Monday, July 16, 2018

Stuff You Slept On, Alternatively Titled "layzman's filler" -- zman Edition

You should check out "Done by the Forces of Nature" by The Jungle Brothers. Perhaps the coolest thing I ever did as social chair was put "Feelin' Alright" on a party mix--a bunch of Thetasfrom southwestern Virginia wearing pearl earrings and cardigans spontaneously started dancing to it even though they didn't know the song at all. One of them even went "Alright!" when she heard the singer go "Woo-oo-oooooo-oo-oo" at the beginning of the song. That's how good it is.



1989 was a banner year for influential albums: "Three Feet High and Rising" came out in March 1989, followed by "Paul's Boutique" in July, then "Done by the Forces of Nature" in November. All three, in my humble opinion, influenced the way people sample. For example:



And this:



It makes you wanna freaky-deaky, right?



Although the album was produced by DJ Red Alert, an East Coast stalwart, you can hear the West Coast influence in songs like "'U' Make Me Sweat," which sounds like early Dr. Dre:



You can also hear how this song sounds like "Belly Dancin' Dina," albeit much angrier:



The album also features a number of conscious Afrocentric songs like "Acknowledge Your Own History."



If you're just going to download one song, and, like Connell, you like your hiphop bangin, I suggest this:



Despite having 16 outstanding tracks, no one ever talks about this album, let alone listens to it. You can change this. Get the album now and rock it at your next BBQ--no swearing, no racial epithets, some sexual innuendo but it's oblique enough that prudes won't get it. How can you have a bad time when this is going on in the background?





Sunday, July 15, 2018

Official G:TB World Cup Final Preview

On paper, today's World Cup Final between France and Croatia appears to favor Les Bleus. One of the youngest teams in the tournament (tied with England, with only Nigeria sending a younger roster), France nonetheless boasts luminaries all over the pitch. From Atletico Madrid's sensational Antoine Griezmann and Chelsea's Olivier Giroud up top to the brilliant attacking athleticism of 19 year-old Kylian Mbappe to Paul Pogba's majestic presence and skill to the imposing central defense pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Verane and the flashy if not always consistent Hugo Lloris in the net, the French are deep, talented, and appropriately arrogant.

And I haven't even mentioned the best player in the world, N'golo Kante, France's diminutive
wrecking ball of a defensive midfielder, nemesis to attacking plans, coverer of more ground than kudzu, and radar-guided disruptor.

A tall order, then, for this gritty Croatian side.

The Balkans aren't lacking for talent of their own. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic (key men for Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively) make up a formidable midfield, one that will test Kante's considerable engine. Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic scored the overtime goal against England that sent his country through to the final, and an amazing overhead tally in the 2017 Champions League Final. Liverpool center back Dejan Lovren anchors the Croatian defense.



France has built into the final, with a middling at best performance in the group stage that saw them lucky to beat Australia before going through. They trailed Argentina, 2-1, in the second half of the first knockout round match, until they flipped a switch and roared to three goals in 11 minutes. The French comprehensively dismantled a good Uruguay squad in the quarters before dominating a Belgium team that had played some of the tournament's best attacking soccer to reach the final. The French are coming off of consecutive shutouts in games where Lloris really hasn't had all that much to do. They appear, in the best sense, imperious.

Rakitic, Modric, Frenemies
The gritty Croatians, on the other hand, have had to go to extra time in each of their three knockout stage matches after cruising through the group. They eliminated Denmark in a shootout, then did the same to host Russia after conceding a goal with three minutes to play in the second extra time period. Then, after going down early to England, Croatia found an equalizer in the second half and won the game on Mandzukic's goal. They dominated the Three Lions for the better part of the game's latter stages. They've been tested far more sternly than their finals opponents. The question is whether their legs will hold up against a young, fast, physical team.

For much of their semifinal game, England's quicksilver Raheem Sterling gave the bulky but slow Croatian back line fits with his pace. Mbappe might be the fastest player in the tournament, and Griezmann doesn't lack for speed.

Croatia is much closer to Romania than in France, so Gheorghe's positive energy may play a role, but it's not all that close, so the power may be muted. My kids have been in France this week, which means nothing, but it's interesting. They're in Italy now, so, really, no impact there.

France are an overwhelming favorite to win, at -210 on the money line (bet $210 to win $100), while Croatia are at +175 (bet $100 to win $175). I've been trying to find ways to credibly pick the underdog, but I can't convince myself of anything other than a France win. Croatia will likely sit back and absorb pressure, try to put bodies on Mbappe, clog up the central midfield and limit Pogba's influence, and hope to get Modric free on the counterattack to create. It could well be an ugly affair.

And when it's over, a young French team will lift the trophy. Which should scare everyone else over the next cycle or two - they're young, skilled, and really good.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Serious as Serious Can Be

I've spent a fair amount of time in my hometown over the past three weeks. It's a 30 to 45 minute drive each way so the trip gives me plenty of time to listen to music. zson accompanied me on one or two of these trips and he has a bizarre musical palate for a seven-year-old--I suspect no one else in his class gets in the car and demands LCD Soundsystem or The King Khan and BBQ Show songs by name. Lately he's into Jane's Addiction and we were listening to "Nothing's Shocking" as we pulled into Teaneck. Driving around town listening to this album made me feel particularly maudlin, as it pulled up memories of time spent inebriated with friends twenty-five-plus years ago. Then "Summertime Rolls" came on.



For a second, the line "It's oh so serious, as serious as can be" made me think of the serious state of things around me, but then I snapped out of it. This is a goddamn love song about summertime love, the one of the most fleeting and youthful things on earth. It isn't serious!



I realized I needed to lighten up, remember the Gheorghe mission statement, and try to take things in stride. So from the depths of my iTunes library, here are a bunch of fun songs about summer to help you (or at least me) get through the rest of June.










I used to know how to make yootoob videos turn into a playlist in an embedded player but clearly I don't remember how. No matter! It isn't worth fretting over. Just enjoy the tunes.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Good Job. Good Effort.

I leave tomorrow morning for three kid-free days in the Virginia Piedmont. Before I do, though I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this with you.

In this image, Billie Joe Armstrong hugs a reporter. Probably.
I'm a big fan of The Washington Post. It's unquestionably one of America's best newspapers, and it's consistently good across all of its sections.  Though I no longer get the daily version in physical form, I do get an actual paper on Sundays. And perusing the Sunday Post (in this order: Sports, Business, Outlook, Style, Front Page) remains one of the simple pleasures of my week.

Today, though, Ben Bradlee spun in his grave.

In a story about a campaign in England to get Green Day's 'American Idiot' to the top of the UK pop charts in advance of President* Trump's visit to London, the Post cited an article written by Billie Joe Armstrong on ClickHole. As noted by The A.V. Club, ClickHole is affiliated with the Onion, which we all know (well, most of us know, and one Post reporter definitely knows now) is a satirical website, and as such, really does print fake news. The A.V. Club goes further in assisting the Post in checking the veracity of its sources, offering the following advice:
  • "Generally, reputable news sources end in a .com or .org web address. Beware bizarrely complicated domains. For example, nbcnews.com is real, whereas nbcnews.com.co.net would be bullshit.
  • If you’re not sure if a site is real, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “about us” link. Many faux news sites, even completely unfunny ones, say they’re “satire” in their mastheads.
  • Google is your friend. If you see an image you think might be Photoshopped, do a reverse image search. You can also search fact-checking sites like factcheck.org, politifact.com, or that old reliable, snopes.com, to verify dubious-sounding assertions or statistics.
  • ClickHole is part of the Onion family of websites, of which only the site you are reading right now deals in non-joke information".
This will NOT help the mainstream media and right-thinking America win the fake news battle. Of that I'm quite sure. 

And now, off to get drunk and try to forget the world.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Anthem to a layoff / Appreciating 80's Clapton

Image result for unemployed gif

As most of you have heard, I was laid off in mid-March. It was for the best, to be honest. I hated my 60 y/o boss and her 60 y/o boss, both of whom enjoyed screaming and yelling at subordinates in a toxic, bureaucratic, heavily political atmosphere.  It was a bad match, like when you realize you have a boyfriend/girlfriend who is totally crazypants and you need to get out, despite the reasonable paycheck/sex. I needed them to break up with me for a couple specific reasons, and it happened. Life is too short for that nonsense.

With that said, it has not been a great time to be an out-of-work Wall Streeter. The model is changing for my industry, and not for the better. I looked hard at other industries and other cities, and even went to a franchise convention. Hooters was there! Not sure the wifey would love that one.

While unemployed, I was able to get to the gym quite a bit, because no job. So I had that going for me. As a creature of habit, I set a nice routine. I job-seeked (job-sought?) in the morning, ate a keto lunch at 1130, hit the gym at 1 and scooped kids from school at 3, often seeing my pal Zman there.

I realized one day in May that I was playing the same song every day on my five-minute drive to the gym without intentionally realizing it. It was a song I stumbled onto the previous winter, an 80's Clapton tune that I first heard Deep Tracks play on Sirius. I have come to realize I am a bit of a sucker for 80's Clapton. I love Forever Man, and will admit that when I was a kid watching Spacecamp, I registered the scene where bad boy junior astronaut Tate Donovan rolls into camp in a Jeep cranking that song. I remember thinking that was very cool. I finally got a Jeep in 2001, but I'm not sure I ever cranked Clapton while peeling into space camp.

(If you want to see the scene that I remembered, go to the 4:09 part of this clip here. It does not really hold up. I was not cool at age 11 and did not realize that aspiring to be like Chris Knight from Real Genius was not a valid life goal.)

Anyhoo, the tune that became my unemployement anthem, the one I cranked on my way to the gym every day, is Ain't Going Down, from Clapton's 1983 album Money and Cigarettes. I can't tell you why it resonated with me like it did, but messages like we're all lucky to be alive, and I still got something left to say hit a mark.

That song reminded me to stay humble and focused in my search, as I sought to keep providing for myself and three other important people in my life. After a couple months of keto lunches, pec wailing and job searching, I linked up with a former boss and former colleague who did not know I was on the beach. There was some mutual courting, and things came together quickly and cleanly, allowing me a couple more weeks off and a quick family vacation.

So enjoy the song below. And do yourself a favor and be kind to the next decent person who tells you they are out of a job. You can take the measure of a man/woman by the way they respond to you when you tell them you are unemployed and want to have a chat with them.



I think I will play this song on my commute on Monday morning, but maybe not again for a while after that. Thanks Eric. And thank you, Spacecamp, even though you tried to pretend Lea Thompson and Kelly Preston were unattractive nerds.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Gheorghasbord

It's pouring buckets here on the lake, and I'm going just a tiny bit stir crazy, so you're the winner, gentle reader.

Just two days before host country Russia takes on heavily favored Croatia in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, an interesting bit of business news from the Balkans. Troubled Croatian retail food conglomerate Agrokor agreed to sell a 47% stake to a group of Kremlin-backed banks as part of a restructuring designed to get the company back on solid financial footing. Agrokor's revenues
represent 15% of Croatia's GDP, and the firm's 60,000 employees make it the largest privately-held employer in the region.

The timing here is...interesting. 15% of Croatia's economy is in Russian hands on the eve of a huge international sporting competition between the two countries. Maybe we'll see a curious series of just-off touches by Luka Modric, or a suspiciously awkward foul by Dejan Lovren in a crucial situation (that'll probably happen regardless). Putin's a damn mastermind.

Scott Pruitt, arguably the most corrupt member of the Trump administration (and what a hell of a titanic accomplishment that is), resigned. I don't have a joke to make here. I'm just amazed that someone so transparently engaged in grift and mendacity lasted as long as he did. Unfortunately, his successor, Andrew Wheeler, is a coal lobbyist and protege of Oklahoma Senator and noted insane person and climate change denier Jim Inhofe. So, less corruption, more competently executed planet rape.

Here's a poetic justice headline, non-Pruitt category: "Lions killed poachers, leaving behind shoes, rifles and 'not much' else, officials say". Three dudes who were up to no good started making trouble in the Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa, armed and heavily-provisioned, and apparently looking to slaughter the Reserve's population of rhinos. A pride of lions, described by Reserve head Nick Fox as "our watchers and guardians", went all Scooby Doo on the meddlesome villains, only slightly more violently. Said Fox, "They picked the wrong pride and became a meal".

This bodes well for England, for what it's worth. Three Lions, and all that.

A headline of a far different sort: "Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity". We live in an age of electrified arachnids? Fuck it, man. Let Andrew Wheeler have his way and burn the whole planet down. Earth 2 has to be a nicer place.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

America Filler

I'm on a mini-walkabout, sorta trying to disconnect from the realish world with family on a lake in Ohio. And I've been trying for a while to write something that encapsulates a coherent philosophical framework that explains how I view the world and our place in it. Trying, but failing.

Until I figure it out, in recognition of our need to feed the tree of Gheorgheness with the blood of new content, here's something I posted on Twitter yesterday that I'll return to over and over again. This is how I think about America:

I think of patriotism like I think of parenting. I love my kids fiercely, and I get pissed off when they fail to do the right thing. I love my country fiercely, and I get pissed off when it fails to do the right thing. Expecting more of America doesn't make me less of a patriot.

God bless America. May she actually be what we believe she already is.