Month: May 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Friday Playlist

It’s been a slow music week for me, so I’ll stick to some older tunes for today’s offerings.

“Great Expectations” – The Gaslight Anthem
One of the great Side One, Track Ones of the digital era. The kids today don’t even know what a Side One, Track One is.

“Test Transmission” – Kasabian
Kasabian had their moment right when I was transitioning to actually buying digital tracks instead of finding them on some “sharing” service. They had about three or four really good songs. Good enough to remain in my digital library today.

“If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” – Manic Street Preachers
It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a fresh look at my Favorite Songs of All-Time list. I rarely listen to this anymore, so I wonder if it would stick were I to update it. I heard it the other night for the first time in ages and immediately listened to it two more times, so I think it might find a way to remain.

“Battleflag” – Lo Fidelity Allstars featuring Pigeonhead
Speaking of songs I used to love, man, this one was a BEAST and the soundtrack to one of the greatest scenes ever on ER. The Spotify machine was spitting out some gems from my musical past this week!

“Street Fighting Man” – The Rolling Stones
This song was bumping through my head one day this week, as it often does when summer rolls around. Given what is going on in Minneapolis right now it may seem a little insensitive or inappropriate to keep it in here. I’ll go ahead an include it with the disclaimer that doing so has nothing to do with those tragic events.

“Summer Breeze” – Las Kellies
Not the “Summer Breeze” you were expecting, right?

Reader’s Notebook, 5/28/20

Say Nothing – Patrick Radden Keefe
My brother-in-books Sir David and I often share recommendations with each other. I don’t know that he’s ever pushed a book as hard as he did this one. I think he got a little nervous he had oversold it, but this turned out to be a great recommendation.

Keefe provides a thorough but quick history of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and its key members during the Troubles, the period in Northern Ireland from the mid–1960s through the 1990s when the country was torn by violence between primarily Catholic Republicans looking to unify with the Republic of Ireland and mostly Protestant Loyalists who wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

While this is generally a broad history of the IRA and its efforts to drive the British from Northern Ireland, Keefe anchors the book on several individuals. They include Gerry Adams, the political leader of the IRA and it’s associated party, Sinn Féin; his most trusted deputies who were responsible for placing bombs in London; and Bobby Sands and the hunger strikers of the early 80s. The book ties them all together through the story of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who is accused of being an informant for British forces and disappears, never to be seen alive again, in the early 1970s.

I’ve always been fascinated by The Troubles, but never found a good book that laid out a history of its events. This book was exactly that. My only criticism is how it is so focused on the IRA side of the argument. Late in the book Keefe details how a former member of the IRA recorded interviews with people at all levels of the movement in the 2000s, getting their reflections on what happened. These recordings, meant to remain secret until everyone involved had died, eventually became public and were at the center of several legal battles in Northern Ireland. But there was also a trove of interviews with Loyalists but we never learn much about that side of the conflict. Surely the Loyalists had just as compelling and interesting stories to tell. But, I guess, to most Americans the IRA, for better or worse, was the far more compelling side of the conflict.

That quibble aside, I thought this was an excellent book. Tremendously researched, very well written, and compelling from beginning to end. This book also inspired me to watch a movie, but more on that next week.

The Downhill Lie – Carl Hiaasen
I was in a brief lull waiting for e-books on hold to come in so ripped through this for the second time. I first read it about 18 months ago, as I was just getting back into golf. Now that I’m deeper into my obsession, I thought re-reading of Hiaasen’s similar path in his mid–50s made sense. Still very funny. Still highly relatable. And with a year’s worth of practice and play under my belt, it gave me hope. Maybe not hope that I’ll ever be a single-digit handicap, but at least hope that I’m already better than Hiaasen.

The First Rule – Robert Crais
The second Elvis Cole/Joe Pike book of Crais’ that I’ve read this spring. The first was more focused on Cole while Pike was the center of this one. I loved the freedom that gave Crais. Sure, he’s writing in the same series, but can do so from a completely different perspective. These are so entertaining and quick to get through that I’ll likely read more in the series, and I’m eager to see how Crais balances the ability to focus on a different lead character from book-to-book.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 43

Chart Week: May 10, 1986
Song: “Be Good To Yourself” – Journey
Chart Positions: #20, 5th week on the chart. Peaked at #9 the week of May 31.

Remember when it used to be a surprise when new music arrived? At least for kids. Before the internet, before I had cable TV, and before I could read music magazines regularly, new albums by my favorite artists often appeared seemingly out of the blue. I might get a hint when the first single hit the radio, but it was still often a mystery when I would be able to go buy the album that the single came from.

Beginning my junior year of high school, I would flip through Rolling Stone in the library, note the dates of upcoming albums I was looking forward to, and then jot them on my wall calendar at home. These days I have a running text file where I list new releases that are on my radar. There are still surprises, but I generally know when something I like is about to be released.

But back in 1986 I was thrilled that Journey, my favorite group at the time, had a new single climbing the charts in advance of their new album, Raised on Radio. A week or so after the album’s release I took ten of my hard-earned allowance dollars to Musicland, slapped them down on the counter, and took home my own cassette copy.

I had been teased by new Journey music a couple times in the years between Frontiers and Raised on Radio. “Ask the Lonely” appeared on the Two of a Kind soundtrack in late 1983 and got some decent airplay. Bigger was the 1985 single “Only the Young,” which appeared on the legendary Vision Quest soundtrack and peaked at #9.

With both of these songs, when I heard them the first time, my pulse quickened thinking a new Journey album was on the horizon. Turned out they were both leftovers from the Frontiers sessions the band farmed out to soundtracks. (More on “Only the Young” in a moment…)

Although I was still very much into my Top 40 listening ways in the spring of ’86, high school and changes in the musical landscape were beginning to adjust my listening habits. That spring I was also listening to New Edition’s All For Love album, notably “School,” their pro-education rap that was scratching an itch I didn’t really know I had. RUN-DMC and the Beastie Boys would make that itch really flare up a few months later.

I wasn’t into the college and late stage New Wave music upper classmen I knew listened to. But those sounds would influence what I would get into a few years down the road.

In the spring and summer of 1986 I was also super into Van Halen, both the new Sammy Hagar stuff and the older David Lee Roth stuff. By the end of that summer I owned every VH album and listened to their harder rock a lot more than softer bands like Journey, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, etc..

These changes were all either just happening or in the future. I know I was super-pumped to have new music from Journey for the first time in over three years during the spring of my freshman year of high school.

Only the Young” might be my favorite Journey song, definitely one of the few I still like today. I think a lot of that is because despite being a top 10 hit, it wasn’t overplayed like so many of their songs. And it isn’t super sappy.

I had no idea until this week that Steve Perry, Neal Schon, and Jonathan Cain sold the song to the band Scandal after it was pulled from Frontiers. Scandal included their version on Warrior, the biggest album of their career. A year later when Journey went ahead and put their version on the Vision Quest soundtrack, Scandal sued them. Apparently there had been some language in their purchase of the song that prevented Journey from releasing it as a single, and Scandal won a nice little settlement.

I just listened to Scandal’s version for the first time ever. Musically, it’s pretty faithful to the Journey version. The guitar solo goes in a different direction, which makes sense. Patty Smyth does a nice job on vocals, but she’s no Steve Perry. It’s a solid 7 to Journey’s hard 9.

Memorial Day Weekend Notes

Holiday number two of the Coronavirus era has come and gone. Memorial Day weekend was especially strange here in Indianapolis since there was no 500 mile race to dominate local events. The race has been pushed back to August, for now. But the month of May is the biggest month of the year in Indy, and the last three weeks have felt extra empty without all the race prep and coverage. Even as someone who is not a race enthusiast, my nearly two decades here has made the rhythms of May feel like an essential part of the beginning of summer.

It would have been a fine race day, too. Warm, humid, pop-up storms on the radar but which never threatened Speedway.

We spent much of the weekend in the pool. It has been warm enough so that the heater stays off and the water remains at the perfect temperature. A few friends of the girls rolled in and out over the past few days.

We also hosted a family gathering Saturday, which also served as a fourth birthday party for one of the nephews. We did get storms that afternoon, and had to rush everyone out of the pool and gather all our toys before the rains hit. Fortunately the boys all got to swim for an hour or so before they had to get out.

C and L are officially done with school for the year. I have to admit I wasn’t sure what day was their final day. There was a virtual field day built into the schedule, assignments for the last week were kind of sparse to begin with, and I think we had all checked out long before whatever the actual last day was. I would mock my parenting but I think most of us are in the same boat: let’s just get this year over with and, hopefully, find some normalcy in the fall.

We did get confirmation that Cathedral plans on beginning classes on time and in person in August. I would imagine days will not be the same as they were in early March, but the school has not shared any details about what protections/restrictions/requirements will be in place. M was excited to hear that she will be back on campus in three months, though.

We’ve had a mostly benign but annoying development over the past month at our house. Right above L’s room, where several sections of the roof come together, there are two small sheltered spaces. With the way that the roof falls, while they are outside our attic space, they are also above the ceiling of L’s room. Each of those spaces have become home to nests. One of them is full of baby birds. These birds wake up at about 5:30 every morning, squawking for their breakfast and rattling around in that space. L is an early riser, but 5:30 is a little early even for her. Worse, with the heat of the past week, we’re getting some odor into her room. A nest full of growing, shitting and pissing birds does not smell good.

The big issue is that the nests are beyond the reach of my extension ladder. There is a secondary roof about 10 feet up that, if I had the right equipment, I could get up to and place another ladder on to get at them. But I’m not about to hoist one ladder up another and then hope it remains in place while I fight off momma bird to stick my hand in and yank out the nest.

So looks like I’ll be having some critter control service out soon to both eliminate the nests and seal off those openings to avoid future issues.

We’ve also had a nest right outside our bedroom for over a year. It is wedged in between the gutter downspout and the siding, and actually bothers M more than us because of how her room and our room are positioned. We’ve had three sets of baby birds in it over the past year. I may go on a nest jihad and remove it once its babies have flown away.

Throw in some rabbits, lots of squirrels, a pair of ducks, bluejays, sparrows, robins, grackles, various finches, and as many as 20 geese at one time, and our property has quite the wildlife presence!

Friday Playlist

Happy Memorial Day weekend! Some songs to fuel your holiday.

“Peaceful Ambassador” – The Dead Tongues
Hiss Golden Messenger has been a connecting point for me to that sub-genre of music that balances indie rock, folk, and alt country. Ryan Gustafson has played with HGM over the years, but The Dead Tongues is his personal project. He works in that same space, but this track has a dirty, early 1970s feel to it. It almost bumps into what the Rolling Stones were doing back then.

“Muted Gold” – Silverbacks
Apparently the Dublin scene is the next hot spot for indie rock. We’ll see how Covid affects that, but bands from Ireland’s capital have been getting a lot more buzz recently as the world music press seeks a new location to mine. As with the previous track, you can hear some 1970s in this, but more Bowie-influenced art rock, combined with modern indie.

“A Hero’s Death” – Fontaines D.C.
Speaking of Dublin, it was this band’s emergence a year ago that made folks start looking at that city as a location for good music.

“Hands Tied” – Scandal
Random, I know. I’ll share more in my next Reaching for the Stars entry, but I listened to a handful of Scandal songs this week and came across this, which was the follow-up to”The Warrior,” in the fall of 1984. It didn’t hit nearly as big as its predecessor – it stalled at #41 – but it’s still a pretty solid track.

“Sick of Me” – Christian Lopez
Summer’s arrival means I’m remembering spending hours at the public pool with the pop hits radio station on, listening to the bounty of music those stations offered back in the ’80s. If that kind of radio still existed, I think this song would be stuck in everyone’s head this summer.

“Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Y’all know what time it is! What better song for a summer that will be unlike any summer we’ve ever lived through?

Nature, Bruh

I’m struggling to find the motivation to write this week. I have a couple things started but can’t seem to get them wrapped up.

Instead of working on either of those, I thought I would share this insane video instead. I hate heights so this make my stomach churn but I still find it amazing.


(Apologies to Rex Chapman for stealing his “Dogs, bruh,” for the title.)

Covid Chronicles, 5/19

I’m not sure if it is time to transition the title of these assorted notes posts back to how I labelled them before March. Not everything in these is about what is going on with Covid anymore. At the same time, our lives are going to continue to be pretty boring for some time and much of what I share here will be affected, at least indirectly, by the state of the world. So for now they will remain Covid-tagged.

Sunday was C’s 14th birthday, which gave us a chance for our first quarantine celebration. We had some friends and family drive by to honk, wave hello, and toss gifts to her. We were dodging rain all day but it worked out pretty well.

After that we had our old neighbors over for a dinner celebration. The girls all got into the pool. Pools are safe! Or at least that’s what the initial studies suggest. I might be cranking up the chlorine level a notch or two higher than normal just to make sure. If we could just keep everyone from getting too close from each other when they aren’t in the pool. Both M and L had a friend over to swim on Saturday, but there was plenty of other hanging out during those visits.

Again, we’re going to have months of stress about what the proper way to socialize is. I tend to think small groups are ok, but should we be masking everyone up while we’re together? When we were running M’s friend home Saturday we passed a backyard party where everyone was seated six feet apart. If only kids understood social distancing with friends as well as they do with strangers.

As I said, the pool is open. It took until Saturday for the water to get up around 90 degrees where we like it. But it was warm enough Friday evening that the girls all jumped in for awhile. Now if we could just get this stupid cut-off low to pass us so the nice weather of last week could return.

We had a bunch of lawn restoration work done last week, right before the rainy weather hit. I’m really hoping the deluge of the past seven days hasn’t rendered all the new grass seed unable to germinate.

I recorded Sunday’s charity golf match that featured Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Matthew Wolf. I was glad I recorded it because it allowed me to fast forward through the many slow spots. Even with the FF button in high use, it certainly had stretches where it was veeeeeerrrrry slow.

I was most excited to see Seminole Golf Club on TV. It has never hosted a televised event before, and the golf architecture geeks I follow think it’s an amazing course. One of those experts says it is a near ideal course because if you are a good-to-elite player it will really challenge you, while if you’re just a normal player you will have a good chance to shoot what you do on your home course. Not that I’ll ever have a chance to play it, but that was a comforting thought.

Sadly much of what makes people love the course doesn’t really translate to TV, and the broadcasting crew didn’t go out of their way to explain what is so cool about the course.

The golf was kind of crappy, too. You could tell the guys were rusty. DJ barely looked interested. And using the Skins format just doesn’t generate a lot of excitement. But Skins is easy to understand and made sure both teams earned some money for their charity of choice, so I understand the decision.

The broadcast was mixed. You have to grade on a scale, because this was done with a short lead-up, a limited production crew, on a course not designed to make TV easy. I think they could have used a few more cameras. I heard they had six. I think they could have put in some more that were fixed at tee boxes and greens that would have allowed them to miss fewer shots. Not having shot tracer for every tee shot was a big miss. And there were some issues with the announcers being in three different locations. The Bill Murray interview was flat bizarre and difficult to watch. I muted the entire time a certain politician called in. Jon Rahm was a pretty good interview, and I could have used more of him. That said, with so much dead time to kill as they players moved between shots, I think they could have spaced out these conversations better so they weren’t talking over the action.

Everyone involved gets credit for making the attempt, though. It was good to have some live sports on, even if flawed.

I finished The Last Dance last night. I think I’ll need to break my thoughts on it out from my monthly media list and share them here soon.

M wrapped up her freshman year last week. Unless something changes before final grades are posted, it looks like she carried a 4.21 GPA through all four quarters. Pretty good! I’m glad she’s tapped into her mom’s academic genes. I never got straight A’s in high school because of 1) math and 2) I was lazy. She was the only student in her English class to get an A on her research paper without having to re-write it, so maybe she got some of my skills, too.

She knows her sophomore year will be tougher. She’s adding three honors classes to her load, but they are all liberal arts rather than science courses, so I think she’ll do fine. She’s excited to be taking photography. I may be as excited about that as she is.

Now we just start hoping that her sophomore year is mostly normal. We are hearing rumors from other schools about mixed plans that may involve kids coming into school in rotations/waves, so only a certain percentage of the student population is in the school at the same time. I don’t see how that helps the teachers and staff, though, who will need to be at school daily. Perhaps they will be in masks and other protective measures will be take.

I kind of laughed that M said she was bored last week, when she still had a couple days of class left. I wanted to say, “Wait until next week when you have nothing to do at all!” Saturday she asked us, “What can we do today?” Normally that means where can we go to shop/eat. It was hard not to snap at her, “We literally can’t go anywhere!”

We found out last week that St. P’s will be making some adjustments in the fall. All we know is that instead of a 6th–8th middle school group, the 7th and 8th graders will now be considered middle schoolers while the 5th and 6th graders will be labeled as “intermediate” students and sharing teachers. We’re not sure what the mechanics of that will be, especially since those four grades, along with the fourth graders, all share a hallway. S guessed, based on what she’s heard from other schools, is that they may adjust how the classes change periods, have lunch, etc so fewer kids are in the hallway at one time. But we’ve received no details yet, so we’re not sure.

I know I do not envy school administrators right now. No plan seems like a good plan. I know private schools are facing pressure to have kids back in real class. We’ve heard several parents say “I’m not paying X-thousand dollars for an entire year of eLearning.” Which I totally understand. This pressure comes on top of knowing you’re probably going to lose some students because their families can’t afford private school tuition due to personal financial issues. It’s just a damn tough time.

L is not excited at all about the changes. There were a couple teacher changes that came with this reorganization and she may have to spend time with two teachers she doesn’t like very much while two she was hoping to get have moved away from her grade. She’s lived a charmed life with teachers, always getting the one she wanted and generally getting along well with them. She needs to toughen up and get over it!

Friday Vid
Prince and the Revolution, live, 3/30/85
This is my weekend assignment, so I’ll make it yours, too. For this weekend only this concert is streaming for free. Superfans insist it is one of the greatest Prince performances ever, and it came at the absolute height of his popularity. Find a way to spend two hours with it.

The Risks

I’ve seen the article I’m linking to below passed around a lot this week, so many of you have probably at least seen it. I highly recommend reading through it. Erin Bromage is a biology professor who explains how things could go over the next few months, as we being to reopen while still navigating the back side of the curve.

As states reopen, and we give the virus more fuel, all bets are off. I understand the reasons for reopening the economy, but I’ve said before, if you don’t solve the biology, the economy won’t recover.

Even if you are a stalwart “REOPEN NOW” person, you can still get some good takeaways from the piece, especially where she dives into the locations where the coronavirus is most easily spread. All of us will have to be out in the world at some point. It is good to arm ourselves with some knowledge that can be used to protect ourselves as we begin leaving the house on a more regular basis.

The main sources for infection are home, workplace, public transport, social gatherings, and restaurants. This accounts for 90% of all transmission events. In contrast, outbreaks spread from shopping appear to be responsible for a small percentage of traced infections.

The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them

Covid Chronicles, 5/13

I’ve felt a lack of enthusiasm and motivation the past few days. School is winding down. M is done Friday. C and L are done next week. Assignments have already dried up and they’re just running out the clock. A few teachers seem to have checked out, too, which makes it tough to motivate the girls.

The news has devolved further, making me less and less interested in paying attention to what’s going on, and making my blood pressure rise when I do check in. I’ve starting to clear out my Twitter feed of some accounts that I very much enjoy and inform me simply because the stories they share are so infuriating.

The weather doesn’t help. This has been a wacky spring, full of swings back-and-forth. Which is what Midwest springs are supposed to be. But they’ve seemed especially wild this year simply because the nice days feel like moments of bliss and relief while the nasty days you can feel the walls creeping in on you.

Fortunately some of that may be changing. After today, we appear set for a long stretch of days near 80. It will likely rain several of those days, but at least it will be warm.

The crew was just here to open the pool. I’m guessing the girls will be jumping in the moment the heater has run long enough to make the water tolerable. It was 57 degrees last time I checked, so it may take awhile to get there.

L had a quick get together with her class Monday at a park. The motivation was so they could present their teacher with her year-end gifts and get a chance to see each other. Despite the cold, damp, raw day, we spent nearly 90 minutes there, mostly because all the parents were talking. The parents did pretty well with the social distancing. I’m not sure the kids did.

I think I mentioned this last week but every moment like that comes with very strong, mixed feelings. And then after the fact you wonder if it was worth it. It seems like being outside is the best way to safely interact with others, so I’m not super worried about it. This does seem to be how things are going to be for the foreseeable future, though: trying to balance safe and sane, hoping for the best in the process.

Normally S does not watch a lot of TV. Her evenings, in the past, were generally filled with hours of charting. She would come home, eat dinner, crack open the laptop, do one to four hours’ worth of charting, then go to bed. She has one show she watches, Outlander, and she’ll run through those seasons pretty quickly after they drop then re-watch them. There’s the occasional movie but otherwise she is not in front of a screen for fun very often.

Until the past two months. She has been extraordinarily busy at times, some days filled with 12 hours of conference calls and associated work. But she also has almost no charting and, after those first 2–3 weeks, the calls slowed down and actually left her with free time. (Worth mentioning that the calls are picking back up as her system tries to figure out the reopening process. This may be more stressful than the shutting down process as management is pushing for changes that no one seems happy about.)

That’s a long lead in to sharing how I think she’s watched more TV than any of us during this break. She’s plowed through a bunch of shows and movies. Most nights, and some afternoons, you can find her with her laptop and my headphones, laughing at whatever is currently amusing her. Often she’ll try to go to bed but can’t shut her brain off. I’ll come up an hour or so later to find her in bed, watching a show on her phone in the dark.

This break has sucked for all of us, but she’s had the most stress and responsibility throughout. I’m glad she’s found an outlet that allows her to check-out for a bit and actually have some fun.

Amazon delivery seems to be approaching normal again. There are still regular items that seem to be taking more like a week to show up, but more and more things show a delivery window within a couple days.

I’ve started gaming the system a little. Whenever I have a chance, I’ve been taking the second tier of free delivery that pushes arrival back a bit, but offers a credit for digital services in exchange. If I’m going to be buying more Kindle books than normal, I might as well collect some coupons to reduce that cost!

Indianapolis/Marion County just announced phase one of their reopening process. Restrictions begin lifting Friday. Restaurants can reopen to outside seating only next Friday. Man, I have no interest in being inside a restaurant any time soon. Not sure I even want to sit outside of one. I feel a little bad about that. The restaurant business is a tough one in good times. I’d like support locally owned places and their staffs by getting food and drink from them, tipping the wait staff, etc. I am not keen to be in any enclosed space with a bunch of strangers, though. I think we will be sticking to carryout for quite some time.

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