30 at 30 List #9: Christmas Movies

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

The day after Thanksgiving has been overtaken by Black Friday consumer culture. And while I crazily did find myself among those early morning shoppers a few times in my younger years, I now prefer to spend the day after Thanksgiving kicking off the Christmas season.

Although I hate winter, Christmas is my favorite season of the year. I even make an exception and appreciate snowfall on December 24th and 25th (and then pray for a heatwave on the 26th). Growing up, my family had a lot of special Christmas traditions, and many of them still go on in some form today.

Every Christmas Eve features a visit to my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Rich’s house, which is highlighted by the legendary “Grab Bag.” The first step is finding the letter. The letter from Santa is addressed to the family, and Santa always gives a shoutout to each family member to prove that he’s been watching closely all year long. At the end of the letter, Santa makes reference to the Grab Bag that he hides somewhere inside or outside of the house. The kids search for the bag, and once they find it, the real fun begins.

The Grab Bag is filled with small, unique, often silly gag gifts. Uncle, plays the role of Santa’s helper, doing his jolly best to read off names in entertaining fashion as each wrapped present is handed/tossed/thrown to its recipient. By the time all is said and done, the family is laughing hysterically and usually wearing something goofy such as fake glasses, bandanas, oversized sunglasses, or matching boxers over their dress pants. After the Grab Bag portion of the evening ends, the music gets turned up, more Christmas cookies get eaten, and the gang typically heads to the basement for a pool tournament that goes on for hours. It’s zany Christmas fun, and it’s my favorite day of the year.

Another Christmas tradition that is really special to me is the yearly ornament I get from my dad. Every year since I was born my dad has made a ceramic ornament for me. (Truthfully, I think I got spoiled with more than one ornament for the first few years when I was the only child.) Once I could think for myself, my dad gave me the option to request an ornament of my choosing. From Big Bird to Hulk Hogan to Bo Jackson to Adam Duritz, I have some of the most unique Christmas ornaments you will find on any tree. Over the years, my dad has made hundreds of ornaments for my siblings and I as well as ornaments for cousins, significant others, etc.  I’m still thinking about what I want for 2014, but whatever I decide, I know it’ll be something I treasure for the rest of my life.

Clearly I have a soft spot in my heart for these and other traditions that I have grown up with. They are a huge part of what has made Christmas special for me. I know that, in time, as me and my siblings start to have to children of our own, old Christmas traditions will change or stop and new ones will be formed. I can only hope that I will be able to create such love-laden memories as my parents have for me.

Another thing that I love about Christmas are the movies. There are so many great Christmas movies, and my family seemingly has seen all of them. I typically don’t have time for the Christmas season movie marathons, but there are a few that I make a point to watch at least once every Christmas season. With that in mind, I thought, what better way to kick off the 2014 Christmas season than by putting out the list of my 30 favorite Christmas movies. I’ll admit, 30 is a big number. As many good Christmas movies as there are, I had to reach a bit for a few of the selections I included. I promise the top-10 are well worth it though. If you watch nothing else this Christmas season, check out those classics, and you’ll undoubtably be feeling the Christmas spirit. Continue reading 30 at 30 List #9: Christmas Movies

10. Jamie Cullum

In honor of me turning 30, I made mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 10 is Jamie Cullum.


Jamie Cullum’s Twentysomething and “Twentysomething,” the album and the song, respectively, were among the most important musical influences of my past decade. Fittingly, the album was released in 2004 when I was turning 20 myself. As I traversed the decade I found myself relating to many of the ideas sung about in that song as well as themes found elsewhere on the album.

When it came time to assemble the ultimate Cullum compilation, I knew that Twentysomething would factor heavily into the equation. In all, 10 of the album’s 15 tracks made the cut, highlighted by the title track. As the final days of my life as a twentysomething ticked away, I often played this track, singing along “But I’m still having fun and I guess that’s the key / I’m a twentysomething and I’ll keep being me.” The track, which has landed on mixes before, most recently resurfaced on Matt’s Mix 164: 30 > 20, as the track opener signaling the transition into the new phase of life. The album ends with Jay-Z’s “30 Something” and W.G. Snuffy Walden’s instrumental “Thirtysomething (Revisited”).

But while Cullum’s signature song and album no longer apply in name, they will always have a spot in my musical rotation. Twentysomething is a rich mix of original and covers that put Cullum’s ability as a crooner on full display. That term—crooner—is typically reserved for the likes of classics like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, but Cullum is the 21st century’s answer to those legends. Although he skews pop a little bit, Cullum seems to be most comfortable and most effective in jazz mode. From a chill, mellowed out rendition of Radiohead’s “High & Dry”  to a jazzy twist on Jimi Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary” to the solemn, heart-wrenching version of Jeff Buckley’s “Lover You Should’ve Come Over” Cullum’s covers give the originals a run for their money.

The covers are great, but some of the original tracks are even better, led by “Twentysomething” which may just make a run at the number one song on a future 30 at 30 countdown for individual songs.

Continue reading 10. Jamie Cullum