Saturday, September 30, 2023

Best Magazine Reads: Remembering Gram Parsons

Gram Parsons has always left me spellbound. Songs like “Brass Buttons,” “The New Soft Shoe,” “She,” “A Song for You, and “Streets of Baltimore” are songs made by someone who must have been out of his mind and body as a young man who essentially invented the genre of so-called alt-country, even if the man himself tended to call it “Cosmic American Music.”

Parsons died 50 years ago this month and MOJO Magazine has a great memorial article titled “Cry One More Time.” Here are some of the best nuggets of info:

  • He had big hands!
  • Before music, Parsons grew up in 20,000 person swampy Waycross, Georgia as a kid of parents rich from his grandparents’ Florida fruit fortunes. His mom was called Big Avis and his dad was Coon Dog, a World War II veteran who killed himself two days before Christmas 1958.
  • Parsons had been “kicked out of The Byrds, fled his own Flying Burrito Brothers, and been booted from a Rolling Stones bacchanal in France.”
  • He had a major trust fund, but everyone else around him didn’t. So priorities were a problem for the rockers surrounding Parsons.
    Emmylou and Gram

  • At one point, Emmylou Harris became his muse and the two of them played a bunch to practically nobody at Clyde’s in Washington D.C.
  • When his band started to tour on his debut solo release GP, Gram was blitzed on cocaine and the band barely rehearsed. The so-called Fallen Angels band was derailed nearly as soon as it began.
  • Eventually they got their act together and wowed Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt in Austin, and the two even joined them on stage, later inviting Parsons and his band to “an all-night hootenanny.”
  • In the end, after his Grievous Angel album release, “he was falling apart. He didn’t get what he needed growing up” even though his colorful parents were well off financially “and he wasn’t strong enough to survive Hollywood.”

Friday, September 29, 2023

Al Michaels shows why SmartLess is probably the best podcast

Al Michaels is a master class in sports journalism. And SmartLess is a master class in comedic and heartwarming podcasts. The two collided when Michaels was recently a guest on the show, which I consider a must-listen podcast every week.

But Michaels was filled with juicy nuggets of sports history and behind-the-scenes antics of sports journalists. I highly recommend you listen to this episode if you are at all a fan of sports. It makes it pretty clear to me why he's my favorite sports commentator these days.

And Jason Bateman and Will Arnett are a couple of my favorite comedians/actors. Round that out with co-host Sean Hayes and you always have funny banter about, at the very least, nothing.

Back to Michaels. He's a really interesting person, and some of those interesting things include:

He is the only play-by-play commentator to have covered the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, and Stanley Cup Final.

He is known for his iconic calls, such as "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" during the "Miracle on Ice" hockey game at the 1980 Winter Olympics, and "Touchdown! The Giants win! The Giants win the Super Bowl!" during the New York Giants' upset victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

He has won numerous awards for his broadcasting work, including five Emmy Awards, the Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award.

He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he majored in radio and television and minored in journalism.

He is a lifelong Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and his favorite baseball player is Jackie Robinson

Now get started listening to SmartLess. There are 168 other episodes besides the Al Michaels one.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Reasons why Stephen King is (over)qualified to tell us all how to write

I guess I need to admit it. Stephen King is my favorite writer. He’s not Shakespeare or Fitzgerald or Faulkner. But he’s never written anything I didn’t like. And I’m not sure anyone’s ever written as much. Simply put, you'll rarely go wrong with King. 

Now I’m reading his book On Writing, and who knows, maybe it will inspire me to complete my first novel. Meanwhile, here’s some of his advice from the long introductory section that he titles “C.V.,” which I think is his way of telling us that these are his qualifications for being a writer:

  • Read The Elements of Style, one of the only writer’s self-help books that’s not full of shit.
  • Read everything you can get your hands on and write a lot. (The back of the book has a great list of King’s favorite reads of the past 10 years or so. Not only how does he write so much, but how does he read so much?!)
  • He was not formed as a writer and doesn’t remember much of his childhood, much like me. We both remember certain things, like the painful ones such as when I biked into a picnic table corner, my multiple other bike wrecks, getting stung by wasps while trimming hedges, and at least one of my parents’ blow-out arguments prior to their divorce.
  • Blow up your TV. King learned to read and write before his family had a TV. Having one might not make a difference in your hopes of writing the great American novel, but it might. I suppose your phone might even be a bigger problem in terms of time sucking.
  • As a kid, he loved movies he termed as "Poepictures," and after seeing The Pit and the Pendulum, he wrote a "novelized" eight-page version of it, made copies, and sold them at school. Edgar Allan Poe is in my upper echelon of heroes, so I can relate.
  • King learned a revelation about drafting copy from his high-school editor: “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, you’re taking out all the things that are not the story.” This makes sense to me because I think tangents may be a good and interesting thing when in conversation (not everyone agrees with me on that) but they can be a real bummer in a book you're reading.
  • Graveyard Shift, which was turned into a silly and entertaining horror movie, was one of his first short stories, based on the stories by his coworkers at a clothing mill about rats as big as dogs underneath the place.
  • King could have easily given in to despair in those early years. It was very difficult for him to write when he worked at a laundry and later when he was a creative-writing teacher. But he credits his wife Tabitha with always encouraging him and never telling him any of his writing was a waste of time.
  • King, who was an alcoholic in his early years of writing and even based much of The Shining on himself, would use the “Hemingway Defense” that he could be a sensitive man in his writing but had to otherwise be tough (drunk equated to tough). He was drinking a case of 16-ounce Miller Lites a night at one point and doesn’t even remember writing Cujo. He, lucky for all of us, writes that now he realizes “the idea that creative endeavor is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time” and that Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and Dylan Thomas are largely responsible for it.
  • At one point early on, he bought a gargantuan desk and put it in the middle of a room. But he realized it made him miserable. He eventually replaced it with a living-room suite and soon the family was joining him there and keeping him happy. “Put your desk in the corner. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
Dude is wise. I can’t wait to read the rest of On Writing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Lydia Loveless shoots into the running for my favorite albums of 2023

I love alt-country rocker Lydia Loveless's songs so much. They really don't release anything but greatness and their new long player, Nothing's Gonna Stand in My Way Again, could easily be my favorite album of the year on any given day. 

Right now, it's in the running for my album of the year alongside: 

  • Lil Yachty's Let's Start Here (a cross of Pink Floyd and the best Funkadelic that never releases its sonic grip. The Atlanta mumble rapper graduates from his old style into a super slick batch of jazzy, dancey, and weird pop greatness)
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit's Weathervanes (the former Drive-by Trucker's magnum opus. He has had great albums before but this is his most perfect alt-country display), and
  • yes, wait for it, Taylor Swift's Speak Now (Taylor's Version) (I defy anyone to say this isn't an amazing collection of 22 (!!!) songs. They are all great, and many are stunningly great).

Back to Loveless. Who the heck is they, you ask? From Columbus, Ohio, their music combines pop, outlaw country, honky tonk, and punk. Loveless identifies as gender fluid, grew up on a farm, and was home-schooled. They were an outcast and dare I say rebel from an early age, living in a small Ohio town that was heavily regious and conformist, but life got better at 14 when their family moved to Columbus.

To me, Loveless's last four albums, ever since 2014, have each been immaculate. They have some releases before then that I simply haven't dug into yet, but I probably should. And I've got to get to some of her live shows, which critics have called "energetic and engaging."

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

RIP Brooks Robinson

Brooks Robinson, it's pretty easy to argue, is the greatest defensive third baseman in baseball history. He won 16 Gold Glove Awards, second only to Greg Maddux and tied with Jim Kaat, both of whom were pitchers and not position players like Robinson.

He has died at age 86, and 23 of those years were spent playing for the Baltimore Orioles, his one and only major league team. Robinson was a World Series winner in 1966 over the Dodgers and in 1970 over the Reds. The Hall of Famer was also an All Star for 15 straight seasons and hit 268 home runs and 1,357 RBIs.

Known as "Mr. Oriole" and "The Human Vacuum Cleaner," he was by all accounts a great guy and someone I would have liked to seen play in person. Being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I can appreciate great defensive third basemen, as I've gotten to enjoy Ken Reitz, Terry Pendleton, Gary Gaetti, Scott Rolen, and Nolan Arenado over the years.

Monday, September 25, 2023

RIP Terry “Cherish” Kirkman

Terry Kirkman is on the bottom right
It’s probably not exceedingly cool to admit to a love for several songs by 1960s hippy flower children The Association. But to me, Cherish” and “Never My Love” are a couple of the best tunes of that rock ‘n’ roll-plentiful decade.

Terry Kirkman was a founding member of The Association and sang many of the band’s greatest hits, after already impressively playing music with Frank Zappa, Cass Elliot, and David Crosby. He was clearly a talent and needed an outlet. “Windy,” “Along Comes Mary,” “Everything That Touches You,” and “No Fair At All” are also each worth adding to your collection.

RIP Terry Kirkman, who has died at age 83 from congestive heart failure.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

10 interesting things about the production of You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

In the past, I've considered You Don't Mess with the Zohan as part of Adam Sandler's pretty-good run, even if it didn't make my top 60 favorite comedy movies list

It suffers a bit from being a little overly long at nearly two hours. It is one of the flat-out silliest movies you'll find in all of Hollywood, so while I find it side-splittingly funny in a lot of parts, it's also quite a bit to take all at once.

Everything has already been said in terms of what happens in Sandler's inventive tale of an Israeli special-forces soldier who longs to be the next Paul Mitchell, but here are 10 interesting things about the production of Zohan.

  1. Sandler, Robert Smigel, and Judd Apatow developed the film for release in 2008 after Sandler heard about an Israeli soldier who wanted to be a hairdresser. OK, so maybe it wasn't such an inventive idea, but you have to give him credit for taking that small bit of real-life information and turning it into what would have to be considered a very good extended Saturday Night Live bit.
  2. Nezi Arbib
    Nezi Arbib was that real-life inspiration. Performing his hairstyling in Solana Beach, California, Arbib taught Sandler and his crew his hairstyling techniques and Sandler adapted his mannerisms for the role. I wonder if part of those mannerisms were actually to seduce his clients with such a ridiculous amount of midsection grinding actions.
  3. The opening scene on the beach is actually shot in Tel Aviv, but the rest is filmed in New York and Los Angeles, with some scenes in Mexico, which served as a good substitute for Israel.
  4. Sandler did many of his own stunts in a very stunt-filled comedy. It's impressive, and he allegedly trained pretty hard learning martial arts and wirework.
  5. Emmanuelle Chriqui
    Several Israeli actors were cast in the film, including the Zohan's main love interest Emmanuelle Chriqui, who played Dalia and is Moroccan/Israeli.
  6. Zohan is loaded in terms of cast members. It seems anyone in Hollywood would do anything to work with Sandler. The film included John Turturro, Lainie Kazan, and Rob Schneider in bigger roles. Bit parts are too many to mention, but include Chris Rock, Kevin James, John McEnroe, Kevin Nealon, Mariah Carey, Sandler family members, Apatow, Dave Matthews, Charlotte Rae, George Takei, and Dom DeLuise.
  7. A professional hairstylist was on set to train in some of the amaazing styles that harken back to Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Olivia Newton John.
  8. It must be said that some of the comedy is pretty raunchy and a little jarring in today's post-#MeToo era. There are especially a lot of Middle Eastern stereotypes that Sandler was able to defend at the time as simply being intended to be funny and not serious in any way. I think another perspective, to be fair, would be that Sandler was doing his part to positively address the never-ending war between Israel and Palestine by showing how the two groups can get along just fine when they are living far away in the United States.
  9. Critics only gave Zohan a 37% and audiences not much better at 45%, but that didn't keep it from making more than $200 million worldwide.
  10. The soundtrack is a mix of Israeli, Middle Eastern, and pop music, with Carey's acting skills being probably the best music-related thing about the movie. I'm not a fan of her music but she is pretty funny here.

I'm kinder to Zohan after all these years than other fans and critics.

4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Cancer-movie formula gets a well-acted new entry with Sitting in Bars with Cake

I can’t say Sitting in Bars with Cake, an Amazon original movie, was at the top of my list to watch as a way to spend Friday night. Movies about people who get cancer can obviously be very tough to watch. But they are also important to digest, especially since so many of us can relate and it can be helpful to watch how others process and handle our loved ones dealing with cancer.

All cancer stories are unique, and this one is no exception. It’s uplifting because the work and fun two girls in their 20s who have been friends since they were little amounts to something by the end. Yari Shahidi, formerly of Black-ish, is Jane, who can make beautiful cakes. Odessa A’Zion plays her best friend Corinne, who is outgoing and gets diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer halfway through their quest to take 50 different cakes to 50 different bars as a way to find the quieter Jane a boyfriend.

That diagnosis changes the plan, but maybe not entirely. A’Zion is a daughter of Pamela Adlon of Better Things and is a star in the making. For one, she’ll be in the next season of American Horror Story. Also making this movie, which is based on a true story, more compelling for me is the supporting cast, played particularly well by Bette Midler, Ron Livingstone of Office Space, and Martha Kelly of Baskets.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, September 22, 2023

12 things that led up to Jimi Hendrix's death

Jimi and Monika Danneman
Jimi Hendrix died September 18, 1970, the morning after a party held by Who manager Kit Lambert. But, as Carmen Geddes lays out in "Are You Experienced? The Death of Jimi Hendrix," a short essay from The Mammoth Book of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll, he began dying a little bit back at the start of 1967's Summer of Love. Here are the steps that led to that fateful morning.

  1. Hendrix was booked at the Monterey International Pop Festival in California as a way to highlight him to audiences in the U.S., where he was still mostly unknown even though he was from Seattle. He would go on to steal the show with his famed guitar burning, quite a feat considering the level of talent involved, including Simon and Garfunkel, The Grateful Dead, The Mamas and Papas, The Who, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding. But because of his astounding show, he (for better and worse), quickly became a very-in demand live performer.
  2. When he was booked to play shows with The Monkees, he was brought to the attention of the right-wing group The Daughters of the American Revolution. They did not like him and were successful in getting rid of that double bill.
  3. This resulted in Hendrix heading back to Europe, where he would often play two shows a night. Fatigue, acid, and alcohol caused him to lose it, getting arrested for destroying a Gothenburg, Sweden hotel room.
  4. Back in the U.S. at the start of 1968, Hendrix got a new manger named Mike Jeffrey, who was able to get The Experience between $50,000 and $100,000 per gig. This became a psychological burden to Hendrix, who worried that the kids would think he was selling out. At one point in February, he disappeared for two days.
  5. Now into 1969 and still carrying on as perilously usual, Hendrix announced, unexpectedly to anyone, including his band, at Mile Hile Stadium in Denver that it would be the last show for The Experience.
  6. He was busted for heroin in Toronto.
  7. He became convinced his manager, Jeffrey, was ripping him off.
  8. He was kidnapped by supposed mobsters and held in a remote hideout for two days. Hendrix was convinced Jeffrey orchestrated the whole thing.
  9. Hendrix began performing as a member of A Band of Gypsies. At the Isle of Wight Festival in England, bassist Billy Cox was given a drink spiked with acid, which he had never had before and nearly had a nervous breakdown.
  10. Jimi met Danish skating instructor Monika Danneman while touring in Germany and the two hid away in a British hotel room. She claimed Hendrix had asked her to marry him and have babies, but most people say there is no way Jimi would have done that with someone he barely knew.
  11. The story gets very fuzzy the morning Hendrix died. Danneman claims she came back from getting him cigarettes to find him unresponsive in bed. She then realized she was missing about nine of her sleeping pills. She also claims the ambulance personnel told her they would all be laughing about this by the afternoon, but the ambulance employees said that was never the case and Jimi was dead on arrival at the hospital.
  12. Those same ambulance workers claim they arrived to find Jimi already dead and horrifically covered in black and brown vomit.
Hendrix and manager Mike Jeffrey
Years later, in 1995, Danneman published her version of what happened with Jimi, and in the process called another Jimi ex-girlfriend a liar. That girlfriend sued Danneman, who was then found in contempt of court. Two days later, Danneman was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in her Mercedes. Earlier, in 1973, former manager Mike Jeffrey died in a plane crash on the way to find out what would happen to Hendrix's British music royalties.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The irresistible tragicness of Syd Barrett's post-Pink Floyd life captured perfectly in essay

While eagerly awaiting more word on when we're going to actually get to see the upcoming movie Have You Got It Yet?: The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, I stumbled on a fascinating two-page essay that told me a lot about the founder and leader of Pink Floyd's estrangement from rock music and the world at large.

I've had The Mammoth Book of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll on my bookshelf for 20 years and had never read "An Afternoon with Syd Barrett," by Jenny Fabian. (The full, very short essay is also fully online.) Here's my summary of the highlights:

Jenny Fabian's book Groupie
Although I'm not sure of the exact date of publication, Barrett had moved on from the Floyd and had released his solo album, The Madcap Laughs, and the artist was surprisingly not too hard for Fabian to find. She had published a popular book at the time, Groupie, and wanted to interview him for a column she was writing for her current gig at Harpers & Queen (which was later renamed Harper's Bazaar).

I wasn't sure how he'd react, for it was three years since I'd last seen him and the word was that he'd flipped beyond repair. He answered the phone himself, and I was surprised at how friendly he seemed. He told me to come to his flat in Earls Court the following afternoon. ... He opened the door. He was barefoot and his dark hair hung wild and matted round his waxy white face. 

Barrett proceeded to prepare things for himself and his guest with the only things he had in the kitchen - one egg spread over one piece of stale bread for him and a dirty glass of water for her.

There was nothing much in the flat other than floorboards he had painted himself and albums strewn about. They sat on his lumpy bed and smoked a joint. 

We must have sat there for several hours, most of the time in silence, and he didn't seem inclined to put any sounds on. I felt no need to get through to him because I knew he was out the other side and miles away. His thoughts were like currents in the air, as though they had exploded uncontrollably from a brain that had been boiled in acid and split like a tomato skin.

He was completely self-indulgent with his imagination, never trying to control or direct it within any bounds of reason. Reasoning was inconclusive and unnecessary to him, because one reason led endlessly to another. I asked him if any reason ever led to an answer. He looked startled at the sound of my voice. Then he told me that as there is no reason, there is no answer. It seemed there was nowhere left to go, and he knew it.

Fabian's main takeaway was that Syd was "irresistibly tragic" and eventually the two of them started kissing, she forgot about her notebook, and their clothes got lost in the piles of other clothes on the bed and floor.

Afterwards, she wrote:

He put on a Beach Boys LP and it played over and over again until I couldn't stand it any longer and had to leave.

5 out of 5 stars 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Lemonheads return with a bang to DC's 9:30 Club

Never doubt Evan Dando and his Lemonheads.
Evan Dando and John P. Strohm

His show with Juliana Hatfield at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. last December was a hot mess, especially after much anticipation for its billing as the 30th anniversary tour of It's a Shame About Ray. The two of them just chopped at their guitars, forgot lyrics, often were barely audible vocally, and basically jammed like they were learning new songs instead of playing those two-minute pop punk ditties clean and tight like they really have to be for full live enjoyment. 

I've seen Dando many times and he is right up in my pantheon of rock heroes with The Beatles, Guided by Voices, Pavement, Jeff Tweedy, Lou Reed, and the Beach Boys. And almost never fails to bring an exciting live show, including such endearing asides as letting me play his acoustic guitar one time backstage at Iota in Arlington, Virginia and signing my chest (for some reason) after one of the very best concerts I've ever seen, Soul Asylum and the Lemonheads at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis in 1992.

Now, less than a year later, he was back at the 9:30 Club last night for another 30th anniversary celebration, this time for an album equally excellent to Ray, Come On Feel the Lemonheads. And it was like night and day. The place wasn't as packed as it was on his last tour, but the people there got a heaping helping of top-notch entertainment.

I wasn't even sure until yesterday that I would go. But as the sun started to set, I hopped on my bike, unable to miss whatever would be in store. Promising videos from recent live shows combined with the promise of seeing opener John P. Strohm, largely retired for playing music, convinced me to go. I figured Strohm's consumate professionalism might keep Evan on his toes, and whether that mattered or not, I don't know, but Dando and Strohm both rocked.

Evan joins the crowd.
Strohm has his own avalanche of great songs through his years in Blake Babies, Antenna, Velo Deluxe, and with his solo material. He recruited a keyboard buddy from Philadelphia to accompany his guitar playing and treated us to Blake Babies' classic "Out There," although unfortunately he declined to play "Girl in a Box," which may be his greatest song but which he also says he'll never sing again, assumedly based on the lyrical content about literally keeping a girl in a box as his plaything. Another highlight was "Slip Away" from his country album Caledonia. The songs off his upcoming new album also sounded great.

Strohm would come back out for part of the Lemonheads set. But first Evan and drummer John Kent and bassist Farley Glavin opened with a killer version of "Killing Moon" by Echo and the Bunnymen. This was the start of what would prove to be very tight playing by the three piece and what I think is Evan's best band since the heyday of Nic Dalton and David Ryan.

The next 15 songs were Come On Feel in its entirety, with the best highlights too many to mention, but certainly included "The Great Big No," "Into Your Arms," "Down About It," Big Gay Heart," "Rick James Style," and "The Jello Fund."

Then it was Evan solo time. "The Outdoor Type" was gorgeous, Then he played a serious of country covers by Gram Parsons, Florida Georgia Line, Randy Travis, and more. 

The final act, when the band and Strohm joined back in, was probably the most powerhouse of the evening. "Hospital" rocked out of the gate, with "My Drug Buddy," "It's a Shame About Ray," and "Rudderless" each being loaded with vigor and heart. 

The band left again to let Evan play a tremendous drum-only version of "Lyin' Eyes" by the Eagles. Then the band and Strohm came back for a ripping closer of "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You." People probably thought I was nuts, but I couldn't stop singing that last song at the top of my lungs my whole bike ride back home.

5 out of 5 stars

I even got a souvenir instead of the usual super-lame Ticketmaster ticket on my phone.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Sherwood Anderson’s lack of plot led to unsatisfying storytelling

Sherwood Anderson is said to have been a major influence on the work of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and John Steinbeck. After taking a dive into some of his short stories, I’m still not entirely sure what they saw in him.

Anderson grew up in Ohio and moved all around the Midwest. He became an ad man in Chicago and never actually published his first book until he was older than 40. His most famous work is Winesburg, Ohio, which is a collection of related stories.

“Hands” is one of the stories from Winesburg, Ohio, from 1919. Wing Biddlebaum is a little old man who has lived in Winesburg for 20 years and works in the fields. He keeps to himself and is mostly a mystery to the townsfolk. It turns out his name was once Adolph Myers and he was a school teacher in a Pennsylvania town who was accused of sexually molesting the boys. He denies it and truly doesn’t seem to have been guilty, but nobody believes him and some of the men take him to hang one night before being let go at the last minute and allowed to run away and never come back. This is an enjoyable and short read, but I’m not sure Anderson succeeds in what appears to be some kind of profound metaphor about how the hands perhaps tell the whole story about a person. 3 out of 5 stars

"Brothers" from 1921 tells one of his typical tales of small-town isolation. One man, on his regular walks around his village outside of Chicago, often encounters an old man who people say has lost his mind, and always tells lies and that he is related to famous people. The walking man is nearly totally silent at night when he returns from his bicycle-factory foreman job. But he begins to fantasize about one woman at the factory and then for almost no reason stabs his pregnant wife to death. He is found guilty and later one day somehow encounters the old man again. The old man doesn’t know he’s talking to the murderer but tells the man his brother is the murderer. One of these days I hope to find an Anderson story that clicks, but this is aimless and doesn’t hold up over the past century. 2 out of 5 stars

“Death in the Woods” comes along later, in 1933, and while it feels like the tale of a more mature writer, it still suffers from lack of action and lack of anything exciting happening. He tells the story from the point of view of a boy who sees the body of a lady named Grimes who has frozen in the snow on her walk home from picking up meat. Her dogs eat the meat out of her bag before her body is discovered. The town tries to pin the death on her rotten drunk husband and son but they have alibis and instead are run out of town. 2.5 out of 5 stars

Anderson wrote an essay in 1924 detailing his method, and it explained quite a bit as to why I’m not crazy about his work. He was interested in form rather than plot, going so far as to call plot “contrived fiction.” In that sense, his stories are more like paintings or simply conversations. He mostly related stories from his own life, but his writing worked to get at the meaning of his life at the possible expense of the facts of his life, which, to me, means the lack of facts and plot in his writing make for some pretty unsatisfying stories.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Remembering Nirvana's road to Nevermind

Nevermind by Nirvana remains certainly one of the top 10 albums of the 1990s. Here are some of the most interesting things to know about that release.

When Scream broke up, Buzz Osborne of the Melvins connected Scream's drummer Dave Grohl with Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic. This was the lineup that was going to change the rock world.

In early 1991, the band traveled from Washington state to L.A. to sign a $287,000 contract with David Geffen's DGC label. This was quite a step up from the alleged $600 record contract Nirvana had secured at the time of its debut recording Bleach.

Next, Nirvana landed on Butch Vig to be their producer, after Vig had recently produced the incredible Smashing Pumpkins debut Gish. Once in the studio, Vig learned to record warmups because leader Kurt Cobain would be temperamental and sit alone for periods of time but could also blow out his vocals sometimes after a few takes.

When Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman heard early versions of what would become Nevermind, he was not kidding when he said Nirvana could be bigger than The Beatles.

Before the band decided on the album's eventual title, it was originally going to be called Sheep.

The final cut of Nevermind was recorded at Sound City in L.A. and, ironically, hair-metalers Europe was recording there at the same time. Of course, Nirvana in often single-handedly credited with the death of hair metal. But, in January 1992, it wasn't that genre that was replaced by Nirvana's grunge but rather Michael Jackson’s Dangerous that was replaced in the number-one slot by Nevermind in England?

I was lucky in getting to see Nirvana on my 21st birthday, on October 16, 1991 at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis. Kurt, Krist, and Dave didn't tour at all in 1992. In January, Cobain married Courtney Love in Hawaii, and the rest is history.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Anthony Bourdain helps me focus my travel bucket list, Part 1

I’m reading World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, which was published after famed chef Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide. His co-author compiles Bourdain’s impressions and here is some of the good stuff.

Buenos Aires, Argentina has a “quirky, unique character” that looks and feels like no other place, with “a sad, sweet quality” that Bourdain liked. Everyone there goes to psychotherapy and there “are more headshrinkers per capita than anywhere else in the world.” I’m not sure Tony sells me.

Melbourne, Australia is not at all like the Crocodile Dundee, Fosters, shrimp-on-the-Barbie stereotype portrayed in the movies. It is more like “San Francisco without the fog.” There is a mixed culture of Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek, and Lebanese and, if you visit, you are required to get a bratwurst at the Queen Vic Market. But even better sounding to me is the true Sichuan that it’s possible to get in Melbourne. It’s spiciness hurts but it’s nearly impossible not keep wanting more. Bourdain likes the turquoise blue water and sunny beaches of Sydney as well, not to mention the mud crabs and cooked lobster, but he didn’t like the city as much as Melbourne. I’m sold; Australia remains very high on my bucket list.

Vienna Ferris wheel
Vienna, Austria was a place Bourdain was initially ambivalent about, like “any country where they speak German,” but that was slowly replaced by enchantment. It’s a city with a rich cultural history, including musicians Johann Strauss, Johannes Brahms, and Gustav Mahler, as well as artists like Gustav Klimt, and also Sigmund Freud. Public transit, called Wiener Linien, is comprehensive, excellent, and easy. In the Prater, one of the city’s large public parks, there is an amusement park with the world’s oldest (1897) Ferris wheel, which appeared in Orson Welles’ The Third Man. He also says to not miss the Naschmarkt, a huge outdoor market where pork and cheese are must buys. I somehow didn’t make it to Vienna when my brother and sister-in-law lived there, but my excuse was that was mostly during the pandemic. I still want to get someday.

Bhutan penis art
Bhutan, high in the Himalayas and between India and Tibet, is a place where limited visitors are allowed and tourism only began there in the 1970s. The cliffs and mountain passes are stunning and half of the country’s GDP comes from hydropower. Its international airport is considered possibly the most dangerous to fly into in the world. Largely untouched by man’s destruction of the earth, the capital and largest city Thimphu has been drawing many from the countryside and is beginning to show environmental pains. That said, the momos (dumplings) are a favorite. So too is the mountain village of Punakha, where there is a plethora of penis paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Bhutan has long celebrated the phallus, ever since Drukpa Kunley led the community 500 years ago as a lama, holy man, Buddhism spreader, and madman. I would love to get there, but it sure doesn’t sound like an easy trek.

Salvador, Brazil
Salvador, Brazil is, however, a place I have been. Bourdain raves about this city on the northern coast, with its sounds of drums, where “things seem to just sway and move constantly,” and where “everybody is sexy.” It was once Brazil’s capital and remains the capital of the state of Bahia. In 1558, it was the inauspicious first place where slave ships landed in the New World from West Africa. I recall riding the Elevador Lacerda, which is a public elevator “that connects the lower and upper levels of the city.” I also remember drinking caipirinhas all across the city, including from vendors on the beach, with one bartender originally from Portugal turning us on to these drinks made with kiwis rather than limes, which is a brilliant twist on the national cocktail. “Shaken, not stirred, and you’ve got yourself one of the world's truly great cocktails,” Bourdain correctly noted. I would go back to Salvador in a heartbeat, maybe adding a leg in the Amazon, the main place I have yet to travel in beautiful Brazil.

Ankor Wat
Cambodia is another place I’ve been, having journeyed there in 2009 with my wife and nearly-two-year-old son. Like Salvador, this country has an evil and awful history, since Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge rolled into Phnom Penh in 1975 and killed 1.7 million people in a quest “to create an ultra-Marxist agrarian wonderland.” Those not killed were forced into slavery and marched into “the killing fields” surrounding the city and to work the land. Vietnam invaded to end the madness in 1979, but some of Pol Pot’s cronies still remain in positions of power. The ugly is balanced with the marvelous when traveling through Cambodia. Bourdain remembered “the smell of jackfruit, woodsmoke, dried fish, raw chicken, breakfast,” and the pho-like ka tieu. I remember, at Siem Reap, the floating village was astounding, with shops and markets and schools and taxis and everything else you can imagine situated on boats and platforms in the water. I also of course remember Ankor Wat, the crumbling kingdom in the jungle built in the twelfth century. Get to this country if you can.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

More great-looking cocktails to try with your yellow chartreuse

I recently wrote about my discovery of the joys of yellow chartreuse. Since then I’ve tried the Naked and Famous and La Valencia a couple more times and can vouch that they are indeed cocktails you must introduce into your rotations.

Now I’ve researched more yellow chartreuses drinks. I haven’t tried any of them, but I will try all, with the Quarterback and the Nathalia particularly high on my list.

Ambrosia Cocktail, not to be confused with the Ambrosia champagne-based cocktail and referred to as a Greek “elixir of life,” is custard colored, complex, and herbal:

  • .75 parts cognac
  • 2 parts Bols Advocaat liqueur (a Dutch brandy that has egg yolks and sugar and is natural with no preservatives)
  • 1 part Licor 43 (which is a yellow, vanilla liqueur that is popular in Spain)
  • .5 parts yellow chartreuse
  • Garnish with nutmeg 
Brandy Fix is a tart classic:
  • 2 parts cognac
  • .5 parts pineapple juice
  • .5 parts fresh lemon juice
  • .25 parts simple syrup
  • .15 parts yellow chartreuse
  • Garnish with lemon zest
Daisy Cutter Martini is floral, minty, herbal, and dry:
  • 3 mint leaves muddled
  • 1.5 parts Ketel One vodka
  • 1 part St. Germain elderflower
  • 1 part dry vermouth
  • .25 parts yellow chartreuse
  • Garnish with floating mint leaf
East Village Athletic Club is a reference to a club in Detroit when this drink was invented, in 1951. This recipe is adapted by some New Yorkers:
  • .75 parts blanco tequila
  • .75 parts yellow chartreuse
  • .75 parts Grand Marnier
  • .75 parts fresh lemon juice
  • Garnish with lime wedge
Nathalia is a strong banana cognac drink that was discovered at a bar in Paris:
  • 2 parts cognac
  • .75 parts yellow chartreuse
  • .75 parts crème de banane liqueur
  • 1 dash angostura bitters
  • Garnish with orange zest
Oddball Manhattan Dry is:
  • 2.5 parts Bulliet bourbon (you can use any bourbon, but I think Bulliet is excellent for mixing)
  • 1 part dry vermouth
  • .5 parts yellow chartreuse
  • 3 dash angostura bitters
  • 2 maraschino cherries
The Quarterback
Quarterback is a white, creamy, and flavorful drink with a bite:
  • 1 part yellow chartreuse
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • 1 part double heavy cream
  • 1 part milk
  • Garnish with orange zest

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Painkiller successfully turns non-fiction news into serious entertainment

Painkiller, a six-episode series on Netflix, is especially successful because of some of the subtler touches, such as Dr. Richard Sackler’s smoke alarms constantly going off somewhere in his massive hall of a mansion. He can never figure out how to silence them, or sometimes even locate them, which is likely a metaphor for the possible guilt he’ll maybe one day feel for killing massive amounts of people throughout the OxyContin opioid-abuse crisis. But that's big maybe. He is one evil dude in shlumpy body and a suit.

This show represents what I believe is a way to tell a true story that can potentially help fix a crisis that is happening in real life. The public no longer has an excuse to turn a blind eye to the way pharmaceutical companies, in this case Purdue, use marketing to get doctors to prescribe pain medicine that is incredibly addictive, destructive, and virtually impossible to stop taking for patients who want desperately to stop their pain.

The action revolves around four characters, who are each played with great skill by well-known actors. 

  • Matthew Broderick plays Sackler, the ultra-creepy and ruthless OxyContin mastermind. 
  • Taylor Kitsch of Friday Night Lights fame plays Glen, a happy and healthy auto-repair shop owner whose life spins out of control after an accident at work and a newfound dependence on pills. 
  • Orange is the New Black's Uzo Aduba devotedly investigates Purdue, sure that there are darker corporate Big Pharma forces at work behind the reason her brother is in prison.
  • Saint X's West Duchovny, daughter of David, is a good young woman who gets caught up in the riches available to Purdue's army of salespeople.

The story focuses on how Sackler strategically swayed the FDA into approving OxyContin in a way no other drug had ever been approved, noting in the application that it is "believed to" relieve pain and not be addictive. He recruits an FDA middle manager who is holding up the process to take up the good life with a cushy job at Purdue. Meanwhile, the sales army is busy partying and urging doctors to not just prescribe more OxyContin, but to up the doses. The reps' salaries and bonuses were, I kid you not, based on the amount of milligrams they could get the doctors to push.

Painkiller is essential entertainment and education.

5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

15 interesting nuggests I learned about Seinfeld in the book Seinfeldia

Jennifer Armstrong wrote a fascinating book about the ultra-classic TV comedy Seinfeld. The book, Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, was released in 2016 and I started it when it was released but only now got back to finish it. Although it’s certainly worth reading on its own, here are a handful of the endless nuggets of interest:

  • Seinfeld's first TV role was as a mailman on Benson in 1979, but the gig only lasted three episodes before he was fired. His only line each episode? "Give a cheer, Frankie's here."
  • Before his first appearance on Johnny Carson in 1981, he started jogging and constantly listening to the Superman theme to get himself ready.
  • After writing for the late-night comedy Fridays, Seinfeld co-creator Larry David was hired for Saturday Night Live, where he only got one skit on air. That said, his one season was 1984-1985, which just happens to be my all-time favorite year, with Martin Short, Billy Crystal, and one Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
  • Seinfeld was a little annoyed when he was asked to take some of his free “day” time to come in for a meeting with NBC network executives. After all, as a stand-up comedian, he was only supposed to work nights.
  • Kramer was based on a real-life neighbor of Larry David’s named Kramer who lived across the hall from him in a midtown Manhattan subsidized high rise for struggling artists.
  • It took Jason Alexander two lines of reading for the producers for them to know he was the right choice, pitting an established actor against the more raw Seinfeld.
  • Rosie O’Donnell was one of the other actors in the running for the Elaine part that went to JLD. SNL alum Brad Hall was one of those in the running for George Costanza.
  • Alexander realized early on that his character was supposed to be like Larry David. At that point, he stopped trying to make the character like Woody Allen.
  • Michael Richards' costars felt like they never really knew him very well. One thing was for sure about the guy who played Kramer, his costars would often die laughing from his acting, and he would get very angry at them for messing up his momentum.
  • Elaine’s legendary awful dancing at the J Peterman party was inspired by SNL head Loren Michaels' equally bad moves.
  • The Soup Nazi was influenced by a Manhattan soup shop where people lined up and were berated by a staffer, and there was also something similar in the film Sleepless in Seattle.
  • Jerry’s on-screen dad had been Jackie Gleason's stand-in on The Honeymooners. He had also been a real-life policeman and in movies including Dudly Moore's Arthur. His on-screen mom had been the first real-life steamy love affair of James Dean’s.
  • George’s girlfriend, Susan, played an integral role in later seasons. But while Alexander liked the actor who played her offset, he felt he could never work well with her when they were in character.
  • Lots of rumors swirled as the show came to an end in its ninth season. One that I don’t recall was how people thought there would be a spinoff show with Elaine, George, and Kramer, but no Jerry.
  • The only real blot on any of the main players’ careers was a doozy. Richards’ career came shuttering to a halt when he had an N-word-laced outburst during a comedy set seven years after Seinfeld had ended. About the only thing he ever appeared on after that was the Seinfeld reunion on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld's own Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and the doozy that was Kirstie (Kirstie Alley's late-career sitcom).

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Beck and Phoenix rock a pretty sweet Maryland venue

Beck sings with Weyes Blood and Thomas Mars of Phoenix.
Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, Maryland was a bad word for me for many years. I had seen the Beastie Boys there in 2005 and the takeaway that stuck with me for years was that it was a place with truly awful sound. Plus, the vibe wasn't as cozy and nice as the similar outdoor ampitheater Wolftrap down in Virginia. And even though I was right in the pit for a 2010 Vampire Weekend show, the sound still wasn't optimal. Neil Young and Crazy Horse in 2003 wasn't great either.

But I've officially changed my mind after seeing Phoenix and Beck on Sunday night. The sound was frankly amazing. And the visual show from both acts was top notch, as was the general vibe up in the lawn.

Since renovations at Merriweather, in fact, I've also seen Wilco and Hall and Oates with Squeeze, and both shows had excellent sound.

Back to Sunday night, my friend Brian and I arrived with our sons after the two opening acts had finished and right before the start of Phoenix. I've been a fan of the French band since its 2004 sophomore album Alphabetical. Highlights of the set included "Lisztomania," "Alpha Zulu," and "1901," with singer Thomas Mars (who my son thought looked like Tom Cruise, which I agree with if you sprinkle in a little Timothée Chalamet) walking through and jumping into the crowd during closer "Identical."

Beck, who has always been on my bucket list of artists to catch live, played a very crowd-pleasing set full of massive hits like "Loser," "Devil's Haircut," "The New Pollution," "Sexx Laws," and Deborah." Mellow tracks "The Golden Age" and "Lost Cause" were my favorites, and I was thrilled to get those songs from my favorite Beck album Sea Change. Beck has come a long way since breaking out with the timeless "Loser" 29 years ago and has transformed into a mega rock star with very cinematic, L.A.-feeling qualities. He really knows how to entertain and captivate a 20,000-seat venue. Phoenix and openers Weyes Blood and Sir Chloe joined in for a rousing end, with bouncing Flaming Lips-like balloons everywhere, to the so-called "Summer Odyssey Tour" on "Where It's At."

Everyone left happy, and you know what, the renovations there may have even addressed some of the parking, because we scooted right on out from our top-of-the-garage spot. Well done, Merriweather.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Wrapping up another stellar year in men's and women's tennis

Another amazing year of professional tennis has, for the serious part of the season, come to an end. The highlight had to be the year-ended ascent to Coco Gauff's first Grand Slam title, at the U.S. Open. It seems like it took forever for this day to come, so it's easy to forget Coco is still only 19 years old.

That's even younger than Carlos Alcaraz, who lost his chance for a rematch with Novak Djokovik, losing to Daniil Medvedev in the semis. I really enjoy Medvedev's kind of goofball powerful style of play, but he was no match for Djokovik's record 24th Grand Slam win in the final.

With Rafael Nadal presently sidelined, Alcaraz is now my favorite player. This year, Alcaraz won Wimbledon and kept Djoko from a Grand Slam sweep, as he also captured the Australian Open and the French Open. U.S. players Francis Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Ben Shelton, and Chris Eubanks are my next favorites. Perhaps 2024 will be the year one or more of them break through for a Grand Slam title, although Shelton and Eubanks could still be a year or two away.

Besides Medvedev and the Americans, I think the only real threats to knock off the two greatest players right now - Djokovik and Alcaraz - are Nick Kyrios, Nadal, Holger Rune, Jannik Sinner, and Andrey Rublev.

Gauff's win was truly remarkable. She was able to outlast the new number-one woman Aryna Sabalenka, who will unseat Iga Swiatek, who has held the number-one spot for 75 straight weeks (third-longest in WTA histroy). That said, Swiatek only won the French, with Sabalenka winning the Australian, and Markéta Vondroušová taking Wimbledon. The women's game seems to be getting some exciting parity, with any one of those ladies possibly winning big tourneys next year. Karolina Muchova, Ons Jabeur, Elena Rybakina, Jessica Pegula, and now maybe even comebacker Madison Keys have real shots at being in that top-level mix soon too. 

My favorite women's players for now are Gauff, Pegula, Swiatek, and Muchova.

It's nice to get a break from all the tennis for the next few months. But it won't be long until the Australian Open and then the fifth-best tournamant, Indian Wells, will bring us back in action. For now, I'll get to focus on my own fall singles TennisDC season starting next week.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Pop Culture Presidents: #1 George Washington

My master's thesis at Georgetown was called The Pop Culturalization of the U.S. Presidency: How Monica Lewinsky Saved Democracy. Ok, now I know that sounds cheeky. But my findings were that, generally speaking, presidential candidates that had some kind of "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" past tend to do well at the polls.

I digress. This is a new series I'm starting here because I love presidential history. Each individual president’s personal story tends to tell such an incredible microcosm of what was happening in the U.S. culture at large at the time.

So with that prelude out of the way, here, for your reading pleasure, are what I think are the most interesting personal - often sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll - anecdotes of each president, mixed in with some of their key policy work as well. This first edition starts at the logical spot - big GW.



One of my favorite myths about old George is about his "wooden teeth." They weren't wooden, however, because of poor dental hygiene, he did have a metal frame mixed with ivory, gold, and other materials to hold his teeth together.

It's tough to tell whether those bad teeth did much to deter the ladies. His sex life is a topic that has been the subject of much speculation and debate. There is no definitive answer, as there are few records that explicitly detail his sexual experiences. However, there are some clues within his personal writings, letters, and other historical sources.

It is known that Washington was married twice, first to Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759 and then to Nelly Custis Lewis after Martha's death in 1799. He had no children with either wife, but this may have been due to a number of factors, including Martha's age at the time of their marriage and Washington's own health.

There is some evidence that Washington was sexually attracted to other women. For example, he wrote a series of passionate love letters to Sally Fairfax, a married woman with whom he was briefly involved in the 1750s. However, it is unclear whether these letters were simply expressions of platonic love or if they had a more physical dimension.

Along with these women, Washington, it should be noted, was a dude who seemed to also like himself quite a lot. He allowed his portrait to be painted, had major celebrations of his birthday, and could really cut the rug at those celebrations. He was also known for his tours across the country, because he recognized the importance of bringing the nation together with feelings of shared symbols and symbolism.


George Washington was a pretty heavy drinker who tended to choose Madeira wine and Port. He also drank rum punch, porter, and whiskey. That said, this behavior was not unusual for the 18th century, as everyday alcohol consumption was much more common than it is today. For example, it was used for medicinal purposes, as a way to stay warm in the winter and as a social lubricant.

There is some debate about whether Washington's alcohol consumption was excessive, but he lived to the ripe old age of 67, pretty impressive for back then. It doesn't appear that Washington used any other drugs, either recreationally or medicinally. He grew hemp at his home at Mount Vernon, but that's about it.

Rock 'n' Roll

At 6'2", GW was often the tallest man in any room he entered, so most people could probably see him frequently dancing, with typically graceful moves. He was even known to dance late into the night at balls and parties. When not partying on the dance floor, Washington could be found riding horses both for military purposes and personal pleasure and also breeding mules, perhaps his greatest passion.

Despite those outgoing sides, Washington was a very private person, known for his stoic demeanor and his reluctance to share personal details about his life. He rarely spoke about his family or his feelings, and he kept his private life pretty much to himself.

He was also a very religious man, a devout Christian who believed that God had a special plan for America. He often prayed for guidance and strength, and he believed that the U.S. was a divinely inspired nation.


Looking beyond the topics of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, the first U.S. president was elected in 1789. A member of the Federalist Party, he fervently established a strong central government and was the lead author of the Constitution and then the 10 amendments granting fundamental citizen rights in the Bill of Rights. His refused calls for a monarchy-type government or life-long terms shaped the way we elect presidents to four-year terms. He also wanted the U.S. to remain neutral and stay out of wars in Europe.

Despite protests from Thomas Jefferson and others, he envisioned Washington D.C. with Pierre L’Enfant as a magnificent capital to rival the great capitals of Europe. He also chartered a national bank.

He brokered peace between the major partisan hostilities of Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans and Alexander Hamilton’s Federalists, and in the process helped put down the anti-tax Pennsylvania farmers’ Whiskey Rebellion.

Perhaps his most lasting (although frequently disregarded these days) legacy was his call in the Farewell Address at the end of his second term to value our united nation and to beware of extreme partisanship.

Friday, September 8, 2023

RIP Mr. Yuk’s creator

As a communications professional, I’m a big fan of branding and understanding why people and organizations choose the logos they do.

One of the greatest logos of all time, especially in terms of brand recognition (we all know what it means when we see it), is the poison symbol. Its creator, Dr. Richard Moriarty of the Pittsburgh Poison Center, has passed away at age 83.

Mr. Yuk was created in 1971 as a way to show that certain products on the shelves should not be ingested. He knew his audience, and enlisted kids to help design the logo since of course kids would mainly be the people who would need to recognize it.

RIP Dr. Moriarty knowing that your logo lives on.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

RIP Gary Wright

A rough week for rockers continues apace after cheese-ball 1990s rocker Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth died, and now Gary Wright has left us, from Parkinson’s at age 80. Although not a massive star, he had two great spacey keyboard rock hits that each made it to number 2 on the charts in 1975. “Dream Weaver” and “Love is Alive” continued to play for decades on classic-rock radio (not to mention “Really Want to Know You” is a good third one). Perhaps the real feathers in Wright’s hat were his keyboard work with George Harrison, especially on All Things Must Pass, and later as a member of Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Adam Sandler’s daughters get their shot at being movie stars

Sunny and Sadie Sandler are pretty lucky kids to have Adam Sandler as their dad. Now the teen sisters may be even luckier as they get to play Adam’s daughters in the movies too. 

You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah is now out on Netflix and it’s definitely a good dramedy (much less funny than most Sandler fare like this) for the whole family to enjoy together. I am stunned it has a better Rotten Tomatoes critics score (97%) than any Sandler movie to date. Laughably, that’s five percentage points higher than Pulp Fiction.

Regardless of wack-job critics, this is indeed a movie worth watching, especially if there are young kids around to also enjoy it. Unfortunately Adam Sandler doesn’t get much screen time, but he offers good subtle comedy when he does appear. This one is a true vehicle for his daughters, one of whom dreams of an awesome bat mitzvah with her best friend before a boy gets between them. How everyone comes out on the other side of this drama is the staple storytelling device of the Sandler empire, and it works yet again, although not to the high standards of his best movies like Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer.

3 out of 5 stars

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Dayton, Ohio provides a playground for Guided by Voices fans from all over the world

The back half of my Guided By Voices 40th anniversary celebration in Dayton began Saturday with a bite of Old Scratch Pizza and a drive to Island MetroPark, site of the bandshell where GBV leader Robert Pollard’s dancing and high-kicks made it into their videos. Many GBV fans, who had descended on this Ohio city from all corners of the globe, spent the day hanging out in the park with their fellow diehards.

Next up was the Dayton Walk of Fame, which now features a Guided by Voices plaque. GBV fans were also milling about this area, which is located on the same street in West Dayton where Wilbur and Orville Wright built, in their bike shop, their first plane.

East 5th Street is another happening neighborhood of Dayton, with Omega Records, good coffee and food, and shopping. But then it was time to go back to the hotel to relax for a bit before night two of the concerts.

As much as I had heard opening band Wednesday would be good, I had no interest in seeing Heartless Bastards, so we opted to arrive just as Built to Spill was set to take the stage. The highlight of the band’s set was closer Carry the Show from Keep It Like a Secret. Although the powerful female rhythm section and guitar maestro Doug Martsch didn’t play my favorite song of theirs, Kicked It In the Sun, at least they offered two tunes off that classic album, Perfect From Now On - I Would Hurt a Fly and Stop the Show.

We had enjoyed the floor near the stage and also sat in amazing seats on Friday, but security finally got the memo and that was not happening on Saturday. So we sat in our actual assigned seats for the whole show, up in the balcony, but the great news was that the imperfect sound of the night before had been adjusted for the better, and our seats were pretty great even if they were a little higher up.

Even better news was that GBV took the stage at 10:45 and were much more energetic than they had been the night before. Further, they kicked out an even-better, but still 38 song, set. Dance of Gurus, A Salty Salute, and The Rally Boys was an electric way to start the show. So many other highlights dotted the rest of the night. Scoots and I determined they played nine songs on both Friday and Saturday, but of the rest of the Saturday-only tunes, memorable moments included Twilight Campfighter, Yours to Keep, Echoes Myron, Choking Tara, and closer Don’t Stop Now.

Scoots and I get back to the hotel late night, fortunately woke up in time to get some hotel biscuits n gravy and eggs, and headed out to make my return flight from Indianapolis to Baltimore.

A very successful Labor Day ‘23 weekend with one of my oldest buddies and Bob Pollard and the gang. Thank you Dayton.