Fuck you, Don. Try not to destroy too many more things on your way out.
Fuck you, Don. Try not to destroy too many more things on your way out.
I had a regular list put together to share like any other Friday.
But given the news of the morning, I’m scraping it and throwing this ad hoc list at you. You should be able to figure out which songs are directed at which candidates.
Baseball took up a lot of time last month. But I still squeezed in some quality television programming.
This brief series tells the story of Eli Cohen, a Mossad agent who infiltrated Syrian society in the 1960s and became a deputy minister of defense before being discovered and executed.
It is a compelling, interesting story that is very well acted and paced, and beautifully photographed. I also enjoyed the old school spy tale angle. When we think of that period, we tend to think of traditional Cold War stories. But what was going on in the Middle East at the time was equally fascinating and, in some ways, far more consequential than spies chasing each other around Europe.
But the revelation was Sacha Baron Cohen in the lead role. I was floored by how good SBC was in a straight, dramatic role. He was excellent and believable, especially in the moments when Eli Cohen began to lose grip on who he really was after spending so much time in Syria.
Ahh, it’s holiday food show season! October is always a fine warm-up for the real deal. Sadly, L doesn’t like to sit and watch these with me as much as she used to. She watched some of the Halloween Wars episodes, but we skipped a couple and went right to the finale Halloween weekend. That show kind of annoys me but I don’t turn down chances to spend time with one of my girls watching food shows.
I’m a bigger fan of HBC. This year’s crew wasn’t my favorite. But it’s a good way to get ready for the holiday season.
Halloween Wars, B-
Halloween Baking Championship, B+
Narcos: Mexico, season one
I loved the first three seasons of Narcos, which focused on the Colombian cocaine cartels of the 1980s. Done with the Colombians, the series moved up to Mexico, focusing on Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo’s Guadalajara cartel and the DEA agents who battled him.
This season took longer to grab me that the Colombian seasons did. Perhaps that is because Gallardo and/or Diego Luna, the actor who played him, were not as immediately compelling as Pablo Escobar/Wagner Moura in the first two seasons.
But this season cranked up the drama in the back half. As Gallardo’s cartel shifted from its own marijuana to transporting Colombian cocaine, the stakes got higher and the DEA became more interested. Especially agent Kiki Camarena. Camarena pushed a reluctant DEA bureaucracy to go after Gallardo’s interests much harder. His reward was to be kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. The episodes that center on his kidnapping are brutal and emotionally draining, and in some ways saved the season from being just ok.
L wanted to make sure we watched this before she went out on Halloween. It has always been the weakest of the Peanuts holiday specials. And it got me thinking about how terrible most of the characters are. A subject for a future post!
Who doesn’t love those videos of (usually) trucks smashing into low bridges and overpasses because the drivers ignore safety warnings? Well this mini-documentary is all about one in North Carolina.
Nothing much going on today. Might as well share my most recent reads.
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
My master reading list isn’t complete; I didn’t really start digitizing it until the mid-to-late 2000s, so a lot of books I read in the first decade of this century aren’t accounted for. So I know I’ve read a few of Bill Bryson’s travel books, I’m just not certain how many.
This, however, is not a travel book. It is exactly what the title suggests: a short history of nearly everything. At least from a scientific perspective. From the beginning of the universe and its composition to the world of elements and atoms and molecules to the development of life on earth, Bryson hits just about everything. He shares a ton of incredibly large or exceptionally small numbers to explain the size of things, and always finds a way to put those into a perspective that you can understand. And it is all written with his normal wit and good humor.
What kept striking me as I read it, though, was how much has changed or been newly discovered since the book was published in 2003. I’ve been reading some articles about deep space exploration and universe formation theory recently, and they all pushed well beyond what Bryson wrote about nearly two decades ago. I’m sure that is true in many other areas that he covers. More than undermining my enjoyment of the book, it made me appreciate how much we are still learning about who we are, where we live, and how we got here.
A Difficult Conversation: How to Talk to Trump Supporters – Shea Serrano
If you follow Serrano on Twitter, you know how this goes.
The Cove – Ron Rash
Rash is on that list of Daniel Woodrell-like authors I keep going back to, hoping I can find something as good as Woodrell’s work.
This book takes place in North Carolina in the closing days of World War I. Laurel and her brother Hank, who returned from Europe missing a hand, live in a blighted area of land near the border with Tennessee. Locals believe the land to be cursed, and think that Laurel’s birthmark is a sign she has been touched by evil. Thus she is aggressively shunned. Hank has earned a bit of respect for his service in the war, but none of that transfers to her.
One day Laurel discovers a man, who presents himself as a mute, in the woods near their home. She brings him, named Walter, home where he carries a note stating his name and that he desires a train ticket to New York. With the next train about a week away, Hank offers to pay Walter if he will stay on their property and help him with some farm work until the date of his trip.
Walter gets ingrained into the family’s life, he and Laurel strike up a romance, and he decides to stay longer than expected.
Soon we learn that he is not, in fact, mute. Rather, he is a German musician who was stranded in New York when the war began and interned in an Arkansas prison when the United States joined the war. Laurel figures this out but keeps the truth from Hank, fearing his wounds will cause him to either harm Walter or turn him in to the authorities.
However, others soon guess Walter’s true identity and a pack of hyper-patriotic locals come looking to exact justice. This leads to a rather sad if somewhat bland ending.
There wasn’t nearly the darkness in this that I was looking for. So Rash didn’t really scratch that Woodrell itch for me.
Here we are, the week many of us – a plurality of those who voted four years ago – have been looking forward to for an entire election cycle. And it dawns dominated by a sense of dread. Regardless of the results of tomorrow’s election, I think the US is on a horrible course, one where democracy is constantly subverted by a vocal minority. Where intimidation and voter suppression has become a normal part of one party’s methods for hanging on to political power. Where we are pushed to hate each other more than seeking common threads that can allow us to move forward. Where people who know nothing attack those who have spent their entire lives become experts on a given subject. Where “brands” are more important than belief.
I wish I could say that any of that is going to change in 2021 if/when different people are inaugurated. I fear even if there is change, that is just going to embolden those darker elements and they will spend the next four, eight, however many years continuing to tear our country apart in the name of saving it for their narrow, minority view of what it means to be American.
The US needs a reset button. Neither Trump nor Biden nor anyone else out there has the ability to push it, though.
With that out of the way, I will get into some weekend notes.
It was a HUUUUUUUGE week for one of our girls. Last Wednesday M passed her driving test. Saturday morning we went to the BMV and 30 minutes later she walked out with her driver’s license.
I thought it was somewhat appropriate that she nearly ran a red light on our way to the BMV. I mean, seriously…
Based on most of her recent drives, though, she seems comfortable behind the wheel. She still has plenty of areas for improvement, but has gained a lot of confidence in her months of practice.
She got to drive solo for the first time Sunday afternoon. She is working on Sundays as an assistant to her aunt who is a personal chef. S went to pick her up and was going to have M drop her at St P’s for L’s game, then drive home alone. When S got to the game she told another mom what was going on and that mom said, “Oh God, I’m having a panic attack for you.”
M made the seven minute drive without incident, although she did say it was “weird” to be driving alone. S asked her if she wanted to fill the car up with gas on the way home and she said no. Funny how they want to drive, but don’t want to do all the other things that come along with it.
She’s been bugging us about a car for her for a couple months. It doesn’t help that she has two friends who can’t get their licenses until 2021 but their parents have already bought them cars. Another friend turns 16 today and woke to a new car in the driveway. We’ve been looking a little, and trying to develop a plan. We keep debating whether to get her a used car, or to pass S’ current car down and then one of us starts a new lease. I imagine we’ll get it figured out in the next few weeks.
M is really hoping to be able to drive to school soon. I would enjoy going to a single-school drop-off again. CHS does not usually give out parking passes to sophomores. With the parking lot slightly reduced because of construction tag availability is even more restricted this year. Another friend with a soon-to-be driver asked the principal and was told sophomores can only get passes when there are “extenuating circumstances.” We told M she needs to go into the office and find out what it will take to get a pass, but she keeps putting it off. Again, she wants to drive (and get her own car) but doesn’t seem interested in the work that goes along with that privilege.
Very excited to make the call to insurance later today and see how much our rates go up. Oh well…
We have local nephews who are passing all kinds of fun milestones which reminds us of how those baby/toddler/preschool years with so many of those moments. They sure stretch out when you get to the teen years, but when they come along, they are pretty, pretty, pretty big. And while those childhood markers come fast and furious, they don’t usually change the parent-child relationship that much. But driving is one of the first steps in your child beginning to spread their wings and separate from you.
It is nerve-wracking, for sure. I’m not a big worrier when it comes to my kids. I assume if they are at a friend’s house that the parents are keeping an eye on things and our girls normally make good decisions. But putting a 16-year-old in a car is kind of frightening. You hope that they are being careful, that they are paying attention, but in the end you can just hope for the best and that they make it home safely each time they leave on their own.
All three girls did stuff for the holiday, but only one of them did anything traditional.
M first joined a bunch of friends at the girls state championship soccer game. CHS was playing a team they lost to 1–0 in September. They came up short again, losing 4–3 on penalty kicks after a 0–0 draw through regulation and overtime. After that she went to a friend’s house to watch movies and hang out.
C went to a small, co-ed party. The kids were outside at a bonfire with an adult bonfire nearby to keep everyone in check. I know the parents who hosted are kind of hardasses about some teenage stuff, so I’m assuming the shithead boys in C’s class didn’t try to do anything dumb.
L joined a group of friends to dress up as the crew from the Toy Story movies and trick or treat. She was Buzz Lightyear. She had a great time and got a lot of candy.
S and I celebrated our night alone by getting take out sushi then watching different shows on different screens. How romantic!
We set out a bowl of candy but the only kids we had were the granddaughters of our neighbors who were in town from Maryland.
L’s team went 0–2 last week.
Midweek we played a school that is always really good. Warming up we saw that they were tiny but practiced really well. They ran little plays, hit pull up jumpers, and otherwise appeared like a team that plays together for more than the CYO season.
We were down 12–10 at halftime. That alone was a victory as arguably our best player is out quarantining. We got back a girl who missed our first three games quarantining and she looked utterly lost. She was so nervous she got called for traveling 3–4 times, and she’s normally one of our better ball handlers.
It fell apart in the third quarter. I’m not sure if we scored. We made a little run late but still lost by nine.
Sunday we played a team that features a girl that is nearly six feet tall. Seriously, in sixth grade! We played against her in kickball and she was awful, but we heard they run a bunch of clear out plays for her so she doesn’t have to move very much on the court. Even knowing what was coming didn’t help. She bullied us early and we started the game down 12–0.
It never really got better. They played a zone with her in the middle so even when one of our girls finally made a move to the lane she was there waiting.
And our girls totally lost their minds. We have two inbounds plays, two press break plays, and just one zone offense. We’ve been practicing them for two months. For some reason five of our seven players decided not to run any of those plays correctly. When the other team pressed three girls would run up court and leave L to face three defenders alone. On our baseline inbound play no one broke the correct way. It was maddening.
When we got home I fired up the Google machine to look into easy zone offenses for youth basketball to see if I could find something else for us to run since everyone plays zone.
(Quick aside: zone defenses should not be allowed in youth basketball. They are lazy, they don’t teach the defenders how to play, and they prevent girls from developing offensive skills as the game turns into a bunch of passes on the perimeter until someone turns it over. CYO basketball, especially, which is full of girls who play basketball for a month every year, should ban zones. I also think pressing should not be allowed since most of these teams struggle to get the ball up court under the mildest of pressure.)
Anyway, I checked four different coaching sites and all four suggested the exact offense we run. So I guess it’s on us, the coaches, for not teaching the girls how to make good decisions or follow our instructions.
Luckily for us we get to play this team again in two weeks in the first round of the tournament. Maybe that tall girl will be quarantining. Or maybe our girls will all grow six inches in the next 13 days. And maybe we’ll have all eight of our players for the first time all year.
Throw back month!
* Bruce Springsteen – 72
* Pearl Jam – 47
* U2 – 39
* cartalk – 26
* Bob Mould – 24
Complete stats available at my Last.fm page.
“Impossible Weight” – Deep Sea Diver with Sharon Van Etten
The music to this sounds thoroughly modern, but Sharon’s vocals have a terrific New Wave quality.
“Guest in Your Life” – Sinai Vessel
This song sounds warm and familiar, like the fall clothes we are all pulling out as the weather gets cooler.
“80 Days of Rain” – Lande Hekt
Apparently this song is about climate change.
“Oceans” – Pearl Jam
Last week PJ released the recording of their 1992 MTV Unplugged performance in the US for the first time. I think I own it on an import CD that is packed away somewhere, but it had still been years since I listened to any of it. For those of us who were watching at the time, I’m sure you remember what a phenomenal performance it was. It’s kind of typical Pearl Jam to open the show, which would have been the first time a lot of people ever saw or heard them, with this track instead of one of the songs that was going to be released as a single. A pretty stunning vocal performance by Eddie. Not sure he can still hit those high notes.
“Remove 45” – De La Soul, Styles P, Talib Kweli, Mysonne, & Chuck D
Y’all know what time it is.
“This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” – Talking Heads
Another video thanks to a Number Ones bonus track. This week Tom Breihan wrote about this Talking Heads deep track. It’s a song I know a little, but would certainly not be the first TH track I picked for a playlist. But after reading his write-up, watching the utterly charming video from Stop Making Sense, and realizing how good David Bryne’s vocals are, I had to share it.
I’m overwhelmed by numbers. The more I look at them, the more my sense of dread and disappointment and even fear grows.
That’s right, it’s time for a long overdue update on my golf game.
Quick summary: not good.
Now, for the people into that kind of thing, far too many details. Feel free to skip the rest, although you’ll miss the accounting of the greatest moment of my golfing life.
Because of a combination of factors, I’ve played my last five rounds on a new (to me) course. It is not very long and, by course rating and slope, should not be super tough. But it is very narrow. Which means it may not be the best place for me to play. But I can always get a tee time and it is cheap, so it has been my spot for the past two months.
And it has been kicking my ass.
Five rounds on this new course. All five rounds over 100. Well, kind of. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
As I said, the course is very narrow. There is absolute death one way or the other, and sometimes both, on nine holes. I’m talking thick woods, a river, and a busy street. If you miss into these, your ball is gone, no space for a hero shot to get back into the hole.
In most of my rounds there I have played like there is a bonus rather than a penalty for losing your ball. Multiple times I’ve lost multiple balls on a single hole. Multiple times I’ve lost balls on two-straight swings. Most of my misses have been big, majestic slices off the tee. It has not been pretty.
My most recent round, two weeks ago, I was actually keeping the driver in play for the most part. However, I was suddenly missing left with every other club in the bag. So I guess whatever anti-slice methods I was using were working?
All in all, this course has chewed me up and beaten me down a little. But I’ve gotten a little stubborn about it. I realize I need to learn to keep the ball in play if I want to improve, regardless of what course I play. More than that broader goal, I really want to play a halfway decent round on this course, just to prove that I can. If I can just eliminate OB that will go a long way toward that goal.
I mentioned that one day was a little different. That morning I was doing my usual “fuck up start of the round” thing. I went 8–8–7–5–8. Or something like that, because I stopped keeping score after the third hole. I decided just to play out the front nine and if I wasn’t hitting it better by the turn, I would pack it in and go home. Fortunately, I did start hitting it better and finished with two pars, so I proceeded to the tenth tee.
Number 10 is just a brutal hole. It is dead straight but there is a thickly wooded hill all along the left side. On the right, beginning about 150 yards down, is water. From there to the green is a 250 yard fairway that is maybe 40 yards wide and slopes toward the water. The first three times I played it I either found the woods or the water. This time I kept it straight. I did pull my second shot but got a lucky bounce off a tree and onto the green. I still three-putted for bogie but that was my best score ever on the hole. I followed that with a bogie on 11.
Then I went on one of the best stretches I’ve ever played. I went par-bogie-par-EAGLE-par-par. On 18 I left a bogie putt about three inches short that kept me from shooting 39 on the back.
From shooting well over 50 and being ready to give up to almost breaking 40. Golf is weird.
That eagle was the first of my life. It came on a 465 yard par five. The tee is super elevated, so the hole plays way shorter than what the card says. Plus it is actually a hole that you can miss either way and still be in play. My tee shot was fairly straight but trickled into the rough on the left. I had about 155 in (again, elevated tee helps) and had to aim to the right of the green to avoid a tree. I hit a seven iron that drew perfectly, hit short of the green, and rolled out thanks to the burnt out fairway. My ball settled two inches off the green, pin-high. I had a 15-foot putt that was slightly uphill with a little break in the middle.
No one was behind me so I stalked it like Tiger, checking every angle and trying to glean every nuance out of the green. I played a little left-to-right break, made solid contact, and the speed seemed right. The ball started to move right, as I expected. But then it moved back left and looked like it would miss just. Dammit! At the last moment, there was either a hint of break, a puff of wind, or the golfing gods helped me out and the ball tumbled in. Elation, joy, celebration, tears in his eyes, all that shit. I pumped my fist and waved to the non-existent crowd. People driving by probably thought I was a lunatic. Not really sure how I managed to par the next two holes after that moment.
That was a lot of fun. Not so much fun was not breaking 100 in my last five rounds. Not that I though I was great or anything, but after breaking 90 a few times and generally hanging out in the low 90s, I kind of thought 100 was out of play, at least on generic muni courses in good conditions.
I can definitely blame some of those scores on the penal qualities of the new course. Still, that inability to keep the ball in play is an absolute killer, whether I can find the ball after a wayward tee shot or not. It is something I have to fix if I want to improve my scores.
Score is not always everything. The 86 I carded in June came on a very easy course that gives you plenty of opportunities to recover when you miss the fairway. You don’t really need a handicap if you’re not playing in tournaments or in regular money games where you need a common starting point for determining strokes. I still signed up for one this summer, just to make my return to golf seem more official.
Handicaps are always erratic until you get a full 20 rounds in, and I only have 12 in the system right now. I’m currently sitting at a 19.1. I was hoping to be more in the 15 range. But ball don’t lie and my last five rounds say I’m barely inside the 20-handicap threshold that I believe separates mediocre and shitty. The only positive is being at 19.1 leaves me plenty of room to get better.
Chart Week: October 23, 1982
Song: “Steppin’ Out” – Joe Jackson
Chart Position: #32, 10th week on the chart. Peaked at #6 for three weeks in December.
I’ve written many times about how my parents influenced the music I have listened to. I’ve also mentioned how my grandparents always had the radio tuned to the local station, which between farm reports and news/weather bulletins, played the most generic blend of Top 40 pop possible. But they aren’t the only relatives who deserve credit.
My dad’s youngest brother helped me transition from the music of others to the music of me.
Uncle D is just 10 years older than me. As much a I enjoyed visiting my grandparents, those visits were always better when he was also around. That meant I could flip through his record collection and discover bands I had never heard of, or listen to deep cuts from bands I only knew the radio singles of. Or we would hop into his Monte Carlo and crank the radio up while cruising around Great Bend, KS. He introduced me to AC/DC, Boston, Pablo Cruise, Loverboy, Journey, and countless others We would sit outside the Dairy Queen eating ice cream and I would ask him questions about what bands he had seen in concert and what it was like to go to a show. He and his college roommate were both aspiring radio DJs, so when they got together I would listen to their stories of getting to pick the music that was broadcast across central Kansas.
1982 was when I was beginning to develop my own tastes in music. It helped that this was in the heart of the years when my mom worked multiple jobs, so my evenings were often spent alone, picking whatever radio station I wanted to jam out to. I kept a blank cassette in the stereo, queued up and ready to record when a song I liked came on. I was always sure to catch Q–104’s top four at 9:00 show to hear the most requested songs of the day so I could discuss them on the bus the next morning with my fellow music geeks.
The year was full of weird, new sounds, and I wasn’t sure what to think about all of them. “Steppin’ Out”’s insistent bass line and piano jabs got into my head, but the song sounded very different from the Human League, Soft Cell, or Flock of Seagulls, other bands I discovered in 1982. It wasn’t your standard New Wave song, but it also didn’t sound like something my mom would have any interest in. It was kind of jazzy. It didn’t have a chorus that wormed its way into your head and never left. Was that a xylophone in the instrumental break in the last minute? And Joe looked more like someone who would be managing the Laundromat we went to once a week than the youthful artists that were forcing New Wave into the pop charts.
However odd its various elements were, the song’s sense of liberation and adventure struck a chord with a kid who was locked alone inside the house five nights a week.
Right around the weekend of October 23, 1982, my uncle and his fiancé took me to some haunted houses in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City. It was my first-ever trip to a haunted house and I was both terrified and delighted. I have a vivid memory of “Steppin’ Out” coming on at some point and my uncle twisting the volume knob up. He started bopping his head to the beat and asked me, “Isn’t this a great song?” His approval gave me the permission to fall in love with this track despite its strangeness. I still turn the volume up a couple notches any time I hear it.
I texted my uncle Sunday to see if he recalled helping me to step out on the town that night 38 years ago. He did. And he remembered teaching me some cheesy dance he and his roommates did anytime “Steppin’ Out” came on, which no doubt annoyed and embarrassed his fiancé. It wouldn’t surprise me if he busted out that awkward dance Sunday evening to see if it still annoyed his wife of 34 years.
A few years later I introduced him to bands like U2 and Pearl Jam. ↩
Unfortunately my uncle didn’t have the voice for radio. His roommate did, though, and spent a few years as an on-air personality before realizing selling insurance paid the bills better than being on a small-town radio station. ↩
Same woman as in 1982. They were engaged for a long, long time. I forget why. ↩
An extra-large playlist this week. I had some time to kill before a World Series game started and did a little more work than I normally do on the curation side.
“Around Your Room” – Kississippi
This doesn’t sound much like the music Kississippi has made in the past. It sounds more like a CHVRCHES song. It is utterly fabulous.
“CRY” – Julia Jacklin
Last week Julia released two new songs inspired by the state of the world. I think this one sums up how most of us feel the best.
“Get It Back” – Pearl Jam
From the sessions for this year’s Gigaton, PJ offered it up for a collection of songs that raised money and awareness for voting rights. It won’t go down as one of the band’s greatest cut tracks – they have two full disks of those – and it feels a little incomplete, so it makes sense that it did not make the final Gigaton track list. But it does sound pretty good, has a nice edge to it, and Mike McCready gets to go to work at the end.
“One Tree Hill” – U2
I’ve been out on U2 for a long time now. Their albums began to feel bloated and lazy to me around 2003. Which, to be fair, happens to most bands their age. But I also checked out on their earlier music which I had loved for decades. I guess newer sounds just fit my tastes better. (I listened to less Pearl Jam over the same span, too.) Following his top 100 Springsteen and Tom Petty lists, Steven Hyden dropped his top 100 U2 songs list this week. It made me go back and listen to those songs I used to love. Some of the magic came back. One chunk of their catalog I never fell out of love with was the songs that fill side two of The Joshua Tree. Side one is a legendary side, one of the greatest 20 or so minutes of music ever put on wax/tape. But side two is no joke, either. In time, as I got tired of the big singles on side one, I came to love side two even more. I could have put any of the first four songs on here. This is the lucky pick.
“Human Touch” – Bruce Springsteen
New Bruce album out today! I’ve read two positive reviews and one that is a little more lukewarm. When I was working through Steven Hyden’s top 100 Boss songs list, I rediscovered this song, which I had totally forgotten about. I recall liking it when it came out, but it arrived right when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were capturing my attention, and just as Bruce was slipping into his ’90s period of malaise. So it didn’t really stick with me. Maybe not an all time classic, but it still sounds pretty good. It has that great Bruce guitar sound that I just love.
“Say It Isn’t So” – The Outfield
Lead singer Tony Lewis died this week. Listen, “Your Love” is a fine song, one of those ’80s songs that will get played as long as humans are playing music. But I got sick of it back when it was played roughly every 32 minutes on pop radio in 1986. I may be the only one who thought this way, but I always liked this song more. Fight me!
“Blood on Donald Trump’s Tiny, Tiny Hands” – Grateful Dad
Fuck his racist, narcissistic ass.
“What the Water Gave Me” – Florence + The Machine
Stereogum recently ran a fundraiser to help support their independence after escaping from their previous owners. One of the benefits was that anyone who contributed over $1000 could select an extra song for Tom Breihan to review beyond his normal selection of Billboard number ones. (No, I did not contribute a grand to the cause.) This week’s entry was for this fabulous song. This is such a great performance. And it made me go back and listen to some of the F+M songs that I haven’t listened to for awhile.