Month: October 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Friday Playlist

“Impossible Weight” – Deep Sea Diver with Sharon Van Etten
The music to this sounds thoroughly modern, but Sharon’s vocals have a terrific New Wave quality.

“Guest in Your Life” – Sinai Vessel
This song sounds warm and familiar, like the fall clothes we are all pulling out as the weather gets cooler.

“80 Days of Rain” – Lande Hekt
Apparently this song is about climate change.

“Oceans” – Pearl Jam
Last week PJ released the recording of their 1992 MTV Unplugged performance in the US for the first time. I think I own it on an import CD that is packed away somewhere, but it had still been years since I listened to any of it. For those of us who were watching at the time, I’m sure you remember what a phenomenal performance it was. It’s kind of typical Pearl Jam to open the show, which would have been the first time a lot of people ever saw or heard them, with this track instead of one of the songs that was going to be released as a single. A pretty stunning vocal performance by Eddie. Not sure he can still hit those high notes.

“Remove 45” – De La Soul, Styles P, Talib Kweli, Mysonne, & Chuck D
Y’all know what time it is.

“This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” – Talking Heads
Another video thanks to a Number Ones bonus track. This week Tom Breihan wrote about this Talking Heads deep track. It’s a song I know a little, but would certainly not be the first TH track I picked for a playlist. But after reading his write-up, watching the utterly charming video from Stop Making Sense, and realizing how good David Bryne’s vocals are, I had to share it.

Fall Links Life

I’m overwhelmed by numbers. The more I look at them, the more my sense of dread and disappointment and even fear grows.

That’s right, it’s time for a long overdue update on my golf game.

Quick summary: not good.

Now, for the people into that kind of thing, far too many details. Feel free to skip the rest, although you’ll miss the accounting of the greatest moment of my golfing life.

Because of a combination of factors, I’ve played my last five rounds on a new (to me) course.[1] It is not very long and, by course rating and slope, should not be super tough. But it is very narrow. Which means it may not be the best place for me to play. But I can always get a tee time and it is cheap, so it has been my spot for the past two months.

And it has been kicking my ass.

Five rounds on this new course. All five rounds over 100. Well, kind of. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

As I said, the course is very narrow. There is absolute death one way or the other, and sometimes both, on nine holes. I’m talking thick woods, a river, and a busy street. If you miss into these, your ball is gone, no space for a hero shot to get back into the hole.

In most of my rounds there I have played like there is a bonus rather than a penalty for losing your ball. Multiple times I’ve lost multiple balls on a single hole. Multiple times I’ve lost balls on two-straight swings. Most of my misses have been big, majestic slices off the tee. It has not been pretty.

My most recent round, two weeks ago, I was actually keeping the driver in play for the most part. However, I was suddenly missing left with every other club in the bag. So I guess whatever anti-slice methods I was using were working?

All in all, this course has chewed me up and beaten me down a little. But I’ve gotten a little stubborn about it. I realize I need to learn to keep the ball in play if I want to improve, regardless of what course I play. More than that broader goal, I really want to play a halfway decent round on this course, just to prove that I can. If I can just eliminate OB that will go a long way toward that goal.

I mentioned that one day was a little different. That morning I was doing my usual “fuck up start of the round” thing. I went 8–8–7–5–8. Or something like that, because I stopped keeping score after the third hole. I decided just to play out the front nine and if I wasn’t hitting it better by the turn, I would pack it in and go home. Fortunately, I did start hitting it better and finished with two pars, so I proceeded to the tenth tee.

Number 10 is just a brutal hole. It is dead straight but there is a thickly wooded hill all along the left side. On the right, beginning about 150 yards down, is water. From there to the green is a 250 yard fairway that is maybe 40 yards wide and slopes toward the water. The first three times I played it I either found the woods or the water.[2] This time I kept it straight. I did pull my second shot but got a lucky bounce off a tree and onto the green. I still three-putted for bogie but that was my best score ever on the hole. I followed that with a bogie on 11.

Then I went on one of the best stretches I’ve ever played. I went par-bogie-par-EAGLE-par-par. On 18 I left a bogie putt about three inches short that kept me from shooting 39 on the back.

From shooting well over 50 and being ready to give up to almost breaking 40. Golf is weird.

That eagle was the first of my life. It came on a 465 yard par five. The tee is super elevated, so the hole plays way shorter than what the card says. Plus it is actually a hole that you can miss either way and still be in play. My tee shot was fairly straight but trickled into the rough on the left. I had about 155 in (again, elevated tee helps) and had to aim to the right of the green to avoid a tree. I hit a seven iron that drew perfectly, hit short of the green, and rolled out thanks to the burnt out fairway. My ball settled two inches off the green, pin-high. I had a 15-foot putt that was slightly uphill with a little break in the middle.

No one was behind me so I stalked it like Tiger, checking every angle and trying to glean every nuance out of the green. I played a little left-to-right break, made solid contact, and the speed seemed right. The ball started to move right, as I expected. But then it moved back left and looked like it would miss just. Dammit! At the last moment, there was either a hint of break, a puff of wind, or the golfing gods helped me out and the ball tumbled in. Elation, joy, celebration, tears in his eyes, all that shit. I pumped my fist and waved to the non-existent crowd. People driving by probably thought I was a lunatic. Not really sure how I managed to par the next two holes after that moment.

That was a lot of fun. Not so much fun was not breaking 100 in my last five rounds. Not that I though I was great or anything, but after breaking 90 a few times and generally hanging out in the low 90s, I kind of thought 100 was out of play, at least on generic muni courses in good conditions.

I can definitely blame some of those scores on the penal qualities of the new course. Still, that inability to keep the ball in play is an absolute killer, whether I can find the ball after a wayward tee shot or not. It is something I have to fix if I want to improve my scores.

Score is not always everything. The 86 I carded in June came on a very easy course that gives you plenty of opportunities to recover when you miss the fairway. You don’t really need a handicap if you’re not playing in tournaments or in regular money games where you need a common starting point for determining strokes. I still signed up for one this summer, just to make my return to golf seem more official.

Handicaps are always erratic until you get a full 20 rounds in, and I only have 12 in the system right now. I’m currently sitting at a 19.1. I was hoping to be more in the 15 range. But ball don’t lie and my last five rounds say I’m barely inside the 20-handicap threshold that I believe separates mediocre and shitty. The only positive is being at 19.1 leaves me plenty of room to get better.

  1. Golf boom means courses are busier, school days mean I can’t get those pre–8:00 tee times, later sunrise means courses open a little later, and I have a limited window in which I can start if I want to play 18 holes on a weekday.  ↩

  2. Or both.  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 49

Chart Week: October 23, 1982
Song: “Steppin’ Out” – Joe Jackson
Chart Position: #32, 10th week on the chart. Peaked at #6 for three weeks in December.

I’ve written many times about how my parents influenced the music I have listened to. I’ve also mentioned how my grandparents always had the radio tuned to the local station, which between farm reports and news/weather bulletins, played the most generic blend of Top 40 pop possible. But they aren’t the only relatives who deserve credit.

My dad’s youngest brother helped me transition from the music of others to the music of me.

Uncle D is just 10 years older than me. As much a I enjoyed visiting my grandparents, those visits were always better when he was also around. That meant I could flip through his record collection and discover bands I had never heard of, or listen to deep cuts from bands I only knew the radio singles of. Or we would hop into his Monte Carlo and crank the radio up while cruising around Great Bend, KS. He introduced me to AC/DC, Boston, Pablo Cruise, Loverboy, Journey, and countless others[1] We would sit outside the Dairy Queen eating ice cream and I would ask him questions about what bands he had seen in concert and what it was like to go to a show. He and his college roommate were both aspiring radio DJs, so when they got together I would listen to their stories of getting to pick the music that was broadcast across central Kansas.[2]

1982 was when I was beginning to develop my own tastes in music. It helped that this was in the heart of the years when my mom worked multiple jobs, so my evenings were often spent alone, picking whatever radio station I wanted to jam out to. I kept a blank cassette in the stereo, queued up and ready to record when a song I liked came on. I was always sure to catch Q–104’s top four at 9:00 show to hear the most requested songs of the day so I could discuss them on the bus the next morning with my fellow music geeks.

The year was full of weird, new sounds, and I wasn’t sure what to think about all of them. “Steppin’ Out”’s insistent bass line and piano jabs got into my head, but the song sounded very different from the Human League, Soft Cell, or Flock of Seagulls, other bands I discovered in 1982. It wasn’t your standard New Wave song, but it also didn’t sound like something my mom would have any interest in. It was kind of jazzy. It didn’t have a chorus that wormed its way into your head and never left. Was that a xylophone in the instrumental break in the last minute? And Joe looked more like someone who would be managing the Laundromat we went to once a week than the youthful artists that were forcing New Wave into the pop charts.

However odd its various elements were, the song’s sense of liberation and adventure struck a chord with a kid who was locked alone inside the house five nights a week.

Right around the weekend of October 23, 1982, my uncle and his fiancé took me to some haunted houses in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City. It was my first-ever trip to a haunted house and I was both terrified and delighted. I have a vivid memory of “Steppin’ Out” coming on at some point and my uncle twisting the volume knob up. He started bopping his head to the beat and asked me, “Isn’t this a great song?” His approval gave me the permission to fall in love with this track despite its strangeness. I still turn the volume up a couple notches any time I hear it.

I texted my uncle Sunday to see if he recalled helping me to step out on the town that night 38 years ago. He did. And he remembered teaching me some cheesy dance he and his roommates did anytime “Steppin’ Out” came on, which no doubt annoyed and embarrassed his fiancé. It wouldn’t surprise me if he busted out that awkward dance Sunday evening to see if it still annoyed his wife of 34 years.[3]

  1. A few years later I introduced him to bands like U2 and Pearl Jam.  ↩

  2. Unfortunately my uncle didn’t have the voice for radio. His roommate did, though, and spent a few years as an on-air personality before realizing selling insurance paid the bills better than being on a small-town radio station.  ↩

  3. Same woman as in 1982. They were engaged for a long, long time. I forget why.  ↩

Friday Playlist

An extra-large playlist this week. I had some time to kill before a World Series game started and did a little more work than I normally do on the curation side.

“Around Your Room” – Kississippi
This doesn’t sound much like the music Kississippi has made in the past. It sounds more like a CHVRCHES song. It is utterly fabulous.

“CRY” – Julia Jacklin
Last week Julia released two new songs inspired by the state of the world. I think this one sums up how most of us feel the best.

“Get It Back” – Pearl Jam
From the sessions for this year’s Gigaton, PJ offered it up for a collection of songs that raised money and awareness for voting rights. It won’t go down as one of the band’s greatest cut tracks – they have two full disks of those – and it feels a little incomplete, so it makes sense that it did not make the final Gigaton track list. But it does sound pretty good, has a nice edge to it, and Mike McCready gets to go to work at the end.

“One Tree Hill” – U2
I’ve been out on U2 for a long time now. Their albums began to feel bloated and lazy to me around 2003. Which, to be fair, happens to most bands their age. But I also checked out on their earlier music which I had loved for decades. I guess newer sounds just fit my tastes better. (I listened to less Pearl Jam over the same span, too.) Following his top 100 Springsteen and Tom Petty lists, Steven Hyden dropped his top 100 U2 songs list this week. It made me go back and listen to those songs I used to love. Some of the magic came back. One chunk of their catalog I never fell out of love with was the songs that fill side two of The Joshua Tree. Side one is a legendary side, one of the greatest 20 or so minutes of music ever put on wax/tape. But side two is no joke, either. In time, as I got tired of the big singles on side one, I came to love side two even more. I could have put any of the first four songs on here. This is the lucky pick.

“Human Touch” – Bruce Springsteen
New Bruce album out today! I’ve read two positive reviews and one that is a little more lukewarm. When I was working through Steven Hyden’s top 100 Boss songs list, I rediscovered this song, which I had totally forgotten about. I recall liking it when it came out, but it arrived right when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were capturing my attention, and just as Bruce was slipping into his ’90s period of malaise. So it didn’t really stick with me. Maybe not an all time classic, but it still sounds pretty good. It has that great Bruce guitar sound that I just love.

“Say It Isn’t So” – The Outfield
Lead singer Tony Lewis died this week. Listen, “Your Love” is a fine song, one of those ’80s songs that will get played as long as humans are playing music. But I got sick of it back when it was played roughly every 32 minutes on pop radio in 1986. I may be the only one who thought this way, but I always liked this song more. Fight me!

“Blood on Donald Trump’s Tiny, Tiny Hands” – Grateful Dad
Fuck his racist, narcissistic ass.

“What the Water Gave Me” – Florence + The Machine
Stereogum recently ran a fundraiser to help support their independence after escaping from their previous owners. One of the benefits was that anyone who contributed over $1000 could select an extra song for Tom Breihan to review beyond his normal selection of Billboard number ones. (No, I did not contribute a grand to the cause.) This week’s entry was for this fabulous song. This is such a great performance. And it made me go back and listen to some of the F+M songs that I haven’t listened to for awhile.

An Annual Rant

Man, I hate fall break.

I’m pretty sure I’ve ranted about this before. But as our girls are on fall break right now, it is on my mind.

A year ago at one of L’s soccer practices I was making sarcastic comments about fall break with the dad who I had coached with for a few years. We agreed fall break was dumb and messed up youth sports, which should always come first. Again, we were being sarcastic. L’s head coach overheard us and made a comment about how fall breaks are a great chance for families to spend time together. I felt like kind of a jerk, and I’m pretty sure he wrote me off as one at that point.

To me, fall break serves no real purpose. What the hell do we need a break from? The weather is about as good as it gets in October. It’s not like we’ve slogged through three months of bitter winter and need a mental break. As I type this is is pushing 80, there is no humidity, and it is beautiful. Fall break never falls right between the first and second quarters, anyway, so it’s not like it’s a true academic break. Fall is a warm and happy time of the year, where late March/early April is one when everyone needs a chance to check out and go someplace nice or just sleep late for a week while we wait for spring to arrive.

Having kids at a Catholic school complicates matters. None of the schools are on the same fall break schedule, so girls basketball gets stopped for three weeks to try to avoid having to reschedule games. Some Catholic grade/middle schools follow the Catholic high schools’ breaks, but even those can’t get on the same schedule. Cathedral is off today and tomorrow, as is St. P’s.[1] The other north side Catholic high school has the entire week off. Meanwhile, a few other Catholic grade schools follow the schedule of the public school district they fall into. Not sure why the archdiocese can make so many invasive rules regarding schools but not force us to take fall break the same damn days.

Both St P’s and CHS sent out messages asking families to be smart and follow social distancing and masking guidelines if they travel this week. The video we got from CHS was all but begging people to make good decisions. “We’ve made it this far, please don’t fuck it up,” was the unstated message. They flat out pointed out that relaxing this week could prevent the football team from winning a state championship next month. Oh, and other sports too. But don’t forget football. I like that they were honest about that.

Along those lines, two schools in Indiana have already forfeited their football sectional game this weekend because of quarantining. One team was undefeated and ranked third in class A.

I feel for the players of all fall sports. Kids are generally stupid and will do stupid things. I bet this fall a lot are thinking about the implications of them being the one who introduces the virus to their team and wrecks their season. There’s enough stress about winning and losing, grades, and other high school bullshit without worrying about going to see your crazy aunt who thinks covid is a myth and then being the reason your team forfeits their playoff game.

For all my angst and hate regarding fall break, I must admit that this year, I think our teachers absolutely need a break. We are not 100% happy with how our kids’ teachers have handled this year. A few are flat out being dicks in class every day. The smallest transgression will set them off. There are daily text threads amongst parents to compare notes and see if whatever that day’s drama was is worth sending a note back to the teacher and/or principal about. At St P’s especially, where they are shorthanded and attempting to cover extra classes, some of the teachers seem particularly short tempered. I know teachers are looking ahead to the coming months and worry whether the measures that have kept our schools open in the fall will still work in the winter. Again, a whole level of stress on top of the normal one. I’m glad all the teachers get a long weekend to, hopefully, decompress a little.

I still think the two days St P’s always takes for fall break should be moved to Thanksgiving week so the kids get that entire week off. That’s a great time for a break.

It was nice to sleep late today, though.

  1. This was M’s week: Monday normal virtual day. Tuesday bonus virtual day. Wednesday bonus day off for selling all her raffle tickets, something 95%+ of students do. Then official break Thursday and Friday. C and L are out of school today and tomorrow.  ↩

Unexpected Goodbyes

A couple recent departures from the University of Kansas athletic program that deserve a few words.


First, late last week Silvio De Sousa announced he was leaving the basketball program. KU, like every Power 5 sports program, has a long list of players who were “disappointments.” Silvio might be at the top of KU’s list.

During the 2017–18 season, when Billy Preston was ruled ineligible and Udoka Azabuike was injured, De Sousa seemed like a gift from the hoops gods. A top 40 high school recruit with an NBA body who chose to graduate from the IMG Academy in December and enroll at KU for the spring semester. He might not be a star, but he was an inside player who might make a difference.

He immediately faced eligibility challenges, which kept him off the court until February. He was a mess at first, but righted the ship for the Big 12 tournament when Udoka was again hurt. And he came up huge in the late moments of the Midwest Region championship game against Duke, after Dok had fouled out. He played great D. He got some huge rebounds against Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter. He made a difference in the biggest moment and his future seemed bright.

Until his name popped up in the Adidas/FBI scandal a few weeks later. What followed was one of the most bizarre two years you could imagine. The immediate short-term ineligibility. The two year ban by the NCAA. The public outcry by Bill Self and Jeff Long, which was soon joined by several national voices. The appeal and declaration that Silvio would be eligible in 2019–20. A difficult year in which he never seemed comfortable or looked as explosive as he had in March 2018. And, finally, the brawl and chair incident against Kansas State.

A lot of folks thought Silvio should be done at KU after that fight. Self stuck by him, but there was the wonder if there would be a mutually agreed upon exit following the season. And maybe that was set to happened before Covid hit. But Silvio remaining a part of the program through the summer and then fall boot camp makes his departure a little curious.

Add all that up and you get a supremely disappointing career, at least when you look at the expectations-to-results ratio. It is made all the more worse by Silvio being the most obvious reason for KU likely going on probation, Self’s job being in jeopardy, and the 2018 Final Four appearance being vacated.

Which, of course, isn’t fair. Silvio didn’t take the money, his guardian did. Silvio didn’t rank himself compared to other high school seniors, dozens of “experts” did. Silvio didn’t declare himself a savior for a program in need, the fans and talking heads did. He deserves all the blame for the brawl, or at least for turning a minor moment into a major one. But KU fans shouldn’t put all the NCAA stuff on him.

Sadly Silvio De Sousa will turn into a footnote of KU history. The game has changed so much in just three years that losing a big man a couple months before games begin barely registers. This just opens more minutes for any of KU’s 19 wing players to get on the court and ensures Self will stick to a four smalls, one big lineup.


Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse for KU football…

Pooka Williams was the one thing that made KU football worth watching. And, even then, that interest was severely diluted by Pooka’s performance dropping off this year thanks to an even worse offensive line than he played behind his first two years. But his departure still removes the only thing that made KU football games remotely interesting: the chance you might see him do something incredible.

He claims he wants to be close to home and his mother who is in bad health. There’s no reason not to believe that is the primary reason for leaving Lawrence.

But based on the lack of shock by the reporters who are closest to the team, there had to have been rumors about this for weeks. And I’m guessing those rumors, and the reality of the situation, are based entirely upon Pooka seeing that the offense this year simply doesn’t give him a chance to put up big numbers. Worse, it was likely to get him injured as defenses keyed on him. So why not go back to Louisiana, rest and heal for a bit, then train with all your buddies at LSU in preparation for next spring’s draft before a missed block against Oklahoma gets your knee blown out?

Pooka was truly a gift from the football gods, one which the KU program did not deserve. But KU, honestly, doesn’t need guys like Pooka. At least not right now. Pooka doesn’t win games for this program in its current state, he just gives you moments of delight in the midst of despair.

No, what KU needs now are the boring guys who will show up and play for 3–4 years, getting a little better every day and every game and every season. Once you have linemen who can actually open holes and protect quarterbacks, once you have guys who can line up and remember the snap count, who can avoid penalties, who can just run the plays the way they are drawn up and give them a chance to work, once you have 50–60 of those guys, then, that’s when you need a Pooka.

Weekend Notes

It felt like I mostly sat on my ass watching sports this weekend. Turns out a lot went on. Here are some details.

HS Football

M snagged a ticket at the last minute to the Indy high school game of the year: 5A #1 Cathedral vs 6A #1 Center Grove. Both teams were undefeated, had rolled through their first eight games pretty much unchallenged, and were ranked in the top 25 of the USA Today national poll.[1] They were also ranked 1–2 in the all-class Indiana computer poll, with a large gap between CHS and the #3 team.

I figured CG would win fairly easily. Although CHS had played a tougher schedule, CG is much more physically impressive. They have 6’8” and 6’6” kids on the offensive line. Their quarterback is just a junior and has offers from most of the Big 10. They have a d-lineman committed to Minnesota and a d-end who has offers from Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, and pretty much every other major school. Their running back is an absolute horse who would likely be challenging career rushing records had he not missed almost his entire junior year because of injuries. CHS has a receiver who is going to Louisville…to play baseball. Their best running back is going to Columbia. Most of their other good seniors will go to D2 or D3 schools. Very good players, but without the ceilings of CG’s best.

Oh, and CHS won a very physical, nasty game 14–9 last year. So CG was motivated.

CHS punted on their first possession then CG scored without much effort. My prediction seemed solid. But CHS’ defense righted themselves and the rest of the first half was very even. CHS got two big completions and scored a touchdown in the second quarter to go into the break down just 10–6.

Then they controlled the third quarter, forcing multiple CG punts. They caught a huge break late in the period when they got an interception and ran it back 73 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly they were up 13–10 and controlling the game on D.

The fourth quarter was a series of traded punts. CG, who has arguably the best kicker in the state, put a 30-yard field goal off the crossbar to miss a chance to tie with about 4:00 left. The radio announcers started doing the math: three first downs and CHS would escape with a huge win. They got the first two, CG burned all their time outs, and the game came down to a fourth and one just past midfield.

CHS got too cute. Instead of giving it to their running back, who was having a good series, or letting the quarterback take it and make something happen, they handed it to a receiver on a sweep and he was stopped for a loss. The decision made some sense because CHS had not punted well all night, plus CG would have brought heavy pressure. With the way the CHS defense was playing, it was a reasonable risk.

CG had a minute to go 54 yards. They needed just 44 of those seconds, scoring on a touchdown pass with 0:16 left. CHS couldn’t do anything on the final three plays of the game and lost a terrific game 17–13.

CHS has to feel disappointed about the final outcome, but great about hanging with CG, something no team in the state did for more than 30 minutes. CG, provided they stay healthy, are going to roll through the 6A playoffs. Most assume that CHS will do the same in 5A. This should give them confidence that their first eight games were no fluke.

The highlights I saw on Twitter showed a group of CHS students in both the main visiting stands – the stadium was 50% capacity – and in one section of the end zone stands. When I picked M up I asked her where she sat, on the side or in the end zone.

“What do you mean ‘end zone’?”

L was with us – I had picked her up from a friend’s on the way – and she laughed out loud.


Not much to talk about KU. The defense really hung in there and made some plays until they ran out of gas. The offense continues to look awful.

I was kind of half-watching when M walked through the room.

“Is that KU football? You never watch that.”

Which, first, is not true. But I explained how I don’t get as into football as basketball because KU has been terrible for a decade.

“Do people actually go to games?”

I knew what she was really asking but decided to deflect.

“Well, most stadiums have limits on how many people can be there. This game is in West Virginia so I’m not sure how many people are allowed.”

“No, I meant at KU. Do people just not go because they’re terrible?”

Roasted by my daughter who doesn’t know what an end zone is. I would be offended but, come on, it’s KU football.

Family Pics

The big event of the weekend was that we had family pictures scheduled for Sunday evening. But as the forecast looked rainy, we moved them to Saturday.

We haven’t done a true family pic in six years because they are always total disasters. At least one girl is crying, one or two of the others are surly and uncooperative, and S and I are usually stressed and yelling at everyone. It’s hard enough to get a Christmas card pic without total meltdowns, so we kept putting off the full family pic.

It had been a three-week hassle for S to get the girls to agree to clothes to wear. They didn’t want to go try things on so she would come home with bags full of things to try. They kept rejecting her suggestions without offering guidance on what they would wear. There had been plenty of yelling that I managed to stay out of.

Saturday morning when we told the girls pics were that night, one of them immediately burst into tears. For fuck’s sake. Another waited until about an hour before we left to start fixing her hair, which takes a long time to dry. Another was crabby and uncommunicative about the entire affair. And then the first girl cried again and refused to wear what she had agreed to wear. S was on the verge of tears. I decided to drink a beer and stay out of it because yelling at the girls to stop being jackasses never seems to work.

But we made it out of the house, everyone settled down, and we actually had a very good photo session.

You would think they would learn to shut the fuck up and just go along with what their mom wants them to do. It gets it over way quicker, there’s less stress, and they can get back to whatever it is they would rather be doing. But kids are dumb. Even smart kids.


Looked like it was going to be a disaster, then turned into a pleasant surprise. Aside from one bad interception Philip Rivers had a great game. Some receivers are stepping up to replace all the injured guys who should be playing. And I’ll write the first quarter off as a fluke for the defense.


What a great end to the league championship series. The ALCS wasn’t necessarily a great game, but it was a great result. It felt very 2020 that Houston might find a way to reach the World Series. Thankfully Tampa shut the door and didn’t completely blow their 3–0 lead.

Game seven of the NLCS, though, was treeeeeeeeeeemendous. A back-and-forth game with plenty of huge moments, both good and bad, is perfect for a non-aligned viewer. Cody Bellinger’s game-winning home run was one for the ages. As a Twitter user I follow said, “That boy just hit the ball to Mars.” Also very 2020 that he apparently hurt himself, at least momentarily, celebrating with his teammates.

I kind of enjoyed the neutral field playoffs. I loooooved the seven games in seven days schedule. For everyone who complains about this year’s rules changes taking strategy out of the game, the schedule added a lot of tough decisions for managers.

I know the old Rangers stadium is probably not usable, but I think it would have been cool to have the ALCS in one of the stadiums, the NLCS in the other across the street.

It feels like it should be a very good World Series. But you never know which team will have good pitching all the way through, and which will slip up. I just hope Clayton Kershaw pitches well. I really don’t care who wins but I hope if the Dodgers lose it isn’t because of his failures. I usually don’t get into the “Athlete X deserves a championship.” I’m making an exception for Kershaw. A championship won’t erase all his past October struggles. But it will at least be a counter to them.

Dodgers in seven

  1. CHS was #25, CG #14.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“You Held My Heart” – The Flatmates
“1-2-3-4!” is a great way to start off any weekend.

“Music Makes Me High” – The Avalanches
This could easily be my theme song.

“Moment in the Sun” – Sunflower Bean
The days are getting shorter. Daylight Saving Time ends in two weeks. Our moment in the sun is almost over.

“Bailey” – Suzie True
Another piece of fun garage pop to book-end the newer music on the list.

“Train From Kansas City” – Neko Case
I was listening to some Neko music this week, since so many of her songs are perfect for fall, and came across this, from her live album The Tigers Have Spoken. It’s an old Shangri-Las song, and I had never heard the original nor Neko’s cover. For obvious reasons, I enjoyed it.

“FDT” – YG, Nipsey Hustle
I voted yesterday. You know how I feel.

Reader’s Notebook, 10/15/20

I rediscovered my reading mojo over the past few weeks. It helped that I found a book I had been trying to locate for a year or more, and then two other great reads on top of that.

Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever – Geoff Edgers
First is the book I’ve been trying to find for at least a year, since I read a brief excerpt before it was published. For some reason, the Carmel library has never stocked the book. I finally thought to check the Indy library and BAM there it was!

This is the story of the song that changed music, the 1986 version of “Walk This Way” that featured original artists Aerosmith and rappers Run-DMC. The first half is mostly quick biographies of both bands and their key members. The Run-DMC section is as much about the development of hip hop as the band itself.

After that, Edgers takes us through 1986, as Run-DMC was working on their Raising Hell album, Aerosmith were spinning their wheels in an attempt to gain sobriety and relevance, and producer Rick Rubin got the idea to bring the bands together in the studio to cover Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.”

I knew a lot of the details of the collaboration already, although Edgers sheds more light on the one day they spent in the studio together than I had heard before.

The issue is that the book doesn’t break new ground, at least for people like me who knew a lot of the story’s details. The parts about the bands separately, both before and after their collaboration, are more interesting than the moments the bands were together. And Edgers doesn’t really frame it in a new and interesting way. It was a fun, but not necessarily required read.

Nothing Can Hurt You – Nicola Maye Goldberg
I never know what to call books like this (or the next one). Both feature a wide range of characters, and in each chapter the focus and perspective shifts amongst them. I knew there had to be a name for this type of story. My quick research tells me that these can be called “mosaic” novels. Consider yourselves taught.

Nothing Can Hurt You is centered on the murder of a college woman by her boyfriend. Through her cast of characters, Goldberg paints a broad picture of abuse of women, mental illness, and the significance of gender in modern society. Some of it is very dark. Some of it is very funny.

I enjoyed this but a week after I read it, I was struggling to recall details or to give it a more thorough accounting. Not sure if that says more about the story or about me.

Those People – Louise Candlish
This one, though, it really connected with me.

Candlish sets her story in an affluent South London neighborhood. The block has won awards (from the mayor even!) for its Sundays Off program, when cars are removed, the street blocked off for traffic, and kids are allowed to play freely. It seems to be an idyllic community centered on the happiness of all.

When an elderly woman on the block dies and her nephew inherits her home, things change. He and his girlfriend are crude and rude. They play loud music at all hours. He runs his auto repair and sales business from his front yard and fills up precious parking spaces with his work. He refuses to clear out on Sundays and even backs into a kid on a skateboard one Sunday. And any time he is confronted by his neighbors, he is surly, difficult, and refuses to change his ways.

The book builds up to a death. The early chapters begin with witness statements taken after the death, then flow into that character’s actions and impressions in the weeks and days leading up to the death.

Following the death, Candlish takes us through the neighborhood’s experience as the police investigate to determine a cause of death. This eventually leads to a second death, and another investigation.

Through the book, both because of the new neighbor’s antics and the police investigations, we see just about every character slowly fall apart. They all crack, in ways large and small, from the stress of their environment. Candlish deliciously juggles the characters, giving you reason to believe any of them could be responsible for the deaths. Her first reveal is absolutely shocking. The second is not as big a surprise, but the truth of that death is a wonderful piece of writing craft. And she closes with a series of minor details that end the book with an absolutely delicious series of possibilities for what happens next.

This is a cracking good novel and highly recommended.

Weekend Notes

We’ve hit that moment in fall that is both lovely and sad: the last burst of really warm, humid weather before things change. We are scheduled to have the pool closed on Wednesday, so last weekend was our final chance to swim. Friday I cranked the heater up to be sure the water was tolerable. That took the chill off but we may not have needed it Saturday as the temperature burst into the 80s. A couple of the nephews came over and enjoyed our last day in the pool with us.

Today the sky is darkening and the air is thick with humidity, feeling more like June than October. We may get a few sprinkles later, but not enough to break the drought we are mired in. It has been nearly two whole months since we got more than 0.10” of rain in a 24 hour period. Last week I had to bleach and flush out our sump pit because it had gotten so smelly from the lack of water.

The drought has caused trees to change colors rapidly and begin losing their leaves a little earlier than normal.

It looks like we will have a few more warm days before a bigger cold front comes through late this week and gives us more fall-like temperatures for the foreseeable future. In the era of global warning, you never know how many bursts of warm weather are left. Probably more than we expect. But these moments of transition always strike something deep inside my DNA that no doubt goes back hundreds/thousands of years ago when these changes meant finding shelter and stocking up on food to get through the cold months.

Besides swimming, it was a fairly boring weekend. M went to a watch party Friday for the CHS game at a friend’s house. (They won and are 8–0 going into the big season-ending clash with the #1 class 6A team.) C had a birthday party and sleepover at a friend’s. L was stuck at home with us.

It was certainly strange having the NBA Finals, the MLB league championship series, and the NFL regular season all on the same day Sunday.

The Colts lost a thoroughly winnable game in Cleveland, and the blame falls firmly on Philip Rivers. He’s taking some heat in the normally docile Indy sports media today. The gist of the argument against him is that he’s not performing that much better than Jacoby Brissett did last year, and he’s being paid a lot more than Brissett was. There was hope that putting him behind a stout offensive line could improve his passing stats. Losing his starting running back and three key receivers doesn’t help, to be 100% fair. But he also seems to making a lot of poor decisions. The defense has been great. Jonathan Taylor looks like a terrific draft pick. TY Hilton appears to be healthy. Quarterback is the only real weak link, at least thus far.

At least he didn’t snap his ankle like a pretzel. Very glad the Colts game was on at the same time as the Giants-Cowboys game so I could miss seeing Dak Prescott’s injury.

By the time I switched over to the NBA game, the Lakers were already up by 20. I didn’t think the Heat had one last run in them so pretty much avoided the game, other than a couple brief peeks to check the score.

Quite a run by the Heat. Had they been healthy maybe they could have stretched the Lakers out another game or even stole the series. They have to feel great about their playoffs despite the ending. I don’t think anyone outside Miami expected them to rip through the Eastern Conference and come within two games of a title.

As for the Lakers, this feels less like a triumph than an inevitable result. When the Clippers and Sixers proved too fragile in constitution and the Bucks too banged up, no one was really going to pose a serious threat to LeBron, AD, and their crew.

Their win kickstarts the “Is LeBron better than Michael?” debate again. I don’t think it changes my mind. They are still 1A and 1B, and lean toward MJ because of generational bias. But it gets harder and harder to separate the two. That said, the differences in the league during their two careers is what makes the comparison so difficult. The NBA is nothing now like it was in Michael’s career. So not only are they two very different players, but they also played in entirely different circumstances. Finally, I don’t think it is ever fair to judge a player who is still on the court against someone who has been retired, at least in terms of deciding who is the greatest ever. If LeBron ever retires, that’s when I will finally force myself to settle the question in my mind.

I’ve been a sporadic watcher of the baseball playoffs, some nights locked in, some nights not watching a minute. I watched a pretty good chunk of last night’s Houston-Tampa game. It was a classically tense playoff affair. I don’t know if it is the lack of fans, my general disinterest in baseball over the summer, or something else, but I’ve been finding baseball tedious over the past few weeks. I just can’t lock into all that playoff tension right now. I wonder if is the lack of a crowd is the biggest factor. There are no shots of people losing their shit because of nerves between every pitch.

Or maybe it’s just me getting old. I don’t think I could be as locked in if the Royals were in the playoffs as I was in 2014 and 2015. I was a mess those two Octobers. Not sure I what my mental state would be if I had to go through living and dying with every pitch again.

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