Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hall Pass (or "Let's Debate Something Fun like Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame candidates")

The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame announced its list of 2017 Nominees earlier this week.

I'm a Hall of Fame junkie, specifically sports Halls of Fame. I'm fascinated by who is elected, who is considered, and how each Hall of Fame has their own criteria and selection process. None of the Halls of Fame get everything exactly right; if they did there'd be nothing to debate. Baseball comes the closest, its eligibility requirements and voting process are the simplest and most transparent. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the most confusing to me - which is why I seek a better understanding of the criteria.

I've been to both halls, having visited Cooperstown in 1991 and 1999 and Cleveland in 2004. I have three issues with the Rock and Roll Hall, though two are minor cosmetic things.

When I visited the Baseball Hall I was allowed to take pictures of anything and everything - and when my aunt died last year, one of the things I asked my mother to find was our pictures from Cooperstown.

When I visited the Rock and Roll Hall in 2004, I took a lot of pictures outside - and none inside. Photography was not allowed, as a "courtesy to the artists". I can take a picture of Babe Ruth's bat but not Michael Jackson's jacket? Not cool, rock stars. I assumed that this ban was most likely lifted when the iPhone was invented - because you can't stop people from using their phones - but maybe we just ran into the wrong exhibits:
Can I take pictures and videos?
Yes! Just turn off your flash and don't grab a photo in the Foster Theater (where photos unfortunately aren't allowed) or near any exhibit with a "No Photography" sign.

Still, I don't remember seeing any such signs anywhere in Cooperstown:
Photography and Video
Flash photography and video recording is encouraged throughout the Museum.

Which leads me to my second issue... the Baseball Hall of Fame is in the village of Cooperstown, New York. This is not close to the city. This is not close to any city. And yet, every year the induction ceremony is held in this quaint little village. The living legends of baseball all come to Cooperstown to welcome the newest members of the hallowed Hall. Induction ceremonies often attract tens of thousands of fans - more than the population of Cooperstown.

The Rock Hall is in Cleveland, Ohio - a major American city with an airport and everything. There are three pro sports teams in Cleveland - including the NBA Champion Cavaliers. Yet the Rock Hall induction ceremonies take place in... Brooklyn, New York.

This makes zero sense to me. Brooklyn is an eight hour drive from Cleveland (I know because we drove to Cleveland in '04.) Is there a reason why the induction ceremony has to be held there? If Quicken Loans arena (aka the "Q") is good enough for LeBron James and the Republican National Convention, it ought to be good enough for Hall and Oates.

The third issue I have with the Rock Hall is their (s)election process. The easiest part to understand is thus: an artist becomes eligible for consideration 25 years after their first recording. From there it gets a little tricky - there seems to be no limit to how many times an artist can appear on the Hall of Fame Ballot, or why some artists appear on the ballot one year and not the next - and, in some cases, re-appear some years later.

In baseball, if a player fails to reach minimum vote totals (5% of the vote by the Baseball Writers association) that player does not appear on any subsequent ballots. There are over a dozen players that the Baseball Writers have legitimately missed (you can read my post about this on my sports card blog) but - as in the game itself - once you're out, you can't come back in.  

There is one thing that the Rock and Roll Hall does that no sports hall has attempted (to my knowledge anyway.) On the Rock Hall website you can vote for up to five artists that you want to see inducted into the RRHOF. The top five vote-getters will appear on a "fan's ballot" which will be submitted along with the ballots from official voters:
Ballots are then sent to more than 600 historians, members of the music industry and artists—including every living Rock Hall inductee—and the five performers receiving the most votes become that year's induction class. Beginning in 2012, fans were given the chance to vote for the nominees they'd like to see inducted into the Rock Hall. The top five vote-getters in the public poll form one ballot, which is weighted the same as the rest of the submitted ballots.

That's right, music fan - you have a say in who gets elected to the Hall of Fame. How cool is that?

With that in mind I thought I'd review each nominated artist and share my thoughts - and my ballot. Here are the 2017 Rock Hall nominees:

  • Bad Brains 
  • The Cars
  • Chaka Khan 
  • Chic 
  • Depeche Mode
  • Electric Light Orchestra 
  • J. Geils Band 
  • Jane's Addiction 
  • Janet Jackson
  • Joan Baez 
  • Joe Tex 
  • Journey
  • Kraftwerk
  • MC5 
  • Pearl Jam
  • Steppenwolf 
  • Tupac Shakur
  • Yes 
  • The Zombies 

I'm going to be honest with you - I have no idea who some of these artists are. Perhaps that means they are not significant enough to be elected to the Hall of Fame... or perhaps it means that my music knowledge is much more limited than my sports knowledge. Either way, it took me about ten seconds to cut the list in half. 

Bad Brains and MC5 were the first two cuts - never heard of 'em. I'm vaguely familiar with Chaka Khan (Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan) and the only Joe Tex song I know is "I Gotcha", which was featured in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. J. Geils Band, Steppenwolf, and Yes had their share of hits but I don't think it's an oversight to exclude them from the Hall. 

There are four acts that have been eligible for a very long time, much longer than the Baseball Hall of Fame would allow. At some point you have to ask yourself: if Chic and ELO and Joan Baez and The Zombies have been passed over more than a dozen times, why should the committee members change their minds now? When a (retired) baseball player sees his Hall of Fame vote totals increase he often wonders why. I don't have any more hits now than I had before. 

Maybe there are some new voters who aren't very familiar with these artists (like me) but you've got to draw the line somewhere. That said, Chic's Nile Rogers should be inducted for something. Same for Perry Farrell, whose contributions to music as founder of Lollapalooza are as significant as anything he recorded with Jane's Addiction - though neither seems worthy of induction on its own.

That leaves me with seven quality candidates:
  • The Cars
  • Depeche Mode
  • Janet Jackson
  • Journey
  • Kraftwerk
  • Pearl Jam
  • Tupac Shakur

Two artists jump out at me immediately: Pearl Jam and Janet Jackson should be slam-dunk selections (not sure why Janet isn't in already). Hip-hop fans revere Tupac Shakur the way rock fans revere Kurt Cobain - and Nirvana was a first-ballot selection. That tells me Tupac will be as well.

You probably know that I'm a huge Depeche Mode fan. This is the first time they have appeared on the Rock Hall ballot, and I'm absolutely voting for them. I'm not terribly optimistic that they'll be selected, though. I keep reading about an anti-80's bias amongst the committee; U2 and R.E.M. are in but many popular New Wave and Modern Rock acts such as The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, and Duran Duran are rarely nominated and often overlooked. The committee is more likely to go with The Cars

Journey is a tricky one. They have the name recognition, the longevity, and the iconic hit songs. I could see them getting in eventually, just as Chicago did last year. They may have to wait a while longer as the committee often selects at least one backlogged artist from the 60's and 70's - ELO perhaps?

Kraftwerk has been overlooked for a different reason. Everyone knows "Don't Stop Believin" but can you name even one Kraftwerk song? The Man-Machines weren't exactly radio-friendly hit makers (at least not in the US) though they are far more influential than most of the other nominees as pioneers of electronic digital music.

I've been a Kraftwerk fan for many years and I'm voting for them. They invented a genre, which has got to be worth something to voters. But are they more essential to the HOF than Journey, The Cars, or Depeche Mode? I can't say for sure. My gut tells me that they won't be selected this year... but don't be surprised if they're inducted in the next year or two.

To summarize, I think these five artists should be elected:

Depeche Mode, Janet Jackson, Kraftwerk, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur

However, I think these five artists will be elected:

The Cars, ELO, Janet Jackson, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur

Which artists would you consider worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame? Do you agree with my analysis? Am I overlooking an artist you would vote for? Let me know in comments! 


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Where My Girls At?

Is it me, or has Blogger become a ghost town? It's probably me. I admit I haven't given anyone a reason to stop by here. Can't ever seem to find enough time to comment on all the blogs I want to comment on.. and I had to stop writing for a while due to a hectic schedule, family stress, depression, and baseball. Now that the Red Sox season is over I can start getting back to blogging (and commenting.)

There are lots of new blog posts on my feed every day - but they're mainly sports card bloggers. I've not seen much from my old Blogger friends Mich or Sam Lupin lately.

Once upon a time, nearly all of my Blogger friends were female - Kazehana, Peri, Jeanne, Addy, Kayla Lynn... but they've mostly moved on from here. And then of course, there's the blogger formerly known as My Favorite Girl.

I've been in love with this girl for over three years. I've followed her on YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, and her own blog. She's special to me, and she always will be. I just adore her.

And she's not really around anymore.

She hasn't posted a new YouTube video in months. Nothing new on Tumblr or Instagram for weeks. Not even a reblog. I had to do some sleuthing just to make sure she's alive.

The practical side of me says that this is a good thing. I need to stop crushing on this chick. I need to stop caring. But isn't that what social media is? Strangers investing themselves in the lives of other strangers? Meeting people, following their daily diary of pictures, words, and videos. Supporting them through success and struggle. But how can you tell how their life is going... if they stop sharing?

Well, as I've said before it's high time I moved on to a new Favorite Girl.

And you all know who that is...

I've talked about Taryn Southern many times on this blog - but I don't know that I've ever really explained why I'm so drawn to her. It's like... fifteen year old me sees this smoking hot blonde who is undeniably sexy as hell, but she's also very chill and fun and unfiltered.

And the depressed emo side of me can relate to her more emotional videos - whether she's opening up about her own personal struggles or openly weeping at the sad state of the world.

This was how I felt at the time. I'm always so saddened by the worst of humanity and I don't know how to handle it. I have no outlet like she does. But when I watch her pour her heart out like this I feel less alone, less pathetic.

Most of her videos are humorous. There's funny single girl observations galore, a bunch of music videos, and tech stuff that's way over my head. And she almost always posts them on Tuesdays.

Except...she kind of disappeared, too. Taryn still posts regularly on Instagram (unlike Joy), but the last video she uploaded was nearly a month ago.

Where are you girl? I need my Taryn Tuesdays!

But just when I was starting to wonder what the heck is going on... she came through for me bigly.

I've been losing a lot of sleep over the upcoming election, the lack of civil discourse, and the sad reality that there are many more forces out there with a vested interest in watching us tear each other apart than bringing us together.

So of course Taryn would take it upon herself to do a video like this:

..right when we're all about to go nuclear on each other. Taryn doesn't appear in this video but I don't even care. She's got a social conscience. She tries to do good things and make the world a better place. Add that humility and positivity to her self-deprecating sense of humor, her talents as a singer and content creator, and the fact that she's an absolute knockout... and she's pretty much the perfect woman.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

There Are No Words (My Instrumental Playlist)

Dick Dale and his Del-Tones - "Misirlou"

Joe Satriani - Time Machine

Metallica - The Call Of Ktulu

Depeche Mode - Agent Orange

M & H Band - Popcorn

Smashing Pumpkins - Depresso

Nine Inch Nails - A Warm Place

Mega Man II - Dr. Wily's Castle

The Smiths - Oscillate Wildly

Coldplay - Life In Technicolor

New Order - Elegia

Joy Division - Incubation

Duran Duran - Tiger Tiger

Kraftwerk - Franz Schubert

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pitch - Episode 1 Recap

So...who wants to talk about last night's presidential debate? Yeah, me neither. There was nothing else on TV and so I decided to re-watch one of my favorite new shows, Pitch.

Pitch is the story of Ginny Baker, the first female to compete in any of the four major North American pro sports leagues.*

Ginny is played by Kylie Bunbury, who also starred in another one of my favorite shows, Under The Dome. This show is of particular interest to me, not just because I like baseball and not just because Kylie is gorgeous. About 18 years ago I wrote a story about a girl who becomes the first female major league baseball player. It was much too long and terrible, but one professional critique called it "a story whose time has arguably come" or something. And that time is here.
Let's see what the pros can do with "my" idea...

*Manon Rheaume played goal in two pre-season games for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning

If you're interested in the show and you're DVR'ing or planning to bingewatch at a later date I feel obligated to shout SPOILER ALERT at this time. Otherwise, read on...


When we first meet our heroine she's waking up in a hotel room full of fruit baskets. So many fruit baskets. One of them is from Ellen DeGeneres, another is from Hillary Clinton. Nothing from Oprah though. Hmm...

Flanked by security (and her agent) Ginny makes her way from the hotel room down through the bowels of the stadium while clips of Fox Sports commentators set the stage for her major league debut. Ginny blocks out the noise with headphones, reminiscent of a Beats By Dre commercial.

We learn through such commentary (by MLB network) that Ginny has been pitching in the San Diego Padres minor league system for the past five years and has been called up to start today's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Also, her agent's assistant thinks she's 'like Elvis'.

Ali Later plays Ginny's agent Amelia Slater. Very bossy, kinda of a snot. I will not like her.

Ken Rosenthal, Mr. Bowtie himself, says that Ginny's fastball tops out in the "high 80's" which is about the minimum acceptable speed for a major leaguer. Unless you've got good breaking stuff...

Ginny and her handlers arrive at the players' entrance, and a huge crowd of adoring fans are waving and cheering. a big deal. Ginny starts to look overwhelmed, until she spots an adorable little girl holding a sign that reads: "I'm Next"

You ready, G?

Flashback. Overbearing dad trying to teach his boy how to play ball. He's scared off and runs inside the house. Meanwhile, the man's daughter (who can't be more than three years old) picks up a ball...and throws it waaaay over the fence. This man has himself a ballplayer.

Back in the present, Ginny meets the Padres general manager and team owner, and passes through more adoring fans. Her debut is the hottest ticket in town. The owner (who looks like one of the attorneys I work for) tells Ginny the team is excited to meet her. "No they're not." she quips. "Seventy five percent of them think I'm the next San Diego Chicken. The other twenty five just want to see me shower." Um, selling yourself short there, miss.

Padres manager Al Luongo (played by Dan Lauria) addresses his men. Gives them the old "It's 2016, be professional, treat her like a professional" speech. But one quick look around and you can tell this is an old-school group. Not exactly friendly confines.

Except...she does have one ally in the room - an old minor league teammate named Blip Sanders (played by Mo McRae). Where did the writers came up with a name like "Blip", you ask? My guess is, it's a nod to former Padres fan favorite Leon "Bip" Roberts.

Ever wonder where a woman would dress in a locker room clubhouse designed for men? Yup...they put Ginny in the supply closet. Oh sorry, the "clubhouse attendant's room." As her agent gripes to management about the substandard quarters, the owner indicates Ginny's jersey:

Amelia is annoyed that the Padres brass has subjected her to a pre-game press conference (highly unusual for a starting pitcher, though the show doesn't mention that.) Oscar Aguella, the Padres GM (played by Mark Consuelos) thinks it's no big deal - but that only earns him further lecturing from Amelia. While she describes Ginny as "Hillary Clinton with sex appeal" (ooh, tough visual) and "a Kardashian with a skill set." Oscar just smiles and pictures her naked. Amelia I mean.

Also, her assistant Elliot advises Oscar that he has "no chance". Something tells me that's not going to stop him.

Ginny takes the field at Petco Park and meets the Padres' veteran catcher Mike Lawson (played by Mark-Paul Gosselar.) She tells him that he's her favorite player- "I have your rookie card" -but he cuts her off for making him feel old. How's this for old: Saved By the Bell ended in 1992, which is a year before our 23 year-old heroine would have been born.

Lawson informs Ginny that she's the second prettiest teammate he's ever had. Who's number one? Leonardo DiCaprio.

Oh hell no, don't be slappin dat ass. Ginny gets tough with her hero about the old baseball tradition of ass-slapping--she's not having it.

Lawson gives an equally convincing rebuttal - and he's the captain. No special treatment, right? I could see how feminists might hate this exchange but I loved it - Mike lets her know she's one of the guys without giving an inch. Ginny gets it, lightens the mood with a Leo question, and slaps his ass right back.

After pre-game warmup, Ginny overhears the guys' locker room talk and recognizes Lawson's voice. He initially defends Ginny's place on the team...but only to needle the injured pitcher she's replacing. "She's a gimmick." Mike tells his teammates. But is he being loyal - or being candid? Ginny assumes it's the latter.

The big moment is nigh. First pitch is moments away, and television announcers Joe Buck and John Smoltz give us authentic (if a little sarcastic) play-by-play. Mike enters the bullpen to catch Ginny's warmup pitches. She puts a little extra oomph on her last one, just to let him know what's up.

When she takes the field in front of 43,000 fans the gravity of the moment hits her. She looks out into the crowd and sees her father - which ignites another flashback. This is where he teaches his young girl the screwball, her ticket to the majors.

Now she's here, on a major league mound, ready to make history. Will she rise to the occasion, or succumb to the incredible pressure of being the first female major leaguer?

Guess you'll have to tune in and find out...or wait till next week's recap. I'm running out of room here. if you liked this post and you want me to continue with these episode recaps, let me know in comments!


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday morning rambles

I wanted to do a cleaner, leaner, more focused post but I expended a lot of time and energy on Favorite Album Friday, and I thought I'd have the house to myself all day today but the in-laws are going to a football game and cannot watch my four year old while my six year old attends yet another birthday party. So I'll just do a genuine "stream of consciousness" and then make the Blogger rounds tonight once the fam returns from the bday party.

There is a lot to be stressed out about these days, in my home life and in the world. But I do have a few decent things going on that serve as temporary distractions.

My Red Sox have won 10 games in a row, and are red-hot heading into the playoffs. An AL East crown is all but certain, and I'm starting to believe that this team can win this year's World Series  -- if the Sox can find a reliable third starter behind 22-game winner Rick Porcello and $217 million ace David Price (who is 0-8 lifetime in postseason starts), and if the baseball gods do their part and keep the Chicago Cubs out of the World Series because that team scares the hell out of me.

Oh, who am I kidding? I would love to see a Cubs-Red Sox series. And I would be absolutely 100% okay with losing to Kris Bryant, Jon Lester, and the rest of Theo Epstein's squad. Next year.

My Favorite Girl hasn't posted anything on any social media platform in quite a while. Last week I was worried, and I sent her that anonymous message just to see if she'd respond. But I think now it's time to let her go for good. It is what it is... which is nothing. I hope she's okay, but I can't keep checking her pages to find out. Whatever I was supposed to learn from her never stuck with me anyway. Time to move on.

Taryn, you're My Favorite Girl now.

I've been watching a lot of TV lately, which is weird because I didn't think I'd have anything to watch once Castle ended. But I've got three new shows to watch - Designated Survivor, Pitch, and The Good Place - which airs right after Superstore. The in-laws have HBO so whenever I go there I bingewatch Ballers, and Any Given Wendesday because I'm a big Bill Simmons fan. That's six frickin' shows - and that doesn't include Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (which I watch online.)

I was reading an article about South Park on Bill Simmons' sports/pop culture/news website The Ringer and I had to share this with you guys because this is exactly how I feel about life and staff writer Mark Titus articulated it a thousand times better than I ever could have. (I don't have time to sign up for a Genius account and annotate this, so I'll just copy some key sections (full article here)

I'll preface this by saying that I don't watch much South Park anymore (though I probably should) but the fact that it is now in its 20th season makes me feel really old. I was in high school when it debuted, and my friends and I quoted and discussed the first season episodes every day in the cafeteria, in the classroom, and in the hallways. It's refreshing to know that kids today are doing the same thing we did back in the day, sort of like seeing a 14 year old wearing a Nirvana shirt.

I'm picturing Taryn wearin' this.

But the article - and the paragraphs that jumped out at me - were about much more than just an adult cartoon:
It feels like America is growing more divided with each passing day, and maybe that’s a result of us generally hearing from two sides when an issue arises. Something happens, Side A yells about how wrong it is, and Side B counters by yelling about how right it is. Then Side A and Side B shout at each other in hopes that calling the opposition idiots loud and often enough will eventually get people to change their minds. But there’s a third side in most cases, and that side is made up of people like me, who wish everyone would calm down and shut the hell up already.

It’s on this third side — Side C, we’ll call it — where South Park thrives. Side C typically remains silent about important issues. We watch from afar, content to stay out of things because we know that sharing our opinion, 140 characters at a time, on the complexities facing modern society is a fool’s errand. As debates rage on, Side A and Side B become more entrenched in their beliefs, while it’s easy for those of us on Side C to contemplate our place in the world.

We notice that most people we interact with seem to have strong opinions about everything, and start to wonder if maybe we’re the ones who are wrong for not calling strangers “pieces of shit” on the internet. Am I the only one who has too many personal problems to start having problems with other people, too? Am I the only one who just wants everyone on Side A and Side B to take FIVE FUCKING SECONDS to put themselves in the other side’s shoes? Just when I start to think I’m the lone impartial observer, South Park comes along and says, “No. No, you aren’t.”

Trevor Noah brought up a similar point on The Daily Show while lamenting how the news (especially on social media sites like Facebook) has become so filtered to fit our already-entrenched views  that we don't even encounter opposing viewpoints. And to illustrate this point, he spent an entire show discussing Tomi Lahren.

She's pretty racist

You're right, Trevor. I have no idea who this person is. Let's hear what she has to say...

Awww hell naw! You tear that bitch apart, Trevor. DO IT NOW!!!

What?!?! No! No no NO! Stop fangirling over Racist Barbie!! The hell is wrong with you? Stewart!!!!!!

Oh, right...Jon Stewart's retired. Well, if you want to hear a decent smackdown of this future Fox News employee you can watch this video.'t. Cause that's just going to make you angry - either at the "Libtards" who dare criticize Tomi's take, or at Tomi herself.

I admit I fell into the "Side A/Side B" trap over this particular Daily Show episode. And then I read this comment re:Trevor's soft take...

Because this would actually drive someone like Tomi crackers (more crackers, that is.) She expects everyone that opposes her to attack with vitriol, and that just feeds her runaway ego. But just treating her like the breezy nothing joke she actually is? She won't know how to handle it.

Is that why Trevor Noah played it light and sweet? I didn't get that impression. But then again I may be too hardened by divisive political rhetoric to recognize it.

Maybe I need to watch more South Park.

Be nice to each other, m'kay?


Friday, September 23, 2016

Favorite Album Friday: Riot!

This is the first in (hopefully) a series of posts about my favorite albums - in which I will select a CD from my collection and write about each track. These are all standard full-length studio LP's; no compilations, double-albums, or greatest hits allowed. Some are well-known, others are quite obscure. I'll share a few opinions, a few facts, and embed a few videos of my favorite tracks. Hope you'll give these a listen and share your thoughts in the comments. Let's rock!!

Paramore - Riot! (2007)

Tennesee-based pop-punk band Paramore debuted in 2005 with All We Know Is Falling - a solid freshman effort with standout tracks such as "All We Know", "Pressure", and my personal favorite "Emergency." The lineup changed a bit between albums, with bassist Jeremy Davies joining brothers Josh Farro (guitar/vocals) and Zac Farro (drums). The face of the band, spunky singer Hayley Williams, co-wrote the songs with then-beau Josh Farro.

My introduction to Paramore came from my (wife's) niece, who was a pre-teen at the time of Riot!'s release. The members of the band weren't much older; nearly all of them were teenagers when the album dropped. After hearing a few of their tracks on the radio I became a fan - but once the Farro bros left in 2010 (a split they infamously announced on Blogger) the Williams-led remnants adopted a more pop-centric sound... and that's where they lost me. That said, Riot! remains one of my favorite albums of the 2000's.

Here's my track-by-track review, with a favorite lyric or two and a grade out of ten:

1. "For A Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic" (7/10)

A lively start, with Josh Farro's rolling riff and brother Zac's thunderous beat bursting open the door. The lyrics and Hayley's vocal are catchy enough but the boys are the engine here. When she wails "Why don't you stand up, be a man about it Fight with your bare hands about it now" you know she's just getting warmed up.

2. "That's What You Get" (8.5/10)
This is embarrassing, but when I first heard this track on top 40 radio I thought it was a Miley Cyrus song. (I hadn't yet heard a song from either artist and Miley hadn't yet become a soft-core 'twerker'.) Zac Farro's drumming stands out again, but Hayley's vocal sounds so smooth and sunny I can't help but sing "That's what you get when you let your heart win" at the singalong cue. Bit of a guilty pleasure track for me.

3. "Hallelujah" (9.5/10)

No, this isn't a cover of the Leonard Cohen classic. It is, however, a high-spirited triumph that showcases the band at their very best. From the intro riff to the chorus "This time we're not giving up Let's make it last forever Screaming hallelujah We'll make it last forever" this track oozes hope and faith and love. I can absolutely picture myself blasting this track while driving down a picture-perfect coastal highway on my way to see my favorite girl, raising my arms to the sky and singing along as Hayley belts out the lyrics. Not that I've thought about it or anything...

4. "Misery Business" (9/10)

Ah, good ol' Miz Biz. When I heard my niece attempt to sing along to this on Guitar Hero I realized what an incredible vocalist young Ms. Williams is. The guitars and drums (hit that, hit that snare) are all on point... but this is Hayley's show, man. When she slows it down for the bridge "'Cause God it just feels so... It just feels so good" then crushes the chorus "Whoa, I never meant to brag But I got him where I want him now...." she had me hooked.

5. "When It Rains" (8/10)

A downbeat ballad with a bit of a country feel, Hayley sings this track with such a delicate tone that I had to hold back tears the first few times I heard it. "And when it rains Will you always find an escape? Just running away From all of the ones who love you From everything." Still gives me chills.

6. "Let The Flames Begin" (9/10)
The heart of the order right here. Hayley & co. follow up the first ballad with this standout track. Like a slow burn that explodes into an inferno at the chorus "This is how we'll stand when When they burn our houses down This is what will be, Oh glory" these kids are in complete control of tempo.

7. "Miracle" (6/10)

Another solid beginning by Josh... but then Hayley's vocal kicks in. "I've gone for too long living like I'm not alive" Wut? I try to cut 'em some slack on lyrics but this track lacks the depth of so many others on this album; when Hayley sighs "I just need this pain to end right here" you realize what the rest of the song is missing.

8. "Crushcrushcrush" (9/10)

The lyrics are kinda...all over the place. "Rock and roll, baby Don't you know that we're all alone now? I need something to sing about" But some of them are absolutely perfect, including one that really speaks to me: "Cause I'd rather waste my life pretending Than have to forget you for one whole minute" If you've read my blog at all you know I'm all about crushing.

9. "We Are Broken" (10/10)

"When It Rains" had me holding back tears; this somber song turned me into a puddle. The dreary tone and piano-driven arrangement is unlike anything else on the album. In live performances the band has dedicated this track to abused and troubled youth. "'Cause we are broken What must we do to restore Our innocence And oh, the promise we adored Give us life again 'Cause we just wanna be whole" Just a beautiful piece of music.

10. "Fences" (6/10)
...And then they get all Gwen Stefani on us. A funky track about the perils of fame "And it's obvious that you're dying, dying Just living proof that the camera's lying" I might like this track a bit more if it didn't directly follow their deepest, heaviest song.

11. "Born For This" (5.5/10)

I wish I could tell you that Riot! goes out with a bang, but that isn't quite the case. This track is probably best suited for live performances "Everybody sing like it's the last song you will ever sing" There's plenty of energy here, but very little substance. I wonder if Josh's background lyric "We want the airwaves back, we want the airwaves back" is directed at the top 40 charts - which Hayley has reached without him. And the call-and-response chorus seems a bit self-congratulatory - "We were born for this" - but it's not bragging if you can back it up.

Overall I'd give Riot! an 8/10 grade. Highly recommended to any fan of pop-punk, alternative, or female-fronted rock bands. If you've heard recent Paramore tracks like "Still Into You" or "Ain't It Fun" but you haven't heard these early hits I urge you to compare and contrast.


Monday, September 19, 2016

I want the peace and joy in your mind

"How can a beautiful soul such as yourself stay positive and trust in God when there is so much anger and hate and violence all around us? I’m about ready to jump off this sinking ship called life and take my chances with what comes next."

Earlier this week it dawned on me that we hadn't had any terrorist attacks in a while. Immediately I began praying that trend would continue. Forever? Impossible. For two months? Sadly, that's not realistic either.

Saturday morning a pipe bomb detonated in Seaside Heights, NJ. The explosion occurred in a trash can on the site of a 5K run to support the Marine Corps. Luckily, the start of the race had been delayed due to higher than expected participation, and there were no injuries.

Still, an explosion at a marathon site echoed the terror attack at the Boston Marathon in 2013.

Then, late Saturday night there was another explosion in the tri-state area. This one was in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, and there were reports of "multiple injuries" but when I turned off the TV before midnight the exact number had not been confirmed.

I had to get up early Sunday morning. We had to be in CT by 10am for a baby shower, and I set my alarm for 6:30am.

At 5:40am a loud BOOM jolted me awake. It sounded close, in the next town perhaps. I waited for the sirens. Didn't hear any. Soon I realized that it was just a dream, though it felt all too real. It wasn't the first time a phantom explosion awoke me, and it likely isn't the last. I could not go back to sleep. Too many worries and fears over the state of the world. [update: the suspect was apprehended in the next town over from me.]

When I turned on the TV an hour later I learned that the bomb was detonated at an Orange Theory gym. 29 people were injured. Are terrorists declaring a war on fitness?

This last month has been difficult. Everyday after work I have had to crawl into bed immediately, my energy has been so depleted, I was completely nauseous, lack of appetite, no interest, etc. It is frustrating when your monthly goal is “to wash your face and brush your teeth” every night. You know when all you want is to sit in a corner and cry, not for any reason but just because everything in your brain is triggered as “Sad”.

Days where my energy was low and I didn’t want to work out - my friends were there to remind me of what life is about, relationships. Long walks (10 miles on some days) with friends saved me.

This verse is my current anthem: The LORD your God in the midst of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy; he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

I kind of don’t know where I am going with this. I just wanted to update you all because I haven’t been motivated to even get on social media, blog, youtube, workout, eat, shower, etc. But here is my life - and it is in God’s hands.

She's sharing much less of herself lately. The things she posts are mostly adverts for her new fitness plan. I get it. It's her job now, and one she probably got by promoting and hashtagging like crazy. It will certainly be easier to resist her social media sites if there's less personal content. This is a good thing for me. (though I do miss the 'old' her.)

I avoided her blogs for more than a month, and for four months before that. It seems I only check in on her when I'm stressed and depressed and in desperate need of a distraction. But much like my other bad habit, caffeine, the effect produces diminishing results.

There was a time when I felt a rush of adrenaline reading her posts and watching her videos. There was a time when the mere thought of her depressed the hell out of me (oh, the irony of someone whose stated mission was to help people out of the darkness being a trigger for self-destructive thoughts.) Now I feel neither of those things.

I still call her "My Favorite Girl" but it feels less accurate every day. She will always be this mythical figure in my mind: some days she's my muse, other days she's the personification of all my weaknesses. Always I wonder about her. And worry about her.

This affliction wont last much longer. The embers are fading. She doesn't feel real anymore.

A beautiful, funny, kind, caring, social media savvy girl whom I've never met, and have no tangible connection with? That could describe lots of girls. Hell, that could describe Taryn Southern. And I don't mark my calendars with a shameful 'X' when wandering onto Taryn's corner of the interwebs.
I don't worry about how the world is treating Taryn, and I don't dream about being her boyfriend. (okay, maybe once or twice)

(or a dozen times)

When I hear reports of an earthquake or a wildfire in California I don't ever think Oh God, I hope Taryn's okay. Is it because Taryn is "famous" and My Favorite Girl isn't? Is it because I've never actually communicated with Taryn? It's not like MFG and I had this magical connection. How the hell has she left such an indelible imprint on my heart?

The simple answer is, she's the key to something. I may have said this before, but she and I experience similar emotions. The only difference is, when life knocks her down she at least tries to get up. Sometimes she is triumphant. Sometimes she is defeated. But she has hope. She has faith.

And I just...don't.

There is so much about her that I envy. Her youth, her beauty, her background, her support system. But above all, the one thing that I wish I had is the light inside of her. The thing that gives her body and mind and soul the strength to persevere.

I don't know a lot of people. Not even on social media. And when I found one I liked, I stopped. No more calls, we have a winner. I needed to know that someone like her exists. I don't even need to know her personally. 

I just need an occasional reminder that, even though this country is more divided than ever,
and social media has made us bitter and angry and suspicious of those who are different,
and there are more guns in this country than people,
and innocent people are being targeted by trigger-happy police,
and innocent policemen (and women) are being targeted by trigger-happy thugs,
and politicians are openly advocating for the assassination of their opponents,
and the internet has facilitated cyberbullying and hacking and identity theft and terrorism,
and our planet is getting warmer and warmer each year...

there is Joy in the world.

and if she can stay strong through all of these things...why can't I?