Reader’s Notebook, 8/3/22

July was one of my better reading months in recent memory. Nine books finished, and all were legit books. No graphic novels, manuals, photography collections, etc. mixed in. Here are some brief synopses.


Phil – Alan Shipnuck
The book that shook up the golf world when an excerpt was released earlier this year detailing Phil Mickleson’s thoughts about the Saudi-backed LIV golf tour, a tour he is now getting paid somewhere in the range of $200 million to play shitty golf on.

Mickelson is a complex dude – like most people in the public eye – and Shipnuck does a nice job laying out as many aspects of Phil’s character as possible. I’ve always thought Phil was a phony douche, a smart guy who thinks he’s a lot smarter than just smart. Much of that is confirmed in this book, but it is good to see he balances that with some genuine acts of kindness and sharing of his wealth. As one unnamed golfer described him in the book, “Yes, he’s a phony. But he’s a sincere phony.” Which is a super funny yet ideal label to slap onto Mickelson.


City on Fire – Don Winslow
The opening book of Winslow’s next crime series. It begins as a long era of peace between the Italian and Irish crime families of Providence, Rhode Island is shattered by a careless act of drunken stupidity. Once the peace is destroyed, there is no fixing it. And it seems to be moving to the west coast for the next volume.

Winslow takes a very different tack from his Mexican drug cartel novels. Those are dense, thick works that take awhile to get through. This book was written in a much breezier manner, more in the language that the wise guys at the center of the story would use. Which means I knocked it out in about 36 hours.


Six Bad Things – Charlie Huston
You may recall about a year ago I found an old email from a fellow lover of books who suggested Huston’s work to me, and I then read his first novel, Caught Stealing, an insanely violent yet thoroughly enjoyable book.

This serves as the sequel to Caught Stealing, with Henry Thompson living in anonymity on Mexico after escaping the many criminal forces in New York that attempted to kill him. He is discovered and a new series of slaughter is on as he attempts to secure his money and protect his family.

Not as compelling as Caught Stealing but a solid book for warm summer days.


How Lucky – Will Leitch
I’ve read tons of Leitch’s online/magazine work over the years, going way back to when he started Deadspin in the early 2000s. But this is the first time I’ve read a work of his fiction.

Here he writes about Daniel, a man with spinal muscular atrophy, a disease that slowly kills its victims. Daniel does social media relations for a small regional airline from his home in Athens, GA. He survives thanks to the help of some caretakers and his best friend. He cruises around town in a mechanized wheelchair, and communicates by using his one functioning hand to type into an iPad or computer. Every day is a battle to keep his body from shutting down.

One morning he sees a UGA student get abducted in front of his home. But because of his disability, the police don’t take him seriously. He manages to strike up a relationship with the kidnapper online, and their interaction eventually becomes violent.

The story is a little creepy but never terribly suspenseful. I found it to be more about Daniel and his disease than any of the plot elements. Which isn’t a bad thing when you’re telling the story of someone as remarkable as Daniel.


We Had to Remove This Post – Hanna Bervoets
A very slim novel based on Bervoets’ research about the stress that people who serve as content moderators for online forums and social media platforms face. When you watch violent, racist, or conspiracy laden content for 12 hours each day, you are bound to feel some effects. Here it turns people into employees who drink and use drugs on their break, spend every evening getting smashed at a local bar, and see their relationships torn apart.

I didn’t feel there was much weight to the book, or that any arguments that Bervoets was trying to make were very compelling. The main characters all had plenty of trauma before they went to work for her mythical social media company. Did what they looked at each day make those traumas worse? Or just prevent them from setting them aside and moving on? Or were they drawn to such work because of their existing issues? There’s no doubt these are terrible jobs with horrific effects on the people who do them. I didn’t walk away from the book thinking the job was responsible for


Depth Charge – Jason Heaton
I really wanted to like this book. Heaton is the co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, The Grey Nato. His cohost and several guests have talked up this since he released it earlier this year. Sadly, while a decent effort at a first novel, it needed another round of polishing and editing to make it work better.

The story, about an underwater archaeologist who discovers an effort to recover a nuclear weapon lost when a ship was sunk off Sri Lanka during World War II, has promise.

But Heaton’s language is a bit stiff. At times he overwrites simple conversations. I found the big moment of conflict had a rather obvious and much easier solution. Sure that would have denied Heaton his climactic battle but I also sat there thinking “This wouldn’t have been necessary if the guy had just done…”

Life and Times of a Rising Senior

A busy week for M. Two college visits and senior pictures have all been checked off her To Do list.


We went to Purdue last Wednesday and then IU on Monday. Both trips went well.

She liked Purdue more than she expected, and when we left she felt like it had pulled even with Cincinnati as her co-favorite. Or at least a school that would definitely be on her list for a second visit and more research.

We’ve heard tons of great things about Purdue, especially how they have really updated their campus from the rather boring, typically engineering collection of buildings it used to be. Perhaps that set the bar too high for me, because while I thought everything was just fine, I wasn’t awed by anything I saw. Lots of new buildings, to be sure. But it still felt rather utilitarian to me.

We both liked how they broke up the visit. We started with a 45 minute tour of part of campus, landed at the welcome center for the hour-long admissions presentation, then went out for another hour or so of touring campus. That was a good way to break up Purdue’s rather sprawling campus. Our tour guides were great, talking almost the entire time. And our admissions presenter was one of the best we’ve encountered so far.

Purdue has a lot going for it. Maybe too much, in fact. Last year it had way more freshman enroll that their algorithm expected, and the school had to scramble to find housing for everyone. Perhaps it was because of that you have to make a separate appointment to tour the housing options. We could have squeezed that in, but it was hot and humid and we decided to save that for a second visit, possibly popping in on people M knows who will be students at Purdue in the fall.

Purdue is the closet school M will consider, maybe 15–20 minutes closer than IU. Despite its engineering school rep, it can offer a great education even in the more liberal arts affiliated programs. And they’ve kept tuition frozen for over a decade now. It made sense why M liked it so much.

Then we hit IU on Monday afternoon.

We lucked out and avoided big storms that had cancelled the morning tours and even got about an hour of pleasant weather before the heat and humidity came crashing down again. We parked right by S’s sorority house and found the brick with her name on it, which is always fun.

The new IU welcome center is located in the remodeled building where I took my three graduate courses on the Bloomington campus. It was fun for me to have a personal connection. “I took classes in this building!” They went with the more traditional sit through an hour presentation and then get out and walk for 75 minutes format.

Our tour guide was great. Let’s see if I can remember everything she told us about herself. She’s in the Kelley School of Business, one of the top business schools in the country. She’s on a pre-law track with two minors, one in computer science the other having to do with data analysis or something. She’s in the honors college. She gives tours. She tutors both for the football team and the honors college. She’s in Panhellenic government. She’s in the campus Catholic org. And she sings in the campus choir. I might have left something out. Girl is busy, and seemingly going places! I thought about asking if she had time for a boyfriend but realized that would both come out wrong and sound super creepy coming from a 51-year-old man.

I’ve always loved IU’s campus. It reminds me a lot of the KU campus, just without the big hill in the middle. Acres of gorgeous, tree-lined paths. Big, beautiful limestone buildings. Downtown right across the street from the main campus entrance. It’s very much a proper college environment. You shouldn’t pick a school because of what it looks like, but it sure makes a great impression.

There was less talking and more general walking and looking around on this tour compared to Purdue’s. Even M has picked up on how the whole spiel is pretty much the same thing at every school, with some tweaks to highlight each one’s particular strengths. She has realized that her next step is to make a list of her favorite schools and begin doing research to compare how the meals plans work on each campus, what the academic advising programs are like, etc. to cut through the marketing and get closer to figuring out what school meets her needs the best.

When we completed the tour and began walking back to the car, she said, without being prompted, “I like this more than Purdue.” Which I expected.

One hangup I believe I’ve mentioned before is that she doesn’t want to go to the same school as a lot of her high school friends. Although we’ve told her many times that on a campus of 45,000 students she will not see the 5–10 people she went to high school with very often either at IU or Purdue, that remains a sticking point, and a big reason she likes Cincinnati so much. It seems like her friend group will send more people to IU than Purdue. So that’s going to be an entry in her spreadsheet. We’ll see if it matters when it comes time to make a decision.

After five campus visits I believe M’s power rankings look something like this:

1A – Cincinnati
1B – Indiana
2 – Purdue
3 – Miami (OH)
4 – Xavier

A bigger gap between two and three than between the top three schools.

Of course, she has one more visit remaining. It just happens to be to a school that A) I attended and B) that won the NCAA division one men’s basketball national championship four months ago.


She squeezed in her senior pictures on Sunday. I didn’t realize what a big deal these were until this time last year, when her friends a year older than her were going through the process. At Cathedral you have to go to the “right” photographer, a woman who took family pics for us about 10 years ago. I went with M to the planning session with the photographer last week. She could not have been more organized, helpful, and fun. M was pretty well prepared already but left with a clear plan for what to do in the five days before her pics.

I stayed the hell out of the way Sunday. There was enough stress in our house before she left that I wanted nothing to do with the actual photo shoot. Luckily my presence was not requested, although C did go along with S to help and watch.

I guess it went very well. She lucked out and got decent weather. It was in the mid–80s but the humidity was tolerable, it was a little breezy, and they were late afternoon/early evening so it was getting cooler through their session. She was happy when she got home. I guess we’ll see in a few days whether it was worth all the time, effort, and money.

I miss the 1980s when you just went to a photo studio with one outfit, sat for 20 minutes, and then ordered one or two shots a couple weeks later.

July Media

M and I are off to Bloomington for campus visit number five today, so it is a perfect day to drop this list on you.


Movies, Series, Shows

Somebody Feed Phil, season one
Crap, I forgot to include this in my June entry. After watching the Anthony Bourdain film, I tried to find something similar to his classic shows to scratch my food/travel/culture show itch. This came pretty close.

The show is far funnier than any of Bourdain’s and never tries to be as arty. Phil Rosenthal isn’t a chef – he’s an actor/writer/producer – and he doesn’t try to break down food the way Bourdain did. But he is equally as good at finding interesting people along his travels and telling their stories. He doesn’t always connect with them the way Bourdain did, but their stories still shine.

Another big difference is that Rosenthal seems like a far sunnier and more optimistic person than Bourdain was. That’s why he can do an episode in Israel and focus on how there are areas where Arabs and Jews live in peace and harmony and suggest that gives hope for the entire country. I can’t say that Bourdain would take that same positive angle.

A-

Stranger Things, season four
Expectations and experience. That sums up how you evaluate a popular, returning show like Stranger Things.

The issue here is that the first season of ST was as good as any season of any show. And, to me, seasons two and three fell well short of its mark (my daughters disagree).

Season four doesn’t match season one; I’m not sure that’s possible. But I found it much better than seasons two and three.

The big issue, and I knock it down a notch because of this, was the sheer length of episodes. There was absolutely no need to have the final episode last nearly two and a half hours. Or have several others stretch beyond 90 minutes. Come on, Duffer Brothers, edit yourselves!

I also thought the Hopper timeline in the Soviet Union was, largely, a waste of time until the finale, when it was shoehorned it into what was going on back in Hawkins.

Those issues aside, the story was better and more interesting than it had been in three seasons. I don’t think the magic of season one can be recaptured, mostly because the kids aren’t really kids anymore and they can’t show that wide-eyed innocence and belief that came with being younger. The strongest part of the season was when the kids were together struggling to battle Vecna. The scene where Lucas held a (assumed) dead Max was maybe the most powerful of the entire four seasons, and a tremendous acting performance by Caleb McLaughlin.

I think a lot of fat could have been stripped from the script, the focus kept on the kids, and you would have had a much tighter and better season.

B+

30 For 30: Once Upon A Time In Queens
I’ve read Jeff Pearlman’s book about the 1986 Mets. This expands on that and is filled with great footage and interviews. I never knew the thing about Roger Clemens shaving after he came out of game six. Or that the Red Sox had 16 pitches they could have won the World Series on before Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner had their moment.

A

Norm McDonald: Nothing Special
A fascinating show. Shortly before undergoing surgery to treat the cancer that eventually killed him, McDonald sat down in front of his computer and recorded the set he was working on, just in case he was never able to perform it. Which turned out to be the case. It is strange watching a comedy set without an audience that the performer built in moments in which he would react to/interact with the crowd.

The set is followed by a roundtable amongst David Letterman, Dave Chappelle, Molly Shannon, Conan O’Brian, Adam Sandler, and David Spade in which they discuss both the piece and their experiences with McDonald.

The whole thing is very interesting if a little unsettling.

B+

Better Call Saul, season six
I waited until about a week ago to start the final season of BCS. I made it up to episode nine and had to take a breather. That episode was a nearly perfect 90 minutes of TV. In reality, not much happened. It was more about how the surviving characters dealt with the aftermath of some massive developments in episode eight. It was so expertly written, shot, and acted, though, that it didn’t matter that there wasn’t much action. It was brilliant high point of one of the best shows ever.

At the end of season five there was a scene between Lalo Salamanca, Kim Wexler, and Jimmy McGill that I called one of the greatest I had ever watched. That scene was carried by Rhea Seehorn, who plays Wexler. She may have topped that with her performance in S6, E8 when she makes one of the coldest ass speeches her character has ever made, and then finally cracks under the pressure of everything she and Jimmy have been doing. Give her the damn Emmy, cowards!

Most importantly it seems like, in the final moments of that episode, we crossed over from the gravitational pull of Better Call Saul into the more direct influence of Breaking Bad. Maybe I’ll be surprised when I watch episode ten that there is still “BCS* territory to navigate but that was my impression when the final scene faded from the screen.

Incomplete

1917
I tried not to read much about this when it first came out, but was aware of the tricks Sam Mendes used to make the film appear to be a single, continuous shot. So it was fun to catch the little breaks that allowed him to build that illusion.

I was more fascinated by the sheer genius that went into filming the scenes themselves. How did they build a massive trench complex and battlefield filled with craters and barbed wire and faux corpses that the actors could stumble through for minutes at a time? And then how did they film traveling, close up shots when the actors were struggling not to fall on their asses in the mud? Just an amazing act of photography.

The story was also great, although I kept feeling the influences of Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk.

A-


Shorts, Etc

The Office Season Four Bloopers
I laughed. I bet you will, too.

Adventures of A+K
My millennials made it to Alaska!

Kansas Beats Soviet National Team
I remember watching this game live, and am bummed only these bits seem to be available on YouTube. I was also convinced KU was going to win the national title that year after they beat the Soviets. I was only a year off…

“A Slice of Paradise” – A short film by Liam Tangum and No Laying Up
I am a native Kansan, with roots deep in the central part of the state. But, let’s face it: since I mostly grew up in Kansas City there’s a lot about my home state I don’t know. Like this aspect of high school golf, for example.

24 Hours Alone on the Washington Coast
Everything about this is gorgeous.

Still As It Was
I could do this for a weekend. But people who choose to live like this strike me as slightly mad.

Mad Scientist BBQ
My man Coach Hebs hipped me to this guy’s videos. I made his ribs recipe and they turned out faaaaaantastic.

We have a few trips planned over the next nine months, so I’ve dived into videos about packing, travel bags, etc. It’s really kind of disturbing how much time I’ve spent watching them, and plotting how to buy new gear when already have a lot of perfectly good travel gear in the house. Rather than share all the videos I’ve watched, I’ll share a few of my favorites.
Pack Hacker
I’m a little addicted to both the Pack Hacker website and their videos.
Carryology
I’ve been getting Carryology’s emails for years, but now their videos are part of my obsession, err, research process.
Packing Tips for Men – What to Pack & Wear in Europe
This video has nearly cost me thousands of dollars in new purchases.
Peak Design
I have a bunch of PD camera gear already. I have my eye on their travel gear now, too.

One Shining Moment | KU Edition
As a KU super fan, I quibble with some moments that aren’t in here. But there are some pretty cool random ones, notably Calvin Rayford straight picking Damon Bailey in the 1993 Elite Eight.

Friday Playlist

Just a little more cleanup from my podcast archives research, a whole heck of a lot of new music, and no playlist next week due to travel means (at least) one more mega playlist for your listening pleasure.

“In the Right” – The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness
Some jim-dandy power pop here, my friends.

“Overcome” – Young Guv
Let’s keep it on the power pop tip for one more track.

“ILYSM” – Wild Pink
WP has made some of my favorite music of the last five years. Band leader John Ross was diagnosed with cancer two years ago and has been undergoing treatment since. I do not know his prognosis, but hoping it is positive since he is still making music. This is the title track from the band’s next album, expected in October, which will be focused on what he has been going through. If this song is indicative of the entire album, it’s going to be incredible. When everything comes together at the 2:45 mark, it might be the music moment of the year.

“Sometimes” – MUNA
A strong contender for artist of the year with this music critic.

“That’s Rare” – Free Time
I’m astounded that this band is from New York and not Australia. It makes no sense; this is straight Aussie jangle pop. The singer even sounds like he’s from Brisbane!

“Olympus” – Blondshell
I approve of songs like this that speak of deep emotional wounds.

“Fire Maple Song” – Everclear
Speaking of emotional wounds…Holy lost songs! This was one of my very favorite songs of the 1990s. And somehow I haven’t listened to it since I made the transition away from iTunes and into streaming services. We’re talking a good 7-8 years here, folks, maybe more. Unbelievable! And I had pretty much forgotten about it. Until I came across it in the old pod playlists. Thank the Music Gods for setting me straight!

“Summer Dream” – Bonny Light Horseman, Anais Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson, & Josh Kaufman
A gorgeous song for these warm, breezy nights.

“Paris (Ooh La La)” – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals live at Red Rocks
My brother in music E$ sent this video to me this week. Not a single thing about it sucks. I swore I had listened to some of Potter’s music at some point, but nothing jumped out at me after a quick review. I might need to rectify that. With that in mind…

“Whole Lotta Love” – Grace Potter covering Led Zeppelin
From her Covid Days livestreams. Remember those?

Wednesday Links

M and I are off to visit Purdue so it seems like a great day to share some more interesting reads.


I don’t know a thing about cricket, and I’m guessing most of you don’t, either. That doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the ridiculousness of this story.

“I have never seen a scam like this. These guys just cleared a patch of land deep inside a village and began playing a match and beaming it on YouTube to make money through gambling. Even the local villagers were not aware of this. We know very little about the Russians who were putting bets on this game,” Mr Rathod said.

India: How a fake ‘IPL’ cricket league ran for Russian punters


I enjoyed this Q&A with Jack White. This quote stuck out to me:

I’ve often felt sorry for people who have hit songs that they’re forced to play in that exact same way for their entire lives or entire careers. There’s definitely some goodness in there. But I always feel from the sidelines like, Oh, that’s too bad. You can’t play around with that or people get their hearts broken because you’re messing with a good thing.

I find that’s true with certain artists: I would riot if Neil Finn, say, completely changed “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” But for artists like White, who I expect experimentation from, if he totally ripped one of his classics apart and put it back together in a new way, I would be cool with it.

Jack White on the Most Stubborn and Prophetic Music of His Career


I think it is safe to say that Journey occupies a very different space in the music world than Jack White does. Journey is the epitome of corporate rock where White has built his entire career on challenging the norms of the music business.

Journey was my favorite band in the early 1980s. I still hung onto some love for their music until the summer of 1992, when Pearl Jam, Nirvana, etc totally rocked my world and had me turning my back on much of the music I grew up on. I never really fell back in love with Journey, although I have grown to appreciate their rockers again.

With that background, I find this piece a little cruel or, as my girls would say, extra. But it’s still a fun read.

They’re probably not the most earnest rock band of all time — there are plenty of contenders for that title — but their combination of sincerity and emphaticness was emblematic of a rock era ruled by dudes with no chill. No wonder the music video for “Separate Ways” is so spectacularly, awkwardly awful.

Journey Mastered the Art of Uncool with “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”


Gary Smith is on the short list for greatest magazine writers ever. I read his work for years without finally registering his byline. Once I knew who he was, I was certain whatever piece I was about to read would be amazing.

This profile looks at his career and what he’s done since leaving Sports Illustrated. This passage is as good an explanation as any for why SI and other sports media that our generation grew up on no longer matter.

As the magazine industry shrunk and the athlete’s pulpit grew, the calculus inverted. The magazine needs the athlete now, not the other way around. “So, the shadows get shut down and the person controls the whole thing. It’s a step of trust no longer necessary for celebrities to take. So why take it?”

No Typo: Gary Smith Teaches Mindfulness to Elementary School Kids These Days

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 76

Chart Week: July 22, 1978
Song: “Baker Street” – Gerry Rafferty
Chart Position: #2, 14th week on the chart. Peaked at #2 for six weeks.

I’ve been wanting to write about this song for ages, and everything finally lined up thanks to an AT40 I caught last week.

“Baker Street” is one of the greatest songs of its time. Or any time for that matter. It is an unforgettable, undeniable, unassailable piece of rock ’n’ roll art. I defy you to listen without cranking it up as loud as is acceptable for your location to revel in its glory.

Sadly, though, it was subject of one of the great screw-jobs in chart history. One that had a direct impact on what Casey Kasem said on two different American Top 40 broadcasts.

Scotsman Gerry Rafferty had six US Top 40 hits in his career; two with the band Stealers Wheel and four as a solo artist. “Baker Street” was, by far, the biggest of those hits. For five weeks in the summer of 1978 it sat at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, stuck behind what would become the #1 song of the entire year, Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing.” However, in late July it looked like Rafferty would sneak past Gibb into the top spot.

In AT40 replays from the 1970s, Casey often gave clues about what the next number one song would be. I always assumed this was because in the ‘70s, AT40 lagged the actual data by a week or two, and he had an idea of what songs would shuffle into what spots in the coming weeks.

The week of July 22, 1978, Casey shared one of these hints in an interesting way. Before playing “Baker Street,” he read a question from a listener asking what country had the most artists with number one hits per capita. He answered Scotland, with four: The Bay City Rollers, The Average White Band, Donovan, and Lulu against a population of about five million. But, Casey suggested, maybe there was about to be a fifth.

When it came time to record the next week’s countdown, Casey indeed worked off a chart that listed “Baker Street” as the number one song in America. He laid down vocals confirming that fact. However, before the show could be mastered and distributed, the chart was adjusted keeping the top two songs as they had been for the previous five weeks. Casey re-recorded the final segment of his show to reflect this correction. A week later “Shadow Dancing” finally fell to number five…but “Baker Street” also fell four notches to number six.

What on earth happened? How can the Billboard numbers change after they’ve already been locked in for the American Top 40 deadline?

The urban legend, and one that seems to have a lot of legs, suggests that Andy Gibb’s management team was responsible. They met with representatives from Billboard to plan for the singer’s appearance on a Billboard-sponsored show. When Gibb’s agents learned that “Shadow Dancing” was about to fall out of the top spot, they strongly inferred that their client would not be making an appearance on the program if his song was no longer number one. Since Gibb was one of the hottest stars in the world at the moment, this sent Billboard scrambling to adjust the count and ensure Gibb’s performance.

Or so people say.

Whether true or not it is a fun theory to speculate about.

So, sure, Andy Gibb kept Gerry Rafferty from earning a number one hit on the Billboard chart. And that sucks. But I guarantee “Baker Street” gets played way more often now than “Shadow Dancing” does, and probably has every year since 1978.[1] So suck that, Andy Gibb (RIP).


By the way, since that question was asked of Casey, four more Scottish acts have topped the Hot 100: Rod Stewart, Sheena Easton, Lewis Capaldi, and Calvin Harris. I would imagine that means Scotland still has the most number one artists per capita of any country. Even with Gerry Rafferty getting screwed.[2]


There is also a controversy about who wrote the incendiary sax line that anchors the song. You can read all about that here. What blew my mind when I read this piece was that Hugh Burns, who plays the roaring guitar solo on “Baker Street,” also played on George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” another song that is built upon a monster sax riff. Crazy coincidence!


Oh, and if you don’t think this song is a 10, you can fuck right off.

(Worth noting that Tom Breihan wrote about “Baker Street” and the various stories behind it as a bonus track for The Number Ones during last year’s Stereogum fundraiser. You can read it here. He only gave it a nine. 🤷‍♂️)


  1. I’m not here to hate: “Shadow Dancing” is a terrific song, too. It’s just not All-World like “Baker Street.”  ↩
  2. I wonder if this experience caused Casey to stop dropping hints about what the next week’s top song would be. In the ‘80s he did far more “What song will be number one next week? Will it be…” and then rattled off two or three contenders without committing to any one song.  ↩

Family Notes

It has been a lazy few days around our house.

M spent last week in Michigan with one of her best friend’s families. She seemed to have a great time. Boy was the house quiet without the most talkative sister around. Kind of a preview of what awaits us next fall.

I had big plans to do something fun with her sisters while she was away, but every day one of them had something pop up that prevented that from happening. C had two more driving lessons, watched two of her cousins part of one day, and cleaned for one of her aunts another day. L pitched in with that aunt and mowed her yard for her. L and I got a couple workouts in between her hanging with friends.

Saturday we had most of L’s travel basketball team over for a season-ending pool party. Despite a forecast for a heat index approaching 110, it stayed cloudy all day and was actually a nice evening to spend outside. The girls seemed to have fun and it was nice to hang out with the parents casually rather than in the stands or while on a basketball trip.

Sunday we had some friends over for dinner. They have boys M’s and C’s ages and in recent years those gatherings have been a little awkward. These kids have known each other since birth but something about the teenage years turned it weird a couple years back. But everyone was happy and got along last night. We managed to avoid the heavy storms that split the area, although the kids never got into the pool because we could hear thunder in the distance. There was a possible tornado only about two miles from our home. Fortunately it was moving away from us and we were never in any danger.

Today is a big day in our house: M’s 18th birthday! Her sisters have been saying for weeks how weird that sounds to them. For some reason her turning 17 last year seemed weirder than 18. But it is still odd to have an adult child, legally speaking. Especially since she still has a year of high school left. I didn’t turn 18 until after I graduated so that has always seemed like the natural progression to me. You graduate, turn 18, then go to college. Obviously that only works for about a third of the population, but it was my experience and my “normal.”

Fortunately she has matured a lot the past 2–3 years and seems ready to be 18. She still has moments where we smack our foreheads at her lack of common sense or ability to figure things out on her own, but that’s normal. In general she’s a smart, mature, well-adjusted kid that seems comfortable in her own skin and in social settings.

Much of parenthood is spent hoping. Hoping that you are teaching your kids the right things and hoping that they are taking those lessons in. Hoping that they don’t grow up to be shitheads. M’s journey to adulthood is far from over, but I am proud of where she is at at this moment in her life. I’ve always said I wouldn’t be worried about her because, one way or another, she’ll figure out her path. I still feel exactly that way about her.

We had a rough patch, M and I, when she was 14–16ish, and it took awhile to come out of that. But we get along a lot better now than we did a couple years ago (and things weren’t really that bad then) and we enjoy each other’s company and giving each other shit.

We took C and her out for brunch today, then walked around the mall for a bit.[1] I mocked her for being excited about getting a birthday discount at Kendra Scott. We will have a big birthday dinner for her and a group of friends in the next week or so. She is headed to a local lake with friends later today. I imagine the young man she’s been spending some time with will be there as well. Not a bad way to spend your 18th birthday.

C and I went to the orthodontist this morning. She has struggled with her retainer regimen since she got her braces off over a year ago. We’ve already had to have it re-fitted once. Well, she went through a long spell of not wearing it, now it doesn’t fit, and her teeth have moved. So she’s going in Invisalign for the next 4–6 months. Which is lovely. I think she realizes this is her last chance and needs to take better care of her teeth if she doesn’t want her parents to ground her until she goes to college.


  1. L is spending the day with friends at a water park.  ↩

Friday Playlist

I continue to clean out the holding pen of music that is overflowing with both new tracks and classics I rediscovered while trolling the archives of my old music podcast.

“Alright” – Sam Fender
The life cycle of albums can be strange. These days many bands will drop multiple singles well before releasing the full album. Streaming messes up how singles are handled once the public has their hands on the LP so you might as well trickle them out slowly when you have the chance. My only real radio experience is with SiriusXM, and they often play only the first single and ignore the others. Weird. Anyway, Fender wrote this song early in the process for Seventeen Going Under but it did not make the final album cut. And despite that album going to number one in England and it spinning off a couple pretty successful singles here in the States, he’s already dipping into the B-sides, releasing this as a single earlier this week.

“Ricochet” – Preoccupations
There is no better current practitioner of post punk than Preoccupations.

“Didn’t It Rain Last Night” – First Rodeo
Exactly the kind of twangy music I can handle. I wish we would have run into these guys when we visited Nashville instead of the more traditional country artists we heard. The title of this song also seems like one of those funny websites/Twitter accounts like “Did Duke Lose?” Because, more often than not the last two months, the answer to their question has been “Hell no.”

“Sweetness and Light” – Lush
Now we jump into the archive tracks. Lush was a band that I absolutely loved for a brief time in the mid-90s. Long enough to buy at least three of their albums? This was their first-ever single, released as an EP in October 1990 and then was the first track on their debut album a month later. My life improved greatly when I discovered it four years later. You can draw a straight line from this track to other songs/bands I’ve played for you over the years. Lush probably has a few better songs, but this is one of the five best of their career.

“Come Out, Come Down, Fade Out, Be Gone” – 120 Days
Listeners to my pod will recall I included more electronic music back then than I do now. Not sure why that is. Maybe the sources I got my music from back then were more inclusive of electronica? I don’t think it’s because of some big taste change on my part, because if a song like this came out today I would still play the hell out of it. Anyway, this is from 2006.

“At the Stars” – Better Than Ezra
One of the all time great Driving on a Warm Summer Night With the Windows Down songs. 1998? I swore it was older than that.

“Ceremony” – Radiohead covering New Order
One of those musical moments that blew people’s minds. First off, the idea of a webcast was pretty damn groundbreaking in 2007. And then for Radiohead to rip up this classic pretty much finished the job on anyone whose brain was still intact.

“Deadbeat Summer” – Neon Indian
It’s been so hot this summer it’s tough not to be a deadbeat.

Weekend Sports Notes

Some sports happenings over the past few days.


Royals

As if being shitty wasn’t bad enough, ten Royals players “did their own research” and decided not to get vaccinated against Covid, preventing them from traveling to Canada for the series with the Blue Jays over the weekend.

Just an exhausting moment. As I am barely interested in the team or sport right now, this does not make me want to come back.

Let’s move on…


Pacers Go Big…Almost

The Pacers have never been big players in the free agent market. Good players who are healthy generally don’t want to come to Indianapolis, and the Pacers have generally run a tight financial ship and refused to overpay to get talent to come to town.

That nearly changed last week. They signed restricted free agent Deandre Ayton to a massive offer sheet. Ayton had a strained relationship with the Phoenix Suns who seemed lukewarm on bringing him back on a max contract. There had been rumors for weeks the Suns and Pacers were talking about a deal that revolved around Ayton and the Pacers’ Myles Turner. If those talks were serious, though, they never resulted in a trade agreement.

So the Pacers sent out only the second offer sheet they’ve ever tendered, the biggest in league history, for Ayton. For about three hours Pacers fans were debating whether to be excited about the prospect of Ayton joining a young roster or to worry about Ayton getting hurt or just sucking and turning the deal into a disaster that sunk the franchise for the 2020s.

That debate only lasted a few hours because the Suns quickly matched the Pacers’ offer. Which could be a good thing. Offering $133 million for a big man in the current NBA seemed ultra aggressive, especially for one like Ayton, who is a good player but certainly not among the league’s elite.

It was cool the Pacers tried to make a splash, at least. Now I wonder where they go. They seem set up to remain on the outside of the eastern conference playoff picture next year, but also not bad enough to enter the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. They have a ton of cap room and a lot of picks stacked up for the next few years. Plus they still have to figure out what to do with Turner, an elite shot blocker and serviceable 3-point shooter whose total game does not match his ego or financial desires. Do they package Turner and some of their picks for a difference maker? Hang onto Turner until the trade deadline to see if he meshes with their new lineup (and can stay healthy)? Or do they move Turner now, take on a bad, expiring contract, and hope they are crappy enough to get deep into next year’s lottery and then make rapid improvement?


Kid Hoops

L’s team decided to get together for one more tournament. Saturday they played two teams they played two weeks ago, including the team that knocked them out of that tournament. They pounded that team pretty good, although they were playing without their best player. We were three players short, including a starter, but not sure that was an even trade. In game two they got a 14-point win over a team we have now beaten three times. This was our best performance against them.

In Sunday’s semifinal we had a five-point lead early in the second half but lost by 10. Our girls just got waxed in the last 10 minutes or so. The other team was too fast on both ends, our girls neglected to play any help defense, and we missed a ton of easy shots early that could have had us up by double digits early in the game.

L had a mixed weekend. She shot the ball like crap going 3–20 overall. Saturday she hit the top of the backboard with 3 pointers from behind the NBA line.[1] Apparently she’s been working out too much. In the second game she missed two wide open layups and another two contested ones. But she did score six in that game. And she turned the game around with her defense. We were down seven when she checked in. Five minutes later, when she checked out, we were up six. In that span she had two points, two rebounds, two assists, and three steals. She just shut down their point guard, getting steals on three of four possessions. We never looked back after that.

We’ve been doing some good shooting over at the YMCA, so I don’t know if she was just sped up, if her contacts weren’t locked in, or if it was the classic case of the improvement she’s making in practice not translating to games yet. Whatever the explanation, her shooting was gross. Afterwards I reminded her, though, that back in January if she ever took a 3-pointer, it was usually two feet short. Now she’s shooting them 3–4 feet long from behind the NBA line. So she has the range, she just needs to lock in the accuracy.


The Open

Jeeeeez what a let down. Rory McIlroy seemed like was finally going to break his eight-year major-less streak, playing beautiful golf all weekend. He was a little less stellar Sunday, missing six putts by a combined six inches, but still played well enough to win.

Except Cameron Smith went nuclear and hit every freaking putt on the back nine. Shooting 30 on the last nine of a major – six birdies and three pars – is pretty dope. Rory couldn’t even finish second as Cameron Young snuck by him with a final round 65.

There was no meltdown round this time. Rory played great all four days. Perhaps he was a little too cautious Sunday. Or the nerves caused shots that gave him short birdie looks the first three days to leave him much longer looks in Sunday. Whatever the cause, it felt like a massive letdown when he couldn’t close it out. Sometimes you just get unlucky and end up on the wrong side of a legendary closing round by another golfer.

It was really a magnificent tournament. St. Andrews is barely hanging on against modern players and technology, but it produced a terrific weekend of golf. Saturday, when six or seven players all seemed to be in the mix, was amazing to watch. It came at a perfect moment for professional golf, which has seen the 2022 season dominated by the break between the PGA and the Saudi-backed LIV tour. But you also have to wonder when we will see a tournament like this again. The 2023 major season could be drastically different as more players defect to the LIV, which could affect their ability to play in future majors. Perhaps it was that, more than Rory coming up short, that made the end feel a little extra somber.


  1. The tournament was at Jeff Teague’s gym, and we played both Saturday games on the NBA court, which is longer than the other two high school courts at the facility, and only has the college and NBA three point lines parked. Not sure why they had kids as young as fifth grade playing on it without the high school arc marked.  ↩
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