NFL player's Ferguson post on Facebook goes viral

I caught this on Facebook this morning. It says everything I've wanted to say about Ferguson but couldn't find the words to articulate.

I sat saddened, angered and embarrassed Monday night as more violence broke out after the announcement of a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer involved in the shooting death of a young man last summer

Thank you, Benjamin Watson for your words.

Here are some excerpts from his post ...
I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take "our" side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That's not right.

I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing.


To The Farm for Thanksgiving we go

Relaxing at The Farm tonight and warming by a fire on this Thanksgiving eve. Kates and her mom are in the kitchen, already preparing food for the big feast tomorrow. All the others are in their beds upstairs.

We arrived around 7 tonight after a mostly smooth drive. For once, we woke up ready to go this morning and were on the road on schedule. It also helped that Kates and I finished most of our packing Monday night with only some final items left to pack Tuesday night.

We left The ‘Ville around 9 a.m., and Kates gave Faye and Phoebe a “Frozen” present to help keep them occupied during the trip. Phoebe got a “Frozen” and math-themed marker board to practice her addition skills. She was good to go until Faye got her “Frozen” sticker book, and suddenly Phoebe’s gift want good enough. “I liked it for a moment until I realized I don’t like math!” she shouted through her tears.

We hit Des Moines around 11:30 with intentions of making a lunch stop and doing some shopping. But the first McDonald’s we stopped at didn’t have a Playplace, so we took a family vote and opted to do the shopping first and look for a kid-friendly McDonald’s later. … Our shopping destination was Trader Joe’s – which had been recommended to us by family and friends as if it was the Ikea of grocery stores, but I didn’t get that. We stocked up on some wine and snack foods, and the girls enjoyed pushing the kid-sized shopping cart – but mostly, to us, it was just like any other corner grocery store.

We found the McDonald’s about 10 miles down the road, ate our lunches and let the girls run off some energy on the Playplace. … By the time we were back on the road, it was almost 2 p.m., assuring that the sun would set before we arrived at The Farm.

Faye crashed and slept for most of the afternoon while Phoebe watched movies. That afternoon stretch through Iowa was the toughest we faced in terms of the weather conditions, with heavy snow flurries – but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

We made one more stop outside of Dubuque for gas and a bathroom break. … Just two stops with the girls – not bad at all.

At Phoebe’s request, we listened to The Monkees on the iPod for the rest of the way. … That was fun. I loved listening to The Monkees when I was growing up, and I’ve enjoyed watching Phoebe take to them as I’ve played some of their records during the last several weeks. Phoebe’s favorite song right now is “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day.” And Kates and I had a nice time singing the harmonies on classics like “Daydream Believer,” “I’m a Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

It’s always a relief when we come around the bend in the highway and see the farmhouse illuminated at the base of the bluff. … Until the girls unbuckle and scurry to greet anyone inside and saddle me with the task of unpacking the car and moving all of the baggage inside.

It was ok, though. I eventually made it inside to join everyone, too. We gathered for a refreshing chili supper …

Then, I rewarded myself with a nap on the couch, for which Chloe cuddled up next to me. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night!


The American (and every other international pop star) Awards

It's been years since I've tuned in for the American Music Awards, and I got a good reminder why last night as I watched international stars like One Direction, Lorde and Sam Smith rack up the awards and appearances on the show. ... There's almost nothing significantly American about the awards show.

Nonetheless, I tuned it and was entertained by the performers I expected to entertain me and tuned out for the ones I don't care for.

Fortunately for Phoebe, Taylor Swift opened the showcase with "Blank Space," which allowed Phoebe to get in on some of the action before her bedtime. Taylor delivered a dramatic performance full of pyrotechnics that will have Phoebe talking about for days. ... And Taylor won the Dick Clark Award for Excellence. Grand.

My favorite performance of the night, though, was Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj knocking out "Bang Bang" -- and brought Taylor and company into the act at the seats. The women are ruling pop music right now, and I don't expect to tire of this song anytime soon ...

Rolling Stone recaps all of the performances here

Saturday Night Live: Weird but good

It's true "Saturday Night Live" has seemed weirder than ever this season. Aside from the Bill Hader episode, I've caught myself having serious doubts this fall about whether I'm getting too old to get SNL's humor any more.  

Then they bring in Woody Harrelson and Cameron Diaz -- two actors that don't normally have me scrambling for a place on the couch -- to host the last couple weeks. And -- surprise -- they turned out two of the more enjoyable episodes of the season.

Weekend Update has provided several laugh-out-loud punchlines, and the pre-recorded bits have been good, too.

Here are some favorite clips, first from the Nov. 15 episode with Woody Harrelson ...

New Marijuana Policy

Weekend Update, Part 1, including Leslie Jones on Crazy Bitches ... Jones is becoming the Lewis Black of SNL.

Weekend Update, Part 2

And from last weekend's episode with Cameron Diaz ...

Weekend Update, Part 1 ...

Weekend Update, Part 2 ...

Office Boss ...


Kicking it with The New Pornographers

There’s something about attending concerts in Omaha during the fall. I’ve attended three shows there, and all of them rank among my favorites.

Jars of Clay. “Much Afraid” tour. Aksarben. 1997.

Ben Folds Five. “Reinhold Messner” tour. Sokol Auditorium. 1999.

This week, I added The New Pornographers to the list. For their “Brill Bruisers” tour. At the Slowdown.

Not only did I add it to my list of great – fantastic, really – concerts I’ve attended, I knocked The New Pornographers – one of my favorite bands ever – off my concert bucket list.

Of course, I’ve been eyeing the opportunity since it was announced last summer. I held out on buying a ticket to be sure my schedule would allow it and Kates was ok was it. Then I pounced on a $28 ticket Monday night and was good to go. … On a sidenote, I gained admission at the venue by having the ticket downloaded on my iPhone and a woman scanned the QR code – on my phone – as I came through the door. Two thoughts about that – it blows my mind that we can do that, but it saddens me that collecting ticket stubs will never be the same.

And, holy man, I got my money’s worth.

When it was over, I didn’t want to leave. As many of my favorite concerts go, it was an unbelievable experience for me to see all of those artists together, on the same stage and be in their presence was amazing.

For all of their talent and successes as individual artists, it was fascinating to watch the eight of them – Neko Case, Carl Newman, Kathryn Calder, Dan Bejar, John Collins, Blaine Thurier, Todd Fancey and newest member Joe Seiders – on stage as a cohesive unit. They’re a musical machine. ... Admittedly, I was relieved and overjoyed to see Case join them, knowing the indie star she's become and that she performs sparingly with the band. ... For a taste, check out their 2007 show at Webster Hall.

Take this from a Milwaukee radio station where they played a session today before performing at the Pabst tonight ... 
The New Pornographers – fifteen years on – have been slugging it out longer than most groups, indie, super or otherwise; longer than the Beatles, Pixies, Smiths or Nirvana held it together. Comprised of largely Canadians of superlative musical lineage (Destroyer, Limblifter, Neko Case, A.C. Newman) the band released their sixth album – BBrill Bruisers – in late August and it continued an upward trend as their highest reaching US chart position, cracking the US Top 20 Album chart – their third to crack the Top 40 album charts – but really, who cares about the charts these days?
What's most remarkable about New Pornographers is that this is a SIDE GIG, what's usually a lark, maybe good for an album or two (still awaiting the THIRD Raconteurs album?) has become an ongoing concern with a catalog packing more power-pop hooks than a tackle box over six delightful albums. And while their longevity is in itself notable, critical acclaim has been overwhelming, with a career Metacritic score just shy of 80/100; their first four albums were on Village Voice's Pazz & Jop Poll, the year-end aggregation of hundreds of critics. If the band was a human being, they'd be getting their learner's permit.”
Every song last night sounded fresh with new flourishes of guitar and keyboard melodies and vocal harmonies that differed from their recorded originals. If it hadn't been for the strict no-video policy Tuesday night, I would have an awful lot of video evidence to share.

They kicked things off with, not surprisingly, with “Brill Bruisers,” their head-banging rocker that also launches their newest album of the same name. Then they rolled through “Myriad Harbour,” “Use It” and “Moves” – four of my favorites right off the bat – and I knew quickly that I was in for a memorable night.

Every song felt more epic than the one before. And every song was upbeat, with the exception of “Adventures in Solitude,” which began with a luscious, twinkling arrangement featuring Newman on an acoustic guitar and Calder on the keyboard.

Bejar joined the band on stage only for the songs on which he sang lead vocals – “Myriad Harbour,” “War On the East Coast” and “Born With a Sound” being my favorites – but every time he did was like a shot of candy for the audience.

They ended the first set with a sped up “Mass Romantic” that was so delightful it was among my favorites of the entire night. (Check out this video of the band performing it in Colorado last month for a whiff of my experience) I’m including “Backstairs” – a perfect example of the band playing as a cohesive unit – on that list, too.

They played two encores, ending the first with “Bleeding Heart Show” – arguably their most popular song – which the crowd began begging to hear just a few songs into the show. Early in the first encore, Newman finally answered another request by leaning into the mic and saying, politely, “Just wait a few minutes.” When they did play it, it was just as fantastic as I had hoped I thought they were going to blow the roof off the place.

Here’s a review from the Omaha World-Herald with which I agree almost word for word …
What a tight band. Four slamming singers, two banging guitarists, drums, bass and two members on keyboards and effects made for a fantastic tour through the band's catalog with a heavy emphasis on its latest album, “Brill Bruisers."

Four-part harmonies with Case, Newman, Bejar and Calder permeated the band's bouncey power pop. And with the exception of Bejar, even when they weren't in the spotlight, members of the band stayed front and center.

Arguably the biggest indie star onstage was Case and she often sang backing vocals or banged a tambourine when she wasn't lead.
As the reviewer noted, I, too enjoyed watching the group of fans “at stage right who bopped around, jumped up and danced like mad for the entire set. They were having the time of their lives, and it was inspirational.” In fact, much of the crowd last night seemed to be having the time of their lives. If my mouth wasn’t agape with awe, I was smiling in a euphoric state.

I can’t agree, however, with the reviewer’s take on the opening band, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I hadn’t heard of them until last night, but think Duran Duran or INXS with a hint of Belle and Sebastian. There were few bright spots, and mostly their performance came across to me as pretentious, grating and forgettable. The lead vocalist and guitarist clearly was the decision maker of the group and seemed to take himself a little too seriously. To his left was the female vocalist who never touched an instrument, swayed her hips like a wind-up doll and was terribly pitchy. At stage right were a second guitarist and bass player who played along obediently. Only the drummer was somewhat interesting to watch.

After watching The Pains, it was more than a relief to see the New Pornographers come on and play such a great show.

In the moments of watching The New Pornographers, I had thought they played more of the “Bill Bruisers” album. Looking at the setlist now, they played almost half the songs on the new album, but I also would’ve enjoyed hearing “Fantasy Fools,” “Marching Orders” and “Wide Eyes.”

It’s only now – with my New Pornographers library playing on shuffle as I write this – that I am realizing all the great songs they didn’t play. I also would have enjoyed hearing “My Rights Versus Yours,” “All The Old Showstoppers,” “Go Places,” “All The Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth,” “Daughters of Sorrow,” “A Bite Out of My Bed,” “Your Hands (Together)” or “Jessica Numbers.” I would have been surprised to hear them play “Failsafe,” given its musical style compared to most of their stuff, but would have welcomed it, too.

I also can’t help but think, with last night’s New Pornographers show, about the concert streak I’ve been on for the last year and a half. A concert streak that I pin the start on Fun at Summerfest two summers ago. Since then? Guster at Summerfest on the Fourth of July. Ben Folds at the Kauffman Center with the Kansas City Symphony. Ingrid Michaelson at Summerfest. Nickel Creek at Kansas City’s Uptown Theater. And Tuesday night The New Pornographers.

Really, I could have listened and watched them perform for two more hours. Indeed, Newman, during a break late in the show, stopped and looked across the space, musing, “So many songs to pick from.”

Here’s the setlist:

1. Brill Bruisers
2. Myriad Harbour
3. Use It
4. Moves
5. War On the East Coast
6. The Bones of an Idol
7. Jackie, Dressed in Cobras
8. Another Drug Deal of the Heart
9. The Laws Have Changed
10. You Tell Me Where
11. Testament to Youth in Verse
12. Crash Years
13. Adventures in Solitude
14. Jackie
15. Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
16. Backstairs
17. Silver Jenny Dollar
18. Champions of Red Wine
19. Born With a Sound
20. Mass Romantic

Encore 1
21. Challengers
22. Dancehall Domine
23. The Bleeding Heart Show

Encore 2
24. Sing Me Spanish Techno
25. The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism

About that new album …

Aside from hearing the “Brill Bruisers” single and seeing them perform it on “The Late Show with David Letterman” ...

... my first listen of the album didn’t come until Monday night, via YouTube, while I was buying my ticket and getting myself psyched for the show.

I enjoy it so much, I bought the CD with little hesitation at the merchandise booth after the show. And I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since. Indeed, it's a celebration album, and I hear ‘70s music influences all over the place, from ELO, to Fleetwood Mac, to ABBA and even The Carpenters. It’s officially my favorite New Pornographers album.

A great review from the folks at Paste …. (along with another good read about the making of it.)
Every one of their albums has been sequenced using the same precepts that Nick Hornby set up for mixtapes in the book High Fidelity: they start off with a corker of an opening track, rein it in on the next song and then move forward in incremental steps up or down in terms of energy to keep you (at least upon the first spin) guessing. What you listen closely for are the subtle shifts: the moments when Dan Bejar drops his toothsome power-pop gems into the mix, and how songwriter/leader AC Newman uses Neko Case’s pliable and powerful voice. Otherwise, the ride is comfortable and familiar. 

All of that is in full flower on Brill Bruisers: the crashing title track opens the album before ceding the path to the lighter, Case-centric “Champions of Red Wine,” which sidles into the rough and steady caress of “Fantasy Fools.” Eventually Bejar shows up in his typical spot at track four with the crackling “War On The East Coast,” and on and on, back and forth until track 13, the Sweet-like stomp of “You Tell Me Where” fades into the distance.


Packers rule, Bears fans drool

So I finally had an opportunity to tune into my first Packers game of the season last night.

Just before halftime.

With the Packers beating the Bears.


At halftime.
Rodgers showed the Bears for the second time this season that he is the epitome of an elite quarterback, worthy of every cent he earns. He directed one of the greatest statistical performances in NFL history. The easy degree of difficulty against the Bears' impotent pass rush and confused secondary won't be mentioned in the record book, but the results speak for themselves.
Before halftime, Rodgers completed 18 of 24 attempts for 315 yards and six — yes, six — touchdowns. His passer rating was 156.2.

The six first-half touchdown passes tied the NFL record, last achieved in 1969 by Daryle "Mad Bomber" Lamonica. The Bears' 42 first-half points allowed were the most in franchise history.
The Packers destroyed the Bears in one of Rodgers' most impressive games yet.

I’m so sorry I missed that first half.

The final was 55-14, and Mike McCarthy didn’t have “a whole lot to say” about it.

Meanwhile, in Chicago. Last night was pretty bad for the team that Chicago media were drooling over and punching playoff tickets for at the start of the season. Now the Bears have lost five of their last six games, and last night was the third time in their last 11 games that the Bears have given up 51 or more points. Their coach is oblivious.

Social media was a virtual riot during last night’s game.

Today, the Chicago media was having a field day.

While the national media are now predicting the Packers to land in the Super Bowl. That has a nice ring to it.


Random conversation starters

Now that the World Series is over – I’m still having occasional “What could’ve been fits …” – I am refocusing my attention on other projects …

Like following the trendiest entertainment news and reading news features …

The “Star Wars” sequel has a title!

A fourth “Toy Story” is in the works!

The “Mean Girls” cast reunited!

* * *

A lot of stories are being written and shared this weekend to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Here’s a fascinating photo essay of how the streets around the wall appeared then and now.

* * *

It’s inevitable every year around this time that Walmart breaks out the Christmas wreaths and radio stations bring out the Christmas music. I’m in the camp of Not yet!

I also agree almost completely with this EW write-up about Mariah Carey’s classic: I hate Christmas songs -- but I love "All I Want for Christmas Is You." I still vividly remember the season the song was released, turning the volume up every time it came on the radio and wanting to play it repeatedly once I laid it down on a cassette tape.

* * *

I saw this commercial for the first time during the World Series and got a kick out of it. I would totally do this.

* * *

My friend Laura sent me this star-studded take on one of my all-time favorite songs, "God Only Knows." (In case you're wondering, here's the who's who of who's in it.)

* * *

And still, I can’t keep myself from clicking and reading World Series leftovers like these …


Girls still rule

I didn’t watch the Country Music Awards last night. … I’ve never watched the Country Music Awards.

But the CMAs' attempt to pop it up -- and the ladies' continued music dominance --  was all over social media this morning.

Meghan Trainor performed a country-fied “All About That Bass” with Miranda Lambert. But the clip I watched of it just made me cringe. So I'm not posting it here. … It’s ok. I still like Meghan a lot. Read this.

Ariana Grande also showed up to perform “Bang Bang” with Little Big Town. And it was fantastic. … Not to mention visually stunning.

As usual, Entertainment Weekly has the full run down of bests and worsts of the night.

So does Rolling Stone.

The women are still ruling the top of the charts, and Taylor Swift – who was nowhere to be found at the CMAs last night now that she’s a poppy New York girl – isn’t budging.

The girl is on fire. Consider
One of only 19 albums, ever, to sell a million in a week: The club of artists able to shift a million albums in seven days is a truly exclusive one. Swift is not new to that list; in fact, she was the last artist to sell a million in a week, when 2012’s transitional country-to-pop crossover album Red moved 1.208 million in its debut.

The first artist to score a trio of platinum-weekers: Selling a million albums in a week is an extraordinary feat. Doing it twice is elite; Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync, and Eminem each scored two. Three times is madness, and only Swift has done it: Her last two albums—2010’s Speak Now (1.047 million) and the aforementioned Red—debuted to seven figures. Now, with 1989, Taylor scores an improbable trifecta—and by the way, her opening sales actually increased slightly on each of the three albums.

Instantly the year’s second-best seller, and the top seller by a single artist: All year, from January through October, only one album had sold more than a million copies cumulatively—the unkillable Frozen soundtrack (3.2 million sold in calendar 2014). The next two top-selling albums, Beyoncé and Lorde’s Pure Heroine, have sold just under 800,000 apiece in 2014. (Each sold additional copies in 2013.) With over a million sold in just its first week, Swift’s 1989 toppled both those ladies’ albums (by roughly half a million!) and now ranks second for the year, behind only the various-artists Disney soundtrack.

Only 2014 release to sell a million—not just in a week, TOTAL: Here’s the thing about Frozen, Beyoncé, and Pure Heroine—they’re all 2013 releases still selling well in 2014. Among albums dropped since January, the best-seller to date is Coldplay’s spring release Ghost Stories, which has sold 740K. And that number is cumulative—Coldplay sold that much in 23 weeks. Put another way: Taylor’s album is platinum-level out of the box; no other disc released in 2014 has even crawled to platinum.


Happy Halloween!

No trick-or-treating for us tonight, though. See, one of the unique things of living in The ‘Ville is that the community does such a great job of offering family-friendly trick-or-treating activities that doing the traditional door-to-door candy begging on Halloween is an afterthought and almost unnecessary in these parts. ... Our doorbell rang just twice tonight, and we live on a fairly prominent residential street.

On the Saturday evening before Halloween, families flock to the lake and campground outside of town to trick-or-treat, collecting candy from all the RV campers – some of which turn their campsites into elaborate haunts. This was the first year since making the move here that Kates and I were unable to take our girls because of another commitment.

But we made up for it last night. First, there was the downtown trick-or-treating, which invites families to visit businesses on the town square for candy and other goodies. The churches participate by offering free games and prizes, and the Elks Club hands out free hot dogs fresh off the grill.

From the square, we headed to campus for the annual Trick-or-Treat in the Halls. Students in the university’s residence halls sign up to participate and then open their doors to hand out candy to any little ones who visit between the hours of 6 and 8.

It was a gorgeous evening to be out and we had great fun – perhaps the most fun of all our Halloweens with the girls so far. 

And this year, Phoebe went as Elsa from “Frozen,” and Faye went as her trusty companion, Olaf.

Phoebe, of course, decided months ago that she would dress as Elsa, and Grandma S. awesomely replicated the famous dress for her.

Faye’s fate as Olaf was sealed only a few weeks ago when Kates was doing some shopping and spotted the Olaf costume. When we shared it with Faye, she was all in and wore it adorably.

We were showered with “Awwwww” around every corner we turned with the girls last night, especially by all the college girls in university residence halls.

Of course – as this is the year of “Frozen” – we passed dozens of other little ones dressing up as “Frozen” characters, especially girls in Elsa dresses. It was no wonder that once I posted a picture of the girls in their costumes on Facebook that a friend of ours posted a reply of “And drink,” implying that she was playing a drinking game based on the number of pictures posted of children in “Frozen” costumes.

But I must say, of all the “Frozen” costumes we saw, Phoebe and Faye wore them best, by far .Jimmy Kimmel offered this reaction to all of this year’s “Frozen” costumes.

This morning, we all went out once more, joining Faye and her daycare group for trick-or-treating at the hospital. Phoebe and Kates didn't have school, and I took a couple hours away from my work, so all of us could share in the fun. ... What fun it was, and Faye filled her little plastic bag so full it was almost too heavy for her to carry. 

(Updated 11.04.2014)

It wouldn’t be a post-Halloween without Jimmy Kimmel also showing parents pretending they stole they ate all of their kids’ candy.


World Series Game 7: In the end

They had known loneliness and they had felt despair. This lost generation of fans had been left behind and cast aside across 29 seasons without October, the most bittersweet month in baseball. They never knew the exhilaration the playoffs could provide. They never knew the exquisite torture that lurks at the roller-coaster’s end for every team but one. 

The 2014 version of the Kansas City Royals believed they could be the one. They believed they could lift this city up and raise it to the throne they had abdicated after 1985. The players felt it in their bones. Their manager espoused his faith daily to the public. Belief is the most beautiful armor, capable of shielding away all the frailties of a baseball club, the qualities that leaked into view in a 3-2 loss to San Francisco on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. 

The seventh game of the World Series baptized these fans and this team in all they had missed, all the hairpin turns and harrowing depths inherent in a game with no tomorrow. The season ended at 10:21 p.m. at the left arm of Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, the lone figure standing between the Royals and a championship. ~ Andy McCullough, The Kansas City Star
And so it’s over.

It sucks, and it’s heart-breaking. But, dang, this season was a blast.

Like I said going into last night’s game, all I wanted was a Game 7. The Royals earned it, and tonight it was either team’s series to win. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the Royals.

As I write this, I’m watching the Kansas City postgame broadcast. I have no interest in watching the Giants celebrate. And if I hear one more word about the Giants dynasty, Bruce Bochy’s Hall of Fame credentials or Madison Bumgarner, my head might explode.

After last night’s Game 6 win, I was on cloud nine today. Waking up this morning and knowing the Royals would play in Game 7 of the World Series tonight was like waking up the morning after a great first date as a youth. Euphoria. … As I drove to work this morning, I actually caught myself imagining what it might be like if the Royals won tonight.

The nervousness and stress set in this evening as I hustled to pick up the girls while Kates stayed at school to finish her week of parent-teacher conferences. We picked up some Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner and took it to church. We downed it there and the girls headed to their Wednesday evening church activities while I found a comfortable spot in a hallway to do some work.

We arrived home as the top of the first inning was getting underway and I planted myself, watching most of the first three innings from a standing position a few feet in front of the TV.

Once we got the girls to bed, Kates and I were finally able to settle down and focus in on the game without distractions.

The matchups were right on. The Royals had the Giants right where they needed them. After Jeremy Guthrie left the game, the bullpen came in and rolled along as they had all season long.

But the Royals couldn’t catch a break.

I’m sure I joined Royals fans everywhere as our hearts and hopes collectively sank when Bumgarner entered the game. He pitched 21 innings in the World Series and gave up one run. The Royals lost all three games in which he appeared. And social media was all over the lovefest Fox broadcasters were having over Bumgarner

I kept thinking they would break Bumgarner at some point. It was their destiny. And they came so close in the ninth.

Alex Gordon dropped a hit in left field and it rolled all the way to the wall. The San Franciso outfield struggled just to pick up the ball as Gordo raced around the bases. … I ended up flat on my belly in front of the TV pounding the floor for Gordon to try for an inside-the-park home run. The replay, however, showed the relay throw was coming in as he arrived at third base and he was right to stay put.

Then – then! – our cable feed froze and I nearly freaked out that we might miss something historic. Fortunately, after 30 seconds or so, it came back.

Salvador Perez had stepped to the plate. The hero of the epic Wild Card Game, he couldn’t keep the Royals magic going and popped up a foul ball to Pablo Sandoval.

The Royals lost the game 3-2 and were 90 feet short of tying it in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sigh.

It ends 29 days of exhaustion, the local news anchors just noted. If there’s a silver lining, I guess it’s that I can refocus on everyday life and reinvest in some of the other projects that I’ve neglected while being consumed with this Royals’ run for the last month-plus.

And here are some final words from The Star’s Sam Mellinger explaining why the Royals’ loss won’t diminish a magic season. “This is the team that made baseball fun again in Kansas City, finally, cool enough for kids to wear their gear to grade schools from Olathe to Oak Grove without risking ridicule,” he writes. For me, the sights of Royals gear displayed front and center in stores and Royals blue suddenly being fashionable will go down as some of the more lasting images of this run.

Mark my words. The Royals will be back in the postseason soon. I got to experience the American League Championship this year, and now I’m saving my cash in hopes of purchasing a World Series ticket.

(Updated 10.31.2014) Good reads and stuff … 

Superfan SungWoo Lee describes watching the Royals in the World Series

(Added 10.30.2014)

Today they gathered at Kauffman for a celebration …

And let the offseason speculation and moving begin …

As well as the game of predicting the 2015 World Series champions. I hate predictions and speculation. I’m a take-it-as-it-comes, live-in-the-moment kind-of-guy.

Three stories breaking down Alex Gordon's dash ... Sigh.

And two stories about the Giants good luck ...


World Series Game 6: Let's play 7!

I don't know that I've ever been so nervous to watch a game. Like ever.

Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series with the Chicago Cubs and the 2008 NCAA basketball national championship with the Kansas Jayhawks are the closest comparisons I can recall. Based on those experiences, I was prepared for a real roller coaster tonight.

And I was seeing bad omens everywhere I looked today. The social media hype was almost so unbearable I nearly shut off my TweetDeck.

Posted on Twitter this morning …

The Kansas City Star shared this

When I got home this evening, I exchanged my work clothes – including my Royal blue tie – for sweats and a Royals T-shirt. I thought better of pulling my favorite Royals blue T-shirt out of the laundry because the Royals lost when I wore it Sunday night. I’m superstitious enough that I even questioned whether to put on a blue long-sleeved shirt under my gray short-sleeved Royals T-shirt. I put on my Royals cap, too.

Then, Kates arrived home with the girls. With Subway for dinner and a large Royals cookie cake. Would the Royals cake be overdoing it?

The answer quickly became: no.

Everything was right for Kansas City tonight. Even the Kansas City Symphony's performance of the Star-Spangled Banner left us awestruck.

I took notice of Yordano Ventura stepping over the lines as he jogged to the pitcher’s mound and pointed out to Phoebe that baseball players do that for good luck. It must have worked.

Yo was lights out. The Giants’ offense could generate nothing against him.

Then the Royals batted in the bottom of the second inning.

  • Alex Gordon singled on a soft fly ball.
  • Salvador Perez singled on a line drive.
  • Mike Moustakas doubled to score Gordon and move Perez to third base.
  • Alcides Escobar hit a soft ground ball to the right side and slid under Brandon Belt’s tag at first base.
  • Nori Aoki singled to score Perez and move Moustakas to third and Escobar to second.

That signaled the end of the night for Giants pitcher Jake Peavy. Yusmeiro Petit took over.
Didn’t matter.

  • Lorenzo Cain singled on a soft fly ball to score Moustakas and Escobar and move Aoki to third.
  • After a wild pitch moved Cain to second, Eric Hosmer doubled, scoring Aoki and Cain.
  • Billy Butler doubled and Hosmer scored.
I was all over the living room during that inning. Alternating between jumping off the floor and dropping to my knees and pounding the floor with excitement on every hit and score. I was shouting at the TV and stretching my voice like I was right there with the crowd at Kauffman Stadium, and Phoebe and Kates joined me with their own hoopin’ and hollerin’.

When the Royals scored their ever-so-important fourth run I could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing the odds are well in their favor when they score four. But when the second inning was over tonight, the Royals had taken a 7-0 lead.

On Facebook, my friends were going wild, too. My friend Tiffany posted, simply …
And we understood. In the top of the third inning Ventura loaded the bases and got out of it with a double play. From my friend Sara on Facebook:
Yeah, he got a little in his head there. Body language has improved. He's got this. Just survive for five (preferably 6) innings and pass it to the pen. Easy cheesy. We got this. Ohmygod now I need a breath!

The Royals tacked on run No. 8 in the third inning. In the fifth inning, Escobar doubled and Omar Infante scored run No. 9 from first, blowing through third base coach Mike Jirschele's stop sign.

The Fox broadcast, which by now was happily changing its tune to talking favorably about the Royals, opened the bottom of the sixth inning with “Spirit in the Sky.” Just saying.

At 9:52 p.m., with the game in the seventh inning, the Kansas City Star posted this: World Series game sevens, like one that awaits Royals, are stuff of legend. ... Seemed a little presumptuous to me. Another bad omen. Whatever happened to It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over. … Although, in The Star’s defense, Moustakas had just hit a home run bomb to right field and the Royals had a 10-0 lead.

But not much later, it was over. We’ll have a Game 7 tomorrow night, Kansas City.

At this point, no matter what happens tomorrow night, I’m content. Of course, I want the Royals to pound the Giants again and win it all tomorrow night. But all I wanted today was a Game 7. After that, I can’t ask for anything more and the best team will win tomorrow night.

It’s been an absolutely glorious season that will forever have a special place in my heart. And cherished memories of Esky, Okie Doki Aoki, LoCain, Hos, Billy, Gordo, Salvi, Moose, Omar, Big Game James, Ace, and the three-headed monster – Kelvi, Wade and Hollie.

During the last few days, I've recalled a few times the first Royals game I watched this year, which -- according to my Facebook status archive -- was March 17 …
Faye having trouble sleeping again? No problem. This time it means we get to watch some baseball together. Go Royals!

I’ll never forget it. It was a late, west coast spring training game. It was the first time I saw Ventura pitch. I could tell he was going to be special then, and the Royals won the game. They say pitching and defense win championships, and most of us knew the Royals were well endowed in those aspects of the game. It was the offense that often was in question. Regardless, they came close to making the postseason last season and hopes were high as they headed into this season – aside from the part when they lost their first two regular season games, causing a fair share of fans to freak out and prompting my friend Kevin to post this on Facebook
The reaction to an 0-2 start, in a season of 162 games is amazing. I know we are starved for a winner in KC but.....take it eassssssssssyyyyy!

Since that night in March with Faye, I've barely missed an inning of the Royals this season. What a ride this has been.

As usual Sam Mellinger sums it up beautifully: The Royals’ crazy ride has reached a game seven — and history beckons.
Wednesday night, what happens in a kids’ game played by grown men will be remembered by a city forever.
There will be nerves and screaming and chanting and accelerated heart beats and tears. There will be tears, either way, with the performance of a baseball team Kansas City has grown to love again determining whether they come happy or sad or both….
The Royals have been so bad for so long that watching them with any sort of regularity over the years has meant dreaming of a night like this, usually without any real expectation of it happening. The World Series? Game seven?
At Kauffman Stadium?
Is this real life?
With quirks and rituals, fans pull the Royals on to Game 7

Packed Power and Light District goes wild as Royals win … A joy to see throughout this postseason run.

Remember the woman who went into labor at The K during Game 1? She was back for Game 6 ... Great story.


World Series Games 3, 4, 5: Good to bad

The Royals just lost Game 5 of the World Series.

I’m watching the Royals Postgame Live show now because I need to knock the bad vibes from my head after listening to the Fox broadcast team all night and their orgasmic bromance for Madison Bumgarner, Hunter Pence, Bruce Bochy and the rest of the Giants. In fact, I’m watching Postgame Live for the third time now, actually, as it’s on repeat.

My friend Sam went off on Facebook tonight with a series of posts about the lack of neutrality in the Fox broadcast booth, and I back every word.
I managed to live 48 years of my life without hearing the names Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Pence. When this series is over I hope to never hear them again ….

"Madison Bumgarner blah blah blah Bumgarner yada yada yada Bumgarner yack yack yack"...If Joe Buck says his name once in an inning he says it 20-30 times. First of all isn't Madison kinda of...a girl's name? Secondly, Bumgarner just sounds...like a cartoon name. …

These idiots talk more about Bumgarner while the Royals are on defense than they do Shields.

So there’s that. Also, I’m tired of their greasy long hair and beards. I’m tired of pretty aerial shots of AT&T Park and the San Francisco Bay. I’m tired of seeing people dressed up in panda suits. I’m tired of hearing about 2010 and 2012.

I used to really like Joe Buck as a broadcaster, but this year any admiration I have for him dwindles with the passing of each inning. From another Facebook poster on Bumgarner-gate …
Joe Buck all but christened him the greatest ever and let the world know he would like to sleep with him as well.
Tonight’s game was almost as painful to watch as it was to listen to. Alcides Escobar missed two ground balls that we’ve become use to seeing him vacuum up and turn into outs – and those very well might have been the difference in the game.

Maybe the only bright spot in tonight’s game for the Royals was Lorenzo Cain making another mind-boggling catch in right field.

Whatever. The series is coming back to Kansas City, and the matchups are back in the Royals favor. Said Ned Yost in his postgame interview tonight: “We've got to walk the tightrope now without a net. We fall off and we're dead. But win (Tues) and nobody's got a net.”

I feel good. … But dang, this is intense. Every night I’m left breathless and can barely think about anything else.

Going back to better times. Game 3 was far more fun to watch. Friday night our university relations family gathered around a bonfire for some fall fun. We dined on barbecued ribs and chicken and a picnic table full of good food while the kids played on the treehouse. S’mores followed for dessert.

Half of us – included me, Kates and Phoebe – showed up dressed in our Royals gear. And I watched the game on my phone, from start to finish, with some of the guys crowded around me, as we enjoyed the conversation and warmth of the fire.

Escobar led off the game with a double and the Royals got the ever-so-important first run. Jeremy Guthrie was brilliant. The Royals added two more runs in the ever-so-important sixth inning. Brandon Finnegan worked his magicHave I mentioned how much I enjoy watching Finnegan?

The bullpen and the defense held. The Royals won 3-2 and took the series lead.

Here are the highlights.

We listened to the ninth inning as we drove home. Then, while Kates put Faye to bed, Phoebe and I held out on the couch, watching the Royals postgame show and the party at the Power & Light District in awe.

For Ned Yost it was a masterpiece
Game three of this World Series is everything about Ned, good and bad, breakout genius and perceived stooge. It was a work of art, really, and come to think of it that’s the best way to take in these playoffs: Yost as a valuable piece of modern art, the kind of thing you’re not always sure how to interpret but at the very least have to respect the success.
Last night, I attended a reunion for my college newspaper. It was a blast. I got to see, converse and spend valuable time with people who were some of my closest friends and with whom I spent nearly every day for 4 ½ years – many of whom I hadn’t seen in at least a decade. And in a beautiful way, it was as if almost no time had passed.

Of course, several people had the game going on our mobile devices at our dining tables as the speeches and toasts played out at the podium. For once, I was not one of those people, but my college roommate and his wife, sitting with Kates and I, did and they whispered the updates to us whenever something meaningful happened. When the dinner portion concluded, the Royals were leading 4-1 and it was looking as though it was going to be their night again.

After revisiting the old newsroom, our group headed to our old hangout, The Pub, which has been rebuilt, for some more reminiscing and to catch the conclusion of the game. … It wasn’t meant to be. The Royals bullpen – including my boy Finnegan – imploded. I stopped paying attention during the eighth inning. The Royals lost 11-4.

The Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger nailed it with his column this morning
Nobody notices the zit when the beauty queen does her makeup, and over the last month or so the Royals have done a remarkable job covering their own blemishes.
When the winds are right and the starting pitcher can get through five or six innings and the offense can grind enough offense, the Royals come at you like a hungry grizzly bear. For all but two nights in the last month, the Royals have been a hungry grizzly bear.

But they also have flaws, like all teams have flaws, and when the wind shifts and the starting pitcher fails them and the front-end relievers aren’t good enough to get a lead to the stars, then the Royals either need a how-the-heck comeback or they stumble. In the fourth game of the World Series, the Royals stumbled.

(Updated 10.28.2014) Good reads and stuff …

Giants Near Title, Led by Ace Immune to Pressure or Royals

Royals Notes: Zimmer, Beltran, Sveum … Some interesting tidbits.

Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu can turn a lineup card into art

A Unique College Pedigree Within the Royals’ Bullpen

Ned Yost has been making ‘most of what he has’ since growing up a Giants fan

Royals vs. Giants: The Future Classic

Kansas City Star photojournalists describe how they make great images from the World Series

J.T. Snow and Darren Baker reunite, 12 years after their unforgettable World Series moment … Aw, this is cute. A great moment in one of my favorite World Series in my lifetime.


Ok Go, they don't let you down

The boys from OK Go have done it again by producing a brilliant, eye-popping all-in-one-take music video set to a catchy song ...

Check out their newest music video below... (Update 11.29.2014: In case you're wondering, here's how they did it)

And let's take a trip down memory lane for some of the others, shall we ...

The Writing's on the Wall” ...

This Too Shall Pass” ...

White Knuckles” ...

And the one that started it all, “Here it Goes Again” ...


Ladies rock

I caught this one on Twitter yesterday ...

Pretty much. But I'm not complaining.

Taylor Swift and Meghan Trainor continue to get a lot of play in our household these days, as does "Bang Bang." (Here's a good read about Trainor's "Bass.") In fact, we're in a phase now in which Phoebe begs me to let her fall asleep to Taylor Swift songs at night.

Here's a fun review of Taylor's new album from USA Today ...
If you are not aware that Taylor Swift has a new album out Monday, it's certainly not her fault, or ours. The rollout for 1989 (***½ out of four stars, named for the superstar's birth year, has been as meticulous and as eagerly pored over as a presidential campaign, and its ascent on the pop charts is as certain as death and taxes — and likely anticipated with as much dread by some folks.
And from Rolling Stone ...
If there's nothing as grandiose as "All Too Well" or "Dear John" or "Enchanted," that's because there wasn't meant to be. 1989 sets the record for fewest adjectives (and lowest romantic body count) on a Swift album. Most of the songs hover above the three-minute mark, which is a challenge for Tay – she's always been a songwriter who can spend five minutes singing about a freaking scarf and still make every line hit like a haymaker. But if you're into math, note that the three best songs here – "How You Get the Girl," "This Love," "Clean" – are the three that crash past four minutes. This is still an artist who likes to let it rip. Deeply weird, feverishly emotional, wildly enthusiastic, 1989 sounds exactly like Taylor Swift, even when it sounds like nothing she's ever tried before. And yes, she takes it to extremes. Are you surprised? This is Taylor Swift, remember? Extremes are where she starts out.

I was looking forward to my shot at downloading and reviewing Taylor's album after it drops next week. ... Until I logged into my eMusic account to download some songs and manage my cue -- only to learn that eMusic has stripped its music library of mainstream content and is going indie. I love my share of indie bands, but a some earlier notice would have been nice. The music wish list that I've built through years as a loyal eMusic subscriber also was gutted. And I'm thinking my days as a subscriber are numbered. Grrrrrrrrrr.

You want indie? Here's an artist I'm really into right now: Daphne Willis, singing an acoustic of her excellent "Bluff."