Author: DB (Page 2 of 273)

August Media

Funny what happens when sports come back. My media consumption was waaaay down in August. Or at least compared to the previous five months. Here is what I did knock out.


Jayhawkers

I remember when this movie was made. Justin Wesley, a recent KU basketball player and brother of former KU great Keith Langford, was cast in the main role as Wilt Chamberlain. A KU professor – Academy Award winner Kevin Willmott – was making the film. A few other notable locals from Lawrence had cameos. But it was a low-budget, semi-artsy film that never got a wide release, so I forgot about it.

Until July, when The New Yorker ran a piece about it. I had no idea the film was on Amazon Prime Video, so I added it to the queue.

It is a charming, well-intentioned film that also comes off as slightly stilted with a touch of cheese to it.

It is the story of how Wilt Chamberlain came to play basketball at the University of Kansas over hundreds of other offers he had, and his experiences during his time in Lawrence. The final 20 minutes are an extended retelling of one of the greatest NCAA championship games of all time, the 1957 game when North Carolina beat Wilt’s Jayhawks in triple overtime. It was a game that colored Wilt’s career forever and kept him from returning to Lawrence over 40 years.

The film plays a little fast-and-loose with the facts. Things that happened one year are pushed a year in either direction. Watching you would think that Wilt left campus immediately after that 1957 loss when he, in fact, played one more frustrating season before jumping to the Harlem Globetrotters for a year before becoming eligible to play in the NBA.

The film is honest in painting a picture of the Midwest in the late ‘50s. Although coach Phog Allen was careful to present Lawrence as an oasis from the racism that Wilt experienced in his previous travels outside Philadelphia, Wilt quickly runs into issues getting served at restaurants, being allowed to sit in regular seats at movies, and so on. But through Phog’s influence, the support of chancellor Franklin Murphy, the desire of the community for the team to win another national championship, and Wilt’s charisma, rules begin to bend for him.

Wesley is not a strong actor, and isn’t given too much. The loquacious Wilt the world would eventually meet is reduced to a man who nods and offers brief comments. But Wesley was a tall basketball player and could imitate Wilt for the action scenes.

As I said, it tries a little too hard at times. But it isn’t terrible. For KU fans, it’s a look at a fascinating point in the program’s history.

B


The Battered Bastards of Baseball

There are lots of reasons to love baseball. One of the most romantic is the idea of the small-town professional team, where the community rallies around a group of players who are mostly passing through on their way up or down the minor league ladder. Once upon a time the country was dotted with hundreds of independent teams, playing the lowest levels of baseball and giving countless men one last chance at the game.

By the early 1970s the independent teams had largely been wiped out, replaced by teams controlled by big league teams. Actor Bing Russell saw an opening in Portland as a chance to correct that and fulfill his longtime wish to own a team.

This film reviews his ownership of the Portland Mavericks, an independent, Class A team that played in the Northwest League from 1973 until 1977. The franchise was true to its name. Russell ran the club unlike any other in baseball. He kind of had to; with no MLB affiliation he had to take a different route to build a roster. The team was built on rejects and castoffs.[1] They played with an attitude and freedom uncommon in pro ball outside of Oakland.

To the surprise of nearly everyone, it worked. They won their division in their first season, finished second in year two, and then won their next three division titles. Their success rekindled a love for baseball in Portland, which had seen the AAA Beavers move to Spokane in 1972. Perhaps because of this newfound enthusiasm for the game, or perhaps out of an effort to run Russell out of the league, the Pacific Coast League expanded in 1978 and a new Beavers franchise replaced the Mavericks. Rather than take baseball’s paltry $25,000 relocation fee, Russell sued and won a $250,000 settlement.

This is just a fun, funny movie. It’s a great story, well told. And it makes you want to fall in love with some goofy team that nobody thinks can win.

A


Ted Lasso

I had no idea Apple was making a Ted Lasso series, based on the commercials from a few years back for Premier League soccer. Then I read this piece and figured, “Why not?”

Like that article, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the show. Everything about it seems to be screaming “This is going to be terrible!” But it’s not. It is warm and kind-hearted and full of humorous moments. It may be the times we are living in, when every day seems more horrible than the one before, but I think I needed a show like this, that even with characters who are caustic and cynical, ultimately bends back toward empathy and kindness.

I have a huuuuuuge issue with the show, though. Everything we know about Ted Lasso leads us to believe he’s from Kansas. He coached a mythical Wichita State football team to the D2 national title. He wears shirts that represent Kansas City. He mentions KC being home a few times. But he talks like he’s from the south. And Jason Sudeikis is from Kansas City; he knows how we sound! Sure, there’s the classic, Midwestern hick accent that far too many people from my hometown have. But what he’s doing ain’t that; it that of an old ball coach from the Deep South. Maybe he figured since that’s the voice he used in the original commercials he couldn’t stray from it. Alas…

B+


The Endless Summer

I know I watched this, or at least parts of it, years and years ago. In high school, maybe? Or perhaps college. Something reminded me of it, I saw it on Amazon, and decided to rewatch it.

If you’ve never seen it, it is considered one of the greatest and most influential surfing movies ever. Filmed in the early 1960s, filmmaker Bruce Brown travelled around the world with Mike Hynson and Robert August searching out waves and an “endless summer” as fall and winter descended on America. They surfed in West Africa, likely the first to ever surf there. In South Africa, which had a budding surf culture, they discovered the perfect wave at Cape St. Francis that became a “must surf” spot. They also hit Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaii.

The footage is amazing for its time. Well-shot to begin with, it is also crazy that everyone was using long boards back then. Today you see surfers on shorter boards and remaining pretty static on them. Brown, Hynson, and August would all walk their longboards, passing from front to back as they rode waves, which blew my mind.

Brown’s narration is casual and goofy, sounding more like your uncle who thinks he’s super funny while showing family movies. Some of the commentary when they are in Africa is borderline racist, but it was the early ‘60s and I don’t think there was any true ill will behind them.

B+


John Mulaney: New in Town

Man, Mulaney knows how to do a standup performance. This is the second of his specials I’ve watched, and each time he nails the timing of the show. You get people laughing early, slowly ramp up the laughs, and the last 15 minutes should have people crying. In this case, his story of trying to get anxiety meds by faking an issue with frequent urination had me laughing so hard, and crying so much, that S was a little worried about me.

A


Pearl Jam Live at Lollapalooza 2018

One night I was watching some golf videos or something on YouTube when I noticed this over on the right hand side of the screen in the suggestions. Two-plus hours, and two bourbons, later, I was deeply satisfied with my choice.

A+


  1. Russell’s son, Kurt, even played for the team in its first season.  ↩

Reader’s Notebook, 9/1/20

Three highly lauded books have kept me busy the past couple weeks.


Disappearing Earth – Julia Phillips
The last part of a book is so important to how readers feel about the entire story. This is an example of a book that was elevated by a nearly perfect ending.

It begins with the disappearance of two young sisters from Petropavlosk, the capital of the Russian region of Kamchatka. The rest of the book advances in one-month increments, with each chapter focused on a different person. Most of them are women, living in different cities in Kamchatka.

The woman are of all ages and stages of life. One is a student from a small town living in a big city, dealing with the racism of Russians against the natives. Another woman faces a cancer diagnosis. Another woman wakes on the anniversary of her first husband’s death and goes to bed that night grieving her second husband’s death. Another woman is trying to figure out where to take her current relationship, which is with a devastatingly handsome yet equally stupid man. Another family, both a sister and a mother, deal with the disappearance of their sister/daughter a few years before the girls from Petropavlovsk, and wonder if the disappearances are related and if their sister got less attention because she was a native rather than a Russian. Another woman, the only possible witness to the kidnapping of the two sisters, searches for her lost dog.

These stories – and more – are all interesting and moving. But I was wondering how they would be tied together and if the resolution would make the journey worth it.

Phillips nailed the final two chapters wonderfully. The next-to-last chapter focuses on the mother of the two disappeared girls. A reporter, she is sent to cover a native arts festival. While there she meets a man who, after hearing a description of the only suspect in the kidnapping, realizes he knows someone who fits that description. As the chapter tumbles toward its end, there is a persistent fear that there will be no connection between this lead and the woman’s daughters. And then the mother notices something tiny, that most people would have missed, that brings everything together.

In the final, wonderful chapter, Philips takes us right to the edge of a resolution for the book’s two big mysteries. But she never offers the final reveal, allowing the reader to wonder how that scene would play out. That is a little maddening, but it also works. It ranks up there with Ben H. Winters’ World of Trouble for vague yet satisfying endings.


The Splendid and the Vile – Erik Larson
My second Larson history focused on the World War II era in about a month. This one is about Winston Churchill’s first year as wartime Prime Minister, stretching from May 10, 1940 to May 11, 1941. That span also covers the very worst of the Battle of Britain, Germany’s relentless bombing campaign of British cities.

The book is not just about the war, the politics of the time, or a straight biography of Churchill. Rather, it tries to put all of those elements in context with the family members and staff that surrounded Churchill. By doing so, we get a more personalized look into what life was like in London during the very darkest days of the war (for the British).

As much as I enjoyed that, I could not help but crave for more details about the way itself. There were a few things I never knew. First, Hitler’s #2, Rudolph Hess flying a plane to the UK to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty and spending the bulk of the war as a prisoner. Second, that the British attacked French ships that refused to turn themselves over following the surrender of France. I can’t help that I get dazzled when you throw WWII into the mix.

I had never read any biography of Churchill before, so it was humorous to learn what a kook he was. He was absolutely loony. But he managed to stay focused enough to lead the British through a horrible time, and eventually convince Franklin Roosevelt that the UK was a worthy recipient for American aid in the months before Pearl Harbor brought the US into the war.


A Burning – Megha Majumdar
Here is an example of a book that takes a familiar situation and places it into an unfamiliar context to allow the reader to examine it without their own prejudices attached.

Majumdar’s book takes place in India, in a town where a commuter train has just been fire-bombed by terrorists, killing over a hundred people. Through the lives of three people, Majumdar shows the dangers of nationalism, social media, corrupt traditional media, and how the lure of success and prosperity can make people behave strangely.

Jivan is a young Muslim woman who was seen at the train station with a mysterious bundle before the attack, and then running from the station afterward. Her Facebook chat history shows contact with a suspected terrorist, but she claims it was innocent flirtation with an interesting boy from another country. The media takes this knowledge and runs with it, turning public opinion against her. Much of her story is told from inside the women’s prison where she is held while awaiting trial and, eventually, her sentence.

PT Sir was Jivan’s PE teacher at the private girls school she received admission to. Stumbling into an opposition party rally one day, he is swept up in the excitement of the crowd. At another rally, he uses his knowledge of microphones to help the party’s leader overcome a technical issue. After this unlikely meeting, he is soon asked to do other favors for the party: testify in court against people they insist are guilty but there just isn’t enough hard evidence to convict. He shows up, tells his stories, and gets convictions for the prosecutors. With this service come payments which begin to change his family’s life and how people view him. Soon he is an integral part of the party’s election campaign, and when they win the state elections, he receives a ministerial position. When the media ask him about his former student, he doesn’t tell them the parts of her life that could turn the public in her favor, but rather those details that make her look worse.

Finally, Lovely is a transvestite who is attempting to become an actress. She takes acting classes, where she seems to excel. However, each time she attempts to break into the world of big, Indian films, she is typecast in small roles in the background. The man she loved has left her for a “real woman” who can give him a family. At Jivan’s trial, Lovely testified on her behalf, as Jivan had been teaching her English. In fact, the package that Jivan had the night of the attack was not a bomb but rather old books she was taking to Lovely to help with her studies. However, after Lovely posts videos online that go viral, she is offered a major part in a movie by one of India’s biggest producers. When it is suggested that the movie will be more successful if she reverses her support of Jivan, she quickly abandons her former friend.

There is a constant feeling of injustice that bubbles through the book. The media rushing to judgement, bending facts to suit the story they want to tell. No one in power offering to defend Jivan. PT Sir lying on the stand over-and-over to take away power from minorities and political enemies of his party. Lovely getting the door slammed in her face constantly. A political party that uses ethnic identity, language, and religion and a wedge to both gain power and turn the state’s citizens against each other. The biggest injustice is Jivan’s sentence, which shows that a society motivated by hate and fear and needing someone to blame can manipulate the court system to levy a hideously unfair sentence on someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There’s a lot in the book about where America is right now, and where we could be headed. Which makes an already chilling book even more concerning.

Stats

August 2020

  • Taylor Swift – 51
  • Prince – 25
  • HAIM – 24
  • Land of Talk – 23
  • Pearl Jam – 20

Complete stats available at my Last.fm page.

Of Classes and Sports

Two full weeks into the school year and we’ve had our first major change. Beginning today, and for the foreseeable future, M will be home on Mondays. In Thursday’s normal parent newsletter, the CHS principal announced that the entire student population would be virtual and on a fixed schedule on Mondays.

Several reasons were offered, but the one that seems the most compelling is to give all the kids the same experience at least one day per week. A number of fall sport athletes have left school on their own over the past couple weeks. We’ve heard this was organized by coaches in an effort to keep their players healthy through the season and to avoid having to quarantine players as the playoffs approach for sports like soccer and volleyball. I don’t know what the percentage of kids out of school right now is, but it is apparently significant enough where the school wanted to attempt to level the playing field at least one day each week.

We found it interesting that as rumors about athletes leaving school began to circulate an email came out saying that was not appropriate and laying out the reasons for and conditions under which a student should switch to virtual schooling. Apparently that had no effect because I’m pretty sure the entire volleyball team is home schooling.

I find that tactic pretty funny as it does not seem like kids are getting infected at school. Masks, social distancing, smaller class rosters, and constant cleaning seem to be knocking the virus down in the buildings. Several groups of students have gotten sick after being at parties or gatherings on the weekends. Seems like the coaches should be saying “Keep your asses at home on the weekends,” instead of “encouraging” their kids to eLearn until the first quarter ends. Or the parents. Or whoever was pushing this idea.

So M is home today, checking into her classes each hour. At least she gets to go back tomorrow.


We received another email from CHS last week saying someone in one of M’s classes had tested positive. But, the email insisted, they were confident that M had not been within six feet of this student and there was no need for her to be tested or quarantine. We were encouraged to keep an eye on her, though. When she eats we keep asking her if she can taste her food, which seems to be how a lot of young people first realize they may have been infected.


Other big CHS news: they are, arguably, the hottest football team in the state of Indiana two weeks into the young season. They have been ranked #3 in class 5A in the first two polls. They may move up this week.

In week one they absolutely pounded a pretty solid 6A team. Then this past week they played the other CHS, the defending 6A champions (currently ranked #2) and the school we support every other week because of our good friend, Coach H.

Our CHS dominated the first half statistically but were very lucky to have a 20–13 lead at halftime. The other CHS had a pick six on the last play of the first half wiped out by an illegal block penalty.

In the third quarter things got ugly. Our CHS forced three straight three-and-outs and scored touchdowns after each one. 41–13 at the end of the third quarter. The other CHS got some scores in the final quarter to make it 44–28. It was still a pretty shocking score. I think most people expected a close game in which the other CHS pulled it out. They had also looked very good, especially on defense, in their first game.

Our CHS might be really, really good, but it is early. They play their traditional stupidly difficult schedule; they have games against a couple good Ohio teams, play the defending 3A state champs, and play the current 6A #1 and heavy favorites to win that class in November. Who knows who will be healthy when the playoffs roll around, plus there’s that pesky virus who could take out an important player at any time.


M has been disappointed that she hasn’t been able to go to a game yet. Tickets are limited based on the facility, and since CHS doesn’t play a home game until September, her chance of going has been reliant on how many of the CHS tickets get turned over to students, and then if she can claim one before they’re gone. Hopefully she can go to a game as we get deeper into the season.

CHS games are always on the radio, so I listened to week one’s game. Then last week’s game was the game of the week on local TV, so I was able to watch it. I think M took a nap the entire time. So much for school spirit…


We are also a couple weeks into kickball season. Our schedule has been busy, so I’ve not had a chance to catch up. Both girls have big games tonight so I will aim for getting an update out tomorrow.

Friday Vid

I didn’t work on a playlist this week, so only a video today.

“Release” – Pearl Jam
I couldn’t settle on something to watch last Saturday so started scrolling through YouTube and came across Pearl Jam’s 2018 performance at Lallapalooza in Brazil. Two and a half hours later I had watched the entire thing and knocked out a couple bourbons and started digging for rarer performances. Eventually I found this, from a month before the band appeared on *Saturday Night Live* for the first time and truly began to blow up.

Although Eddie Vedder’s voice has lost some of its range, the band still sounds amazing live, and have firmly cemented their status as one of the best live acts ever. But when you watch a performance like this, you’re reminded of what a freaking force young Eddie was on the mic. Back then the band was still a little loose but there was never any doubting Ed’s voice.

Everything is Bullshit

I’m having a hard time with what is happening around this country right now. What frustrates me most is that I no longer have the patience to sit down and hammer out a couple thousand words about what is going on. I’ve tried, but the longer I type, the madder I get.

So in place of a post I would have offered in the past, when I could work through that anger to try to get something coherent to share, I will offer this video from Trevor Noah. Trevor does not get enough credit. I almost never watch *The Daily Show* anymore (or did in the pre-pandemic age). But every time I see him speak about any issue, serious or humorous, I am deeply impressed. And here he offers the summation I agree with most: this is bullshit.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 47

Chart Week: August 14, 1982
Song: “Someday, Someway” – Marshall Crenshaw
Chart Position: #40, 6th week on the chart. Peaked at #36 for two weeks in August/September.

Some one-hit wonders are easy to explain. There are the accidental hits, songs by unknown artists that get tied to popular movies or TV shows. There are novelty hits that piggyback on some cultural fad and ride its popularity to chart success. And there are the dozens and dozens of artists who capitalize on some musical trend – disco, new wave, etc. – to earn their brief moment of glory.

Others defy explanation, at least to me. These are the artists who make great, timeless music that should seemingly appeal across genres and audiences but can never leverage that brilliance into sustained popularity. To me, Marshall Crenshaw is the ultimate example of these artists.

Crenshaw has been making magical pop music for nearly 40 years now. The ultimate example is “Someday, Someway,” which just barely cracked the Top 40 for a few weeks in the summer of 1982. To me, this is one of the most perfect pop-rock songs ever made. It’s simple and to the point, without a wasted second, yet is also intelligent and extraordinarily well-crafted. That little hint of rockabilly harkens to rock ’n’ roll’s earliest days. It is one of those songs that when I hear it, I want to listen to it again and again.

Crenshaw released at least two more singles that, while not as perfect as “Someday, Someway,” should have still made noise on the charts. “Cynical Girl,” also off his debut, self-titled album, did not hit at all. 1983’s “Whenever You’re On My Mind,” a song so good it makes me dizzy when I listen to it, peaked at #103.

Perhaps that pop perfection is why Crenshaw was not more successful. His music had no rough edges, it wasn’t confrontational, it didn’t cause the listener any distress. It didn’t rail against injustice. It was completely unoffensive music that you can play, feel good while listening to, but can also easily slip into the background. Unless you really lock in and focus on it, you can miss the easy brilliance that filled his songs.

Marshall reminds me a little of one of my all-time favorite artists, Neil Finn. Both were/are absolute geniuses at crafting pop songs that had a touch of rock and a touch of college/indie/alternative to balance their mainstream base.

A lot of folks have no idea who Neil Finn is, but if you mention Crowded House, they will nod their heads. Mention Marshall Crenshaw to most people my age and you’ll get blank stares. The difference is that Crowded House had one massive, unforgettable song that was followed by several minor hits. Crenshaw never had that one big hit, and unless you’ve dug into his albums, you likely have never heard anything beyond “Someday, Someway.”

I would say it is a travesty that Crenshaw didn’t have more pop chart success. Truth is, though, he’s had a pretty good career. He got his start playing John Lennon’s role in Beatlemania.[1] He’s been in movies, including playing his hero Buddy Holly in La Bamba. He’s written music for films, hosted a radio show, has been a guest vocalist for the Smithereens since Pat DiNizio’s death, and still puts out the occasional album and performs a few dozen concerts every year. Not a bad career, to be sure. But it feels like he could have been bigger had the listening public been more open to the music he released in the early ‘80s


  1. Another similarity between Crenshaw and Finn: you can draw direct lines from John Lennon’s music to theirs. Finn has claimed he was approached by the surviving Beatles in the late 80s/early 90s to join them in a Beatles revival tour.  ↩

Racin’

I swore that I had written a detailed breakdown back in 2004 of my first Indianapolis 500 weekend living here, which until this year was the strangest Indy 500 day of that era. Alas, after checking the archives, I found I wrote way more about the crazy weather that day than about my experience on my first race day as an Indiana resident.

Yesterday was way stranger than 2004, which just featured tornado warnings as the race was ending. But, then again, everything is way stranger this year than any other year, right?

For starters it was super weird having the race in August. It just didn’t feel right. The entire month of May in Indianapolis revolves around the race. There is the Mini-Marathon, which includes a lap around the track, early in May. There’s the Grand Prix race, a recent addition but a nice warmup. Then there’s qualifying weekend, Carb Day, and the slow build up to race day itself. Once the calendar flips from April to May, the entire area has a different vibe that you can’t miss even if you don’t care about the race. Houses have checkered flags hanging from their porches, their mailboxes, or along their fences. You see people in certain industries associated with the race driving cars that are stamped with the race’s logo. The race is inescapable.

All of that was lost with the delay to August. I know I wasn’t the only person who, a week ago, said, “Oh, the race is next weekend?!?!” Even with qualifying and practice it still did not feel like the same buildup of energy and attention that comes in a normal year.

No spectators at the race was weird. I’ve only been to the race once, which was enough for me. But it is a normal part of life in Indy to know which of your friends are going, where they are sitting, if they have a “secret” route to the Speedway that cuts 15 minutes off their commute, etc.

And then the ending of the race was weird and disappointing. A single-car crash with five laps to go forced the race to end under yellow, robbing us of a potentially epic ending. Sure, the yellow finish could have happened in any other year, but it happening seemed extremely appropriate for 2020.

It was also strange for the race to be shown live in Indy. That only happened once, a couple years ago on the race’s 100th edition, when the Speedway was sold out weeks in advance. Normally Indy residents listen to the race on the radio – to what is a shockingly good broadcast – and then watch the replay in the evening if the race was exciting. But this year, with the stands shut, we were able to watch live on NBC with the rest of the country. I had the TV out by the pool on but had to duck inside soon after the race began to avoid the heat. It was funny to peek outside and get a five-second preview of what was about to happen thanks the to difference between getting the signal over the air versus via cable.

Normally the race-day flyover circles around the metro area as it times out its approach to the track properly. Last year a group of military planes of mixed vintages flew directly over our house twice before heading to the track. So I was very disappointed that the Thunderbirds didn’t come over our house. I could hear them once, as they veered away from Speedway and then back toward it, but could not actually see them.

As with every modified sporting event of this summer, I was thankful the race happened and hopeful that next May will bring a return to normalcy at the track and around our city.


With the exception of while we were away in Captiva, we have not eaten in a restaurant since early March. We finally broke that string Saturday, going out to lunch at a spot that we used to go regularly before we moved. We were hoping to sit outside but only two of the tables had umbrellas and those were both filled, so we took a booth inside. Which ended up being fine, as it was fairly early and there were only two other groups inside. Fitting the theme for the weekend, it was weird. You want to support locally owned places that are struggling to stay afloat. But I’m also not super excited to make dining-in a regular activity again just yet.

Friday Playlist

A delayed but very special playlist for this week. Today would have been Joe Strummer’s 68th birthday. To celebrate, a group of musicians is doing [a virtual tribute concert](https://www.joestrummer.com) for Joe later today. Sadly I’ll be running around getting the girls then heading to kickball, but I will certainly be watching a replay over the weekend.

As Strummer is on my Mt. Rushmore of influential musicians, seems like I should honor him as well. So here is a playlist of some of his best songs.

Spotify and/or WordPress is being a bitch today. Follow this link to hear the songs.

“Keys to Your Heart” – The 101ers.
The only really quality song from his pre-Clash band, you can hear seeds of his post-Clash sound in it.

“Career Opportunities” – The Clash
From their debut album, I’ve always thought this song was the best example of Joe talking about what was going on in the United Kingdom for young people in the mid-70s.

“Safe European Home” – The Clash
Joe was obsessed with the music that came from Jamaica and was played in the Jamaican immigrant communities in London. Off their second album, *Give ‘Em Enough Rope*, he makes fun of himself for building up Jamaica as a utopia only to learn that the country was in the midst of a period of serious gun violence upon his first visit. The band was hustled out of their recording studio just before an armed gang arrived with intent to teach the latest rich, white, British band to show up in Kingston a lesson.

“Clampdown” – The Clash
Off the legendary *London Calling*, I don’t know if Joe ever spoke better about the conflict between labor and management as well as he did on this track. You also hear the great interplay between Strummer and Mick Jones.

“The Magnificent Seven” – The Clash
Blondie gets all the credit for being one of the first white bands to embrace hip-hop. But Joe and the Clash were right there with Blondie. This is from 1981’s *Sandinista*.

“The Street Parade” – The Clash
Also from *Sandinista*, an album loaded with stridently political songs, is this magical song that sounds like nothing else The Clash ever recorded.

“This Is England” – The Clash
1985’s *Cut the Crap* album is often left out of official Clash discographies. With good reason. Joe had kicked out both drummer Topper Headon and Jones, his writing partner. He and Paul Simonon attempted to carry on, but losing Jones robbed Joe of the perfect song-writing counter. The band did manage to capture their old mojo on this track, though, a snapshot of life in Margaret Thatcher’s England.

“Love Kills” – Joe Strummer
His first solo single, it appeared on the soundtrack for the movie *Sid and Nancy*, about the life of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious.

“Diggin’ The New” – Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros
By 1990 Joe began to find his solo stride, and this song was a bright, warm confirmation that he remained relevant.

“Bhindi Bhagee” – Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros
Joe grew up traveling the world thanks to his father’s career as a diplomat. He loved music from all over the world, not just Jamaica, and championed it throughout his career. Here he celebrates not only world music, but the many, diverse neighborhoods of London that are populated by immigrants.

“Arms Aloft” – Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros.
Joe died unexpectedly in December 2002. He and the Mescaleros had begun work on what became his final album,. *Streetcore*. While many of the songs were incomplete, and sounded so on the final, posthumous release, a few, like this, were fully formed and captured the energy from early in his career. He seemed poised to be an important part of the music world deep into his life before his sudden passing.

“Rock the Casbah” – The Clash
I remember this song absolutely blowing my 11-year-old mind. And then this ridiculous video made it an unforgettable song. RIP, Joe.

School Daze

Three days into everyone being back in school. I wouldn’t say it’s been a smooth transition, as both schools continue to adjust on the fly as conditions warrant.

At CHS, they have had to make multiple changes to students’ schedules. We heard that the first change was because they had a higher students-per-class ratio than the county health department wanted. So over the weekend 62 sections – I’m assuming that means groups of similar classes – had to be revamped to hit that threshold. M got an email Sunday saying to check her schedule again Monday morning. Sure enough, most of her classes had changed.

When I picked her up after school she said her schedule had changed again during the day. So she had math before lunch…then again after lunch instead of chemistry. She said her math teacher looked at her and asked her why she was back. I’m sure she wasn’t the only kid that happened to.

Tuesday was apparently a little more stable, although one of her classes did change location. She said some of the restrictions inside the school are “super annoying.” Most halls are one-way, which means she sometimes has to make a big circle to get to her next class instead of just popping around the corner. We’ve adjusted our pickup routine because kids are not allowed to roam the campus while waiting for rides, more because of construction than Covid concerns. But then they can’t socialize in the room they wait in. So I now do first pick up at St. P’s and run over and get M shortly after CHS lets out.

She also says all of her teachers are annoying. She loved her teachers last year so that was kind of inevitable.

At St. P’s things are also a little weird. C’s class does not have a dedicated home room teacher, so other teachers are bouncing in all day to monitor them. We’ve heard of at least a couple times when no one has been in the room with them. Which A) is bound to happen and B) probably should be something that is corrected quickly rather than allowed to continue.

I’ve heard a ton of complaints from parents with kids who have had to quarantine about the difficulties of eLearning. They claim the connections are not great, it is difficult for kids at home to ask questions, and sometimes materials that are supposed to be visible to the kids are home are not available to them.

Kinks are to be expected. We had a couple friends who pulled their kids and put them in public schools because they were worried that St. P’s did not have a good plan to manage either hybrid or total eLearning if it came to that again this year. Although we’ve not had to keep a kid home yet, the fact others are having so many issues is concerning. I would say disappointing, too, but it’s hard enough to teach a class of middle schoolers face-to-face. Having to also teach a handful of kids who are Zoomed into class while keeping both groups engaged, interested, and making sure they all are getting questions answered seems like a nearly impossible task.

Beyond the actual education part, C and L have both complained that their classrooms are freezing. C said hers was 60 all day Tuesday. A new HVAC system came online the day before classes began and it appears to be very, very good at cooling. I’m assuming/hoping tweaks will be made.

Kickball season starts Wednesday. C’s team will be missing two girls who are self-quarantining. Fortunately we have 17 girls on the squad, so missing a few actually makes it easier on us when we’re making the lineup and defensive rotation. L’s team only has 10 girls, which is how many play in the field. They scrimmaged another team last night and the coaches were (kind of) jokingly telling the girls they can’t get sick or injured for the next three weeks.

Because CYO sports schedules are dumb, L already had her basketball tryouts for the fall last Saturday. She should find out what team she is on by the end of the week. She decided to pass on club soccer this year so that she could have the best chance to make the A basketball team. I hope it works out. We signed her up for rec soccer but that has already been cancelled for the fall.

Finally, C decided not to run cross country this year. She told us she didn’t like it that much last year even before she got her stress fracture that ended her season. The joy she used to find in distance running didn’t come back over the summer. I’ll miss Saturday meets and hanging out with the other parents. Cross country meets seem like the one safe spectator sport.

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