The Modern Holiday Music Playlist

Several years ago I noticed that our local Holiday Music 24/7 station played basically the same 10-12 songs but by various artists.  I decide to challenge myself with seeing how many holiday songs I could list without repeating.  Eventually this resulted in the Modern Holiday Music Playlist.

I came up with three basic guidelines for the playlist:

  1. The songs would be “modern” in that they would be original songs composed since the emergence of a recorded popular music industry roughly 100 years ago.  The list could get a whole lot longer if you added in traditional carols and religious songs from everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world.
  2. Wherever possible I added the earliest recording of the song possible, or a version of the song that is most iconically associated with a particular artists.
  3. The playlists includes songs about Christmas and other winter holidays, as well as winter weather themed songs that have become associated with the holidays even if they weren’t initially written as such.

I’ll admit that not all of these songs are not very good, but I do enjoy listening to it each year at this time.  Check out the playlist on Tidal or Spotify below, and let me know if you have any songs I should add.



A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part III)

A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part I) brought you from the year of my birth to 1988,  A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part II) covered 1989 to 2004, and today I am going to bring it up to the present day.

2005. 49 Up

I should note that I love the entire Up Series, but 2005 was the year that I binged Seven Up to 42 Up on DVD and then went to see 49 Up in in the cinema.

Honorable mentions:

2006. Pan’s Labyrinth

Honorable mentions:

2007. Chop Shop

2008. My Winnipeg

Honorable mentions:


2009. The Secret of Kells

Honorable mentions:

2010. Toy Story 3

Honorable mentions:

2011. Jiro Dreams of Sushi

2012. Brave

Honorable mention:

2013. 12 Years a Slave

Honorable mentions:

2014. Virunga

Honorable mentions:

2015. The Big Short

Honorable mentions:

2016. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Honorable mentions:

2016. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Honorable Mentions:

2018. Eighth Grade

2019. The Farewell

Honorable mentions:

2020. Wolfwalkers

Honorable mentions:

2021 (so far). In the Heights

Honorable mentions:

  • Minari
  • Raya and the Last Dragon


Thoughts on doing this project:

  • some years have far better movies than others. I think some of my favorite movies of the year might not make it to honorable mentions in other years.
  • there are still a lot of movies I haven’t seen that may make this list in the future.
  • revisiting old movies might make me reevaluate whether they still belong on this list or if they were unfairly excluded.
  • but this is a little snapshot of my favorite movie from each year I’ve been alive as of the summer of 2021!

A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part II)

A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part I) brought you from the year of my birth to 1988.  Today we’ll continue with another 16 years of my favorite movies.

1989. Do the Right Thing

Honorable mentions:

1990. Paris Is Burning

Honorable mentions:

1991. Delicatessen

Honorable mentions:

1992. The Crying Game

Honorable mentions:

1993. Tales of the City

Honorable mentions:

1994. The Lion King

Honorable mentions:

1995. Toy Story

Honorable mentions:

1996. When We Were Kings

Honorable mentions:

  • Fargo
  • Trainspotting

1997. Good Will Hunting

1998. Next Stop Wonderland

Honorable mentions:

1999. Genghis Blues

Honorable mentions:

  • Beau Travail
  • 42 Up
  • Being John Malkovich
  • Outside Providence

2000. Best in Show

Honorable mentions:

2001. Donnie Darko

Honorable mentions:

2002. Lilo & Stitch

Honorable mentions:

  • Amelie
  • Bloody Sunday
  • Gigantic (A Tale Of Two Johns)
  • Lost in La Mancha

2003. Finding Nemo

Honorable mentions:

2004. Mean Girls

Honorable mentions:

Stay tuned for the third and final part.  Well, hopefully not final.  Just bringing it up to the present year.

A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part I)

I saw this post from The Confusing Middle about listing a favorite movie for every year since birth.  I’m working on putting together a list of favorite movies of all-time that I hope to publish next year.  But since I had nothing else ready to post for today, I thought this would be fun exercise. So hop in your time machine to 1973 where we will begin, A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive

1973. The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Runners up:

1974. Young Frankenstein

1975. Jaws

Runner up:

1976. Harlan County, U.S.A.

Runner up:

1977. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Runners up:

1978. The Last Waltz

Runners up:

  • Superman

1979. The Muppet Movie

Runners up:

1980. The Empire Strikes Back

Runner up:

1981. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Runners up:

1982. Sophie’s Choice

Runners up:

1983. The Right Stuff

Runners up:

1984. Stop Making Sense

Runners up:

1985. Back to the Future

Runners up:

  • Real Genius
  • Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
  • Better Off Dead…
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Brazil

1986. The Mission

Runners up:

1987. The Princess Bride

Runners up:

  • Hope & Glory
  • Withnail & I

1988. Grave of the Fireflies

Runners up:


States I’ve Visited

Having visited four new states recently, it’s time to update my Visited States Map courtesy of the Gas, Food, No Lodging blog.

Here’s the key:

Red means I’ve just passed through, maybe seen a thing or two.

Amber means I’ve at least slept there and seen a few things. I have a first-hand idea of what the state is like.

Blue means I’ve spent a good amount of time in that state.

Green means I’ve spent a lot of time in that state, weeks at a time on multiple visits – or lived there.

States I’ve Visited in Chronological Order


New Jersey (home from 1973-1975)

Circa 1974

New York



Connecticut (home from 1975-1991)




Massachusetts (home from 1998-present)








District of Columbia

Virginia (home from 1991-1998)

Rhode Island




West Virginia



North Carolina

South Carolina











New Hampshire















National Parks I’ve Visited

Visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks means that the grand total of National Parks I have visited is now the unimpressive number of five!  This is one downside of living in the Northeast where we have no National Parks within day trip distance.

National Parks Visited (5 of 62):
Grand Teton
Great Smoky Mountains

Now I’d be happy to visit any of the remaining 57 National Parks, but at the pace I’m at of five parks in 47 years, I’m going to have to prioritize. So I made a list of the top ten National Parks I’d like to see.

National Parks Wishlist:
Crater Lake
Grand Canyon
Isle Royale
Joshua Tree
Mesa Verde

I’ve had better luck visiting other National Park Service units other than the National Parks.  By my accounting I’ve been to 54 out of 419 National Park Service units. Luckily, there are plenty more of these in New England and New York that I could fairly easily add in the near future.

National Monuments (4 of 84):
African Burial Ground
Castle Clinton
Muir Woods
Statue of Liberty
National Historical Parks (11 of 57):
C&O Canal
Harpers Ferry
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Minute Man
New Bedford Whaling
San Francisco Maritime
Valley Forge
National Historic Sites (11 of 76):
Boston African American
Ford’s Theatre
Fort Point
Fort Vancouver
Frederick Law Olmsted
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Lower East Side Tenement
Pennsylvania Avenue
Saint Paul’s Church
Salem Maritime
National Battlefield Parks (1 of 4):
National Memorials (9 of 30):
Arlington House
Federal Hall
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
General Grant
Lincoln Memorial
Thomas Jefferson
Vietnam Veterans
Washington Monument
Wright Brothers
National Recreation Areas (3 of 18):
Boston Harbor Islands
Golden Gate
National Seashores (4 of 10):
Assateague Island
Cape Cod
Cape Hatteras
Point Reyes
National Parkways (2 of 4):
Blue Ridge
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
National Historic and Scenic Trails (1 of 3):
Appalachian Trail
Other NPS protected areas and administrative groups (3 of 11):
National Capital Parks
National Mall
Wolf Trap

Favorite Roller Coasters of All Time

I’ve been thinking about roller coasters lately, so I decided to make a list of my all-time favorite roller coasters.  I’ll say this right off the bat that there are numerous famed roller coasters that make the “best of all-time” lists that I’ve never had the opportunity to ride, but nevertheless I think I’ve been on some good ones.  I’ve loved riding roller coasters since I was a kid when I thought that I would join the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) when I grew up, which I’ve never actually done.

I love the thrill of going up a big hill and then taking that big drop straight down, which of course leads to great speed (or at least the feeling of high velocity).  I love twists and turns and surprises along the way, as well as novel experiences that are unique to a particular coaster.  I particularly love a nice long ride with a lot of track and a combination of a number of features.  Loops and inversions are okay, but they don’t excite me as much as other features, and looping roller coasters tend to be shorter with few other thrills along the way.  For this reason I tend to favor old-fashioned wooden roller coasters, although you will see plenty of steel roller coasters in my list.  I also enjoy a roller coaster more with a bit of Disney-style theming and/or natural scenery, and feel a bit disappointed by roller coasters that run through a weed-filled lot surrounded by a chain-link fence.

NOTE: I used the names of the roller coasters and theme parks that were in use at the time I rode the roller coaster, and they may be different now.

1. Big Bad WolfBusch Gardens: The Old Country/Williamsburg

Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA is the theme park I’ve spent the most time at, as my family vacationed in Williamsburg several times in the 1980s and then moved there in the 1990s.  For a few years I even had a season pass.  My favorite ride at Busch Gardens – and possibly of all-time – was the Big Bad Wolf, one of the earliest suspended coasters. The designers of this ride took advantage of its suspension by including lots of curves so that the cars would swing out and feel like they were going to crash into the buildings of a Bavarian village.  Towards the end of the ride, the train would be carried up a lift hill which we called “Oh Hell Hill,” because it hugged a hillside and only when you got to the top would you see an enormous drop down a ravine towards a river.  It was fun to sit near first-time riders and watch them at the top of the hill as their eyes bugged out and they screamed “Oh, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttt!!!” (Oh Hell Hill was an inacurate, but polite nickname).  My mother, who generally hated roller coasters, absolutely loved The Big Bad Wolf.  Sadly, the ride closed in 2009, but I will always remember the joy of “Traveling at the Speed of Fright!”

2. Big Thunder Mountain RailroadWalt Disney World Magic Kingdom

This is not a fast nor particularly thrilling roller coaster, but oh is it fun!  It’s entirely possible that I rode the Disneyland version of this ride when I was six and went there with my father, but it was a visit to the Magic Kingdom two years later with my mother that remains one of the warmest memories of my childhood.  It was one of those evenings when the lines had dwindled to next to nothing so we were able to get off the ride and immediately ride again several times in a row.  This is the only other roller coaster my mother ever liked and I’ve seen it described elsewhere as The Roller Coaster for People Who Hate Roller Coasters.  It’s a simple thing really with lots of small drops, twists and turns, and theming of a mountainside and a mining town that make it a joy to ride again and again.  Two years I took my children to the Magic Kingdom for the first time, and they loved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as well, and so we rode it again and again in the rain (and let me tell you that you get much wetter riding Big Thunder Mountain in the rain than Splash Mountain in the rain).  No matter what other big thrill rides I discover, I will always return to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for the pure joy of it.

3. Coney Island Cyclone – Astroland Park/Luna Park

I felt like I spent a long part of my childhood craving to ride the famed Cyclone, but I didn’t get the opportunity to do so until I was in my 20s.  It was worth the wait, and absolutely classic wooden roller coaster with steep drops and sharp turns.  It’s all crammed into a city block so it’s hard to tell where you’re going to go next, and it’s also a long ride although it’s hard to figure where how they fit in all that track.  I rode the Cyclone last summer, and perhaps due to my growing age and size, the bumps and jolts felt significantly more violent than I recall from twent years ago.  But the Cyclone itself is approaching 100 years old in 2027, so I won’t let age be an excuse for keeping from riding it again in the future.

4. Dragon CoasterPlayland Park

The Dragon Coaster is a classic wooden roller coaster from the 1920s that is similar to the Cyclone, albeit shorter in length and height, and not achieving the same top speeds.  Nevertheless, it is not short on thrills, and as an added bonus there’s a spectacular view of the Long Island Sound from the top, and a portion of the ride passes through the darkened interior of the Dragon itself.  I also like that other Playland attractions are built within the footings of the roller coaster supports. You may know the Dragon Coaster from it’s appearance in  Mariah Carey’s video for “Fantasy” and the movies Big and Fatal Attraction. I, however, remember it as the first “big kid” roller coaster I ever rode on.

5. Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden MountainWalt Disney World Animal Kingdom

While bigger and faster than Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, this is another ride that’s reliant on theming and tricks to provide the thrills, rather than high speeds or drops.  Expedition Everest carries its riders up a steep hill through a temple in the Himalayas and then winds its way through a cave in the mountains until coming to a stop.  We can’t forward anymore because the Yeti has torn up the track!  So the train rolls BACKWARDS through a darkened tunnel and it feels like you’re falling forever.  After another stop where we see the shadow of the Yeti tearing up more tracks we roll forward again through more twists and turns and then through a cave for our final encounter with the Yeti as it reaches out to grab at the train.  People make jokes that the Yeti audioanimatronic doesn’t actually work the way its supposed to, but I still find it impressive.  It’s a long ride with a lot going on along the way and thus an absolute delight.

6. Loch Ness MonsterBusch Gardens: The Old Country/Williamsburg

When the Loch Ness Monster opened in 1978 it was the first roller coaster with interlocking loops, and today it is the only one left.  Many looping roller coasters of that era would’ve said that two loops was quite enough thrill and leave it at that, but the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t rely on one trick and offers a lenghty ride of 3,240 feet with a 114 foot drop and speeds up to 60 mph.  If that’s not enough the scenery is gorgeous as the track criss-crosses a river and passes through beautiful forested areas as well as ducking into a cave.  Even the queue was charmingly-themed to look as if you’d gone to Scotland to join an expedition to find Nessie.  Busch Gardens has gained a lot more newer, faster roller coasters since I’ve left Williamsburg, but if I ever return I won’t pass up another ride on the Loch Ness Monster for old time’s sake.

7. Magnum XL-200Cedar Point

20 years ago I visited my friend and fellow amusement park enthusiast in Ohio and she took me to Cedar Point, the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World.”  Among the many rollers coasters we rode was Magnum XL-200, the world’s first hypercoaster (meaning more than 200 feet high) with 5,106 feet of track, a 195-foot drop, and speeds up to 72 mph, with the added bonus of scenic views of Lake Erie.  In short, it’s everything I love in a roller coaster!  In the intervening decades, I’m sure Magnum XL-200 has been usurped in all of its superlatives, but I expect it’s still a great thrill to ride.

8. Outer Limits: Flight of Fear – Paramount Kings Dominion

For a period of time in the 1990s, Paramount decided to compete with Disney and Universal and make their own movie-themed park.  At Kings Dominion in Virginia that basically meant slapping names of hit movies on existing rides, but the Flight of Fear was one of the first new rides introduced under Paramount’s ownership.  At the time it was themed to the Outer Limits, but mostly I think that was because they couldn’t get the rights to the much more trendy X-Files.  The queue wound around a UFO inside an Area 51 hangar as videos showed a team of investigators dealing with creepy alien things happening around them.  To get on the ride, you’d walk up a ramp into the flying saucer itself. This was one of the first roller coasters launched by linear induction motors, and it was stunning to feel the deathly silence of the crowd of people waiting in line as they saw the coaster accelerate from 0 to 54 mph in 4 seconds.  The ride is entirely indoors in the dark, like a devious Space Mountain, and it feels like you’re spinning around a ball of yarn, with even up and down difficult to distinguish.  This is another ride I’m sure has been surpassed, but it was a unique thrilling experience back in the 90s.

9. Ultra TwisterSix Flags Great Adventure

I remember the ad below vividly and the desire to check out this intense new kind of roller coaster on a high school field trip to Great Adventure.  Ultra Twister was unique in many ways.  First, you rode straight up the lift hill, basically laying on one’s back.  What goes up must go down, so once at the top you went straight down face forward.  The ride was designed with tracks supporting it on the sides of the car so it could spin in a spiral while still moving forward.  Then the car was dropped down to a lower track and went through some spirals in reverse.  I only got to ride it a couple of times, as on later visits is was down for maitenance and then it was moved to Astroworld in Texas (which no longer exists).  While I remember enjoying the ride, it does have several faults as it was a challenge to maintain all it’s moving parts and it was a very short roller coaster with low capacity. But I am a bit disappointed that this pipeline-style roller coaster was never adapted into newer, longer, and more thrilling roller coasters, because it was definitely a unique experience. Apparently, I would have to go to Asia to find one of these in operation today.

10. WildcatHershey Park

The Wildcat is a big, wooden roller coaster in the Pennsylvania countryside which features  3,183 feet of track, an 85 foot drop, and speeds up to 50 mph, plus lots of twists, turns, ups, downs, and other surprises along the way.  The thing that’s unexpected about the Wildcat is that it opened in 1996.  When I rode it a year later, it felt a lot like the roller coaster equivalent of the Oriole Park at Camden Yards retro-ballpark revival.  The Wildcat combines the great features of classic wooden roller coasters with more modern design features.  And in the past twenty years a lot more modern wooden roller coasters have opened and I must seek them out and ride them, because it is my destiny.

So those are my top ten favorite roller coasters. Have you taken a spin on any of these classic coasters? What favorite roller coasters would you add to the list.

Doing some research for this post also prompted me to put together a wish list of 15 roller coasters in the United States that I would like to ride. Would you recommend any of these to a coaster enthusiast? And is there anything missing from this list?

Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @othemts.

  1. Apollo’s Chariot – Busch Gardens Williamsburg
  2. The Beast – Kings Island
  3. Boulder Dash – Lake Compounce
  4. El Toro – Six Flags Great Adventure
  5. Goliath – Six Flags Great America
  6. Incredible Hulk Coaster – Universal’s Islands of Adventure
  7. Kingda Ka – Six Flags Great Adventure
  8. Kumba – Busch Gardens Tampa
  9. Lightning Rod – Dollywood
  10. Maverick – Cedar Point
  11. Phoenix – Knoebels Amusement Resort
  12. Revenge of the Mummy – Universal Studios Florida
  13. Superman: The Ride – Six Flags New England
  14. Thunderbolt – Kennywood