Tag Archives: Television

MakeSandcastlesNotWar’s Best Christmas Albums


Image result for Christmas in Boston

Image result for Christmas in Boston

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What’s up folks?  Christmas is less than two weeks away, so we got some more holiday-themed posts coming soon.  It already snowed in Massachusetts and the temperature is already dropping.  Looks it’s safe to that we must brace ourselves because winter is coming (Game of Thrones reference FTW!).

Image result for Christmas Albums

Image result for Christmas Albums

With Christmas just around the corner, there’s nothing better than turning on the Christmas songs.  Christmas classics like ‘Jingle Bells’ or Frosty the Snowman’ always lift my spirits during the season.  As I got older, I shied away from the traditional classics and aimed for some unique albums.

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Some albums came from pop culture while others were from my favorite type of music.  Whatever the case may be, each Christmas-themed album takes me back to a better time.  It’s time I discussed some of my favorite Christmas albums I discovered over the years.

Here are some original Christmas albums to check out this year:

Jingle All the Way – Béla Fleck and the Flecktones

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The first album featured was one I discovered weeks ago during one my writing seshes.  The progress jazz-bluegrass band from Nashville, Tennessee released this Christmas album on September 20th, 2008.  With classics like Silent night and a bluegrass take on Guaraldi’s track ‘Linus and Lucy’, fans will be sure to have a rocking Christmas rocking out to some Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.  Be sure to add this to your music library if you want to add some country flair to your Christmas if you want to have a rootin-tootin good time!

A Very She & Him Christmas – She and Him

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Shifting away from the country side and we enter the hipster group that is She and Him (who consists of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward).  Deschanel and M. Ward band together to create their first Christmas albums A Very She & Him Christmas.  The duo band together to sing notable tracks like ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ and ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’.  Hipsters who are looking for more underrated and trending Christmas albums should check out A Very She & Him Christmas this year.

A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi

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Image result for A Very Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack

Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas features Christmas classic with a kick of jazz.  I love watching A Charlie Brown Christmas every year and this soundtrack complements the TV special so well. Some tunes are just instrumental jazz while others feature chorus from the Peanuts gang (like ‘Christmas Time is Here’).  This is one soundtrack you should listen to multiple times for Christmas.

Songs for Christmas – Sufjan Stevens

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Another indie artist that released a Christmas-themed album is Sufjan Stevens.  Sufjan Stevens released Songs for Christmas back in November 21st, 2006, a five-EP boxset featuring Christmas songs and carols recorded by him between 2001-2006.  The boxset contains over two hours of tracks, so you’ll never run out of Christmas goodness.  Check out Songs for Christmas is you’re looking for a boxset jam-packed with Christmas tunes!

Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas Soundtrack

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For the final album pick, I have to bring out the soundtrack to Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  This classic story (and I mean the ANIMATED version, NOT the cheesy live-action film!) of the Grinch finding the true meaning of Christmas has always been my favorite Christmas special.  The song ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ provides lengthy and wordy description of how horrendous he truly is (I STILL wouldn’t touch him with a 39 & ½ foot pole!).  If you love the story of The Grinch, then you’ll love this Christmas album.

That’s it for my choice of Christmas albums this year.  Some featured cartoons, while others had a notorious hipster duo.  Whatever the case may be, Christmas songs will live on forever.  Music styles are changing, yet the traditional tunes of Christmas stay the same.  Who knows what new Christmas album will be released next.

Until then, check back for more Christmas goodness here at MakeSandcastlesNotWar.  Merry Christmas everyone!

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Dark Days of Netflix’s Dark


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Greetings, fellow readers!  The first snowfall of the month happened here in Massachusetts over the weekend.  Many places in the North Shore/Boston area got hit with 3-5 inches of snow.  Just in time for the Christmas season that’s coming up soon (in just TWO WEEKS!).

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Image result for Netflix

So what does a fellow PR pro like me do during a snow storm?  Binge-watch trending shows on Netflix, of course!  This was the perfect weekend to cancel plans and binge-watch the latest releases.

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One bizarre show I binge-watched contained a complex storyline within a span of ten episodes.  This show mixes Stranger Things and Twin Peaks, with a hint of German.  It’s time to discuss Netflix’s Dark.

Summary

Dark was released for Netflix on December 1st, 2017.  This German web series tells the tale of two young children disappearing in the German town of Winden.  The children’s disappearance brings light to double lives, fractured relationships, and a dark past of four families that reside there.  As the story unfolds, you will see a disturbing mystery that spans across three generations of families including the Nielsens, Kahnwalds, the Dopplers, and the Tiedermanns.

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Image result for Netflix Dark

Time travel plays a major part of the series.  The nonlinear story line takes readers back to three sets of years: 1953, 1986, 2019 (all spanning 33 years apart from each other).  Each event that unfolds in the time period produces a drastic effect for the other time period.  This possibility of time travel, as highlighted within the show, leads to problems with casual order of events and facts of history.  These problems are often illustrated by the Grandfather Paradox.

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Throughout the series, Dark makes reference to the 33-year lunar cycle.  The solar year has approximately 365 days and the lunar year has about 354 days.  After every 33 solar years, there is a difference of one solar year between the lunar and solar calendar.  It’s explained multiple times in Dark (being that the years are spanned out 33 years apart).

Concluding Verdict

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Image result for Netflix Dark

The ending verdict?  Dark was absolutely amazing to watch!  Even with the amount of lemon skunk cannabis I consumed earlier, I truly enjoyed the ever-complex storyline.  This is one of those series that you really have to pay attention at all times.  You have to watch for when the story shifts during each time period (hint: look at the fashion trends and you’ll figure it out!).  These shifts in time period made for a truly mind-boggling mystery that unraveled soon enough.

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It may not have the ‘upside-down’ concept like Stranger Things, but Dark provides a twisted secret in the forest.  Better yet, Dark is a more mature version of Stranger Things (what with the gruesome family history in Winden).  Dark also had that small-town, mine-shaft community similar to Twin Peaks.  The Netflix series was different from Twin Peaks in the sense that these disappearances were through a more complex and real occurrence.

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In the end, Dark is definitely worth checking out.  The nights are getting longer and the weather is growing colder, so this is definitely a Netflix series worth binge-watching.  If you long for Stranger Things, then Dark should be able to fill that hole in your heart for the upside-down world.

Pull up your warmest blankest and get ready to binge-watch the darkest Netflix thriller Dark.

AHS Cult Season Finale + Final Thoughts


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Last Tuesday was the season finale of American Horror Story: Cult.  It’s been more than two months since we dived into the cult theme for this season’s chapter.  We dealt with creepy clowns, crazed neighbors, bouts of betrayal, brutal acts of revenge, and one insane cult leader.  Other than the crazy cult that Kai initiated, we dived into the true horror stories of bizarre cult leaders of the 20th century.

Let’s start with a quick summary of what went down during the finale:

Summary

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Image result for AHS Cult Kai in prison

We start the story 11 months later where Kai is in a maximum-security prison (more on that backstory just a bit).  Kai connects with members of the prison, increasing his army for his revolution.  He has more members doing his bidding, including employees of the prison as well.  While in the prison, Kai has been planning to kill Ally once he gets out.

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In the next scene, we go back to the event where Ally catches Speedwagon.  Ally realizes that Speedwagon was the mole of Kai’s group and proceeds to kill him.  Meanwhile, Kai bands his group together for a plan to massacre one-thousand pregnant women.  A SWAT team storms through the Anderson basement, disrupting their plan and taking Kai away (this is how Kai was sent to the maximum-security prison in the first place).

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Months after the SWAT raid, Ally reveals to Beverly that the FBI recruited her as an informant in order to capture Kai.  It was Ally who turned Kai over to the authorities in the first place.

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Image result for AHS Cult Kai Prison

Kai later escapes from the maximum-security prison, only to infiltrate a televised political debate between Ally and her opponent.  He tries to kill Ally with his gun, but failed to because the gun was unloaded.  Beverly later shoots him in the skull.

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After her political debate, Ally ended up winning the Senate seat of Michigan.  The finale ends with Ally donning an emerald SCUM cloak as she heads off to her next meeting.  Surprise, surprise – Ally became a part of Bebe Babbitt’s group to change the system.  That surprising twist marks the end of American Horror Story: Cult.

Final Thoughts

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This season dove into the themes surrounding a cult.  Kai Anderson, as well as other crazy cult leaders that were featured on the season, revealed some shocking insights about what a cult does to human beings.  As insane as the messages were, people still blatantly followed the leader’s every word.

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Some people are truly lost in the world, seeking for some guidance or hope that an answer will come to them.  When they are truly desperate for their answer in life, human beings will follow some divine figure that could provide them the results they are searching for (beggars can’t be choosers you know!).  Some individuals joined a cult out of fear or anger that they have felt for a long while.

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Image result for AHS Cult Clowns

Image result for AHS Cult Clowns

That fear/anger has been bubbling underneath the surface, waiting to explode at any minute.  The real event happens when those few individuals with those same thoughts band together to take action over their problems.  Kai’s members joined the cult based off of the same fear/anger they felt after the November 2016 elections.  After Donald Trump was elected, the group decided to take charge on this new world they were living.

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Many notorious cult figures, like Kai Anderson, made their mark on the world because of their revolutionary ideas.  Their hospitality, smooth charisma, determination, and ambition made them the valued leader of their community.  Some of their demands were disturbing, yet people blindly followed orders.

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As insane as their movements were, you have to admit that their community had some detailed tactics.  Whether it was Hitler’s strategy for the Third Reich or Charles Manson’s ‘Helter Skelter’ movement, these cult leaders came with some meticulously detailed plans for the world.  They were all planning something BIG for the nation and that plan went into extreme details before carrying them out.

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Image result for AHS Cult Clowns

Image result for AHS Cult Clowns

In the end, American Horror Story: Cult gave us a disturbing glimpse into the world of cults.  There were no supernatural elements this season, yet the cult them was frightening enough.  All of the main members joined Kai’s cult out of the increasing fear after the 2016 elections.  Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton were the main stars of the season, but the series definitely worked around these events.

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And with that, I can conclude that I’m done joining the cult and I’m ready to see what the next adventure brings us next season.

AHS Crazed Cult Leaders!


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The moment is finally here…tonight is the LAST episode of American Horror Story: Cult!  It’s been a twisting and bizarre chapter this year, what with this insane cult storyline.  Kai’s army is growing stronger all while killing off his loyal followers (Beverly and Ally are the last remaining main members so far!).

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            Before heading into the final episode, we were introduced to some stories about notable cult figures.  Kai held meetings with his army to discuss the stories of David Koresh, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite, and even Charles Manson.  Out of all of the crazed cult leaders in the country, Kai looked up to Charles Manson the most.  But what’s crazier than Kai’s fascination with these leaders are the bizarre stories about the leaders themselves.

Here are the shockingly true stories about the cult leaders mentioned in the past two episodes:

Marshall Applewhite

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Our first crazed cult leader is Marshall Applewhite.  Marshall Applewhite hailed from Texas and founded a cult known as the Heaven’s Gate religious group.  He organized a mass suicide event in 1997, claiming thirty-nine people during the ritual.  The group believed that an accompanying spaceship would take their spirits on board to a journey towards another planet.  In order to ascend into the spaceship, members of the group committed suicide within their mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, California.

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Image result for marshall applewhite

A media circus followed after discovering their bodies and much discussion was held over Applewhite’s actions.  Applewhite was featured on the covers of Newsweek and Time on April 7th, 1997.  His story was featured everywhere in the nation.

David Koresh

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Image result for David Koresh

David Koresh is most famous for the Waco Seige back in the early 90s.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) raided Mount Carmel Center (where David held his prisoners hostage).  This standoff lasted 51 days ended on April 19th when U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno approved final assault where the Branch Davidians were to be removed by force.

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During the course of the assault, the church building caught on fire.  80 Branch Davidians, including David Koresh, were barricaded inside the building.  Medical examiner reported of people being shot or even stabbed while inside the building.   It was a bizarre standoff event that ended in a fiery blaze (LITERALLY!).

Jim Jones

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Image result for Jim Jones

Jim Jones’s historical episode gave rise to the term ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’.  He organized a mass murder-suicide with over 900 of his followers in Jonestown, Guyana.  Him and other group members discussed how the group should commit a ‘revolutionary suicide’ by drinking grape-flavored Flavor Aid mixed with cyanide.  Temple films showed Jones opening a container full of Kool Aid for his group.

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Even as members cried in hysterics, Jim Jones calmed them his soothing charisma.  He pushed them to commit this so-called ‘revolutionary’ act.  It resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilian life through a deliberate act (that is, until the 9/11 attacks).

Charles Manson

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Last but not least is the most notorious crazed cult leader of all – Charles Manson.  Charles Manson established the Manson family, a quasi-commune that rose in California around the late 60s.  His followers committed a series of nine murders at four locations between July-August 1969.  He was found guilty in 1971 of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for deaths of seven people.

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Anyone familiar with the former TV series Aquarius would remember the story of Charlie’s journey with his community.  Both TV series refer back to the atrocious time when the Manson Family committed the murders around southern California.  To this day, Manson is serving multiple life sentences in Corcoran at California State prison.

That’s it for today’s discussion of the crazed cult leaders featured in American Horror Story: Cult.  Some provided sedatives to ‘leave their bodies’ or spark a ‘revolution’ while others simply created a strong army that would do their bidding.  Cult leaders have a lot of powers over their followers, severing ties with those who are their weakest link.

Kai’s army is growing stronger and it will all go down tonight at 10 PM on FX!

IT’S ALIVE — at Peabody Essex Museum!


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Happy Monday everyone!  Fall is still in the air and Thanksgiving is just around the corner (just TEN days!).  Halloween may already be over with, but the spookiness still lingers on around the Witch city of Salem.

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Even before the hasty Halloween month of October, the Peabody Essex Museum opened up their own horror themed exhibit since August.  The exhibit is titled ‘It’s Alive!’, featuring Kirk Hammett’s collection of horror and sci-fi movie posters (metal fans would know Kirk as lead guitarist for Metallica since 1983!).  Kirk Hammett has been working on his movie poster collection for decades and his various posters became one of many exhibits for the Peabody Essex Museum.  His horror and sci-fi movie poster collection were an essential source of inspiration that fueled his own musical creativity.

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I got to check out this exhibit yesterday and was blown away by some of these colorful posters.  Some posters I recognized from watching the films while others were completely new titles to me.  Nevertheless, it was quite an entertaining event to check out.  Here were the overall highlights from yesterday’s adventure:

Horrifyingly Amazing Posters

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First thing that caught my attention were the posters.  Various movie posters were hung around the walls of the exhibit.  The collection history starts around the 1920s and ends within the 80s.  While there weren’t many modern films featured, there were still some notable titles and themes I enjoy.

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One common horror theme I noticed were monsters, especially vampires.  Dracula was a huge hit in the movies, spurring what would be the start of vampire movies throughout the decades.  Vampires were especially a huge hit in the Hollywood creative pool from the 1990s-2000s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, anyone?).

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Another common horror theme I passed through was zombies.  Zombies had its roots from Haitian folklore and the voodoo religion.  They have been a popular type of monster for horror films (even before The Walking Dead invaded AMC on Sunday nights).  Even as time goes on, these lifeless creatures still make their ways into TV series and movies each year.

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Other than Dracula and zombies, Frankenstein also made an appearance for the event.  Frankenstein was originally written by Mary Shelley back in 1818 and he has been adapted into many works of film.  He even got his own bride in the film Bride of Frankenstein on 1935.

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As I wandered more into the exhibit, more horrific monsters hid around every corner.  Some looked really creepy in the posters while others just seemed silly.  Even still, it was intriguing to see how films were made back in day.  Many of these films existed way before I was even born, so we’ve definitely come a long way with that Hollywood magic.

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My personal favorite posters were from the films within the 60 and 70s.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the infamous poster for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? I remembered Ryan Murphy’s Feud: Bette and Joan back in the winter and the poster immediately took me back to that series (you can learn more about their tumultuous story here).

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Cruising just a few steps over and the poster for The Exorcist was hanging up.  The Exorcist was released on December 26th, 1973 and became an instant cult classic.  It’s widely regarded as one of the scariest horror films of all time (FYI, people literally passed out after watching the film in theaters!).

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Across from that were the posters for Star Wars and Aliens.  These movies were more sci-fi films, but they made significant breakthroughs in the film industry.  Aliens took horror sci-fi to a new level with the monsters in space (their marketing stunt with the egg was genius!).  Star Wars was one of many films that took over the box offices many times.  Decades later and Star Wars still remains popular to this day!

Scary-Good Background Info

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Adjacent to the posters were some tidbits about the films themselves.  Some just featured the title of the film and when it was made while others provided some juicy story about the artist behind the work.  I really learned a lot info just from reading some of the cards.

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The tidbit that really got me thinking was about the various color scheme.  On the title card for Dracula’s Daughter, Karoly Grosz explained how black and yellow that is used boldly will stand out anywhere at any time.  Yellow reflects light on a sunny day while black absorbs it, making it a powerful contrast.  Many movie posters featured yellow and black in their color scheme, which really made the artwork stand out in your eyes.

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Being a PR pro myself, I understand how important color scheme is when it comes to design.  Utilizing a good color scheme is crucial for captivating your audience.  Use the wrong type of colors and your audience will be turned off by the promotional work.

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A lot of these posters utilized important design tactics to the very fullest.  Many of them featured lots of yellow and black to draw out that contrast.

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Reading these tidbits really added some flair to these artworks.  It’s always great to read about the grand history behind the designing of these posters.  Props to the artists for creating such masterful designs!

Bizarre Guitar Art

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One of the main focal points of the exhibit were the colorful guitars.  Being a huge fan of horror movies, Kirk Hammett fueled his passion by designing his guitars with pop culture flare.  Design tactics from posters like Nosferatu and Dracula were utilized to create these colorful sleeves.

These guitar sleeves looked absolutely incredible!  I loved the detail that was put into rearranging the content from the movie poster onto the parts of the guitar.  It was one of the interesting features of the exhibit other than the posters themselves.

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That’s it for my adventures at the ‘It’s Alive!’ exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum!  The movie posters, tidbits, and colorful guitar pieces were all incredible to look at.  It’s been a long while since I have been into a museum and I was glad to finally check out this entertaining exhibit.  Who knows where my next adventure will be.

Will it be another museum?  Another philosophical walk in nature?  A conference?  Stay tuned on this blog to see what will happen next!