Month: December 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Wrapping Up (+ TWOD)

We are in the full-on holiday frenzy around here.

Yesterday was the girls’ final day of school of 2017. St. P’s always dismisses early on the last day before Christmas break which adds even more excitement to the day. While sitting in the parking lot at dismissal, a friend said he was taking his kids to Dairy Queen and asked if we wanted to join them. Of course my girls did! So the first act of Christmas vacation was having some ice cream.

About an hour later it was off to the airport to pick up my in-laws. They’re staying with us, so I had spent the morning getting the house ready for guests.

Right now the girls are having a major cookie and cake baking session with their grandmother and three aunts. The house smells really good! We have only done our normal weekly baking this month since we’re leaving town Monday.[1] Thus the girls are extra excited to be spending hours baking.

I had to go run a couple small errands this morning. But it was a little odd popping into the grocery story for just milk and a couple other things, rather than making a huge trip to get all the goods for a large gathering. One of S’s sisters is hosting our Christmas Eve get together, and then the family is doing a Christmas afternoon event at our house, but after we depart. Odd but nice. Our grocery store of choice was a complete madhouse when I stopped in today. I saw one accident in the parking lot. I needed to get gas but there were lines for the pumps two cars deep that spilled out into the street.

I also hit three liquor stores looking for a specific kind of beer. My favorite beer of this holiday season has been Sam Adams’ White Christmas. Apparently it’s very popular because it had been unobtainable for about a week and no more shipments are coming. I’m still drinking Nutcracker Ale, Celebration Ale, and Sam Adams’ Winter Lager. But I’m disappointed I had my last White Christmas a couple weeks ago.

Oh, and one other thing has been a part of our week…

S and I attended the sold-out War on Drugs show last night. It was, simply, the best small-mid-sized venue show I’ve ever been to. Sixteen songs stretched out over two hours and almost all were magnificent. The show was perfectly paced, as the songs just kept getting bigger and bigger, some in surprising ways. A couple of my favorites were offered up in new formats, slightly stripped down, which I loved. Both of my songs of the year, “Pain,” and “Strangest Thing,” were played. The guitar solo in “Pain” ended up being better than the one in “Strangest Thing.”

“Thinking of a Place,” which lasts over 11 minutes on the album, was stretched out over an insane 15 minutes, complete with an epic, five-minute solo in the middle section. I’m pretty sure I saw a couple people’s heads explode because they couldn’t take so much brilliance.

And “Under the Pressure” was a bit of a surprise as a highlight. I thought they played it OK in their last appearance here three years ago. But last night? HOLY FREAKING SHIT! It began with a nearly three-minute solo effort by Adam Granduciel, as he slowly built up layers of feedback-heavy riffs. Then they launched into the song, which kicked ass for about five minutes until they reached the final section of vocals, when the band built-and-built-and-built and just exploded the understood rules of physics and they raced into one, last, lengthy jam. Oh, and they had a snow machine blowing out on the crowd during this final section. Or perhaps those were just the souls of all the attendees being plucked up and thrown around because of all the pure joy in the house. I may or may not have passed out during this stretch.

From there the segued immediately into an absolutely lovely, Bob Segar-like take on “In Reverse,” which has my vote for best album-ending track ever. It was really a beautiful way to ease us down after about 105 minutes of music.

A two-song encore capped the night off really well. I must admit we snuck out a hair early, during set-closer “Eyes to the Wind,” which is one of my absolute favorite TWOD tracks. But my poor wife, who did not complain all night, had been up since before 6:00 in the morning so she could make a 7:00 meeting, saw over 30 patients during the day, was on call that night and had to sneak outside to take several calls during the show, and then had to be back at the hospital early this morning to round. She was hanging in there but I could tell as it approached midnight that she was stressing a little bit. Last thing we needed to do was get stuck in the parking garage for 30 minutes, which always happens at shows at this venue. So we eased back through the crowd during “Eyes to the Wind” and headed out the door about halfway through.

The War on Drugs is a band that is absolutely locked in and confident. They were even missing a key member – for reasons unexplained Jon Natchez was absent – but did not miss a beat. His understudy did a fine job on keyboards but Natchez’ gorgeous sax solos were missing from “Red Eyes” and “Eyes to the Wind” most notably. They were really good three years ago when I saw them the first time. Now they’re without a doubt one of the best live bands in the world. Seriously, they absolutely destroyed last night. One day my face might return to its original state after being melted so many times.

We will return home in December 30. I imagine I’ll save my trip breakdown for the following week. But I do plan on posting something for the year’s end on the 31st. Until then, though, this is likely my final post. I hope all of you have wonderful, merry Christmases. If you’re traveling, travel safe. If you’re gathering with family, hopefully those gatherings are drama-free. Mostly, enjoy the most wonderful weekend of the year.

  1. Each week one girl picks the dessert for the week and we make it together. So we’ve made three kinds of Christmas cookies as a part of that rotation. But no big piles of cookies for Christmas day, so a couple of my regular Christmas cookies did not get made this year.  ↩

26 Favorite Songs of 2017

Twenty-seventeen was solid, in music terms. It won’t go down as an all-time great one in my book, as the year lacked a legendary album (or two) and the wave of solid tunes pretty much dried up in the final quarter. And, compared to last year, not nearly as many albums stuck with me. But, as always, there were plenty of songs that I listened to a lot over the past 12 months. So, in reverse order, here are my 26 favorites. For you Spotify users, there is a playlist containing them all. I’ve also included a YouTube link for each track’s video. I’ve also included one of my favorite lyrics of each song. Enjoy!

25 – “Westside” – Ratboys
This Chicago duo calls themselves “post-country”, a term that confuses me. Sure there is a little pedal guitar in some of their songs. And I certainly here some Americana influence in their sound. But I also hear a lot more mid–90s, college rock in their sound. If I tried hard enough I bet I could draw a pretty straight line from songs like Pearl Jam’s “Crazy Mary” to this one. And I guess folks thought “Crazy Mary” sounded country-ish when it came out.

But labels are dumb, and shouldn’t distract you from one of the best albums of the year.

“I fall asleep to the memories
Of my dreams”

24 – “Regional Echo” – Jen Cloher.
A simply marvelous piece of dreamy, laconic, and classic Aussie indie rock. A genre that just so happens to currently be defined by Cloher’s wife, Courtney Barnett. While Barnett released a fun and trippy album with Kurt Vile this year, it was Cloher who kept my attention.

“The Australian dream is fading
Stolen anyway”

23 – “Aboard My Train” – Kevin Morby
Morby said he wanted to write a happy song for a change. What better way to do so than write an ode to all your friends and family who have supported you over the years? Every time I listen to it I think of my friends, ones I see often and others I rarely see, who are scattered here and there. And then I smile. I think Morby did what he set out to do.

“I have loved many faces, many places
All aboard my train but depart at different stations”

22 – “French Press” – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
An Australian Parquet Courts, perhaps? This band’s blend of art rock and jangle pop sounds quintessentially Australian. And the song’s video was the best of the year. Some days I wish I were young and Aussie and hanging out at parties like theirs.

“You find out
Who your friends are
When the city’s cold”

21 – “No Known Drink or Drug” – Japandroids
After five years in the weeds, Japandroids finally followed-up on their classic Celebration Rock album this year by largely following the same formula. If it ain’t broke… Thus it shouldn’t be a surprise that this was my favorite of their 2017 songs, as it mimics 2012’s “The House That Heaven Built” in sound, structure, and in place on the album (both are track seven on eight-song albums). “Heaven” was my favorite song of 2012. This being a (very good) knock off, it doesn’t chart quite as high.

“A slow-burning sermon to have and hold her
But ever since she started sleeping over
Oh, Lord, I’m living like a Holy Roller”

20 – “Never Start” – Middle Kids
OK, to be honest this song should not be on this list. This Aussie band released their first EP in the winter and it was about all I listened to for a week or two. But the highlight of the disk was a track that had actually been released early in 2016. It picked up steam on radio in late 2016 and suddenly was all over SiriusXM in early 2017. “[Edge of Town]” is a freaking great song. Unfortunately since it landed on my Favorite Songs of 2016 list it could not re-chart here. I mean, I guess it could have. If I broke that rule of allowing a song to chart in multiple years, it likely would have landed much higher than it did on the 2016 list. But they still required some love, and this is a damn fine song on its own.

“And I’m not trying to start a fight here
But it’s building up inside, yeah
And you don’t even know”

19 – “I’m Not” – Daddy Issues
This would be a powerful song without anything links to what is going on in the world right now. It is based on a sexual assault that drummer Emily Maxwell experienced in her teenage years, and the push by her family not to publicly name her accuser. With the #MeToo movement springing up over the course of 2017, Maxwell became part of one of the most important movements we’ve seen since the Civil Rights era. Hopefully this song has inspired some women to name their accusers, and even more, given women the power to say no and fight back when they face sexual threats.

“‘They wouldn’t get it sweetheart, please don’t tell on me’
I let my memories fall through
It’s not my fault
I blame my sexuality
I feel promiscuous but maybe I’m a prude”

18 – “Silver” – Waxahatchee
Each time Katie Crutchfield puts out a new album, it’s just a little bit better than her previous one. Thus, this song is the perfect distillation of everything great about her. Until the next album. Somehow she makes a singing about a breakup sound delightful.

“I’ll portray the old shag carpet
You can walk all over me”

17 – “Living Like the Rest” – Thunder Dreamer
While perhaps not directly in the vein of John Mellencamp, this band from Southern Indiana makes music that fits that part of the world. It’s somber, introspective music made by people who grew up in a region that increasingly feels left behind from the rest of the country. There’s a sense of unease and foreboding in the music. The lyrics speak of a war leaving people isolated and unprotected. Vagueness allows it to be applied to any war, real or imagined, physical or cultural.

“The war has stripped us cold and bare
And taken what we held so dear”

16 – “Living In The City” – Hurray for the Riff Raff
Some songs come out of nowhere, surprise you, and never go away. This delightful song, celebrating the joys of New York in the summer time, is bold, cinematic, and completely wonderful.

“Hot long summer days
We’re just sneakin’ by the river
Well, I’ll lock my dreams away
And I’ll watch the city quiver”

15 – “Motion Sickness” – Phoebe Bridgers
In certain circles, Bridgers was the most hyped artist of the year. A wonderful song writer who had worked with Ryan Adams and opened for Julien Baker before her first album was released, Stranger in the Alps arrived with massive expectations. It delivered in nearly every way, a completely beautiful work. This song raised a few eyebrows with the line “You said you met me, you were bored.” Although most folks have come to believe it was purely coincidental, that line can be interpreted as a direct response to a line in another song we’ll get to later in the countdown.

“There are no words in the English language
I could scream to drown you out”

14 – “Hot Thoughts” – Spoon
Spoon keeps chugging along. Every couple of years they put out an album that tweaks their sound just a hair, but still provides at least one fantastic track. I didn’t like this album nearly as much as Spoon’s last. But this song was inescapable for awhile. In fact, one day C asked me, “Dad, why do they play this song so much?” “Because Spoon is great!” was my response. Truth.

“Hot thoughts all in my mind and all of the time
You must be trouble for sure”

13 – “Rained On” – Frightened Rabbit
FR released only a three-song EP this year, consisting of two tracks recorded during the sessions for last year’s Painting of a Panic Attack and a new track recorded with folk artist Julien Baker. But it was a good year for the band. I feared after the tumult of the summer of 2016 that when they wrapped up their touring cycle for Panic Attack the band might go their separate ways and never reconvene again. Instead, they continued touring throughout the year, both on their own and opening for other acts. Scott Hutchison, after a lengthy interlude in LA with his girlfriend, returned home to Scotland. And just a few weeks ago he announced the band is already in the process of putting together their next album. Very good news for 2018.
This track, which is another about his time in and frustrations with LA, is beautiful and lush, and has all the elements of classic FR: it is deeply depressing yet still remains optimistic.

“Saw the heavens letting go
In a melancholy burst
Everything got rained on
Didn’t even hurt”

12 – “Star Roving” – Slowdive.
This was a year for musical comebacks. Over the summer, every couple of weeks it felt like there was a new album from a band that hadn’t been around in 10 or 15 or 20 years. Slowdive made their return after a 22 year break from recording.(fn) This has to be considered one of the greatest ever come-back tracks, taking their early 90s, shoegaze sound and updating it perfectly for the 21st century. Hopefully it has kids listening to Slowdive’s classic from the early 90s.

“In a flash of time
Said she’s feeling love for everyone tonight”

11 – “Day I Die” – The National.
I was really pumped up for the latest National album, Sleep Well Beast. Sadly, it was a big disappointment to me. But this song…wow! Not sure if it fits into my pantheon of greatest National songs, but it’s damn close. That little Flock of Seagulls-ish guitar riff pushes it over the top.

“I don’t need you, I don’t need you
Besides I barely ever see you anymore
And when I do it feels like you’re only halfway there”

10 – “This Time” – Land of Talk.
Elizabeth Powell took over six years off from making music to help care for her father, who had suffered a stroke. Her return album, Life After Youth, was a total triumph. This highlight is a perfect, atmospheric, dream pop song.

“I don’t wanna waste it, my life
And know it was in front of me”

9 – “Plimsoll Punks” – Alvvays.
What a shiny, bright, undeniable track. Don’t let folks get you down.

“You’re the seashell in my sandal, that’s slicing up my heel.”

8 – “Hope The High Road” – Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
2017 was a perfect storm for Isbell to complete his move from alt-country to the mainstream. As the Trump era began, an outspoken, liberal voice from the south who sings songs that about “the common man” and issues we all face was the perfect anecdote. There are angrier songs on his breakthrough album The Nashville Sound. But I picked this one because it is, ultimately, a hopeful one. He believes we’re going to get through this. But he believes that in order to do so, we have to keep our dignity rather than dive into the mud where Trump lives. This song sounds and feels like the perfect background music for the campaign that beats Trump in 2020. I know more than a few folks cranked it up last Tuesday after the special election in Isbell’s home state of Alabama.

“There can’t be more of them than us.”

7 – “Atlas Drowned” – Gangs of Youth
When Donald Trump was elected, there was an immediate burst of “Well, this will mean we’ll get some great music at least!” The idea being our joke of a president would inspire artists to craft dynamic songs of protest to counter his idiocracy. Here is one of the most powerful early responses, and from Australia of all places. While not directly aimed at Trump – it is a more general critique of the corporate wing of the Republican party – its anger and power are undeniable. Every time I hear it I want to run through a wall and break some stuff. Fortunately I’m 46 years old so I just nod my head and pump my fist.

“To you bells in the curve
I will love you but love not the powers you serve”

6 – “Baby Are You In?” – Kristin Kontrol
Released as a single in late December, 2016, this is the latest evolution in Kristin Welchez’s persona and sound. For the first time since she became Kristin Kontrol, her vocals recall the power of her days as Dee Dee in Dum Dum Girls. I wasn’t sure about the whole Kristin Kontrol thing, but this song made me a believer. Sadly her single released early this fall was not nearly as strong.

“Do you think about me?
When sun has set?
When the day is done?
When there’s nothing left?”
5 – “Outbound Train” – Ryan Adams
Although it’s clear now that Ryan Adams had been singing about his marriage to Mandy Moore ending well before they publicly announced their split, this year’s Prisoner LP will always be labeled as his “divorce album.” He treads ground cut by Springsteen on Tunnel of Love over much of the album, including this highlight. On an album more about being alone, sad, and confused, he saves his one, gentle repudiation of their marriage for here, when he sings, “Swear I wasn’t lonely when I met you, girl. I was so bored…” That line, Adams’ admission that some of the songs are about a relationship he had after his split with Moore, and the similarity of it to a line from Phoebe Bridgers’ “Motion Sickness” prompted speculation Adams and Bridgers were writing about each other. Folks in the know suggest that is not the case, but the connection between the songs is interesting.

While on his promotion cycle for the album, Adams made major changes to the sounds of some of the songs on Prisoner. The performance above of “Outbound Train” is a perfect example. He cranks up the amps, removes some of the tenderness and vulnerability, and roars through the track. I like to think this means he is through the pain of the divorce.

“Sometimes a man don’t know
When he’s got to walk away
I hear a rumbling and a moan
I feel like an outbound train”

4 – “Desire” – Lydia Loveless (No video available)
The second song on this year’s countdown that is a leftover from an album that was featured on last year’s countdown. This remnant from 2016’s Real LP is further evidence that Loveless is one of the best artists in music right now. She’s been through a lot in her young life – bitter romantic failures, addiction and recovery – but manages to channel all of her pain into amazing music. Here Loveless is the other woman, and not at all pleased about having to play second fiddle. What begins as a smoky, modern torch song turns into a scorching, ass-kicking beast of a performance.

“Well, I wanna lay down
That’s when the phone starts to ring
But I know I should just lower my expectations, man
Are you out on vacation with the missus again?”

3 – “Shark Smile” – Big Thief
Big Thief announced their presence with last year’s fine Masterpiece, the title track of which landed at #17 on my favorites of the year. But this year’s Capacity is the album that made band leader Adrianne Lenker a star. Her songs are built upon bits of her rather crazy upbringing(fn) combined with wonderful fictional tales. “Shark Smile” is a fine representation of her style. It first reads as a tale of two lovers involved in a car accident; one dies, one lives. Lenker said it was inspired, though, by losing three friends in car accidents over a rather brief period. Her delivery is haunting and perfect, and that guitar is one of the most unforgettable music moments of the year.

“And she said woo
Baby, take me
And I said woo
Baby, take me too”

2 – “The Gold” – Manchester Orchestra
Every year one song ends up in high rotation on the SiriusXM alt/indie rock channels and sticks around all year. Last year it was Wild Nothing’s “To Know You,” which ended up being my favorite song of the year, too. This was 2017’s track, which I still hear a couple times a week.

For good reason; it’s fantastic. And it’s a nice return to MO’s best sound, something they got away from a bit on their past two albums. Here they find that perfect area where the drama builds and builds but never push it too far. The chorus is the one I sang more often and louder than any all year. And the lyrics are spectacular, a fine rumination on the moment when all the early passion of a relationship fades and you’re forced to decide if it is worth dealing with all of a lover’s flaws that were masked by the blooming of love.

“I believed you were crazy
You believed you loved me”

1A – “Strangest Thing” – The War on Drugs

1B – “Pain” – The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs’ A Deeper Understanding was the perfect, and ultimate, version of everything Adam Granduciel has been working toward over his career. Although I still say 2014’s Lost in the Dream is a (slightly) better album, Understanding was still amazing. From it, two songs stood out. I’ve spent the past three months trying to separate those two songs from each other. I was unsuccessful. So, I’m taking the easy way out and proclaiming them co-champions of 2017.

“Pain” is the more traditional song, although Granduciel never writes classic, radio-friendly songs. But at least this one you can sing along to parts of it. The guitar solo in the song’s final third is one of the best moments in music this year, especially the final of that solo’s three sections, at the 4:33 mark of the song, when things get just a little hazy and it feels like the band has launched you into the air, leaving you to soar weightlessly until gravity claims you again. “Pain” also contains what could be the ultimate TWOD lyric, which kind of sums up everything the band is about.

“I want to find what can’t be found”

“Strangest Thing” blew apart the music blogosphere upon its release in July. I think I can sum up the general reaction with two words: “HOLY FUCK!” An epic song for a time when epic songs like this just aren’t made anymore. Where “Pain” contains one of the best musical moments of the year, “Strangest Thing” contains no fewer than three of those moments. There is the first time the song’s main riff is heard, at the 2:40 mark. Nearly a minute later, at the 3:33 mark, we get our first epic guitar solo. And, finally, at the 4:27 mark, the entire world melts, new galaxies are born, and life as we know it is replaced by something completely new and amazing.

“Be the writer of your own story
Let it turn you to love again”

The Last Jedi

OK, a quick five-minute listing of thoughts on The Last Jedi, which I saw last night. Spoiler alert!

Conclusion first: The Last Jedi was very good. I had a few problems with it, but overall it was very entertaining, very well shot, had a decent story, and was worth two-and-a-half hours of my time.

What I liked most: Man, was the movie action packed. The natural comparison is going to be with The Empire Strikes Back. In Empire there were long segments that moved the story forward but lacked action. Here Rian Johnson did a lot of chopping those longer scenes into smaller segments then going back-and-forth to avoid any moments that dragged. It seemed like every five minutes or so here came another action sequence.

And the action sequences were pretty epic. The opening space battle. Rey’s training. The escapades on the casino planet. Rey and Kylo Ren’s battle, which, let’s be honest, isn’t just one of the greatest scenes in the entire franchise but is one of the all-time great action sequences. The final moments of the space battle in which Laura Dern’s character does something amazing that was shot in a brilliant manner. The resulting battle on the First Order ship. And then the final battle scene. It was all the goodness of the end of Rogue One without the 90 minutes of waiting to get there.[1]

Also glad that Carrie Fisher filmed all of her parts before her death. I was kind of surprised at what a big role she played in the movie. Watching her scenes did make me a little sad.

Favorite line: Finn, upon the arrival of the Millennium Falcon to the scene of the final battle, “They HATE that ship!”

Things that were problematic: Leia drifting in space for awhile then using the Force to revive herself and float back into her crippled ship. I mean, come on. Last Jedi isn’t as beholden to the original trilogy as The Force Awakens was, but I still thought there were too many moments that were call backs to the movies of 1977–83. Sometimes they were little, subtle things, but I don’t think those are necessary at this point. And I found the final minutes rather Spielberg-ian. The surviving resistance group, small enough to all fit comfortably in the Falcon, all hugging and celebrating? Come on, they just got totally wiped out. That should be a somber moment. Yeah, yeah, I know. They carry the spark of hope that will bring about the downfall of the First Order. But that felt way too light to me. And then the closing scene, with the little kids playing felt cheesy to me. Again, I get the point: hope is sprinkled around the galaxy and in episode IX it will bloom. Still, I didn’t like it.

Still can’t believe Harrison Ford only signed on for one movie and they had to kill of Han.

That said, I don’t have any big problems with the movie. My brother-in-law and I both avoided reviews and spoilers, but were aware of this “backlash” against the movie. Afterward we were both confused about why people would be upset about the movie. It’s not perfect, but to say it’s a failure is dumb.

I read an article this morning that suggested some of that disappointment came from people who had invested too much time in parsing out details from the trailers, what Rian Johnson and actors said before the movies release, etc. and bought into theories that were based purely on speculation. One of the big points seemed to be the reveal of Rey’s parents. Some folks are disappointed and let down by who they are. But their hopes were based entirely on rumors and Internet gossip. I don’t see how you can be pissed about that when there was no concrete reason to expect that outcome to be different.

Oh well. I enjoy the Star Wars movies but I’m not like super into them. I’ll get the BluRay for L when it is released and watch it again with her then. But then I’ll probably not think about it much until episode IX is about to be released. I’ll be interested to see where that episode goes with Rian Johnson not being involved at all. I think Last Jedi is better than Force Awakens. What happens when JJ Abrams re-takes the reins for episode IX?

OK, so that was more like 15 minutes.

  1. And I loved Rogue One. But it does take awhile to get to the really good stuff.  ↩


For a guy who doesn’t have a job, I’m insanely busy this week.

Monday I had to run down to the lake house to meet with some contractors who will, hopefully, be doing some upgrades to the place before next summer rolls around. That meeting, along with spending a couple hours blowing the last of our leaves down there, took up most of the day before I got the girls home and had to drive the sports practice taxi.

Earlier today was my last library shift of the calendar year. It’s always fun to be in the school in those final, frenzied day before Christmas vacation. The librarian read L’s class a couple Christmas books, including one about the 12 days of Christmas. The kids capped it off with a rousing rendition of the song. It was a very A Christmas Story moment.

Here shortly I’m off to the dentist for a checkup.

I have cleaning and shopping to do ahead of family coming in for the holiday weekend.

I have a large gift that needs to be assembled during hours when I am the only one home.

There’s laundry and organizing to be done in preparation for our trip next week.

We have a practice tonight, another Thursday, then one Friday and Saturday.

I’m seeing Last Jedi tonight.

I’m seeing The War on Drugs on Thursday night.

So it’s looking tough to get any of my promised blogging done. Some of it may just have to wait until the holiday week or the first week of 2018.

But I must share one story from the weekend.

I’m wrapping up my Favorite Songs of the Year post, as it is the season for Best Of lists to be dropped. In that vein, I may have, at the last second, clinched Father of the Year on Sunday.

It was L’s second set of basketball games of the season. We were in the fourth quarter of our first game of the day, down 11–6, and desperate to hit a shot or two. L got the ball on the break, and as had happened just about every time we had a chance for a layup, the other team’s best player came from behind and blocked her shot out of bounds. I thought it was a pretty clean block. And we hadn’t gotten that call all day anyway.[1] But L disagreed. She walked away with both arms up in the air, a look of incredulous disbelief on her face, stomped her feet a little, and yelled “How was that not a foul?”

Listen, on the one hand I totally dig that. She’s a bit of a chucker and this reaction fits that player type.

Still, she’s in third grade and it was an unreasonable reaction.

So I laid into her from the bench. I told her to knock it off. We were trying to get our girls situated for the inbounds play when I noticed she was doubled over, hands under her glasses, crying. I grabbed our other point guard to sub in and called L over. When she got to the bench I asked, “What happened? Did you get hit in the face?”


Here we go.

I leaned over and cut to the chase.

“I don’t care if there was a foul or not, you do not react that way. You showed no respect for the referees. I’ve told you before that you do not complain about the refs when you’re playing. That’s our jobs as coaches. You just keep playing. And if you ever react like that again I will not let you play anymore. Do you understand?”

More tears.

This kid doesn’t cry very often, but she does it the most is when I’ve gotten on her for her behavior. She just does not like to be yelled at by me.

So she was pretty much done for the game. Our other guard was dying after a couple minutes and L was still crying, refusing to go in. After the game she went and sat with S and started crying again. So I left her alone. Several parents came over and asked if she got hurt and I told them what had happened. Once she seemed to be calmed down I went up and explained to S what had happened. And again told L she can’t react like that. More tears. We had an hour between games but I was a starting to think she wasn’t going to calm down. S told me to get lost for awhile so I went over to talk strategy for the next game with the other coaches. Finally L got herself together and hung out with her teammates and acted ok toward me.

In between games two other girls on our team were crying because of things their parents had said to them. None of them were showing up the refs so I’m not sure what their problems were.

Anyway, if my mother, or her spirit or whatever, was able to watch from above, she was probably laughing. I remember a couple times when I acted like a jackass in YMCA baseball or basketball games and she got in my face and told me if I didn’t knock it off, I was done playing. Granted, I think my behavior back then was way worse than what L did. I know I chucked a batting helmet from second base to the dugout once. But it did feel like the transgressions of my youth coming back to haunt me.

I figure we’ll have a talk about this again before her next set of games. It’s fine to be upset, but you don’t stomp around the court acting like you were just the subject of the worst no-call in the history of sports. I do not want my kids being jackasses on the court/field.

Oh, the games? We dropped that first one 13–6. But, man, we played so much better than two weeks ago! We put some basic offense in and it actually worked a couple times. Our defense was better. We rebounded. The other team just had one girl that was the best kid on the court and probably scored 11 of their points. We missed approximately 800 layups or shots within five feet. Despite losing, we coaches felt pretty good after the game. Except for having three girls crying in the hallway.

Then we got our first win of the season in the second game, 12–4. L scored 6, including a pretty decent baseline jumper. We were awesome on defense, dominated the boards against a smaller team, and missed approximately 900 layups or shots within five feet. Our girls really should be hearing “USE THE BACKBOARD!” and “HIT THE SQUARE!” in their sleep because I felt like the three coaches and all the parents spend the entire game yelling those two phrases.

So we’re making progress. Now we have nearly a month to practice before our next doubleheader. We need to work on fundamentals, obviously. We need to teach the girls some simple motion offense to use when things breakdown instead of just having L or our other point guard dribble around until they can take a shot. But it was good to get a win.

  1. Somehow the other team shot eight free throws, making 3, and we shot none, despite both teams hacking the hell out of every shooter. Whatevs…  ↩

Friday Playlist

It’s a special week for the Friday playlist. 

As some of you know, I used to do a semi-private podcast on which I played music for friends. At the end of each year, I would share my favorite songs of the previous 12 months. As the years piled up, I thought a cool way to introduce those year-end lists would be to review what my favorite songs of the previous years were. Thus was born a playlist made of of the #1 song from each of my Best Of lists.

Although I didn’t begin podcasting until 2005, this list begins in 2004. I’ve not edited it: for several of the years the song that I picked as #1 at the time would not still rank as #1 if I were to re-pick today. I’m sticking with the original list, though.

So there’s your set up. Here are the songs.

2004: “Float On” – Modest Mouse

2005: “Going Missing” – Maximo Park

2006: “Star Witness” – Neko Case

2007: “Intervention” – Arcade Fire

2008: “The Modern Leper” – Frightened Rabbit

2009: “Whirring” – The Joy Formidable

2010: “FootShooter” – Frightened Rabbit

2011: “He Gets Me High” – Dum Dum Girls

2012: “The House That Heaven Built” – Japandroids

2013: “Holy” – Frightened Rabbit

2014: “Red Eyes” – The War On Drugs

2015: “California Nights” – Best Coast

2016: “An Otherwise Disappointing Life” / “Break” – Frightened Rabbit

A couple notes: “Whirring” was rereleased two years later and actually was a bigger hit in the US then. I knew about it when it first came out, though, which makes me super cool. And last year I could not decide between two FR songs and thus had a tie for first. Something to keep in mind for next week…

Holiday Vibes

Tonight’s the night. Last school Christmas program ever for our family. After fifteen total performances between preschool and 1st–3rd grades, L will close it out this evening when she stars as Ms. Jingle, the mayor of Jingle Bell Hills.[1] She has one of the three biggest roles and has taken to it in classic L form. She had all her lines memorized before Thanksgiving weekend was over. She’s added a little bit of flair to them over the past week. Not sure if that was because of urging of her teachers or it is all on her. She really gets everything out of her lines that she can, though. She’s also frustrated because some of her classmates still don’t have all their lines down.[2] I’m sure it will all be fine tonight.

With the Christmas program coming tonight, I should probably offer an update on the state of Christmas spirit in our house. As you would expect with our girls’ ages, it has dipped significantly this year.

M rolls her eyes and mutters “Ohmygod” under her breath at things she used to go crazy for. She wants nothing to do with the traditional kids Christmas shows, although she will pay some attention to Elf and Christmas Vacation. Her gift requests are decidedly teen: expensive headphones, new shoes, new clothes. She’s repeated her crappiness from last year where she ruins where our Elf is for her sisters. I knocked that shit off early this year, and for the most part she has little interest in where he ends up each morning. Although this morning, when he was in the refrigerator door, she jumped and laughed and put a warning sign on the fridge door after her sisters had seen him.

C isn’t quite to M’s level of disinterest yet, but it’s certainly coming. She’ll sit and watch part of Christmas shows, but generally disappear to do other things. She’s been doing some Christmas crafts on her own. She has also asked for very practical gifts: she wants a new desk and some new sheets. She and L also got all excited about making gifts for each other on their day out of school Tuesday.

And L is hanging in there, but I can’t help but think it’s mostly for show and for my benefit. She and I faithfully watch a Christmas show every night, although she finds the classics like Rudolph boring and prefers to watch all the Food Network holiday baking shows.[3] She excitedly looks for Elfie each day, although she doesn’t write him cute little notes like she used to. L is the pleaser of the group, so I figure she’s always going to have Christmas spirit just because she knows it makes me happy.

We have an Advent calendar on the wall that uses a felt candy cane to mark the current day. The girls used to fight over who got to move it. Now some days it doesn’t get moved until well into the evening, and I think L has kind of taken over that duty.

And only L has requested driving around and looking at lights in the evening.

As I mentioned earlier this week our big family Christmas gift is going to Denver to spend Christmas week with family out there. The girls are CRAZY excited about that. We fly out on Christmas day, and their cousins[4] do not know that we’re coming. We bought Santa hats to wear when we surprise them at their front door. Our girls CAN NOT WAIT for that! Which, as I think about it more, means they are getting a more mature view of Christmas. They’re excited to make someone else’s day special and memorable. So I guess we’ve done something right.

  1. I believe I called it Jingle Town in our family Christmas letter. I regret the error.  ↩
  2. Her emphasis.  ↩
  3. We had begun watching ABC’s Great American Baking Show. I just read how the show has been cancelled because of sexual harassment claims against Johnny Iuzzini. I guess it’s time for that talk with the girls.  ↩
  4. Eight the day after Christmas and five.  ↩

Pat DiNizio

News is hitting the Pat DiNizio, lead singer of the most excellent band The Smithereens, has died. He was 62. To me, The Smithereens were always a super cool band that bridged various gaps. They didn’t fit into standard 80s rock or pop radio, yet they weren’t a truly college rock band like R.E.M. Their music had strong elements of 60s pop (thanks to DiNizio’s obsession with The Beatles), and gritty, blue-collar, bar-band rock. They were smart yet accessible. A hell of a band that made a ton of great songs in their prime.

This week’s Friday Playlist will be a little different than normal, so I’ll share this video in honor of DiNizio today. I always have a hard time picking a favorite Smithereens song, but this is always at or near the top of the list.

A Day Off

A weird start to the week. I had planned on going into hermit mode for a couple days, as I had a large library book that is due Wednesday and I still had to plow through about 200 more pages of it. I tried to renew, but there’s a waiting list for it, so I endeavored to dive in and finish it up, avoiding online time as much as possible.

Then I got a call at 12:30 yesterday that threw everything out of sorts. The main water line just outside St. P’s had burst. They were closing school at 1:30 so I had to run down and get the girls earlier than normal. Apparently there’s some kind of law that you can’t have school without running water. Weren’t kids educated just fine without running water until only about 100 years ago?!?!

I got the girls home and they were just a little wound up, as you would expect. Being so close to Christmas break did not help. The initial word from school was that they expected the line to be repaired on Monday and school to resume today. But less than five minutes before the girls would go to bed last night notification came that the repairs had not begun yet, so school was cancelled for today, too. There was much rejoicing, especially from M who was supposed to have a big science test today. Even if they go back to school tomorrow – and crews are apparently working as I type – the middle schoolers are off to see a performance of A Christmas Carol tomorrow, which gives her another day to prep for the last big science test of the semester. She’s pretty fired up about it.

We gave the girls a little extra awake time last night, and I let them sleep in this morning.[1] It’s crazy cold here today, so we couldn’t go do anything outside. I figured a movie would be a good way to waste some time. We just got back from seeing Coco which was completely fantastic. We went to the fancy theater where you can order food, so the girls all got treats along with popcorn. But the best part was we had the theater to ourselves. Which makes sense for 1:00 on a Tuesday three weeks after the movie came out. It was kind of an odd experience.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first day that school has been cancelled at St. P’s since our freak snowstorm that wiped out the first day after spring break back in March of 2013. We’ve had a couple delays here-and-there, but no snow days since then. Hopefully this isn’t a sign that this winter will be filled with days off.

Oh, and I finished my book with a big push last night and this morning.

Our Christmas break is going to be a little different this year. We’re headed to Denver on Christmas day to spend a week with our family out there. So I need to cram some decent content into the next week-plus. Be looking for my breakdown of TV I’m Watching Now, which I haven’t done for awhile. A new Reader’s Notebook entry. And at least two posts revolving around my favorite music of the year.

  1. Except for L. I wake her up at 6:50 every school day. But on weekends or days off, she somehow gets herself up at like 6:30 every time. Kind of maddening.  ↩

Friday Playlist

A quick burst of high quality new tunes over the past week.

“Entitlement Crew” – The Hold Steady. The band just completed a four-night stretch at the Brooklyn Bowl and recorded this track, along with a B side, in advance of those shows. Franz Nicolay is back with the band, which is great news! And the song is pretty good!

“Passing Out” – Strand of Oaks. Tim Showalter scrapped an entire album of material before hunkering down to bang out this year’s Hard Love. That album is ranking highly on many Best Of lists, but I did not love it. Early 2018 will bring a new Strand of Oaks release that features both some revamped tracks from Hard Love along with some of the songs from the rejected album, including this one. Man, this is a great song, and it gets me back on the Strand of Oak bandwagon.

“Maria” – Lionlimb. This band is made up of members of Angel Olsen’s backing band. This sounds nothing like Olsen’s music. It sounds like Elliott Smith doing psychedelic, baroque, Beatle-esque pop. I dig. 

“Over the Midnight” – Jonathan Wilson. Wilson has played a huge role in helping Father John Misty develop his sound. You can certainly hear some of that in this mesmerizing track.

“Listen the Snow is Falling” – Galaxie 500. I laughed last night when I saw videos from San Antonio of it snowing down there. We picked the right week to go! This time tomorrow we could have a couple inches on the ground for our first snowfall of the year. Just the excuse I need to pull out this beauty. 

 “Fairytale of New York” – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl. An all-timer.

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