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Saturday, December 03, 2016

A year in music, 2016 edition

This year has been another fruitful year of new music. While I still dig in and revisit the past, there were many new records that I immensely enjoyed. I have made a Spotify playlist of tunes I liked, but here is the rundown of what I championed in 2016.

Albums





















American Football, LP2
When American Football released their debut album in 1999, nobody I knew considered it a classic whatsoever. The four-piece had a lot of close company in the emo/post-hardcore world at that time, including Pedro the Lion, Rainer Maria, the Get Up Kids, the Promise Ring, Jimmy Eat World, and many more. Seventeen years later, this once-short-lived Mike Kinsella project is bigger than any other band he's been involved with. The debut inspired many young bands to create a sound that was more from the heart instead of the hope of becoming famous. Their second LP was a bit of surprise as it seemed to be a project that was under wraps until it had a release date. The bigger surprise is how great it is. Not just good, but a record that surpasses the debut in a number of ways. Kinsella has much more experience as a songwriter in 2016, and it's obvious in terms of the quality of the tunes on here. It's a sad yet pretty album. It's the kind of album that works on rainy days and sunny days. (Spotify) 





















Beach Slang, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
This is Beach Slang's second LP in two years, and it's a final document of a line-up that is no longer intact. The band broke up onstage earlier this year, only to reform a couple of days later. Drummer J.P. Flexner later quit the band, then guitarist Ruben Gallego was fired, and frontman James Alex did a number of shows alone. Who knows what will hapen for this band in the future, but A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings is certainly a worthy follow-up to The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us. It's much more diverse, and it's definitely not a retread of the first album. A song like "Atom Bomb" is a rough-edged, harder tune for the band while a song like "Spin the Dial" sounds like unapologetic ode to the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait." One can hope there is more Beach Slang to come in the future as the band's sound holds a special place for those who thought punk rock went away with the Warped Tour. (Spotify)





















Tiny Moving Parts, Celebrate
This trio's second album, Pleasant Living, was one of my favorite records of 2014. It was a record I listened well into 2015 because I could not get enough of it. Celebrate will probably get as much attention in 2017. Pleasant Living was, for me, a long ode to grief over a relationship that ended. Celebrate comes across as addressing those close to you who cannot seem to find happiness. This is the band's most accessible record to date, blending complicated rhythms with sing-along choruses. (Spotify)





















Into It. Over It, Standards
Evan Weiss's latest balances out the major sides of his Into It. Over It project. Produced by John Vanderslice, Standards has both delicate acoustic-driven songs mixed with full-on rock songs. Into It. Over It's previous albums, Proper and Intersections, explored both extremes. Standards blends all of that together quite well, where the whole album doesn't sound like a Jekyll and Hyde sort of identity crisis. (Spotify)





















Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness
Explosions in the Sky did a major reboot of their sound on The Wilderness. Rather than be dominated by shimmering guitar lines and behind-the-beat drumming, this album is anchored by keyboards and programming. Still, these songs are beautiful and there is plenty of welcoming sounds that Explosions in the Sky is known for. The longest song on here is seven minutes in length, which is also a bit of a change for them. A band who inspired many others created a newer sound to inspire even more bands. (Spotify)





















face to face, Protection
I don't fault face to face for trying to expand their pop-punk leanings. As much as I love their first three records, which elevated pop-punk in many ways, I still find a lot of merits in Ignorance is Bliss, a record that owed more to the Cure and the Foo Fighters. Matter of fact, I championed everything the band did until Laugh Now, Laugh Later and Three Chords and a Half-Truth. I simply could not connect with them as they tried to be a bit more than what they had been known for, whether it was short punk tunes or songs more in the vein of Stiff Little Fingers. With Protection, the magic of the band is back. Trever Keith is still an inspiring vocalist and lyricist, and the rest of the latest version of the band (with new guitarist Dennis Hill) they have found a good, stable footing again. (Spotify)





















My Jerusalem, A Little Death
There have been many times where I have seen a band play songs from a forthcoming LP that were significantly better live than on record. Austin's My Jerusalem played a few of the songs from A Little Death months before it came out, and I'm happy to say the resulting album is great. These are some of the poppiest songs Jeff Klein and his band have cooked up, and they retain the energy they have when they play live. It's a collection of dark pop songs that you can listen to during the day or night. (Spotify)





















Joshua Dylan Balis, Modern Gospel 
Normally, I have hesitation praising a debut from an artist who is only beginning to establish himself or herself. Well, Modern Gospel is the sound of someone who has already released something exceptional. Even though he doesn't list them as influences, Balis's songs remind me of Nick Drake and Bruce Springsteen (the more subdued side of the Boss). There is confidence in these six songs and a taste of good things to come. (Spotify)

Songs

"Don't Need to Be Them" by the Sun Days
Not to be confused with the Sundays, the Sun Days make cheerful pop rock. This is one of the brightest songs I've heard all year. (Spotify)

"Portals to Hell" by Slow Mass
Featuring two members of Into It. Over It, this Chicago-based band reminds me of the mighty Crash of Rhinos. This one's a rager that's colorful, too. (Spotify)

"Just Another Face" by Modern Baseball
This is one of the most honest songs I've heard in 2016. Addressing the dark side of life while focusing on the positives, Brendan Lukens wrote a song I have listened to (and connected with) again and again. (Spotify)

Shows
















Jason Isbell, February 16th, South Side Ballroom
I'm a newcomer to Isbell's music after hearing raves about his solo work and his time with the Drive-By Truckers for years. This show was a revelation. Isbell doesn't write corny country music or by-the-numbers Americana. He has his own sort of vibe that blends folk and country with Neil Young leanings. Over the course of 20 songs, he set a comfortable mood, playing a lot of songs from his last two solo records and a few odds and ends, along with some songs he did with the Drive-By Truckers. I was captivated and I've since become a big fan of his work.













Explosions in the Sky, August 22nd, The Bomb Factory
What I wrote in my original review sums up my thoughts and feelings in detail, but I'll add this, I was deeply moved by this show. My eyes were glassy in a few spots because of the kind of emotion I draw from Explosions in the Sky's music. A wonderful show.


Friday, November 04, 2016

We look like animals seven days a week

Recently, a couple of writers/podcasters and musicians I know took to social media to vent their frustrations about how certain publications have seemingly done a 180 on emo/post-hardcore. Mainly, Pitchfork.

Ten to fifteen years ago, being an emo fan meant receiving a lot of guff from people who didn't "get it." But what was to "get," and what was "it"? Validation that this music was worthwhile? Praise for albums that have been breakthroughs in the genre? Perhaps, but do we really need validation in being a fan of this genre?

Yes, we do.

Before social media and Spotify took hold, music-centric blogs were the best ways to find out about emerging artists. You could sample a lot of stuff for free, but you also had to dig, especially if you weren't a fan of indie rock that sounded like '70s pop rock or hip-hop that was perfect for a party. Pitchfork, which started as an online zine, seemed to be the strongest influencer on what people checked out. As much as I hated a lot of its reviews for sounding like the perspective of someone who's cooler than your older brother and the most knowledgeable record store clerk you know, I still read the site almost every single day.

There were times when I found the site helpful, especially in deciding if the Scott Walker box set was worth the investment. (It was and remains something I cherish.) But many other times, I'd find it distracting when a band would be praised (later seen as over-praised) and then be ripped apart (and later seen as unfairly ripped apart). Most memorably, . . . And You Know Us By the Trail of Dead got the love and later, the shred. I get how new music from a single artist can blow our minds or let us down, but it made me wonder what was really going on. Was it flaky attitudes or black-and-white takes?

During this time, while new albums by Arcade Fire, Spoon, and Radiohead (as well as reissues by James Chance and Pavement) were dissected to explain their greatness, many records from the emo/post-hardcore genre were made light of and cast aside. Feel free and read slaggings of now-classic records by Jimmy Eat World, the Get Up Kids, the Promise Ring, and Braid herehere, here, and here. I think a lot of fans of the emo/post-hardcore genre wanted respect, and we weren't getting it from those who wanted to be smarter and cooler than everybody else.

Slowly, the tide turned. Outlets that used to piss all over the genre (or flat out ignored it) hired writers who came up loving the genre. From Rolling Stone to EW, these places were catching up to what Alternative Press had praised since the mid- to late-'90s. But when Pitchfork started to publish reviews that revered bands like Braid and the Promise Ring, (like this one for No Coast and this one for the Nothing Feels Good reissue), all was forgiven, right?

Not so fast. I stopped reading Pitchfork regularly a few years ago as I realized I didn't need their approval to know if what I liked was cool or not. I liked what I liked (as I always have), but being aware of their influence on readers' tastes certainly amped up my defensiveness. Maybe they realized there was an audience that would give the site traffic if writers weren't defecating on American Football, Jawbreaker, Braid, the Promise Ring, and Jimmy Eat World. I'm not sure, but I can understand if people my age are bitter about it now. It's like the school bully who wants to be your friend on Facebook.

I still see a lot of value in the existence of album reviews, but I've reached a point in my life where I don't need to rely on reviews to determine what I should listen to. Spotify makes excellent playlists every week that are based on what I regularly listen to. I'm not turning to publications to justify my tastes. But I still remember what it was like to have to constantly defend what I loved. Whether it was at the campus radio station I worked at (ie, when the station manager called Bob Nanna the worst singer he'd ever heard) or online (ie, enjoy this blog's archives).

For me and my friends who have always loved emo/post-hardcore, now we know what fans of Rush, the Stooges, and Led Zeppelin got to experience in the 1970s. Bands that made awesome records and affected a ton of people were not well-received by outlets like Creem or Rolling Stone. Those bands weren't up to their tastes, and they seemed to enjoy explaining why.

I don't think we should wait to get validation from people we don't see eye-to-eye with. This music has made a huge, lasting impact on us, so why should we want more? Maybe we're looking for an apology or a mea culpa. Life's too short to wait on that. Let's enjoy what we enjoy.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Season of the Witch

Two years ago, Noel Murray wrote a very thoughtful and well-worded think piece about how your opinion about a movie can change over time. Whether you love the movie every time you see it, you love it more (or less) over time, or you love it now but you originally hated it -- these kinds of shifts happen.

There are various reasons why this happens. I don't believe it's to impress peers or be a contrarian. When you come back to a movie, you are going to see it differently than how you originally saw it.

In my case, as of this year, I have a significantly different opinion on Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

This is the one Halloween film that does not feature Michael Myers as the antagonist, and none of the other films in the series reference the events that happen. Written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, it's a bastard child, a misfire. It's something that should be forgotten by many people. But thanks to the enduring popularity of the franchise, it continues to be packaged in DVD box sets and a part of the conversation.

When I saw Halloween III for the first time, it was 1998, and I was slowly going deep into the horror genre. Scream, Psycho, and Halloween all piqued my interest, so I was up for trying anything and everything, to a fault. I had heard of way more movies than the ones I had seen, like The Fog and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And I had seen way more movies in pan-and-scan than in widescreen. The acting in Halloween III is nowhere near Oscar-worthy, but when the scope of the film is literally trimmed out to fit a 4:3 screen ratio, one can't help but look at the acting. (All this said, I saw Star Wars many, many times in 4:3 and I loved it then and still rank it as my favorite movie of all time.)

I didn't find value in B-movie acting, especially Tom Atkins' scene-chewing machismo. Same with the villains trying to kill lots of children on Halloween. I didn't realize there is a charm to that style of acting. It was either you're a great actor or not. (Great acting was what the Oscars, Peter Travers, and Siskel & Ebert said it was.)

About ten years ago, I watched most of the film in Spanish when I was quite bored one night. The film was even more campy to me. Any kind of redemption was not happening. The horse had left the barn and it wasn't coming back. The first two Halloween movies were the only ones worth watching over and over, while H2O and Rob Zombie's first Halloween movie was (and is still is) pretty good. Halloween III was one of the ones to skip.

A few months ago, an idea popped in my head: why don't I see this in widescreen for the first time? Since certain horror fans I trust gave high marks to the film, I figured I would give it one more chance.

By then, I had seen the original The Fog and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was not a shock that seeing Halloween III in 2016 was a much different (and better) experience. As it was original intended to be seen, it's pretty well shot. The in-jokes to the original Halloween (not just the TV ad for it shown in a bar, but also the casting of Nancy Loomis) are a nice meta touch. And there are some decent jump scares.

I came away thinking this was not a garbage movie, but not a great movie, either. Halloween III is way more enjoyable than the fourth, fifth, and sixth installments. Though the final act kinda throws a good build-up away with some really hammy moments, it's not an unwatchable movie. The fourth, fifth, and sixth installments movies went back over the same territory as the first two, thinking more Michael Myers mythology made for an excuse for sequels. From a producer aspect, I understand, but as a viewer, I'm not about to put the Halloween box set on a Christmas list.

Who knows? Maybe someday I will praise the merits of Michael Myers return, death, return, death, and return again. But it's probably not going to happen at this juncture.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ask the question

Prior to this past Saturday night, I didn't think I would ever ask Kevin Smith a question during one of his Q&A's. What kind of question hasn't been asked at his events for the past 22 years? Worse, if I thought I had a good question, I'd feel crestfallen if it had been answered thoroughly on a podcast I had not heard or an interview I had not read.

I had seen audience members boo questions in the first two An Evening With Kevin Smith DVDs. I had heard of people yelling "Summaries!" when someone asked about something that had already been answered many times before and didn't read the Summaries section of the now-defunct NewsAskew.com.

I tried to interview Kevin for the Observer, hoping to ask him questions that were more about his visits to North Texas rather than talk about his current TV, film, and podcast projects. I did get a response from his manager, but the trail went cold as Kevin was locked into filming an upcoming episode of The Flash. He's a busy dude, so I didn't take it personally that he wasn't available.

Going into the event at UNT's performing arts center, I kept thinking about a question I could ask and I thought of a potentially good one. I bounced it off of Hope, and she encouraged me to ask it. Not only did she do that, she said she would have no problem if I stepped on her foot or jumped over her to get up to the microphone when the Q&A began. I mentally mapped out a way to get up there, hoping to be near the front of the line. We were in the sixth row, and I figured there would be somebody who would be ahead of me.

After Jason Lee introduced Kevin and Kevin pointed out the two microphones on the ground level, people started to get up. I walked swiftly up and I found myself in the front of the line. This was unexpected. A handful of others were behind me and there was a handful of people at the other microphone. Kevin was on stage right, hovering above the other line, so I thought he would start with that line.

Well, he turned left and started with me. No pressure or anything, as the first question sets the tone of the night. If you have a shitty question or try to be a smarty pants or be really long-winded, it could make for a very long night.

After exchanging pleasantries and him mentioning my Star Wars shirt, I prefaced that I had a short and sweet question about his fabled comic book collection. The collection he sold to partially fund his first film, Clerks. That was the tease that interested me in Kevin's work on an episode of MTV's Week in Rock back in 1994. I had heard he bought most of the collection back when he received money from the sale of the movie to Miramax. The core of my question was, did he ever buy the rest of it back?

He responded with, "What a great question. Nobody's ever asked me that."

A warm feeling went through my body. It was a sense of relief. Basically, the answer was, he was unable to track down certain items that were very rare, especially figurines. Even with the help of higher-ups at DC Comics, they couldn't track them down. Kevin would go on and tell many tales related to his comic book collection, including meeting Walt Flanagan and going through Brett Ratner's copy of Action Comics #1, and it took almost an hour. I wasn't complaining, but I was aware of the guys behind me hoping to ask questions. I didn't want to hog all the time.

There was an interesting, impromptu moment during all of this. Kevin wanted to use a microphone stand. He could not seem to loosen it and raise it. I volunteered as I had spent many years doing this for my father's video production company, setting up stands and cameras for band and orchestra concerts. Maybe it was nerves, but I didn't pay attention to how high I put the stand. Kevin and I wound up trading it three times before he found a good height for it. It brought a lot of laughter and he shook my hand at the end of it.

As I stood there, I thought about telling Kevin about how Hope and I met through podcasting and writing, but I could not find the right spot. The moment had passed and he was ready to move on to the next person. Over a handful of other people got to ask questions before the 3.5 hour event was over. A couple got remarried with his officiating, a guy kicked a water bottle out of Kevin's hand to reprieve something he had done at a convention, and a surgeon shared funny stories about what it is like to work as a surgeon on the weekends and own a candy shop during the week.

I came away from this thinking it was better than an interview or an autograph. I got to experience something special with Hope as one of our main sources of inspiration talked to people individually, but did it in a way where the audience was included in the conversation. I certainly will not forget this, and I sure as hell am happy I got to do this with Hope. There was so much more elation and enjoyment in seeing this with someone I love, who gets this. (We shared our stories on an episode of Fanboy Radio the night after.) If the Texas Theatre Q&A inspired us and brought us together, then the Q&A UNT inspired us even more. And with the journey of life with this wonderful woman, I'm very happy with where this has come to and where it's going.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Offering Advice

Last month, I was asked to be on a panel at UNT on careers in digital media and print. Meant as a way to give college freshmen an idea of what it is like to work in the field, the coordinators asked me and four other writers to share our stories.

I had a while to think about what all I wanted to share. The attitude I kept reminding myself was, encourage rather than discourage. I don't think I'm a discouraging person, but my cynicism can easily come out and it can sound discouraging. I ran through what I wanted to say, remembering what I have found to be helpful and not helpful.

I believe the panel went well, as me and my fellow panelists (two of which I have worked with at the Observer, one I've known at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and one at the Dallas Morning News) talked to a packed room, and we chatted with a few people who wanted to ask more questions afterwards. No one on the panel came off as bitter or angry. We acknowledged how writing in digital media is more about working with a platform rather than writing for a newspaper. We talked about numbers and analytics, as well as the need for content, but overall, we stressed that good writing and finding your own voice is most important.

I freely admit talking about this to a room full of strangers got me riled up. I couldn't help be overcome with emotion, wanting to stress how important it is to write. For the past 12 years, writing about what I cared about has saved me from a life of being a jaded, unsatisfied person. I couldn't help but think about those who choose to go down that route. Even now, well after the panel has been over, I think about people who have that attitude. I see it on an almost daily basis and want to stand up and say something.

There are writers who become so disenchanted with their experiences in trying to write for a living. They think it's necessary to save others from the grief in going down a similar path. They like to go on rants on Facebook and Twitter, thinking the best advice for aspiring writers is, "Don't."

Frankly, I hate that attitude. If I've learned anything about life, you have to try something. Holding yourself back from trying something that interests you only prevents you from new experiences. And new experiences are vital in living life. Write about what you know, but if you refuse to try new things, then what do you really know? What it's like to spend a lot of time alone in silence, wanting to punch your computer screen?

For the people who want to vomit all over other people's aspirations and dreams, you're simply in the way. You're a road block. People, if they're really determined, will find a way to get around a road block. Furthermore, you don't motivate by discouraging. You don't inspire people by being an asshole. Your bitter and angry attitude is a bunch of noise. A Metal Machine Music for those looking for a Pet Sounds. A puff of smoke that's temporarily in the way. You might take pleasure in being right if somebody decides writing as a career is not for him or her. But really, how can you feel better about your life that way?

I'm not trying to tell an aspiring writer he or she will write for the New York Times or receive a six-figure amount to write a book someday. It's hard to make a living as a writer. What I'm saying is, do something that you love. If you are ever fortunate to make a large sum of money because of your writing, then there is nothing wrong with that. But that should not be why you write. Write because you want to communicate, express yourself, and tell stories.

Beyond whether or not writing is for somebody as a career, the bigger lesson is how you want to present yourself in life. If being a repugnant Negative Nancy is your way of being "honest," well, don't be surprised when not a lot of people want to be around you, contact you, or like you. You can choose to give people helpful feedback, where you acknowledge what works and what doesn't. You're not leading people astray with unrealistic ideas. You're inviting people to believe in themselves.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

At the Movies (Reprise)

There was a time when I went to movie theaters quite often. Whether with my parents or friends, it was a major part of growing up in New Orleans and later, Houston. This was combined with watching videotapes (Betamax and VHS) and movies run on TV channels. All of these movies offered a view of the world that I didn't experience first-hand.

But about fifteen years ago, I almost stopped going to a theater completely. I would go maybe a couple of times to see something I really wanted to see (the Star Wars prequels, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Matrix sequels, four of the Saw sequels). The pull of DVDs, whether purchased or rented, was so strong with top-quality picture and enlightening (most of the time) supplemental features like commentaries and documentaries. I was much more comfortable watching a DVD at home alone and occasionally, with a friend or girlfriend.

Blame it on the cost of seeing a movie in a theater or feeling very alone out in public, I decided to keep my viewing habits to myself. God forbid I hear people who have different opinions on stuff I loved. Especially as I walked out of a movie during the closing credits.

Too often, I would detect a general consensus about a movie from both people I knew in real life and what people wrote about online. There were many times where I seemed very much at odds with what people said or wrote. Defending the Star Wars prequels and praising the hell out of The Matrix Reloaded came across as out-of-touch and clueless. Free speech might be allowed with pop culture, but it seemed like if you didn't agree completely with the general attitude, you might as well find a dark corner to stand in and keep your opinions to yourself.

Slowly a tide turned in me. I realized I didn't have to get too defensive with people who didn't see things the way I saw them. I could be myself and not have to defend myself, unless it's ribbing with friends of mine I've known for years. The tide turned so much that when Hope came into my life, going back to a movie theater was as welcoming as it was when I was young. Having a partner in crime in life makes a lot of things infinitely better.

These days, I don't have to worry if somebody with a loud mouth will spew negativity all over something I enjoyed. I still get defensive, strangely. Seeing movies in a theater is much more rewarding now, especially realizing how special places like the Alamo Drafthouse and the Texas Theatre are. They're places for people who don't want to deal with massive crowds.

In the past ten months, I've seen more movies in a theater than I did in the past fifteen years, combined. A lot of praise goes to Hope, but it's not just that she's willing to see movies in a theater. It's more this idea of, you can be who you are (faults and all) and still get along with people.

I'm very thankful to return to a place I valued so much when I was younger. It's very comforting to know I can like a movie theater more now than ever.

Monday, July 18, 2016

GOAL!!! (part 2)

A self-deprecating excuse for 30 years came to an end this past Friday night. With the help of my fellow Oil Money FC teammates, I scored three of our six goals in a victory. Along with the goal I scored in our first game together, I can now say those two own goals in 1986 are in the distant past.

But what's the big deal here? I scored goals in a league where the points don't really matter and everyone gets a free beer afterwards. This is like a friendly; not the Champions League final.

I make a big deal out of a lot of things, and arrogance can come across when describing any sort of accomplishment. It's probably because I often invest a lot of emotional baggage into why I cannot competently do things in the present. In other words, I make a lot of excuses.

Scoring those goals means I don't have to let the past shackle me. Whether it's with what happened at previous jobs, in previous relationships, or previous friendships, life isn't over when the outcome is not what you hoped it would be. Life is not over as long as you keep moving forward.

I am not the best player on my team. Other players currently play and/or coach, and they know what to do. I, on the other hand, try to remember what I learned when I played as a kid, along with what I have seen in football matches played all over the world. What usually happens when I get the ball is push it down the pitch some and then pass to a fellow player who is in a much better position. I often look like I freeze up when I play. There's something to work on.

Going into the match on Friday, I didn't think about anything other than playing well and not be afraid to go for the ball. This is not aggressive football, but I have seen some people collide and have to be helped off the pitch. Accidents happen, and as long as you're playing like you want the ball (and not aiming to break your opponent's bones), you will be fine.

Opportunities presented themselves, and I was lucky to connect three times with the back of the net. I got a hug from our team leader Mark (who, along with Joel, made me feel welcomed to the Manchester City watching group in the first place), and I twirled my kit around my head after the second and third goals. Sure, it was a bit much, paying a tongue-in-cheek homage to Sergio Aguero's memorable goal in 2012 against Queens Park.

But there are times in life where you just have to celebrate. That was one of them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Desire Lines

There are some things in life that I cannot escape. One of them is the desire to play drums in a band situation again.

Five years ago, I played a blues jam with some of Bobby Patterson's band. My rock band had recently broken up for the second (and final) time, I was single, and I was about to be laid off from my job at the time. I was up for trying something different and it was a wonderful, one-time experience. Blues music is simple to play, but is a hell of a lot of fun to do. You don't have to overthink what you're playing -- you just stay in the pocket.

That blues jam was the last time I played drums in public. After fifteen years of playing in bands, I was not sure when (or if) I would play in a band situation ever again. Too much of the business of promoting and working a band overshadowed the fun of playing music in a band. I cared about writing songs and rehearsing. I didn't care about networking for the next big show or opportunity. I only wanted to express myself through hitting drums and cymbals.

The urge to play never went away, but I would always remind myself of all the business dealings I didn't want to have. It happened in a few of my bands, and I didn't want to deal with it anymore. I figured if I worked on my abilities as a player (which had been stifled for years), I might get more mileage out of playing again. I had a wonderful time doing Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, and I believed taking lessons and working on paradiddles would actually benefit me. My focus was on playing my own material, recording drums, guitars, and vocals without any plans in playing live. I thought if I was better at playing the drums, especially working on timing, I could improve my playing of the guitar and bass.

I asked my friend Guyton if I could take lessons from him. He is one of the most in-demand drummers around the area for a good reason. No matter what style he plays, he's solid. And he's a good dude, too. I've learned so much from him, and while I haven't taken a lesson since late last year, I'd be happy to take more lessons in the future.

Throughout last year, he would occasionally mention that I would play a show again. I was very resistant to the idea, using the same excuses I had. I definitely did not entertain the idea of playing in another situation where friendship was forced after a band was formed. I only wanted to play with people I was friends with. Guyton believed in me and could see things that I couldn't at the time.

Still, I was unconvinced. Sometimes I'd run into people I would know in the scene who were interested in forming a band or looking for a drummer. I would tell them I was interested, but nothing ever came of it every time. They say the answer of no can be a gift, but the repeated lack of response would seem like justification of playing my own material in private.

Practicing would continue. When I'd watch a movie or TV show alone, I'd sit and work on my exercises. No matter what happened, this would help, I thought.

This past spring, while I nervously watched Manchester City eek out a win over Liverpool in the Capital One Cup final, a fantastic surprise came in the form of a message from an old friend of mine. Ryan wanted to play a show celebrating his 40th birthday in August, and he was curious how many of his friends would like to play the show. Since the most fun and rewarding show I played was because of him ten years ago (where we played a set filled with Rolling Stones songs), I immediately told him I would be interested.  
A few practices later, we have a set filled with covers we enjoy playing as well as an original tune to boot. Joined by our friend Nick, whom I played in the 11:30s with, I have never had this much fun practicing with a band. It's probably because these guys are my friends and I will spend time with them without instruments in front of us.

As the Fearsome Brown eyes our first show together, a random opportunity to fill in for a co-worker's band came up. Playing a couple of gigs with a band that plays blues, oldies, and country tunes, I'm excited to help out. This isn't Rush or Metallica, nor is it some party band that only plays the most familiar material ever recorded, playing with this band helps build up my chops and stamina.

I certainly have to credit Hope for helping me see a way of life that isn't constantly distracted by excuses. The attitude of "Why not?" eliminates most (or sometimes all) reasons not to do something, and that includes realizing how great certain opportunities can be. If all I did was play covers and never write new material or learn different styles of music, I'd be missing out. But if I was still making excuses about not playing with people ever again, I wouldn't be where I'm at now.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Our Own Way

My first book, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007, came out in the late summer/early fall of 2008. Only two days ago, I found a copy of it in a bookstore. Granted, the store was Half Price Books, which sells mostly used books, but still, to see something I wrote be available for someone to discover and read was a wonderful sight. I had heard of copies available in stores here and there throughout the country. Now I had visual proof.

I didn't wonder if someone bought the book, hated it, and sold it. Since Half Price Books encourages their customers to sell back books they buy there and buy more, I figured that was the case.

Back when it was published, I paid a few hundred dollars to make the book listed as "returnable." The hope was, more bookstores would carry a returnable book. I never saw it in a bookstore as a new item. Never at an indie store or a Half Price Books. Barnes & Noble stores do not have large sections for music books, so I don't blame them for keeping their selections mainly with the biggest publishers.

I knew the book continued to sell over the years, and not just because I would look at the small quarterly royalty statements when I prepared my taxes. People would find me on social media and share a pic of their copy with me. I'd be asked to be on podcasts and we'd talk about Post and When We Were the Kids. No matter how small the numbers were, I was happy to see people reading what I had to say.

I can't help but kick in with more writer advice here. If your aim is to become a famous writer and never work a "straight" job ever again, I would not recommend writing a nonfiction book about a subgenre of music. That said, if you have a story/angle on a topic you want to tell that hasn't been done before, then seriously consider writing it. Don't think about getting famous or making some (or any) money. If you have a story to tell, then write it. Don't wait for someone to consider yourself a writer. Start writing.

Recently, I interviewed a best-selling author for one of the publications I write for. A handful of years ago, his fourth novel quickly caught a lot of buzz when a very famous author praised it and the movie rights sold in the millions. I asked him what his life was really like when his book became a best-seller. All that really changed was that he could afford to send his children to college, his wife didn't have to work to help financially support the family, and he focused on writing two more books. And he bought a summer house in the north east. But his day-to-day life didn't drastically change in terms of raising his children and being the best father and husband he can be. He had a happy life before the book sold like crazy, and he isn't banking on the royalties from his books for the rest of his life.

This author's books sell more in an hour than any of mine have ever sold, but I believe I came to an understanding in why people write books. It's not really for financial gain; it's the desire to tell a story, whether it's fiction or nonfiction. If I had never written my first book, I never would have started a blog. I probably would have not written for the publications I've written for. And I'm not sure I would have ever met Hope if it weren't for this blog.

Deep down, when I wrote my first book, I wished I would be interviewed for my perspective on post-hardcore/emo someday. That has happened quite a bit in the past seven years, and I'm happy that people believe in my research and my take on the genre. It's not for fame; it's to set the record straight.

Seeing my book in a store reminded me of this important idea as a writer (or really, anyone with creative drives): Do not put a time limit on success or lack of success. If you put everything into a six-month, five-year, or ten-year plan, you're prepping yourself for life going the way you think it's supposed to go rather than the way it will go. Enjoy the ride and the small victories. If you're lucky to have a book on the NY Times Bestseller List or make your primary income from writing, then great. But don't think not reaching those lofty heights means you're a failure. If you want to express yourself for the rest of your life, express it without thinking of any attention coming from it. Just express yourself.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Meet Your Heroes

When it comes to wanting to meet people you admire, occasionally you get countered by these four words, "Never meet your heroes." Meaning, if you hold someone in high regards, you'll be disappointed if that person acts in a non-friendly way. And all those years of looking up to that person will vanish like tears in rain.

While I can understand that train of thought, I must stress these three words: MEET YOUR HEROES.

Yes, I have had unpleasant interactions with people I admire, whether through online, on the phone, or in person. But that number is incredibly small compared to the people that have been generous and kind with their time. With the ones who have been pricks, chances are very good I was not the only person he or she was a prick to. I prefer to not take things personally, focusing on the battle everyone has with themselves that has nothing to do with you.

Recently, I went to Texas Frightmare Weekend with Hope. She loves this gathering of horror fans and even interviewed its founder on her podcast. Without a doubt, her enthusiasm for it made me feel more comfortable at the thought of going to an event like this. We saw lots of people we've only seen in movies, like Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, and Adrienne King, from a distance. But if there was one person I would have liked to have met, it was George Romero.

Romero has made movies I have seen many times and I've always enjoyed what he has to say in interviews. Sure, he's made some of the best zombie movies of all time, but other movies of his, like The Crazies and Martin, had a pretty big impact on me, too. The price to get an autograph and picture with him was a little high to me at first, but with a line that was manageable (and moving at a steady pace), I figured, go for it.

Hope and I stood for about 30 minutes, talking to other people in line with anticipation. The rules were simple: pay in cash and there are no personalizations with your autograph. I picked an 8x10 for him to sign, paid my money, said hello, and shook his hand. I showed him the shirt I had on, which featured a riff on the iconic Dawn of the Dead poster with the words "Fuck Cancer" replacing "Dawn of the Dead." I asked if he had ever seen this shirt before and he laughed. He said he had not. He was jovial and friendly about it. Then I sat next to him and Hope took a couple of pics of us.

Coming away from the interaction, I'm happy I went through with it. Romero is 76 and still doing conventions, but like a lot of things in life, we shouldn't think that will always be the case. I'm glad I had the experience firsthand and have the documentation to prove it.

Why I suggest you meet your heroes comes from something Bruce Campbell wrote in his autobiography, If Chins Could Kill. No matter how many times people have told him they love his movies, he always appreciates when people take the time and say something nice to him. Expressing a nice sentiment goes a long way, no matter who you are.

Given how curious I am with musicians, filmmakers, and writers of all walks of life, I want to meet the ones I admire. If I have the chance to say something nice about how much that person's work has meant to me, then I want to take that chance.

And even with the few I've had not-so-pleasant experiences with, my appreciation of their work has not dwindled. I'd be a little hesitant to talk to that person again, though. If I never took the chance, how would I know what it would be like? I'd rather know than speculate.

Monday, April 25, 2016

GOAL!!!

Since I got back into football/soccer a couple of years ago, an idea floated around with a few people I know: playing in an indoor soccer league. Nothing intense or expensive; just friends getting together and having fun.

Thanks to my friends in the Blue Moon Dallas group (whom I spend time with almost every weekend cheering on Manchester City F.C.), we have a team called Oil Money. Our first match was over the weekend, and even though we lost, I cannot wait to get back on the pitch.

Like so many kids who grew up in the 1980s, soccer was one of the sports I played with kids my age. I was into basketball and football casually, but soccer was what I played in a youth league. (I have the Good Job, Good Season trophies to prove it.)

Thing was, whenever I talked about my time playing soccer, there was a sense of embarrassment in describing my "achievements." In the two years I played, I scored two goals. Own goals, though. As I tried to clear the ball away from my team's net, they went the opposite way and wound up in our net. I distinctly remember being furious after one of them, crying, and throwing a massive pity party on the sideline. After that season was over (and a few recesses kicking a soccer ball around), I didn't touch a soccer ball for decades.

It's not like I considered myself a failure with soccer. I had fun playing with kids my age (and with my father being an assistant coach, it was even better), but the only stats I could come up with were two own goals. Some great years were whittled down to a puny stat in my mind.

When I got into the English Premier League through watching Manchester City matches, I talked to people who played soccer in their youth and still occasionally play. No one ever gave me grief for what I did. Every team has experienced own goals. That includes teams that pay their players millions of dollars. The pity party was almost done.

A tug to play soccer again was a chance to score a goal in the opposition's net. If I had the opportunity to avenge, I would go for it.

With my shinguards and knee-high socks on, along with shorts, running shoes, and a Manchester City kit, I got back on the pitch under the guidance of my teammates. A handful of them currently coach kids and know how to get their teams motivated. Plus, I like them as people, so I was in good company.

After only a few minutes of running up and down the pitch, I was dizzy. I thought I was going to vomit. And I felt blood in my nostrils. I decided to slow down and catch my breath. Oil Money had some good touches and a couple of goals. I had a clear shot on goal that misfired. But the key thing was, we enjoyed what we did. Our opponents were friendly and there to have fun, too.

In the second half, the unthinkable happened. Deciding to play on the offense rather than sit back on the defense, I had an opportunity to shoot on goal. Imagining the ball would go straight into the keeper's arms, it rolled up his chest and behind him, finding the net. I could not believe it. I ran right back to the middle of the pitch and almost clobbered a teammate in celebration. Since this was a beer league game, I got a ticket for a free Bud Light after the match. (I drank it slowly after downing water and Gatorade.)

Sure, it was nice to have a post-script after 30 years. But the bigger picture was about how happiness is a choice. You can let the past define your future, or you can do something about your future while acknowledging the past.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hopeful Cooking

I've never claimed to be a good cook. When I want to make my own meal, my focus has been on what I want and what I can make easily. Usually that means I will make the same meals week in and week out for months. Sometimes, years.

Yet lately, I've felt the pull of trying to cook meals that I've never made when I cook for me and Hope.

In the past, I'd use the excuse of having too much fear of making something that tasted terrible. Why should I make something I had never made before if there's a chance of it being terrible? Since I was not an expert with understanding recipes on the fly (gotta read the fine print or you'll be screwed), it would be nearly impossible for me to make something tasteful and edible. So what was the point in trying?

No co-worker, family member, or previous girlfriend has called me a bad cook. But I never really believed I was even a decent cook. If making something would take more time preparing to get right than the time needed to eat it, I doubted myself out of trying something new.

After Hope cooked us some delicious meals, an epiphany came to me: Why shouldn't I at least try to make something I had never made before? She encourages me by not discouraging me, so why not give something like turkey sausage chili or chicken artichoke pizza a chance?

The meals I have cooked come from recipes found online. I have yet to ask my mother for recipes, but I might someday. I'm up for trying something new every week. Cooking something new doesn't mean I will make the greatest meal Hope and I will ever have. I shouldn't place such weight on myself. If I do, nothing will ever be good enough.

Basically, my weekly criteria/goal is to make something new that sounds like something we will enjoy. Sounds simple enough, but it's taken me this long to understand. I'm not going to chef jail (where I'm banned from the kitchen until further notice) if something doesn't turn out 100 percent delicious.

The underlying message is to put forth a strong effort in something that benefits both of us. If I have to read a recipe repeatedly so I can understand every single part of the instructions and ingredients, well, that's what I have to do. She makes excellent food for us. The least I can do is trying new things and being willing to learn new things. This is all another step in learning to live a life with anxiety instead of living a life dominated by anxiety.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Light Up Ahead

News quickly trickled out on Tuesday afternoon about the passing of Jon Bunch, who had fronted bands like Reason to Believe, Sense Field, Further Seems Forever, War Generation, and most recently, Lucky Scars. People that are very in the know didn't know about it until Jon's family posted something on his personal Facebook page. Since I was Facebook friends with him, I found out this way.

Of course there was denial out of the gate from friends, fans, loved ones, and bandmates. Jon seemed to be happy at 45 and living his life in California. Hearing of his death was a shock, and only now is this shock loosening and the grieving has begun.

I didn't know Jon personally, but like anyone you connect with through music on a deep level, you think you know that person. I had a few brief interactions with him that I shared on Facebook and Twitter, but I wanted to expand on them some more.

In the summer of 1998, I heard about Sense Field through my workplace, Best Buy. One day I saw some guys close to my age holding a Texas is the Reason CD and I figured I should talk to them. Texas is the Reason was like a secret handshake at that time, and I still think they are. In other words, if you dig Texas is the Reason, I probably will talk to you as they are still a revered band for me. These guys spoke highly of Sense Field and I kept them in mind. Not long after, I randomly read a Billboard article about their forthcoming album on Warner Bros. in the break room one day. It seemed like the band had some great momentum behind them, so I was curious.

I moved to Fort Worth that fall and I befriended a guy named Jeremy, someone I stay in touch with to this day. He was all about the Promise Ring and Jimmy Eat World and the whole emo/post-hardcore world that was in the late 1990s. He spoke highly of a new Sense Field EP called Part of the Deal, and at a price that was less than $10, I bought it without hearing a note beforehand.

Right off the bat, "One More Time Around" didn't sound exactly like their contemporaries. Jon had a gentle voice but there was a lot of strength behind it. These five songs weren't enough. I had to hear more. I patiently waited for this Warner Bros. record for months. I picked up their previous records and especially dug Building. These guys played songs that sang about love, friendships, and spirituality, but it wasn't ever cheesy to me. The wait continued. Very little information trickled out about the new record, aside from a possible title of Sense Field or Under the Radar. (I was fortunate to get a CD-R of the album, but I wanted the real thing.)

Eventually Tonight and Forever, which featured a number of songs from the Sense Field/Under the Radar record rearranged with new lyrics and titles, arrived in 2001. Four years was quite a while to wait, and I enjoyed the album quite a bit. I was in some disbelief that I was finally hearing this record. But it was real. (Added bonus: I got to interview their guitarist Chris for my Friday night show on KTCU.)

In 2003, I was a pissed-off 24-year-old trying to understand life after college. I had a major falling out with a close friend, was frustrated with my family and my friends, and I tried to stay afloat in a post-9/11 world. There were a lot of conflicting thoughts and emotions going through me, but music once again was there for me. During this time, I really connected to Sense Field's next record, Living Outside, as well as Hey Mercedes' Loses Control. Jon's lyrics about falling out and reconciling with his father carried a lot of weight for me. I could apply them to the people I thought about everyday.

I was fortunate to see Sense Field with Damone and Hey Mercedes at the Gypsy Tea Room. I was unapologetically That Guy Screaming His Head Off in the front during Hey Mercedes and Sense Field. After the show, Jon walked up to me and I noticed how tall he was. He gave me a very appreciative handshake and we exchanged nods. I felt better and things seemed to sort out in my mind after the show.

A while later, after Sense Field broke up, Jon joined Further Seems Forever and put out a stellar record called Hide Nothing. The opening track, "Light Up Ahead," was in constant rotation as I pondered leaving a job that had turned toxic and I was moving into a new place. Jon's voice always game me hope and that song (as well as that record) gave me so much guidance. Things turned out OK with the job front as I found a new full-time job and wound up living in that new place for nine years.

I saw Jon with Further Seems Forever twice. One was at the original Door and the other was at Trees. After the Door show, randomly, Jon walked up to me and my friend Jeremy. His facial expression looked like he recognized us and thanked us for coming. That was it, but it meant a lot to me.

An important life lesson came out of that: you can mean a lot to somebody just with a handshake and a lot of great music.

This past Tuesday morning, I randomly thought of "Dreams" from Sense Field while I used the bathroom. As I continue to think highly of my girlfriend, I smiled at thinking of the song's lyrics. Only a few hours later, after I heard about Jon's death, it was an eerie coincidence of timing.

Adding to the coincidence pile, I had traded e-mails earlier in the day with a publicist I've worked with throughout the years. We talked about some of her bands that were coming to town in the next few months, and I noticed her agency was now following me on Twitter. After I shared some thoughts about Jon on Twitter, she messaged me to say that she is married to Chris from Sense Field. That's right, the guy I interviewed back in 2001. Small world, but in a good way.

As a music fan tends to grieve, I've listened to Sense Field and Further Seems Forever a lot in the last few days. What Jon had to say and how he said it gave me so much guidance in life, and I will continue to listen to what he gave this world for many years to come. Hearing "One More Time Around" again this morning, there's even more weight to what he said.

Now I think it's safe to say

There's a place that we all stay

There's a time when we all know

It's a place that we all go

It's where we all come from

We play in the warmth of the sun

Laugh so hard we cry

Writing our names across the sky



Thank you, Jon, for all the great music and lyrics.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spin the Black Circle

It only took me 22 years, but I finally understand why so many music fans prefer the sound of vinyl over any other format.

When I was a teenager, I remember Neil Young proclaim the superiority of the sound of vinyl. I didn't understand what the hell he was talking about. That sounded like an old cranky man who was out of touch with the youth of the day, even though he could still rip some amazing solos when he'd play with Pearl Jam.

Vinyl was the dominant format when I was very young, but by the time I was actively listening to music as a teenager, CDs took its place. Compact discs sounded the best at home while cassettes were the most convenient for the car stereo. (Yeah, I don't miss the days of a CD skipping in a car stereo any time I hit a small bump in the road.)

In response to Young's comment, I wondered, Why in the world would I ever take a listen to something that was bigger and clunkier, and it had snaps, crackles, and pops added in?

Only a few years later, I was a major completist, especially with punk bands. Vinyl might have disappeared from stores like Sam Goody and Sound Warehouse, but locally-owned stores and distros still carried 7-inches, 10-inches, and 12-inches. And punk bands still regularly released singles during that time with songs that were not on CD. Since the singles were cheap and I had to have everything that face to face released, well, a tentative rekindling with vinyl began.

Picking up face to face's split 7-inch with Horace Pinker led me to want everything Horace Pinker ever produced on CD and vinyl. A similar thing happened with bands like NOFX and Dropkick Murphys. I could put up with the pops and crackles as I dubbed all of these songs onto cassette tapes. Again, I had to have everything by a band I loved.

By the time I moved away for college, the 7-inch collecting stalled out. Occasionally I'd grab some LPs from labels who supplied my campus radio station with merch. I didn't plan on listening to Andrew WK or Pete Yorn vinyl LPs as I was very satisfied with the sound of CDs. (I was happy driving around without having to worry about CDs skipping in the car stereo.)

Alas, some friends of mine I made through the campus station liked to listen to vinyl LPs from their parents' collections. Hearing Love's "My Little Red Book" and Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" on old turntables vinyl was fun, but I never thought this was the better way to enjoy music.

Aside from a memorable late-night listening to Tom Waits' Small Change in a Chicago loft one fall, where the beautiful strings and piano on "Tom Traubert's Blues" bounced off the brick walls and wood floor, I remained a CD-only person.

When Matt was my housemate, he started collecting albums by artists he loved as a child. Whether it was Frank Sinatra, Conway Twitty, or Billy Joel, he loved picking up stuff that was not easily-found anywhere else. He had an all-in-one player from Target that could play records, CDs and MP3s, and he frequently spent time in our front room listening to those LPs. Weekly visits to Half Price Books yielded more and more records. When he didn't want a copy of Eric Carmen's first solo record, I decided to pick it up and thus, a new collection was born.

Joining the Pet Shop Boys record I got back in 1987 (as it wasn't available on CD or tape the day I went to Sam Goody) and the 7-inch collection would be more albums that I had never seen digitally remastered for CD. I realized there was much more to explore this way, and I haven't really looked back ever since.

But what remained a mystery was finally solved this past Christmas: the actual sound of vinyl on a good turntable and decent speakers.

I had to upgrade to a better turntable as the portable one I had could not play 180-gram records at the correct speed. Santa Claus brought me an Audio Technica 120 and I hooked it up to my two two-foot bookshelf speakers and subwoofer.

Fittingly, I pulled out my copy of Neil Young's 3-LP Decade compilation, dusted it off, and gently put the needle on. Hearing depth in the sound as it bounced off the walls and wood floor, I believed I finally understood what Neil talked about. It was not like a revelation of the actual music, but a much better understanding of vinyl when it's played this way.

Ever since then, there has yet to be many days when I haven't listened to vinyl. Whether it's Scott Walker, Jawbox, or the Gaslight Anthem, I enjoy putting something on while I clean house or read a book. The experience of letting a record play through is a good one, leading me to hear stuff I had previously skipped over.

So, yes, Neil Young, you were right. It just took many years to agree with you. Now, about that Pono player.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Hope at the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse

Last summer, I wrote about being single in the age of a possible "dating apocalypse." Basically, I thought there was still a good chance I could find somebody special even though the effects of dating apps, as well as social media, have become so common in the modern dating life. The Vanity Fair article I linked presented a spreading of a culture where people are more drawn to hook up with a lot of people rather than take time and work on a promising (and potentially long-lasting) relationship with one person.

Coupled with what I had seen firsthand through the dating site OK Cupid, along what I've heard and seen in person and what I've seen on social media with people I know, I started to believe the chances of me finding anyone incredibly special seemed like a longshot. But deep down, I held out hope no matter how many times I'd hear something like, "Women only care about how much money you make."

I reached a point where I thought, if I remained single for the rest of my life, then that's what happens. Not very long after I reached a stage of acceptance with that idea, I met Hope.

Through the power of Twitter, Hope found my review of Kevin Smith's appearance at the Texas Theatre. She liked the review and identified with the inspirational words Kevin said over the course of the two-hour appearance. She tweeted the review to Kevin and I tweeted a thank-you note to her in return. When I saw she had a horror-themed podcast based in North Texas, I immediately thought she would be a perfect guest for my podcast. Since my podcast is about people flexing their creative muscles while also holding down a job and other adult responsibilities, I thought I would have an enjoyable hour-long discussion with her.

Something made me think, if she could strongly connect to Kevin's ideas, then we could possibly talk about life and creativity on a similar frequency. I didn't think of this as someone I would date, as I had no idea what her background was. She looked cute on her Twitter pic, but I didn't know if she was single.

Before I asked her to be on my podcast, I listened to the first episode of her podcast and decided to give her some unsolicited feedback. Giving that can be a very easy way to come across as an arrogant asshole, especially when you don't know this person in real life. But I thought my feedback, which praised her uptempo and engaging conversation skills while suggesting some technical adjustments in the sound quality department, would be helpful. She responded in kind and then I asked her to be on my podcast.

The podcast episode went well and we continued to talk after the episode wrapped. I felt a very strong connection to her and wanted to see her again. Turns out, we sat in the same row at the Texas Theatre as we both were near an obnoxious drunk guy with a really bad case of Plumber Butt. We made plans to do another episode, a fan commentary on Student Bodies, but things quickly developed where there would be more conversations without microphones in front of our mouths.

Before we recorded our second episode together, I had been asked at the last minute to cover a Motley Crue/Alice Cooper show and I had a spare ticket. I decided to ask Hope and she responded in such a positive way where I thought, I really, really like this woman's energy and enthusiasm. She's pretty on the outside and on the inside -- and she has all the traits of being a Why Not? person instead of a Why? person, as Kevin Smith described at the Texas Theatre.

After spending more time together over the next few weeks, we decided to be a couple in early November. She has a personality that radiates inspiration and encouragement for me. She inspires me to be more of who I am, and accepts who I am now instead of what she wants me to become. She tries and I try, something that was suggested I strongly focus on in a relationship.

In this age of a forthcoming dating apocalypse, I express gratitude every single day she's in my life. I never would have found her through Tinder or OK Cupid as she's not a fan of those apps. She's more old-fashioned, wanting a quality relationship with one person rather than a string of superficial hook-ups with various people. That's what I wanted, and I believe there are still many people out there who want the same, instead of this supposed norm of hook-up culture.

I encounter a lot of tweets and Facebook posts about frustrations with Tinder and OK Cupid. While I don't think those sites are a waste of time in trying to find a new relationship, I must stress that one should be open to other avenues. Whether it's a book club, a tailgating group, a soccer-watching group, or volunteering at a soup kitchen, go where you want to be. And don't be afraid to open up and share who you are.

Where there's life, there's hope. As convenient as dating apps can be, they don't represent everything out there in this world. You have to be willing to do more and take different approaches if you can't find anybody through that route. We might rely a lot more on technology these days, but there are some parts of life that technology can never reach.