Sunday, December 31, 2023

Free to Be 2023: 

Free to Be 2023:

Top 9
Travel :: Music :: Cats
The Boy :: The Nonsense :: The Way
Family :: Projects :: Sun and Shade

An epic road trip to New Orleans/Louisville/Memphis
Saw Sun Studios for the first time, visited Graceland, drank bourbon, ate BBQ, Stayed at a haunted hotel that used to be a civil war hospital, communed with ghosts, ate beignets at Café Du Monde, shopped for creepy voodoo shit, and ended with a Mecca-like visit to a Buc-ees truck stop.


NYT Connections
Wordle was fun, but it feels so 2020. All the cool kids in 2023 are playing Connections, where you need to find the thematic ties between different words, ranging from most complex connections to simple groupings. It has been the nightcap to our evenings this year, and every time its time for bed and Penny says "Wanna Connect?" I always say Yes.

This is The Way
If the seventh grader who lives inside me wasn't already happy enough, my wife devoted much of 2023 to creating a Star Wars Mandalorian costume. The Bo-Katan Kryze helmet and jumpsuit were store-bought, but the armor pieces were individually sourced from 3D printers Clever 3D Studio then sanded, hand painted, and distressed over several months.

On top of it all, she's an unbreakable mother bear, a champion of animals in her work at the Humane Society, a frankenplanner pioneer, and continues to drop my jaw with her unwavering support of her friends, her family, and surprising her derpy husband.

PJ Bo Katan

That Boy.
It was a huge year for Henry. He got his drivers' license, got a summer job, got two (TWO!) art pieces accepted into the Pioneer High School Impact arts magazine, was promoted on his high school robotics team, helped us build and move things, keept improving as a drummer, got accepted into every college he applied to (and received scholarships for each school), had his metalworking pieces displayed in a prominent jewelry store as part of youth art month, took some epic senior photos, developed a remarkable personal fashion style that is noticed any time we go anywhere, often closed the garage door, and honestly is an admirable man in a world where a lot of boys his age have chosen to be shitheads.

He still isn't taller than me but damn it if he isn't getting closer every year.

Henry's Senior Photos

Mudroom to Pantry [Phase 1 of 2]
The last big project for the farmhouse before we move in next year was the kitchen. We loved the cabinets but the distance from the countertops to the upper cabinet doors was about 8.5" (so if you had a two-liter of pop on the counter and then opened a cabinet door to get a glass, the bottle would be knocked to the floor). We labored over this decision because Penny's grandfather hand-built the cabinets in the 1930s and so we hemmed and hawed about whether to keep them or not.

We talked to an architect friend of ours and she wisely said "You can keep the cabinets, just move them to another room" which blew our minds. We have a mudroom (traditional farmhouse room off the front porch where the farmhands could come in from the fields and clean up before lunch/dinner) so we decided to move the existing cabinets into the mudroom and transform it into a pantry.

I spent a couple months carefully dismantling the existing cabinets and re-factoring them into the new space. The most incredible thing was that when I pieced together the upper square cabinets, there was a dead space in the middle. We tried to decide whether to put shelving in there, or wall it off somehow, but I found an existing cabinet door that was exactly the right size to cap it off.

I got a butcher block surface and cut it down to the right dimensions, then stained it to match the rest of the cabinets. I think it turned out pretty OK.

More detail can be found here if we are Facebook pals.


Visiting Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament
Every year for the past several years, Penny has gone down to this incredibly accessible tennis tournament where all the pros play and it is within driving distance of our house. The weather was uncooperative in the morning, but the afternoon turned out to be a winner and I got to see Felix Auger-Aliassime, Matteo Berrettini, Andy Murray, Francis Tiafoe, Stan Wawrinka, Ben Shelton, Jessica Pagula, Venus Williams, Coco Gauff, and I only missed Aryna Sabalenka by a day.

On day 2, Penny went back to the tournament and Henry and I explored some weird stores across the river in Kentucky. Highlights: Hail Records & Oddities, a combo death metal record store, occult shop, and taxidermy museum; a bonkers toy store called Earth 2 Kentucky; and an incredible magical supply/bespoke arcana store called Hierophany & Hedge.

Stella's Lounge and Veggie Crunch Wraps
On one of our college tours, we found a bar called Stella's Lounge that had a great collection of vintage video games, '80s kitsch on the TV screens and an incredible vegan crunch wrap that Henry adapted and has been making all year. Veggie chorizo, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, ranch dressing, and jalapenos all wrapped up and pan fried.

Oberon Eclipse & Long Drink
Oberon Eclipse, a seasonal addition from Michigan's own Bell's Brewery (hints of coriander!), and the introduction of the Finnish Long Drink were welcome on my taste buds this year.

Frank Ferrante is GROUCHO!
A true bucket list item crossed off.

Frank Ferrante has been keeping the legacy of Groucho Marx alive for decades and I've always threatened to travel to see his long-running one-man show in Chicago,
but never got there. My bestest old comedy buddy Dave alerted me to the fact that he was going to be playing locally so he and I saw the live show.
Or, in the immortal words of the man himself: "I didn't like the play, but then I saw it under adverse conditions - the curtain was up."

Cottage Connectivity
I can't tell if this should fall under good things or bad things. Our family cottage up north has never had a TV, cell phone reception, and certainly not internet connectivity. It is a refuge where in order to have fun, you needed to read a book or listen to records or play cards or just stare at the lake. This year the inevitability of technology has crept in, and we installed wi-fi at the cottage.

Ultimately, this is a good thing. We can check weather, stream from Spotify, contact loved ones in case of wasps nests or severed fingers, but part of me will long for the olden days as soon as I see everybody in the room staring at their phones instead of looking for loons.

Dudes Weekend
Got away for a long weekend with a bunch of pals in the woods.
The final assessment? "Ten Gilligans, no Professors."

Pear butter
Based on my lust for the spread that The Jefferson Market puts on their biscuits,
I got kinda obsessed trying to re-create their savory sweet pear butter at home. Theirs is spicy and buttery
and it’s all I can do to keep myself from licking the little tin cup clean at every visit.

Farmhouse Kitchen Re-Imagining [Phase 2 of 2]
Like I said, the kitchen is in need of an update. We worked with a terrific architect, came up with good designs, found a miraculous contractor who shows up on time and keeps the workspace clean (and no you cannot have his number), and started tearing things apart in this 1880s farmhouse.

The plaster and lath came off of the walls, and revealed all kinds of additional historical mysteries. Long-abandoned doorways were revealed, the underlying structure showed true 1x12 boards (indicating that the original footprint of the oldest part of the house was before 1900), and some studs still had bark on the unfinished side. The walls beneath the plaster were actual tongue-and-groove boards, which would rarely be used for an internal wall, and we found multiple places where old doors or windows were modified or moved to accommodate the needs of the family as it grew.

The highlight was finding an inscription from Penny's great aunt Ida written on one of the studs in July 1900 when she was 17 years old.

The new cabinets are delivered and offgassing, electrical is run (involving another series of wild goose chases in a house where a lot of the original wiring is over 100 years old), and the drywall is hung. Here's to continued forward progress in 2024. Stay tuned.



the record - Boygenius
The combined power of these three terrific singer songwriters overwhelms their impressive individual achievements. Beautiful harmonies, complimentary objectives, and angular approaches, plus some of the most lush production I heard all year.

Weathervanes - Jason Isbell
Every time a new Jason Isbell album comes out, my initial thought is "I like it, but it isn't as good as [previous record]." Then as I spend time with it, I find new nuances and things I look forward to. A turn of a phrase or a particular slide solo, or a certain storyline that I've never heard told in that way before. Simple as a weathervane, the themes and emotions are pure and the performances are top-notch.

Household Name - Momma
My musical sherpa Steve turned me on to these guys (full disclosure: this album came out in 2022). These kids play '90s rock worth their Veruca Salt, and the fact that they name-check the Smashing Pumpkins deep cut "Hummer" in one of their songs certainly didn't hurt.

Valley Of Heart's Delight - Margo Cilker
This brassy folkie released one of my favorite albums a couple years ago, and the follow-up is in the same vein. Heartfelt and loose, almost like if Emmylou covered an entire record of b-sides from The Band.

Lavender Days - Caamp
A staple of the local radio station 107.1, every song I heard from this 2022 album resonated with me so I dove in and really loved the whole thing. I honestly don't know if Caamp is a 10-person band or just one guy, but the simple acoustic pop songs he/they put together just hit right.

Secret Stratosphere - William Tyler
My favorite of the New Wave of Cosmic Americana players, Tyler loops and flips guitar lines until they sound like entire choruses or chanting monks, then zooms them all to an outer space desert.

Timothy Monger - Timothy Monger
Good friend and even better songwriter, Tim Monger crafts another Field Notes notebook of Michigan pop-folk with unexpected twists and brave production choices that all pay off. Here's to the Trillium and the Muskellunge! TUEBOR!!!!

Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd - Lana Del Rey
I intitially dismissed Lana Del Rey as another Selena Gomez/Ariana Grande/Demi Lovato-style face-slash-influencer, but in listening to her records, there is a spooky underbelly that reminds me of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity or Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia -- the soft, sweet face with the burning secret or the smouldering disaproval. Coolly analyzing the buzzing around her and dismissing it with a withering riposte.

The Window - Ratboys
Being part of a band called Porchsleeper who once opened for Slobberbone, I am a big fan of great bands with unconventional names. While Ratboys sounds like they would be a bunch of gutter skatepunks, in reality they are a sweetly boisterous four-piece who lays out Breeders-y indie rock (produced by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla). The highlight is the nearly nine minute epic-ish jam "Flat Earth, WI" which is seriously 90% a blistering guitar solo and then probably the most epic and anthemic codas of the year.

Art Dealers - Low Cut Connie
Saw these guys at The Ark this year, partially because it seemed like a small club for a big rock band like this. Piano-wielding frontman Adam Weiner is one part anthemic Bruce Springsteen and one part coy Michael Hutchence with a healthy dose of Little Richard camp and showmanship sprinkled over top (a well-established high point of the live show is when he dramatically rips open his plain white t-shirt in a Stanley Kowalski-esqe display of tortured masculinity). Still, the power of the songs and the enthusiasm is not to be denied.

The obligatory Playlist:

Live Shows:
Danielle Ponder and Neal Francis at The Ark
Jason Isbell at Temple Theater in Saginaw
Television City and All Over the Shop at the Cadieux Cafe
Built to Spill at Bell's Brewery
Coverboy Performs the Music of George Michael at the Cadieux Cafe
Timothy Monger at The Ark
Kid Koala and Lealani at the Blind Pig
Low Cut Connie at The Ark
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me feat. Bob Seger
Natural Blonde at Neutral Zone
The Darkness at Saint Andrews
Frank Ferrante's GROUCHO
Stone and Sue/Forty Drop Few house concert

Computers and Technology:

Beneath the Rhythm Podcast: Episode 10 | The Review

I was interviewed alongside some other folks who work in online music publishing about the value and power of the album review.

If you like hearing me bloviate about the history and intent of AllMusic as well as me talking about Pat Finnerty's "What Makes This Song Stink" and Pitchfork's review of Jet's second album, my bit starts at around the 40 minute mark.

I also talk about buying things at the newsstand, the concept of employees getting a watch after 40 years working at an insurance agency, and the idea of grumpy people writing a letter to the editor of the newspaper so you can tell that I have my finger on the pulse of digital media in the 21st century.

Other New Podcasts:
Movie blather on The Big Picture and Unspooled.

General blather on Smartless.

Plus longtime favorites The Rewatchables, Hit Parade, Fly on the Wall, Decoder Ring, and How Did This Get Made?

AI in General in 2023

So AI went kinda crazy this year.
The video of "Will Smith Eating Spaghetti" became infamous in March, not just for its subject matter but also for its crude weirdness.

Not long after that came this AI commercial "Pepperoni Hug Spot" which looked massively better (even if it is objectively weirder):

And just last month, my buddy Ryan used AI to make this game show intro "Scam!" using tools to write the script and come up with the imagery.

Assembled and edited in AfterEffects using video assets made with RunwayML, voiceover made with Audiosonic,
a script produced in part with some prompting to ChatGPT, and stock sound effects compiled from Evanto Elements.

The What Makes This Song Stink series.
This session musician takes apart songs that stink in a very humorous fashion. Shots fired at Train, Kid Rock, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Jason Aldean, among others.
The episode about Machine Gun Kelly is a particular favorite.

Also, this year I discovered Cheddar Goblin:


Amongst Our Weapons (Rivers of London, #9) by Ben Aaronovitch
A mysterious death in the silver vaults leads wizard-ish investigator Peter Grant on a merry chase that even leads outside of London where we finally learn more about the freaky secret magical societies in England from WW2.

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
Henry recommended this book to me. First published in Japan in 1948, the author/main character is sort of a Bukowski-esque sad sack who wants to participate in a society that he really doesn't understand and that, in turn, doesn't understand him. Very cutting and beautiful.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September's shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland's shadows back.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
When the Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem in 1893, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women's movement into the witch's movement.

The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente
Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she's the only one who knows it. But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
A novel of art, time travel, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
Very much in the Harry Potter/Hunger Games vein (but decidedly not YA), the main character becomes a reluctant dragon rider and fights for her place in the hierarchy of this fictional world. Definitely predictable in a comforting way, but I found the worldbuilding unique and the tensions to be believable.

Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs
Two estranged half-sisters tasked with guarding their family's library of magical books must work together to unravel a deadly secret at the heart of their collection--a tale of familial loyalty and betrayal, and the pursuit of magic and power.

Full List on Goodreads


Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The Killer
Stop Making Sense
Blade Runner
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Asteroid City
John Wick: Chapter 4
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Leave the World Behind
Haunted Mansion
Meg 2: The Trench
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Fast X


Cunk on Earth

Welcome to Wrexham
Ted Lasso
The Mandalorian
Cowboy Bebop
The Crown
White Lotus
The Mayfair Witches
Sex Education
The Witcher

Bad Juju:


Brutal Ice Storms in Michigan
A totally weird winter where the temperatures and precipitation combined to just stick to trees and make everything heavy as hell. It sounded very alien outside and we lost a ton of branches on the old-growth trees at the farm.

In a disturbingly Carl Spacklerian move, I got really pissed off at the family of groundhogs digging up the foundations at the farm. We developed a very close relationship with our new friends at Community Pest Solutions, removing (I believe) 5 different groundhogs, but the critters still stalk the grounds.

Book Project Stalled
Over the past couple years I've been working with a bunch of folks to write an oral history of the company where I've worked for over two decades, but this year it kinda ground to a halt. Some of the folks I believed to be on board with the project are suddenly unwilling and it has really slammed the breaks on both my progress and my enthusiasm.

I strongly believe something will come of the book in 2024, even if it is just wrapping up the loose ends and trying to "finish" it to some degree. It is an important and hilarious and interesting story, and I feel it should be told, but without some of the key information, it won't be what it could have been.

Those we lost:
Pee Wee
Piper Laurie
Robbie Robertson
Sinéad O'Connor
Tina Turner
Vivian Trimble from Luscious Jackson
Trugoy the Dove from De La Soul
Tom Verlaine of Television
Van Conner of Screaming Trees
Montana the Dog

Not to mention wars in Ukraine and Gaza, the systematic dismantling of womens health rights, absolute lunatics remaining in power, unfortunate and frustrating family drama that I don't really want to put on the internet, the general buggy-whip state of running an ad-supported website in the modern era, Elroy Musk generally making things worse in the world, Hawaiian and Canadian wildfires, and our furnace died at the same time that our dishwasher stopped working and our well pump became disconnected accidentally.

But I don't like to complain.

2024 has the very real potential to be the most important year in all of our lives. Let's not mess it up.

Drink water.
Enjoy every sandwich.

Comments: 0
Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 for Me and You: 

2022 for Me and You:

[If you can't read this on your mobile device, try here]

The Happiest PJ on Earth • Ol' Charlie • Henry the Wiser
Library Nook • Orange Bird • In This House...
Date Night • Space is the Place • Half-Century

50th Birthday
Every 10 years I throw a party for family and friends and this year was a blowout at the Pittsfield Grange. Drinks from Voyages Wine Shop, pizza from Buddy's, pies from Grand Traverse Pie Company, music, Atari games, puzzles, coloring pictures of Mr. T, great pals, and I made 50 nametag stickers with the things that I love most and all my loved ones wore them proudly. Here's to 50 more!

The AMG Project
Early in the year, Michael Erlewine (the guy who started the All Music Guide) approached me with a concept: He felt as though there should be a book detailing the history of the All Music Guide from its inception as a book through its online presence (even before the World Wide Web existed) and beyond. He didn't think he should write it, he indicated that it should be in the voice of all the people who worked at AMG and I agreed.

So far I have conducted dozens of interviews and pulled together a 130-page oral history that is about 3/4ths of the way done. I'm not sure what the final result will be, but I've had a lot of fun pulling the story together -- hearing the parts that contradict the other parts, and generally basking in the inexplicable way the whole thing came together. My hope is that in 2023 I'll have something that we can all read and laugh about.

Colonel Johnson, in the Library, with the Candlestick
The big project for the year was to build a series of bookshelves in the living room at the farm and transforming it into what we call "The Library." It took about six months, a lot of trial and error, thousands of pounds of red maple, gallons of stain, splinters, blisters, a borrowed radial arm saw, the patience of my son as I made him do manual labor, the lighting genius of my wife, multiple appointments with an electrician, muscle from my oldest brother and my newest brother, and finally contentment.
More photos here.

Hardwood Floors at The Farm
Before the library went in, we had to have the floors refinished. Ann Arbor Hardwoods did a bang-up job, stripping out the old varnish, sanding and staining the floors like pros.

Fixed my Ice Cube Maker
For years, the ice machine in our fridge has made a lot of clunking noises but very few ice cubes. I looked at some YouTube videos, figured out what I needed to replace, and then bought the thing that needed to be replaced. Sounds like a small victory, but it no longer sounds like a group of chain gang workers are pounding away in my freezer, and I get ice cubes whenever I want.

Disney Trip
After old man COVID cancelled our trip in March 2020, we finally got down to Disney World this spring. We stayed in the luxurious Coronado Springs hotel and got to see the new Star Wars park. We rode on the newest Star Wars rides, walked straight onto the Haunted Mansion twice in a row, ate at the cool-ass retro steampunk restaurant The Edison, and had a generally good time until we were supposed to leave.

April Fool
Despite the fact that we were on vacation, my hilarious wife snuck about a dozen pictures of squirrels with in-joke phrases on them and hid them all around our hotel room on April 1st. She even brought tape and everything. She gets me every year and I hope it never stops.

The story behind this one is that once we were at a Mexican restaurant and a teenaged kid was holding his to-go box.
His sister or somebody crashed into him and his leftover fajitas went splatting to the floor.
Without even bothering to hear the story, the exasperated mom just looked at the mess he made and said "Oh, Mitchell."
Like she had been there a thousand times before.
It instantly became an inside joke for us.

Talking with Steven Hyden
One of my favorite music critics wrote a book about Pearl Jam this year and I got to interview him for AllMusic. We discussed Pearl Jam, the Grateful Dead and bootlegs, how live albums fit into an artist's discography, but mostly it was cool to chat for an hour with a guy who seems to have a lot of the same takes as I do. But, y'know, smarter and more published.

Henry at the Polls
Henry worked the election this year as a poll worker, starting at 6 in the morning and ending around 10 at night. He enjoyed the experience and it will look good on his college application. He got his paycheck and when he saw the payroll tax they took out he said "Welp, they better fix the roads now."

Anniversary Trip to Midland
My darling bride and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in glamorous Midland Michigan at a very fine hotel and got to tour the Alden B. Dow Studio amidst drooling over dozens of mid-century modern houses and buildings. We had a dinner I will never forget and loved the cute breakfast spot in the hotel.

She is my niece and I am delighted to announce that she will stay a squishy baby forever.

Voyages Wine Shop
One of the best guys I know opened Voyages Wine Shop in Lansing which is one part high-end wine emporium and one-part neighborhood bodega.

Chicago, the Windy Apple
We had a great mid-summer weekend trip to Chicago where we ate at a secret spy restaurant, breakfasted on Firecakes Donuts, hit up a swoonworthy vintage hi-fi and record shop called ShadyRest Vintage & Vinyl, and snagged drinks at a swank underground speakeasy under Gilt Bar called "The Library."


Plus: Visits to the Cottage with family and friends, father's day old time baseball and old cars at Greenfield Village, food trucks, barn swallows, Third Wednesday, good times, lotsa laughs.


Hiding in Plain Sight by Drugdealer
A sunny Laurel Canyon-infused series of heartfelt songs. Some funky, some groovin', some strutting, all tuneful and hooky.

Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You by Big Thief
I didn't anticipate liking this overly-long album as much as I did, but the loose, folky arrangements and earnest broken vocals kept me coming back.

Dead & Born & Grown by The Staves
Three sisters from the UK harmonize like the Andrews Sisters over indie folk instrumentation.

Michael Rault by Michael Rault
A bright and poppy Nilsson-inspired album of big simple songs with lush floating production.

Sometimes, Forever by Soccer Mommy
Gruffly sweet indie pop reminiscent of '90s alt-rock with some great understated quietly loud vocals from Sophie Allison.

Patina by Tallies
Do you guys remember The Sundays? You would like Tallies. Some of the sweetness of Harriet Wheeler tarnished away but still lush and full of static & silence.

Someone who has been threatening to drop an album after years of creating beats finally did it. Hypnotic and sultry bloops and beats reminding me of Dabrye and Midwest Product.

Big Time by Angel Olsen
A proper singer/songwriter album from this big-voiced artist, the songs remind me of Emmylou Harris, Neko Case and Loretta Lynn at different points.

When the Wind Forgets Your Name by Built to Spill
Still one of the best guitarists out there, Doug Martsch not only hits the scroodley notes but writes a supremely hummable and tuneful guitar line unlike any of his peers in indie or hard rock.

Bronco by Orville Peck
Still not sure if this guy is serious, but he records modern Roy Orbison/Johnny Cash outlaw cowboy songs that echo over the dusty plains in the friskalating dusklight, all while wearing a mask of long fringe and sporting the body of a pro wrestler. The songs and vocal delivery are terrific but I honestly can't tell if he is Johnny Horton or Weird Al.

I got to see Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets performing early Pink Floyd songs.
I got to see my favorite local gypsy jazz combo Djangophonique at Blue Llama and the North Star Lounge.
I saw my friend Rollie Tussing play a great set at The Ark.
Got to see White Denim playing outdoors at a park in Ann Arbor.
Coverboy at the Cadieux playing a set of songs by The Cars.
I saw Television City and All Over The Shop in my fave double-bill of the year.
Boogie-woogie legend Mr. B played a springtime concert on our street while I served up free hot dogs and veggie dogs to our neighbors.
Saw my first-ever Phish show in the rain at Pine Knob.
My kid and a bunch of his friends played a drum recital in the barnyard and nobody called the cops.


My usual list of Spotify tomfoolery is available here:

Computers and Technology:

Domo Arigato, Mister Roboto
Henry joined his high school's robotics team PiHi Samurai and really found a community. His concept for the team t-shirts was chosen as the best design, he built a full-sized samurai costume for the mascot to wear during competitions, and he earned his varsity letter.

This McSweeny's article called "What Your Favorite Sad Dad Band Says About You"

New (to me) Podcasts:
Fly on the Wall
David Spade and Dana Carvey riff off of each other and interview former SNL members. Friendly and funny.

You Must Remember This
An incredible deep dive into old Hollywood stories.

Flightless Bird
A guy from New Zealand got stranded in the USA when the whole planet went into lockdown so he tries to understand American culture.

How Did This Get Made?
Three funny people tearing apart the dumbest movies ever filmed.

This insane Australian burp:

Good Earth LED Lighting
These long strips of LED lighting from Good Earth are pretty cheap and come with a remote control to customize the exact light you want.

The Obscurest Vinyl and Ordinary People Memes instagram feeds.
Honorable mention to 80s News Screens

This Tweet
Twitter was kinda a shitshow there near the end, but one time Jason Isbell responded to my tweet.


My Year In Books is available online. Looks like around 11,000 pages read and 30ish books.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

books books
The Last Wish / Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski
The first two "prequel" books to The Witcher series are very light (as far as epic sword and sorcery stuff goes) and enjoyable, and make a great companion read to the TV show.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, an exhilarating novel set at the glittering intersection of two seemingly disparate events–a massive Ponzi scheme collapse and the mysterious disappearance of a woman from a ship at sea.

Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson
A great sci-fi page-turner about when a small group of conspiracy theorists (ok, hear me out) discover that a layer of celestial nanobots have been controlling and placating the population of the earth for a century. No WWII, no Great Depression. Is this extraterrestrial manipulation good or bad?

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
My favorite author crushes it in this much-loved young adult fantasy book. Her ability to create a meaningful scene while using beautiful and unexpected language. Preteen protagonist September is joined by the Green Wind in a jacket and a wyvern/dragon who was created from a library. Then it gets weird.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
Two interlaced novels that alternate chapters, one about a human computer and a scientist working on "sound removal" technology, and the other set in a fantastical enclosed city where your shadow is removed from you in order to do the necessary manual labor until it dies out.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
A space explorer / scientist gets infected with an invasive species that becomes a bio-suit allowing her to communicate (and kick the ass of) the sudden alien invasion (which was awakened by her discovering the space suit species). This will probably be a mediocre series of movies at some point or a show on FX but the book was a ton of fun.

Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. by Jeff Tweedy
The Wilco frontman has proven to be a very engaging author as he goes through his life and what it means to be in a rock band. A great anecdote is when he tried to convince his fellow third-graders that he wrote and recorded "Born to Run:"


The Bear
Light & Magic
Sex Education
Station Eleven
The Witcher
Trainwreck: Woodstock '99
Freaks and Geeks
Love, Death, Robots
Bridgerton Season 2
House of the Dragon
Stranger Things Season 4
Party Down
Only Murders in the Building
Attack on Titan/Jujutsu Kaizen/Cowboy Bebop
The Queen's Gambit
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman
The Crown Season 5
The Umbrella Academy
Squid Game
Moon Knight


The Batman
The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Top Gun: Maverick
Licorice Pizza
Nightmare Alley
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Neil Young's Harvest Time
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
The Adam Project
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Thor: Love and Thunder
Don't Look Up
Hocus Pocus 2
Bullet Train
Death on the Nile
Downton Abbey: A New Era
Jurassic World Dominion

The Meg

We've always joked that every time we check into a hotel, the shark movie The Meg is on TV.
It started when we went to Chicago a couple years ago and Henry got sick on vacation.
All we could do was hang out in the hotel room while TNT was having a Meg Marathon so we watched it on and off a number of times.

Last year we were in a hotel somewhere and joked "Man, I hope The Meg is on" and it was.

We went on a mini-vacation this fall, checked in and, yep. The Meg was on.

Bad News:

The ancient, creaky, and sweet farm cat passed on after using up at least 17 of his 9 lives.

Take a Leak in the Bathroom
Our bathtub started leaking into the kitchen and despite plumber visits and heavy recaulking, we still can't completely figure it out.

Dryer Debacle
When we bought our house in 1999 there was a late-eighties clothes dryer already hooked up in the basement. It worked valiantly for another two decades but crapped out this year. We bought a replacement but when they dudes delivered it, they couldn't get it down the stairs. What I didn't realize is that when we bought the house, they had to re-build one of the basement walls, so the stairwell was now 27⅜ inches wide and the dryers are all like 30 inches wide. After demolishing the existing broken dryer and hauling it out piece-by-piece, we had to find a slightly smaller apartment-style dryer that was exactly 27⅜ inches in width, and then cram it down our basement steps. As we were bringing it down, there was one point where all of us removed our hands from the dryer altogether and it just hung there, wedged in the walls that were exactly the same width. Ultimately, we crammed it down the stairs and got it installed, but it was a process.

Flight Cancelled in Florida = Cannonball Run
The Disney trip on Spring Break was great but a massive storm blasted into Florida just as we were leaving and flights were cancelled for days. We thought quick, rented a car and made a Cannonball Run-style drive up the entire nation. Unexpected, but we were able to roll with it, sleeping in a crappy motel and introducing the boy to Waffle House.

The Erosion of Our Rights by Criminal Architects
By selectively placing shitheels onto the Supreme Court, the fringe right has stripped away peoples' rights to choose what happens to their own bodies, while one of them is married to a woman who was actively advocating for a hostile takeover of our Capital. They're stepping over the line between church and state and preventing the EPA to set emission standards and stretched out Title 42 longer than intended. I was glad to see Ketanji Brown Jackson (possibly the most qualified justice ever appointed) get there, and at least Michigan proved to be a bastion of light in November.

Those who left us:
Scott Mills (one of our running buddies who inexplicably died this year and I still feel like I see him on the street once a week)
Mark Lanegan (I ended up writing a whole article about him on AllMusic.)
Mimi Parker
Angelo Badalamenti
Glenn Johnson (another friend gone too soon)
Christine McVie
Ryan's Mom
Jerry Lee Lewis
Loretta Lynn
Nichelle Nichols
Taylor Hawkins
Joey the Dog
Heather (I can't even put words around this yet)

In general I feel that COVID is bad, but holy shit did I get COVID this year. After two years of masking, washing, vaccinating, boostering and not hugging my mom, I finally got the 'VID and it. was. awful. By far the sickest I have ever been... at one point I actually thought maybe being intubated would be a good idea. My wife nursed me to health and a delivery of chicken soup from a friend probably saved my life, but I was down for the count and I would only wish it on the worst of my worst enemies.


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