I need to run through my Instapaper account and collect some more good reads to share. To tide you over, here is one that made me laugh out loud from McSweeney’s.
“I Don’t Live Here Anymore” – The War on Drugs with Lucius
The title track from the upcoming TWOD LP. It is the brightest, shiniest, poppiest track the band has ever done. Naturally I love it. Lucius provides a very nice vocal assist.
“This Enchanted” – Hatchie
Harriet Pilbeam recently signed with Indiana label Secretly Canadian, and this is her first single on that imprint. Like just about everything else she’s done, it’s pure magic.
“Tell Me” – Spectres
I’m not sure what generation of post punk we are on now – at least the fourth, right? – but as long as people keep making music that sounds like this, I’ll keep listening to it.
“Around Again” – Hovvdy
Technically it is still summer, at least from an astronomical point of view. So this song, which sounds like late summer distilled into audio form, is still relevant.
“Fear and Trembling” – Gang of Youths
GoY lead singer David Le’aupepe gave a lengthy interview to Steven Hyden at Uproxx about the state of the band and where they are in the process of recording their next album. Apparently the EP they released earlier this year was a very early teaser, and a full-length release is not imminent. Reading this piece made me go back and listen to their 2017 album Go Farther In Lightness, and reminded me how great this, the opening track, is.
“Escapade” – Janet Jackson
You all know how I can A) remember all kinds of stupid facts surrounding songs that are decades old and B) occasionally get fixated on those old memories. Well, that happened to me over the past few days.
I mentioned last week how “Black Velvet” was the trigger. Normally, when I have these old memory bursts, I can live with them for a bit and then move on quickly. But something about that song and the priming of my brain for memories from that same time got me stuck in a memory loop that lasted five or six days. It was really weird. No matter what I did to distract myself, memories of my freshman year of college kept overwhelming me.
That happens from time-to-time. But it is usually a short-term thing. This just kept going on-and-on. Monday morning, for example, I thought I had turned the page. Then I went to the gym, fired up my Spotify gym playlist, and three of the first four songs were from the spring semester of my freshman year. I was starting to get freaked out; the music algorithms were now part of whatever was forcing me to remain fixated on these memories.
I tried to figure out why this kept happening. Obviously, some of it came from reading The Number Ones, which has been working up those memories for several weeks. I wondered, too, if it was just because I haven’t thought of my first year of college in great detail in years. So perhaps some of it was just revisiting some unfamiliar memories?
I wondered if there was someone I knew back then who was in some kind of distress and sending out psychic messages to anyone they knew at the time asking for help that I was picking up on.
I also wondered if maybe this was my brain’s way of telling me it was getting ready to purge these memories, and wanted to give me one, last intense experience reviewing them by flooding me with them over several days.
The first explanation is the best, the second two don’t really make sense. I’m being honest, though, when I say it was very unnerving that this experience was so powerful and lasted so long.
Anyway, I listened to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 the other day because 1) it was a great, great album and 2) if I’m going to be stuck in that memory loop, I might as well have some control over it. It is still a great, great album filled with terrific tracks. This one is the greatest. I’m not sure it’s possible to hear it and not be happy instantly.
Another kickball season is complete.
L’s team was supposed to make up three games that had been rained out. One school never responded to multiple messages from our coach about a reschedule date. It’s the team L kicked six homers in one game against a year ago, and we’ve generally beaten them like rented mules since third grade. So I don’t blame them for avoiding the game.
Monday we played on a crazy field that has a fence in short left field. C’s team played there three times and that stupid fence always got in their heads. Her team had at least four girls who should have been able to kick it over the fence. While we had multiple balls bounce over for ground-rule doubles, no one on her team ever flew the fence for a home run.
In the top of the first Monday, our second kicker put one over the fence. She did it again in the third inning. And another girl kicked two over. L was super excited to get her shot, but kept kicking line drives that bounced off the fence for Green Monster-style singles. We were up by 40-some runs in the fifth and L knew it was her last shot before the mercy rule kicked in. A new pitcher gave her a fast pitch that she neatly deposited over the fence. She raced around the bases with a satisfied look on her face.
L made sure to let C know that her team kicked five over the fence in one game while C’s team couldn’t put one over the fence in 21 innings. Sisterly love!
L also made a crazy play in the outfield where she cut off a screaming line drive and threw a perfect strike to second to hold the kicker to a single. After the play she stood in center and flexed. I laughed out loud.
Wednesday night was supposed to be our final makeup game, against a team we knew we would hammer. As we left home L said she was going to try to break her record of six homers in a single game. This is another weird field – the church is awfully close in left field but if you kick to center or right the ball can roll for days – plus she hasn’t kicked as well this year. But I told her to go for it.
When we arrived the opposing coach came over and asked, since it was their last game and they had five 8th graders playing their final game ever, if we would mind if they forfeited the official contest and the teams just played for fun so she could move girls around to different positions.
Our coach said sure, although there was some grumbling from our girls. It ended up being a good time. Both teams played girls in new spots. It was fun to see some of our girls who are often in the outfield get to pitch or play first base. There was zero stress because no one was keeping score. Both teams were laughing and having fun. You know, how youth sports should be.
Since I wasn’t keeping score I lost track of L kicking a few times. She did not kick seven home runs. I think she went something like 4–6 with one homer. Since this was officially a forfeit I’ll not add those numbers into her season totals.
She ended up going 26–31 with seven home runs in five games. She slightly raised her kicking average to .839 from last spring’s .825. But the seven homers were way down from 22, although she did play two more games last spring.
We are already putting together a strength program so she can get those power numbers back up next spring.
The team went 3–2 plus the forfeit, crushing the bad teams but not getting closer than 14 runs to the two top teams. Kind of a bummer year after playing for the City championship last spring.
Now we will be all about basketball for sixthish months.
CYO kickball pitching philosophy is that you pitch slow to good kickers, fast to poor kickers. The idea is to make the good kickers provide their own power and try to overwhelm the weak kickers with speed. ↩
My goodness, I am so far behind in sharing my recent completed reads. I imagine a few of these will be crappier than normal since I’ve put them off so long.
A Spy In The Struggle – Aya de León
I’ve been working through a list of good, recent espionage novels that this and the next book both were on. The list featured books that take a non-traditional view of espionage.
In Aya de León’s work, her focus is Yolanda Vance, a young, African-American woman who saw her law career derailed when the Manhattan firm she was working at was raided by the FBI. After turning over evidence to the FBI she was blackballed by the New York law community. With no other options, Vance joins the FBI. Despite some promising early work in New Jersey, she is pulled from her unit and sent to the Bay Area, and asked to infiltrate a group that caters to inner city youth the FBI believes is responsible for harassing an important defense contractor.
Yolanda just happened to play college basketball at a small school in the area, and the FBI views her as the perfect person to get inside the group to see what’s going on.
From there the developments are a little predictable. Vance initially sees the organization as a problem, filled with complainers who are unwilling to work as hard as she did to change their paths in life. In time, though, she comes to learn that the local FBI office is corrupt and is working to hide a murder that took place in the contractor’s facilities. She falls in love with a professor on campus, which helps open her eyes more to the reality of the situation. Soon she is bringing down the corrupt agents and showing that the contractor is the true bad guy in the relationship with the community.
It’s all a little too easy and feel-goody, even to my liberal heart. But de León’s characters are fun and interesting.
Northern Spy – Flynn Berry
Here, again we see that spies don’t have to fit into the mold of James Bond.
Tessa works as a producer for BBC radio in Northern Ireland. She’s a single mom who just barely manages to get through each day of work and motherhood and, thus, largely stays out of politics other than covering them for work. Until she looks up one day and sees her sister, Marian, on the news taking responsibility for a robbery carried out for the Irish Republican Army.
Shocked, Tessa fights to make contact with Marian to figure out if she was kidnapped, drugged, or otherwise forced to join the IRA. Once they meet, she learns that Marian is, indeed, an IRA member, and willingly so. But there’s a catch: she is also informing for MI5, the British security agency in hopes of bringing about an end to the latest round of violence in Belfast.
Tessa gets roped in to her sister’s world. To both sides of it, in fact. Soon she is passing information from Marian onto MI5 while also helping Marian’s IRA compatriots by writing down license plates parked at the police center, or transporting materials from one location to another.
Eventually the sisters’ treachery is discovered by the IRA. At the same moment they are abandoned by their MI5 handler. Only through some quick thinking and help from kindly strangers do they survive.
Berry’s story highlights how strange the Northern Ireland conflict is/was. And how “regular” folks got swept up into it so easily.
Caught Stealing – Charlie Huston
I was digging through some old emails recently and found one that was at least 15 years old from a friend I’m not in contact with anymore. In it, he shared a bunch of authors he enjoyed. I’ve worked through a lot of them over the years, but Charlie Huston’s name was new to me. So I grabbed this.
It is one of the most ridiculously violent books I’ve ever read.
Hank Thompson is a former high school baseball star who saw his entire life get upended when he destroys his leg late during his senior year.
Years later he’s a bartender and part-time drunk in New York. A neighbor asks him to watch his cat while he’s away for a few days. Thus ensues chaos.
Turns out inside that cat’s carrier was a very important key, a key that a lot of people are looking for. Soon Thompson is getting battered and beaten by a variety of characters looking for the key including Eastern European hitmen and cops, both crooked and straight. I’m not sure what’s more amazing: how much physical abuse Thompson takes or how he just keeps bouncing back from it.
If you can deal with the violence, this is a surprisingly funny and fun read.
Desert Notebooks – Ben Ehrenreich
I read a number of glowing articles about this book around its release. It seemed like a good change-of-pace from the spy stuff.
Ehrenreich, who writes about climate change for The Nation magazine, details the year or so he spent living in the desert of Nevada, first in Joshua Tree National Park and later in Las Vegas while serving as a visiting professor at UNLV. Along the way he documents the craziness going on in the world both politically – this was 2017–18 – and the daily reports on how our climate is creeping closer to total breakdown. And he explores the concept of time, as told through the writings of all kinds of ancient civilizations.
It’s an odd book. The historical stuff didn’t really connect with me, other than when he’s pointing out how whole swaths of known, ancient history were cut from what is taught as the roots of Western Civilization because it came from the wrong parts of the world, or didn’t fit within the story the advocates for western capitalism wanted to push.
His documentation of both our country’s political spiral and our planet’s environmental spiral is depressing. But I’m always fascinated by these “notebook”-styled books, in which you can see authors fleshing out ideas that turned into other works.
Slow Horses – Mick Herron
Finally, the first book in a series about a group of disgraced MI5 agents. These agents all fucked up somehow and are sent to Slough House, a decrepit building somewhere in London, where they are given mindless, meaningless work designed to force them to resign from the intelligence service on their own. Early on, Herron goes into detail how each member of the Slow Horses, as the folks back at MI5 proper call them, failed to earn this dubious assignment. It almost felt like a comic book origin story: a group of misfits with particular skills who are forced to work together and, though a series of accidents, become some kind of unique force.
The story doesn’t quite take that track. Turns out Slough House is being framed from within MI5 for an operation that has gone wrong. Only the Slow Horses have figured it out and know just enough to fight back.
It’s a cool little story, although very, very British. Herron uses some idioms that I had no idea what they meant, even from carefully re-reading around them to find context. There is a whole set of books that feature the Slow Horses so that may be the next series I dive into.
A busy Monday kept me from getting this out yesterday, but allow me to share some brief sports notes from the weekend.
Friday we took the entire family to the 5A #1 Cathedral matchup with arch rival and defending 3A state champs BCHS. Well, L rode with S and I and then ran off with her friends the entire game. And M and C both rode to the game with friends. But we were all there!
BCHS is having a rough year and it continued as the Irish pounded them 38–14, a score that was closer than the game was. BC only scored because CHS fumbled twice deep in their own territory after the game was already pretty much over.
It was a beautiful night for football and the stadium was jam-packed for the rivalry. Or at least it was until halftime when a lot of folks checked out thanks to the 28–0 score.
I got home in time to see Coastal Carolina pull away from KU in the fourth quarter. Sounds like there were some encouraging moments, but the Jayhawks still have a lot of work to do. Quarterback Jason Bean might be the real deal, but will likely spend much of the Big 12 season running for his life. I’m cautiously optimistic that Lance Leipold is more like Mark Mangino than the last four coaches. It’s going to take time, though. As always…
Saturday I sat on my ass and watched a lot of college football. I was able to watch much of the Oregon-Ohio State game on the outside TV, which was fun. It got hot in mid-afternoon, though, so I had to scurry back into the air conditioning for the later games.
Sunday brought the Colts opener against the Seahawks. This season just has a stench about it that things are going to go poorly, between maybe too much hype for the team, one of the lowest vaccinated player rates in the league, and a quarterback who is almost guaranteed to get injured or play shitty. Or likely do both.
Seattle took care of the hype, dominating the Colts for four quarters. The offensive line, which should be a huge strength for the Colts, was awful. Maybe that’s just because a bunch of them had to sit out two weeks because of a positive Covid test and contact tracing. The Colts have a difficult front half of the schedule, so things could get ugly if they can’t figure their shit out quick.
Across all three days I caught big chunks of the US Open, including almost the entire women’s final on Saturday.
That final didn’t end up being very competitive, but didn’t take away from how fun it was to watch Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez march to the final. For Raducanu to be the first man or woman to win a major as a qualifier is absolutely astounding. Even more so because she didn’t lose a single set through the tournament. Raducanu and Fernandez coming along just as the Williams Sister Era seems to be ending might save women’s tennis, at least for viewers in America.
I’ve never been a big Novak Djokovic fan. But I couldn’t help but admire how he just refuses to lose. Which made his straight-set loss in the men’s final to Daniil Medvedev a massive shock. There was a moment in the third set, when he found himself down 4–0 and managed to win four games before Medvedev closed him out when Djokovic created a little burst on energy that he might charge all the way back. Only with him would you even entertain the possibility of coming back from two sets and two breaks down to win. None of us would have been surprised if he had pulled it off. Like him or not, he creates energy and drama, which makes watching his matches compelling.
It had been a few years since I watched much of the Open. I really enjoyed the matches I tuned in for this year. It helps that both the men and women have groups of exciting, young players beginning to make their presence known. If we could just get some Americans sprinkled among them I might be connived to pay as much attention to tennis as I did 30 years ago.
I think you’re going to like this group of songs, but I bet you enjoy my essay about this week’s video more. It’s not often I dive into my romantic past here, so prepare to laugh at/mock me.
“Long Way” – Eddie Vedder
WHOA! When I heard Eddie had a solo album coming out I was not enthused. His first solo album was all folkish songs played on ukulele. Not necessarily my bag. He also did the soundtrack for Into the Wild, which consisted of lots of song fragments written for specific moments in the movie, although his cover of Indio’s “Hard Sun” was fantastic. So I was blown away when I gave this, the lead single off the new album, a listen. There’s some George Harrison-like guitar up front before it blossoms into a totally gorgeous, very Tom Petty-feeling track.
“Let’s Make Out” – Lydia Loveless
Apparently this is a track that’s been around for a few years, and has been a live favorite at Loveless’ shows. This is the first time she’s shared a studio recording. It’s right in the pocket of what I love about her music. And a pretty solid sentiment, too!
“Spirit Power and Soul” – Johnny Marr
Look at J. Marr, never afraid to take his music in a different direction! I wouldn’t say this is a great song. But it’s got a nice feel and makes me want to bounce around while I listen to it.
“Summer’s End” – Phoebe Bridgers and Maria Taylor covering John Prine
So many people I follow were deeply affected by the death of John Prine a little over a year ago. Sadly, I wasn’t very familiar with his music. While I’ve appreciated his songs that inevitably popped up in shows, shorts, etc since his passing, I have never dived into his catalog. Phoebe Bridgers doing her standard fantastic version of someone else’s song is just another toe in the Prine waters for me.
“The Rising” – Bruce Springsteen
Like the yard signs say, never forget 9/11. (Don’t get me started…)
“Black Velvet” – Allanah Myles
For this different approach to the Friday vid comments, I’m diving into two areas I don’t usually write about.
First, I don’t usually write about songs that Tom Breihan covers in The Number Ones.
Second, I’m not big on sharing tales of romantic regret.
This song has been hella stuck in my head for a couple days now and forced me to go against both of those writing prohibitions.
Since Tom got to mid/late 1989 his pieces have really been working on my music memory brain cells. I’ve been flooded by memories of going off to for my first year at KU. Baring other traumatic events, I think people change the most in the shortest amount of time during their first year of college. Well, after birth to one year, obviously. You leave home, have to figure out how to do things on your own, have to motivate yourself to get to class, most of us are living with someone who is not a blood relative for the first time, and so on. You are exposed to the people in your dorm or fraternity/sorority house and across campus who open up your mind in all kinds of amazing ways.1
So it has been fun reading Tom’s posts and reliving so many memories from that period of my life.
1989/90 was also probably the last time I was locked into the music that was on the Top 40. I was mostly listening to tons of stuff that was decidedly not Top 40 – gangsta rap, I was deep into New Jack Swing, and I was even listening to quite a bit of metal in the fall of ’89 – but I still had an idea what was going on on the pop charts. It was in the fall of 1989 that my roommate and I famously shunned some long haired dudes at the record store to buy whatever Top 40 crap we were into at the moment. Those long haired dudes turned out to be Soundgarden. Oh well…
Wednesday Tom wrote about Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet,” the fourth number one song of 1990. I liked that song as it was climbing the charts. It didn’t hurt that I had the first girlfriend of my college years during that same stretch. And, so, as that song has been replaying in my head over the past few days, I’ve been thinking of her.
I met B thanks to the girl my roommate was dating, W. Both young ladies went to school in Kansas City, so it was kind of a hassle to get together. B was supposed to come over one Saturday in mid-January but something came up and W rounded up a last-second replacement since we had tickets for four to see a movie. The stand-in date didn’t seem super interested in me. I think that was because she knew a high school friend of mine that she didn’t like very much and assumed I was just like him.2 By the end of the night, though, she had warmed to me a little. As we said goodnight, she said she thought B and I would get along really well.
Then I had a week to stew before finally meeting B.
The week came and went, the girls showed up, and B and I hit it off right away. She was super cute, very smart, and funny as hell. I have no memory of what we did that night but I know it was a great date, and we started calling and sending each other letters immediately after.3 We had a few more dates and then I went to her sorority’s semiformal. I skipped my first-ever KU-K-State basketball game to attend the dance so you know I was smitten. I’m almost positive we danced to “Black Velvet” and B told me how she loved the song. It took me less than a second to decide I loved the song, too. Because that’s what you do when you’re 18 and you’re dancing with a girl who seems into you.
It’s been 31 years, so I can’t say I have great memories of why we stopped seeing each other. It could have simply been the distance. She had a car but I did not, and she may have gotten sick of driving an hour-plus from her parents’ house on the far east side of Kansas City to visit me.
I do have a clear memory, though, of her calling me her boyfriend one of the final times we saw each other. I don’t remember the exact words I used to respond, but I know I made some sarcastic comment about her using that term. Which was dumb. Sooooo dumb. Like one of the 10 dumbest things I did in college. In my head I was freaking out thinking, “This awesome chick just said I’m her boyfriend!” and in my struggle to get some words out in response I said something meant to be funny but likely came across as dismissive or not feeling the same.
What an idiot!
Anyway, by late March there were no more letters, phone calls, or dates.
As I said, I’m not big on romantic regret. While it would be nice to go back in time and replay these moments to say the right thing or date the right girl or avoid a certain relationship, all those moments of embarrassment, disappointment, and other pain in search of love helped me to get to the point where I was prepared to **not** make the same errors when I met S.
Plus, if I could go back to the winter of 1990 and say the right things to B, while I doubt we would be married with three kids today, perhaps we would have lasted six months together. Or a year. Or however long. Which would have changed my next relationship, and then the next one, and so on and then I’m never in a position to meet S in the spring of 2000. Plus this blog wouldn’t exist!
I hadn’t thought of B in years until I listened to “Black Velvet” Wednesday. I hope she’s doing well and the guys she dated after me weren’t so insecure and immature that they responded like jerks when she admitted her feelings to them.
1. To be fair it closes some people’s minds, too.
2. Loved that guy, but we had a few clear differences in personality and behavior.
3. Remember when we had to write letters and wait for a response? What a crazy time to be alive!
This has to be the latest in the school year I’ve ever gone before sharing a kid sports update. Good reason for that: we only have one kid playing any sports at the moment!
I should be writing a wrap-up of L’s kickball regular season. Her final game was supposed to be yesterday.
“So,” attentive readers may be wondering, “does that mean her team is going back to the City playoffs?!?!”
Sadly it does not mean that.
Part of that is because they’ve had four games rained out – one game has been rained out twice – and still have three games to make up.
But it also means they are sitting at 2–2 through four games and any chance to return to the City championship game is out the window.
It’s been a weird season even accounting for the rain. After being rained out twice they finally played their first game and run-ruled a poor team that seemed to have a lot of girls that had never played before.
Then they played the team, St. H, we thought would be our biggest competition. We’ve gone back-and-forth with St. H since fourth grade. Usually the team that wins goes on to win the division. There was some added drama this year because St H has a girl that spent her first seven years at St P’s but never played kickball despite being a crazy athlete.
We were up 11–5 after one-and-a-half innings…then proceeded to give up 32 unanswered runs to get run ruled in four-and-a-half innings. Naturally our former student just destroyed us, along with a few of her teammates.
After that came a sloppy, 14-run win. I say sloppy because we scored 14 in the first inning then our girls kind of played like ass.
Tuesday night we played St S, a school we’ve had had battles with back to third grade. Based on their scores we expected a very close game. We got drilled early, barely kept it under the 25-run limit, and managed to get it down to 14 runs before losing. A couple HUGE breaks went against us. The biggest was our girls forgetting how many outs there were and not doubling a runner off second to end an inning. St S added ten more runs before we could finally get that third out.
That game took 95 minutes to play, which was awful. Neither team played very good defense and the innings just went on and on and on. Thank goodness it wasn’t 95° like a week ago.
You may recall me saying last spring the City semifinal game L’s team played in was the best they’ve ever played defensively. They must have forgotten how to field over the summer because they have been brutal in the field. Some of it is being in the 7th/8th grade league where girls are bigger and can kick it farther, and there are more girls who can place the ball better to avoid the defense. But where last year it seemed like our girls made an amazing catch every inning, this year they aren’t getting to balls or are dropping them or throw to the wrong base or any of half-a-dozen other things that can keep an inning alive. I don’t think that would have made a difference in our first loss, but it definitely played a major factor in the Tuesday loss.
L is playing well, but not at the level she did last year. Through four games she’s 21 for 25 with just six home runs. She was 4–7 Tuesday which is probably the most outs she’s ever made in one game. Some of her (relative) struggles are due to better defense limiting her to doubles and triples (she has four doubles and eight triples). Those outfielders get the ball back into the pitcher a lot faster than they did in the 5th/6th grade league. Some of it is because she hasn’t kicked as well as she did last year.
The biggest factor, though, is her knees are constantly bothering her. They flared up a couple times in the winter and spring, but the pain always passed in a day or two. However, since late July she has been in almost constant pain. Some days she struggles to get up-and-down the stairs in our house. She certainly can’t run as fast as she did in the spring. It has to affect her kicking, too, although she claims it doesn’t.
S insists it’s all because L has grown so fast and so much over the past six months or so. S is also confident it is just Osgood-Schlatter disease. Other than ice and ibuprofen the only real way to combat O-S is to stop being active until you stop growing. And L isn’t about to do that.
It hasn’t helped that because CYO sports scheduling is stupid she’s already started practice for her St P’s basketball team. She made the A team again, so she’s playing with the four 8th graders she played with two years ago along with two classmates. Again, because CYO is ridiculously dumb in how they schedule sports, the CYO basketball season begins in a little under three weeks.
L is also trying out for a club basketball program she wants to play for over the winter. There are a series of five tryout sessions, the first was a week ago. She and one of her St P’s classmates are trying out together. They both said the girls they scrimmaged with and against at the first session were good, but they hung right with them. L worked very hard on her game over the summer. I hope her knees calm down a little so she can show off her improvement for both teams.
Which still leads the team. But she kicked six home runs in a single game last spring. ↩
It was the first weekend jam-packed with sports in a long time. Good thing we had a fourish-day weekend to squeeze it all in!1
Friday night I took C and three friends to the Cathedral football game (M was also there with her own friend group). The 2–0, class 5A #1 Irish played a perennial 6A power from up north that has fallen off a bit in the past couple seasons. CHS was up 37–0 at halftime, played subs the entire second half, and cruised to a running clock win by the same score. Next week they take on arch rivals Bishop Chatard, defending class 3A champs who are off to a rough 0–3 start.
KU was playing their season opener at the same time. I was able to follow most of the second half. Not the most confidence-building experience – a 17–14 win over South Dakota that required a last-minute touchdown to win – but I’m not sure how you properly assess anything this season since the new coaching staff came in after spring practice was complete. There was already a lot of work to be done and that just complicates matters more.
I had hoped the offensive line would be improved. Sounds like that’s not the case. Or at least not yet. Most of the big plays were made by young guys, though, so that has to be good. Then again, there aren’t a lot of old guys in front of them.
I heard from multiple people about KU students rushing the field. Yawn. 1) Those kids hadn’t seen a win in over two years. 2) They may not see another win for two more years. 3) Do you really think after everything KU fans have been through over the past decade I’m going to get fired up about kids rushing the field after barely beating an FCS team? That’s like the 150th worst thing that has gone on around this program since the 2008 Orange Bowl win.
I watched stretches of the US Open throughout the weekend. I’ve said this before but it’s tough to get invested in tennis when so many of the best players are A) from Eastern Europe (or their parents were from there) and B) I don’t pay much attention to tennis the rest of the year.
I’m sad I’ve missed all of the Leylah Fernandez experience so far. Carlos Alcaraz beating Stefanos Tsitsipas Friday was terrific fun. I also enjoyed watching Shelby Rogers beat Ashleigh Barty on Saturday. I missed Rogers’ loss on Monday but was disappointed that she was the second American player to speak out about the abuse she expected to take online after the loss. I just don’t get why you would berate any athlete for their performance. And harassing tennis players is especially baffling to me. Is there really a big pool of super-fired up tennis fans who go ballistic when people lose?
I don’t think so. I’m assuming it’s just frustrated, idiot gamblers or people who can only find pleasure in life by cutting other people down.
The Naomi Osaka situation was especially disheartening. This is clearly a woman who is not in a good mental place. And yet some people were almost gleeful that she lost and seemed on the verge of a breakdown, both emotionally and physically.
How do you root for someone to fall apart? And how do you not understand that even when someone is successful and famous and has money they can still face mental/emotional/physical challenges that overwhelm them?
The first full weekend of college football rolled through, too. I watched probably too much football on Saturday, even when we were hanging out with people in the evening. I spent the most time with eyes on Penn State – Wisconsin and Clemson – Georgia. Not well played, not very entertaining, but at least they were competitive.
There was a lot of hype going into the year for Indiana. Iowa took about 10 minutes to destroy most of it. But as an IU-fan relative told me Monday, 8–4 was what he expected and that’s still in play, no matter how ugly the Hoosiers looked Saturday.
I struggled a bit with seeing full stadiums and the constant chatter from the announcers about how great it was to be back to normal again. I had mixed feelings because we’re not back to normal. And the arguments about how to make things better just keep getting less-and-less constructive as the deniers dig in deeper and deeper. This fall should have been the time when we were truly reopening and getting back to normal. But Covid numbers are skyrocketing, schools are going back to masks, and it feels like this is just a momentary blip before large crowds start getting banned again because too many people think being asked to wear a piece of cloth across their face is some great impingement on their freedoms.
I had never heard of Duke’s Mayo before Saturday. And I had no idea it was a big enough deal to sponsor the premier prime time matchup of week one.
I watched a few minutes here-and-there of LSU-UCLA. I expected an easy LSU win. I was not expecting UCLA to pull away and win comfortably.
While watching I had the thought that when Chip Kelly left Oregon, it totally derailed both him and the Oregon program. When he left it seemed like just a matter of time before Oregon won a national title. The Ducks have had a couple good seasons since he departed, but several mediocre ones and even a 4–8 season. Kelly, meanwhile, was a disaster in the NFL and seemed close to being done at UCLA.
But maybe he has something going in Westwood, finally.
Lastly, the Solheim Cup in women’s golf was fantastic. In a mild upset, the European team beat the Americans 15–13. I was struck by how different the Solheim’s entire vibe was from how the Ryder Cup will be in a couple weeks. At the Ryder Cup there are always a couple guys on both teams who are way too fired up and take the slightest possible sign of disrespect as some great challenge to their manhood and team’s legitimacy. By Sunday the red asses have taken over and the entire event is weighed down by that intensity. While there are some moments of genuine respect as the singles matches finish, you are just as likely to see opponents get the post-match handshake over as quickly as they can.
There were a few moments of disagreement and conflict this weekend amongst the women. But none of them turned into big deals. Brief handshakes were the exception, with most competitors hugging after their matches regardless of the score. The crowds also seemed way less unruly than Ryder Cup crowds do.
All the bullshit that goes along with the Ryder Cup is kind of fun, to be honest. I’m always rooting for there to be extremely bad blood during and after, because it makes golfers look silly.
The Solheim Cup, though, was just about good, fun competition.
Movies and Shows
“John Lakeman,” his professional name, is dealing with a lot of stuff. He’s trying to sway an election in Iran to prevent the country from gaining nuclear weapons. He’s attempting to pose as an expert in industrial piping as his cover, something he is woefully unprepared for. His boss at the piping firm hates him. Just about every one of his coworkers is on his ass for one thing or another. A detective wants to question him for murder. And there are at least four deaths on his hands. All this from a mission he did not want after suffering a mental breakdown.
Which probably makes it an odd thing to say this is one of the funniest shows I’ve watched in recent memory. There is a strong Fargo/Cohen Brothers vibe to it. Just about every moment of tension and violence is undermined by ridiculously hilarious dialogue and a cast full of kooky-as-fuck characters. The writing is top notch. The cinematography is stunning at times. The actors, both primary and supporting, are outstanding.
I loved this show, and can’t wait to watch season two. I can see how it would be frustrating for some viewers, though, since it is so oddball and artistic at times.
Lost Track Atlantic
Torren and Ishka continue the adventures through Northern Africa. As always, stunning visuals laid over a terrific soundtrack.
Only the Essential: Pacific Crest Trail Documentary
On one hand, a beautiful accounting of an amazing trip. I think this is beyond my physical abilities these days, but long hikes like these still intrigue me. On the other, the narration is so monotone and bored-sounding that it detracts from the impact of the images.
Pearl Jam Live from Rome, Italy June 26th 2018
Love it when I run across some random PJ show that is insanely long and offers both high quality video and audio.
Pearl Jam No Code Concert, October 17, 2014
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their No Code album, the band put this show up for free last weekend. Sandwiched between a rousing “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” and 22 other songs, the band played the entire No Code album in order.
Untold: The Malice in the Palace
It’s kind of crazy there hasn’t already been a deep dive into the infamous brawl between the Pacers and Pistons in November 2004. This was really well done, although to be clear it was told from the Pacers’ perspective, since Jermaine O’Neal was a producer. I don’t think that completely changes how we should judge the brawl. But it does show that the Pacers weren’t a bunch of thugs mindlessly attacking fans, which was the message most of the media carried in the aftermath of the fight. The players should have made different decisions and avoided the disaster that derailed what may have been the best Pacers team ever (although perhaps they were destined to flame out with the combination of personalities on their roster). But this program shows that nearly every escalation was caused either by fans or by the woefully inept security.
An accounting of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi security forces. This is disturbing on many levels. I was even reluctant to watch knowing that filmmaker Bryan Fogel had access to the official Turkish documentation of the murder. Fortunately for viewers, he only shared the transcripts of the audio the Turkish police recorded.
Fogel spends a little too much time on Saudi dissident Omar Abdulazziz, who believes Khashoggi’s vocal support for him was what led to his death. It is also immensely frustrating that Saudi Arabia does enough for our country’s economy in various ways that our government, under leadership of both parties, continues to refuse to hold the Saudis accountable for the long list of horrible things they do.
I don’t remember this movie at all from when it was released. And apparently it was one of the best reviewed films of 2007. That’s what having kids will do to you!
Glad I got to it, though. It is a first-rate thriller, combining elements of both a standard police mystery and a journalistic hunt for the truth. Which, as we learn at the end, despite decades of investigation, the mystery of the Zodiac Killer remains unsolved.
Bobby and Giada in Italy
I could do with less Bobby Flay, but Giada De Laurentis cruising through Italy eating incredible food? Sign me up!
The $7BN Megaproject to Save Venice
I don’t know, seems like Venice might still be fucked.
Audi R8 vs RS e-tron GT: DRAG RACE
It’s crazy how fast electric cars are getting.
What if THEY played drums on Toto’s AFRICA instead of Jeff Porcaro?
This would probably make more sense if I was a drummer and knew who half of these people were.
Consequence of Sound’s The Opus
The Opus celebrated the 30th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s debut Ten album with a look back at how the band came to be, how the album was recorded, how visual art was a huge part of the band carving out their niche, and how a show at the end of their first tour set them up for stardom. Fun to listen to if you’re a fan, but it also felt a little light and brief rather than exhaustive. Which, I suppose, most people interested in this will have already consumed other deep dives into the history of Ten.
It’s the last weekend of the summer of 2021. My new music folder seems a bit light at the moment, so we’re going to get a little nutty this week. I hope you find the nuttiness pleasing to your ears.
“Red Hill Mining Town” – U2
Through hands of steel
And heart of stone
Our labor day
Has come and gone
Not about our American Labor Day, but still seems appropriate for the weekend.
“C’mon C’Mon” – The Von Bondies
This has been sitting in my Friday Playlist pool for months and I never got around to throwing it into a list. I believe this was the first song I purchased on the iTunes Music Store after I bought my first iPod back in 2004, so it’s kind of significant.
“Hayfever” – Trashcan Sinatras
A great, great song that never got enough attention when it came out in the mid-90s. The Trashcan Sinatras have a whole swath of great tracks that really didn’t get much attention here in the US.
“Top Gun Anthem” – Harold Faltermeyer, Steve Stevens
I heard this a few weeks back on SiriusXM’s Road Trip Radio station and it made me smile. When I was 16 and I was watching Top Gun like six times a week, I wanted nothing more than an edited version of this song that just played those opening, ominous seconds over and over. After not hearing this for 30-35 years, it still sounds pretty bitchin’. I bet Johnny Lawrence still loves it, too.
“Fletch Theme” – Harold Faltermeyer
Sure, “Axel F” was a jam. But this movie theme is also pretty great. Harold had a good 18 months or so in the mid-80s.
Jamaican music legend Lee “Scratch” Perry died this week. Let’s celebrate his life and work!
“‘Dr. Lee, PhD'” – The Beastie Boys with Lee “Scratch” Perry
The next-to-last track on the last great Beastie Boys album, this kind of blew all our minds when we first heard it in the spring of 1998.
“Police and Thieves” – Junior Murvin
Perry co-wrote this classic track. The Clash later covered it. Murvin hated their version, saying they had “…destroyed Jah’s work.” There are varying reports that Perry both hated it and loved it. More about that in a sec…
“Complete Control” – The Clash
One of the absolute greatest Clash songs – hell, one of the greatest punk rock songs – ever. No matter what his true feelings about “Police and Thieves,” Perry admired The Clash’s early work and agreed to produce this track. You’re my guitar hero!
RIP to Lee.
“Model Village” – IDLES
This was one of my most listened to tracks of the first quarter of the year. I watched IDLES Tiny Desk concert about a month ago and then found this performance of this track. I hadn’t seen them perform before. They are something else! I highly recommend the Tiny Desk show if you have thirteen minutes to kill.
It’s a holiday weekend. So, what the hell! Let’s play two videos!
“Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats
Men Without Hats has recorded a new version of this, called “No Friends Of Mine.” After hearing it, MWH superfan E$ sent me this live performance of the original. It is a beautiful piece of art. Watch for the dude with the jester hat up near the stage.
Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend, everybody.