Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reader Submissions Filler: 'Stacherific

Via Work Jerry, aka @dumbartonsbeer, comes this "news" item. Apparently something called the "Stimulus to Allow Critical Hair Expenses" (STACHE) wants a tax break for hair care products. Let this charming video explain everything:

Why do I have this strange feeling this is a ruse?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Say Hi to Seuss

Sad news from the world of the arts yesterday, as Jan Berenstain, co-creator of the Berenstain Bears series of childrens' books, passed on at the age of 88. Ms. Berenstain and her husband, Stan, were the artists behind the more than 300 well-loved books about a family of overall-wearing bears. Finally, she and Stan (who passed away in 2005) can rejoin forces and team with Theodore Geisel. I'd read that collaboration.

Monday, February 27, 2012

CAA Conference Tourney Morning Filler

I was trying to dig up video of Nick Nolte's ridiculous Red carpet interview on ABC last night, but I am failing miserably, so in the meantime I pasted below the bracket and schedule for the upcoming CAA tournament, which begins Friday in Richmond. The key game for us of course is the Tribe's matchup with Northeaster, at 6pm pm on Friday. The boys of Shaver win that one, and I for one (as a futile superfan) absolutely think they'll put a scare into VCU. Hell, they almost beat them once this year, why not do it in style in the tourney.

First Round, Friday, March 2: 
Noon: (8) James Madison Dukes vs. (9) UNC-Wilmington Seahawks
2:30 p.m.: (5) Delaware Blue Hens vs. (12) Towson Tigers
6 p.m.: (7) Northeastern Huskies vs. (10) William & Mary Tribe 
8:30 p.m.: (6) Georgia St. Panthers vs. (11) Hofstra Pride

Second Round, Saturday, March 3: 
Noon: (Winner James Madison/UNC-Wilmington) vs. (1) Drexel Dragons
2:30 p.m.: (Winner Delaware/Towson) vs. (4) Old Dominion Monarchs
6 p.m.: (Winner Northeastern/William & Mary) vs. (2) Va. Commonwealth Rams
8:30 p.m.: (Winner Georgia St./Hofstra) vs. (3) George Mason Patriots

Semifinals, Sunday, March 4: 
2 p.m.: Winner of Sat.'s early games
4:30 p.m.: Winner of Sat.'s late games

Finals, Monday, March 5: 
7 p.m.: Semifinals winners

I might have some upcoming news on the Finals game later in the week. In the meantime, start prepping for GherogheFest folks, it's just six days away.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

With Apologies to Dumbarton's Brewing

I like beer. This ought not to come as much of a surprise to you. And while I like lots of different kinds of beer, my tastes generally run to either really hoppy ales or really chocolatey porters and stouts. Lager? I hardly know her.

For the past month or so, I've been fairly diligently following an uber-healthy 'cleansing' diet prescribed by Dr. KQ (who may or may not be an actual doctor) after I complained of feeling sluggish and bloated following a particularly gluttonous holiday season. I ate tons of vegetables and fruit, lots of fiber (flaxseed and steel cut oats in my breakfast smoothie ever day, like clockwork - and as a result, that's not the only thing that's like clockwork), quinoa, beans, and lean meat proteins (turkey, chicken, eggs). I refrained almost entirely from butter, cheese, bread, beef, pork, and most saturated fats. I even cut back on (though didn't eliminate entirely - don't tell Dr. KQ) my alcohol intake.

Last weekend, I ran my first half marathon, covering the 13.1 miles in a slow but steady 2:04.25. I ate the best Krispy Kreme donut of my life about 10 minutes later, but I never really got a chance to reward myself with a really great beer splurge.

I'm fortunate to live near a Wegman's, a big box grocery chain that caters to obnoxious elitists like me - lots of fancy schmancy organic foods, high-end cheeses, and most importantly a large selection of beer and wine. Last night, in search of something new and interesting with which to pat myself on the back, I grabbed one of these:

New Belgium Brewing's Lips of Faith series explores regional flavors and their expressions in beer. The Cocoa Mole Ale, as you might guess, is inspired by Mexican ingredients, featuring chocolate, cocoa, ancho, guajillo, and chipotle spices, and a bit of cinnamon. Quite simply, it's a phenomenal quaff. The flavors are perfectly balanced, and the subtle heat of the peppers builds slowly with each swallow, lingering after the liquid passes your mouth.

I know you usually get your imbibing tips at our friend Dumbarton's web abode, but trust me on this - try the Cocoa Mole. You'll be supporting a great craft brewer and your taste buds will wake up and say thank you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

G:TB Academy Award Preview

In a bit of an unusual development, Team G:TB is fairly excited for Sunday's Academy Awards. Well, sort of. We couldn't care less about 98% of the categories for which Oscar will be awarded, and we care even less than that for the self-indulgent acceptance speeches about the "craft" of acting. But we do have a significant rooting interest in the Best Original Song category, where Bret McKenzie (of 'Flight of the Conchords fame) puts his 'Man or Muppet' up against 'Real in Rio' by Sergio Mendez and Carlinhos Brown (lyrics by Siedah Garrett). Three on one really isn't a fair fight, but when you've got Muppets on your side, anything's possible.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Dogs

My friend and illustrator extraordinaire, Jen Hill, aka Jenny Elegance, will soon release her first children's book. Here's a preview:

You may recognize Jen's work from another book she illustrated. She has a damn fine blog too.

If you like to read books to your kids or need something to give someone else's kid, get some here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This Week in Wrenball: J is for Hypocrite

W&M lost to VMI in Bracketbusters "action" over the weekend, and plays out the string on a desultory what-might-have-been campaign with home games against Hofstra (9-20, 2-14) and Georgia State (19-9, 10-6). At this point, all I really care about is that the Tribe finishes with the 10th overall seed and avoids the 8:30 pm Friday 6/11 game in the CAA Tournament. That would put a significant crimp in my weekend plans, which are shaping up as epic. (Tune in here on March 5th for Team G:TB's hazy recollections of what promises to be an all-timer.)

While we watch this season circle the drain, it's early promise gone the way of an headline writer with a thing for bad Asian jokes, we're left with hoping for #2bids4CAA and reviewing the bidding for at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. I'm sure we'll get into this in more detail later (read: we'll almost certainly beat this dead horse like a rented mule in the next few weeks), but here's a spoiler: I think the CAA gets at least one at-large bid. I know the numbers don't really favor that proposition, and I'm well aware of the conference's inept work in November and December. I realize that the CAA's only real quality out of conference wins are Iona and Cleveland State (twice), and that 11th-place Hofstra pulled off two of those. But I've never before seen the luminaries of the collegiate hoops universe sing the CAA's praises to the degree Jay Bilas, Andy Katz, Dick Vitale, and Seth Davis have over the past week. I can't quantify it, for sure, but I really believe it means something.

In related news, noted major conference mainstay Jim Larranaga caused much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments yesterday when he snubbed his former mid-major colleagues in arms. Said the Miami head coach, "If you look at [George Mason's] non-conference strength of schedule, it's in the 300s. That's not the resume that the committee has looked for over the years. You look for people that have really challenged themselves in the non-conference, and not just in the non-conference, but done pretty well. If your strength of schedule is 200 or below, in the non-conference, as a committee you look at that and say, 'Well, what have they proven?"

To be fair, Larranaga was responding to a question directly referring to his former employer and didn't just choose the moment to jump ugly on the Patriots. But it's all just a little unseemly, no? FoG:TB Jerry Beach is a longtime rabid anti-Larranagite, and his opinion on the subject is a must-read. For our money, Larranaga's analysis requires a bit more context. Sure, his Miami squad has played a tougher schedule this season, but how have they performed? The U is a dismal 1-6 against RPI Top 50 squads, 3-9 against Top 100 opponents. In comparison, CAA co-leader Drexel (23-5, 14-2 CAA, 15-game winning streak) is 0-2 against the Top 50, but 4-2 against the Top 100. VCU (23-6, 13-3) is 1-2 against the Top 50 and 2-3 against the Top 100. The maligned Mason (23-6, 14-2) is 1-2 versus the Top 50, 3-4 against the Top 100.

The difference is opportunity. Miami of the ACC gets a ton of chances to play other big guys, but they sure as heck haven't made much of it. The CAA's littles get a limited number of runs at the power programs, and while Drexel and Mason sure would like another bite at the UVA apple, especially the way both are playing right now, the three CAA teams listed above still have better winning percentages against top 100 RPI programs than does Miami. Hell, even the aforementioned Hofstra Pride, 11th in the CAA, are 3-8 against RPI top 100 programs.

Bet man of the people Larranaga didn't get into that in his presser.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bite Me, Randy Newman: Sunday Shorts

If you happened to tune into last weekend's telecast of the HSBC Sevens World Series event from Las Vegas, you were fortunate to see FOG:TB Brian Hightower do a terrific job of providing color commentary. In a bit of supreme irony, you also got to hear our pal describe France's tiny rugger, Terry Bouhraoua, variously as 'annoying', 'a pest', and 'scrappy'.

Bouhraoua approximates no one as much as your irritating little brother on the pitch. A mere 1.67m (just shy of 5'6") and 65 kg (143 lbs), he's essentially my size, but he's fearless, mixing it up with men who outweigh him by a hundred pounds in some cases. The smallest player on any Sevens World Series roster, Bouhraoua leads seventh-place France in both tries (16) and points (99) through the first five events of the series and is ninth overall in both categories. He's the rare pain in the ass with as much impact on the scoreboard as on his opponents' tempers.

It comes as no surprise, then, that I find Bouhraoua a kindred spirit. A tougher, faster, probably richer kindred spirit, but a (little) man after my own heart, nonetheless. The 24 year-old played his club Rugby for Beziers in the French Federale 1 (which I assume is the first division), while I played my club lacrosse for William & Mary, which doesn't really have a division, to my recollection. Regardless, I know the man's struggles.

Terry and I (and our (wee) man James Madison) both have a message for Randy Newman on this holiday eve.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Deep Thoughts

Although I once wrote a GTB post welcoming Grantland to the 'sphere, I'll confess I have gone long stretches of time without reading anything from their site. In the past couple of weeks or so, though, I've poked around, and not just for a bemused look at SportGuy's Super Bowl sadness. What I found was at least three top-shelf articles worth passing along.

The first one is by the Father of Sabermetrics, Bill James; he makes a mathematical case for Prop 24 . . . not the tax break issue in California, but the proposition that Dwight Evans should be inducted into Cooperstown. I always liked Dwight Evans, and frankly, how could you not? Sweet 'stache, unassuming guy, rocket arm, good bat. Hall of Fame, however? I wasn't so sure before reading the article, but James makes a strong, mathy case based on Win Shares (as opposed to WAR or VORP, related stats). I'm not sure whether the formulae take into account Dewey's appearance in a Farrelly Brothers film, but I would hope it does. Curious to hear what Rob thinks of this one.

The second is a curious piece by a couple of economists who take the increasing public concern about concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in football and apply economic principles to describe how, specifically, football could collapse in American society. They make that far-fetched notion less so. Curious to hear what Dave thinks of this one.

Finally, Grantland MVP Chuck Klosterman writes (more) about Van Halen. He's obviously an acclaimed writer, but the kid-in-a-candy-shop tone as he comparatively assesses VH works old and new thoroughly resonates with my rock and roll self. Even as he humbly comes to not much conclusion, confessing, "I don't know what I'm trying to express here," it's an endearing bit of relatable sentiment for anyone who loves a band through moments of fading legend and even outright embarrassment. (Perhaps e.g., Dave and The Cult.) Curious to hear what Squeaky thinks of this one.

* * * * * *

Taking a tangent and seeing where it goes . . . one of the lines in Klosterman's VH piece struck me. He's describing an Eddie guitar lick that's more than a little derivative of their old tune "Mean Streets."

"So why don't I like it more than I do? Probably because it actually is what it
sounds like — a condensed, economical, conscious replication of something that
used to be an organic extension of his genius. It's no one's fault. Eventually,
everyone becomes who they always were.

Is this true? Eventually, everyone becomes who they always were? It's a philosophical consideration limited to people 35 and up, I'd say. You have to be old enough to have seen a great many people change and consider that a great many of the great many eventually change back. But does everybody gravitate back to their inherent state?

It sparks an interesting line of thinking -- at least interesting when you've had a dozen pale ales.

There are obvious examples of Klosterman's assertion: for example, Dave. In high school, Dave was a fairly amiable, brainy Jersey dude who played sports and had lots of friends. He then went to college in Williamsburg, VA, where for four years he was a warped madman who played a few sports and had a few friends but spent most of his time drinking obscene amounts of malt liquor, tequila, sangria, and Milwaukee's Best; listening to and/or making terrible music; smelling very bad; getting tattoos; insulting unattractive women (sometimes by sleeping with them); and conjuring ridiculous hypotheses of nonsense. After college, Dave went home and became a fairly amiable, brainy Jersey dude who plays sports and still has the same friends. The parabola for Dave was miniscule.

It happened to Superman in Superman II. He had to come back to his true self. Indiana Jones was under the spell in Temple of Doom, but being burned brought back his real nature. Reno Hightower tried to be a better guy, but the reality was that when Reno Hightower was a prick he was the best damn quarterback in the history of Kern County. And so he was. Dean Keaton couldn't do it. The cops wouldn't let him go legit, but neither would his inner being. Like he tried to tell Edie Finneran, "I tried."

Even in the New Testament! Luke 22:32 -- "you, when at last you have come back to your true self, must strengthen your brethren." Jesus is telling Simon that Satan is going to have at him, but after his true self prevails, he will be even stronger. Or in guitar god Eddie Van Halen's case, he will be less awesome at guitar.

"What I am is what I am, are you what you are or what?"
--Edie Brickell
It even happens in a physical sense. People who are big-boned and big eaters drop a bunch of weight through an array of dietary adjustments and rigorous exercise; eventually, many of them return to the plump people they really are at the core. What I can never tell them is that, to me, it feels more natural when they're their big selves and kind of creepy when they're thin.

Now, Dave's was a digression similar to lots of people -- go to college, tear it up like a wild man, and then slide back into a more responsoble self. It's the practical thing to do. Hmmm. I never got that memo, of course. I changed from a fairly reserved kid in grade school into a carpe diem idiot in high school, one who wore his Class Clown title as a badge of honor (my parents are still so pleased), and then . . . well, I just got stuck that way. It feels natural. It feels like who I really am. It's fucking fun, people.

Some folks also move away to a new town and establish new identities . . . only to move back home later. I sorta did that. But I didn't change my personality upon returning. The old neighborhood was like "Hey, Igor's back!" soon followed by "Oof, Igor's back." I boomeranged on locale but I refuse to on personality. You know how if you keep making that gross face, it'll get stuck like that? Yeah. It happened.

"We all go back to where we belong."
But there are others who call Chuck Klosterman's statement into question. They changed, but they didn't change back.

Our old friend Fitz was a yellow 1979 Camaro-drivin', Old Milwaukee-drinkin', Freedom Rock-listenin' piece of fraternity house furniture. An absolute mainstay. He almost never got laid, meaning he was always there to drink with you. He was a hilarious hang-out guy. And then? A handful of years out of college (after med school) he met the girl who would marry him. And bury him. He instantly dropped out of the circle of dudes, never to return. And he's not the same now. He's not funny. He doesn't drink much. He doesn't listen to Freedoom Rock. The last time I saw him was a few years back at a Tribe playoff game. I was with Teej, Jerry, and a few other dudes, and we were sitting in one of the front rows of the sidelines. I'd had a few, saw him strolling by, and hollered gleefully, "Fitz!!!" He turned his head, forced a tiny smile, said my name, nodded, and never broke stride. Jerry turned to me: "Good friend of yours?"

He's never changing back to what he was. So Chuck Klosterman is wrong, right? Unless . . . unless Fitz was this dud, altered into a cool guy before I met him, and then reverted to the mean guy he is now. Did that happen??

Makes you wonder. Is our friend Coby a big-time lawyer who's trying desperately to keep his delinquent ruffian self stuffed into that starched shirt and tie? Or is he a natural henpecked dork who, out of boredom and curiosity, dabbled in drinking to blindness and punching cops for a few years? Makes you wonder.

"I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam."

And what of people who have never really changed? Rob is pretty much the same little guy I have always known since 1988. Sure, his weight has fluctuated between the 170 lb "Little Pork Rind" era and his current svelte, gall bladderless, bicycle boy state. Sure, he used to be a bitterly short fuse who would break stuff, and now he's this mellow svengali guy. Sure, freshman year he used to . . . okay, so maybe he's changed. But which is his true self?

Only time will tell, my friends. Place your bets now on everyone you know, sit back, crack a beer, turn on Freedom Rock, and enjoy the show.

Curious to hear what Teejay thinks of this one.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hummala Bebhuhla Zeebuhla Bop

Though the good people at long ago clarified the delightful rumors about Van Halen's legendary tour rider that demanded the band not be exposed to any brown M&Ms, the story - like a lot of stories, I imagine - is more fun when David Lee Roth tells it. While it falls short of being an apocryphal tale of rock star divadom gone berserk, it's still an entertaining yarn. I like to watch this while pretending that Diamond Dave is giving a lecture on Contract Law to an awestruck1L class, maybe at Pepperdine. Bet it'd be a lot more fun than Zman remembers his first year.

Brown M&Ms from Van Halen on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Grow a moustache, help a kid.

GTBers and FoGTBers, I have an opportunity for you…

1. Do you like to grow facial hair?
2. Do you like to compete?
3. Do you want to ensure the next generation of GTB writers is properly prepared to take over the blogosphere?

I know your answer to every question is a resounding YES. So, here are the details:

What is this all about? 
826DC is raising money by hosting a moustache-a-thon during the month of March. I'm on the board for 826DC and would love your support.

826DC, the newest chapter in the 826 network, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 through 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

The organization was founded 10 years ago in San Francisco by author Dave Eggers. Each of the centers has a quirky storefront—in SF it's a Pirate Supply store, in Ann Arbor it’s a Robot Supply & Repair shop, and in DC we have the Museum of Unnatural History where we sell primordial soup, missing links and other such things. You may be familiar with us from Dave's TED Prize speech, or this Funny or Die video by 826LA advisory board member Judd Apatow. Or you may know about 826 from reading the HuffPo tribute to Christopher Hitchens - he was on the 826DC advisory council.  Or maybe you purchased the Very She & Him Christmas album by the a-dork-able Zooey Deschanel (with the proceeds going to 826National.)

There are many reasons to love 826—so pick one that works best for you. To kick things off, I will sponsor any GTBer who participates.

And, if the Doofus Overlord agrees, we can post photos on the blog every Monday to compare and contrast progress.

What do I need to do?
• Shave any and all facial hair on Monday, February 27, 2012 (prior to the kickoff)
• Grow a moustache from March 1 – March 31.
• Ask people to sponsor your moustache by donating money to 826DC.
• Come to March Moustache Mondays, the weekly check-in/happy hours, at Meridian Pint (3400 11th St NW) at 6 p.m. every Monday in the month of March. (or take a photo every Monday and send it to Shlara or An awesome weekly prize will be distributed at each of the check-ins/parties based on who raised the most money for the previous week.
• Celebrate at the end of Moustache-a-thon party on March 31!

How do I win?
Grow the best moustache AND raise the most money. Solicit contributions from everyone you know and everyone you wish to know. This is the totally legit reason you've been looking for to get your co-workers, driinking buddies (I'm looking at you Igor), students (Dave), and friends to support your hirstute habit.

What kind of moustache should I grow? 
When we think of moustache, we think of hair on the skin between the upper lip and the bottom of the nose. There are many styles of mustache, including the Fu Manchu, handlebar, and walrus. Mutton chops encouraged! Goatees and beards strongly discouraged!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This Week in Wrenball: Shiny Things

We have a confession to make. We've been so distracted by Marcus Thornton's flash and his tantalizing potential that we've completely missed the point. We've whined about injuries keeping JohnMark Ludwick and Kyle Gaillard from contributing, and robbing Quinn McDowell of his consistency, and ignored a big story. We've celebrated Beasthoven without giving credit where credit is due.

The fact is, friends, when the Tribe wins, it's because Brandon Britt played well.

Last year as a freshman, Britt brought a dynamism and speed to the Tribe's backcourt that Williamsburg hadn't seen in, well, maybe ever. He averaged 10.9 points per game and tallied more assists than turnovers - a non-trivial plus for a freshman point guard.

Thornton's arrival in Williamsburg heralded great things, and the athletic frosh has certainly had his moments. Unfortunately, he thrives most with the ball in his hands, which had created problems for Britt, who, not coincidentally thrives most...with the ball in his hands. As you may know, the game is played with a single ball on the court at any given time. Therein lies the rub.

The Tribe's season has been a study in frustration, the team's perimeter-based offense sputtering as it tried to figure out how to accommodate two young, gifted athletes with similar skillsets while not forgetting that their best player is a wing who needs the ball, too. More often than not, the results have been disappointing.

But in the Tribe's five wins, a pattern emerges. Britt, who averages 8.9 ppg on the season, drops in 16.8 per game in W&M victories. His shooting percentage rises from 36.5% to 51% in victories, with his free throw accuracy increasing from 72.4% to 82.4%. He's averaging 2.0 turnovers a game on the season, but has only given it up three times total in the Wrens' wins. Geeking out a bit, he's 57.8% more efficient on offense in wins, going from 85.4 points/100 possessions to 134.7. If you don't believe me on this stuff, check out Michael Litos in his weekly CAA Court Report. Note the outstanding facial topiary (and next time you see him, ask him where he gets his W&M nuggets):

It may be too late to salvage the 2011-12 season, but with Britt just a sophomore and Thornton but a pup, the future of the program depends upon Tony Shaver figuring out how to get the two to co-exist on the floor.

Tough row to hoe this evening in Philly as the Tribe takes on red-hot Drexel at 7:00. The game's televised on CSN-MA for those of you not stuck in a Hallmark-based holiday tradition. Or, as I like to say when my wife can hear me, "Happy Valentine's Day, sweetie! Hugs and kisses!"

In big league news, the CAA announced a television partnership with the fledgling NBCSports Channel yesterday. Smarter folks (read: Litos) can give you all the details, but for my money, the league gets a partner with a vested interest in its success (the CAA is the first conference to enter into an agreement with NBCSports) and no real entrenched conflicts of interest. Yes, turning its back on ESPN is a risk, but I think the upside is significant for the league, and not just for basketball and football (CAA gridders get five games televised as part of the package).

Finally, and speaking of hugs and kisses, a giant Happy Birthday to Gheorghe Dimitru Muresan. Many happy returns, big fella.

Happy Billy Ray Valentine's Day

Holiday filler, at its finest:


Also, late Editor's addition. Happy Birthday Gheorghe:

Monday, February 13, 2012

They made a G.I. Joe 2. And the RZA is involved.

We'll start the week with a Valentine's Day gift idea for several G:TB staff members. RZA's set to play a sensei known as the Blind Master in G.I. Joe 2 this summer. The Wu Tang impresario got to design his own costume, which includes a wide-brimmed hat with blades coming out of it. Protect Ya Neck, indeed.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Pull Out the Grammy and I Squeeze Off Six

The Grammys pretty much piss me off.

How a group of obvious know-nothings wield such apparent power is beyond me -- although calling it "power" is relative. There's an inversely proportional weight to the Grammys, since the less one is familiar with music, the more stock one places in these awards.

The most publicized gaffe in Grammy awarding came in 1989, when Metallica's beloved (by metalheads and then some) album . . . And Justice for All was snubbed in the Grammy category of Best Hard Rock/Metal in favor of Crest of a Knave, a middling, post-crest effort by . . . Jethro Tull, natch. While the Metallicans, critics, and rock fans all over scoffed at this misstep, it was the continuation of a pattern for the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences. Here's the M.O. of the NARAS:
  1. Completely overlook the musical standouts of the times.
  2. Years later, attempt to rectify these grievous errors with subsequent awards for later, lesser works, thereby ensuring that you . . .
  3. Completely overlook the musical standouts of the times.
  4. Rinse; lather; repeat.
Jethro Tull may not suit your musical tastes at all (flutes and hard rock, two great tastes that don't go great together), but rock aficionados can't deny that their 1970's work -- which enjoyed significantly more critical and commercial success -- would've been a far more likely candidate than Crest of a Knave, subtitled "Is Anybody Still Listening?" So Metallica gets snubbed, the world of metalheads is outraged (though how does one tell the difference than, say, any other day?), and Metallica gets seven Grammys in the next decade -- most of them for decidedly weaker output. The cycle continues. (Though the whole mess did spark one of the best acceptance speeches two years later, when Lars thanked Tull for not putting an album out that year.)

Bruce Springsteen first won a Grammy in 1984, meaning everything from the opening guitar notes of "Blinded By The Light" in 1973 through the last howl of Nebraska must have been relatively subpar. That '84 win was for "Dancing in the Dark," which was a huge hit, but not wholly representative of his work, wouldn't you say? He has since won 19 (!) more for the following works:
  • "Tunnel of Love"
  • "Streets of Philadelphia"
  • The Ghost of Tom Joad
  • The Rising
  • "The Rising"
  • "Disorder in the House" (with Warren Zevon)
  • "Code of Silence"
  • "Devils & Dust"
  • The Seeger Sessions: We Shall Overcome
  • Wings For Wheels: The Making Of Born to Run
  • "Radio Nowhere"
  • "Once Upon a Time in the West"
  • "Girls in Their Summer Clothes"
  • "Working on a Dream"
. . . and Bruce was nominated again this year, this time for his box set The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story. Fans of irony will note that it’s a box set focused around his 1978 album . . . which did NOT win any Grammys. These days Bruce could release old tapes of himself vomiting on the tour bus after the No Nukes concert in ’79 and it would win a Grammy. It just feels like utter retribution for past oversights, which only perpetuates the problem.

There have been other egregious make-up calls in recent Grammy history, like: Steely Dan's comeback album win after the 70's drought, Ziggy and Bunny Wailer both winning where Bob could not, Tom Petty not getting over the hump until he was a Wilbury, Floyd winning a decade after Roger Waters left, Nirvana winning after Kurt was dead, Santana cleaning up 25 years after his heyday, and The Clash getting a wink for a documentary long after their records had been shelved by the Association. Check out the Stones' Grammy trophy case for an eye-opener. A time-capsule view through the Grammy lens would see 1994 as the year two one-hit wonders, Salt-N-Pepa and The Rolling Stones, made it big. NARAS misses the mark more often than it hits, and my first thought is: who’s in this association, and why aren’t they listening to very much music every year?

Then there are the categories. Any casual viewer asks the same questions every year:
  • What’s the difference between Record of the Year and Song of the Year? [Record goes to who made the music, Song goes to the writer. Why can’t they change it to Songwriting? Imagine your audience is Teej after papal ballots. Keep it simple.]
  • Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song? [Same story. Why they wouldn’t at least keep “Record” consistent is beyond comprehension.]
  • There’s really a category for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration?
  • Other than me, does anyone call it “rap” any more?
  • There’s really a category for best album notes?
  • There’s no category for Best Hard Rock/Metal album? (Jethro Tull objects.)
Now let’s take a look at the 2012 Grammys. (The awards are tonight.) As always, I have a few major complaints.

Here’s top on the list. Mumford & Sons, “The Cave.” Great song. Nominated in four separate categories this year. Good choice. For last year or the year before. This song was recorded and released in 2009! The Grammy rules, of course, stipulate that if the music was released in any way after October 1 of the prior year, they are eligible for nomination. Mumford & Sons’ Sigh No More came out in 2009 and started making waves in 2010, but the record company – almost as if by design – waited and released “The Cave” as a single in October 2010. This rant is already too long, but singles have no place in the world of rock and roll any more. So if your album comes out in 2009, the music on it should be eligible in 2010. End of story. Not 2011. Not 2012. NARAS, be big enough to say, “Killer song. We missed it. Our bad.” Now, because of this late entry, acts like the Jayhawks, Dawes, Feist, TV on the Radio, Mayer Hawthorne, Trombone Shorty and the Drive-By Truckers get ignored. Just stupid.

In a similar vein, Bon Iver has been nominated for Best New Artist. Bon Iver. Whose outstanding debut album made the Gheorghemas Day 12 list . . . in 2008. And we weren’t the only ones touting Justin Vernon for this work three or four years ago. He was pretty huge in most circles of music. In 2008. Best New Artist. “Hey, he’s new to us at NARAS . . . we don’t hear all that much new music!” Just stupid.

Then there are simply the differences of opinion. Anyone who thinks that Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” – one of their most sissified, faux-U2 efforts ever – is the Best Rock Performance/Song of 2011 should not be given any authority to award anything. Coldplay is about as “Rock” as Geoff is. During Gheorghemas I granted you that “Paradise” was a guilty pleasure. This song is weak, and the Association is simply throwing the nomination Coldplay’s way because it’s easy.

I think this is what it’s all about. It’s easier to nominate the Chili Peppers, Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, Kings of Leon, My Morning Jacket, Eminem/Dre, George Strait, and Radiohead for whatever they did last year, even if it’s starkly subpar to their earlier work. They are known entities and people won’t say, “Who???”, but if you nominate Jessica Lea Mayfield or Of Monsters and Men, the masses might ask just that. Take some chances, and do your fucking job, NARAS.

Credit where it’s due: amazingly, the Association did come across The Civil Wars, nominating them in both the folk and country categories. And The Decemberists. But like I said, more misses than hits. Maybe I’m just bitter that NARAS keeps leaving Random Idiots out. I don’t know.

I suppose while the Grammys fall short of my hopes for them, they're certainly far closer to perfection than the other music awards programs that have surfaced. (Billboard, the American Music Association, and MTV all issue flimsy knock-offs.) I'm not quite sure why that is; in the world of cinema recognition, the Academy occasionally errs and is held to task by the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Independent Spirit Awards, which are all worth their salt. In music, there seeming is only the Grammys, and that's why I expect more and get frustrated with less. Every year.

Next Whiny Rant Coming Soon: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Curious Confluence

Nils Lofgren is a pretty cool guy. I kind of figured it before -- I mean, anybody who can claim legitimate membership in both Crazy Horse and the E Street Band has to be fairly impressive. But hearing him interviewed on GTB-heralded WXPN Thursday afternoon, I learned he's a solid, very humble dude who still speaks of the awe that it was and still is to play guitar onstage with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and many other acclaimed rock and rollers.

But Nils is quite accomplished in his own right. His DC area band Grin and his solo work have garnered some critical kudos, and he's a respected guitarist in the business. If Rob's not a fan, he should be, what with Nils about an inch shorter than he is. All in all, Nils Lofgren isn't just an Italian-Swedish rock guitarist from DC with a cool name -- he's a fairly Gheorghey fellow.

All of that said, here's a pair of completely awesome Did You Know facts about Nils Lofgren. He grew up in Garrett Park, MD, not far from the District. In 1978, with the sad sack Washington Bullets surging in the standings en route to their only NBA title ever, Nils penned and recorded "Bullets Fever," a musical tribute to the team. It's fantastic.

I have uploaded the mp3 because I don't think it's available for purchase anywhere, but if someone can point me to a place where it is, I'll gladly delete this song. (And buy a copy immediately.) You can also go to Wizznutz's jukebox that features more than one version of the song, and go read more about Nils and the song here at Mohut.

The second piece of trivia is even closer to home for many on the GTB roster. Also back in the 1970's, Nils also wrote and recorded the jingle for Jhoon Rhee's TaeKwonDo studios -- a locally famous song and commercial featuring "Nobody Bothers Me" as the catchy chorus/slogan. Jhoon Rhee is known as the Father of American TaeKwonDo, but more pertinently, he is also known as the father of Chun Rhee. Chun is the little boy winking at you in Nils' TV ad below, and he's also one of our fraternity brothers. Like Nils, he's a humble guy, even as he knows he can floor you with the one-inch punch and put his foot through your face in half a second. He's running the Jhoon Rhee TKD studios these days, so sign up today so that nobody bothers you.

This Fortnight in GTB

Another banner pair of weeks in Gheorgheland, so exciting, in fact, that we barely had time to keep up with it. 

We did find out that Pat Sajak has a lot in common with the G:TB staff. The genial Wheel of Fortune host wasn't above a tipple or two during the work day.

 “Vanna and I would go across and have two or three or six and then come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet. They’re really good tapes to get a hold of,” said Sajak, adding that his average number of drinks was “cuatro” or four.

“I had a great time. I have no idea if the shows were any good, but no one said anything, so I guess I did OK,” Sajak said.

Anyone have Pat's contact information? I think we've found another FOG:TB. 

In other news, Dave invited me to go to Belmar for Jersey Shore barbecue in an email (copied below). On a weeknight. He's either got a seriously skewed sense of geography, or mistook me for a man of the cloth in his acquaintance. I couldn't go, but the thought of barbecue and the Jersey Shore is an interesting one.

i know this is a long shot for most people, but my friend's band is playing at jersey shore bbq tomorrow night. it's in belmar and they play from 6:30 to 9. the bbq is amazing and it's byob. i am trying to leave before six. so far, i think connell is in and i might be picking up terry on the way-- terry confirm this-- but that still leaves some room in the car if anyone else can get out early (and you'll be back to HP by ten . . . unless we stop at the park pub on the way home).

I was pleased to find a new entry for my Christmas gift list

And finally, in a story that mixes our love for design with our fondness for drink, here's a story about the creation of an infographic. About cocktails. Mix away.

 Have a great fortnight.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

If You're Friends With G, Then You're Friends With Me

At 12:08 pm yesterday, the following missive was sent into the twitterverse:

Real Tracy Murray, UCLA Bruin, Washington Bullet/Wizard, '93-'94 NBA three-point shooting leader. Not some ersatz Tracy Murray, or a Tracy Morgan, or a Traci Lords (though that might've been interesting in its own way). And @gheorghetheblog responded as only he could, running through the early 90s Bullets roster in an extended comic riff. My personal fave:

So, really weird, but has Ashraf Amaya been calling you a ton lately? RT @RealTracyMurray @gheorghetheblog Big Gheoghe!!! What's up man???
Feb 08 via web

Team G:TB has extensive experience with NBA players, to be sure, but even we didn't expect the response we got from Murray. After a multi-tweet extravaganza that featured Don MacLean, Jim Lynam's cabbage smell, Rod Strickland's hot dog fetish, Cluj University, and Lost plot lines, real Gheorghe's former teammate gave us this:

gheorghetheblog Gheorghe The Blog
in reply to @gheorghetheblog
@gheorghetheblog @BadNewsHughes U had me crackin up with the Ashraf Amaya comment. Thats my boy but havent seen him in awhile.
Feb 08 via Twitter for Android Favorite Retweet Reply

As @gheorghetheblog later told me in an exclusive interview, Tracy Murray is a "good dude". (Contrary to what his twitter persona might lead you to believe, @gheorghetheblog is a man of few words.) Looks like we've got a new FOG:TB, one that actually happens to be a FOG, to boot.

Gheorghe: The Blog, winning friends and influencing people since 2003.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Fashion is Dumb

It really, really is...I mean, is this the wearable version of the silly web game "Bejeweled"? WTF people.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Smells Like Bacon

My Green Mountain homeland has been getting serious play here over the past several months because of its hip, hip artistic bent. It was one thing when the groovy kids at Middlebury College continued their dominance of Muggle Quidditch - college students are supposed to be zanily creative. But even the state's malcontents are getting into the act.

Inmates working at the Vermont Correctional Industries Print Shop in St. Albans developed and printed the decals that adorn State Police vehicles, modifying the traditional logo just a tiny bit to reflect the artists' interpretation of the authorities' oeuvre. It took the state four years to figure out the merry pranksters' digital duplicity, and mere weeks for the world to have a chuckle at its expense. Two pigs' feet up from the art lovers at Gheorghe: The Blog.

Woody Jackson (Middlebury College '70) would be proud.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Mixtape Redux

I recently unveiled a bangin' old school hiphop mixtape as requested by Dave's friend Connell. Upon further review, I may have misunderstood the assignment. I think he asked for a playlist of old school bangin' hiphop, which is an entirely different curational undertaking.

Here's a playlist of songs about bangin'. Most are hiphop, all have an old school vibe. None are particularly safe for work.

Track 1
Track 2 (This one's for Mark.)
Track 3
Track 4 (Girls in NJ circa 1992 liked this song. Girls in VA circa 1993, not so much.)
Track 5 (I couldn't find this on yootoob, hopefully this doesn't screw things up.)
Track 6
Track 7 (This is more of a love song but it makes the cut as a prelude to Track 8.)
Track 8 (Completely NSFW. This hood.)
Track 9
Track 10
Track 11 (The official video so too bleeped out to be understandable.)
Track 12
Track 13 (Everyone at W&M mocked me for loving this album but c'mon, tell me this isn't dope as hell. Not even you staid rhythmless DMB-loving Virginians can resist this jam. I bet you're wiggling your hips right now. Like this:

This project was harder than I thought it would be, as bangin' is a very popular topic in hiphop music. I could have made a playlist based entirely on, for example, sex-related De La Soul songs. Instead I diversified things to expand your horizons.

You can throw any of these songs on during a drunken late-night event (assuming you still attend them) and really get the freaky deaky started. Email me for a link to Spotify.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Your G:TB Super Bowl Preview

The fortnight 'twixt the championships and the Super Bowl are jammed with overanalysis, blowhardy pseudo-insight, overblown media coverage, and a dearth of T&A.
So here's our preview:

Giants 27, Patriots 23.

(Other prognostications in the comments.)

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Be Afraid. Very Afraid.

Most people think squirrels are cute and funny. And most people think Squirrel (or "Rob" as he prefers to be called these days) is cute and funny. But that's all going to change, once people get wind of this paleontological discovery . . .

Friday, February 03, 2012

Words of Wisdom

A great man once said, "'tis better to keep one's mouth shut, and be thought a fool, then open it, and erase all doubt". And in the spirit of Honest Abe's humble admonition, we come today to rebut the youthful dipshittery of one Pat, known on Twitter as @suburbPAT.

Pat offered the world this nugget last night: #WorstBasketballPlayersEver Gheorghe Muresan

Rather than insulting the clearly misguided lad, we offer him some knowledge.

Fact #1: Gheorghe Dumitru Muresan played parts of 6 seasons in the NBA, starting 207 of the 307 games in which he participated. Anyone who starts more than 200 NBA games can clearly not be labeled the Worst Basketball Player Ever.

Fact #2: Gheorghe averaged 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in his career. Not All-Star caliber numbers, to be sure, but certainly above league average in toto. Again, Pat (if that is your name), not the stuff of a WBPE.

Fact #3: In 1995-96, on his way to being named the NBA Most Improved Player, Ghita averaged 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. He led the league in field goal percentage at .584 (and did the same thing the following year, improving to .604), and finished in the top 10 in offensive and defensive rebound percentage. One could convincingly argue that he was one of the league's top 5 centers that season. You feeling me now, Pat?

If I didn't know better, I'd think that our friend Pat thinks that beauty is skin deep, that because Gheorghe looks a little different he must be some kind of incapable freak. We all know differently, don't we? We're all freaks in our own way, for sure, but our Gheorghe was a very capable freak on the hardwoods.

And now you know, Pat. Tell your friends.