Author: DB (Page 1 of 271)

How Shit Got So Bad

Feel free to skip this article if you think the “China virus” is overblown, that it is going to disappear any day, that Democratic lawmakers are using it as an excuse to institute socialism and take away your freedoms, etc.

But if you’re sane, this is a completely devastating reminder of just how royally the president has fucked everything in 2020.

Coronavirus: How Trump killed tens of thousands of Americans.:

Trump has always been malignant and incompetent. As president, he has coasted on economic growth, narrowly averted crises of his own making, and corrupted the government in ways that many Americans could ignore. But in the pandemic, his vices—venality, dishonesty, self-absorption, dereliction, heedlessness—turned deadly.They produced lies, misjudgments, and destructive interventions that multiplied the carnage. The coronavirus debacle isn’t, as Trump protests, an “artificial problem” that spoiled his presidency. It’s the fulfillment of everything he is.

Sports!

It’s taken me awhile to get into them, but sports are back! Kind of, sort of, that is.

As I type this fall college sports are looking nervously at the drain, aware that a hand is lingering near the handle to flush them away to 2021.

But the pros have been keeping us entertained for a few weeks now. And it has been surprisingly good.


Golf

Golf was the first major American sport back, and had a glorious weekend with the first major championship of the year, the PGA Championship played at Harding Park in San Francisco. Twenty-three year old Collin Morikawa, just over a year after turning pro, won his first major with a sublime back nine Sunday.

Morikawa was in the middle of an extraordinarily packed leaderboard when he mis-hit a wedge on the 14th hole, coming up short of the green. Hoping to just get close so he could salvage a par, he chipped in to take the lead at –11. Two holes later he hit a legendary tee shot. Where others kept trying to fade the ball over the trees to the reachable par four, Morikawa took a little off his standard cut, bounced the ball just short of the green, and rolled it to six feet. He banged in his eagle putt and the tournament was his. He damn near holed a 30-foot birdie putt on 17 just to clown with people.

It was a dazzling end to a fantastic tournament. At least 120 guys had a chance to win on Sunday. Well, more like 12 or so, but it was a lot. Morikawa was the only one who could bust through, and he did it with absolute aplomb. He was the least heralded of last year’s three college megastars who turned pro together, largely because Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland played on one of the greatest college teams ever at Oklahoma State. All three have wins in their first year on the tour – Wolff also had a chance Sunday and is lamenting three putts that just missed – but Morikawa now has three wins including a major. The future of golf is good.

What was greatest about the weekend was ESPN’s coverage of the tournament. ESPN doesn’t get too many chances to show golf, but they balled out. Scott Van Pelt and David Duval were soooo good in their hosting duties. Duval never strikes me as a dynamic personality on his Golf Channel work. I don’t know whether Van Pelt drew it out of him or he was just more relaxed, but he was like a totally different guy. He provided great insight, was sneakily funny, and even gently roasted a few players. The network managed to show both the stars and the developing stories. Their on-air-talent was entertaining, informative, and humorous without being distracting.

In certain circles of the golf media universe, people love to kill CBS for how bad they are at broadcasting golf. ESPN gave people who complain exactly what they have been craving. I hope they can repeat the weekend’s performance when they take over non-network coverage of most PGA events in 2022.

Oh, and all PGA’s and US Opens should be played on the west coast. There’s nothing better than turning on golf at 10 AM and having it still on at 10 PM. I didn’t watch every minute of the coverage, but the TV was generally on just about every hour that ESPN and CBS were broadcasting.


NBA

The Bubble World NBA has been surprisingly entertaining. The first week I watched a lot; this past week I’ve mostly been watching only when the Pacers are playing. Where golf manages without a crowd – you lose the reactions to dramatic shots you but also lose the idiots who have to yell “GET IN THE HOLE” or “MASHED POTATOES” on every fucking tee shot – I was worried basketball without a crowd would seems sterile and boring. But it’s been alright. Granted, there is some fake crowd noise piped in, along with music and announcers. The Zoom fans are a cool touch, too.

I think what saves it is seeing the benches go nuts on certain plays. Those moments get lost a little when the crowd is going crazy. But when Joel Embiid took another piece of Myles Turner’s soul with a ridiculous dunk in the Sixers-Pacers game, seeing his teammates literally jump over the barrier in front of the bench was awesome.

As a Pacers fan, it has also been a lot of fun watching TJ Warren begin the restart on a ridiculous hot streak. He had some really good moments in the first part of the season, but also seemed to be working to find his place on the team. He’s not an alpha, content to quietly fit in, which made the transition a little more awkward. Something flipped and he’s just been going off. 53 in a win against the Sixers. 39, including a massive three with 11 seconds left to beat the Lakers. He’s been over 30 in every game but one and leads the league in scoring in Orlando.

The Pacers have also been a lot of fun to watch. They’ve been banged up, which has forced them to play small. But it is, mostly, working. I don’t know that they have enough to win a series or two in the playoffs, but at least they are entertaining.


Baseball

Baseball is also really strange without a crowd. Stadiums designed to hold 30,000–50,000 fans being completely empty gives the games a haunted vibe. Listening on the radio gives the games a spring training vibe, with the voices from the dugout and around the diamond coming through clearly.

With the short season and expanded playoffs, the math for this year is different than any other year. Teams that probably shouldn’t be taking chances to get to the postseason are doing just that in hopes they make the tournament and can then get hot.

The Royals are one of those teams. Brady Singer and Kris Bubic are clearly good enough to be in the big leagues. But I’m not sure it makes sense for the Royals to be burning a year of their big league control of each pitcher in a season in which the Royals are unlikely to contend. Then again, the Royals needed starting pitching and with there being no minor league ball this year, I guess this is the only way to allow their best prospects to keep developing. And I guess it’s a good problem if the Royals are good enough in a few years that they regret starting the service time clocks on these guys early.

For the first two weeks that decision looked especially dumb. The Royals looked pretty bad over the first 12–13 games. But now that they’ve ripped off four-straight wins, including sweeping first place Minnesota, and you start crunching numbers on how they can make the expanded playoffs. They’ve started hitting the ball. The pitching has been solid, especially the bullpen. And they are getting guys healthy.

It’s stupid to get too excited about winning four games (which translates to nearly 11 games in this year’s math). The Royals are still a pretty weak club. And baseball has made so many missteps along the way to reopening that I don’t think anyone has much confidence they won’t have to shut the game down at some point. At least there are games to watch for now.

Friday Playlist

With our situation constantly in flux, a lot can change in a week. But as it stands this morning, all three of our girls are scheduled to be back in a school classroom this time next week. Which makes this the final playlist of a rather long summer. Nothing specific to celebrate that, but this will be a mega playlist this week as I do some housecleaning.

“Jeannine” – Pete Yorn
A lovely song that sounds like saying goodbye to those summer romances as you head back to the real world.

“Club Zero” – The Go-Go’s
Wow, a week after sharing one of their classics here the Go-Go’s have released their first new recording in over 20 years. Apparently this is an old, unreleased song that the ladies revamped for the new Showtime documentary about their careers. Which I hear is very good. But as I don’t have Showtime I’ll have to wait for it to hit another platform eventually.

“Love Is Not Enough” – Lydia Loveless
Speaking of breaking streaks, after a four-year absence, Lydia Loveless is finally back with new music. This track harkens to her earliest music and has more of a twang to it than her most recent album did. Her new album is supposed to be full of music about the upheaval in her life along with some pointed criticism about the way women are treated in the world. While I prefer her more rocked-up sound, I’m glad she’s back and looking forward to hearing what she has to say.

“Scarlet” – The Rolling Stones with Jimmy Page
The Stones are about to reissue their 1973 album Goat’s Head Soup and will be including this, basically an impromptu jam recorded with Jimmy Page in 1974. It sounds pretty good!

“Zephyr” – Electrafixion
While on vacation we bought a big case of water bottles from the company Zephyrhills. One night I was staring at a bottle and realized there was something about that name that was tickling the musical part of my brain. This was while we had poor connectivity so it took a lot of very slow digging on Spotify and Google to finally remember that Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCullouch had a mid-90s side project with one hit, “Zephyr.” Man, this was a strong track and it had slipped from my mind. Glad it’s back in there again.

“Plowed” – Sponge
And then I thought of this, one of my favorites from that same period.

“Owner of a Lonely Heart” – Yes
Tom Breihan has made it to 1984, the greatest year in pop music history, in his The Number Ones series. The first #1 of ’84 was this unlikely track. It is one I loved back then, have continued to love over the years, and am always a little surprised that it has aged as well. When I read Breihan’s summaries of songs like this, I always do so with some nervousness. Is whatever I found endearing about the song going to turn him off? Will things I found charming and engaging sound cheesy to his ears? Fortunately, he is also very into what Yes was putting down on the biggest hit of their careers.

Reader’s Notebook, 8/5/20

I’ve accumulated five books that require discussion. I’ll try to make this quick, but you know me, so strap in.


*The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever* – Mark Frost

I knew nothing about this book or the event it covered until I heard a discussion of it on a podcast. The focus is the 1956 match between professional golf legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson and young amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward. Played in the week leading up to the annual Bing Crosby Clambake (Now the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am), it was viewed as a clash of golfing cultures.

Frost gives an accounting of the actual match – won by Hogan and Nelson one-up – while sharing back stories of the four golfers as well as a history of the game to that point and a preview of where the sport was headed.

Frost claims that this was the day that golf changed forever. I think that’s overstating things. His argument is that it was the final moment in which amateur golfers still mattered and could go toe-to-toe with the best pros in the world. In truth, as Hogan, Nelson, Sam Sneed, and others had already proven, the transition to professional golfers being the most powerful and respected athletes in the game had already occurred. Besides, Hogan and Nelson, for all their acclaim and prestige, could hardly be seen as standard bearers for professional golf. Hogan was in poor physical health and his best golf was many years behind him. And although Nelson could still really play, he was no where near his peak, having been retired from tour golf for nearly a decade.

To me, it’s difficult to argue that two past-their-prime legends beating two up-and-comers in a casual round was a true turning point in the long struggle between pros and amateurs.

That quibble aside, Frost tells a good story and it was interesting to learn about a part of golf history I didn’t know much about.


*The History of Gangster Rap* – Soren Baker

This was a quick and enjoyable read about, well the title kind of sums it up. Other than originator Schoolly D, who was from Philadelphia, the book almost exclusively focuses on West Coast-based rappers. He works through Ice-T, NWA, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and other golden age rappers, then through the waves that followed them.

I will say this is more celebratory than critical, as Baker rarely takes any of the rappers to task for the content of their lyrics, some of which were inexcusable no matter what their original context was.

Still, it was a delightful reminder of a genre of music that I was deeply into for five or six very influential years. The only downside is that it is tough to listen to the music it covers with my girls around. Another reason they need to go back to school, so I can blast the playlist I put together while reading the book without fear of scarring them forever!


*In the Garden of Beasts* – Erik Larson

Not sure how I’ve never read any of Larson’s books. After hearing several friends talk about his latest book, *The Splendid and the Vile*, I jumped on library waiting list for it. In the interim, I checked out this, his story of William Dodd, the US ambassador to Nazi Germany from 1933-1937.

It is a fascinating tale. Dodd, like many Americans at the time, believed in giving the Nazis room to operate without pressing them about their policies. Some of this was because of barely disguised anti-Semitism in the US. Another big factor was that Germany owed American banks huge amounts of money because of high-interest loans taken out after World War I. The US business community believed the Nazis should be allowed to operate without interference so Hitler’s government would continue to service these debts.

Dodd took his adult children with him to Berlin. His daughter Martha made quite a stir, dating several Nazi officials, a French diplomat, and having a long, rather serious relationship with an NKVD agent assigned to the Soviet embassy. There’s no delicate way to put this: Martha got around, which was scandalous both for the time and for the daughter of a diplomat. Her love life gave the family an extra inside view of the political machinations of the country at that time.

At first, the Dodd family was largely neutral about the Nazis. Martha even defended them during her first year in Berlin. But as they began to see the reality of what the regime’s aims were, they shifted. Dodd pressed officials in Washington to adjust official US policy toward pressuring the Nazis to moderate their views. Martha became an outspoken opponent of the regime, and in the years after World War II worked with Soviet intelligence services, eventually being forced to flee the US and live the bulk of her life out in Czechoslovakia.

What makes the book really shine is that the Dodd family left so much correspondence behind for Larson to dig through. There were Dodd’s letters back to President Roosevelt and others in the government. There were the family’s private letters. And official government documents. It allows Larson to give a pretty full view of the challenges the family faced and how they did their best to adjust how the US viewed Hitler and his supporters.


*18 in America: A Young Golfer’s Epic Journey to Find the Essence of the Game* – Dylan Dethier

Dethier is one of the best, young writers currently covering golf. Not yet 30, he has a staff position at *Golf* magazine and co-hosts one of the magazine’s podcasts. He is a terrific writer, who combines reverence for the history of golf without being beholden to it.

The year after he graduated from high school, when his classmates were moving on to college, he spent 12 months traveling around the continental US in a battered Subaru station wagon, playing golf in all 48 states. He learned how to sneak food from hotel buffets at which he was not a guest, how to leverage the power of the press to help him gain access to private courses, how to gamble, developed a gambling problem during a wet week in California, nearly got hustled by a pro hustler on a course in Las Vegas, battled with his emotional health while spending months largely alone, nearly fell down a steep hill in Wyoming, and played both some of the best and most basic courses in the country. Oh, he lost his virginity along the way, which was kind of fresh.

This book is the accounting of that trip. It’s good, although you can tell he was quite young when he wrote it. A few moments feel like he’s trying too hard. But overall it’s a terrific read.

The book nearly derailed his college golf career, though. You can read all the details here, but the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, decided that a Division Three golfer who was about to publish a book was no longer an amateur and banned him from playing for Williams College at the national championships his junior year. It is classic NCAA stupidity and Jay Bilas makes an appearance. Dethier’s article about his experience is worth the read.


*The Postmortal* – Drew Magary

I didn’t realize there was one more Magary novel out there that I needed to read until my brother-in-law asked me if I had read it. I quickly added this to my Kindle and knocked it out while we were in Florida.

Once again Magary pulls in sci-fi elements into a fairly standard novel. The story is told through a series of transcripts of verbal journal entries by a man named John Farrell over a span of 60+ years. That time range is important, because Farrell was a Postmortal: someone who right around 2020 took the newly found cure for aging which caused his body to freeze at his then-current 29 years old.

This cure was a big deal, and caused many issues in Magary’s alternative earth. Some thought the cure was an abomination against God and nature and demanded that it be banned. Others cried that by not making the cure legal, the governments of the world were condemning them to death. Farrell got the cure illegally before most governments relented and made it legal. Shortly after he receives the cure, his roommate and best friend is killed in an attack on the apartment where she had gone to get the cure for herself.

The book jumps ahead in 10-year leaps. Farrell is a divorce attorney and helps to craft new divorce and marriage agreements that reflect the new reality that people really don’t want to stay married forever when they are going to live forever.

Eventually, as the books jumps forward, the inevitable environmental and resource issues begin to destroy society. The US has a population of over 750 million people, and just finding food and water becomes a huge task. Jobs are scarce. Housing nearly impossible to find. The Russians have given their entire army the cure and are using its 150 million men to slowly take over the world. And the Chinese begin nuking their own cities in order to kill off large swaths of its massive population.

All this stuff is great, especially considering it was Magary’s first novel. However, in the final 50 pages or so, things kind of fall apart. Farrell falls in love with a woman he has been chasing since the explosion that killed his roommate back in 2019. When he fakes her death, he is forced to flee off the grid. They do so just as the US and the other powers start nuking each other. That relationship felt strange, forced, and wrong. But I cut Magary slack for knowing that he learned his lesson and ended his next two novels in highly satisfying manners.

This Is What I’m Dealing With

Please examine this picture.

One the left you see an open box of Multi Grain Cheerios. It is nearly empty, but there is still a half-serving, give or take, left inside. Enough to start a bowl, fill a coffee cup,1 or be the perfect portion if you’re slicing a banana to go with.

On the right you see the brand new box of Multi Grain Cheerios that I purchased yesterday. Not only did someone open it when there was already a box open, but they also opened it from the bottom, which means we can’t close it properly. And they failed to roll the inner liner closed to keep the cereal fresh. To top it off, they dumped probably half a bowl of the Cheerios into the sink, which they left to adhere to the stainless steel as their milk evaporated overnight.

This, my friends, is what I came downstairs to this morning. This, my friends, is why I’m in favor of schools reopening.

Sure, this shit can still happen when the girls have to get out the door by 7:10 AM. But then I can call them directly on it. Or, if I don’t notice until I return from dropping them off, I can seethe about it for awhile and then forget it.

Now, with them at home, I just want to charge upstairs, wake them all up, and yell, “Which one of you idiots opened the fucking Cheerios from the wrong end?”

Schools reopening is not just about kids’ mental health. Us parents who have been with them every day for nearly five months need a break, too. Even if it’s just for a couple weeks before the schools shut down and we have to figure out eLearning again.


1. This is how I practice portion control with cereal: eat from a normal-sized coffee cup. Throw in a banana or an English muffin and you have a healthy breakfast without eating 900 calories because you had a massive bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats.

A Week Away

Well, we spent a week in Florida. Whether that was a good idea or not, I suppose we’ll figure out in the next 10-14 days. But it was definitely fun to get away from home for a bit.

There were enough mixed feelings hanging over this trip thanks to Covid-19. Then some other shit happened.

We were scheduled to leave early Saturday, July 25. Our flight was at 7:30 so my alarm was set for 4:45. We were pretty much packed and ready, just needed to throw those final few things into the bags, eat, do some final pool prep, and go.

And then our power went out at 3:30. I woke as soon as it went out, which caused a moment of panic that was enough to keep me from going back to sleep. Instead I thought of how I would do all those last minute tasks in darkness, making mental lists to ensure nothing was overlooked or left behind.

I got out of bed at 4:30, found candles and flashlights, and started working. All that mental activity was worth it as we made it out of the house without forgetting anything important.

Naturally the power came back on moments before we left. The girls were in the car and everything. S and I made a quick lap back through the house to make sure lights were off, nothing was lying on the floor we needed, the pool pump had restarted, etc., and then took off for the airport.

The airports were strange. IND had a few shops open but most were totally shut down. We flew through O’Hare on the way to Florida and everything there seemed to be shut down other than the newsstands. We saw a family with a McDonald’s bag but had walked by three McDonald’s that were closed between our gates.

The flights were fine. We flew American, which is now selling every seat, and all four of our flights were almost completely full. I had a lady next to me from Indy to Chicago who tried to not wear her mask. When the staff began circulating to check that folks had their masks on, she put it back on and left it on for the remainder of the flight. Thirty minute flights are kind of cool, by the way. We took off at 7:30, landed at 7:08. Marvin Barnes would not have approved.

With the exception of our flight from Chicago to Ft. Myers, American offered no snacks or beverages to passengers. On that one flight they handed you a small bag as you boarded that contained a tiny water bottle, package of cookies, and a hand wipe. We were prepared, though, and had plenty of snacks in our bags.

We flew home through Charlotte and the food court there was totally open. I’m a little worried if we managed to avoid the coronavirus during a week on Captiva, we may all have been infected while eating our Chick-Fil-A, because the food court was crazy busy.

This trip replaced our cancelled trip to Hawaii, which was to have taken place the same week. So we breathed sighs of relief when we saw Hurricane Douglas was likely to be the first hurricane to make a direct hit on the islands since the early 1990s. For some time it looked like not only Kauai but the exact location we were staying would be where the storm made landfall. Fortunately for Hawaii, the storm veered just offshore. Still, it would have sucked to sit out a hurricane warning in our hotel.

As if to punish us for thinking we were lucky to miss Douglas, Mother Nature whipped up Hurricane Isaias last weekend. The early forecast was for it to head straight for Captiva and show up right about the time we left this past Saturday. Our travel companions were supposed to stay until Monday, but to be safe they changed plans and left first thing Saturday. Naturally Isaias slowed down and changed track, and as I type this Sunday night it will meander up the eastern coast of Florida, sparing Captiva.

This was our third trip to Captiva. It was definitely less busy than our other trips, but we don’t know if the amount of people on the island was normal for the last week of July.

Our house was exactly two minutes from the beach, which was great. We spent most of our mornings and early afternoons on the beach until it got too hot, and then retired to our pool for the afternoon. The house listing claimed we had the largest private pool on the island. Not sure if that was true, but all nine of us could get in. It was a saltwater pool, too, which was a little different.

The only bummer about the house was that we lost both cable and internet access for nearly three days. Add in our Verizon signal being very weak, and it was a little frustrating, especially for the five teens in the house. We had a strong wifi signal and the cable guide loaded, but there was no internet connectivity and no video or audio on the TVs. Two visits from the rental agency repair guys left them unsure of what was going on.

After some troubleshooting, we theorized that the owners of the home, who have it up for sale, may have forgotten to pay their Comcast bill. Don’t know if they didn’t expect to still own the home at the end of July, thought it wouldn’t be rented this week, or something else. But when we suggested an unpaid bill as a possibility to the rental agency, service suddenly came back on a couple hours later.

We were joined at the house by our old neighbors. That gave our girls their two friends to hang out with. M and C shared rooms with their buddies while L got her own room. One day the girls met a group of three boys, who we think were about M’s age. I wasn’t there when the conversation occurred, but apparently the boys first asked C and her bud how old they were. They said 14 and pointed out how they just finished seventh grade. The moms heard this and laughed and laughed.

The other dad and I shot dirty looks at the boys every time we saw them. I was not prepared for my girls to be hanging around boys on the beach in my eyesight. The funny thing was L thought the boys were cool and was as disappointed as the older girls when they didn’t show up one day.

As for the weather on Captiva, it was mostly great. We had a couple very hot days. A couple that were pleasant thanks to the winds. The day we arrived there was a massive downpour just after we got to our house. The next six days we heard loud rumbles of thunder every afternoon, but the storms either stayed over on the mainland, or skirted us out to sea. One day we sat on the beach and watched a massive lightning storm that was 15 miles off shore, safely sipping Corona Lights.

On Friday night we were just paying for our meal at an outside table when a big old downpour rolled in. The ladies and girls all scurried inside while the dads leaned under our table’s umbrella and attempted to scratch our signatures onto our credit card slips. The bummer to that was L left the shark tooth ring she was very excited about at the table as we fled. She didn’t realize it until bedtime that night, which was too late to go reclaim it. She was a little sad about it.

We had some wildlife fun. There were lots of beautiful, bright green lizards in our backyards. Some were tiny, some mid-sized, and we had a couple big boys that were over four feet long. I don’t remember them being this bright from our previous trips. Maybe it’s the season.

We saw lots of beautiful birds at the beach.

One night, as I grilled burgers, I noticed some movement over by the pool. Then a head popped out of the mulch and a four-plus foot yellow rat snake began working its way across the pool deck, looking for some dinner of its own. C used the pool net to rescue a tiny black racer snake from the pool one day.

There were lots of big, fat rabbits scampering about.

And on Thursday we were treated to a dolphin show, as dozens of them hunted for their lunch within site of the beach. A few came in close, one nearly touching my buddy while he floated in an inner tube.

On Friday we rented wave runners to take all the kids out. I had S and L with me. We managed not to tip it over. C was riding with her friend and the other dad, and they tipped theirs over while making a tight turn. Between never having driven a wave runner before, and L being nervous, I wasn’t nearly as aggressive as the other drivers were. It was a lot of fun, though.

It wasn’t Hawaii, but it wasn’t bad.

Did we feel safe? That’s a great question. We ate out four times. Twice we sat outside. Twice we were inside. One restaurant did it’s best to spread people out, limit how many folks were inside, and forced people to wear masks unless they were seated. The other, I’ll be honest, I was not super comfortable at. It is a tiny spot, and every table was filled even though we arrived early. I decided to drink extra to try to ease my mind.

Folks mostly kept to themselves at the beach. People would carve out their space and the next group to come along would set up 10-15-20 feet away.

Like so many things right now, I don’t know what the right set of actions should have been. Was it irresponsible to travel in the midst of a pandemic, especially going to a state that has not handled the coronavirus very well? Was it dangerous to eat inside? Was spending eight hours on planes and 5-6 hours in airports setting our family up to be infected?

Or as healthy people who have been mostly responsible for the past five months, who kept our masks on, who wash our hands often, did all that earn us the leeway to travel?

I don’t know what the right answer is. I tried hard this past week not to overthink things, to not feel bad about doing something fun when so many people are facing economic hardships. To not feel like a horrible person for leaving our home when the smart thing to do would have been to keep our asses at home until next summer.

I turned off all of my news alerts while we were gone. I wanted to check out, relax, and take a break from all the things that have been wearing me down mentally for five months. I would check Twitter a few times a day, and the news headlines in the morning and evening. We paid close attention to news from back in Indy about sports and schools.

In a 24-hour period, the state high school athletics association declared that fall sports were on, pending approval from local authorities. Moments later the Marion County health department put all fall high school contact sports in Indy on hold until October 1. There was an outcry from school officials, a meeting was set up between superintendents/principals and the health department, after which fall sports got a reprieve for two-to-three weeks until the health department can make a better assessment of what is happening with Covid cases in Indy.

On Friday the health department also said all high schools in the county would need to start the year at 50% capacity. I’m assuming this meant a hybrid system like many suburban districts have gone to where kids are in school one day, learn from home the next. Cathedral quickly sent out a message saying that, based on the number of buildings and classrooms on campus, they could have twice as many kids on campus as are currently enrolled. Thus they felt they hit the 50% mark and would apply for a waiver.

We shall see.

As with our trip, I don’t know what the right answer is. I don’t envy those who have to make the decisions. I totally understand families who have decided to keep their kids at home for the time being. I don’t think schools will be terribly safe environments from a Covid standpoint.

But I also know virtual learning, even if improved after months of planning, is a poor substitute for being in the classroom. I know our kids can’t handle being cooped up at home for another six-plus months. While I will be here to monitor our kids, a lot of other children will be left at home without adult supervision, which can only lead to bad things.

But are those concerns worse than spreading Covid?

I don’t fucking know.

As we dropped our rental car off Saturday morning, M asked everyone in the car what we thought our next big vacation would be. All three girls threw out ideas while S and I remained quiet. When M pressed us, we both said we had no idea if and when it would be safe to travel again. Regardless of whether we should have been traveling in July 2020, we know it is going to be quite some time before we can think about taking a big trip again.

Friday Playlist

“Mariana Trench” – Bright Eyes
I’ve never listened to Bright Eyes, but I enjoyed Conor Oberst’s collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers last year as part of Better Oblivion Community Center. As if for people like me, Bright Eyes is about to put out their first album in over a decade. Based on this track, I’ll at least give it a courtesy listen.

“Country Church” – Holy Motors
If Mazzy Star made a song that had some swing to it, and it landed on the soundtrack of a mid-90s noir film, it would sound like this. This band is from Estonia, which I believe is a first in all the years I’ve been sharing music online.

“Ice Cream and Sunscreen” – Martha
Even in the age of the pandemic, some things remain summer requirements.

“this is me trying” – Taylor Swift
Announced just 24 hours ago, Taylor’s new album dropped at midnight. Produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, it is a definite departure. I’m only about half to two-thirds of the way through, but am really liking it. Dessner produced the final Frightened Rabbit album, and I hear some common musical and sonic elements, especially on this song.

“Down” – Pearl Jam
I opened up YouTube to find a video for the week and this was front-and-center. Not a bad choice. “You can’t be neutral, on a moving train.”

July Media

July is not over. But as we will be out-of-town next week, and I haven’t found much to write about this week, I thought I’d go ahead and share my media post for the month.


Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Always reliable, but never quite as great as Michael Schur’s other creations. What was strange was watching a show that was recorded before and during the Coronavirus outbreak. It was weird seeing commercials and promos from back when life was normal and then suddenly seeing them change in tone when April rolled around.

B+


Meet Don Byers

A Golf channel short about an insurance salesman from Omaha in his early 60s who became the oldest (known) college athlete. What made this piece interesting was the narrator and the production. Ron Livingston provided the voice overs, and with him in mind, Don Byers’ dissatisfaction in his insurance job was given an Office Space spin. Which was nice.

B


Free Solo

Despite my strong fear of heights, I was able to watch this without my stomach getting too upset.

It is the documentation of Alex Hannold’s free solo climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan, the first time such a climb – done without any safety equipment – was ever completed.

It is absolutely gorgeous to watch, and does an amazing job capturing what it was like for Hannold to be hanging 3000 feet about the ground without any ropes or harnesses to save him should he slip.

It is also a look into Honnold’s life, which is a little odd. He likely has Asperger’s, and this complicates his relationships. He has a super-cute girlfriend who is clearly way more into him than he is to her. The part of his brain that registers fear doesn’t seem to work like most people’s, either, based on an MRI. He’s just a different dude, but those differences make it possible for him to do what no one else has ever done.

The most compelling parts to me were the moments the day before his climb, when the camera crew are going through their checklists and you could see on their faces that they all were pretty sure they were about to watch their friend die. And during the climb’s most difficult stretch, which he failed on consistently while practicing with ropes, one of the cameramen turns away and refuses to watch. That guy was me. I could watch the film already knowing the outcome, but in realtime, there was no way I could have continued to watch as Honnold attempted insanely difficult maneuvers with basically no margin for error.

A-


Tiger Slam

An accounting of the time when Tiger was at his most Tiger-ish, and won four-straight majors, including probably the two best major wins ever, the 2000 US and British Opens.

B+


The Human Bean

Back in April I watched Beau Miles’ A Mile An Hour, in which he ran a marathon, a mile at a time, over the course of a day, and did all kinds of cool stuff in between those laps.

Here, he decides to eat his weight in beans over several weeks as he preps for an endurance run. It’s pretty goofy and not as engaging as A Mile An Hour, but still entertaining.

B


Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived

Funny story, remember when we moved into our new house two years ago and it took three-plus weeks to get cable installed? Well, shortly after the Comcast guys got the house wired, I recorded this show…and never watched it. Until now. You’d think I would have devoured it right away back when I was starving for content.

Williams has always been my favorite historic baseball player. Even knowing much of his story was mythological, I bought into him as the quintessential 20th century American Hero, capital H. As the show mentions, he was who John Wayne claimed to be.

So I was really surprised to learn that his heroic story was more complicated than I realized. Sure, he was a war hero – and lost nearly five years of baseball to service in two wars no less – but I never knew that for both World War II and the Korean War, he fought leaving baseball to serve. Now that certainly puts his service in heroism in a different light. It does not diminish his military accomplishments, or give back those five years in his prime that he missed. But it does undermine that he was a selfless athlete who sacrificed a significant chunk of his baseball career to serve his country.

S was in the room while I watched much of this. She has no idea who Ted Williams was or anything about him. The film is brutally honest about Ted’s brutal honesty. She was not a fan.

B


Jumanji – Welcome to the Jungle

I got this at the library. I really thought I had picked up the Jumanji movie that was just out over the last holiday season. Fortunately L and I had never seen this one and it made sense to start at the beginning.

So, this didn’t bridge any new ground at all. But it was surprisingly fun and entertaining. And it was tight. A solid family movie that takes roughly 90 minutes to watch? That’s good movie-ing there, my friends!

B


Jurassic Park

The other movie I picked up for L and I to watch. Man, this has not aged well. I remember being blown away by how realistic the dinosaurs were back when I first saw this. It was the ultimate 1990s summer blockbuster.

Nearly 30 years later, visually it looks very dated. It just doesn’t compare to what CGI can do these days. And the story, honestly, kind of sucked. Reading old reviews I saw how it was hailed as a return to form for Stephen Spielberg. Even with how awe-inspiring the visuals were back in 1993, I don’t see how this comes close to his best work in the 1980s.

C


Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood

I honestly wasn’t sure what to make of this flick. I enjoyed long stretches of it, but also didn’t really get where it was going. Well, I knew where it was going in terms of the historical event that anchored it, but I just thought it had a weird flow. It was entertaining as hell, but I never really latched onto some central theme that was pushing the story forward. Tarantino films often have that lack of traditional structure to them, but this felt different and more incomplete to me.

I also thought to myself, midway through, that it was the least violent Tarantino film I’ve ever seen. Boy the last 10 minutes did their best to make up for that. Yikes, some of that stuff I had to look away from. I did enjoy Tarantino’s alternative history take on what could have happened to the Helter Skelter killers.

The whole dirty feet thing put me off a bit. And for some reason I really enjoyed how much Leo’s character hated hippies, and the invective he threw at them.

As always, Leo and Brad Pitt were great. And Margot Robbie? Good grief, she’s like an angel from heaven. I could watch her do goofy 1960s dances all day.

B+ for the movie, many A+’s for Ms. Robbie

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