More Super Bowl – JT

Well shit. I totally forgot about the halftime show in my Super Bowl roundup.

You would be correct if you thought that had something to do with my reaction to it.

Justin Timberlake’s performance was visually appealing, but otherwise safe, confusing, disappointing, and forgettable.

I had heard the “controversy” coming about the rumored use of a hologram of Prince during JT’s performance. I also read the quotes from both Prince taken before his death and from friends and family that pointed out how he would not have approved the use of him image in that way if he were able to weigh in. So I must admit I was down on the performance even before it began.

The show was full of energy for sure. If you turned the sound down, or even didn’t expect the frontman to provide much in terms of vocals, it was a perfectly entertaining performance. But was it memorable? Nope. It blends in with a dozen other glitzy halftime shows.

In his effort to provide a dynamic performance that moved throughout the stadium, Timberlake chose to only sporadically sing over backing vocals. Listen, I get that the Super Bowl halftime show is all about spectacle. Thus I’m willing to watch a performer not give 100% on their vocals in order to dance their asses off. It was so distracting, though, to watch Timberlake prance around while only occasionally doing any singing. He came off as an old school rap second man, only singing the final word of each line to add emphasis. I’d rather he had straight lip-synched his entire performance than do this.

As for the Prince stuff, there was no hologram. But there was an image of Prince projected onto what looked like a giant bedsheet. Which I’m guessing was their last-second “How can we honor Prince without using a hologram?” trick.

I realize that Timberlake could not win here. Just as the next Super Bowl hosted by Gary, IN will feature a Michael Jackson tribute, the first in Minneapolis after Prince’s death had to have some reference to the man. Whatever Timberlake did, it was destined to look weak in comparison to Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl halftime performance, generally considered to be, at worst, one of the best ever.[1] Plus Timberlake was wearing his bizarre urban camo getup. Meanwhile Prince wore this:

Princehalftime

Prince danced, sang, and played guitar in high heels in the (purple) rain in Miami. JT shuffling around indoors in Jordans, banging out a few notes on a piano, and singing maybe ¼ of his vocals live doesn’t come near Prince’s performance for virtuosity, originality, or memorability. The Prince references shone a brighter light on how weak Timberlake’s show was.

Listen, I like Justin Timberlake. He’s a fine performer both in terms of music/dance and comedy/acting. But his performance Sunday should have been more ambitious, shown off his singing voice better, and been more confidently imagined overall.


  1. Intelligent people know it was, by far, the greatest Super Bowl halftime show.  ↩

Pretty, Pretty, Pretttttttty Super

So, yeah, I watched the Super Bowl. I’m a goddamn American, right? Despite my lack of interest in the NFL these days, I wasn’t going to miss the biggest game of the year. Also, if I’m only going to casually watch pro football I kind of have to watch the Super Bowl, as it has become a cultural obligation. Like I said, I’m an American.

Now my full attentions were not on the game. We watched most of the first half at my sister and brother in law’s home. We were eating and conversing. There were two high-energy toddlers running around delighting us. And then, despite barely talking to me all weekend, M decided to sit down next to me and talk incessantly once the game started. Teenagers, man…

That’s all a warning that this won’t be as exhaustive an accounting of my Super Bowl experience as they once were on these hallowed pages.

For example, I barely paid attention to the commercials over the noise and interruptions. Of the ones I did see, I approved of the Tide commercials.[1] They were wacky and fun and thus memorable. My favorite was the NFL Network Dirty Dancing ad. That was just good stuff all around. Sounds like most folks agreed so I didn’t miss much in the first half. Kind of ironic the best ad came from an NFL entity.

Worst ad? In a freaking walk-over the Dodge ad that featured a Martin Luther King Jr. speech. Inappropriate, tone deaf, offensive, classless… There aren’t enough adjectives of disapproval. I have enjoyed comedian George Wallace’s Twitter reaction. Rather than rail on the ad, he decided to mock it. One example Tweet:

I’d say, “Hey MLK I gotta chop some wood but my Dodge Ram may not be able to handle all the wood I chop” and MLK would be like, “Let me meet you down there by the wood chopping area with my matching Dodge Ram.” We’d haul the wood then go fight for civil rights later that day.

George Wallace wins the day!

That’s about all I saw that was memorable.

As for the game, that was a hell of a game. In fact, it might have been the perfect game for the masses of Patriots haters. Eagles get an early lead, some wacky plays ensue that tend to help Philly a little more than New England. The Haters have hope. Facing a fourth and goal inside the five just before halftime, the Eagles run a play that Patriots tried to run earlier, but run it better as quarterback Nick Foles hauls in a touchdown pass to build a 10-point halftime lead. The Haters are nervously optimistic, but remember what happened when they jumped all over the Falcons bandwagon a year ago.

In the second half came the inevitable New England rally. We all knew it was coming and there was nothing we could do to stop it. Not even two Philly touchdowns that were upheld on controversial replay calls. Nope, it was all happening just like we knew it would. Pats take a lead, Eagles score to go back ahead, but leave entirely too much time on the clock because a receiver ran out of bounds during the scoring drive. It wasn’t a matter of whether the Patriots would score, but which white receiver would catch the winning touchdown pass.[2] Us haters were collectively looking for dogs to kick and debating whether to just turn the damn TV off.

Out of nowhere came Brandon Graham’s beautiful strip-sack that left Brady sad on the turf. A clutch-ass field goal by rookie kicker Jake Elliott meant it would take a true miracle to get to OT.[3]

But come on, we were all expecting the miracle, right? When Brady’s desperation heave bounced around and hit the turf there was a moment of held breath. Even the Eagles players were looking around, hoping not to see a flag somewhere on the ground that would extend the game for one more play before they could relax and celebrate. I’m no Philly fan, but I let out a little whoop in honor of them slaying the dragon for America.

Hell of a game.

So the Patriots lose, and do so with plenty to bitch about. I’m sure Boston radio is a freaking riot this morning, as Tommy from Southie calls in to complain about the NFL not applying the catch rules the way they had all season, and Donny from Dorchester screams about how Brady was hit late on his final throw, and Mikey from Quincy points out a Pats receiver got leveled 20 yards downfield as the last pass flew threw the air.

This is all good stuff and proof that even in the darkest days, good sometimes can prevail. Or at least evil can fall even if their vanquishers weren’t your first choice to do so.

Excellent all around.


  1. M has watched all of Stranger Things where S and I are only four episodes into the first season. It felt weird for M to be delighted by the presence of David Harbour while I just kind of casually recognized him.  ↩
  2. Am I the only one who found it hilarious that one of the few black skill players the Pats have is named James White? Belichick is always trolling, man.  ↩
  3. Elliott broke Matt Bahr’s record for longest Super Bowl field goal by a rookie earlier in the game. I remembered the Bahr brothers from my youth, so I looked them up. Fascinating! The oldest brother was an All American soccer player at Navy and was on the 1972 Olympic team. Then came Chris, who was a three-time soccer All American and one-time football All American at Penn State. Next came Matt, who was also a football All American. Chris and Matt both played professional soccer before their long NFL careers. And a younger sister was an All American gymnast. I guess it helps that their dad was a long-time member of the US national soccer team and is in the US Soccer Hall of Fame and their mom was a collegiate swimmer.  ↩

Friday Playlist

It’s been a decent start to the new music year in terms of singles. But there has yet to be a great album that has captured my attention. And, sadly, the list of February releases is looking pretty meager as well. I’ll hope the solid singles keep rolling out until we finally get some long plays that require my attention.

Oh and after a brief warm spell we’re back to winter. The windchill has dipped near zero and there’s a chance for snow on five of the next seven days. No big storms seem likely, but we are slipping into one of those patterns that slowly suck the life out of you by dropping an inch of snow every 36 hours or so.

Combine all that with a couple timely new songs and I thought it was the perfect week for an all Australia/New Zealand playlist. Because it’s summer down there right now. And the songs are pretty good. A couple new ones and several classics to, hopefully, warm your soul a bit.

“Mistake” – Middle Kids. Nothing warmed my week more than this new song by Middle Kids. It’s really good and another sign of how promising this band is. They will (finally) release their debut full-length album in May. The only downside is it is built around the songs from the EP they released about a year ago. And, of course, “Edge of Town,” which came out two years ago. Oh well, as they’ve yet to disappoint I expect all the new songs will be excellent.

“Mainland” – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. I called them the Aussie Parquet Courts last year. This song suggests there’s a lot more to them than just faux-snotty art rock. 

“Avant Gardner” – Courtney Barnett. The current queen of the Down Under indie scene. The line “The paramedic thinks I’m clever cuz I play guitar, I think she’s clever cuz she stops people dying” is one of the best lyrics of the decade. 

“No Taste Bomber” – Salad Boys. Our New Zealanders for the week. I had this terrific 2015 track set to add to a playlist a few weeks back. And then Salad Boys dropped their new album so I paused, meaning to include one of those songs. It’s a good album, but this song is simply undeniable. 

“Roll On” – The Living End. From the heady days just after the turn of the millennium. TLE took the best of the Clash and Rancid, adding some lefty Aussie politics, and cranked it to 11. Here they sing about the righteousness of cause of striking dock workers. Rock and roll! I drove around blasting this a lot in the summer of 2000.

“Blue Sky Mine” – Midnight Oil. The 80s were full of visually compelling lead singers. One of those was Peter Garrett, the bald, 6’4”, merrily dancing frontman for Midnight Oil. (Urban myth held that he was actually 7-feet tall.) Midnight Oil’s lyrics were always deeply political, concerned with the treatment of the Australian Aboriginals, the unfairness of capitalism, and protecting the environment. Garrett famously went on to become a member of parliament and served in two different minister-ships under two different prime ministers. It’s interesting to read his Wikipedia page and see how becoming a part of government caused him problems as he had to reconcile views he held as a private citizen with the desires of the administration he was a part of.

Old Man

I have passed another milestone of the aging process: last week I picked up my new pair of glasses, my first with progressive lenses. If there was any uphill left in life it is now certainly in the rearview mirror.

My eyes are still adjusting, which is kind of always the case with me. I have a nutty prescription – both bad nearsightedness and serious astigmatism – and have weak corneas. Combine all that and even in the best of circumstances it’s tough to get perfectly corrected vision. If the angle of the lenses or the correction is off by just a hair, it can throw either part of the prescription off by enough to be noticeable to me. And my weak corneas mean my prescription is always in flux. I’ll see great for awhile then suddenly everything is out of whack for a few weeks before it returns to center.

In other words, I’m a pain in the ass. Or at least my eyes are.

Anyways…I’m still getting used to the new lenses. I will say they’ve gotten better over the past two days, so hopefully I’m getting locked in. But there is still a chance I will need to go back and have the lenses checked and, perhaps, redone.

The one big win is the whole reason you get progressive lenses: my up-close vision has improved dramatically. I had reached the point where it was impossible to read anything that was in tiny print, because that meant bringing the object near my face, where my eyes just didn’t work anymore. I had become one of those people who took a picture of, say, the directions on a bottle of medication with my phone and then looked at the image on screen to figure out the proper dosage.

Sad and pathetic.

But now I can read that shit!

For those of you not in the progressive world, it has been a little tricky getting used to the “tunnels” of vision these lenses offer. It’s frustrating to have to move my eyes or head a few degrees up or down to bring something into clear focus. That’s the one area where I worry about whether these lenses are correct, because at times it seems like I’m working too hard to find that perfect spot. And I don’t know if that’s just something I need to get used to, or only happening because the lenses are off by just a hair.

Two other downsides to the new glasses.

1) I had to go to a bigger lens/frame size to accommodate the progressive correction. I’m not wearing 1980s Phil Donahue lenses, but they are certainly bigger than what I’ve been wearing since I went to specs full time a decade ago. I’ve also been wearing Oakley frames for years and didn’t love the ones they offered that would take progressive lenses. The frames I chose are decent, but I also don’t love them like I loved my old Oakleys.

2) Holy crap these are expensive! I already had expensive glasses because of my prescription. Damn near doubled that already significant cost. And I’m going to need new sunglasses once I’m sure these lenses are correct. We could put a couple more kids into private grade school for the cost of my glasses now. I mean, I need to see, right? But that seems a little ridiculous. I do go to one of the fancier eye places in the city, only because my doc is the uncle of one of S’s best friends. But I’m starting to think I may have to go to a less fancy place that charges 15% less for my next set. I’m thinking about braving the discount glasses world for my sunglasses, although I worry about fit and getting the prescription right at those places. We’ll see.

So, nine years old = first pair of glasses. Fifteen = contacts. Thirty-seven = back to glasses only. Forty-six = progressive lenses.

Now I shall go curse whichever one of my ancestors are responsible for my terrible eyes.

Stats

January 2018

  • The War on Drugs – 93
  • First Aid Kit – 47
  • Salad Boys – 41
  • Strand of Oaks – 33
  • Jesse Marchant – 32

Complete stats available at my Last.fm page

I Should Have Thought of This

Stereogum writer Tom Breihan has started a series where he is writing about every song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Obviously if I owned an alley, this would be right up it.

Now he’s still very early in the series, so not all the songs are terribly relevant or interesting to most of us. But last week he covered “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” from December 1958, and I thought one line in particular would make that entry a fun read for everyone.

As a parlor trick and a feat of engineering, “The Chipmunk Song” is just staggering. As a piece of music, it sucks shit.

The Number Ones

Kid Sports

Our first weekend with sports on both days for awhile.


Saturday M had her first volleyball game of the year. They lost in two games, and neither was very close. The other team had one good server who ripped off 6–7 straight points early in each game and that was pretty much it. They were also better at passing than our girls were.

M is playing on a C team. Sometimes C teams are garbage, with a bunch of girls who have no clue or ability lumped together. But M’s team should be ok. Although they lack a complete player, almost every girl is good at at least one skill.

That said, I did sense a bit of disappointment among the team Saturday. Like a good chunk of them were upset to be on the C team. They didn’t talk very much during the game. I bet if you put the same group in the B league they would have been more vocal. A couple of the girls seemed outright surly. Now whether that was because they were on the C team, or just normal teenage girl stuff I have no idea. We reminded M that she was playing with a bunch of her friends so she should do all she can to make the games fun. They play again Wednesday night so hopefully the attitudes and performances will be a little better.


Sunday L closed out her basketball regular season with two games. We got a big break and played at our local high school, so we had a 10-minute commute instead of the 45 minutes to an hour we had the first three weekends.

Game one was great. We fell behind 2–0 and then dominated, winning 26–3. The girls were really good on defense and on the boards and actually ran their plays halfway decently. At least in the first half. The second half was just chaos. L had eight points, including two breakaway layups in the first half. She also hit a long jumper that was pure chucking and lucky to go in. I had a couple texts after the game from parents on the other side of the court laughing about what a lucky heave it was.

Four-game winning streak, 4–3 on the season.

Game two we played a team that came into the weekend 5–1. We can see total points for and against but not individual game results on the league’s website. All we knew about them was the only game they had lost was to the first place team, who was undefeated, and they were outscoring opponents by a total of 55 points through four games. Yeesh.

A couple parents snuck down to watch part of their early game while we were playing our first. The scouting report was that they had some size but weren’t all that. In fact, they ended up losing their early game by one point to another team that came in 5–1. If we win, we’re tied with them going into the tournament with a tiebreaker.

The first quarter was just a nightmare. Both teams were attacking the ball on defense so nothing was happening on offense. We finally got a bucket late in the quarter. We got another early in the second, they scored, then we got one more to go into halftime up 6–2.

The second half was just terrible basketball for the most part. But the other team had a play that worked. L was on their point guard. She would go left where two teammates were waiting to screen L. We’ve been working on switching on defense for three weeks in practice, but our girls just stood there and watched as the guard dribbled in and tied the game on two-straight layups. We called a timeout to yell at the girls about switching. I also told L that she should know what’s coming, so don’t run into the screen, go around it and beat her girl to the baseline.

Next possession they run the same play. As soon as the guard makes her first move, L turns around, runs all the way around the lane, and sets up under the basket. Not quite the right execution, as she left her girl way too early and didn’t watch the ball, but at least she got the concept. Even better was one of our girls switched down and cut off the drive! Everything kind of went to shit and they didn’t get a shot.

Next possession, same thing. L turns tail and runs away, our center slides down to cut off the drive. But then the guard decides to throw in a 15’ baseline jumper for the lead. Damn, kid was good.

Sadly that was it for us. L hit a free throw early in the fourth quarter but that was the only point we scored in the second half. The final was 10–7. I spent roughly half of the second half with my head down in my hands because of another dumb turnover. But that is 3rd grade basketball for you.

So we finished the regular season 4–4. The girls got so much better over the course of the year. We figured out how to coach them better, too. Of our opening three losses, I bet we’d beat two of those teams if we played them again.

Which we may get a chance to do. We have a week off then begin a single-elimination tournament. I don’t know how they’ll divide the 18 teams, but based on the standings going into last week, we would be playing a team similar to the one we beat Sunday. And our girls know they can hang with one of the best teams in the league. In other words, we’re the best 4–4 team in the country, and no one should want to play us!

Friday Playlist

“Fireworks” – First Aid Kit. I’m been working on this band for awhile, trying to figure out if I like them and if their music fits what I usually enjoy. Some of their songs veer a little too hard into the country music sphere. Which seems a little odd for a sister duo from Sweden. But their vocals are so beautiful it’s hard to deny them. I’ve found myself listening to their latest album, Ruins, several times this week. I think I really like it.

“Staring At The Sun” – Wooden Shjips. It’s been over four years since we heard from these psych rockers with the excellent spelling of their name. They haven’t lost a thing in the interim.

“Turn Out The Lights” – Julien Baker. I believe I’ve sampled some of Baker’s music in the past, but found it a bit too folky and spare for my tastes. I thought it was interesting that she teamed with Frightened Rabbit for a track on the EP FR released last fall. That song was my least favorite of the three on that disk, and I didn’t listen to it much. This song popped up into my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist last week and I immediately heard the common thread between her music and Frightened Rabbit’s. This is a devastatingly honest song about loneliness, self-doubt, and pain. If you’re having a bad day, you might want to skip it. Even if your day is going just fine, you might want to have something funny queued up for after this to buoy your spirits. 

“She Will Have Her Way” – Neil Finn & Friends. The original version of this song, from Finn’s debut solo album, came out 20 freaking years ago. It was terrific, but this version, recorded live in 2001, is delightful and perfect. 

“Jereloose” – DJ Cummerbund. This makes no sense, yet it works.

KU Hoops: Hacked and Bricked

I was going to being this post with a line something like “An incredibly important week for KU began with a disappointing – and avoidable – loss.”

But then I realized pretty much every week is incredibly important in the Big 12 this season.

A week ago KU went through K-State at home (fortunate to win), West Virginia on the road (a huge, potentially season-altering, win), and Baylor at home (another very fortunate win). That was no joke.

Getting through that week 3–0 while the rest of the league slipped seemed massive.

Then this week rolled around. At Oklahoma and Trae Young last night. Texas A&M at home on Saturday, which although it has nothing to do with the league race is still an important game for gauging how this team will handle the back half of the league schedule, and then at K-State on Monday. Even throwing out the A&M game, all the good fortune of last week could be wiped out with two losses to their conference foes.

So things looked awfully good midway through the second half last night. KU had built solid leads twice. Oklahoma carved into those leads then KU re-extended. Devonte’ Graham was slowing Young, taking away the deep bombs to give up drives to the rim. KU was actually rebounding well. Svi and Malik were hitting shots. Udoka Azubuike was just destroying folks inside. You knew there would be another run, but I felt confident as hell that KU would hold it off.

I should note here that because of the 7:00 eastern tip and some kid activities, I chose to watch the entire game on delay. And I’m always like 75% less stressed in those situations. Had I watched live, I might have had less faith. But on my DVR, I thought KU would close it out, even with the inevitable offensive lull that always comes late in games.

And then Lon Kruger did something interesting. He put in a kid who hadn’t played all night specifically to foul Udoka. Four times. And it would have been five if Matt Freeman hadn’t picked up a foul on the offensive end, too.

Of course it freaking worked. Udoka went 0–5 down the stretch. OU turned the ball over three times in that stretch but finally got a three from Christian James to take the lead, then another from Brady Manek to ice it.

Shit.

And now KU fans are reminding themselves they can love their coach and still be pissed at him.

Listen, I get what Bill Self was trying to do. Udoka is a kid that doesn’t exactly exude confidence. He gets down on himself quickly. He’s already a terrible free throw shooter. If you take him out there, does his 40% FT rate drop even lower the rest of the year? Is it worth sacrificing one game to try to give him a shot of confidence for the next 15 games?

Maybe. Although going 0–5 sure isn’t going to make Udoka feel better about himself going forward.

So you can talk me into the strategy on the front side. But after the second intentional foul, I think you have to yank him. Especially given that Mitch Lightfoot had played really well. Eight points, five boards in 17 minutes. Mitch shoots 84% from the line this year, although that seems artificially high. His free throws aren’t always pretty. But even if he’s a 60% shooter, that takes away that option for Kruger. Or maybe they foul Lightfoot too and he hits three of five.

The thing that really upset me, though, was Self’s strategy after the third foul on Dok: sticking him in the corner and making him stand there. So now you’re not getting the value you want from him, either as an offensive threat or a presence on the boards, and you allow OU to play 5-on–4 on D because there’s no need to guard Dok way out there.

A pretty epic brain fart by Self. At least he owned it immediately after the game.

And I’ve won exactly zero college games and have a roughly .500 record coaching first, second, and third grade girls. So what do I know?

KU probably still should have won. They missed a number of good looks on late possessions. Graham, who was fabulous defending Young, was awful from the field and even missed two free throws. If he can even go 6–19 from the field instead of 4–19, KU likely wins.

So it feels like a missed opportunity.

But I’m not super worked up about it. Even if KU loses Monday, that still puts them in, at worst, a multi-team tie for first entering the second half of the schedule. It would be nice to start the last nine games up one or two, but being even is better than being behind. And I figured they weren’t going to win the Big 12 this year, anyway, so I’m remaining a lot more even-keeled than I normally am after close loses this time of year.

As for Trae, man, what a player. I thought KU played him great: take away the deep looks and hope that his drives result in more layups than open 3’s off his passes. That strategy worked most of the night, although KU struggled to shut down those looks by other Sooners. I thought Graham was fantastic staying on Trae all over the court. But I also thought Trae was really good in not forcing stuff. He only took three 3’s, which seems insane.

I kept trying to think how I would compare Trae to Kevin Durant. Neither player is/was really guardable. KD could shoot from anywhere, get to the rim, post up. Trae can shoot from anywhere, get to the rim, and has unreal court vision. I think I give the edge to KD simply because at 6’11” he was such a freak doing all the things he did. I think it’s easier to at least try to game plan for Trae. He might blow it up, but at least you give yourself hope you can do something to slow him down.

Then again, does Trae make his teammates better than KD made his? KD was a solid passer, but Trae sees things no one else can see. He makes some crazy ass passes. But, to he fair, those are passes that get caught and converted in the NBA.

I think the margin is pretty close, though. There have been a lot of great players roll through the Big 12. Trae has already passed everyone not named Durant. And if he keeps going for 30 and 10 a night, he just might leap KD.

Going Mobile

Time for a link to a Joe Posnanski piece about life. This one hit me kind of hard because, although I’m a few years behind him in the dad business, I’m getting close to the stage he writes about. I’m already terrified of our girls learning to drive. I wonder how the hell my mom and step-dad turned me loose in a car after I got my license. Were they insane?

Granted, M still has two-and-a-half years before she’s driving, which is, relatively speaking, a long way off. There will be, hopefully, a lot of maturing between now and then. And as the first born rule follower, my concerns are muted just a bit for her. C, on the other hand? Yeah, that kid’s going to drive me to needing some kind of mood adjusting medication when time comes for her to drive.

None of this is about the stereotypical “my kids are growing up and I’m losing control of them” concerns. At least I don’t think they are. I’m good with my girls growing and gaining new responsibilities. I just absolutely freaking fear the one million things that can go wrong with a kid and a car. Especially with all the extra distractions kids face today that we didn’t have to worry about 30 years ago when we were beginning to drive.

Again, what the hell were my parents thinking?

Anyway, this is a lovely piece about Joe’s oldest daughter trying to get her driver’s license.

You are the captain