If You Read One Thing This Week...
Leah McFall - Home (ft. will.i.am)
Today's jam comes courtesy of Irish singer-songwriter Leah McFall. In her new single "Home" she samples the Edward Sharpe & Magnetic Zeros song of the same name and the result is surprisingly earwormy. Also, if will.i.am being involved is a turn-off, know that he only comes in at the end and thankfully doesn't stay long.
Keep this one on repeat all day.
I Want to Believe
For most people, when you start dating someone there are the usual questions like “How many siblings do you have?” “Where did you go to school?” “What’s your favorite holiday?”, but a question I like to ask, which I think reveals a lot about someone is:
Do you believe in ghosts?
Usually when I ask this question, people either don’t really have an opinion, or for the most part say “yes” or tell some ghost story from their family or friends (I need someone who won’t be rolling their eyes the entire time while I force them to watch “Celebrity Ghost Stories”). Having been a lifelong believer in the supernatural and having lived in a haunted house before, I know now that as far as I’m concerned, things do go bump in the night.
That is why it came to my surprise when recently I asked a boy who I have been dating: “Do you believe in ghosts?” and his response, without hesitation, was a flat-out “No.” I was taken aback, thinking maybe he was joking. I mean we had spent the morning watching “The X-Files.” “Really?” I said, dumbstruck. We talk about it for a few minutes but the subject is dropped, but I couldn’t help but wonder: Could a relationship between a skeptic and a believer have a ghost of a chance? (Please read that last line in your best Carrie Bradshaw voice.)
I mean, Mulder and Scully made it work, maybe we could? After the “ghosts incident” I later asked about his thoughts on aliens, and using science as his reasoning his feelings were that there’s really no way there COULDN’T be life on other planets in the universe. I was relieved that he at least believed in aliens. Also, since he is from New Mexico I took this as the perfect time to ask him about Roswell, and if he had ever been (he didn’t seem too excited to talk about Roswell, or my lifelong dream of eating green martian pancakes at some tourist trap diner there). I was beginning to wonder if our conflicting beliefs were making me the alien of the relationship.
Since I had been listening to Kumail Nanjiani’s podcast about “The X-Files” called “The X-Files Files” Mulder and Scully had been on my mind. The iconic believer-skeptic duo from the hit TV series who had been FBI partners for years before becoming romantic partners, despite their different views on the world (Scully’s based in science, while Mulder was always a believer in the supernatural). Scully’s beliefs finally changed to be more aligned with Mulder’s but it took years of alien abductions and spooky serial killers to finally change her mind. Will the same have to happen in Hell’s Kitchen for my new man to believe in the paranormal?
When we sat down the other night to watch the 1956 “Anastasia” starring Ingrid Bergman, I knew that Anna Anderson, the most famous of the Anastasia impostors had been disproven as the Russian princess thanks to DNA testing, but I still wanted to believe. I wanted to believe in a world that just maybe the princess had escaped and was living in Europe, only to be reunited with her extended Royal Family (and to be played wonderfully by Ingrid Bergman). I am always holding out for the unbelievable, until proven wrong… and even then still questioning forensic science.
Coming from the guy who had a Bigfoot Club growing up, where I would go hunting for Sasquatch in the fields of Maryland, maybe I had finally caught something that was unique for this lifelong cryptozoologist: A skeptic who I was developing feelings for. Who knows what will happen with the Skeptic, relationships can be as unpredictable as a UFO zooming around the night sky, but I did realize that I had found something much more terrifying than a ghost: love.
Your Weekend Jam
One of my favorite Sunshine House people, Viceroy, is back with this perfect summer weekend party track, "The Life" featuring Penguin Prison. You won't be able to sit still while this gem is playing. Now enough reading and start dancing!
My Lunch With Oprah
Oprah Winfrey, dressed as an ex-slave from the 1800s, gracefully stuck out her hand to shake mine. It was a moment I had been waiting years for, but I never expected to meet my idol, Oprah Winfrey on a sticky summer day in the middle of a field in Maryland.
Two years before our meeting I was sitting in Ms. Kelty’s Reading class, it was February, which aside from Valentine’s Day parties also meant something else to middle-schoolers: it was African American History Month. Ms. Kelty gave us a project where we had to choose a book about a famous African American and write a book report on it, a profile of the celebrity we chose. The books were from the school library and had been laid out on a table in front of the classroom, and one by one, each student in the class walked up to the table, quickly perused the selection and picked a book.
When I walked up to the table, the only book I remember seeing was an orange book, with a black and white picture on the cover with the words Oprah Winfrey above the picture of the talk show host. I vaguely knew who Oprah was so I quickly picked it up and went back to my desk. I began to flip through the biography that had a series of pictures of her from her childhood and in movies like The Color Purple and finally as the host of her own talk show.
The biography was not long, and I finished the report over the course of the week, and turned it into my teacher before moving on to the next project, but Oprah’s story stayed with me. I distinctly remember talking to my mother in the kitchen about how Oprah had come from nothing, and eventually went onto be an Oscar-nominated actress, a talk show host and running her own company. Ms Winfrey’s story stayed with me, and watching The Oprah Winfrey Show became part of my routine after school. It would be two years later that I would finally sit and have lunch with Oprah.
Back in the 90s, aside from her breakout role in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple and a small handful of TV movies, Oprah had not been in a theatrical film in over a decade, so when it was announced that she was adapting Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved for the big screen, there was a lot of buzz. Not only for Winfrey, who would produce and star, but for the task of trying to tackle one of the most acclaimed books of the twentieth century.
Now as an Entertainment Weekly-reading 13 year-old, I knew some of this information, but all I really cared about was the announcement that Oprah would be filming the movie in multiple locations, one of them being in Fair Hill, Maryland, about fifteen minutes from my hometown. Luckily my father was a local politician, and once filming began he would periodically drop by the set to make sure everything was going smoothly. It’s not everyday you have one of the most known people on the planet filming a movie mere minutes from your house, so of course I wanted to know every detail.
One afternoon my father brought my mother and me on the set. It was in the middle of a field in a place called the Fair Hill Nature Center, a place with hiking trails and paths that we would go during field trips in school. After a few minutes’ drive in the forest we came to a clearing and in the middle of the field stood an old house erected entirely for the film. There were some tents with picnic tables under it, a few vans and a trailer or two, but aside from a handful of people, the field was quiet. I walked around the set, having never been on a film set before I was intrigued by the equipment and the actors in their costumes out of character.
I turned around to see my father walking towards me with a woman I recognized, but not glammed out in her usual stylish outfits. It was Oprah, dressed in head to toe rags as a former slave with a hat on top of her head to block her from the vicious summer sun. “Ms. Winfrey, this is my son, Christopher.” Oprah looked at me, smiled, reached out her hand and said “Hello, Christopher.” A moment that I still have not forgotten, a video clip that I have memorized from the biopic of my life. I shook her hand and responded “Hello, Ms. Winfrey.” The moment was short, as an assistant came up to her and whisked her away, but it was later, after exploring the house, that I was brought back outside to sit under the tents and eat a Southern-style lunch with some of the cast and crew, including Ms. Winfrey, herself. I didn’t sit next to Oprah and gab about our lives over corn on the cob, but she did sit a few tables away as I ate with my parents, and even though I remained calm, I could feel her presence the entire time.
This was years before smartphones with cameras, so there are no pictures of me and Oprah on that fateful day, and it wasn’t until years later that I returned to where the field where we met. Just a few years ago my parents and I took a trip to the Fair Hill Nature Center to visit the old Beloved house again, which I knew had stayed erect after filming was complete. A park ranger took us to the field, but sadly, the house had been torn down and all that remained was an empty lot. I walked around the field, scouring the ground like an archaeologist searching for pieces of Noah’s Ark on top of Mt. Ararat. I was hoping to find a piece of the house that served as a backdrop to my meeting with Oprah.
I never found a piece of the Beloved house, but our set visit would not be the last time my world would collide with Ms. Winfrey’s. Aside from reading her magazine and watching her talk show everyday, I was also lucky enough to be in the studio audience a few times, even for a star-studded season premiere in Central Park one year. My life (like many people’s) has been forever changed by Oprah and who knew it was all because of a small orange book in Ms. Kelty’s reading class, and a firm handshake under the hot sun in a Maryland field all those years ago.
Trailer for Wild
Cheryl Strayed's Wild (which was the book that made Oprah re-launch her Book Club) is now getting a film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who also did Dallas Buyers Club.
Wild is a phenomenal book of self-discovery, in the same vein of Eat, Pray, Love, but judging by the emotional and beautiful trailer, this film won't be anywhere near as bad as the Ryan Murphy film version of Elizabeth Gilbert's novel.
If you haven't read Wild, do yourself a favor and pick it up now, and while you're at it pick up Cheryl Strayed's other book, Tiny Beautiful Things, which I will delve deeper into on another day (short version: it's a life-changing book).
Wild hits theatres Dec. 5th.
Song of the Week:
Zach Braff's new Kickstarter-funded film I Wish I Was Here hits theatres next week, but the soundtrack is already getting some buzz, much like Braff's last movie soundtrack Garden State. The album features original songs from artists such as Bon Iver and now this tune by Coldplay and Cat Power which I cannot stop listening to. I know it's not a real party-starter, but it's a perfect listen for a cool summer night under the stars.
I Wish I Was Here hits theatres July 18th while the soundtrack is out July 15th.
Welcome to Chris Reindeer!
Hello new friends!
Welcome to Chris Reindeer! "What's with the name?" You're probably wondering... Well, for those of you who don't know me in real life (yet) my name is Christopher Rudolph (Rudolph! Reindeer! See what I did there?!) and I am here to help you find your inner light.
"Oh no, bad reindeer wordplay AND New Age mumbo jumbo?"
Wait, wait. Hear me out.
You know Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Do you remember the moral of his story? To embrace who you are, even if that means being brave and standing out from the crowd. Rudolph eventually used his nose to save the day, the light that he always had. Just like Rudolph, we all have the light within us, and through my various postings on spirituality and pop culture I hope to help you discover that.
Just like Glinda says in "The Wizard of Oz," "You always had the power..." Which means we are all powerful, and we need nothing more than what is already within us, the power to change and brighten our lives with our inner light.
Aside from spirituality I will also be posting about entertainment and pop culture, topics that I have loved my whole life and written about professionally for the past decade. I will be posting songs, pictures, TV and book picks that will hopefully add joy to your life and make you think.
Spirituality and pop culture? Those two mix together? Yes, they do. Here, on Chris Reindeer.