Month: August 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Of Classes and Sports

Two full weeks into the school year and we’ve had our first major change. Beginning today, and for the foreseeable future, M will be home on Mondays. In Thursday’s normal parent newsletter, the CHS principal announced that the entire student population would be virtual and on a fixed schedule on Mondays.

Several reasons were offered, but the one that seems the most compelling is to give all the kids the same experience at least one day per week. A number of fall sport athletes have left school on their own over the past couple weeks. We’ve heard this was organized by coaches in an effort to keep their players healthy through the season and to avoid having to quarantine players as the playoffs approach for sports like soccer and volleyball. I don’t know what the percentage of kids out of school right now is, but it is apparently significant enough where the school wanted to attempt to level the playing field at least one day each week.

We found it interesting that as rumors about athletes leaving school began to circulate an email came out saying that was not appropriate and laying out the reasons for and conditions under which a student should switch to virtual schooling. Apparently that had no effect because I’m pretty sure the entire volleyball team is home schooling.

I find that tactic pretty funny as it does not seem like kids are getting infected at school. Masks, social distancing, smaller class rosters, and constant cleaning seem to be knocking the virus down in the buildings. Several groups of students have gotten sick after being at parties or gatherings on the weekends. Seems like the coaches should be saying “Keep your asses at home on the weekends,” instead of “encouraging” their kids to eLearn until the first quarter ends. Or the parents. Or whoever was pushing this idea.

So M is home today, checking into her classes each hour. At least she gets to go back tomorrow.

We received another email from CHS last week saying someone in one of M’s classes had tested positive. But, the email insisted, they were confident that M had not been within six feet of this student and there was no need for her to be tested or quarantine. We were encouraged to keep an eye on her, though. When she eats we keep asking her if she can taste her food, which seems to be how a lot of young people first realize they may have been infected.

Other big CHS news: they are, arguably, the hottest football team in the state of Indiana two weeks into the young season. They have been ranked #3 in class 5A in the first two polls. They may move up this week.

In week one they absolutely pounded a pretty solid 6A team. Then this past week they played the other CHS, the defending 6A champions (currently ranked #2) and the school we support every other week because of our good friend, Coach H.

Our CHS dominated the first half statistically but were very lucky to have a 20–13 lead at halftime. The other CHS had a pick six on the last play of the first half wiped out by an illegal block penalty.

In the third quarter things got ugly. Our CHS forced three straight three-and-outs and scored touchdowns after each one. 41–13 at the end of the third quarter. The other CHS got some scores in the final quarter to make it 44–28. It was still a pretty shocking score. I think most people expected a close game in which the other CHS pulled it out. They had also looked very good, especially on defense, in their first game.

Our CHS might be really, really good, but it is early. They play their traditional stupidly difficult schedule; they have games against a couple good Ohio teams, play the defending 3A state champs, and play the current 6A #1 and heavy favorites to win that class in November. Who knows who will be healthy when the playoffs roll around, plus there’s that pesky virus who could take out an important player at any time.

M has been disappointed that she hasn’t been able to go to a game yet. Tickets are limited based on the facility, and since CHS doesn’t play a home game until September, her chance of going has been reliant on how many of the CHS tickets get turned over to students, and then if she can claim one before they’re gone. Hopefully she can go to a game as we get deeper into the season.

CHS games are always on the radio, so I listened to week one’s game. Then last week’s game was the game of the week on local TV, so I was able to watch it. I think M took a nap the entire time. So much for school spirit…

We are also a couple weeks into kickball season. Our schedule has been busy, so I’ve not had a chance to catch up. Both girls have big games tonight so I will aim for getting an update out tomorrow.

Friday Vid

I didn’t work on a playlist this week, so only a video today.

“Release” – Pearl Jam
I couldn’t settle on something to watch last Saturday so started scrolling through YouTube and came across Pearl Jam’s 2018 performance at Lallapalooza in Brazil. Two and a half hours later I had watched the entire thing and knocked out a couple bourbons and started digging for rarer performances. Eventually I found this, from a month before the band appeared on *Saturday Night Live* for the first time and truly began to blow up.

Although Eddie Vedder’s voice has lost some of its range, the band still sounds amazing live, and have firmly cemented their status as one of the best live acts ever. But when you watch a performance like this, you’re reminded of what a freaking force young Eddie was on the mic. Back then the band was still a little loose but there was never any doubting Ed’s voice.

Everything is Bullshit

I’m having a hard time with what is happening around this country right now. What frustrates me most is that I no longer have the patience to sit down and hammer out a couple thousand words about what is going on. I’ve tried, but the longer I type, the madder I get.

So in place of a post I would have offered in the past, when I could work through that anger to try to get something coherent to share, I will offer this video from Trevor Noah. Trevor does not get enough credit. I almost never watch *The Daily Show* anymore (or did in the pre-pandemic age). But every time I see him speak about any issue, serious or humorous, I am deeply impressed. And here he offers the summation I agree with most: this is bullshit.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 47

Chart Week: August 14, 1982
Song: “Someday, Someway” – Marshall Crenshaw
Chart Position: #40, 6th week on the chart. Peaked at #36 for two weeks in August/September.

Some one-hit wonders are easy to explain. There are the accidental hits, songs by unknown artists that get tied to popular movies or TV shows. There are novelty hits that piggyback on some cultural fad and ride its popularity to chart success. And there are the dozens and dozens of artists who capitalize on some musical trend – disco, new wave, etc. – to earn their brief moment of glory.

Others defy explanation, at least to me. These are the artists who make great, timeless music that should seemingly appeal across genres and audiences but can never leverage that brilliance into sustained popularity. To me, Marshall Crenshaw is the ultimate example of these artists.

Crenshaw has been making magical pop music for nearly 40 years now. The ultimate example is “Someday, Someway,” which just barely cracked the Top 40 for a few weeks in the summer of 1982. To me, this is one of the most perfect pop-rock songs ever made. It’s simple and to the point, without a wasted second, yet is also intelligent and extraordinarily well-crafted. That little hint of rockabilly harkens to rock ’n’ roll’s earliest days. It is one of those songs that when I hear it, I want to listen to it again and again.

Crenshaw released at least two more singles that, while not as perfect as “Someday, Someway,” should have still made noise on the charts. “Cynical Girl,” also off his debut, self-titled album, did not hit at all. 1983’s “Whenever You’re On My Mind,” a song so good it makes me dizzy when I listen to it, peaked at #103.

Perhaps that pop perfection is why Crenshaw was not more successful. His music had no rough edges, it wasn’t confrontational, it didn’t cause the listener any distress. It didn’t rail against injustice. It was completely unoffensive music that you can play, feel good while listening to, but can also easily slip into the background. Unless you really lock in and focus on it, you can miss the easy brilliance that filled his songs.

Marshall reminds me a little of one of my all-time favorite artists, Neil Finn. Both were/are absolute geniuses at crafting pop songs that had a touch of rock and a touch of college/indie/alternative to balance their mainstream base.

A lot of folks have no idea who Neil Finn is, but if you mention Crowded House, they will nod their heads. Mention Marshall Crenshaw to most people my age and you’ll get blank stares. The difference is that Crowded House had one massive, unforgettable song that was followed by several minor hits. Crenshaw never had that one big hit, and unless you’ve dug into his albums, you likely have never heard anything beyond “Someday, Someway.”

I would say it is a travesty that Crenshaw didn’t have more pop chart success. Truth is, though, he’s had a pretty good career. He got his start playing John Lennon’s role in Beatlemania.[1] He’s been in movies, including playing his hero Buddy Holly in La Bamba. He’s written music for films, hosted a radio show, has been a guest vocalist for the Smithereens since Pat DiNizio’s death, and still puts out the occasional album and performs a few dozen concerts every year. Not a bad career, to be sure. But it feels like he could have been bigger had the listening public been more open to the music he released in the early ‘80s

  1. Another similarity between Crenshaw and Finn: you can draw direct lines from John Lennon’s music to theirs. Finn has claimed he was approached by the surviving Beatles in the late 80s/early 90s to join them in a Beatles revival tour.  ↩


I swore that I had written a detailed breakdown back in 2004 of my first Indianapolis 500 weekend living here, which until this year was the strangest Indy 500 day of that era. Alas, after checking the archives, I found I wrote way more about the crazy weather that day than about my experience on my first race day as an Indiana resident.

Yesterday was way stranger than 2004, which just featured tornado warnings as the race was ending. But, then again, everything is way stranger this year than any other year, right?

For starters it was super weird having the race in August. It just didn’t feel right. The entire month of May in Indianapolis revolves around the race. There is the Mini-Marathon, which includes a lap around the track, early in May. There’s the Grand Prix race, a recent addition but a nice warmup. Then there’s qualifying weekend, Carb Day, and the slow build up to race day itself. Once the calendar flips from April to May, the entire area has a different vibe that you can’t miss even if you don’t care about the race. Houses have checkered flags hanging from their porches, their mailboxes, or along their fences. You see people in certain industries associated with the race driving cars that are stamped with the race’s logo. The race is inescapable.

All of that was lost with the delay to August. I know I wasn’t the only person who, a week ago, said, “Oh, the race is next weekend?!?!” Even with qualifying and practice it still did not feel like the same buildup of energy and attention that comes in a normal year.

No spectators at the race was weird. I’ve only been to the race once, which was enough for me. But it is a normal part of life in Indy to know which of your friends are going, where they are sitting, if they have a “secret” route to the Speedway that cuts 15 minutes off their commute, etc.

And then the ending of the race was weird and disappointing. A single-car crash with five laps to go forced the race to end under yellow, robbing us of a potentially epic ending. Sure, the yellow finish could have happened in any other year, but it happening seemed extremely appropriate for 2020.

It was also strange for the race to be shown live in Indy. That only happened once, a couple years ago on the race’s 100th edition, when the Speedway was sold out weeks in advance. Normally Indy residents listen to the race on the radio – to what is a shockingly good broadcast – and then watch the replay in the evening if the race was exciting. But this year, with the stands shut, we were able to watch live on NBC with the rest of the country. I had the TV out by the pool on but had to duck inside soon after the race began to avoid the heat. It was funny to peek outside and get a five-second preview of what was about to happen thanks the to difference between getting the signal over the air versus via cable.

Normally the race-day flyover circles around the metro area as it times out its approach to the track properly. Last year a group of military planes of mixed vintages flew directly over our house twice before heading to the track. So I was very disappointed that the Thunderbirds didn’t come over our house. I could hear them once, as they veered away from Speedway and then back toward it, but could not actually see them.

As with every modified sporting event of this summer, I was thankful the race happened and hopeful that next May will bring a return to normalcy at the track and around our city.

With the exception of while we were away in Captiva, we have not eaten in a restaurant since early March. We finally broke that string Saturday, going out to lunch at a spot that we used to go regularly before we moved. We were hoping to sit outside but only two of the tables had umbrellas and those were both filled, so we took a booth inside. Which ended up being fine, as it was fairly early and there were only two other groups inside. Fitting the theme for the weekend, it was weird. You want to support locally owned places that are struggling to stay afloat. But I’m also not super excited to make dining-in a regular activity again just yet.

Friday Playlist

A delayed but very special playlist for this week. Today would have been Joe Strummer’s 68th birthday. To celebrate, a group of musicians is doing [a virtual tribute concert]( for Joe later today. Sadly I’ll be running around getting the girls then heading to kickball, but I will certainly be watching a replay over the weekend.

As Strummer is on my Mt. Rushmore of influential musicians, seems like I should honor him as well. So here is a playlist of some of his best songs.

Spotify and/or WordPress is being a bitch today. Follow this link to hear the songs.

“Keys to Your Heart” – The 101ers.
The only really quality song from his pre-Clash band, you can hear seeds of his post-Clash sound in it.

“Career Opportunities” – The Clash
From their debut album, I’ve always thought this song was the best example of Joe talking about what was going on in the United Kingdom for young people in the mid-70s.

“Safe European Home” – The Clash
Joe was obsessed with the music that came from Jamaica and was played in the Jamaican immigrant communities in London. Off their second album, *Give ‘Em Enough Rope*, he makes fun of himself for building up Jamaica as a utopia only to learn that the country was in the midst of a period of serious gun violence upon his first visit. The band was hustled out of their recording studio just before an armed gang arrived with intent to teach the latest rich, white, British band to show up in Kingston a lesson.

“Clampdown” – The Clash
Off the legendary *London Calling*, I don’t know if Joe ever spoke better about the conflict between labor and management as well as he did on this track. You also hear the great interplay between Strummer and Mick Jones.

“The Magnificent Seven” – The Clash
Blondie gets all the credit for being one of the first white bands to embrace hip-hop. But Joe and the Clash were right there with Blondie. This is from 1981’s *Sandinista*.

“The Street Parade” – The Clash
Also from *Sandinista*, an album loaded with stridently political songs, is this magical song that sounds like nothing else The Clash ever recorded.

“This Is England” – The Clash
1985’s *Cut the Crap* album is often left out of official Clash discographies. With good reason. Joe had kicked out both drummer Topper Headon and Jones, his writing partner. He and Paul Simonon attempted to carry on, but losing Jones robbed Joe of the perfect song-writing counter. The band did manage to capture their old mojo on this track, though, a snapshot of life in Margaret Thatcher’s England.

“Love Kills” – Joe Strummer
His first solo single, it appeared on the soundtrack for the movie *Sid and Nancy*, about the life of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious.

“Diggin’ The New” – Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros
By 1990 Joe began to find his solo stride, and this song was a bright, warm confirmation that he remained relevant.

“Bhindi Bhagee” – Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros
Joe grew up traveling the world thanks to his father’s career as a diplomat. He loved music from all over the world, not just Jamaica, and championed it throughout his career. Here he celebrates not only world music, but the many, diverse neighborhoods of London that are populated by immigrants.

“Arms Aloft” – Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros.
Joe died unexpectedly in December 2002. He and the Mescaleros had begun work on what became his final album,. *Streetcore*. While many of the songs were incomplete, and sounded so on the final, posthumous release, a few, like this, were fully formed and captured the energy from early in his career. He seemed poised to be an important part of the music world deep into his life before his sudden passing.

“Rock the Casbah” – The Clash
I remember this song absolutely blowing my 11-year-old mind. And then this ridiculous video made it an unforgettable song. RIP, Joe.

School Daze

Three days into everyone being back in school. I wouldn’t say it’s been a smooth transition, as both schools continue to adjust on the fly as conditions warrant.

At CHS, they have had to make multiple changes to students’ schedules. We heard that the first change was because they had a higher students-per-class ratio than the county health department wanted. So over the weekend 62 sections – I’m assuming that means groups of similar classes – had to be revamped to hit that threshold. M got an email Sunday saying to check her schedule again Monday morning. Sure enough, most of her classes had changed.

When I picked her up after school she said her schedule had changed again during the day. So she had math before lunch…then again after lunch instead of chemistry. She said her math teacher looked at her and asked her why she was back. I’m sure she wasn’t the only kid that happened to.

Tuesday was apparently a little more stable, although one of her classes did change location. She said some of the restrictions inside the school are “super annoying.” Most halls are one-way, which means she sometimes has to make a big circle to get to her next class instead of just popping around the corner. We’ve adjusted our pickup routine because kids are not allowed to roam the campus while waiting for rides, more because of construction than Covid concerns. But then they can’t socialize in the room they wait in. So I now do first pick up at St. P’s and run over and get M shortly after CHS lets out.

She also says all of her teachers are annoying. She loved her teachers last year so that was kind of inevitable.

At St. P’s things are also a little weird. C’s class does not have a dedicated home room teacher, so other teachers are bouncing in all day to monitor them. We’ve heard of at least a couple times when no one has been in the room with them. Which A) is bound to happen and B) probably should be something that is corrected quickly rather than allowed to continue.

I’ve heard a ton of complaints from parents with kids who have had to quarantine about the difficulties of eLearning. They claim the connections are not great, it is difficult for kids at home to ask questions, and sometimes materials that are supposed to be visible to the kids are home are not available to them.

Kinks are to be expected. We had a couple friends who pulled their kids and put them in public schools because they were worried that St. P’s did not have a good plan to manage either hybrid or total eLearning if it came to that again this year. Although we’ve not had to keep a kid home yet, the fact others are having so many issues is concerning. I would say disappointing, too, but it’s hard enough to teach a class of middle schoolers face-to-face. Having to also teach a handful of kids who are Zoomed into class while keeping both groups engaged, interested, and making sure they all are getting questions answered seems like a nearly impossible task.

Beyond the actual education part, C and L have both complained that their classrooms are freezing. C said hers was 60 all day Tuesday. A new HVAC system came online the day before classes began and it appears to be very, very good at cooling. I’m assuming/hoping tweaks will be made.

Kickball season starts Wednesday. C’s team will be missing two girls who are self-quarantining. Fortunately we have 17 girls on the squad, so missing a few actually makes it easier on us when we’re making the lineup and defensive rotation. L’s team only has 10 girls, which is how many play in the field. They scrimmaged another team last night and the coaches were (kind of) jokingly telling the girls they can’t get sick or injured for the next three weeks.

Because CYO sports schedules are dumb, L already had her basketball tryouts for the fall last Saturday. She should find out what team she is on by the end of the week. She decided to pass on club soccer this year so that she could have the best chance to make the A basketball team. I hope it works out. We signed her up for rec soccer but that has already been cancelled for the fall.

Finally, C decided not to run cross country this year. She told us she didn’t like it that much last year even before she got her stress fracture that ended her season. The joy she used to find in distance running didn’t come back over the summer. I’ll miss Saturday meets and hanging out with the other parents. Cross country meets seem like the one safe spectator sport.

Friday Playlist

All about the ladies this week. Well, kind of. There is a male artist in the PL, but as you’ll learn, he was “in a phase,” as my mom would have said.

“the 1” – Taylor Swift
I give Taylor all the credit: show knows how to write a fucking song. I keep getting drawn back to her folklore album. It might be the best album I’ve listened to this year. My only quibble is it is a little long and a few of its 16 tracks could have been pruned. That said, she saves one of the best for very late in the running that makes fighting through the middle worth it. I’ll likely share that song down the road. This is the first track and is a perfect tone-setter for what is to follow.

“Berlin” – Fenne Lily
I had never heard of Fenne Lily before about a month ago. I’ve heard three songs of her up-coming second album and have liked each one a little more. This one smolders and smokes and it just wonderful.

“A/B Futures” – Land of Talk
I love it when artists stretch their boundaries a little. This doesn’t sound like any Land of Talk track I had ever heard before. It is a delightful surprise.

“Sorry” – beabadoobee
A couple firsts here. Definitely the first Philippines-born artist I’ve shared here. And perhaps the first artist born in the current century? Beatrice Laus was born June 2, 2000. Which kind of blows my mind. Especially when she makes music like this, which sounds like it’s straight from 1996.

“Cosmic Day” – Prince
Another “lost” track from the Prince vaults. In 1986 he recorded a bunch of tracks featuring sped-up vocals that sounded more feminine than his normal voice. A handful of these tracks were collected and set to be released on an album called Camille which would be attributed to an artist named Camille rather than Prince. That album was scrapped, as were two other albums (Dream Academy and Crystal Ball). In 1987 songs from these sessions, along with some new additions, were compiled for Sign ‘o the Times. “Cosmic Day” was never pegged for any of those projects. It’s a fun little track. Most of, it’s a reminder of how much freaking music he was making at the time. After Around the World In A Day was released, he managed to record enough music to fill multiple albums and still had songs left over.

“Everything for Free” – K’s Choice
I’ve said many times that I don’t have the same nostalgic pull towards ‘90s music that I have to ‘80s music. I do have the SiriusXM Lithium station in my favorites, but it is buried behind a lot of others and takes awhile to get there. And when I pass it, I often keep going. But occasionally I hear a song I haven’t heard in a long time and go, “Oh yeah!” and crank it up for the next few minutes. That was the case with this, which I heard earlier this week. Pretty good song. Worth mentioning that then lead singer Sarah Bettens has since transitioned and is now named Sam Bettens.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 46

Chart Week: August 2, 1986
Song: “Your Wildest Dreams” – The Moody Blues
Chart Position: #20, 16th week on the chart. Peaked at #9 for two weeks in July.

Having a teenage crush on a teacher is kind of a rite of passage, the stuff dozens – perhaps hundreds – of trashy novels and movies have been based on over the years.

However, I don’t recall every being infatuated with one of my teachers.[1] I think that’s because while I had plenty of nice looking teachers, there weren’t any that were so good looking that they made me feel all queasy inside.

During my year in California there was one teacher who may have filled that role had I lived out there longer. She had kind of a Plain Jane look about her. She wore her hair straight and long and didn’t put much makeup on. Plus, she was generally a joyless, strict, by-the-book teacher. But she also had a subtle, natural beauty that you appreciated the more you were around her.

One day, however, she let her guard down a little. She told us a story about when she was in high school. It had something to do with a guy she thought was cute finally asking her out and them going hiking and a teacher from their school who was also hiking discovering the six pack they had stashed and not only taking it but leaving a note that they shouldn’t be drinking. Wow!

She was an English/writing teacher and I think some of her point was about how to tell a story, how to build drama, how to bring your story to a satisfying conclusion.[2] But in telling the story she also opened herself up to us. As she laughed and smiled while she told her story, you could feel the class growing warmer toward her. I remember gasps and laughter when she came to the kicker at the end of the tale.

This was not too long before we moved back to Kansas City. I wonder if I would have learned to appreciate her teaching skills more had we remained in California. And maybe even developed a little bit of a crush on her along the way.

What does that have to do with this song? Not a whole hell of a lot, to be honest. Except that once she told us that she liked the Moody Blues. In 1987 this was the only Moody Blues song I knew of. I think that is still the case. So when I heard it a week ago, it made me think of her and that moment when she reached out and made a connection with her students.

  1. I did have a Spanish instructor in college who I was interested in. College grad assistants who are just a couple years older than you don’t really count as teacher crushes, though.  ↩

  2. Shit, now that I think about it, maybe her story wasn’t true at all, just a piece of fiction to teach us rather than connect with us.  ↩

First Day Back, Part One

After five months at home, C and L finally went back to school today. We shall, of course, see how long this lasts. The entire 7th/8th grade football team is currently quarantining at home after at least one kid tested positive last week. There will be more positive kids that pop up soon and all we can do is hope those numbers stay low enough to keep the school open and that our girls don’t get sick.

Both girls were awake when I got up at 6:30 this morning. We were out the door ten minutes earlier than planned and they were some of the first kids to try out the new entry process.[1] They have to be masked up all day, although they can remove them with their teachers’ permission while behind their desk screens. They are not moving classes during the day, rather the teachers will rotate through the rooms for different subjects. They will eat lunch at their desks. Classes will try to move outside when possible. All pretty standard stuff I imagine your kids are also learning as part of their new routines.

It’s been an interesting summer for St. P’s. The administration has been attempting to come up with plans to re-start school while navigating different mandates handed down from the state, county/city, and archdiocese. There was a big infrastructure project – replacing the 40+ year old HVAC system – that was just completed last night. Hopefully they did it right and the AC is blowing cool air through the classrooms today. Because guidelines on how classes should be composed have changed a couple times, we’ve had three different class lists for middle school. This caused consternation by both students and parents. C was thrilled with her class, then devastated, then thrilled again. I told her not to get too comfortable; shit is going to change a lot over the next eight months.

For now school sports are on. The girls have both had kickball practices and got their game schedules last night. C is following her big sister’s lead and cheering as an 8th grader. She had her first practice yesterday. L has basketball tryouts this weekend. Again, we’ll see how long this all lasts; L’s rec league soccer season has already been cancelled. I think the general view from parents is that we really need to get through the first month or two of school without having to shut down so kids can at least get one sport in. We all need the escape and release that comes from yelling at your kid to run faster, calling the official a blind idiot, and saying nasty things about the opposing parents. I kid, I kid!

M starts classes on Friday. She was supposed to start tomorrow but CHS decided to split the school in half for the first two days, with sophomores joining online tomorrow and live Friday. Monday they announced that since the first days are mostly busywork, virtual students don’t have to check in this week. She’s happy about the extra day to sleep in. The school is supposed to return to a normal schedule next Monday, but we anticipate that changing given the county has not yet granted a waiver to go to full enrollment on campus. We figure it will be some sort of one day live, one day virtual system similar to what the other Catholic schools in the county are doing.

But finally, even if temporarily, our kids are moving towards a more normal life and schedule.

  1. Different groups of grades pass through different sets of doors, there is a temperature check before entry, and they go straight to class instead of congregating in the gym and waiting for the first bell.  ↩

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