Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Strangely Sad Topical Dream

Hey friends,

I know it's weird (maybe) to roll with two Linkin Park posts in a row, but I'd say it's appropriate given today's news. It also seems strange to post this at night instead of early this morning when it was fresh, but here we are.

I had a dream last night that the guys in Linkin Park read my previous post about how I've enjoyed hearing their sound evolve over the years. They loved it and wanted to be on my podcast. So we did that interview and it was wonderful. They hooked me up with tickets to their show here in the [Philadelphia] area and invited me to meet them backstage. It was all tremendous. And the weird thing is, I could totally see them doing this in real life.

I've read a lot of great stories about Linkin Park's fan interactions, and they are almost all overwhelmingly positive. In particular, I've seen a lot of praise for how great a dude Chester Bennington was. And that makes it really hard for me to grasp that he took his life this morning.

I will always remember how excited I was after hearing the band for the first time. As soon as One Step Closer ended on the radio that day, I was hooked. I did the teenage thing of buying the album for one song, but I absolutely did not (and do not) regret it. The way Chester smoothly transitioned from singing to screaming and vice versa was incredible. The fact that he could do both and still crush it? Well, there's a reason Linkin Park is locked in my top 5.

He proved over the next 17+ years that his talent as a singer and songwriter was off the charts - pun intended, as always - with Linkin Park, Dead by Sunrise, and Stone Temple Pilots. As cliché as it sounds, he "brought it" on stage and in the studio. (I got to see LP at Live 8 in 2005 and they were amazing.) There were few current singers I enjoyed more, because I could hear his passion (and now I realize, his pain) in every project. He was just so damn good.

And that's why I waited to write this. Partly because I can't believe it, and partly because I wanted to find a way to express how awful mental illness can be. I don't think I've found it yet, but here I go anyway.

I am always shocked and saddened at suicide. Most of the time, the person "seems normal" even hours before the act. I'm saddened, obviously, to see anyone take that route. I'm also sad because it seems like the only time a dialogue gets started about depression and mental illness is after a tragedy.

Mental illness in general is baffling to me, because I can't wrap my head around how debilitating it really is. I can't fathom how someone who has so many people who love and support him, someone who gets to entertain millions of people living a childhood dream, can bring himself to put an end to it all so...definitively. (I guess my third reaction to suicide would be anger, but it's for sure overshadowed by the shock and sadness.)

I know it seems like I'm angry at Chester there, but I'm not. I can't be. I understand that he had serious issues. What I don't understand is why so many people who suffer from depression can't get the help they need, especially in America. It makes no sense and I wish I had a solution for it. I wish there were words I could say to make his family/friends/fans feel better. But I can't. And I hate it.

What I can say to try to tie this together though, is hug your loved ones. High five your buddies. Crank some Linkin Park or Dead by Sunrise or [recent] Stone Temple Pilots. And crap open a cold one for Chester.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Linkin Park Problem: An Essay on Stubbornness and Sweet Tunes

Hi, friend!

I'm glad you're here. Today I want to partake in one of my favorite activities: complaining about people being dumb.

I love music, youse guyses. Being able to sit down and lose myself in an album is a great experience, and one I wish I could have more often. In doing this over the years, I have been able to hear how bands have grown and updated their sounds. And while part of me wants more of a similar sound from certain groups, there is something wonderful about how musicians change with the times and keep themselves fresh.

As much as I enjoy listening to musical evolution though, there are plenty of people who do not. And that brings me to the meat on the menu today - and the reason for the title.


Linkin Park has (or would it be have? Help me out, Twitter!) been around since 2000, when they burst onto the scene with Hybrid Theory. This record was, and still is, wonderful in my opinion. Great vocals, killer guitars, some sweet turntable action - it's clear why they hit it big with this one.

It is also, I think unfairly, the record that a lot of people judge the rest of their discography against. From Meteora to One More Light, the Internet "music people" have expressed outrage that begins and ends with: "This sounds nothing like Hybrid Theory! They suck now! Sellouts!" The two records that I think receive the worst of this treatment are Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns.

Both were certainly departures from the band's "rock roots," but neither one deserved the backlash. A Thousand Suns was, very simply, a concept album. To break it down (DX) even more, it was the most electronic they'd ever been. I liked hearing a different style from them, even if the album wasn't my favorite. But it was a good record, and it gave us a glimpse into how creative the band could be.

Minutes to Midnight, on the other hand, was the first album that was less rock and more rap - and I [surprisingly] enjoyed it quite a bit. It was, again, a chance to see some other talents of the band. But I don't remember seeing a single review of it that didn't mention how much it wasn't like Hybrid Theory. And that, my friends, is the problem here.


The band blew up with their heavier rock sound and a lot of people really latched onto that, myself included. When you heard the name Linkin Park, you thought rock (or maybe you were one of those who threw them into that "nu-metal" genre, but I digress). Hybrid Theory brought that. Meteora did too. We all thought we had a good sense of what these dudes could do. 

So when they took some musical turns - experimenting with different instruments, sounds, and lyrical themes - it was a bit of a surprise. And there were plenty of people who did not enjoy the ride.

Differing musical tastes aside, I don't get why the band gets so much backlash for creating new sweet tunes. I can see not enjoying the new direction. I can understand not liking the music. But to suggest that they have "sold out" or whatever else just doesn't make sense to me.


If the band had continued to play/write songs like those on Hybrid Theory, the complaint would be that they keep playing the same stuff. Since they have evolved over the last 17 years, the knock is that the band has "lost their way" or "sold out" just to make money. But isn't the point of being a career musician to make money? As an amateur, I can tell you that there is no better feeling than expanding your musical horizons to create a new sound for yourself. The fact that Linkin Park has been able to do this while making more money is, quite frankly, a bonus.

The bottom line is this, friends: If Linkin Park just played Hybrid Theory-like songs this whole time, they'd be bored with them. And so would you as a listener. If you love the record so much, then why don't you marry it? go listen to it and don't worry about what they're doing now. It's clearly not for you.

For the rest of you: keeping rocking, rapping, and ballad-ing on with these dudes - or whatever groups you enjoy. Let's all have a good time and crap open a cold one!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer Dubbin: What's New to Anime Strike

Hi, friends!

Today I have a new thing to share with you: Amazon Strike - a sweet channel for awesome people (like you!) who like anime. And now for some stuff I couldn't write better myself - because I didn't:

Amazon Strike is the first curated on-demand subscription from Amazon Channels. Available to Prime members in the U.S. for $4.99 per month after a 7-day free trial, Anime Strike includes a deep library of classic and newly released episodes carefully selected and curated by Amazon.

It is on-demand, ad-free, and available to Prime members in the U.S. for $4.99 per month (after a 7-day free trial). It includes a deep library of classic (woo!) and newly released episodes and movies, and you can watch all the stuff on your fancy gadgets!

(Okay, some of that was ad-libbed by me, but now here's more from a smart person):

Anime Strike subscribers will receive a free manga download of volume 1 from the summer's most anticipated anime: Welcome to the Ballroom, courtesy of Kodansha and Comixology.

Also, Anime Strike and Pony Canyon have joined forces to air the first episode the day before it premieres around the world, exclusively on Twitch. The broadcast will kick off July 6 at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET with a special pre-show hosted by Twitch Partner, Dodger (twitch.tv/dexbonus), and the first episode will stream live at 6:30 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. ET on twitch.tv/TwitchPresents. An encore presentation will follow.

Follow Anime Strike on twitter.com/animestrike to stay up-to-date on additional summer title announcements as they happen. And now, another fancy graph so I don't have to type more words (followed by some legal stuff)!

New in July - Available for Streaming & Download on Anime Strike
TV Series Title
Start Date
Katsugeki: Touken Ranbu
July 1
Love & Lies
July 3
DIVE!!
July 5
Altair: A Record of Battles
July 7
Vatican Miracle Examiner
July 7
Made in Abyss
July 7
Welcome to the Ballroom
July 8
Hitorijime My Hero
July 8
Princess Principal
July 9
Lights of the Clione
July 12
Hell Girl 4
July 14
Sagrada Reset
New episodes released Wednesdays
Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul
New episodes released Fridays
Re:Creators
New episodes released Saturdays

Melting Your Stream, Part 3: What's New to Amazon, July 2017

Hi, friends!

Since we did Netflix, I figured it's only fair to let you know what's coming to your Amazon box too. So here is a fancy graph! Wooooo!

Melting Your Stream, Part 2: What's New to Netflix, July 2017

Hi, friends!

I'm just in time to almost be late with this, but here is what you can stream on Netflix starting TOMORROW. Woooo!

Avail. 7/1/17

Albion: The Enchanted Stallion
Are We There Yet?
Are We Done Yet?
Best in Show
Boat Trip
Caramel
Capo “El amo del tunel”: Season 1
Code Name: The Cleaner
Dad
Deep Water: Season 1
Delicatessen
Disney's The Mighty Ducks (finally!)
El Barco: Season 1
Emma
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Will I finally watch this whole movie?)
Free Willy
Hostages (Israel): Season 2
Here Alone
Jackass: Number Two
Last Night
Liar's Dice
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Matchstick Men
Mixed Signals
Offspring: Season 6 (the band documentary?)
Out of Thin Air
Police Academy (nice!)
Proof of Life
Punch-Drunk Love
Spawn: The Movie (the security guard from Mondo Burger doin things!)
Spice Up: Season 1
The Truth Is in the Stars
Yours Fatefully: Season 1
The Ultimatum: Season 1
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Longest Yard
The Land Before Time (YES!)
The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure (YES! YES!)
The Land Before Time III: The Time of the Great Giving (YES! YES! YES!)
The Astronaut Farmer
Taking Lives
The Invisible Guest (Contratiempo)
The Originals: Season 4
Titanic
Unriddle II
Unriddle
Witnesses: Season 2
World at Your Feet: Season 1
Yes We Can!: Season 1
Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang

Avail. 7/2/17

El Chema: Season 1

Avail. 7/3/17

Diamond Cartel
Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek Story

Avail. 7/4/17

The Standups: Season 1--NETFLIX ORIGINAL netflix.com/thestandups

Avail. 7/5/17

iZombie: Season 3

Avail. 7/6/17

Butter
Speech & Debate
The Void

Avail. 7/7/17

1 Mile to You (Life At These Speeds)
Castlevania: Season 1--NETFLIX ORIGINAL (YYYEEEESSSS!)
Dawn of the Croods: Season 4--NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Degrassi: Next Class: Season 4--NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Luna Petunia: Season 2--NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Avail. 7/8/17

Bad Santa 2 (lol nice)
Horse Dancer

Avail. 7/9/17

Lion

Avail. 7/11/17

Gabriel Iglesias Presents The Gentleman Jerry Rocha

Avail. 7/14/17

Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile--NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Chasing Coral--NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Friends From College: Season 1--NETFLIX ORIGINAL netflix.com/friendsfromcollege
To the Bone--NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Avail. 7/15/17

Rake: Season 4
West Coast Customs: Season 4

Avail. 7/17/17

A Cowgirl's Story
Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness
Uncertain Glory

Avail. 7/18/17

Aditi Mittal: Things They Wouldn't Let Me Say--NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Ari Shaffir: Double Negative: Collection--NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Season 3
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Yeah buddy!)

Avail. 7/20/17

Pretty Little Liars: New episodes

Avail. 7/21/17

Last Chance U: Season 2--NETFLIX ORIGINAL netflix.com/lastchanceu
Ozark: Season 1--NETFLIX ORIGINAL netflix.com/ozark
The Worst Witch: Season 1--NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Avail. 7/22/17

Railroad Tigers

Avail. 7/24/17

Victor

Avail. 7/25/17

Joe Mande’s Award-Winning Comedy Special--NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Munroe Island

Avail. 7/28/17

Daughters of Destiny: Season 1--NETFLIX ORIGINAL
The Incredible Jessica James--NETFLIX ORIGINAL netflix.com/theincrediblejessicajames
The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Season 5--NETFLIX ORIGINAL

Avail. 7/31/17

After The Reality
Checkpoint
Dark Night
Taking Earth
Being Mary Jane: The Series: Season 4 -- Date TBD
__________________________________________________________________________

So much stuff! Do the thing! Woooo!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Melting Your Stream, Part 1: What's Leaving Netflix, July 2017

Hi, friends!

I forgot to do this on the show this week, so here's me doing the thing. This month you get the express (aka lazy) version of what you need to watch on Netflix before it's gone FOREVER:

LEAVING NETFLIX 7/1

Leaving 7/1/17
9/11: Stories in Fragments
America's Secret D-Day Disaster
American Pie Presents: Band Camp
American Pie Presents: Beta House
American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile
An Unmarried Woman
Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging
Batman (How can you delete Batman?)
Black Wings
Blazing Saddles (if I didn't own this masterpiece, I'd be bummed)
Blondie's New York
Bombs, Bullets and Fraud
Day of the Kamikaze
Death Beach (this sounds awesome)
El Dorado
Flicka 2
Futurama: Seasons 1 - 6 (BOOOOO)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (nah, that ain't me)
Ghost Whisperer: Seasons 1 - 5 (I think Jennifer Love-Hewitt is in this)
Hello, Dolly!
Hip Hop: The Furious Force of Rhymes
History in HD: The Last Bomb
Hugo
Kate & Leopold (possible chick flick)
MacGyver: Seasons 1 - 7 (you'd think he could save this with a tic tac and a rubber band)
Mystery Files: Hitler
Mystery Files: Leonardo da Vinci
Nazi Temple of Doom
Samurai Headhunters
Secrets: A Viking Map?
Secrets: Richard III Revealed
Secrets: The Sphinx
Shuttle Discovery's Last Mission
The Hunt for Bin Laden
The Incredible Bionic Man
Titanic's Final Mystery
While You Were Sleeping (chick flick)
Working Girl

Leaving 7/3/17
The Last Samurai (we need MORE Tom Cruise to binge, not less)
Two Weeks Notice (also a chick flick)

Leaving 7/6/17
Los Heroes del Norte: Seasons 1 - 2

Leaving 7/11/17
Opposite Field

Leaving 7/12/17
Adventures of Pepper and Paula
In the Basement
Sleeping Beauty

Leaving 7/13/17
Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain (this was a funny special)

Leaving 7/15/17
All That Glitters (Is this a Smash Mouth documentary?)
Lessons for a Kiss
__________________________________________________________________________
So hurry up and get your vacation time approved so you don't miss stuff! Have fun!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Baseball Needs a Pitch Clock

There, I said it.

There has been a lot of talk recently about how to speed up baseball games. Some new rules have helped - a timer between innings, keeping guys in the box during at-bats - but they just don't seem to be enough.

Look, I love baseball. Longtime fans of mine certainly know that. I will defend it against casual fans who complain about it being "boring." Even if those people thought the 2017 NBA Playoffs were "exciting" - you can think what you want, but I don't think we watched the same games. But even I can admit that, sometimes, baseball takes longer than it should. And THE MAN (the union too, I guess) needs to make some moves on it.

Quick aside: I love that they no longer have to throw pitches for an intentional walk (though I think it should only be allowed at the beginning of the AB). Does it save a lot of time? No, but I always hated it. Okay, back to me.

Two "rituals" in baseball that greatly hinder this pace of play deal for me are: guys calling time in the box and pitchers stepping off the rubber. I'm not suggesting the moves be outlawed, as the acts themselves aren't my concern. But their overuse is part of what can make games really drag. And, as a bonus gripe, can we limit pickoff throws? The DH you just pitched around isn't going anywhere with a 5-run lead in the 8th. Calm yourself.

All of these issues can, I think, be solved by adding *dramatic music* a pitch clock. Some may argue that speeding up a player's routine will affect his play. I see the point, but do you know what he'll do up there? He'll do exactly what players have been doing for decades: adjust!

They've adjusted to the mound. They've adjusted with the shift. They've adjusted to caring - and now no longer caring - about winning the All-Star Game. Baseball is as much about routines as it is making adjustments to them. It might take a while, but I'm sure that professional players can get used to finishing their moves in a few minutes (hey now!).

And besides, it's not like players get paid by the hour. If this goes as anticipated and really does shorten games, they'll essentially make more money for less work. And that means more time to crap open cold ones. Everyone wins!

So come on, big wigs, let's do the thing!