relied on synthesizers that date their music terribly. This, however, is really pretty.
- I Pray on Christmas – Harry Connick Jr: Try to not sing along. Just try.
- Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer – Billy May w/ Alvin Stoller: A mambo version of Rudolph with a crazy screaming guy? Yes, please.
- Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town – Bruce Springsteen: This would be pretty rough as a studio track, but LIVE, it truly lives. Hearing the band crack each other up is a real joy. (Alternative version: Jackson 5: because it’s great)
- Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives: I really struggled between this classic version and Michael Buble’s updated version. They are both great.
- The Christmas Blues – Dean Martin: A lovely melody that fits Martin’s vibrato perfectly. Listen to how he sings “Jan-u-a-ry”
- Auld Lang Syne – James Taylor: This is an amazingly beautiful version of this song. The piano and guitar work perfectly together with James, who sounds as brilliant as ever.
- It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Josh Groban: Look, you aren’t going to find a better voice than Josh Groban. His musical choices, however, are often a little too “soft music” station for me. This version, however, is pretty unique. The simple chord changes he has made makes the song feel free.
- Christmas Time All Over the World – Sammy Davis Jr: A lovely message that works because of Sammy’s amazing vocals.
- I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas – Aimee Mann: This isn’t a very traditional Christmas song, but it is a traditional sounding Aimee Mann song, which is all right with me. Sidebar: This song contains the only swear word on this entire list.
- Angels We Have Heard On High – Sufjan Stevens: In the hands of most artists, this song is kind of boring. Sufjan’s version is a lovely surprise. (Alternative version: Sixpence None the Richer have a pretty great take on the song as well)
- Christmas Is Coming – Vince Guaraldi Trio: Sorry, he had to be on here three times. I love this song. If you don’t clap twice along with the snare rim shot (at 0:47 and :50), you aren’t living.
- Joy To The World – Nat King Cole: Tried to find a better version for the sake of variety. Could not.
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Mel Torme: It starts with just his voice and then the strings emerge ascending and descending following his lead. It’s stunning. (Alternative version: James Taylor’s is perfect as well)
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Bing Crosby: Listen to the Spanish guitar gently plucking over the strings. It’s impossible to sing this song without copying Bing’s way of singing “If only in my-Y-y dreams” (Alternative version: Nickel Creek has a truly unique version of it that is great).
- Silver Bells – Stevie Wonder: He makes this song kind of cool. He makes everything cooler.
- Riu Riu Chiu – The Monkees: It’s kind of wrong to have a Spanish song on this list as sung by The Monkees, but the harmony is really good.
- The First Noel – Trans-Siberian Orchestra: I don’t find the electric guitar that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra typically uses as being very timeless. This song, however, is just a perfect acoustic guitar.
- Some Children See Him – James Taylor: This rarely covered song is really pretty. I simply love the melody and it fits Taylor’s voice so, so well.
- Christmas Lights – Coldplay: This kind of sounds like every Coldplay song, but that’s okay. It’s still good. All their stuff is pretty good. Admit it.
- O Holy Night – Pentatonix: This song is pretty but it can be kind of boring. I particularly like the harmonies in this version and I love hearing Kirstie Maldonado take the lead on this one. The four men in the group tend to dominate.
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Jackson 5: He watched long enough to see him go from kissing to tickling? Stop peeping Michael.
- Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis – Tom Waits: I love this song but I only feel comfortable putting it on a Christmas list near the bottom. You know… because Hooker is in the title and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. (Alternative version: Neko Case does an AWESOME version of this song)
- Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth – Bing Crosby & David Bowie: I kind of hate Little Drummer Boy, which is why it’s so low on my list, but the Peace On Earth counter part really works for me. Sidebar: if you haven’t seen Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly sing this, click here. (Alternative version: I’m shocked how much I like Josh Groban’s version. He tries something new with it that certainly makes Little Drummer Boy more interesting than it deserves.)
Good Songs Omitted:
Blue Christmas – Elvis: I think his vocals are great, but the repetitive backup vocals just kill me.
Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano: I have no excuse for this not being on the list. It’s a classic.
Fairytale of New York (particularly the version by Gianni and Sarah): I couldn’t get over one particular word in the middle.
Frosty the Snowman – Mike Jones: This is a really great piano version. It should have been on here.
The Chipmunk Song – Alvin And The Chipmunks: I actually like this song, but the chipmunk voices make it not quite worthy of the top 50 list.
Terrible Songs Omitted:
Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid: If this song wasn’t for charity, I would tell you how I really feel about it..
Marshmallow World – Johnny Mathis: This song angers me.
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney: As catchy as the melody is, those synths are devastating
Mistletoe – Justin Bieber: Has he ever sounded as white as he does in this song?
You can follow me on Twitter @AESPiano or check out my photography at www.BestLAHeadshots.com
No one wanted Crissy dead, but everyone had a motive. I’ll Be Waiting is a mystery drama that is centered around the disappearance of a young woman. This piece has a long history for me and I’m excited to finally put it out into the world.
Shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 2001, I wrote a play titled The Belt. It was a fast paced and complicated mystery drama that jumped back and forth through time as it revealed what happened to a young woman who was missing.
My friends and I wanted a project so we began filming it. Now, this is before everyone and their mother could shoot in HD with their phone, so it was a pretty big project for how little money we had. After a week of shooting, we began watching the footage to find that the sound was so bad, that it was unusable. I scrapped the project, put away the script and forgot about it. I even poached the song that I had been writing as it’s theme and converted it into the closing number of act one of Group titled “Inner Workings.” You can listen to that here: http://soundcloud.com/adam-emperor-southard
After Group wrapped in 2011, I began to work on a number of different project to see what would hit when I stumbled back onto Belt. I am a very different writer than I was ten years ago, but I absolutely loved the bones of it. It had potential. So I digitally dusted it off and got to work. I cut, I edited, I rearranged, I renamed it.
Then I sent it to The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble to see if they wanted to put I’ll Be Waiting in their Scriptyard Series as they did Group a couple years back. Much to my surprise, they wanted to play with it and we got to work. Between the first and second rehearsal I cut the play down another 14 pages. The notes I received from my actors and brilliant director were absolutely crucial to my editing process. It was now a streamlined mystery that clipped along.
We had a reading at the Kirk Douglas Theatre rehearsal space on October 1st and the reactions from the audience was absolutely fascinating. The play went over well, but there were a number of details that I could tell went unnoticed. I used that reading to inspire significant changes to the end and now here I am; excited to share my new work with whoever is interested in producing a new play.
It is an ensemble piece with seven characters. The set, props and costuming is simple, but you are going to want a clever lighting designer to make the blending of scenes work. If you are interested in reading I’ll Be Waiting, shoot me an email at AESPiano@gmail.com. I look forward to discussing my work with you.
Lately, my focus has not been on playwriting as much as photography. That is why there are many more updates over at www.AdamEmperorSouthardPhotography.com than there are here.
For example, I recently began a new photo series titled “Body & Soul.” Participants must come up with a quote or image that is important to them. Then, my artist friend Melissa would create body art with Henna before I capture their essence on film*
*film is not a real thing
Here are the first photos of this new and fun series:
Let me know what you think or if you want to be a part of it :)
I have recorded a video of myself singing the second song from it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pnui_AKn41w&feature=youtu.be
Let me know what you think. I have much bigger plans for filming my next show as I write it, but that information is too early in the development process to share at the moment.
Stay tuned and let me know if you are interested in being a part of my next work.