Tuesday Notes

A few assorted tidbits for Tuesday.

Here’s the thing about Indian Summer: you never fully appreciate it. Sure, you can talk in wonder about it being in the mid–80s in the back-half of October. You can take a long lunch, leave work early, or just take the day off to get outside. But as good as these days feel, we are also craving those cool, autumn breezes. It looks like the weather here is going to shift dramatically in the next 36 hours. I’ll miss these warm, muggy, breezy days.

Sunday afternoon was kind of crappy around here. It rained pretty hard for about 90 minutes, which just happened to coincide with the time of L’s soccer game. I think the kids mostly enjoyed running around in the rain and mud. I was a little surprised there wasn’t more sliding around. L played probably her best game of the season, scoring two goals, and just missing three other chances. I think it helped being little, as the bigger kids were having more trouble cutting on the wet grass. Four times she brought the ball up the sideline, cut hard back into the penalty box, and then fired away. One went in. Another hit the post, the goalie, and then bounced away. And two others the goalie knocked away.

We took advantage of yesterday’s delightful weather by heading down to the lake after we dropped the girls off at school in the morning. S and I did some yard work, met with some contractors to talk about some winter projects, and then pulled the boat out of the water for the year. Our contractors showed up a little late, and our conversation took the better part of an hour, so I missed the chance to haul ass one, last time. I did get to take a quick spin as S was getting the trailer into the water at the marina. I think the boat knew this was her last chance to show off, because she jumped up and went fast quickly. Or maybe it was just having one person inside and not towing anything behind that made her go so fast. Regardless, I enjoyed the five minutes of racing around the dam-end of the lake while waiting for the trailer to be ready.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather that the Royals were playing in this year’s MLB playoffs. But I have really enjoyed this year’s games so far. I think it helps having no strong feelings about any series, other than wanting Toronto to lose.[1] It’s way less stressful to watch the games that have been close deep into the contest when I can be reading an article on Instapaper, or scrolling through Twitter as I watch. And I’m free to go to bed at 11:15 even if the game isn’t over yet.

That said, I’ve missed a couple excellent finishes by calling it a night before the final out has been recorded.

  1. Such a shame that team is on the verge of losing to a team from the AL Central for the second-straight October.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Shadrach” – Beastie Boys. None of this week’s new releases really piqued my interest, so after dropping the girls at school this morning I threw on Paul’s Boutique and have been reliving the first month of my freshman year of college. At least musically. I haven’t been skipping classes and puking in trashcans.
“Positron” – Palace Winter. Another very fine track – this one recorded live – from PW.
“Tiny Fires” – Kevin Morby. I’ve been digging this song – which sounds very fall-like – for a couple weeks and finally spun Morby’s most recent full-length album Wednesday. Turns out he is originally from Kansas City, which will pretty much always earn you a spot on a Friday playlist.
“Map On A Wall” – Lucy Dacus. I find myself digging the moody, atmospheric, semi-indie/semi-folk, female singer-songwriter a lot these days.[1] Dacus’ current album is fantastic, and this is another track that fits the season quite well.

“Halloweenhead” – Ryan Adams. I’m always interested in the between-shows music at concert. Who selects the tunes that get played between the opening act and the headliner? Is it the band with top billing? Or is it just a playlist that the venue throws on? When we saw the Revivalists last month, this was the first track after the openers left the stage, which brought appreciative nods from lots of folks in the crowd. While not really about the holiday at the end of the month, it still seems like a no-brainer for October. Also, we’re damn close to new DRA music. Supposedly his new album is set to be released Nov. 4.

  1. Angel Olsen, Lydia Loveless, Nadia Reid, Julia Jacklin, and Haley Bonar most notably these days.  ↩

Good Journalism Moment of the Day

I went through a stretch a few weeks back where I was watching a lot of Veep, the HBO comedy where Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Vice President Selina Meyer.[1] And this week I finally cracked the seal on our DVR’s collection of The Good Place, the new Michael Schur comedy starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson.

That combination means I can finally share this piece from a few weeks back in which Steven Hyden posits that Louis-Dreyfus and Danson are the two finest comedy actors of the modern age. Then he breaks it down. It’s pretty excellent and I can’t believe no one has done it before.

Louis-Dreyfus is an absolute treasure. She’s come a long way from those forgettable SNL days.[2] And Danson has put together an incredibly solid post-Cheers run. As I said last winter, of all the amazing elements of season two of Fargo, he may have been the best. He was totally, recognizably Danson while adding incredible layers that were new. Seriously, watch the clip Hyden embeds.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus And Ted Danson Are The Two Best TV Actors Of The Modern Era

  1. I’m still just on season two. And haven’t watched an episode in two weeks. Also, I was balancing Veep with re-watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. Two shows that make me laugh out loud but which my wife totally does not get.  ↩
  2. Not ashamed to admit I’ve had a crush on her for nearly 25 years now.  ↩

Finishing Fast

Before I jump into the true topic of this post, a quick realization I just had. Lately many of the family stories I’ve been sharing in detail here have already been posted to Facebook in much more simplified form. Since the bulk of my regular readers are friends on Facebook, that means you’ve often had a sneak preview of the story about X or Y before I get around to putting a few hundred words about it up here. The rest of story, you might say.

Which instantly made me think of sitting in my grandfather’s or uncle’s pickup truck in a field or pasture in central Kansas while they ate their lunch and listened to Paul Harvey. If you listened to Paul Harvey at all as a kid, you remember one thing. “And now you know….the rest of the story…” Although I’m uncomfortable comparing myself to Paul Harvey for a number of reasons, saying that I’m sharing the rest of the story here did make me laugh a little.

Anyway, Saturday was the last cross country meet of the year, the big CYO city championship. She had a streak of four top 20s in four races going into Saturday’s race. I was a little concerned because she didn’t run last weekend since we were out-of-town and she had been fighting a nasty chest cold all week. I wasn’t sure she would be in top form for the biggest meet of the year. And, honestly, I was worried that with every one of the best teams competing, she might get knocked out of the top 20 for the first time this year.

Fortunately my worries were silly. She did just fine.

She’s never a great starter, but she broke out strong this week. We were probably 100 yards down from the start and she was in fourth place when the crush of 3rd/4th graders roared by us. We had friends scattered around the course who were texting us updates from different spots. She fell back a little, but we kept hearing that she was still in the top 10. She passed us right beyond the 2K mark and she was 8th, but looked to be struggling a little. The finish was directly behind us and we took off to claim a good spot before they came in.

We were probably 50 yards down from the finish. The winner, who is the youngest in a family that just dominates each of their age groups, came in right around 12:20. The second-place girl was another 20 seconds behind her. Then another 20 seconds before the third place girl. A few seconds later we saw a group of girls come over the rise together. First we saw the St. P’s 3rd grader who has just kicked ass all year, and is usually about 30 seconds ahead of C. Then, as the group resolved into individuals, there was C right behind her! I might have become psycho cross country dad as C passed us, shouting out encouragement as loudly as I could. There were three girls right on her ass, and again she appeared to me to be faltering a little.

I leaned out over the rail and watched them race toward the finish. It was a helpless feeling. I couldn’t encourage her, give her a boost of speed or strength, or do anything to keep the pack of three behind her from getting by. It was all on her. I kept waiting for one of her trailers to make a move, but they couldn’t do it. C held them off. She finished sixth! She was two seconds behind her schoolmate and two seconds in front of that group that tried to chase her down.

As soon as I saw her cross the finish line, I took off toward the holding pen. I heard S yell from behind me, “THIRTEEN TEN?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!” I stopped and looked back at her and said, “WHAT?!?!” I was so focused on the racing, I never looked at her time. I glanced back at the official clock, which by now was up to 13:30. She had just obliterated her personal best time by nearly 90 seconds! She was almost two minutes faster than her best time of last year! Homegirl put it all together and the perfect time.[1]

When we found her behind the finish line, she was kind of in a daze. I grabbed her and gave her a huge hug. I came damn close to saying, “Babe, you were fucking flying!” I thought it, that’s for sure. When I told her what place she finished in and how fast her time was, she got really happy. But she was more focused on finding her friends who were behind her and cheering them in.

Later another St. P’s family who was at the finish line pulled C aside and complimented her both on her run and how she reacted after she finished. They said she ran up to the St. P’s third grader, gave her a hug, and said, “K! We did it!” They told her how she really impressed them with how she was looking out for her teammate. I was even more proud of her, and happy that I had sunglasses on when they shared that story.

It turned out everyone was posting huge PR’s. It was an absolutely perfect day: sunny, dry, in the low 60s. A brisk wind, but one that was squarely behind the runners on the finishing stretch. This course is used for high school and college meets, so I don’t doubt it was measured correctly. Maybe it was just something in the air. Everyone we talked to said their kids dropped 30–60 seconds off their best times.

So it was a really good finish to a fine season. C ended up with three top ten finishes: a 5th, a 6th, and a 9th. She also had 14th and 16th place finishes. The best part about Saturday was a lot of the girls who beat her when she was 14th and 16th finished behind her. It’s one thing to improve your time. It’s another to improve more than your rivals do.

I think cross country fits her really well. She has a bit of a busy, unfocused mind. Sometimes she gets overwhelmed and emotional. I think running relaxes her. She doesn’t have to think about where to throw the ball, how many outs there are, or if a ball is going to land inbounds or not. She can just go.

I think we have enjoyed it even more than her. And not just because of her success. Cross country is a lot of fun because it brings the entire school together. We’ve made new friends through kickball and volleyball. But those teams are smaller and include, at most, two grades. At a cross country meet every grade from 3rd through 8th is represented. And all the parents go out and cheer for all the kids, whether they have a kid running in that age group or not.

It’s great for the kids, too. Our coaches really push the older kids to be vocal leaders. They design little games at practice that mix up kids by ages so that everyone gets to know everyone else. It’s really cool to see the 7th and 8th graders encourage the younger kids, or just to say hello to them at school. You can see the boost of confidence some of the younger kids get when an 8th grader walks by and tells them “good job” while saying their name. I enjoy the way the sports builds the feeling of community, both for the kids and the parents.

And then there was one fall sport left. L has just two weeks of soccer left. It’s going to be sooooo nice having just one night of practice this week.

  1. Her official time was 13:13.  ↩

Friday Vid

I’m having a fun morning. I’m searching on what movies are appropriate for a 12-year-old’s sleepover.

Up until now it’s been pretty easy to pick movies to show when our girls have friends over. But now that M is up on the verge of being a teenager, you can’t throw in a Barbie movie or even a good animated flick like Inside Out. She needs something that is a little more grown up for her and her friends who are sleeping over tonight to watch.

I’ve been reading the the Common Sense Media site, which has some good suggestions. It’s kind of funny how many of their recommendations are from the 80s. Think the girls will let me watch Footloose with them?

Speaking of being young, for this week’s video I’m repeating something I posted on Facebook earlier this week. Monday was the 10th anniversary of the release of The Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls In America album. Although I prefer their previous release, Separation Sunday slightly, Boys and Girls had a bigger impact on me when it was first released. That’s the fall that C was a baby and I was taking grad classes downtown. I’m pretty sure I discovered several songs off B&G thanks to the old woxy.com, and when the album came out I grabbed a copy off of iTunes. It became my soundtrack for that October.

I remember feeling then how much the album made me wish I was 22 again. Not because I wanted to be young and free and poor, or because I wanted to relive all the things I went through back in 1993. But rather because I wanted this album to speak for my experiences. I could listen to it as a 35-year-old and appreciate how freaking great it was. But it wasn’t an album about what I was going through at that point in my life. What would the album mean to me if I was of the generation it was speaking for?[1]

Despite any barriers in age, experience, and use of pharmaceuticals, B&G remains a great album. And this song, “Stuck Between Stations,” remains one of my favorites not only of the ‘00s, but of all-time.[2] Crank it up, and have a great weekend!

  1. The irony is that Craig Finn, THS’ lead singer, is exactly my age. So although his characters were a little younger, he was writing/singing about them from the same point in his life I was. So, perhaps, I could have related more to his stories that I realized at the time.  ↩
  2. It looks like I’m two years away from needing to update my 20 favorite songs of all-time list.  ↩

MLB Playoff Predictions

Well, the MLB playoffs are here, a bittersweet time for me – and many of my readers – for sure. There is a sadness that the Royals aren’t part of the festivities this year. The last two Octobers were so much fun, even if they were intensely stressful. I imagine my blood pressure will appreciate watching games more casually this year. Yet there will be the constant references to the Royals for the next month, which will be good. Watching the Wild Card games, I couldn’t help but think of dozens of moments from the past two years. So it might suck that the Royals couldn’t put a third-straight playoff run together, but their absence makes the memories of 2014 and 2015 shine a little brighter.

I think this year’s playoffs are set up to the one of the best editions ever. Is that based on the teams involved? Not really. Although there are certainly a number of compelling stories in this year’s participants and the matchups. Is it because of Wild Card games, which were both fantastic, enthralling affairs?[1] As good as those games were, they will have no effect on the quality of the rest of the post-season.

Nope, I base that prediction on one thing: 1986, the year after the Royals won their first World Series, was perhaps the greatest postseason in MLB history. The Mets-Astros NLCS is often mentioned as the best single playoff series in baseball history. The ALCS counterpart, between the Red Sox and Angels, was nearly as good. And then the World Series was an epic, unforgettable one.

The Royals won the World Series last year. History tells us that this year’s playoffs will be amazing.


Toronto vs. Texas. This is the Neutral Party series. Folks who have no feelings about either team are looking forward to it after their amazing ALDS series last year and their big fight back in May of this year. Toronto has been banged up all year, but seem to be getting healthy at the right time. But I don’t think they have enough pitching, and Texas is playing to atone for last year, when they feel they should have advanced.
Rangers in Five

Boston vs. Cleveland. On the one hand, Cleveland’s pitching staff has slowly been falling apart over the past month. It’s hard to see them getting through a five-game series with so many problems in their starting rotation. On the other, they weathered every storm this season and kept chugging along. And the city of Cleveland is on a bit of a roll, so perhaps the Indians are this year’s team of destiny. I think Boston is just better, though.
Red Sox in Four


Boston is always in the news. That comes with their market, with the national fixation on the franchise, and their bandwagon fans scattered around the country.[2] But Texas was quietly excellent all season long. My guess is the Rangers slowly, methodically, steal this series and end David Ortiz’s career.
Rangers in Six


Giants vs. Cubs. There is a specter hanging over the playoffs. That specter is Madison Bumgarner. After his complete-game shutout of the Mets last night, he looks to be back in his 2014 postseason form. All I heard on MLB radio this morning was how he was going to be the difference in this series. Which may be the case. But I think Joe Madden is the perfect manager to counter Bumgarner’s magic. He’ll keep the Cubs loose, and while the Giants will win Bumgarner’s game three start, it won’t be enough. My girls will be excited that Johnny Cueto is pitching game two!
Cubs in Four

Dodgers vs. Nationals. Here is the series I struggle with most. I don’t watch much NL baseball, so I only have a vague understanding of each team. And then do we knock the Dodgers for their recent October collapses, or is this a different team? Are Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy healthy enough to be factors? Will Clayton Kershaw get over his personal October jinx? I think Max Scherzer beats Kershaw twice, and the Nats squeeze out a win in game five to advance.
Nationals in Five


There’s a lot of potential destiny at work this year. Can the Indians ride the wave that LeBron and company created in June? Will David Ortiz go out on top? And then the Cubs are trying to end 108 years of postseason failure. When at their best this year, the Cubs were awesome. The concern is they had some awfully mediocre runs sprinkled in there. The Nats have been the flashy team in the past only to come up short in October. This season they were just a steady team that cranked out wins all season. The Cubs are smarting from last season’s NLCS sweet against the Mets. The Nats feel like they should have been in the World Series in 2014. The Cubs will be the team that overcomes their recent past.
Cubs in Seven

World Series

For all the media hype that would go along with it, I’ll admit a Red Sox – Cubs, Fenway – Wrigley World Series would be awesome. So there’s going to be some disappointment with this matchup. The hype will still be deafening with the Cubs in their first World Series since 1945. Everyone will pick the Cubs. Which makes a lot of sense. They were a great team this year, have arguably the best manager in the game, their home games are going to be absolutely raucous, and they have every piece they need to win this year. The Rangers aren’t as flashy or as complete. But the best team doesn’t always win in October, and I think this is the Rangers’ year. Sorry, Cubs fans. You’ll have to wait until next year.
Rangers in Six

  1. As good as those games were, neither compared to the greatest Wild Card game of them all.  ↩
  2. Which I fully cop to being one in the past. It was always more of an anti-Yankees thing for me, though.  ↩

September Books

A pretty solid month of reading in September keeps me right on 52-book pace for the year.

Palace of Treason – Jason Matthews. I read Matthews’ excellent Red Sparrow three or four years ago. Turns out Matthews enjoyed those characters and settings so much, he’s decided to turn it into a trilogy. Volume two just hit the shelves in June.

Matthews, a retired CIA officer, does another first-rate job in building a tale of modern espionage. The main characters, again, are a Russian intelligence agent who has been recruited by the CIA, and her handler/lover. This time Matthews adds in several layers of potential double-crossing and the investigations on both sides to ferret out the traitors. It’s good stuff.

I especially like how he pulls Vladimir Putin directly into the story. And, as it is told from the American perspective, Putin is predictably evil: he is sadistic, uncaring, power-hungry, and a sexual predator. Good times! While reading I couldn’t help but wonder how President Obama, or any American president, would be portrayed in a corresponding Russian version. Obama would probably be drawn as a soft, effete, perhaps gay man who was both dangerous and easy to be pushed around because of his weakness. George W. Bush would be dangerous because of his poor grasp of history and propensity for seeing the world in strictly black and white terms. Reagan would be a threat because of his militarism. And so on. I bet these novels exist. I much prefer our American versions.

I Would Die 4 U – Touré. Just a brilliant, slim biography of Prince that focuses on a few important aspects of his life, rather than a telling of his entire history. Published just over three years before Prince’s death, it still feels fresh because it is so focused on looking back at the 1970s–1990s. Touré looks to both examine what made Prince Prince, and why he was uniquely positioned to speak to Generation X.

Touré hits three main aspects of Prince’s life: his experience with divorce, how he dealt with sexuality, and the role of religion in his life and music. Prince’s parents divorced when he was young, and their split was extremely traumatic for him. He bounced between their homes, and those of a few family members, and never forgave his mother for what he viewed as abandoning him. Although technically a Baby Boomer, Touré argues that because he was born at the end of that generation, and thus was young when Gen X was coming of age, that made Prince the perfect person to speak to the first generation of Americans that grew up with divorce being a central part of their experience.

To Touré, everything else both in Prince, and in Gen X, can be traced back to the effects of divorce. Prince/Gen X were able to experiment with sexuality more freely than earlier generations because of the freedoms that came with the Latchkey generation. The emergence of AIDS in the mid–80s was a powerful balance to these freedoms, giving Gen X deeply ambivalent feelings about sexuality. Touré writes that to Prince, sex was the most pure and genuine form of love, and no matter how lewd an act might be, if performed out of love, you were sharing God’s love with your partner. He also explored how Prince’s music style closely mirrored many of the core elements of performance with the African-American church.

It goes way deeper than that without being overwhelming. It is likely a flawed, and incomplete, view of who Prince was and how be came to be that way, but that doesn’t make it any less fascinating.

Someone Could Get Hurt – Drew Magary. I’ve come to really love Magary’s writing for Deadspin, GQ, and other sites and magazines over the past couple years. He’s both funnier, cruder, and smarter than Bill Simmons, the writer whose path he probably follows the closest. I’m waiting for the library’s copy of Magary’s new novel, and got this collection of essays on parenthood in the interim. As expected, it’s hilarious, well-crafted, and often surprisingly touching.

Anatomy Of A Soldier – Harry Parker. It can be tough to stand out in a well-established genre. So authors will use literary devices to make their stories different from the thousands that came before them. In this novel, which is loosely autobiographical and focused on a British Army officer who serves in Afghanistan, Parker took a big chance, and has received some lukewarm reviews because of it. I liked, and enjoyed, the chances he took.

Parker’s trick is to write each of the book’s 45 chapters from the first-person perspective. However the narrator is never a person, but rather a series of inanimate objects. One chapter is told by the fertilizer used to build the IED that injures the main character. Another is told by the batteries that give the IED its charge. The bone saw that performs the amputation of his leg explains his surgery. The soldier’s boots, his mother’s purse, the motorcycle that carries the Afghani insurgents who plant the IED, a round in the soldier’s rifle magazine, and the razor the soldier’s father uses to shave him in the hospital all get their turns.

It’s a bit hard to follow at first, but once I found the rhythm, I raced through the book. I found Parker’s choice in perspective both original and well executed. He tells the stories of the soldier, his family and army companions, and the insurgents in a compelling way. The use of inanimate objects as narrators could be gimmicky, but I think he pulled it off well. That made this book stand out against the other fine novels that have been published about the War on Terror over the past decade.

Trespassing Across America – Ken Ilgunas. Piggy-backing a little on Ian Frazier’s Great Plains, that I read last month, is this travelogue of the central part of our country[1]. Ilgunas spent the fall/early winter of 2012–13 walking the length of the planned Keystone XL pipeline, beginning in the prairies of Alberta and ending on the Texas Gulf coast. This route involved trespassing across large tracts of private land, nervy encounters with herds of cattle, and poor weather. As an environmentalist, his goal was to learn more about the territory the planned pipeline would go through, what the people in those areas thought of the pipeline, and to raise awareness of what he perceived to be the dangers of building the pipeline.

He had a few dicey run-ins with unsympathetic strangers and law enforcement along the way, but in general it was a peaceful trip. And as he made his walk, he reevaluated his own views about the pipeline and environmentalism in general. He didn’t make a dramatic, 180 degree turn, but he did come to realize that there are no hard, black-and-white solutions to solving how we use fossil fuels, the ways we’re damaging our environment, and what all that means for climate change.

  1. With a touch of Canada thrown in.  ↩

Ocho to the Third

Yesterday was a very busy day, which makes me a day late in offering up my birthday post for L. Our youngest turned 8 yesterday, and everything about the day fit her perfectly.

As a lot of you saw, I posted some pics of her to Facebook with a little birthday announcement. At the end of the day, I showed her how many people had liked it or sent birthday greetings her way in the comments. She was very impressed. She ran out and told her sisters how many “Likes” she had. Just what that kid needed: an ego boost.

L and her classmates got fancy cupcakes for snacks late in the school day, courtesy of her cool dad.[1]

She struggled with her list of gift ideas for well over a month. First she gave us a long list of Harry Potter-related items. Toys, books, etc. Then she scrapped all that and started asking for a kids tablet with a case and games to go with it. We shot that down, as she and her sisters already share an iPad and getting a kid tablet she’ll outgrow in a week seemed like a waste of money.

We asked her what she liked to do with her friends, and then she thought of playing XBox at two of her friends’ houses. We’ve had a Wii for several years, but it’s the old one that they don’t make games for anymore. Every couple of months the girls will go through a Mario Kart or Just Dance phase, but the console doesn’t get nearly as much use as it once did.

I did the research and we decided an XBox One S could be a very nice gift that she would share with the rest of the family. I timed my purchase just right as the latest model, which comes with Minecraft and FIFA ’17, was released last Friday. It was delivered on release day and we let her open it up as soon as she got home from school yesterday. She was thrilled with it! Of course, then I went through the hours of downloading updates and trying to get our new Microsoft account to work. We were able to play FIFA after about an hour, but I couldn’t get Minecraft to start downloading until after the girls went to bed. She’s very animated when playing FIFA. Once she figured out how to stop scoring on her own goalie, she was able to beat me.[2]

She also got a Nerf gun from our neighbors, which she loves. It can shoot like 40 feet! She stood at our front door and shot out into the cul-de-sac for at least 20 minutes. Her Mimi bought her a magic kit on their night out Friday. And C gave her a dollar and a little cat keychain. Sister gifts are the best.

L is still L, which I’m going to try to enjoy for as long as it lasts. She’s the entertainer in the family. She’s our little Beast,[3] who is generally sweet but can be a bit mean to her sisters at times. More than any of our girls, she embraces new things and experiences. When she encounters obstacles, she quickly focuses on ways of overcoming them rather than complaining or saying she can’t do something.

Sometime last spring I started referring to her as a future class president. Anytime she sees her classmates, boys or girls, they run over and shout her name and jump on her. Even back in preschool, I remember watching her run one way, waving her arms at everyone, and moments later her entire class would follow in her path. Teachers and other parents who volunteer at school have told me how her mood sets the tone for the entire group or class. She keeps people in line. She sets a good example. She’s not going to be class president because she’s ambitious, but because everyone else loves and follows her and they decide she’s going to be their leader.

She’s also a pleaser and a flatterer. She worships her teachers, with her current one always being her favorite. For her first grade hero project, she chose her teacher. I made a comment about how that was both cute and funny, and S shook her head and said, “That girl knows how to work the system.” She’ll give up free time in order to help her teachers clean up the classroom. She bonds with her coaches before most of the other kids. If her sisters are being crappy to us, she’ll crank up the charm and get cuddly to counter our anger/annoyance with them. It’s all sucking up, but it’s already done with a healthy amount of finesse so she doesn’t come across as ass-kissy.

As our youngest, it’s hard not to always view her as our baby. It doesn’t help that she’s not the biggest kid her age. But over the past few months, mostly when I look at pictures of her, she’s started to look more like a big kid. It’s the same transition we saw in her sisters at the same age, but it’s a little more jarring just because of how I have viewed her. I’ve been fine with the door closing to some of the preschool/early elementary school things we swam in for the past eight years. It’s a little harder, though, to watch her physically mature. Every one of M’s birthdays opens a new set of experiences for our entire family. Each October 3, we close a door to familiar things that have defined who we are as a family for nearly a decade.

The great thing about L, though, is that she embraces pushing forward. S and I might miss some of the things that are disappearing, but L is all about whatever is next.

  1. I was bummed the class was outside when I delivered them. Whenever I’m in her class, I get lots of “Hey Mr. B!”’s and hear comments like “L, your dad is really tall!” Speaking of ego boosts…  ↩
  2. Granted, I’m a total loss on those XBox controllers right now. Man the old Sega Genesis was so much easier with just the D-pad and four buttons.  ↩
  3. Her favorite Nike shirt has “#Beast” printed on it.  ↩


September 2016

  • Frightened Rabbit – 143
  • Haley Bonar – 67
  • Angel Olsen – 64
  • Lydia Loveless – 53
  • Butch Walker – 49

Complete stats available at my Last.fm page

Friday Playlist

As promised last week, a video and playlist of older songs I’ve heard on SiriusXM over the past 15 days or so.

“Bye Bye Love” – The Cars.
I heard this song a week or so ago on one of the SiriusXM throwback stations. As I listened, and considered it’s greatness, I thought about how many hits The Cars had over the years. I bet most people, when asked to name their three favorite Cars songs, wouldn’t think of “Bye Bye Love.” Yet the handful of times I hear it each year, I think it might be their best song. That genius opening salvo, with the entire band coming in together. The central riff the song is built around. A terrific chorus. The dueling synthesizer and guitar solos. It’s a damn fine song that represents pretty much all that The Cars were about.

That got me thinking more, and I’d like to share the theory I came up with: The Cars are one of the most underrated bands of all-time. Go back and look at their list of hit singles. From 1978 to 1984, they had a pretty great run. A lot of very good songs that have stood the test of time and became even more popular over the years. Look at their debut, self-titled album. It’s freaking amazing.

But here’s the thing: since they were such an interesting blend of styles, they never defined a specific genre. They weren’t just a new wave band, or just a rock band, or just a power pop band, or just a synthesizer band, or just a guitar band, or just an art-rock band. They were all of those in equal measures. And because they straddled so many different sounds, they were never the best of any of them. Which means we think of Blondie and the Talking Heads and Tom Petty and Marshall Crenshaw and Duran Duran and probably half a dozen other bands before we think of them when counting up the best bands of their era.

The Cars were freaking great. The best of their era? No. But they should absolutely be in the conversation.

“(Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again” – L.T.D. I’ve said many times one of the great gifts my parents gave me was a wide and varied base of musical influences. There was a little bit of everything in our house when I was growing up, including a healthy dose of soul/R&B. This was a jam a lot of my friends heard only on AT40. But it, and stuff from Earth, Wind, & Fire, the Commodores, etc. was in heavy rotation in our living room. Just a freaking great song, with Jeffrey Osborne throwing down some serious vocals.

“Play The Game Tonight” – Kansas. I joked last week about Kansas putting out a new album. I’m always a little surprised that I hear this song a few times each year. Most amazingly, I heard it several times during the warm-up music when I was still out covering high school sports. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either.

“World Where You Live” – Crowded House. I’m a huge fan of CH, and of all of Neil Finn’s work over the years. Was glad this popped up on the First Wave station earlier this week. It’s not a CH song that gets much airplay. But it’s a reminder of how good the band was, and how amazing their first album was.

“I’m A Believer” – The Sheila Divine. Speaking of great debut albums, TSD’s The New Parade was one of the great “Should Have Been Huge But Was Ignored” albums of the early ‘00s. I just discovered that they put out a new album a year ago, after many years of doing other things. I’ll have to check it out.