Friday Playlist

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve had a proper playlist. The new music has dried up just a hair and I haven’t had much time to devote to what is available over the past couple weeks. I’ve hacked together something to keep you occupied for a half hour or so, including two amazing videos.

“Evergreen” – Bendigo Fletcher
There is a lot going on in this song, veering through several different sources of inspiration. I have no idea how to categorize it. So I will just file it under Awesome and leave it at that.

“Personality Girlfriend” – Desperate Journalist
Another song with a variety of influences. This London band takes on some of the double standards and unfair expectations woman have to face daily.

“If It Happens” – We Were Promised Jetpacks
WWPJ came along at a glorious moment in the late ’00s when there was a glut of outstanding indie rock bands from Scotland. Over the years they’ve mellowed and smoothed out some edges. This song shows that you can age gracefully in the indie rock world.

“Quiet Little Voices” – We Were Promised Jetpacks
Why not go back to the first WWPJ song I ever fell in love with?

“Summertime” – The Sundays
Mother Nature keeps fucking around, but we are about to hit several days of hot, humid, and mostly dry weather. It finally feels like summertime.


“So This Is Love” – Van Halen
This is apparently a long-lost video VH recorded for an Italian TV show in 1982 that has finally found the light of day. It is insanely amazing. Everyone I shared it with made a similar comment about how much cocaine had to have been ingested when this was filmed. And what the hell is Dave trying to do to those dinosaurs? He may have been the rockstar who would literally fuck anything. Nice of him to show off his junk to all of Italy, too. Perhaps that’s why this performance disappeared for nearly 40 years. The world is a better place now that we can all enjoy this.


“Wolf Like Me” – TV on the Radio
Man, I had never seen this performance before. It is 1000% fantastic.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 57

Chart Week: May 12, 1979
Song: “In the Navy” – The Village People
Chart Position: #5, 9th week on the chart. Peaked at #3 for two weeks.

I wasn’t old enough to “get” the Village People when they were at the height of their powers. I was 6–7 years old during their brief moment at the top of the pop culture pyramid. All I knew was that they were goofy and funny and sang catchy disco songs.

I had no clue about all the subtext that was a part of the band, though. I didn’t know about the coding in songs like “Y.M.C.A.” and “Macho Man.” I didn’t get the meaning behind their name. I had no idea that their costumes and personas were all carefully selected to present a certain perspective of gay male fantasy.

All that makes me laugh because, when you look back on The Village People and their music, how more obvious could it have been what they were all about? Again, I was six and seven. What could I have known?

This countdown had one of my favorite AT40 trivia tidbits, a little note about how The Village People came to be.

The producers who assembled the group had a very specific concept for how they wanted the band to appear. They placed an ad in a trade paper looking for performers who fit this look. According to Casey, the ad sought “Singers and dancers, very good looking, with mustaches.” Wikipedia says the ad read, “Macho Types Wanted: Must Dance And Have A Mustache.”

The mustache line makes me laugh every time I hear it. Was that code in the late ‘70s for gay, particularly in the theater community the producers were searching in? I mean, a lot of dudes had mustaches in the ‘70s. Was the ability to dance while also having a mustache something that clearly identified a man as gay at the time?

That does not explain Victor Willis, the main vocalist and lyricist for the band. While he was leading The Village People, he was married to actress Phylicia Ayers-Allen, who a few years later became famous for playing Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Willis has been married at least one more time, also to a woman. Doing some research, it seems that Willis was the only straight member in the classic lineup of the Village People.

Over the years so many gay entertainers had to present themselves to the public as straight, married, family men. But Willis, perhaps the most famous “gay” man in the world in the late ’70s, was actually straight. Pop culture doesn’t always make sense.

For some reason I can’t embed the video, so go here to watch it

A Disturbance in the Force

Before I get to our next Reaching for the Stars entry, I realized that I first need to share some disturbing news in the AT40 world that has radically changed my life.

The local station that played American Top 40 on Sundays for at least 12 years has stopped airing the show.

A week after we returned from spring break I turned on the radio and heard some random song from the ‘90s. This was not AT40! I listened longer and heard a regular DJ who mentioned the weather and went into another song.

Hmmm.

Sometimes the station screws up its Sunday schedule, so I was hoping this was a one-time thing.

However, the next Sunday I tuned in and heard the same thing.

This was very disturbing.

I checked the station’s website and couldn’t find any news saying that they had either dumped AT40 or moved it to another time slot. So I fired an email off to the program director, asking for a status update.

The next day he confirmed they had, indeed, stopped airing AT40. He said by dropping the show, that freed up four more hours of locally-produced programming, giving them the most local radio in the city!

It was difficult for me not to send a snarky response back, saying that was exactly what listeners in Indianapolis had been pining for: four more hours of hand-selected songs “from the ‘80s, ‘90s, and more.” Or whatever their dumb tagline is. I’m sure there are like five of us who faithfully listened to Casey each Sunday, so I get it. In the razor-thin margins of radio ratings, can he afford to lose those listeners?

Don’t answer that.

I am very much a creature of habit, and after 12–13 years of tuning a radio to a local station, say 45 out of 52 Sundays, and hearing Casey countdown the hits from the ‘80s, it kind of rocked my world to lose that little anchor to my weekends. Which is a little silly since I listen to the iHeart Radio Classic American Top 40 station several hours each week while cooking, cleaning, etc in the kitchen. I wanted that Sunday countdown that was always connected to the calendar, knowing I would be sitting on an April morning hearing exactly what I had been listening to on an April morning when I was 12. That symmetry pleased my strange brain.

Of course, there was an easy way around this. There are dozens of stations around the country that play the old AT40s on Sunday mornings. A lot of them are streaming online. In fact, I knew KCMO-FM in Kansas City was one of those stations. Why not listen to the exact same broadcast a few of my KC brothers-in-music check out?

So, now, on Sundays I fire up the KCMO stream and listen to Casey. It has become less automatic that my old routine, though, which is one reason the frequency of these posts has slowed down a bit. I have several queued up for the summer months so hopefully that means we get back into a more regular flow here soon.

Reader’s Notebook, 6/7/21

My reading pace slacked off significantly over the past month. I only finished three books in May, and none of them should have taken more than a couple of days. Because of that, the first two books in this entry don’t get very good recaps as it has been too long since I finished them to write anything terribly coherent about them.

I also had my first abandoned book of the year.

The good news is I’ve already finished two books in June.


Sarah Jane – James Sallis
Sallis is supposed to be a master of modern noir. And this book certainly fit into that realm. Here he writes of a small-town sheriff, a female veteran of our Middle Eastern wars, with a complex and complicated background. She settles into the job well, but can never completely escape those demons and doubts leftover from her past. I enjoyed this, primarily because we so often think that the gritty, tough, multi-layered protagonists in noir novels must be men. Sallis does an excellent job flipping all of that seamlessly, showing how all that can apply to a woman just fine.


Girl Gone Missing – Marcie R. Rendon
I wish I could remember where I discovered this book. I know it was in a blurb for another book I enjoyed, in which the person writing the blurb compared the two books.

I was expecting a lot based on that blurb. This book let me down.

It begins with a ton of promise. Cash Blackbear is a young college student in Minnesota in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s. Raised by foster parents after she survived a car accident, she was often abused and neglected because of her Native American heritage. But she learned to persevere and survive on her own, with some help from a kindly sheriff.

When two small town girls disappear after trips to the Minneapolis area, the sheriff asks Cash for assistance in looking through the case. She thinks about the case a lot, does some research in the library, but never really gets directly involved in the case.

Until she is suddenly very personally involved in the case. Which leads to a pretty wild 10–15 pages near the end.

So much of the book was just repetitive details of Cash’s life. Her boredom in class. Her alienation on a campus full of white people. Her time in pool halls. The many cigarettes she smokes each day. And then – WHAM – suddenly she’s in the midst of this case.

I loved the guts of the novel, and all the potential in those guts. But this felt more like a fleshing out of those ideas, an early draft that should have been turned into something much more compelling.


The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson
I’m not sure that I had ever heard of this, first published in 1952, until I read this essay by Dan O’Sullivan comparing Republican lawmakers in Texas to Lou Ford, the psychopath at the center of this completely insane novel. Stephen King wrote an effusive forward for the edition I read, so I’m guessing he was heavily influenced by Thompson’s violent work.

Ford is a deputy sheriff in West Texas, and the book serves as a first-person confession of his sadistic behavior. Appearing to all around him as just a normal, everyday, trust-worthy guy, Ford is in fact a complete psychopath. He was sexually abused by his housekeeper as a child, and in turn molested a girl when he was a teenager. Rather than face punishment for his behavior, Ford’s foster brother took the blame and jail time for it. Ford’s involved in a dark relationship with a local prostitute. His sex life with his long-time girlfriend skewers toward the deviant. And, soon, Ford starts murdering people. By the end of the book at least five people are dead at his hands, and a sixth dead because of the shock of Ford’s actions. Ford left little direct evidence of his crimes, so he is placed in a mental hospital until he finally trips up enough to force an end game with the police.

This book is dark and twisted and strange today. It must have blown people’s minds back in 1952.


Midnight Sun – Jo Nesbø
Crap. I hate it when I read a book not knowing that it is a sequel or part of a series that had other books before it. I’m not sure I missed much not having read Nesbø’s Blood on the Snow, which was part of a mini-series with this book.

This is a very quick tale of a fixer for an Oslo drug dealer who skips out on a hit he was ordered to perform with a stash of drugs and money his target offered to save his life. “Ulf,” the name the fixer takes as he flees Oslo, lands in the farthest reaches of Norway and drops into a drama that has hit a small community. He runs afoul of local customs, falls in love with an unattainable woman, and has to dodge the hitmen who have come to take back what he left Oslo with. And it all works out in the end.

The core of the story was fine, and I enjoy Nesbø’s writing. But this story seemed a little half-assed, and ripped through complex moments without much effort. It’s almost as if he became bored with the story and tried to get it over as quickly as he could.

That said, I’m going to dig into some of his other works this summer, as I really enjoyed his The Snowman which I read years ago.


Abandoned Book: Black Wave – Kim Ghattas
I read raves about this book, which is an accounting of the roughly 40-year battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for supremacy in the Muslim world. The idea fascinated me, as that’s a conflict that doesn’t get much attention in the US despite the many very direct effects it has had on our life.

I just couldn’t get through the book’s early section, which was so dense in history of a part of the world I know little about that I felt overwhelmed. Perhaps I’ll give it another shot some other time when my mind is more open to wading through its detail.

Friday Vids

Just a couple videos this week. After a rather cool, rainy week summer weather is finally here. So, first, a summer classic.

Next, something I stumbled across yesterday which absolutely requires ten minutes of your undivided attention.

You’re welcome.

May Media

Movies and Shows

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Hard to believe this movie came out in 2002. And that I’ve managed to not see it in those 19 years!

Based on the “autobiography” of game show creator and host Chuck Barris, it details both his efforts to make it in the TV biz and his – likely – fictional life as a CIA hitman. Reading things written about the movie upon its release, there were real questions about how much of the movie was true. I guess later Barris said he never actually worked for the CIA. But that’s exactly what someone who was a government hit man would say, right?!?!

The delight of the movie was Barris’ The Gong Show days. I freaking loved The Gong Show when I was a kid. Oh, and Sam Rockwell was amazing.

A-

Spy Game
Robert Redford and Brad Pitt in a spy thriller that takes place both in the heart of the Cold War and the years immediately afterward? Sure, I’m in.

B+

Jumanji: The Next Level
L and I watched Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle last summer. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. As for the sequel, it didn’t quite live up to the first but it was still a good enough way to spend 90 minutes with my daughter.

B-

Community, season one
Rolling Stone dropped a 100 Best Sitcoms of All Time list in early May. It reminded me of the brilliance of Community, one of my all time favs. I had forgotten how it started with a clear sense of purpose, exceptionally strong characters, and some brilliant writing. Season one had some understandable unevenness, but by the end of the year, it was firing on all cylinders.

A-

Spring Baking Championship
Still working through this. I have two episodes left.

B+

Big Shot
L found this new Disney+ series about girls high school basketball. John Stamos plays a legendary men’s college hoops coach who left Wisconsin in disgrace after throwing a chair and hitting a ref. He attempts to reboot his career at an exclusive, all-girls school in La Jolla and is forced to navigate a world very different than where he came from.

It has some nice moments but reaches a little too far at times. L and I laugh because the team’s super star player, while athletic, has the worst looking jumper you’ve ever seen. Always hard to cast shows where actors have to be players.

Stamos’ character also seems to be very much modeled on Rick Pitino. Or maybe it’s just because Stamos looks a little like Pitino that make his mannerisms seem Pitino-esque. We started watching four weeks into the series so were able to binge to get caught up but are now waiting for the weekly drops of new episodes.

B

For All Mankind, season one
I heard mixed things about this show when it first dropped on AppleTV+. Recently, though, a couple people I follow expressed praise for it, so I decided to knock it out before my free year of the service ran out.

It is a retelling of the space race as if the Russians reached the moon first, and the US was left scrambling to catch up. The alternative history stuff is kind of cool. The political elements are played up just enough to be interesting without overwhelming the main space story. The space stuff is pretty well done, although there are a couple things that occur in the finale that I’m not sure could actually happen.

In the end, the show is pretty compelling and entertaining, anchored by a handful of excellent acting performances. I’m going to keep watching into season two.

A-


Shorts

Apple vs The Paradox of Choice!
If you make something cool, Apple just might come and crush you.

B

Shadows in the Sky
Stunning time lapse videos of clouds and storms.

A

Colette: The French resistance fighter confronting fascism
This amazing and somewhat overwhelming piece won the Oscar for best short documentary this year. It details the trip of Colette, a 90-year-old French woman whose entire family was part of the resistance during World War II, traveling to the concentration camp where her brother died in the closing weeks of the war.

A

How Long Should Your Naps Be?
I think they miss the correct answer, which always seems to be 15–20 minutes longer or shorter than you actually sleep.

B

Leslie Odom, Jr. teaches Philly Slang
Delightful

A

Weekend Notes

One of our more laid back Memorial Day holiday weekends is now in the books. Unlike most of the past decade, when we would either go to the lake or host a pool party, we had no major plans this year. We did have some friends over for dinner Friday, but it was cold and rainy that night so the adults stayed inside while the girls got into the pool for just a bit after I cranked the heater up. Almost all of our local family were traveling to one place or another so that eliminated the option for a gathering of relatives.

We did get some things accomplished, though.

S got the inside of the pool house painted yesterday, with some help from L.

Oh, and we bought a new house.

Wait, what?!?!

No, we did not really add another property to our list of holdings. Rather, we helped my in-laws buy a new place.

They’ve been in Florida for five years now, I think. Covid shutting down most of the things that drew them to Florida – thank goodness they live in an area that takes it seriously – and helped them to realize they want to be closer to most of their family. They looked at a few places in December but weren’t 100% sure about making the move back then. They visited in April and looked some more, but with the market so hot they couldn’t find something that met their needs before another buyer snatched it up. They looked into building but between delays and higher costs, that did not seem like a good option.

In a perfect world they would have hung on another 6–12 months and hope the market cools and more inventory opens up. But the Florida summers are a lot for them and they had their realtor keep a search open for them.

A couple places popped up this weekend. S took M to drive by a couple Saturday morning and S thought one was a possibility. She called her stepmother, talked it through, then set up a viewing with their/our realtor that I tagged along for. The house was a model home in a new neighborhood. We really liked it. After walking through and discussing with the realtor, S FaceTimed her stepmom and gave her a tour.

They made an offer that night and it was accepted Sunday afternoon. Looks like my in-laws will be back in Indy in about a month. I believe their plans will be to still get out of Indy for a few months in the winter as long as their health allows them to.

It was kind of fun to see S get that house shopping look in her eyes. Especially when it wasn’t us who were buying!

And, for the record, I do not understand the housing market at all. It makes no sense to me how it can be so blistering hot when the economy has been battered for the past year and the US population is fairly stable. Where are all these people coming from? What happens to the old homes/apartments/condos that these people are leaving?

We refinanced in February and our closer said he was genuinely worried about what’s going to happen in a couple years, after pretty much everyone is locked into insanely low interest mortgages and rates finally rise. No one, he suggested, is going to move unless they absolutely have to.

I see his logic, but there is no rational explanation for why the market is so hot now, so I’m starting to believe that, like the stock market, the housing market operates under different rules than all you finance types learn about in school.

Oh, one other thing happened this weekend: I got my first cold since before Covid hit. M brought something home last week and I was the first to pick it up. Like a couple years back, when I went two-plus years without a cold, it has knocked me on my ass. I suppose I should get tested, but since we’re not really going anywhere right now, as long as it passes in a couple days I don’t really see a need to do that. It’s just been a bad cough and sore throat for the past three days, but my sinuses are beginning to fill up so I guess I’ve got a couple days of that to look forward to. L started sneezing last night.

During the Indy 500 we took the girls to a new area downtown to eat lunch outside. We sat down just as the flyover was passing overhead, walked around a bit, then got home about halfway through the race. I promptly turned the TV on, laid down, and napped until there were 10 laps left. Which, given how fast and uneventful the race passed, was pretty much all I needed to see. Pretty cool to see Helio Castroneves finally get his fourth win.

Now it is summer. The girls all get to sleep in today. C starts her summer school gym class tomorrow, meaning she and I will be back to the 6:50 alarms for the rest of June.

On Lost Hits and a Must-See Classic Video

A special music post for this Memorial Day. It has nothing to do with the holiday, but this seemed like a good day to squeeze it in.

Music writer Sean Ross tracks what he calls Lost Hits. Based on his self-created Lost Factor, he looks at old songs and sees how often they get played today. Songs that were popular years ago but rarely, if ever, get played these days become his Lost Hits. You can dig into his old posts if you want more background on his process.

Recently he took a countdown from May 14, 1983 and asked some of his readers to share if they knew of the songs when they were on the charts vs. if they learned about them later vs. if they never heard them.

This shit is right up my alley.

I was less interested in his results than my own. I did adjust the methodology a bit. I scrolled through the list just to see how many songs I could immediately recognize. I did pretty well: of that week’s top 40 songs, I remembered 37. Interestingly enough, the only three I could not recall, even after listening to them, were sequential in that week’s countdown. “So Wong,” by Patrick Simmons at #34; “I Couldn’t Say No,” by Robert Ellis Orral at #33; and Barry Manilow’s “Some Kind of Friend” at #32.

“So Wrong” is not a bad song at all, although generic enough that I see why I don’t remember it. “Some Kind of Friend” is forgettable, late-phase Manilow. And “I Couldn’t Say No” is a genuinely awful song.

For grins I shot this list to my two brothers-in-music who were also huge chart geeks when we were coming up. Ed in ATX knew 33 of the songs. That surprised me as he was living in England back in 1983 and I figured his American chart knowledge would be a little lacking. John in Lee’s Summit, who was arguably more chart-obsessed than me when we were middle schoolers, checked in at 32 songs. He said this chart came just before he really got into pop music and AT40.

Honestly I’m impressed they were in the same ballpark as my total, given they both have demanding careers that should have pushed a lot of this nonsense out of their brains. Meanwhile I listen to old AT40’s several times a week as I’m cooking, cleaning, and doing other stuff around the house and my brain is more focused on remembering kickball results than anything that generates revenue for an employer.

If you are interested, here is Ross’ original post with the list of songs of you want to take a gander.

‘AT40’ vs. The Lost Factor

When he sent me his results, John told me I needed to go back and watch Al Jarreau’s video for “Mornin’.” I was floored by it. It’s so shockingly bad that it’s great. There is A LOT much going on in it.

Friday Vids

Drums please…


Summer is here! So why is the high only going to be 60 tomorrow? Remind me of this when the heat index is 115 in two months.


Happy race weekend to my Indy peeps.

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