Month: December 2019 (Page 1 of 2)

Decade in Review

I love the turning of the calendar. A new year is an opportunity to look back on what you’ve experienced over the past 12 months while building anticipation for what is to come in the next 12. When the decade is rolling over, that just makes it more fun.

I have vivid memories of Christmas break 1979, watching various decade-end retrospectives on TV, hearing ads that pulled the arrival of the ‘80s into their copy, and getting very excited about the new year. And I recall my parents giving me weird looks when I emerged from my room with signs that greeted the new decade. I guess we should have all known in that moment I would forever be obsessed with the eighties!

The 2010s were a more relaxed decade in our house than the 2000s were. Where the last decade brought marriage and three kids, this decade was all about our girls growing up. They all went to school, lost a ton of teeth, learned how to ride bikes, and played a lot of youth sports. I feel like S and I are pretty much the same people we were 10 years ago, although with a few more pounds and a little less of the natural hair color we had the last time we welcomed a new decade.

Over the past day I’ve done a quick review of the site’s archives. I read the subject lines and summary paragraphs of every post for the past ten years. Here are some of the biggest highlights of that period.

2010

The Colts lost in the Super Bowl
I covered the best high school basketball game of my writing career
I went to my first (and only) Indy 500
M started kindergarten and our St. P’s career
The Royals traded Zack Greinke

2011

(This year is incomplete because I lost about six months of posts because of my meddling with the site)
I attended Peyton Manning’s last game as a Colt
I ran the Mini Marathon
We spring breaked in Hilton Head
We purchased our first family fish
I began my review of the James Bond movies
KU fired a football coach

2012

The epic final Kansas-Missouri basketball games
Indy hosted the Super Bowl
KU made it to the national championship game with a memorable run
Peyton Manning left Indy
I ran into LeBron James and yelled at Mario Chalmers in an Indy hotel
We bought our lake house
I started brewing my own beer
C started kindergarten
The Royals traded Wil Myers and I was pissed

2013

We went to Disney and Captiva Island on two different trips
S got a new job
The Pacers damn near beat the Heat in the conference finals
The Royals contended until deep in September
We had a family wedding in Boston

2014

I refused to watch the greatest comeback in Colts history
We began the year with two massive snowstorms and bitter cold that cost us an entire week of school
The Jojo and Wiggs experience arrived with so much promise but ended with a whimper
We got rid of our minivan
Casey Kasem died
We bought a boat
L started kindergarten
The Royals made their first magical October run
I made my first trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse
I watched Kentucky absolutely destroy my Jayhawks
KU fired a football coach

2015

We returned to Captiva
The first mega-epic KU-West Virginia game
I bought a camera
A crazy storm made things very interesting at the lake house
The Royals freaking won it all

2016

I lost my stepdad
I coached L’s basketball team
I saw KU lose to Villanova in Louisville
S got to appear on TV several times
Prince died
We went to Orange Beach, AL for spring break
I saw Frightened Rabbit perform twice
I became kickball coordinator
I read the Harry Potter books over a three week period
We spent Christmas in Denver

2017

The BIFM experience
The second mega-epic KU-West Virginia game
L wore high tops to First Communion
Our last fish died

2018

KU-West Virginia played three more mega-epic games
We went to Mexico for spring break
KU made the Final Four
M finally won a city championship in kickball
Scott Hutchison died
We bought a new house, moved, sold the lake house and boat, and after a long wait sold our old house here
We survived three weeks without internet and cable
S and I went to New York for the first time
I became golf-curious
KU fired a football coach

2019

I argued with our gas/water company to get a correct bill after six months
KU’s Big 12 streak ended after 14 years
M won a city championship in volleyball
S nearly missed our spring break because her passport was expired
We went to Cancun
Tiger won the Masters
M went to DC and graduated from St. P’s
C rocked the city track meet
We built a pool
We went to San Diego
I took my first golf lesson and became golf-obsessed
M started high school
Andrew Luck retired

I’m sure there are some big things I missed along the way. But seems like it was a pretty interesting decade. I’m glad I survived it. I hope we are all lucky enough to gather around whatever the device of the day is in ten years to do this again.

Happy New Year to you all!

Christmas Notes

As my post yesterday said, we have closed out the family portion of our Christmas break. Here’s what we were up to over the last week.

Like every year, Christmas Eve was a day of manic getting ready. There was prepping as much food as possible for the brunch we were hosting the next day. That included detailed evaluations of what foods/beverages could spend a night in a cooler and what items needed to stay in the steady cool of the fridge. This is a low-key super stressful act, as one wrong decision could wreck your meal or, worse, turn a delightful holiday gathering into one remembered for when Uncle D gave everyone a stomach bug.

We attended 4:00 Mass, which meant we had to depart our house at about 3:00 to make sure we got seats and weren’t banished to standing in the entryway. Which meant the girls started getting ready shortly after lunch. We actually got terrific seats but my complaint was that we sat with our backs to the entryway. I like being able to see people come in, nod to friends, maybe stroll over and share a Christmas greeting with some of them.

From there it was on to our first big family gathering, the annual Christmas Eve dinner at my sister-in-law’s house in our old neighborhood. If I’m counting correctly there were 26 people in attendance. Always great food and company. But, man, these things wear me out. Back in the day we would get home, put the kids to bed, and I’d crack open another beer or three while doing those final toy assemblies for under the tree as I watched A Christmas Story and chatted with whoever was staying at our home that year. These days, though, I’m so stuffed I just sit on the couch without a drink, waiting for the bloating to go down so I can sleep comfortably.

Christmas morning! We actually had to wake two girls up this year; L was the only one who was wide awake at the appointed hour. They hustled downstairs and quickly dispatched their gifts. M got an essential oil misting thing, some LED lights for her room, and her ears re-pierced. C got Air Force 1’s, a new sweatshirt, and the second piercings in her ears.[1] L got two Xbox games, some art supplies, and Cookie Monster pajama pants. We still don’t understand why she asked for those but, whatever, they made her happy. The girls had a hard time coming up with lists so this was a year I was thankful we have always stuck to the three gifts rule.

We will be adding some concrete to our driveway soon, which will create more parking space for teenagers. After that is poured, we will put in a basketball hoop, which is mostly for L but her sisters and their friends will mess around with, too.

After gifts it was time to get the oven stuffed for brunch. I made four casseroles, we had ham, and other assorted Christmas fare. This meal was attended by 19 (I think).

Christmas evening our Denver relatives arrived. They dropped by for a quick dinner and hangout session.

Thursday was another big family gathering. Everyone met at our house, jumped on a chartered bus, and headed out to Speedway. The backroom of a restaurant was reserved for a dinner that celebrated both the 10th birthday of our nephew from Denver (that day) and the upcoming 80th birthday of my father-in-law. We had 30-ish people at this event. Part of the proceedings were to take a full-family picture as well as one of 12 of the 14 grandkids who were able to attend.[2] Following that, we hopped back on the bus and went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to drive through their Christmas light display, which was pretty spectacular. The Denver cousins spent the night with our girls after.

Friday was a laid-back day. C had volleyball practice. M went to a movie with a friend. C, L, and I played Settlers of Catan for the first time.

Saturday was our annual Christmas dessert gathering at our house. Usually this is Christmas afternoon but we moved it so everyone could attend. We were again pushing 30 people. Fortunately while it was dreary, the temperature was pushing 60 and we were able to sit on the back porch without needing the fireplace going. The Denver family departed from the party to the airport. Our Boston family spent the night with us before hitting the road back to home early Sunday morning. And the in-laws flew back to Florida Sunday afternoon.

Whew! It was such a whirlwind. But it was great to have everyone home and together for a few days. It was hard to catch up with everyone – you would angle to talk to someone, get interrupted, and then never get another chance. That is the downside of these large gatherings.

It is certainly stressful to host. I was always more relaxed on the nights when I wasn’t in charge of the proceedings. And there was really only one event when I kind of checked out, and that was more because I was feeling a little under the weather than because of the stress or company. Our girls were mostly well behaved. There were a couple teenage moments. But S and I were far more relaxed than her siblings who are chasing little ones around. We do not miss that!

And now I’m here on the evening of December 29. As with every year, those days from Dec 18 or 19 to when all your visitors depart just fly by.


  1. They got their ears pierced earlier in the week so they had them for the gatherings.  ↩
  2. Ages: 20, 18, 15, 13, 11, 10, 8, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 9 months, 2 weeks. I think…  ↩

Sunday Song

“The Week Between” – Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick
Our house has cleared out. Folks departed last night and this afternoon and now we’ve hit the lull after all the frenzy of the Christmas season. Perfect for listening to this song.

Friday Vid

Every Sample from Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique

I figure most of you are on alternate schedules this week. So here’s a bit of a different take on the Friday vid. This person has taken every song sampled on the Beasties’ legendary Paul’s Boutique album and IDed them then offered a snippet of each set against their use on the album. It’s a pretty fun listen if you are as into Paul’s Boutique as I am.

For added fun, Tim Carmody has taken all the original songs and put them together in a Spotify playlist.

Weekend Notes

Last week was wild and wacky, which kept me away from my blogging duties. I’ll share some notes to try to get caught up before Christmas.


Family News

I’m very much a creature of habit. I can adjust most of the time. But when things get too out of whack, I do struggle. Last week we had four different schedules for five days of school. That really messed with my head and I was never sure what day it was or where I was supposed to be.

Monday and Tuesday we had one schedule: M on her finals schedule of 8:30-noon and C & L on a two-hour delay because of snow. (More on snow in a bit.) Wednesday C&L were back to normal but M only had one final, so I picked her up just after 10:00. Thursday M had her last two finals while C&L were on a regular schedule. And Friday M was home while C&L had 1:30 dismissal on their final day before break.

Oh, throw in that I squeezed doctor appointments in on Tuesday and Wednesday and a volleyball practice for C one night, and I felt like I was constantly coming and going.

The in-laws also arrived Wednesday night, which added another layer of complexity to things.

Fortunately everything worked out well. M did fantastic on her finals. I only nearly forgot about one thing on the calendar, remembering at the last minute that M needed to be somewhere on Friday.

Now we are in full Christmas vacation mode. Which means a lot of sitting around and doing nothing. M was complaining to me Sunday evening that she was bored. I reminded her that she’s not four anymore and she can control her social life by calling her friends and seeing if anyone wanted to go do something. I can’t wait until next Christmas when she’ll be driving.

Speaking of that, she wrapped up the online portion of her driver’s ed course Thursday after she completed finals. Depending on BMV hours this week, we’re going to try to go her get permit Thursday or Friday.

As I said, the in-laws arrived Wednesday. My brother-in-law who lives in Boston arrived with his family on Friday night. They are staying with one of his sisters. Saturday afternoon they came over, along with another of the locals and we had a mini-preview of how chaotic the holidays will be. There were four little ones running around with our girls. Well three running around; one is just learning how to sit up so she was pretty stationary.

The final out-of-towners arrive from Denver on Christmas night. That’s right, S’s entire family is in town this year, the first time everyone has been here in three or four years. We’re hosting a couple events, along with serving as the meeting point for an evening out. Saturday we’ll also be having some of S’s aunts and uncles and cousins over, pushing our head count well over 30. We have a big house, but I think it will be jam packed that day. Fortunately it looks like it may be close to 60 the back half of the week, so we may be able to kick on the outdoor fireplace and use the porch area for overflow.

Oh, last week’s snow. We got nearly eight inches from three snows over about 36 hours. Luckily both nights the snow stopped well before rush hour so the roads were at least so-so by the time we had to head out. C and L used the gentle slope of our front yard to make a slide for their sled. Once it got good and icy they could ride for about 50 feet before the up-slope slowed them down. It’s been over 50 the past two days and our lawn is slowly emerging.

One final big thing on the family front over the weekend: S had LASIK surgery Friday afternoon. Her eyes aren’t nearly as bad as mine, but as she approaches 50 she’s noticed both some changes in her prescription and less comfort while wearing her contacts. So she got them fixed (hopefully). I’m jealous, as my weak corneas mean I am not a candidate for the surgery. Otherwise I would have had it years ago. I wish I could still wear contacts but my terrible-ass eyes won’t even allow that anymore.


KU

I tried to write about KU hoops a couple times last week. Each time I prefaced it with the need to get some words out before they lost to Villanova. What a genius I was, seeing that L in advance!

That was such a frustrating game. For the first 10 minutes it felt like KU was much better and should be leading by 10+. There was the sense that if they could just get a couple deep balls to go down, they would pull away. Alas those shots never came, Nova righted the ship and forged an ugly 23-all tie at halftime.

With Marcus Garrett going out late in the first half to injury and the Wildcats getting hot early in the second half, I was ready to turn it off and go do other stuff.

But then KU got tough, clawed back, made some huge plays in the last four minutes, and seemed to have control of the game. Until Devon Dotson had the biggest KU point guard meltdown since Elijah Johnson in the Sweet 16 against Michigan. Going brain dead and getting picked from behind and giving up a layup, missing a huge free throw, and not closing out on the game-winning three. He had a chance to atone by forcing a Nova turnover, but ran terrible offense on KU’s two chances to score.

I was downright angry after the game. Not at Devon. Just at the general stupidity that went into losing the game. And to, once again, Villanova being the tougher, better team when they play KU. Those dudes aren’t flashy, they’re almost never pretty to watch. But they always freaking make plays.

Oh well, a one-point road loss to a ranked team in December that will hopefully highlight some areas the guys need to work on isn’t the worst thing in the world.


Culture & Media

Finally, there were two big nostalgia events for my generation this weekend: the release of The Rise of Skywalker and Eddie Murphy hosting Saturday Night Live. I’ll break those out for another post.

Friday Vid

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey
This is right up my alley: a holiday music classic that just made chart history.

Twenty-five years after its release, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is currently the #1 song in the country.

Because of weird chart rules, it did not officially qualify as a charting single for years and years. But as those rules have been relaxed in the streaming age, “AIWFCIY” has consistently charted in recent years, peaking as high as #3. Last week, it finally hit #1.

For starters, that is the longest gap between a song’s release and it hitting the top spot.

It is also Mariah’s 19th #1 single, putting her one behind the Beatles record of 20 #1’s.

And it is only the second Christmas song to ever top the charts. The first? “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” back in 1958.

A historic week for a highly deserving song. It’s not the modern Christmas song that I love the most, but it is one of the very best of both my lifetime and the history of Christmas songs.

Weekend Notes

There were some happenings around our house this weekend.


The big event was M’s first true high school dance on Saturday, her winter formal. As you would imagine, this has involved several weeks of preparations both for her attire and who she would attend the dance with. And then the direct prep dominated our Saturday morning and afternoon when she got her nails and hair done.[1] She ended up inviting three friends over to get ready at our house then take pictures and ride to the dance together. That had a touch of drama as girls jumped in and out of that group because they either got dates in the last week or had other things pile up and limit their availability before the dance. But she ended up with a good group. Prep went well, the dance was fun, and she seemed to have a really good time.

That prep on Saturday did mess up one of her sister’s schedules. I never looked at the calendar Saturday morning like I normally do to get a lay of the day ahead. Thus I totally forgot C had her first volleyball practice that afternoon. I went out with S and L to do some Christmas shopping in-between M’s appointments and when I came home fell asleep watching basketball. I woke around 3:00 and C came down and told me we had missed practice. Fortunately this was the first practice, games don’t start until late January, and attendance is pretty spotty until we get through the holidays. I did feel bad, though, and apologized to her coach. Not sure if this is typical treatment of the middle kid or I should have saved this for L.


So this isn’t really weekend news but we did gain a new nephew on Wednesday. He surprised us, coming about a month early. Fortunately both he and mom are doing great, although he’s going to be in the NICU for awhile and we won’t be able to meet him until he’s released.

This was obviously unexpected and I was charged with picking his three-year-old brother up from preschool when my sister-in-law went to the hospital Wednesday. Little R has been around me a lot, but not a ton this fall. And it’s the first time in probably six months that he’s hung out just with me. Thus he had a confused look on his face when I picked him up Wednesday. As soon as I told him we were going to go pick the girls up he got a big smile on his face and jumped into my arms.

Same thing happened Friday when I picked him up from daycare. His cousin had already left and he had a meltdown over that. He was still wiping tears from his eyes when I showed up. When I told him the girls were in the car, here came the smile and he went running toward the door to see them.

I guess the girls are more popular than Uncle D these days.


Aside from those two big things, it was a fairly quiet weekend. We did a little holiday prep, as family begin arriving for Christmas later this week. I’m putting off much of the cleaning and arranging as long as I can.

This is the girls’ final week of school. M has finals today through Thursday. Her classes only run from 8:50-noon all week, with two finals per day excepting Wednesday when she only has one and finishes at 10:15. She’s nervous but seems pretty well prepared for everything.

A little wrench got thrown in our plans when the first big snowstorm of the year hit overnight. We got the call from St. P’s announcing a two-hour delay just before 6:00 AM. Fortunately there wasn’t enough snow to push CHS back more than the hour they were already starting late. We got between 3–4” of snow, which with the size of our driveway was enough for me to bust out the snowblower before S left for work. Good thing I made sure it was running on Saturday! We’re supposed to get 3–5 more inches of snow later today, so I’ll likely be using it again soon.


  1. The nails were one of her Christmas presents.  ↩

Favorite Songs of 2019

This was not a classic year for music. There were only a couple albums that I listened to more than a few times, only one of which that I went back regularly over the course of several months. There were long stretches in the year when there were no new songs that I was crazy about. But there were still enough solid songs for me to make my annual list.

You may notice some trends. A strong presence of female vocalists. So many Australian acts. A bunch of songs that I would describe as “warm.” And definitely a lot of songs that rock and are built more for stadiums than clubs. As always, I offer both a Spotify playlist and individual YouTube videos.

Bonus Tracks:
Here are three songs that are all from 2018 but were among my most-listened-to songs of the year.

“All Be Gone” – Buffalo Tom
There were two songs on my Favorite Songs of the Decade list that were about passing into your 30s and leaving the carefree days of your 20s behind. I believe this is the first song about drifting into middle age that I’ve ever liked. Which is kind of a bummer, because it’s 100% about where my generation is at the moment. “But now my time behind is greater than my time ahead…”

“In This Time” – HAERTS. A terrific, Fleetwood Mac-eque song. Both in tone and in content, this sounds like something Stevie Nicks would have sung on Rumours.

“Light On” – Maggie Rogers
This was probably the last song I cut from my Favorites of 2018 list. I dropped it because it was relatively new and though I was thoroughly in love with it, I wondered if that love would last. Turns out it did, and I cranked the volume way up every time I heard I heard the song in 2019.

Now my favorite songs of the year.


20 – “Darkness” – Pinegrove
In a year when I kept Ryan Adams off of my Favorite Songs of the Decade list because of accusations of sexual misconduct against him, I struggled with whether to include this track. Pinegrove’s Skylight album was recorded and set to be released in 2017 before lead singer Evan Stephens Hall was accused of “sexual coercion” by a former partner. The album was shelved, the band was dropped by their label and went on hiatus, and Hall disappeared from the public eye.

In late 2018 the band released Skylight on a new label and the music world grappled with how to deal with it and them. As details emerged from Hall’s relationship, it was clear that his situation was not the same as Adams’. Hall was publicly contrite, admitted misjudging his former partner’s wishes, went to counseling, and became an advocate for men treating women with respect. That seemed to do the trick as the album got good reviews and was not shunned by those in charge of airplay.

This song slips into the sweet-spot that shows the very best of Pinegrove, a sound that isn’t quite Americana or folk nor straight indie rock. It is warm and draws you into its embrace.

19 – “Skin Game” – DIIV.
Written based on Zachary Cole Smith’s experience in rehab, this paints a bleak picture of both getting into and out of addiction. The music is pure, dreamy, 1990s shoegaze goodness.

18 – “Satellite” – The Get Up Kids
Despite being from Kansas City I never got into The Get Up Kids. I have several friends who are fans and, upon each new TGUK release, would message me and ask what I thought. To which I always responded, “Meh…” The band was always just a little too emo for me.

That changed with this track. They dial back the emo elements, crank up the amps, and choose to just rock out. And I was totally down with that.

17 – “Call Me Snowflake” – Middle Kids
My favorite new band of the decade continued to impress, this year releasing an EP that was packed with fine songs. This was my favorite, as it had an edge to it that was a departure from their past songs, along with that weird, 1990’s-vintage extended outro.

16 – “In the Capital” – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Back-to-back Aussies! When this dropped in February, it seemed like this was a sign it was going to be a very good music year. Alas…

Still, yet another great song from one of the most reliable bands going at the moment.

15 – “temporary tantrum” – pronoun
I think this qualifies as a banger. A hopeful song about being in the worst moment in a relationship but realizing there is a way out.

14 – “A Bathtub in the Kitchen” – Craig Finn
I’ve never connected with Finn’s solo work as much as I have with the songs he’s written for The Hold Steady. This one, though, was gorgeous. It is a tale of an old friend who has gone down a hole that you’re not sure you want to help them get out of. Or at least offer the kind of help they are asking for.

It features poignant lyrics, to be sure, but it was the sound of this song that really struck me. Finn was friends with Scott Hutchison, and I hear a lot of Scott in the music on this track. It could have easily been a Painting of a Panic Attack B-side.

13 – “Little Trouble” – Better Oblivion Community Center.
Phoebe Bridgers makes the list for the second-straight year as part of a super group. Or in this case, duo. She joined her musical hero Conor Oberst for a collection of absolutely delightful songs as BOCC. Amazingly, this track was not included on their album and only released as after their tour wrapped up. I’m not sure what they were thinking leaving this off the disk, but am so thankful they decided to share it with us.

12 – “Am I Doing It Right?” – Alex Lahey
This checks a few boxes. Big, bold, power-poppy track by a female singer. An Australian artist. A song I can listen to again and again. Check, check, and check.

11 – “Calm Down” – Pete Yorn
Yorn opened the millennium with one of the great rock records of its time, the legendary musicforthemorningafter, an album that is loaded with classic tracks. He’s remained active since, but the quality of his output has been in a steady decline. It’s not that his later songs were bad, but rather he was chasing muses that weren’t as ear-wormy as his turn-of-the-millennium music.

Here, though, he recaptures much of the magic of his early days. A bright, radio-friendly track that was a delightful return to form.

10 – “They’ll Never” – Stef Chura.
We need more songs like this. It’s just a straight, kick-ass rock tune. You hear Chura’s home state of Michigan in that opening riff, which has a “Fell In Love With a Girl” tinge to it. You hear ‘90s college rock. And you hear New York circa 1980, when punk was breaking down and evolving into New Wave.

9 – “The One Who Breaks Your Heart” – SONTALK
One of the most harrowing songs of the year, Joseph LeMay wrote it after considering the idea that his wife might divorce him because of his mental illness. You can hear every ounce of that pain and fear in this massively emotional track.

8 – “Silver” – DMA’s
DMA’s make no secret about their influences. In their perfect world, these 21st century Aussies would have been in mid–90s Manchester, battling with Oasis for biggest band in the world. “Silver” is a huge, majestic ballad made for getting the massive crowds at Glastonbury swaying with their lighters and cell phones raised in the air as the sounds wash over them.

7 – “Turn To Hate” – Orville Peck
In a time when artists like Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, and Sturgill Simpson have challenged the normally rigid boundaries of country music, none of them are anywhere in the ballpark of this, surely the most unexpected great song of the year.

Peck is a 30-something Canadian. His sound is an intoxicating mix of classic country, rockabilly, and classic crooner music. He sounds equal parts Johnny Cash, Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Billy Idol.

And then there is his appearance and lyrics. Peck performs in glammed up western wear and a cowboy hat with long fringe that hides his face. His lyrics are unmistakably about relationships with other men. Not your standard Nashville fare.

I nearly put Maren Morris’ “Girl” on this list. It is a badass song of female empowerment that sounds way more pop than country. But Nashville has a long history of embracing powerful women as exceptions to its normal rules. There’s never been anyone in country music like Peck, whether he’s truly a country artist or not.

6 – “Twist” – Wintersleep
I was reluctant to dive into Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s The Midnight Organ Fight. I was still struggling to reconnect with Scott Hutchison’s music just over a year after his death. Although these covers, done by bands he selected and with his input before his death, were recorded to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Frightened Rabbit’s masterpiece, The Midnight Organ Fight, there was no way not to think of Scott’s passing when listening to the songs. Indeed, I only listened to the album a couple times. But three songs stuck out, and this one in particular.

Wintersleep takes the lovely swing present in the back half of the original and builds the entire song around it. The original has a haunting quality thanks to the spare instrumentation it opens with. On Wintersleep’s version, they open big and keep getting bigger, something Scott surely appreciated when he heard it. Doing so, they shake off that starkness and sense of foreboding and create a warm, inviting track that turns into a celebration.

This may be heresy, but I think I like it more than the original.

5 – “Not” – Big Thief
This is appearing near the top of just about every Best Of list I’ve read over the past couple weeks. That makes sense, as this is the most aggressive, most unforgettable track Big Thief has offered us in their brief but prolific career. It crackles with an energy from start-to-finish that was unlike anything else I listened to this year.

4 – “Head Alone” – Julia Jacklin
I have an odd relationship with Jacklin’s music. Her songs that I like, I really like. But some of her songs I find too sleepy and precious. Fortunately she makes more songs that I like than don’t. And this one is fantastic.

3 – “Hypersonic Missiles” – Sam Fender
Fender seems to be a big freaking deal back in the UK. It’s a shame he hasn’t had the same impact here in the States, because his music draws from several huge American influences.

There’s no mistaking the Springsteen sound on this track. It’s there from the beginning, especially in the guitars, but explodes on that massive sax solo in the song’s center. This is a jam for those who lament the death of rock ’n’ roll. It has that muscular sound that would be at home in any era when guitars and amps ruled the radio waves.

2 – “Stay With Me” – Hatchie
In a year where there weren’t many albums I listened to over-and-over, nor artists who captured my attention more than momentarily, Hatchie was the one exception. Brisbane native Harriett Pilbeam’s debut full-length album was a stunning disk, filled with bright, dreamy songs that borrowed from a number of influences ranging from Robyn to My Bloody Valentine to Cocteau Twins to the Cranberries to ABBA.

This was the biggest, brightest, most undeniable song on the only album that I could not stop listening to this year.

1 – “Weird Ways” – Strand of Oaks
Timothy Showalter has a large collection of stunning songs in his career. He tops them all here, on what has to be a career-defining track.

After hitting a stretch of artistic uncertainty, he invited members of My Morning Jacket into the studio to help him shake the cobwebs. What began as an effort to rediscover what he loved about music became a formal collaboration, with the MMJ guys serving as his backing band for the Weird Ways album.

Here he sings of that moment of despair when he wasn’t sure where his career was going. The groove the MMJ guys lay down is just so, so good. Showalter’s lyrics are as deeply personal and emotional as ever, and he sings them for the back rows. Indianapolis native Carl Broemel’s epic guitar solo pushes the song even higher. A song I can listen to over-and-over again.

Friday Vid

“2000 Miles” – KT Tunstall
If you make a good Christmas song, eventually it will be covered to death. Somehow I’ve only heard a couple versions of this Pretenders original. Coldplay did a very nice, in-studio version at KROQ in the early 2000s. But KT Tunstall’s version is just wonderful.

Weekend Notes

It’s Monday. That means some of my patented Weekend Notes are in order!


Service Hours

M, C, and I went to a local food pantry to volunteer Saturday so they could earn some service hours. They were sent to man the produce table, while I spent the first two hours running the door where people waited to have their eligibility status checked.

Upon check-in, people received a paper ticket with a number and then waited in the lobby. I ran the ticker that showed what numbers could come up and get in line. Then I checked to make sure people were in the right spot before they went into the office for verification. Simple, right? Well it was, it’s just as with any line, people would get anxious and begin lining up before their number had been posted. Some people complained about that. Others would try to barge in line because they had, say, 150 and 210 was on the ticker. I did my best to be gentle with folks, telling them to please go to the end of the line, they will get through just fine. There were a number of people who did not speak English well, and they were sometimes a challenge.[1] A couple people asked me to straight up throw people out of line. I wasn’t doing that, I wasn’t going to yell at folks who were getting in line early. It was a cold, December morning, no one in line wanted to be there. I was polite and friendly to everyone and asked people to be patient. It was way more stressful than I expected, but I was thankful most of the people were indeed understanding of the process and I had some nice conversations with a few people in my two hours at the door.

Once the crowd died down they released me and I joined the girls. They had an interesting job. The entire pantry is set up like a grocery store and the clients are allowed to “shop” for their food. For most areas there is a steady supply of bread, cereal, whatever, and they make their selection. The produce table M and C were at, though, was a feast or famine table. Workers in the back would bring a big rack of produce up, the girls would set it out, and it would disappear quickly. Then they’d sit around for 10–15 minutes until another cart came out.

Both girls had worked with me at another food pantry before, so they were aware of both the service the organization provides and why people are there shopping. I wish they had a job that would have kept them busy the entire time rather than sitting and waiting, but it was still a good experience. It’s an extremely humbling experience. This is one of several food pantries in Indy and it was packed. I reminded the girls of that, and that a lot of people who need food assistance aren’t able to visit these pantries.

M has to earn half of her 15 service hours at one place, so we will likely be back again as she earned 4.5 hours Saturday.

We laughed at how a couple people asked the girls if they were twins. They certainly have some similar facial features, but they’ve never really looked much alike.

I also got in a lengthy discussion with one of the regular workers about the state of politics, our society, and the world in general. He was a very nice, smart, thoughtful man and our politics mostly lined up. But he was also really into conspiracies. I’m kind of looking forward to being an old guy who believes in the strangest possible explanation for things. Hell, there are plenty of people in this country right now who are way younger than me and believe in things that have no factual basis, so I really don’t have to wait I guess!


College Football

I napped through much of the Big 12 game, which was the most entertaining of the conference championship games. I’m kind of shocked that Baylor hung in until the end, especially since they were down to their third-string QB in the second half. I was not shocked that their third-string QB, who is a freshman, looks better than any quarterback KU has had since Todd Reesing left. Jeez…

Wisconsin got a lot of us excited in the first half and then laid a big turd in the second half of the Big Ten game.

The final CFP rankings made sense. I honestly think there’s a top three this year and Oklahoma, or Baylor or Georgia had they won do not belong in the playoff. Let Ohio State and Clemson play for the right to meet LSU in the title game. I’m a big LSU fan for the next month. I don’t think OU has much of a chance and hate the other two schools. Although I am pulling for Ohio State in their semifinal because I’m sick of Dabo Swinney’s whining.


Family Christmas Gift

Our washing machine died last Monday. It looks like either the bearings or transmission was failing, as I found water and transmission fluid on the floor after I did a load Monday. I scheduled a service visit but after doing some research learned that the likely repair, if possible, would run us at least $400. Since every big box hardware store had huge sales last week and most washers/dryers were 30%-plus off, we bit the bullet and purchased a new set, which was delivered Sunday. The old ones really weren’t all that old, maybe seven years. But these new ones are sooooo much quieter. After a cycle with Maytag appliances and a number of issues, we’re back with LG, who we had used previously and had no issues with. Hope these work out as well.


NFL Sunday

Man, the game of the year in New Orleans, I guess, with the 49ers pulling out a last-second win over the Saints. I did see the last 90 seconds, which were pretty eventful. But I missed most of the game because the Colts and Buccaneers were putting on a low-key great game in Tampa. That game was filled with great plays and back-and-forth scoring, like the game in New Orleans. It was also played very much how you would expect a game between two mediocre teams to be played. There were so many mind-blowingly bad plays by both teams. The Colts forced four turnovers yet somehow still looked utterly lost on defense most of the day. It kind of summed up this year’s Colts team. The potential is there, but they constantly shoot themselves in the foot. And now I’ve officially won my bet that they will not win 10 games this year.


  1. Mostly Spanish speakers, but there were several people who looked and sounded like they were from West Africa, a few Middle Eastern people, and a few Asian people.  ↩
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