Month: February 2021 (Page 1 of 3)

Friday Playlist

“Strangers” – ACTORS
Ooooh, this is some good shit! Just expert dark, post-punk that sounds straight out of the transition from the ’80s to the ’90s. Sounds a little like…

“Cuts You Up” – Peter Murphy
…ACTORS definitely took a page out of the Peter Murphy/Bauhaus book. Since that book was written 30-35 years ago, it comes off as homage rather than ripoff. This song is a jam. If I made a mix tape of my favorite songs from my freshman year of college, this would be on it. It cut through – no pun intended – all the pop bullshit, R&B, and hip-hop I was also listening to and shone a light down the musical path I would eventually take.

“Bed Head” – Manchester Orchestra
MO has wild swings in the quality of their music. At least to my ears. They have songs I love (“The Gold,” my second favorite song of the 2010’s and a song I will still crank up every time I hear it.) and songs that annoy me. This lead track from their upcoming album is firmly in the Love side of that equation.

“knuckle tattoo” – girlhouse
I will describe this song like a fine wine: Up front there’s a strong Metric presence. I get elements of Flock of Seagulls, healthy notes of late-era New Order, with a hint of twitchiness from the mid-90s alterna-pop scene. Would drink (listen to) again.

“Ferris Wheel” – Nisa
I listened to several tracks from female-fronted groups that rock this week. This song, with it’s crunchy guitars and bouncy beat, was the best.

“Pale Kings” – Shearwater
Spotify has churned this out three times over the past week, so I think the music gods wanted me to share it again. This barely missed my Favorite Songs of the Decade list, and was my #9 song of 2016. I still love it. Although it now seems quaint that Will Sheff wrote an album about the weird feelings he had about protesting injustices of the world in the safe and prosperous America of 2015. I’m sure any qualms he had about the relative stability of our country were wiped out before 2016 ended.

“What This City Needs” – Sam Coffey and The Iron Lungs
WOW! I didn’t know music like this was still made. And in Canada, no less! This band sounds like if every rock band that put out an album between 1975 and 1985 was thrown into a colander, then sifted around until the essence of each group was left in a pile, and those elements combined into a new band. I told my brother-in-music E$ yesterday that I was going to listen to this album non-stop for a few days, then might never listen to it again. It will be a fun few days, but I don’t know that it’s going to connect in a meaningful, lasting way.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 54

Chart Week: February 16, 1980
Song: “Coward of the County” – Kenny Rogers
Chart Position: #3, 14th week on the chart. This was the song’s chart peak.

One of my complaints about the old American Top 40s that I listen to is that only a small selection of the total library of shows gets played. If you listen often enough, you’ll quickly hear repeats of the same shows. With something like 18 or 19 years of programs to choose from, that seems hard to do.

Last year I joined a Facebook group dedicated to classic American Top 40. Every month or so someone will ask the same question: why do we keep hearing the same shows over-and-over? One of the engineers who remastered the original recordings is a member of the group. He claims that every show Casey Kasem recorded has been remastered and turned over to whoever currently holds the rights to them. He is at a loss as to why such a small group of the original shows are replayed these days.

I realize this is an issue that probably only bothers an exceptionally small number of people. But for those of us who are super fans of the show, it is super annoying.

I mention that because, thanks to repeated airings of a few countdowns from early 1980, I’ve heard Kenny Rogers’ “Coward of the County” more in the last six months than I’ve heard in the last 40 years combined.

Which has led me to realize that some of the lyrics are…problematic?

I have strong memories of this song. This was when the radio in my room was AM-only, so the stations I listened to were playing the fuck out of every Kenny Rogers song. I clearly recalled it being about a dude, Tommy, who walks away any time he encounters a violent situation. This was because of his dad’s dying words to him: that “you don’t have to fight to be a man.” His dad died in prison. I guess he was in lockup for fighting someone, it’s not made clear.

Anyway, some local toughs beat up Tommy’s girlfriend, he realizes that sometimes you, in fact, do have to fight to be a man, and he kicks their asses.

Keep in mind, I was eight years old when this song came out. So I was not mature enough to get what Kenny was saying when he described the attack on Tommy’s girlfriend as:

One day while he was working, the Gatlin boys came calling
They took turns at Becky, n’there was three of them

Holy shit! Did Kenny Rogers just casually describe three dudes gang raping a woman?!?!

Surely this caused a ruckus back in the day, right?

I did some digging – I checked Wikipedia – and turned out there was indeed a controversy surrounding the song. And it related to the lines I quoted above. However, the controversy was about who some people thought the lines were about rather than the act of sexual violence it described.

Apparently there were some folks who thought that the “Gatlin boys” of the song meant the country group The Gatlin Brothers. Larry Gatlin later claimed that he and the song’s co-writer, Roger Bowling, had a beef in the late ‘70s and this line may have been a result of that beef. However, Bowling’s co-writer, Billy Ed Wheeler, claimed he never knew of any conflict between the men and that Bowling never suggested the line was aimed at the Larry or his brothers. Rogers later claimed he would have pushed to change the lyric had he know it would ruffle any feathers.

THAT was the controversy. Not that the song was built around the gang rape of a woman and how that was the impetus for the coward of the county to finally grow a pair and take out the Gatlin boys in a locked bar one night. Which, depending on how you think about it, almost makes the rape a positive moment, since it forced a man to stand up for himself and his family.

Crazy how when young Black people sang about consensual sex between adults a few years later, people lost their damn minds. But when a middle-aged, white, country superstar sang about gang rape, it didn’t move the needle.

The song was so popular it turned into a very shitty TV movie in 1981. You can watch the entire thing on YouTube if you want. I recommend skipping that, though, and just watching the completely awesome fight scene that brings the story to a close. Kenny Rogers was even the star of the movie, and gave Tommy a big assist on the night he stood up for Becky.

More Zen

I’ve spent a lot of time messing with this little tool, which shows you how any shape you draw would float if it were an iceberg.


Go head, fuck around with it for a bit. It’s fun to discover shapes that flip over to find their most buoyant position.

Weekend Sports Notes

It was a very busy weekend for sports, so let’s get into it.

KU Hoops

Five wins in a row! My big concern about this winning streak was that three of the wins came against K-State and Iowa State, the two worst teams in the Big 12. Was KU’s better play just a function of their opponents? Or was the second half of the Oklahoma State game that began the streak a sign that it would play against better teams, too?

Saturday cleared that up. Texas Tech can struggle on offense. And they did Saturday. But to my eyes a lot of that was because of KU’s defense. KU also out-toughed one of the toughest teams in the league.

A month ago KU looked lost, with several players having moments where they didn’t look engaged. Over the past three weeks the team has built up some confidence and rediscovered how to play together. They are still missing way too many wide open shots. But they are playing some tough-ass defense, getting rebounds, and making it difficult for their opponents. If they can just find a way to shoot closer to the 40% from three I think they’re capable of, they can be a Sweet 16 threat once the tournament begins.

Kid Hoops

I didn’t share L’s result from a week ago. For the third-straight week they played a 25–12 game. I wonder what the odds were on that happening? Perhaps I could have gotten some action on that on your favorite betting app? Fortunately they won this one, to go 2–1 in that stretch. She did not have a great game – she only scored four – but played pretty solid D and had a few assists.

This week they played the team that beat them by 12 in their first game of the season.

On the opening possession the other team got the tip, went down and scored easily, then we had seven offensive rebounds plus a steal and another shot attempt and couldn’t score on our first possession. Seemed like it was going to be a repeat.

But we had our best player this time, and now know how to play together. We were up five at halftime and maintained that lead through the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Then our girls got sloppy and gave up a big run. We were down 22–18 with under 2:00 to play. We cut it to two points and got a steal, layup, and foul with under a minute left. We hit the free throw to go up one. Then L got a steal at mid-court, drove down, and finally hit a freaking layup! Plus she got fouled! She had a free throw to go up four. She left it short.

That was big.

They came down and got an immediate score to make it a two point game. On the next possession L got trapped, made a bad pass, and the other team seemed to have a clean look to tie. Until their girl travelled. A reprieve! Until one of L’s teammates panicked and threw the ball right to them with under 20 seconds left. We managed to get our hands on a pass and force an inbounds play at mid-court with about four seconds left. There was a timeout so our coaches had a chance to tell our girls what to do on defense. The fouls weren’t on the scoreboard but I think we had at least two fouls to give – the refs were not calling much.

The ball came in and our defender who was supposed to guard the ball ran away from her player. That girl took one dribble, then three steps…and banked in a three at the buzzer to win. It was the same girl who had traveled a couple possessions earlier and she did the exact same thing. Not sure why it wasn’t called this time.

On our way out of the gym L and her friend who was supposed to guard the shooter said the coaches told them over and over not to foul. Seems like a poor strategy. In 6th–7th grade ball with fouls to give and four seconds to burn, I’m fouling immediately. If they somehow get a shot up and the ref gives them three free throws, I like my odds of them having to hit three free throws to win. Even if they get two shots I’m feeling pretty good about still getting the win, and would be fine with OT if she hits both.

Oh well. It was a bummer of a loss. Our girls played really well aside from a stretch in the second half and those two late possessions. It hurt us that our best player didn’t play the last five minutes because she felt bad. Maybe we’ll get a third shot at them in the tournament.

Colts get QB

So I guess I have to start believing in Carson Wentz.

He was inevitable after the Colts never made a serious offer for Matthew Stafford. They are too close to being an AFC contender to go after someone young and/or unproven, and reuniting Wentz with Frank Reich seems like the best approach.

I think there’s a decent chance it works out. In fact, I think Wentz will be fine in terms of performance. It’s the injury factor I worry about more. Was suffering serious injuries three-straight years bad luck or a sign that he’s brittle and destined to get hurt again? There were plenty of rumors that he was not a great teammate this past year, but those always seem to pop up when there’s a major QB shuffle. Plus the Eagles were kind of a mess this year so I don’t know how much credence I give those rumors.

I think a third round pick and a conditional second round pick are a fair price for him. Ideally he stays healthy, finds his mojo again, and the Colts are a top-three team in the AFC this year. Fill a few holes with smart drafting and they can be a top two team. If Wentz is a disaster, I guess they cut him a year from now and try again.


Max Homa!

I’m betting very few of you know who Max Homa is, even after his win at the Genesis Invitational yesterday. He has been active in the part of the golf social media world I fell into when I started following the game again. He is tight with the No Laying Up crew, and has appeared on their podcasts and videos. A year ago he started his own podcast with the Golf channel’s Shane Bacon, and it has been on my must-listen list ever since. Max is very funny, very smart, very honest, and comes across as a very genuine guy who shares a lot more than the average golfer.

Over the past year he’s been open about his goals – not just to win but to be the best golfer in the world – and his struggles to get there. Last week, going into the tournament at Riviera Country Club, he said this was his favorite course in the world, it fit his game perfectly, and he felt great going into the event.

And then he freaking won it! I can’t wait to listen to his show later today when it drops.

His win came with a lot of excitement. He was stellar all day Sunday – he started two strokes back of the lead – and when nearly everyone else was faltering he just kept hitting great shot after great shot. If a few birdie putts that missed by inches had crawled in, he would have led comfortably when he stepped to the 18th tee. As it was, he knew a par got him to a playoff with Tony Finau, a birdie would win. He striped a drive down the middle. Then he hit an outrageously good approach that landed under four feet from the pin, the closest anyone came on the 18th hole all day. He walked up the fairway all smiles, knowing he had a near kick-in for a signature win.

So wouldn’t you know it that he, in his own words, choked, and spun it out.

No doubt a little rattled, his tee shot on the opening playoff hole landed next to a tree and he looked absolutely dead. Until he hit a ridiculous chip that allowed him to escape with a par and match Finau. When Finau could only bogey the second playoff hole, Homa had his win.

Homa was very emotional in his comments afterward. For someone unfamiliar with his story, his emotions may have seemed strange. But if you knew his first real golfing memories came riding on his dad’s shoulders at the old LA Open at Riviera, if you knew how much his parents sacrificed for him to play competitive golf, if you knew how hard he worked to turn himself into an elite pro, the emotions were completely understandable and wonderful.

America’s Cup

I accidentally found the America’s Cup challenger series races a week ago. This Saturday I found them again and all three girls walked through the room and said, “What is this?” Soon I was explaining what little I know about yacht racing, which was all learned back in 1987 when the America’s Cup got attention for about 15 minutes.

I highly recommend finding the races when the final series begins in two weeks. These new boats are insane! They race along at over 40 MPH. Thanks to wings that extend from each side of the boat, the hull is almost always completely out of the water. They look like they are literally flying.

The races, at least the challenger series, are also pretty quick. I remember the 1987 races lasting hours. These are done inside of 30 minutes. To my eye they lack some of the strategy that was present with those old, 12-meter boats. But it is still crazy to watch them rip down the course.

Friday Playlist (Updated)

“Couch” – PONY
Some pretty good pop-punk. That opening riff sounds like it came from the first Clash album.

“Richie Sacramento” – Mogwai
This veteran Scottish act wrote this in tribute mostly to the late Dave Berman, but also to all their musical contemporaries who have passed in recent years.

“River” – Akron/Family
Sadly news broke late last night that Miles Seaton from the band Akron/Family had passed. While I knew the band’s name, I could not immediately place any of their songs. I did some digging into my old iTunes library that is stashed on the old Mac Mini kept for collecting old media and found five of their songs. I did a quick listen to them this morning and pulled this one to honor Seaton. Seems like I had an affinity for their 2009 album Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free. I did some digging and looks like I played their songs four times on my old podcast.

“Best of Friends” – Palma Violets
Steven Hyden tweeted out a link to this song earlier this week. At first I couldn’t not place either the title or the band. But the moment I listened to it, I had a spark of memory and said, “Oh yeah!” Not a classic song, but evocative of a moment in musical time, “Dude’s Rock” as Hyden called it. I played this on CLR on October 12, 2012. How different the world was then!

“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” – U2
Wednesday’s Number Ones entry was U2’s “With or Without You.” In the comments there were spirited discussions of U2’s discography. There were many varying opinions on the arc of the band’s career, but pretty much everyone agreed that this is an absolute banger that is largely forgotten. Someone suggested that U2 would have been a lot more interesting if they kept making music like this instead of moving back to the safe music they’ve been making since 2001.

“All You Can Eat” – The Fat Boys
Had to come add another video after news that Prince Markie Dee of the Fat Boys has passed away, too. RIP to a legend. There’s only one Fat Boy left…

Eleven Minutes of Zen

Normally when I see videos like the one I share below, I’ll watch a few minutes and then move on to something else. But I was absolutely mesmerized by this video of a boat traveling the waterways that connect Rotterdam to Amsterdam and watched the whole thing. Multiple times.

I have a medical procedure coming up that I’ve already attempted once and was unable to complete because of a bit of an anxiety attack (more on that in a couple weeks). I will soon be attempting it again with the help (hopefully) of some Xanax. I might ask if I can also watch this on a loop until the procedure is complete. It puts me in a very chill place.

For example, how about all the different kinds of bridges? Something about them makes me happy, especially when they just open up as the boat approaches. It feels more like a model train setup, or a video game, than a time lapse of something real. The first time the boat has to sit and wait for a bridge to open comes as a shock or seems like a glitch in the system. And I love it when the big cargo barges go zooming by them.

Via Kottke

More Snow Day Ramblings

Our girls are all back in school today. Quite a few area schools either delayed or cancelled again, but we are on a normal schedule.

The mechanics of snow days are very different now than they were for my generation. Remember having to sit by the radio or TV, breathlessly waiting to hear your school’s name be read out, or to see it scroll across the bottom of the screen? I recall several days where I was ready to go to school – dressed, bag packed, coat on – and stood in front of the TV until the last possible moment to see if “Raytown Consolidated School District No. 2” suddenly popped up.

Now? We get automated calls, texts, and emails as soon as our schools make a decision. You can go to any number of media websites to browse the entire list at your leisure. Sometimes those messages come at 5:30 AM and you can sneak into your kids’ rooms and turn off their alarms, leaving a note that school has been cancelled.

I think kids today still wait in anticipation of the announcement. But that moment of revelation seems to have a less mysterious quality than back in the 1980s.

The whole eLearning thing obviously makes snow days very different than in my childhood. I remember a few occasions when everyone knew a big storm was coming and teachers would give us a couple days of assignments and encourage us to take all our books home so we didn’t get too far behind. That work was generally put off until the evening before we went back to school; there was no working on them during school hours. That time was meant for playing in the snow, watching TV, playing video games, or otherwise taking advantage of the pause in our educational lives.

Covid has obviously changed snow days, too. Not just because eLearning is an option, but also because the girls are used to being home. After spending the last 10 weeks of the ’19–20 school year and about a month of the first semester of this year at home, I don’t think it feels special to them to spend a Monday-through-Friday at home. The distinction between weekday and weekend has been blurred somewhat.

When we were kids, though, snow days felt like magical departures from the norm. Once I was nine or ten, my mom left me at home to fend for myself. I had general rules of “Don’t break any bones, kill myself/someone else, or get into a situation I’m going to regret mom finding out about,” but otherwise could do whatever I wanted.

I remember taking full advantage of snow days, making detailed plans for the day. Yep, I was one of those kids who still got up early rather than slept in just so I could get to work on my list of activities. Whatever my weird hobby of the moment was would get some extra time. That could mean rolling up some new D&D characters, listening to shortwave radio stations I would not normally have a chance to hear, or just playing Pitfall for three continuous hours. I would make elaborate lunches. Or as elaborate as I could manage with what was in our cabinets and my meager culinary skills. There would be the inevitable neighborhood snowball fight. Good days were the ones when a football game broke out somewhere on my block. There was nothing better than football in the snow, diving for balls and making tackles while landing in piles of the fluffy stuff. Of course, this came with the danger of breaking my glasses, which I did once when they flew off my face and got crunched as I was thrown to the ground.

When I got to high school and either had friends who could drive or could drive myself, this meant a bonus trip to the mall. The food court would be charged with extra energy as kids who would normally be at school cruised around and checked each other out.

The first time I had a chance to do this was shortly after we moved back to Missouri from California. My mom took me out to show me how to drive in snow, and I had to earn her approval before I could go to the mall. Monday I took M across the street to drive around in the high school lot so she could get her first snowy driving experience. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, and all-wheel drive sure make it easier to get around safely than the Oldsmobile I learned to drive in. Of course, with Covid, she didn’t rush to the mall to meet friends immediately afterward, but rather just came home and got back to chatting with them on her phone.

Snow Day

Our long weekends got a little longer thanks to about nine inches of new snow yesterday. C and L were home Friday and Monday thanks to St P’s traditional President’s Day break, while M was just home Monday. All are eLearning today, although L had her assignments done in about 40 minutes and is currently playing Fortnite.

This was the biggest snowstorm we’ve had something like seven years.[1] It was nice for it to happen on a day when the girls were already out of school. We didn’t have to leave the house and could just sit and watch it slowly pile up. Mondays are S’s half-day so she was able to make it home before the roads got too nasty.

For awhile it looked like we could get well over a foot of snow, so just getting 9” seems like a bit of a letdown. It was still plenty to have to move this morning. Fortunately the snowblower worked after not being started for over two years. It took about an hour to get the driveway and walk cleared off. I’m not sure if that was too much for the machine or the snow was different across the street, but when I took it over to help clear our retired neighbors’ much larger driveway, it refused to move any of their snow.

In our backyard the snow of the past three weeks has made it nearly impossible to see where the pool transitions to deck and vice-versa. A crew has been building a pool house for us and that project has been frozen – literally – for two weeks because of the cold weather. They have piles of materials that are buried in the fresh snow.

IMG 3098

Somehow, for as cold as it has been here the last two weeks, we’ve missed the worst of this cold spell. I know I have readers in Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska who have had much colder temperatures than we have. Tomorrow morning our low is supposed to be 0, which will be our lowest low of the year. We’ve had lots of days in the high teens and 20s, but none of the air temps below zero so many of you have experienced.

It’s been crazy reading about the weather in Texas, especially. I have a few friends down there who have been sharing their experiences. A couple have been out breaking up ice in their pools, because Texas pools don’t have covers or heaters. One friend lost power for most of yesterday and her home was down to 48 degrees when service was restored. And the whole rolling blackout thing that several states are going through blows my mind. I’ve never heard of those in the winter before. Nutty times.

The good news is that the sun is out, and its warmth is making the areas where snow has been cleared melt completely to reveal the concrete/asphalt underneath. I think that means it is officially pothole season! The forecast says it may actually get into the 40s early next week. It’s probably too much to hope for, but perhaps these past three weeks have been our winter of 2021 and more moderate days are ahead.

  1. Indy officially had a bigger storm just three years ago in late March. But I don’t think our house got the 10” that the airport got.  ↩

Bonus Video

“Peaches” – The Presidents of the United States of America
Happy President’s Day! Remember the mid-90s when quirky bands like this actually had fairly mainstream hits? This hit #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1996.

Friday Playlist

“You Don’t Own Me” – Pale Waves
This song reminded me of something I’ve heard before…

“You’re Not the One” – Sky Ferreira
…perhaps this. They aren’t exact matches but have some serious shared DNA. I wonder if Sky Ferreira will ever put out another album.

“Show Me Love” – Robin S
“Show Me Love” – Robyn
Unlike the previous two tracks, these songs sound nothing alike. But with the same title and like-named artists, they’ve always been joined at the hip in my head. Robin S’ track came out two years before Robyn’s, but it is Robyn who has stuck around a lot longer.

“80’s Movie” – Pilar Victoria
I had to include this based on the title alone.

“Modern Village” – IDLES
Now for something COMPLETELY different. I spun the IDLES’ Ultra Mono album once when it came out last year and nothing connected. I gave this song another shot last week and it was just the jolt I needed. That guitar solo gets me all jittery. In a good way. “I BEG YOUR PARDON!”

“Little House of Savages” – The Walkmen
From one ass-kicker to another. This is from a wonderful moment in my musical history when I was discovering a whole new swath of music thanks to the arrival of music blogs. The Walkmen, The Hold Steady, Death Cab for Cutie, and Arcade Fire are all bands I was listening to a lot in late ’04/early ’05 because of blogs. This song is a semi-classic that blows me away every time I hear it.

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