Saturday, April 30, 2011

Annual Semi-Serious Post

We've occasionally engaged in half-assed efforts to make the point that legitimate differences of opinion on public policy have been obliterated by lunatic fringes on both sides of the political aisle. That the level of what passes for legitimate political argument in America today requires our duly-elected President to take time from his duties to hold a press conference defending his eligibility for office is mind-boggling. No, we need a better word than that. It's brain-fucking.

In this year's attempt at moderately serious conversation about the issues of the day, we give you Baratunde Thurston's take on the birther movement and its current ringleader. It's no surprise in this era of Jon Stewart's ascendance that it takes a comedian to reveal truths that should be self-evident. I'd tell you to 'enjoy', but the truth underlying this message makes that a hard thing, indeed.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Culture Up My/Your Ass Friday

As I mentioned in a comment under the Yo Yo Ma popping and locking post, I’ve been inundated – in mostly a good way – with culture lately. When your significant other works for an arts festival, it happens.

This weekend I am taking in not one but two performances of the Virginia International Tattoo – not the kind that Mark proudly displays and I expose at parties, but the military music corps type. It’s a somewhat phenomenal demonstration, the largest of its ilk in the world, even superseding its traditional inspiration in Edinburgh, Scotland. More pipes and drums than Sen Dog could ever want.

Last Friday I saw a Vegas-y performance of The Music of Michael Jackson; basically it was a rock and roll outfit cranking the King of Pop’s tunes as backed by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and fronted by some dude who channeled MJ in both singing and dancing. His replication of the Motown performance of “Billie Jean” (seen below) was, in the vernacular of the well-to-do’s who attend these arts festival events, “some seriously good shit.” “ABC” had the stuffed shirts swaying, “Thriller” was silly fun (let’s avoid mentioning my alma mater where this song is concerned, shall we?), and the closer “We Are the World” was fairly cheesy until they had all the kids in the audience come on stage at the end. I didn’t realize the generation-spanning purview of Michael Jackson until that night; the audience was comprised of all ages, and I was most surprised to see how many kids are still huge fans of the stuff we were listening to 20-30 years ago. Highly enjoyable.

This past Tuesday I took in the Wailin’ Jennys, a Canadian trio of brunettes crooning and twanging their way through the States (though “croontwang” is not a moniker appreciated by the artists). A poor analogy might pair the Dixie Chicks’ harmonies with the Avett Brothers’ instrumental versatility. As is the case with most of the acts I am seeing through this festival, the sheer talent exuded. The requisite 10,000 hours to virtuosity that Dave had touted must have been met years ago by each of these people.

. . . which brings me to the events of last Saturday night. The festival welcomed Joshua Bell, the veritable Jimi Hendrix of violin, a guy who was playing with Sting the week prior. His outstanding, animated performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto drew standing ovations in the plural, but he’s used to this. He joined a symphony at age 14, and at 43 he’s now the preeminent violinist around the globe. DC area denizens may recall the Washington Post’s sociological experiment from a few years back in which they had a famous concert violinist busk on his Stradivarius in the L’Enfant Plaza metro stop lobby during rush hour, utterly unnoticed by the rat racers scurrying by. That was Joshua Bell. The article won a Pulitzer and is worth a revisit.

My tangential affiliation with this arts festival has meant that I help out when it’s needed, and it has also meant that I’m there for many of the pre- and post-performance receptions. So long as I bring my charming, engaging self to these functions and lend a hand when necessary, I enjoy free Heinekens and access to the performers. It has also given me a glimpse of Coastal Virginia’s (we’re abandoning “Hampton Roads,” but most folks here don’t know that yet) elite as they jockey for position to fawn over the talent, ask for pictures and autographs ad nauseum, and tell their own personal stories that resonate not at all. It’s amusing.

So as Joshua Bell was being mobbed by the generous donors to the festival, I hung back at the bar with the festival staffers, both because I hadn’t paid for the privilege but also because of the awkward exchange of compliments for keepsakes. And so when the furor waned and Mr. Bell ducked away for a new green bottle and a quick chat, I offered what I hope was a breath of fresh air for him – conversation about anything other than concertos and Carnegie Hall. When the reception came to a close, he approached a few of us and uttered the lines we all toss out at any formal engagement . . . “So what are we doing after this?”

Without hesitation, we took him out for mojitos at Havana on Granby Street. Many, many mojitos. Nobody recognized him there, either. (Norfolk, VA is neither Nob Hill nor the West Village, so chances were slim.) There were mildly inappropriate jokes and stories by all parties, flirtation (for once, not by me), and a really weird thing where Joshua Bell could, in several seconds, tell you on what day of the week you were born if you gave him your birthdate. Curiously savant, or “creepy,” as one girl put it. He picked up a hearty chunk of the check; the very cool exec director of the festival picked up more of it, meaning I was paid in alcohol for my entertaining skills.

The most amusing part of all, to me, was that the dude had his violin on his person at all times. It was in a super-protective case on his leg or foot at all times. One of the staffers suggested he leave it in the car, at which point I laughed and eased the virtuoso’s obvious bewilderment by explaining, “Don’t worry, she doesn’t know.” What she didn’t know is that Joshua Bell owns and plays an instrument constructed by Stradivari in 1713, one purchased for around four million dollars US. The violin was stolen twice from its previous owner, meaning he’s probably not leaving it in the back of an SUV downtown. All in all, a surreal and silly evening – Michael Jackson jokes, chatter about Indian leg wrestling, and late-night antics with a man and his violin.

The final piece of an eclectic week of music was the Stone Temple Pilots show on Wednesday night at the Norva. Free VIP tickets were offered to me shortly before showtime, so I went. Weiland is back with STP and in fine form; Rob remarked that his ability to toe the line these days would likely make the difference in good or bad. They sounded great, played nearly everything you’d want, and put on a fan-friendly show. Take ‘em in if you miss those simpler days of grunge and grime.

That’s all for now. The festival ends memorial day, so we’ll see what other high-fallutin’ fancy-boy culture I experience and bore you with between now and then. Have a good weekend; I’ll be neck deep in the Tattoo.

Restaurant Review

G:TB's (female, which is important in this case) San Francisco correspondent sends news of a new culinary destination in that fair city's Chinatown area. I've ordered tee-shirts for the entire staff.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Idiot's Guide to the NFL Draft, in Two Acts

We typically leave NFL draft coverage to one of the several thousand blogs dedicated to poking and prodding this year's herd of cattle, but our totally unbiased scouting department tipped us off to an outrageous iniquity that we felt compelled to address. And as a bonus to our readership, we continue to deliver fine whine about the Buffalo Bills. Consider this dual post our gift to you on this high holy day.

I once had to wear a Toronto Blue Jays cap for an entire softball season because I lost a bet. I'm prepared today to go one further. If Cam Newton is a better professional quarterback than Greg McElroy, I'll wear a Toronto Blue Jays cap for two entire softball seasons.

Ridiculous, you say? Probably. And certainly, on the face of it. But consider the following analysis:

The first syllable of McElroy's last name is a homophone for Mac. Newton stole a PC. Advantage: McElroy

McElroy's sister is a kind and gentle soul, gracious with fans of all shapes and sizes. Newton's father tried to sell him to the highest bidder. Advantage: McElroy.

Moving on to professional potential, a Google search for 'greg mcelroy tom brady' yields 44,300 hits. If you Google 'cam newton character issues', a whopping 331,000 hits are produced. Advantage: McElroy.

Most casual observers probably believe that Newton's statistics are far better than McElroy's. You all remember what Mark Twain said about statistics and lies, don't you? Let's take a look at the two signal-callers' 2010 passing stats. McElroy was 222-313 for 2987 yards, a 70.9% completion percentage, 20 TDs and 5 interceptions. Newton went 185-280 for 2854 yards, a 66.1% mark, 30 TDs and 7 picks. Since passing the football is clearly the method NFL coaches prefer their quarterbacks to employ to advance the ball, the advantage is as unequivocal as it might seem contrarian: McElroy.

McElroy led the Crimson Tide to a 24-3 mark in games he started. Newton's Blinn JC and Auburn teams were 25-1 in his starts. Advantage: McElroy, for learning how to lose gracefully while remaining a winner. Even the best NFL QBs will drop 4-5 games a year. Learning how to do so without losing focus is a critical skill.

In the brains department, it's really not even close. McElroy posted a Wonderlic score of 48, while Newton recorded a 21. Advantage: Newton. McElroy's score concerns most NFL coaches, who don't want players smarter than they are.

It'd be hard to find a more obvious example of the mainstream sports media completely missing the boat, unless you opened a newspaper and read about Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, or, really, any Major League Baseball game played in the late 90s or early 2000s. Bookmark this page and remember to speak well of us in five years when McElroy's leading the Vikings to another NFC Championship game while Newton's fishing with JaMarcus Russell.


The Bills were terrible against the run last year, just like the year before that. Everyone in the league knew this. Teams ran against the Bills 54.69% (clicks!) of the time. The league-wide average for percentage of running plays was 44.57%. Only two other teams were run on more than 50% of the time: Denver (51.40%) and Oakland (50.21%). I don't know if the respective 3.29% and 4.48% differences are statistically significant, but it's clear that everyone knowingly, purposely, and with malice aforethought skewed their offense towards the run when they played the Bills, more so than against anyone else in the league. In case you're curious, Pittsburgh had the lowest rushing rate against at 35.19% and the next-best team (Baltimore) was 39.18%. So the Steelers are the anti-Bills, which may explain why they played in the Super Bowl while Buffalo has the #3 pick in tonight's draft.

I've whined about Buddy Nix's drafting prowess before so it comes as no surprise that I expect him to do something terrible with said #3 pick. I would like them to trade down for a defensive lineman of NFL-starter quality and a pick in the mid-to-late-teens, and then use that mid-to-late teen pick to draft an NFL-starter quality offensive or defensive lineman, or a linebacker who will be more effective than a turnstile. My second choice would be for them to draft Nick Fairley at the #3 spot. My tertiary option would be Von Miller at #3. My quaternary option would be some other approach that fulfills their glaring run-stopping needs.

The Bills do not need to take a QB at #3. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the future of the franchise, but they can get by with him for another year or two if they draft a QB in the second round and bring him along slowly. Nor do they need a RB as they already have Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. So I used to think they would take Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, or Mark Ingram. But I found an even dumber pick for B-Nix to make, and I can practically guarantee he'll do it. AJ Green. In addition to their aforementioned run-stopping woes, they have no pass rush, a journeyman QB, a porous OL, a middling running game, and Stevie "Wonder" Johnson. It makes no sense whatsoever to draft a WR. So AJ Green is the pick.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Culture Up Your Ass Tuesday

Martin Mull once said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." I'm a sucker for genius in all its manifold forms, but in keeping with Mr. Mull's advice, I'll let this video about dancing, architecture, and music speak for itself. Enjoy Yo Yo Ma and Lil Buck as they interpret "The Swan" by Camille Saint-Saens.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Champions League Semifinals Preview

We're heading into the final stretch of the Champions League, the time of the tournament when even the most casual of soccer fans should tune in to watch the most compelling club tournament in the world. Due to my limited (but growing!) depth of knowledge in the space, I will keep things simple.

First off, let's talk about the format. The "semis" consists of two-game series between clubs. Each side hosts a match. If there is a win for each side, or two ties, the first tiebreaker is aggregate goals. The second tiebreaker is most goals scored by an away team, meaning a team that ties 1-1 on the road and then ties 0-0 at home would advance. So an interesting item to watch in the first legs of these series are the goals scored by the away squad. The third tiebreaker would be a pair of 15-minute golden-goal overtime periods, and the last would be penalty kicks. (Editor's Note: Something equivalent to "I think" should preface each of the last three sentences.)

Match-up #1: FC Schalke vs. Manchester United
First Leg: Manchester United @ Schalke, Tuesday April 26th
Second Leg: Schalke @ Manchester United, Wednesday May 4th

I know very little about Schalke, other than it's pronounced Shahl-ka and they are supposed to have a great keeper in Manuel Neuer. But before we dismiss them, it's important to note Schalke's impressive run to the semis. After a loss in the first round of group play to French club Lyon, the squad has gone undefeated in nine consecutive matches. The last two of those were a thorough quarterfinals beating of defending champions Inter Milan, 5-2 on the road and 2-1 at home. The first leg of this series kicks off in Germany, where Schalke is 5-0 at home so far in the tournament, having outscored its opponents 12-2 in aggregate.

Manchester United
I will spare you a detailed review of a well-known squad, but this team has been peaking at the right time in both EPL and Champions League play. This year's team is stacked up front, with Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov leading the team. The midfield play has been solid with a steady rotation of attacking midfielders (Nani, Antonio Valencia, Ji-Sung Park, Ryan Giggs) and defensive hacks who are not afraid to draw yellow cards (Paul Scholes, Darrin Fletcher and Darren Gibson). The back line is all healthy, and 40 year-old Edwin van der Saar will be in the cage as his professional career wraps up over the next month. Mexican striker Javier Hernandez remains the man to watch in this series. He has been a goal-scoring machine for the team all year after fighting for minutes, playing so well he's kept Berbatov off the pitch.

Match-up #2: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
First Leg: Barcelona @ Real Madrid, Wednesday April 27th
Second Leg: Real Madrid @ Barcelona, Tuesday May 3rd

This match-up of the two titans of the Spanish league is about as good as it gets. The two biggest Spanish cities squaring off, with the scrappy Lionel Messi leading Barcelona against the petulant but gifted Cristiano Ronaldo. Making the series even more interesting is that the two teams have played twice since April 16th. On that date, the teams tied 1-1 in Madrid in Spanish Liga play, which was a better showing for Real Madrid than in November 2010, when they lost 5-0 in an away match at Barcelona. Last week, the teams met again on April 20th in the finals of the Copa del Rey, a Spanish tournament that is so prestigious that Real Madrid accidentally let the trophy get run over by a bus after winning 1-0 on a header from Ronaldo in the 103rd minute of play. The current standings in the Spanish Liga, where Barcelona leads Real Madrid by 8 points with five matches left, indicate Barcelona should be regarded as slight favorites, but this is a grudge match of the highest order, where the two most recent results were a draw and a tie broken in the 103rd minute.

Barcelona's stars include a lot of names you may remember from last year's World Cup, including Argentina's Messi, Brazil's Dani Alves, and Spaniards Carles Puyol and David Villa, who scored five goals for Spain last year, leading them to the World Cup title. Barcelona coasted to the semis after crushing Ukrainian squad FC Shakhtar Donetsk 6-1 in aggregate, but they have not been invincible in the tournament so far, with a 7-1-2 record, including a loss to Arsenal and ties to Euro soccer welterweights FC Rubin Kazan (Russia)and Kobenhavn (Denmark).

Real Madrid
There are no shortage of stars for this team either, including Spanish World Cup keeper and squad captain Iker Casillas, Portugal's Ronaldo, Brazil's Kaka and ex-EPL star Emmanuel Adebayor. Real Madrid has gone 8-0-2 so far in the tournament, with ties to Lyon and Inter Milan being the only blemishes on the team's record so far.

Manchester United should be able to use their horsepower to pull out this series. They are comfortably ahead in the EPL (up 6 points to Chelsea with 4 matches left) and have a match against a demoralized Arsenal squad on Sunday May 1st that will likely feature a lot of Man U reserves in the starting lineup. In the other match-up, I have to go with Barcelona, because when in doubt, bet against Ronaldo's waxed eyebrows and his (lack of) heart.

One last thing - I want to remind you all to clear your schedules now. The finals of the Champions League will be at Wembley Stadium on Saturday May 28th at 2:45 PM ET. The game is one more excellent reason to day-drink on a long holiday weekend. The mayhem factor will increase exponentially if Man U is involved.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

214 Dunks

Today is Easter, which makes me think of Jesus, which makes me think of Jesus Shuttlesworth, which makes me think of Ray Allen, who lately makes me miserable, but what isn't miserable is my resurgent interest in the NBA, which brings me to the following filler video compilation of all 214 of Blake Griffin's dunks this season. Griffin's kinda like Jesus because he came back to life in 2010-11 after his basketball career appeared to die when (1) the Clippers drafted him and (2) his knee cap broke in the Clippers' final preseason game. So while you spend the day celebrating Christ's resurgence, rejoice too about Blake Griffin's Lazarusian rise from the basketball dead. But please do not exalt when Jesus Shuttlesworth scores today against the Knicks; he's just a guy who was paid to pretend to be Jesus, he isn't really Jesus himself (or Jesus Himself for that matter).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Metal Up Your Ass (Good) Friday: Volume 4, Featuring Slipknot

A double shot of Slipknot today. The bands seems a bit farcical with their jumpsuits and terrifying clown masks, but they are a pretty intense band. Their stage presence is phenomenal, if not typical for the metal world. The lead singer verbally abuses the crowd all show long (which the crowd eats up), and the band tries to incite violent moshing among the idiots in the crowd. The band features a drummer, two additional clown percussionists and a clown on the turntable. They have a BIG sound in person, with lots of drums to make you want to start stomping in your combat boots.

Here's an unofficial video for Surfacing:

And here's the official video for Duality, the one song you may know by them. The song may be overplayed to some, but it still kicks ass.

Happy Good Friday from the G:TB team.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Your Own, Personal, Brewery

We're nothing if not generous here at G:TB, and in the spirit of giving, we offer our friends at Dumbarton's Beer (motto: Expect nothing and you won't be disappointed) a sneak peek at their Christmas gift. (Note: gift is contingent on G:TB generating the $4,500 required to purchase it via AdSense, sales of prescription drugs, or whoring out the Teej. They may have to settle for a 'Beer Thinker' t-shirt.)

From comes the tale of the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery. According to the author, the stainless steel WWPB will produce a ready-to-drink chilled pint in seven days.

The nation that brought us the Dyson vacuum (that might be England, but verification would require several clicks), the Haka, and the creative force behind Crowded House (this one I'm quite sure about) continues to deliver clever inventions that make life that much better. New Zealand might be on to something.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Just. Too. Easy. To. Resist.

Headline: "Local Air Traffic Controller Suspended for Watching Movie"

In its release, the FAA said the following:
"During the early morning hours of April 17, 2011, an air traffic controller at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center was watching a movie on a portable electronic device while working a radar position. For a little more than three minutes, the controllers microphone was inadvertently activated, transmitting the soundtrack of the movie over the radio frequency for that airspace. The problem was brought to air traffic controls attention by the pilot of a military aircraft using an alternate frequency. The controller has been suspended from operational duties pending an investigation. FAA policy prohibits the use of portable DVD players and other devices from being used on the floor of the radar room."

Hmmmm, what ever could he have been watching?

Half-Assed? Quarter, Maybe.

Kitty snuggling with a dolphin? Kitty snuggling with a dolphin.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Father of the Year, Part II

My kids have talked about the 2011 Washington Post Peeps Diorama contest ever since our entry in the 2010 contest (Georgia O'Peepe's Studio) failed to make the finals. We've brainstormed ideas (leader in the clubhouse, Big Peepi), talked about building materials, and prepared our Peep muscles with a rigorous workout program.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the Washington Post Magazine today to find the announcement of the winners of this year's contest. Guess who completely missed the contest-opening meeting?

Thank God for the 2011 G:TB Circus Peanut Diorama Contest.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Father of the Year

My kids didn't believe that a song with the lyrics, "kitty on my foot and I want to touch it" actually existed.

So I played it for them. The uncensored version.

You see, I completely forgot about the part that goes, "Fuck you kitty, you're gonna spend the night outside."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Metal Up Your Ass Friday, Featuring Lamb of God. With Extra Idiocy!

Richmond, VA has produced some fantastic things over the years (Philip Morris smokes, VCU basketball), as well as some less fantastic things (Confederacy, tons of murders). One creation from Richmond that would fall into the "more fantastic" side of life is Lamb of God. Simplest description is that they are like Pantera, but heavier.

Lamb of God has their own tradition in concert. They play a song called "Black Label." As they lead into the song, the lead singer gets the entire crowd to retreat to the corners of the stage, form a wall of death and then charge into each other at full speed. It is just as awesome, terrifying and dangerous as it seems. Combine moshing meatheads, speed metal, alcohol, drugs and lots of sexual angst among young male misfits and you have total fucking chaos.

To truly capture the insanity, I'm including two live clips of the onslaughts. Below that I have a studio version of the song, which hauls. Enjoy this at your cube/office/desk.

Here's one composite video that captures the intensity of the moments a bit better. Go to the 1 minute, and then the 1:35 mark to see it go down a couple times.

This is a version done in a show in Athens, Greece. Like Citizen Dick, Lamb of God is huge in Belgium. Go to the 1:20 second mark to see the devastation unfold. Good to know their growls translate across the pond. Surprisingly, there are no moshers in scarves.

And here is a studio version, along with something resembling a video (warning: may give you a seizure), if you want to hear the audio with decent quality.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rutger Hauer is a hobo with a shotgun.

Ever wonder what happened to Rutger Hauer, the guy who played the psychopathic android in Blade Runner? Turns out he's a hobo with a shotgun. Scout's honor. Don't believe me? Then watch the video.

Can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Know Your Minor League Mascot

You can be forgiven if you thought we'd discontinued this feature when the Richmond Flying Squirrels retired the trophy for best mascot ever. Like the salmon returning to Capistrano, though, Know Your Minor League Mascot returns after a 497-day hiatus to take a trip on the wayback machine and celebrate one of the first famous bush league clubs.

Team: Toledo Mud Hens
League: International (AAA)
Affiliation: Detroit Tigers
Mascot: Muddy

Self-Absorbed East Coast Elitist Commentary: The Muds Hens were made famous nearly 40 years ago by a cross-dressing Lebanese comic actor, but the team's actually been around since 1896, making it one of the longest-tenured minor league franchises. The team promises their fans fun, family, fabulous food, and affordability, failing the alliteration test, but making up for it in good feelings.

The Hens play their home games at Fifth Third Field, which I assume has something to do with hard liquor. It goes without saying that we approve.

Phil Nevin manages the 2011 Hens, assisted by Leon Durham (the Bull!). They have a pitcher named Al Alburquerque on their roster, making them the favorite team of not one, but two fictional characters. Charlie Furbush is a member of their starting rotation. Charlie Furbush. Man, I wish I made that up.

Toledo's started the year scuffling a bit, with a 2-4 mark at the time of this writing. (Furbush is 0-1. Furbush. Good gracious.) So are we, frankly, but we promise not to wait 497 more days to celebrate all that's good and well with our American pastime.

Gheorgheness Quotient: 55/77

To sate your minor league baseball jones during our frequent hiatuses (hiatii?), we commend to your attention the excellent work of our friend, the Artist Sometimes Known as Extra P, and his mates at Bus Leagues Baseball.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Late Afternoon Filler on a Tuesday

Google...copy...paste embed code. Tuesday's (almost) Gone, indeed...

Wow, that is some dark, grainy footage. Doesn't diminish what a kickass song it is, though.

Monday, April 11, 2011

You should listen to this free Frank Ocean mixtape

And not just because he's savvy enough to stick an E30 vintage M3 on the album cover:

Frank Ocean is a member of Odd Future, which is really Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, the gore/hiphop (sickhop?) group that famously appeared on Jimmy Fallon's show a few weeks ago and therefore made it impossible for me to write about them in this space (I won't take Jimmy's musical sloppies). I'm not that into Tyler, the Creator or Earl Sweatshirt. But Frank Ocean is on to something here. I don't know if he's related to Billy Ocean or Danny Ocean, but he makes interesting R&B/soul music with an indie rock sensibility and a Ghostfacian penchant for storytelling ("I blame it on the model broad with the Hollywood smile/Stripper booty and a rack like wow"), sort of a laid-back Kid Cudi vibe but with romance and heartbreak replacing all the psychoanalytical melodrama. This is both music to make love to your old lady by and music that will draw approving nods from beatnerds, sneakerfreaks, exurban teenagers, and (in about a month) hipsters alike.

And it's free. Get it now before Don Henley finds out about the sample on "American Wedding" and shuts this thing down.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Reader's Choice

"In your life, have you seen anything like that."

While I'm not rooting for Eldrick this weekend, this is by far the best golf shot I've ever seen.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Culture Up Your Ass Friday

I took the kids to the National Portrait Museum last weekend. Ostensibly, the trip was part of our ongoing effort to fight against the perfectly natural urge to completely take for granted the immensely interesting and diverse cultural opportunities in our area. But Daddy had an ulterior motive.

Peter Gammons called it "duende", from the Spanish word that, roughly translated, means having soul, an authentic expression of emotion. I always loved that description as attached to Pedro Martinez, the most remarkable athlete in my experience as a fan. Pedro's duende manifested itself in a loose-limbed, heavy-lidded arrogance, as this slip of a man whipped a baseball from his long fingers towards the artificially-muscled sluggers of his day, besting them again and again.

In 1999, at the height of the steroid era, Pedro was 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA, 313 strikeouts and 37 walks. His ERA in 2000 was a ludicrous 1.74, more than 2.5 runs lower than the league average. From 1997 to 2003, he strung together what Gammons describes as "the most dominant stretch of any pitcher in major league history".

Like many of the greats, Pedro held on long enough for us to watch his gifts diminish. And though he was still more than serviceable in his final years with the Mets and Phillies, he wasn't Pedro. Nobody could be.

Gammons himself donated Susan Miller-Havens' portrait of Pedro to the National Portrait Gallery, where it hangs today in a wing of other new additions to the museum's collection, near Ann Landers and a tribute to Hunter Thompson. In it, Pedro wears a Sox cap with a uniform of indeterminant provenance that features a Dominican flag, combining his U.S. glory days with the work he continues to do in his native country.

Duende, it seems, stays with a man.

Don't Forget What Happened The Last Time The Government Shut Down

With a possible shutdown of the U.S. government looming, it is helpful to remember what happened the last time federal workers received a forced furlough. According to an FBI interview report:

- Unable to begin a new paying job, a 22 year-old female intern continued to work at the White House.

- Said intern's "personal relationship" with President Bill Clinton began on November 15, 1995, the day after the government shutdown began.

- On that Wednesday evening, the intern, seizing the moment, told Clinton she "had a crush on him." The 42nd President responded by accompanying the intern to a back study behind the Oval Office, where he kissed her.

- "Unclothed genital contact" would later occur, along with "kissing, hugging, touching and oral sex on the person of the President, but not intercourse."

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Close Reading of My Netflix Queue

I love Netflix. I love the control it gives me over my movie and television viewing, I love that I never watch commercials, and I love that the U.S. Postal system doles out Netflix at a tolerable rate. That is why I don't have cable-- not because cable sucks-- but because cable is too good; I can't handle the all the excellent programming. Netflix puts a much needed governor on my viewing.

I also love the Netflix queue. When you add a movie to your Netflix queue, there is absolutely no commitment involved. This is unlike when you buy a book, and feel an obligation to read it because you have spent money on it and it is taking up room on your bookshelf (and you also feel guilt for the tree that died to make the book).  The Netflix queue isn't analogous to taking books out of the library either, because you still need to physically store those books while you're not reading them, and you have to physically return them so you don't accrue late fees. Even pirating music engenders more responsibility than queuing a movie on Netflix, because you still feel you should give the music a listen as it is taking up space on your hard drive.

Because my Netflix queue carries none of this responsibility . . . because it is an abstraction that takes up no physical or digital space in my life, it has swollen to 223 movies. This is more movies than I could watch in five years . . . if I were planning on watching them. But I'm not. I'm never going to watch 95% percent of them. But I can't remove them either. They have sentimental value. So they sit in the queue, serving no purpose other than-- under close examination-- as a revealing tour of my consciousness, moods, personality, and aspirations. Let's get to it.

Queue Numbers 184-189: Shakespeare's An Age of Kings (Discs 1-5)

The Netflix blurb: "Explore the history of the English monarchy through the prism of Shakespeare's plays with this 15-part BBC series that features many of England's top actors. Originally broadcast on television in 1960."

Analysis: Why is this on my queue? Ostensibly, because I teach a high school Shakespeare class, I teach several of the history plays, and-- short of taking a college course-- this would be an excellent way to further my knowledge of the bard. But I teach a high school Shakespeare class . . . so all I need to know is a bit more than your average high school nerd knows about Shakespeare; this is way more information than I need to effectively teach the course, yet in some deluded moment I thought I might educate myself above and beyond the pale. And I refuse to remove this from my queue. I entertain the notion that someday I will become an expert.

Assessment: I am fooling myself.

Queue Number 219: Pierrot Le Fou

The Netflix Blurb: "Director Jean-Luc Godard's popular 1965 drama captures '60s French cool as only Godard could depict it."

Analysis: When I first joined Netflix, I thought I might become a film buff. I had always wanted to be an aficionado of some sort, and movies seemed to be a relatively painless thing to become buff at. I have never taken a film class, so I decided I would watch all the classics: Fellini, Godard, Kurosawa, etc. Instead, last week I watched Hamlet 2.

Question: Is this film the predecessor to The Blue Man Group?

Answer: I have no idea. Ask a film buff.

Assessment: The only time I will be a buff is when I am in the buff. Even then, I'm so hairy that it is hard to tell that I am naked.

Number 11: City Island

The Netflix Blurb: "When he recognizes his son, Tony (Steven Strait), whom he hasn't seen in more than 20 years, among a crop of new inmates in the jail where he works, Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) decides to bring the troubled young man home with him, much to the surprise of his wife and kids."

Analysis: My friend Terry made me put this on my queue, and I often check my queue when I'm in the English office at the same time as Terry, so I need to keep it near the top to assure him that I'm going to watch it . . . but I never feel like watching it, so any time it gets near the top, I push it down to number 11 again. At this point, Terry must realize that I'm never going to watch it (at least not while The Walking Dead, Madmen, and Black Swan are available options).

Assessment: I'm so polite that I am rude.

Queue Number 23: Zombieland

Assessment: Jesse Eisenberg went to the high school where I teach, and so I feel obligated to have the movie on my queue (but not to actually watch it).

 Queue Number 25: The Road

I loved the novel by Cormac McCarthy and-- in an abstract way-- I am curious as to how John Hillcoat translated this apocalyptic story into film, but when it comes to actually choosing a particular evening to watch this film, it never happens. Why? Because there's never a specific night when I say to myself: I really need to see someone roast and eat a human fetus.

Queue Number 13: The Black Cauldron

Netflix blurb: Disney's first PG-rated animated film is a swords-and-sorcery epic set in an ancient land, where young pig keeper Taran dreams of becoming a warrior, and the evil Horned King (voiced by John Hurt) is trying to obtain the Black Cauldron to raise an army of the dead.

I loved this series of books as a child, and want to introduce the characters to my own children, but not more than I want to get the next Walking Dead disk or more than I want to overcome the "long wait" for disk one of Season Four of Madmen.

Assessment: My kids are already spoiled enough, and they don't know what they're missing.

 Queue Number 167: Not Quite Hollywood

Netflix Blurb: "Explore the unofficial history of Australian cult film with this provocative documentary on the "Ozploitation" flicks of the 1970s and '80s. Filmmaker Mark Hartley explores the violence, sex and nudity rampant during this period of lax restrictions."

This movie sounds like it might have lots of nudity, but I've yet to watch it.

Assessment: If I want to see naked girls, I don't need to get a movie from Netflix. I have an internet connection.

Netflix Queue Number 198: A Very Long Engagement

Netflix Blurb:  Amelie's Audrey Tautou stars as Mathilde, a young Frenchwoman who vows to find out what happened to her missing fiancĂ© (Gaspard Ulliel) during World War I. He appears to have died after a court-martial, but she needs to know for sure. As she looks for the truth, she discovers unexpected things about herself and the people she meets along the way. 133 Minutes.

My wife put this on the queue. 133 minutes?  About a missing fiancee? If I stay vigilant, this will never make it into top one hundred, let alone the top ten.

Assessment: My wife may control our household's budget, but I'm the man of the house when it comes to the queue.

Queue Number 197: Little Otik

Netflix Blurb: In this bizarre fantasy from the Czech Republic, an ordinary couple, Karel and Bozena, are unable to conceive a child. When Karel digs up a tree root and whittles something vaguely resembling a human baby, Bozena's strong maternal longings transform the stump into a living creature ... with a monstrous appetite that can't be met by baby's formula!

My friend Eric "recommended" this movie. Actually, he said it wasn't great but the description is so absurd that I have kept it on my queue for shits and giggles.  If I had a daughter, I would name her Bozena.

I invite you all to take a closer look at your own Netflix queue, and report what you find there. I am guessing that it is a mirror into your soul. Perhaps I am wrong . . . perhaps the rest of you keep a neater, more spartan queue; a practical queue, a queue of only things that are intended to be watched, but-- when the cost of adding a film to the queue is nothing-- I strongly doubt it.

Dennis and I have a terrible N.L.-only fantasy team

We thought we should share this team with the masses, so that we may all enjoy this early season meltdown by the Backdoor Sliders. For almost a decade, we have fielded a team that someone lands us in the money (4th and above) every year, but has also had dudes freakishly die (Darryl Kile), get murdered in a drive-by (some dude on the Cardinals) and of course we have had two guys commit murder themselves (Ugie Urbina and Angel Villalona of the Giants).  Who will shine for us this year? I'm leaning towards a Vernon Maxwell-esque outburst from new Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Good Seats Still (Always) Available

The Nationals and Marlins played a game last night, and no one came. No, seriously, check out this photo via @moneymetalcakes twitter feed. I mean, why do they even bother having an upper deck at Sun Life Stadium?

I would love to laugh at the Marlins' and their joke fan support, but then I remember a post like this from a Nats home game last year, and just shake my head at the shared fan indifference:

Nats and Marlins home baseball, catch the excitement. And sit wherever you'd like.

Looks like natural selection missed another one...

At least his reasoning was sound - the canine started it. But of course.
MASON, Ohio (AP) -- Police say an Ohio man has been charged with a misdemeanor for barking at a police dog. A police report says 25-year-old Ryan James Stephens was charged with teasing a police dog in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason. Officer Bradley Walker wrote that he heard the K9 dog barking uncontrollably inside his patrol car while he was investigating a car crash at a pub early Sunday morning. Walker says Stephens was making barking noises and hissing at the animal. Walker reported that Stephens said "the dog started it" when asked why he was harassing the animal. The officer said Stephens appeared highly intoxicated. There was no answer to calls to Stephens' home in Mason. He is to appear April 21 in municipal court.
Hmmm, wait a second...could this be the man?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Equal Opportunity

As staunch defenders of the distaff, we'd be remiss in neglecting this evening's historic NCAA Women's Basketball National Championship game. Muffet McGraw's Notre Dame Fighting Irish stunned Geno Auriemma's Connecticut juggernaut in one semifinal, moving on to face the Aggies of Texas A&M, who knocked off much-ballyhooed Stanford to reach the final game. (Note: this is the first time in G:TB history that Auriemma's name has graced its pages. Auspicious day for him.) Both teams are #2 seeds, making this the first final since 1994 not to feature one of the four top seeds.

There are literally tens of blogs dedicated to covering women's hoops (give or take 8s or 9s), so we'll leave most of the analysis to the experts. Skylar Diggins leads the Irish, but since ESPN cares very little about women's basketball and I'm in a hurry, I can't tell you how many points per game she averages. She dropped 28 on UCONN as the Irish became the first team ever to defeat the Huskies and Tennessee in the same tournament.

A&M leads the nation in turnovers created, using their pressure defense to erase a 10-point deficit with six minutes remaining against Stanford. The story of the game will be Notre Dame's ability to take care of the basketball.

And Pam Ward's pantsuit.

We've got the Irish, 77-66. Who do you like?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Squirrel Week

Washington Post columnist John Kelly is clearly one of America's brightest journalistic lights. Yesterday, he kicked off #dcsquirrelweek to honor the noblest, bravest, nimblest, cleverest, and downright cutest beast roaming our planet. Mr. Kelly, you're doing God's work.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Rollin down a hill snowballin gettin bigger

The first line of "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" characterizes the current state of VCU's men's basketball team, and although it may be more accurate to say "b-ballin gettin bigger," I never let technicalities get in the way of filler posts. Butler is now looking down the barrel of VCU's gun, which is pretty fitting given Richmond's insanely high murder-by-shooting rate.

The remaining members of the tournament's field are now on notice: Shaka Smith has homeboys bonanza to beat your ass down. ESPN analysts should also watch a game or two lest they unexpectedly wind up with a steak on their collective head.

Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun from Titus Curare on Vimeo.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Metal Up Your Ass Friday, Featuring Pantera

It's the first of April, bitches. Baseball is starting. College basketball is ending. Tulips are blooming. So get fired up with Phil Anselmo, Dimebag Darrell (RIP), Vinnie Paul and Rex Brown.