Day 198 – Goodbye, Chester

Last week, Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park and formerly of Stone Temple Pilots, committed suicide. He was 41.

Unlike the death of Chris Cornell, losing Bennington hit me. I have come to deeply appreciate the talents of Cornell after the fact, but before he passed I hadn’t developed much interest in grunge altogether. That has changed. I’ve developed that bond with his music.

But Linkin Park? I grew up with them, man. So, I want to share a few thoughts on Bennington, the band and their effect on me.

And I know, I may end up failing too
But I know, you were just like me
With someone disappointed in you

Numb

Growing up is hard. I began to realize at a certain age that I had expectations for my life that ultimately were not achieved. I began to realize that society had expectations for me — as a young male — that I did not achieve. And so it became that I felt like a disappointment, particularly in high school, in the moments I didn’t block it out.

I’m not casting aspersions at anyone or even society, but rather explaining why I could identify with those words. It wasn’t as if anyone was directly accusing me of anything — oh, no, I gladly create my own demons. I could just visualize someone saying those words and realizing that they, too, were just like me.

With someone disappointed in them too.

I know what it takes to move on
I know how it feels to lie
All I want to do
Is trade this life for something new
Holding on to what I haven’t got

Waiting for the End

By now, I’m older. This song came out in 2010, but I didn’t gravitate toward it until the fall of 2014. Those were not good days. I was a mess.

It was in those days I learned what heartbreak was like, a lesson I would learn again. But for the first time, I experienced the shock, pain and utter sense of loneliness that comes with it. There was no relief in sight other than the passage of time, and make no mistake, time healed the wounds.

But during the storm, it is hard to trust that the winds and rain will die down. All I wanted was what I did not have, and so because I couldn’t have, I needed to trade this life for something new. In a sense, I did — I turned deeper into faith in Christ than ever before.

But it hurt. Chester’s lyrics and vocals helped.

I don’t like my mind right now
Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary

Heavy

I feel this within myself so often that it’s almost a given. I know I will do this — I will start a small fire of doubt and spend days tossing logs on it. Reading those words — hearing Chester sing them — isn’t a simple process for me. Those words are real, autobiographical. For him and me.

Bennington was a fantastic singer, powerful and melodic, able to handle the darkest metal screams and softest pop lines. He’s a fit in anything from “Black” to “Enter Sandman” to “Rolling In The Deep.” His range is often overlooked because of the way Linkin Park is viewed: gimmicky. And, yeah they were. Rap-metal was gimmicky, let’s not kid ourselves, but the band did evolve. “Hybrid Theory”, the band’s wildly successful debut, sounds nothing like “A Thousand Suns” (out in 2010) which sounds nothing like “One More Light”, the band’s presumably final album, out in May.

The mechanism by which they could evolve wasn’t exclusively Bennington (Mike Shinoda deserves a nod, for sure), but he was the engine. Give a band a vocalist like him and let them go. It’ll work.

And it did.

 

 

Day 197 – ‘Dunkirk’

So far this year, in theatres I’ve seen:

  • XXX: Return of Xander Cage (it was a movie, I can give it that)
  • Logan (exceptional, with its own review coming at some point)
  • The Fate of the Furious, a solid romp if it a bit familiar now
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, another solid if a bit familiar romp
  • Wonder Woman, a blast
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming, a charming superhero flick

None of them compare to the overall experience that Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” delivers. “Dunkirk” is a visceral movie, beautifully shot and rendered with expertly mastered sounds that places you directly into the boots of one of the thousands of British soldiers lining the coast of that French town. You are there with them, inhaling the sea, squinting out toward the hope of home while terror rains from the skies. Will you survive? Each time a German plane screams into the scene, you shake with fear. As soon as that engine whine first crosses into your ears, the panic begins.

You know what awaits.

The Germans pinned the British and French armies along the coast in 1940, placing the fate of the war in the balance. Remember: America didn’t join the European theatre until a bit later, so it wasn’t as if the Yanks were on the way. With home only right across the English channel, the specter of a slow, mass slaughter of the British army shone bright in the faces of Winston Churchill and British high command.

I won’t get into all of what happens, but essentially the British populace (coupled with a particularly bizarre easing off the gas by German leader Adolf Hitler) saved the day. Colin Moriarty made a helpful video explaining the story of Dunkirk.

What I most enjoyed about “Dunkirk” was the lack of desire to make this anything except a realistic look at what those days on the beach felt like. This isn’t a human interest story nestled inside a war movie (“Saving Private Ryan”, for example). We hardly even learn the name of a single character, but it makes no difference. Nolan is a master of his craft, maybe among the very best filmmakers alive, and he wields his powers to full effect with “Dunkirk,” wrapping you up in dire emotion for characters you know little about.

What is there to know? If Nolan spends time establishing who Tom Hardy’s pilot or Harry Styles’ soldier are, it diminishes the point. The war was full of men with families and reasons to survive. To focus on just one in a sense takes away from the other.

All you know is that death awaits as the hour glass begins to run dry.

Nolan gives us a glimpse of how morality becomes a sliding scale when men feel such incredible pressures. War, like intense heat upon metal, can warp even the best of us. But good can shine through, and seeing people suffer and yet endure for the good of their country is a powerful image.

“Dunkirk” is exceptional.

[Editor’s note: This post has been updated to fix a mistake about when the United States entered the war.]

 

Day 196 – An update on the blog

Hi guys.

I love this blog. I’ve written words on it, many of which I remain proud of, and I’m thankful you all read. I’ve written about faith, fitness, Trump (January feels like 15 years ago!), music and so much more. It’s awesome.

But, when I started this little venture, I was in a wildly different place in life. I was mired in unemployment, feeling lost and empty, alone and beaten down. Putting fingers to keys helped with that a lot, and it still helps a lot. I can tell I don’t suck quite as much at writing today. 🙂

But now, I’m busier than I’ve ever been. I’m working harder than I ever have at my craft, trying tirelessly to be better. (I was in bed at 12:30 last night, wide awake, thinking about making database calls with JavaScript. Seriously.) I have learned from past failures.

I continue to grind on fitness, battling my neverending desire to eat literally all the food. I’m leading a weekly Bible study and attempting to sound competent in the process.

Plus, well … there are some other cool things going on that not everyone knows about.

So, something has to give, right? A boy only has so many hours in the day.  I’ve had this thought in the back of my head the last few weeks as I’ve begun to realize a daily blog isn’t much tenable for me now, especially one of any quality. I can write a hundred small posts with YouTube videos, or maybe 30 deeper posts that aren’t quite as gimmicky.

So, here’s what I want to try. There won’t be daily posts anymore. But, my goal is three posts a week, and ideally those posts will be a little thicker than what has come out lately. I don’t know what days they’ll be out or the topics, but three is the goal.

Thank you for your support. I love you all. 🙂

Day 194 – Unvarnished truth

Presented with comment, the beautiful Word of God:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. -Colossians 1:15-23

I could write out a long commentary on Paul’s words here, digging into the beauty, grace and mighty power of Christ’s place in the universe, world and our lives. I could remind you that it’s ultimately rather trivial which party holds what office in whichever country, because no one is above the King.

I could tell you how amazing it is — how monumental! — that Christ would reconcile himself to all things, through no need of his own, but out of incalculable love for the sheep who have abandoned their shepherd.

I could tell you how my life, while perpetually flawed and tainted by sin that indeed does so easily entangle, has grown and evolved through the power of His Hand. I could dig into the amazing presence of the New Testament, how it shares vividly the most important message in all of time. I could tell you about love, hope, forgiveness, grace, encouragement, discipline and more.

I could tell you so much.

But I pray that you know this already, and so I simply share with you a mere taste of God’s Word. Whet our appetites, my Lord, make us savor only you.

 

Day 192 – #AllRise

If you’re not into baseball, go ahead and tune away.

AARON. FREAKING. JUDGE.

What is going on here? Is this real life? Are we on Mars? Is Judge from Mars? No one really knows, but suddenly the New York Yankees have a home-run mashing giant playing right field (seems … oddly … familiar …)

If the award was handed out today, Judge is the AL MVP and AL Rookie of the Year, a unique combination not found all that often. He’s not entirely out of nowhere, mind you — Judge was a good-to-great prospect — but no one saw this coming, likely including the Yankees. No one saw “AL MVP” in his future.

Judge is definitely hot, and so I hardly expect he’ll be the best player in baseball every year (caveat: Mike Trout is definitely better, and potentially one of the truly inner-circle great players of all time, but he’s not a Yankee so no one cares) but it is exciting to have someone smashing home runs like this.

And smash he does:

He’s like the Hulk:

The velocity of these homers is astounding. These aren’t arches — they’re cruise missiles. Judge is like a US Navy Destroyer, lobbing missiles from home plate against insurgents in the stands. No one is safe.

It remains to be seen how pitchers will begin to adjust to Judge (and they will), but it certainly looks like he’s going to be around for awhile, health permitting.

#AllRise

Day 191 – ‘The Man Who Sold The World’

When it came to my interest in grunge music, before April it mostly consisted of Nirvana, and in that only a few songs:

  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • Heart-Shaped Box
  • You Know You’re Right
  • All Apologies
  • The Man Who Sold The World

As I’ve grown up, that has changed (this blog has documented that fairly often). While I don’t necessarily view Kurt Cobain as a legendary performer, there’s no doubt he was brilliant, able to convey pain and frustration in beautiful and haunting ways. (It’s possible my view of him will continue to evolve, though.)

I say that in great part because of Nirvana’s historic “MTV Unplugged” performance, wherein the grunge rockers showed a potent, melodic and almost folksy side. Mostly bereft of hits, the setlist found Cobain, Krist Novaselic and Dave Grohl dipping into their catalog and even outside of it.

The top performance of the night was a cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World.” I love it, and I think you might too.

 

Day 190 – Take heart

I worked pretty hard today, figured out a few things and made a couple mistakes, too. I don’t let those realities bug me too much anymore, because it’s all part of the process (unless I catch the building on fire).

Life is struggle, so embrace it. Embrace the difficulty of work, the challenge of the gym and the slow push of everything else. Just … grow.

But then, relax when that time comes too. Recharge the batteries, because tomorrow awaits, and you can best conquer it with rest.

Praise you, Lord. You provide. You have won, and won with total finality. This is over. Let that be our guiding light as we push through life. Take heart, friends — the war is won.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

Praise God.

Day 189 – Tunes on a Sunday night

Who doesn’t love some good tunes on a Sunday night? Well, I do anyway, and lately this song has stuck out to me.

I’m not the biggest Foo Fighters fan in the world, but I certainly enjoy their work. For me, “Everlong” is a great look at the heart and charm that make Grohl and the boys the band that they are. It’s a powerful song.

When the band kicks into that last chorus? Heck. Yes. I’d have been losing my mind in that crowd, and the possibility of experiencing the song live makes me consider getting Foo tickets in the future.