Note 51: A busy week

Recapping a week that pinballed me from one thing to another, and looking ahead to the next couple of months.

Before we get into the weeds of this week’s Note, I wanted to explain why I didn’t post a 9/11 remembrance last week. Despite not being too far from NYC when the attacks happened (I was down in the middle of New Jersey getting ready for my senior fall semester), as a student from “Out West”, I didn’t have friends and family in the local area who were directly impacted by the attacks. I do recall watching everything unfold live through the strange campus cable network we had (you’d watch TV through a program your computer), and I spent time with college friends who did have closer connection to NYC and the people in the World Trade Center than I did. To the extent my life was personally and directly impacted, it was minor, especially compared to my classmates from New York and New Jersey, and knew people involved in the incident.

Until late last Sunday, I was in a similar holding pattern with respect to COVID. Sure, I had to endure the lockdowns, mask mandates, and everything that’s come along with it, but I didn’t know anyone personally whose life the virus had claimed. I knew a few folks who had gotten infected, but managed to recover. That changed last Sunday evening, when I found out that one of my high school friends succumbed to the disease after a Facebook post the evening before asking people to pray for her to get a good night’s sleep. I’m not going to share her full name in the interest of her family’s privacy, but “E” was a year ahead of me in high school and we stayed in touch over Facebook over the years. People often speak of those who leave us and say that they were the “most” this or the “most” that, but I can say without any exaggeration that E was one of the kindest and most patient folks I knew going through high school. We weren’t the closest of friends, but close enough that she would hit me up with questions from time to time about various things and we’d chat about the online boutique she was setting up this year, or I’d share a fun craft project I ran across online that I thought she and her daughter might enjoy. She also posted the most interesting recipes and food projects online. Stuff that I would never make myself (I’m too lazy to assemble the ingredients for Halloween Rice Krispies Spider Treats), but I hoped that she and her kid tried out the recipes themselves. Going through our online chat transcripts after hearing the news, it’s crystal clear that her young daughter is the biggest victim in all of this, as she will have to navigate the rest of her life without her mother to guide her with her gentle spirit.

Now, I don’t know the full details of her passing, and I’m not going to speculate on details that I don’t know until her family decides to share what they think needs sharing, and keep to themselves what they wish to remain private. I have my own thoughts on her passing, but I’ll be keeping those to myself, as I don’t want to sully the memory of my friend whose kindness and generosity I treasured with sentiments that are anything but those two things. I don’t know how she passed or what her last thoughts were, but I hope that she passed confident in the understanding that she mattered and she will be greatly missed. And if you’d like to donate to help her family cover funeral costs, her niece has set up a GoFundMe for contributions.

Now, back to our regular programming…

Concert review: Guns N’ Roses at Wrigley Field on September 16, 2021

This last week was one of my busiest weeks in recent memory. In addition to 16 meetings and other appointments during the weekdays, I also spent two evenings on resolving some HOA drama, Wednesday evening I was out sailing, and Thursday evening featured a long-postponed concert at Wrigley Field featuring Guns N’ Roses.

I purchased the tickets back in 2019, and the original lineup was Guns N’ Roses with Smashing Pumpkins. COVID happened, the concert was pushed back a couple of times, and Smashing Pumpkins was replaced by Mammoth WVH, a solo project from one of the Van Halen kids. Due to an office meeting that went longer than planned, I didn’t make it out for Mammoth WVH’s opening act, but I did get to check out the full concert from Guns N’ Roses.

Before I get too much into Thursday’s concert, I should probably explain that I’m more of a studio album listener than a live music guy. I like hearing the music the way it sounds in the musicians’ heads, and studio recordings are generally better for that than a show in a live venue designed more for baseball than rock n’ roll. And as expected, the initial songs sounded a bit washed out and more LOUD than music. After about three tracks in, I either adapted my hearing to adjust for the loudness (remember, I sit in a quiet office all day, and loud bars annoy the hell out of me) or the sound engineers found the venue’s sweet spot, and the band started sounding great.

If there was a weak spot in the performance, it was most often Axl Rose. In songs like “Welcome to the Jungle” it wasn’t clear if he was actually singing the full lyrics or belting in partway: “(mumble, mumble) TO THE JUNGLE!” I read later that he was suffering from some pretty severe food poisoning and he earned my unending respect for sticking through the show.

The folks directing the concert must have been ready for this, as the clear star of the concert was Slash and his collection of guitars. There were lots of opportunities for him to shine with solos, including this epic solo where he played by himself through several different styles of music.

It was pretty clear from my seats in the left-field upper deck that I was witnessing a rare form of greatness and excellence as he worked through the show. (I joked to my wife that I wondered how much his hands must be insured for.)

I’ll also confess that I came to this concert with only a general familiarity with the band - I had originally purchased the tickets for the Smashing Pumpkins set. Given my many hours of listening to Sirius XM’s Hair Nation channel, I’d heard plenty of the band’s work, but really never dove into their music the way I had with bands like Dokken, Tesla, Styx, or Def Leppard. For an embarrassingly-long time, I had mixed up Axl Rose with the AC/DC’s Angus Young in my head for some reason. So, I was delighted to discover that a number of songs that I’d enjoyed over the years, but never pegged to a particular band were GnR songs, and I also enjoyed their cover of others’ songs like Velvet Revolver’s “Slither”. (Well, a cover for Rose, as Slash and Duff McKagan were also Velvet Revolver founders.)

At the end of the day, I judge the success or failure of a concert based on whether I go home and end up searching and listening to a band’s music in the days after. On that front, the concert was a raging success and for any of you rock fans who are in the path of the current Guns N’ Roses tour, I’d highly recommend attending one of those shows. I had a blast and wouldn’t hesitate doing so again.

Getting prepared for the rest of the year

After Thursday’s concert, my big remaining event for the week was sailing on Saturday in the last weekend race of the season for Valhalla, the J-105 crew that I joined this season. Unfortunately, a medical mishap (nothing major) left us without our skipper, and we were short-crewed for the race. We took the boat out yesterday and got in some jib and spinnaker practice before deciding to head back into the harbor due to the choppy lake waves, and us being without a captain who would have been able to guide us through the trickiness of the day. I was happy to get out onto the lake and get some more practice in (I’m starting to transition from working the mast to trimming the jib in the cockpit), and we still have two more Wednesday evenings on the calendar before the season’s finished for good.

Since I have a rare moment of unscheduled time and some mental peace, I’m using today to start and get my ducks in a row for the fall and winter. The year’s starting to turn over into fall here in Chicago, and I really enjoy last three months of the year as we bounce from holiday to holiday.

The first thing that I need to finish this week is ripping all seven seasons of the DVD set of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt for a month-long “film festival” that I’m hosting on the weekends in the lead-up to Halloween. Due to the way the original series was made, it’s a rights minefield, and the DVDs I purchased may be the last version to be released, as it’s doubtful that the series will see a BluRay or streaming release.

I picked this series as I wanted to revisit it, and for the fact that it enjoys a significant place in film history as one of the earliest cable television shows that enjoyed the participation of movie stars (including some future stars), which was rare at the time, and even more surprising for a show that mimicked the classic TV horror hosts that filled the Saturday night dead time in local broadcast stations’ schedule. (Check out the documentary American Scary if this bit of Americana is of any interest.)

I need to confirm with my co-host, but I think our plan is to (re)introduce attendees to the series in the first weekend in October by watching the first six episodes of the first season to whet their appetites. In the next three weeks, both of us will pick an episode from the next two seasons as our choices and leave the remaining four episodes for that session up for a vote among attendees. The final evening will be a selection of any remaining episodes we may have not had the time for in the prior weeks, with us flagging some significant episodes for the final meeting on Halloween weekend.

In addition to Halloween, I’m starting to mentally prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The biggest open question with respect to Thanksgiving is where it will be held - at our place or do we visit a relative? I can usually pull off a decent Thanksgiving with a couple of weeks of preparation (mainly stockpiling ingredients for my morning of cooking that day). In terms of Christmas, I’m trying to be sure that I pick up things that are usually sold out by November. This year’s early purchases are Christmas cracker supplies, and a whiskey advent calendar. Now’s also a decent time to start looking for any special wrapping paper or other decorations that you won’t be able to count on the local Walgreens carrying into the holiday season.

I’m also starting to pay attention to what the streaming services will be dropping during the holiday season this year. I’ve already been anticipating the next season of The Witcher:

(If you haven’t been keeping up with your Witcher homework, be sure to catch Nightmare of the Wolf on Netflix. It’s a prequel to the series and great introduction to an important upcoming character.)

Despite my love of The Witcher, I suspect that corporate IP-mega giant Disney may win the Christmas season yet again. Not with Lone Wolf and Cub set in the Star Wars universe, but with their own version of a Die Hard film (a respectable Christmas film in its own right) featuring our favorite everyman Avenger:

And if I may be so bold, I will also predict that Lucky, The Pizza Dog will have the best episode of the series and become this year’s Baby Yoda.

You heard it here first.

Interesting watches and readings

Crew Dragon has flown four more people—all private citizens—into space (Ars Technica)

The future of the App Store depends on the difference between a ‘button’ and an ‘external link’ (The Verge)

The Apple App Store: a brief history of major policy changes (The Verge)

A comprehensive breakdown of the Epic v. Apple ruling (The Verge)

The American Crisis of Selective Empathy (David French)

9/11 Passes into History (The Bulwark)

Apartments Built on an Assembly Line (New York Times)

Jim Lee Selling His X-Men #1 Covers? Time For A New Record? (Bleeding Cool)

A Vanished Supernova Will Reappear in 16 Years (Gizmodo)

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Has One Very Big Problem (The Daily Beast)

The Week the World Almost Ended (Slate)

Good Riddance to the Robert E. Lee Statue (Christianity Today)

Marvel’s Blockbuster Machine (Harvard Business Review)

Ted Lasso Is an Unexpected Masterclass in Environmental Storytelling (Gizmodo)

That’s about it for me this week. Given everything going on in the past week, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to be mentally proactive in drafting something for this week, so I hope this reactive view of the past week passes muster.

In terms of Elite updates, last week’s VR session went poorly, with the game cutting out right when I was in the middle of a shooting fright with some larger ships and other kinds of glitches that make flying my VR spaceship much less fun as of late. I’ve decided that instead of continuing to frustrate myself, I’ll give Frontier time to patch their game, and over the next few months, my gaming will be switching over to The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt, which will get me back into Geralt of Rivia’s universe. I know that I’m about a decade late to this game, but given its reputation and newfound space in my gaming life, I figured I should give it a spin.

Until next time, CMDRs! o7