Monday, September 15, 2014

Andrew W.K., Humility, and Prayer

I confess that I didn't expect to read Andrew W.K. on the subject of prayer this weekend. And what's more, I certainly wasn't anticipating one of the best secular meditations on the topic from the erstwhile (and contemporaneously) hard partier. Inspiration comes from the unlikeliest sources, it seems.

In response to a question from a prayer-skeptical reader of his weekly Village Voice advice column (described thusly: Every Wednesday, New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or — no surprise here — a party.), Andrew offered a thoughtful response grounded in accepting unknowns and embracing our own vulnerability.

There are so many powerful messages in the column, but W.K.'s notion of comfort with the impossibility of universal knowledge and foundational importance of acceptance of uncertainty really resonated with me. "To know that you don't know is the definition of a spiritual awakening", he writes.

It's not our intent to get all Jack Handey on the world today, and I, for one, am looking forward to tomorrow's Ghoogles post. But we could all do worse than thinking about Andrew W.K.'s words. Because they really are wisdom.
"Being humble is very hard for many people because it makes them feel unimportant and helpless. To embrace our own smallness is not to say we're dumb or that we don't matter, but to realize how amazing it is that we exist at all in the midst of so much more. To be fully alive, we must realize how much else there is besides ourselves. We must accept how much we don't know — and how much we still have to learn — about ourselves and the whole world. Kneeling down and fully comprehending the incomprehensible is the physical act of displaying our respect for everything that isn't "us.""

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I'm heading over to Orlando today to see a show at the best part of the extremely touristy Universal City Walk. Some good friends and I are going to see DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist at the House of Blues.  When I heard that both Shadow and Cut Chemist were playing within an hour of my home I was immediately in. Life was good. I'd take a Monday off. Have some drinks with friends and see two hip hop DJ prodigies wreck a multi-turntable set. Then things got better. Much, much better.

Music fans are in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience when turntablists supreme DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist celebrate the legacy of Hip-Hop vanguard and Universal Zulu Nation founder, Afrika Bambaataa on their Renegades of Rhythm tour this fall.

“This has never been done before, definitely not on this scale. They’re HIS records, with his blessings. This isn’t just ANY copy of ‘X’ breakbeat, it’s THE copy, THE copy that started everything. Not just any records, the MASTER OF RECORDS’ records.” – DJ Shadow.

Using only vinyl pulled from Bambaataa’s historic collection – over 40,000 strong and permanently archived at Cornell University – DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist aim to present Bambaataa’s legacy in all its genre-busting and socially-minded complexity. DJ Shadow states, “His collection includes not just Soul and Rap, but also Soca, Calypso, Dub, Salsa…it’s obvious that this music was important to him, and it’s reflected in his own music. For example, when the Soulsonic Force is singing an African chant, it actually comes from a Manu Dibango record. That’s when being a crate-digger comes in handy – you have to be able to pick up on the references and reiterate them.”

Sorting through the collection with this holistic aim in mind was daunting. “The first sort was to make sure we didn‘t leave anything important behind. We definitely over-pulled,” adds Cut Chemist. To help them narrow their selections, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist focused on the appearance of the records themselves, “It was pretty clear what he played a lot and what he didn’t. The sure-shots were covered with tape and the jackets were beautifully tattered; that made it easier after a while to pull records.”

“The program will be multifaceted,” DJ Shadow explains. “Bambaataa as artist, exploring the influence of his classics like ‘Planet Rock;’ Bambaataa as collector, and the genre-defining breaks he discovered; and Bambaataa as peacemaker and force for social change. He influenced an entire generation worldwide, so we feel a great obligation to get it right.”

Naturally, it was paramount to the two DJ’s that the tour have the full blessing and support of Afrika Bambaataa himself. “I call on all who love Hip-Hop to come out, see them, hear them,” says the Godfather. “My story is our history in DJing.”

The Renegades of Rhythm tour will use six turntables and a variety of real-time effects. “It adds another performance level, real-time sampling from the record that’s being played,” says Cut Chemist. Visuals for the tour will be supplied by acclaimed video director, multimedia producer and regular Shadow collaborator Ben Stokes. The tour with be produced by Jamal Chalabi and Backlash Management.

The tour may be rooted in a historic vinyl collection, but both DJs are quick to point out that people should not come to this expecting strictly an ‘old-school‘ set. As DJ Shadow sums it up. “DJ Shadow + Cut Chemist + Bambaataa’s records + his blessings: it’s going to be epic. That’s all you really need to know.” Or, as Afrika Bambaataa puts it, “DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist are going to blow your funky mind.”

I'm now not exactly sure what to expect. That's not true actually. I expect tonight to to be epic.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Week 3 CFB Pick 'Em: Mark vs. Danimal vs. Blogger Editing Window

For the first time ever, Danimal has a lead on Mark. Please don’t misinterpret that as being cocky as having the lead for the first time in 18 weeks or so of picks is nothing to brag about, awwight? Robert, you have been Jones’ing (can someone enlighten us on the origination of this word?) to know what we are up or down financially. Well, last week I didn’t place one bet down for dollahs, unfortunately. So I believe I’m still 1-2 on the year on money picks, or maybe 2-3. Regardless, I’m down. I’ll get you a qtly recap at the end of the month, just simmer down.

A quick word on the Jags. I saw a funny tweet last weekend describing their game against the Iggles…I’m paraphrasing here – “The game was exactly like their helmets. One half simply glorious and the other an abomination.” I liked that. It stuck with me. And he was spot on. Henne was Foles in the 1st half supported by a defense that had their best half in years. Annnnnnd then Henne became Henne. A prediction on this week against the Washington Professional Football Team – If Henne plays nearly as poorly as last week’s second half, we’ll see Bortles. I also predict a Jags win.

And a quick word on the Hokies/OSU game. I’m happy for the Hokies, I am. But calm the fuck down Blacksburg. TR pointed out last week that OSU won’t be ranked in 6 weeks. He was way too kind. I’m no procrastinator, but if I had to guess I’d say OSU would be “pretty decent” without their QB injury, at best. With it, they are a big red & silver turd. So Hokie town, don’t get too confident.

Sorry…onto the picks.

West Virginia +3 at Maryland
12:00 p.m.

I’d be a fool to say that WVU “has it figured out”, so I won’t. But they are undoubtedly a much-improved team from last year’s clown car. QB Clint Trickett (2 T’s) has 700+ yards passing in his first two starts of the season. You might recall that their first game was against Alabama where the Mountaineers held them close, and not for a couple of dropped passes and a questionable call or two, who knows? Trickster actually threw for MORE yards against the Tide in that loss than he did in last week’s 54-0 drubbing of Towson. My one concern is that Maryland skunked this team last year, badly. Regardless, I’m saying WVU gets all up in the Terps’ shell and cracks them open.

Georgia -6 at South Carolina
3:30 p.m.
Whooa Nelly! Joe-Ja. South Carralaana. CBS. Verne Lundquist. Yessir! Three weeks in and we still have a whole lot of shit in terms of ball games today. This could end up being one. It COULD. Will it? Who the hell knows? It’s a big rivalry game obviously with the ‘ole baw coach at 1-1 and as a few here have pointed out, they haven’t looked especially impressive. BTW, they are 123rd in the nation in total defense. Georgia on the other hand….interesting. Veddy interesting. Could this finally be their year? I’m bullish on the dawgs. They’ve gone too long with too much talent not to make a run at it. This year’s talent starts in the backfield. Gurley as everyone knows is a beast and will probably be in the Heisman conversation. But take him out, and you got Nick Chubb, aka Chubby/Chubbstein/Chubbarino. Who’s that? Oh, just some frosh who has carried the ball 4 times thus far…..for 70 yards. And while running over and through people. Big people. Big athletic fast people that play in the SEC. These two guys are going to cause probs for the Cawwwcks’ D, which will open up the passing game. This line started at -2.5. I think Georgia wins convincingly. (I’d probably put down a BIG side bet that Hughes takes the ‘Dawgs here too)

Purdue vs ND
Over/Under 57.5
7:30 p.m.
Purdue scored 17 points against Central Michigan (who scored 38 points against Purdue). That’s 55 points. I don’t see Purdue scoring more than 7 against ND. We could and SHOULD see another goose egg here, right? So, I gotta take the under. ND 48 – Purdue 3

Not an ideal start for me this year. I'm down overall and coming off consecutive 1-2 weeks. Last week saw me suffer at the hands of a few relatively bad beats in the Michigan State-Oregon game and BYU-Texas. I need to get my mojo back.  I cheated a little and read Dan's picks as he posted before me this week so I'll take this time to say while I'm not officially picking the South Carolina-Georgia game I'm taking South Carolina +7  (my book is giving the extra half). South Carolina's defense has been awful but it's largely a result of atrocious pass defense. I say the Gamecocks stack the box and dare the extremely average Hutson Mason and Georgia's banged up wideouts to beat them on a regular basis. Georgia probably still wins but it's a close one.  (So you should probably take Georgia)

Baylor (-33.5) at Buffalo- Baylor has become a top tier Big 12 program in recent years. However, tonight's game AT Buffalo is your reminder of how long ago (not long) it was that Baylor was absolute shite. Can you imagine Oklahoma or Texas having to agree to a home and home series with the University at Buffalo (what the fuck is up with the "at"?). Baylor stud QB Bryce Petty is back tonight playing with a couple of broken bones in his back (WHAT?!!?) but I doubt he plays more than the first half. It won't matter. Baylor will score easily and often. Sic 'Em Bears.

Purdue-Notre Dame (-27.5) at Lucas Oil Stadium - This is pretty simple. Purdue sucks. I mean Purdue really, really sucks. They've given up 34 and 38 points to Western and Central Michigan, respectively. Notre Dame, on the other hand has scored 48 and 31 points in their first two games. Will the Irish suffer a let down after pasting Michigan? Maybe. Will that letdown allow Purdue to play Notre Dame closely? No way. I hate Notre Dame but I love money so give me the Irish. One last note: Do you know who Purdue passed over to hire current Head Coach Darrell Hazell? Former Purdue LB Kevin Sumlin. Yeah, that smarts.

Kentucky at Florida (-17.5) - Despite a losing week, all was right in my world last Saturday night. A 65-0 shutout by your Alma Mater's football team will do that for you. Yes, I know it was Eastern Michigan. I also know 65 points was about a month's worth of scoring for Florida last year. Kentucky is a program on the upswing ever since Mark Stoops came to town but they're still Kentucky and they're walking into The Swamp for a night game. Florida still has much to prove to me (we'll find out quite a bit about them next week in Tuscaloosa...I'm scared. So scared) but I truly believe they're better offensively in terms of personnel and scheme than they've been in at least four years. As I've recently taught my daughter to say Come on Gators! Get up and go!

BaconBaking's Recipe Guestie Returns

Salsa Verde

I love cooking, but I really love cooking for family and friends. Since my sister is in college, I can't cook for her every day, but I do like to make food in bulk, freeze it and then send her off with it when she comes home. Last night she was home for the evening and I got the chance to pack her a box of foods as well as load her up on freezer foods: ham and bean soup, cabbage soup, baba ghanoush, tomato sauce, and her favorite, salsa verde.

I love making salsa but I think the best way to make it is to roast all the vegetables first. You can see I'm really not committed to any particular recipe. One batch below has hot peppers and banana peppers, while the other is heavier on the onions. Both have tomatillos and tomatoes. Really, I’m just using what I get in the CSA box this time of year. In the summer I will add in corn or peaches.

I roast all the veggies on the pan. Just washed and as is. No oil. About 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

The veggies should be dark in some spots, with the tomatoes and tomatillos ready to burst. I put everything in the food processor with a heavy handful of cilantro and juice from 1-2 limes. You should end up with something that looks like this:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 x 13

TR's comment got me thinking, and that's always scary.  Seems like this group should at least have one dedicated post for the anniversary of the September 11 insidiousness.  When all that's left of friends are their memories, stir them up like you'd stir up some salsa verde. TR was right, the world moves on, either in defiance (a good thing) or because life is too busy to stagnate, even in somber reflection (a bad thing). Here's a little bit of reflection on an otherwise busy workday.

I was woken up by my pregnant wife that morning, who said a plane had crashed into the WTC. Like Mark, I thought little of it. I figured a small commuter plane had screwed up and collided with the building.

I sat down at the television, instantly realized it was no small collision, and seconds later watched the second plane plow through the 80-something-ieth floor windows of the other tower. And I can remember that horrified feeling very palpably. Chills just typing it, the worst kind of chills.

Soon thereafter I got the call not to bother coming into my Federal government office. Glad to have missed that chaos due to sleeping in a little. But the next call was the worst, and I also remember that one all too vividly: our fratre Otis called me and said, "You know, Lud works in the World Trade Center." Sinking feeling Part II, more chills and a whole lot of anxiety. Reminds me of the first Superman movie when Miss Teschmacher overhears her boss Lex Luthor divulging his sinister, imminent plan to send missiles at the east and west coasts, including one headed to Hackensack, New Jersey at that moment:
But Lex, my mother lives in Hackensack.
[looks at his watch, shakes his head no]

Hollywood and DC Comics are one thing.  This was real life, or lack thereof.

Never really occurred to me at the time that Lud might not have made it out. He's Lud, the nicest guy I had ever met.  Bar none.  For real, not some posthumous superlative like we're prone to distributing. He was a shirt-off-his-back and maybe the top layer of skin if you needed it, too.  Of course he made it out.  He's Lud.

But subsequent phone calls forebode bad things. He worked on a floor with a big number. Damn his big shot job. He'd called his mom and said they told his office to stay put. Got that news right around the time the first tower imploded like a sand castle.  Oh, shit.  Then the second.  Way worse words than shit.

And then, as Rob described, the waiting.  And hoping against hope.  It's an agonizing type of passing for family and friends, because you don't have the cops or the soldiers or the firefighters come to your door with bad news.  You just don't have your loved one come to the door with good news.  Over and over, minute after minute, and day after day.

Eventually, our group of friends became resigned to the sad fact.  And then we found out our other fraternity brother Scoop Edwards, a year Lud's elder and a goofy guy with whom I attended a few Dead shows (brah), was gone, too.  And a third Pi Lam, Jim Conner, who was old enough (class of '85) that we hadn't met or hadn't remembered meeting.  As I recall, six William & Mary undergrad alums perished in the attacks, three of whom were in our fraternity within six years.  Are you kidding me?

And so a week and a half later we sent Lud off with a fitting day and night in Manhattan, serious and sad followed by drunken and stupid, all of it filled with Ludisms and fond memories.  It was also my 31st birthday. You assholes tried in vain to put my head in the john.  Lud protected me.  Seems like a million years ago.

The last time I saw Lud, eerily, was at Evan's funeral kegger two months prior.  He had come out from the city to Pennsyltucky with Hud (simple nicknamers, we) to pay his remembrances to another great one.  He gave my brother-in-law a ride to the hotel when no one would, because that's what he did, and then he drove home the next day and began a conversation with his wife about how he would want to be remembered in a funeral service (or lack thereof) like Evan's, which he assumed he would have to remind her over the years.  Evan's festival of remembrance was July 22.  Lud's would be September 22.  A bad run of luck by any measure for our group.  But that humdinger of a send-off for Ev was the last time I saw Lud.

The story didn't get rosier as time wore on.  Lud's widow, I suppose I can say here in relative obscurity, turned out to be pretty horrible, though her horribleness benefits greatly from the context of those who removed her husband from this world. It suffers from any comparison to the man we cherished, of course.  Lud's dad, who had mentored most of us W&M ruggers in the sport at one time or another and was a Welsh prince without the lineage, was eaten up by Alzheimer's and left us a few years back.  And Lud's little sister, one of my favorite friends from college and Dave's/Rob's/my freshman hallmate, got married to a limey bastard who gave her children as well as much more than a pintful of heartache.  No luck for the downtrodden.

That's all I have to say about that right now.  Getting a mite bit choked before a meeting and a work happy hour wasn't on my agenda, but 9/11 is mostly about unplanned alterations in a workday -- and a life.  God bless you merry gentlemen and women of G:TB on a Thursday extraordinary only in its place on the calendar, a date which dredges up sad and sorry memories for us.  Thank goodness.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Squeaky's Concert Guestie

I just spent three evenings over the weekend at an urban music festival. Screw that camping shit.I wanted to sleep in my own bed every night. Besides I have a wife and kid and there is no way I get to be away for a long weekend (only exception OBFT).

I had seen several of the bands on the bill before but there were some that I was looking forward to seeing like the Replacements, The Roots, War on Drugs, Lorde and The 1975. But out of all of those bands, the one that put on the best performance for my money was Twenty One Pilots.

Watching them bring a drum kit out into the crowd and performing while people held up said drum kit was really f*cking cool. Adding to the degree of difficultly was the fact they were playing with a sequenced track and had to account for the time it takes to crowdsurf to your drum kit. It was not their first rodeo but still impressive. It got me and couple of other folks I was there with thinking what other gigs threw you for a loop unexpectedly.

Here's my short list, in no particular order: (I'm sure more will pop into my mind as soon as I send this list)

  • Fishbone at the Boathouse - Dirty Kibby hanging upside down from the rafters playing his trumpet
  • Garage a Trois at Denver Filmore - Charlie Hunter plays ridiculous tambourine solo. yes tambourine solo
  • Twenty One Pilots at Boston Calling Festival - drum kit crowdsurfing
  • Bob Mould at The Paradise cafe. solo gig with an hour set of acoustic then hour set of electric for about 75 people
  • Califone at my house
  • Red Hot Chili peppers at Vandy on the Presidents lawn 1989 - they wore the socks and the drummer stuck a drum stick up his ass and threw it into the crowd.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Festicle: The Holiday That's Delectable?

While I'm not sure if this will restore Rob's faith in humanity, this little event might just be the thing to shake off the Ray Rice pneumonia and the Roger Goodell blues.  Spike Mendelsohn, DC restaurateur and Top Chef also ran, is hosting a testicle cook off open to anybody in the DC area with $25 and a desire to gorge themselves on gourmet gonads. 

In case the food is not enough to draw you in, the Festicle will also feature side attractions that are sure to interest many members (pun intended) of the G:TB family.  There will be "micro wrestling" for TR, which appears to be the new PC term for this.   Thre will be plenty of live music for Rob, Mr. Truck, Squeeks and Whitney, including a band called White Ford Bronco playing just for the Teej.  There is also a band called Tennis System for Zman.  However, given his recent undercarriage work, he may not be up for the Festicle just yet.  Finally, there will also be circus performers, which will undoubtedly appeal to Shlara and KQ given that they actually hang out with the clowns around here. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

God Once Again Displays His Sense of Humor

Matt Simon just celebrated the first anniversary of his Absurd Creature of the Week feature at by crowning the Pink Fairy Armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus) the winner of the Absurd Creature of the Week Tournament of Absurdity. The little armadillo triumphed over zombie ant fungi in the championship round, in a triumph of cute over downright freaky.

Here's Simon's description of the zombie ants, some of which may hit close to home:

"Once a disciplined member of a rigidly structured society, the affected ant stumbles out of its colony like the town drunkard, guided by a pathogen that has pickled its brain with a cocktail of chemicals."

The entire roster of absurd organisms is worth a browse. From the beautiful (the flamboyant cuttlefish is spectacular) to the sublimely evolved (check out the satanic leaf-tailed gecko's camouflage style) to the absolutely fucking disgusting (the botfly's larvae burrow into human skin, grow to full size, and leave a gaping wound upon their emergence), the gallery spans the range of animal oddities.

The pearlfish swims up a sea cucumber's ass and eats its gonads. So, yeah.
How James Carville didn't make the list, though, is perhaps the topic of another post.