Friday Playlist

“Summer Breeze” – Seals & Croft
Yes, yes, yes.

“Disconnect” – Fanning Dempsey National Park
I doubt many of you know the names Paul Dempsey and Bernard Fanning. Dempsey was the lead singer for the band Something For Kate, while Fanning led Powderfinger, both of which have appeared in these playlists over the years. The two Aussie veterans joined forces and this is the first product of their work. I quite like it.

“The Howl” – Crowded House
Once upon a time we could call CH Aussies. But now that three-fifths of the band are Finns, that makes them three-fifths New Zealanders. Their new album came out a couple weeks ago. I don’t love it, but there are a few songs like this that, while far from Neil Finn’s best work, are perfectly pleasant to listen to.

“All A Mystery” – Phantogram
After a brief spell away, Phantogram are back with new music for the first time in four years. The phrase this song is built around is one the band has been using as a warm-up exercise since they formed. I guess they just needed over a decade as a band to add enough life experience to it to turn it into a song.

“Honeycrash” – SASAMI
Sasami said she wrote this song with the goal of making a song that had all “the drama of a 19th century classical opera but with the patience and understanding of someone in therapy in 2024.” I’m not sure I would have guessed that, but I would label this as one of those rare songs that could have come out in 1984, 1994, 2004, 2014, or 2024.

“Dirty White” – Basht.
Not exactly traditional Irish music, but this song rips.

“Summer Breeze” – The Isley Brothers
Oh hell yes.

“I’m Free (Heaven Helps The Man)” – Kenny Loggins
The bottom 10 of this week’s Top 40 didn’t have anything that jumped out at me, so I expanded my scope a bit. This debuted in the Hot 100 at #50 this week in 1984, eventually reaching #22, which is completely ridiculous. I guess that’s what happens when you release five other singles from the Footloose soundtrack before this one, even if it was the best. Maybe it was because the video is a cheesy, “cinematic” deal rather than just more clips from Footloose. Although, if you pay attention, there is a Footloose shout out in it. 1980s D was in love with Virginia Madsen, so I appreciate her presence.

Basketball Notes

Let’s talk basketball for a few minutes.


Kid Hoops

L has been busy with her high school teammates.

They have activities on the calendar four days a week for most of June. Three weight training sessions, one two-hour open gym, then two different nights with two games. She’s also volunteering at the boys camp this week and will work the girls camp in two weeks. And she has three lessons scheduled with a private trainer with four of her travel teammates. We’ve also gone to the Y a few of her off mornings to get shooting time in.

Girl is working.

When the CHS coach sent out the summer rosters two weeks ago, she did so with a clear disclaimer that these were for summer only, they would likely change week-to-week, and we shouldn’t read anything into where girls will end up in the fall.

Still, L is a varsity player for the summer, and she’s started two of their six games. Again, the rotations have been all over the place. When L has started, she’s been on the court with four upperclassmen. In the second halves of the same games she’s been on the court with two other sophomores and two freshmen. The coach is clearly trying to see how different girls work together, how they handle being asked to do more or just fill specific roles, etc.

I’ve enjoyed watching them play through the first two weeks. While we lost our two tallest girls to graduation, and our only girl over 5’8” is a freshman, it seems like we are a lot faster and more athletic than last year. I expect to see more pressure defense, and more defensive adjustments in general compared to last year. The key will be getting girls to shoot. Beyond our two best players, we have a lot of girls who are hesitant to shoot. They need to figure out when you are undersized and fast, if you get an open look you have to take it.

That’s true for L. She doesn’t have the same aggressiveness she had in her last week of travel ball. I know she wants to fit in as a sophomore and run the offense correctly because she doesn’t want to get yelled at. I’ve talked to her about understanding that after the ball has been swung side-to-side, if she gets it back and is open, that’s a good shot her coach will be fine with. She did hit an NBA-range 3 at the end of the first quarter in one of our games Tuesday night. I told her it looked pure and that she needs to relax and shoot like that when she gets the ball in the offense.

She is both very excited about the coming year – she really gets along with the older girls and hangs out with them more than the younger girls – and nervous about where she fits in. She said she’d rather come off the bench and play 10 minutes a game for varsity than play nearly every minute for JV like she did last year.

We talked through the roster one night and I think she’s in a good position to make varsity, but there’s always the chance the coach will want her to play a lot to keep getting better. Or swing between the rosters. It helps her cause that she’s the only true point guard among the bench players, which means she is the best player’s backup. But the offense isn’t really set up for a pure point guard to run the offense, so anyone can bring the ball up and initiate.

We’ve had 11 or 12 girls on the bench for varsity games so far. I’m pretty confident L is in the top 8 or 9, which puts her on the varsity roster for the fall. That’s a long way away, though, and plenty of time for both L to improve her game and solidify a spot or some of her teammates to get better and pass her up.

They play games on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Last week they broke open two close games late for wins, gave up a big lead to get tied late and then won the last two minutes to get the W, and then blew out a small school by 50 points when we basically did not shoot in the fourth quarter.

This Tuesday we got a comfortable win in game one, then came from eight down to beat a team that crushed us in both JV and varsity last season. You can’t put a lot of stock into these games, but that seemed like a big win. Our girls were very excited. One mom of a senior was super pumped, saying this was the first time in her daughter’s four summers that CHS had started 6–0.

That will likely change tomorrow. We play two of the best 4A teams in the state, Lawrence Central and Lawrence North. LC went 30–1 and won state last year, but is playing without most their top players. One of them is on a national team and I think the rest are playing in higher level leagues than the Indianapolis high school summer circuit. LN, who lost to the state champs three times and beat CHS by 32 in sectionals, is playing all their best players. They have one girl who is 6’5”. That should be fun.

CHS is also playing in a showcase over the weekend, four games in two days. This is an open event for recruiting, so there will be college coaches watching. Not sure if that will affect how our coach plays people or not.


Caitlin

Oh Lord, I guess I should have known that Caitlin Clark’s rookie year would turn into a whole thing. Can people just shut up and let the woman play?

I’m hesitant to dive into all of it as the discourse is out of control. Each week seems to bring some new “controversy,” that people tack 50 things that have nothing to do with basketball onto.

It should be no surprise that Clark has struggled in the transition to the WNBA. It’s a higher level of ball than college, and it will take some time for her to figure things out while getting stronger to deal with the higher level of physicality.

People are also forgetting that the Fever were an exceptionally bad team last year. While they drafted Aliyah Boston with the #1 pick in 2023, they still had the worst record in the league. The excitement about the future of the team with a Boston-Clark pairing was appropriate. They weren’t going to turn into a playoff team overnight, though.

Which is clear from watching them. The biggest issue I see is that most of Clark’s teammates have no idea how to play with her. She’ll set the defense up perfectly, zip a ball to a spot, and it goes flying out of bounds because her teammate either didn’t cut or stopped because they didn’t expect her to throw the ball to a wide open spot. So many times she’s made a gorgeous pass only to have it bounce off a Fever player’s hands because they weren’t looking or didn’t trust the ball to get through. Stuff like that will get better with both more time together and, likely, higher level teammates.

There there’s – waves hand at everything – all the other stuff. The physical play and officials looking the other way at some of it. The idiot Indiana congressman who demanded an explanation from the WNBA for why Clark is getting the same treatment pretty much every rookie in every sport has ever received.[1] The Olympic team “snub.” The exhausting, constant discourse in sports media. The assigning of political stances held by outside observers to Clark, her teammates, and her opponents when they’ve never said a word about non-basketball matters.

It’s almost enough that I wonder if Caitlin wishes she had stayed at Iowa for another year. Or taken the Big 3 money and played in a league that no one cares about without all this nonsense.

At the risk of making the mistake others have made by trying to guess what she is thinking, I bet that’s not the case, though. I know she’s pissed that her team sucks. I know she’s frustrated in both her play and that she and her teammates can’t get on the same page. I’m sure she’s sick of getting beaten up every game with defenders often getting away with it. I guarantee she’s disappointed by not making the Olympic team. I’m also 100% sure she understands the logic behind the decision, knowing that roster spot has to earned and not assumed, and will use it as fuel to make sure there’s no way they can leave her off the roster next time.[2]

I don’t know, and don’t care, what she thinks about racial politics, about alleged gay vs straight divide in women’s sports, or anything else that is extraneous to putting the ball through the hoop. In fact, I bet while she has opinions on all of these subjects, her primary focus is getting better, making her team better, and finding a way to win games. She would be perfectly fine being the only straight, white girl, Midwesterner on the team if it meant the Fever made the playoffs.

For some reason the Olympic roster was still a hot topic on ESPN this morning, so I don’t think any of this is going away.


  1. There is no grandstander who grandstands as much as a Republican when they can exploit even the tiniest racial angle in any debate. If it was two white guys involved, I bet this jackass would have applauded their old school toughness. “Nothing given, everything earned!”  ↩
  2. Her press conference after she got the news was tremendous. All the idiots screaming about the decision on cable TV could learn a lot from how she handled it. Also, let’s not forget the Olympic tryouts were during the Final Four, so the process seemed stacked against any college player that was playing for the national championship.  ↩

Reaching For The Stars, Vol. 101

Chart Week: June 4, 1983
Song: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” – Michael Jackson
Chart Position: #22, 2nd week on the chart. Peaked at #5 for two weeks in July.

High Fidelity was one of my favorite movies of the early 2000s. I loved the record store culture it celebrated. Hanging around with fellow music geeks, arguing about insanely obscure bits of trivia, opening each other’s minds to new sounds, and mocking people who did not listen to the right kind of music (according to us) seemed like a great way to earn a living. And making music lists all day? Could anything be more up my alley than that?!?!

One of my top five lists the employees of Championship Vinyl assembled was Top Five Side One, Track Ones.[1] Naturally, given the personalities in the store, the conversation went off the rails quickly.

There are like a million great Side One, Track Ones, so this list was destined to be flawed. The biggest selling album of all time was probably too mainstream for the Championship crew. But, seriously, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” should be on every Side One, Track One list!

You can make a legit argument that it is the greatest Side One, Track One of all time. Is it a great song? Yes. Is it on a great album? One of the greatest. Does it stand up next to the monster hits later on the LP? 100%. Does it have a bonus quality that gives it a boost? Um, check out the title.

The greatest Side One, Track Ones have to be more than terrific songs, though. They must be a blueprint for what is to follow. When you drop the needle or press play, the first sounds you hear have to grab your attention and excite you about where the next hour or so will take you. They need to make you think, or say, “Holy Shit!”

“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” does all of that.

It makes an impact with its first beats. The bass, high hats, funky guitar, keyboards, and horns slowly fill in to create the classic Quincy Jones sound. When Michael Jackson begins singing, there is no mistaking the urgency in his voice. He squeezes a lot of syllables into small spaces, maintaining complete control the whole time. “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” was a mission statement that Michael was all grown up, want to get something started, and would not fuck around while doing so.

Well, Michael never used the word fuck, but it was implied here.

There is a sense of unrestrained joy and celebration throughout the track. Michael’s rapturous lead vocals, including all the undefinable yelps, whoops, and hiccups. The ecstatic backing vocals. The blissful blasts from the horns. The entire low end of the song, which sets a sturdy groove for everything built upon it. The almost overwhelming hand claps in the outro. This song is a straight party from the first note to the last.

Did anyone ever make nonsense sound as good as Michael? This song includes the lines:

You’re a vegetable

Ma ma se, mama sa, ma ma coo sa

and

Hee-haw

It’s all straight ridiculousness, yet Michael made it sound amazing.[2]

He originally wrote and recorded this track in 1979 for the Off the Wall album. Which explains why you hear more of a disco influence on it than on any other Thriller track. That earlier version was written about his sister LaToya’s relationship with some of her sisters-in-law. Which seems both super interesting and a bizarre basis for a dance-pop song. But these were the Jacksons…

When he re-vamped it for Thriller, he shifted the focus to be about how the media builds up and tears down celebrities, foreshadowing where his life and music were soon headed.

How in the hell did this song not top the Billboard pop chart? It was already at #22 in its second week on the entire Hot 100!

Was it MJ fatigue? Maybe. “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” dominated the spring of 1983. They were EVERYWHERE for four months. No matter how good the next song was, it was going to be difficult to match the their chart success.

It didn’t help that the song’s first week at #5 was also the beginning of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take”’s two-month reign at the top of the chart. Irene Cara’s former #1 “Flashdance…What A Feeling” was also ahead of Michael both weeks. The other two songs that kept “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” from climbing higher? Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue,” and Sergio Mendes’ “Never Gonna Let You Go.” Segio fucking Mendes!

The biggest reason is, likely, that Michael didn’t release a video for “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” Why? I can’t find a reason. It seems kind of insane that MJ didn’t make one. Perhaps it was his ego, insisting he could be just as successful without the MTV push. Or maybe it was Epic Records wanting to save some money? Perhaps there just wasn’t enough time in Michael’s schedule.

The record did make it to #1 in Canada and The Netherlands but topped out at #5 here in the States. I think that’s crazy and a sign that sometimes America isn’t all that it can be.

Another crazy thing: I did not know until sometime in the last 5–10 years that part of the third verse referenced “Billie Jean.” I don’t remember how I learned that: on another AT40, in some list of songs that reference other songs, or just in an article about MJ’s music. I do know my mind was utterly blown that I had never deciphered what Michael was saying in that verse. I blame it on getting my copy of Thriller from Columbia House, which lacked the lyric sheet.

You know what else is crazy? That I somehow made it through 100 RFTS entries without any of them focusing on Michael Jackson. Sure, I’ve referenced him multiple times.[3] But never writing just about Michael seems like a massive oversight.

Yeah, I know, his career became very problematic. There are a lot of people who have serious, legitimate issues listening to his music. However, I’ve always been able to compartmentalize his songs from what he was accused of doing. I haven’t been able to do that with some other artists, so I realize that makes me a bit of a hypocrite.

When Pitchfork last ranked their Top 200 songs of the 1980s, they included four tracks from Thriller. The highest? “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” which they slotted as the second-best song of the decade, 11 spots higher than “Billie Jean.” Maybe it was that lack of a video that kept “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” from topping the pop chart like “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” had done. It was every bit as good a song as those two number ones, though. This may be my newest musical obsession: convincing people that “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” is a woefully underrated, under appreciated song. 9/10


  1. Kids, when albums came primarily on either vinyl LPs or cassette tapes, their tracks would be split between the two sides of each format, thus Side One, Track One. I’m sure there are some YouTube videos that will show you how this archaic process worked.  ↩
  2. It turned out Michael stole the “Ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa” line from Cameroonian Manu Dibango’s 1972 “Soul Malissa.” Dibango sued Michael and the case was settled.  ↩
  3. Here, here, here, here, and here.  ↩

Weekend Travel Notes

A busy weekend back in the Motherland.


KC Trip

Lots of fun on my first Kansas City visit in two years, first solo one in five. As always, it was too brief but I packed plenty in.

I flew in Friday morning and got to experience the new KCI for the first time. Soooo much better than the old airport. I enjoyed how the old terminals are still standing, so if you were ever in them you have a reminder of how weird they were.

First stop was lunch at CharBar in Westport. Burnt end sandwich, solid.

Next was a shopping trip on the Plaza to pick up shirts for the girls.

After a stop at the Lee’s Summit Nesbitts to unload my bags, we headed out for an evening of fun. Started at the Boulevard Beer brew hall, which was a nice place to gather. It was weird that last call was at 8:45, although that ensured we got into El Patron for dinner right before they closed.

While eating dinner, we watched the Royals game. They were chipping into a big Seattle lead but it didn’t look promising.

After the staff graciously let us hang around past their closing time to finish our meals,[1] we headed to the Plaza and decided to roll into the Granfalloon for old time’s sake. On the way we listened to the Royals game. Things were getting interesting! Just as we claimed a table Salvy Perez ripped a ball down the third base line and the Royals claimed a miraculous win. There was much celebrating.

Saturday I decided that L would not think the KU, Joel Embiid shirt I got her would be nearly as cool as I did, so I took it back to exchange it. She had requested some kind of Ochai Agbaji shirt but I couldn’t find one and settled on the Jojo version. I hit a Rally House in Independence and swapped it for a generic, KU basketball shirt. Then I decided to run over to Independence Center and see what the mall where I literally spent months of my life in the ‘80s and ‘90s was like. It was a trip! While I strolled through its massive, mostly empty interior, I was trying to remember when the last time I would have been there was. There’s a decent chance it was sometime in the early 2000s, but a greater than zero chance it was before the turn of the millennium, which was kind of wild.

Later we headed to Gates to grab some lunch to take to the K for tailgating before the Royals game. Mother Nature dialed up some good, old fashioned KC heat and humidity to ensure I worked up a sweat doing nothing. It made the beer taste better!

Our seats were in the Loge level, which I bet I hadn’t sat in since the mid–90s. I remember sitting there for an Orioles game sometime in my O’s fan phase, but never since. Great seats since they were in the shade and we had a breeze. The R’s were nice enough to make the day about perfect with another win.

And, of course, great to sit with a bunch of good friends.

Following the game we gathered at the Brookside Murrays for Minsky’s pizza, drinks, and conversation. It was a beautiful summer night and just about perfect.

Sunday morning my last stop was to meet an uncle for brunch at Homegrown in Brookside. Quite good. Get your name on the list early. On my way I was able to listen to most of the top 10 from 1981 on the AT40 replay. I wondered if I had made the same drive into Brookside with my mom sometime in June ’81 and heard some of these songs.

I had a little time to kill so made a quick walking lap of the Plaza before heading back to KCI.

While the daylight hours were just fine, both Friday and Saturday nights had big, ol’ Great Plains thunderstorms. I swear the thunder is louder in KC. I sleep right through the same storms at home, or at least only wake momentarily. Both nights in KC the rumbles were loud enough it took me some time to get back to sleep.

It was so great to see all of my friends who are reading this. It was great to see the ones who aren’t reading this, too. You know what I mean.


Family Heirloom

Another highlight of the trip was my uncle passing along a treasured item from his past.

He had designs on being a radio DJ back in the day. Sadly, he did not have the voice for it and it never worked out as a long-term occupation. While he was in college, though, he did some summer work at a small station in central Kansas, KHOK. In October 1979 he was working at a station in Hoisington, KS and had the honor of spinning at least one American Top 40. Literally spinning it; back then the entire program was pressed onto vinyl and sent out to radio stations around the country.

The station let him hang onto the records as a memento. As we often text about old music, he decided it was time to pass it along to me. So expect to have several RFTS entries from the October 13, 1979 countdown this fall. I just need to find the proper adapter to connect my turntable, which has been packed away since we moved, to computer speakers. Someone made me ditch my old school, mega-speakers when we switched houses.


Rental

I didn’t take a picture, but I splurged a little on my rental. I put myself into a very nice Nissan Versa. Car And Driver ranks it as their #1 subcompact car, so you know it’s quality.

Honestly I was surprised to look up its specs when I got home and see it had 122 horsepower. Mine might have only had 100 or so HP. There were several times I was literally standing on the gas pedal and the car was wheezing to get up to speed on the highway. I forgot my 1980s trick of turning the AC off when trying to get a four cylinder vehicle onto an interstate in the summer. But I did get around 35 miles per gallon, so while I didn’t drive around a ton it was nice to only spend about $11 topping off the tank before I turned it back in.

I rented from Enterprise. I told the enthusiastic kid who helped me check out on Friday that I had a lot of fun in Enterprise cars back in the day. Shame Cadillac doesn’t make huge cars anymore.


  1. Yes, we closed down two establishments in one night! Don’t call us old!  ↩

Thursday Playlist

Posting this a little early as I have a busy Friday morning.

“Sabotage” – Beastie Boys
Thirty years and one week ago the Beasties released Ill Communication. I’ve always been a Paul’s Boutique guy, but there are plenty of people who think IC was their best album. And, of course, this song was the basis for one of the greatest videos ever made.

“No Surrender” – Bruce Springsteen
I know I just shared the video for “Dancing in the Dark” two weeks ago, but we needed an official acknowledgement of the 40th anniversary of the release of Born in the USA. I’m looking forward to reading Steven Hyden’s new book about the album sometime soon. This song is a reminder that even with seven Top 10 singles, there were still great songs that never made the radio.

“Accelerate” – Molly Parton
I think this is her real name. She’s from New Zealand, so maybe that makes it ok? This song sure bangs, no matter what her name is.

“Valens – Spider Lake Version” – Graveyard Club
This landed in my Discovery Weekly playlist a few weeks back. The original song is four years old. I can’t find a thing about what makes this edit the “Spider Lake Version” or why it came out this spring. Sometimes it’s better just to enjoy the music and not worry about the details behind it.

“No More Romance” – Kate Clover
I will never not love punky, power pop music like this.

“Green Lady” – Merchandise
A terrific track from 2014 I heard for the first time in a long time this week.

“Kansas City / Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” – The Beatles
I’m off to KC for the weekend. Barbecue, baseball, and buddies. And I get to finally check out the new airport!

“When Doves Cry” – Prince & The Revolution
Dig if you will, a picture…Two weeks ago we had “Dancing in the Dark.” This week is one of the songs that kept Bruce from topping the chart. In a summer filled with legendary songs, this was THE song of the summer. It sounded unlike anything I had ever heard before. I often slept with my radio on back then and remember waking up the middle of the night to it and being freaked out by that closing synthesizer flourish. I also remember being super pissed off when I listened to Casey’s year-end countdown and “Say, Say, Say” was number one. It was years later I learned that the countdown show was based on a December 1 – November 30 timeline, giving “Say, Say, Say” a boost from its late 1983 run. “When Doves Cry” was, in fact, Billboard’s official top song of 1984 based on the true calendar year. This is the world I grew up in. And you wonder why I have stupid music rules. I also forgot how bonkers the non-movie scene parts of this vid were.

Reaching for the Stars: The First 100

With 100 Reaching for the Stars entries under my belt, it is time to break down where we’ve been, AT40 style.

It should be no shock that there have been more entries from 1984 than any other year, a healthy 18 posts from the greatest year in pop music history. I was mildly surprised that 1982 was second with 16. Not sure if that’s a function of more 1982 countdowns being rebroadcast than other years, or more 1982 songs grabbing my attention. Here’s a year-by-year breakdown:

1976 – 3
1977 – 2
1978 – 4
1979 – 3
1980 – 6
1981 – 7
1982 – 16
1983 – 12
1984 – 18
1985 – 10
1986 – 10
1987 – 3
1988 – 2
1989 – 3
2023 – 1

One of the biggest artists of 1984 led the way on the posts-per-act list. Again, not a surprise who is at the top.

Prince – 3
Elton John – 2*
Daryl Hall and John Oates – 2
Pat Benatar – 2
Sheena Easton – 2
Kansas – 2
Stevie Nicks – 2*

(Both Elton and Stevie have entires as duets with other artists that I give them full credit for.)

Another common element of American Top 40 was Casey Kasem sharing the geographic breakdown of charts in weeks when there was a lot of non-American representation. “This week there are a whopping 21 foreign acts on the chart!” Here are the locations where we can place pins on our virtual RFTS map.

United States – 67
United Kingdom – 20
Australia – 4
Canada – 4
Netherlands – 1

The remaining four were either multi-national groups or posts about special countdowns that had no single act as a focus.

I tried to tally the entries by genre, but that proved difficult. In retrospect, like 90% of what I’ve written about can be defined as Pop. How do you decide which Prince songs were Pop and which were Soul, for example? Same for several other Black artists. Where was the line between Pop and Rock? Adult contemporary vs. Pop? Disco/Dance vs. Soul? Impossible. So I scrapped that breakdown.

Beyond those numbers, nothing else really jumped out at me. My entries have gotten longer and more detailed, which shouldn’t be a surprise. They also take more time to write now than they did when I began this series. I think that has made them better. I hope that means they are more interesting to read for my fellow music geeks. If you’re not into deep music trivia dives, you probably think those early posts were better.

If you want to go back and review any of the first 100 posts in the series, here’s the link to my RFTS page.

If you had any worries that I was bringing the series to a close after making it to 100 post, never fear, I’m already working on volume 101. I also have several partial drafts waiting for when we get to the right part of the calendar. As Casey said every week, the countdown continues!

May Media

My goal for May was to adjust away from so much YouTube back towards more traditional shows and movies. I didn’t do a great job of that. I have started a summer viewing project, so while the hours may adjust in June, I don’t know if the number of entries in each section will change much for awhile.


Movies, Shows, etc

The Gentlemen
Highly entertaining. You can’t go wrong with a collection of fun British accents. Throw in some normal Guy Ritchie stuff and you got yourself a super watchable TV series.

A

John Mullaney Presents Everybody’s In LA
I got through four of these and that was enough. Funny, but also just weird and uneven enough for me to skip the last two. Which means they were probably the best.

B-

Pearl Jam: The ‘Dark Matter’ Interview
An incredible hour with PJ. Remember when Eddie hated to do interviews? Now, if he’s in the right setting, you can’t get him to shut up. This goes beyond the usual new album PR push as it feels like there are some genuine moments of emotion in their conversation, especially near the end. And seeing their rehearsal/storage building is super cool.

A

Hustle
Predictable, formulaic, and manipulative. Yet it was fun, entertaining as hell, and surprisingly well acted. Every time I saw Anthony Edwards in the playoffs, I kept thinking of the grin on his face when he baits Bo Cruz into shoving him. Not sure why it took me so long to watch.

B+

NBA Playoffs
A lot of great games last month. And some great performances in games that weren’t super competitive. Could have used a couple more Pacers wins, though.

A-


Shorts, YouTubes, etc

Pearl Jam Clubhouse Tour with Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament
Lot of PJ content this month.

Conan Explains What Happened To His Body After “Hot Ones”
Important follow up from last month.

Can’t Get a X100 VI – Still Worth Waiting For? Here’s 11 Alternatives!
Back when I was really into cameras, I watched a ton of these guys’ vids. Their combination of accents always made me laugh, plus there was good camera content. If I was still into cool cameras, I had the budget, and I could find one, I would 100% get an X100 VI. Although the perfect camera would be 10–20% smaller so you could actually get it into a pocket while getting much better results than from an iPhone.

10 Things Jerry Seinfeld Can’t Live Without
No puffy shirt? No Pez dispensers? No marble ryes? No copy of Tropic of Cancer? I call BS.

Max Velocity
I watched way too much of this dude breaking down severe storms around the country. YouTube is pretty cool sometimes.

The Best Comebacks and Insults in Archer
I can think of about 100 that weren’t in this clip, which shows how freaking funny Archer was.

A Complete Breakdown of ‘The Office’ Basketball Game
How did it take me four years to see this?!?!

TRYING KANSAS CITY’S MOST ICONIC FOODS! 🇺🇸 WORTH THE HYPE?? BBQ, Z-MAN, MOCHI DONUTS & MORE!
Once you get past the title, which could not be more Millennial YouTuber, this was a fun vid. I agree with the person in the comments who said they’ve lived in KC for 70 years and never heard of a cheese slipper. Wondered if something new had been invented in the 21 years since I moved away.

Bound for Nowhere
I think I’ve watched some of this couple’s videos before. They are starting a new series of international travel and kicked it off with three videos about their new truck. Not sure why I’ve never found a bunch of sponsors to finance me custom building my own vehicle.

A visit to Sears with Mom in 1977
“These are on sale, so that’s what we’re going to get, ok. You like these.” What kid in the Seventies didn’t hear that phrase when it was time to buy new shoes? I think I’m going to give this channel more attention.


Car Content

Volvo EX30 vs Volvo C40 | Long Trip Test Battle!
Seems like Volvo needs to simplify their EV lineup. Or at least name them similarly.

Driving the stunning new Aston Martin Vantage
As much as I enjoy the silent power and speed of my Tesla, I freaking love the way Aston Martins sound. If only they made one that cost under $50K…


Podcasts

The Bill Simmons Podcast
I’ve been back into Simmons’ pod since last September. It’s usually pretty good, especially the NBA stuff. Last month he had Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament on to talk about Pearl Jam’s career, the episode the above video was a companion to. But I LOVED this episode, or at least the final segment, when his daughter Zoe was on to review her freshman year of college. I made note of her big observations and ran them by M, who agreed with most of them but very much disagreed with her assertion that boys and girls can’t be friends. But Zoe seems like a serial dater when M is the opposite, so makes sense they would have different perspectives.

Bandsplain
Yasi Salek was a regular guest on 60 Songs That Explain the 90s. I’ve dabbled with her pod, but it often seems too long to really dive into. But a three-part breakdown of Pearl Jam’s career that lasts over 10 hours? Yes, I worked through every minute of that over the course of several weeks.

Friday Playlist

“Bored In The Summer” – Bad Bad Hats
Too soon?

“Dotted Line” – Why Bonnie
Blair Howerton wrote this in a moment when she “felt the weight of capitalism” pressing down upon her. I love shit like that. Also a nice warning to prospective artists about being aware of what they are giving up when they sign that record deal.

“Strawberry Moon” – Fancy Gap with Sharon Van Etten
I read a description of this song that described it as sounding like Fleetwood Mac. I do not get that at all. I get a lot more of a country vibe than a Seventies, Laurel Canyon effect. I’m not sure how much I like it, but SVE guests, so I have to share it.

“I Hope You Die” – TTSSFU
I came across a description of this song that labeled it as “relentless gothic dream-pop hypnosis.” Uh-huh… I just like the way it slowly builds without ever totally exploding.

“Reckless” – Angie McMahon
I love Triple J radio’s Like A Version series. Especially when it introduces me to artists I never heard before. McMahon is terrific.

“Reckless (Don’t Be So…” – Australian Crawl
Even better when that leads you to a cool, old song you had never heard before. This track was a #1 hit in Australia in 1983.

“Summer Is Here” – ARMSTRONG
Fuck yeah it is!

“I Can Dream About You” – Dan Hartman
I’ve been arguing for 40 years that this was one of the best songs of 1984. It cracked the Top 40 this week, at #39, on it’s way to #6. There’s a lot of good trivia about this song that needs to find its way into an RFTS post.

Wednesday Notes

A few more random notes that didn’t fit into the weekend wrap-up.


Number Three Behind The Wheel

L finally got her learner’s permit today. She had been gung-ho about driving since she was 13, and dove into the driver’s ed self-teaching program when we signed her up back in December. We’ve been taking her across the street to drive around the high school parking lot since last fall.

Then a couple friends, who are smart cookies like her, failed their learner’s permit written test on their first tries. I think that spooked her. And one day when she was out with S, S let L drive her Telluride on one of the most difficult roads on the north side of Indy, Kessler Boulevard. This is a four-lane road that is riddled with potholes, is extremely narrow, there is zero curb, where everyone drives way too fast, and has a brutal double curve that can be frightening to even experienced drivers when it gets busy. C and I both avoid it when we drive to CHS, trading a slightly longer route for not having to deal with Kessler’s headaches. L didn’t wreck, thank goodness, but it freaked her out and she suddenly stopped asking to drive or bringing up going to take her permit test.

Fortunately she finally got past all that, studied this week, and knocked the test out in like six minutes.

Now she goes onto the Ready to Drive list, and hopefully we can get her six in-car sessions scheduled and completed before she goes back to school in August. The school across the street has a 12-week wait, so we signed her up in Carmel which was 3–4 weeks last we heard.


The Electric Company

We’ve had the joy this year of dealing with insane billing issues from our electric company. Late last year they updated their billing system – to serve us better, of course – and the result has been a disaster for some people. They claim only 10% of their customers have been affected, but it has to be more otherwise the issues I’m about to lay out would have been fixed by now.

We do the budget billing plan, paying the same amount each month. That total gets adjusted up or down each June based on our usage over the previous year. For some reason they adjusted ours in February, increasing it by over 50%. Our new monthly amount was 28% higher than our biggest month of usage charge over the past year. A couple weeks later we got an email saying we had been billed incorrectly and a credit would appear on our account. Of course they still took out the incorrect amount, because we are signed up for automatic payments.

The next three months we did not get a bill at all. I kept checking the local media and Reddit, and our company said “a small number of people” were not receiving bills. Others were getting bills that were wildly incorrect. One lady called and they couldn’t find a record that she had made a payment on her account since 1970. She was not close to 54 years old. The company claimed they were working on a fix and were not disconnecting service or charging late fees for customers getting incorrect bills.

Obviously we could have kept paying our monthly amount but given we had zero confidence they wouldn’t apply it incorrectly, we just waited for a new bill.

When we didn’t get a bill again in May, I called the special line set up to handle billing issues. I talked to a lady who could not have been less helpful. She wasn’t rude or anything, she just had zero ability to assist me. It took her five minutes and multiple tries to even find our account. I slowly repeated our account number three times and our address as many times. Despite my name being listed first on our bill, she said I was not on the account and asked if I had S’s permission to access our account. We’re all for challenging traditional gender roles in this house, but I thought that was wild that I was being asked if I had permission from my wife to call about our bill. I thought about telling her that my wife lets me have my own credit card and drive on my own, too.

Eventually she found our account. She couldn’t tell me a damn thing I couldn’t see for myself when I looked at our information online. Her advice: keep checking every few weeks, they were working on a fix.

Uh-huh.

We finally got a bill two weeks later. It charged us for the three months we had not been billed, which is appropriate. What was not appropriate was that they charged us three months at the new, incorrect, budget amount.

So I called the regular customer service line. It literally took eight minutes navigating their phone tree before I finally smashed 0 and was able to speak to a real person. Every other option just played various recordings, most encouraging customers to use the company website to get assistance.

Once connected with a live human, I explained my dilemma: our budget bill went up much higher than our highest actual bill, we never received the credit promised, we didn’t receive a bill for three months, and now we were being charged 3x the incorrect amount.

This lady was very nice. She told me to just pay our old budget amount. She said they were working to fix all these errors, but, “Obviously they haven’t got to yours yet,” she said with a sarcastic chuckle. She said she would flag our account again so it, hopefully, gets reviewed and corrected. I could tell she didn’t have much confidence that would happen. Unlike the other lady, who seemed to just be reading from the script in front of her, this woman was friendly and empathetic. I told her I knew she was probably getting tons of calls about these issues, and appreciated that she actually seemed to care about helping me and was nice about it. I think I made her day. Hell, it’s not her fault her company sucks.

So we’ll see if we get a corrected bill here in the next few weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised it if takes another call or two after that bill comes to get things straightened out.

I normally don’t post on Reddit, but I’ve checked into a couple threads on the local thread chiming in with my experience. Again, it sure seems like more than 10% of customers are affected.

Strangely our state utility board has taken zero action to force the power people to get this straightened out. They even approved a big rate increase in the midst of this. Again, to better serve us, I’m sure.


Bill Walton

I found the varied reactions to Bill Walton’s death very interesting. You either loved his schtick as a broadcaster or you hated it, and that view affected your first thoughts when you learned he had passed.

I did not like his TV style at all. That’s because I’m a super fan that takes sports way too seriously. When I’m watching a KU game, I want descriptions and analysis of what is happening. Not wild asides that have nothing to do with what’s on the court. Nor histrionic statements based on one play rather than an entire body of work. So I loathed the rare times that Walton did a KU game. He distracted from whatever the Jayhawks were doing on the court. In time I learned to keep the TV muted, or the volume barely high enough to catch some crowd noise, if he was on the mic.

As I thought about his life and career, though, I realized he really was a trendsetter. All of these modern, alternate broadcasts, which have reached their peak with the Manningcasts of Monday Night Football, stem from how he called games. “Don’t take these things so seriously,” he seemed to be saying, “they are just games and there are far more important things in life like your relationships with the people you love and how you interact with the planet we call home.” Well, the Mannings and Kevin Harts of the world probably aren’t thinking that deeply, but Walton opened a door for non-traditional broadcasts that people who don’t care about the game turn in to watch.

That’s a much healthier view of sports that I generally take, at least when my teams are involved. It was good that someone was pushing that idea, even if Walton’s technique was maddening.

For all his goofiness and frustrating qualities, the outpouring of love for him after his death has been wonderful to read. He was a truly unique human, and he very much lived the peace and love values his generation espoused in the Sixties. There have been so many examples of him going out of his way to make other people’s lives better in difficult moments, or needling people he cared about with perfectly timed barbs.

Let’s not forget that Walton was a remarkable player who had his career cut short by a series of cruel injuries. He was one of the most dominant college players ever and was on that trajectory in the NBA until his feet and legs started failing him.

I won’t miss avoiding him on ESPN, but I appreciate that he made the world a better place in his 71 years.

Weekend Notes

A long holiday weekend filled with guests, rain, and fun.

L had a group of girl friends over Friday night. Storms curtailed their pool time but otherwise they kicked off their summer well. Since she spends so much time with basketball girls, it’s always good to get a confirmation that she hangs out with other freshman girls sometimes. Sorry, sophomore girls!

She took me to the gym Monday morning for a shooting workout. She shot the best I’ve ever seen her shoot…until the friendly maintenance guy came over and asked me if I thought the rim was crooked. She had already told me it felt off, but something about him asking got in her head and the second half of her trip around the 3-point arc wasn’t as good as the first 40 minutes of shooting.

M had three UC girls from Ohio stay with us Saturday and Sunday nights.[1] A few local UC kids linked up with them at various points. The group took over our pool Saturday evening. Seemed like good kids and everyone had fun. M enjoyed showing off her hometown. This was the first time I’ve ever bought alcohol for my kid and her friends, which was a little odd. I thought it was funny the Ohio girls all brought drinks of their own but didn’t bring them into the house until they realize we didn’t mind if they drank as long as they stayed at our house once they started.

C ran around with friends a few times over the weekend.

Friday night M, S, and I went to a grad party. Right when we showed up heavy rains made a right turn from the path they were taking and drenched the party for about 30 minutes. Worth noting this was a mostly outdoor party, so that was kind of a bummer. We huddled in the clubhouse during the actual stormy part of the rain, then escaped to squeeze under a tent when it switched to straight rain. I ran into the guy who coached L’s St. P’s team her 8th grade year and we caught up a bit. Also saw one of the people somewhat responsible for S and I meeting 24 years ago, who was down from Michigan for the party.

It being Memorial Day weekend in Indy, the Indianapolis 500 dominated events. For a week we knew the weather would be a problem. Sure enough, just before the race was scheduled to start severe storms blew through central Indiana. We knew a lot of people at the race and apparently it was a lot of fun to go sit in cars or squeeze into shelters for the 90 or so minutes it took the storms to pass through. The four-hour delay turned an already long day into a monumental investment in time. We know people who got to the track around 6:00 AM and didn’t get home until close to midnight. That sounds horrible to me, terrific race or not.

The bonus of the storms, and the window of clear weather that followed, was that the IMS decided to waive the local TV blackout. So when the green flag dropped at 4:45, we were able to watch live for only the third time since I moved here.[2]

What a great race! Or at least the last ten laps. The last lap specifically. Two passes between winner Josef Newgarden and runner up Pato O’Ward in the final trip around the track was a lot of fun. The UC visitors were watching with us, and the Ohio girls were enthralled by the finish.

Monday we had our family gathering, with most of the locals present. I had two grills going to feed everyone. It was also the 8th birthday for one of our nephews, so there was cake and presents. Another round of storms came through late Sunday/early Monday and made it a blustery and cooler day. I cranked up the pool heater and the nephews didn’t seem to mind, although none of the parents or our girls got into the pool with them.

I had a moment over the weekend when I had some longing for old school holiday weekends, when your favorite radio station had a Block Party Weekend, or some other gimmick to get people to tune in. I remember an All Eighties Weekend around July 4 in the late 90s, which seemed like such a crazy idea. Imagine playing nothing but 80s music!!! It seemed like everywhere we went that weekend, people our age had that station on and we talked about how great the selections were.

Anyway, I realized that The Bridge, the eclectic KC radio station I stream sometimes, was doing a block party deal, and the iHeart Radio AT40 station was playing a marathon of year-end countdowns. I’m sure other outlets had gimmicks, too. The problem is me, and how I just don’t listen to any radio feeds for more than when I’m making/eating lunch or dinner or otherwise hanging in the kitchen. Otherwise it is all streaming playlists I have made myself, or whatever new album I’m spinning on Spotify.

Pacers…man, what a disappointing week. They had game one locked up until Tyrese Haliburton made a horrible, unforced turnover, Rick Carlisle failed to call a timeout to advance the ball which led to an awful turnover which led to an unforgivable defensive lapse that led to Jaylon Brown sending the game to overtime with a corner three. And still the Pacers had a chance, until Haliburton again sucked in the final minute of OT.

Then in game two, they were hanging in there, battling, down just four in the second half. I left to help S do a few things to get ready for weekend guests. I was away from the TV for maybe five minutes. When I came back the Celtics were up 15, Haliburton was in the locker room injured, and Pascal Siakam, who had been torching the C’s, was on the bench with the rest of the starters.

Game three, again, was right in the Pacers’ hands. Even without Haliburton, who re-aggravated his hamstring injury that derailed the second half of his season, the Pacers built an 18-point second half lead. They blew the entire thing, losing by three. They became the first team in the last 25 years to lead two NBA playoff games by five in the last two minutes and lose each. They became the first NBA team to ever shoot over 51% in the first three games and lose them all.

Last night’s collapse to give the C’s the sweep was inevitable. The Pacers failed to score a point in the final 3:33 and again lost by three.

The Celtics are clearly the better team. The Pacers lost their best player seven quarters into the series. Yet they could have easily been up 3–1 this morning, headed back to Boston. This team is so flawed on the defensive end and on the boards, yet they are so good offensively they still almost make up for it against maybe the best team in the league. If I was a Boston fan, I’d be worried that my team couldn’t put away a team that was missing their star and plays defense like the entire team has five fouls and don’t want to pick up their sixth.

Great, fun season, though. If Haliburton hadn’t gotten hurt in January, maybe they are higher in the playoff seeding. But that would have robbed us of the dramatic wins over the Bucks and Knicks to get to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Fingers crossed they re-sign Siakam. There is a ton of talent on the wing. Is Ben Mathurin the perfect third cog with Haliburton and Siakam? Maybe they move a couple of those guys to both clear playing time and find another solid defender/rebounder. Maybe rookie Jarace Walker is ready to contribute next year, as he seems perfectly designed to fill that role. They really need another big body. They don’t have a first round pick but do have three second round picks to play with. Should be an interesting summer for a team on the rise.


  1. One from outside Cleveland, one from Dayton, one from Cincinnati.  ↩

  2. The other two times were the 100th running, which was sold out months in advance, and the delayed 2020 race that had no one in the stands due to Covid.  ↩

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