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Drink an Iced Coffee and a Beer at the Same Time

It’s all right there in the headline, isn’t it?

Here’s the thing: I’ve been unemployed since March, so I’m beholden to no one. No gods, no masters, no paycheck. The most important parts of my month are logging into the state’s unemployment website and making my bi-weekly claim so that Big Government will allow me to continue to buy groceries (and, on occasion, the odd $150 pillow here and there). So my perspective on this is a little warped. If you are working from home – that is to say, if you are working for a company that would not normally like it if you had a drink on the job, which is every single reasonable or good job that I’ve ever had in my life – your mileage may vary on this little life hack.

However, if you’re like me, unmoored from the dock of stable employment, drifting ever-further from the prying eyes of society and professionalism, or if you’re the type to take the ship a little too close to the lighthouse, here’s my suggestion to you: Have a glass of iced coffee, and, while you’re drinking that, also drink a beer.

My personal recipe for this tincture of ultimate consequence-free creativity juice is to use whatever is left in the coffee pot from the morning past, and whatever can of IPA you have in the fridge at the time (mine was a Brewdog Elvis Juice, but what am I, a beer blogger? Who cares, just get one). The key is to drink both as fast as you can, but always alternate sips. What you’re aiming for is wide-awake and risky. That feeling you might get on a Friday morning before a holiday, when most of the office has mentally checked out and all that’s between you and an early departure after lunch is a stack of routine busy work you know how to mow through like a weasel through robin eggs? That’s what you may find a facsimile of if you follow my “one swig of iced coffee, one swig of beer” mental health formula.

It’s tough out there. Tough if you’re working, tough if you aren’t. Tough today, tough tomorrow, tough all over. Do what you can, if you can. Have a beer and an iced coffee, and get 45 minutes where nothing matters and you can do anything. This blog is brought to you by iced coffee and beer.

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You Know That I’m Crazy / Crazy for You Baby

I’ve been listening to a lot of Los Campisenos! recently as research for an upcoming blog post (and also because I’ve been feeling a little blue, but with LC! that’s a chicken / egg situation), but I needed something to clean my pallet before diving into some writing this afternoon. I turned to this:

I’ve written a lot about this record over at the other blog (can you believe there are only two blogs left and this is one of them? Wild.), and I blurbed it at the punk website, but I’d like to say it here, for the true FO Heads: This is my favorite record of the last, oh, five years or so? It’s this, Relatives in Descent and I don’t even know what the next thing would be. I hope Gecs make 10 more albums / no more albums. Who knew that all I ever wanted was all the shit I hated in my teens and 20s fist-fucked into each other?

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I Never Tried That (But I Know I Won’t Like It)

Here’s a brief list of things I’ve never engaged with seriously but I bet I’d like a lot if I took the time:

Fugazi – It feels very dumb to be into post-hardcore and not have ever spent any serious time with Fugazi, but here I am, in my newspaper sailor’s hat, acting like the admiral of the ear gauge armada. I might have to get back into a weight lifting routine just to give myself dedicated time to listen to Repeater.

Jets to Brazil / Thrones of Life / Forgetters – Basically the same paragraph as about, but replace “post-hardcore” with “guitar music about feelings” and “weight lifting” with “walking around at night in a semi-depressed sulk.”

Most mid-level bands from Philadelphia – Basically, if you’re in a band that A) can sell out the MOCA, B) get the occasional 6.5 from Pitchfork dot com or C) get a write-up in whatever remains of non-blog alt-rock music press, I have not listened to your band. This comes from a warped, fucked-up place that I can’t really diagnose at the moment, but I’m sure that it’s very stupid. That said, if you’re a tiny band that barely exists or if you’re, like, The Hooters, I’ve got nothing but time for you. I need to sort myself out.

Professional soccer – It’s time.

Poetry – I can count on one hand how many poems I like, and this is one of them. Part of this comes from having no formal training in poetry beyond some writing classes in high school and college that I was too lazy or dumb to meaningfully engage with, part of this comes from going to a few amateur poetry readings (is this even the right word? Are there professional poetry readings?) and hearing the same kinds of dreck about the sex various poets were or were not having. Surely, there must be more to this.

Sneakers – You’ll know that I’m in the throes of a divorce when I suddenly start buying up bespoke, designer shoes like the oldest hype beast at the Supreme store. Get ready for it.

Homeland – Seems like a pretty good show.

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Window Shopping

There’s this house in my neighborhood a few streets down from my place. At a glance, it’s your standard renovated, re-imagined row home: three stores, roof deck, mixed facade of brick and corrugated metal, a lot of red, black and grey. It looks sleek. It looks expensive. It looks the way all new builds look in this city (in every East Coast city? In every U.S. City? In the world)? It’s got huge windows out front.

The window is the thing you’ll notice if you look longer. That’s by design. Even by new house standards – a standard which calls for as much natural light as possible – this window is mammoth, like the movie screen at an independent theater turned 90 degrees, taller than it is long. In this giant picture box, the owners of the home place giant canvas paintings. Outside their house, there’s a little plaque with a removable card and a motion-activated light. The idea is, a new piece of art gets hanged in the house, the little card gets switched out for whatever artists work it is and the lookie-loos walking by get some added culture with their window peeping.

I think about this house a lot.

I think about the notion of owning and displaying art privately in one’s home. I think about private collections made public for the betterment of the community. I think about the statement of buying a giant house in a community that is still (but not for long) mostly two-story brick houses. I think about the statement of the giant windows, the tacit admission that suggests “you were going to look anyway, you wanted to see how we were living. Look at this still life while you’re at it. Here’s the painter’s website, maybe visit their Instagram.” I think about the nature of art and what art asks of the observer. I think about a person who reached out to me asking about buying a $500,000 new house a few blocks away from a bar that sells a can of Hamm’s and a bag of Cheez-its for $2 wanting to know how they could best ingratiate themselves to the neighborhood. I think about charity and wealth and how one can pay for a type of the other. I think about how the people who are on the receiving end of that particular kind of charity feel about wealth.

I think this house is grotesque. I think this house is forward-thinking. I think this house is a sin. I think this house is nothing special. It is, without question, the house I think about most, second only to my own.

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Meagan and Nate at the Movies: The Big Lebowski

Because having a child means you cannot leave the house after 6:30 p.m., we’ve started having movie night at our house pretty regularly now. We take turns picking the movie, watch it in the dark without phones, and review the movie afterward.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buschemi, rugs, fucking a stranger in the ass, preferred nomenclatures.

Meagan’s Review:

If anyone wants to know what the early- to mid-90s were like, this movie is a good start. For example: Did you know, all women in the 90s could be only one of three things? 1. Smart and nude. 2. Dumb and nude. 3. German, toe-less, silent. Did you know bowling alleys were the only places people were legally allowed to congregate? Did you know Jeff Bridges was once young?

In summary: this is a movie I liked in spite of resisting watching it for my entire college experience. There’s not a lot of plot, exactly, but some very rad jokes. Philip Seymour Hoffman was born to play wiener-y dudes. Bowling is cool, just like my mom told me when she dropped me off at black-light bowling on Saturday nights. Ferrets are disgusting. I would watch this again.

Nate’s Review:

The Dude is lazy but he isn’t stupid. I was struck – on this, my nth watch of what is among my favorite movies of all time – by how funny his one-liners are, how snappy he is with his comebacks (“Listen, Maude, I’m sorry your stepmother is a nympho” hit me particularly hard).

The writing is a sharp as anything and it’s a joy to watch a Cohen Brothers movie that’s a few degrees less cynical than the rest of their work, or at least smaller stakes. The repetition of dialog remains a delight. The imminence of John Goodman remains shocking. The wigs of Julianne more remain most perplexing. Honestly, the only bad thing about watching this movie as much as I have is that it’s plot, which once seemed so shaggy and serpentine as to be incomprehensible, now seems almost disappointingly straightforward. But that’s the thing, you can’t keep em’ on the farm once they’ve seen Karl Hungus.

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Regarding the Stephen Starr Restaurant Opening Too Close to my House for my Liking, but Still Far Enough Away as to not Actively Bother me or Impact the Value of my Home

If one accepts the premise that Stephen Starr’s restaurants are triumphs of design and concept over producing a quality product – that his restaurants are places to be seen in, not to eat at – then there is no better neighborhood for his latest venture than Fishtown. I hope everyone enjoys their tacos and stays the hell away from me.

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Perfect Song Friday: Fuck KD

Perfect Song Friday is a recurring feature in which a perfect song is highlighted on Friday. If you would like to suggest a song for Perfect Song Friday, please start your own blog.

This Friday’s Perfect Song: “Fuck KD” by Lil’ B

I think the place to start here is with the least-perfect lyric on this song: “Shout out to the WNBA / got some fine-ass girls I wanna fuck in the mouth.” Not … great, and certainly a perspective the WNBA is trying to get away from. If you wanted to make the case that this lyric disqualifies “Fuck KD” as a Perfect Song, I get it.

Now, I’m no fancy big-city lawyer, but the great heavily outweighs the bad here. I’d like to start with the beat, which is both a parody and a celebration of oversized, luxurious jock-rock rap. It’s the kind of thing you sincerely or ironically lift weights to, the metal is going to move either way. The texture of the rapping is also exquisite; Lil’ B shows off his full suite of lopsided goofball charms. He’s singing (and what a fucking hook!), hes’ ranting, he’s 80s-style top-of-head nursery rhyming, holding your hand the whole time. It almost doesn’t matter what he’s saying, his energy is so high. Things really peak at in the half-second between the second verse and the second precious. Those few moments of silence are a drum stick about to land on a cymbal, a basketball player with his arm cocked back between the foul-line and the hoop.

All of this before the banquet that is the content of the writing, which is: man, fuck Kevin Durant. The BasedGod was truly ahead of his time on this take. Back in 2014, Durant’s career in OKC was on its last legs; his cold war with Russel Westbrook was reaching Bay of Pigs levels, his team was limping into the playoffs, and his mantel as the second-best player of his generation was being overshadowed by the “can’t win” narrative. It was at that point odd for Lil’ B, the number one rapper who also cursed NBA players, to direct his ire at The Servant. In 2020, we can see how right he is. As always, Brandon was ahead of his time, setting Durant’s soul afire with a slanderous mambo.

Best lines in this song:

“I’m a short [dude] with a tall-ass dick”

“Three point on a bitch like Dirk Nowitzki / up in the club like Dirk Nowitzki

“Let’s play a game of 21 / it’s really fun.”

“I like RocNation and I love JayZ / but on the west side I’m screaming fuck KD.”

“I ain’t never watched you on the goddamn TV.”

This is what I want from my niche rappers: maniac slander and out-of-nowhere curses against incredible NBA players. This song belongs to us now in 2020 as much as it did in 2014, as much as it will for all people, forever, for it is a Perfect Song.

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Meagan and Nate at the Movies: Pride & Prejudice

Because having a child means you cannot leave the house after 6:30 p.m., we’ve started having movie night at our house pretty regularly now. We take turns picking the movie, watch it in the dark without phones, and review the movie afterward.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Keria Knightly, Matthew McFadden, fancy ball gowns, horses, cottages and so-forth, misunderstandings.

Meagan’s Review:

This is a perfect film.*

*except those dumb kisses at the end

Nate’s Review:

Because I am, mentally speaking, as dense as a well-appointed block of cheese, it has taken me two (!!) viewings of Pride and Prejudice (the two-hour version, not the “Colin Firth jumps into a lake” version) to realize it is, more than anything else, the story of two adults who desperately want to fuck but can’t because of petticoats or the American Revolution or whatever, so they put their energy into mean barbs and sidelong glances. I get it now! Book is probably pretty good!

Knightley gets to show off her elaborate collarbones and project big “I’m in Advanced Placement classes” energy. The dude from Succession gets to behave like a goth placed on the school shooter watch list, but sexy. Donald Sutherland gets to bob around like a cauliflower. The lesson of this film might be “the wealthy are not as bad as they seem,” which, hm, maybe instead “cops are bastards and will kidnap you and make you a whore unless you pay them,” which, uh, you know what, let’s go with “dances are fun.”

Fuck that kiss at the end, being called “plain” is such a moonstones burn even in 2020, justice for Mary Bennet, who just wants to sing baritone in public.

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Meagan and Nate at the Movies: The Laundromat

Because having a child means you cannot leave the house after 6:30 p.m., we’ve started having movie night at our house once every blood moon. We take turns picking the movie, watch it in the dark without phones, and review the movie afterward.

The Laundromat (2019)
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman, every character actor of relevance from the last 10 years, heavy-handed symbolism.

Nate’s Review:

The most satisfying parts of The Laundromat are when Steven Soderbergh shoehorns the goofy farce energy of Logan Lucky or Ocean’s 13 into what is, ostensibly, a story about how the extremely wealthy will never be parted from their money no matter the effect on slobs like you or I. Meryl Streep seems like she’s wandered in from the set of Big Little Lies until the last 90 seconds of the movie, which are electric until they suck. Come for the gold-lined suits on Bandaras and Oldman, stay for the lecture that, at the very least, will prompt me to change my cut-rate car insurance.

Meagan’s Review:

Steven Soderbergh really knows how to make a 90-minute movie feel like The Irishman. Would you like to see Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas directly address the camera for what feels like hours? (The only redeeming factor is their little matching outfits.) That being said, most of the vignettes of financial villainy are highly enjoyable and full of stunt casting. I’m always happy when Larry Wilmore gets paid. Pro tip: turn it off before the last 90 seconds, when (spoiler) Meryl Streep turns into the Statue of Liberty and teaches us about campaign finance reform.

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Meagan and Nate at the Movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Because having a child means you cannot leave the house after 6:30 p.m., we’ve started having movie night at our house once every blood moon. We take turns picking the movie, watch it in the dark without phones, and review the movie afterward.

Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, snakes, linen outfits, that thing where the movie shows where people are going via a red line on a map.

Meagan’s review:

Nate hadn’t seen this movie before because he didn’t have a childhood, I guess. Not me. I watched the VHS of this movie probably once a month from age 7 to age 11. This movie’s effect on me as a child: making me very afraid of falling into a room of skeletons. This movie’s effect on me as a 33-year-old: afraid of airplane propellers and also maybe Old God.

Alfred Molina: a tour de force. The face-melting: groundbreaking. Representation of women: not great, but better than “Jurassic World.”

Nate’s review:

Indiana’s sexual politics are fucked. One minute Dr. Jones is flustered because a co-ed has written “Love You” on her eyelids (which is the thirstiest thing I’ve seen in a movie since Varsity Blues), the next minute he’s berating Marion for being upset that he took advantage of her with a brusk “YOU KNEW WHAT IT WAS.”

Meagan’s theory is that, in the classroom, he didn’t have the outfit on so he wasn’t ready to fuck. Meagan is the most astute film critic I know and I wish she’d blog.

Otherwise, what a fuckin’ treat! I’d more or less seen the whole thing due to cultural osmosis, but, in short: The opening ruled, the “sword v gun” fight ruled, the “catching a poison date out of mid air” trick ruled, the snake pit / riding an ancient pillar into a wall scene ruled, Marion’s solution to all her challenges being “let’s get drunk” ruled, that sneaky fucking French treasure hunter ruled, John Rhys Davies rules, making a fake compass crystal out of that Nazi torture doctor’s hand burn ruled, the Nazi faces melting ruled. Great stuff, top to bottom. Alfred Molina for president.

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Cars I Can Remember

1) Big Tan Oldsmobile – Might have been a Ciera or a Calais, but I can’t be sure. It was my live-in grandmother’s car and she never drove it, save for one time I begged her to take me to the Toys R Us on Ridge Road and, even as a child, realizing “Man, she really shouldn’t be driving, Lego set be damned.”

Other than that, my primary memory of this car is that it had big bench seats and an enormous trunk that was my parent’s go-to place to hide Christmas gifts until my brother found the spare keys and the jig was up.

2) Ford Windstar – Circa 97, I think. It was a big, ugly, sky-blue people-mover. I can only assume my parents bought it after seeing this commercial. No specific memories attached to the vehicle, beyond it’s daily use in lugging us to various practices, performances, recitals, and trips to our grandmother’s house. It only had a door on one side, and it had a big black button my weak-tiny hands had to really mash on to get the thing to slide open.

3) Chrysler Town and Country – This thing was the balls. It had captain’s seats in the second row and a big bench in the back you could lay down on. Doors on both sides, with much more reasonably-sized interior buttons to open and shut the thing. It was a deep red, like the color of an oversized apple, and it is the primary vehicle of my adolescent life.

Because I was straight edge in high school, I would occasionally bomb around town in this thing with my drunk and/or doped-up pals, making them listen to whatever awful regional punk I was into in exchange for safe passage from their suburban basement to someone else’s suburban basement. I was giving my mother a ride to work one morning and she complained that it smelled like someone was smoking in the van, which was astute of her, because my dirtbag friends had been smoking in the van. I also once found a roach (weed, not bug) in back seat and was able to intercept it before my parents found out what an illicit hotbox the thing had become under my watch. This van is one of the five people you meet in heaven.

4) My college roommate’s SUV – I forget the make and model, might have been a Jeep. It was his hand-me-down and my primary loaner vehicle for the first three years of college. He kept it disgusting, which was exactly my speed. We used to drive this thing primary to the beer store, the ice cream store, or the money store (his parent’s house).

5) My then-girlfriend’s sedan – Think it was a Honda? I used to borrow this thing all the time when I was in the peak of my “wearing a sweatshirt with no shirt underneath” post-college deadbeat life. Biggest thing that happened with this car on my watch is that I rear-ended a church van (no damage) and was violently rear-ended about a block from her dorm (details redacted). This car lugged me to-and-from several going-nowhere jobs in the years after college, and for that I will forever be grateful. As a general rule, don’t date me until I turn 28.

6) Hyundai sedan – An Elantra, maybe? Tempted to call this my first “car,” except it was given to me as a gift from my parents. Used this as my daily driver when I got my first real job and moved to North Jersey, kept it running (albeit in shitty condition) until I sold it for $600 cash to a guy who, I’m told, promptly wrapped it around a tree two weeks later. I have no fond memories of this car beyond its utility. A hole in its exhaust system made it sound like it was powered by several very loud bee colonies. Its leather seats made my back sweat constantly. It had a sunroof, which at least allowed me to learn that sunroofs are cool in theory only.

7) Toyota Avalon – Purchased this from my parents and I think I still have some outstanding payments on it. Drove this boat around for five years and would have been buried in it if you’d let me. It had a six-CD player, but it was broken and would only work about once every six months. Had a giant rip in the armrest that I could not stop picking at. Had my and my brothers’ graduation tassels affixed to the rear-view mirror in a knot so contrived and hopeless that I had to cut them off when it came time to sell the car. This thing was as big as a whale and always about to set sail. Liked this car more than I like several people I interact with daily. You could fit your whole life in it. Traded it in when I got my current car.

8) Toyota Prius V – What if a Prius, but it’s also a station wagon? This car is ugly as hell, driving it feels like piloting a space shuttle from the 80s and I love it more than I’ve loved most of my pets. Catch me in my champagne-colored, pill-shaped, Eco-friendly dadwagon, you swaggerless hoes.

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Good Sports Name: Kyle Thousand

Good Sports Name is an as-needed highlighting of athletes with good names.

Today’s Good Sports Name: Kyle Thousand, an agent with Roc Nation Sports.

What’s their deal? Sometimes, Good Sports Names come when you least expect them. I didn’t really have anything else to blog about today. Thank you, New York Post, for your story about Yoenis Cespedes hurting his ankle in a boar fight last Spring.

Look, I don’t want to take attention away from Kyle Thousand, who is the reason for the season, but you simply must know about this boar fight:

“According to multiple people who were informed of the incident, Cespedes has traps on his ranch for a variety of reasons, including to keep boars away from people. But one boar was removed from a trap — perhaps by Cespedes — and either charged toward Cespedes or startled him, causing Cespedes to step into a hole.”

Perfection. May we all someday injure ourselves doing what we love; emptying our numerous traps of our various conquests.

What else? Okay, but none of that is actually about Kyle Thousand, Cespedes’ agent and a man who, forgive the unkindness, looks a bit like the villain in a direct-to-DVD movie about slobs trying to save their beloved ski resort from the son of an investment banker. Our man Thousand played minor league ball before he tore his shoulder (also in a hog accident?) and became an agent. He’s also engaged to Charissa Thompson, who is, apparently, a sportscaster with a very good sportscaster name, but that is not the purpose of this blog. Truly, with a name like Thousand, all doors open for you.

Why is their name a good sports name? Because it sounds like the fake name a child would come up with when trying to imagine the name of a billionaire.

Congrats to Kyle J Thousand for his and his skinny ties and his good sports name.

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Expired Philadelphia DIY Venues, Ranked

Least to most missed, as I sit here watching the foul 76ers on a Monday night. Not a complete list.

Ava House – Great shows (Menzingers, Bomb the Music Industry), but a little before my time.

Mantua Yatch Club – Never made it over there, but had a well-regarded run.

Chill Collins – This was right down the house from my house. No excuse.

Girard Hall – Same as Ava House, but with a lower profile.

Danger Danger House / Danger Danger Gallery – Saw Japanther and Juiceboxxx here (not at the same time). West Philly used to be weird.

Horse House – Delaware’s only house, as far as I know. Everything else is either the mall, the airforce base or tax shelters.

Stone Cold Castle – Shout out to these houses that booked my bad band.

502 South – Should have gone to more shows here, but the ones I did go to were a blast.

Everybody Hits – I had my wedding rehearsal dinner here, then saw Thin Lips a few months later. What a place.

Golden Tea House – This was mecca for a minute. Shout out to the Sidekicks show and the Iron Chic show.

PhilaMoca (Maybe) – Protect PhilaMoca at all costs.

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Good Sports Name: Isaiah Joe

Good Sports Name is an as-needed highlighting of athletes with good names.

Today’s Good Sports Name: Isaiah Joe, shooting guard for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

What’s their deal? He’s a three-point specialist who plays basketball for Arkansas, which is not a school known for it’s basketball prowess. He’s scoring 17 points a game, which seems pretty good, but he’s only shooting 36% from 3, which seems less good. According to (delightfully named) 247 Sports, he’s taking on an intensive workload, but (equally delightfully named) WholeHog Sports says hes up to the task, so your guess is as good as mine. He’s got a pretty good Clone High Abe Lincoln beard going, which makes me happy because it tells me that even athletic teenagers are still, at their core, doofy teens.

What else? Joe was born in 1999, which is disgusting and personally hurtful. This makes him … shit, 20 years old? That cannot be right. No people should be born after 1995, as far as I’m concerned.

Why is their name a good sports name? Mostly because it makes him sound like the leader of some kind of down-market version of the A-Team. “Do you need to find justice outside the law? Call Isaiah Joe.” Some dime-store genre writer is probably half way through The Isaiah Joe mysteries as we speak. Can’t wait to see it adapted as a television show on Paramount.

Congrats to Isaiah Joe for his three-point shooting and his blacksplotation-ass name.

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Love Songs: Jared Adams and “Walking on Broken Glass”

I was looking through my drafts and I found this mostly-complete interview with my cousin, Jared Adams. I was asking him about the first song he remembers loving, which was going to be part of a recurring feature on this blog, called “Love Songs,” in which I would interview people about the first song they remember loving. For reasons I can’t recall now, I stopped working on this post and it never went up. Since this initial conversation, which took place sometime in 2016, Jared passed away. I share it now, with some light editing for clarity, because Jared loved to share himself with the world. I think he would want you to know what his first favorite song was.

Loved Song: “Walking on Broken Glass” by Annie Lennox

Do you have a specific memory of hearing the song?

I was five and my family and I were driving to Grandma’s house in Clifton Park, New York. My parents bought the album, Diva on cassette and were playing it for the last leg of the ride. I remember being struck by all the different sounds happening that I couldn’t place. This was long before I could play any instruments; I knew what an electric guitar sounded like, and drums, but all the strings and staccato piano notes and just about everything going on in that song was nothing I could place.

I would think about that song a lot after I started learning to play guitar when I was 13 and started suddenly unlocking all these secrets of how songs were written and breaking down songs and knowing where each sound was coming from. When I think of the wonder of just loving a song because you like how it sounds and not knowing anything about it, where it came from or how it was made, that’s the song I think of.

Do you think about anything specifically when you hear the song now?

Yes, I think of a later instance in the summer, probably three years later, when I was driving my mother crazy. It was July and I had been out of school for about a month and she decided to give me a project to occupy my time. For several days, I would go out in the garage, put on some music and paint an old dresser we had. There were only 3 cassettes at my disposal that I would play in the old boombox I’d bring out with me: The Best of Elvis Costello & the Attractions, The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect by Todd Rundgren and Diva by Annie Lennox.

What color was the dresser?

That is important. The entire dresser was white. Still in use today!

You must have done a bang-up job.

You’re goddamn right! I’ve been painting things white ever since.

You answered this a little bit, but do you feel like this song has had a lasting impression on your music tastes?

Definitely. I wasn’t even aware of the Eurythmics when I heard it, but it was a unique song that prepared my ears to seek out that kind of vocals  – quality pop music in general – which would go through hills and valleys from that point to now, of being easy to find and hard to find every few years.

If you had to guess, how long was this the song you loved before something else knocked it off the radar?

Springsteen was always there since I was an infant. This was a new song when it came out. When I think of the music of my childhood overall, I think of a lot of Springsteen and James Taylor. But to answer your question, I doubt it took long at all to draw my attention elsewhere. Probably the next big car ride would’ve done it. The hour and a half to Clifton Park was my idea of a “big car ride” back then.

Has “Broken Glass” sustained its place in your life at all? When you think of it or hear it now, what’s your relationship to it?

I absolutely love it. Also, in my experience, it’s not heavy in rotation for radio stations or bars or anywhere else I hear music played by someone else. So whenever it comes on its a real blast for me. It’s very special. I probably don’t even hear it more than once a year. I’ve left it up to the rest of the world to decide when to play it for me.

Can you see this song’s impact in your own song writing? Is there any “Broken Glass” in Royal Coke, for example?

I’d say that it had a direct impact on a song I’ve written called “Jaguar Ultra.” Both stylistically and in the overall sense of writing an upbeat song about heartbreak. That is something I will always associate with “Broken Glass.”

Is that what “Broken Glass” is about? I’ve never actually listened to the lyrics.

It’s essentially about someone who’s been left by a lover and is coping with the unrequited love. The “broken glass” is a metaphor for how it feels trying to navigate life when someone that important to you walks out of it

Well, thank god you were here to navigate that metaphorical mine field for me.

I also ice skate.

My mom was big on Annie Lennox, too, but I don’t remember ever listening to Diva. Does “Broken Glass” fit with the rest of the record?

Very much so. It’s a unique song, but stylistically and thematically it fits right in there with what is a cohesive soul-pop record. Her first solo work after the Eurythmics breakup.

Lastly, what is the most recent song you’ve loved, and what do you love about it?

Right now, I am completely spellbound by Mitski and her song “Your Best American Girl” on Puberty 2. The composition is very stripped down and builds into a 90s alt-rock sounding march, which is very familiar to me, but the chorus is so mournful and beautiful that it draws you in to really delve deep into the words. what you find there is devastating and incredibly powerful and carries an emotional heft I don’t feel I get from most of what I listen to anymore. The album overall is sure to be one of the best of the year.

Are you aware that the previous Mitski album is named Bury Me at Makeout Creek?

Indeed I am! But I have to admit that I was late to Makeout Creek. It’s still a great time there though.

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A Brief History of Bands Covering Other Bands’ Albums

This post comes to me via my discover of Ramoms, an all-mom tribute to / parody of the Ramones (featuring songs like “The PTA Took my Mommy Away” and, uh, “Beat on the Brat.”).

Colleen Green’s Blink 182’s Dude Ranch

This was Patient Zero in the recent “bands covering other bands’ albums” being taken seriously as art, which … please excuse me from this narrative. But Colleen Green is good, and Dude Ranch is also good, even if its themes have aged like uncovered meat.

The New Rochelles’ The Ramones’ Animal Boy

I almost wrote “What is it about The Ramones that leads people to do this,” but I just remember that I was talking about The Ramones. The New Rochelles are basically from the same linage of punk bands that has been recording and re-recording Ramones albums as original music for nearly 50 years, so their decision to just come right out and do a full-album cover of the band’s best-worst album seems about right. “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” still kicks shit.

Ryan Adams’ Taylor Swift’s 1989

Two fun facts: When Ryan Adams put this album out, it debuted one spot ahead of the actual 1989 on the Billboard 200 chart (though 1989 had been on the chart for 48 weeks at that point. Diffuser ranked the Adams version of 1989 as its 8th best album 2015 and didn’t have the Swift album on there at all (!!!!!!!) (Paste Magazine did the same shit what the fuck!!!!!!!!!).

Ben Lee’s Against Me!’s New Wave

This is my favorite one, mostly for the cover, which is some great self-owing by Lee, Australia’s Softest Motherfucker. Also good is his decision to censor the word “Piss” from the song “Piss & Vinegar.” I’d like to also take this opportunity to say that New Wave is the third-best Against Me! record and all further questions on this matter should be directed to your mother, with whom I made rigorous love mere hours ago.

Angelique Kidjo’s Talking Heads’ Remain in Light

Press run-up to the release of this album would have you believe that Kidjo ID’d the Talking Heads not as rock music, but as African music. Which is is, of course, dead-to-rights. This got some buzz when it came out, and it seems, of all these full album covers, the one most worthy of serious critical evaluation.

IN SUMMARY:

The cynic in me says these kinds of “reinterpretations” are attention- or cash-grabs, a tool in the box to generate eyeballs in a time in which it is harder than ever to generate eyeballs. The sucker in me says a world music artist taking a run at a Talking Heads album makes all the sense in the world; that an alt-country folk-rocker taking a stab at a former country queen’s capital-p Pop statement has an internal logic that is hard to ignore; that a bunch of moms taking the “anyone can be a band” populism of the Ramones and literally running with it is well within the spirit of the band’s initial goals. So, fuck if I know. Bands covering bands; it’s happening.

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Some brief thoughts on the movie Hustlers

1) My parents were in town for New Year’s Eve. Because they are in their 60s and because I have become a homebody since the birth of my child, we stayed in and watched a movie instead of getting dinner or seeing the fireworks or whatever. We watched Ad Astra, which I enjoy thinking about more than I enjoyed watching, but we almost watched Hustlers. Considering that there is a highly erotic, balletic pole dance in the first 10 minutes of the movie, I am eternally glad that we decided to watch the sad space movie instead.

2) There are several scenes in which Destiny is struggling to raise her toddler daughter. Nothing bad really happens to the kid, but she cries while her parents fight and she gets left in front of the TV while her grandmother sleeps. Not to get all “as the father of a daughter,” but as the father of a daughter this shit fucked me up. Being a parent means the absolute evaporation of your edge and while it mostly rules, it makes some things that wouldn’t have upset the apple cart a few years ago into major fucking problems.

3) Constance Wu is great when she gets a chance to be great (there’s a part late in the film when she has to pretend that someone her cabal of lady hustlers has drugged is her husband and she crushes what the scene calls for), but it’s J. Lo’s show. I never really considered J. Lo to be an approachable or knowable performer, but she nails the “mother of a chosen family with a heart too big for its own good” thing in this movie.

4) Musicians who appear in this movie, ranked:
– Lizzo, who plays Lizzo.
– Usher, who plays Usher and seemingly is in the movie so he can say “Usher, baby.” This is not a criticism, by the way. He’s here for 20 seconds and he uses them perfectly.
-Cardi B, who plays Cardi B, and is probably in the movie for 20 seconds too long, but is worth it for the scene of her cursing out a bouncer / manager.

5) Working in a strip club seems like it sucks.

6) Visiting a strip club seems like it sucks.

7) Because this is basically Goodfellas, it has some of the same problems as Goodfellas (too many music cues, too many slow-mo shots), but at the same time, the movie is basically Goodfellas which means the bar is pretty high and it gets over it.

One Nate Up

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Maybe this year will be better than the last, and so on

Like most regular-ass morons, I am big on making New Year’s resolutions. And, like the rest of the great mass of unwashed on these golden American shores, I am terrible at keeping resolutions going past a couple of weeks (rarely) or days (usually). And yet, like an idiot swallow returning to shitty Capestrano, whenever January 1 rolls around, I’m out here on my “THIS time it’s going to be different” bullshit.

So, once more into the breach. THIS time it’s going to be different. The big resolution is straightforward enough, and it’s this: Only do one thing.

I don’t mean stop multitasking, or developing professional or personal tunnel vision, or stop exploring new interests or curiosities. What it means is I am going to do my best, for as long as I remember what it is I said I would do this year, to just focus on doing one thing at a time.

Here’s what I mean. I’m writing this blog right now in notepad, with my noise-canceling headphones on. I’m not listening to music. I don’t have the TV on the background. I don’t even have my phone on me. I am just writing these words and, in a few minutes when I give this thing a read-over, I’m going to post it on the blog and then move on to the next thing.

More often than I care to admit, I throw the TV on before I settle into my phone. I’ll play a video game while I listen to a podcast. I’ll read my book while I listen to music. I’ll always do something to dull or numb my attention on the thing I am ostensibly trying to do. So that’s the resolution this year. Do one thing, and once I’ve done that thing, do something else. Call it being present, if you’re the sort who worries about branding.

All goals worth a shit can be tracked. I don’t really know how to track this one outside of anecdotal evidence. I guess I’ll just have to check in on myself from time to time and see how I’m doing. In theory, my loved ones and friends would notice a difference, but I’m half-feral at this point anyway. So we’ll see. Maybe I’ll write about the experience. Wouldn’t bet on that, though.

Here are some micro-resolutions. These are things I’d like to do, but I’m unwilling to go full-blown resolution on these. Bonus resolutions, as it were. Feel free to take one. Happy new year, you mugs. Let’s be better, or at least be the same but with bigger aspirations.

  • Track my calories and stay withing my allotment 5 out of 7 days a week
  • Go to the gym two days a week
  • Run the Philadelphia half marathon
  • Journal every night
  • Blog once a week
  • See a different friend or family member each month
  • Take a long weekend with my wife and leave the kid with some grandparent
  • Read 41 books
  • Write 50 record reviews
  • Write 20 usable Science Club or Live Jazz songs
  • Not watch TV unless I am actively engaged in what I am watching (no passive viewing)
  • Eat meat only once a week
  • Learn a new song on piano each month
  • Not go to the same restaurant twice
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The Incident

Certain specifics elude me. I know it happened on a Sunday morning after a wedding in Bensalem (James and Diana? Eric and Erin? Someone else?). I know it happened at the Golden Corral on Street Road (Did we have jackets on? Was there snow on the ground? Was it hot?). I cannot even clearly remember who I was with (Friends? An ex? Platonic dates?). Such color is lost to time, ultimately not as important as what I do remember, which is the hangover.

Hangovers, They will tell you, the smug bastards, only get worse with age. What used to last an hour lasts a day, what used to last a day lasts a weekend. Where there once was a perverse joy to be found in suffering from – and ultimately overcoming – the slow recession of low-dosage alcohol poisoning, there is instead a prolonged greater suffering, one that reverberates in both the physical and spiritual, the corporeal and the metaphysical. Mental insult to physical injury. It’s not just that you will be sweating and nauseous or that your head will throb like a klaxon, it’s that you will know better and you did it to yourself, all the same. Chose to do it, or maybe not.

If I were to catalog it, I would consider this hangover my first true “I am an adult now and this shit is not funny anymore” hangover. I wonder sometimes, as I recall the incident; I would feel this way had what I am about to share with you not occurred? Impossible to say, as these two things – the hangover and the incident – are inseparable in my mind.

And so. The wedding was over, the day after had settled in, and the revelers, or at least one reveler, needed the most possible food for the lowest possible cost. $10.99 for a breakfast plate. Bargain of a lifetime.

I remember we got seats. I remember we had water brought to us and that it was very important to me that I get more immediately. I remember a plate, no tray, and the yellow rubber scrambled eggs I splashed onto it. I remember looking for potatoes, finding them wilted and sad, wrinkled like toes brining in the ocean, and thinking that with enough ketchup I would be able to swallow this all down before happily receiving seconds. I remember the chocolate fountain.

Let me clarify something. One of the big selling points of the Golden Corral is its chocolate fountain. More than value, more than “down homing cooking” or whatever, the chocolate fountain is the signature. Every restaurant in the chain, from Puyallup to El Cajon, from Port St. Lucie to Saratoga Springs, has one in its store. It’s probably on right now, bubbling its cascade of velvet plasma down three distinct domes, awaiting someone like you to show up to the buffet, skewer some marshmallows or strawberries or, perversely, brownies, and ram them under its warm waterfall.

Let me clarify something else. You pay before you enter the Golden Corral. You walk into a vestibule with “In” and “Out” turnstiles, and you pay for your ticket on the ride. I remember it took some time for us to get our party through – something about cash only, or not enough cash, or splitting a card, or some other equally mundane plot point from an episode of Friends that is so pervasive in the life of people in their early-to-mid 20s – and I remember the folks behind us were a little impatient about it. For they were a large family, you seen, with many children. They were coming, if I were to guess based on their attire, from a church service of some kind and, well, I’ve been to mass often enough to understand how the spirit can move a great hunger within you.

Let me clarify one final thing. In my memory, the Golden Corral cares not for the norms of what does or does not constitute an “appropriate meal.” That’s for you, the paying customer to decide. Waffle for dinner? You bought it, friend. Roast beef from the carving station before sunup? We live to serve, king. All things always. This is the Golden Corral way.

And so, let’s return now to me, in my splendor – greasy, unwashed, smelling of new love and Goldschlager, clutching a plate of inedible neon food, shuffling like a hunchback past the chocolate fountain, only to cross paths with a small boy from the churchgoers. No older than nine years old, a plate of fried chicken clasped in his hands.

I’ll say this for the child; he did not hesitate. He knew what he wanted to do, knew that the understaffed restaurant couldn’t care less as long as the money came through, knew that his guardians were too occupied with the other children in the caravan, knew that no one could tell him otherwise that this was a foul act. He was a professional. He glided up to the fountain, and in less time than it will take you to finish this sentence, he picked up a drumstick nearly as long as his own arm and thrust it into the falling chocolate.

There are things that came to me after the fact; the smell of salt and sweet, the sick way the chocolate coated the chicken like a polymer, the way the boy didn’t even smile as he gave the bird a quarter-turn. What I remember is the grease sliding off the chicken and into the fountain’ reservoir, where it became a part of the whole, sucked back up into the great metal nightmare, forever circulating with the endless fudge. I remember chunks of chicken breading falling off the bone, bobbing like cauliflowers in the pooling goo. I remember that I threw up in my mouth the same instant the chocolate hit the poultry. But most of all, I remember a thought streaking across my addled mind like a comet. It was this: Finally, something on the outside matches how I’m feeling on the inside.

I have not been to a Golden Corral since. I’ll bet that kid’s chicken tasted fucking amazing.

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100 Words: Bloodborne

I feel like I’ve been using this blog as a collection bucket for the bile inside of me, so here’s me writing about something I actually like for a change.

You have to want to explore it, is the thing. The best games are the ones with the best stories, and occasionally the best stories are the ones that tell you the least and leave you to fill in the gaps. Bloodborne is almost all gaps. It’s also creative, fast, crushingly hard at times, and scary. But it’s always fair. It’s the rare game that feels like an accomplishment when you reach the next level or beat a boss you’ve been getting mushed into paste against for 20 consecutive tries. That you’ll want to go for 21 is the magic.

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100 Words: MUNA’s Saves the World

A new name for the same thing, is the takeaway. This kind of female-focused catharsis vehicle used to be strictly coffee house, and it still kind of is, even if those guitars have been run through the CHVRCHES / HAIM machine. None of this bad, to be clear. It wants to be pop music sprung up from the electronic world, and it head-nods that way well enough. Mostly, it wants to make you cry, and it does a good job. My thing is this: should it be so brazen in how it’s working me over? There’s manipulation, then there’s gloating.

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Live from Fridays

I type this from a high-top table in a Friday’s chain restaurant outside of Newark, New Jersey, where I am killing time before I return a rental car at 3 p.m. I will pass that time by reviewing the music that plays on the restaurant’s speakers.

UNKNOWN ARTIST – UNKNOWN PIANO SONG

Has a “Kate Nash for people who find Kate Nash too edgy” vibe going on, like Regina Spektor if someone steamrolled all the personality out of her. It does not make me want to slug a $2 bud light draft, and it certainly doesn’t make me want to buy the $5 blue liquor monstrosity. Hell, this might even be Regina Spektor. I can’t really tell; I keep waiting for a chorus to hit or some kind of vocal line to rise above the ambient mumbling and constantly ringing phone of the restaurant. I am unwilling to download any song-identifying app, so I’m going to have to just lose this one to time.

IS IT GOOD? No.

DOES IT MAKE ME WANT TO FRIDAYS: No.

UNKNOWN ARTIST – UNKNOWN CHANTY FOLK SONG

This is some kind of post-Lumineers stadium-folk, but that doesn’t matter, because the asian salad I just ordered came with a full-blown fortune cookie on top of it! A salad! With a cookie on it! Fridays, what the fuck? Again, can’t make this one out over the noise of the restaurant, this whole blog might be a bust. The fortune cookie was good through.

IS IT GOOD? HO!

DOES IT MAKE ME WANT TO FRIDAYS: HEY!

UNKNOWN ARTIST – UNKNOWN ADULT CONTEMPORARY SONG

The premise of this blog is now a farce because, for the third time in a row, I cannot make out any identifying characteristics of this song to google and it is just now occurring to me that this is probably a feature, not a bug. It sounds like the end credits music to a Dreamworks movie about a snail that wants to fly or some shit.

Fortune cookie aside, my salad is bad because I opted to not get chicken and instead went for a beyond meat paddy. I did this because I am trying to go more plant-based in my diet since we’re in the middle of a climate crisis and I don’t want to die this way. That said, this plant meat has a weird spiciness to it that plays oddly with the sesame sauce of dish, and it’s also probably 45 degrees hotter than the salad, which makes everything on my fork taste wrong. This is about what I expected from a Fridays in Linden NJ at 2 p.m., to be honest.

IS IT GOOD? No

DOES IT MAKE ME WANT TO FRIDAYS: No

Alright, I can’t make out any of these songs. This blog is over.

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100 Words: “Epaulets” by the Hold Steady

A criticism of post-Stay Positive Hold Steady is that it doubled down on guitars without knowing how to wrangle all them six-strings; it’s the same problem The Polyphonic Spree had. The band figured out how to have it all on “Epaulets,” which stands as a survey course, a history lesson, and the best song on the band’s triumphant 2019 record. Horns, keys, guitars, background “bop bops,” all aimed at your beer-drinking, dumb-dancing heart, hitting dead fucking center. Finn doesn’t even need to be there, that he brings an honest chorus is the gift on top. You can have it, too.

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New watch

It’s a matter of degrees and I recognize that.

Is there a tangible difference between, say, a phone in my pocket that tracks my steps while also beaming my location information into a server somewhere where it will become, at best, digital flotsam, at medium, a product to be sold or, at worst, something sinister to be used by the hands of a non-corporate entity and a watch on my wrist that does the same thing? No, probably not. Is the fight already over? Yes, it certainly is.

That said, I still find all this Fitbit news to be unsettling and a little bit upsetting. Not because anything will happen or has happened, but because I like my Fitbit. It’s a good watch. Also because, even if it is a matter of degrees, it represents an erosion. It represents the perpetual slide of privacy and personal information away from individual ownership and into the data lake, where we are not people but number sets. I get that the horse has left the barn. I’m just perpetually surprised that they want the hay and the oats, too. Which is more my fault than theirs, I guess.

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How serious am I to take things?

There is no such thing as “we” but I am going to employ it here nonetheless. I need “us” to come to a consensus on how serious we are going to take Twitter. Maybe even more specifically, I need the news reporting outlets of the nation to come to an understanding on how seriously they are going to take what the president says on Twitter. Hell, if I go even one step further, maybe the answer I am really looking for is “do not click on the link if it says anything about ‘the President’s language’ or any other such nonsense.”

This is the article that inspires this blog, if you are interested, but it could just as well be any other article from any other point in the last five years. I suppose there is evidence to suggest we should take this kind of thing seriously. Tweets being stored in the Library of Congress, the evolution of the fireside chats and the Presidential Radio Address, the precedent set by the previous administration. And yet.

At a certain point you spew so much nonsense that the channel itself becomes polluted. The more I think about it, the more I think this is my problem. I take the “we” back. I am going to file this under “pay attention to the things that matter” and agree to disagree with the content pushers of the western world. Hell, I clicked the link, so I can’t even cry foul. We’re all just filling space until the next thing, anyway.

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The most money I will pay for certain items

I know how much a gallon of (almond) milk costs because I am the primary grocery shopper in my household. This is because I have the more active interest in cooking and because I am a control freak. Because I am often cruising the mean aisles of IGA or my local co-op, I know what scale of costs I’m looking at for all the basics. Here’s my personal limit on some such items, because it is Tuesday and I am tracking my calories again and I am thinking about food I cannot eat because my relationship to food is probably fucked up and if it were not so hard to find a therapist accepting new patients in this godforsaken city I’d talk to someone about it but I can’t so I blog.

MILK: $5

Caveat off the bat: There’s evidence to suggest my kid can’t handle lactose just yet, so we might be switching over to some chemically enhanced milk of some kind. I assume that stuff costs more than the usual. Otherwise, I won’t go over $5 for a gallon of milk. Also, don’t buy vanilla almond milk on accident, that makes for a shitty bowl of cereal.

COLD CUTS: $9 per lbs

We usually get half-pound portions that make for roughly 4-6 sandwiches. There’s a lot of difference between, say, the store turkey and the Hickory Farms stuff, but the distance between the Hickory Farms and the Boar’s Head isn’t great enough to justify the $11 per pound price point. Turkey has a ceiling, I guess is what I mean.

APPLES: $2.50 per lbs

In theory, there are good apples out there, but I’ve never had them. Are they the ones that cost $2.99 per pound? I’ll never know.

GOLDFISH CRACKERS: $3

I got a bag of these fuckers on sale for $1.99 the other day. Truly, one of the highlights of my week.

A BIG PLASTIC TUB OF BABY SPINACH: $6

Put baby spinach in anything and suddenly it’s health food. I made a lasagna the other night that is basically just several bricks of various cheeses, but because I fisted some wilted spinach in there it became a health food. That’s a little thing called fitness.

PASTA SAUCE: $7

The good pasta sauces are much, much better than the value-priced ones. This is where Big Pasta gets me every time.

CAT LITTER: $10

We like the no-scent clumping kind, but we like the low-end version of the no-scent clumping kind. The cat is an animal, it’ll be fine.

CEREAL: $4.50

I don’t buy the kid cereals anymore, but I still walk the length of the cereal aisle like I’m going to suddenly find some new, healthy optionthat doesn’t taste like I bought it at a hardware store. Never happens but I still look, because I am an idiot.

INSTANT OATMEAL: $3

Here’s a life hack for you: buy the cheapest possible instant oatmeal and treat it as a binding agent for the good shit you actually want to eat. Oatmeal is the glue holding the handmade Christmas card together, nothing more. One of my most common breakfasts is instant oatmeal, a little peanut butter, some crushed raspberries and half a banana sliced up. What’s good about this breakfast is the raspberry and the peanut butter. The oatmeal is just there to hold it all in place. It doesn’t have to be good, and I’d argue it shouldn’t be . What, do you want the fanciest prison breakfast?

VARIOUS OF BUTTER SPREADS (PEANUT, ALMOND, ETC): $5

My wife really like almond butter. Based on price, they must manufacture it on the moon. It’s always like $9 a jar, for a jar half the size of Jif, which I can always find and purchase for less than the cost of a pair of shoelaces. Being married to me is a joy.

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Don’t Get Excited

It’s not the anticipation I mind as much as it is the performance of that anticipation, and the preemptive solidification of opinion, or at least, again, the performance of that solidification.

Theory: We’re all so numb that the only means of expressing anything is to express complete devotion or complete revulsion. Not sure who the “we” is here, exactly.

Maybe it’s always been this way. Maybe it’s just lived in notebooks, flyers, journals, tabletop games, sleepovers, landline phone calls, USEnet newsletters. Maybe it wasn’t indexed and readily available for any bored office worker to lower themselves into at the end of a lunch break. My take? It should have stayed there.

I don’t know, man. Maybe this isn’t a problem. But I think this is wrecking us. And I don’t even know what “this” is anymore. Is it the selecting of sides? The establishing of an enemy? The knowing of friends? The complete digitization of interaction? The fact that it’s not even that as much as it is extreme inter-connectivity but only on the most superficial level? It makes me want to walk into the ocean, to move into a cave, to cut off my internet and keep a journal and read book and speak to no one about anything that isn’t specifically in front of my face or physically in my hands. Whatever it is, whatever the solution. I am exhausted.

I don’t own this thought, but I echo it here: Anticipation is for suckers. To anticipate something is to be either disappointed or to be dishonest. The only thing to judge is the thing itself. The rest is just pennies in the pockets of people who don’t need it, at the commodification of your fetish.

I hope you enjoy the star war.

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Best Books I’ve Read (and Two Books I Didn’t Finish) in 2019, So Far, But Let’s Wait and See, It’s a Long Year and I’ve Still Got a Lot of Holds Out at The Library

5) Seveneves by Neil Stephenson

Half fantasy epic, half science textbook, Stephenson dares the average reader to give a shit about the details of orbital decay and gravity waves as he painstakingly tells the story of the moon blowing up. It’s a testament to the writer that the book isn’t anywhere near as silly as it sounds.

4) Duplex by Kathryn Davis

I dare not try and describe the plot of this novel, mostly because I am far too stupid to even take a swing at explaining what’s going on here. Generally speaking, it’s about longing and loss, opportunities missed, and regret. It has at least one sorcerer in it, but it’s not about magic. It has robots in it, but it isn’t sci-fi. This is the kind of book that takes a close read, and more than one.

3) Cherry by Nico Walker

The story of the author is almost more compelling than the narrative itself. I have no idea how the author is every going to write another book. I’ll say this: I was an English minor in college. I took creative writing classes. The young adults who aspire to be novelists at the collegiate level do not have problems. They wish they had problems like Nico Walker has problems. To crib two different bands; he has the scars and the war. I don’t remember the last time a book as made me this sad.

2) Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Cheerleading as blood sport. Teen love as blood sport. Cheating on spouses as blood sport. Crime writing as blood sport. Megan Abbott is the best crime writer we’ve got going and it doesn’t feel particularly close. It’ll make you feel like you’re in high school again, whether you want to or not, whether it was 5 years or 50 years ago.

1) The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

I finished this one yesterday, so it’s still fresh. One of the wildest endings I’ve come across in some time, but one in retrospect that feels completely earned and correct. I recently confessed that I’m an idiot and that all literary satire is over my head. This one was not. A story about spies; the fall of Saigon and the losing of the Vietnam war; the immigrant experience in America (doctors as busboys, generals as liquor store owners); the struggles of being “mixed;” a thousand other little things.

DNF) Blood Meridian by Cormack McCarthy

I got about 150 pages in and I just couldn’t take any more savagery. I’ll finish it eventually, but Jesus. A word of warning: If you’re predisposed to feel like the world is a cold, uncaring, not even merciless because it implies the idea of mercy exists at all-type place, do not read this on the bus.

DNF) Snowcrash by Neil Stephenson

Felt like I was being suffocated one Reddit thread at a time.

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Best 2019 Music of 2019, As of July 16, 2019

All the usual caveats about lists, mid-year lists, what I’ve missed so far, what I plan not to engage with, how my listening habits and attention span are broken and not conducive to meaningful engagement with the work, your mileage and how it may vary, and so on and so forth into the endless void of time and space. Buy the records or the records will stop.

Insignificant Others by Insignificant Others – Philadelphia-specific fun-punk by those well-positioned to create it.

Demo by The Ire – Probably my favorite EP of the year, released three days into 2019.

gotta get to work by Choral Reef – Probably my second-favorite EP of the year, aping Pavement and sounding new doing it.

Too Small by Potential Gospel – Living room folk for those who will never be happy again.

Radiant Dawn by Operators – The no-future 80s Berlin dance party I should have assumed I needed.

Tube Reducer by Booji Boys – I can already hear you mewing about the production and I do not care because I am too busy drunk-driving my bumper car and having the time of my life.

Malibu Ken by Malibu Ken – An indie-rap collaboration that makes so much sense I cannot fathom how it took this long for it to happen.

Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD by Future – Emo record of the year and it’s not especially close, though shout-out to La Dispute who will not be featured on this list.

VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR by HEALTH – Static X will never die, but you will.

Better Oblivion Community Center by Better Oblivion Community Center – The saddest fucking thing I’ve heard since the last Phoebe Bridgers album.

Shelters by Bars of Gold – In all the world of post-punk or post-hardcore, there is no other band that does what Bars of Gold do.

An Obelisk by Titus Andronicus – Nearly 15 years into selling rock & roll solutions, the band is fully steering into it’s mid-career catalog, and I cannot deny there is something thrilling about this band, making this album, being this old. Own a piece of rock history.

I Am Easy to Find by The National – I, for one, am delighted by the National’s turn as Male Feminists.

Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend – Shaggiest, weirdest, most interesting record I’ve heard so far.

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The Future is Amazing / I Feel so Fucking Old

Let us now turn our textbooks to track three on Aesop Rock’s 2016 album, The Impossible Kid; “Lotta Years,” in which our aged San Fran-by-way-of-New York City hero outlines the two available sides of the coin when the old guard must grapple with the new.

It’s telling that the second verse is where it is. It strikes an a hopeful – and I think ultimately correct – chord, and positions itself on the right side of history. Move aside, let the kids go through.

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A Brief PSA Regarding Media in 2019, and Likely Into the Future Until the Global Collapse

You only own what you can hold, and you only hold what cannot be taken from you.

Support your local record store. Support your local book store. Support your local … grocery store that also sells DVDs, I guess? If all else fails, support your local thrift store.

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Daydrunks are Good

I’m calling it now; at the risk of rudeness, Daydrunks are going to be my favorite band that never puts out a proper album.

These two songs on this 2018 split with Lazy Eye – “Go Birds!” and “Why Japan?” are the kind of songs that can become someone’s life if discovered at the right time and with the right temperature. I hear in these wistful emo-rivial tunes the same heart-exploding sincerity I heard in Algernon Cadwallader, Snowing, The Original Marta, Hot Club de Paris, Attack in Black, or any other number of foundational bands that meant a lot but weren’t built to last, for whatever reason. The common thread is a kind of joyful tenderness that thrills in the moment, but proves hard to hold on to. Daydrunks, at least in these short songs, have that moment by the horns. It’s a thrill to behold.

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Meagan and Nate at the Movies: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Because having a child means you cannot leave the house after 6:30 p.m., we’ve started having movie night at our house every week. We take turns picking the movie, watch it in the dark without phones, and review the movie afterward.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, an outdated sense of what constitutes “growth” or “agency”

Meagan’s Review:

This movie is more fun than it deserves to be. It does not make me want to move to Canada. It’s not great for women, but it’s not terrible for women either. I wanted to justify that fact by adding “for a movie from 2003,” but turns out it’s from 2010, so maybe I take that back. Let’s remake this movie with Knives instead.

Nate’s Review:

The casting is perfect. The “life as video game” gags hold up. The visual style is playful. The character Scott Pilgrim hasn’t aged well, not that he was meant to. It certainly feels different watching this movie some 10 years later, considering where culture is – and isn’t – with the “charmingly flawed man-child” trope.

A few more thoughts: Knives Chau is the hero we need, Chris Evans is a delight, Jason Swartzman only does the one thing but nobody does it better, Kieran Culkin steals the show, thanks for showing up, Anna Kendrick.


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Run it Run it

Catch me on the right day and I’ll argue to the death that the only art that matters is the shit you can hear from the back of the house and the top of the rafters. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, the loudest voice gets the ears. You, strawman, could argue the difference between hearing and listening, but let’s not act like there isn’t a premium on one over the other.

There’s an mindset – I’d argue a valid one – that goes “If your shit can’t be scrawled on the stall of a bathroom, it isn’t worth it.” The biggest tent, the widest of arms, the most broad of suggestions is what it takes, this mindset thinks, and communicating to a lot of people of a very simple, only sort-of thing is a greater endeavor than expressing anything less or more. Pop art might be the only art, if you catch me on the right day.

I wish for the continued success of Lizzo.

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Meagan and Nate at the Movies: She’s the Man

Because having a child means you cannot leave the house after 6:30 p.m., we’ve started having movie night at our house every week. We take turns picking the movie, watch it in the dark without phones, and review the movie afterward.

She’s The Man (2006)
Directed by: Andy Frickman
Starring: Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Trans-panic, weird accent work, obvious body doubles

Meagan’s Review:

If it weren’t for the transphobia, She’s the Man would be a perfect film. It’s got everything: sports, sideburns, mistaken identity, punches, smooches. Is Amanda Bynes a convincing man? No. But is Channing Tatum a soccer-kicking dreamboat? Absolutely.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Nate’s Review:

Someone much smarter than me could probably write a compelling paper on transgender sexuality as it relates to mid-tier teen comedies of the early aughts, but as it stands, I was more taken with the extremely horny, extremely nerdy Eunice character (“’I know tricks <deep kiss>” was the biggest laugh of the movie for me).

You watch She’s The Man, you see a clown and a comedian; you’re laughing at one, laughing with the other. Channing Tatum’s talent is obvious, even here. Say this for Amanda Bynes, she’s willing to mug as much as it takes to get her laughs.

3 out 5

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Meagan and Nate at the Movies: Armageddon

Because having a child means you cannot leave the house after 6:30 p.m., we’ve started having movie night at our house every week. We take turns picking the movie, watch it in the dark without phones, and review the movie afterward.

Armageddon (1998)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Space Dementia, Aresomith

Meagan’s review

An assault on your intelligence and your senses.

Minuses: Billy Bob Thornton should not be in charge of NASA and, in fact, does a very bad job. Ben Affleck starts an oil company in 16 hours. Michael Clarke Duncan gets from the South China Sea to South Dakota in 16 hours. Every special effect looks like a screensaver.

Pluses: Someone (no spoilers!) gets space dementia.

There’s a moment where Bruce Willis asks Billy Bob, incredulously, “This is it? This is the best plan NASA can come up with?” That is what you will ask yourself watching Armageddon. This movie reads like it was written at a summer camp, and everyone’s ideas had to be included

3 out of 5 stars

Nate’s Review

22 years later, you forget that the movie is shot like one long montage. Only 18 days until the earth is obliterated, after all, so you can make an argument for the constant cutting and artless swirling of the camera. Doesn’t make the movie less of a stomach ache, though.

Some stuff still works. The “getting the band together and teaching them to be astronauts” section is as fun as it gets. Steve Buccemi and Peter Stromare get to chew scenery, and that’s almost as fun. The legacy of Armageddon is as the ur-text for Michael Bay’s next twenty years.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Books I Have Lied About Reading (and a Brief Explanation of / or Context Regarding Why)

Monster Blood III by R.L. Stine

I was in the fifth grade, or thereabouts. I was on the phone with my friend Jeff, or thereabouts (might have been Kevin). This was an age in which I would call any friend to talk about anything. My whole social life outside of school was landline-based. The first time I heard “Closing Time” by Semisonic on 95.1 The Nerve, Rochester’s rock station? I called Jeff to talk about it. The first time I saw the video for “We’re Not Making Love No More” by Dru Hill on MTV? I called Sean to talk about it. When I saw that Monster Blood III by R.L. Stine, the latest in his long-running Goosebumps series, was available to purchase at the Barnes & Noble at the Greece Ridge Mall? I had to let Jeff / Kevin know.

Imagine my excitement to share the news. Imagine how hurt I felt when Jeff/Kevin said “Uh, yeah. I know that’s out, I’ve already read it.” Imagine how that hurt evolved into a quick-thinking lie; “Oh, totally. I’ve read it, too, I just wanted you to know it was out.”

This might be the first lie I remember telling. Not saying it was the first one I ever told, but for sure it’s the first one I remember clearly. Don’t know if I ever actually read Monster Blood III.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Sometimes you’re in the seventh grade and you have a crush on a girl with glasses and you want to seem way smarter than you are, so you tell them you’ve read A Tale of Two Cities. Later on, at the church lock-in, you’ll fail to understand how this awesome lie didn’t result in her picking you to go into the closet for seven minutes in heaven.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

I wanted to impress my grandfather, who was notoriously cantankerous. Knowing he wouldn’t be give a shit about me reading Stephen King or whatever, I made the off-handed remark (in a room full of people as a conversation that did not involve me flowed like riverwater around an fat, stupid stone) that I had just finished War and Peace and thought it was overrated.

Can you even imagine it? Me, a 13-year-old! Saying he read War and Peace! And found it overrated! A full 20 years later I still haven’t read War and Peace and I utterly lack the context and literary lexicon to determine its proper rating. I have always been an idiot.

It should be said, my grandfather was all over this. “You read War and Peace? What was it about?”

I swear this part is 100% true. You have to believe me. This is exactly what I said, and probably the exact moment my grandfather correctly decided that this I was not worth paying attention to.

“Oh, you know … There was a war … and then the peace that came after.”

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Summer reading assignment between junior and senior year of high school. If memory serves, that was the summer I was big into pickup basketball and driving around in my parents’ van. I read about 10 pages, decided I’d had enough, and wrote a paper on the book based entirely on the CliffsNotes. Think I got a C-, which is what I deserved.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

There was a time in my life when I had minor aspirations of being a stand-up comic. If you could kindly forget that when you see me, I’d really appreciate it.

One of the “jokes” that I had was basically that I treated relationships the way Lenny from Of Mice and Men treats rabbits. Not the worst joke in the world (those were the other, like, five things that could under extreme charity be described as “bits), but one that presupposes the lie that I’ve read any Steinbeck at all. Still haven’t read the book, but absorbed the ending from cultural osmosis. Seems like a real downer.

In summation, I have always been a weak coward who is willing to say anything to get people to like me. See you next blog.

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PROMO CORNER: Nightmarathon’s “Waiting Room”

Occasionally, I’ll receive music promo into my inbox. Occasionally, I’ll write about it.

Nightmarathons – “Waiting Room”

Huh, it turns out I’m still not sick of bands that sound like Iron Chic. Who knew?

Look, if you wanted to poke holes in this, you could. This manner of group-singing anthema is about as well-worn a trope as pop punk has going (though I’ve never heard it described the way it is here, as “Hot Water Music meets Piebald,” which, goddamn if that isn’t right on the money). For a song that runs three-and-a-half minutes long, there isn’t really much “there” there. It has the same problem Bridge and Tunnel has always had in my view: fist-pumping build ups that go no where, like a roller-coaster that climbs only to run flat for a few hundred feet.

But, honestly, fuck all that. It’s a swelling sing-along about thinking about one’s past in the face of an uncertain future. I’m not inclined to pick this band’s particular nits. This shit works, Nightmarathons are working it, and it works on me. See you when the record comes out on March 29, boys.

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The Oldest Things About Me, March 2019

1) I love the New York Times Cooking section: Could probably extend this whole line item to “I love the New York Times,” but that’s not specifically “old” so much as it is, i don’t know, “coastal elite?”

Anyway, the Cooking section: Can’t get enough of it. I subscribe the newsletter and look forward to it every Friday. I save recipes in the little digital recipe box. I make the ones that look easy for a weeknight. I have opinions on what their recipes call for in terms of aromatics and fats. I’ve considered leaving comments on recipes saying as such. Truly, some very Old shit.


2) I have to wear my pants higher up on my torso than is fashionable: I’m getting fat as shit and this is a consequence. You know who else does this, besides the fat? The Old. Someone should write a blog about that.

3) Tinnitus: Just a little ringing, just in my left ear, every now and again. I see here that it can be a symptom of a circulatory system disorder, so now I’ll be worried about that all day.


4) I go to bed at 9:30: Only god can judge me, you cowards.


5) My baseline perspective going in to any new music is “I am not going to like this”: Congrats to Protomartyr, the only new-ish band who is good, according to me, an Old person.

6) My thumb hurts sometimes for no real reason: No, I will not be seeing a doctor about this. Yes, my decision to eschew medical assistance does make me somewhat young.

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2018 Culture Lists

Top Albums of 2018

Reprinted here sans the emotional manipulation. For the spelling error-riddled original, go here.

30) Lemuria’s Recreational Hate, which completed the band’s transformation from emo-revival to do-it-all indie rock marathon runners.

29) Shame’s Songs of Praise, for it’s youthful acidity.

28) Cloud Nothings’ Last Building Burning, for its consistency.

27) Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, for it’s swiss army country.

26) Booji Boys’ Weekend Rocker, for overcoming it’s UK origins with a true Midwestern sensibility to punk creation.

25) Turnstile’s Time and Space, for sounding like Snapcase.

24) War on Women’s Capture the Flag, for doing the exact same shit it did last time.

23) Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, for it’s legitimization of Takeoff.

22) Culture Abuse’s Bay Dream, for brining well-intentioned stonerism back to indie rock.

21) Robyn’s Honey, for it’s oddball Sega Genisis-ass songs and it’s bold decision to reject any sort of would-be gay anthem.

20) Titus Andronicus’ A Productive Cough, for giving fans something to talk about 30 years from now, ala Tunnel of Love.

19) Alkaline Trio’s Is This Thing Cursed?, for overcoming its embarassing name and the last decade of AK3 records by being good.

18) Young Jesus’ The Whole Thing is Just There, for being the intersection of Built to Spill, Okkerville River and Bright Eyes.

17) Ought’s Room Inside the World, for being the aught’s best answer to The Talking Heads, still.

16) Mike Pace and the Child Actors’ Smooth Sailing, for sounding like either Elton John or Billy Joel depending on how many glasses of red wine you’ve had.

15) Iceage’s Beyondless, for being bottomless, venereal glam-punk ejaculate.

14) Hurry’s Every Little Thought, for being the intersection of Yo La Tengo and R.E.M.

13) Future’s BEASTMODE2, for what will we all do when these racks are blue?

12) Foxing’s Nearer my God, for trying to take emo to the U2 house.

11) Deafheaven’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, for being a Fucked Up album.

10) Playboi Cardi’s Die Lit, for being rap’s answer to post-rock.

9) The Dirty Nil’s Master Volume, for making high-minded butt rock in a world that fears such crotch-forward works.

8) IDLES’ Joy as an Act of Resistance, for it’s middle-aged acidity.

7) The Sidekicks’ Happiness Hours, a band you will all regret not paying attention to when the inevitable revival comes.

6) Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s How to: Friendship, Love, Freefall, for sounding like Modest Mouse, Band of Horses and rap.

5) Screaming Females’ All at Once, for making their rock opera.

4) Fucked Up’s Dose your Dreams, for making their second rock opera.

3) Hot Snakes’ Jericho Sirens, for it’s bottomless bottom and it’s ancient acidity.

2) Pusha T’s Daytona, for justifying all the noise made by Kanye West in 2018.

1) Restorations’ LP5000, because we’re all tired and here’s a way to get through it.

Meagan’s Top Music of the Year:

“I was gestating all year, so I wasn’t really paying attention. What came out this year? Cardi B, I didn’t like that single. I didn’t even hear ‘Thank You, Next,’  I think this makes me officially 100 years old. ‘Baby Shark?’ There were several Drake songs that I liked. ‘I’m Upset,’ but only in the context of my daughter.” – Meagan, who should blog.

Top 20 Songs of the Year:

Excluding songs from the AOTY list for simplicity sake.

20) Superchunk – Break the Glass

19) Pool Radio – norton

18) Lil Wayne – Mona Lisa (ft. Kendrick Lamar)

17) Kevin Gates – Find you Again

16) Jeff Rosenstock – Yr Throat

15) Salad Boys – Psych Slasher

14) Te Go! Team – Mayday

13) Typhoon – Rorschach

12) Professor Caveman – Babies

11) The Men – Rose on Top of the World

10) JOBS – Path

9) Nine Inch Nails – Over and Out

8) Soccer Mommy – Clean

7) The Hold Steady – Confusion in the Marketplace

6) The Body – Ten Times a Day, Every Day, a Stranger

5) Barely March – Thinking Emoji

4) Lil Baby – Yes Indeed (ft. Drake)

3) Protomartyr – Wheel of Fortune

2) Drake – Nice for What

1) Car Seat Headrest – Bodys

Top Movies of 2018

5) Black Panther because, beyond that “What are THOSES!?!” joke that will age like yogurt, it’s fun.

4) A Quiet Place because, besides being a trojan horse response to Get Out, it’s horrifyingly quiet.

3) Mission Impossible: Fallout, because Tom Cruise crashes a helicopter onto a guy.

2) Widows, because it was more about grief and debt than anything else.

1) Annihilation, because the last 20 minutes were as insane as anything I’ve seen on screen since I was a teenager and I fell asleep during From Hell.

Top Concerts Attended in 2018

5) Professor Caveman / Americanadian at the PhilaMoca, because Flynn told a joke that makes me laugh when I think about it now and because Professor Caveman played this song.

4) The Lawrence Arms at Baltimore SoundStage, because they really did sound better in Baltimore than Philadelphia.

3) Protomartyr / Preoccupations at The Foundry, because I read A Prayer for Owen Meany between sets and woman hit on me (bonus reason: Preoccupations redeemed themselves before my very eyes).

2) The Hold Steady at Union Transfer, because I drank too much and felt like I was 22 for a second.

1) Latterman at Boot and Saddle, because it was a long time coming and it felt incredible.

Top Books Read in 2018

10) The Passage by Justin Cronin, because more writers should graduate from the Iowa Writers Workshop then make genre fiction.

9) Queenpin by Megan Abbott, because I want to live inside the dialog from this female-forward noir potboiler.

8) Borne by Jeff Vandermeer, because more fairy tale should revolve around complete environmental collapse.

7) Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, because it’s hard enough to tell one compelling story, let alone six.

6) The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, because it outlines the dangers of turning into a bug (someone will throw an apple at you!).

5) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, because it has, weirdly enough, a cheerful ending.

4) A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, because it rewards the idea – and the skepticism – of faith.

3) The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder, because dudes are absurd and our rituals should be chronicled for the humor they possess.

2) Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, because it heard you like greek choruses, so it put a greek chorus in your greek chorus.

1) My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, because you should never trust a boy who drives a cool car.

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The Top 30 Albums of 2018 (Sudden Death and Credit Card Debt)

30) Lemuria – Recreational Hate

2018 is the year of Sudden Death and Credit Card Debt. It’s a little joke I make to my wife when we buy something we can’t afford in the moment, a little mantra I say to myself after I’ve discovered someone that I love has died. It’s not a fair or hopeful slogan, but it’s the correct one.

29) Shame – Songs of Praise

I was driving in Delaware, somewhere south of Wilmington, making small talk with two relative strangers on the way to a retreat, when I found out Jim had died. Sam called to tell me and my first reaction was silence. It was an experience I’d get to be on the other side of soon enough.

28) Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning

Here are some facts: We became friends working in the food service department at LaSalle University the summer between my sophomore and junior year. We spent our summer in a small office, on the clock 35 hours a week, playing NES emulators, drinking whiskey and cokes out of paper cups and listening to music. I’ve never wanted to impress a friend the way I wanted to impress him. Spending time with him was stepping into a world outside my own, one populated with artistic, intelligent people who always had something clever to say, a smart joke to make. I felt hopelessly outmatched, terrified at being found out, thrilled to be there.

27) Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

He had wild, curly red hair and a baby face. He was an incredible athlete who smoked constantly. He was a brilliant mind with a real joy for the dumbest possible jokes. He was a wildly talented musician who seemed to never find the thing to satisfy his muses. He loved projects, love to stretch his legs with different styles and instruments. His widow compiled a website with all the recorded music of his she could find. You should listen to it. I haven’t been able to yet.

26) Booji Boys – Weekend Rocker

There are parts of Jim’s story that don’t feel like mine to tell, parts that I am not equipped to tell. People get hurt when the information isn’t correct, and I was never in a position to be that close to the truth. We were close friends for a two-year stretch, but I was never his closest friend. My last email from him is dated February 1, 2018. I was telling him about the band HOLY. They reminded me of Of Montreal. Jim was big into Of Montreal in 2007.

25) Turnstile – Time and Space

Sometime in the Spring, a mass was held for Jim. I had missed the first round of remembrances. I sat in the back and cried to myself. I nodded to a mutual friend whose eye I caught. I didn’t talk to his widow. I didn’t stick around to speak to the family or catch up with faces I recognized from college. I didn’t know how to say that I was sorry I couldn’t keep him close to me. I didn’t know how to measure my own sorrow at his passing against those who were much closer to him, who had kept him in his life while I had let our friendship die on the vine. I felt like a fraud. Who was I to mourn this death, he who could not be bothered to make the effort beyond the occasional email and coffee once every 18 months? It felt gaudy and self-serving to be there. Like I wanted to be seen taking it.

24) War on Women – Capture the Flag

This is what happens, isn’t it? You grow and you grow apart. You move to different parts of town, different towns altogether. You meet people and maybe you fall in love, or not. You try to build a life, and maybe that effort means other parts of your life fall away. How do people do it? How do people do well enough by themselves to also do well by others? Some things you take for granted. The price is sneaking out of a funeral mass in a suit that’s too small because of a shame you cannot articulate.

23) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

If I could say something to him now, it’d be this: You were kind to me in a very lonely time. You brought me into your circle and made me feel like I belonged, even when I was certain I did not. You were more capable and talented than you knew. You were too good for the city job you had, too good to not be more well-known, too good to bump around with me. You were a gift and I love you, even if I cannot keep you in my life.

22) Culture Abuse – Bay Dream

Meagan and I spent the bulk of 2018 preparing for the birth of our daughter. There were books to read, classes to take, schedules to maintain, diets to watch, lists to make, blogs to skim, cute clothes to buy, serious health issues to obsess over, rooms to paint, fights to have, and waiting, endless waiting, to be done. And, of course, always, money to be saved.

21) Robyn – Honey

If I had to place myself on a scale somewhere between “absentee father of an out-of-class affair in Victorian times” and “wet dream of progressive partnership,” I suppose I’d fall somewhere right of center during Meagan’s pregnancy, but not by much. I read some of the books, but not all of them. I attended the classes and took notes, but inserted myself into matters that did not warrant my opinion (Here is free advice for all you would-be dads out there: When your wife talks about what kind of pain management strategy she wants during birth, keep your thoughts to yourself). The only place I felt particularly capable in child preparation was finances. We saved like motherfuckers, mostly because I was draconian and irritating about every paycheck. There were spreadsheets, initial savings projections, more spreadsheets, updated projections. I knew where every nickel went from January through August. Lost the thread in late August. That’s when my grandmother had the stroke that would kill her. That’s when my baby was born.

20) Titus Andronicus – Productive Cough

(A brief aside: For a person already predisposed to retreating into himself and not keeping up his relationships, going through a pregnancy really allows you to lean into your indulgences. There was no event, no gathering, no social requirement I could not escape from once evoking the pregnancy the excuse. It was my golden parachute to selfishly indulge my worst character trait in the name of “being a good partner.” Even when it was legitimate, it was a little illegitimate.)

19) Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?

I’m stalling. When I tell you my grandmother was the matriarch of my family, there’s no way you can understand what I mean. I can give you the raw numbers – 12 children, 34 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, countless discarded boyfriends and girlfriends, old friends and new – but unless you’ve crowded into a tent off a dining room or danced to Journey in a wedding hall surrounded, literally, by family lined three-deep, you can’t really understand the tribal strength that the Adams family generates, can’t understand how she was at the center of it, its beating heart, for so many decades.

18) Young Jesus – The Whole Thing is Just There

This is the kind of thing that would get cut from the first draft of a short story in creative writing class, but that does not make it any less true. When I was very little and we would go to visit my grandparents in Clifton Park, New York, I used to sit on the floor next to the TV so I could face them. Their chairs, placed side-by-side to face the TV, looked like thrones to me. My grandfather, drinking in his recliner and my grandmother, knitting in her high-back chair, looked like royalty. Like the king and queen of a tiny, loud, crashing, swirling serfdom. I felt proud to show fealty.

17) Ought – Room Inside the World

And, look, you wouldn’t have to go far to find someone who’d buy that royalty shit. My grandmother was beloved everywhere she went. She made a friend of everyone, be it at the church, at my grandfather’s club, the beach she frequented most of her adult life, the pool clubs she would swim at, or any wedding she was (obviously, because how could you not) invite her to. She was a common denominator, a thing upon which all parties could agree. Even late into her life, when she needed much more help to get around that she let on, when she had to be ushered out of events because the burden of seeing person after person who wanted to talk to her weighed her down, she always had an audience. There was always someone waiting to tell her a joke, or make her mad, or gossip about something happening. She always wanted to hear it, no matter what it was, even when it exhausted her.

16) Mike Pace and the Child Actors – Smooth Sailing

Later in her life, every conversation between the two of us felt like an inside joke to me, like she and I were wise to something that everyone else wasn’t up on. I don’t know if she was that way with everyone, but this octogenarian made me feel incredibly cool.

15) Iceage – Beyondless

When I was 10 or 11, I told her that I felt guilty all the time and I didn’t know why. “It’s because you’re a good catholic,” she told me. I didn’t understand how funny she was then. I miss her humor now. She was a religious woman, but she was also a pragmatist. One of my favorite stories is about how, while sitting with a number of my unwed and, frankly, young female cousins, she said that she wanted great-grandbabies at any cost. “I don’t care how I get them,” she said, as my cousins shrank with embarrassment,” I just want to see them.” She never got to meet Evie, but she got to meet Rose, Gwen, Jack, Henry, Robin and James. She got her wish. She usually did.

14) Hurry – Every Little Thought

Her stroke was as sudden and unexpected as a stroke can be for a woman nearing 90. My parents called me, told me that people were coming to the hospital. Meagan was 9 months pregnant. She stayed behind, told me to go. I was horrified to leave, horrified at the notion of staying. I rented the first car I could, ended up paying $300 for it. I would have paid ten times as much. I drove north, thinking of nothing. Every one of her children was there, nearly all of her grandchildren, at her bedside, working in shifts to sit with her while machines kept her alive. At a certain point, her children all went away to discuss next steps. I sat next to my cousin Theresa in the waiting room, sweaty and greasy with grief, and felt such pride in my father and his siblings, so blessed to have this special thing, such love for this collection of Irish catholic drinkers and sinners, so unsure of what this meant for our family, such sorrow for their loss. I didn’t think much of my own.

13) Future – BEASTMODE2

Privacy is hard to come by in the Adams family. My father cleared people out the next morning to give me a few minutes alone with my grandmother. I told her about my daughter, about what her name was going to be (a closely-guarded secret at that point), told her that I loved her. Then I left, because I had a family of my own about to start. I don’t doubt my decision, not for a second, but I cannot think of one without the other, at least not now.

12) Foxing – Nearer my God

Her children decided to get lunch one day, and she took that moment to pass on. My dad called it her final Irish Goodbye. He says it fits her, and I know he’s right. A few days earlier, that same day all the children of the queen assembled in the makeshift court, my cousin-in-law Amy went into labor. Even at the end, Nancy was getting great grandchildren, not caring how.

11) Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

I need you to know how blessed I am, how much I love my life, how much joy it brings me. My daughter, Evelyn Adams Ingerson – named after her grandmother, the first new Ingerson in nearly 30 years – was born on September 10, 2018, after an induction process that took nearly 24 hours to complete. Her arrival was like falling in love; slowly then all at once. I was in shock when I saw her for the first time. I felt complete love and completely over my head. I watched Meagan hold her seconds after her birth and felt deeply, profoundly, that we were totally fucked, but that we would figure it out. We’d created the room for a family long before Evie arrived, and I knew we’d make it. After all, we’d read (most of) the books.

10) Playboi Carti – Die Lit

We’re three months in now. Evie is starting to explore her world. She is grabbing things, babbling a ton. She smiles now, and it makes me feel like something is exploding inside of my chest every time it happens. I’m home with her on leave of absence now, living on one paycheck, letting the nest egg I obsessed over carry us through into January, letting the credit card debt pile up as it needs to. It’s important only as a means to support this tiny human who looks so confused all the time, who knows nothing except the two blobs that feed and hold her. We’re putting her into daycare in January when I go back to work, a four-month-old to fend for herself with kind strangers. Right now, the debt seems more than fair. I’d take ten times as much if it meant spending all my days with her, watching her learn and grow.

9) IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance

We were putting Evie to bed when my father called me, so I didn’t pick up. When he texted me, I knew something was wrong. He never texted. I wasn’t sure his phone even had the settings required to send messages. I sat in the guest room of my house while Meagan put Evie to sleep, and found out that Jared had died. He was 32 years old. My age.

8) The Dirty Nil – Master Volume

People get hurt when the information isn’t correct. A lot of people have reached out to me asking how Jared died. Ask anyone in my family how it happened, you’ll probably get a slightly different answer. The most simple and true answer is that it is a tragedy. There are things I can’t tell you here, now. Buy me a drink sometime.

7) Rainbow Kitten Surprise – How To: Friend, Love, Freefall

Some facts: Jared was my oldest, closest, and best friend. I am hard-pressed to think of a piece of my life untouched by him. He was a polymath unburdened by any traditional sense of what a boy should be. It freed him up to be something new and special. He was talented beyond belief at any art he attempted. Even (maybe especially) his madcap work with hastily pasted images via Microsoft paint were inspired. He was quick to hug, quicker to laugh. He never made anyone else the butt of his jokes, and had broad enough shoulders to carry being the butt of others. He never made anyone feel they were unwelcome or unwanted. He was married to a patient, strong and compassionate woman whose grief I cannot even begin to give shape to. He died on December 3, 2018. He left behind two loving parents, four adoring sisters, a widow, a family that saw him as second son, an uncle who saw him as a seventh brother, two cousins who saw him as a fourth brother, an untold number of fans and admirers, and me.

6) Sidekicks – Happiness Hours

Processing my grief at Jared’s death will take me the rest of my life. It will be like eating a submarine. It will happen in small, shattering bites, and the remains will move through me like metal until either I or it are finished. My first instinct was to preserve as much of his writing as I could, as much of his music as I could. He published a million little things on scattered blogs and tumblrs throughout his life. I was blessed to read most of them, lucky enough that he shared them with me so I knew where to find him. I set about preserving things he deleted, things he probably forgot about, whatever I could think to find. I could not bear the idea of these things disappearing more than they already had. There was so much of him, everywhere, and he was so brilliant, always, I could not lose any of it having already lost him. Because to die is to fade, and Jared cannot fade. Something my brother Chris told me is that we have to start putting our stores about him, with him, down on paper now, because we are going to start forgetting. I cannot take that.

5) Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams

How’s this for a fucked-up thought: I wonder what his year-end list would have looked like. I wonder what the rest of his Orlando Boys project would have sounded like. I wonder what he would have listened to in 2019, what he would have read, what he would have watched, what he would have written. He feels so incomplete to me that it breaks my heart to think about it, like an entire planet has been wiped out in an instant (Alderaan shit, Jared would have liked it). In the back of my mind, I wonder if I’m so focused on missing these little things because focusing on missing the big thing – the boy I used to play in the words with, the teen I used to tell crushes about, the college student I used to make jokes with, the young man I used to call on the phone while working at the deli, and who would call me while he was selling green energy, the man I would talk to for hours – literally hours! – on the phone with to discuss politics and inevitable dystopian outcomes – hurts too much. I want these little things, because enough little things add up to the whole person. Because these little things were blessings, missives from a brilliant mind I could never understand, only appreciate. Broadcasts from another world.

4) Screaming Females – All at Once

My heart breaks for his widow. It breaks for his parents. For his sisters. I cannot stop thinking of them.

3) Pusha T – Daytona

I sent you a message on Slack last week, Jared. I know you’ll never read it, but a part of me hoped the green light next to your name would light up and you’d respond back. Even though there was a visit, then a wake, then food at the church, then another wake, then a mass, then the weight of your casket running up my arm (“Too big!”) and the bend of the wood beneath my feet, then another lunch at the church, then visiting your grave the next morning, then taking the train to New York to help pack up your apartment, even though I’ve written this and rewritten it, trying to explain the impossibility of this hurt, the impossibility of going on with the rest of my life without you, how selfish these feelings seem compared to what your family must be feeling, how selfish these feelings are to my wife who needs a partner and my daughter who needs a father (you used to call her “Nathanne,” remember that?); even still, right now, part of me cannot help but think this is all some mistake.

2) Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens

I’ve never seen so many people at a viewing. People flew in from across the country for you, Jman. Kate and Ken came in from the Northwest. Sam, Brett, Pat, Nick, Joe and Michelle drove up from Philly. Hundreds – no shit, it must have been hundreds – of others from St. Rose and Rhinebeck and the Cobra Club and Long Island and parts unknown came to see you. Our only common denominator that we were your friends, that we loved you, that you gave us the chance to. You’d have to scour the earth to find a soul who’d say a sour word about you. You were everyone’s favorite. At all times, the village would raise up around you, to carry you on its shoulders. You were impossible. You were beautiful.

1) Restorations – LP5000

There’s no lesson. There’s no narrative. There are hurts, and the hope that time and community will heal them. There is the urge to retreat from others into yourself in the face of a dying world, a dying that happens slowly then all at once. There is the opposite impulse to resist that retreat, to continue to gather with the village, for everyone else if not for yourself. What I do know is that Jim, Nancy and Jared would want me to share myself with other people, even when it hurts to do so. I know they’d be thrilled at the thought of great-grandchildren, new friends, saving old writings and songs so there’s always a piece to hold on to. Even now, in the waning hours of this year of Sudden Death and Credit Card debt, when I have never felt less, there is a child upstairs waiting to see me tomorrow. She is beautiful, she is new, and she has so much to learn.

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100 Words: The Dirty Nil’s Master Volume

Great rock & roll has the mindless immortality of a teenager getting drunk for the first time. It’s going to live forever and conquer everything it sees. Master Volume has the braindead confidence of a truly great rock record. Its subjects are traditional; its riffs anything but. It reminds of Motorhead in its ability to bridge the genre’s sub classifications. There are songs about women, about good times, about too many good times. It borders on hardcore riff-pornography. It is not so insecure as to deny itself the pleasures of butt-rock. It’s too well constructed to be afraid of fun.

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100 Words: Lala Lala’s The Lamb

Let us be done with reverb as the primary artistic driver of modern alternative rock. To be fair, The Lamb reveals itself to be a hooky, well-written alt-rock album of modest aims and restricted dynamism – closer to Colleen Green than Snail Mail. Still, I won’t fault anyone who only finds another “big mood” sad-alt album of mid-tempo guitar strumming malaise in a marketplace inexplicably saturated yet yearning for more. The good stuff is in the middle here; “Dropout” sounds like Camera Obscura, “The Flu” is sunnier by half than the rest of the pack. One wishes the pallet was different.

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100 Words: JOBS’ Log On For The Free Chance To Log On For Free

I do not have the lexicon to understand JOBS’ Log On For The Free Chance To Log On For Free on anything more than its surface. The band describes itself as “music made by students,” and boy is it. A good portion sounds like the background to an Avant-Garde art installation. Other parts sound like metal for jazbos. Smack in the middle is “The Path,” which works heartstrings in the same sideways manner that peak Liars does. It overwhelms; later revealing itself as the wild creativity of three dudes. That headfake makes it worth looking at, maybe even staying.

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100 Words: Fucked Up’s Dose Your Dreams

What you take from Dose Your Dreams will depend heavily on how you feel about prog-punk as an enterprise. The real thrill here – beyond the usual center-of-gut howling and sunrise guitar solos – is hearing the band explore the distance between power-pop hardcore, new-wave mod rock and back. Depending on where you stand, it’s either no distance or a minor miracle. Ever since David Comes to Life, Fucked Up has sounded like a band that could do anything, go anywhere. If Dose Your Dreams is promise made real (it is), it’s also the band’s logical endpoint. Where else can one go?