Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Sean's Best and Worst Of 2022

Welcome to my annual best and worst of 2022 in pop culture and more. 

Best TV Shows: Severance and The Afterparty

There is a lot of good television being made. While I'll get to my favorites momentarily, I want to give honorable mentions to Abbott Elementary, Barry, Station 11, Squid Game (which I watched in 2022) and Alaska Daily. I don't think the last one gets the credit it deserves since it's on ABC rather than on cable or a streaming service. Throw in a few swear words and maybe some brief nudity, and I think this show would be on many critics' top shows list, particularly with Hilary Swank as the lead. And yes, I understand that the show is highlighting the importance of strong local journalism, but what's wrong with that? I didn't see any Better Call Saul this season since I made a mistake with the DVR, and it erased the first few episodes. I feel like there's a good chance the show will make my best of 2023. 

I generally don't consider myself a sci-fi guy, and I'm not even sure if Severance counts as a sci-fi show. What would happen if you could completely separate your work life and your home life? Severance truly separates the two where characters medically cannot remember work when they are out of the office or remember anything outside work when they are in the office. Adam Scott is the main character and leads an incredible cast including Britt Lower, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Tramell Tillman, and Christopher Walken. The show is quite suspenseful, and I can't wait to see a second season.

The Afterparty is also on Apple+ but besides having an amazing cast, that's where the similarities end. A famous Justin Bieber-type character (played by Dave Franco) returns for his high school reunion and gets killed at the after party. It's a murder mystery with Tiffany Haddish as the detective as she interviews potential suspects including Sam Richardson, Ike Barinholtz, Ilana Glazer, Ben Schwartz, and Zoe Chao. This show is very funny, and I love watching any of Ben Schwartz's songs. (Please note that there is one bad word in this song.)

Best Movie: CODA

I almost forgot that I saw this movie in 2022 since I probably watched it during the first week or two of January. Even though CODA won Best Picture at the Oscars, no one talks about it since the ceremony was overshadowed by Will Smith. It's a fun, coming-of-age movie about a high school senior who is a child of deaf parents. (That's what CODA stands for.)

Worst movie: Home Team

I guess this is supposed to be a redemption story of New Orleans Saints football coach Sean Payton who served a one-year suspension for Bountygate where players got paid for injuring their opponents. I had no idea Payton needed a redemption story. During his suspension, he moves to a Texas town and helps coach his son’s football team and tries to build a relationship with the kid. Sean Payton is played by Kevin James who is not funny at all in this role. Rob Schneider plays the new husband of Payton’s ex-wife and is also not funny in this film. Actually, not funny would be a compliment. Payton eventually takes over the team and only cares about winning. Oh, there's also a scene where all of the kids on Payton's team vomit and that helps them win the game. Even that part is in the trailer. While I guess there's a life lesson in this movie somewhere, the story ends with Payton going back to coaching the NFL, apparently leaving his kid behind, but now he remembers names of people in the Saints organization. 

Best Song: I Ain't Worried by OneRepublic

I'm breaking my previous rule that the best song needed to be featured in a blog post earlier in the year. I had a really difficult time choosing a best song of 2022. Not a lot really jumped out for me. I think the message of "Victoria's Secret" by Jax about body image is important, and I recently started listening to and enjoying "Burning" by Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. OneRepublic just manages to crank out catchy hit after catchy hit, and "I Ain't Worried' is their latest. When I write my best and worst of 2024, I probably won't remember this song, but I ain't worried 'bout it right now.

Worst Song: Hold Me Closer by Elton John and Britney Spears

What happens when you take the classic, beloved song Tiny Dancer and make it much worse? This! Elton John and Britney Spears didn't even feel the need to make a cameo in the video for this cash grab.

Best Podcast: SmartLess

I'm definitely late on this podcast. Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes make fun of each other and interview celebrities. I laugh out loud at least once every episode. I also want to give an honorable mention to Futbol with Grant Wahl. I went to his podcast before and after every US qualifying and World Cup match and whenever something big happened in the soccer world. He's gone way too soon.

Best Book: The Worst Teddy Ever by Marcelo Verdad

I’ve really struggled reading since the Covid pandemic started. I used to read everyday during my commute, but now I drive instead of relying on the bus and Metro. While the amount of time I spend listening to podcasts is way up, the amount of time spent reading is way down. 

I traveled to Austin, Texas in November, and although I didn’t see any bats, I did stumble into the Texas Book Festival. There were dozens of authors speaking and tents filled with exhibitors over multiple streets all in front of the Texas capitol building. I loved walking through it! At one point, I passed by a tent and heard an author having a playful discussion with kids. The tent next to this was filled with children’s books for sale including one by this author. I bought "The Worst Teddy Ever" and brought it home for my kids. It's about a teddy bear who is too tired to play, but there's a good reason for this. The book is definitely more geared for my kindergartner, but I enjoy it too. 

Best Blog Posts: The End of Celebrate Fairfax and RIP Chris

I'm still a little upset that the Celebrate Fairfax and Fall for Fairfax festivals appear to be over. Such a loss to the Northern Virginia community. I also wrote about my friend Chris who passed away earlier this year.

Worst Blog Post: TMI Thursday Karma

I wrote a post about buying a new plunger.

Best Sports Bet: Kansas winning the NCAA Tournament

I picked this before the tournament. They won. Go me!

Worst Sports Bet: The Pirates winning over 62.5 games. 

They had to improve in 2022 and not lose 100 games, right? Wrong. They went 62-100. There were many bad losses, but the worst might be the Pirates leading 8-4 in the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees winning 9-8 thanks to home runs by Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

Please feel free to leave your best and worst of 2022 in the comments section below. Hope that you had a good 2022, and here's to a better 2023!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Sean's 2022 Concerts

When I go to concerts, I try to record part of a song or two. Holding a phone up to record the entire concert or even an entire song just doesn't seem like fun. You're there to see artists perform and be part of the atmosphere, not watch the concert through your phone. While I wrote about seeing Coldplay in June and included a few videos of their songs, I wanted share my videos of seeing H.E.R. open for Coldplay as well as Garbage and Toad the Wet Sprocket.

It was a really good concert year for me. Oh, I visited Niagara Falls too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

What A Drag It Is Getting Old

Here is where I am at 47. I’ve worn glasses since 6th or 7th grade, and in recent years to see small text, I either need to take off my glasses or if I'm wearing contacts, put on a pair of reading glasses. Well, I am now the owner of a new pair of glasses with "progressive lenses." It seems to be a fancy way of saying bifocals. 

(I got a haircut since this picture.)

Shortly after Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020, I asked my doctor at my annual physical if I should get a colonoscopy. With COVID cases high and the recommendation to get a colonoscopy still at 50, the doctor suggested waiting a few years. Last year, he said I should get one. Well, I finally did on Monday. All the stories about the preparation being worse than the procedure are completely true. Per the preparation instructions, I changed my diet on Friday and Saturday, and then Sunday was clear liquids only. I basically "ate" Gatorade and Ginger Ale with some Jello and veggie broth mixed in. Not fulfilling. At 4:00 in the afternoon, I celebrated the Steelers win over the Carolina Panthers by having a bottle of Clenpiq. 

I thought it wasn't bad after the first sip, but as I continued, the worse it tasted. I tried to take a shot of the medication followed by a chaser of Italian Ice, but it didn't help. The aftertaste was just too strong. I had another bottle at 9:00 and somehow it was even worse. And yes, there was a lot of time in the bathroom in the evening and night. The discharge information from the doctor included this line: The quality of the bowel preparation was good.

The entire time at the gastroenterology facility and with the doctor and staff went smoothly. I slept very well during and after the procedure, and the findings were normal. I could share pictures of my colon, but that's probably not necessary. I have no idea what I'm looking at anyway. The recommendation is to repeat a colonoscopy in 10 years for screening purposes. Woo hoo!

Besides the new glasses and colonoscopy, I also recently went to the dermatologist to remove two skin tags and two warts. In the near future, I probably need to go to a periodontist for receding gums and a podiatrist to take a look at a toenail. Yes, this is my life.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Happy Hanukkah 2022

Happy Hanukkah to those of you who are celebrating! Hanukkah started on Sunday evening and whether or not you are partaking in the annual celebration of eating latkes, donuts, and pickles, playing dreidel, and lighting the menorah, here are some videos to enjoy this year:

Giving It Up For Hanukkah is truly a viral success story. As of Saturday evening, Brothers of Song had 108 followers on Instagram, which is even less than the number of people following me on Instagram. Their YouTube channel has 8 videos with all of them under 1,000 views except for one with 69K views. Then, out of nowhere, Giving It Up For Hanukkah has over 2.7 million views in less than 2 weeks. Good for the brothers!

Six13 is back (are back?) with a Hanukkah tribute to Elton John. 

There's a fantastic Cameo video out there of the legendary Smokey Robinson wishing someone a Happy Chanooka. Kosha Dillz along with Gangstagrass created their own Hanukkah song based on the mispronouncement. 

Sure, this looks like a Best Buy commercial to get you to visit their stores but notice the menorah on the windowsill while the family opens gifts. I like how this shows diversity within the Jewish community. 

This David Ross, who does not appear to be the Chicago Cubs manager, was able to create numerous versions of himself for A Funky Chanukkah. I could be wrong, but this may be an ode to Michael Keaton and the movie Multiplicity

Thanks to members of the US Armed Forces for their service and also for singing this Hanukkah medley.

The Kurstin x Grohl Hanukkah sessions are back with special guest Judd Apatow.

Let's finish up with the small screen. My kids have outgrown Disney Kids, so I'm not familiar with the show Firebuds. This is their Hanukkah episode.

And there is now a Hallmark Hanukkah movie called Hanukkah on Rye featuring Ithaca College graduate Jeremy Jordan, Yael Grobglas, and Lisa Loeb. I might "Stay" and watch it.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Brand New Pickle Taste Test For Hanukkah

Like Fetch, I'm still trying to make eating pickles part of the Hanukkah tradition happen. 

2022 marks the 25th anniversary of this tradition. If you're not familiar, the quick story is that there was a Kosher Pickle Taste Test at San Diego State University, and since this occurred in December, the student newspaper thought it was part of the Hanukkah celebration. (The longer story is here.) Now, more and more people really do eat pickles at Hanukkah, and one of my life goals is to spread this tradition. It's right up there with trying to be a good father, visiting all 50 states, attending a professional hockey game in every NHL city, and winning fantasy football and baseball leagues.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to spread this tradition as my synagogue hosted an early Hanukkah celebration. There was a menorah build with legos, dreidels, food, and they let me have a pickle tasting table. I bought 14 jars of Wegmans, Grillo's, and Mount Olive pickles (total, not each), and spent much of Sunday morning cutting them up into sample-size pieces. Then, I put on my Portland Pickles T-shirt and brought them to the synagogue. 

While people were a little reluctant to approach the pickle table at first, primarily because they were more interested in eating pizza and getting donuts, more and more people stopped by, tried the pickles, and voted for their favorite. I'm particularly proud of The Moose, Pedro Tulo, and one of The Moose's friends for helping with "plating" the pickles for sampling, encouraging others to try them and vote, and then counting the ballots. I didn't ask them to help; they just jumped right in! 

I consider this year's event a trial run, and I think it was a success. I'd like to do a similar event next year with 10 or more different types of pickles, including by local pickle people. My dream is to have Kosha Dillz perform too. I also hope more Hanukkah celebrations around the world include pickles. It doesn't have to be a taste test (though those are fun), but just pickles next to latkes and sufganiyot would be great.

In case you're wondering, the Wegmans pickles won in a tight race. Oh, my car still smells like pickles too.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

It's Me, Hi, I'm The Problem, It's Me

The Washington Post recently announced the discontinuation of the weekly Washington Post Magazine. I was a Washington Post subscriber for years, so I would receive the Sunday paper with the coupons/circulars and the Post Magazine each week. The magazine was perfect to read during my commute because you had the long-form stories but also a humor column, brief interviews with a wide variety of people, restaurant reviews, and more. Date Lab, where Post staff match singles, was part of this more. I read Date Lab to The Moose during potty training and some of the stories made for fun blog posts. The kids also enjoyed Second Glance where you try to find differences between two seemingly identical photographs. The magazine's content was always interesting, and it was easy to carry and transport to and from work. 

After having The Moose and Pedro Tulo and especially after Luigi arrived, I found that I didn’t have time to read the paper on Sundays. In an ideal world, I would love to just sit on the couch on a Sunday morning and read the paper but three kids made this impossible. There were always activities or errands to run or simply playing and spending time with the kids that prevented me from sitting down with the paper. They would just pile up until I recycled the papers at the end of the week. Still, I managed to find time to read the magazine most weeks on my commute. And then I didn’t. Maybe it was reading more books during the commute or doing activities on the phone (including writing blog posts), but the magazines started to pile up too. While I intended to read them, it didn’t happen.
With me not reading the print version of the paper or magazine, I unsubscribed from the print version of The Washington Post. I maintained my online subscription, though I admit that I rarely read The Magazine online. And I should. While Gene Weingarten no longer writes for the magazine, Damon Young (a fellow Pittsburgher!) is an excellent writer with a very different perspective from his predecessor and definitely worth your time (including in his recent column about Kyrie Irving). The Magazine's quality continues to be excellent and relevant. However, I never read the print version anymore and don't often think about checking it out online. There are probably thousands of others like me out there. Maybe that's why The Post is cutting the magazine. Even though 5 of the top 40 most-clicked stories on the website over the past year were produced by the magazine, I'm sure there is some metric out there showing that there aren't enough clicks. For a paper as large and as important as The Post and with an owner in Jeff Bezos with deep pockets, this is unfortunate and disappointing. I feel bad for the people losing their jobs and for the public in missing out on reading outstanding stories.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Friday Video: Current Songs That Would Fit In The 80s

I've mentioned several times that my kids only seem to want to listen to current pop music. Sirius XM's Hits One station ends up being played much of the time when we're in the car. There are two current songs by major artists that could easily fit into FM radio in the 1980s. The first is Music for a Sushi Restaurant by Harry Styles.

If you go to just after the 1:00 minute mark, the horns could easily be in a Phil Collins song. I'm thinking Sussudio.

The second is 2 Be Loved (Am I Ready) by Lizzo.

The chorus sounds like a song that The Pointer Sisters could sing. Maybe on the next track after I'm So Excited.

There might be more, but the drive from the school to my home is rather quick, so I'm turning off the car and turning the music off. Get out of the car!