Top Posts from 2019

Well, it is the end of another year, and this one has seen some really exciting changes in my life. I moved from South Korea to Thailand. I took two voyages back to the United States, one in the beginning of the year, and one during the summer break to get everything in order for the move. I got to visit Japan during the Sakura festivals and see what the hype was all about, and I got to fulfill a long dream of mine of spending Christmas in Germany. It has been an exciting year full of highs and lows, and I want to thank all of you for being along for the ride. I thought I would take the time to go through the posts that you enjoyed the most this year and list them in order according to their popularity.

#10 – Cherry Blossoms in Our Winter

This is the first poem to make this list, and it is actually one of my favorite poems that I have written. It really captured the moment that I witnessed during my trip to Tokyo, and I think showed why the Sakura Festival is so important to all of the people who live there,

https://johncollings.com/2019/04/21/cherry-blossoms-in-our-winter/

#9 – Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Even though this experience was more of a day trip from Hau Hin, it was still close enough to the place where I set up my base to include it in this area of Thailand. I had a lot of fun on this first trip out of Bangkok, getting to explore the country a little more, and it just showed me what little treasures I could find as long as I took the time to find it.

https://johncollings.com/2019/10/13/being-indiana-jones-hua-hin-thailand/

#8 – The Journey to Ring in the New Year – The Holidays Day 13

This was actually the first post I had during the 2019 year, and it told of the story of the struggle I had making it to my brother’s house for the New Year’s Eve celebration. Snow can be a beautiful thing, but not if you have to travel through it dumping down out of the sky on a holiday night known for people drinking too much and taking unnecessary risks.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/01/the-journey-to-ring-in-the-new-year-the-holidays-day-13/

#7 – How is This Not a Thing – Itaewon Day 2

I had many unique experiences during my time living in South Korea, but one of the most unique experiences was being sat down in an enclosure with a bunch of meerkats in a cafe in the middle of downtown Seoul. The Meerkat Friends has been in operation for over a decade and it is easy to see why so many people enjoyed a post about cuddling with a bunch of the furry creature.

https://johncollings.com/2019/02/03/how-is-this-not-a-thing-itaewon-day-2/

#6 – Massive Explosions – The Move Day 15

Only one thing can beat cute, furry creatures, and that is blowing things up. It is kind of a tradition in the United States anymore, and it is always a fun to be able to spend it with my family. I was especially impressed with the creativity that went behind some of the fireworks, and I am also impressed with how big, and loud they have gotten over the years.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/05/massive-explosions-the-move-day-15/

#5 – Ice Cream Asian Style – Back to Japan Day 1

Who knew a pair of chopsticks and a small cup of Hagen Das would have been so intriguing? It was another one of my posts inspired by my trip to Japan and this was even before we were able to experience the sakura. Funny thing about this post was we found a small little spoon in our bag from the store after we finished eating our ice cream.

https://johncollings.com/2019/03/23/ice-cream-asian-style-back-to-japan-day-1/

#4 – You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20

I am always surprised by what posts connect with people and which ones do not. This post was supposed to be a throw away about a day at I had to spend on campus of my old college getting some paperwork taken care of, but for some reason, people kept coming back to it over the year. I guess they feel the same way about that lyric to that Billy Joel song that I do.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/09/you-cant-go-back-to-the-green-the-holidays-day-20/

#3 – The Legacy – The Move Day 1

This was my final farewell to a country that I had lived in for four years. It was a bittersweet departure. During my years at the school, there was a lot of talk about “Leaving a Legacy” behind, and this was my response to that idea while saying goodbye to all of the people that I had met and grew with during my time there.

https://johncollings.com/2019/06/20/the-legacy-the-move-day-1/

#2 Downtown Bangkok

Making the move to Bangkok has given me an opportunity to explore a new corner of the world, and the city of Bangkok has so much to offer that it might take a couple of years to get to it all. This was my first attempt at making a dent into seeing what this city is all about, and I am sure there will be many more to follow.

https://johncollings.com/2019/08/12/downtown-bangkok/

#1 – The Arrival- The Move Final Day

There is nothing like moving into a new place. It is full of excitement and potential, but the only way I could share this moment with my family and friends was to write this post about it. The amount of people checking into it was almost like having a house warming party except I had not quite unpacked yet. It was still fun to show everybody the interesting artwork that was found in my bathroom. He has got a name now too, Smoke.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/30/the-arrival-the-move-final-day/

Honorable Mention – Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

When I published my first book, I was told that you would never know what would take off, and what would die in obscurity. This post has found a life of its own. There is hardly a week that goes by when I do not have a person look at this post about a funny bumper sticker I saw while in Bend, Oregon a couple of years ago. It has turned into the most widely read piece I have ever written, and I am interested to see if it continues to make a presence in the coming year.

https://johncollings.com/2018/07/25/bend-sucks-move-somewhere-else-around-the-world-day-39/

Thank you for visiting me site this past year, and I look forward to seeing more of you next year.

 

My Most Popular Blog Posts of 2018

First of all, I want to thank all of my followers, and all of you that read my blog during the last year. It was, by far, the best year that this blog has ever experienced. I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, and I appreciate that you stuck with me through all of the experimentation. There were a few missteps along the way, but what follows is the posts that were the eleven most popular ones last year, in order from least popular to most popular. I have excluded the excerpts from my books and my home page because those alway tend to be the most popular posts no matter what year it is. Enjoy looking back over the year.

#11 The Ultimate Boon – Experiential Education Day 3

#10 Grainy Memories – Around the World Day 33

#9 Luang Prabang, Laos – Day 5

#8 – Searching for Snow

#7 – Pyeongchang Olympics – Day 1

#6 – Visiting My Stuff – Around the World Day 26

#5 – Sundays are for Family – Around the World Day 24

#4 – Siesta Selfie – Around the World Day 46

#3 – Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

#2 – It is Now about the Destination

#1 – Taking Pictures of People Taking Pictures – Around the World Day 1

Thanks again for all of the support throughout the year, and I hope to see more of you again next year. There are many exciting changes coming and I hope to bring you along with me as they happen.

Happy Holidays!

The Best Movies of the Year 2018 – The Holidays Day 7

It has been awhile since I have done a list and since it is the end of the year, I thought that this would be the perfect time to put together what I considered the best movies of 2018.

10. Deadpool 2

It was not as fun as the first one, but this story still made me laugh, and took superhero movies into a new region that they needed to go into for a long time. The introduction of new characters and the story added just enough to the story, and of course the fact that it does not take itself too seriously make Deadpool one of the best superhero franchises out there.

9. Crazy Rich Asians

Yes, it is a totally predictable romantic comedy, and you know exactly how it is going to end even before it begins. But there is something more here that makes this movie worth watching, especially if you live in Asia. There are satirical jokes in this movie that point to some of the truths of Asian culture that an American audience might not get, but I thought were hilarious.

8. Bohemian Rhapsody

Even though I am over hearing Queen songs wherever I go (Give it a break Seoul), I still loved watching Freddie Mercury’s story. I do remember watching his iconic performance during the Live Aid concert, but I did not know all of the moments that led up to this performance. And speaking of performances, Rami Malek delivers a spot on one of this legendary rock star.

7. Isle of Dogs

I love Wes Anderson’s directing style. He creates this great cartoon feel with his cinematography and tells some of the quirkiest stories ever. This works even better when he makes cartoons. I loved the fact that he set the story in Japan so we would never be able to understand what the humans were saying, but could completely follow the reasoning of the dogs.

6. The Avengers: Infinity War

I heard that there were over fifty cast members in this movie, and I wondered how they would be able to pull off a coherent story with that much going on. But Marvel has always known what it was doing when putting together their universe. Since I had spent ten years watching various movies, I got to know all of the characters, and it was not hard to follow all of these various story arcs in the movie. Then they placed the focus of the story directly on Thanos which gave the whole movie unity. Nothing like this has ever been done in movies before, and the sheer scope of it is amazing.

5. Annihilation

I first was introduced to Alex Garland when my wife handed me a copy of his first book, The Beach. I have ever since followed his career as he moved away from writing books, to writing movies, 28 Days Later, to directing them, Ex Machina, to doing his first adaptation. He is just starting to find his stride, and I expect amazing things in the coming years. This is a tour de force that will keep you guessing and stick with you long after the final credits have rolled.

4. Hereditary

Last year’s Get Out showed how the horror genre was capable of making social commentary, and this year’s Hereditary shows that this genre should be taken seriously. First of all, this is a creepy story. Secondly, it takes from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft, never really showing you what is going on, and making you guess if what you are seeing are actually in the minds of the characters or if they are really happening.

3. Black Panther

I will be honest. When I saw that this movie was coming out, I instantly thought this would be one of the Marvel movies I could easily skip. I was sick of the formula, and I did not think that the creators could bring anything new to the Hero’s Journey that I had not seen from them before. Plus, I did not need to see another villain that I would instantly forget about. I was drug to this movie, and was blown away by it. Marvel fixed all of the problems that they had with their storytelling in this story, giving a blurred line between what was good and bad, a villain who had a reason for doing what he was doing instead of just being bad, and an ending that was significant for more than just the title character. To date, this is the best Marvel movie out there.

2. A Star is Born

From the opening bluesy guitar rift, I was hooked into this story. Yes, it surprised me because I thought I would watching more of a folksy singer-songwriter going through his missteps, and was not expecting music with a little more power behind it. And even though this story has been told a few times before in Hollywood, this update of the story was great. Bradly Cooper did not only do a great job of acting, but directing as well. And Lady Gaga, whose music I am not a big fan of, showed off some acting chops that I was not ready for. This movie was a big surprise this year.

1. BlackkKlansman

Spike Lee has made some great movies. He has also made some movies that I could have easily skipped. I loved the premise of this movie, but I had no idea if it would be one of his better movies or one that I should have turned the other way for. I am glad that I watched this movie, even though it gives my home state a bad name. But this movie calls back the reason that he was a force to contend with when he released Do the Right Thing. It made me think about the tension caused by race relations in the United States forty years after the action in this true story movie have taken place. I especially loved the digs to modern politics that were snuck into the movie. Spike Lee should be considered for best picture with this movie, and it will be a travesty if the academy once again snubs him.

The Other Top 100 Songs from the 90s – 20 – 11

20 – Soma – The Smashing Pumpkins

It might be the English teacher in me, but this song about the drug from Aldous Huxley’s novel about the world we live in really hits home with me. I loved it the first time I listened to it, and I have never gotten bored with every time I get to listen to it again.

19 – My Name Is – Eminem

A complete unknown who burst on the scene towards the closing down on the century, Eminem would eventually become the star that we know him as today, but it started off with this raunchy, obnoxious track that was fun and at the same time brilliant.

18 – Breathe – Prodigy

A few bands emerged quickly during the start of the electronic movement in music, and Prodigy was the one that demonstrated the most power with this song with hypnotic beats yet with still enough of an edge to make the blood in your veins to pump faster.

17 – Hey Man, Nice Shot – Filter

The bassline from the very start of this song gets me excited to hear the rest of it, but when I first heard the song I had no idea what it was about. When I found out it was about Robert Dwyer, the power behind the song became more meaningful. It is a song that should be played at a lot of politician rallies today, and maybe they will get the hint that they should start working for us and not themselves.

16 – Been Caught Stealing – Jane’s Addiction

When the 90s started, Jane’s Addiction was already well established in the underground rock clubs, but it was this song that brought them to the limelight. It also set the tone for the rest of the decade as this was the song that allowed so many other alternative artists to break through to the mainstream.

15 – Song 2 – Blur

If you would ask me who won the British Invasion medal for being the best rock band, Oasis or Blur, I would have to give it to Blur. They pushed the boundaries with their music more than Oasis did and this is the best example of how it can be done and still be commercially viable.

14 – Jeremy – Pearl Jam

This was the song that caused Pearl Jam to decide to no longer make any music videos because it pushed them into a place in the music world where they no longer felt comfortable, but was it really the video that did this or the power of the song that went with it? Jeremy’s story is tragic and one that we will never be able to forget thanks to this song.

13 – Paranoid Android – Radiohead

Radiohead produced another great groundbreaking video with this song, but the song itself took you on a journey. Often hailed as the “Bohemian Rhapsody” of the 90s, the three movements of this song blend so well together that takes the song from just another pop tune to an epic musical experience rarely reached in songs.

12 – Drown – The Smashing Pumpkins

Finding the complete version of this song is difficult because it is not on any of the greatest hits the band has put out. Instead, you need to look for the soundtrack to Singles which is the only place where the song first got released, but it is well worth the search because this is by far the best song the Smashing Pumpkins ever wrote.

11 – Tennessee – Arrested Development

This song always felt like summer. Every time I hear it I want to just go outside and have a backyard bar-b-q with a few of my closest friends. The mellow vibes makes your head bob up and down as the corners of your mouth push out to a smile.

The Other Top 100 Songs from the 90s – 30 – 21

30 – Charlie Brown – Widespread Panic

On the surface this might appear to be just another song playing tribute to Charles M. Shulz’s most iconic cartoon character, but a closer listen will reveal that there is a darker tale behind this song from one of the 90s greatest jam bands.

29 – Doo Wop – Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill changed the rap game with the release of The Miseducation of. It showed that soul could blend with rap to create an amazing sound and women didn’t have to be nasty in order to sell records. “Doo Wop” was the song that set the standard is still one of the best dance tunes out there today.

28 – Longview – Green Day

This song just proved that no subject was taboo during the 90s. Also, outside of San Francisco, it was the introduction to a band that would make a huge impact on the rock with world. The bassline is also one of the most original in all of pop music.

27 – Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve

Even though they never made a dime off of the song, there is not one person that does not think that the simple cello melody does not belong to this band. It is the perfect song from the 90s to show the unfounded bitterness that many people felt during the decade.

26 – Yellow Ledbetter – Pearl Jam

If you get to see this band live, this is the song that they end more than half of their shows with. Half way through the iconic guitar melody that Mike McCready plays, he will bust into another classic rock tune. I have versions of him playing music from the Who, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, all of which shows that this song belongs up with the likes of the classics. The strange thing about the song is it never appeared on an album except for some obscure greatest hits.

25 – River of Deceit – Mad Season

If you have never sat down to listen to the only Mad Season album out there, you are missing one of the best albums ever made during the 90s. It features some of Layne Staley’s best vocal recordings as well as bringing in some of the biggest musicians from the Seattle area such as Mike McCready, John Baker Saunders, and Barrett Martin. This is the most haunting and greatest song off of the album.

24 – You Get What You Give – New Radicals

This was the only big hit from this band, and it is still unforgettable. It features a catchy piano melody and lyrics that rip into the decadent behavior of some of the bigger pop stars of the time. It is a great representation of what a person can do if they put their mind to it, and it is even better when Gregg Alexander ran away from the limelight after it became such a success.

23 – Sabotage – Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys picked up their instruments for this song to prove to the world that a rap song could have original music with it. The screaming lyrics were a lot of fun as well. Bring in one of the best videos ever directed by Spike Jones and you have one of my favorite Beastie Boys tunes.

22 – Lie in Our Graves – Dave Matthews Band

What I love the most about the Dave Matthews Band is the fact that their early lyrics represented this Carpe Diem mentality. They begged for you to go out and live your life before it was gone, and this was one of the best examples of that philosophy. I also really like the ending of the song; it has such a joyous spirit behind it.

21 – Hunger Strike – Temple of the Dog

What happens when you combine two of the greatest grunge bands, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, together? You create a super group that nobody else will ever be able to match again. Add in the fact that you have two of the best vocalists, Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell, and you would be amazed at well these two harmonize together.

The Other Top 100 Songs from the 90s – 40 – 31

40 – Basket Case – Green Day

From the opening shout to the very last moment Billy Joel Armstrong finishes quickly strumming his guitar there is nothing else you can do but sing along because this is really a song about you, whether you want to admit it or not.

39 – Karma Police – Radiohead

Once again,, Radiohead stunned the world by demonstrating that they could combine an awesome song with an amazing video. Both of them left you wondering what you had just experienced which proves why this band was on the top of the music ladder during the release of OK Computer.

38 – Killing Me Softly – The Fugees

This is another of the remakes to appear on the list, and once again it might have been an improvement on the original. Even though Lauryn Hill delivered the lyrics with as much soul as the original, it was the additions of the words, “One time, two times,” which made this version stand out from the original.

37 – Hurt – Johnny Cash

Even though the previous song on this list took a great tune and reintroduced it to the world, Johnny Cash took this Nine Inch Nails song and shot it into the stratosphere. He recorded this song shortly after June Carter’s death and you feel the same pain he felt as you listen to the track.

36 – Jimi Thing – Dave Matthews Band

This band not only had hit records during the 90s, but they sold out concert after concert due to their jazzy fusion of rock music. This song is one of their staples during their live performances, and each time it is a little different. To be able to create such a song shows that it deserves this place on the list.

35 – Sober – Tool

What Dave Matthews Band is to jam bands, Tool is to prog rock. They put on memorable shows, and create amazing songs that push the boundaries of music. They also make some unforgettable videos that feature the songs and not the band. This song was the first one that sent them down the path to the creativity we all now get to enjoy.

34 – No Excuses – Alice in Chains

Written during a time when the band had a difficult time getting Layne Staley to the studio, they were still able to put together enough songs to out an ep that included this track. The song really highlighted their ability to harmonize as well as presenting another great song from their catalogue.

33 – Criminal – Fiona Apple

This girl stunned America when she demonstrated that somebody so young could have so much soul in her voice and write music with such adult themes. The video that accompanied this song just added a new level to the song when it showed Fiona Apple felling regret among the ruins after some party.

32 – Self Esteem – The Offspring

Another great song depicting the truth of what it was like being a college student in the early 90s. We all struggled with our self-esteem and this song just demonstrated the lengths we were willing to go through in order to battle with this disorder

31 – Killing in the Name of – Rage Against the Machine

Add some of the most original guitar riffs with a social conscience and you have Rage Against the Machine. You can’t help but to feel the anger anytime you listen to any of the tracks from their debut album, and this is one of the songs packed with the most anger.

 

The Other Top 100 Songs from the 90s – 50 – 41

50 – Story of My Life – Social Distortion

Add one part punk to one part rock-a-billy to one part poetic master. Blend it together, and you create an overall great song. Often one of the bands overlooked by radio, but they were one of the guiding forces through this decade of many giants.

49 – Get Off This – Cracker

I know many people are going to wonder why this song made this list when so many other radio hits did not make the list. This wasn’t even Cracker’s biggest hit. But that wasn’t what the 90s were about. It was always about finding that hidden gem that radio didn’t know about and this song always brought a smile to my face.

48 – Midnight Radio – Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Play this song late at night while you drive down a lonely highway. Make sure to roll down the window and feel the cool summer air race through your hair. Afterwards, you might wonder if this song does not deserve a higher spot on the list.

47 – Insane in the Brain – Cyprus Hill

This track introduced a new style of rap to the world, one laced with a mellow vibe but still had a defiance within its lyrics that made you want to stand up against those who have repressed you. It also introduced to the world one of the most unique voices from the rap world, Mellow Man Ace.

46 – Daughter – Pearl Jam

From a band who made so many great character studies into five minute epic songs, this was one of the best they ever told. It was also the first giant song that proved you did not need a video to be important.

45 – So Watchya Want – Beastie Boys

One of the leading voices in the hip hop market came from three punks from New York. Any time they came out with a new album, the rules of the game would change. This song blended the old school style with the elements of punk rock that allowed bands like 311 and Sublime to follow in this giant’s long shadow.

44 – Say It Ain’t So – Weezer

First, they had us come undone with their sweater song, and then they told us about the greatness of Buddy Holly, but it was the third single from their debut blue album that was the best offering that Weezer gave to us, insuring that they would be a force for many years to come.

43 – Don’t Look Back in Anger – Oasis

Even though the Gallagher brothers always denied the Beatles influence to their music, it was hard not to hear that influence on this track. It is often ignored by the radio so they can overplay another one of their songs, but when the day is done, this is definitely the better of the two tracks.

42 – Bullet with Butterfly Wings – The Smashing Pumpkins

This song displays the raw power that this band had. Not only did the guitar riff recklessly guide you to the inevitable conclusion, but Billy Corrigan’s growling vocals leaves you feeling that you have just been attacked by some strange kind of vampire.

41 – In Bloom – Nirvana

Just because I don’t think “Smells Like Teen Spirit” deserves a place on this countdown does not mean that I do not think that Nirvana should be kicked off completely. There are just other songs I would rather listen to, and this one has always been one of my favorites.