Listen to This: Christmas 2017

It’s that time of year again: the time of year I take a moment away from movies (and just a moment, there are a lot of movies this time of year) and put some of my attention into music. Specifically, holiday music. A genre I love only slightly less than show tunes.

I’m proud of each playlist I’ve made over the years, but I really like this one. It took me a few weeks of exploring new releases and digging for lesser-known classics, but I was eventually able to craft together twenty festive songs I hope will help get you in the spirit of the season.

Per usual, the playlist includes a broad spectrum of artists and styles. This year, you’ll find the likes of Hanson (yes, that Hanson) next to LCD Soundsystem (still kicking myself that I didn’t go to that show this month); there’s an ABBA song in there that sounds depressing at first pass but really, it’s not; and you’ll find a touch of soul with holiday favorites by The Temptations and Stevie Wonder. You won’t find anything from Gwen Stefani’s new holiday album (it’s not good), but you will find a gem from one Francesca Battistelli, a lovely new discovery of mine.

It’s going to be a crazy month, friends. The holidays always seem to add a layer of intensity to even the simplest plans. Hopefully somewhere in the frenzy you’ve got some time to queue up this playlist, pour yourself a mug of hot chocolate and take a few deep breaths.

Oh, and if you’ve made it this far, I thought I’d share some bonus links (all will open in Spotify):

Here is a link to my Christmas SuperCut – every playlist from the last six years (!) in one long, wonderful mega-playlist.

And here are links to 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. I was making annual playlists before that, but they only exist on actual CDs I burned and sent off to friends and family as presents. Lucky them!

Life in the Gig Economy

This week was crazy busy. Like, crazy. Cray, as the kids say these days.

I had a meeting and a work shift (more on that later) yesterday, and it wasn’t until 6p.m. that I realized my sweater had been on backwards. The whole day. Not only did I not notice, but apparently no one I was with did, either. Which…silver lining, I guess? Anyways, that’s how crazy busy my week has been. I can go a whole day with clothes on the wrong way and don’t notice.

But I digress.

The crazy busy week sort of came out of nowhere, and lest you start to think this is a lament about said crazy, let me assure you it is not. I love crazy busy. I thrive on crazy busy. I get things done when there’s a little crazy in the mix (not the dishes or my laundry, but you know, the stuff that matters).

I like to know there’s a light at the end of the crazy busy tunnel, but generally speaking, crazy busy and I do well together. As my very first boss always said, “Busy people get things done.”

And it’s a welcome state of affairs for someone who’s constantly on the hustle to make a living. I adore working for myself in many, many ways. The schedule flexibility; the limitless income potential (I can earn as much as I’m willing to work for, no salary cap in sight); the boss is pretty great, too. (See what I did there?)

After the Chicago International Film Festival last month, which kept me crazy busy with four films on my slate, I hit early November with a screeching halt. I’d spent so much time working on the projects at hand for the Festival that I hadn’t really been working on cultivating whatever might come next. Needless to say, I’m still getting the hang of this whole gig economy approach to making a living.

The respite was a welcome one, and I did a lot of sleeping and generally catching up on the life I’d neglected during the Festival. And then I looked at my bank account. Nothing lights a fire under a self-employed butt like an empty bank account!

I spent the next couple of weeks hitting the hustle hard, circling back to potential projects and interested contacts that I hadn’t been in touch with for a bit. I got back into coffee meetings and phone calls and part-time job searching (thank you for your magic, Chicago Artists Resource job board).

Fast forward to this week and…gulp. Remember all those million things you gamely told clients and contacts you could do for them? Yeah, they need all that done like, now. And all those side-hustles you looked into “just in case”? Yeah, those are all ready for you now, too. Remember that proposal you sent out in August? They’re ready to engage now! Remember those referrals you asked professional contacts to send your way? Boy, are they ever!

You get the idea.

What for a moment looked like a quiet end of the year has quickly ramped up to a whole slew of projects and planning and part-time gigs. I was recently brought on at Neighborly, a boutique just a few blocks from my place, for a few Sundays through the holidays that will earn me enough to pay a health insurance premium. I started doing script coverage for a studio a friend connected me to, earning some fun money for each screenplay I read and offer feedback on. I secured a client on a 90-day retainer with all kinds of digital marketing objectives between now and January. I’m submitting a proposal to rep a local Oscars fundraising event, and I’m waiting to hear from a filmmaker friend looking for some extra help on his small theatrical release in early 2018.

I have no idea how this hodge-podge of work will look on a tax return, but right now I don’t really care. Right now, I’m stoked to be able to keep as busy as I am. I’m encouraged by the response to the services I’m offering. I’m jazzed that I get to wake up every day and, for the most part, do work I want to be doing. I’m impressed with myself that that work is also able to pay my rent and bills. I’m determined to keep the momentum going and see where all this crazy busy can take me.


I’ve always loved October

October is my favorite month of the year. Not only is it my birthday month (and the birth month of some of my favorite people ever), but there’s never any shortage of other events and plans and celebrations throughout. Add to that the changing of the seasons and year after year, October is just magical. Four days in and 2017 has the same sort of alchemy already coming together.

The first week of the month, I’ve enjoyed a meal and conversation with my mom (at a nearby French bistro I’ve been wanting to try forever) and my grandma, who I hadn’t seen in far too long despite living so nearby. Before the month is over, I’ll also have broken bread with a couple former coworkers who are a joy to keep in touch with and a friend from my Indianapolis days who makes it up to the city now and then.

My birthday is on the first Wednesday of the month, and on Friday I jump on a train down to central Illinois for a weekend with some of my favorite people on the planet. We’ll drink and eat and drink and visit and drink and laugh and like my weekend in NYC last month, it’ll be exactly what my spirit needs most. And now that I make my own schedule, I can take the train home Monday morning and not worry about missing a day at the office (hello, wifi on the train!)


The month gets very busy halfway in when this year’s Chicago International Film Festival kicks off. I’m repping four different films this year, meaning I’ll be busy for basically ten days straight managing press appearances, red carpets, film premieres and after parties. Tough work, I know. But it will be long days and lots of details to keep coordinated, and by the end of it I’ll be exhausted and ready to do it all again if I could.

Just as the festival winds down, I’ve gone and given myself more to keep busy with as Les Miserables comes to town for a few weeks. I’ve decided it’s essentially impossible for me to not see that show when given the opportunity, so last month I stopped at the theater box office and snagged a balcony seat. Every time I go (at least three times or so now?), I think it’ll be different, that it won’t hit me like a gut punch, that story of love and loss and loyalty and courage. And every time, I’m left a weepy, emotional mess, my heart full and happy.

By the end of the month, I’ll trade one festival for another, as Chicago Humanities happens this month, as well. The weeks-long event features dozens of conversations and presentations by some of the brightest minds of our day, and while I wasn’t able to snag tickets to the Krista Tippett / Ta-Nehisi Coates event, I will get to attend one with Brooke Gladstone. I’m such a fan of her show On The Media, the way she dismantles preconceived notions about the way the press cover current events. The show has not been shy this year about covering all the crazy news coming out of D.C., so it should be very interesting to see her in person as thing just keep getting crazier.

You’ll notice one glaring omission from my very busy October: Halloween. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good costume or a reason to head out for drinks and general revelry. It’s just that I’m not a fan of the death and gore and spookiness of this particular holiday, so I won’t be spending any time at any haunted houses or anything. Which is no big in the end; I’ll manage to keep busy regardless.