Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations.
Van Halen’s rock-life excesses have been documented in the past, but never by someone as close to the band as its former manager Noel Monk. In his new biography, subtitled A Backstage Pass To The Wild Times, Loud Rock, And The Down And Dirty Truth Behind The Making Of Van Halen, Monk offers an unvarnished first-person account of the band’s rise to fame: His tenure ended just before David Lee Roth’s, so he was there for the good stuff.
Monk doesn’t pull punches with his assessment of the band members: In his eyes, Roth is a talented, narcissistic preener who constantly needs attention; Eddie Van Halen is a genius with limited social skills and a raging drug habit; Alex Van Halen is a marginal talent living in his brother’s shadow; Michael Anthony is an incredibly friendly doormat who just feels lucky to be involved at all. They all just want to fuck and do drugs, pretty much all the time. (Except Anthony, who’s happily married and seemingly well-adjusted.)
Monk started his career as the band’s tour manager, but worked his way into the big chair after gaining the band members’ trust—though they never trusted him enough to give him a long-term contract. He takes credit for some great ideas, including the decision to market the shit out of Van Halen merchandise, and also doesn’t have much compunction about describing the groupies who would trade sexual favors to an entire road crew just for the chance to meet the band. (He sums up lots of those experiences with something to the effect of “those were different times.”) Even for non-fans—I have only the most casual interest in Van Halen’s music—it should be a fun read. [Josh Modell]
I’ve never been much of a gamer. Once video game controllers got more complicated than the NES’ “toggle and two buttons” model, I was out. I also don’t really understand adventure games, journey games, or whatever Pokémon Go is. I’m more of a “solitaire on my phone” person.
Still, when I heard about Snoopy Pop’s launch, which was tied to a $100,000 donation to animal charities, I figured I’d give it a try. A new game from Jam City, makers of the incredibly popular Panda Pop, Snoopy Pop is one of those “shoot balls onto a flat course and try to ‘free’ all the whatevers” games everyone with a passing familiarity with cellphone ads has seen before. And yet, it’s better, mainly because of its association with the whole Peanuts gang. The game opens with the familiar strains of “Linus And Lucy,” and then you’re whisked away into the world of Charles M. Schulz. You play as Snoopy, trying to free many Woodstocks from perilous situations, including being held hostage by the Red Baron. You can pop bubbles and earn power-ups from Linus, Charlie, Lucy, and Peppermint Patty, all of which are delivered in charming and adorable fashion. (Peppermint Patty’s, for instance, looks like a little baseball diamond.) From there, it gets a little monotonous, but those are the kinds of games I like—ones I can play on my phone and feel mildly comforted by as I passively watch TV. If you’re into that kind of stuff, and you have even a bit of a heart, you’ll probably be into Snoopy Pop. [Marah Eakin]
I wasn’t crazy about Netflix’s Voltron show when it first started, partly because I loved the original series as a kid and didn’t like some of the minor changes that the new one introduced (the ridiculous length of time it took to form the eponymous robot probably needed to be streamlined, but I don’t have to like it). The biggest problem, though, was that the villains in the old show looked super cool and weird, but they were largely replaced with generic dudes in space armor in the new show.
That has gradually changed as the series has gone on, with more bad guys taking off their helmets and showing off their colorful fur and cat ears, and now the recently released third season has put a big emphasis on Prince Lotor, an iconic villain from the old show who is reenergizing Legendary Defender with his fabulous hair and subtler approach to evil schemes. Also, the show seems to be overtly realigning itself with more elements from the old cartoon, suggesting that all of this was part of a grand, multi-season plan that is only now coming into focus. I hope that’s the case, because I love being pandered to. [Sam Barsanti]