Of The Year — 2020

In a strange and challenging year, we needed music to keep us sane more than ever. Somehow it came through in spades with a slew of stellar new releases and live(stream) shows in the new normal.


1. Nobody Lives Here Anymore — Cut Worms
Cut Worms wasn’t on my radar until Spencer Tweedy covered “Last Words to a Refugee” on an episode of the Tweedy Show in November. That indirect recommendation rocketed to the top of this year’s chart. (The title is also somehow perfect for 2020 even though it doesn’t quite make sense in that context…)

2. The Neon Skyline — Andy Shauf
A Paul Simon-esque concept album about a night out at the local watering hole (remember those days?) that plays out like a short story. A unique yet timeless sound that I really dig. (The fact that there’s a recurring character named Judy–which is also my dog’s name–doesn’t hurt.)

3. Devotion — Margaret Glaspy
I really dug Margaret Glaspy’s first album. This sounds nothing like it. Alternatingly poppy and dancy and sweet and vicious, I dig this one for all those reasons and then some. 

4. Sam Doores — Sam Doores
Once the fiddle player in Hurray for the Riff Raff, this eponymous solo debut has a nice New Orleans folk vibe to it. Released pre-pandemic, it became a go to for soothing casual kick-back listening as the year wore on.

5. Lamentations — American Aquarium
Sad songs make us happy. Top-notch songwriting from the most genuinely authentic voice in Americana. Also the inspiration for the Musical Heroes of the Pandemic section below.

6. Spirit Guide — Benji Hughes
When your favorite solo artist releases their first new to you album in ~6 years, anticipation abounds. Benji came through with a 47-minute single that hides 14 tracks of a concept album loosely themed around spirits and ghosts. And that’s not all Benji had up his sleeve this year…

7. Pop Up Jim Bob — Jim Bob
When the singer of your favorite band releases their first new to you album in 6+ years, anticipation abounds. Jim Bob came through with his most Carter sounding solo album–including an eerily prescient 30 second single (recorded and released pre-pandemic) titled “2020 WTF!”

8. Father of All… — Green Day
The best Green Day record since Dookie, not counting their semi-secret Foxboro Hot Tubs side project that this is reminiscent of. The fact that it both is Green Day and sounds nothing like Green Day blew my mind and made me smile more with each listen.

9. Serpentine Prison — Matt Berninger
This may have been my most anticipated album of the year, and it sounded more or less exactly as I imagined. More EL VY than National, and that’s fine by me.

10. Painted Shield — Painted Shield
I tend to be on top of upcoming music releasees, but somehow (2020 WTF?) this one eluded me until I heard Mason Jennings casually mention on a livestream that his new band with Stone Gossard was dropping their debut record that same week (!!!!!). It’s strange and glammy and wonderful. You had me at Mason & Stone, and won me with a song called “Time Machine.” But why isn’t the band called Stonemasons? Biggest missed naming opportunity since Petty Cash.


1. A Lovers Extreme / Another Extreme — Benji Hughes
Back in 2014, these two records were in a 3-way tie for second place on my year-end list. Originally released as OXOXOXOX & XXOXOXX via Benji’s website, they’re back with new titles, new artwork, and a wider release as thematic sequels to A Love Extreme.

2. summerteeth (Deluxe)Wilco
One of Wilco’s classics gets the super deluxe demos and outtakes treatment, with a fascinating blend of early takes, different lyrics and live sessions. Plus “Viking Dan” might be my favorite new old song of the year. So weird, so awesome.

3. Wildflowers & All The Rest — Tom Petty
Another super deluxe, but at the core it’s really setting right what once went wrong by restoring Wildflowers to the double-album Petty originally intended. If only the label left Tom (and Virginia) alone back then.

4. Lockdown Sessions — David Ford
David Ford did a marvelous job of releasing & reorganizing older (and newer) tracks from his vaults via Bandcamp as companion pieces to his fortnightly livestream shows. My 2 favorite archival releases were The Ones That Got Away (essentially a best of the EP/B-Sides compilation) and The Lockdown Archive: Songs for the Road which celebrated his under-appreciated second album. (Additional bonus points for “The Bar is Open” — my favorite new song about COVID.)


This is usually my favorite section of this annual post, reminiscing on a year of live shows and highlights. This year was different for obvious reasons — but live music was still ever-present in new and unique ways. So I’ll break this out a little differently:

Pre-COVID Shows:

Supergrass @ Casino de Paris — 2/4/20
Back in 2014, we took a vacation to Paris & London to see the last ever Carter USM show. On the way home my wife asked when we could go to Paris again. “When Supergrass reunites,” was my off the cuff reply. I kept my promise — and I’m so glad I did with what transpired after. I consider this band to be the underrated champion of the 90s britpop era. (Blur vs Oasis? My answer is Supergrass.) The ‘Grass were back, and it felt like they never left.

Glorietta @ Antone’s — 2/13/20
2018’s album of the year was supposed to be a one and done collaboration and supergroup tour between solo projects. But as David Ramirez said when Glorietta took the stage as a surprise headliner for Luck Reunion’s annual Lucky Draw, “McRib is back!” It was a delightfully ramshackle performance that left me on a high around why I love live music so much–ironically making it a fitting final live and in person show to witness before the world turned and left us here…

Heroes of the Pandemic:

A silver lining of last year is the fact that it happened in the future. Twenty or even ten years ago the technology may not have been ready to shift the bulk of working and socialization online, but in 2020 it did a pretty solid job of making lemonade out of lemons where it could. I know it’s not the same, but below are some of the performances that kept us sane.

The Tweedy Show — Jeff Tweedy & Family
Jeff Tweedy sitting in his living room, playing songs from his back catalogue plus a lot of random covers with his sons Spencer & Sammy. It’s charming, laid back and real–and easy to imagine this is what a normal evening in the Tweedy household might be like. Originally airing EVERY NIGHT (!!!), it’s since scaled back to 3-5 days a week. But with 141 episodes and counting, I can’t overstate how awesome and caring and cool it is that a musician would connect with their fans in this way for free during trying times.

Alone Together Tuesdays — Hayes Carll
Episode count isn’t the way to evaluate these sort of things, but there’s comfort in routine so I’ve really come to appreciate some regularly scheduled programming. Hayes Carll has broadcast live on YouTube across 35 Tuesdays in a virtual reboot of his old Enough Rope with Hayes Carll series he once broadcast monthly from the Saxon Pub in Austin. Stories and songs for times like these with a true genuineness behind the whole production.

Lockdown Sessions / Milk & Cookies — David Ford
An alternating themed performance and benefit concert for Reverse Rett, David Ford shared his “whiny little English boy playing the blues” stage persona with a great mix of originals, covers, stories and surprises. My single favorite livestream of the year was the episode where he played a 40 minute medley of songs without stopping or speaking at all. Drop the mic, that ruled.

The Sad Song Revival — BJ Barham
In the earliest days of lockdown, when we were still adjusting to what was starting to be called “the new normal” and before it simply became “normal,” BJ Barham of American Aquarium was the trailblazer of what this new musical world could look like. He played free shows on Instagram and Facebook. He played ticketed full-album acoustic shows on StageIt. He played full-band, full production value full-album shows for a higher ticket price. He took requests, he told stories, he logged in early to interact with commenters before the show. These actions and the pureness of his intentions moved me from a casual fan to a big loyal one. He made us smile more in these instants than any sad song ever written.

Private Zoom Concerts — Smooth Hound Smith
While many artists experimented with the busking-style live show with virtual tip jar format, Smooth Hound added the ability to book a private show on their website. We did four of them over the course of the year (starting with each of our birthdays, and then “hey, why not?”) and had a terrific time chatting with the band, collaborating on setlists, and sharing a more personalized type of concert experience.

One highlight: After a scheduling snafu caused the band to inadvertently stand us up for show number 4, as an apologetic make good they offered to learn and cover any song we chose. (“Any song…?” I asked.) We picked “O Lonely Soul, It’s a Hard Road” by Mary’s Danish (or by Local Boy from Timely Persuasion, depending on your point of view). They nailed it, leaving us speechless that a band could bust out this obscure song we had no expectation of ever hearing live, giving it a new life and seemingly having a genuine great time doing so.

Private Computer Shows — Benji Hughes
I booked Benji Hughes to play my work holiday party via Zoom. He had a karaoke machine! And an extreme time was had by all. In a normal year, that would be enough to drop the metaphorical ball on this blog post and call it a year in review. But wait, there’s more…

Remember that scheduling snafu with Smooth Hound Smith that begot a cover of “O Lonely Soul…” referenced above? We had ten people in various remote locations waiting on a band that (explainably in hindsight and with no ill intentions) stood us up. What to do? I booked another band. Enter Benji on short notice, playing a Zoom show that left everyone floored. Piano, guitar, originals, covers — and yes, more karaoke. Another extreme time was had by all.

Really dropping the mic for now. Happy new year. 2021 FTW!


2020 Hindsight Commentary: 25 Minutes To Go, Across Twenty-Six Winters, Prologue (Reprise)

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Shel SilversteinPhoenix Mourning, and Katy Keene.

25 Minutes to Go

My recollection is the switch to present tense in the second paragraph was intentional, but feels misguided here. (Much like the other time I noticed it…) Starting present tense and keeping it until the transition to the lottery numbers is how I’d redo it today. (I’d also start with the red liquid image.)

That list is all manifestations of time travel, not building blocks. (It’s also true…)

Across Twenty-Six Winters

The “was it all a dream?” fakeout would work better if it was less overt.

If there’s a better illustration of subliminal mental time travel than Jeff Tweedy using so much post-September 11th imagery when writing Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in a pre-September 11th world, please let me know.

The above line ties together the 9/11 theme with the aborted inspiration for the Local Boy section. It also has me picturing the doctor at the hospital as the 2020 equivalent of Jeff Tweedy. I’m wondering if he ever looked different to my younger mind’s eye.

“You won’t be hearing Won One on twofer Tuesday” is cool, but feels like a missed opportunity for a “One Hit Wonder Won One” bit of wordplay.

Drifting into second person is a great change of pace for the conclusion given the circumstances, but I wish younger me stuck with it throughout this chapter vs bouncing around.

I completely forgot about him seeing Nelson and the redheaded girl together! Another bit of sequel bait…

The one line M. Ward blink was definitely sequel bait.

Full disclosure: Nowadays I’m not a fan of the “and that’s how this book you’re reading was written” endings to novels, but it worked better here than I was anticipating from memory as an explanation for the endless namelessness.

“Hate needs a name” is one of my favorite lines from this book. And according to Google, I’m the only one to have ever used it.

Prologue (Reprise)

The most logical reason for my past self to have decided against the “Is she really going out with him?” opening line would be how it eliminates this bookend.

Exactly who is looking out for the sister as the last line infers? Not necessarily who you think…

In the original commentary, I cryptically wrote: “Without giving too much of my intent away I’ll just say this: I definitely know how the story ends, but I don’t know if this is actually the end of the story or not since there might be a sequel.”

Since I’ve mentioned “if there’s a sequel” so much in this new commentary — and 12 years later there still isn’t one — I might as well wrap things up with an overview.

At the end of the saga the sister marries Nelson. If there is never a sequel, Nelson is the husband here. The narrator stopped hating him / stopped meddling, and they lived happily ever after.

If there is a sequel, the loose plan was:

-She has a different husband in this epilogue. Book 2 starts with “Prologue (Reprise)” verbatim.

-The first proper chapter (Let’s call it 27 Jennifers…) has the old man show up and give a variant of the Doc Brown “something has to be done about her kids!” speech, kicking off another time travel adventure.

-Remember how Nelson used to be an alcoholic? Remember how alcohol makes it easier for a mental time traveler to take over their past body? Remember how Nelson is “trapped” in the past? Add it up 🙂

At least that’s the way I’ve thought the sequel should go. But I don’t know if I’ll ever write it.

That said, I mentioned at the end of 24 Hour Party People that this 2020 hindsight exercise inspired me to think up a companion piece that’s not quite a sequel but could be fun. I plan on taking a run at it during NaNoWriMo this year.

Until I figure out how this plays out, I’ll be coy like my 2008 self was. Here’s a hint:

Also by the same author: Volume One

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

25 Minutes To Go  |  Across 26 Winters  |  Prologue (Reprise)

2020 Hindsight Commentary: 22 Days, 23:59 End of the World, 24 Hour Party People

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by 22-20s, Carter USM, and Happy Mondays.

22 Days

I alternate between thinking the split “For What It’s Worth” quote is super forced or conversationally clever.

It seems the old man figures out the “rules” of paradox prevention a little too fast, but that might be because he already knew the answer.

The Hate vs Love monologue always reminds me of the song “Love, Hate, Love” by Alice In Chains. But it’s really me conflating that song title over the lyrics to the song “Confusion” from the same album.

I have no idea what “That’s probably how you blinked out of the hospital the first time” means. I think he’s saying he lost the ability to time travel previously but got it back — though that’s unnecessarily convoluted.

Involving the Dad in the final jailbreak is the right move, though the manner of the recruitment feels a little too convenient.

23:59 End of the World

My third favorite chapter title (behind Wounded Kite at :17 and Won One)

“The plan itself was actually quite good” was not my best work for the opening line of a chapter.

“Winging it isn’t really the right word”—because winging it is a phrase…

Trapping Nelson I the past works plot-wise, but the setup and aftermath are pretty lame. I mentioned in the original commentary that I decided to stash Nelson away in case there is ever a sequel. Whether or not that happens is still a big question mark, but if there is a major arc would involve the narrator and Nelson teaming up on a time travel mission.

Can we trust what we learn about the Dad’s mindset when the old man is the go-between messenger?

Though a bit of a sneaky trick, the cliffhanger does pump some much needed intrigue into a sagging narrative.

24 Hour Party People

The explanation of the many little deaths is super confusing, but after a few rereads I think it does work.

“Repeating trips to narrow events down to a single cause and effect pair would ensure that positive changes are allowed to repeat universally rather than risking they’ll come undone accidentally” more or less sums up how time travel works in the 2017 novel The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland.

“Timely persuasion as a means to infinite perfection.” 🙂

On the other hand, I don’t think “if our timing wasn’t right…one of us would be dead from the other’s point of view” makes any sense at all.

I’ve always been wish washy on if I’d ever do a sequel, including in this series of 2020 hindsight posts. But in the midst of rereading this chapter I got an idea for a short story companion piece type thing and spent an hour loosely outlining it…

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

22 Days  |  23:59 End of the World  |  24 Hour Party People

2020 Hindsight Commentary: 19-2000, 20ft Halo, Now We Are Twenty-One

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Gorillaz, Supergrass, and The Mr. T Experience.


The phone call would work better with a glimmer of false hope it was the redheaded girl looking to reconcile.

“Writing off” any concern about the tan van wasn’t really a mistake…

Why the heck would he give an LBDG acronym answer to a question about the logo without the LBDG on it? The explanation is pretty weak.

Why are there 2 doctors? And why isn’t one of them the same one from the other hospital blinks?

The AMs should be A.M. like chapter 10. (And like the Wilco album.)

Someone recently asked me how he didn’t notice the phantom card while playing all of those games. My explanation was “it’s on the bottom for a reason.” Rereading I think that logic holds up — though why it took him so long to notice the duplicate is a less explainable problem.

Aside from the very end section, not much happens in this chapter. The three big pieces are right (accepted to the study, they know about LBDG, someone left him a time-displaced playing card), but could’ve been folded into the next chapter more effectively.

20ft Halo

I guess there are at least 3 doctors, since the “first” one is different from the other two?

In hindsight, the scene revealing it to be the same hospital should have come sooner. Get accepted to the study, picked up by the van, drugged, wake up in the same hospital, a few tests, blink, LBDG, more tests, cards, older self finds him.

“Hadn’t yet happened to live that long” is now the frontrunner for most awkwardly forced lyrical reference that nobody will get but me.

The card technically should have gone through the bandage and hit his cheek based on the established time travel rules applied to displaced objects.

I forgot the redheaded girl was his first wife! (Funny how you can surprise yourself with your past self’s writing sometimes…)

Now We Are Twenty-One

And we’ve come to the backstory chapter! Yes, it’s a trope. But man, it’s a fun trope.

“Years from now and years ago…” is a great chapter opener, and would be an even better overall opening line to a story.

If time travel does exist, this “your conscience is your future self” explanation still makes a ton of sense to me.

Title alert: “Not just timely persuasions as they had come to be called…” (I can’t remember if this line begot the title or if I had the title and worked it in.)

Sometimes I think the microscopic injectable self-replicating nano time machines may have been an unnecessary and outlandish detail, but maybe not

All in all, this has been my favorite chapter to reread years later. I got so absorbed I barely stopped to nitpick as I’ve done previously. Yes, it blazes through a series of “tell don’t show” revelations, but the pace is crisp without feeling rushed and the reveals fill in a lot of blanks without feeling like infodumps. Author bias is certainly in play, but I’m sending my younger self a subliminal pat on the back for this one.

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

19-2000  |  20ft Halo  |  Now We Are Twenty-One

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Wounded Kite at :17, 18 and Life

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Pavement and Skid Row.

Wounded Kite at :17

Still my favorite chapter title!

A few too many “from the pains”

Technically it’s not a frozen thing anymore after it comes out of the microwave.

He jumps into the time travel sex ed theory a little too fast. (Everything in this chapter seems to happen a little too fast.)

The Local Boy version is called “Don’t Know When,” but I suppose the narrator would use the proper song title.

When the dad realizes who he is it should have gone: “Dad sat on the couch. A smile seemed to come to him slowly. It was a sad smile just the same.”

If past me claimed that GnR never released another good original song post Izzy Stradlin, that would arguably still be true today.

Wrong “acknowledgements” again. (And I’m not exactly sure how he was going to “discretely thank the original artists” in said misspelled acknowledgments.)

Doesn’t make sense for the dad to reference the “nagging doubts come to you” Carter lyric unless he learned that song — which he shouldn’t have by the 1 per artist rule. (That said, “The Only Looney Left in Town” would have been a great Local Boy song…)

The ending bit and cliffhanger save the chapter.

Despite the nitpicks of being over-explainy and rushed, story wise this is one of my favorite chapters.

18 And Life

…and then I negate the impact of the cliffhanger immediately after the chapter title. The first three paragraphs of connective tissue don’t really serve a purpose. “Over the next several weeks…” would have we a better starting point.

The Local Boy artifacts in the basement most logically belong to the narrator, but I don’t recall why he tries to pass them off as belonging to the mom. (His subconscious would encourage him to collect them even if he didn’t want to.)

“I’ll do some damage one fine day” is an example of a shoehorned lyrical reference that tries too hard.

Memory gap section would have been a perfect place for “What am I doing in this dive bar?” I’m trying to remember when past me discovered that song.

I wonder if the phone number ending in 5234 (LBDG) made readers think it wasn’t real and couldn’t be dialed. (It’s still live, and directs callers to study.lb-dg.com to download a shorter version of the questionnaire. That was a really fun side project.)

“…in a latent show of our impending separation” isn’t exactly how “show, don’t tell” is supposed to work.

Similar to the last chapter I still like the plot points here, but things seem to move a touch too fast.

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Wounded Kite at :17  |  18 and Life

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Prophet 15, Christine Sixteen

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Supergrass and Kiss.

Prophet 15

“Revelations of her revolution” is still a great line…and still a Googlewhack. (Or it used to be before Google stopped crawling the online version because I didn’t have time to make it mobile friendly.)

“Won One” is a real song my friend Chris Evjy wrote in college. I haven’t heard it in over twenty years, but in my memory it’s still one of my favorite songs of all time. (Yes, I know that’s a little extreme.) A handful of old mixtapes exist somewhere with a live version recorded on my radio show, but after countless hours trying to track one down in the attic of my childhood home I gave up. Mainly at this point I want to hear it again to see if it’s really as great as I remember.

Why is the Local Boy open mike debut on Halloween? My past self could have at least had a throwaway joke about a costume.

The list of Local Boy songs contain an easter egg very few people have discovered. The first letter of each song points you to a website. (In hindsight, putting Dash 7 by Wilco in the middle of the list might have helped.)

I wish there was a little more agonizing over the song stealing implications between the 2 set lists. I mean, 1 paragraph? Really?

“Debonair” & “Start Choppin'” are awesome, but not exactly “a barrage of hits…”

“One more chord to play” is a reference to a different Chris Evjy song.

“Use the gifts you gave yourself” is my favorite nugget of writing advice. Re-reading the original commentary for this chapter reminded me the whole Local Boy subplot is a classic example of that.

Christine Sixteen

The narrator could have shown more concern around the fact that his grandparents house that he knew in the future was gone before its time. (And by “more concern” I mean “any concern at all.”)

Another batch of still, still, still.

I wish the Local Boy name was foreshadowed at the coffee house open mike show or elsewhere before popping up out of nowhere here.

“Author of the hit singles” makes no sense. “See Local Boy perform his hit singles…” 

On the other hand, a musician performing “in his own backyard!” might have been my current COVID-era self sending a message to my past self.

Quite a lot of smoke in the trailer after being inside for “less than a minute.”

The “Let me clear my throat” reference is pretty bad.

I had to double check the popularity of double albums in 1970 when writing this commentary, which means I probably should have done so directly in the text too.

The last paragraph of this chapter reminds me of the song Bill & Annie by Chuck Brodsky, but I didn’t discover that song until several years later. (It would even tie back to the tomato on the plane!)

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Prophet 15  |  Christine Sixteen

2020 Hindsight Commentary: No, For The 13th Time & Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by The Wonder Stuff and Beck.

No, For The 13th Time

My (completely unrelated) work in progress novel starts a chapter with the same exact “Seeing the maid of honor reminded me of the Hearts tournament” sentence as this one. Originally it was an early draft lark for a laugh, but my unreasonable side wants to keep it.

By the established rules, he should have accidentally blinked to the hearts tournament upon seeing the maid of honor.

The change of pace to have only his head above the floor is a more clever scenario than I remembered, though I wish it went further than a one-off inappropriate upskirt crack. (At least my past self had the decency to dress the players so it was only a passing thought.)

I vaguely recall doing this to avoid/discourage another “tell yourself you’re from the future” redux. It’s effective in that regard. And I still buy the floor of a busy party is a great place to hide in plain sight. People rarely look down! (I’ve worn mismatched socks for nearly 30 years and very few people notice until someone in the know points it out.)

Changing the Violent Femmes line for grammar misses the point of musical Tourette’s.

Today I could pretty much rewrite the party arrival paragraph by fully quoting “Why Do These Parties Always End the Same Way?” by Benji Hughes.

You aren’t going to sneak hiding or re-playing the queen of spades past anyone while during a game of Hearts, but somehow Nelson didn’t get busted.

It’s a little too subtle here (which might mean I did it right), but the version of the narrator scribbling on the chalkboard is another instance of his older self head hopping in to take control.

Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods

Having a line like ”My father and myself were closest to me…” make logical sense still makes me proud.

Though not incorrect to refer to the multiverse here (the narrator is writing this down after the fact), it’s not the best place for the first reference to it.

I wish I flashed back to the comment about the in-laws vs the way younger author me handled it here.

That “stain on my shirt” bit is one of the more subtle lyrical allusions. I love it, but understand not everyone will connect the dots even if they know the song it comes from.

The section breaks come at odd places here. Younger me must’ve thought it was too short as 3 separate chapters.

Convincing the father to take the bet is too conveniently easy, and weaponizing the younger dad’s womanizing hasn’t really aged well. (The intent was to trigger the time travel reproduction dominoes while also juxtaposing the two versions of the father in a nod to BTTF. It’s innocent enough and in line with the period, but still interesting to think about how I’d handle it today.)

There should have been more to the dad being unemployed vs criticizing his son for wanting the same.

The part where the narrator justifies his crazy, potentially paradox inducing plan is a solid section. (At least until that AWAB part. Ugh…)

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

No, For the 13th Time  |  Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods


2020 Hindsight Commentary: Won One, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Local Boy & Bob Dylan.

Won One

This chapter should have started at the bar. My younger self had a habit of writing mostly continuously, prompting these bridge scenes.

Was there really such thing as “an ample selection of microbrews” in the year 2000?

Way too many “With that I…’s” throughout. (5 to start sentences, which doesn’t seem bad but is.)

Drifting between past and present tense was an intentional choice to illustrate the way brain waves interact between two time traveling selves. It was a great idea at the time, but looks like mismatched tenses to me now.

Following the redheaded girl home could have lasted more than a sentence, giving him time to reminisce, ponder, flashback, etc.

“Thunk rhymes with drunk” as the segue out of his thoughts and into the bar still amuses me.

The BTTF quote is super forced, but I do still dig the bit at the end of this chapter when his older self takes control.

Time travel rules wise, a blackout is the perfect time for the consciousness of another self to take over (and this was written before The Butterfly Effect came out). It is a little unintuitive since you typically pick a memory to travel back to, and a blackout is the absence of one. The idea here is that you’re more susceptible to timely persuasion while in an inebriated state.

“I refuse to undo what I’ve already done!” refers to setting the sister up with Nelson — something we already know the old man will later change his mind about…or does he?

When he passes out, his other self relinquishes control and the blacked out body collapses. That’s why he doesn’t remember any of it in the next chapter.

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Fun fact: If there’s ever a sequel, I’ve always planned to resume chapter numbering at 27 and re-use this song for chapter 35 — revisiting the wedding from another point of view.

How could I not find a way to fit in a “No Scrubs” reference here?

This chapter may be the only time “incesticide” has ever been properly used in a sentence.

The suspense around his younger self potentially not showing up should have lasted more than a couple of sentences.

I forgot that I did use the “Is she really going out with him?” line here, which makes me annoyed my younger self didn’t think to open with it. (I also cringe at my younger self’s “b***h has him whipped” line…)

(Note: I reread my original commentary post where my younger self said he considered that opening but decided the line worked better here. He was wrong…)

The big font thing is a little obnoxious, but I love it. (Sorry, BD!)

2 “circumstances” in the same sentence of the objection. Ouch…

With that…

Also 2 dumbfoundeds in this chapter. I need to go back and gift my younger self a better thesaurus.

Lots of blows are landing square.

Dad should have threatened to kill his invisible son, mirroring the chase scene from earlier.

Yes, I am laughing that the last line of the wedding chapter is “piece of cake.”

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Won One  |  Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Eight Days a Week, Drivin’ on 9, 10 A.M. Automatic

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by The Beatles, Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, and The Black Keys.

Eight Days A Week

Sorted/sort word choice is a little awkward.

The narrator’s logic of tackling his attempts at saving his sister in reverse chronology still makes sense to me, but his logic of making a completely unrelated and self serving time trip right after explaining this plan is a head scratcher.

His sister “turning fifteen” during the cribbage scene is a neat bit of phrasing that I wish I could say was planned, but I’m pretty sure was a happy accident.

If I could go back, I’d drop the motherf@#$er inside joke and have the Dad yell without the cuss.

Drivin’ On 9

I never noticed the “Drivin’ on 9” vs 9/11 parallel in the chapter title before now.

A barhopping memory is a better anchor point to blink to than a library, but it should have been about a song playing at a bar (if not a bar band…)

“Discarded dumpster discoveries” is a pretty good line, even with author bias in play.

Conversely, “the office I worked in as a bitch” is cringeworthy now.

Nowadays I criticize stories that reference times ending with :00. :15, :30, :45 as being unrealistic, but my past self had no problem with it. (My current self also picked up a habit of setting alarm clocks and oven temperatures to palindromic numbers, which feels like something the narrator might do. Who made who?)

Using italics before he realizes he spoke aloud are not a mistake. Both selves were tuned in to each other (and other others) telepathically, making it feel like he spoke aloud when he didn’t.

The logistics of how he would pin himself down on the couch, have that conversation, and then stand up are a little fuzzy. (Plus the “I’m stoned and half out of it so I won’t question the fact that my future self is here” doesn’t play quite as well as I remembered/intended.)

I still like the bulk of this chapter, but the end falls flat/fizzles fairly fast.

10 A.M. Automatic

Kudos to Bryan Davidson for convincing me to “officially” make AM/PM a different size font like you’re supposed to throughout, which looks especially good in the paperback chapter title.

I’m still torn on whether the lyrical Tourette’s should be obvious or subtle. Which works better?

The odds were in my favor that I’d still be able to at least observe from a few feet above or below. Easy come, easy go, little high, little low.


The odds were in my favor that I’d still be able to at least observe from a little high/little low.

Probably could have handled the elevation foreshadowing better or as a surprise.

That Beach Boys reference is so well placed it makes me lean towards subtle. Same with Pearl Jam a little later. You barely realize it’s a reference.

Reading the transition to the creepy hospital still gives me the same surge of giddy adrenaline it did when my past self went off-outline and that scene wrote itself in the first draft.

There is no way I didn’t check if “straightjacket” was one word or two. Two words seems wrong. I wonder if my younger self misunderstood what a dot in the middle of a dictionary word really meant (it’s syllables, right?)

If he blinked back to the day of the plane ride, he hasn’t told himself what to do yet so his other self shouldn’t be committed. Unless he kept going back and we’re seeing the aftermath of many blinks. But I don’t remember my intent. (Other changes “catch up to you” when you go back to real time, so could be his older self still meddling — or lying.)

I sooo wish it said “she stood me up” instead of “she stood him up”

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Eight Days a Week  |  Drivin’ on 9  |  10 A.M. Automatic

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Five Seconds to Hold You, 6ix, Tram #7 to Heaven

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Devics, The Lemonheads & Jens Lekman.

Five Seconds to Hold You

Feels there should have been a little more of a riff on the (unfounded) rumors that Kurt wrote most of the songs on Live Through This.

Covered, cover to cover.

My past self (via the narrator) citing a Reverend Horton Heat / Butthole Surfers bill “inexplicably” selling out is hilarious in hindsight.

The bench went back in time, so it should now be “missing” in the future.

Quibbles on execution aside, I do still enjoy the concept of the O Henry / Twilight Zone style arc of this chapter where he succeeds in controlling his time travel but can’t complete his mission due to a physical technicality.


Has that “drown my sorrow” typo has always been here? (I also can’t decide and/or can’t remember if it was intentional or a typo.)

This dual-leaguer stuff is unnecessarily confusing.

A “recent library memory” is a vaguely lame way to blink and lazy writing.

As the back room is described, the force of the bowling ball probably would have carried it out of that back room completely. Maybe his older self planted the ball for him to find, or stood back there to stop it.

Technically he threw Glitzy through the pins a month earlier, but with this time travel thing being so new to him I let him get that one wrong on purpose. He’s already acknowledged being bad at math outside of bowling.

If he was sitting on a stool when he blinked from the bar, the fall down bit should have happened again upon his return. (A better way to handle would have been to have him stand to specifically avoid that. It doesn’t say he didn’t….)

“Who injected you?” implies someone else was a possible answer.

“Stunned by this turn of events…” is a little over the top coming right after such a big reveal. Definitely a “show, don’t tell” moment.

Tram #7 to Heaven


That airplane blink should have blocked something important vs being a pure setup for the elevation rule. As is it’s mostly unnecessary.

The second half of this chapter (starting in the car with his father) is one of my go-tos for public readings. A nice midpoint section that tees up a lot of the overarching plot pieces without getting too spoilery. (Depending on the audience, I sometimes pivot to the first bowling scene or his first songwriting session with Local Boy since there’s no actual time travel in this section.)

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Five Seconds to Hold You  |  6ix  |  Tram #7 to Heaven