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15
Nov 22

‘It’s all pop music,’ is a thing I said today

Tonight there was a band in the studio. Hank Ruff is a recent IU grad, and he’s making it as a performer. Beats grad school classes! He’s been on one of our shows before, just before Covid, he said. He would have been a sophomore then and I had no memory of that … until I looked it up just now.

Look how young everyone was! February, 2020:

Since then, a pandemic happened. Charlee went home to Green Bay and became a reporter there. Kendall is reporting in Milwaukee today. Hank topped the iTunes all genre chart for a day, knocking Encanto out of the top spot, which he rightly, casually, mentions.

I’d mention that every day.

Anyway, they have new single coming out in January, Hank Ruff and his band played for us this evening. I don’t know how many country acts have a saxophone player these days, but the guy in the far background has figured out how to make his spot work in this group.

I was going to make a “Is that country music?” joke, but about that time they played a song that Hank said his dad wrote decades ago. The song was “I’m Not Crazy (But I’m Out of Her Mind)” and that’s about as country a song title as you can imagine.

Safe to say they’re on their way, too. He said he and The Hellbenders played 15 shows in September. Good for them. They played three songs, ran their own audio and did a thoroughly professional load out.

I wonder where local band members go after they’re done for the evening.

“Evening.” Their mini-set was wrapped by 7:15 p.m.

After the shows I pointed the car to the house, checked the freezer for turkey room, set up some sanding for later this week, heated leftover chili for dinner, petted the cats and straightened up my home office. It needs more than a straightening, but it was in such a state that a straightening itself was a transformation.

Now I’m just waiting for the Artemis rocket to launch. Maybe everything will work right for their window, anyway. (Sometimes being a fan of science and amazing thing leads to long hours.)

Let’s spend some of that time on the Re-Listening Project. I’ve just working my way through all of my old CDs, in the order I acquired them. It’s fun, it’s nostalgic, it’s an excuse to post videos.

First up today, a soundtrack for a movie that was bad then and hasn’t improved with age. The movie gets terms like “cult hit” and “zeitgeist,” and the dreaded “mixed reviews,” but sometimes words get used without the writer knowing what they really mean. It made good box office money, and most importantly the music was good! Good enough, I suppose. The soundtrack was a platinum hit in Australia and Canada, and twice certified as platinum in the United States. Presumably that was on the strength of Lisa Loeb’s breakthrough single.

I’m sure I bought this because it had three or four songs that I wouldn’t buy on their own. I can tell you how important this was. I never listen to the thing. Almost never have.

There’s a good Juliana Hatfield Three song in there, and it’s always good to have The Posies to point too. Dinosaur Jr. makes you seem well-rounded, and there’s Loeb’s smash hit, not that I bought this for the Loeb song. “Stay” was good, still is, but “Stay” was already everywhere. And then there’s a Me Phi Me classic. It’s aged far, far better than this movie.

Maybe I should look up Me Phi Me’s full catalog.

Up next, the followup to Radiohead’s surprising smash hit, “Creep.” That song took over the airwaves off their debut album, and so the pressure was on when it came to producing and releasing “The Bends.” The record broke the top 10 in Belgium, Scotland, and on the UK Albus chart. Certified as a gold record in at least four countries and platinum in the U.S. and New Zealand and it’s a multi-platinum record in Canada and the UK. They rolled out seven singles, half the record, between September of 1994 and July of 1996. The angular guitars and the emotional falsetto helped draw a line in British rock of the period.

This was great car music for me. Probably a lot of late nights in the car. I drove a lot during this part of college, and so there was me, and, often, Thom Yorke.

“Blackstar” wasn’t a single, but was definitely a late night, car-clinging-to-asphalt track. That chorus is really something.

“Sulk” was a political song, addressing a 1987 mass shooting in England. Pay attention to what Ed O’Brien is doing with the effects on his guitar here.

Title track? Title track.

The Beatles, The Smiths, a David Bowie pastiche, and as critically divisive as a pop song can be, I guess.

After this brief toe dip in Brit rock, we’ll return to Americana pop … probably on Thursday, only on the Re-Listening Project.


14
Nov 22

Weekend and Monday photos and videos

You’ve been waiting for a whole week to hear from the cats. Let’s hear from the cats. (We know what moves the needle on this site. It’s the cats.)

Phoebe found some sun the other day, and that it happened to throw some beams onto a part of jeans, all the better.

Yesterday I started researching heat lamps and heating pads for the cats. Perhaps not as fun, or useful for them, as naps in the sun, but maybe they could get the job done.

Poseidon, meanwhile, would like you to know that he found the potato that fell onto the floor.

Yesterday I returned the favor and looked under the dresser, finding four toy springs and three bouncy balls. Under the bed there was another one of the springs.

It snowed Saturday.

But don’t take my word for it. And don’t trust that photo alone. There’s also video. It was 31 degrees and I stood outside for at least 90 seconds capturing video for this. I suffered for my art; the least you can do is suffer through my art.

This was the best kind of snow, though. There was a half-inch to an inch. It looked pretty, nothing stuck to the roads, and, most importantly, almost all of it had disappeared by today.

I had a bike ride Sunday afternoon. I was not riding in the desert like my avatar. It was cold outside and there was still snow on the ground, so I was, of course, indoors. Hence:

This was a marginally important ride, which is to say it was in no way important at all. But, with this 32-mile ride I moved 2002 into third place in terms of miles per year. Move out of the way, 2013! And I’m coming for you, 2021! In another ride or three this year will be in second place.

It will take a concerted effort to put this year atop the charts. Sure, there’s a month and a half left to go, but there is, of course, a lot of travel figuring into these last six weeks.

Lest you think this post is entirely about the weekend, here’s a collage I made for LinkedIn today. (The social media site where I get some actual analytical success?) I wrote:

“You can’t do creative work without collaboration,” is a thing I say a fair amount to students. Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with some students on a series of four specific welcome messages for members of the incoming class of 2027.

Jenna Williams and indispensable Lily Schairbaum worked on this project. Haley Ryan, Taniya Jones, Tristan Reed and Nicholas Jager shared their enthusiasm about what they do at The Media School. These videos will work nicely, but only because of their generosity and good cheer, all of which comes across in the finished products.

I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned that video project in this space. These snippets are from the four videos I produced for incoming students because, this year, we wanted a little more customization to our welcome videos. Hopefully the high school students and their parents that are receiving those videos like them.

And that’s enough for the day.

OK, one more thing. Here’s a glimpse at the moment before the sunset, as seen from the top of the Poplar’s Garage.

Now that’s enough for the day. But there’ll be plenty more … of something … tomorrow!


10
Nov 22

Snow enters the forecast – the season cometh

The wind is harder. The leaves have lost their color and grown crunchy. The mornings have a chill. The evenings, on the quiet ones, you can almost hear the thermometer giving a great sigh. It gets dark early, so a quick walk right after work looks like this.

It’ll get worse for another month and change, but then the solstice brings the first hint of a distant reprieve. The next day is longer! By a minute! And 10 days later the coldest month begins. It’ll already be cold, and dark, and gray, though. In truth, while something on me — my toes or ears or fingers — will always be cold, the actual temps will rightfully be considered mild by some. Winter is relative, but it is a constant, much like my whining about it. And it’ll stay that way until April.

My electric blanket is ready.

I will keep it out of the snow, which is due in on Saturday morning.

All of the signs suggest a hard winter, he said, writing on one of the last two days of wonderful, mild weather. The caterpillars with seasonal setae are suggesting it — because caterpillars know things. Even social media is suggesting it. As if you needed another reason to put a pause on social media.

Anyway, we went on a little walk into the gloaming, which ended in the proper darkness. You’d think that this would change the sort of conversation that you have with someone — like it’d be more whimsical or unguarded or dreamlike — but not really. It was the usual normal of nerdy.

The real difference is that we had our first instance of “How is it only nine o’clock?”

Six months ago, and six months hence, it’ll just be getting dark about that time. But, for a time, I can reacquaint myself with more indoor hobbies.

They’ve really been piling up.


9
Nov 22

A last word on election coverage; more words about riding bikes

They started planning their election night livestream in September. I was pleased to see my friends at IUSTV trying something new and so ambitious. They held several fax out practices. They prepped for days, huge binders, names, contests, context. I was happy to see all of that prep, and I was excited to see them collaborating with Indiana Daily Student and WIUX.

The different outlets work together on a few projects here and there, something The Media School has been hoping to see. I’ve always advocated for that to happen organically. Building natural momentum and enthusiasm from seeing the impact and the benefit of their ideas, will create lasting success.

It was an entirely student-conceived, produced and delivered project. They got great support from my colleagues in bringing together a few technical achievements, but everything else was theirs and, last night, they covered a lot of ground, all of those reporters. It was a great experience for them, a fine service to their community.

Ella Rhoades and Ashton Hackman were on the desk at the top of the first hour. They rotated out over the course of the evening with some great reports from Carly Rasmussen, Anna Black, Haley Ryan and a lot of others. They did drop-ins with their colleagues at WIUX. They ran packages, had scheduled panels with IDS reporters, they even did their own big map segments. Olivia Oliver and Emma Watson were just a few of the star producers of the evening, which ran for almost four hours. Andrew Briggs was his usual indispensable self, producing this, directing that, making it all come together.

Not everything went perfectly, live productions don’t go perfectly, but there are plenty of lessons in that, and they handled the rough spots with grace and good humor. It was an impressive lift. They’re in the middle of their school semester, after all. Some of them left one studio and one show to come directly into another studio to run this stream late into the evening.

So, while I was pleased they had the idea, and happy to see their substantial preparation, and excited for the collaboration with their peers, the best part was watching them work, off camera, on deadline.

That’s where the real magic happens. A lot of people showed us last night that they’re figuring that out. Could’t be prouder.

And their attitude was infectious!

This morning, on one of the last beautiful days before winter arrives and sets in between now and April, I got out for a little bike ride. It was sunny and in the 50s, so it seemed important to get out for a few minutes.

It doesn’t matter to anyone but me, but I keep a record of my annual mileage. I am sneaking up on some of my best years now, and so I wanted to get just a few more in before I have to put my bike on the trainer. If I threaten my record, it will most likely be in a muggy bike room, wondering why there’s an actual puddle of sweat below me.

But today, I’m merely moving up the ranks of my annual chart. After today’s little spin 2022 is now fourth place, all time.

The year 2013 was a very good year. It was a comeback year, and that’s a big part of why it is third all-time. The second and top spots are 2021 and 2020, respectively. No surprise there. Couldn’t really do much except ride my bike during the hardest part of the pandemic.

Between now and the end of the year, I have plenty of time to move 2022 into second place. Hitting that 2020 mark … that’s going to be a real challenge.

Now that I’ve written about it here, it is, of course, a big thing. I’ll keep you updated. And hopefully a few of those updates include some version of “and I got to ride outside today!”

Those are good days, just as this one was.

Hope yours was a dandy, too!


7
Nov 22

Twelve hundred more rambly words

Do you have a case of the Mondays? Well, we’ve got a solution to that: the workweek is 20 percent over! You’ve built momentum! You’re going to spend Tuesday around the water cooler exchanging voting booth stories, anyway. And Wednesday doesn’t matter because you’ll be thinking, all day, about how you can wrap up your week on Thursday. And then Friday, well, that’s Friday, plus you need to devote a few minutes to how you’re planning to burn the rest of your vacation time before the end of the year because you didn’t use it all, again, because This work-life balance thing is a nice concept, but who has the time? Did you see how this week flew by?

So we’ve got that going for us.

And if that isn’t enough, we have our regular weekly feature, the most popular and talked about feature from this site, and this corner of the web, if not the western world’s entire Internet, the Monday check in with the kitties.

I have to carry my phone around at all times on the off chance that I catch one of them doing something quirky or, even better, some way to get the rare composition that features both of them. This is my tether to the modern world, and that’s the story I’m sticking with, but, sometimes, the photos are worth it.

Poseidon has had enough of this week already. And if you think you’ve had a Monday, he made this decision on Saturday night.

Phoebe spent part of the weekend helping me read.

Which gives us a an easy transition.

I used the extra hour Saturday night to finish Andrew Ritchie‘s 1988 biography, Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer. Major Taylor was a turn-of-the-century bike racer, and was regarded as the fastest man in the world. The thousands that came to see him race in the U.S., Europe and Australia understood speed with a different perspective than you do, perhaps, it was a time before people knew what an airplane was, or understood what cars would become. Taylor, his bike, and his rivals, were the high performance machines of their day. And also, of course, he was the victim of the racism of the time. Despite those challenges, Ritchie has him well regarded by fans, hailed as a hero abroad, and on par with, or easily superior to, everyone who got on a bike opposite him. The term world champion was perhaps a bit looser back then compared to what you might see from the official UCI World Championships today, but he established seven world records, and beat all the prime racers, all of ’em, the world had to offer. Mayor Taylor was a world champion, and that was his place in the world as a young man, and in a time when George Dixon (Canada) was the only other world champion of any sport (boxing). Taylor was an almost singular star.

It’s a great shame that he’s only nominally known by modern audiences. There are bike clubs across this country bearing his name, today, and his adopted hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts celebrates him and there’s a velodrome in his hometown of Indianapolis named in his honor, but he doesn’t seem to enjoy the household, iconic name status many early superlative athletes have. You’ll say, “He was a cyclist,” but consider: he was a star at the peak of the cycling boom in this country, when college basketball was an infant, the NBA was decades away, football looked more like rugby and baseball was just exiting its juvenile delinquent stage. Bike racing was a spectacle and he was the most famous athlete in the world. Thousands would come see him. People paid to watch him do practice laps. It was a phenomenon. He was a phenomenon.

He retired in his early 30s, had some failed business dealings trying to cash in on the early days of automobile innovation, and then a series of other failures. And we’ll let Ritchie share the next few paragraphs.

Ritchie interviewed Taylor’s daughter, an elderly woman by then. The family had fallen apart in a sad way, but this is an amazing bit of character study. It’s clear she’s spent a lot of time thinking of how to explain her late estranged father. Reading this, I am equally interested in what she had to say, but also in the art of Ritchie’s interview with her.

After he and his wife separated, she moved away with their daughter. He left Massachusetts, a proud, determined man. He’d lived there for 25 years, but had to sell his large house. So he was trying, hat-in-hand, to sell his autobiography. (Ritchie, while even-handed and, at times glowing, about Major Taylor, is fairly critical of his autobiography.) He took a room at a YMCA in Chicago, stayed there for a time, had a heart attack in 1932 and died just a few months later, close to penniless and essentially alone.

I noticed that Ritchie stopped updating his WordPress site in 2014. There is another famous Andrew Ritchie in the cycling world, and so I did a bit more searching to see what had become of him, until I found this memorial, of sorts. He’d had heart trouble for years, and some financial difficulties of his own. But this is the part I want to remember.

On the night of Thursday 12th August (2021) he went out into the Cornish countryside to observe the Perseid meteor shower: probably his last moments were spent gazing at the heavens.

Sometimes it is important for the innocuous assumption to stick.

Also, I started Rick Atkinson’s The British Are Coming. Atkinson has won three Pulitzers and a few shelves full of other prominent literary and historical awards over the course of his prolific career. His trilogy on World War II was an incredible experience. I expect the same for this series. Volume one came out in 2020, no idea when the next ones are out, but I’m through the 30-page prologue, and I’m hooked.

I love when Atkinson writes like this.

That’s four paragraphs on two pages and it paints a rich portrait of, in this case, what was unknown. I bet it took weeks to pull those facts together, shape them into this order and edit them to that level of concision and in his typical narrative style.

I have 530 more pages of this to enjoy here.

It was an amazing day, yesterday. Here we are, November, and 67 degrees. You could do a lot of things with an opportunity like that. I, of course, went for a bike ride.

This was a lovely 32-miler. Maybe I can get one or two more in this week, before the weather turns. Already I’ve been outdoors longer this year than last, so I have that going for me. The question is how many more open-road miles I can add because, soon, all of my miles will be trainer miles. That yields to the more pressing question will become how close I can get to setting a new personal best in annual mileage.

So come back for that! And other things! Like books! And music! And come back tomorrow tomorrow! I’ll write about a run and election day fun!