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I've been watching Welcome to Wrexham recently, and although I'm not a huge soccer fan (I've had season tickets to Atlanta United every year since their inaugural season, but that's more about the gameday experience—I don't really watch soccer outside of that context), there's a lot to love about this show.
It's a reality show, and the concept is that actors Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) and Rob McElhenney (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) bought a the Wrexham football club in attempt to revitalize it and the Welsh town where it makes its home. The club was at one point good enough to play in the current second level of English soccer (below the Premier League), but in the last couple of decades, they have been relegated to the fourth level, the National League, and the two stars want to invest in getting a better coach, better players, and improving the field and the stands.
It's an underdog story that feels very authentic despite the two Hollywood stars, mostly because the show spends plenty of time with the townsfolk who fervently support the club, including the volunteers who help with tickets, the pub owner across from the stadium, and other longtime devotees who still love the club despite their descent to mediocrity.
It will be interesting to see whether or not the new owners can give the club a legitimate shot to be promoted to the next league within a couple of seasons, and if the club continues to struggle, whether they will still spend money trying to upgrade and improve the team.
It already seems like financially they will be fine no matter how much money they sink directly into the club—in addition to the revenue from the show and the increased ticket and merchandise sales that will come with this exposure, they also inked a sponsorship deal with TikTok. But some of those revenue streams might also dry up after a couple of seasons if there isn't a compelling narrative that includes promotion up to the next league within a couple of years.
I recently finished two books that were related to one another, one non-fiction and one fiction. They both centered around the United States' covert retrieval of a Soviet nuclear sub called the K-129 that disappeared in very deep water in 1968.
I read the non-fiction book first: The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History by Josh Dean. Unbeknownst to Russia, the US knew where the K-129 sunk thanks to a network of underwater microphones that the US Navy had deployed in an effort to track the locations of enemy vessels. Knowing the valuable intelligence contained on the sub—everything from its nuclear missiles to its cryptography machines—the US began a massive effort to salvage the vessel intact.
In the six years that followed, the CIA led an incredibly complex and expensive operation to recover the sub, one that included recruiting Howard Hughes to help with the subterfuge by claiming that he was building a ship to mine minerals from the deep ocean. The ship's real purpose, of course, was to retrieve the sub, and it was owned by the government, but they needed a fantastical cover story in order to keep the Soviets from getting suspicious.
It's an amazing, almost unbelievable story, but one that I found engrossing from the first page. I'm shocked no one has done an Argo-style movie about this project—there are tons of great characters and amazing twists and turns, and it would make a great film in the right hands.
The work of fiction I read immediately after The Taking of K-129 was called Three Miles Down by Harry Turtledove, and it was a fictional account of one of the scientists recruited to live aboard the recovery vessel and retrieve the sub. I found it interesting due to its connection to the non-fiction book I had just finished, but I wouldn't recommend it on its own—even though it got a lot of the facts correct, the characters were a little one-dimensional, and if you read the book without knowing the true story behind the novel, you might find it a little too Macguffin-driven to allow the suspension of disbelief.
The Ravens have played three games now, and I still can't figure out if they're going to be good this year or not. Their record is 2-1, which is fine, but in their one loss, they entered the fourth quarter with a 35-14 lead and ended up losing 42-38, scoring only a field goal themselves while allowing the Dolphins to run wild and score 28 points on four touchdowns, including the winning score with only 14 seconds left in the game (which was also the first time the entire game Miami was in the lead).
UGA, meanwhile, are four games into the follow up season to their first national championship since 1980, and it's not going to surprise anyone if they take home another one if they keep playing the way they are. They have delivered absolute ass kickings to everyone they've face so far, including a highly ranked Oregon team and SEC rivals South Carolina (in fact, the margin of victory in those two games was higher than the margin in their two cupcake games against Samford and Kent State).
On Saturday night I went to the fourth of four concerts I had tickets for in September. The headliner this time was Athens group of Montreal, and once again Julie and Will joined me as the both did for Spiritualized a couple of weeks ago.
of Montreal is one of my all time favorite bands even though they've only put out one record I really loved through and through in the last decade (and they are prolific—it's an unusual year when you don't get a new album from them). They always give a great live performance with lots of homemade theatrical props that add another dimension of weirdness to the experience.
This was my fifth time seeing the band live (and the first time for both Julie and Will), but surprisingly only my second time seeing them since I moved to Atlanta. I say surprisingly because, due to their proximity in Athens, they play either there or in Atlanta at least a couple of times a year, and when they go out on tour, they will often start the tour in either Atlanta or Athens and then end the tour a few weeks later in the other city.
They were great as usual, and played songs from across their catalogue even though they have a new record this year that was technically the reason for the tour. I'm glad Will finally got to see them too—they really are a unique concertgoing experience, and I think their theatrical nature made the show much more engaging for him even though he didn't necessarily know the music that well.
I am once again capped on vacation, so in order to make sure I don't miss my accrual on October 1, I'm taking tomorrow and next Friday off. In theory, it will be nice to have two long weekends back to back, but in reality, we're so busy this time of year that I'm almost certainly going to be checking email a few times each day and I won't be surprised if I end up working a few hours each day as well. But I guess that's still better than losing the accrual.
I got my bloodwork back from my first visit with my physician a week or so ago, and my thyroid numbers were way off. This was completely expected, as I've had thyroid issues for the past decade or so, and because I was without a physician for a while, I didn't have anyone to fill my prescription for several months.
What I had never been made to understand by my previous physician was how important it was to make sure I'm on this medication every day. When I have my supply of medication, I am diligent about taking it every day, but I didn't realize how critical it was to normal functioning since I didn't know much of a difference in my energy levels, etc., when I ran out and stopped taking it.
My new doctor said he was surprised I was walking around and speaking coherently with the numbers I had, much less holding a full time job, exercising daily, etc. He said he'd only seen numbers like mine once, and that was for a woman in her 80s who was basically catatonic all day until they got her on the medication and she perked right back up to her old self.
Anyway. Lesson learned. If I ever need to switch doctors again, I'll make sure that I have enough medication to cover the transition and not dilly dally about getting a new primary care.
The two shows I've been watching recently are HBO's sci fi drama Westworld, which recently finished airing its fourth (and maybe final) season, and Rick and Morty, the Cartoon Network show that just started airing its sixth season.
My relationship with Westworld is pretty standard for people who follow the show: season one was brilliant, season two was confusing, and season 3 took us out of the core Westworld environment and was not as engaging as a result. I almost didn't watch season 4 because seasons 2 and 3 were such slogs to get through, but after positive reviews, I gave it a chance and was not disappointed.
It's nowhere near as good as that groundbreaking first season, but it gives me a lot more of what I want from the show than the last two seasons have. And although there's clearly at least one more season needed to really wrap up the story, if this does end up being the final season, it ended in a way that provides some resolution and doesn't leave fans with an eternal cliffhanger.
Rick and Morty, on the other hand, is continuing its slow decline. After four seasons that were virtually flawless, season 5 was very uneven and contains the bulk of my least favorite episodes from the show. There were still some shining moments—"Mortyplicity" and "Amortycan Grickfitti" stand up to the best episodes from previous seasons—but there were a couple of episodes that I don't really have any desire to ever watch again. And after years of fans begging for a bit more lore, this season over-delivered, with the weight of Rick's backstory slowing down a few episodes that had some good moments otherwise.
We're only three episodes into season 6, but so far none of the episodes seem like killers. And again, after going lore-heavy in season 5, that has played a prominent part in two of the first three episodes, mostly to those stories' detriment.
I'm sure there will be at least a couple of keepers from the ten episodes that will eventually air for this season, but having three mediocre episodes to kick things off already means that best-case scenario it will end up ranking above season 5—there's zero chance that it will end up overall stronger than any of the first four seasons, which have very little to criticize.
Very busy couple of days this weekend. It started with a visit to Fantasyland Records in Buckhead, one of my favorite shops in Atlanta, which I hadn't been to since May. I had a few good finds in the used bins there, including Let's Active's Big Plans for Everybody, a favorite album of mine that I've been looking for in vinyl form since I started collecting.
That was followed by dinner with my friend John, who I haven't seen in a while. He started as a work colleague, but we quickly became friends, and even though we're on the calendar to have lunch once a month (he also comes out for trivia nights when we do that), we've had to cancel our past few meetings due to a conflict from one or the other of us. So we made up for it by grabbing dinner and beers on a weekend when we were both free.
On Sunday we had brunch with my friend Marc and his family up in Alpharetta. They were in town to see My Chemical Romance, who were originally scheduled to perform as part of the Music Midtown festival before it got canceled because the Georgia Supreme Court, in their infinite wisdom, decided that it was illegal for the festival organizers to prohibit guns on the festival grounds because it was public property (although public property that was being leased for an event, which you think would change things).
My Chemical Romance was one of the few bands who found an alternate venue to host a performance, and although it wasn't the same as getting to see the couple dozen artists who were scheduled to perform at the festival, it was still worthwhile for Marc and his family to make the trip down from Chapel Hill since his two kids are both huge fans.
We spent a nice couple of hours with them before they had to head back home. I went to high school with Marc, but I've really reconnected with him over the past couple of years since our last reunion, and I've also enjoyed getting to know his wife and kids during that time. He's an incredible guy, and they're an incredible family.
The Ravens played their first game of the season, an away game against the Jets that they won in convincing fashion. I'm still not sure what to make of this team—Lamar Jackson is a much better traditional quarterback than he is usually given credit for, and he's one-of-a-kind when you factor in his running ability. But injuries have hit the team hard the past couple of years, we've got a new rookie defensive coordinator, and our offensive coordinator seems unwilling to change his scheme too much despite the rest of the league having figured it out over the past couple of seasons.
At this point, both Jackson and the rest of the team have to show some consistency before I can really believe in them. I think all the talent is there, but staying healthy, executing well, and having coordinators who know how to make in-game adjustments are all things that they have to build on top of that foundation. I could see this team missing the playoffs just as easily as I could see them winning the division and making a postseason run—all the pieces are there, but I'm not sure they will be able to put it all together this season.
The night after Spiritualized, I went to yet another concert, this time on my own. The headliner was Modest Mouse, one of my favorite bands of all time (my very first post on this blog way back in 2000 was about the band), playing a makeup show for one they had to cancel earlier this year after several band members (including frontman Isaac Brock) tested positive for Covid just before they took the stage.
I went with my friend Wes, and we had great seats in the center of the second level balcony looking directly down on the stage. We got to see the Cribs play their opening set, but then there was an unusually long gap while waiting for Modest Mouse before they announced that the band wouldn't be playing.
Initially they said they were going to reschedule the shows so we could just keep our tickets and get the same seats for the new date, but a few days later they just canceled the show outright and refunded our money. And then when they did reschedule the shows, they didn't even give previous ticketholders early access or anything—it was a whole new ticket purchasing queue.
So I didn't end up with the great seats I had before, but I did find a single ticket on the first row of one of the side balconies (where I often choose to sit anyway), so it worked out okay. I didn't end up going with Wes for the rescheduled show, but I'm used to going to shows by myself a lot of the time anyway.
It was a good show, as Modest Mouse gigs usually are, although the half dozen or so people sitting to my right were pretty interesting. I'm pretty sure this was a block of seats reserved for the band's use and that these were all band-affiliated folks—one of the women who came up to the block of seats about halfway through the performance I had already seen hanging out in the wings with a kid for the first few songs. The guy in the seat right next to me was definitely on something—he was very into the show, but he was also lacking the personal boundaries that a non-intoxicated attendee would have, and he got in my space quite a bit.
The entire group decamped to the backstage area with four or five songs left in the setlist, so I essentially had the entire row to myself at that point. It was interesting to watch them, but distracting too, so when they left I was able to focus fully on the music.
My second concert of September was last Saturday night, and once again Julie joined me. I end up going to most shows by myself, but of the eight shows I've seen in the last month, she's been to six of them with me, which is probably a record for her.
This time it was Spiritualized at the Variety Playhouse, and it was my third time seeing them live in the past decade or so. The first time was actually in DC, and it was my last local show in that area before we moved to Atlanta. The second time was in 2019, and Julie joined me for that one. For Saturday night's show, we also brought Will along.
They were great as usual, although they didn't play my favorite track (the title track to their seminal album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space) or my favorite track from their most recent album, "The Mainline Song".
As with previous shows, the center of stage was empty, with songwriter/singer/frontman Jason Pierce sitting off the the right side of the stage looking across at his bandmates on the left side of the stage instead of the audience (in fact, the only person in the band facing the audience was the drummer, and of course he had his kit in front of him). It's a weird setup, but it works for them, and it emphasizes that the music, and not Jason, should be the focal point for the experience.
My mom only lives about 45 minutes away (at least if you go on the weekend and not during rush hour during the workweek), and we try to go visit her a couple of times a month, but sometimes our calendars get so busy that it's easy to miss a week and then another until suddenly we haven't been to see her in more than a month. That's kind of what August did to us, with the return to school and all the new routines around that, but we finally got out to see her this past weekend.
It's always good for Will to see her in person. They talk over FaceTime every week or so, but he connects with her in person in a more meaningful way, especially if Julie and I aren't there (we usually leave to go shopping for her or pick up lunch to give them some one-on-one time).
She's actually built up a pretty good social circle despite essentially being homebound, but I know she really enjoys visits from us, and especially from Will. It's harder to plan outings with her these days—when she first moved here, she was in good enough health that we could reasonably easily take her out to the occasional concert or museum event—which makes it even more important that we try to get out to visit her regularly.
August was a busy concert-going month for me, where I went out to six shows, and although I don't have as many on the calendar for September, it's still a busier than average month, with four planned live shows.
The first of those was last night at the Eastern, where Julie and I went to see Stereolab. This is my third time seeing them; the first was back in 2006 in DC when they were still actively making new music (but sadly after Mary Hansen's passing), and the second was in 2019 at the Variety here in Atlanta after they had become a legacy touring act only.
They are such an incredible live show, which might be hard to guess from a lot of their more subdued, bloodless recorded material. There is real power to the rhythm section, and the guitars are also more prominent (but not to the point where the overwhelm the tracks that aren't guitar-centric). They did not disappoint last night, cementing their position as a band that I will go out of my way to see whenever I get the chance.
Today is the one year anniversary of the fire, and the pain and trauma from that event continue to affect all of us on a daily basis. Even if we had been able to rebuild our home and move back in by now (the insurance company estimated we'd be back in our home by April of this year, which was a cruel joke), we'd still be working our way through our grief and suffering, but being stranded in a rental house with a move-back date still several months away makes everything that much harder to bear.
I know that we'll never really get over this—the sharpness of the pain may dull over the years, and the memories of everything we've lost will fade and not be as vividly intrusive in our thoughts as they are now—but this is something all of us will carry with us every day for the rest of our lives. There are those events in your life which form a divide in your timeline, from which everything else is either before or after, and the fire is definitely one of those days. And even though it's technically in the past, I expect that it will be part of my daily present forever.
The demolition and rebuilding of the house has been underway for months now, but I didn't want to see it until it was complete enough that there was at least a resemblance to the structure that I knew before. Julie felt like the time was right last weekend, so I made my first trip back to our property since we finished cleaning out everything that was salvageable early this year.
There's still no brick on the outside, and the interior is just studs and beams where the walls will eventually be, but there was a subfloor you could walk on and the skeleton of the layout was present. It's nice to see progress, but even though it seems like they could realistically finish the building process by the end of the year, we've already seen significant delays due to permitting issues, which are further complicated because we live in a historic district which is yet another set of people who have to review everything (even though our intention is to build it back as close as we can to how it looked before).
Realistically, we're hoping we might be able to move back by February of next year, but honestly, the margin of error for construction timelines is at least two months either way. So it could be November or it could be April, and we probably won't know for sure until a couple of weeks before its ready for occupancy.
My primary care physician, who I really like, unexpectedly moved to Virginia in May 2020. I prefer a male physician for my primary care, and the only other male doctor they have in the clinic I go to was one I've already tried as my primary care, and he just wasn't a good fit for me.
In the announcement about my doctor's exit, they said they were planning to hire two new physicians, at least one of them a man, and my doctor left me with about nine months worth of refills on the two medications I take, so I figured I could wait it out. But then months and months passed, and not only did they not hire any new male physicians, they didn't hire any new doctors period.
So I started asking around my friend group for their recommendations and found one that sounded like his style was similar to my former physician. There were some commonalities that felt right as well—in addition to being the primary care for one of my college roommates who also happens to live in Atlanta now, the doctor himself went to our alma mater. And, in one of those fairly typical Atlanta coincidences, he happened to be the brother of one half of a musical duo whose name you would definitely recognize.
Normally he wasn't able to take new patients for months, but when I called he had just had a cancelation, so I only had to wait a few weeks. That appointment finally happened earlier this week, and I'm happy to report that it seems like a really good fit. He took the time to talk to me about my medical history, including my mental health, and was supportive of how I like to approach my healthcare decisions.
I was worried that it would take me months, if not years, to find another doctor that I trusted as much as my previous physician, but I'm feeling good about this one so far. I have a follow up in a few months, and if that goes well, I think I can feel good about him being my new permanent primary care.