Category Archives: Oldies

PillowTalk- Sunny

The San Francisco-based trio Pillow Talk, have just delivered a sweet edit of Marvin Gaye’s 1966′classic “Sunny.” off of their Soul Edits EP. To sum it up concisely: blissed-out soul reworks with their smooth signature sound

Compare to the original

A Few More Cool Covers

Taylor’s post got me thinking.

The Rescues – Teenage Dream (Katy Perry)

Black Strobe – I’m A Man (Bo Diddley)

I Hate My Ex – You Belong With Me (Taylor Swift)

Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan)

Civil Twilight – Teardrop (Massive Attack)

Cage the Elephant – Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)

New Found Glory – Don’t You Forget About Me (Simple Minds)

Death Cab for Cutie – Don’t You Forget About Me (live, Simple Minds)

Michael Stipe & Chris Martin – In The Sun (Joseph Arthur)

Avril Lavigne – Basket Case (live, Green Day) (I know, just listen)

Colbie Caillat – Maria (Blondie)

Aly & AJ – Black Horse & the Cherry Tree (KT Tunstall)

Susie Yankou – Wild Ones/Use Somebody (Flo Rida/Kings of Leon)

The Pretty Reckless – Islands/Love The Way You Lie (The XX/Eminem)

We Are Scientists – Hoppipolla (Sigur Ros)

KT Tunstall – I Want You Back (The Jackson 5)

Greg Laswell – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)

Franz Ferdinand – Call Me (live, Blondie)

Florence + the Machine – Postcards from Italy (Beirut)

Phillip Phillips – Superstition (Stevie Wonder)

Katie Stevens – Baby What You Want Me To Do (Elvis Presley)

Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Creep (Radiohead)

Ryan Adams – Wonderwall (Oasis)

Paramore – My Hero (Foo Fighters)

A Perfect Circle – Imagine (John Lennon)

Tonight Alive – Little Lion Man (Mumford & Sons)

Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)

Go Radio – Rolling In The Deep (Adele)

Another Late Night Jam: “Lucio” by Luca C & Brigante

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day where human feelings are commercialized on a mass scale for profit (says the cynic). A day where individuals can get the opportunity to express their love via over the top ways (says the romantic). Luca C & Brigante, the Balearic disco duo tastefully re-edits  Lucio Battisti‘s Italian pop song “Amarsi Un Po”, thereby creating a sound that seems perfect for today. I can’t understand anything that is being sung, but I don’t think that’s the point of it. Just let the music take you in. I can not wait to play it as I ride the metro into the city at night. Seriously, this is beautiful. Love is typically associated with human romance but is it possible to fall in love with concepts, ideas, art and life? I say absolutely, as I am awestruck by the progress made by people around me. People who work so hard and push themselves beyond the limits that were set forth by institutions like school and sometimes even by one’s own family. To do the unimaginable, to do something that no one else in the family has done before… that very idea is so forward thinking that I just get shivers thinking about it.

I’m in love with the fact that thanks to Dream Project, I got the chance to witness some incredible things last week. I found out that one of my students was accepted to Washington State University, making him the first person in his family to EVER be accepted to a higher education institution. All the hard work he did, bringing a math textbook to all the Dream Project visits (to demonstrate his desire to be an engineer)…that guy deserves the highest honors university life has to bestow upon him. God knows he’s gone through a hell of amount of adversity to get to this point. Coming from Kenya, being the caretaker of a family of ten because he’s the only one who can speak English… I love the spirit and intellectual curiosity my student has. A desire to learn and improve can never be quelled, and I hope that I get to see him grow some more over the years as he hopefully gets an acceptance letter from UW. Now this brings me to my other student, a winner of the Act 6 scholarship for Trinity Lutheran College in Western Washington. As I went to Cleveland High School to go see her ceremony, I found myself meeting her family. Her father kept asking me to shake his hand and continued to call me “the remarkable young man” from UW. Her younger sisters started chatting away with me about their future plans for college and what concerns they had (I also realized that in a few years, these same girls would participate in the UW Dream Project and that our paths would cross again). Again and again I had to emphasize that it was my mentee who did most of the hard work, but I couldn’t deter her family from their gratitude. Funny how my mentee gushes about how I stayed up alllllllll night to help her out with her essays, but in reality, those midnight edits were merely apart of my night owl routines. It’s amazing what a few hours in a week can do. A couple of sit downs and edits, and then a few months later your student tells you that her essay got her an interview….and then another month later you’re at the high school to see her get that scholarship in person. Now I don’t want to come off as egotistical, but damn it was an awesome experience to see how choked up they were that their daughter is going to college, where she can use her education to improve her community. An immigrant family that champions education beyond all other pursuits, a story that I find myself quite familiar with. It’s hard not to get to attached to students like these, and I am so honored that I got the privilege to work with these students and see them grow and build a better future for themselves and for their family. For the longest time, I agonized over what to say to my students about college, scholarships, and even what they want to study in college. I had this fear that despite a college education, my students may not be able to secure themselves a stable job that would compensate for the sacrifices made by their family. However, after being there at that ceremony, I realize that all is well. Education is what one makes of it, despite what the naysayers claim about useless degrees (Eff those people).  The students have worked so hard to get to this position, there was no way in hell that they would rest easy in college…especially when one of their scholarships is worth 200k (Fulllllllllllllllllllllllll RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDDDDDDEEEEEEEEEEE Baby!).

“Lucio” has a blissful, wonderful sound.  This song evokes feelings of a very laid back contemplation of both the sound and the implications. In particular, in moments like these, I can’t just help but think about all the progress  that I and other people I have come to known these past few months, have made so far in such a short time, and I get so excited thinking about what’s next. Yes. This song has that futuristic sound that will be able to inspire contemplation and make an individual better for it.  Life is beautiful. Happy Valentine’s Day y’all.

Luca C & Brigante – Lucio

Original (Still top-notch also! With a little disco element in there).

The Exact Moment Death Cab for Cutie Became A Thing

The O.C. is famously the show that made indie music mainstream for a short while, introducing Death Cab and The Shins and several other incredible bands into the public consciousness through the character of Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), based on and written by series creator and USC alum Josh Schwartz, who is apparently my twin brother despite being twice my age and unrelated to me whatsoever.

While mentions of the band were made before, this is the first time that Death Cab received exposure on national television through airplay.

From Season 1, Episode 7, “The Escape” (0:00-1:38):

Thank you, Josh Schwartz.

“Landslide” – Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks)

I’m not one to do this normally. But recent events have encouraged me to contemplate life, purpose, existentialism…

As I sit in my posh Las Vegas hotel room tonight, I recall my afternoon at Big Bear, a California mountain, where I had the chance to process the knowledge I learned this morning, that there was a notable death in the community we’re from. It was a tragedy. It is a tragedy.

Anytime death touches our lives, it’s an opportunity for reflection and improvement. What should we do differently? How does the world change now? And though they are inherently selfish questions, we all ask: What does this mean for me? What should I do now? How does this affect me, if it even affects me at all?

Listening to this song, in addition to a few others, helped me to process those thoughts, answer those questions. Music tends to do that for me.

Hopefully, if you ever reach such a situation, it might be able help you too.

Left-Click To Download

PS: Dixie Chicks and Smashing Pumpkins covered this song quite well. Glee did a decent job as well.

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Ingrid Michaelson

Ah, Ingrid Michaelson. My love for her music never ceases. Around this time of year, people always post her fantastic duet cover with Sara Bareilles, “Winter Song”, which she was invited to play last year at the Obama Tree Lighting Ceremony for the President and his family. The President’s usually a fan of jazz. The fact that he chose Ingrid and Sara speaks to just how awesome their music is (or how much Michelle, Malia and/or Sasha love the song).

This year, however, she released a wonderful Christmas cover of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (from the 1944 classic film Meet Me in St. Louis), a jazz-influenced minimalist ditty that features only Michaelson’s voice and a pulsing, jazzy electric bass accompaniment. A feature of many live shows around Christmastime, she finally, quietly, released it as a single.

I’m a sucker for good Christmas music.

Happy Festivus, readers!

Right-click to download:


So Fall Quarter is Over…My Most Profound Experience

I’m the type of guy who doesn’t let anything interfere with my studies. Throughout high school I never refrained from taking a class despite warnings from my peers that the teacher was hard, nor have I taken a class purely because my friends were enrolled in it. Simply put, I reject the influence of others playing a role in what classes I elect to take. I pride myself in my ability in not second guessing the academic choices I make…that is until now. Thanks to my involvement in Dream Project and the relationships I’ve fostered with my mentees, I am filled with regret over my class selection for next quarter. My lament about my classes is a reflection of how strongly I feel about my relationship with my mentees, and how it devastates me to not be there with them to finish the college application process with them. The profound change in my perspective regarding the influence of others in my class selection showcases not only my developing views on what higher education entails but the value of Dream Project.

Before my time with Dream Project, I derived the value of classes through a meta physical like perspective, counting intellectual stimulation as the overriding factor. I wanted to be engaged with the material offered by the course as opposed to being engaged with others. In exchange for a challenging curriculum, I was willing to sacrifice any chances of creating and sustaining genuine relationships. I preferred reading out of the textbook on how to do things as opposed to turning to others. This is not to say that I detested the company of others, but rather emphasize how in an academic setting, I was accustomed to working by myself. I would race on ahead of everyone else and wait from them to catch up. With my entrance into the Dream Project program, I found myself in for a rude awakening. The diversity of the students that Dream Project works with is incredible. They come from so many different backgrounds that one forgets that though racial diversity is big, the diversity of learning styles is important also. Blessed by social economical conditions, I come from a place where a student takes private lessons to take the SAT test. Where the notion of hiring a college consultant is a reality. My hometown can only be described as suffering from an excess of resources. As a result, my environment provided me a knowledge of concepts and experiences I took fro granted that everyone else knew. I would rattle off the early action and early decision deadlines without knowing that my mentee had no idea what I was saying. I would joke about getting into UW with my relatively low SAT score, only to find kids slump in resignation as they quietly confessed to me that their SAT scores were several hundred points lower. In one case I recall how I mentioned about how colleges needed the social security number for the application only to learn that one of my mentees was an undocumented student.

The stories of my mentees and other students in the Dream Project forced me to re-evaluate my by-the-book philosophy. After all, what can a textbook tell me about the struggles and triumphs of a Somalia American girl who works two jobs to support her family while crafting her own identity as a first generation American? What’s the “standard” conduct when I have to tell my student that he might not even graduate this year without discouraging him of his dreams of going to college? Moments like those have spurred me to abandon my reluctance to work with others and motivate me to hound any person that may hold relevant information to my challenges. I can no longer rely exclusively on myself to provide answers and therefore acknowledge the need to integrate myself in the learning community. If changing my approach to learning meant an easier way for my mentees to understand the college application process, then it would be a price I would pay in a heartbeat.

Perhaps part of the reason why I am so willing to eschew years of habit for the sake of a few students is because I se myself in these students. Economic differences aside, I am awestruck by the fact that both my mentees and I are first generation Americans. We are the representatives of our families and our future success is the manifestation of family hopes and dreams. We will pioneer a new path derived from both the ideals of our cultures and aspirations of our American selves, establishing a model for our siblings to follow, but knowing that they too will create their own way. College is simply the first of many successes in what will hopefully become the good life our parents envisioned when they first step foot in this country. The fiery ambition I see in my mentees’’ eyes as they explain why they have to go to college reminds me of my own circumstances, compelling me to do everything I can for them. In addition to what I previously mentioned, my ability to emphasize with what my students are going through also brings me to question my attitude of isolation when it comes to learning. It has only been six months since I graduated from high school myself, so my memories of applying to college is not as fuzzy as other mentors. With my status as a freshman, my students looked upon me with even more credibility, simply because they knew my advice came from the perspective of someone who recently went through their own experiences. In turn, I’ve been able to forge and even closer bond with my mentees, transitioning from a purely academic relationship to one of great personal value of both sides. Our relationship was not that of an upperclassman ordering what must be done, but rather as a fellow 18 year old ready to disperse any suggestions in hopes of allowing his younger peers to join him in sharing the privilege of calling themselves college students.

Despite working alone on my UW application, I managed to succeed and attend UW, feeding my slightly egotistic attitude towards the merits of individual initiative. However, my work with the students at Kent Merdian High School refuted my claim of individual success. I watched how my students bounded ideas of one another to get a better perspective on their essays. I learned from my fellow mentors on how to work with an undocumented student. My interactions with my students revealed the empowering value that comes from encouragement and feedback. During my time as a mentor this quarter, I contradicted every single custom I had before, and I didn’t even feel any regret about it at all. Upon reflection, I realize that while the challenges presented when given autonomy on the college application process holds benefits in rewarding activism, it is not considered a weakness to allow others to work along in order to complete the task. Working together builds solidarity, a horizontal and personal relationship which makes the ending of fall quarter even harder for me.

How does a mentor go about ending a personal interaction with a mentee, especially when the mentee sees the mentor as a role model? Earlier this week I was wracked with anxiety over one looming question: How was I going to tell my mentees, the ones that told me that they couldn’t have done it without me, that I would not be returning to them next quarter? I was extremely concerned with how they would respond to the news. H (name withheld for privacy), who had already lost a mentor this year. N(name withheld) the Muslim American girl that I hit off the very first day we met. Or even K (name withheld), the Karen refugee who came to the US four years ago. The question of how to tell them soon had to account the question of when also. At the time of my need to inform them of my upcoming departure, the UW deadline was also coming up. However, I couldn’t tell them at the final high school visit could I?

In order to explain the difficulty of ending my work with my KM mentees I have to cite a monumental event that occurred a day before. The day before the extended KM visit, I attended the Dream Project lecture regarding helpful tips for the UW application. During the lecture I began texting my mentees all the helpful tips I was receiving at the moment, eager to make their application process as smooth as possible. In the middle of the text conversation with H, he told me this: “Thank you for everything I couldn’t have done it without you”. When you get something like that, an open admission and gratitude that you literally changed someone’s life for years to come…how, no wait, what can you even say? Despite sitting in the 700 person room in Kane Hall, the world seemed so small at that moment. Here was something so quiet yet so touching that an incredibly bittersweet feeling overcame me. Things were looking up for my students, but I wouldn’t be there to share every glory with them.

So the big day came on Tuesday, November 29th. My anxiety at telling my kids were temporarily displaced by my duty to be clam and encouraging of my students as they reassessed their essay and application one last time. However, as the clock began its final ticks I knew it was time. I took each student aside and privately told them that their academic journey would have to continue without me. H and K took it rather well, appreciative of my help and all, but I admit that with a sense of nausea that they probably handled it well simply because they’ve grown so used to mentors leaving them. On the other hand, N was absolutely crushed. She put both hands on her hijab and gave it a slight tug and looked downward. For the first time, her loquacious self was stunned into an empty silence that run loudly in my ears. Feelings of hurt and disappointment flashed in seconds before settling into a look of disconsolation. At that point who could blame her? Here N was, stunned by the fact that her mentor was leaving. The one who comforted her when she expressed her fear and nervousness about being rejected by UW (on the very fist day of the KM visit no less). The mentor who pulled an all-nighter with her revising her essays for the scholarships she learned about at Scholarship Kickoff Weekend. The guy who worked with her for three straight hours editing her personal statement to submit before Seattle University’s priority deadline ended. The person who she claims that all her friends call the best Dream Project mentor at KM (with the irony that he was going to reveal his departure within an hour of that statement). I repeatedly emphasized the fact that my reasons were not because of her or any of my mentees, but because of my own academic reasons. I told them that I was leaving because of academic reasons; a class that I had to take for my major was available only at that spot. Legitimate reason yes, but damn did it hurt to say it. Who knew that the pursuit of higher learning could have drawbacks? The biggest concern after telling my students was to assure them that their current and future successes did not correlate with me. After all, they did all the work leading up to that fateful day that we met. Even then my role was limited, seeing them only once a week, and mostly serving as a guide essentially. My job was to sustain their faith in their own qualifications and merits, and boy oh boy did I have a big task that day. Eventually I got N to feel better by claiming that after all we’ve been through, a strong relationship doesn’t wither quickly. Turns out the cliché “it’s not you, it’s me” is not limited to dating relationships, but damn this experience sure hurt as badly (if not more) than a break up.

Remember how I said earlier that I would never let others influence my academic choices? While I was riding back from KM, I contemplated altering my classes to fit KM into my schedule. Unfortunately when I investigated into the feasibility of that option, I discovered it meant that I would have had to drop all my classes. Despite not being able to fit KM, my sudden flexibility about academics revealed a significant point: The value of an education is not limited to what one can derived from a text. Intellectual stimulation can not be enjoyed without sharing with others. There is a possibility of a community of learners after all, evident by all the facebook statuses posted by Dream Project mentors offering help and encouraging students as the final hours of the UW app winds down. Therefore I thank the Dream Project and all its partners for teaching me the most important lesson of all: There is no higher education than serving others alongside fellow members of the community.

UPDATE!!!!!!!!!! Christmas came early today, and by god I got the best gift of all. Congrats to one of my mentees and all her hard work. Thanks to a few all nighters my mentee got the Act Six scholarship worth like 180k!!! The power of Dream Project baby!

Ummm yeah, the music. Let’s see here: This sums up my attitude perfectly.

Hall & Oates’ ‘You Make My Dreams’…there is almost no other song in I know of that inspires the sort of unexplicable enthusiasm  that makes you want to just give everything up and dance. With a guitar riff perfectly engineered to match snare-drum beats, the infectious happiness is imparted almost as soon as Oates arrives 10 seconds in. Unrushed, unsullied, exuberance – enought to make you want to twist and shout.