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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Not even my Prius would make that trip.

The sky’s clear tonight, so I was just out looking through the telescope again. The past couple of nights were rainy and cloudy, so that was a bust, but it’s perfect this evening.
 
I like being outside after dark. It kind of feels like you’ve got the whole world to yourself. The lights are out and everyone’s gone to bed. It’s pleasantly quiet. All I can hear is the sloshing of the creek, crickets chirping and the whistle of a distant train.
 
With my left eye squinted shut and my right peering through the eyepiece, I set my gaze upon Arcturus, a red giant star about 26 times larger than the Sun, and approximately 37 light years away.
 
That got me to thinking about a conversation I had last night with some friends as we stuffed ourselves with burritos. We wondered how long it would take to drive to the Sun. We didn’t get far into the discussion before getting sidetracked, but we were on the topic long enough for me to do the math on my phone that told us it would be the equivalent of 3,720 trips around the Earth, assuming you were driving around the equator (and could drive on water, teehee).
 
So tonight, I started wondering more specifically about how far that really is.
 
To start out, the Sun is 93,000,000 miles away. Light, the fastest thing in existence (that we know of) takes approximately seven minutes to reach us from the Sun.
 
Of course, we’re talking about driving our car to the Sun (let’s just pretend that’s possible), so we won’t be traveling anywhere near that fast. For the sake of familiarity, I’m going to say we’re driving 60 MPH, just like you would on the interstate. That’s the speed limit in space, so don’t let the galactic fuzz catch you speeding.
 
So we’re planning our trip. We’re talking about going 93 million miles at 60 miles per hour. That means it’ll take us about 1,550,000 hours of non-stop driving to get there (sorry, no potty breaks). To break that down further, that’s about 65,000 days. Or, if my math is right, roughly 177 years.
 
That’s how long it would take us to drive from the Earth to the Sun. One hundred and seventy seven years. Better stock up on the snacks for that trip.
 
We get so caught up in talking about other stars, planets and galaxies, we start to lose perspective. The Universe is so vast that our brains can’t comprehend it. And there are stars that make ours look small by comparison. But it’s not small at all! Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is 100,000 light years across. That’s huge! But even our own solar system is MASSIVE.
 
So sit on that for a little bit. It would take us 177 years to drive to the Sun, but it only takes light seven minutes to make that trip. If it takes light 100,000 years to travel across the Milky Way, then I can’t even fathom how long of a car ride that would be. (Actually, I did that math, too, and it would take 11,415,525 years. Better use the bathroom before we leave, LOOOOOOL!)
 
It’s just bonkers, man. And it’s pretty humbling.

Old-School Cool

This is something I wrote a couple of weeks ago in the days leading up to Christmas.


 

I don’t usually work closing shifts, but that’s where I found myself this evening.

Considering kids are out of school on break, Christmas shopping is at its peak, Star Wars opens this weekend (and the theater is just two blocks away) and it’s a Friday night to boot, things were pretty hectic. I spent a good portion of my night grumbling under my breath about the stupid things the hordes of teens and (ugh) “PRE-teens” were doing in the store.

At one point, a pack of 12-year-old girls could be heard cackling, tee-heeing and saying things like, “OH-EM-GEE, like, I am SO obsessed with Star Wars!” and, “I love Harpoon-D2!” (HARPOON-D2?!?!?!) with the thickest of “Valley Girl” accents.

Later, three “skaters” were meandering through the aisles with their skateboards and acting like they were a bunch of rebels who were just way too cool for school. Yup, nothing says “edgy” like spending your Friday night in a bookstore while waiting for your parents to pick you up. Whoa. Watch out. These are some bad dudes.

Anyway, the highlight of my night (and I mean that sincerely) was when I rang up an older gentleman who told me he was about to turn 83. He spoke with an accent that almost sounded Eastern European, like Polish or something, and said he and his wife were from Connecticut, but moved down about three years ago and that she’d just beaten cancer.

He said he used drive a van for his church, taking elderly people to their doctors’ appointments and such, but he and his wife had decided to move to be closer to their children and TWENTY TWO GRANDCHILDREN.

He wore a short, trim, well-kept Johnny Unitas-style flattop; a tan/khaki, half-zipped Members Only jacket; thin, black-rim glasses (the opposite of Harry Caray’s) and a behind-the-ear hearing aid in his left ear. In his shirt pocket he kept a mechanical pencil and a click pen, and he asked to have the receipt (instead of sticking in the bag) so he could record it in his ledger at home in order to track their finances.

He’d called ahead to have a book held (one he was buying for one of his grandchildren), and said that after driving 45 minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic, he realized he’d gone to the wrong Barnes & Noble, which did not have the book he was looking for. So he hopped back in his car and drove another 45 minutes across town in bumper-to-bumper traffic to get to our store.

But he wasn’t upset or angry, and in fact, he shook my hand and kept thanking me for being so nice and for holding the book for him (all I did was grab it from the counter behind me, haha). Then he asked to speak to Patricia (or ‘Pah-tree-shah,’ as he said) who he spoke to on the phone so he could thank her, too.

You could tell this guy was truly from a different generation. He was appreciative, clean-cut, disciplined, orderly and responsible. In a lot of ways, he reminded me of my granddaddy, who’d be 86 this February.

At one point, he said that I didn’t have a Southern accent, but I explained that I’ve lived all 27 years of my life in Asheville (pronounced ‘Ashe-vull’ if you’re from here). He said I’d learned to “talk like a Yankee,” something very similar to what my granddaddy would say when giving me a hard time for “talkin’ like a Yankee” because of the way I’d pronounce words like “hawk” and “dog,” haha.

If you were to ask my granddaddy, who spent the majority of his life in North and South Carolina, both of those words have heavy “W” sounds (‘hAWk’ and ‘dAWg’).

The man this evening was more talkative than my granddady, and he spoke with a Northern accent rather than a Southern one, but he shared a number of the same qualities and characteristics – conscientious, friendly, courteous, kind and responsible while maintaining a real sense of humor. They even wore the same jacket and both carried a pencil and pen in their pocket.

My granddaddy, who was an electrical engineer with Carolina Power & Light (CP&L) for 38 years, volunteered at our church every week, went out of his way to help people, treated my grandmother like a queen (especially when she was going through cancer), and took care of and kept written records of all their finances.

You just don’t come across many people of that old-school style of discipline and responsibility anymore, and this gentleman just really made an impression on me because of how much he reminded me of my granddaddy.

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.

Remembering Iwata

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At this time last week, I was – along with the rest of the gaming world – still reeling from the news that broke Sunday evening. Satoru Iwata had passed away.

Just as I was about to hop off the computer for the night, I checked my Twitter feed and saw the first bit of news trickling out. I had to reread the the headline three times just to make sure I’d seen it correctly. Upon clicking a couple of links, my heart sank as the news was repeatedly confirmed.

And then I cried.

I was heartbroken, and I think I always will be. Continue reading

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

Kinda Funny

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For those who don’t know, Kinda Funny – the single greatest YouTube channel in existence – is the culmination of the charisma, insight, creative genius and passion of Greg Miller, Colin Moriarty, Nick Scarpino and Tim Gettys, and it is unrivaled.

They’re four of my best friends, and they want to be yours, too.

As a long-time reader of IGN, I’ve known these guys for years, through their writing, podcasts and videos. When they started their own weekly YouTube podcast, The GameOverGreggy Show, in late 2013, I was there. These guys became a regular part of my everyday life.

So around five months ago, when I first learned they were leaving IGN, as I ate lunch in the break room at work, I was devastated. Immediately after reading Greg’s tweet, which simply said, “I quit IGN,” tears began to roll down my cheek. I hadn’t yet processed what was happening, so my only response was to cry.

Little did I realize that the departure of these four individuals meant I’d actually get to spend even more time with them, as they have gone on to form Kinda Funny, where they create web content for their fans (their best friends) full-time. And this past weekend, I got to spend time with them, in-person, at MomoCon in Atlanta.

And let me tell you, it was freaking surreal. They are every bit as genuine, gracious, down-to-earth, funny and kind as they seem in their videos. They don’t take their success for granted. It’s obvious they care that we care.

When I first approached them, I introduced myself and said they might recognize my Twitter picture from my incessant tweeting at them. Before I even pulled up my profile to show them, Tim asked, “Are you the Doug guy?!” and as I proceeded to show them (my pic is Doug Funnie with a Braves cap), Tim shouted, “I was hoping you’d be the Doug guy!” And because of my Twitter pic, they all knew me.

That blew my mind.

Later that evening, along with other Kinda Funny fans, I got to hang out with them and actually have real conversations. Nick Scarpino, the Producer/Seducer, actually came up to me and spent an inordinate amount of time talking to me, one-on-one. IS THIS REAL LIFE?!

These guys are my heroes, and the fact that they not only know who I am, but wanted to talk to me, was almost beyond (Beyond!) what I could comprehend. They work so hard, and it’s absolutely appreciated.

The fact that I left Atlanta this afternoon having gotten two hugs from Greg and two hugs from Nick, a handshake from all four of them, visual recognition of who I am from all of them, some real conversations and their signatures is more than I ever dreamed. The fact that I got Greg to yell “Oi!” is just the icing on the cake.

As I write this, I have a couple of tears in my eyes, because I can’t wait to hang out with them again.

Kinda Funny is made up of best friends, and those best friends are family.