Weekly 40-Watt #1: The Black Crowes

Weekly 40-Watt #1: The Black Crowes

This is a new blog feature called Weekly 40-Watt. My goal with it is to encourage myself to listen to something new in my ears each week and start writing about music a bit more again. I’ll listen to one band or album, new or old, that I’ve never listened to before and write some stuff about it. Let’s see if we can somehow get 50 of these in 2019.

Today’s blog is about The Black Crowes. My friend Pat pointed me in their direction when, after playing a zillion hours of Red Dead Redemption 2 and watching A Star Is Born, I found myself searching for something rock-ish / country-ish / blues-ish with guitars. Probably I can blame the Jackson Maine tracks on the ASIB soundtrack for this itch.

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Year-end 2018 stuff: Everything I read this year

Year-end 2018 stuff: Everything I read this year

I was able to get through many more books in 2018 than in the previous year. I managed to read 18 this year, although only a dozen were new books; the other third of my list is comprised of the first six books in the Harry Potter series, which I’m currently almost through re-reading. I’m very okay with this — re-reading the HP series was a conscious decision which has brought me incredible joy.

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Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince'

[crying face emoji] We sure are getting toward the end of this Harry Potter re-read here; today’s entry is about Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, the penultimate installment in our seven-part saga. My re-read of the Harry Potter series is prompted by the podcast Binge Mode, in which Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion are deep-diving into each book one by one. Matching the format of their shows, I’ve been choosing a theme in each blog for each book. For Stone it was joy, for Chamber it was duty, for Prisoner it was kinship, for Goblet it was division, for Order it was growing pains, and now for Prince it will be passing the torch.

Unlike my relatively unpopular opinion about The Order of The Phoenix in my last blog — it was my favorite book when I ranked them before I started this revisitation of the series, while I think many Potter fans would rank that toward the bottom of the second half of the books (4-7) in their own lists — I widely agree with the common opinion that The Half-Blood Prince is one of the top entries in the saga.

In fact, Prince will move ahead of Order in my re-ranking when I finish the seventh book soon. This book is nearly perfect. J.K. Rowling’s craft is on display in so many different ways throughout this story, from the perfectly plotted piece-by-piece reveals of Tom Riddle’s past to the foreshadowing of Severus Snape’s ultimate role and true alliance in Albus Dumbledore’s death.

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It's recipe o'clock: Revoltillo con sardinas!

It's recipe o'clock: Revoltillo con sardinas!

In some cases, things that you loved from when you were young can present themselves to you in your memory as a single scene. This is a scene that I remember from when I was younger, like early teenage years:

Waking up pretty early on a fall Saturday morning, with most of the windows and sliding glass doors already opened by my dad in the living room and kitchen. Relatively “cold” for Florida … we’re talking like 65 degrees here at the chilliest, though. The Gators will be on TV, probably that 3:30pm slot on CBS, but that’s hours away. The TV is off for now and my dad’s stereo is playing some weekend playlist via an early non-iPod MP3 player.

I know we’re going to have to do yard work before the Florida game, because in that state you have to mow your lawn every other week to keep up with the rate the grass grows. Right now, though, it’s time for breakfast and my dad is making something that was a fixture during these years. It involves canned fish and Cuban crackers.

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Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix'

I had been doing a very good job of keeping up with writing these blog posts immediately after revisiting these books. This is super helpful, in general … having all my thoughts & emotions from the re-read fresh in my mind is critical to help accomplish what I’m trying to do with blogging about each Harry Potter book during this full-series re-read.

However, I now find myself writing about Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix several weeks after I finished reading it. All streaks must break, I guess. In my defense, Katie and I just moved from Brooklyn to Atlanta so we have been pretty pre-occupied over the past couple of months. The move went as smooth as it could have gone and we’re really happy with our new apartment and neighborhood so far.

Luckily for me I guess, Order was my favorite book heading into this re-read and my journey through it again only reinforced some of my feelings for it. I’m unsure if it will remain atop my list of favorite HP books after I get through Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, but I was almost relieved to find out how well this book held up in revisiting it as an adult.

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Just read: 'Boys Among Men' by Jonathan Abrams

Just read: 'Boys Among Men' by Jonathan Abrams

For my money, the NBA is currently about as interesting as it’s ever been. I definitely don’t watch as much professional basketball as I did while I was in college, high school or even younger than that, but I love loosely keeping up with the league and its current generation of fun young talent: Giannis Antetokounmpo with Milwaukee, Anthony Davis with New Orleans, Karl-Anthony Towns with Minnesota, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with Philadelphia, even the he’s-only-25-years-old Brad Beal, of University of Florida fame, with Washington.

If the NBA hadn’t changed its rules in 2006, though, these players could potentially have much different careers right now. That was the year when the NBA began disallowing players to enter the league straight out of high school, requiring prospects to play one year of basketball elsewhere — either in college or professionally overseas — before entering the draft.

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My work-in-progress 'Batman' comics reading order

My work-in-progress 'Batman' comics reading order

I started reading Batman comic books two years ago now. This post from 2016 outlines my thought process when I began reading, including my first attempt to figure out a Batman reading order by referencing guides from multiple websites, and my thoughts on that olde great debate of whether you should read physical or digital comics.

Since that post, I've read a good amount of comic books, though perhaps not as many as I expected from myself. The reason behind that is largely due to my keeping up with reading non-comic books and listening to lots of podcasts, but that's neither here nor there.

I'm making this post to serve as a permalink to my work-in-progress Batman reading order, as I’d like to stop linking to my previously mentioned post when I need to link to something. A surprising number of people have been interested in the order I’m following and the reasoning behind it. As I make changes, additions, or feel the need to tweak the order represented here, I'll just update this singular location. The list has already been tweaked quite a bit as I’ve made my way through about 20 books so far; the more I read, the more I get intrigued by certain pieces in these books and the more I want to explore where I can find more along those lines.

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Just read: 'Sharp Objects' by Gillian Flynn

Just read: 'Sharp Objects' by Gillian Flynn

Next up on the reading list is Sharp Objects. I started this one for two reasons: I wanted to read the book before watching the much-acclaimed HBO miniseries, and I also joined an online book club that my friend Sarah started which chose this book first.

In short: This book is one intense ride! It deals a lot with psychological trauma and mental illnesses. I knew it would be a dark, psychological thriller, but large chunks of the novel can be harrowing at times. The main character in the story, Camille Preaker, is a journalist from Wind Gap, Missouri, who lives in Chicago and works for a low-circulation newspaper in the city. Her boss, Curry, assigns her to cover a story in her hometown regarding the murder of a young girl and a second girl who has gone missing.

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Predicting every major college football game in 2018

Predicting every major college football game in 2018

For the third year in a row, I've built a spreadsheet formatted so that you can pick the winner of every single Power 5 conference game in the upcoming season of college football. This one is coming in a bit late this season, with the 2018 campaign already underway as I type this -- I've got Purdue and Northwestern tied at 14 in the second quarter on TV right now, and it just feels good to hear Kirk Herbstreit droning on over the sound of pads popping.

Like I said, I created this sheet in 2016 and then did it in 2017 as well, predicting correctly 71.6% of my picks in 2016, then following that with 71.94% accuracy last year. I didn't write a recap of last year because I neglected to tally my own accuracy until just a couple weeks ago, when I began this year's sheet. So my benchmark for success is pretty clear -- 72% is improvement, and 73% would be much improved. The goal of the sheet is ultimately to predict the Playoff participants and a rough top 25, but it's more fun to track the overall accuracy of guessing each game.

Here's the public link for this year's spreadsheet; instructions for using it are located in the first tab.

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Dan Campbell & Ace Enders - "Thunder Road"

Dan Campbell & Ace Enders - "Thunder Road"

I basically use this blog for almost anything except personal content / life updates, but this post will firmly straddle the line of something personal while also being music-related, which is something I write about plenty enough.

Katie and I got married in March. We had an awesome wedding and reception in Gowanus, and I'll always think it's cool that while living in Brooklyn we were able to host 120 family and friends for our wedding at a place that was just a 20-minute walk away from our apartment.

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Just read: 'The Martian' by Andy Weir

Just read: 'The Martian' by Andy Weir

The book is usually better than the movie. Since I haven't seen The Martian movie yet, I figured I'd better read the book first. The book is very good.

I think the general plot of The Martian is well known enough due to the popularity of the film adaptation -- astronaut gets stranded on Mars, must fight to survive, must make a load of potatoes. In essence, The Martian amounts to a series of obstacles that are overcome by insanely quick thinking from an insanely smart main character.

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Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire'

While I was excited to dig my teeth into The Sorcerer’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban once again, most of my highest-level excitement regarding this re-read of the Harry Potter series centered around revisiting books 4-7. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire is the clear-cut turning point in the story of Harry, Ron and Hermione -- indeed, you can pinpoint the very page where the story takes a sharp turn into a darker, more serious tone and never looks back.

Goblet of Fire is not only the book where the stakes are permanently raised for our heroes, but also stands alone as a masterpiece for author J.K. Rowling, who pieces together an intricately woven tale that leads to one of the most satisfying revelations I’ve ever enjoyed from a plotting perspective. I’ve mentioned in my past blogs for the first three books in this series that Rowling consciously foreshadows pieces of the Harry v. Voldemort endgame as early as the first chapters of the first book. While Goblet of Fire does contain even more endgame foreshadowing, it’s also plotted like a whodunnit within its own pages.

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Just read: 'It's Your Ship' by Captain Mike Abrashoff

Just read: 'It's Your Ship' by Captain Mike Abrashoff

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Since I was hired at DIRECTV in May 2015, and since DIRECTV was acquired by AT&T only a few short months after, the company has been through several departmental re-organizations. The running tally amounts to an average of one and a half or two re-orgs per year since I joined the company. But throughout all that shifting, my focus has remained mostly the same -- up until recently, I was responsible for digital content strategy with a focus on marketing and messaging in the effort to acquire new DIRECTV subscriptions.

With the most recent re-org, though, I earned a promotion and am now managing a team of 12 people with a slightly different focus. This is my first time in a management role, and I accordingly dove into It's Your Ship: Management Techniques From the Best Damn Ship in the Navy on my Kindle. It's a book I'd picked up a while ago and hadn't gotten into yet, but my promotion gave me a good excuse to highlight plenty of notes while going through this short read.

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Just read: 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Just read: 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I took a lot of "Advanced Placement" classes during high school, which were great classes to take in a large public school such as the one I went to, where my graduating class consisted of about 1,100 students. Many of my AP classes offered closer student-teacher interaction, the type that should be the norm at every school, but proved to be an exception at Everglades High in Miramar, Fla. It was in AP classes that I learned calculus from Ms. Woerner, and began an early interest in psychology from Dr. Schear.

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A good ranking of classic Disney animated movie soundtracks

A good ranking of classic Disney animated movie soundtracks

The following is an objectively good ranking of classic Disney animated movie soundtracks. The criteria for the soundtracks considered in this list is very simple: I focused on the best soundtracks from what is considered objectively the best run of theatrical animated features from Walt Disney Studios.

The run I'm referring to begins in the fall of 1989 and ends in the fall of 1999. Throughout this one single decade, Disney produced the following animated classics (this is not a comprehensive list of all films released in this decade, mind you): The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, and Tarzan. You'll notice that this list excludes some crucial titles -- namely, Toy StoryA Bug's Life, and Toy Story 2 -- which are purposefully left behind as I've always viewed the Pixar x Disney partnership to be separate and have produced a superior product when compared to Disney's in-house animated films.

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Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban'

Just revisited: 'Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban'

After my inability to pace along with Binge Mode while revisiting The Chamber of Secrets, I'm proud to report that I've gotten myself somewhat under control now. While revisiting Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban, I completed my listen of the book after two of Binge Mode's four episodes devoted to it were released! It's still pretty easy to blast through these audiobooks in 2-3 days because of how short they are, but this should become less of an issue now that we're moving into much longer book territory.

All that to say: These audiobooks really are as engrossing and incredible as I imagined they would be when I started The Sorcerer's Stone. I've already said it, but Jim Dale is a master narrator. Once I start one of these, I just can't put it down -- or take my earbuds out, I guess. I'm really happy I went the audiobook route for this journey and, again, would recommend it as highly as possible.

My overall sentiment for Stone was joy; for Chamber it was duty; and for Prisoner it's going to be kinship. Interestingly, since I think this word is most often associated with blood relatives or familial ties, I mean it in this case exclusively in its secondary meaning -- a sharing of characteristics or origins. I mean to use kinship here as a substitute for affinity, or brotherhood, or possibly friendship.

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Just read: 'Gumption' by Nick Offerman

Just read: 'Gumption' by Nick Offerman

This is the current stopping point for me in a little mini-run of listening to audiobooks read by their comedian authors. in 2016-17, I read Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, B.J. Novak's One More Thing, Tina Fey's Bossypants and Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe. This year, I've done Rainn Wilson's The Bassoon King and most recently Amy Poehler's Yes Please, now wrapping up with Nick Offerman's second book, Gumption

The book's subtitle, Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers, sums up very well what we're getting ourselves into with this read. Offerman hand-chooses a list of 21 people, all Americans, who he views as great in some way. He proceeds to write what amounts to a mini-biography of each person's life, delving most deeply into instances or characteristics that support his thesis of what makes this person great. In many cases, for the folks on Offerman's list who are alive, he was able to sit and do an interview with them for this book, and he describes these conversations with relish; throughout the read, it's clear that Offerman took a lot of joy in writing this book.

In most every chapter, Offerman also applies the greatness of the American currently in question to society in a broader sense.

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Just read: 'Yes Please' by Amy Poehler

Just read: 'Yes Please' by Amy Poehler

First things first: Poehler is perhaps the least talented book writer of the bunch I've read so far, though it's tough to tell with Ansari since his book had a cowriter attached to it. Whatever shortcomings Yes Please has in terms of form or function -- which I'll get to -- are actually made up for a bit by the structure of the audiobook itself.

Poehler speaks directly to the listener at times and has special guests come into the booth to read portions of her book; in most cases, these were portions that were actually written by the special guests. Seth Meyers, Mike Schur (creator of Parks & Recreation) and Poehler's mother and father are guests that have extended portions, and Meyers reads an entire chapter that he wrote for the book. It's fun to hear Meyers and Schur with Poehler, cracking jokes and running through a list of alternative names that Schur considered for the Parks & Rec character Leslie Knope. The result is a feeling that you benefitted from choosing the audiobook medium, like you got a little something extra, which is nice.

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Just read: 'The Bassoon King' by Rainn Wilson

Just read: 'The Bassoon King' by Rainn Wilson

Returning to my 2016 trend of listening to audiobooks read by by their comedian authors (Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, B.J. Novak's One More Thing, Tina Fey's Bossypants and Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe to date), I recently went through Rainn Wilson's The Bassoon King. This is a memoir that falls most in line with Fey's book out of that bunch, but stands out for how deeply it delves into religion, spirituality and fuck-ups.

Wilson grew up learning the ways of the Bahá'í faith, which is a religion that extolls the value and worthiness of all religions, and emphasizes the worth and equality of all people. Bahá'ís believe that there is one God, regardless of whatever name any specific religion assigns to that God. Wilson's walkthrough of the faith is holistic, and he references it in moments of storytelling about his own life to provide insight into his thought processes, or as a pillar to bounce retroactive thoughts off.

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Podcast recommendation: The New York Times' 10-part dive into ISIS, 'Caliphate'

Podcast recommendation: The New York Times' 10-part dive into ISIS, 'Caliphate'

The New York Times has just concluded its 10-part narrative podcast, Caliphate (Apple Podcasts / Overcast), which follows reporter Rukmini Callimachi as she investigates and reports on the Islamic State. Callimachi is the primary reporter here, and along with reporter and producer Andy Mills, they tell a story that begins by trying to answer the question of, "Who are we really fighting?"

While the series begins with that mission statement, it's easy to think while listening that Callimachi and Mills veer off-script at some point. The first part of the series is driven by an ISIS source that the pair travel to Canada to interview; this conversation then gives way to a trip to Iraq, during which they cover the defeat of ISIS in Mosul. They find a briefcase with documents that reveal how self-sufficient ISIS has become, and learn about the insanely real extent to which ISIS is capable of actually governing people. They interview an ISIS official who was captured in the prison where he's held, and interview a girl who is returned to her family after years spent in captivity of ISIS.

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