Pop Culture

The X-Files Revival Review: Paranormally Normal Expectations

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m an X-Phile, through and through.

As the name would suggest, X-Philes are a rare breed of entertainment consumers who swear allegiance to the TV show The X-Files. With 201 episodes, we have spent at least 201 hours of our lives watching Mulder and Scully ask the big questions and chase the big, scary monsters. Personally, I’ve seen the original series three-times through, with favorite episodes re-watched here or there, and of course, multiple viewings of the two movies. Realistically, let’s call it 700 hours of my life dedicated to finding Mulder’s stupid sister. Let us not mention The Philosophy of The X-Files book, or the Season 10 comic book series. I also bought the IDM board game.

There’s a simpler word for what I am. It’s called a nerd, and I understand that.

The truth… is that we X-Philes absorbed any and all X-Files we could get, because when the series ended in 2001, the show was over. That was it. Gone. Dunzo. Poof. Like the proof Mulder could never quite attain, The X-Files disappeared, almost as if it were never really there. And remember, TV shows didn’t come back from the dead back then. When they ended, they ended. When they were cancelled, they cancelled. So, we X-Philes became our special class of nerds, quietly holding onto the spooky, nostalgic memories of something that would never exist again.

Until it existed again.

And The X-Files came back. And now my board game, comics and books look less like collector’s items, and more like an obvious case of dork.

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Read my full review on The Farsighted blog: Part One and Part Two

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Best of 2015: Music, Film, Literature

Oh hey there. Let’s jump right in.

Music

2015 was a fantastic year for music. Adele and Taylor Swift reminded us that people still buy music and that pop stars still exist. Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and a host of other streaming services pushed the discussion of “music as a commodity” centerstage. Despite where opinions settle, I think we can all agree that our streaming discussions were well overdue (and on two fronts: people paying for their music again and artists getting fairly paid for streaming).

NOTE: Amazon Prime’s streaming service (Amazon Music) is the industry’s best kept secret. It’s by far the best streaming service. Comes with your Prime account, you can download thousands of records, listen to them offline. Why is no one talking about this?

Every year I have artists and their releases that I look forward to, but this year there were some out-of-left-field albums that no one saw coming. Leon Bridges and Sufjan Stevens’ masterpiece, for instance, rocked (and rolled) almost my entire musical year.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Someone once told me that art should look different every time you see it. I think the same can be true for music, where you hear something different every time you play it. Stevens’ latest hits the proverbial mark. Borrowing from Gregorian chants, from 70’s folk, from his own catalogue — Carrie & Lowell is lyrically transparent, musically restrained, and almost perfect. Make no mistake, people: Sufjan Stevens made a masterpiece.

There are instances, such as in “The Only Thing“, where the track is just begging for a rhythm section (i.e., bass & drums), but we don’t get it, and it’s the right choice. “The Only Thing” is about despair, about barely holding on with just a glimmer of hope. Sure, you can sing about depression with a backing band, but it wouldn’t fit here. Stevens isn’t trying to be flashy, and he’s not making anthems, what Stevens is doing is splitting open his chest and singing therapy.

As someone who’s had a similar (not exact, but similar) upbringing as Stevens, I latched onto this record like a child to his mother, and it brought me comfort many times over. Can someone with a glossy childhood enjoy this album? Of course. But who actually had a glossy childhood? (more…)

Skate and Surf Fest 2015 Recap: Rewinds and New Finds

Last week, (instead of attending college graduation), the wife and I skipped town and headed to Asbury Park, New Jersey to attend Skate and Surf Fest — a two day music festival.

The festival featured a mix of contemporary indie-rock bands: mewithoutYou, The Gaslight Anthem, The Front Bottoms. It also included some new acts I was excited to see: Rozwell Kid, Cloud Nothings, Diamond Youth. For some reason, I don’t know why, Skate and Surf Fest was the place to be to see some of my favorite high school bands reunite: From Autumn to Ashes, Poison the Well, Thrice, Acceptance. #oldguycrowd

If Asbury Park sounds familiar, it’s probably for one of two reasons: Bruce Springsteen’s classic album, “Greetings from Asbury Park” or Sandy, the devastating 2012 hurricane (or superstorm). Just walking around the boardwalk and seeing the damage hit me hard. It reminded me that communities like these are affected long after the news cameras turn off. But even in its destruction there is new life in Asbury Park, and it’s beautiful.

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For the first day of the festival we were joined by a couple west coast friends, Scott and Brook. We stood in line, ate pizza, stood in line some more, watched a boardwalk magician get arrested, stood in line some more, and finally, got close to the front of the line.

Eventually we made it inside.

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Skate and Surf Fest 2015

My first impression of the festival was, “This is it?” (more…)

Scratching the Niche: The Militia Group’s Massive Year, 10 Years Later

Author’s Note:

Initially, this blog post was a ten year retrospective of the 2005 indie/alt rock music scene, like a reunion of sorts. I was going to pun Gross Point Blank and we would’ve had a great time. Kings of Leon, Acceptance, and Bright Eyes were all going to be on this list. But when I finalized my top ten choices, I realized that five out of ten albums all came from the same indie record label: The Militia Group. So here we are.

Let’s reminisce, shall we?

Scratching the Niche

Once upon a time — when Dashboard Confessional ruled the earth — there was an edgy little record label out of Orange County, CA called The Militia Group (TMG). Their roster of bands lay somewhere in between what you’d hear on, say, Drive-Thru Records and Tooth & Nail.

For their origin story, you can visit Wikipedia (or this blog). What is appropriate is this: TMG started signing bands and releasing records in 2000-2001: Rufio, The Lindsay Diaries and Noise Ratchet (a personal favorite) were some of these early artists.

Most of TMG’s roster is now gone and left forgotten in the used bin of your favorite closed-down record store, but you might recognize some of the bands that hit major label success: Copeland, Cartel, Acceptance. Back then, there was an intensity in the music that TMG was signing. Noise Ratchet, for instance, was angst-fueled and Christian emo, i.e., perfect. Unlike the deliciously glossy (Sprinkled) Tooth & Nail releases, TMG was a little more unrefined, a little riskier.

They broke into my scene with Copeland’s debut record, Beneath Medicine Tree. We had known of love songs, and of rock songs. We had worn our hearts on our sleeves. But back then, when I was in high school, there wasn’t a better record you could buy. Beneath Medicine Tree did everything we wanted in an album, including the stuff we were afraid to admit we wanted: it taught us about the beauty in pain. It was thought-provoking and refreshingly transparent.

TMG was gaining momentum and we were all paying attention. When 2005 hit, this tiny record label stepped up big. It was a perfect storm and the timing was right.  (more…)

Snowy Eyes & Ears: My Winter Break Book & Podcast Recommendations

It’s that magical time of year: the snow falls, the semester ends, cookies are everywhere. Best of all, I get to read and listen to non-homework related content! Suck it, Blackboard.

This is my last winter break ever, by the way. I’m finishing school in May. My goals include reading through my book list, catching up on podcasts, and returning to CodeAcademy to learn HTML and CSS. Oh yeah, I’ll also be preparing for a Pompeii-style resume distribution. (Shhh… be very, very quite. It’s job hunting season.) Also, are you hiring?

Sure, this is a big list to get through. How will I do it? A fresh case of Surge soda, will do. Also, you should help me conquer this list, we can be accountability partners. It’ll be like an entertainment support group. It’ll get us through the winter. I’ll bring the Surge.

Books

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The Spy Who Came in From the Cold—John Le Carre

I led off with this book for two reasons: 1) it has “cold” in the title, which relates perfectly to my winter theme and 2) my best friend’s fiancé said it was one of her favorite books. They’re not getting married until April, which gives me plenty of time. If the book sucks, I’ll have to shut down that wedding, Wayne Campbell style.

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Thoughts on Life & the Super Bowl (or, #StopEatingTheBananaPeel)

Hello world.

The Super Bowl was last night. Boy, was that boring. What a let down! Even as a fan of Seattle (from the Northwest), I was still bored. As a die-hard Peyton Manning fan? Ugh, I could barely watch it. What’s worse, after it was over, the game permeated all my thoughts: brushing my teeth, dressing in pajamas, tossing and turning in bed, eating a midnight snack.

Poor Peyton Manning, in my brain like a mouse. Not just Peyton but his great year and his team—all the records they broke. Then I thought about the Monday Morning Quarterbacks, the anti-Peyton crowd, who with newfound passion will argue again whether or not Peyton Manning is “good.”

Finally, I feel asleep. It was peaceful. Honestly, I don’t remember much. However, when I woke up, the first thing I thought about was Peyton Manning. Poor Peyton Manning. What a miserable soul we both are.

Then it hit me.

Why the Hell am I still thinking about Peyton Manning?

It scares me, that a professional sport has this much power over me, my thoughts, my disposition. If the Broncos would’ve won (or at least competed), I would’ve, potentially, showed up for life in brighter spirits.

Let me repeat that.  (more…)