Thursday, June 30, 2016

Things You Hear on Trains

Your faithful reporter's got a lot of time to kill on his train trip from Manhattan to Washington, DC, and not a lot of burning ambition to tackle these TPS reports, so the Man's loss is your gain. Free-flowing freshly-pressed wine from these mindgrapes follows in the form of a story I couldn't help overhearing from the reasonably loud but generally likable chap who sat in the row in front of me from New York to Philly. I assume stuff like this happens to TR all the time during his commute into the maw of the financial beast, but the DC to NYC commute is still fresh and new to me.

None of these are our guy
The guy in question is a financier-type roughly my age. Given his garb and bearded countenance and a handful of context clues dropped into conversation, he parlayed his first 20 years on Wall Street into his own gig and gets to run other people's money in flip flops and cargo shorts. Like a socially adept Michael Burry. Apparently our hero randomly bumped into a former fraternity brother (Columbia, Class of mid-90-something - I think I heard a Marcellus Wiley namedrop in there somewhere, too) who was traveling for work with a colleague. The fraternity brother convinced flip flop financier to tell the story of his mid-90s interview with Salomon Brothers - the same fixed equities desk made famous by Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker.

Seems that our guy had been through nearly a dozen rounds of interviews when the HR Department called him back for one final discussion. He was told that if this last guy liked him, then he had the job. So he shows up at 7:30 am and sits down with a middle-aged exec. After an exchange of pleasantries, the Salomon guy tells the kid that everyone likes him, but the final call is his. He then asks what position our young candidate plays on the Columbia baseball team. "I'm a pitcher," he replies.

After which the Salomon gatekeeper, who's probably pulling down $20m a year or so in that go-go era (check my math, TR), but thinks nothing of fucking with a college kid, opens his desk drawer and pulls out a baseball-sized stress ball. He points across the trading desk to a water fountain on the other side of the room. "If you can hit the middle of the water fountain with that ball, the job is yours. If not, you can go fuck yourself."

It's early, our guy is nervous, and there's a whole floor of traders watching. And he's not entirely sure what's happening. But he does his best, winds up, and lets fly. The ball starts out on a true path, but as those flimsy things do, spins off target and rises high and away, just nicking the upper corner of the fountain.

"Go fuck yourself," says the bondsman.

And so our hero does, leaving the building never to hear from Salomon again.

Things worked out okay for him, judging from many of the other things he had to say, so it's now just a funny story. And a whole lot went to hell for Salomon Brothers not long after this incident, so we can only hope bad things happened to the interviewer, though it's just as likely that he landed on his feet and tortured other young masters of the universe. Hell, maybe TR works for him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Nutella and the Power of Youthful Enthusiasm

Breakfast of champions
My 12 year-old daughter is a huge Nutella fan. She eats it on toast for breakfast every single day. (We make her eat fruit, too - we're mediocre parents, not terrible ones.) If it were up to her, she'd eat it for lunch and dinner, as well. Other than her iPhone, Nutella is probably her favorite thing in the world.

So you can imagine how excited she was when she learned that there's a restaurant in Chicago that exclusively features the hazelnut spread, and nothing else. It's all Nutella, all the time, at least in her telling. And because such a place exists, she requested - nay, insisted - that we visit this magical place.

As it turns out, she's not exactly wrong. The Windy City outpost of Mario Batali's Eataly Italian food emporium does, in fact, feature a Nutella Bar. So does the one in New York, as it turns out, but my kid found the Chicago location first.

Because I love my kid, and because I've never been to Chicago, her Nutella obsession has turned into a family summer road trip. Air trip, I guess. We booked an AirBnB reservation in Logan Square and we're winging our way to the Midwest in a few short weeks to gorge on Nutella.

I'm telling you all this because a) none of you can be bothered to put up a post and I'm on a train to New York with time to kill, and b) as mentioned above, I've never been to Chicago, so I'm wide open to your ideas about what to do with a family of four. I'm sure we'll do a few of the cliche tourist things (my wife wants to go up in the Sears Tower, for example), but I'd love to find a few other things to do, places to see, and restaurants to hit. You're a bunch of worldly lads and ladies, so I know I can count on you for advice.

The floor is yours, Gheorghies. Watch out for the Nutella mess.

Monday, June 27, 2016

You Say You Want a Revolution

Lest we forget, the E in ESPN stands for entertainment. No single entity is more responsible for the growth of the sports hot take industry than the Worldwide Leader. ESPN's not the only culprit, by a longshot, but as the preeminent sports broadcasting entity in this country, Bristol's thirty-year evolution from sports news and live contests to opinion and volume-based sports-focused entertainment led the way.

From the analysis-free, bombast and blather-heavy 'C'mon Man' testosterone festival of NFL Primetime to the overlapping yawps of Around the Horn to Colin Cowherd's dreadful egofest to the unmentionable dreck of First Take and everything in between, ESPN pioneered the sporting version of CNN's Crossfire - full of sound and fury, signifying nothing more than a ratings grab. Only nobody ever went full Jon Stewart on ESPN. (Someone might've, but I'm writing this from memory, and I can't remember anyone doing so. I also don't remember what I ate for lunch, which is increasingly a problem for me, or would be, if I remembered it.)

But something's happened over the past 18 months or so, and it's hard not to wonder if John Skipper and the rest of the suits at ESPN haven't seen the light. Cowherd and Bayless are gone, as is Cris Carter. (who serves as an exemplar for a whole host of former pros with lots of volume and a lot less insight - hey, Keyshawn, and how you doin', Curt Schilling, you deranged racist fuckburger!) Around the Horn still exists (I think), but it's balanced by the unique voice of His and Hers. And ESPN Radio is a revelation. Once a landscape free of anything other than white men with similarly warm takes, it's now both diverse and smart.

Once Mike and Mike clear the airwaves, ESPN Radio offers some of the most singular voices in sports (and entertainment).

Dan LeBatard skewers sacred cows on the regular, in his show, which discards just about every conventional sports talk trope. It's by turns sloppy and silly, but it also showcases LeBatard's incisive interviewing style and co-host Stugotz's brilliant doofus sidekick performance art. There may be no broadcaster in sports today more willing to press a guess for real answers to interview questions, or to risk grossly awkward moments in pursuit of truth, or at least good radio. And there's never been anyone like Stugotz, one of the great character actors of the time, sports radio category.

Former Scott Van Pelt sidekick Ryen Russillo is acerbic and blunt, but he's also extremely knowledgeable and he doesn't suffer fools. I'm not completely sold on Danny Kanell as his partner, but Russillo's unwillingness to play the usual radio host games makes their mid-afternoon show go.

We've already talked about Bomani Jones here, but his voice is both sonically distinctive and as thought-provoking as any talker on radio today, sports or otherwise. His afternoon drive show stands out as the most direct evidence of what I believe is a conscious choice by ESPN to prioritize content and context over bombast and noise.

And if you're still listening to the radio in the evening, you're not stuck with the dreadful crap that used to pass for entertainment. That stuff's been banished to the wee, wee hours of the morning. Now, at 7:00 pm EST, Jalen Rose and David Jacoby offer up a hip hop-infused and professional athlete-informed perspective. Rose's DGAF meter is reasonably high, and it mixes well with Jacoby's professionalism and youthful vibe.

Jorge Sedano and Izzy Gutierrez wrap up the radio day, both Hispanic and one gay, which is something that would be impossible to imagine even three or four years ago. The straight tends towards the hot takey too often for my taste, but the mix is still entertaining and the fact that the show exists at all is groundbreaking.

With all this discussion of the current radio lineup, we've completely buried the lede. ESPN, once the province of Chris Berman's blatting bloviation, has a new face. It's hard to argue that there's a bigger star in Bristol now than Van Pelt. The network built an entirely new programming format around Van Pelt's persona, and you couldn't architect a more direct departure from the past. In contrast to Berman's Boomer-first, look-at-me broadcasting, Van Pelt's smart, thoughtful, balanced, hip and humble approach comes off as a revolution. You know ESPN likes a guy when they let him take shots at other talent, even if that 'talent' isn't long for the new world. There is no sports broadcaster on the planet right now better than Van Pelt, and other than Dan Patrick, it ain't close.

With all of those changes, we haven't even talked about what might be the most important and meaningful change at the WWL. There are more women on ESPN's airwaves today than on any major sports broadcaster in history. Jemele Hill, Sarah Spain, Prim Siripipat, Jane McManus, and Kate Fagan all have voices on ESPN radio and TV, and while we're yet to see a woman sit in the first chair on a major show, it's only a matter of time - and for that, ESPN should be lauded.

Ours is a confusing time, with yesterday's media struggling to find purchase in a world where everyone's opinion is available all the time, and amplified in ways old-line institutions still haven't yet completely grasped. ESPN is far from perfect (with too many cases to cite on that point), but the fact that the most important sports (and entertainment!) broadcaster in the country has made what is clearly a conscious decision to feature diversity, intelligence (we're ignoring Jonathan Coachman at this point) and perspective over heat and volume is a big fucking deal.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Stacey Can Name That Comic in One Note

Stacey professes to have an uncanny ability to recognize stand-up comics by their voice alone, and I put that claim to the test this week on The Test. She performs admirably.  Cunningam also decides that she has this uncanny ability, but you'll have to be the judge on she fares.

Enjoy the clips and see how fast you can name the comic and the theme. Stacey is tough to stump.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Wishing You All a Happy Climax this Weekend

I like this song way more than I should. Any song that represents the halfway point of a straight line that connects solid '70's guitar rock and disco is A OK in my book.

Hope you all are having a bitchin' Saturday afternoon.

Time was drifting
This rocker got to roll
So I hit the road and made my getaway
Restless feeling, really got a hold
I started searching for a better way
But I kept on looking for a sign
In the middle of the night
But I couldn't see the light
No, I couldn't see the light
I kept on looking for a way
To take me through the night
I couldn't get it right
I couldn't get it right
LA fever made me feel alright
But I must admit it got the best of me
Getting down, so deep I could have drowned
Now, I can't get back the way I used to be
But I kept on looking for a sign
In the middle of the night
But I couldn't see the light
No, I couldn't see the light
I kept on looking for a way
To take me through the night
I couldn't get it right
I couldn't get it right
New York City took me with the tide
And I nearly died from hospitality
Left me stranded, took away my pride
Just another no account fatality
But I kept on looking for a sign
In the middle of the night
But I couldn't see the light
No, I couldn't see the light
I kept on looking for a way
To take me through the night
I couldn't get it right
I couldn't get it right

Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 NBA Draft: GTB Open Thread

As much as I hate to bump down rob's post, well, the NBA Draft is on tonight, and GTB loyalists have done yeoman's work in recent years chronicling the night's proceedings in the comments. So, figured I should give us all that forum once again for THIS evening. Plus, POST COUNT.

But before we begin, let's put some respek on this blog's namesake:

The 30th pick in the 1993 Draft, the one, the only, Ghitza

Two sleeper picks in tonight's first round:



And a second round flyer:


Dork Rock and Art Rap

Young man grows up on the south side of Chicago, raised in that city's rap tradition, develops a keen social conscience and forges his own path as an artist. Familiar story, to some degree, following the example of Common and Kanye, among others.

This one, though, has a twist that spins it directly into G:TB's wheelhouse. (I miss The Wheelhouse, for what it's worth.) Open Mike Eagle's favorite band as a young man was They Might Be Giants. And it wasn't just an infatuation. As you can see in the clip below, Mike deeply embraced the dork-rock pioneers' message and music.

I've been a TMBG fan from way back. When I was 18, I saw the band at the old 9:30 Club, in what was my first club show. (I was there with my then-21 year-old girlfriend. Did I mention that my girlfriend was 21? That was cool.) I've since seen TMBG at least ten times in all sorts of venues, and never been disappointed by one of their live shows.

And now I've got to find a way to see Open Mike Eagle, who's art-rap style is a liquid, lyrical, and hypnotic flow. Check out Ziggy Starfish (Anti-Anxiety Raps) from his 2015 A Special Episode EP. His newly-released record, Hella Personal Film Festival is getting some Spotify run in my house, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

MR PEDRO and Imelda

No, not a new sitcom coming to NBC in the Fall. They are, however, my two new favorite commenters of 2016.

Enjoy these gems: