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The 2018 Happiness Project

2 Jan

I don’t know much, but I know this: You can’t plan to be happy.

That said, you can make an effort to be mindful and appreciate good things that happen and that make you smile. And those things will make you happier. It’s a simple idea, but it’s an effective one.

And being happy has many benefits — not least of which is that nobody wants to hang around with a perpetual Debbie Downer. But all kidding aside, being happy has multiple health benefits, including increased strength and decreased stress, a stronger immune system, and reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Scientific evidence also suggests that happiness can help you unlock creativity, improve your memory, and make you more productive. So, it’s really not a trite or superficial (or sexist) thing when someone wishes you a “Happy New Year” or “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Holiday,” or suggests you smile more. They’re actually wishing you increased wellness and productivity. Continue reading

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This Time Capsule Playlist Provides a Musical Reminder of All the Moments that Mattered in 2017

13 Dec

The Lone Bellow at the House of Blues in Boston, November 2017. (Photo credit: Martin Lieberman)

Every December, critics (both professional and amateur) like to share their lists of the year’s best music. And while that’s important, and much appreciated, it’s near impossible for music fans to agree on what’s “best.” Musical taste is too personal. Case in point: For every Taylor Swift fan out there (and I know there are a lot of them), there’s someone like me who can’t stand her. On the other hand, I have a soft spot for other artists who don’t often show up on top 10 lists of best music and don’t win many awards. John Mayer, for example.

Point is: We all listen to different things and like what we like. And that’s a great thing.

So, when the end of the year comes around, I choose a different angle on the music recap thing, and prefer to compile a sort of “time capsule” playlist that provides a soundtrack of my year. Continue reading

Can I Interest You in Hanukkah Songs … that Aren’t Sung by Adam Sandler?

8 Dec

Anyone who knows me knows there are few things I love more than Christmas music. I made Very Marty Xmas mixes for 10 years, and continue to maintain an “Ultimate” playlist version of the mix on Spotify that includes everyone from Mariah Carey to Andy Williams to Harry Connick, Jr. to Darlene Love singing festive tunes, and is updated all the time to include new tracks.

But here’s the rub: I’m Jewish. And one thing that bothers me every year is that, despite how much I enjoy the Christmas season and all the music, I wish Hanukkah was better represented. Unfortunately, while Jews have written many of the most beloved Christmas songs (it’s true!), we haven’t done a very good job of writing songs for our own holiday. So those Members of the Tribe who are looking for seasonal music are often stuck with Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” — which was funny the first few times, but now, 13 years later, it’s just tired (not to mention totally outdated). Continue reading

Is This the Most “American” July 4th Playlist of All Time?

4 Jul

Photo credit: Stephanie McCabe / Unsplash

You don’t need a reason to make a playlist, but a holiday sure does provide a good one.

And today, on July 4th, one of my favorite days of the year, I like listening to one of my favorite Spotify playlists. Like my summertime mix, it’s a collection of songs all built around a theme — in this case, the word “America.” All included songs feature some use of the word America (or a variation of it) in a prominent way — which is why John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” qualifies, but, say, “Horse with No Name,” by the band America, does not. Bruce Springsteen’s “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” may be an exception to that rule, but come on. How could I not include it?

And, because it’s a mix for the Fourth of July, there are a few patriotic or “Independence Day”–themed or related songs (like Katy Perry’s “Firework,” natch) thrown in too. Yes, there are even some songs, like Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” that sound patriotic, but really aren’t.

I call this playlist, no surprise, American Tunes. Continue reading

The 2017 Happiness Project

3 Jan

HappinessSomething I’ve learned over the years is that happiness is not something you can seek or plan. You just have to allow yourself to feel it. To notice and appreciate the good things in life — no matter how small — that make you smile. Hopefully on a regular basis.

With so much negativity in the world, that can sometimes be hard. And this year, it may prove extra challenging.

So, to proactively prevent another sucky year like 2016 was, I want to do whatever I can to focus on my own happiness — and hopefully, in the process, share that happiness with others. Continue reading

My 2015 Soundtrack Was a Real Head Trip

28 Dec

2015playlistIf you want to get to know someone — to really know what’s going through his mind — the secret can often be found in what music he’s listening to.

That may not be true of everyone, but it’s definitely true of me.

Every year can always be summed up by a playlist of the songs I listened to — the good and the bad.

My time capsule playlist for 2015 is no exception. Yes, I listened to podcasts and other things this year (shoutout to Why I Social, Here’s the Thing, and The Sporkful), but it’s the music on my year-end playlist that fills me with more memories and that will last for a longer time to come. For example …

Continue reading

This Is the Best Christmas Music Playlist of All Time

15 Dec
Photo credit: TSgt Suzanne M. Day/Creative Commons

Photo credit: TSgt Suzanne M. Day/Creative Commons

True story: If you want to know what the best Christmas music is, you should ask a Jewish person.

Why is that? Honestly, I really don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with, as Sarah Spigelman Richter recently wrote on Mashable.com, a deep-seated sense of FOMO for “a culture that is in no way destined to be mine.” Feeling left out can be hard, so we appreciate the “Americanized, agnostic version of the Christmas season” that much more because it’s not really ours.

Or maybe that has nothing to do with it.

What I do know is that were it not for the Jews, we wouldn’t have some of the best Christmas songs of all time. “White Christmas,” anyone? “Silver Bells?” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)?” Etc. Etc. All written by Jews. So clearly, we know our holiday tunes. Continue reading