Author: DB (Page 2 of 311)

“We’re all just walking through this darkness on our own.” – The War on Drugs Live


Last Wednesday night I went to my first concert in four-and-a-half years. Just as I did at that last show in December 2017, I went to see The War on Drugs. With S and the same friends we went to that Dec ’17 show with. This was a rather momentous night for me, though, as it was the first concert I’ve been to in Indy that was not in Broad Ripple.[1]

We saw TWOD at the TCU Amphitheater in White River State Park, right downtown, nestled in between Victory Field, the NCAA headquarters, and the Indianapolis Zoo.

It was a damn perfect night for a show. Storms blew through in the afternoon, took away the humidity, and dropped the temps into the upper 60s. There was a gorgeous sunset just after the show began, which peaked through the side of the stage.

And then there was a fucking fantastic show on the stage.

This is the third time I’ve seen TWOD. They get better every time.

This was a transcendent show, nearly flawless in every way. Adam Granduciel set a damn amplifier on fire, which should speak to the power of the performance.

The band roared through 17 songs that were almost perfectly selected and sequenced. I would have swapped two songs in order at the end of the main set, and maybe shuffled in one or two they didn’t play. But the band was so damn good I can’t make any true complaints.

Granduciel’s vocals did get lost in the mix at times. I believe they were too low to begin the show, and got bumped up for song two. But the rest of the night I think it was just that the band was so loud that the vocals still got overwhelmed. That’s not a terrible thing since he’s not the greatest singer in the world. But at times you were more aware he was making sounds with his mouth than really hearing what he was singing.

The highlight of the show, as I hinted at in the Friday Playlist a week ago, was “Come to the City.” The band doesn’t play many songs off of their first full-length album, Slave Ambient, I believe because those songs are difficult to translate to a live setting. I’ve heard a couple others off that album that have not sounded great. I’ve seen versions of “Come to the City” on YouTube that were good, but didn’t match the power of the album version.

But Wednesday night’s effort? It was incandescent. I think I had a big grin on my face for the entire five or so minutes they were playing it. If I had long hair, I think it would have been blowing back over my shoulders from Granduciel’s overwhelming guitar runs. It was one of the greatest songs I’ve ever seen live, and this is a band that routinely melts people’s faces with their music. When “Come to the City” ended, I looked at the people I was with and yelled, “THAT’S WHAT I CAME HERE FOR!”

As a huge fan that has analyzed nearly every second of the band’s last four albums, I noted how their performances have changed since I first saw them seven years ago. They still largely sound like the same band, if more locked-in and cohesive. Granduciel’s guitar is still the center of the show. But there weren’t any five minute solos, or songs that were stretched out to 20 minutes because of multiple solos like on their last tour. He still shreds, but he condenses his play and shares the spotlight more than he used to. Which makes the moments he does slay even better.

It was also awesome to see how songs they’ve been playing for nearly a decade now – all the big ones from Lost in the Dream for example – have been tightened up while also becoming even more massive. “Under the Pressure” has always been an ass-kicker; it was one of the true highlights of the December 2017 show. But I swear, it made people lose their minds and speak in tongues last week. It really should have closed the main set to allow people a few minutes to catch their breath and get their hearts back into rhythm.

The new songs translate well, too, especially their biggest hit, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore.” I wish they played “Change,” but they seem to have dropped it lately.

The only bummer of the night was “Eyes to the Wind” did not get played. It was listed on the official setlist as the first song for the encore, but I think there was a hard 11:00 sound curfew and they cut it to play “Thinking of a Place” and “Occasional Rain.” Those were both great, but “Eyes to the Wind” is one of those songs that grabs me in the soul every time I hear it.

One other thing I noticed is that Granduciel seems much more relaxed on stage, the band seemed to be having fun during songs, and the overall tone of the show was different than two years ago. Perhaps it is because the songs on I Don’t Live Here Anymore are more optimistic and uplifting than the songs on Lost in the Dream. Wednesday there was a real feeling of not just communion, but celebration in the air. I wouldn’t say the band was ever reticent or somber at their previous shows. They have just brightened up quite a bit.

Indianapolis TWOD fans are lucky. It seems like the city will always be on the band’s tour list thanks to their roots with Bloomington’s Secretly Canadian label. They’ve stopped here on three-straight tours, and played incredible shows each time. Hopefully this isn’t the last time I get to see them.

BTW, if you want to look back at what I wrote about the first two TWOD shows I’ve been to, here are links:

The War On Drugs, Indianapolis, 6–12–15
Wrapping Up (+ TWOD)


  1. I will be seeing my first-ever show at the bigger outdoor venue here this coming week.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“You Gave Me the Key” – Julie Doiron
A bright, sassy, fun song. Perfect for summer!

“She Still Leads Me On” – The London Suede
The London Suede had one great song in the ’90s (“The Drowners”), a lot of hype, and not much else. At least here in the US. So this brand new song from them floored me. I never would have expected them to make a song this good 30 years after their brief moment of international success.

“Way I Go” – Gordi
I haven’t listened to much of Gordi’s music. Although last year, her duet with Alex Lahey, “Dino’s,” landed on my Favorite Songs of the Year list. Apparently she’s also a medical doctor. Should I ask my wife why she’s not recording music in addition to her medical responsibilities?

“Window” – Dehd
Dehd’s new album, Blue Skies, got really good reviews. I only liked a couple of the songs; most of those shared this general vibe.

“Summer Breeze” – Seals and Crofts
RIP to Jim Seals, who died this week at age 80.

“Wet Dream” – Harry Styles covering Wet Leg
The moment when my musical interests collide with M’s. Harry’s pants crack me up.

Sports Notes

KU Hoops

I still need to do an NIL post, and now that things finally seem to have calmed down a little on that front, I’ll move that up in the mental queue.

KU’s roster appears to be locked in for next year, so a few thoughts on how that has shaken out.

In general I think the transfer portal is a good thing, as it gives players more control of their careers. But I think it also gets misused as players bail on situations that are simply less-than-ideal instead of truly bad or jump at any opportunity to trade up in prestige of program. For fans, I think we expect too much from players who are transferring-in, expecting them to replicate what made them stars at their previous school while playing in different systems, with different teammates, often with very different roles.

I think the best move for KU this off-season would have been to keep the roster completely intact and not add any players. Even had some guys at the back end of the roster left, I would have been fine going forward with 11–12 scholarship players instead of trying to fill a bench player’s spot with a transfer who had started elsewhere.

There are just a whole lot of guys who will be fighting for playing time this year, and clearing out a spot wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

That said, replacing Christian Braun with Kevin McCullar, Jr was about the best move KU could have. They are different players, but since McCullar is complementary on offense and position-less on defense, he can slide right in and not be disruptive. I don’t think he will struggle to find his role the way pretty much every transfer last year did. While he adds to the roster crunch in the wings rotation, his presence also means that neither Gradey Dick nor MJ Rice will be expected to have an immediate impact for the team to win games in November and December.

Jalen Wilson coming back was the right move for him and potentially a huge move for KU. It’s unrealistic to expect him to take the jump Ochai Agbaji did last year, but after a solid NBA combine, it’s not unreasonable to see a leap in his game. I can see him having a tremendous statistical year, in the range of 15–16 ppg and 10+ rebounds per game.

Right now I think there are three players locked into starting roles: Wilson, McCullar, and DaJuan Harris. I would guess Zach Clemence is most likely to be the starting big man today. And then someone from the pool of Bobby Pettiford, Joe Yesufu, Dick, or Rice fill the remaining spot, depending whether Bill Self wants two small guards or a larger wing to join the other five. One of the freshmen bigs – Ernest Udeh or Zuby Ejiofor – should play a lot. I think Bill Self loves KJ Adams, so he will play.

I just named 11 players. Both Cam Martin and Kyle Cuffe are on scholarship, and most people think that Cuffe has a bright future. It’s hard to see either of them getting minutes, and I’m a little surprised Cuffe didn’t decide to jump somewhere that would give him a better opportunity to play.

Bottom line, the roster is deep, loaded with options, and seems pretty good here in June. They should be elite defensively if a big man can become a shot blocker. Offense may be a struggle at times, so I expect more games in the 60s than last year.

It’s a long way until practice begins, let alone the first games in early November. The defending national champs may not be in the true list of betting favorites (they are actually rated pretty high by Vegas at the moment, but that seems irrational) but they are going to run back a pretty good squad in ’22–23.


Professional Golf

I don’t know that it’s been on many of my reader’s radars, but men’s professional golf is in the midst of one of the most important weeks in its modern history. For a year or so there have been rumors of a league to rival the PGA, with rumors of multiple competing leagues at various times. The option that seemed the most serious and likely is backed by the government of Saudi Arabia, as part of their “sports washing” efforts to use their massive piles of cash to distract the world from the regime’s awful record on human rights. The LIV Golf tour begins this week and several notable PGA players have renounced their PGA Tour status and made the jump. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson are rumored to be receiving between $100 and $200 million for joining the new tour. Others have received less but still more than they can make in many years on the PGA Tour. The weekly purses are also far beyond the already crazy money players are earning on the PGA Tour.

For obvious reasons, there has been a kerfuffle about all this. There is the fact these players are turning their backs on the tour than made them rich. The fact they are taking blood money from an oppressive government that had an American citizen murdered and chopped into pieces because he was publishing articles they didn’t like. The fact most of these golfers are trying to act like they are doing this for the “good of the game,” or in belief that golf can change the world. The idea that golf will somehow turn Saudi Arabia into a Jeffersonian Democracy with equal rights for all citizens is one of the dumbest things about this whole enterprise.

It’s all a little ridiculous. I think Dustin Johnson is the only person who has pretty much said he’s doing this for the money. Good for him. Be honest, take the heat, and know that it will fade. I disagree with his decision, but respect the fact he’s not hiding behind the BS most of his fellow LIV jumpers are spouting.

I’ve been more interested in the media/public reaction. Granted, my view is heavily skewed by the side of Golf Twitter that I follow, which is unusually progressive for golf in general and, likely, much more aware of all the details than the wider golf public. What has stuck me most is the heat these people are taking. A lot of the public is jumping on the side of the players, usually defending their taking the life-changing money. Which, again, I get.

I wondered how many people making this argument defend other professional athletes who chase money. Do they say, “Well, the Yankees offered him more, I don’t blame him,” when their favorite baseball player leaves their team for a bigger market? Or when the wide receiver their NFL team drafted and developed goes elsewhere when he is a free agent, are they as understanding? I can hazard a guess. I imagine terms like “greedy” and “disloyal” get thrown around.

What makes that question fascinating to me is that you can make a legitimate economic argument for why NFL/NBA/MLB players chase money. You may think that team X overpaid for your shooting guard, but his new contract was determined by market conditions, often based on offers from multiple teams. Nothing about what these golfers are getting paid makes sense from an economic standpoint. They weren’t sifting through a stack of offers similar to what the Saudis had on the table. Saudi Arabia is paying far beyond the true economic value of these golfers in an effort to legitimize their new league. Several golf writers have pointed out that these contracts make even less sense because LIV hasn’t offered any kind of business plan for how to grow and maintain their league. That won’t matter to the Mickelsons and Johnsons who are set for life based on their initial contracts and have PGA Tour status basically for life based on winning majors. But that’s a legit question for the lesser-known players who have joined LIV, and could have their careers wrecked if the league falls apart and they are banned from the PGA Tour.

This whole thing is just Saudi Arabia doing what they do: lighting cash on fire at a moment when oil is as expensive as it’s been in ages to try to get people to forget beyond their flashy architecture and lavish spending, most of country, from its leadership down, live lie it is still the 16th century.

Splitting sports leagues is pretty much never a good thing. The big names jumping to LIV are getting money that can literally set up their families for generations. While they have the right to make those decisions, I don’t think they realize the long-term damage this split is going to do to professional golf. In a decade or so, if TV contracts and exposure have shrunk and golf is even more niche than it is now, I’m not sure the next generation of players will be thanking the players who took the Saudi money and ran.


Royals

Good Lord the Royals suck. As of this morning, they are two games worse than Oakland and Cincinnati, two franchises that are trying to lose. I’m still not watching, listening, or paying much attention. But I still have several Royals commentators in my feeds and get enough of texts from friends who are still on board to have a sense of what a disaster this season has been.

For a long time it felt like the Royals were handling their post-title rebuild the right way and were poised to break back to respectability this year and possible contention next year. Especially with the new, expanded playoffs this year.

At the moment, it sure seems like they’ve bungled it all. And it seems like it’s time for new owner John Sherman to clear out the front office and coaching staff and start anew. Still won’t get me to re-up my MLB subscription this year.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 74

Chart Week: May 24, 1980
Song: “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” – Pink Floyd
Chart Position: #17, 19th week on the chart. Peaked at #1 for four weeks in March/April.

Each week Casey would read letters from his listeners, generally either Long Distance Dedications or general music questions that his crack staff of researchers would answer. Occasionally he would get a letter regarding a song that was in the countdown.

In late May, 1980, Casey read a letter from a guidance counselor at a New York high school. In her letter, she quoted a few lines from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2,” complaining that the song’s critique of the educational system was “a slap in the face to teachers everywhere.” She said that the song undermined the efforts of teachers by turning kids against them. “We need students on our side if we want to help them be successful. Kids should be happy to know that there are a lot of teachers out there who want to help them succeed.”

She continued by posing two questions. She wondered if Pink Floyd had bad experiences during their/his time in school. And she asked if they/he had visited a school recently. (I couldn’t tell if she thought Pink was a person or understood it to be a band.)

She closed by saying, “I hope you can find the answers to my questions.”

She poses some legitimate concerns here. But, to me, this is a hilarious example of an out-of-touch adult who gives pop culture far too much credit for determining how kids think and behave. I doubt that children around the world suddenly became dissatisfied with their educational experiences after hearing “ABITWP2” on the radio. Most kids dislike school plenty on their own.

I remember gleefully singing “We don’t need no education,” on the last day of third grade in Jackson, Missouri. I didn’t really know what it meant or where it came from. I just heard older kids singing it and decided to chant along with them. I was more excited about the coming days to explore my neighborhood, ride my bike, go to the pool, and not do anything school-related for three months than airing complaints about the quality of education I was receiving.

However, if you know anything about The Wall, you can’t help but laugh at this woman’s comments. OF COURSE Roger Waters had a bad educational experience! That, along with his father dying in World War II, were the two traumatic building blocks from his childhood that had massive impacts on the adult he became and the music he created.

The Wall’s narrative arc has its roots in Waters’ horrific years in the dour post-war British educational system. He wrote about how English teachers tried to drive the independence out of students and turn them into mindless, interchangeable drones who would fill their pre-determined roles in society upon graduation. Famously, this is depicted in the 1982 film version of The Wall by children marching along a corridor, falling into a vat, and spilling out of a meat grinder like fresh hamburger.

Had this guidance counselor shown some empathy and done a little research rather than just getting upset about a song on the radio, she might have learned the details of Waters’ childhood, about the society he grew up in, and realize the good work she was defending was exactly the kind of teaching he craved.


This is one of those songs that has carved out such a niche in pop culture that it can be difficult to rate. I would imagine every spring another group of students discovers it for the first time and begins singing it as they celebrate the end of their school year.

It is also difficult to separate this song from those around it on the album, and then from the visuals added in the movie. I, for example, never think of the single edit. Rather, I think of how the album/movie were structured, with the shriek of a bird of prey bridging the transition from “The Happiest Days of Their Lives” into “ABITWP2.” The radio version seems to lack important context without that lead-in. I remember a lot of classic rock stations in the ‘90s playing the entire, three-song sequence of “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1,” “The Happiest Days of Their Lives,” and “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.” That always feels right to me. (The video below is the single edit. You can watch the scene from the movie here.)

The song has a strident, near-disco beat that immediately grabs your attention. David Gilmour’s central guitar riff is also heavily indebted to disco, sounding not too far removed from something you might hear on a Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever track. The lyrics and their delivery are ominous and suggest a darkness deeper than just complaining about school. Students from the Islington Green School provide an unforgettable delivery of the second chorus. And then Gilmour comes in with a bluesy solo before Waters shouts the famous “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” line.

It is iconic, unforgettable, and the most culturally relevant Pink Floyd ever was or ever would be.

And yet it isn’t a 10.

There’s the matter of it being an element – a very important element, granted – of a larger piece of art.

The song is also…a lot. It is oppressive, as if that pressure Waters received from his teachers is settling onto your shoulders and physically pushing you down. The stomping beat feels like an approaching thunderstorm. There is never a moment of release for all that tension.

Bigger, though, is the song’s structure. It is two choruses, a guitar solo, and a spoken-word outro. It is awkward and a little unsettling. It’s fun to chant along to with the other shitheads at your bus stop, but it doesn’t scream pop hit to me, or sound like a song you would choose to play on repeat. It’s kind of amazing that this made it to number one given all the weirdness about it.

There is a 10 on The Wall, but it isn’t “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”. 7/10

(I tend to avoid writing about songs that hit number one. But the guidance counselor letter was too good to not share. I did not go back and read Tom Breihan’s Number Ones write up of this song until I had completed this piece. He gave it a 6/10.)

Oh, the 10 on The Wall?

(Or here for the movie version.)

Weekend Notes: Basketball and Gatherings

Nothing but hoops and parties for us this weekend.


L’s basketball team was supposed to have the week off before their final push of the season. They got invited to play in a tournament at the last minute. Because of our schedules, she could only play in the Saturday games, which worked out just fine.

In game one we were down by nine at halftime. The other team didn’t seem more talented than us. But they were super-well coached and were just dicing us up when they had the ball. Our girls all looked a step slow.

Then in the second half we turned it around. We led by as many as five before a mini-run cut that lead to one with under a minute to play. We had two girls combine to go 8–8 from the line over the final 50 seconds to ice a seven-point win. A really good performance by our girls.

L looked the best she has looked since her first injury a month ago. She scored five, but the headline is she hit the first in-game three-pointer of her life. When we were getting scorched in the first half she let fly from the right wing and banked in a three. Still counts. Next possession she was open from the same spot and launched again. This shot was better: on a better line and with better form. But it was just short and caromed away. Not sure she’s even hit the rim in a game before on a shot that wasn’t a heave at the end of the half/game.

Game two was an easy blowout. We were up by 24 at halftime and didn’t allow a point in the second half. Not exactly a strong opponent. L had a more completed game this time, scoring four with two rebounds, two blocks, two assists, and a steal.

Without her, her teammates lost by 10 in their bracket game Sunday. Probably good she was unavailable because her knee pain was kicking.


The real story from the Saturday games, though, was some of the parent behavior in the gym. The game behind us in the morning was called off with nearly 11 minutes left because of a parent. We were told later that a mom was on the court screaming at the refs in the first half. They ejected her, but she refused to leave. So multiple people who run the tournament/facility came over to try to get her to leave. The best they could do was get her to move to another court. Then her daughter got hurt in a freak play and she went off, charging the court again. The refs, despite it being an eight-point game, decided that was enough and called the game off. Ridiculous.

On our way to lunch between games we heard shouting in the parking lot. I looked in the direction of the noise and just saw some kids, so thought they were just boys being loud. When we got to lunch another parent from our team said she called the police. Turns out there were two dads screaming at each other, one who said he was going to “fucking kill” the other guy, and being held apart by kids. Not sure how I missed that.

During our second game we heard that a girl two courts over got fed up with her coach, the game, or both, cussed him out, and walked off the court in the middle of the game. Like the ball was in play and she just left.

A great day for youth sports.


We had two graduation parties this weekend. Saturday we went back to our old ‘hood for the neighbors’ oldest daughter’s party. We saw a few old friends, talked with the folks who bought our home (and marveled at the landscaping work they’ve done), and caught up with one old neighbor we haven’t seen in a couple years.

The highlight of that was the guy who bought our house telling us his raccoon story. You may recall in 15 years we constantly had raccoons, normally moms and babies, under our back deck. We had two raccoons die under the deck and a third raccoon die when he fell from a tree with a branch that came down during a storm. Basically raccoons out the ass. The new owners ripped out that old wood deck and put in a stone porch that has no crawl space beneath it, so problem solved, right?

A few weeks back he was in his basement getting some stuff from storage and noticed some mouse droppings. He put out traps and caught two mice in the first night. He decided to investigate the crawl space to see if he could find where they were coming in. When he shined his flashlight around he found a momma raccoon and her babies huddled in the far corner. There is no barrier between the crawl space and the utility closet, and then just a door between that and the rest of the basement. He didn’t think the raccoons had made it beyond the crawl space but it sure would have been easy for them to do so. And his mother-in-law had been sleeping in the basement the night before. Egad!

We used that utility closet as a playroom and toy storage area for years. There were times when I thought I heard things rattling around back there, but always assumed it was either my imagination or sounds echoing through the various pipes and vents that ran in and out of the room. There may well have been something snooping around back there at some point!

An exterminator who trapped the entire family so the crawl space is raccoon-free now. The current owner said he found an exhaust vent that appeared to have been chewed through by mice and guessed that was the entry point for all the critters. He patched it up and hopes he’s done with animals in his home.

Sunday we went to another grad party and saw several folks we hadn’t seen in some time. At both parties we were taking notes for next year when it is M’s turn to go through this.

Friday Playlist

“When They Come For Me” – Spielbergs
When this dropped a couple weeks back, one of my Brothers in Music sent me a message that said, “Shit is hot.” My response: “Shit is indeed hot.” Still laugh about when we coached soccer together and wanted our team to take the field to Spielbergs’ “We Are All Going To Die.” That would have been dope, if overkill for a bunch of third and fourth graders. That was a good-ass team, though. Still can’t believe L put that breakaway off the post and we lost 1-0 in the semifinals.

“Lydia Wears A Cross” – Julia Jacklin
One of the many Australian artists that get an automatic include any time she releases new music.

“Happy” – bdrmm
Taking the ridiculousness of modern band naming to the next level, here. Not only removing all vowels, but adding a bonus consonant. It’s a good thing this song cooks, otherwise I might reject if based on their name along.

“Feel Another Day” – Night Moves
Maybe it’s just because they named themselves after a Bob Seger song, but this sound like a jam you play while driving slowly, just after sunset on a summer evening.

“Come To The City” – The War On Drugs
Speaking of Bob Seger…it’s kind of snuck up on me but I’m seeing TWOD next week! I bought the tickets so long ago I haven’t been focused on it at all. I’ve been checking set lists and saw they have been slipping Seger’s “Against the Wind” into their shows some nights. And this song appears to be in it most nights. I’m very interested to hear it live. It is one of the very best songs they’ve ever made – Stereogum ranked it as the second-best TWOD song a few years back – but since it is from Slave Ambient, is is very much a studio production and I’m not sure its full effect can be recreated on stage. That won’t stop me from absolutely blasting it around the house the next few days. It might not be my favorite TWOD song, but it is definitely the one I play the loudest.

“Sleep All Summer” – Crooked Fingers
At least one of my girls has adopted this tactic for week one of her summer break.

“Debonair” – The Afghan Whigs
“Songs That Can Not Be Played Too Loudly For $400, Ken.”

May Media

Movies, Series, Shows

Ozark, season four, part two
Ozark found its groove in season three and maintained that into the first half of season four. S4, E8, which kicked off the last half of the final season, was one of the best hours in the series’ total run. And then things kind of fell apart. That tension I loved so much from the first half of the season drifted away. It seemed like there was a lot of killing the clock to get to the end. A lot of moments that felt like repeats of earlier moments. And then an underwhelming finale to cap it off. I kind of knew (SPOILER ALERT) that Ruth wouldn’t survive, unlike Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. It still bummed me out she had to die. As I’ve said all along, this was a series where there were never any truly good or innocent people to root for. So perhaps that unsatisfying ending was appropriate if not the most artful or memorable end to the series. For a moment it challenged the greatest dramas of the current age of TV – Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, The Americans – but in the end, it was entertaining but not the all-timer those shows were.

B

The Courier
I remember this being compared to James Bond films when it was first released. It took place in the Sixties, (mostly) in England, there was a stylish element to how it was shot, and a lightness to its dialogue and performances. But it was never as silly as classic Bonds, nor as action-packed as any movie from that series. It was a still a smart, very well done spy flick with a pretty brutal last 30 minutes.

A-

Primal Survivor: Escape the Amazon
I used to watch shows like this, the whole “adventurer doing something crazy in the wild” type show, quite a bit. I grew disillusioned with them because they became increasingly contrived, or focused on being different versions of Survivor. And I hated how the standard became to really ramp up the drama with shaky video and special effects, as if some dude trying to walk across the Sahara or whatever wasn’t dramatic enough.

Anyway, in this series adventurer Hazen Audel is tasked with traversing the length of the South American country of Guayana, in the Amazon Biome, as the rainy season hits. All he has is a machete, a backpack, and his knowledge of the region and a lifetime of adventuring. Kind of cool, if you’re into that kind of thing.

But they still do the same shit with these shows, with quick cuts, sped up video, and other techniques to make the show look edgy and the danger look worse than it is. With like 30 years of knowledge of these kinds of shows, I’m also better attuned to how many of the “dramatic” shots were done after the fact.

It was a cool adventure. I would have been more interested in seeing how it really went, and not how the producers wanted it to look, though.

B

Strapped: South Carolina
As my obsession with golf flagged last summer – thanks pre-arthritic wrists – so to did my consumption of No Laying Up’s various shows and pods. But golf twitter was abuzz about the latest season of Strapped, so I checked it out. It did not disappoint. What turned into NLU’s best series several seasons ago took an unexpected and touching turn in season 10. Episode three is one of the most delightful things they’ve ever done, and was an emotional viewing experience for anyone who has come to admire and love the crew’s work.

A+

A Week in the Life: Stanford Women’s Golf
The NLU boys have begun to branch out into content that isn’t travel related. This is the best work of that tangent so far, an in-depth look at the Stanford women’s golf team. There is a ridiculous amount of talent on that squad, especially Rachel Heck and Rose Zhang. (The Cardinal just won the team national championship and Zhang just won the individual title.) The real revelation is coach Anne Walker, who seems like the perfect coach.

A

The Kids in the Hall
The Kids are back! I spent a lot of time watching the classic Kids in the Hall shows, mostly on the repeats that aired on Comedy Central well into early ‘00s. I never saw their much-maligned Brain Candy movie, so I was cautiously optimistic about them putting together a new season. I loved it. I had forgotten about how random they could be. There were plenty of sketches that made no sense to me. But I admired the ambition. The sketches that worked for me, though, worked 100%. I’m disappointed the Chicken Lady didn’t make a return, and dock them a notch because of that. But this was better than it had any business being.

A-

Our Great National Parks
I prefer my ex-presidents to do cool things like this instead of subverting democracy.

A-

Adventures of A+K: Journey to Alaska
As you’ll see below in the Shorts section, I got sucked into watching tons of travel and adventure videos last month. All that led to this, a series that is still in progress, featuring a husband and wife who are traveling from Austin, TX to Alaska.

They kind of annoy me, with their Millennial ways. I generally watch it at 1.25-to–1.5 speed to try to mitigate that. But this seems like a freaking awesome trip. The Big Sur episode in particular has some absolutely stunning visuals. I think S is getting worried that I’m watching so many videos like this, as she is decidedly not a camper nor a person who would enjoy traveling like this.

A-

Tokyo Vice
I’m about halfway through this, so it gets an Incomplete for now.

Our Father
I wrapped up the month with this light-hearted look at a single dad trying to stay afloat in an increasingly crazy world…

Lord, I wish that’s what this show was about.

No, if you haven’t seen this, or read about it, it is about the Indianapolis fertility doctor who lied to his patients and used his own sperm rather than donor sperm for decades. At latest count he is the confirmed biological father of 94 people, most of whom live in the Indianapolis area, who believed they were the product of either their presumed father’s DNA, or that of an anonymous donor. It’s a truly fucked up story and I really hope that if the God this doc believes in exists, that God punishes him for eternity when his time comes.

Two points of personal interest. 1) My father-in-law was in the same high school class as this doc. Fun! 2) I know at least two people whose parents were defrauded by this fuck. I know one pretty well. I’ve only had one brief conversation with her about this, and I tread lightly as I know discovering the truth of her paternity was a massive shock to her entire family. It was a weird feeling to see her picture included in one of the collages of “kid” pics late in the piece. I could write a lot more about what I know of her experience, but that seemed better suited to a real life conversation than a blog post.

Big props to local TV anchor Angela Ganote, who was the only person with any power who helped the poor people who were trying to get some kind of support from any level of government. They never got justice in the court system, but at least the truth is out.

B+


Shorts, Etc

(A quick note that I’ve decided to stop grading these shorts. That seems kind of silly and I’m surprised I did it for so long.)

Kansas Jayhawks Top Plays of the 2010s
Top plays from a barren era of KU hoops. Why, we didn’t win a single national championship in this decade!

Hiking 45 Miles Alone on the Grand Teton Loop
Hiking the Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park
Two different podcasts I listened to suggested this guy’s videos, and I’m nothing if not willing to take suggestions on YouTube content from other content providers I trust. There are a ton of videos similar to this guy’s – as you’ll see below – and I was fascinated by the combination of incredible visuals, zen-like simplicity, and the obligatory gear-sesh at the end. I seriously think YouTube runs as much on gear vids as it does racially-motivated hate or copyright infringement. Anyway, this tweaked my YT algorithm and I fell into a pretty deep rut of other videos in the same vein.

The Last Wilderness of Scotland – A canoe expedition into a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands
Wild Scotland – Beyond the NC500 (1 month camping, bothying & hiking in the Highlands & Islands)
How To Do The North Coast 500
Don’t watch one video about adventuring in Scotland because soon that’s all you’ll be watching.

Iceland – 4×4 Winter Road Trip
Not sure what was more fun about this video: the stunning visuals or the host’s very good but still very European English narration.

Camino Portuguese Documentary: When The End Is Just The Beginning
I think these long hikes are pretty cool. But taking your two-year-old along with you seems like an absolute nightmare. I’m sure he wasn’t always as delightful as he is in the video, right?

Two friends, five days & 110km of Swedish wilderness
Solo Hiking 115km in the Pyrenees
The Mountains
It’s amazing what you can do with a drone and a generous travel budget.

52 hrs on Amtrak Sleeper Train – Chicago to San Francisco
I think this looks like a pretty cool way to travel.

3 days solo camping in ice, rain, sleet and snow
I would have taken a tent, but that’s just me.

Actual vs. Deleted Cold Opens | The Office Season 2 Superfan Episodes
I’m a sucker for deleted The Office scenes.

Why is Denali So Tall?
I heard Casey Kasem say, on an old AT40, that Denali was one of the three highest mountains in the world. I knew that was wrong, and looked it up to confirm. Turns out there are different ways of measuring a mountain’s height, and by one of those measures, Denali is in fact on of the highest peaks in the works. That tidbit is included in this piece.

Arctic Midnight Sun – 24 hour time lapse
Total Solar Eclipse, March 20, 2015 – Spitsbergen, Arctic
Both of these are cool, but the second is incredibly cool.

The Making of Casino Royale(s) was a Sh*t Show
A bit of a dishonest headline here. This is more about the nearly 50-year struggle to get Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale novel turned into a proper Bond film than some dirt on the making of the first Daniel Craig edition in the series.

Why Indonesia is Moving Their Capital City
I didn’t know anything about this. Crazy stuff.

Indigo Traveller in Ukraine
Day 1: Arriving in Ukraine During War
Walking Ukraine’s Destroyed Streets in War
Indigo Traveller has bopped into Ukraine to show the world some of the effects of the current war there. Each time you grow frustrated at the price of gas, remember Putin’s illegal war is the biggest cause.

Reader’s Notebook, 6/1/22


:07 Seconds or Less – Jack McCallum
The “season inside” schtick is one of the most satisfying sports book tropes available to writers. A reporter embeds with an athlete, team, or even entire sport for a year and relates the inside dope on their experiences after-the-fact. Unless the subject is super boring, the result is usually a compelling read.

I’ve had this book on my list since it came out back in 2006. I think I didn’t get to it because our old library didn’t have a copy. I had kept it tucked deep into my Amazon wish list that whole time but was never in the mood to buy it. Then I read this piece a few weeks back, which refreshed my memory of its existence. I looked and – behold! – the Indy library carries it.

Jack McCallum was for years Sports Illustrated’s primary NBA writer. During the 2005–06 season, he embedded with the Phoenix Suns, who were challenging the NBA orthodoxy of the moment by playing super fast and shooting tons of 3’s. The style resulted in back-to-back conference finals appearances in ’05 and ’06.

Although McCallum spent most of the season with the Suns, the book focuses on the 40-ish days they were alive in the Western Conference playoffs, ultimately losing the Dallas in six games. He does make little runs back into key moments of the regular season to provide background on players or developments that became important in the playoffs.

McCallum earned near-complete access to the Suns, both within the locker room and the coaches’ rooms, and was blessed by a coaching staff that were completely comfortable sharing with him. That makes for a pretty great book, as little of his words are speculation based on things he saw from, say, press row informed by later discussions. He was there when the coaches were struggling to decide how to defend Kobe Bryant or how to handle the moods of Shawn Marion or the minutes of a hobbled Steve Nash.

These insider sports books can have a limited shelf life, as players cycle through their careers and styles change. But as the current NBA owes a great debt to the choices Mike D’Antoni and his staff made over 15 years ago, this book feels like a super useful guide into how the 3-pointer happy league of today came to be.



Ocean State – Stewart O’Nan
Once again O’Nan has written a novel that is both beautiful and frightening. He has such a gift for creating characters that are both simply presented yet rich in detail and easy to relate to. Every time I read one of his books, I’m left in awe at the ease with which he accomplishes this.

That’s the beautiful part. The frightening part is this novel is, mostly, centered on teenage girls, the horrible things they can do to each other, and how those behaviors can have effects that linger into adulthood. Which is deeply unsettling to read as the father of three teenage girls. In this case it isn’t just tormenting and bullying, but goes much, much further than that. Any parent who reads this should have some uncomfortable moments as they consider their kids getting into a situation like the ones O’Nan puts his characters into.

He also has a gift for getting to the point quickly and keeping his stories relatively short. If you really wanted to, you could finish this in a day, but it isn’t some light, breezy read. It will leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads it.

Stats

May 2022

  • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – 66
  • Frightened Rabbit – 49
  • Hatchie – 31
  • Pink Floyd – 26
  • Spice – 23

Complete stats available at my Last.fm page.

Holiday Weekend Notes

The first weekend of the summer is in the books. We were busy.

M and C finished classes on Thursday. Unless there’s a surprise coming we don’t know about, they both had really good semesters with just one B between them and a handful of A+’s. And now M is a senior. Yikes!

I took C to finally get her driver’s permit on Friday. She wrapped up the written portion of driver’s ed over a month ago, but, for a variety of reasons, we never made it into the BMV. She’s still a month or two out from taking the in-car portion of the class because of a backlog in the system, but we can start working with her and getting those hours logged.

Friday was also L’s last day of school. She was bummed because rain last week ruined a lot of the end-of-year, outdoor activities that St P’s kids usually get to enjoy. And now she’s an eighth grader. Yikes!

Saturday night C had nine friends over for a late birthday celebration. They swam and took 10,000 pictures then sat around the fire pit and commented on each other’s social media posts. As kids do, I guess.

Sunday was Race Day. Thanks to some brisk ticket sales the IMS allowed the race to be shown live locally, if only on Peacock Premium. Which, thanks to being Xfinity customers, we have. I didn’t get to watch a ton of the race, as we were prepping for our evening plans, but seemed like a good race. Better, it was an absolutely perfect day for all the folks who were at the track.

That evening we had friends over for dinner and swimming. I don’t think I’ve shared that we got a Traeger grill a few weeks back. This was my first time showing off my skills for others. I cooked steaks and shrimp. While I’m still getting used to the differences between the Traeger and a gas grill, I have to say these were some of the best steaks I’ve ever made.

C went back to our old ‘hood with her buddy to spend the night. As they left they were talking about waking up early to watch the sun rise That made all the parents laugh, as both C and her friend will sleep all day if you let them. They showed us, though. They pulled an all-nighter and went to a local park to take pictures as the set came up just after 6:00 AM. Apparently there was an old lady there getting her morning walk in and she came over and checked on them. She was worried they had spent the night in the park, which also made us laugh. Anyway, in this case, Kids 1, Parents 0.

Finally, Monday we hosted a sixth birthday party for one of the local nephews. It was another near-perfect day, warm but not humid with a refreshing breeze. The first time this season all the nephews have been in the pool together.

S was also on call all weekend, which meant she had to go into the hospital in the morning to do rounds. Between her getting up, the cloudless mornings, and the early-rising sun, I was still awake before 7:00 most mornings. At least the girls can sleep in. I either need to get more motivated to do things early in the morning or insist on us finally getting some drapes in our bedroom.

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