blink-182 has a new record and I like it

You’d be forgiven for not knowing blink-182 put out a new record two weeks ago.

Admittedly, I’ve only barely paid attention to what the band was up to the past 10 years. In that time, they put out just one record, which was 2011’s “Neighborhoods” – an album from which I haven’t heard a single track – and that was after having been on hiatus for four years.

But this new record is called “California,” and it’s their first without Tom, who left the band for a variety of reasons. In his place is Matt Skiba, who you might (or might not) recognize from Alkaline Trio.

I’d been led to believe this album wasn’t very good, but considering there was a time in my life when their music was practically what I lived for, I felt obligated to give it a shot.

There are moments in this album where I almost feel as if I’m 14 again, but it doesn’t linger, because without Tom’s endearing still-whiny-at-40-years-old voice, the band sounds a little more grown up. I won’t say ‘mature,’ because the album still has a couple of sophomoric gag tracks.

I’ve listened through this new album four times, and I like it more each time, but this isn’t the blink-182 you remember. Mark’s signature “pingy” bass riffs are still intact, and Travis’s tight drumming still drives each song along, but it’s definitely a different sound without Tom. It’s familiar but different, and Skiba is a competent replacement, although I can’t pinpoint what his unique contributions really are.

I loved blink-182. They were my favorite band throughout most of my teenage years, and intensely so. Yeah, we all had ‘Enema of the State’ and ‘Take Off Your Pants and Jacket,’ but I tracked down copies of ‘Dude Ranch,’ ‘Cheshire Cat,’ and ‘Buddha,’ which was no easy task in the early 2000s.

They were silly, fun and energetic. They were the reason I took up playing bass and wanted to have my own garage band. They were the reason I tried (and failed, haha) to be a “skater.” I even emulated the way they dressed. I guess that’s typical of kids at that age. But people change and tastes evolve. I don’t really listen to pop-punk anymore, but I can definitely still enjoy it, even if only to reminisce. Like most people, my musical preferences are sort of all over the place, but I guess I’ve mellowed out in my old age, haha.

And that’s what I find interesting. While a band like Weezer transitioned into “mid-life” seamlessly and with relative ease, blink has always been preoccupied with adolescence and embracing immaturity. But that charm starts to fade when you’re closing in on 45 and still singing about the antics of your teenage years.

So while it’s clear they’re trying to bridge the gap between where they were and where they’re going (some of their lyrics overtly say as much), they haven’t shaken that youthful punchy-ness entirely. And maybe they shouldn’t. That’s their trademark. It’s just gonna be hard to carry into their golden years.

That said, “California” is good a record. It won’t knock your socks off, and maybe it goes a little heavy on the harmonic “woah” choruses, but you’ll find yourself wanting to listen through it again.

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Thoughts on recent Nintendo news

Despite the panicked narrative that the sky is falling, I’m really not all that bothered by the news that came out of Nintendo’s investors’ meeting this week.

Nintendo announced that the tentatively-titled “NX” console will launch in March of 2017, but will not be discussed at E3 2016. The main focus this E3 will be on the newest installment in the Zelda series, which Nintendo said will release on both Wii U and NX.

But that’s really chapped the lips of a rather vocal pack of Nintendo fans, because apparently releasing a game simultaneously on current and next-gen platforms reduces the amount of fun you can have.

There are tons of variations on the sentiment that “Nintendo took us for fools!” because “we bought the Wii U for Zelda,” and now… it’s still coming out on Wii U.

I dunno, it seems like it takes so much effort to get so bent out of shape over something like this. Maybe this would bother me if games were the only passion in my life, but that hasn’t been the case since high school. I have so many interests that waiting a little while longer just doesn’t phase me.

Plus, as much as I love games, there’s no reason to let them ruin your day. Nintendo’s working on a lot behind the scenes. It takes time to correct the course of such a big ship. I know people are getting antsy, but we’ll get there.

I made the mistake of making a trivial, offhanded comment in response to someone’s panic attack, where I said they were acting silly.

Someone responded by saying, “People are allowed to get angry when they spend the money for this stuff, we should never accept what we have and always strive for better.”

I replied with, “Sure, you can get angry. But it seems kinda silly in this instance. I spent money, too, and I’m happy with my investment. I was playing on launch day. I ‘suffered’ through the droughts, but over time, Nintendo gave me a tall stack of great, fun games on Wii U. I’m not upset. I got my money’s worth.”

As an aside, his comment about “never accepting what we have” and “always striving for better” makes it sound like he’s talking about fighting for civil rights or something, haha.

I just find it really silly how seriously people take this stuff. I’m not saying I’m incapable of getting into an enthusiastic discussion about Nintendo, BECAUSE I DEFINITELY CAN, but it just doesn’t consume my every thought. I’ve got other things to enjoy while I wait for Nintendo.

Dump Trump

I don’t know if the sentiments espoused by Donald Trump are genuine. I’m fairly certain he’s playing a character, being the opportunist he is, rather than running on his own beliefs. But really, that just makes it all the more worrisome.

We’re looking at someone who’s willing to do whatever’s necessary to gain power. He has no real platform – just restless animosity aimed at anyone who dares to challenge him.

He says nothing of substance. He simply repeats meaningless talking points while spewing ad hominem attacks at his opponents. He doesn’t know or understand the issues, so he can’t engage his fellow candidates in an actual debate, which means he has to rely on nasty, petty, demeaning and irrelevant personal insults – the kind of stuff you’d expect to hear on an elementary school playground, not the stage of candidates running for the highest political office in the world.

Among the many outrageous statements to leave his mouth, this might be the most telling:

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

That he would brag about murder with such repugnant audacity should be reason enough NOT to vote for him.

Donald Trump is unprofessional, uncouth, petulant and without tact. He has no restraint. He is the physical embodiment of the baseless anger that comes from a group of Americans who incorrectly perceive themselves as somehow being persecuted for… something?? This is a group of a mostly-white, no/low-information voters.

If you were to ask them what they like about Trump, many would answer with something along the lines of, “He tells it like it is!” whatever that actually means. But if you were to ask about specific platform issues, they likely couldn’t give you an answer, apart from:

-building a 2,000-mile-long wall along the border with Mexico (and somehow expecting them to pay for it) while rounding up all the illegal immigrants currently in the United States and sending them back to their home countries. That’s estimated to be approximately 12-20 million people, and includes more than just people from Mexico and other Latin-American countries.

-somehow keeping Muslim people from legally entering the United States.

Neither are practical, nor are they moral.

Trump brags about spending his own money on his campaign (he’s worth somewhere between $4-10 billion), and how he’s not beholden to any companies, organizations or special interests. Okay, well, that’s great, but he’s also not actually receiving any campaign donations from the people who support him, either. So really, he’s not beholden to his own voters, either.

He makes everything about himself. He’s an egomaniac. And I just don’t understand how anyone can look at him and, in good faith, hand him their vote. He is brash, he is hateful, and has displayed none of the qualities one would hope to find in the leader of the single most important nation on the planet.

Nicktoons THE MOVIE

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So news is coming out today that Nickelodeon has plans to do movie that’s a giant mishmash of all its classic cartoons, and it’s to be written and directed by Jared and Jerusha Hess, of whom I am a rather large fan.

For all you plebs out there, that’s the husband-wife tandem responsible for Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, among other things.

Although Nickelodeon hasn’t been specific, cramming together the worlds of Rocko’s Modern Life, Ren and Stimpy, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and others seems pretty great. Just imagine, POWDERED TOAST MAN vs REALLY REALLY BIG MAN! I think SpongeBob would be a nice addition, too, but I’m not sure how well Rugrats really fits in.

I don’t know if Jim Jinkins (or perhaps Jumbo Pictures) technically owns the rights to Doug, or if he actually sold ownership to Disney, but that’s one classic Nicktoon I really wouldn’t want thrown in with the rest. Doug has always been a very special and personal show for me, and the fact that it’s grounded in the day-to-day minutia just doesn’t loan itself to the bizarre zaniness of the other classic Nicktoons. Unless they just decide to make the whole thing a really wonky daydream of Doug’s, but even then… I dunno. Doug is sacred to me and crossover just feels wrong.

I know Nick’s also working on a new Hey Arnold! movie, which could potentially be something special, but I admit I do feel a bit apprehensive about the idea of just resurrecting all these classic shows some twenty-ish years later.

If you’re Nickelodeon, I think you really run the risk of tarnishing the good will you’ve been building with ‘millenials’ (ugh, I hate that word) over the past couple of years if any of this turns out to be less-than-ideal.

I mean, do you go back and get all the creators and original writers in an attempt to make everything feel right? That’s great if you can, but if you can’t, how well can you pull it off??

Craig Bartlett, John Kricfalusi, Joe Murray, all those guys – are they going to come back and give some input? It’d be nice.

And then the voice actors – if you can’t get the original cast, then your new folks better sound identical. Sadly, Christine Cavanaugh, the voice of Chuckie Finster, passed away a little over a year ago. So if Rugrats are included, I know they’ll have to find a replacement. And Ernest Borgnine (Mermaid Man) passed away three or four years ago, too.

This is a big idea, and I like the premise, but there’s a huge risk in attempting something like this.

Tempering Expectations

I don’t know the origin of the idiom, “Never meet your heroes,” but it seems to be as relevant as ever.

And now, because of the ever-present role of technology and social media in our lives, we don’t even necessarily need to meet our heroes for them to personally disappoint us. A careless remark to someone in a private conversation can turn into a full-blown national scandal.

It’s not that you shouldn’t have heroes – I certainly have plenty of my own – it’s just that we shouldn’t be consumed by infatuation for them. I think it’s healthy to have people to look up to, people who inspire us. And that can, of course, include friends and family members. But we often look outside our social circles for inspiration, and we tend to forget that even the most well-regarded individuals are just as fallible as we are.

People are flawed and they make mistakes. Some get caught up in the heat of the moment – or react to something offhandedly, not necessarily meaning anything by it – and say or do things they instantly regret. Others do deplorable things intentionally, hoping no one will ever find out, and either show no remorse, or give insincere apologies in an attempt to save face when it all comes to light. There are a million ways people can, have and will step in it. The point is, because we have expectations, at some point or another, we’ll be let down.

And whether we personally deem a person’s actions worthy of national, front-and-center, in-the-spotlight attention, is irrelevant. Once it’s news, it’s all many people will focus on. It’s not up to me to tell you how to feel, and it’s not my place to dictate whether a person’s actions necessitate forgiveness on your part. That’s not my prerogative. That’s up to each one of us, individually.

But when we’re let down by our heroes in any field, I think it’s sometimes at least partially our fault for putting them up on a pedestal. That’s not excusing their actions, nor is it absolving them of responsibility, but for a plethora of reasons, we tend to hold prominent people to higher standards.

But some of those people can’t even meet the basic standard of, what I’d call, being a decent human being. And I guess that might mean different things to different people, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect each other to be capable of respecting, and not purposely violating, one another’s personal, physical, emotional and mental well-being.

There are figures in society whose identities we hold up as moral beacons. And when they (almost inevitably) stumble and fall, it hurts more than when some stranger does the same thing. We may not know the full story behind any of the circumstances, but when we begin to see a basic picture of who they are outside the spotlight, it can entirely change our feelings towards them.

I don’t know what I’m really trying to say, other than maybe we should temper our expectations of the people we look up to, because they’re often not who we imagine or want them to be.

Thoughts on Charleston, the Confederate flag, and gun violence

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Hey guys, I posted this on Facebook last night. After some thought, I decided to share it here, too.

In wake of the horrific attack on the church in Charleston last week, I’ve been sitting on a number of thoughts, trying to wrap my brain around them, and trying to mold them into articulate ideas. I didn’t want to react in a knee-jerk fashion, and I didn’t want my words to get lost in the cacophony of social commentary coming from every direction.

But now I’m going to speak.

I don’t claim to have all the insight, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but hopefully I can adequately provide my perspective, however limited it may be.

First, I want to address South Carolina’s decision to remove what is commonly referred to as the Confederate flag. It was most certainly, and unquestionably, the right move. That’s what I firmly believe. But I also want to expand upon that.

To anyone making the argument that it’s a symbol of “heritage, not hate,” I understand where you’re coming from. As a born-and-raised Southerner, I get that. For a long time, growing up, that was also my view and understanding. But over the years, and especially more recently, my opinion has changed. Continue reading

If Netflix does follow through with a Zelda series, here’s what I’d like to see.

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Around two weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Netflix and Nintendo are purportedly working together to develop an original series based on The Legend of Zelda. The source, however, is named only as “a person familiar with the matter,” and neither company has responded to inquiries about the claim.

The “person familiar with the matter” claims this is to be a live-action series, and that Netflix – who’s still looking for writers – is describing the premise as “Game of Thrones for a family audience.”

If these claims are true, and Netflix is in talks with Nintendo to start a series based upon the Zelda franchise, there’s still no guarantee it will ever actually come to fruition. Nintendo is very protective of its properties, having been burned in the past by poor adaptations like the Super Mario Bros. movie and the Legend of Zelda cartoon, so I imagine Netflix would have to really impress Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto (among others) to move forward with this.

If this does end up happening, I have some ideas about how I’d like the series to be developed. Continue reading