The Other Top 100 Songs from the 90s 80 – 71

80 – Laid – James

A fun little song about a guy with an obsessive girlfriend who he wishes he could get rid of, but never really does because it always comes back to the thing that was most important for him. One of the more fun songs from the alternative scene.

79 – Jump Around – House of Pain

Not even a Pringle’s advertisement can ruin this Irish rap song. Play this song at party today and watch everybody make a mad dash for the dance floor so they can jump around like a bunch of fools.

78 – Zombie – Cranberries

Many people thought that this Irish band was done for when they released their hardest song to date. It was a departure from the other soft songs they had been releasing but it was the one that has stood the test of time.

77 – All Mixed Up – 311

Who ever thought that there would be hip hop rock fusion band from Omaha that would make it big, especially one so obsessed with aliens? But that was the brilliance of the 90s, and this song marked the height of 311’s career.

76 – No Rain – Blind Melon

There was a time when I would wear nothing but henley shirts because of this video. It definitely was one of the more memorable ones from the decade and it wasn’t just because of the dancing bumblebee, but because it was accompanied by a real good song.

75 – Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters

Power chords strummed really fast,  and awesome drums were not the only things going for this song; it also had a screaming bridge in the middle that was so much fun to try to sing along to if you never ran out of breath before you got to the end of it.

74 – One Week – Barednaked Ladies

Half the time you sat wondering what this song was really about. The other half of the time you didn’t care because you were having so much fun singing along to the goofy lyrics.

73 – Shine – Collective Soul

Yes, the marketing geniuses who put together Collective Soul’s debut song clad them in too much flannel in the hope to sell lots of records, but that didn’t stop this song from being great even though it never really had a chorus.

72 – Freak on a Leash – Korn

Even though they claim to be the first band to blend rap and rock (they weren’t), they still put together a great song that had you screaming along. They proved that metal music could be funky as well as hard.

71 – El Scorcho – Weezer

Even though Pinkerton flopped as an album when it was first released, it has grown to be one of the most revered from Weezer fans, and this song is a big part of the reason why. It is such a good song, and it is sad that not more people know about it.

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The Other Top 100 Songs from the 90s 90 – 81

90 – Slide Away – Oasis

Before Oasis remade the Beatles song that they never wrote, they had a whole album full of edgier tunes and epic rock masterpieces. The name of the album even had more creativity behind it than the one that broke them, Definitely Maybe. This track from the album was one of the catchier songs that even made it on to the radio even though it clocked in at over six minutes.

89 – Waterfalls – TLC

In an age when gangsta rap and ballads ruled the R & B charts, this gem came out that blew them all away. Not only was it an amazing tune, but it had a social message to it that forced you to listen.

88 – Ray of Light – Madonna

During the 80s, I could be often heard talking about how Madonna had destroyed music and she was nothing more than an image selling sex, and I wished she would just go away. But then I heard this song and I couldn’t deny the creative genius that went behind it. It was the perfect dance song to help usher in the age of electronic music, and it was pretty awesome to dance to at the same time.

87 – Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind

Right when you started to think that alternative music was losing its edge because it was being taken over by big music corporations, Third Eye Blind came out with this song. It had a fun beat to it, and I remember playing it at many weddings because of guests requesting it, but I always had a smile on my face when I played it. Listen to lyrics some time and you will understand why.

86 – Unbelievable – EMF

Before the alternative music move really took off, a song from the genre would find itself on mainstream radio. The punky rock tune from the English band EMF was one of these songs. To this day, I want to get up and dance every time I hear this song on the radio.

85 – Better Man – Pearl Jam

Some people might claim that Pearl Jam, not Nirvana, was the most important band from the 90s. They had a music style all their own with a front man whose growling vocals were the most original since Robert Plant. Combine in the fact that his lyrics rival those of Bob Dylan’s and you have a force to deal with. This is one of those songs that present a picture of a character that only Eddie Vedder could write about. It has also become the sing-along at every one of their concerts.

84 – Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers

When the Red Hot Chili Peppers released Californication right before the end of the century, they were already a force to be dealt with, but people wondered if the best material they had written had already come. This was before John Frusciente rejoined the band, and Anthony Kiedis reached a new level with vocals. This track highlights both of their achievements in one of the beand’s best songs.

83 – November Rain – Guns ‘n Roses

Guns ‘n Roses will always be known as the band that created that bridge between the big hair bands of the 80s to the more substantial music of the early 90s, and this ballad was part of that connection. It went against the rules of radio airplay time by clocking in at almost nine minutes, but still had the solos and mighty vocals reminiscent of the time when rock held little substance. Without this song, a lot of the songs on this list would have never been heard.

82 – Just – Radiohead

If you have never seen the video for this song, go watch it on YouTube right now. It tells a story that will have you scratching your head for months. Add into that, one of the gritiest guitar rifts ever, and you have one of the best songs from any decade that nobody has ever listened to.

81 – 911 is a Joke – Public Enemy

Before “Cop Killer”, this song put to the forefront one of the biggest problems in America still persisting to this day. Public Enemy always had a social and political voice, and this song highlighted it better than any of their others.

The Other Top 100 Songs from the 90s 100-91

I recently viewed VH1s top 100 songs from the nineties and was a little offended that they think that the 90s was filled with a bunch of one-hit wonders. There was not one artist on the list that appeared more than once, and I thought this was absurd. I also hated the way that I knew what the top song was going to be long before it was ever revealed. It seems that the powers that be believe that Generation X can be summed up in one song by Nirvana, and somehow this band never produced another song worthy of note. So I went on-line to see what other people thought, and the lists were similar without many surprises, so I wanted to propose a list of the top one-hundred songs from the 90s that weren’t titled “Smells like Teen Spirit”. Keeping in true 90s fashion, the list that is presented is not always mainstream, and might have a few entries that you might not agree with but I don’t care. There is a bigger picture that needs to be made, and a message for all from my generation needs to hear. So here is the start of the list:

100 – Cantaloop – Us3

How can you go wrong with a great beat, smoothly delivered raps, and music from Blue Note records. This was destined to be a hit that still brings back memories of summer sunshine, and happy parties.

99 – Corn Flake Girl – Tori Amos

Tori Amos shocked the world with her song about her and a gun, but it was this song that really stuck with me throughout the nineties. Its catchy beats, and dark lyrics still haunt me to this day. Plus you never get to hear it on the radio anymore, so when you do hear it, it brings you back to the moment when this song was everywhere on the radio.

98 – Sex and Candy – Marcy Playground

Yes, the 1990s produced some one-hit wonders that everybody thought would be bigger based on their first offering. “Sex and Candy” was one of these songs, and even though it was the only true hit from the band, it was too good of a song to exclude it from this list.

97 – One Headlight – The Wallflowers

The big rock stars from the 60s had children who were starting to come of age during the 1990s. Many of them tried to follow in their parents’ footsteps with limited success. Jakob Dylan decided not to use his father’s name as he made his name in the world. Of course, it only took one hit before that idea disappeared and everybody started to see this young man emerge from his father’s shadow. This song was the most memorable, even breaking into some of the hard rock radio stations that stayed clear away from anything belonging in the alternative market.

96 – Kiss from a Rose – Seal

It took a movie for this song to finally take off, but the vocal arrangement is still outstanding and makes you want to hear more as soon as the song closes up. It simply a heart wrenching song that will never be forgotten.

95 – Are You Going My Way – Lenny Kravitz

The music from the 90s was not only about the music. It was also about the music videos being produced. It was the golden age for this medium, and this Lenny Kravitz track was the perfect example of how good a music video could be. Everybody wanted that room in their basement, and the Hendrix guitar rifts that went long with the song made this the best track he ever produced.

94 – Lightning Crashes – Live

Throwing Copper was the album that never went away as it produced hit after hit and this was probably the biggest one among them. It is hard to forget this song even after the first listen.

93 – Virtual Insanity – Jamiroquai

Another example of how a video could really sell a song. I remember watching it over and over again trying to figure out how they did it. Now that I know, it isn’t that exciting, but it still looks really cool. Add one of the funkiest songs from the 90s to it and you have a recipe for success.

92 – Crackin’ Up – Revolting Cocks

Before electronic music became a mainstay this song hot the airwaves. It was usually regulated to the late night rotation and the video played on 120 Minutes a couple of times, but this was the experimental music that made the nineties the nineties.

91 – Sweet Pain – Blues Traveler

Before their fourth album came out, Blues Traveler was already creating a strong following with their previous albums and the one that was probably the most underrated was Travelers and Thieves, but this album contained an amazing gem with the great ballad.

Subway Culture versus Car Culture

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I am sure I will be accused of oversimplifying things again, but I do believe that there might be some truth about my thoughts. These notions bounced around my head over the weekend as I took many different subways to different locations all over Seoul to enjoy the Lunar New Year holiday. Does the mode of transportation that a city encourages its citizens to take help to create the personality of that community? Do we start to have a different mentality because we have chosen to drive a car as opposed to taking a subway?

If you think about it, there is a different point of view citizens have when being forced to travel under the ground as opposed to above on the streets. A strange thing happens when you walk down into those caverns. You leave behind a sunny day in a familiar territory, and take a series of tubes to find yourself emerging somewhere new a half an hour to an hour later in another part of that same sunny day. Where you left is hustling and bustling because it is situated at a subway station, and where you emerge has the same feeling because once again it is at an another important subway station. It makes you feel as if the town is always in motion.

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For some of the bigger cities in the world this might be the case. There might be so many people out there that there will always be somebody that will be wandering around the streets, no matter what time of day or night it is.

You don’t have this same feeling when you travel around in a car. Granted, there are times when you find yourself in the middle of a mad rush hour as you slowly push your car closer to its destination. As you get closer to where it is you are going to, you have to start taking the side streets to get there. The crowds slowly get smaller, and smaller until you find yourself all by your self.

There is also the distinct advantage of finding yourself above ground. There is a whole world around you that you can enjoy. The scenery isn’t just the long tunnel that takes you from one place to another. It give you context to how you got from one place to another. You do not feel like you have been magically transported to some other place in the city; instead, you took a journey to get there.

You are also in control of your route when you take a car. Granted the more complicated subway systems will give you a few options of how to get from point A to point B, but it is still through a tunnel that is as straight as day. There is no option to take a side path if you feel that it might get you there quicker, or make the trip more enjoyable. There is only one path that you can take in a subway.

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With all of these advantages a car has to offer, why would anybody choose to live in a subway community? What could it possibly have to offer that would rival the ones rules by the automobile?

There is a peace of mind that comes from riding on a subway, as opposed to driving a car. You no longer have to worry about how to get to the destination; you just let the train whisk you off to it. And in the meantime you can enjoy the ride there. Whether this is reading a book, or playing your favorite video game on your phone, you are not forced to experience the stress traveling by car can give you. Add on to the fact that traffic can be one of the worst things possible to experience, and you will relish every moment you get to spend on the relaxing subway.

But this is not the best part of a subway society. When you are on a subway, you are forced to interact with your fellow human beings. In a car, you are in isolation. In America, on the rare occasion that you are in the car with another individual, it is still somebody that you are so comfortable with that you usually spend the time in the car in silence. On a subway, you are forced to be right next to complete strangers and try to find a way to get along during the short time you are on the train together.

If you start to think about it, how does this constant connection with our community affect our perspective on life?

In the car culture, do we hide in our automobiles even more? Are we willing to let more people into our lives, or do we only allow the ones we feel comfortable with into our little box? How does the world look from behind a bullet proof windshield?

Or do we engage in the unknown every time we move from one location to another? Do with look with anticipation every time the door of our vehicle opens to see who might enter into our world? Are we willing to let those people into our lives just so we can share the joy of being alive?

How far does this go? Do we scream from our computer screens or do we engage in conversation with our neighbor? Do we hide behind our walls, or do we open our borders to new ideas?

It sometimes strange the things we think about while we are on a subway.

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This post is brought to you by Tag: A Cautionary Tale by John Collings.

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No Worries, Mate

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It happens every December in the world of international teaching. The last grades are plugged in the grade book, students and their parents are consoled about the grades earned, and teachers flock in droves to the airports. Many of them look to head back to their homes so they can spend the holidays with their loved ones. Others look to escape the confines of the country hey are living to go visit one that they have never been to before. For me, it was a little bit more.

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I looked to escape the cold winter of east Asia, and breathe fresher air. I looked for a place with a sunny clime with people open to the idea of waving a hearty hello and not hide themselves in their heavy coats and shawls. It was time to cross over the equator to once again find summer. This years Winter Break adventure led me to the palm trees of Australia.

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Actually I was surprised when I came across palm trees out there. It was not what I was expecting. In fact, I really didn’t know what to expect from the adventure. All my knowledge of the country came from 1980s movie in which somebody was being taken out of the outback to find themselves in New York City or strange apocalyptic sci-fi adventures involving the quest for gas out in the dessert. It didn’t involve beaches and European architecture.

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In fact, what surprised me even more was the warm and friendly people that I found there. This was a country originally started so the British could ship their unwanted criminals somewhere far, far away. This included a very eclectic group of people. There was a woman who after her husband was hung, she carted his body back to her restaurant to display it in the front window as a sort of advertisement. There was a gang who decided the best way to protect themselves from a police onslaught was to forge their own medieval armor and used it to deflect bullets. These were the people that started this great nation. So what happened to turn them all into the nicest and friendliest people on earth? How did the harsh environment, the unwelcoming locals, and the original intent turn into something completely different?

It might have had something to do with the phrase repeated by many of the Aussies we encountered, “No worries, mate.” The phrase is almost a philosophy of life to them, and by adhering to this rule you can’t help but to become subjected to the laid-back attitude of the country and just go with the flow of the people around you. It made for one of the best vacation experiences I have ever had.

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I started my trip on the southern edge of Australia in the city of Melbourne. It was rewarding to the see the green of summer dancing before my eyes. It made me forget about the craziness of the holiday season taking place in the northern part of the world. Of course there were still small reminders that it was still in progress. Banners hung in outdoor shopping malls with pictures of candy canes and toy soldiers wishing everybody a Merry Christmas, but somehow they seemed out of place. But I chose to take the Australian approach to it, and not worry about it.

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Instead, I took the free city tram all over the downtown area and enjoyed the holiday season in style. I strolled through the city streets basking in the happy chatter being bantered about by various languages from the people enjoying their time in the place. I ate wonderful food and appreciated great art. One of my favorite moments came from when I was able to sit in Federation Square, sipping a coffee while watching a free showing of Elf on the big outdoor screen. Once again, it felt a little out of place but it was still a great way to spend an afternoon.

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Melbourne is a great city with great architecture blending the classical styles of Europe with modern designs to buildings and bridges. It gives the city a feeling all its own and it is one of those places that will be a great place to go back to years from now because it is still growing. There are many pockets of the city still in development and will have a surprising new vibe the next time I visit.

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The roads through Australia are great as well because they do not always lead to another big city. There are many places along the coast which surprisingly are not shown in the movies from this country. Its stunning landscape would look great on film, instead of the desolate interior usually portrayed.

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This coastline also comes with some amazing stretches of beaches. The water is welcoming and warm, the sand is soft, and these beaches could rival some of the greatest resort countries in the world. They are a huge draw to some of the top surfers because the waves that crash into them are the perfect example what a wave should look like. One of the best places to see this coast is along the Great Ocean Road that ends in the town of Port Campbell. This is another place in Australia where the landscape is in constant flux. The massive waves are constantly crashing into the seaside cliffs and pulling them into the ocean. There are a group of rocky pillars formed because of this action called the Twelve Apostles. The funny thing is there are only nine of these structures in the area. There used to be twelve but the seas washed three of them away. But don’t worry, the way thing are working a new three will form probably within our lifetimes.

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From there we drove past Melbourne to travel across the eastern coast of the country. It is one of the more touristy parts of Australia because in this small section of the land there are more beaches than anywhere else in the country. At least this is what I was told by a nice lady in the town of Colburra, one of the small havens along the stretch of highway that reaps the benefits of this small little fact.

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It was one of the three towns that we stayed in on my trip up the coast, the other two being Lake’s Entrance and Eden. It made the trip up to Sydney more relaxing instead of trying to squeeze the voyage into one day. The car rides were only a couple of hours in length and when I arrived in town I got to enjoy the comforts of the beach as the heat of summer started to sink in.

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The only thing that I would change about this part of my voyage is when I did it. The three towns basically covered the days of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. These are three big holidays in Australia, and just like in the United States, many people would rather spend these days with their families rather than working in restaurants or grocery stores. Because of this, food became scarce, and a little planning was in order to make sure that I had enough to eat. Christmas dinner might have been the weakest I have ever experienced as I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but there were some pluses for taking this part of the trip during these days.

At many times, places with great beaches become crowded quickly, and I can’t blame people for flocking to these sandy retreats. It is the same thing I was doing on my vacation, escaping from the cold winter of Seoul. I just wanted to find a comfy place in the sand where I could lay down my towel for a little bit while enjoying the surf crash. Every once in awhile when I felt the need or things got too hot, I would rush into the water to cool off or to play with those waves. For a boy who grew up next to the mountains, it is always enjoyable to be given this experience. It helps to wash all of my worries away. Sometimes these crowds can bring stress to a place like this, but on the day of Christmas, I went out to one of the beaches. The same reason that people had closed down the stores and restaurants also kept them away from the beaches. Of course, a couple of stragglers came down, but it’s obvious from the above picture and the one below how much of the beach was mine as opposed to just a few days later.

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But beaches aren’t the only thing Australia has to offer. Before I made way into Sydney, I veered to the west into the Blue Mountains. I was really excited to see these. Being in mountains has always made me feel at home. These were not the Rocky Mountains though.

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Yes, technically they were mountains, but I would still place them into the realm of rolling hills. This does not mean that they still did not have majesty, making traveling up to them worth the trip. There were many times I would be strolling around and turn a corner to see crags jutting out of the ground in spectacular form. They were also covered in a green that could never be replicated in Colorado.

If you ventured even further into the mountains, they offered some of the most dramatic caves I have ever found anywhere in the world. They rival the famous caves of Carlsbad, New Mexico, offering spectacular rooms and startling structures.

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The hiking and the spelunking made me feel like I was back in the Rocky Mountains except the nagging feeling that it was December and I should be skiing through the hills instead of hiking through the green beauty they offered. There were lakes and streams just begging for me to sit next to them and allow all of my worries to drift away.

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But there was one worry I could never wash away. I had a very important place I needed to be on New Year’s Eve. It loomed large on my bucket list. I always wanted to be at one of the places that exploded in sheer celebration the moment the clock ticked down to one on that fateful night. It would give defined closure to the year, and even though I am a firm believer that nothing changes on New Year’s Day, this is the one year that I felt I needed to put things behind me. There were too many important deaths, too much ugliness from politics, and too much stress from work. Sydney was the place to go to have the definitive moment in time I was looking for.

There are advantages to this place as opposed to the typical ones in America. Not only does it have an iconic place to watch the changing of the year, but it is not freezing. You do not have to stand out in the cold waiting for the clock to strike midnight. There are party places set up all along the harbor with great viewing spots, so even though the crowds do come, you do not have to fight through them to find your place. They even serve drinks and food, and provide chair rentals so you can enjoy it in comfort.

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There were a couple of things that made my visit to Sydney a little more stressful. Prices were absurd. The cheapest hotel room we could find during the week was $700, and a nice meal by the bay can run $100. But we had this covered as well. The University of Sydney is on summer break right now, and you can rent one of the dorm rooms for only $150 a night that comes with the typical school breakfast of beans, eggs, bacon, and most importantly coffee. It is located in a great neighborhood that is only a fifteen minute train ride from the bay, and it has some great bars and affordable restaurants that are more appealing to the more thrifty traveler. These great finds made what could have been a stressful part of the trip, worry free.

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The time I spent in Sydney was fun and adventuresome. Besides watching the amazing fireworks, I was able to relax on Manly Beach, tour the Opera House, and climb the Harbour Bridge. Even though it was enjoyable, after a bit I got those itchy feet again and had to move further up the country to the Sunshine Coast. This part of Australia would be comparable to Florida. It took some adjustments for somebody from the Northern Hemisphere to think about driving north to warmer climes, but by the time I got there I didn’t care much about this down under way of thinking. I was just happy to find myself in the sunny town of Noosa.

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This resort town on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef is a great draw for people all over the world. Many languages can be heard from the trails of the national park to the tourist filled beaches. The town also offers shopping for those rainy days, and a plethora of water activities to do from kayaking, surfing, boogey boarding, jet skiing, and just tooling around on a speed boat. It is the play area of the Australians, and even though we came out during the height of the tourist season, it was not enough to discourage us and ruin the fun we were able to have here.

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As the clouds of reality started to filter back into my life reminding me of my responsibilities back in the land of winter, I was able to reflect back on my journey through the land down under. I came to the realization that the philosophy of the people there is one I should adopt. Yes, we will have moments where we are troubled by our cares and worries and we lose sight of how wonderful life can be. We need to brush those worries because they will eventually resolve themselves and we can go back to the life we love.

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Bizarre moments will happen in our lives. Cows will eventually get stuck in trees (real name for this piece of art on the waterfront in Melbourne), and we will stare up at that cow and wonder how it has gotten this far. There are many Americans pondering that same perplexing thought right now. But eventually the tree will break, or the cow die, or we will take a picture of it to laugh at later and forget that it actually happened. The point is, don’t worry about it. It is what it is, and there are better things to concern yourself with.

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When we find those other concerns things seemed to be in good hands. Everything will work out for the best if this is what you believe will happen, and the only way to allow this to happen is to not to fall into the hype of worries dragging you down. The best thing to do is to let the philosophy of the Australian take hold, and live by the principle of, “No worries, mate.”

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Taking Back Black Friday

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Let’s face it, life is busy.

Sometimes it gets so busy that you do not have any time to breathe, but you still plug along through the grind hoping to find a moment that you can just enjoy. It gets even more difficult when you find yourself in a large city. You become just another face in the crowd. It almost feels as if society packs you into places like sardines so it can just shuffle you off to the next destination your busy schedule deems you need to be at.

It gets even crazier as the year approaches its end. Not only are you responsible for the usual things on your list, but now you have to squeeze in holiday parties, family moments, and shopping for all the loved ones. And just when you think you have everything accomplished there is that random person who buys you a gift obligating for you to return the favor. It is this never ending cycle of insanity, and you never think you will ever be able to get ahead of it.

The one day out of the year that pushes the stress levels to the highest and brings out the worst of humanity happens to be the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. We are told as a society that on this day, you need to go out and buy those Christmas gifts. You need to compete with your neighbor to get the best possible present and it has even gotten to the point that the corporations expect you to shake off the tryptophan daze inducing your good night’s sleep, get up a couple of hours before the break of dawn and stand out in the cold just so you can participate with your fellow shoppers in competing for those amazing deals.

It has even gotten worse over the last few years. Companies have started to promote the shopping frenzy on Thanksgiving Day. I know not everybody would agree with me, but I believe that this holiday should be considered sacred. It is the perfect time for the family to get together and share a moment at the dinner table. We should not ask to take people away from those moments just so people can go out and buy a bunch of stuff just so they can check off all of the people on their holiday lists. It is almost as if the big corporations are taking this holiday away from us so they can make more money. It offends me, and what I propose to do would make the corporations realize they do not control our lives. I want to show my loved ones that I love them not by making sure they have another present under the tree they may not need, but instead creating a memory that will last a life time. My hope is that people refuse to let the corporations dictate this insanity by taking back the day that was meant for them, Black Friday.

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The way to do this is to first refuse to go shopping on Black Friday. I know this might be hard. It is so tempting to go out there and snatch up all of those amazing specials, but they are really not important. Ignore that big huge sale signs with Santa showing you how you can save money. Instead, go out there and find those rare moments that will allow you to experience life with friends and family.

For a second year in a row on Black Friday, I voyaged to a new place and experienced something new. Last year, I spent my Thanksgiving weekend making connections with my extended overseas family as they got together for a Korean camping trip. This year, I downplayed it a bit by hopping a plane over the Sea of Japan to spend the holiday in Tokyo. Of course, with my current position in Korea, I am not given the holiday of Thanksgiving Day off. I can’t really complain though because it is an American holiday and I am living overseas. They are still kind enough to give us the next day off, so I spent the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day flying to my destination, and the next day celebrating my favorite holiday on the next day. I did spend it at one of the greatest commercial centers in the world, so when I saw thousands of people rushing around to attend to their holiday shopping, I sat back and enjoyed the day. This is when the thought of what this day could mean started to formulate. Why did I need to be one of those crazy masses trying to find a great deal when I already had one next to me, the friends I chose to spend the day with?

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I spent the day, instead, enjoying the cultural opportunities Tokyo had to offer. I strolled through the park that was the entrance to Meiji Temple, a Shinto shrine that promotes peace in the world. It was easy to see how it was trying to make this promotion because I felt the same experience as I enjoyed the serene atmosphere from the natural setting. It also reminded me of the other joys this country had to offer. Sake producers would bring large containers of their drink to the grounds to let it ferment while getting the blessings of the spirits of the king and queen who founded the shrine back in the 1920s. These weren’t the only ones that brought their drink to this site. Stacks of barrels of wine were delivered all the way from France looking for the same kind of blessing.

Many other people came to this same location to find the same kind of serenity. When we had finally made it to the temple, we saw many families with their young children hoping to get another blessing. It was also a place where a man and a woman could join their lives together in a traditional Japanese wedding. We were lucky enough to witness one of these ceremonies while we were there.

If serenity was not what you looking for, there are other experiences out in Tokyo that can send your heart racing. There is, of course, Godzilla Road in Shinjuku that shows the beast’s head poking out of the top of one of the various skyscrapers. There is the Tokyo Tower which is nothing more than a replication of the Eiffel Tower. It sit prominently on one of the bigger hills in the middle of the city offering amazing views if you take the trip up the elevator. I would recommend doing it at night. It makes you feel small by standing up there and looking at the glittering lights of Tokyo because all of a sudden you realize that you are just one of over 13 million people now inhabiting this small dot on the spacious world map. You start to wonder how anybody can stand out in crowd that size.

If the reminder of your place in the universe is not your thing but you still want to have the cultural experience, there is the Samurai Museum. It costs a little bit of money but the historic armor on display and the stories about the history of Japan is worth it. They will even allow you to touch one of the samurai swords and try on one of the helmets. These gems make the visit here worth your time.

But the real experience of Japan, the one that everybody needs to enjoy, and the one that showed my ability to take back Black Friday was to eat the various kinds of food offered in the country.

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Japan is one of the greatest places in the world if you are a foodie. There are so many different styles of food from different regions of the country that you can travel for over a year and still find a new kind of food you have never experienced before. Of course, the best place to find all of these regional delights is to wind your way through the streets of Tokyo. They bring the best of the best together in one location to fill up that hungry stomach. I have eaten food in Japan before but I do believe that this trip here the best for this experience I have ever had.

I was able to enjoy okonomiyaki which is considered the Japanese equivalent to pizza. It is basically a mixture of veggies, meats and cabbage thrown on a grill for you to cook. You wait until it is golden brown on either side and then you top it off with mayonnaise and enjoy.

There are also izakaya bars. These places are Japan’s answer to Spain’s tapas. These places offer many small dishes you can share with the rest of your table. Many of the dishes were wonderful at the one we went to, but we were given a dish that we did not ask for by mistake. I wish I knew what it was called because it would be something I would avoid in the future even though it was very popular with many of the other guests. It was some kind of root vegetable steamed then topped with a kind of shaved horseradish. It did please my palate as did other guests but that might have been just me. You should try new things, and I did, but that does not mean that everything I am going to try is going to be something I enjoy.

The other foods I ate on my day long feast were ones I had tried before and still enjoyed. Of course, the sushi and ramen I enjoyed were better than I would have found in the United States or South Korea, but then I am in the country of its origin so I would hope that it would be at the peak of its perfection.

We did enjoy an hour at a tempura restaurant as well. Even though I enjoyed it, it was a little overpriced. I understand it was a small location in the heart of Shinjuku which meant the location was in a prime spot. It made sense I should have to pay a little more than I would have if it was from the smaller town of Castle Rock, Colorado, but when I am paying almost three dollars per piece of tempura-fried vegetable then I do believe I am paying a little too much. But once again, live and learn.

Even though there were a couple of times that the trip did not live up to my expectations, it was so minor that I couldn’t let it bring down the better moments. It also made me proud that I did not fall into the temptation of the holiday season by driving myself crazy fighting the shopping crowd Black Friday loves to attract. Instead, I enjoyed the day the way it and every day is meant to be enjoyed, spending that time with friends and family. I challenge you to spend the next Black Friday the same way. Ignore the temptation of the big corporations and take back the holiday season from the stress it imposes upon you. Spend the day relaxing with loved ones.

 

Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit #1 – Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft

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It really doesn’t matter which book of H.P. Lovecraft you pick up, they will all be a collection of short stories that when put together will tell a greater tale of horror that makes you wonder about the world that we live in. The mythology he has created touches upon the darkest part of humanity and leaves enough of it unexplained to send your mind reeling to fill in the blanks. He understood the concept of fear better than any other writer out there, and he exploits that feeling in each of his readers. Lovecraft understood that fear begins with what we don’t know, so the mythology he created is always shrouded in mystery. The creatures of your nightmares always stand on the edge of your perception, but anytime you look to see what they are they disappear. It is the masterful turn of plot that allows your imagination to run away with what you do not know is there. This philosophy works perfectly for everybody who reads his stories because H.P. Lovecraft knew that what scared one person did not necessarily scare another, but that feeling of fear is within each and every one of us. By bringing us to the edge of that fear, and then letting us supply our own horror, he was able to tap into each individual’s nightmare. These are not stories to be read for the light of heart, but they are worth it if you want explore that darker side of your soul.