Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 289)

A Night at the Theater: Bond

I saw my first movie in a theater since late 2019 last night. The reviews were decent enough and the Covid numbers here falling fast enough that I felt comfortable going to see No Time To Die with my brother-in-law. Four other people had the same idea, so we had plenty of room to ourselves and felt perfectly safe.

I don’t think I’ve seen a James Bond movie in a theater since some time in the Pierce Brosnan days. Daniel Craig’s final appearance as Bond seemed like a good reason to break that run.

Bond movies can never be evaluated like normal films. There are certain boxes that have to be checked, certain allowances that are granted for the quality of the story, and certain expectations that need to be met in order for a Bond movie to be considered a success.

No Time To Die meets a lot of those requirements.

Before I dive deeper, this is your official spoiler alert. I’m not going to go into great detail about the movie, but I am going to mention one very important moment in the film, one of the most shocking and controversial in the entire James Bond franchise. If you plan on seeing the movie, it might be better to bookmark this until later if you’ve not had that moment spoiled for you already.

In fact, let’s get right to it: the ending blew me away. No pun intended. I had, somehow, managed to avoid hearing how the movie concluded. I’m glad that was the case, because I think the impact would have been greatly reduced had I known it was coming.

So, spoiler, James Bond dies. Unable to get off a disputed island before a missile strike he called in arrives, our final view of him is being engulfed in fire and smoke as the weapons rain down upon him. I was not expecting this! I’ve read a few reviews since I watched the movie and people seem very torn about that scene. I thought it was great, mostly because it was completely shocking to me. Bond movies have never made me emotional. But I was speechless and open-mouthed as I realized that James Bond had died.

I think that could be a hugely freeing moment for whatever comes next in the series. It gives future writers and directors a chance to completely reset the franchise however they want with whoever is the next Bond. (Why not go back in time to the Cold War days, for example? Or begin with an origin story of his days in the Navy?) And since the Daniel Craig era ended up having strong plot connections through each movie (or at least four of them), they can look at the next X movies as an opportunity to tell an extended story with one actor. They don’t have to kill off the next Bond when his time ends. But it does give them the opportunity, if they want it, to think more about that smaller pocket of 3–5 movies than worrying about how they are honoring the previous 25.

In general, I think NTTD looked good. The cinematography was gorgeous, although the lighting seemed a little off on our screen which was distracting. There was plenty of action. The opening scene in Italy, which concludes with Bond and Madeleine in an absolutely ridiculous car chase in his Aston Martin DB5 was so good it kind of ruined the later chase scenes. That was one of the best chase scenes ever in a Bond film.

Speaking of Aston Martin, the DB5 is an all-time classic movie car. But I was also a huge fan of them bringing back the V8 Vantage, which Timothy Dalton also drove in The Living Daylights. That’s a dope-ass car.

Another of the best scenes in the movie was when Bond was fighting his way to the control tour of the submarine base to open up the missile doors. The segment when he is in the stairwell, shooting at and being shot at by guys mere feet away, was super intense. There was a 60–90 second sequence that was shot and edited so tightly it felt a little like a single-shot scene. The entire Craig era has been defined by attempting to match the level of action found in the Jason Bourne series. The opening construction site scene in Casino Royale was perhaps the strongest counter to the Bourne movies. This was a fine, final, close combat scene for the Craig era.

Rami Malek’s villain Lyutsifer Safin was not one of my favorites. He seemed a little flat and lacked menace. His submarine base was a call back to classics like Dr. No and You Only Live Twice. Shame his character didn’t match the creepy villains of those older movies.

Safin using a biological agent to attempt to kill a large chunk of the world’s population was a little extra creepy, though, in the age of Covid, though.

A common complaint of the Craig era is how dour it has been. Traditionalists argue that the way he played Bond was far closer to how Ian Fleming wrote the character than what it became on film. I loved Daniel Craig, but I could have used some more levity. My prediction is that whoever the next Bond is, and whatever direction they take the series, there will be more cheekiness than in the Craig years.

That said, Ana de Armas’ Paloma was a shot of brightness this movie needed. Almost everything she did made me laugh. It’s a shame she was only in about 10 minutes of the film.

Her role also showed another way the franchise has grown to match the broader cinema world. de Armas looked GREAT. But it was totally believable that she was absolutely kicking ass. It wasn’t cartoony the way, say, Grace Jones was in A View to a Kill, but rather closer to something you would expect from Charlize Theron.

I’m sure some people are all worked up about Bond’s in-movie replacement as 007 being a Black woman. I’m guessing some of those arguments go along the lines of “She could never really do that.” Well, you know what? Daniel Craig could never do most of things he’s doing as James Bond, either, without the help of editing, stunt men, and CGI. It’s fiction, folks.

The other controversial moment was the reveal that Bond has a child. That didn’t bother me. I mean, “James Bond” has had a lot of sex over the past 60-ish years. Odds are he has a kid here and there. Plus it was part of the mechanics needed to set up Bond’s final decision of the movie, so I thought it worked.

One review I read, by a writer who is a year older than me, pointed out this is the last time James Bond will be older than people our age. Oh, snap! That sucks! Daniel Craig does give hope to us in our early 50s that if we put the work in, our bodies don’t have to fall apart.

I thought the movie was a little long. I went in knowing that I would be in the theater for nearly three hours once the previews were added in. The movie seemed to move pretty well, but there were a few lag points that could have been tightened up to cut 10–15 minutes from the final run time. It didn’t help that the theater we went to did not have the most comfortable or adjustable seats I’ve ever sat in.

I would give No Time To Die a solid 3.5 stars. I do wonder if it is a movie that will improve on multiple viewings, especially when you can split those viewings up into shorter segments. My rating suffers a little because Daniel Craig made two of the best Bond films ever in Casino Royale and Skyfall, movies that will be tough for any future Bond to match. NTTD was also not an embarrassment like Roger Moore’s and Pierce Brosnan’s final installments in the series. Maybe not all the chances taken worked, but most of them did. And that sets this apart from so many movies in a series that too often follows the same checklist just with different names and places attached to it.

NTTD also locks in Craig as, at worst, the second best Bond ever. And I think he has a strong argument for being the best Bond. It’s tough to compare him to Sean Connery both because both their styles and the times they acted in were so different. However, none of the other actors who have played James Bond made the role theirs as successfully as Connery and Craig did.

Weekend Hoops – October Madness

Although L’s basketball team is in week one of their three-week stoppage of play for fall breaks, there were still hoops to be played last weekend.

St P’s normally hosts a Cadet (7th/8th grade) A team tournament over fall break. We had some logistical issues and weren’t able to host this year, but a neighboring parish took it over so that four teams could still get together and play a few games.

Friday night L’s team played St L, the school that beat her team twice last year, including a tournament loss on a late basket. St L’s has a seventh grader who is already six feet tall. But the funny thing about CYO sports is how much teams change from year-to-year as girls progress through the age brackets. Apparently that girl’s sixth grade schoolmates she played with last year are way better than her eighth grade ones on this year’s team, because we destroyed them.

We won 46–17 and it was never close. Our girls played insane defense and got a series of breakaway layups early that helped us jump out to a quick 10-point lead. After that pretty much everything we threw up went in. We were hitting contested layups, short jumpers, and even got multiple offensive rebounds per possession despite the big girl. L was proud of yanking the ball away three times. “She’s not that strong, Dad,” was her comment after the game.

Well, one area was not working: we still could not hit free throws. We hit two. We missed 10, 12, 16. Somewhere in there.

L only scored two, but she played really well. She took care of the ball and got the offense running. She played solid D. She looked completely comfortable. That’s the difference between playing against really good 8th grade guards and 7th graders that she’s better than.

Her only bucket was pretty sweet, though. She had her girl on the right elbow and was working to set her up to drive. She faked right, then left, then right again. The third fake got the defender leaning and L went behind her back and got into the lane. The giant was waiting inside so L gave her a hard fake to the right, spun back to the left, then flipped the ball up to the backboard with her left hand where the giant couldn’t get a finger on it. L was pretty pleased with herself, grinning as she ran back up court.

Saturday we played the tournament hosts, St C. L played with a few of their girls last winter and did some summer training with them. We knew they had lost by 20 earlier in the day to the team, St S, that beat us by nine in our season opener.

I think that knowledge made our girls a little too confident. We played from behind all day. We were down three at half, but started the third quarter on a 6–0 run to go up three. But we gave it all back and were down four going into the fourth quarter. This time we dropped an 8–0 run to reverse the margin. Again, we got sloppy and gave it all back. We trailed by two with under a minute left and St C had the ball. They missed a shot, we got a run-out and our girl laid it in to tie. On the defensive end we forced a loose ball, grabbed it and raced up court. Our girl took it to the hoop, missed, but a teammate was there to toss it up and in with seven seconds left. We forced another turnover and won 31–29. Once again we were awful from the line. We win by 10+ if we could even shoot 50% from the line. Despite the 10% free throw shooting, the girls earned a trip to Dairy Queen for their win.

L had four points in this game. She again played pretty well.

Unfortunately we had to face St C again in the knockout round. This game was very different. They jumped all over us early. Their best player fouled out late on Saturday and she was doing all she could to hide on defense much of the day to avoid cheap fouls.

Our girls seemed like a mess the entire game. They were complaining about the referees, complaining about how the St C’s girls were grabbing them to our coaches, running the wrong plays on offense, and generally checking out mentally. Our head coach should have gotten a T. We heard there was arguing between parents from both schools across from us. Just a general good time.

St C’s was working us over pretty good. But, again, free throws were the real killer. We shot 4–20ish from the line for the game. We just kept missing and missing despite getting to the line often. Meanwhile St C shot probably 60% or so from the line.

Midway through the fourth we were down 13 and the game looked over. I’m not sure what the trigger was, but our girls started chipping away. A bucket here, a steal there, a big defensive rebound on a third possession. With about a minute left it was still a seven-point deficit. We were in the one-and-one and I suggested to the St C scorekeeper that they should just foul us because we wouldn’t make the freebies and they could keep us from getting any shots off.

There was a scramble, L grabbed a loose ball, and took off up court. She had a teammate in the middle with a defender between them and a defender back. L waited until the last possible moment and fired a pass over the middle defender’s shoulder. Her teammate caught it and laid it up and in in one motion.

Down five. I might have smacked the scorer’s table after the pass.

Next possession, L got a steal and went coast-to-coast to cut it to three with about 20 seconds left.

We forced a St C miss, got the rebound, and had the ball knocked away on an entry pass. We we inbounding under the basket with seven seconds left. Our tallest girl is a decent rebounder and can play some D, but she would much rather hoist shots from outside than battle inside on offense. Shots she never hits. But on the inbounds play she popped out behind the three-point arc in the corner, got the ball, and had a wide-open look. Her shot looked absolutely perfect. It was on line, spun around, then rimmed out. First time we’ve hit the rim all year on a three, and it damn-near went in.

St C hit a free throw to win by four.

Free throws and attitude killed us. I was happy after the game when one of our coaches came over to say that L told her teammates to stop complaining and start playing hard during one timeout. It’s a shame they didn’t get their heads into the game until the last 90 seconds or so.

Also a shame we can’t hit a freaking free throw.

L had six for this game. She was a perfect 0–0 from the line for the weekend.

It wasn’t terrible that they lost. They would have played St S in the championship game, and I’m not sure we could have hung within nine after already playing three games in three days.

Plus L was going to tryouts for a winter league team that night. Her knees were already giving her fits. I’m not sure she could have made it through the tryouts if she had played a second game in the afternoon. She said she didn’t play great at tryouts, but the coach making the teams watched her play Friday and Saturday so he has an idea of her game.

The big bummer is that he was hoping to have A and B teams at each age group with the A teams have extra skills training during the season. L said only seven or eight seventh graders showed up, so it’s doubtful they will split teams. Several of those girls aren’t strong players, so it’s doubtful they will turn them into an A team. L was hoping to get that extended skills training. Maybe the coach will combine 7th and 8th graders to get A and B teams. He is also trying to put together another tournament to play over the next two weeks, so L’s team may get back on the court again before league play resumes at the end of the month.

Friday Links

A few items to add to your reading queue for the weekend.


I’ve always bought into the myth that minor league baseball was somehow purer than big league ball, and the connection between minor league clubs and their communities was deeper than that between big cities and MLB clubs. That’s probably all Bull Durham-fueled garbage, but baseball is largely built on myths anyway

MLB is doing its best to fuck all that up by squeezing out much of what was local and unique about the minors.

Will Bardenwerper set out to document what was supposed to be the final year of the old Appalachian League. Until Covid canceled the season and his book deal. Fortunately we get this great Harper’s piece from his efforts.

What is baseball? Our national pastime, an enduring slice of Americana? Or just a business? Does an enterprise that purports to be part of the fabric of America—and one that for the past hundred years has enjoyed a unique federal antitrust exemption—have a responsibility to prevent that fabric from fraying? Or should the league simply maximize value for its owners, as most corporations do?

Minor Threat


I had no idea that the pumpkin spice latte backlash was rooted in economic anxiety and contempt for women. I thought it was just because people were sick of Pumpkin Spice Everything dropping a little earlier each year.

This piece is over a year old, but still a very good read.

Pumpkin spice lattes — and the backlash, and the backlash to the backlash — explained

For the record, pumpkin spice remains completely delicious when used properly.


Ranking the Seinfeld Fake Movies
Shocking that it took 23 years for someone to do this. Or at least for someone’s effort to get broad attention.


I know it can be difficult to keep your cool in the midst of a stressful game. A good rule of thumb, though, is that players and coaches should never interact directly with opposing fans.

Northern Colorado offensive coordinator Max McCaffrey threw a clipboard into the stands last week. What makes this story great is that the comment that pushed him over the edge was someone making a crack about his pants being too small.

That’s some funny, funny shit.

UNC’s Max McCaffrey ‘reprimanded’ for throwing clipboard into Montana State stands


Finally, a few Bond links. I’m seeing No Time To Die on Wednesday. I have no idea when I last saw a movie in a theater.

Shaken, and Stirred: How Daniel Craig Gave James Bond a Soul

Sixty Years of James Bonds Complaining About Their Jobs

Everything You Need to Know About James Bond’s Watches

Every James Bond Movie, Ranked

An Old Man on the Court

I’m a little shocked that I am upright and able to walk today.

You see, L’s coaches cancelled their practice last night and decided to have a loose shoot-around/scrimmage. I took L then hung around in case they wrapped up early. The coach, who I’ve coached with four different times, roped me into the fun.

We started with a game of knockout that included everyone in the gym: our team, a girl from the B team who was there, a younger brother, plus three parents and one grandparent. L made sure she was behind me in line and knocked me out our second time through. Afterward it felt like I had pulled something in my glute area. That’s a classic 50-year-old man injury right there: “Yeah, I pulled a glute playing knockout with my 13-year-old. Happens more than you would think…”

After knockout the coach said we were going to scrimmage. Three parents, the B team girl, and the sixth grade brother against the A team. Grandpa was going to watch from the sidelines. That was the smartest move of the night.

Over the next 45 minutes we went up-and-down and did our best to get our girls to stop giggling and actually run their offense.

I was soaked and thoroughly winded after about four trips up the court. L even told me I looked “gross” because my shirt was so sweaty. We scrimmaged with the girls a few times last fall and I’m on a better cardio workout regimen now than I was then. Yet I felt like I had never played before. That glute was tight. I dared not sprint for fear of blowing out an achilles, hamstring, or really anything below my hips. Each time I wiped the sweat from my eyes I was reminded that I had cut up an onion while I was making dinner.

In short, I was a mess.

I was having a good day with my vertigo – which still pops up a few times a week – but, man, it was hard running and rapidly change my point of focus. I never felt dizzy but my vision wasn’t the greatest. I also was trying my best not to kill any of the girls by barreling into them.

I kept getting inside for offensive rebounds then missing the put-backs. Grandpa, who has also coached with me a few times in the past, loved it. After we were done he came over, cackling, telling L, “Now I know where you get it, missing all those layups!”

I got sick of missing bunnies and jumpers so started posting up. When I hit my third-straight turnaround jumper the other dad playing started yelling, “THAT’S HOW THE KANSAS JAYHAWKS DO IT!!!” He’s a Purdue guy so I appreciated his appreciation.

I would tell you I also made some sweet passes, but since the team has no idea how to play help defense or watch the ball and their man, I can’t really take credit for them. The passes were there if you were willing to throw them.

When we were finished all us adults were complaining while we hobbled out of the gym. But the girls were all laughing and having a great time. I guess you call that a success. We agreed to invite the other team parents to join us for a parents vs. kid scrimmage while we are in our three-week lull.

I felt awful when I got home. After watching baseball for an hour or so it was really difficult to get up off of the couch. I dreaded how I would feel this morning.

Yet when I woke up I didn’t feel much worse than any other morning. I even made it to the gym and got my regular workout in. There is some tightness, but no soreness, which is amazing. I guess all that gym time is paying off.

Anyway, all of that, and sharing it with you, reminded me of back in the spring of 1998, when I had just started at C Corp. I had a lot of free time as my bosses were slowly figuring out what to do with me. All of the guys in Finance would often go play basketball at lunch on Fridays at the campus gym. On days when I played well, with nothing to do between 1:00 and 5:00, I would send braggy, slightly exaggerated email accounts of my efforts to my friends. The kind of shit I would post here if I was still out playing lunch hoops and having one good day a month.

One of those buddies, E$, made fun of me once by sending an account of his lunch in the style of my hoops breakdowns. I thought of it last night. Lucky for us all, I have saved that email for over 23 years. I don’t know if this will resonate with you at all, but it made me laugh my ass off. It’s a real shame I don’t have one of my hoops emails so you can see what inspired E$ to mock me.

Here is that email, sent to me on June 19, 1998.

I thought I would share some details from my lunch today. I was a little worried that I would be dining alone, but then Doug, an old buddy from law school, e-mailed and said he could make it. I was stoked. Unfortunately I got wrapped up in my work and almost was late. Doug wouldn’t have liked that. On my way there, I felt pretty good. I had a spring in my step. Both ankles and knees felt great. I was a little hungry, but not starving.

As I approached, I pondered what I might get. Due to stomach trouble, I haven’t been able to eat up to my potential lately. I was torn between four choices: the southern style, a large turkey sandwich, quarter chicken, or rib sandwich. I was feeling more carnivorous that usual, so I went with the rib sandwich. As Doug and I discussed the events of the day, I began sweating with anticipation. Would I be able to complete the mission? Would I be my old self? Would I finish the rib sandwich? When the order was brought to our table, I noticed that the ribs were even bigger than usual. I had my work cut out for me. I dug in with a vengeance. I drove hard into the pickles, posted up the wonder bread and put a sweat move on the sauce. I felt good and I was kicking ass. Within five minutes I new I was back to my old form. I finished the rib sandwich in less than fifteen minutes and had time to really enjoy my side of Cole slaw. I kicked everyone’s ass. No one ate as fast, or as much, as me today.

It was great. I now understand why I am continually drawn to the table. It’s where I belong. It’s my true love. It’s my destiny. As my uncle Leon used to say – eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.

Peace

Peace, indeed.

Weather and Sports

Mother Nature can’t figure out what she wants to do. For the past few days, if you’ve looked through a window to see what’s going on outside, you would assume fall has taken over. It’s been cloudy most of the times, flat out dreary a few times, so you would think you would need to bundle up a bit when you set outside. Yet it’s still been close to 80 most days, and it looks like it’s going to be warmer than that for the next several days.

Not that I’m complaining. I’d be pleased as punch if I could wear shorts and t-shirts until Thanksgiving. However, I would also like to bust out the fall clothing. The jeans, the chinos, the flannels, the quarter-zips. You know what I’m talking about.


Game two of the CYO basketball season was last night. L’s team was playing St. I, a school that is always good and has beaten us pretty easily every time we’ve played them going back to third grade. We heard before the game that one of St. I’s best 7th graders would not be available, but knowing they have three really good 8th graders, we figured it wouldn’t matter much.

It might have helped us a little. At least at the beginning. We held them scoreless for the first four minutes and change of the game! Granted, we were without a basket, too. But being tied is better than getting crushed.

Sadly that changed quickly. St I scored, put on their press, and next thing you knew, we were down 12–0.

It never got much better – although we did win the third quarter 6–5 – and the final was 37–10. St. I not only had better players, but they all know how to play together. They would set up our defense and then get exactly what they wanted.

Meanwhile our girls were throwing lazy passes, never setting screens for each other, not running the right plays, dribbling into triple teams, and taking bad shots. The gap between the teams with players and the teams with athletes sure gets more obvious as the girls get older.

We were playing in a very small gym where the stands are directly behind the benches, so we were able to listen in on timeout huddles. To break the St. I press, our coaches drew up a very simple play that involved three quick passes and one cut. Our girls went out and ran it every single play for the next five possessions. It didn’t matter that St. I’s figured it out after the first play and adjusted their defense accordingly. Our girls blindly threw the passes that the coaches had told them to throw, without looking to see if that pass was covered and someone else was open.

It was super frustrating to watch and made me very glad I’m not coaching this year. The girls are all good girls. But none of them play enough basketball to not totally panic when faced with a better team that is messing up what they try to do.

L went scoreless, going something like 0–4 or 0–5 from the field. She had a couple decent looks in close that she missed. The rest were panic shots she threw up because she was trapped in the lane. She had one assist but approximately 37 turnovers. Ugly all around.

CYO now takes three weeks off for the various fall breaks around the Archdiocese. Stupid. L’s team does play in a mini-tournament this weekend but otherwise will have a few weeks to try to regroup and figure things out before they play their most winnable game of the year on October 26.


Hey, the Colts finally got their first win on Sunday! Since it was L’s birthday and we had some other things going on, I did not give the game my full attention. I believe I said it a few weeks ago and I have to restate it: I don’t like Carson Wentz, but that dude plays hard. You see why coaches and GM’s love his potential. He can make plays happen that only a handful of QB’s can pull off. But there’s always the downside with him that guys like Patrick Mahomes don’t also have, where he will account for an ugly turnover or three in his efforts to make a big play. Plus the inevitability of a major injury as a result of his scampering around.

The Colts still have tough games three of the next four weeks before the schedule lightens up a bit. That 0–3 hole is going to be tough to dig out of, even in the soft AFC South.


For those of you interested, CHS went down to Cincinnati and hammered a really good Ohio team last Friday. It was their best performance of the year. Their young quarterback had the best game of his career, throwing for 340+ yards, and he did it without his #1 receiver. Two more games in the regular season, both against fellow #1 teams from Indiana.


Finally, I was not super excited about last night’s AL Wild Card game between the Yankees and Red Sox. I even watched a short movie earlier in the evening. I did catch the last three and a half innings, though, and it warmed my heart to see the Yankees get bounced. A lot of things change over time, but my Yankee hatred remains strong after over 40 years.

I don’t think I watched a Royals game after mid-June. That terrible stretch that began about five weeks into the season killed any enthusiasm I had about devoting time to watching their young guys develop.

I’m bummed I missed most of Salvador Perez’s monster season. It has been shocking how he keeps getting better despite getting older. I hope he has another couple great years left in him so he can attach them to a season in which the Royals are contending.

Also a shame that Nicky Lopez’s out-of-nowhere great year was wasted on a season that the Royals were never in the race. You could have talked me into a great Salvy season last spring. But Nicky Lopez? No freaking way. Fingers crossed it was repeatable and not a fluke.

Now to get Bobby Witt Jr. to the bigs and hope the young arms progress. That’s enough to get me watching again next April.

September Media

Somehow I did not watch a single movie last month. I think that was mostly due to paralysis by too many choices. There were plenty of nights when I scrolled through the various streaming services we pay for, searching for a movie that jumped out at me for 30–45 minutes then gave up and watched a show.


Movies and Shows

The Office
I got into a little Office jag in late August and it continued into last month. I ended up setting the DVR to record everything Comedy Central was showing, thinking I would work through the good seasons in order. It wasn’t until I was deep into season three that I realized CC either doesn’t own rights to all the shows anymore, or were only showing parts of whole seasons. That said, I knocked out most of season two and big chunks of seasons three and four over the past six weeks. I could just flip over to Peacock and watch any episodes I want. Despite being Xfinity customers, it still takes forever for Peacock to load and then find what you want to watch.

A

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
The show’s final season, delayed by Covid and rewriting to bring in some police reform plot lines. Ending with an hour-long Heist episode was a great way to go out. Always a solid show with moments of brilliance, but never completely great.

B+

Bobby and Giada in Italy
The first two episodes I watched in August, which took place in Rome, were wonderful. But the final two in Tuscany were even better. I don’t think it’s possible to film bad TV in Tuscany. Giada is 51, you know. That’s some crazy stuff right there.

A-

Archer
I’ve watched the first two episodes of season 12. I’m interested to see where it goes with the agency facing big money problems and Lana’s husband willing to back the firm. Must she stay in a marriage she doesn’t want to be in to save her career and the careers of her coworkers? Oh, and Archer is physically impaired, which has already led to all kinds of funny stuff.

B+

Lost Track Atlantic, episode four
Torren and Ishka end their journey in West Africa. They only casually mention it, but it sounds like their trip took place in early 2020 and was cut short as Covid was forcing the world to shut down. Once again this is filled with dazzling images and a wonderful soundtrack.

B+

The N Y Friars Club Roast Of Chevy Chase
Sometimes the old YouTube algorithm spits out a beauty. I had read somewhere that this roast was particularly savage. I didn’t think it was any worse than others I’ve watched. A younger, less well known Stephen Colbert steals the show.

B+

Ted Lasso, season two.
The four episodes in September featured three that ranged from good to very good, and one that was completely confusing and distracting. You can read my Lasso thoughts here.

A-


Shorts

Why You’ll Fail the Milk Crate Challenge
I’m just lucky that I haven’t seen one of these that resulted in a grotesque injury, right? (Please don’t send me any of those.)

A-

Every Sport a Bowling Ball
A lot of these are pretty dumb but the field hockey one made me laugh.

C+

Guerrilla Grazing
Very mixed feelings about this. Admiration and respect to this dude for living his life this way. At the same time, it seems kind of insane to live this way. He’ll be laughing at me when our society collapses after the next presidential election.

B+

The Ice Ball
This is fascinating, although I’d like to have seen more about how the ice houses work. As in, see them in the middle of the summer when the ice has been stacked for months yet it is still providing cooling and refrigeration.

B+

The Diamond
This did not go as I expected. Filmmaker Caitlyn Greene profiles people who hang out in an ancient volcano in Arkansas looking for diamonds. I figured it would be a profile of wacky people who spend their time digging through mud in hopes of finding life-changing jewels. Somehow she got her subjects to share intimate details of their life, making this a compelling watch.

A-

Senegal’s circular gardens hold back the Sahara
Who knows if this, or projects like it, have any chance of working. But relatively simple methods that allow locals to attempt to reclaim their land from climate disaster need a lot more attention and support.

B+

Run the Line: Retracing 43km of hidden railway
My Beau Miles video for the month. I enjoyed his encounter with the local police as he ran through private property to retrace an abandoned railway.

B+

This Alligator Will Die From 860 Volts
Electric eels are no joke.

B


Podcast

SmartLess
An old friend recommended this on Facebook. It might be the best thing anyone has recommended to me this year. Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes talk to other famous people. I guarantee you will laugh your ass off if you give it a try. I’m working through old episodes. Favorites so far are George Clooney, Will Ferrell, and Conan O’Brien.

A+

Stats

September 2021

  • The Cranberries – 30
  • Matt Pond PA – 27
  • The War on Drugs – 27
  • We Were Promised Jetpacks – 24
  • Beastie Boys – 23

Complete stats available at my Last.fm page.

Friday Playlist

Welcome to the fourth quarter of 2021. My late year itch to build my favorite songs of the year list has already started to make its presence known. Holiday music is eight weeks away. Let’s kick it off with a pretty standard Friday Playlist.

“Weights” – Bartees Strange
A bonus track from the updated, deluxe version of Strange’s debut album, I love how this just goes from the first beat.

“Spaceland” – Matt Pond PA with Matthew Caws
This band blended in with a bunch of others I gave minor attention to in the mid-2000s. Checking my old iTunes library, which is stashed away on our backup Mac Mini in the basement, I neither purchased nor downloaded and kept any of their songs from that period.

So it’s kind of weird that I really dig their “new” album. I put quotes around new because the disk, The State of Gold, was originally recorded and released in 2015. The band has spent the past few years fighting with their record label for control of the album’s rights. Once they retained those rights, they brushed up the songs, remastered and re-sequenced them, and re-released the album awhile back. I’ve seen references to it pop up on various music sites, but didn’t check it out until this week. I’m glad I did. Almost the entire album is glorious, shiny pop like this.

“Get You Down” – Sam Fender
Goddammit, that Fender kid has done it again.

“October” – The Helio Sequence
There are a lot of good songs about October. This is one of my favorites. It captures the essence of those damp days when winter feels closer than summer.

“Highway to Hell” – Tom Morello featuring Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder
Occasionally I catch part of one of Tom Morello’s shows on SiriusXM. I love when he has his mother on, who is this tiny woman who has been raising hell of one kind or another her entire life. Today is her 98th birthday. So happy birthday to Mary Morello! It was pretty cool to hear Tom recount all the amazing things she has done in her life on this week’s show.

“Long Time Coming” – Delays
I just read that Delays lead singer Greg Gilbert died yesterday at age 44. I LOVED this song back in 2005 or so, listening to it over-and-over-and-over. Somewhere on that hard drive in the basement is an epic live performance of it. They had a few other solid songs, but this was their masterpiece. RIP to Greg.


“Eyes to the Wind” – The War on Drugs
We made it. October is TWOD release month. Still four more weeks of waiting, but at least we’re finally on the same calendar page.

Reader’s Notebook, 9/30/21

After a six-week-ish lull, my pace of knocking out books has picked back up. I’ll likely finish another book later today, but wanted to go ahead and get this out.


Missionaries – Phil Klay
Klay’s second work about modern warfare is his first true novel; Redeployment was a series of short stories based loosely on his service as a Marine public affairs officer in Iraq.

Here he takes a broader view of war. He works with a wide swath of characters to show both the ridiculousness of war and how integral it has become to our modern society. In his cast are a few Americans, both soldiers and a reporter who begin the story in Afghanistan. And a group of Colombians of various backgrounds on various sides of that country’s endless civil conflicts.

This is one of those books that, while telling a story that is a bit meandering and confusing, it is building towards making grand statements rather than furnishing a satisfying series of plot points. While all those characters come together in Colombia just as a peace agreement is up for a national vote, Klay is far more interested in showing how confusing the conflict is to the people on the ground.

In the north east part of the country, Colombians have been facing a continuously fluctuating series of interactions with various armed group. There are paramilitaries, the narcos, communist guerrillas, Federal forces attempting to crush any/all of those groups, and lately armed militias who creep over from Venezuela. The ideology and mission of each of those groups means little to the locals. Other than if they are too friendly to one, they know that probably means when the next group comes along, it will mean reprisals and death for the townspeople who just want to carry on with their lives.

Meanwhile, at a higher level, the Colombian government and American military liaisons are working to find ways to extend the American mission and assistance to the national forces. For the Colombians, that means they get Americans weapons and training. For the Americans, it means they have what amounts to a practice facility to test weapons, techniques, and strategy before using them in Afghanistan or other places.

I don’t usually write down quotes from books as I read them. But I wrote down two from Missionaries that struck me as good summations of the high level points Klay is making.

The first comes from an American who served, and was wounded, in Afghanistan and moves on to Colombia as an advisor. He has some misgivings about the American mission. But, he justifies it by arguing with himself that the mission is, at its core, a good one.

His country was a force for good here. His was a good country. His service to it was a way of being a good man. That was the faith, anyway.

That’s the same justification that has been used, at a larger scale, to justify many of our military efforts this century. And to tamp down any domestic opposition to those efforts. We, as Americans, are a good people. Whatever are arguments with each other, we are on the side of democracy and freedom. And while the conflicts we get involved in may be messy, because we are good, that necessarily makes our policies in other countries good.

The second quote gets at the larger importance of war in modern society. War, and the machine that fuels it, is how we move forward as humans.

What mattered was the global, interconnected system that generated the wealth and technology that ultimately would determine the fate of this war, and the wars to come. That system was civilization. It was progress.

I wish I could argue that Klay was wrong.


The Ugly Cry – Danielle Henderson
I shared an excerpt from this memoir a month or so ago, in which Henderson ruminated on what summer days were like for latchkey kids back in the ‘80s. As soon as I read that I put this book on hold at the library. The book was wonderful.

The first half reminded me very much of a Jean Shepherd story. Henderson relates her childhood in upstate New York with her single, teen mother and brother. Their life is tough, but they get by. There all kinds of wonderful little details in her stories, and she exaggerates just enough to make them funny while keeping them believable. (Note: I think she exaggerates the dialog of the people in her stories, and her judgements of them, not the stories themselves.) I kept thinking of the Shepherd essays A Christmas Story was based on as I read it.

However, the book takes a huge turn midway through, when her mother’s new boyfriend moves in with them. He is an addict, doesn’t work, spends all her mother’s money, and abuses Henderson and her brother in various ways. If that wasn’t bad enough, Henderson’s mother eventually chooses the boyfriend over her kids and sends them to live with their grandmother.

The final third is Henderson trying to live through her high school years. She is deeply wounded by the experience with her mother, often dangerously depressed, and prone to bouts when her stress causes her muscles to lock up so she can’t move. But she finds a few like-minded friends, discovers punk and metal in New York City, and finds that she has some talents for art.

Her grandmother is the true star of the book. She is a profane chainsmoker who takes absolutely zero shit. She is more likely to be found sitting on the couch playing Nintendo than baking cookies and cakes. But in the moments when Henderson needs her most, she is always there, showing tenderness that she normally hides.

The book doesn’t have a proper happy ending, but rather an ambiguous one when Henderson goes off to college. We briefly learn that her first college choice was a disaster and it took years on multiple campuses to earn her first degree. It also took years of therapy to come to terms with her childhood. Eventually she became a successful print writer and blogger and is now a TV writer. She may not have overcome all the pain from her youth, but being able to still find the happy and hilarious moments in it is some measure of triumph over that past.

Some Sports From the Weekend

My sports weekend was a little more compressed than normal. We hosted several of M’s friends and their families Sunday evening, so we spent a lot of time prepping for them and then enjoying their company.


Friday night was CHS’ homecoming. We went to dinner with a couple other families and by the time we walked in, the Irish were already up 16–0 midway through the first quarter. It didn’t get any better. The coaches had agreed ahead of time to go to a running clock in the first half if needed. When CHS went up 37–0 with 8:30 left before the half the clock mercifully ran without pause. The final was 51–0, the final touchdown coming when CHS went for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter. The dads I was sitting with all gave each other confused looks. We decided it must be ok to go for it up 44 when you are playing freshmen.


Saturday was the most boring day of the young college season. Only two interesting games, and I didn’t have much time to devote to either Notre Dame – Wisconsin or Texas A&M – Arkansas.

KU played well on offense for about 40 minutes but then fell apart to get waxed by Duke. Fortunately, once again, the game was not on a station I have so I didn’t have to devote any energy to it.


Sunday was opening day for CYO basketball.[1] L’s team was playing St S, who is always really good. Their A team had a bunch of tall, athletic girls that play basketball year-round. We have a bunch of athletic but equally goofy girls, none of whom are very tall.

Our girls hung in for awhile. They made a nice run to start the second quarter and were only down 11–9. But they gave up a 10–0 run never recovered. They fought hard in the second half but could not overcome that first-half spurt, and lost 35–26.

St S was a much better team. They played like they knew what they were doing, where our girls were all scrambling around like lunatics and sometimes got a lucky shot that went in. We went 4–19 from the free throw line. We had roughly 75% of our shots in the paint partially or fully blocked. We let St S get at least 10 run outs for uncontested layups. Fortunately, even good teams in 7th–8th grade CYO ball miss open layups.

I told L after the game that was all something they could build on. Hit some free throws, don’t let girls get behind you on D, and be smarter on offense and they could have kept it competitive until the very end.

She only scored two. She missed one open layup and then a series of short jumpers or running shots near the rim. She went 0–2 from the line. She did make a couple nice passes, but there really wasn’t much chance for anyone to do anything on offense.

Her team has a super tough schedule. I think St S will be one of the three best teams they play, but don’t know if they are one, two, or three and what the gap between those teams are.


I watched almost no NFL Sunday. When I could get an eye on the Colts game they played well. But I obviously didn’t watch enough.


What I did watch a ton of, especially Friday and Saturday, was the Ryder Cup. The US team running away from Europe to win back the Cup was great to watch.

In my mind, there are two good outcomes at a Ryder Cup: the US winning in dominating fashion, and Europe winning a close one.

The first is cool because it means the US team is firing on all cylinders, which was the case this weekend.

The second is cool because US players always start throwing each other or their coaches under the bus and acting like petty teenagers. Since I have complicated fan relationships with so many golfers, I kind of enjoy having the reason to hate/mock them that comes with them losing.

This weekend, though, the US played their asses off. There was never a doubt about the result from the time the first four matches ended on Friday. They just kept cranking out wins, with almost every US player having a signature moment at some point.

The golf media gets all worked up when the US loses by suggesting that the US team members don’t have the same love for the competition, or ability to set aside their personal interests for the team’s, that teams of yore had. I always think that’s kind of bullshit. But even if it is true, I appreciate how much pressure the US plays under. Every Ryder Cup we hear about how much more talented the US team is. It has to kind of suck, no matter how much self confidence you have, to know that if your team loses you will be labeled as massive underachievers and have your motivation questioned.

All of that ignores golf is flukey as fuck, and any pro can beat any other pro in any given round. It also demeans the European team, acting like a squad with a lower average ranking is filled with chumps that were selected from a municipal driving range.


  1. For the hundredth time, CYO sports schedules are idiotic.  ↩
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