Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Happy World Goth Day. And a Trip Down Memory Lane for TR.

I found out it was World Goth Day about 30 minutes ago and wanted to share that news, just because. No mention of anything goth-related can go without including this magnificent video. So first off, enjoy this:

When I was in college, I spent summers as a waiter at a very ordinary New Jersey diner. I came across all sorts of characters. Line cooks who couldn't read, illegal aliens working under false identification, fellow college kids who wondered why they didn't instead work at a bar/pub, women with many babies and no husbands, drug dealers, alcoholics and the like. It was a fascinating time in the underbelly of the very lowest end of the service industry.

I had a crush one summer on another waitress. Her name was Sheila and she was a college student who was a year or two older and much more NYC-savvy than me, which exacerbated that age difference, at least to my fragile 19 y/o self-esteem.

Sheila was a goth. Not a full-on character like the folks above, but the kind who shaved the lower half of her hair under her pony tail, wore dark-rimmed glasses before they were "cool," wore bright red lipstick, and spent a couple nights a week in NYC clubs like the Limelight.

Sheila was smart and cool and funny and we would have music debates all the time. She listened to my pleas that she dive into Phish and Widespread Panic, and politely dismissed them. She tried to explain to me the appeal of her goth scene. She invited me up to NYC to go to a club, but after an uneventful rave experience w/ Zman, Shem, Kyle and future dropout Garrett P in VA Beach in '92 (you read that right), I was hesitant.

In the middle of that summer ('94, I think), Sheila came up to me one day at work and told me she made a mix tape for me. This threw me off. Did she like me? It was the kind of thing a girl did when she liked a boy, right? The tape was littered with Christian Death songs. I gave it a shot. It didn't take, but it made my interactions with her all the more awkward, b/c it now seemed like she liked me. And I knew I liked her. And I knew I was driving a beat-up Dodge Caravan and was broke and was not anywhere close to holding my own in the goth/club scene. Conundrum.

At the end of the day (or end of the summer to be precise), nothing happened. I was just an emerging, underage party animal desperately trying to grow out my ROTC-mandated short hair in my 3.5 months home from college. The idea of hanging with her at Limelight to have a crack at a hookup/date was way too far out of my wheelhouse. It's just one of the dozens of "I wonder what would've happened..." memories* I have as I look back on my days as a young buck at the Jersey Shore. I miss you Sheila.

*Paul Simon captured this sentiment pretty well a long time ago:

If you took all the girls I knew when I was single
And brought them all together for one night
I know they'd never match my sweet imagination
Everything looks worse in black and white

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

One Last Ride for Lincoln

If you like Falco's masterstroke "Rock Me Amadeus," and I know you do, then you love the Salieri version, the 8-minute Stretch Armstrong rendition.  It features, just after the 1:00 mark, the DJ coming on and giving a Cliffs Notes account of Mozart's life:

1756, Salzburg, January 27, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is born
1761, at the age of five Amadeus begins composing
1773, he writes his first piano concerto
1782, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart marries Constance Weber
1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart becomes a Freemason
1791, Mozart composes The Magic Flute
On December 5th of that same year, Mozart dies
1985, Austrian rock singer Falco records "Rock Me Amadeus!"

The late, nearly great Falco was ahead of his time, some say, and his byte-sized summary fits our ADD world more than ever.  I'm going to borrow from him as Random Idiots records "I'm Drinkin' with Lincoln," a new tribute song that features a similar timeline.

This is a public service announcement... with guitar!

1809, Kentucky, February 12, Abraham Lincoln is born
1832, at the age of 23, Abe joins the Illinois Militia
1834, he is elected to the Illinois House of Representatives
1842, Abraham Lincoln marries Mary Ann Todd
1847, Lincoln becomes a U.S. Representative
1860, Abraham Lincoln is elected President
1865, April 9, the Civil War ends
On April 14 of that same year, Lincoln dies
2005, American blogger Whitney first appears as Abraham Lincoln on Memorial Day
2015, Whitney is photographed and recorded as Lincoln for a Chrysler Museum exhibit
2018, May 28, Whitney makes his final Abe Lincoln appearance ever
I'm drinkin' with Lincoln!

For the unfamiliar (not sure who that'd be), back when I was living in Arlington, a friend of my folks called me up and said, "Hey, we're starting this new parade in downtown DC, we have a George Washington impersonator, we could use an Abe, and you fit the suit."

From that, a legend was unborn.

That first year I had three days to prepare.  They sent me a costume and fake beard. I walked onto the mall blind to what lay ahead of me.  I was interviewed by Canadian radio and Russian TV.  It was weird, to say the least.  I walked down Independence Avenue as our sixteenth president.  My mom and my kids (aged 3 and 1) cheered me on.

I said I would do it again if they asked me to, but figured they'd ante up for a real Abe. They never did.

They did pony up for a horse and carriage.  And a Mary Todd for a few years.  They made me furnish my own suit and hat in the years that followed. And I grew a real beard. So now I show up on the mall at the designated time each year and we roll down Constitution Avenue right by the White House.  That's a lie... I show up with 10 minutes to spare and they sweat it each year. Dude, the suit is hot.

Anyway, 14 years later, I'm hanging up my stovepipe and string tie for keeps.

I moved to Norfolk six months after that first appearance.  It's no bargain making my way up to the nation's capital on a holiday weekend, often on a boomerang same-day trip. I get to see Rob and Teej and Marls and folks sometimes at Cowboy Cafe, but I can do that another time of year.  My girls (now almost 17 and almost 15) couldn't give less of a crap about their dad dressing up like a president and riding down the street. The Abe thing is played.

In truth, it's been a long and fun run.  A number of friends have seen me in action.  I've had beers as Abe in the Sign of the Whale afterwards, though without the stovepipe it just looks like Jebediah got lost. I've done some fun things in that hat and beard, a number of which will go unblogged.  I will miss it a little.  But not enough.

Every year the same yuk-yuk Confederate re-enactors make the same stale joke about how we ride about a block from Ford's Theater and that I should watch out.  I've got one last ride to not get shot.  In this insane political climate, I'll be watching out.  Keep your fingers crossed, my people.

And if you happen to be anywhere near the District this Memorial Day, give me a call and maybe the President will by you a cold one.  Otherwise, watch for me on TV.  Below is last year's broadcast.  You can skip to the 28:00 mark...

To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Odds and ends filling up our content bucket like the water from the biblical deluge plaguing the Eastern Seaboard.

For starters, The Virginian Pilot weighs in with the definitive pronunciation of Norfolk, as chronicled by one William S. Forrest in 1853. According to Mr. Forrest, "NORFOLK — correctly pronounced Norfoke — is a Saxon word, compounded of North and folk, and may, with some propriety, be rendered North people." What say ye, Norfolkers?

If it helps you think about it, I've signed us all up for a subscription to Gossamer, a new magazine from a pair of Huffington Post alums focused on the cannabis lifestyle. Now that eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational weed and 21 other states have legalized some form of usage, marijuana is coming out of the shadows and into the light, the glossy, soft-focus, People magazine light. According to co-founder Verena von Pfetten (totally made up name, by the way), the magazine isn't focused on the green per se, rather "...weed is more like the lens through which they approach stories. People who enjoy smoking pot, “kind of want to open their mind and try new things.” [I really need a copy of the AP Style Guide, 'cause I think I kinda butchered the punctuation of that quote. Prolly because I'm high.]

I'm gonna post this unobtrusively, because it may well be wishful thinking, but today I became convinced that Donald Trump is probably going down at Bob Mueller's hands. He might not serve time in prison (though I bet at least one of his idiot sons does), but today's revelations about Saudi Arabia and the UAE offering assistance to the Trump campaign in defeating Hillary Clinton are precise, and damning. Fuck, it's all damning, to be honest. I was right about Trump in the run-up to the election, and I hope I'm right now. And more than that, I hope it's not too late for us to recover.

It's easy to underplay it, because we live so far away, and all we see are photos. But y'all, the earth is literally opening up and spewing liquid fire in Hawaii. Or, said differently, the planet is low-key reconfiguring itself in real time. I've been to a place on the Big Island where lava flows into the ocean. It's among the more spectacular things I've ever seen, even from hundreds of yards away.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights are one game away from reaching the Stanley Cup finals. As an expansion team. If this were the NBA, MLB, or the NFL, this would be the biggest sports story of the past quarter-century. It's amazing, and only slightly less so than the Knights' pregame shows. Vegas, baby.

I attended the Preakness Stakes in 1996, when Louis Quatorze edged Skip Away by 3 1/4 lengths. If you think I pulled that from memory, you may not have ever attended a Preakness. It was, in the parlance of the time, a shitshow. I won $600 on the race, and spent it all that evening at a bar. I met my future in-laws for the very first time at brunch the next morning. I wasn't hungover, thankfully. Because I was still really, really drunk.

The infield at Pimlico on the best of Preakness Saturdays is a drunken bacchanalia. Yesterday, in the midst of the aforementioned deluge, it was as if The Road met Animal House. I can't even imagine what the infield was like.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Theme Songs, and Such

You Gheorghies, as you're all undoubtedly aware, are among the most magnificent bastards I know. And, man, do I need some good bastards right now, 'cause the motherfuckers, fascists, and heartless bastards running shit in Washington have me down. I started to write a post about it, but it quickly ran to word salad without a point. My thesis, as it were, was a muddled mess. I'll work on it.

As is the case in situations like this throughout my life, I turned today to music.

This one doesn't really fit the theme, but I'm down a rabbit hole, and I love this song.

Chime in with your own bastard-fighting tunes in the comments. Or better yet, append them to the post. It'll be our own little revolution rock.

Challenge accepted, Robbie! Here's one fun one for a shockingly dry Friday here in the NYC area (at least until dark). From your pal TR. 

Here's my favorite bastards song.  Here they come... From your buddy Whitney.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Stuff You Slept On, Alternatively Titled "layzman's post" -- Squeaky Edition

G:TB superfan Squeaky is a musical connoisseur extraordinaire. I don't know if he has more GB of music than Whitney, but he has a shitload of music. So much so that I requested multiple layzman fillers from him. Here's the first.


What is Mastersystem? It's a supergroup that TJ and everyone else on G:TB has never heard of before.

They are comprised of members from Frightened Rabbit (a few of you have heard them before) [zcomment: I've heard of them, through Squeaky, natch], Editors (you haven't heard of them) and Minor Victories (not a chance). All their music is indie rock/pop slash whatever the kids are calling it these days.

Mastersystem just released an album April 6, 2018.

The single, “Notes On A Life Not Quite Lived”, is below but you can hear the whole record on the streaming service of your choice at this point.

The music is more on the dirtier, grungier side of indie rock. It has a little harder edge than most Frightened Rabbit stuff but not punk. But the soul-searching lyrics are still present.

As is wont with album releases, the members of the band get interviewed. Below is one such question and response from Scott Hutchison, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit and Mastersystem.

Speaking with Stereogum about the themes behind the record, Hutchison said,

“I thought it would be interesting to play around with the themes of restlessness and dissatisfaction on this album, both as a counterpoint to the exuberance of the music and as an obvious reference to the angst and tension I heard in the grunge and fuzz of my teenage years. This is not the angst of a teenager, however. This is the anxiety of a man in his mid-30s, and for a lot of this record I found myself wrestling with the ways in which I am not quite doing life right, in spite of appearing to lead a relatively joyful, playful and artistic existence.”

Bold emphasis is mine. But if you spent any time listening to Frightened Rabbit you can always hear about his fight with his own ‘demons’ through his lyrics.

Is this album revolutionary? No. Is it a desert island classic? No idea, but doubtful. Just started listening to it today but after a few passes it’s squarely in my musical wheelhouse.

So why mastersystem, why the bolded emphasis, why this post? Well on May 8 Scott walked away from a Glasgow hotel after tweeting the following tweets.

“Be so good to everyone you love. It’s not a given. I’m so annoyed that it’s not. I didn’t live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones.”

“I’m away now. Thanks.”

As a lot of us know firsthand, depression can bring out the worst thoughts and actions. Let’s hope he is safe but it’s not looking too good right now.

Unfortunately we have more information about Hutchinson now than when Squeaky sent me this. Enjoy what I assume is Hutchinson's last album.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ranking Topps 1980's Baseball Cards: #1 - 1983

Almost eight year after we started this feeble exercise, we finally bring it on home.

To recap, here are the rankings we came up with, after a proprietary and highly quantitatively-oriented, multi-variate analysis: 

#10 - 1986
#9 - 1988
#8 - 1982
#7 - 1980
#6 - 1985
#5 - 1987
#4 - 1981

#3 - 1984
#2 - 1989

Those of you who were Algebra majors may deduce that one year in this decade was excluded. That year is 1983, our winner.

Readers of our series will remember the many factors put into play to measure each set. Who were the biggest rookies? Was it a good year for baseball? What were the card's aesthetic features? And on and on it goes. At least for winners losers like me.

The 1983 set had two big attributes going for it. First, it had a trio of rookie cards from players who had legendary careers, two of whom essentially* played their whole careers with one team (Boggs, Gwynn, Sandberg). Second, it had a great look to it, with one action photo and one portrait-like photo on the front of each card. And given it was 1983, there was some strong MLB stache action, as seen by both Boggs and Gwynn.

*Sandberg had a cup of coffee with the Phillies in 1981 (6 plate appearances), but was added as a throw-in to the infamous Ivan DeJesus - Larry Bowa trade after that season. Oopsy for the Phillies. 

While we're here, let's pay homage to the great Tony Gwynn, who put up some gaudy stats worth repeating here: 3,141 hits, .338 career average, 8 batting titles, 5 seasons with 200 hits, zero seasons with more than 40 Ks. The card below shows us the Oscar Gamble-esque look he sported in the early 80's, and reminds us what he looked like before he got fat.

And last but not least, let's salute Wade Boggs. Not for his opposite-field hitting, but for his prodigious beer drinking. It is the stuff of legend, up there with stories of Andre the Giant's beer drinking. There are lots of stories about it on the internet, which means it's surely true. Read this if you don't believe me.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

What Will You Tell Your Grandchildren?

Jim Comey's pulled off a unique double over the past year, managing to inflame the passions of both the left and right wings of the American body politic. The former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spent 90 minutes on Friday talking about that, about his time at the Bureau, and about his fairly optimistic view of the future of the United States in a candid discussion with Ben Wittes of Lawfare.

The conversation, recorded for the Lawfare blog's podcast series, was open to the public, so I took advantage of my proximity and a nice hole in my late-week schedule to attend. Throughout a discussion of complex issues and an overheated time in our political history, I was struck more than anything by Comey's decency, humility, and humanity.

As he recounted the events surrounding his firing, Comey said that the only thing that made him angry was the way he was prohibited from saying goodbye in person to the people with whom he had relationships, like the custodial staff and the ladies in the special records room on the 7th floor of FBI headquarters. He called that aspect of his dismissal especially cruel.

Wittes is an admitted friend of Comey's, and the questioning was kind to the guy who many on the left fervently believe led to Hillary Clinton's loss in November. Comey noted that reasonable people have reason to criticize his decision to go public with the news that the FBI had reopened an investigation into Clinton's handling of emails, but characterized his choice as between an option that "sucked" and an alternative that "really sucked". Not exactly the phrasing I expected from a former FBI Director.

Comey took pains several times to pop his own bubble - he's either a very relatable guy, or a terrific actor. He routinely bought a sandwich in the FBI cafeteria for lunch (a practice far from the norm for past Directors) and asked questions of the people he found himself in line with. On one occasion, he spoke with an enthusiastic young IT technician, who explained how much he loved working for the FBI before asking Comey, "So, what do you do?" When Comey responded, "I'm the Director", the junior staffer asked, "Of what, like a division or something?"

"Dude, I'm the Director of the FBI," replied Comey. His wife enjoyed that story, according to Comey, who was surprisingly funny.

Throughout the session, Comey never mentioned the current President* by name, though he pulled very few punches in describing the damage to norms his administration and a complicit Congressional GOP are doing. He castigated Republicans for the way they've drifted far away from the foundational values that have governed us for centuries, specifically talking about the rule of law, all in the name ephemeral political outcomes. His test is a simple one: What will you tell your grandchildren when they ask what you did to stand up and be counted? In his analysis, too many in the modern GOP will fail that test if they're honest with themselves.

In the end, Comey's an optimist about our country. He described a number of tipping points in our history where Americans rose up to affirm our common values and resist threats to our unique republic. The American people are a sleeping giant, as Comey sees it, and once awoken are capable of righting even great wrongs.

He analogized our current times as a forest fire, capable of doing great damage in the short term, but ultimately regenerative. Comey sees green shoots in the work being done by the press and certain Congressional leaders, as well as the increasingly vocal common people refusing to accept the erosion of certain norms. (For what it's worth, Wittes wondered if a giant meteor of death might be a better descriptor of modern America.)

I found myself understanding the former analogy, wishing it were accurate, and deciding that it might not be. But Jim Comey's seen a lot more than I have, and he's a lot smarter than the average bear, so I'll continue to hope he's correct.

And I'm pretty sure he'll have no problem answering his grandchildren's questions.