12/31/15

Best of 2015 - Moments of the Year . . .

As "Rent", the happiest musical in the history of AIDS narratives (of which there is just one member of the canon) reminds us there are 525, 600 minutes in a year. The question "Rent" never really answers is - How you measure, measure (they repeat it - how do you not know this song?) a year?

I would say that you measure it one of three ways: 1) Actual time. (It is an objective, quantifiable measure - of course that is very trite and cliche.) 2) The warm and fuzzies and how it made you "feel". (Which is, of course, entirely subjective and equally cliche and trite.) 3) The moments that really stuck with you and how much, after actual time has transpired, you can still note the warm and fuzzies of said moments. (Which is a hybrid of subjective and objective that remains wholly trite and cliche.). Let's go with the third measure and I'll lay out my top moments of the year. Please to enjoy.

10) Revisiting My Thoughts on "Family". For many, many years (pretty much my entire adult life) I've had mixed emotions of "family'. While I'm in love with my kid and being a parent I've never, really understood how to navigate relationships with parents, adult siblings, their wives, nieces and nephews, etc. While there has been a long, slow, steady climb toward being more "normal" in these dynamics 2015 sped it along considerably. I saw my family a TON this year and I spent more time with my future family than I ever thought I would agree to. And it all felt wonderful. I am already excited to see them all again.

9) SCOTUS Rulings Written in Actual Prose. Like this regarding the landmark "gay marriage" ruling (which the nine justices got right):

"It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they DO respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They as for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

- Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice, US Supreme Court. June 26, 2015

8) The Evolution of the "Gun Debate" in America. While we're still at a loss on how to actually handle guns and gun violence in America, 2015 saw an interesting change in the dynamic. On the one hand it devolved with gun advocates presuming every senseless act of violence committed with a gun was a challenge to THEM and THEIR guns. At the same time the battle cry of every sensible American (myself included) wants to see what we can do to make mental health the focus of the conversation around guns. The police are still shooting too many people and guns are still used in way too many homicides and mass violence incidents but we're getting more articulate. That is a first step. But we must move faster.

7) Hannibal Buress Dropping Some Bill Cosby Knowledge. It is hard to remember, fifty five separate accusers and a formal arrest later, that it wasn't until this year that "we" took the forty-ish years of allegations that Bill Cosby is a sexual predator/criminal seriously. That started because Buress, a comedian with a style I've enjoyed for years, made some Cosby jokes in late-October 2014. His humor lead to outrage which lead to the wheels of justice spinning. Long live the comedian. Long live the joke.

6) Meeting My Nephews. See bullet ten (above) but modify it to the notion that I have twin nephews out there in the world. These little ones are, presuming traditional (outdated?) paths for my daughter and my niece (who don't actually have any Amore genetics between them anyway) and given that my two brothers and I are done reproducing, are the only (male) heirs and familial legacy of my father and his father and his father. I have no doubt that their parents will worry them into anxiety disorders but my parents did it for me so that is fitting. Make us proud, nephews.

5) The Beach / Drive Scene of "Furious 7". From the minute Paul Walker died (in real life) I wondered what it might mean for a movie franchise built on fast cars, guns, beautiful women, and machismo. Modify that with the one, consistent under-theme of the movies (family) and I knew it was either going to be really great or really horrible to see what they did. In the end, in the final scene(s) of the seventh movie of the series Paul built, were a few beautiful moments that made me (and all the other popcorn flick junkies around me) sob . . . every time we watched it. So well done.

4) The Ashley Madison "Leak". We are now 16% through the 21st century. We've had social media, credit cards, and horrible intentions for longer but the notion of a website committed to facilitating sexual affairs between married people (I'll say here - to be direct - if you don't want to be with just one person (mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually) do NOT get married) being a real thing boggles my mind. That the user base of said site was leaked is both horrifying (there were 37 million accounts (many fake, etc.) at the time of the leak) and delightful. Make. Good. Choices, people.

3) The Nutter-Netson Nuptials. I first met SLF's family at one of her sister's weddings in 2014. We all gathered again in the summer of 2015 to marry off another one. This one meant a lot more to me (they were all strangers the first go-round, I have actual rapports with all of them now) and it was wonderful to see two people to stand before "us" and put it all out there and make these grand vows before dancing the night away. I've always loved a good wedding. This one meant a ton to me.

2) The Bernie Sanders "Announcement". I don't want to sound like a hipster but I've been smitten with Bernie Sanders and his politics since before it was cool. I actually went back and looked and I first openly mused about him being "my guy" in 2016 way back in August, 2014. That has only grown in 2015. His actual candidacy announcement (which I streamed at my desk on May 26, 2015) was very "Vermont" - a bunch of WASPs along the shore of Lake Champlain. Moderate sized but passionate crowd. Polite applause. But it was a moment that I think will be important for a long time to come.

1) Getting Engaged. I won't get into all the specifics here but it was a very nice, special, quiet, private moment. With the actual smell of dead fish in the mix. I loved it. It was about as perfect as I could have made it. I'll probably never forget it. Especially the smell.



12/30/15

Best of 2015 - Favorite Read . . .

I read only 21 books this year. That is better than the average American (by about 8x) but it is not great. I will be better next year.

In the short term there is a confession I should make here . . . I didn't love all the books I read this year. I ENJOYED many of them. They were good. They were well told stories and well crafted narratives from talented authors but I wouldn't defend most of the 21 beyond a tepid "yeah, sure, whatever."

That being said I didn't have much trouble putting together a top three list for this year. I would happily stand by any of them and think you'd enjoy them, too.

3) "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" by Maria Semple. I reviewed it here. It was hilarious and warm and fuzzy (in the end) and it made you think about the presumptions we make and what they are worth and the sacrifices of parenting and marriage and what they are worth.

2) "Falling Out of Time" by David Grossman. The first long format poem I ever loved and a great introduction to all poetry, this story is about grief and loss. Death and mourning. Pain and suffering caused when people leave your life. The specifics of the story are messy (characters come and go and symbolism is heavy) but the core of the story is the loss of a child and how parents deal with and process it. Terms like "narrator" and "walker" and "traveler" and "Town Chronicler" and "Math Teacher" substitute for proper names. In the end that makes sense - we're not really "here" and we're not really "us" we're roles and titles and symbols and, like everyone else, we'll eventually walk and travel on.

1) "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour" by Joshua Ferris. 2015, for me, was the YEAR OF FERRIS. I read all three of his books (okay, fine - I've read two and am working on the third). I'm smitten with his style and approach to writing and how different all three of his books are. This one was my favorite. Of his. Of the year.

12/29/15

Best of 2015 - Favorite Album . . .


I love, love, love me some music. As stated time and time again. This year was, all due respect to those who believe that music is dying, a very good year for music in my never humble opinion. Sure, sure, there were a few HUGE albums that sorta dominated allllll the attention but there was tons of lower-key stuff that was worth checking out from artists new/old and for me to narrow this down to ten (the list was about fifty at one point) was truly difficult. Alas - here we are. My favorite albums of the year.

Please note that I have links to all of the albums (other than "25") between the quotes and you can go to the artist's websites by clicking on their names. Please to enjoy.

10) "I Love You, Honeybear" by Father John Misty - This one is probably the most "hipster" of my selections but I stand by it. I don't know anything about John Misty (or why we're calling him "father" these days) but this music is just, plain lovely. I listened to it while unwinding after a run, while trying to get focused at work, or while trying to embrace my inner hipster.

9) "Black Messiah" by D'Angelo (and the Vanguard) - This one is sorta cheating (the album was unceremoniously dropped on us in December 2014) but I didn't listen to it nearly enough in the last sixteen days of last year (moreover I listened to it a LOT more in 2015). I love D'Angelo. He's all that is right about R&B/neo-soul in this century (as he was last century) and he can drop more music on me any time he wants. Use this one for baby making (or celebrating that you can't (as we do)).

8) "Elaenia" by Floating Points - You (like I typically do) roll your eyes at Electronic/Dance/EDM as though it is automatically a bad thing. And it almost always is (unless you're rolling on e and have a glow in the dark pacifier on hand) but this album is, I'm going to argue, different. It is a little more subtle and gets in your head like only Olafur Arnalds typically does (who also released some great music this year in his Chopin Project collaboration) but it has a slightly more assertive tone. Great to run, blog, ponder, and social media with/to.

7) "Professional Rapper" by Lil Dicky - If you only know and love ONE Jewish rapper in this century - let it be David Burd. This rapper (who is honestly talented but has a sense of humor about himself and his verses that makes him even more enjoyable) used his bar mitzvah money to jumpstart his career and has been growing fans and momentum since released Professional Rapper with several guest spots and lots of fun, enjoyable rap. It won't change your life but it will make you happy. Best listened to while driving around without your child and while just hanging out.

6) "The Phosphorescent Blues" by Punch Brothers - I loved all over this album/art piece/statement in February. I'm still loving on it now, ten months later. You should join me. You will find it wonderful while chatting with friends, on hold with the cable company, working, and running errands.

5) "25" by Adele - This woman has sold over seven MILLION copies of this album in about five weeks. For context the second largest-selling album of the year was Taylor Swift's "1989" which took nearly eight months to sell five million copies (and she also stayed of streaming platforms for months to ensure sales). This album is worth every drop of praise and accolades and honors it is buried with in the coming months. It is splendid and nearly (while not as good as "21" (sorry, not sorry)) perfect. Play it while doing anything and everything. You won't find a misuse of the collection.

4) "1989" by Ryan Adams - Forget how absurd the notion of music publications reviewing Swift's original album for the sole purpose of then reviewing the cover albums. Forget that people tried to dismiss it as sexist. Forget that people thought it was mean-spirited or dismissive of Swift and her music and life experience. I listen to this album and hear love and respect and an attempt to honor the source material while making them "his" (despite age, gender, musical perspective, etc. differences). You can use this album for just about anything, too. I choose to enjoy it while hanging out.

3) "22 Strings" by Seckou Keita - The guy (and album) that made me fall in love with the kora had to make my top three (and all three of these albums got difficult) but I don't know that this album is for everyone. Colleagues, typically annoyed when I have "Hip Hop Fridays" seemed equally frustrated by this music and I know a few people who have looked me in the eye and expressed strong dislike. Ignore them. Listen to this album and love it. You can play this while working around the house and driving around town. You can also find joy in it while reading or chatting or, you know, wedding planning (as one does).

2) "Waterfall" by My Morning Jacket - I first learned of My Morning Jacket in 2005 when a profile in GQ (or some other "men's" magazine I used to read) told me of this amazing band that was well established but still sorta in the fringe. I'm really glad I read that horrible rag (and its advice on how to properly age denim). Each of the group's albums (and a solo project from lead singer Jim James) has made me happier and happier and "Waterfall" (which I've also talked about often since its release in early-May) is the happiest. You should listen to this album any time you just want to relax or if you're looking to accomplish something low priority and moderate maintenance.

1) "So Familiar" by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell - Yeah. That's right. My FAVORITE album of 2015 was a collaboration between a woman we loved in the 80s and a guy that's made us laugh since the 70s. And that is what makes this album wonderful. It is light and fluffy and happy and as charming as its co-conspirators. At just 33 minutes in length you owe it to yourself to give this album a spin next time you're cooking dinner, waiting on a friend, or making happiness.

12/28/15

Best of 2015 - Favorite TV Show . . .


As I've mentioned many, many (perhaps too many) times we don't have cable. We are not too good for it - we're to cheap (and I'm tired, despite what I do for a living, of the advertisements and most of the shows on today (because of declining audiences, greater budgets and creative opportunities, etc. elsewhere) are just not enough to keep me around.

That being said it is both more (and less) difficult to talk about "good" shows when you're a little over four years cable/TV free. I'm pretty much relegated to streaming which means binging which means less exposure by way of number of shows one might watch (I used to watch 30 different shows a week - now I watch every episode of one and then work my way through the other 29) in a year. So - all that said - here are my favorite shows of the last year (regardless of when the rest of you got to watch them).

10) Mozart in the Jungle - (Amazon Prime) I didn't read the novel but when I first saw the pilot for this show during Amazon's "Pilot Season" in 2014 I could not WAIT for the whole series. To summarize the show is a look at the "behind the scenes" (fictionalized as they likely are) of classical/orchestra musicians in New York City. As someone who has always loved the idea of making your living doing something you love and/or through art the show is both inspiring and level-setting. I found it charming from start to stop. Season two comes out later this week.

9) TURN - Something else I've always been curious about . . . what it would have been like to live through the Revolutionary War. To be clear not all those living in the colonies during the war wanted to be in a war or even to revolt from the crown at all. And, as part of that, it made loyalty and fighting and strategizing probably very difficult for all involved. Turn, which is going to have a third season (I've only seen season one) in 2016, is a great snapshot of what it would be like to fight - in many meanings of the word - through that era.

8) Wolf Hall - (PBS, PBS App/Amazon Prime) The Tudor dynasty has never been more ugly or sexy than in this adaptation of the trilogy of narrative non-fiction books from Hilary Mantel that went to Broadway and then to PBS and now to streaming. I had not heard of Thomas Cromwell before this show (and the books got ALL the buzz) but he was a fascinating bastard that worked with and for bastards at a bastardly time). This show was splendid.

7) Miss Fisher's Murder Series - (ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company), Netflix) I may have (indirectly) mentioned maybe one time at once a long, long time ago on this blog how much I enjoy detective shows and mysteries on my idiot box. Okay, fine. I've mentioned it twice (times one million) and alllllll my favorite shows fall under this flag. SADLY 2015 was a quiet year for murder mysteries and detectives with a sense of humor and large database of "fabulous" friends who fall dead. This show - set in the charming 1920s Australia - has some of the best costumes in the history of television and a "lady detective" lead character that offends SLF's feminist sensibilities. Perfection.

6) The Rachel Maddow Show - (MSNBC) You know who does NOT upset SLF's love of empowered women? Rachel Maddow. I've loved (in a very real, very strong way) Rachel Maddow since her nationally-syndicated radio days in 2005ish. That love has only deepened since. I listen to her now on podcast but ANY time I am in a place with a TV/real-time programming on weekday evenings I'll watch and delight in the show.

5) Rectify - (Sundance, Netflix) The story of a man found guilty of and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a girl he new from high school who is, nearly twenty years later, released after DNA evidence complicates things. The show is layered - part "What really happened?" part "How is a man changed by prison?" part "How much do you miss if you're 'away' for twenty years?" part "How is this man's conviction and release and attempt to readjust to life going to impact me? And why do I think that matters more than what he's going through?". Really, really good stuff well made and well acted and well nuanced.

4) BoJack Horseman - (Netflix) The story of a horse who was the star of a hit sitcom in the 90s who is now struggling with life after fame ends and sorta comes calling again - BoJack Horseman is truly absurd and the horse in question is so unlikeable you want to like him again. I can't support this show enough because it makes me laugh for all the crass, crude, and mean-spirited reasons Archer, Family Guy, The League, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, etc. always have (and still do).

3) How to Get Away with Murder - (ABC, Netflix) So ridiculous that SLF and I spent the first three episodes looking at each other asking (aloud) "Are you even into this show? Should we keep watching it?" Then we spent the next ten (or whatever episodes) obsessing over it and the last three lamenting that we were running out of episodes. Shonda Rhimes forever. For. Actual. Ever.

2) The Fall - (BBC, Netflix) So there is a serial killer who is so handsome, charming, and bright (the guy from "50 Shades of Grey" for those who saw the movie (no need to raise your hand now, you're in a safe place)) that you sorta want him to keep getting away with his crimes (other than the, you know, sexual assault and murder part) and a detective so cold and awkward and cunning that you want her to stop this guy from his crimes. Combine that with backstories on all involved and a classic game of "Yes, I could shoot you now and end this cat and mouse game but that would, well, END this cat and mouse game" and you've got "The Fall". Get at it.

1) Bloodline - (Netflix) I wrote a weird, hack-TV-reviewer post on Bloodline in May but it has stuck with me for the year but, to be less fan-boy about it, Bloodline is the story of a complicated family and the struggles of past, family, legacy, anticipation, expectations, and outcomes when all of the above mix and match against people who only choose one or two of the above and pretend the rest don't exist. I am also happy to report Netflix has confirmed a season two.


12/27/15

Sunday Funday . . .

Check this out . . . with emphasis on the RARE moment when Adele's singing brings her as much joy as it brings the rest of us all the time. Seriously - check her out at about 4:00 and imagine how giggy whomever she points at (4:05ish) must have been.



12/26/15

Song of the Day Playlist . . .

Autumn 2015 is behind us. We will miss it and all it brought us but the world keeps on spinning. Here is my "song of the day" playlist for the fall. Spin on, kids. Don't have Google Play Music All Access? I can't help you, sadly.

12/25/15

Christmas . . .

This beautiful 3:39 "ad" from Spain (I have no idea what, if anything, it is selling) is sparse on dialogue but deep on heart. Note that our hero doesn't give anything that costs money or that means any real sacrifice for him or anyone else - he simply pays attention, sees opportunity to be present (when he is not), and make people feel special.

With that - Merry Christmas, all you Christians and secularists. Enjoy your special day.

12/24/15

Best of 2015 - Favorite Food . . .

Food. It is one of my favorite things in the whole, wide, full, enriched, reduced fat, reduced sugar, omega-3 rich world. I would dare say I'm an "expert" on food or at least a well-versed apprentice to the master.

So you can imagine (if you close your eyes very, very tightly and hold your breath) why this is one my most difficult annual lists . . . favorite food. You will see some classics and some newcomers here. I'm all about exploring the wide, full, etc. etc. etc. world of food.

5) Challah - The traditional bread of a traditional people (or so the legend is told) this braided bread is part of many a Jewish tradition and is celebrated in our home (not nearly often enough). I love it on a bus, on a train, or on the plain in Spain.

4) Salted Eggs and Cheese - My daughter is not a "big" eater (she goes in phases - slow, controversial phases (like global warming)) but I've never offered her eggs with sharp cheddar cheese and a small dash of large crystal Kosher salt and had her rebuff it like so much science and research on our warming planet. My betrothed digs it, too. I dig it. It is breakfast at least one or two days a week . . . and sometimes dinner.

3) Traditional/Chicago/Garrett Mix Popcorn - While only one company (at this point) can call it "Chicago Mix" this blend of cheddar cheese and caramel (crisp) popcorn is perfect for a movie snack, a hostess gift at a dinner party, a nosh during a board game or breakfast. Don't judge me. Don't you judge me.

2) Hummus - I may, occasionally, bump it down the list of favorite foods for any given year but let me speak plainly to these other culinary delights . . . you are temporary. But a phase and fad. A simple infatuation. Hummus, with its chickpea base and perfect complexity will always be the master of my head, heart, and stomach.

1) Mustard Chicken Thighs - I will credit SLF for this one. I am not sure when/where she discovered it but this dish, which we eat far too seldomly, is the evolution of my beloved rotisserie chicken but it isolates out the thigh (which is far, far underappreciated as a part of the American house bird). You can Google hundreds of recipes (that incorporate various other flavors - we like ours slightly herbal in compliment) but our recipe stays with us.

12/23/15

Best of 2015 - Favorite Song . . .



I listen to a lot of music (when not listening to podcasts, KMUW, or the people in my life that regale me with stories of their youth and dreams for their tomorrow) and I like to think I listen to a broad, eclectic swath of genres and styles. And yet, at the end of the day, I listen to a lot of stuff that is - at its core - pop music. And I'm okay with that. I think (I go back and forth). I have a theory that there is SO MUCH music "out there" these days that you just cannot wrap your head or hands around it so it becomes a burden and you flee from it and just put on the pop station and feel comfortable.

Comfort be damned. Here, in order, are my ten favorite songs of the year (apologies for not being able to link to "Remedy" by Adele but if you don't own 25 by now . . . Why NOT?).

What delighted you this year? What's in your ears? I want it in mine.

10) "Shine" Leon Bridges
The first time I heard Leon Bridges sing (a year or so ago) I was sure that someone was clowning me with an album from the 60s/70s. His voice, his lyrics, his musical sensibilities are all from an era long, long ago but his music is (I've double checked) new. Soulful, romantic, and beautiful. "Shine" is the wants and desires of a man who is sure he can be more - a man who wants to be more.

9) "Capable of Anything" Ben Folds
I've had a musical boner (yeah, I said it) for Ben Folds since the Five in 1995 (I was a wee late to their party) and I think one of the things I've loved most about him is how he can make broad, meandering music while toting a piano throughout it. I was excited to see the boys get back together a few years ago but this new collaboration (with yMusic) reminds me of Jherek Bischoff's "Composed" in that it is pop music kissing the orchestra and getting a kiss right back. If you've never seen Folds perform with an orchestra (which he does, often) you should. It proves he's capable of, well, anything.

8) "Feeling Good" Ms. Lauryn Hill
Don't, please don't, tease me that Lauryn Hill (now with the Ms. in front - which I would respect and observe if it was "Queen" or "Holy Mother") is finally back (yes, I know she, like Dave Chappelle, never really went away) and ready to delight me again. Alas. She is not. Fully. But a few tracks on the tribute album to the documentary "What Happened, Miss Simone?" is good enough for me. Her cover of the eternal "Feeling Good" is worth every warm, rich, churned note and chord. We're ready when you are, Ms. Hill. Bring it.

7) "Ch-Ching" Chairlift
You know what pop music is best at? Making you feel guilty for feeling so good. And this song (which is an earworm for the ages - be careful as you click) brings me much conflicted pleasure but not enough that I didn't listen to it 1,000 times while running away the 5 AM hour of just about ever day this year. 27-9-9-2-3 (whatever that means) indeed. The song makes me happy and your kids will dig it and that makes it even better.

6) "WTF (Where They From)" Missy Elliott
So a few weeks ago I was driving with my daughter and she was asking for me to play one of about six songs she loves so bad . . . again. And I said "Hey." (I'm going to quote myself here) "How about I play you something you've never heard before but you'll LOVE?" and she said "No. Play the same old f*cking sh*t." (I'm NOT quoting her here) and I hit play on this song anyway. Within fifteen bars she was bopping in the back seat. By the end she had seven songs in her rotation. Then she said "This woman sounds like Nikki Minaj" and I actually LOST my mind and talked icons vs. trends for the next several miles.

5) "The Story of My Life" Piano Guys
I love two women these days and they, for their part, love what they love. One (my daughter) loves One Direction (and is crushed by their decision to take a "break" after losing a member earlier this year) and the other (my betrothed) loves Piano Guys. I know, I know. But the heart wants what the heart wants. This song combines both of their loves in a song that is legitimately catchy and completely void of a single demand for your attention. You'll love it soon enough. Promise.

4) "Remedy" Adele
So there is this woman named Adele and she sings with the sort of force that the moon and its tides might envy. And she does it with relative ease and she is, at 27, the most mature person you'll ever meet (in some ways - interviews and other appearances imply she's equal parts easy and peezy). Her newest album will likely win every award possible in 2017 (curiously it was a little too late for 2016 awards season - something I find curious) but, for me, this song (which I presume is for her child) is everything it might be and more.

3) "Checking For You" R. City
I love rap. Always have, always will. I love rap (and I love hip hop - but there is a huge difference) and I love when rap skews toward hip hop but is also still just catchy pop with ambition. This song which Google just pushed to me based on other songs I like is nearly perfect. I've listened to it 1,000 times and I find myself liking more and more rap (vs. hip hop) because of it. Give it a listen and try not to enjoy it. I'll be here when you're ready to admit defeat.

2) "I Belong To You" Brandi Carlile
Ohhhhh, Brandi Carlile. You're so splendid. Carlile first won my heart in 2007 with "The Story" (which was delightfully stripped down to a true ballad for a wedding I attended in January) and hasn't really stopped since. I enjoy how many songs are about love and the pain and suffering it can cause and how worthy that struggle is. This song, which came out earlier this year, takes the whole thing to another level with the thought that she "belongs" to her lover. Not as property bought or won or claimed but as servant and happy shadow. It could, with another lyricist or voice, come off as creepy but - with Carlile - it makes me want to become a submissive heart. Alas . . . no.

1) "(At Your Best) You Are Love" Frank Ocean 
In 1976 the Isley Brothers made a little jam called "At Your Best" and, nine months later, the world's population was notably larger. More importantly men around the world realized that to "be" love was not easy and was not to be taken for granted. Fast forward 18 years and Aaliyah (who had much promise if not for R. Kelly's uncomfortable (if not illegal) relationship with her and her premature death in a plane crash) made the song over in a way that was modern and yet, as old as the Isley Brothers (and, at her age of 15, older than her). She twisted the notion that a woman wanted her man to be his best/love. Fast forward (again) 21 years and Frank Ocean who, in many ways, is sorta twisting many notions in terms of music and talent and life and perspective released the song on what would have been Aaliyah's 36th birthday and he nailed it. He stripped it down even more and put a little more emotional doubt in it . . . while staying positive that being a positive, motivating force is something we should all aspire to.

12/22/15

Best of 2015 - Favorite Podcast . . .


It is hard to believe that the "podcast" (in its current iteration and vernacular - the medium, itself, has been around since at least the early-80s) is only eleven years old. And I mean this in two ways - one it seems like it has been around for actual ever and two it feels like it is brand new.

I hate to sound like the burnt-mouth hipster who ate his pizza before it was cool but I really, truly was an early adapter to the (mainstream) podcast movement and I've listened to hundreds and hundreds of different podcasts (with thousands of episodes of many of them) . Don't believe me? According to Stitcher I've listened to 1,430 hours and 51 minutes of podcasts since July 1, 2013. That is, roughly, 1.6 hours/day every. single. day.

I love podcasts and, if not for KMUW-FM, they might be the only non-music audio I would listen to. So here, with the intent of dazzling you with my eclectic tastes and/or riling your feathers/taste - are my top ten podcasts of 2015.

10) Stuff You Should Know
I backed my way into this podcast by listening to "Brain Stuff" (they are both on the "stuff" podcast network) but I'm glad I went deeper. Where Brain Stuff is just a few minutes long, SYSK is far longer and more in depth by two fairly-funny, very bright guys. It is sorta trivia, sorta history, sorta random, sorta awesome. MUST LISTEN: "How Public Relations Works"

9) Slate's Hang Up and Listen
The first of two Mike Pesca shows to be profiled (and one of three Slate/Panoply network shows) this show is the sports podcast for any person who, like me, actually hates sports. "Hang Up and Listen" is about sports like "Friday Night Lights" is about high school football. The three main hosts (and a rotating cast of guest hosts and guests) talk about the origins and impacts of the games, the players, and leagues that they love so much - if only so you don't have to. MUST LISTEN: The guy who made sneakers cool and the guy that protects the Stanley Cup

8) Unorthodox
As I have oft discussed, I'm sorta obsessed with being a Jew and the Internet is full of resources and educational materials and discussions and confusion. I can't ask my Rabbi EVERY question I have and I can't constantly expose my ignorance to fellow congregants (neither of those statements is true - they are all wonderful and kind and patient) but it is good to have an external support. Enter "Unorthodox" with discussion, analysis, context, and good humor. MUST LISTEN: "Holy Ground"

7) Slate's Culture Gabfest
In the mid-90s I was a student in college and I was introduced to a horrible, inappropriate expression . . . the "hate f*ck" where my abhorrent male friend explained one would have sex with someone they disliked for the sole purpose of somehow violating them through intimacy (I never got it, thought I never would) but then I came to know this podcast. I listen to this show - faithfully - with nothing but rage in my heart. The hosts are such snobs and bores who want, very badly, to be "of the people" and I disagree with just about everything they say and every time they swear through their pinched, uncomfortable mouths I laugh. Truly horrible. Truly required listening. MUST LISTEN: The Gang Pretends to Take on Furious 7

6) The Joe Rogan Experience
I'm not a smart man. To clarify - I'm of (maybe slightly above) average intelligence and I know what I know well but I don't "know" much of the world. You know who does? Joe Rogan. All I (once) knew of Joe Rogan was his roles on sitcoms and making people eat/drink animal pieces and by-products on "Fear Factor" but that is not fair. He's actually very bright, extremely well read and, like me - a master of the things he cares about. I've learned more about drugs, conspiracies, religion, nutrition, fitness, and a million other things that I ever thought a guy "like" (my flawed perspective on) Joe Rogan could teach me. MUST LISTEN: Deprogramming

5) NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour
I just talked, on Friday, about my love and adoration for Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, and Stephen Thompson and their show but let me put a finer point on it. Not only is "Pop Culture Happy Hour" everything that Culture Gabfest might, otherwise, aspire to be (right down to the Slate snobs "endorsement" segment mimicking PCHH's "Things Making Us Happy" segment) but I listen to the two shows back-to-back to add additional fuel to the fire. I learn so much and so enjoy the learning from PCHH. Then I furiously Google and/or buy stuff based on their suggestions and get in the rabbit hole for hours to follow. MUST LISTEN: BoJack Horseman and People We're Pulling For

4) Serial
What's that? You haven't heard of Serial. Geddouda here. Seriously. If ever there was a podcast that MADE podcasting (apologies to the millions of other shows and episodes out there) Serial was IT. The exploration of the legal system that put a young man in jail for (maybe) killing his girlfriend is superb and maddening. So many flaws and challenges to the system we hold most dear are exposed through the eyes of just one case. Sure, sure, the first season came out in 2014 but it sorta "arrived" in 2015 and I - just two episodes into the second season (this time looking at famed AWOL guy Bowe Bergdahl) has me really, really hooked. MUST LISTEN: The Opposite of Prosecution

3) The Read
As a white, middle-aged, middle class male who works in middle management in middle America there are sooooo many parts of this world that I don't currently, never have, and never will really, truly "understand" perhaps key among them is what it would be like to be a late-20s, gay black American in New York City. But - thanks to The Read - I can observe that. Kid Fury and Crissle spend a few hours a week romping through everything from "Black Excellence" to reader letters to their "reads" where they spend several minutes, each, on a topic that has them fired up on any given week. You will need a few episodes to understand the cadence of the show. You won't enjoy or appreciate or benefit from all of it. But the things where you get the raw perspective of young, influential people that have different backgrounds and experiences is what makes podcasting great. MUST LISTEN: I don't know of just one episode but pick any one episode and listen to the last fifteen minutes first.

2) The Gist
I have so much affection for this show that I've actually had a friendship fall into disrepair over it and I think I chose the right side on which to place my loyalty. Mike Pesca is bright, funny, irreverent, astute, and absurd enough to make a thirty-minutes (ish) per day show work and work well and his producer, Andrea, is everything Paul was to David Letterman in the 80s. If you want to learn something something about something you didn't know you needed to know about nor would care about and then find yourself going out of your way to share said knowledge and perspective on something you had not, previously, cared about . . . give Pesca a listen. MUST LISTEN: The March to Zero (aka the (most recent) "What's UP with Kansas?" episode)

1) Mystery Show
This is one of those moments where people shake their head and go "man . . . you are just soooooo random" but - without denying that - I'll ask you to hear me out. Here's the premise of Mystery Show: take a long-burning question you have that can't be answered with a quick Google and let the host of this show solve it for you. There were just six episodes to season one (season two has been teased/promised) and I've listened to each of them at least thrice. The host's voice, her sense of humor, how twisty-turny her investigations are (when the search for the muse for lunchbox art turns to wrestlers and chronic pain and abuse, etc.) were what made it better than Serial and The Gist combined because I get the humor and the mystery AND the outcome. MUST LISTEN: Source Code (How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?)

Honorable mention, of course, to the classics like PTI, WTF, Adam Carolla, and others that were once my favorites and really sort of got/kept me going in the early (and all courses but salad) days.

12/21/15

Best of 2015 - Favorite Person . . .


For the balance of this year you're going to get a lot of posts that are lists . . . "favorite (this)" and "best (that)" but I wanted to spend one last 2015 post on just one topic and one idea so I posted the list and dump of all my "nearly favorite people" on Friday and will, today, focus on only my FAVORITE person of the year - my daughter.

I think about the year/13 months she has had. She's moved, she's had a woman move in with her and her father, her mother has gotten remarried, she's had all new aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents (from all possible angles) come in to her life. She's had to adjust to new expectations and new demands and new opportunities.

The I think about that in the context of the four years before that. In that time she has weathered her parents ending their marriage (for all intents and purposes) but only internally at an age so young she probably didn't even know it was "untraditional" for one parent to sleep in the guest room. She's lived in seven (including our own family house) homes. She's changed schools, officially, twice (and spent a year at a third school building after a fire at her initial school). She's seen her father move out of the house and then convert to Judaism. She's seen her mother and father lose jobs and then, in time, find new jobs. She's seen other relationships for her parents start and stop.

I think of all that turmoil and upheaval and how hard every one of those things hit me and how poorly I dealt with just about all of them and I think about how well she's done. How adaptable she's proven herself to be. How resilient. How brave (best word for it). How wonderfully kind and friendly and comfortable she's been. I think about how much easier she has made all of this for me - even though I never asked or expected her to and never, frankly, even talked directly with her about many of the above changes.

She's nine. She acts 22. She has her own sense of style and "favorite things" and "least favorite things" and she has her own set of the above at our house and a different set of those lists (with some vensian overlaps) at her mother's house. And I'm fine with that. I love that. I have, since she was very young, wanted and almost demanded her to be her own person with strong and informed positions and perspectives. I've pushed her for to figure out how things work and how she feels about them and who she is or might be in that world. She knows who Janet Yellen is. She watches political debates and the State of the Union. She reads My Little Pony comic books. She's obsessed with Minecraft.

These next 1,562 years of parenting her are going to be tough. Her body is starting to change again and this is the big one. She's no longer a little girl - she's hardly even a girl. Soon enough she'll be a young woman and then a woman. Her tween years will test us and we'll see lot of big, huge changes and happenings and incidents come and go. If we are LUCKY - she'll talk to us about all of them. If we're even luckier she'll allow us to comfort her or make those things easier (asking for the support or just accepting it).

She's not perfect but she's perfectly alright with that and I am to. She is probably my favorite person all day, every day but for the year 2015 my daughter is my favorite person of the year for all the ways she is changing and all the ways she continues to change me.

12/18/15

Sean's Top 10 "Heynows" of the Moment . . .

An annual tradition - both in terms of this list and the annual trend to burn the latter part of December with posts about lists and lists about stuff and stuff about posts (completing the circle) the "Top 10 'Heynows' of the Moment" list has essentially run its proverbial course.

The list started as the mid-30s, newly-separated, lusty yearnings of a man in, well, yearning in 2012. That trend continued - with bigger bosoms and an introduction of some mental crushes in 2013. By 2014 I was living with a woman and, frankly, my yearning was down because - well - cohabitation. I made a man my top "Heynow" and called it a day. So here, dear readers, is the 2015 list fully evolved and void of physical, primal, inappropriate lust . . . for 80% of the list (you decide the last 20%).

Hey - don't judge. We all have room to grow.

10) Hercule Poirot
I am obsessed with Poirot. Not just the fictional detective from many, many an Agatha Christie story but the notion of a man so unsettlingly stuck on who he is, the decorum and expectations that carries, and the awkwardness that puts on the world around him. If you've never watched or read Poirot - remedy that. And love yourself.







9) Joy Williams
Joy Williams, best known as the female half of the now-defunct (to my great sadness) Civil Wars, released "Venus" in 2015. The "poppiest" thing she's done (her early solo work fell under the "Christian" flag and her recent work more country/Americana. The subtle "Perfection is not a real thing. We're all trying to accept the compromise." tone of the album was as enchanting as her voice. My favorite song on the album is "You Loved Me".






8) Shane Koyczan
I've mentioned Koyczan many times on this blog but he is, for those not familiar with all 861 past posts, a Canadian poet/storyteller/verbal artist/fixation. I hated poetry for the first 38 years of my life . . . then liked it for a year. Now I sorta love it. I credit Koyczan. If you're not familiar give this a listen (it still makes me cry, 861 listens later) the furiously Google him and fall into the deep pool of his greatness.






7) Linda Holmes
An annual tradition on this list, Holmes and her Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast colleagues and the larger community of those who write and report on all-things-pop-culture for NPR are the large-biceped bouncers of my emotional night club. Her humor, grace, opinions, and ability to not just talk about pop culture but make it sound important (in a genuine, aware way) is admirable. Love her.






6) Bernie Sanders
Bernie, Bernie, Bernie. I'm feeling the Bern. I'm all in on you. I'm all in on how you're pushing Hillary Clinton, the DNC, the otherwise-disenchanted voters who want something away from politics-as-usual but can't get down with Donald Trump. I don't know how 2016 is going to play out for you but I hope it involves intense discussions on important issues, a better understanding of "socialism" and a Presidential election about real ideas.






5) Marjorie Ingall
A writer (that I first learned of through Tablet), Ingall is also strong with the Twitter, funny on podcasts, and a rather eloquent voice on one of my favorite pet-peeves - empty apologies. I enjoy her and her perspective very much and she, indirectly and probably without intention, has made me a better Jewish parent and Jew. These things are all very much appreciated.







4) Janet Yellen
My daughter insists she looks like a "kind owl" but make no mistake - the Chair of Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board is far more notable than the bird on Drake's sweatshirt. The first-ever woman in her role, the economist has taught, worked with several Presidents (directly and indirectly), and has an ability to make fiscal policy not only relevant but interesting to people like my daughter and me are all important, too. Her recent rate raise is complicated - that she has everyone talking about them is not.





3) Mike Pesca
My top "heynow" last year the podcaster, media personality, and unbelievably bright, funny, and snarky Pesca has taught me more about sports (through "Hang Up and Listen" and his old NPR days) than needed and has delighted and informed me on hundreds of topics with his daily podcast "The Gist". One final reason to love Pesca, he introduced me to one of my other recent obsessions - vexillology.






2) Debra Monk
The lovely Ms. Monk has been on three of the four "Heynow" lists and for very good reason . . . she is an eternal obsession of mine (going back to the 90s when she was the giver of unrequited love for Det. Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue). If you're not familiar with her work - shame on you. You can start with the second season of "Mozart in the Jungle" (coming soon to Amazon Prime) and work your way back by way of TV, movies, and Broadway.





1) SLF
It would only be appropriate for me to disclose here that SLF is maybe the ultimate "Heynow" in my life (ALL due respect Debra Monk and Connie Britton). She's been around for three years. She fascinated me from the very first exchange we shared. We dated then we didn't then we dated again. I learned to be comfortable loving her and letting her love me. We've lived together for a year. I can't imagine not having her at this point. So . . . I asked her to be my wife and she said "yes" (foolish, silly, lovable woman) so now I'll have to come up with a new nickname/acronym and be happy with (and because of) her for the rest of my otherwise miserable life.

12/17/15

Huck . . .

I've mentioned here, a handful of times, that my daughter is very, very into graphic novels, comic books, and - lately - illustrations and sketching her own comic (more strips than books or novellas). I have never really understood comics.

My roommates in my "DC days" read comics. There was a comic shop on M Street in Georgetown and they had "pull lists" (a service comic stores offer where they will set a copy of new issues of your favorite titles aside for you to pick up once a month or so) and we'd walk out there once a month and get all the latest volumes of titles like "The Preacher" and  "Deadpool" (soon to be a major motion picture) and so on. They loved that the art was starting a comeback (hard to believe in our age of comic book hero mega picture franchises that - not that long ago - the comic book was thought to be truly dying out). Anywho - that was their thing . . . not mine.

I always prefered books that either used every adjective the author new to set a mental image for me or the ones where I got to decide what characters looked like (all the women had heaving, round bosoms - for the record) and how things looked.

But I figured that if my kid was this obsessed, I should give it a shot. So - I did what I always do . . . started researching and obsessing and spending so much more time and energy than needed for something that would cost me $4 - $5 to get started. I looked at dozens of series old and new. I decided I wanted to get in on the ground floor of something . . . no reboots, no issue 74 of series nine of version three of a book (that's what those in the know call them - just "books"). I wanted it to be about an adult and for adults (not actual sex (although the "Sex Criminals" series is beautiful and well regarded - but subject matter that was a little more old, calm, and boring).

I settled on to a title called "Huck". It was either that or the equally praised "Paper Girls" (also from Image Comics - which is a publisher that appeals to me because it is not (entirely) the comic book hero world of spandex and bad assery - but that violates the rule that it be about an adult . . . the lead characters are, um, paper girls). I think I made the right choice.

I don't entirely know what is going on but there is this guy (we presume him to be a male mortal but I'm dubious it is so simple) named, um, Huck who lives in a small town and does good deeds for people out of a sense of duty, compulsion, and - from what we are told in book (I'm an insider now) pleasure. He was an orphan. He lives alone. He works at a gas station. He seems mysterious. He is, at his request, a secret unknown to the rest of the world - until the end of book one when the press shows up because he did a particularly good deed that got him some attention.

It took me fifteen minutes to read and cost me $4. I was delighted by this. I poured over the illustrations and coloring (beautiful) and tried to see clues and hints to future plot points in the images (there were three "Easter eggs" I THINK I found - time will tell) and I found myself "understanding" why so many love these things so much. The kid and I went to the Wichita Comic Con a month ago and she and a few thousand (or so it felt by the crowd size) seemed to be in actual heaven.

Issue two came out yesterday. I'll pick it up this weekend - with the rest of the pull list we set up ("Huck", two series of "My Little Pony" and "Jem" (the last three for my daughter - to be clear) and I might even pick up another book of my own . . .

12/16/15

Holiday Garb . . .


SLF and I took the kid to see The Nutcracker Saturday night. It was really, truly lovely. I am always really pleased to go see (largely) local talent putting on wonderful productions to packed houses. I've been a fan of The Nutcracker for most of my life. My parents first took me when I was 12 or 13 and I've probably seen it twenty times. My daughter, this being her tenth Christmas, has seen it eight.

The Nutcracker - for me - isn't just the ballet. No-no. It's the FASHION.

This will likely sound like sarcasm (it is not) but I love, love, love holiday garb. The "winter whites" and golds and blacks and reds. The use of plaid. Glittery tops. Grosgrain ribbons on young and old. Shocks of burgundy. Champagne on ice and bodice. Holiday garb makes me happy. It is always so warm (the velvets and tweeds) and fresh (the silvers and whites) and otherwise classic (you can keep your "ironic" holiday sweaters - I want the stuff people wear out of sense of time and place). I like costume jewelry that feels un-garish for this small window of the year.

It got me thinking. WHY do people only wear holiday garb six weeks out of the year? Seriously. You don't see it until the Monday after Thanksgiving and you don't see it after New Year's Morning (or whatever time people rise from their stoopers and change out of the previous night's ensemble). We could easily stretch this out from Halloween to Valentine's Day. Heck . . . Easter if it is a particularly glum winter.  Take me straight from grey flannel pants and a red turtleneck to pastel oxford, button down shirts and chinos. I'm READY.

Please put on some holiday garb in the next few weeks and wear it as long as it feels good.

12/15/15

Fashion Sneakers . . .

Yours for just $350 US.
One of the great mysteries in the world, for me, is the lack of interest in developing alternative fuels like winds, sun, and water. Another one? How "donkey dick" is not universally accepted as the funniest insult ever uttered. A final one? Fashion sneakers.

What are fashion sneakers? They are sneakers that are, well, intended for fashion . . . as in HIGH FASHION. I've been looking (and looking, and looking, and looking) for a good pair of training sneakers that don't cost a fortune, that don't look like they are made for space exploration, and that don't look like they will fail me on my first stride. And it is HARD to find those three things mainly because of, well, FASHION SNEAKERS.

Fashion sneakers look, sorta, like regular sneakers but they are made from suede, cashmere, and the tears of babies. They cost anywhere from $19 to $4,800 (retail - forget the collector-driven market) and they are, as far as I can tell, ONLY made to be bought and adored. You can't run, jump, or haul trash in them. You can't do anything with them without worrying about spillage or scuffing.

I get why people love them - some of them are really beautiful and some of them are really fun but none of them  are helping me find the right training sneaker and none of them are making me understand how anyone wears anything but penny loafers on any given day. Keep it simple, folks. Or at least keep it real.

12/14/15

Great Seasonal Albums . . .


In April - for reasons that I can't quite remember (given the season) - I blogged about some of my favorite "holiday related" songs. I have come to realize, in our first full "holiday season" living together that just helping SLF with five SONGS is not nearly enough to make in through so here are my ten favorite "holiday" ALBUMS (to fill more hours).

10) Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas, Ella Fitzgerald
You can't do much better than Ella Fitzgerald but you really can't beat her for putting a jazzy, light spin on some Christmas classics and some not-so-famous tunes of the season. I love the happiness to it all. BEST FOR: Driving around town and finishing your shopping - it will keep you calm.


9) A Christmas Album, Barbra Streisand
No. You don't have to be Christian to sing Christmas music (you do know most of the "good" Christmas music was written by Jews anyway, right?) or to do it justice. Babs proves that on this album that is now almost fifty years old. BEST FOR: Brunch or sitting around after you open gifts.


8) Songs for Christmas, Sufjan Stevens
I've always enjoyed Sufjan Stevens and don't think he can do any "wrong" but he's at his best when writing eccentric, eerie songs so I was worried about him covering established Christmas songs. The best part? He made them his own and added his own. Check them all out. BEST FOR: Board games or other social activities during the season.


7) A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guarldi Trio
Forget the TV special (please) . . . this music is the only good thing about it anyway. Vince Guarldi was a jazz legend before he, like Danny Elfman to Tim Burton, dedicated his career to making Peanuts specials - special. BEST FOR: Wrapping gifts late at night or snuggling by the fire.


6) Christmas on Death Row, Various Artists
Yes. "Death Row" as in the record label of west coast rappers and - at one point - thugs. And that is part of the charm of this album of hip hop/R&B/soul (it covers the bases) angst and reverence. You won't want to like it but - you WILL. Give it a spin. BEST FOR: Getting drunk and/or high in the garage or basement with siblings and cousins you see too seldomly.


5) A Christmas Cornucopia, Annie Lennox
This album feels like a number of songs that were once really well-known (form a more spiritual era of holiday music) but Lennox's voice puts such a command on them that they make you feel reverent of them and their subject matter. The talented Lennox doesn't disappoint. BEST FOR:


4) Klezmer Nutcracker, Shirim
Enjoy the Nutcracker? Enjoy traditional Yiddish music (aka Klezmer)? Of COURSE you do. This fantastic album marries the two for a traditional twist on a tradition. BEST FOR: cooking/getting ready for an evening with friends and family.


3) Hammered Dulcimer Christmas, Mary O'Callahan
I don't know if the hammered dulcimer is as much of a "thing" in the rest of the world as it is in Upstate but the minute I hear this album I think of shopping on the Ithaca Commons or in some random boutique in the Adirondacks. This album, to me, sounds like Christmas at "home". BEST FOR: Settling everyone down on Christmas Eve.


2) Merry Christmas, Mariah Carey
The pop diva may not have turned into the true icon her early-career pattern promised but there is no questioning her pipes and general talent in the mid-90s. Her ability to cover spiritual, secular, and silly on this album makes her "forever" in my books. BEST FOR: Background music during Christmas Eve dinner.


1) A Motown Christmas, Various Artists
It should not count to include another compilation - much less put it at the top of my list - but this album is actual nails. Everyone who was "anyone" (from this era of Motown - I'm talking about the 1973 album (but a 2014 compilation is six hours of greatness, too)) is on it and they are doing well. Come for the Stevie Wonder, stay for the Supremes. BEST FOR: Opening gifts on Christmas morning or a holiday cocktail party.


Sidebar - if you've not already acquired one I'd like to strongly encourage you to pick up a Google Chromecast Audio for "casting" from computer, tablet, or phone to any set of speakers on your wi-fi. Brilliant fun my little zaftig shiksa gave me for Hanukkah.

What do you listen to while getting drunk and avoiding family and friends?

12/11/15

Friday . . .

Today is Friday. I share this because I am getting lazy about posting to the blog six times a week. By telling you this I am checking the "Friday" box for this week. I apologize. And hope to be better next week.

12/10/15

Shamash . . .

Hanukkah has lots of foods, icons, and symbols that are well known and celebrated . . . the hanukkiah (menorah), the dreidel (spinny-top), gelt (chocolate coins), latke (potato pancakes), and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) among them . . . and maybe totaling.

But there is one thing about Hanukkah that doesn't get the credit it deserves - the shamash.

If you look at a candle hanukkiah you'll see that one of the nine holders/prongs/whatever is "different" . . . either set above or below, in the center, off to one side, or a combination of the above. That candle is the shamash and is not, technically, part of Hanukkah. It is the candle you light with your match, lighter, or portable flame thrower of choice. You then use the shamash to light the other candles that mark the eight "magic" nights of Hanukkah.

Why? Simple - Hanukkah candles and the glow of their light is only to be "admired" - you are not allowed to use it for work, pleasure, to read by, or for arson-related crimes and urges. So you can't use a Hanukkah candle to light other Hanukkah candles because that is "work" so the first candle is just sorta there to keep the flame moving. Make sense? I don't think so either - yet - here we are, talking about a religious holiday and the faith we Jews put in it so . . .

Here's the point - shamash (Hebrew for sun/helper/minister/a few other things) - is the "helper" of the Festival of Lights. It has a specific role and duty and it does so without complaint (which helps because it, like all candles, is inanimate) and without any drop of resentment (which, again, makes sense). If you think about it - the rules of Hanukkah imply that, without the shamash, there would be no Hanukkah light to "admire" so - in a way - it shouldn't be angry about being set apart . . . it should be proud.

We should feel the same way when offered a chance to help or support or play a role that has no direct benefit to us but carries all upside for those served in the action. Yet we do it very, very rarely. We don't seem to like it. We seem to resent it (which is, as we've established, a very "human" thing to do) and we seem to avoid it. Shameful - because a good shamash leaves much to be admired.


12/9/15

KMUW . . .



I can't say - often or loudly enough - how very, very important KMUW-FM (89.1, Wichita Public Radio) is to me. It is not "everything" to me (hummus and penny loafers are also in the mix) but it is not far off that slice of the pie.

I wake up with it, I drive to work listening to it, I stream it during the day, I let it guide me home, I turn it on at night while getting ready for bed, and I spend much of the weekend enjoying it while running errands.

The station entertains, educates, and delights me. I consider it a true asset of our community and I, accordingly give it a whopping $25/month - about $300/year. What do I get in return? Countless hours of local, regional, and national content and a stronger, more full brain and perspective.

Think about what you value. Think about why you value it. Think about what it gives back to you - and how much you appreciate that return. Now think about how much those things cost you.

A plate of hummus? $8. A pair of penny loafers? $110. I can eat hummus once. It is gone (quickly) and then I move on. The value is minimal beyond the company I keep when eating it and/or how friggin' delicious it is. I can wear the shoes for about two years (I don't like to get the soles replaced and I like leather soled shoes so they don't last much longer with my wearing frequency) and I can and will enjoy them every day but they are one pair (of the eleven currently on my shoe rack) but once they are done (soles worn through to the size of a dime or larger) I just move on. Replace them with the exact. same. pair.

So how does my $300/year compare to these other things that mean so much to me? It doesn't. Without hummus I'd eat more peanut butter or mozzarella sticks (or both). Without penny loafers I'd go oxfords or tasseled loafers. Without KMUW . . . I'd be lost.

Anywho - the station is having its semi-annual pledge drive THIS WEEK. I'll be on (talking Hanukkah and my love for KMUW) today from 8 - 9 AM CT, 12 - 1 PM CT, and 4 - 5 PM CT. Give a listen. Give a donation. Then let's wear our penny loafers and go get some hummus while we listen to OUR public radio.

12/8/15

Overwhelmed . . .

I can always tell when I'm stressed out and feeling overwhelmed by stuff. 

Not because I'm self-aware (I'm not) nor because I can see how it is impacting other people (I am not aware of others either) nor because people are giving me that look of concern/frustration/anger that tells me retreat (I am, for the record, aware of - but not moved by - those looks). 

Most of us/you/better people would be aware of the thought of getting entirely overwhelmed (particularly by self-induced worry and angst) and they would do something about it. They'd ask for some help or grab on to sturdy object or at least let some of it go and manage the impact. But, um, no. I'm not one of you fully adjusted people that I so admire. These things are not options nor do they seem to even allow me to contextualize.

Nope. The only thing that ever makes me realize I'm completely overwhelmed is when I catch myself saying things that make very, very little sense and going "Eh. You're losing it, suhn." and yet the only way I manage my entire-self-induced-not-really-stressful-stress is by saying things that, well, make very, very little sense. I'm there, dear friends. I'm there . . . some examples of my absurdity (presented without context):
  1. "If you don't figure this math problem out in three minutes I'm going to de-pair every sock you own and make you go shoe-less."
  2. "It is there when it should be here and here is not there for it anyway."
  3. "I am not a sexist, little girl."
  4. "I HAVE TO buy this book now to make sure that our 'Amazon Family' account is working."
  5. "I'm thinking about going back and having breakfast now (at 2 PM) in hopes that I'll get my nine hours of the day back after."
  6. "I think Donald Trump has a valid point when he suggests . . ."
  7. "If Hanukkah is the 'Jewish Christmas' than Christmas is the 'Christian LagBaOmer' and that is clearly not the case anyway so what are we really talking about?"
  8. "I've got enough time I just don't have enough time."
  9. "I'd love to help you out with that initiative."
  10. "Blue. Orange. Maybe purple. But not brown or grey. Silver, maybe? White. Let's consider yellow - a light, buttery yellow. You know what? Grey."
  11. (said with a gesture versus words) "Please, ma'am - cross over two lanes of Rock Road traffic at 5:23 PM so you can get to Panera Bread - I'm in no hurry to get to my daughter's school by 5:30."
  12. "I don't know."
So - yeah - keep throwing me those side-eyed glares. I'll eventually pick up what you're putting down. Maybe. Ideally. 

12/7/15

Cardigans . . .

It is, truly, the most wonderful time of the year. It is time to wear sweaters all day, every day. Work week? Sweaters, sweaters, sweaters, sweaters, sweaters. Then - on the weekend? Sweaters and sweaters. This is how we roll.

But there is some rolling that only a select minority of us - the truly brave and truly confident - do . . . the cardigan?

But why? How can American clothing culture hate two sweaters (the sweater vest has long since been the rented mule of the knitted garment community - but I wear those TOO)? Moreover - how do we hate THESE ones?

Cardigans are the garment of Mr. Rogers. Cardigans are the sweater of clergy. Cardigans are the sweaters of Grandfathers. Cardigans are the warm middle/outer layer of every archetype we once admired and adored in this country. So why can't we borrow against that? Why can't we go into the closet or armoire drawer of the men we once admired and button up for the day? It is cowardice? Is it dis-ease? Is it fear? Is it . . . what is it?

Actually - I don't know if I really care why because, if I'm being honest, I don't care if you want to wear them or not because myself and the rest of the minority . . . we're rolling on without you anyway. Cardigan crew . . . MOUNT UP (but please, please, please don't button the top or buttons on the bottom banding - that's not how it gets done).

12/4/15

Color of the Year . . .

Pantone, yesterday, announced their "Color of the Year". The organization - widely acknowledged as the world's leading authority on color and makers of the "PMS" system (a vital accessory for graphic designers, interior designers, painters, artists, and hipsters the world over who want to be sure to get exact matches of colors across applications and executions) - has announced a color of the year going all the way back to 1999 (2000 -  the group chooses a color in ADVANCE of a year (vs. all the rest of us trend-followers who evaluate things in arrears) in what I presume was a PR play at one point but has turned into serious discussion (for those of us who talk about these things anyway) about color and the nature and direction of it and the notion that the hot colors today can easily disappear tomorrow. Don't believe me it is a real thing? Listen to Marketplace.

Here's why I mention this here and now (I could have done this post any of the last several years and always had an opinion). I'm disappointed. The group decided, as the above picture might have foretold, to go with TWO colors this year. Why does this bug me? Because by 2020 they're have an entire palette that allows everyone to get what they want. Seriously - BLUE and PINK? Way to play the field, Pantone.

And I get where they are going with this - color is expanding and our phones and TVs are allowing us to reproduce and challenge color like never before (well - not "never" before, the natural world has always held billions and billions of colors) and the idea of color shifting and motion within color and visual is more and more a cue, etc. Yes - I'm aware no one from Pantone has said ANY of that as relates to their decision to do two colors as COLOR (you'll note they don't say "colors" or "co-color", etc.) of the year but I feel it and believe it and you can't prove me wrong (because facts are stupid).

I really like the colors (the normcore obsessed, New England prepster in me is fine with pastel (neither is, for the record, an actual pastel) colors that calm and sooth and that feel all the feelings in the meantime. I just wish they chose A color (singular) and stuck with it.

Take a gander at every, previous, color of the year (in reverse order (Marsala was 2015, Cerulean was 2000)).



Five blues, five reds, two oranges, one beige, one green, one purple, one yellow. I actually enjoy most of them (my favorites are last year's "marsala" or 2009's "mimosa" but I'm a sucker for orange so those shades make me happy, too - and now I'm up to 25% of all the selected colors as my (potential) favorite)) and none of them make me angry or whatever - which is good because do you want to live in a world where anyone is ANGRY about a "color of the year" selection?

I just wish that they had chosen ONE color again this year. Or, worst case, let this be a one time thing that doesn't grow and morph out of control as though for sport. Because that is no less okay than selling collections of cardboard swatches for $220. Yet I still really, really want to own a PMS.

Enjoy your time, Rose Quartz and Serenity. We'll quickly move on from you. I can't even tell you the last time I so much as THOUGHT about Fuschia Rose, frankly.