Monday, April 30, 2012

Unit M Filler

Williamsburg, VA (likely) - Two disaffected youths put down cans of Beast Light to properly assist in couch removal from a decrepit building.

Speaking from experience, I have done this once to my own couch, and assisted at least two other fellas in proper couch toss removal while in the 'Burg.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I'm a Trainwreck

As many of you know, I took a long-needed sabbatical recently, spending a brief span of time intentionally unemployed before starting a new job. During my respite, I learned a great deal about the world and about myself, and I offer the following in hopes that it may help someone, somewhere in their own journey.

First, foremost, and surprisingly, my life of leisure taught me that I don't want to win the lottery, and I'm fairly sure I'm going to suck at retirement. Having nothing to do and nowhere to be sounds delightful beyond words until you have nothing to do and nowhere to be. There's a huge qualitative difference between surfing the web aimlessly while at work and doing the same on your own time. 
My lack of initiative and inspiration during this time (which I like to call my Pajama Period) was sobering. Which is important, because one of the few things I did accomplish in my fallow era was learning to make a passable Sazerac. It took some testing, but I highly recommend making the effort.

I also read Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons, which was entertaining, if essentially a prose cartoon. I eagerly await the sequel, which I'm told involves Lionel Simmons.

Like Brian Kelly, I led a fairly talented team of young athletes to its second consecutive loss to an inferior opponent. In my case, the U8 Loudoun Cheetahs fell by a 2-1 score in a game they dominated, falling to 0-2. Chalk up another failure for me. At least we had awesome postgame snacks.

I tended the shit out of my yard, at least until I ripped a big gash in my shin when a rock kicked up from my weed/leg whacker. Then I tended to my wound.

Mercifully, I returned to the ranks of the gainfully employed on Wednesday. I was as surprised as you are to realize that I was happy to reenter the working world. Classic case of being careful what you wish for, I suppose, but the more important lesson is this: if you're too lazy to plan your laziness, you get what you deserve.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Of Drafts, Conventional Wisdom and Relative Values

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece on why the perceived value of safeties in the NFL Draft needed to change in accordance with the evolution we were seeing in defensive rules and the corresponding shift of offenses towards a greater emphasis on the passing game. Without rehashing the argument completely, it basically went like this: The NFL is more of a passing league now than at any time before in it’s history. With that change, it’s time to re-examine how we value the position of safety in the NFL. Quality safety play is essential to a solid defense in today’s NFL. Moreover, elite safeties are able to impact the game as much (or more) than any defensive position (see: Reed, Ed; Polamalu, Troy) and thus should be highly coveted in the NFL Draft. As the league has became even more of a passing league in the two years since I made this argument, I believe it to be even more valid today than when I first stated it.

The reason I began to think about this argument, and eventually make it in this space is that I wanted my favorite team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to draft (then) Tennessee safety Eric Berry at #3 instead of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. I did not believe then (and do not now) that Gerald McCoy was as close to being a dominant tackle as most draft experts believed. And I certainly didn’t think he was anything near to Ndamukong Suh’s equal. After two injury filled campaigns, I still do not believe that Gerald McCoy will be a dominant defensive tackle in the mold of Suh or former Buc Warren Sapp. And though he missed most of last year with a torn ACL, I do believe that Eric Berry will soon be among the best and most impactful safeties in the NFL.

Why do I bring all of this up? Because this year there’s another case to be made for going against conventional draft wisdom. Interestingly enough, it goes against draft wisdom that has evolved as the NFL has become the passing league it is today. By now, we all know that running backs are not highly valued in NFL circles. In fact, running backs have become so undervalued that there are many NFL scouts and GMs who say they’d never draft a running back in the first round. I understand this. Most running backs wear down and are out of the league by 30. And that’s the really talented running backs. Further, there are numerous examples of All-Pro running backs being acquired in the 2nd & 3rd rounds and even some later than that. But does that mean that no running back should ever be drafted in the 1st round? What about the top 10? Top 5? Certainly not. There are many examples of running backs who have more than lived up to their high draft positioning. LaDainian Tomlinson (5) transformed a moribund Charger franchise into a contender. Steven Jackson (24) has been the only decent offensive player on the Rams for the better part of a decade. Even second rounders Matt Forte (44) & Maurice Jones-Drew (60) have carried an extremely limited offenses for the bulk of their entire career. Both Adrian Peterson (7) and Chris Johnson (24) have been the offensive centerpieces of playoff contenders. Running backs are valuable. Extremely so. Today’s NFL just requires a keener eye for running back talent and a more detailed examination of the risk/reward consequences of drafting a running back in the first round.

One running back who is certainly worthy of not only first round consideration but also top 5 consideration is Alabama’s Trent Richardson. Richardson is the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. And while he lacks Peterson’s explosiveness, Richardson is far from a plodder. On top of that, I contend that Richardson is a more complete back. Peterson wasn’t a 3 down back upon entry into the NFL (Chester Taylor was Minnesota’s 3rd down back early in Peterson’s career) while Richardson is immediately ready to step in and play in every situation. He excels in pass protection and was Alabama’s leading receiver last year. Additionally, Richardson has shown himself to be more durable than Peterson at the same stage in his career while also having less carries than Peterson at the same stage due to his role as Mark Ingram’s backup as a freshman and sophomore. Simply put, Richardson is as close to a sure thing tailback as you’ll see in the NFL. He’s worth a top 5 pick. He’s even worth trading up into the top 5 to acquire him. And even though I know it’s not going to happen, I’ll be silently, hopelessly wishing for Tampa Bay to move up to #3 and draft Trent Richardson tonight. Even if he’s done by 30, I’ll take 9 years of Trent Richardson as a Buccaneer and be damn happy about it.

Random Notes:

If the Bucs were to draft Richardson instead of Morris Claiborne they’d still be in need of a corner. Lucky for them, the best pure cover corner in the draft played 3 years of college ball less than 2 hours away from their headquarters. I’m speaking of course of Janoris Jenkins. He of the multiple weed arrests and four children (Janoris Jr, Legend, Paris & Janorian) from three different women. Jenkins is a stud. And I’m not just saying that because he was a Gator. Mel Kiper had him rated as a 1st rounder LAST YEAR. He’s that good. Just go back and look at what he did as a junior at Florida when matched up one-on-one with AJ Green and Julio Jones. Two top ten picks at WR last year who scouts had rated higher than either Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd this year. I understand that Jenkins has the always worrisome “character concerns” but he’s too good a player to pass up in the 2nd round if he’s still available and your team needs a corner. Besides, his character concerns stem from his inability to wear condoms and and smoke weed in the privacy of his own home. Are both of these “mistakes” signs of poor decision making? Certainly. Did nearly every member of the G:TB staff make these same mistakes while in college? Yes. Many, many times.

When it comes to the wide receiver class of 2012, its generally accepted that Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd are at the head of the class. They’re the only 1st round prospects in a class that lacks any other elite pass catchers but is said to be especially deep. And even though both Blackmon and Floyd are each considered 1st round prospects most people agree that Blackmon is far and away the best receiver in the class. I am not most people. I actually think that Floyd is the more talented receiver of the two. He’s bigger, times out faster and has produced fantastic numbers in an offense that’s not nearly as wide open as the offense Blackmon played in at Oklahoma State. Add to that the fact that Blackmon had a significantly better QB throwing to him the past two years and you begin to see where I’m coming from. I’m also a bit skeptical of Blackmon’s numbers since he played in the Big 12. A conference which has morphed into the PAC-10 of our youth. You know what I’m talking about: Prolific passing offenses, tons of points and only a passing interest in defense. In fact, I’m beginning to become a little skeptical of all the offensive skill position players from the Big 12. Just look at some of the QBs produced by the Big 12 in recent memory. I mean, are any of us completely sold on Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman or Blaine Gabbert? I didn’t think so. And no, I wasn’t trying to bum you out, Redskins fans. Just saying I think the Big 12 may inflate passing & receiving numbers a tad. Anyway, back to Floyd. Playing with very average QBs in 2010 he put up 79 catches for 1,025 yards and 13 TDs. Not quite on Blackmon’s level but, again, he didn’t have an NFL early round QB prospect throwing to him. Floyd won’t go as high, due in large part to his proclivity for the Irish Taxi but I think the careers of he and Blackmon are worth watching for comparison's sake.

Finally, because it’s getting late and I’m still very lazy are five possible 1st Round prospects I love and five I hate.


Stephon Gilmore (CB: South Carolina) - Good size/speed combo. A starter since day one at South Carolina. Never got into any trouble during college and he fared well against a number of big time receivers during his time in Columbia.

Chandler Jones (DE: Syracuse)- A great athlete with good size who has flown under the radar because Syracuse is awful at football. Has a brother who plays in the NFL and another one you may have heard of. His name is Jon Jones and he’s currently the baddest man in MMA by a wide, wide margin. Good genes in this family.

Courtney Upshaw (DE/LB: Alabama)- He was great off the edge at Alabama. And hes built like a Mack truck. Scouts are said to have doubts about his athleticism but I remember hearing the same things about LaMarr Woodley. In the right system (3-4) I believe Upshaw is a double digit sack producer.

Melvin Ingram (DL: South Carolina) – Apparently Ingram lacks elite burst and has short arms (sounds like TJ). I understand why that might concern scouts but his game film is enough for me. He wreaked havoc on SEC OLines and is a good enough athlete that he scored a 50+ yard TD on a fake punt last year. He’s versatile enough to play DT and even slide out to DE in certain situations. I’m all in on Melvin Ingram.

Dwayne Allen (TE: Clemson) – He was often the best player on a prolific Clemson offense this past year. Which is saying something anytime Sammy Watkins is involved. Tight Ends are impact players in today’s NFL and Allen has all the tools you want in a pass catching TE. He’s not very tall, but either is Aaron Hernandez and he seems to be doing okay.


Kendall Wright (WR: Baylor) – I did like Wright during the season but then I saw that he showed up to the combine with 16% body fat. Not the work ethic I’d like to see from my 5’11” first round receiver.

Dre Kirkpatrick (CB: Alabama)- He has all the physical tools you’d want in a corner. Elite size and speed. He tackles well and played for Saban (a HUGE plus for a DB) but he doesn’t have elite cover skills and isn’t a ballhawk (just 3 ints in two years as a starter). He’ll be solid but not a #1 CB in my opinion.

Stephen Hill (WR: Georgia Tech) – Hill is a physical specimen who’s stock shot through the roof after he put on a show at the combine. He’s very similar to former Yellow Jacket Demaryius Thomas in that respect. Like Thomas when he was coming out (and still to a certain degree), I have my doubts. Georgia Tech runs a high school offense and as a result Hill’s not an experienced route runner or pass catcher. I’m just not sure he’s anything more than a workout warrior. Certainly not sure enough to spend a first round pick on him.

Ryan Tannehill (QB: Texas A&M) – Extremely inexperienced. Turnover prone in many key second half situations last year for a team that was a horrid in the second half. Oh yeah, that whole “not so sure about Big 12 offensive skill position players” thing applies to him as well. Top 10? No. Fucking. Way.

Lamar Miller (RB: Miami) – He put up impressive numbers the past two years but never felt like a dominant tailback to me. Too often his big rushing numbers resulted from one or two long runs. He’s got a future as part of a two back combo in the NFL but I can’t see him as a primary option. Doesn’t play as big as his size would suggest.

As always, these are nothing more than my opinions. Most of which are formed from long Saturdays spent drinking, gambling and watching college football on my couch. Feel free to disagree with me and/or call me an idiot. That’s fair. This isn’t my NBA Draft Preview, which we all know is 100% right at least 60% of the time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Greg, Look What Exists...

I loaded these materials into the blogger interface, but perhaps someone else added the text below? Or no, did we just plagiarize all of that? Honestly, who gives a rat's's fucking Daryl Hall. He's alive. And honestly, he's kicking some ass. I realize this is not an Igor post, talking up all the wonderful double-header music evenings they've had of late...but it's fucking Daryl Hall. I'm impressed. Enjoy. I hate you all.

Daryl Hall has had the great good fortune, in his own words, of “being in the right place at the right time” for what has turned out a rich and varied career. He has worked with virtually all of the great musicians of modern popular music as well as entering into new relationships with the best of the latest generation of artists.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Life as a Comic

Sometimes, when I’m in the shower, I fantasize about what life would be like as a stand-up comic. The club is packed and loud. Everyone is anxiously waiting for me to take the stage. I stroll out and grab the mike. The crowd claps and whistles . . .

Me: So when I was young, if I had a pimple on my face, it concerned me. I’d pick at it, squeeze it, put medicine on it. Really worry if that groovy girl in my chemistry class would notice it.

Crowd: Empathetically chuckling . . .

Me: But now that I’m old, if I get a pimple, I’m happy. I’m ecstatic. It means there’s still some life in me, some juice. I’ve still got oil.

Crowd: Laughing

Me: You never see a really old person with a pimple. Old-people skin has no oil, no life. No more juice in that skin. When I see a pimple on my cheek, I think: You’ve still got it, skin! You've still got some juice left in you. And nothing is better than getting a big white pimple on your back . . . as long as you can reach it.

 I contort myself trying to reach an imaginary pimple on my back.

The Crowd is eating it up, laughing  and mimicking my various acrobatic contortions. They are knocking drinks over in hilarious spasms.

Me: And when you pop that thing, when the white goop comes squirting out, it’s fantastic, like ejaculating, like blowing your load all over yourself.

Crowd: Screaming with laughter.

Me: It’s like you’ve just had sex with your back.

Crowd: Shrieking and crying hysterically. Guffawing. Actually urinating and defecating on themselves because they are laughing so hard, but not caring, just pointing at their soiled pants and laughing even harder.

Me: They never show that in a Clearasil commercial. The pimple money shot. It’s too pornographic. The other thing I love about my body-- you know I was going to tell a funny story about my dog, but this is better-- the other funny thing is that sometimes, during the span of one night’s sleep, I grow a giant white hair. It comes right out of my forehead above my eyebrow. When I go to sleep it’s not there, but when I wake up . . . there it is!

Crowd: Screaming in agreement. Large black women are shouting things like “That’s right! baby!” and “Testify it!” and “I know that hair!”

Me: I want to make a documentary about it. The money shot would be time lapse photography of actually watching the hair growing on my forehead. It would take years of filming to capture it. My film crew would be obsessed about it-- night after night-- the director would film so much that he'd go blind in one eye and need an eye-patch. He'd be monomaniacal over my follicles!

Crowd: Muttering things like “Huh?” and “What the fuck is he talking about?”

Me: Instead of hunting the great white whale, we’d be hunting the great white hair. We’d call it “Moby Cowlick.”

The Crowd is getting irate. Someone yells, “It’s a literary allusion!” The Crowd starts yelling things like, "Nerd!" and "Go read a book!" They throw bottles and food at me. I duck and cover, then run off the stage.

My wife yells, “What the hell are you doing in there? You've got to take Alex to soccer practice!"

At this point my fantasy dissolves. I get out of the shower, happy that I don’t have to work nights.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shame On Us

Shame on us for not paying a wee bit of homage to Levon Helm or The Band after last week's news of his passing. I wasn't the hugest fan of The Band out there, but as a Bob Dylan fan and a classic rock fan, I respected the hell out of of them. The Last Waltz is mandatory viewing for any fan of music. Here's a clip of Levon from that epic Scorcese documentary.

Friday, April 20, 2012

National Poetry Month

Given the erudition and intellect of our readership, I'm certain that all of you know that April is National Poetry Month. I celebrated by writing a little verse that drew comparison to Ogden Nash. I published it on Facebook, but it's reprinted at the bottom of this post.

My work, though, quakes before the poets lauded by Flavorwire as 10 of the Most Badass Contemporary American Poets. Badass poets? Badass poets.No shrinking violets, these, tucked behind a desk pensively looking out a window on a verdant tableau. Rather motorcycles, skulls whiskey, blood, guns, and grit. A few of my favorite verses follow:

You Asked How (formerly Even Now She Is Turning, Saying Everything I Always Wanted Her to Say)

At the end there were straws
in her glove compartment, I'd split them open
to taste the familiar bitter residue, near the end
I ate all her Percodans, hungry to know
how far they could take me.
A bottle of red wine each night moved her along
as she wrote, I feel too much, again and again.

You asked how and I said, Suicide, and you asked
how and I said, An overdose, and then
she shot herself, and your eyes filled
with wonder, so I added, In the chest, so you
wouldn't think
her face was gone, and it mattered, somehow,
that you knew this. . .

Every year I'm eight years old and the world
is no longer safe. Our phone becomes unlisted, our mail
is kept in a box at the post office,
and my mother tells me always
leave a light on so it seems
someone is home. She finds a cop
for her next boyfriend, his hair
greasy, pushed back with his fingers. He lets me play
with his service revolver while they kiss
on the couch. Cars slowly fill the windows, and I aim,
making the noise with my mouth, in case it's them,
and when his back is hunched over her I aim
between his shoulder blades, silently,
in case it's him.

Nick Flynn (author of Another Night of Bullshit in Suck City)

Disappointments of the Apocalypse

Once warring factions agreed upon the date   
and final form the apocalypse would take,   
and whether dogs and cats and certain trees
deserved to sail, and if the dead would come or be left   
a forwarding address, then opposing soldiers   
met on ravaged plains to shake hands   
and postulate the exact shade
of the astral self—some said lavender,   
others gray. And physicists rocketed
copies of the decree to paradise
in case God had anything to say,
the silence that followed being taken   
for consent, and so citizens
readied for celestial ascent.

Those who hated the idea stayed indoors   
till the appointed day. When the moon   
clicked over the sun like a black lens   
over a white eye, they stepped out   
onto porches and balconies to see   
the human shapes twist and rise   
through violet sky and hear trees uproot   
with a sound like enormous zippers   
unfastening. And when the last grassblades   
filled the air, the lonely vigilants fell   
in empty fields to press their bodies   
hard into dirt, hugging their own outlines.

Then the creator peered down from his perch,   
as the wind of departing souls tore the hair   
of those remaining into wild coronas,   
and he mourned for them as a father   
for defiant children, and he knew that each   
small skull held, if not some vision
of his garden, then its aroma of basil
and tangerine washed over by the rotting sea.   
They alone sensed what he’d wanted
as he first stuck his shovel into clay
and flung the planets over his shoulder,
or used his thumbnail to cut smiles and frowns   
on the first blank faces. Even as the saints   
arrived to line before his throne singing
and a wisteria poked its lank blossoms
through the cloudbank at his feet,
he trained his gaze on the deflating globe
where the last spreadeagled Xs clung like insects,   
then vanished in puffs of luminous smoke,

which traveled a long way to sting his nostrils,   
the journey lasting more than ten lifetimes.   
A mauve vine corkscrewed up from the deep   
oblivion, carrying the singed fume
of things beautiful, noble, and wrong. 
Mary Karr
a poem for spring

dandelion, so beautiful
I sing your praises
now please die

Thursday, April 19, 2012

One Night, Two Shows, Three Dimes Down, Four Strings

Big night of music last night. Don’t know if you guys heard, but I went to two concerts.

Nearly eight years ago I goaded our old friend and fratre Herb to contribute to our short-lived music blog. I hadn’t thought about his first entry there in many moons . . . but I did last night. Here it is:
August 11, 2004

Get yourself a ukulele
My name is herb and this is my first blog. I can't type worth a shit, nor can I really write but I'll try this gig for a while at least. Please bear with me, as it were.

I've been learning to play the ukulele. I've got a nice little Lanakai concert size model that my wife gave me for Christmas. Not a handmade Koa wood beauty but definitely not a toy. The reason I bring up the ukulele, which means "jumping flea" in Hawai'ian, is not to be braggardly or pompous (never!) but because it has enhanced the experience of music for me in the same way that hearing "Jump" covered by Aztec Camera or "I Need Love" covered by Luka Bloom does. So far I've learned to play a few Dan Zanes songs (for my kid of course) and a few old standbys (Crazy Love, Blue Sky), but the real tunes that have given me the most fun are "Rudie Can't Fail" and "God Only Knows." As I'm sure that playing any number of tunes with an instrument (or collection of instruments) different than in the original one becomes closer to the true essence of the music in question. Not the words necessarily, but the song itself. The chords, the changes, the meter and yes, the words. So, a Clash tune played on a ukulele is excellent in its own way. You know it's The Clash but it can be used as a lullaby. Playing a Brian Wilson mega-layered masterpiece on a uke is also a treat, much like a grape – simplified and beautiful.

Paring a song down to the bare minimum is not always a good thing, however. I think that Dylan's "Isis" from Desire is one of the best pieces of art ever. It can't be pared down or covered though, unless of course you have a witch who can play the violin, a piano that you can bang on and a seriously stuffed-up nose all at the same time.

There's really no point to this rambling, as you might have guessed, except the non-musical may want to consider getting a simpleton's musical instrument to become musical with. I would recommend against an accordion (thought about it, looks WAY too hard) despite its freaky cool cache. I've got a mountain dulcimer that is cool looking on the wall but I didn't ever manage to really get into it. I've gone through the motions w/ piano, harmonica and guitar – none of which were easy enough to learn to the point of enjoyment before I got fed up.

The ukulele is a good bet. It's small, very affordable, and it has only four strings so it's much easier to play a great diversity of chords – F#m w/ a dim 7th? No problem. It's got indie-cred, street-cred and aloha-cred. I thought about learning the penny-whistle but the idea of hanging out in my backyard tooting on a tin whistle sounded annoying to my neighbors. The uke is relaxing to those around you and easy to play. Bruce Springsteen probably has a ukulele.
So why did this spotlight on ukes resurface in my brain last night?

Because my night began with watching this guy kick some serious ass on ukulele. Jake Shimabukuro is a uke virtuoso, and he is amazing. His story, as he told it, is that he was just a Hawaiian kid who picked up the ukulele (pronounced oo-ka-lay-lay) because his mom had played it, got proficient, played in a few bands to some local success, then posted a YouTube video of himself playing a Beatles cover tune. 10,000,000 views later, he’s touring the world. That was six years ago, and here it is:

Bad-assed and ukulele don’t really fit, and in his thoroughly self-effacing banter Jake mentions that part of the reason for his touring success is that “solo touring ukulele player” sets the bar pretty low for people’s expectations. The dude is pretty daggone Gheorghey.

The originals he played featured an array of styles, from typical Hawaiian sounds to traditional Japanese music to bluegrass to rock and roll. The covers were outstanding; Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Adele, Journey, and yes, the rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that put him on the map.

There's even a forthcoming documentary:

Like Herb said, get yourself a ukulele. Short of that, if you get a chance to watch Jake Shimabukuro, don’t pass it by.

* * * * * *

Part Two of the evening was less revelatory but even more rocking. I walked a block and a half from the Virginia Arts Festival Building over to the Norva, where the Drive-By Truckers were just about to come onstage. A “short but great” set according to an old friend who’s a DBT’s superfan. This was the setlist:

I Do Believe
Uncle Frank
Puttin' People on the Moon
Where the Devil Don't Stay
Used to Be a Cop
Marry Me
Ronnie and Neil
72 (This Highway's Mean)
Cartoon Gold
My Sweet Annette
Box of Spiders
Carl Perkins' Cadillac
Everybody Need Love
Get Downtown
Birthday Boy
Girls Who Smoke
Hell No, I Ain't Happy

Aftermath USA
3 Dimes Down
Let There Be Rock
Shut Up and Get on the Plane

As always, my favorites were “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” and “Let There Be Rock.” There was a good deal of tribute to Levon Helm (because of Levon’s imminent passing) throughout the night. Mike Cooley has about the most appropriate surname in rock and roll, and Patterson was sweating to the oldies. Here's the DBT's first steps towards selling out -- meaning getting off the road 200 days a year in order to be with their kids. That's Cooley narrating.

I guess the boys had had a humdinger of a Patron night in Charlottesville the night prior, playing until 12:30, so they were a bit more subdued onstage last night. (And based on the C-ville setlist, the Jefferson Theater show was the crown jewel of this leg of the tour.) That said, the Truckers always bring it. Never seen anything less than a damn fine show. Check ‘em out.

Elm(LMFA)o Filler

We apparently are now getting filler from rob's kids. Here is an annoying ass Sesame Street character singing a parody of an annoying ass LMFAO song. Enjoy, or something:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Boys to "Men"

Dan Sinker is a Chicago-based journalism professor, mobile web expert, and founder of the underground culture magazine Punk Planet. He's perhaps best known for his epic twitter parody of Rahm Emanuel's mayoral campaign. As @MayorEmanuel, Sinker created a profane bizarro campaign world that's subsequently become a book entitled The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel.

Earlier this week, in commemoration of  Ian MacKaye's 50th birthday, Sinker posted an excerpt from a long-ago interview with the Fugazi frontman and punk legend. If the ladies in our lives want a little bit of insight into how we think, there are much worse places to start:
"I was cleaning my room once and I was listening to Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant was going on and on about all of these seemingly adult kind of things and I realized he was eighteen when he did that record—I was probably twenty-nine years old at the time—and I just thought, “Oh my god, I’m twenty-nine years old and I never became an adult.” Here’s Robert Plant and he’s eighteen and he’s singing about having his own apartment and running around town. To me, he seemed so adult. I called my dad and I said, “Dad, I’m kinda freaking out over here. I’m twenty-nine years old and I’m starting to realize that I’m a man, but I never made that transition.” And he said, “Well, I’ll tell you two things. First off, I see you as a man, as an adult man. You’re not a kid. And the second thing is that I can’t see myself as a man.” He was sixty at the time and he hadn’t come to terms with it either. It was nice and terrible at the same time to realize that that transition is a difficult one."
Right now, a bunch of putative "adult" males are reading this and going, "yup".

Monday, April 16, 2012

Your 2012 New York Mets View

This was to be a two-pronged preview of the upcoming Mets season. Well, somewhere in the last fortnight, other items leapfrogged "writing about the friggin' Mets" in Marls' and my day-to-day priorities. So while this has the feel of a "preview," since we wrote most of it prior to Opening Day, it's a "view" since we're 9 games into 2012. Kudos to Marls for humoring me.

The New York Mets in 2012Marls and I pitched a handful questions at each other, then each answered every question. Here goes:

1) How many games will the Mets win this year?

Marls: I hear a lot of bitter Met fans say this team will be lucky to win 60 games. I guess that could happen, given the level of competition in the division, but I actually like this team. They are not going to challenge for the wild cards unless Johan Santana returns to Cy Young form, Jon Niese takes a huge step forward, and Mike Pelfrey stops sucking. Doubtful, especially the third one. That being said, they should score some runs and could surprise some people. I think the absolute everything-falls-into-place high end is 85 wins. On the other side, if every other team in the division is as good as advertised, 65 wins.

Igor: Best case: 86 / Worst case: 69 . . . I've been trying in vain to predict the Mets' win total for nine years now, and I seem to aim high every time. Interestingly, Marls and I were of like minds on this one. I just can't fathom how an organization could ignore the correlative relationship between a solid rotation and team victories for 10 years. Starting pitching has been on the wish list for eons, but let's go get expensive closers and left fielders.

I think 78 wins is a sound guess.
But what do I know?

2) Rooting for the Mets is a lot like . . .

Igor: . . . being H.M., the patient we learned about in Intro to Psychology freshman year. H.M., you see, was an epileptic sufferer in the 1950’s who underwent surgery to remove several parts of his brain in an effort to curb the affliction. As it turned out, nearly all of his capacity for turning short-term memory into long-term went with those pieces of brain. (Go watch Memento.) There were numerous examples of what he could no longer remember or do post-surgery, but the one that got Dave, Hightower, and me scolded in class was how, as Professor Nezlek put it, H.M.’s favorite uncle passed away, and “every day his family would explain to H.M. that his beloved uncle died, and every day H.M. would cry as if he were hearing it for the first time.” The sheer sadism of that family telling H.M. about his uncle on a daily basis, or even responding with the truth every time he asked, had us 18-year-olds in stitches to the point of being barked at in class. Seriously, ease up on the guy a day or two along the way and just lie to him . . . who are those bastards, the Manson Family?

H.M. died three years ago at age 82, in all likelihood still waking up thinking he was 27, and probably freshly grieving the loss of his favorite uncle. For me, though, the beginning of every new Mets season has begun to feel like H.M.’s morning nightmares. Hope springs eternal and all that crap, but the start of another 90-loss slog always begins with optimism. As it wears on, the disappointment that inevitably, inescapably arrives somehow seems to surprise me. I’m H.M., crying in my beer every day in May about Uncle Mr. Met. Somewhere around Memorial Day, I snap out of it and become Bitter Old Man, remembering everything that came before and kicking myself for believing.

Right now, though, I’m euphoric.

Marls: . . . um, nothing else. The easy answer here is some trite response like “getting kicked in the balls” or “wizzing into the wind.” Instead, I tried to think of another team where fandom was similar to rooting for the Mets. Sure, you can find many teams with a history of futility. But very few of them have the Mets' unique attributes that make rooting for them such a nut punch. The only thing I could come up with is rooting for the Clippers. Big market team, history of futility, marquee team in the same market with obnoxious fans . . . yep, just like rooting for the Clippers. Then I remembered that that Clippers are actually good now . . .

3) What's the worst trade or signing of the last 10 years?

Marls: Thank God this question is limited to the last 10 years. The organization has a proud tradition of trading talent for mediocrity (the Ryan Express for the Fregosi Flop), and signing all-stars that quickly turn into has-beens. While watching Jason Bay’s talent disappear and Mo Vaughn’s bicep explode was depressing, this one was easy. Igor has already documented in this space the precipitous fall of Roberto Alomar, so I won’t rehash it; however, the speed at which a future Hall of Famer’s skills deteriorated the moment he touched Flushing soil is mind-boggling. Unlike most of their deals, everybody thought the Mets got a steal, which they did -- except that it was Mike Bacsik. [Ed. Note: Igor doesn't agree with that last part.]

Igor: Hands down. Oliver "Twist My Vas Deferens" Perez.

3 years, $36MM.

Year 1: 66 IP, 3-4, 6.82 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 6.40 FIP, -0.8 WAR
Year 2: 46.1 IP, 0-5, 6.80, 2.07 WHIP, 6.99 FIP, -1.1 WAR
Year 3: Uh . . . the Mets released him, and he spent the season in the Nationals’ AA

Those numbers speak for themselves, if you count the sounds of retching and screaming as speaking. If you recall, Derek Lowe was the pitcher the Mets almost signed when they opted for Perez. Lowe wanted (and got) an extra year and a few more millions. And he was seven years older, purportedly. So the Mets got Ollie, his control problems, and his attitude. The hated Braves, meanwhile, got Derek Lowe, his control, and three years of this:
Year 1: 194.2 IP, 15-10, 4.67 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 2.6 WAR
Year 2: 193.2 IP, 16-12, 4.00 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 2.7 WAR
Year 3: 187 IP, 9-17, 5.05 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 2.5 WAR

Ollie was way more interesting! Mets win!
(The Braves, by the way, gave up on Lowe this winter and traded him to Cleveland – paying $10MM of the salary in doing so. Lowe is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA. Oh, and Ollie is middle relief for the Tacoma Rainiers now. Yesterday he got four outs while allowing three hits, three walks, and two earned runs. His ERA is 5.68, which seems low.)

What a train wreck.

4) You're going to get drunk and watch a Mets game with 5 current or former Mets players or coaches. Name them, and why.

Igor: Mike Piazza – We’ll drink some Pabst and discuss 9/21/01, as well as how two studs like us each managed to be graced with a pair of daughters, plus the coolest Phoenixville Phantom we both knew.

Casey Stengel – A must. I'd like his take on the teams of the last ten years, and if any of them are eerily familiar.

Mookie Wilson – Just because he's Mookie, plus after a dozen Rheingolds, I want him to tell me if he really thinks he would've beaten it out.

Wally Backman – The man's been shafted when it comes to managerial positions, but this was a no-brainer.

Keith Hernandez – I'll buy him whatever he was drinking in the clubhouse in Game 6, and we'll play Strat-o-matic with the '86 cards. I'll bat him 7th and hope he makes an error just to razz him, but he's a 1, so he won't.

Others in consideration: Kong; Frank Cashen; Le Grand Orange; Dee-Dub; Ed Kranepool; Nails, once he's out of the clink; Mr. Met; Gil Hodges; HoJo; Messy Jesse; hell, any of the drunks from '86 except Kevin Mitchell, who might kill us all. Maybe Doc and Straw for late-night fun. And Robby Alomar, just because it's always fun to have that one guy that everyone makes fun of the whole time.

5) Which member of ownership/management/coaching staff would you fire today if you could?

Igor: Too easy. Anyone named Wilpon. It has come to a strange point with Mets fans and their favorite team’s ownership: we thought we were disgusted after years of shady buffoonery, and then, like Keyser Söze, the Wilpon family showed us what men of shady buffoonery really are. The Madoff thing has taken me from merely annoyed and frustrated to wanting to wash my hands of these old, dirty bastards. Honestly, given the events of the last couple of years, they’re now lower on my totem pole than Daniel Snyder. Does anyone realize how difficult that was to achieve???

And they’ll probably still own the Mets when I die.

Marls: Who to pick? Freddie Wilpon? The Mets' crack training staff that turn groin pulls into season-ending injuries? Nope, not even close. I would fire Jay Horowitz. Horowho? Jay Horowitz, the Mets head of public relations who has been with the team for over 30 years. This guy has made a career out of second-rate promotions, bad press conferences and ill-timed announcements. Cute and homespun may work in Seattle, but in NY it comes off as hokey and bush league. To make matters worse, the team whose name shall not be spoken has the best well oiled PR machine in the biz. The Bronx nine has a fight in the clubhouse and it was because they were fighting over whose Bible to use for their morning prayer. Meanwhile, the Mets go to Walter Reed hospital to visit some veterans, and it is used as an example of their fractured clubhouse. Mike Piazza wants to call a press conference to let everybody know that he’s not gay… Jay will set it up. The only spin the Mets organization is able to develop is that of Joan Payson spinning in her grave.

6) Write a limerick about the Mets.

Rooting for this team is a curse
Each year they manage to be worse
It’s unlikely they’ll play ball
Late into the fall
Cause’ Bernie stole the Mets’ purse.
There once was team called the Mets
Whose finances were riddled with debts
To get off this gurney
They need to call Bernie
But not Bernie Madoff . . . Bernie Goetz

There once was a man named Omar
Whose teams rarely did go far
He breached all our trust
Signing bust after bust
Until Selig came in and said no-mar.

There I was, there I was in the Congo
Or maybe it was up in Toronto
But my nightmare was vivid
And man, was I livid
We'd signed another pitcher named Armando

For this team there is no panacea
Often they give me diarrhea
This pain in my gastro-tract
Is partly because of the fact
They're still paying Bobby Bonilla

7) How many Mets games are you going to watch this season?

Igor: Live: 1-2, if I’m lucky. Marls and I are planning a weekend beer and baseball event at some point, one that has at least a 40% chance of us actually doing.
TV: [Ed. Note: I had a paragraph in here about how I was going to forgo the Extra Innings package this year. I deleted it. 6-3 and just baseball, period. Too good to save $200 for something more prudent.]
Radio: Listened to the end of a Mets game the other afternoon on my AtBat app on my phone. Technology, Igor is hot for you.

Marls: I will watch or listen to probably 100 games this year. I am a glutton for punishment. If they fall out of contention, I will not pay attention as much but the game will always be on.

8) What's your most depressing moment as a Met fan since 2001?

Igor: Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, as described here. What depresses me most about that game is that it's the unequivocal apex of a sharp parabola, the salad days sandwiched between slices of multi-grain suck. It bummed me out completely, and those were the best of times.

Marls: Easy. June 12, 2009. I was sitting in the stands watching ARod’s pop up settle into Luis Castillo’s glove for the final out of the first subway series game played at the house that Big Stein built. While the home team and eventual World Champs were the much better team, at least tonight I could savor a small victory. 10 seconds later, I was watching Castillo futilely chase after the ball as two runs scored and I was subjected to a loooooooong subway ride home on a train full of drunken fans who relished the opportunity to eruditely explain why they Mets were an inferior ballclub. Not good times. Like Igor, I was at Game 7 in 2006. I was also there the night Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run to eliminate the Mets in 1999 against the Braves. This was worse.

9) What former Met who's still in the league do you kind of root for?

Marls: I will root for Carlos Beltran wherever he goes. I thought he got a bad rap here in NY. Granted taking a called third strike in 2006 was not the best way to endear himself to the fans. However, the fans treated him worse than they treat Jason Bay. The guy carried them in 2006 and put up really good numbers for a good chunk of the 6+ years he spent in Flushing. He played an awesome centerfield and did not rock the boat. Sure, he was not an outspoken leader and he was part of the collapses of 2007 and 2008, but Met fans treated him like he shot their mom. If he had played at the same level in the Bronx for those same seasons, some douchenozzle would be trying to explain to me why he and Mattingly both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

Igor: (a) To some degree, Jeff Francoeur. Could not stand the dude when he was a Brave, but when he became a Met I began to like his style – even (especially) the free-swinging part. (b) But for as long as he remains in the league, my favorite non-Met will be Endy Chavez. As is said of Dave Henderson in Boston, if they go on win it all that year, he’s an all-time legend. As it went, too many people forget. Not anyone who was there, though -- Marls and I remember.

Which one do you root for terrible things to happen to?

Marls: Does playing in the Mariners’ minor league system count? If so, I hope Ollie Perez gets run over by the team bus after getting VD from a Tacoma hooker.

Igor: (a) Jose Reyes, for obvious reasons. (b) Dan Wheeler, because I am an ass and his brief pants-wetting with the Mets should be shared by all!

10) What other MLB team do you hate the most and why?

Igor: The Braves. I mean, the Phillies and their fans can go to hell, and the Marlins have always pissed me off (never moreso than now), but the Braves are #1 on the list. I mean, the Cardinals have been irritating me since the White Rat’s teams of the 1980’s, but the Braves just get my goat. I mean, the Yankees and Red Sox can just merge into one macro-megatron-billion-dollar bandwagon of unlikable, bloated blather called the New Englork Yanksox; despite their hatred of each other, their fan bases are now the two hugely fat guys on motorcycles in the Guinness Book of World Records. Can you tell them apart?

But really, it’s the Braves. Maybe it will subside after Chipper retires, but I doubt it.
F them.

Marls: I don’t like the team in the Bronx and I really dislike the Phillies, but in the end, that is really just because I find their fans obnoxious. I really don’t hate the players on either one of those teams. Strangely, I think the team that I hate the most is the Marlins.
  • Jeffrey Loria
  • Taking Reyes
  • Eliminating the Mets in 07-08
  • The cab accident
  • Multiple world championships for an apathetic fan base
  • That goofy statue in centerfield
F them.

11) Which current Met(s) give you hope?

Igor: Lots, but many of them are the same kind of hope we had for John Maine, Nick Evans, Brian Stokes, Anderson Hernandez, Fernando Nieve, etc. Not even the Lastings Milledge, Alex Escobar, Fernando Martinez types, just guys who you see and say, "Hey, this kid's better than we thought. He could be something." And then not.


Pelfrey to a degree, but Jason Bay, of course. Bay, it seems, has become one of those guys that the Mets had before and after their best years. Like Jeromy Burnitz, and, to a lesser degree, David Cone. We're Forrest Gump. We get Jenny when she's too young to marry and when she has a terminal disease, not when she's rocking out in the 1970's.

12) Make up stupid nicknames for 3 guys on the roster.

Jon “Oscar Thug” Rauch
Mike “Darling” Nickeas
Dillon "O.M." Gee (though I just saw others have come up with this one as well)
Josh Thole "and Tonic"
Lucas Duda . . . Dude . . . uh . . .
Kirk "Freshmen Are" Nieuwenhuis "Cool"

13) Pick a television sitcom past or present that most resembles the 2012 Mets and explain why.

Marls: There were so many possible answers to this one. In the end, I went with "Too Close for Comfort." They both have a big name who is good and sometimes great, but in reality is unable to carry a team/show (Ted Knight, David Wright). Then here is a guy that sucks, everybody knows he sucks, and yet somehow gets star billing (Jason Bay/Jim J. Bullock). They have a cast of nice role players that do some good things but aren’t enough to get you really excited about them (Lucas Duda & Ike Davis/ The Rush Girls). In the end, after you have watched an episode/game often you just want that time of your life back.

Igor: I went with "Arrested Development." The incompetence and repeated undoings at their own hands are painfully similar to those of the Bluth family. Every problem flows down from the top, of course, with Fred and Jeff Wilpon occupying the George and Lucille characters. David Wright is our Michael, the good guy protagonist with a few flaws who looks absolutely great as surrounded by the people around him. In truth, the teams of the last few years would have been more appropriate, with Tobias Castillo and Gob Perez joining Buster Bay in the futility. There's hope for the future, with George-Michael Niese and Maeby Murphy, but in the end, someone in this group will inevitably be groaning, "I've made a huge mistake."

Bonus Question - Fill in the blank. The Mets' good start to the season ________.

Marls: . . . illustrates the reason it pays to have adults in the front office. While the 2012 Mets are still short-handed and will likely fall out of contention by late summer, the quick start reminds me that building a real baseball team is nothing like fantasy baseball. For too many years the Mets mortgaged the future by selling off the farm system and investing in over-the-hill free agents. My hope is that the Madoff issues which forced the Wilpons to reduce payroll and hire Sandy Alderson will be similar to Steinbrenner's early 90's suspension that let Gene Michael build the core for the Yankee dynasty to come.

Igor: . . . isn't fooling anyone. We know what comes next. Except maybe this time . . . maybe, just once . . . you never know . . . [repeat ad nauseum]

Well, there you have it. 50 years of the New York Mets. Most of them dreadful and embarrassing. Here comes another one!

The Rally Squirrel . . . Immortalized

All this content for Squirrel Week and yet nobody has mentioned the Rally Squirrel in St. Louis? In the playoffs last year, a squirrel scampered in front of home plate in the middle of a game. The Cardinals as you may recall, went on to win the World Series.

Think those two items are unrelated?

The Cardinals don't. The Rally Squirrel, as the little rodent came to be known, is apparently featured on the World Series rings just issued. Read more here at

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cocaine Squirrel

The phenomenon rages on...thanks to @otbxfitness, we have our first shot of Cocaine Bear's diminutive friend, Cocaine Squirrel:

"You little cockroaches... come on. You wanna play games? Okay, I play with you; come on. Okay."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Unfortunate News in Squirrel World

Breaking news: these Jazz Hands Haters hunted down Jazz Hands Squirrel and shot him like he was nothing more than a pestilent rodent. Why can't we all live together in peace? Why can't people that wear camouflage appreciate jazz hands? And vice versa?


People that wear camouflage CAN appreciate jazz hands. One squirrel's tragic ending is not in vain.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Squirrel Week Reader Submission

From KQ...the email simply read "Jazz Hands!!!"

rob likes pizza

Well, it is Squirrel Week after all...

Also, I've been saying it for months now, but Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman realllly looks like Fred Gwynne:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fashion is Dumb

It's both baseball week and squirrel week at G:TB (though, in truth, isn't every week squirrel week here). Naturally, we're short on both of those things. But we've got this:

Revel in the pure cheddar, the acid-washed, blown-dry, pegged brilliance of this photo, and ponder the fact that these clowns almost beat Brazil in the second round. Tab Ramos' nugget is probably still sore from Leonardo's Mutombo-like elbow.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Traditions

Effective immediately, the G:TB editorial staff and community will begin greeting one another in the hongi tradition of the Maori, as demonstrated below by Honk Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang and New Zealand Minister of Maori Affairs Pita Sharples.

Use of the haka in editorial meetings remains optional.

Another Gheorghe Muresan?

Who knew?

That's some fly accordionism right there. And no, I'm not the first to use the "accordion" tag.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dave's Definitive List: Seven Movies That Are Better Than The Book

Last week in English class, a student told me she was having trouble reading Hamlet on her own. She had been absent for an extended period of time due to mononucleosis and the class had finished the  play without her, but she still needed to write her final Hamlet essay. And I'm not the kind of teacher that offers to stay after school and help. Instead, I advised her to watch the movie. The girl sitting in front of her, who was eavesdropping, was appalled. "You're telling her to watch the movie instead of reading the book? And you call yourself an English teacher?"

Normally, an insubordinate comment like this from a student would require some sort of disciplinary action, but not in this case. Why not? Because this particular girl is a passionate reader and a frequent participator in class discussions. Not only that, she's extremely short. So short, that like Rob, she gets away with murder. She was so frustrated on her last Hamlet quiz that by the time she got to the bonus question, which she did not know, she wrote: I don't give a shit. Expel me. She knew that because of her diminutive stature she could get away with it. She did. I laughed.

I said to them both: "The movie is the book . . . it's not a novel. It's a play." The girl who needed to make up the essay was fine with this.

"Which one should I watch," she asked.

"The Kenneth Branagh," I said.

The other girl wouldn't give up: "She can't just watch the movie! You made us read it first!"

I explained to the short, contrary girl that I wanted the class to imagine how to act and direct the scenes before they saw a film interpretation, but that it wasn't absolutely necessary to understanding the play. In fact, I admitted, if you just need to comprehend Shakespeare, you're far better off seeing professionals do it on a stage. The script is simply Shakespeare's blueprint for making a play.

I asked her if she read the screenplay for The Hangover before she watched the movie. She remained unconvinced, questioned my dedication to my profession, told me I had no respect for literature, and then went back to eating her salami sandwich. (Each and every day, this tiny little girl eats a salami sandwich in my class; I allow snacking as long as there is no sharing of the food. In my experience, snackers are generally better students: they are planners and they keep their glucose levels up, which is what your brain needs in order to think-- but apparently our principal does not believe this, as he recently made an announcement reminding students and staff that there should be no food or drink other than water in the classroom. Rumor has it that there has been an invasion of mice. I told salami-sandwich girl she would have to be discreet with her sandwich, and if the principal walked in, she'd have to stuff it into her purse ASAP. Again, how do you tell someone that small that they can't eat?)

Despite her arguments, I still believe that a play is written to be performed; you don't need to read it first in order to appreciate it. But this debate opens an interesting can of worms. We have limited time in our lives. Sometimes we have to choose whether we are going to read something or watch it. Sometimes we don't have the time and the patience to do both.

Occasionally . . . miraculously . . . a movie or TV show perfectly captures the tone, theme, and plot of a book so perfectly, that you could say that it is a substitute for the written version. You could either read it or watch it, but you don't need to do both. HBO's Game of Thrones is an example of this. The books are excellent, the show is excellent . . . and the show is like the books. Take your pick. You could probably make the same argument for The Walking Dead. Great comic books, great show. I'd say the same about Watchmen, but then Alan Moore would come to my house and tear me to shred with his talons, so I won't.

Generally, the movie doesn't live up to the book. There is no bigger cliché than: "the book was better." The Hunger Games recently disappointed me in this fashion, but I can't say I was surprised. Igor recently explained why book to movie transformations rarely meet expectations:

Characterization, back-story, and thorough explanation are almost always the elements of a book left behind when transferred to film. Even The Shining, which Kubrick made one of the most truly terrifying cinematic creations out of (and gave me nightmares), couldn't approach the level of bone-chilling detail, explanation of paranormal activity, and contextual understanding for characters both major and bit that came through in King's book.

The most interesting and controversial category is when the movie is actually better than the book. And we're not talking about gimmes, which this stupid list is full of. Yes, I believe you when you tell me that Full Metal Jacket is better than The Short Timers.

This stupid list also makes the bold claim that There Will Be Blood is better than Upton Sinclair's Oil! It goes out on a limb and says the same about The Princess Bride, Wild at Heart, The Prestige, and Requiem For a Dream. None of these are classic works of fiction. None of these are must reads. So my comment is: So what? I'm certainly watching The Princess Bride before I read it, and I'm not feeling like I missed anything.

The stupid list has fifty movies that are better than the book, and there's generally no explanation as to why this is so. They have essentially listed any movie based on a book that isn't a piece of crap, without qualifying their opinion. The movie version of The Talented Mr. Ripley is decent-- a reasonably good thriller-- but it barely scratches the surface of Patricia Highsmith's masterpiece.

Trainspotting, Bladerunner, and The Maltese Falcon . . . these are at least debatable-- but on the stupid list there is no debate until the top ten, and even then it's superficial. As much as I love the Coen Brothers, they are no match for Cormac McCarthy and his crime novel No Country For Old Men. And James Ellroy may be the best crime writer of our generation, so though L.A. Confidential is good, it's not better than the book. It doesn't replace reading James Ellroy. And they have the balls to say that Apocalypse Now is better than Heart of Darkness. Philistines. Both are great works of art, but they are both incomparably great. You need to consume both of them. I am wondering if the people who made this list actually read any of these books . . . or if they watch so many movies that they don't have time to read at all.

So which movies are definitely better than the books upon which they were based? And we're talking about classic books, highly recommended books. Good books. Books you might actually read. And this means that you have to choose. Book or movie, and you can never go back and read or watch the other. So, with everything on the line, which movies sincerely supersede the book?

7) The Godfather, of course. No insult to Mario Puzo and his excellent, though melodramatically written novel, but seeing is believing . . . and Coppola's The Godfather looks like a documentary, despite Marlon Brando's wacky performance. You never forget the scenes, the characters, and even the quality of light in the film. A no-brainer.

6) One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. The book is great, but dated, and the psychedelic narration gets tiresome. Jack Nicholson and Danny Devito actually act in this movie-- they haven't become typecast as cartoon versions of themselves yet, and that makes it unmissable.

5) Lord of the Rings. Nothing puts you to sleep quicker than reading Tolkien's masterwork. It is epic, but rather tedious, with jests, but no jokes. One of my students created the perfect metaphor to describe reading it. Peter Jackson's adaptation is epic and entertaining . . . there's no comparison.

4) A Clockwork Orange. A weird, fun, and challenging novel, but Stanley Kubrick used it as a blueprint for one of the most visually arresting films ever.

3) Jaws. Peter Benchley is really good at writing about sharks. I enjoyed his non-fiction book Shark Trouble: True Stories and Lessons About the Sea as much as Jaws. But that stupid mechanical shark coupled with the most memorable theme song ever (a meme song?) will always trump Benchley's writing. Plus, you can't beat Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper.

2) The Scarlet Letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic story of Puritan America suffers from an overload of Gothic bombast, but Demi Moore brings a wonderful sensibility to Hester Prynne's alienation . . . HA! JUST KIDDING! The movie version is horrible . . . atrocious . . . an insult to the original . . . but you do get to see Demi Moore wear a funny hat and get buck-naked in an old bathtub.

1) Lord of the Flies. William Golding creates an archetypal story of what happens to civilization when the rules are stripped away, but to get to the meat of the story, you've got to wade through pages and pages of monotonous description . . . tendrils and creepers and vines, oh my! When I taught this thing, we skipped chapters. The black and white movie, however, is perfect. Watch it and I promise you will wish you never read the book.

So what have we learned? First of all, books are great . . . I'm the first one to admit that. But if you get a first rate director, the proper casting, some truly inspired acting, and a tight script . . . and these come together in exactly the right way, then there's no question that a picture is worth a thousand words . . . nothing is more memorable than a great movie. And that's coming from an English teacher. And think of the time you'll save!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Green Collar Baseball

We've got Vin Scully's dulcet tones juxtaposed with whatever the hell that thing Miami's installed behind the left-centerfield fence. We've got Tim Kurkjian's excited exclamations and George Will's patrician baseball poetry. We've got Strasburg, Verlander, and Cueto, Batista, Jackson, and Kemp. It's Baseball (and Ohio - go Reds!) Week at Gheorghe: The Blog, and today we celebrate the time-honored tradition of franchise sloganeering.

From the Brooklyn Dodgers' immortal "Wait 'til Next Year' to the 2004 Boston Red Sox' unforgettable 'Cowboy Up', the team slogan is a storied part of baseball's lore. While those two examples were unofficial, teams have long sought catchy phraseology to help them market their franchises and drive fans to the box office - witness 'Let's Go Mets', for instance. In 2012, 14 franchises dug deep into their creative reserves to try to generate interest. We'll review them so you don't have to.

Of immediate interest, and perhaps obvious note to we East Coast Elitists (represented by the Mets' '50th Anniversary - I mean, come on, Wilpons. You seem distracted), more than half of this year's MLB slogans come from Midwestern teams. Eight of the 14 2012 marketing plays are the brainchildren of Central Division franchises - 4 in each league. As you (as a cynical product of the coastal media) also might guess, nearly all of these 8 flyover country slogans are numbingly trite (say, for example the Cubs' 'It's a Way of Life' or Cincinnati's 'This is Reds Country') , though Detroit's 'Who's Your Tiger'? has the advantage of being both bizarre and vaguely naughty.

We find ourselves nodding in strong approval of Kansas City's 'Our Time' slogan, accompanied as it is by a picture of Mr. Hand from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (What's that? You don't see Mr. Hand? Well fuck it, then, the Royals' slogan is painfully Polyannaish and improbable. Perhaps they meant Our Town, a fitting homage to blandness.)

Pittsburgh's 'Pride. Passion' Pittsburgh Pirates' is at the same time puzzling and depressing, seeing as we're nearly 20 years removed from a time when pride or passion were relevant for the Buccos. Minnesota's bland 'Twins Territory' rivals only the White Sox' 'Appreciate the Game' for lack of inspirational value, though we're ready to change our verdict on the latter if the Southsiders bring Omar in to throw out a first pitch.

Our disdain for Peter Angelos' Orioles is long-standing and well-documented. Their 'This is Birdland' slogan isn't going to have much impact on that front. Oh, really, Birdland? Well, that changes everything.

I confess to not entirely hating Houston's 'Root. Root. Root.', given its obvious ties to the game's national anthem and the Astros' clear need to get their fans to do just that. Sad, really, what's happened to that franchise, and they have to move to the American League next year. Root. Root. Root Canal, might be better.

Longtime bitter rivals the Dodgers ('An LA Tradition') and Giants ('Together We're Giant') take slightly different, though fitting approaches. Los Angeles appeals to history in a town that famously doesn't have much, staking the Dodgers' claim as the region's sporting centerpiece in a direct challenge to the interlopers from a hour south. (And the Angels really don't fire back, offering 'Angels Baseball'. Guess all those Pujols dollars meant Arte Moreno had to fire a few marketing types.) San Francisco, meanwhile, goes a little bit left of center quirky with their slogan, entirely befitting their home market. We'd like it better if they went the full Gheorghe and adopted 'Together We're My Giant'.

It's not hard to stand out in this field of mostly dreck. That said, our favorite 2012 slogan, by far, is a departure from the norm, a breath of, well, something. It's thrilling in its oddness, refreshing in its conflagration of themes, quixotic in its tilting against big market dominance. It's so very Oakland A's, their 'Green Collar Baseball' slogan. Allegedly in its third season, the (allegedly award-winning) Green Collar Baseball campaign, "highlights the hard work that embodies the young A’s team and illustrates how the organization welcomes an innovative and unconventional approach in order to win." Translation: have you heard of Moneyball? That's us! We're the Moneyball guys! Green Collar, get it?!? We're scrappy and green, not rich and red and blue and pinstriped!

Well played, Joe Morgan.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Ohio Players

I spent 20 hours in Columbus Ohio and I'm delighted to report that it's beautiful. Blame my northeastern liberal elitist bias, but I expected a lot more grit and blight. The place is almost spotless.

All I know about Ohio is this:

And this:

And this:

But what I found was this:

And this:

And this:

Everyone in Columbus is friendly and wears a shirt that says "Ohio State" or "Cleveland Indians" on it. Restaurant prices are pretty fair and everyone seems to be commited to fitness even if their waistlines don't show it. Really, look:

Columbus is full of beautiful architecture, both old and new. Look at the juxtaposition of the art deco building behind the tower of black glass!

And the beautiful skyline!

And the historical information!

And the beautiful sculpture garden celebrating Ohio's public primary schools!

And the empty pack of Dorals and the used tube of Vagisil thrown into the flowers around the beautiful sculpture garden celebrating Ohio's public primary schools!

I bet you're probably saying to yourself "Who smokes Dorals?!?"

This isn't how I intended my photo essay to end. I honestly was struck by the beauty and cleanliness of Columbus and decided to take a bunch of pictures as I strolled to pass the time, arranging the photos with short one-liners exactly as set out above. In fact, the place is so beautiful and clean that the used Vagisil tube stuck out like a sore ... thumb, that's why I noticed it. And that's when I decided to stop taking pictures. Otherwise I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the city.

That said ... who uses Vagisil in public, in a sculpture garden, and throws the tube into the landscaping?! While smoking 20 cigarettes!? I've seen lots of disgusting stuff in New York and Boston -- syringes, dead rats, live rats, used condoms, gangrenous homeless people, vomit, people passed out in vomit, people vomitting, Don King, stalactites of snotty mold driping from subway ceilings, fat girls in spandex, my own reflection in the mirror as I get out of the shower -- but nothing that made my stomach flop like this discarded Vagisil tube. Only in Ohio, I guess.