Author: DB (Page 1 of 311)

Travel Hoops Wrap Up

Travel basketball came to a disappointing end for L over the weekend.

Her team lost in the semifinals to a squad they had beaten twice this year. That team went on to win the championship by four points. So it was right there for our girls and they blew it.

Saturday’s pool games were two very different contests. In the first we played a team we beat by 10 two weeks ago. They are super big, very physical, but not very good.[1] They make the game ugly, and our girls don’t like ugly.

We were in control the entire game Saturday but just couldn’t put them away. We held on to win by seven. L was cold, just scoring two while tossing up a bunch of airballs from 3.

Two things to note. It was approximately 800 degrees in the gym. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but the AC was not running and it was very hot and steamy. We were down two girls – to be fair the other team only had one sub – and several of our girls looked like they were going to puke after the game from the heat.

Also, we were missing our most physical player. She’s not a mean girl, but she’s one of those kids who gets a nasty look on her face and battles constantly once the game starts. We missed her in this game.

In game two we crushed a poor team that only had five players. They forfeited their first game because they didn’t have even those five to the gym in time. L bounced back and had seven in this game, including a steal and layup, a long two (that was really a 3), and a 3 (that was really a 2). Refs were having trouble with the 3-point line. Might have had too much sweat in their eyes to see it.

Sunday it was on to play the team we beat twice in Bloomington two months ago. We crushed them in that first game, then they had a lead on us for most of the second game until we pulled it out late. That big win was deceptive, though, as our best player went on a personal 12–0 run that turned a comfortable lead into a blowout.

I think that game killed us Sunday.

We led 13–9 a little over halfway through the first half. Then we gave up an 11–0 run going into halftime. That run stretched out deep into the second half and eventually we were down 30–18 with about three minutes to play.

Then we suddenly started hitting 3’s and getting steals. We got it down to two with 20 seconds left and our best free throw shooter at the line for two. She missed both, but thanks to a lane violation got to shoot her second again and made it. Down one.

We stole the inbounds pass, had a shot inside that got blocked, and then were inbounding under the basket with 15 seconds left. Instead of hitting our best shooter, who was wide open in the corner, we threw it inside where the ball bounced around and eventually ended up in the defense’s hands. They missed a free throw and we couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.

Just a bummer of a loss. Our girls were slow to rebounds and loose balls. The other team, to their credit, found some zone defenses that we could not solve. I think having our missing starter would have helped, but I can’t guarantee we would have won had she played. We are probably the better team, but they were the better one for those 32 minutes. And then they went and beat one of our program’s other 2027 teams for the championship. Our girls really wanted to play their sister team for the last trophy of the summer.

L scored five in the semifinal. She blew by her girl for a layup to start the game and she hit a 3 during our run late. She started all three games but she was not on the court late in the game Sunday. She sat the final few minutes when our coach played our two “bigs” together, which he usually will not do, because it seemed to turn things on the defensive end.[2]

Thus ends L’s first year of travel basketball. I think it was a personal success. She is definitely a better player than she was when she started with this program last fall. A year ago the only way she could score was to get to the basket. After lots of work she’s finally developed consistency and confidence in her jump shot and become more comfortable playing off-the-ball. She’s played against higher level girls and held her own. She made some new friends. It also helps that she’s still growing. It was a pretty solid season.

Today she is off to the Cathedral camp. She doesn’t love camps, but we agreed it was time to go to the one run by the coaches she’ll be trying out for in two years so they get to know her. After that we have six weeks to really crank it up on our personal workouts. We both have a list of goals and are working on a plan on how to get her better for when CYO ball starts in September.

  1. I say this as a compliment, not to be mean, but they all looked like big, farm girls. They’ve been wrangling small animals their entire lives. Skinny, suburban girls don’t phase them.  ↩

  2. I say “bigs” because our entire team falls within about a 2.5” height range. These are just the two girls who are most comfortable playing inside.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Birthdays” – Craig Finn
Hey, I had a birthday this week! Coincidentally this is the best song from Craig Finn’s latest solo album.

“I Was Neon” – Julia Jacklin
The first single off JJ’s up-coming album was solid. This one cooks.

“Wait ‘Til the Morning” – Frightened Rabbit
Spotify suggested this, a bonus track from the final FR album, a few weeks back. When the disk came out I didn’t think much of the extras. But the passage of time made this one sound fresh, and it’s been in my rotation lately.

“Talk For Hours” – Fever Dream
If the lead singer sounded more like John Lydon, I would think this was a new track by Public Image Ltd. They absolutely nail the sound that PiL and other first-gen, post-punk bands had in the late ’80s.

“Cruel Summer” – Taylor Swift
It takes some guts to name re-use this song title, especially if you are an artist who has pulled from 1980s influences. Leave it to Taylor to pull it off.

“Couldn’t Know” – Paw
Tuesday I went on a late-night, YouTube search for bands I was into in the ’90s. Naturally I ended up doing a deep dive for Paw content. There’s not a ton out there, but I found a few official videos like this, and a few live performances. From there I spent the next day listening to the band’s two major label albums. They hold up. Their two indie releases aren’t on Spotify, but they are tucked away on the media server in the basement, and I’ll likely listen to them soon.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 75

Chart Week: June 20, 1981
Song: “Angel of the Morning” – Juice Newton
Chart Position: #38, 18th week on the chart. Peaked at #4 for four weeks in May.

Juice Newton was a classic Right Artist at the Right Time success. Although she came up in the world of folk music, by the early 1980s she had slid into a country-rock hybrid that was well suited to the moment. As we’ve discussed before, there was that little window in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when many country artists were able to have mainstream, pop success. Think Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, The Oak Ridge Boys, and so on.

I don’t really hear much country in this song, or most of Newton’s other early ‘80s hits. Here there is the slightest whine in the guitars, and just a hint of Smoky Mountain twang in her voice. In other songs (“Queen of Hearts,” for example) there is a loping bass line that recalls the earliest days of rock music, when country and pop shared a lot of DNA. To my ears, though, her songs come across as very mainstream, adult pop. If the record companies and radio stations hadn’t labeled her as a country artist, I never would have taken her for one.

Perhaps that explains her success. Her straight-forward sound brought in the pop audience, being cast as a country artist roped in those listeners. Combine them and an artist who had not produced a charting pop single before 1981 suddenly spun off four-straight Top 10’s, three more Top 40 singles, and three Adult Contemporary chart number ones (including this song).

In time Newton did drift towards more recognizably country music, and eventually landed seven country Top 10s and three number ones.

But in 1981, she was one of the hottest artists on the pop chart thanks to songs like this.

This may surprise you, but I think this song is fantastic. I hear common ground with late 1960s artists like the Righteous Brothers. Although her voice isn’t as soulful as Bill Medley’s, there’s a similar vibe in there. There’s a grandness to the music that sounds like those big, blue-eyed soul hits of a decade earlier.

That soulfulness gives the song an emotional honesty and vulnerability I’ve always liked a lot. You really feel Newton’s resignation that she has gotten herself into a relationship that has no good outcomes.

Newton’s delivery is nicely reserved right up until she finally cuts loose and wails “Bay-ay-ay-by…” and then takes the final chorus a level higher than the first two. Stretching out that final “Dar-ar-ling” for a full 10 seconds (before the producers double-track it and stretch it out another 20 seconds) is a perfect, dramatic closure.

I also love those melodramatic fills where the drums crash and the guitars chime, which build tension that doesn’t break until Newton’s climactic lines.

In some ways, this song reminds me of The Long Blondes’ terrific 2007 song “You Could Have Both.”[1] In each song a female singer is acknowledging that she is the other woman, but accepting that role and the heartbreak that comes with it. Newton isn’t begging her lover to stay, but rather a confirmation that their union meant something before they part.

I’m not a huge fan of any kind of country music, even that watered-down country pop that made the Top 40 in the early ‘80s. This song is the one exception. 8/10

By the way, I always love countdowns that fall on important dates. This one landed on my tenth birthday. It is probably for another post to talk about how several teammates from my YMCA baseball team and I huddled in our laundry room as tornado sirens blared…

  1. Or I guess “You Could Have Both” reminds me of
    “Angel of the Morning.”  ↩

Top Gun Links

Following up on yesterday’s posts, here are a couple articles related to Top Gun.

First, Michael Baumann dives into the details and comes up with his best guess for what county is the target of the movie’s main mission. This is important journalism here.

But like Maverick, Rooster, Hangman, and their buddies, I was given a mission. My editors came to me, the idiot who six months ago wrote a long column about how Russia was no longer the technothriller enemy it used to be, confident that I could identify the anonymous villain in Top Gun: Maverick. Specifically, that I could do so before government agents showed up to whisk me away to parts unknown for undermining the foreign relations of the United States.

What Is the Enemy Country in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’? An Investigation

Second, here is the 1983 California magazine article that was the inspiration for the original movie. This is legitimately good journalism.

Top Guns

A Day at the Cinema – Top Gun: Maverick

It’s damn hard to make a good sequel. Think of how many absolutely ass ones have polluted our cinema and entertainment room screens. So when one hits all the right notes, it feels like a triumph.

And when you do it nearly 40 years after the original, you’ve really pulled off a miracle.

I took C and L to see Top Gun: Maverick last week. We all loved it. I think C liked it the most, and it was her second time seeing it!

I watched the original Top Gun a few nights before, so all of its elements were fresh in my head. I loved how the creative crew behind Maverick sprinkled plenty of callbacks to the original throughout the new flick, but never so heavily that they weighed it down. That said, having the opening scene be a near shot-for-shot repeat of the original, complete with the same music, was pretty genius. It sucked in us Gen Xers and, hopefully, blew away new viewers.

When I re-watched the original I was struck by how cheesy it was, but how it embraced its cheesiness. Tom Cruise especially seemed in on the joke, and if he never exactly winked at the audience, you felt like he could at any moment. That gave it a playfulness that made the cheese tolerable.

A lot of that cheese got removed from Maverick. That, along with better writing and a more impactful emotional element, made the movie smarter and better than the original.

Afterwards I read through a series of reviews and thought pieces I had stored away. One, from The Vulture, struck a chord with me. In it Bilge Ebiri wrote of how unexpectedly emotional Maverick was. I realized that I felt that myself while watching, although I was thinking about it in a slightly different way than Ebiri.

While watching the original, I was a little overwhelmed by realizing that Tom Cruise was 24 when it came out. He’s done so much and been such a massive part of American pop culture since then, and it was all just starting for him back in the summer of 1986. That, more than me being 15 when it first came out and I was obsessed with it, made me feel my age. Kids in the ‘80s wanted to be Tom Cruise/Maverick because of the possibilities they represented. Today we all probably still want to be Tom Cruise, but more because he looks and moves like he’s 20 years younger than his biological age.

I wonder if younger viewers sensed the same emotional weariness in Maverick that I sensed. The movie lays out his remaining guilt over Goose’s death, his attempts to sidetrack Rooster’s career, his sadness about Iceman’s health/death, and his understanding that his career as a Navy pilot is nearly over. As a Gen Xer, it’s easy to project that unease onto my own life and the changes that come as we move into middle age.

OK, enough of that heavy stuff.

This was a remarkable movie to watch. I had heard going in that very little CGI was used in the flying scenes. So I marveled at the shots, thinking them 100% real. After I got home I read that, in fact, there was plenty of CGI, but the flight scenes still had a healthy amount of video shot from actual F/A–18s. That knowledge didn’t decrease the impact of those scenes very much. The moments when you see the actor’s faces contorting from real G-forces were incredible. Another thing that stuck out in the original was how tight all the dog fights were shot. You often had no broader context for what was happening, just a series of quick, tight shots from the involved jets. In Maverick there were plenty of tight shots, but also a lot that were shot wider to give you a better sense of space and what the jets were capable of. I assume that’s just better technology that allowed that, but it certainly added to the realism and impact of Maverick

Did they have to rip off every Star Wars movie that involved blowing up a Death Star, or Death Star-like object, though? My least favorite aspect of the movie, even if it made for some amazing visuals.

It also made me wonder, “Why couldn’t cruise missiles do this way, way easier?” Or some combination of drones and cruise missiles? Or missiles shot from higher altitudes? But that wouldn’t give us a very cool movie now, would it?

The Val Kilmer scenes made me sad. Not for the character but for the real man. I’ve been meaning to watch the documentary he made about his life for over a year. I need to get to that.

I offer my next statement fully aware of Kelly McGillis’ comments about why she was not asked to be in Maverick. Women, and especially women in Hollywood, face pressures men don’t face as they age, and it sucks that, because she looks like most women who are in their mid–60s look, she had no chance to reprise her role as Charlie.

That said…

Jennifer Connelly has aged very well. Very well. And she’s a year older than me. Damn.

If we can’t have Charlie, bringing back the mythical Penny Benjamin was a pretty great move.

Beach football was a nice replacement for beach volleyball, especially since Maverick used it as a team-building effort, not just a testosterone fest. I laughed at how all the guys were shot shirtless, oiled up, and in good light, while the two female pilots were wearing standard workout gear and generally stayed in the shadows.

That brings me to another difference. Top Gun was all about swaggering masculinity, amped up to comical levels. Maverick certainly has swagger, but it felt less aggressively masculine. And yet I don’t think it got into any territory that a serious commentator would lament it was neutered by “wokeness.” Although since we have few serious commentators anymore, I’m sure plenty of people have bemoaned its honest reflection of its time.

One area where I though the original was better was in its humor. I still laughed out loud at several lines in Top Gun when I re-watched it; I just chuckled a couple times during Maverick. I don’t know if that’s more a statement on me or the movie, to be honest.

Top Gun: Maverick isn’t high cinema or anything. It is a visually stunning, surprisingly emotional, and completely entertaining 130 minutes of film.


Miles on the Odometer: College Visits and Weekend Hoops

A long post about a long few days.

Thirteen months into my Audi lease I was in great shape, milage-wise, about 1000 miles lower than where I should be. I pretty much wiped out that deficit over the past few days.

Thursday M and I drove to Cincinnati to take her first college campus visits. We toured the University of Cincinnati and Xavier.

UC is a popular spot for Indy-area students as it offers nearly in-state tuition to most Indiana grads. Xavier always looks to bring in kids from Indianapolis Catholic schools, and is known for being very generous with scholarships. Seemed like a good way to knock out a couple schools on her list in one day.

M really isn’t sure what she wants to study yet, so we didn’t meet with any academic folks. And as her first visits, she had nothing to compare them to. But she loved UC.

It is a much bigger school than I realized, well over 45,000 total students with an undergrad population around 33,000. The main campus is a very tight, two square mile property near downtown. It has some older, traditional college campus buildings, but much of the campus is either brand new or recently renovated, giving it a very modern feel. The football stadium is smack in the middle of campus. You can literally look into it as you’re walking to class.

I think she liked that combination of opportunities that come with having such a large student body without the large physical size of the typical Big Ten campus. She has some friends with siblings at both UC and Xavier, so has heard the area around the UC campus has lots of cool restaurants and shops. It can also get sketchy pretty quick. I thought it was interesting how our tour guide played up the fact that UC has its own police force, the Cincinnati police patrols campus, and there are emergency phones all around if you do ever run into trouble. I guess that’s good info to have, but it also does as much to reinforce the narrative that it isn’t the safest campus as reassure parents that their kids will be safe.

When we were done with the official tour we walked into the Fifth Third Arena where the basketball team plays. There was a boys camp going on and, I swear to God, as we walked through the kids were all chanting, “Let’s go Kansas!” The best we could figure was the camp was divided into groups with names of different college teams, and the Kansas squad was going through drills while the other kids encouraged them. Or they knew I was in the building!

Outside the main doors is a statue of Oscar Robertson. There we found a recruit taking a picture in front it. He was a 6–5 white kid so probably not a high level recruit, but it was kind of cool to see the coaches walking him around. I got a pic with Oscar when the kid was done.

Our tour guide kept making a big deal about how UC is a football school now, which did make me chuckle to myself since that was not the case until a couple years ago. And there were signs and shirts everywhere celebrating UC’s admission to the Big 12. KU playing two hours away from my house isn’t the best reason to send my kid there, but it’s not the worst, either.

Again, this was M’s first college tour. I think she was a little too impressed with some things that were new to her. She thought the dorms were amazing, and we didn’t even see the high level ones. She thought the Bearcat Card, the debit card that works all over campus and at a few off-campus businesses, was the coolest thing ever. I didn’t tell her that I’m sure every school has their own version of that. She’ll probably think other schools are copying off UC when she hears about their payment systems.

After lunch we drove the six miles to Xavier. As I said, there’s a strong connection between Indianapolis Catholic schools and XU. We know a lot of people who went to Xavier or are there now.

While we parked in a big garage at UC and had to walk a few blocks to our meeting point, at XU we just pulled into a small lot in front of the admissions building, like parking at Walgreen’s. I think that immediately turned M off a little, as it didn’t seem very big or special.

The tour was fine, but I could tell she wasn’t into it as much as UC. Afterward when I asked her thoughts, she told me XU felt like a bigger version of Cathedral, and she didn’t want to repeat that experience for the next four years. (Xavier in in the 7000 student range.) I certainly understood that.

Everything about our visit reflected that size. We were in a group of 10 or so kids plus parents at UC. At Xavier we shared a guide with one other girl and her dad. It was a pretty quick walk around campus, and the buildings all seemed a lot older and smaller. The dorms were both far less impressive than UC’s and reminded me of the dorms I lived in at KU. I bet these were built in the 1960s like those old Daisy Hill dorms (RIP McCollum Hall).

I really liked the Jesuit educational concepts that Xavier is built upon, especially their embrace of social justice and a requirement that students do things outside the classroom to make the world a better place.[1] But M can do that at any school, with or without the Jesuits.

Where UC really pushed how they are a football school (now), Xavier plays up how they are a basketball school and the excitement about Sean Miller taking over the program. Our guide took us into the Cintas Center, where a girls camp was in session, and asked if either of the girls liked basketball and M shook her head and pointed at me, “I’m not but he is.” This day wasn’t about me so I just smiled. The guide took the bait, though.

“So what team do you follow?” she asked, I’m sure expecting me to say IU, Purdue, or Butler.

When I told her I went to KU she got excited. “I picked them to win my bracket this year!” I liked her a lot!

Xavier likes to throw money around. If M hits certain deadlines in the admissions process and goes to a local event, the day she is admitted to Xavier her tuition will be basically chopped in half through a series of scholarships.[2] I’m not sure she’s interested enough to pursue any of that seriously, though.

We bought t-shirts at both schools, as Cathedral seniors are allowed to wear college shirts all year instead of uniform shirts. Even though she’s lukewarm on Xavier, she was excited that they also gave her a shirt, so she ended the day with three she can wear to school.

It was a hot day for touring campuses, but I think it was useful. I joked that she was ready to commit to UC right away, like a football recruit overly excited about his first visit, but cautioned her to take some more visits and start learning more about the academics of all the schools she is interested in.

When we got home we nailed down four more visits for the summer. We will go to Miami (OH) and Purdue in July, IU and KU in August. She’s doing KU as a favor to me on our Kansas City trip, but claims she has an open mind about it. We are visiting Miami with one of her best friends, whose dad went there and will serve as our unofficial guide. Marquette has been on her list, but I think if she’s not serious about Xavier there’s no need to waste time on Marquette (although it is 50% bigger than XU). She’s kicked around a few other Big 10 schools, but hasn’t formally moved them onto her list or asked me to look into visits.

It’s pretty crazy to realize how fast this is happening. She just took her first visits, she’ll be sending out applications in a few months, and likely have an acceptance letter or two by Christmas.

Thursday was a long day. I got up at 5:30 in order to be at UC before our 9:00 tour. Friday morning I almost had to get up even earlier for my next trip.

L’s team played in a tournament in Knoxville, TN over the weekend. Originally we were scheduled to play at 11:00 Friday morning. As we had already booked our hotel for Friday and Saturday nights before the schedule came out, we were going to have to get up at 4:30 AM to make it down in time. Luckily the tournament took pity on us and moved things around. We left home at about 8:30 and drove back to Cincinnati, then south through Lexington to Knoxville. Along the way we dodged severe storms. We had to drive through one heavy storm and then through some exceptionally gusty winds. Friends who were 30 minutes behind us had to pull off the road for about 45 minutes because the rain they were in was so heavy.

We made it to the convention center just in time for our first ass-kicking of the weekend. The first three teams we played were all very long, athletic, and just way faster than us. We actually hung with the first opponent for about 10 minutes. Then a girl hit a 30-foot bomb and it kind of destroyed our girls. We were down 10 at halftime but lost by 34. That same girl hit three other 3’s, two of them from NBA range. You just can’t guard that when you’re also struggling to contain girls who are bigger, stronger, faster in the other four spots. L didn’t score in that game.

In game two L hit a 3 to put us up 17–14 just before halftime. The rest of the game was a 30–8 run. Unfortunately we scored the eight points. We just got out-physical-ed and hustled again, and the girls seemed to give up at a certain point. L had seven points, all in the first half. She had a sweet move where she faked a girl, blew by her, scored, and got fouled. Then she missed the free throw. And she got busted by the same move two times on the other end.

Saturday we lost our final pool game by eight. We trailed pretty much the entire contest but put a run on them late to make it interesting. L grabbed a rebound and went full-court to lay it in and cut it to four with just over 3:00 left. A possession later she faked a girl, took two dribbles, and pulled up for a wide-open 15-footer that rimmed out. We never had another chance to cut it to less than four again.

We went to lunch and worried about whether we were going to lose our afternoon bracket game, which would mean we played a late game Sunday. Our girls seemed kind of down and lacking confidence. We hoped we were just in a hellacious pool and that even though we were the #4 in a 3–4 matchup, we would get a weaker team than the ones we played.

We were definitely better than our first tournament opponent. But we seemed rattled by the pressure we faced in the first three games. This team was throwing light pressure at us and we kept getting called for traveling, throwing the ball to the wrong girl, or dribbling into traffic. Just dumb errors made because of indecision. Fortunately they couldn’t score, either. We were up five at half and then something finally clicked. We went on a 30–5 run in the second half to win easily. L had a weird line. She was 0–4 from the field but had four rebounds, four assists, and three steals with no turnovers. She was bummed she didn’t score but I pointed out her other stats and told her she still made an impact on the win.

We had a fun team dinner afterward. The girls were in high spirits and the parents were relieved.

Sunday morning it was back to the convention center for our semifinal. We were playing a team from the south side of Indy, which was kind of funny. On a court next to us two of our program’s fifth grade teams were playing each other.

We started great and had an early 7–2 lead. Then we hit a cold spell and were down six at halftime. That deficit stretched out to 10 midway through the second half. But our girls, for the first time all weekend, fought through the adversity and started clawing back into it. We hit a long 3 with about 3:00 left to tie it. With 14 seconds left we hit two free throws to tie it again. But the other team smartly spread our defense, put the ball in the hands of their best driver, and she hit a layup with four seconds left to give them the win.

We were bummed and happy. Bummed that we lost, but happy that our girls fought hard to come back. And also happy we wouldn’t have to stick around for another three hours for the championship game.

L had a decent weekend. Other than that one game, she didn’t score much. She was a combined 3–7 from the free throw line and hit just the one three. But her shot looked good. I took some pictures at various times and showed them to her after we got home. I wanted her to realize her form is good, she just needs more reps to add consistency. Her knees were barking a little but she looked quick all weekend. Most importantly, she was generally on the court when the team played its best.

Our drive home was long. There was a lot more traffic than Friday, but at least no storms. The approach to Cincinnati is a mess of construction, and it took us a good 45 minutes to go about 15 miles. There was an accident 30 minutes outside Indy that had I–74 crawling. But we made it home safely just in time for a Father’s Day dinner at home with S’s dad and stepmom.

Next week is the final tournament of the official AAU season. I think L is looking forward to some time off.

  1. The lady who did the admissions presentation called the Jesuits “Catholic hippies.”  ↩
  2. They explained the process like this: apply by October 1 and get $500, which repeats for four years. Go to a Xavier event in Indy, get $1000, which also repeats for four years. Then your acceptance letter will include a scholarship that will range between $15,000 and $26,000, also good for four years. College tuition is a weird racket.  ↩

Friday Playlist

A little different playlist this week, as about the time this posts, L and I will be on our way to Knoxville for a weekend of hoops. So here are a bunch of songs about the Volunteer State (and one summer song).

“Tennessee” – Arrested Development
I think I shared this last fall when we went to Nashville. But as the greatest song ever about Tennessee, I must include it again.

“Jackson” – Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash
Second-best song about Tennessee ever.

“Knoxville Girl” – The Lemonheads
I had never heard this before, a song that goes back to the 19th century and has been covered countless times. Not sure it’s appropriate for a weekend centered on youth hoops. Hopefully L’s team figuratively murders their competition this weekend!

“Rocky Top” – University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band
We are staying minutes from Rocky Top and playing a couple blocks from UT. This will be in my head all weekend.

“Constructive Summer” – The Hold Steady
Don’t forget to build something this summer. And raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer.

Another Night of Music

Two concerts in a week! Both at new venues (to me)! Quite a run!

Last night was a little extra special. Not only did we go see The Lumineers, one of S’s favorite bands, but we took all three girls with us. It was the first official show for C and L, although they had seen Blues Traveler at Symphony on the Prairie years ago. C barely remembers that and L doesn’t at all, plus they had no idea who Blues Traveler was, so I think this counts as their first real concert. M was quick to remind everyone that she’s been to lots of concerts. She was kind of snotty last night.

The show was at the big, suburban, outdoor concert venue here, which like many of them around the country has had about 10 names in the 19 years I’ve lived here. It also isn’t nearly as isolated as it was the last time S was here 20-some years ago. L has played basketball right across the street and there are neighborhoods and industrial parks that butt up to every side of the property now. I guess it used to truly be in the boonies. Progress!

Believe it or not, this was my first-ever visit. Which seems crazy if you follow along here, or just know me and how much I love music and how much time I spend listening to (mostly) new music. As I’ve documented before, though, I’ve never been a big concert guy, for reasons I’ve never really understood. In the time we’ve lived here I think most of it is because it took me years to find friends who were interested in the same music I am into. Plus I don’t like going to shows just because it’s a band you’ve heard of and lots of people were going. To be honest, I wouldn’t have gone last night if the whole family wasn’t going. I like a few Lumineers songs, but do not go out of my way to listen to them.

We had lawn tickets. Our friends we were sitting with got there super early and grabbed a spot in the very front, near center, and rented chairs, so we were in a great spot to people watch in the aisle in front of us and a decent spot to watch the show.

Caamp was the opening band, and we walked in while they were in the midst of their set. I know one of their songs, which they smartly saved for the end of their set (“Peach Fuzz”). I thought it was a little strange that The Lumineers picked a band that sounded so much like them as the opener. At one point Caamp played the first 30 seconds or so of a Lumineers song, including the opening verse, and I wondered why the hell the Lumineers lead singer was out with the opening band. It was just the Caamp lead singer, who can sound an awful lot like the Lumineers singer when he wants to, getting a reaction from the crowd.

The main set was really good. The sound was excellent and The Lumineers pass the most important test for someone like me who isn’t a big fan: they sound live very close to how they sound on their records. The lead singer’s voice is pretty much exactly what you hear on the radio. I always thought of them as more of an American Mumford and Sons, but seeing their stage setup, complete with accordions and multiple drum sets, they struck me as closer to Arcade Fire than Mumford.

They dropped a couple hits early (“Cleopatra,” their one song I really like was second; “Hey Ho” was right after) which was interesting. They were leaning into the newer stuff, for sure. They played well over 20 songs but the set moved pretty quickly and the show clocked in right at two hours.

We snuck out in the midst of the last song to beat some of the notoriously bad traffic, much to M’s chagrin. She insisted we needed to stay to hear every second, so we walked off without her, and then she pouted all the way home. It’s fun when she acts like a teenager! We made it home in less than 30 minutes, which we would not have done had we waited around for the last song to finish. She learned a valuable lesson.

The only downside to the night was it was roughly 25 degrees warmer than last week when we saw The War on Drugs. Just sitting in the semi-shade waiting for the show to start made us drip with sweat. Thank goodness there was a little breeze and we were only in direct sun for about 15 minutes. We saw several people getting wheelchair-ed out with bags of ice strapped to their bodies. I think those people made some choices you can’t make when the heat index is 105.

The age range of attendees was a lot broader than last week, too. Tons of middle/high school kids and plenty of folks our age, but the bulk of the crowd was in their 20s and 30s. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a show that was dominated by the kids like that. There were tons of white chicks in sundresses dancing in the aisles. Which is never a bad thing.

All-in-all, not a terrible way to spend a hot summer night.

Reader’s Notebook, 6/14/22

Allow Me To Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution – Elie Mystal
“Our Constitution is not good.”

Thus begins a book that should infuriate anyone who reads it. Conservatives brave enough to take it on will be enraged by Mystal’s destruction of our most sacred document. Liberals will be maddened by how our entire republic was built upon a system designed to exclude and exploit anyone who wasn’t a wealthy, white, male landowner, and how each time we’ve tried to restructure the Constitution so that it truly speaks for all Americans, those efforts have constantly been subverted, ignored, or reversed by conservatives.

I’ve long thought it ludicrous at how many Americans deify the Founding Fathers, forgetting they weren’t one or two people but rather a large, ungainly mob who argued bitterly about how to design our national government. They forget the Founders were motivated more by self-interest and maintaining their places in society than truly establishing a free and egalitarian union. Kings were bad, yes, but that didn’t mean the common rabble should have a say in how they were governed. And, most of all, people forget that these were fucking human beings, not god-like creatures. They made mistakes. They avoided some pretty big issues in order to get a final document approved. They could never have anticipated how society would change over the next (nearly) 250 years. But a small, yet highly vocal and influential, segment of our political commentariat would have you believe those men were faultless and their judgements can never be questioned.

With that being my point of view, yes, I enjoyed this book, even if I’m not a Black Guy.

Load the Wagon – The Athletic
Not sure if you heard the news, but Kansas won the NCAA men’s basketball national championship in April. In fact, they did so on the strength of the biggest comeback in championship game history. Pretty cool!

This is a collection of The Athletic’s pieces about the Jayhawks from the entire season, going back to last September’s season preview. Most of the pieces are CJ Moore’s, but a couple of the other Athletic college hoops writers dropped in for their own pieces in late March/early April. Good stuff, even if I had read every piece at least once when they were initially published.

The White Girl – Tony Birch
A gorgeous novel about something I knew very little about: how the Aboriginal people of Australia were treated in the 20th Century.

At the center of Birch’s story is an Aboriginal grandmother, Odette, and her mixed-race granddaughter, Sissy, in 1950s rural Australia. Odette’s daughter disappeared shortly after Sissy was born and aside from the occasional letter, has made no contact with her mother or daughter since. Sissy’s lighter skin makes her a target for various government agencies who look to “protect” children like her by removing them from their home environments. A particularly nasty local sheriff with a God complex becomes especially interested in their affairs.

Also a threat is a local boy who sees Sissy as a target for his sexual desires since she lacks basic rights under the laws of the time.

Between the pressures felt from the sheriff and the sexual predator, and a major health issue for Odette, the duo have to sneak away from their home village and into the city hoping for a safer life. Along the way they meet an Aboriginal man who understands how to navigate the system along with several sympathetic white, government officials who assist them to land on their feet.

Birch paints an unflinching portrait of his homeland’s treatment of its native people. The ending is a little too clean and Spielberg-ian, at least for me, but that doesn’t negate the overall effect this book should have on any reader.

Weekend Hoops Notes

I mentioned last week that L was finally looking healthy again. She had claimed her tailbone was healed from her recess injury last month, but I think she was still feeling some pain there. And her knees were a mess in May, but seemed better last weekend.

This weekend she seemed as healthy as she’s been in months, and that showed in her play.

Her team went 3–1, losing in the semifinals of their tournament to the best (going into) seventh grade team from their program, which was playing up a division. L’s team was missing two players, including a starter, so she got elevated and started all four games.

Saturday they won game one by 10. That was only because they got super sloppy late. They led by 17–19 almost the entire second half but could never get that last bucket to trigger the running clock. Then they got super sloppy in the final four minutes and pissed away half of their lead. L was only 1–5 from the field, but that one basket was pretty sweet. She got a pass deep in the backcourt, blew past everyone, and laid it in. That play showed me that her knees were in good shape, and was reminiscent of how she used to kill people on the break.

Game two was a relatively easy 26 point win. L had the best game of her life. Her final line was 6–10 from the field, 4–5 from 3, for career-high 16 points. At one point she hit three-straight 3’s. Remember, this kid had never hit a 3 in an actual game until last week. And suddenly she’s Steph Curry! She added a rebound, two assists, a steal and a block. She should have had more assists but one of her teammates, who is usually money if she can get the ball in the lane, missed at least four shots L set her up for. They were all tough-luck misses, too, spinning out or getting bad bounces.

The only bummer for the day was L going 0–5 from the free throw line across the games, and most were bad misses. But at least she was getting to the line, something she hadn’t done in weeks.

We had three hours between games Saturday, and were 45 minutes outside the city, so we set up a breakfast tailgate. It was cloudy and cool so not an awful way to spend a June morning while killing time. After the second game the other parents were telling me L had to eat pancakes before every game.

Sunday’s quarterfinal started off a little dicey. We looked sloppy early were down four. We trailed 11–10 with about five minutes left in the half before our girls ripped off a 12–0 run to end the half. They extended that to a 32–4 run over the remainder of the game and got a easy 27-point win.

L continued to play well, going 3–4 from the field, 1–2 from 3, for seven points.

The semifinal was ugly. We were down 10–2 early and never really had a chance. All of our girls seemed like a mess from the opening tip. Our coach was pleading with them in timeouts to remember they were a year older than their opponents and use their strength, but those seventh graders to-be were just faster and better and strength didn’t matter. They had a big girl that brutalized us in the first half and their coach, likely in an effort to keep that girl fresh for the final, sat her the entire second half. Didn’t matter, our girls couldn’t solve their defense and were constantly lost when they were guarding.

L had a rough game. She air-balled her first three to start an 0–6 game. She took two other 3’s that looked much better but nothing was dropping for anyone on her squad this game. She did grab a couple rebounds, dish two assists, and had a steal.

She was bummed and quiet on the way home. I reminded her she wasn’t the only player who stunk up the last game and she shouldn’t let that outweigh the best weekend of her hoops life.

Her knees were a little sore last night but not as bad as they have been. Hoping they cooperate next weekend when we head to Tennessee for a big tournament.

She has joined another team for the summer that features many of the girls she played winter ball with. I told the coach that she wouldn’t be able to join them until travel ball wrapped up at the end of the month, but he was nagging me last week about her playing in their first game Sunday night. I reminded him of my early message and told him her knees couldn’t take another game.

Apparently they lost by 30 to fifth graders. Now I think four of the top five players on the roster were not there, but, still. I get why the coach was trying to get L to show up. It’s going to be like making a big trade at the deadline when she jumps in with them in July (jinx).

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