november 2022

Our pumpkins for Halloween 2022:

For trick or treating, Will and two of his friends made their own costumes for three characters from the Splatoon video game, which they've all been playing obsessively recently. Will was a giant manta ray called Big Man, and while some people recognized that he was a manta ray, there was one other kid who recognized all three of them as characters from the game, and they were just so thrilled.

In my relatively short career of collecting vinyl records, I definitely have a real preference/weakness for colored vinyl, especially when the color/design is made to compliment the cover art for the record. The problem is, many of these colored vinyl releases are very limited releases that don't get repressed, and I missed out on so many over the past decade or so as vinyl was building to its current resurgence.

You can find these rarities from online third-party sellers, but of course they're ridiculously marked up, especially if the record in question was very popular when it was released and if the colored vinyl reissue (using celebrating a landmark anniversary of the original release) is more than a few years old.

Such is the case with Love and Rockets' breakthrough record, Earth, Sun, Moon, which was reissued on colored vinyl in 2015, which was also the only colored vinyl version of the album. I had it on my wantlist, but I never figured I'd own a copy—the prices on it from online sellers ranged from $150-$300, which is way out of my price range even for a record I covet as much as that one.

But then I noticed a copy in the used section of the website of a record store in Ohio called Plaid Room Records who I often order from—they have a great selection, good prices, the packed the records for shipping very securely, and they're very quick. It was only $99, far cheaper than other online prices but still far enough out of my price range that I didn't pull the trigger right away. I kept a tab open for the record for days, kind of hoping that someone else would buy it and keep me from spending more than a reasonable amount for a record, but no one ever did. It just stayed there, daily taunting me while I came close to buying it three or four times.

But then Love and Records unexpectedly announced a box set of all six of their albums, including Earth, Sun, Moon, each on colored vinyl meant to compliment the album art. And while it was expensive—$150—it was only $50 more than the Plaid Room used copy of Earth, Sun, Moon, and it wasn't just for one album, but for six (technically eight actual albums, because two of the records are double LPs).

The white vinyl they chose for the box set version of Earth, Sun, Moon isn't as visually interesting as the translucent smoky grey the used for the 2015 reissue, but I'm absolutely thrilled to be getting this band's complete catalogue on vinyl for a reasonable overall price. I will admit that I'd still probably pull the trigger on the 2015 version if I ever saw it for $50 or less, but it's great that I won't be tempted to pursue that one for a ridiculous price now.

The barber that I went to since I moved to Atlanta told me last June that he would be closing his shop and moving to Florida in August, and I had my final haircut with him on August 4. I put off finding a replacement for as long as possible, but after nearly three months, I really needed a haircut.

My previous barber recommended a man named John who owns a shop that's actually much closer to my house than my former spot—they went to barber school together—and he seemed to also have good online reviews, so I decided to give him a try. This morning was my first haircut with him, and he did a pretty good job, so I think I can stick with him and not spend any additional energy looking for a new one.

This city has changed so much in the 10 years that I've been here, and although it might seem like a little thing, my barber leaving was yet another piece of this Ship of Theseus being replaced. Almost no one else will notice or care that this piece is gone, since there is a perfectly serviceable replacement, but even if I end up liking this new guy as much as my old one, I always know that it's something different, and something small has been lost.

Last night I went to see Plains, the superduo of Jess Williamson and Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield, play the Variety in Little Five Points. I've been a big fan of Waxahatchee for a while now, and although it took me a little bit to warm to the Plains project, which leans into traditional country even more than Waxahatchee's last record, Saint Cloud, but I'm fully on board with it now.

The opener was MJ Lenderman, who plays guitar for the up and coming Asheville indie group Wednesday, but who put out his own brilliant solo album called Boat Songs earlier this year. I've only been listening to it for a couple of weeks, but it's highly likely to end up in my top 10 for the year despite some heavy competition. He put on a solid performance, and now I need to be on the lookout for him to return to Atlanta to do a headlining show.

I had never heard of Jess Williamson before Plains, and at first the Katie Crutchfield songs were the ones I gravitated towards. But the more I listened to the record, the more I came to appreciate Williamson's songwriting and lyrics, and now my two favorite songs on the album belong to her: "Abilene" and "I Walked With You A Ways". I don't think it's a coincidence that these two songs are also the source of the band name ("Texas in my rearview, Plains in my heart/Couldn't hold it together when Abilene fell apart", from "Abilene") and the album title.

Their performance was great, and now I can't decide if I want them to continue this project or return to making solo records (although hopefully with a Plains reunion at some point in the future). Either way, this album and this show further solidified my love for Waxahatchee and introduced me to Jess Williamson, who I hope will become as beloved to me as Katie Crutchfield.

I was supposed to see Alvvays at the Variety last night, just one night after seeing Plains and MJ Lenderman play at the same venue, but I wasn't feeling well and I ended up taking a sick day and missing the show.

It was a bummer, but I'm fortunate that I've seen Alvvays play twice before, although it was as an opener both times. So it would have been cool to see them play a full set as the headliner, but sometimes these things just don't work out.

We're now nine weeks into the NFL season, and my Ravens are 6-3. They could easily have been at least 8-1—two of their losses were games where they had leads going into the fourth quarter and then a gassed defense gave up too many points (which couldn't have happened without the offense giving back the ball too quickly).

Some of this is to be expected with a new defensive coordinator, especially because he's not just new to the Ravens, this is also his first season as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. The good news is that our remaining slate of games is pretty winnable, and, barring major injuries to significant players, we should be well positioned to win at least six of the final eight games and earn a playoff berth.

But even if they do that, they'll need to clean things up on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter if they want to advance past the first round of the postseason. Even in the six games they've won, there was only one contest where they outscored their opponent in the fourth quarter, and that's a recipe for disaster when you're playing the best teams in the league.

On Friday night, I went with Julie and Will to see one of my favorite artists of all time, Robyn Hitchcock, play a show at Eddie's Attic. We bought a table and got there early to have our pick of spots, and we ended up with a table right next to the stage:

The last time I saw him, it was at this same venue, and it was three years ago almost to the day. Will and Julie were also with me that night, and we again had a table close to the stage (although not quite as close as we were on Friday). That was the second-to-last show I saw before the pandemic shut everything down for a year and a half.

Even though I've been a Hitchcock fan since 1986, I had only seen him four times before 2018, and only once between 1990 and 2018 (he was the opener for the Decemberists at Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009). But Robyn lives in Nashville now, and so it's not a long drive to pop down to Athens or Atlanta for the odd show here and there, and this show made it the fourth time seeing him in concert in the last five years (and I added another show on Saturday night when he played Eddie's Attic again).

We take Will to about half a dozen concerts a year, and while he has yet to develop a distinct musical taste (which is totally fine—I didn't start to really have my own strong preferences until I was about 15, and he's only 12 now), but I'm hoping that by exposing him to the music I love, both in recorded form, and in concert, some of it will rub off on him eventually.

On Saturday night I went by myself to Robyn Hitchcock's second show at Eddie's Attic. I didn't get a table this time (you have to buy the whole table, four seats), but I got there early and found a seat on the corner of the bar next to a guy named John, who works for iHeartRadio. We had a lot in common in terms of our musical tastes—we liked a lot of the same albums, especially from the 80s indie/college scene, and we saw several bands on the same tours during that time.

After I had secured my seat, I went to the merch table and had a nice little chat with Robyn's partner, singer Emma Swift (who typically joins him onstage for a few songs). I asked about their cats, Tubby and Ringo, who feature prominently in the artwork for Hitchcock's most recent album, Shufflemania! (especially one-eyed Tubby, who Robyn often talks about during shows and who has his own pillow on Robyn's online merch site).

I also asked her if Robyn could play "Raymond and the Wires", which is one of my all-time favorite Hitchcock songs but which I'd never heard him play live. She promised she'd pass along the request to him, and I was overjoyed when he played it early in the set—he has such a deep catalogue that I'm not going to be disappointed with any setlist he comes up with, but hearing that song made the night extra special for me.

After reading The Taking of K-129, about a top secret multiyear project by the CIA to covertly recover a lost Russian nuclear sub from the deep ocean, I decided to read The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen.

As you would expect of any expose of any of our most secretive military or law enforcement agencies, this history is simultaneously fascinating and horrifying. There are definitely things you'll find out that you wish you didn't know about what our government has done to advance its global agenda (and god only knows what this and other similar agencies are up to now), but it's also pretty amazing to see how many significant scientific advances were only made possible because the Department of Defense threw mountains of money at DARPA to solve a specific combat-related problem.

As with most modern assessments of morality and good versus evil, it's hard to balance the books and come to a conclusion about the US military in general and DARPA specifically. They are responsible of many, many needless and sometimes ghastly deaths, including plenty of civilians, but they also saved the lives of countless American soldiers, and eventually improved the everyday lives of ordinary American citizens and in many cases, the lives of billions of people around the globe.

Annie Jacobsen writes this story with as much as impartiality as is possible under these circumstances, with impeccable sourcing and a writing style that gives character and narrative to what could in lesser hands be an overwhelming and untellable story. I give her full credit for doing justice to this subject, and I'm very likely to read her other books (one of which is about Area 51, and another one that tells the story of Operation Paperclip, the CIA's secret effort to recruit Nazi scientists after WWII).

Through a combination of comp days, official holidays, and vacation days I need to burn, I'm basically taking the rest of the month off, although I will likely check work email on most days that aren't official holidays.

My dad and stepmother are coming down from NC, possibly with my youngest sister and her kids, for Thanksgiving, which we still won't host this year (the kitchen in the rental house isn't properly outfitted for the meal I typically prepare), but my other sister (who lives in Monroe) will host at her house instead.

september 2022
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