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July 31, 2017

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Love having baby nieces around the house; it means I can bust out my father’s 72-year-old highchair. #antique (at Meadow Brook Village, Fishers, Indiana)

May 19, 2017

Chris Cornell’s Soundgarden, True Pioneers of the Seattle Scene, Paved the Way for Nirvana and Pearl Jam

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Chris Cornell’s Soundgarden, True Pioneers of the Seattle Scene, Paved the Way for Nirvana and Pearl Jam

May 5, 2017

Why the uncut version of Dirty Dancing sucks

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I can tolerate a lot of things, but Freeform airing the uncut version of Dirty Dancing isn’t one of them. 

There’s a reason these scenes were cut. When you insert the storyline about Baby’s mother having a boyfriend she loved before her father, you’re creating a pointless subplot. You’re asking the viewer to invest in a story the movie does nothing to build toward and nothing to resolve. 

And then, right after that, you awkwardly stick a goodbye between Johnny and Penny right before Johnny says goodbye to Baby. What the hell? Even worse, they say they’re going to see each other in a couple weeks. It’s not even a goodbye as Johnny says to Penny, “You’re the best, you’re the best.” Great, and now you’re queuing up “She’s Like the Wind” when I’m still thinking about Johnny’s latent feelings for Penny. You’re sucking the passion out of the moment. Allow me to feel the heartbreak, you assholes!

Not to mention, if you’re going to show the deleted scenes, show ALL of them. Baby and Johnny basically do everything but have sex onscreen during one unaired dance scene. And it’s awesomely nasty!

May 3, 2017

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Never let a tree trimmer charge you an arm and a leg for something you can knock out for free with a minivan and a stepladder. And yes, my treescaping essentially revolves around the basketball goal. Because this is Indiana. (at Meadow Brook Village, Fishers, Indiana)

March 10, 2017

White man’s burden is bullsh*t

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Imagine eating a grilled cheese every day for, oh, 7,000 years. Then, in year 7001, you eat a chicken club sandwich for the first time. You want to tell everybody how good that chicken club sandwich tastes and how much that chicken club sandwich has to offer in terms of variety compared to just the grilled cheese. Now imagine someone saying, “Can you shut up about that stupid chicken club sandwich? I wish more people would talk about the grilled cheese we’ve been serving for 7,000 years.”

That’s how stupid people sound when they say oblivious crap like “Why don’t we have an International Man’s Day?” or “Why isn’t there a White History Month?” I’m a white male Christian. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody. And sorry Breitbart, but no, you aren’t entitled to be “fed up with identity politics" after having eaten the sociological equivalent of a Tic Tac. Identity politics is not even a blip on the radar of human history; it’s a shadow of a blip. Racist, misogynist white guys, meanwhile, have had the microphone for seven millennia. Wake me up in the year 14,000 or so, when we’re anywhere close to even. Until then, we need to stop being thin-skinned scrote sacks.

Happy 20th, Buffy!

Twenty years ago tonight I was sitting in front of a standard-definition television when the opening credits of the premiere episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer started to roll. The fledgling WB network had entrusted its new flagship show to a 32-year-old screenwriter by the name of Joss Whedon. To say Whedon rose from obscurity would be an exaggeration. He had been writing professionally for almost 10 years, first as a staff writer on the sitcoms Roseanne and Parenthood, later as the co-writer of a debut film by a new animated studio called Pixar. Maybe you’ve heard of this movie; it was called Toy Story.

But as fantastic as Toy Story was, Buffy was Joss Whedon’s game changer. He introduced us to that precocious 16-year-old who would go on to save the world from the forces of hell just in time for each season finale, while reminding us that the real hell we each had to overcome in our own unique Slayer way was high school…was college…was growing up. The show was hardly perfect throughout its seven-year run, but at its best, when the metaphors were flying and the dialog was humming, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the most intelligent, tragic, and hilarious thing on TV.

Whedon makes his living as an A-list director on the big screen these days, churning out “event movies” like The Avengers and its sequel (he actually kind of hated Age of Ultron). But for me, nothing will ever quite recapture the small screen magic of those three prescient sentences that started it all: “In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.”

September 1, 2016

THE LEADER OF THE BAND by Brian Sweany

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The story of my father’s musical life began not at Marian
College, or during his high school years as a drum major at Ben Davis, or even
in his childhood. It began in the 1940s, before he was ever born, with my grandfather,
Roy Sweany.

Upon America’s entry into World War II, Grandpa Roy enlisted
in the United States Army Air Force. He had terrible eyesight, was close to
legally blind. His Coke bottle-thick glasses barred him from combat. Grandpa
Roy was a house painter by trade, so he took his skills to a USAA base in south
Texas, where he was in charge of the maintenance crews for the B-26 Marauder
and later in the war, its replacement, the A-26 Invader. Throughout my
grandfather’s life, the B-26 and A-26 were his favorites. I never minded the
fact that he kept buying me the same two model airplanes for me every birthday
and Christmas.

Grandpa Roy also had another job on the base, a job he took
very seriously. He was in charge of the color guard who received the fallen
soldiers from overseas. The C-47 Skytrains coming low over the horizon would
put a pit in his stomach, and the sound of those Pratt & Whitney R-1830
Twin Wasp engines revving up and choking on gas would forever remind Grandpa
Roy of death and sacrifice.

It was toward the end of the war, when Grandpa was receiving
another procession of flag-cloaked caskets, that he noticed something for the
very first time about the color guard: The same soldier who was playing “Taps”
on his bugle had been at my grandfather’s side for the entire duration of his service
in south Texas. My father was fond of saying that he couldn’t remember a time
when he didn’t have an instrument in his hand. Grandpa Roy would confess to us
late in his life that when he saw that bugler, he swore right then and there he
would get his son to pick up a horn if it meant he’d never have to pick up a
gun.

John Sweany was born in 1945 in a small, two-bedroom,
asbestos-sided home in Mars Hill, a hard-scrabble neighborhood on Indianapolis’
near-southwest side. I would remember this neighborhood as blue collar, but it
more was more like no collar. My father was poor. I think he picked up that
horn and ran with it to escape as much as anything. Dad would eventually learn
to play every brass and percussion instrument. As a teenager, he rose to drum major
of the Ben Davis High School Marching Giants. They won multiple state
championships. They played at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. My father claimed
Ben Davis was so terrible in football in the early 1960s because all the
biggest guys in school were sousaphone players and bass drummers instead of
linemen.

My father would be the only kid in his elementary school
class to go to college. Curiously, he chose a school that not only didn’t have
a band, it barely had a music department. Marian College was a Catholic
institution tucked into 200 wooded acres on the near-northwest side of
Indianapolis. It was run by Franciscan nuns, and in 1954 became the first co-ed
Catholic college in the state. Its enrollment was a thousand students, a third
the size of Dad’s high school. And so, my father did what any eighteen-year-old
would do in a strange and uncertain environment: He walked into the head of the
music department Sister Vivian Rose’s office his first day on campus and said,
“Sister, get out your Rosary beads and start praying, because I’m going to
build us a marching band.”

The Marian Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps was founded
in 1964 with six members. They were in fact America’s first non-military
academy collegiate drum and bugle corps. Dad traveled the state of Indiana
soliciting donations. Nearly every instrument in the Corps’ early years could
be traced to an American Legion Post’s attic or basement. Dad would grab people
on campus, literally grab them, and tell them they were going to be in the
band. No musical background was required. At any given point in time, a third
of the band could claim never having picked up an instrument before college.
Dad believed he could teach anyone to march and play.

Belief is one thing, execution is another. From his years at
Ben Davis, Dad knew there were several marching band compositions whose notes,
cadences and marches were very basic. His goal in that first year was not to
teach his fellow Corps members to perform a lot of songs; rather, it was to
teach them to perform one song perfectly. The song he chose was, “My Country
‘Tis of Thee.”

The Blue Knights practiced and practiced, and then they
practiced some more. But something was still missing. They needed a focal
point, a rallying cry. To this day, no former Corps member from that original
class seems to remember when or why it happened. My father was no doubt at his
usual position at the head of the band, barking out instructions from his
familiar maroon megaphone. Maybe he was frustrated with their practice. Who knows?
But for whatever reason, he shouted, “WHAT’S THE WORD?” The band looked around,
not knowing how to respond. Dad said, “When I ask you, ‘WHAT’S THE WORD?’ I
want everyone to shout at the top of their lungs, ‘HAUGHTY!’”

Haughty. It became a mindset for the Marian College Blue
Knights. Not a mindset born of conceit, but of commitment and perseverance.
They were the little band that could, the band that literally rose from
nothing. After a rained-out practice, Dad would ask, “What’s the word?” On a
long bus ride to a performance at a high school football game or a nursing
home, Dad would ask, “What’s the word?” The response was always loud and
enthusiastic. The word was their tonic: “HAUGHTY!”

By spring semester 1965, the Blue Knights could play and
march to “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” in their sleep. There was plenty of
“haughty” to go around. But one thing the band didn’t have was a gig. Dad being
Dad, he wanted the biggest gig in town: The Indianapolis 500.

The story behind the Marian Knights and the 1965 Indianapolis
500 has grown to mythic proportions over the years, and I cannot
attest to its full and complete veracity, but I will retell as it was told to
me. In May 2016, when the Indianapolis 500 celebrated its 100th anniversary,
the Purdue University Marching Band celebrated its 97th year as the primary
band performing near the finish line. To quote an Indianapolis Star article
about the centennial race, “The Purdue Marching Band is part of the fabric of
the 500.” But in 1965, John Sweany wanted a piece of that action.

My father was no dummy. Even in 1965, he was well aware of
Purdue’s Memorial weekend monopoly. His approach was simple: He told the truth.
The Blue Knights were a tiny little drum and bugle corps. They weren’t there to
step on Purdue’s toes. With Marian’s campus only three miles away from
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it would be a nice gesture to let the
“neighborhood band” play. And besides, they really only knew one song.

Purdue allowed Marian to play on Race Day. On that sunny day
of May 30, 1965, the Marian College Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps marched
the two-and-a-half-mile oval of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With Dad leading
the way, they proudly played “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” over, and over, and over
again.

A funny thing happened in that race.

James Clark, Jr. was born into a farming family in Scotland,
the youngest child of five, and the only boy. Although his parents were opposed
to the idea, Jimmy Clark started racing at a young age in local road rally and
hill climb events driving his own handmade car, and proved a fearsome
competitor right from the start. In 1960, at the age of 24, “the Flying
Scotsman” became a Formula 1 driver, winning the 1963 and 1965 Drivers’ World
Championships. He finished second in the Indy 500 as a rookie in 1963, dropped
out of the race with mechanical problems in 1964, and came into the 1965 Indy
500 as the second-fastest qualifier behind A.J. Foyt. Jimmy Clark went on to
win the Indy 500. The rookie field in that race included Mario Andretti, Al
Unser, and Gordon Johncock, but interestingly enough, Clark was the first Brit
driver to win the 500 in almost 50 years. When my father woke up on Memorial
Day to read about the race in the paper, his eyes gravitated to one particular
line in the article: “With the Marian College Drum & Bugle Corps playing
‘God Save the Queen’ as they marched around the track before the race, it was
only fitting that Brit Jimmy Clark became the first British driver to win the
Indy 500 since 1916.”

Purdue didn’t get mentioned in that 1965 article, and Marian
was never invited back to the Indy 500. Dad got himself a girlfriend his
sophomore year. Her name was Dianna Mann, a bubbly sandy-blonde freshman from
the Southside. He of course talked her into being a flag girl. By the time my
father graduated in 1968, the Marian College Blue Knights Drum & Bugle Corps had grown from six members to over a
hundred. The “little” band that could comprised an astounding ten percent of
the Marian student body.

Apparently, “Founder of America’s First College Drum &
Bugle Corps” looks really good on an application. The University of Notre Dame
offered my father a graduate assistantship, essentially a full ride to grad
school. Upon graduating from Marian, Dad started toward his Master’s in Music
and realized a childhood dream by becoming the drum major for the Band of the
Fighting Irish. The stories of my father’s time at Notre Dame are equally
mythical—the legend that I was conceived on campus, for example—but I will
share one in particular. The date was October 11, 1969. Notre Dame was playing
Army at Yankee Stadium. The Irish won 45-0, but it was the band’s halftime show
that everyone talked about after the game. The week prior to the game, my
father had inserted a “surprise” marching formation into the performance.
Traditionally, Notre Dame ended every halftime show by forming the famous
interlocking “ND” sign and playing the “Notre Dame Victory March.” On October
11, 1969, the band started into the fight song, and just as everyone stood and
started cheering, the Band of the Fighting Irish formed a peace sign—at
midfield, in Yankee Stadium, versus Army—instead of the ND logo.

Depending on how much of that story is accurate, it
qualified as arguably the only moment in Dad’s life when he wasn’t a total
square, but I digress. Before he went off to Notre Dame, Dad actually found
some time to marry that bubbly sandy-blonde from the Southside. Dianna, my
mother, taught math to the students at nearby St. Joseph’s High School while
Dad finished up his post-graduate studies. In early 1971, the young newlyweds
moved from South Bend back to Indianapolis, and Dad returned to Marian College
as music professor and band director. In April 1971, I was born.

My memories of those early years are vague, but a few things
stand out. We lived in an apartment on the Southside of Indianapolis off
Thompson Road. It shared a parking lot with a Red Lobster. Both the apartment
complex and the Red Lobster are still there. Our next door neighbor, Uncle
Angelo, was a fat, bald guy with black-rimmed glasses and a salt-and-pepper
mustache. He tended bar at the Milano Inn but moonlighted as our family’s
guardian angel. When someone broke into our apartment when Dad was out of town,
Mom grabbed me and went straight to Uncle Angelo’s place. “Dianna, you-anna-uh-Brian stay here with-uh-yur Aunt-uh-Pat,” he said with his thick
Italian brogue. He went over to our place in full crime-stopping gear—white
ribbed tank top, stained boxer shorts, loaded rifle on his hip. Uncle Angelo’s
wife’s name was Pasqualina, or “Aunt Pat” to everyone who knew her. She fed me
my first solid food—pasta in marinara sauce.

And I remember the Marian Drum & Bugle Corps.

It’s almost impossible to forget the Corps. All the national
tours and trips, from Canada down to Florida. Dad’s mother, Grandma Hazel,
hand-stitching parade banners and flags until her hands cramped up. Grandpa Roy
sanding down, painting, and repurposing old bolt-action WWII rifles for the
color guard and rifle line. Me sitting on a nun’s lap, looking out a charter
bus window in the Disney World parking lot, as my father shouted to the Blue
Knights through his maroon megaphone, “What’s the word?”

Eventually, the Marian College Blue Knights Drum & Bugle
Corps faded into history. After my father left teaching to pursue a more
lucrative career in the automotive business, his successors at Marian did their
best to keep that “haughty” spirit alive. But by 1980, the Corps was no more.
Dad held on to the dream, however. In 1992, at the ripe young age of 46, he was
already envisioning retirement. He owned a couple car dealerships, one in
Columbus, Indiana and the other in Greencastle, with plans to expand. He had a
growing family. I was the oldest, at 21 years of age, followed by my sisters
Jennifer (18) and Coleen (15), and our miracle of modern science, J.R., age
four. Yes, I said four. Back in 1986, right after he got his dealership off the
ground in Columbus, Dad had an epiphany: He was a small business owner who had
spent so much time building his business that he felt he missed watching his
kids grow up. He told my mother he wanted a baby in the house, and he wanted to
get a vasectomy reversal. The result was John Roy Sweany. Mom and Dad named him
after his two grandfathers, John and Roy. J.R. was born in April 1988.

Dad peddled his financial success into a seat on the Marian
Board of Trustees. In May 1992, I met my father on Marian’s campus after
commencement. I was enrolled at Marian at the time, in what would become the
first of several junior years in college. Dad wanted to take me out to lunch,
but he talked me into a walk across campus first. He told me the same stories
he had told me a hundred times. About the bench behind Alison Mansion where he
first kissed Mom, about the time he got busted skinny-dipping in the Alison
Mansion pool. He always loved Marian, but when he was on campus, he loved it
even more. “They didn’t pay me much of anything when I taught here,” he said to
me. “But it was the best job I ever had.” Later, as we finished our walk, Dad
confided in me something that wasn’t all that surprising. “When I retire,” he
said. “The first thing I’m doing is coming back to Marian and getting the band
back together.”

Grandma Hazel died from lung cancer in 1981, courtesy of a
three-pack-a-day habit. We lost Grandpa John, my mom’s father, to a pulmonary
embolism in 1989. In July 1992, Grandpa Roy’s body finally gave out on him too.
I said the eulogy at Grandpa Roy’s funeral. I remember looking down at my
father in the front row of the church. He had been crying for the five days
Grandpa had been gone. I kept wondering how horrible it had to be to lose your
father.

I didn’t have to wonder too long. Less than three months
later, on October 1, 1992, my dad was killed in an automobile accident. I have
read the eyewitness accounts, the deposition of the guy driving the car that
hit him, and the autopsy report probably a hundred times. I can recall the
event almost to the split-second. Dad was standing in a garage stall at the
Indianapolis Auto Auction bidding on a GMC Sonoma for his used car lot down in
Columbus when a Ford Bronco came hurtling out of control from the repo/junker
line. My father’s body was cut almost in half. I try to pretend his death was
instantaneous and painless, but I’ve read the eyewitness accounts too many
times to pretend that was the case.

I’d like to say it was John Sweany’s “haughty” spirit that
forced my family to dust itself off and get back to living, but that’s just a
tad too mythologized, even for this story. We fell in love, we had families, we
got better. “Time heals all wounds” is such a cliché, but people who’ve
experienced terrible personal tragedy know it’s true. A part of you never stops
missing them, but as the space between now and then grows wider, you just learn
how to replace grief with forgetting.

Turns out that a lot of people didn’t want to forget John
Sweany, and nowhere was that more evident than Marian College. They renamed the
Maid and Knight of Marian Spirit Award, given each spring to the two seniors
who most represent the spirit of Marian, the “John Sweany Maid and Knight
of Marian Memorial Spirit Award.” They asked me to be the award’s official
presenter. And then, in 2007, I got a phone call. It was Daniel Elsener, the
President of Marian. There were big changes on the horizon for the little
school that could, Dan told me. Marian College would soon be renamed Marian
University, and they wanted to double enrollment and add more post-graduate
studies. “I’m calling you today because we fielded our first football team this
season,” Dan said to me. “There’s this story our band director told me about
how your father said only months before he died that it was his dream ‘to get
the band back together’ at Marian when he retired. Well, Brian, the football
team is going to have a marching band, and that band is going to need an emcee.
We’re getting the band back together, and I feel like you’re the only one who
can be the voice of the Marching Knights.”

I learned fairly quickly that nobody says “no” to President
Elsener, and I’ve been the Marian University Marching Band’s emcee ever since.

I’ve told a variation of this story at the end of Marian’s
Band Camp every summer for the last five years. As I recently re-told the story
to the 2016 edition of the MU Marching Knights, I felt distracted. I was almost
positive I left out some crucial details here and there. I know I confused “My
Country ‘Tis of Thee” with “America the Beautiful,” which is a fairly big
moment in the narrative to screw up. That’s probably why, as I was driving
home, I had a miniature panic attack. I didn’t want to have to read the story
next year from note cards, but I didn’t want to leave anything out either. How
many young men and women musicians would come through the Department of Music at Marian never knowing the whole John Sweany story? How many would look at the
MU Band Alum logo, see the bugle with the number “1964” inside of it, and not
know about Grandpa Roy standing on that tarmac in south Texas in 1945? And who
would tell that story if I wasn’t there to tell it? Granted, I’m only 45. But
my father was only 46.

Please, pass this story along. Don’t replace grief with
forgetting. Because my father was a really special guy. And like a lot of
people, I loved him dearly.

—Brian Sweany, September 1, 2016

February 22, 2016

Sweany’s Song of the Day: “I Got the Fire” by Montrose

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Artist: Montrose
Album: Paper Money
Released: 1974

The year was 1987(ish). I was a junior in high school when four of my classmates started a band. They named it FLEM. Aaron on base guitar, JR on drums, Brad on rhythm guitar and Corey on lead guitar. They played in an old army barrack near the airport. They didn’t have a singer, just some hammering guitars with their whole lives in front of them. The stage was in the front of the building, a space heater breathing exhaust over he crowd. An Atari 2600 was plugged into an old Zenith in the back. One night, in the middle of a heated game of Barnstorming, the TV just exploded. 

FLEM had a decent set list, but “I Got the Fire” and Iron Maiden’s “Waisted Years” were their signature tunes. A lot of people passed through the Flemshack, including my future wife. If I had to pick a favorite musical moment of my youth, it wasn’t any big-name concert. It was jumping in Aaron’s Malibu, heading to the Flemshack, and watching Corey do his best Ronnie Montrose impersonation on a Saturday night.

Can’t blame FLEM for not having a lead singer on this one. Few rockers had the pipes of a 26-year-old Sammy Hagar.

February 18, 2016

Sweany’s Song of the Day: “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions

Album: Love at First Sting
Released: 1984

I was 13 years old when I first heard this song
in 1984. At the time, I was still trying to erase from my memory the
milquetoast music with which my parents had cursed my childhood: Helen Reddy,
Kenny Rogers, Christopher Cross, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers. This
cured me alright. My two best friends in the 8th grade at Our Lady of the Greenwood in Greenwood, Indiana, Jim Mandabach and Randy
Eck, were obsessed with the video. The Scorps were so huge in ‘84 that on their
Love at First Sting tour, Bon Jovi was their opening act. I would eventually
see them a half dozen times in concert, including the 12-hour Monsters of Rock
show at the Hoosier Dome in 1988 alongside the likes of Kingdom Come, Dokken,
Metallica and Van Halen. Scorpions are the reason I fell in love with hair
metal. They’re the reason I first fell in love period, but that’s another
story….

September 6, 2012

From Tumblr

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BRIAN’S B-SIDE BOOGIE: A Look Back at Songs I Love that Nobody Remembers

Sugar’s “If I Can’t Change Your Mind”

Back in the 80s and early 90s, if you really wanted to look cool in front of that way-out-of-your-league college chick with the sexy Demi Moore bob, you’d simply say, “Yeah, I like The Cure and all, but Hüsker Dü has to be my favorite band.” Then, if she looked like she was wavering, you would bust out that mix tape from your martini-drinking roommate who had far better taste in music and reference “Bob Mould’s evocative and timeless melodies.”

In terms of songs that turn me instantly happy, few on my iPod can beat Sugar’s “If I Can’t Change Your Mind.” Founded by Bob Mould in the early 90s after Hüsker Dü’s untimely demise, Sugar was on the music scene for only three years. Packed with Mould’s trademark infectious grooves, their biggest and best album Copper Blue was named the album of the year in the UK, and with over 300,000 copies sold became Mould’s most successful commercial album.

Both the song and Mould himself have achieved more recent notoriety. Last year The Decemberists did an exceedingly average “solo b-side” acoustic cover of “I Can’t Change Your Mind.” (And I say that as a Decemberists fan.) And Mould’s song “Dog on Fire” is the theme music to The Daily Show. (Some of you might be saying to yourself right now, I thought this was a They Might Be Giants song. You’re wrong. So shut up.)