Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fashion is Dumb: zsubmission

A direct email from the zman:
"Fashion is dumb! Google up the picture for this $300 tshirt. Who pays $300 for a tshirt? Especially one this stupid."

Well, he certainly wasn't zwrong. Apparently, Peter Fonda is suing Dolce & Gabbana for making the crappy t-shirt below, and having the audacity to then charge 300 bucks for these things.

Z's follow-up email was also classic:
"Bingo. $300!! I found one “on sale” for “only” $122. Everything I’m wearing right now didn’t cost $122."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Landmark ruling Title IX is getting a lot of (deserved) attention from ESPN and others these days.  The Worldwide Leader has recently issued a series of documentaries in line with its acclaimed 30 for 30 series but with a special focus: "Nine for IX."  Tune in.

In the meantime, it's worth digging out a golden oldie from the Idiots' stash.  I will not post the lyrics; they are too long to type, and it takes the fun out of listening.

It's the sad story of a protagonist who can never be satiated by sports or sex.  Third verse may well be appreciated by Mr. KQ.

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation . . .

Monday, July 29, 2013

Saying Goodby to a Quiet Legend

Many of you have heard the name of the gifted songwriter and performer J.J. Cale. Sadly, he passed away from a heart attack yesterday at the age of 74. His work is probably best known through Eric Clapton's catalog. Cale wrote After Midnight and Cocaine, two tunes that Clapton turned into monster hits.

I'll remember Cale most for the songs he wrote that Widespread Panic incorporated into their repertoire, including Travelin' Light and Ride Me High. His work was also covered by Waylon Jennings and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Below is Widespread doing Tavelin' Light earlier this year (as a point of reference, Cale's original funkified version of the song is here). Rest in peace, Mr. Cale. Thanks for the funk.

Jabbo Step

Steve Weingarten was the 2010-11 Atlantic 10 Student-Athlete of the Year, when he averaged 4.7 ppg and 3.2 rpg as a senior at LaSalle. Since then, he's played a bit of professional ball in Australia, but it's hard to determine how well he's played.

The guy at lower left might be a college hoops coach.
Today, he scored at least 35 points, making 7 of 8 threes, and was by far the best player on a team that included former Georgetown standout Austin Freeman. It may have been the best game he's ever played.

Such is the way of things at the Nike Pro City Jabbo Kenner College/Pro Summer League. The Kenner League, as it's known, has given D.C.-area collegians and professionals a place to play high-level offseason ball since 1981. (Note: defense not necessarily included in the 'high-level' description.) Held at Georgetown's venerable McDonough Arena, the Kenner's a vital part of the hoops scene in the Nation's Capital.

Oldtimers still talk about the time Allen Iverson debuted in the Kenner a few short weeks after being released from prison - before he ever suited up for John Thompson, Jr. Iverson, who hadn't played organized basketball in over a year, dropped 40 in a Kenner quarterfinal in front of a standing-room only crowd. Allegedly, footage exists somewhere - it's the league's Bigfoot Legend.

According to the Georgetown Basketball History Project, AI's exploits paled in comparison to an on-court battle that took place 6 years later:
Iverson's 40 points was not the Kenner record, however. Six years later, another memorable game saw Maryland star and NBA veteran Steve Francis face a local team led by Curt (Trouble) Smith. Smith, the younger brother of Georgetown All-American Charles Smith, had all the basketball tools but his academics had its share of "trouble", so to speak, and was not offered a scholarship to Georgetown. Smith played briefly at Drake but settled back in Washington and added to his own local legend in a 2000 Kenner game cited at ESPN The Magazine:

"Last summer Steve Francis walked into McDonough with a team he called Francis' Hitmen, sporting a lineup that included himself, The Wizard, Moochie Norris, Jerome Williams and Cuttino Mobley. And lost," wrote Chris Palmer. "[They] dropped a 121-120 decision to a group of D.C. playground legends who made their names against these very same players years ago. They still talk about the battle between Curt Smith, little bro' of former Celts guard Charles, and Francis. The Rockets point guard gave the street legend 59 points from all over the court. The treys from the hash mark, wicked crosses and cradle dunks were enough to make sure Smith would never show his face in the gym again. Except for the fact [Smith] scored 62 himself."
Despite the fact that the Kenner's been in our backyard forever, we'd never made time to check out the action. Several Gheorghies rectified that yesterday, heading to McDonough to catch a couple of games, including one featuring W&M's own Marcus Thornton's On Point squad take on The Tombs.

We arrived early and managed to catch all of the afternoon's first game. Moments after The Teej took and tweeted the photo above (which may or may not feature an NCAA Division I head coach whose attendance would be a violation), the announcer warned the fans not to take any pictures and definitely not to do any tweeting of pictures. On the court, former South Florida big man Gus Gilchrist dominated the action for his A. Wash Associates squad. Fatigue took its toll, however, as Team Oohs and Aahs took advantage of the fact that A.Wash only had 5 players to close the gap down the stretch. Despite their lack of depth, A. Wash managed to eke out an 82-77 overtime win.

As expected in a summer league, the play was at times ragged, as was the officiating. But players on both teams took the game seriously, and the winners were notably happy.

Before the second game began, I said to my daughters, "See the kid with the long braids and the orange shoes? That's Marcus Thornton. He goes to William & Mary. That's who we came to see."

A tall, slim older man two rows in front of us turned around and looked at me. "You mean, number 12?", he said. "That's my son." And so we met Marcus Thornton's father, who seemed amused that we thought so highly of his kid and proved later to have a great sense of humor and equanimity.

Minutes later a much taller, much less slim older man wandered, bearlike, into the gym and took a seat on the far side behind the players' benches. The aforementioned Big John Thompson held court throughout the rest of our time in the arena.

Mr. Thornton turned to us as the beginning of his son's game and asked, 'Do you guys know when the other William & Mary player graduated?", pointing out a 6'7" balding guy. Though he looked familiar, I couldn't place him until the P.A. announcer said his name. 2010 graduate Danny Sumner was actually the leading W&M scorer for On Point, tallying at least 23. He's put on a significant amount of muscle - the lean, high-flying wing of my memory replaced by a much thicker, more confident model.

For his part, Marcus Thornton wasn't at the peak of his game. Though his skills and athleticism were the equal of anyone on the court, he wasn't helped by the physical nature of the game, and he seemed at times tired as On Point ran the entire game without subs. On several occasions Thornton burst to the basket, only to get knocked down without getting a call. In one case, he clattered to the court with enough force that the W&M fans in attendance audibly gasped. I leaned forward and asked his father, "Didn't you tell him not to get hurt out there?"

"He's 20 years old. I can't tell him anything," came the wry response. Even as his son struggled, the elder Thornton remained unruffled - you can see where Marcus gets his unflappable on-court demeanor.

OnPoint led by 7 late until Freeman decided he was actually going to play a bit and spurred a run to give The Tombs a lead. OnPoint countered with a driving layup and a defensive stop to claim a 73-72 victory. Thornton finished with a meager 7 points, though he spent much of the second half playing point and not looking for his own offense.

But regardless, we counted ourselves winners. Team G:TB made a new friend. Mr. Thornton shook our hands on his way out of the building and accepted our best wishes for his son. He and his wife are headed to the Dominican Republic with the Tribe next week, as W&M makes it's one-in-every-four years sanctioned summer trip overseas. We got to hear the pounding of basketballs and the squeak of sneakers on hardwood from great seats in a historic barn. We might've seen Steve Weingarten's finest moment. And my kids didn't kill each other. That's a decent Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fashion is Awesome

Our friend Dave is many things: educator, intellectual, renaissance man, thief, musician, dad, idiot. He's not, however, much of a liquor drinker, as he's recently admitted. Nor is he a terribly fashionable fellow - he's barely able to dress himself, let alone choose styles, patterns and colors that match and flatter him.

Fortunately, the world of fashion has developed a revolutionary new product designed to help men like Dave. From an unexpected source in Logan, Utah comes the Flask Tie. Which is, as the name says, a tie with a flask in it.

Described in the photo below, the Flask Tie seems custom-made for Dave. In one tidy, stylish package, a tool that will help him overcome his aversion to adult drinks while enabling him to step up his fashion game. We're buying him several. Because Free Shipping!

Friday, July 26, 2013

This is How We Chill...

Ask any (old) fan of hip hop to name their favorite years for the genre and you're likely to hear 1993 mentioned very quickly in the conversation. I'm no different, the years of 1992, 1993 and 1994 were, in many people's eyes, hip hop's Golden Age. A slew of classic albums were released by a wide variety of groups. In 1993 alone albums such as Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, Midnight Marauders, Enta da Stage, Organix and Here Come the Lords were all released.

There was another album that initially received much less fanfare released in 1993. An album that featured a title track that will go down as one of the most beloved, and underrated songs in hip hop history. I'm writing, of course, of '93 'til Infinity by the Souls of Mischief. Souls were a part of a larger group of MCs known as Hieroglyphics, lead by Del the Funkee Homosapien (who released another underrated album in No Need for Alarm in 1993) and hailed from East Oakland. Despite their Oakland roots, Souls (and Hiero as a whole) were unlike anything else in rap on the West Coast. Or really anything in hip hop before or after them. Not quite gangsta like NWA, not quite afrocentric like the Native Tongues. They were an eclectic group of young guys (Very young. Some members were just 18 at the time of the albums release) who loved emceeing and the emerging hip hop culture in the Bay Area and came together to release a song, and album, that would become an unlikely classic.

If you've never heard '93 'Til Infinity, I encourage you to listen.

To this day, I still get goosebumps when I hear the first notes of this song. It changed my life. No, really. Up to this point I had only listened to rap from New York and Los Angeles (though the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in 1994 would soon thrust Atlanta's hip hop into my ears and life). I had never really listened to so called "underground hip hop" prior to this. I probably didn't know it existed. I had heard a few songs by Del (MIstadobalina and Catch a Bad One come to mind) and liked them but nothing like this. This album and my desire to hear more acts in hip hop like this changed everything. This song and the accompanying album (which is a great listen from start to finish for me to this day) exposed me to all types of MCs and groups I'd never heard of and dramatically affected my tastes for years to come.

Somehow, I had never really thought about all this before a few weeks ago. I'd also not thought about how long ago this album was released until then either. Not until I found out that Souls of Mischief would be going on the 20th Anniversary of the '93 'Til Infinity tour this summer. After I stopped feeling old as hell, I looked up tour dates and discovered that said tour would be stopping in Orlando at my favorite live music venue, The Social. That stop is tonight. I'm sure I don't need to tell you where I'll be later.

Dope Little Lawsuit

You can always spot hardcore fans of the Beastie Boys because they know all rarities and oddball joints like "Dope Little Song" which was released on "Ill Communication" but only in Japan, and as the B-side to the Sabotage/Get It Together single.

I would bet everything I own that The Hon. Paul A. Engelmayer is not familiar with "Dope Little Song." Judge Engelmayer is a District Judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. According to his Wikipedia page, he graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. He then clerked for the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and followed that up with a SCOTUS clerkship for Justice Thurgood Marshall. He went on to be an AUSA and an assistant to the Solicitor General. Eventually he headed up the New York office of a fancy law firm, and was nominated to SDNY by President Obama in 2011. The Senate approved his nomination 98-0.

In legal circles, this is about as prestigious as a resume can get. The closest comparable is Chief Justice John Roberts who slightly trumps Judge Engelmayer because he was Principal Deputy Solicitor General at one point and his first bench assignment was an appellate court. But don't be surprised if someday you see Judge Engelmayer's name on short lists for higher posts. Hopefully these posts will not involve slang literacy.

I say this because Judge Engelmayer is assigned to the case of Beastie Boys v. Monster Energy Corp. The complaint is interesting for a few reasons, the most charming of which is the discovery that the Beastie Boys operate as a New York Partnership:

I use the word charming because a partnership in New York does not require any special filings with the state or even a contract between the partners. A partnership is simply two or more persons carrying on as co-owners of a business for profit. The partners owe each other a duty of loyalty. Of course there are ways to formalize a partnership or to limit liability, but these three bad brothers you know so well didn't do that. Trust me, I looked. Instead, they've been carrying on together as partners for over 30 years essentially without a net, just trusting each other and being loyal. We should all be so lucky.

But I digress. The Beasties sued Monster Beverage for copyright infringement because Monster used various Beasties songs to make a promotional video for their "Ruckus in the Rockies 2012" event. Monster then sued (natch) a DJ named Zack Sciacca, stage-named Z-Trip. Apparently, Monster used remixes available on Z-Trip's website to make the promotional video with Z-Trip's permission:

U-Tube!! Ha! Also "ha!" worthy: Monster asserts the defense that "Hey, we thought it was ok to bust the Beasties' loops, Z-Trip said it was dope."

Honestly. That's what they told Judge Engelmayer. More specifically, they told Judge Englemayer that "Mr. Sciacca said 'you can use the music on my website.' That was a separate contract, [then Monster asked] do you approve? And he wrote back, 'it's dope.'"

At which point the learned judge said "It's dope?"

Z-Trip's lawyer explained “It’s dope means it’s good. He says, ‘well they showed me this video and yeah, it looks good. They say ‘oh, that gives us permission to use all this music.' But there’s no contract between my client and the Beastie Boys.”

To which Judge Engelmayer replied, “I take it on a summary judgment motion that I have to treat ‘dope’ in the light most favorable to your client." I'm not sure if His Honor realized how funny that quip is. You probably don't either, particularly if you didn't take civil procedure. But trust me when I say it's a hoot.

Anyway, it goes without saying that it's really hard to win a case when the judge doesn't understand what you're saying. As the Beastie Boys would likely tell Monster's attorneys, don't play no game that you can't win.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gheorghe Salutes George

Though his mild manners and humble bearing might argue against it, one could convincingly argue that George H. W. Bush is a genuine American hero.

Athlete, scholar, fighter pilot, politician, diplomat, and scion, our 41st President has given more to his country than nearly any man or woman, living or dead.

As we've celebrated recently, he's also got a predilection for the the slightly silly. And now, news comes that gives us reason to begin the campaign to honor Bush the Elder with the Legion of Gheorghe, the second-highest honor in all of Gheorghedom. (The first, obviously, being an invitation to become a posting member of the G:TB community.)

As reported in several places, Bush shaved his head this week in support of the two year-old son of one of the members of his protective detail. The youngster, named Patrick, is undergoing chemotherapy to treat leukemia. In fact, Bush's entire detail did the same.

(Note for the record: though I continue to support GHWB's colorful sock movement, I'm not planning to follow his lead here. Marls, however, has already done so. Good man, that Marls. And George Bush.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

G:TB Craft Hour

Though the annual Outer Banks Fishing Trip (OBFT) is unfailingly a festival of fun and games, there are moments - generally late in the weekend - when the lads need some downtime to rest and recuperate. Now, thanks to Shea Serrano and Bun B, we'll have something to do with ourselves during those breaks in the action.

Bun B's Rap Activity & Coloring Book features old favorites like connect-the-dots, Mad Libs, and word searches in addition to pictures for kids of all ages to color. And it spans the rap community, including artists like Questlove, Big Boi, Drake, Vanilla Ice, Tyga, and RiFF RaFF.

I'll make sure Mark gets a copy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Can I Drink More Liquor? Why Haven't I?

I love the taste of beer. I love drinking beer. I love the renaissance in beer brewing in America. I love a cold beer on the beach. I love a cold beer after I mow my lawn (actually, I don't mow my own lawn . . . we pay someone to mow our lawn because my wife doesn't like the way my manual push-mower cuts the grass). So I love a cold beer after someone else mows my lawn.

Not only do I love beer, but I need beer. I am a coach. Before soccer practice, I put two pint glasses in the freezer. I know that I am going to need that beer when I get home from coaching those children. I am a high school teacher. After a long day of being shallow and pedantic in front of surly teenagers, nothing soothes my swollen larynx nodules more than a cold beer.


But I'm getting older. My beard has a lot of white hairs in it. And I'm getting fatter, which would be fine, except that I'm trying to eke a few more years of basketball, soccer, and snowboarding out of my body. Plus,  like everyone else, I want to look badass. So I'm constantly trying to adopt a liquor drink. I know liquor has less calories than beer, and I know it will make me less bloated and gassy. Did I tell you beer makes me bloated and gassy? It's a crying shame. Liquor doesn't do this to me.

At this point, some of you might be saying: why not just quit drinking altogether? I wish that were an option. If I lived alone, in a lighthouse, with an unlimited Netflix account and a large library of books, and I only had to interact with people (especially my children) when I felt like it, then maybe I could pull it off. But if I'm going to continue life as a family man . . . with a wife, kids, a dog, a house, a job . . . teaching and coaching and being generally involved and friendly in my community, then I'm going to need to lean on the crutch of alcohol.

I am on vacation now in Sea Isle City with my cousins, and yesterday we put in a full day on the beach. At 6:30 PM yesterday, while I was embroiled in a heated corn-hole match with my twenty-something cousins, we ran out of beer. This was an intense match, and I needed alcohol to steady my hand. I couldn't wait until the cooler was replenished, so I sought aid from my older cousins -- who were sitting in chairs with my father, sipping stuff out of green Solo cups. They provided me with a cup of warm gin, instructed me to put some ice in it, and then drink it. My cousin Jeff said, "We're purists over here." I am not a purist, so once I tasted the iced gin, I tried to add some iced tea to it to smooth out the flavor . . . but it didn't work. My younger cousins said they could see the pain on my face when I tried to drink it. I felt less a man (but we did win the corn-hole match). When another cousin arrived with cold beer, I surreptitiously poured my gin and iced tea into a hole in the sand. I would never make it in the Old West.

I like high-end tequila. I can drink it, but I am certainly no purist. In fact, I am a pain in the ass. When my friend had his annual "Steak and Tequila Night", it evolved into "S and T Night," so that I could drink Sol and Tecate. I had a perfunctory glass of tequila, but it was hot, and nothing goes down like a cold beer. I was bloated and gassy the next day. If I would have stuck with tequila all night, this wouldn't have happened. And there's no way I can see myself pouring a glass of tequila on the rocks after a long day at work.

I experimented with Sambuca, which I really like . . . in fact, I like all the anise liquors: arak, raki, ouzo, etc. I drank a ton of the stuff when I lived in Syria, because the beer had formaldehyde in it and you got a splitting headache after you drank two. But now that I'm back in the States, and there's good beer everywhere, a cold and milky glass of Sambuca pales in comparison to a cold beer in a frozen mug.

Last Friday, I was at a wedding, and I took a sip of someone's dirty martini and thought: this is it. This will be my drink! So I ordered one and got half way through it before I realized that it would not be my drink. I went back to beer. And this seriously impaired my ability to consume all the food at the wedding. If I could learn to drink liquor, I could be far more gluttonous at these sorts of events. First world problems, you say, and you are right, but not completely right. Jared Diamond's new book, The World Until Yesterday, describes some insanely gluttonous eating that goes on in Papua New Guinea . . . stuffing ourselves may be one of our most human characteristics, but usually when tribes feasted, then the feast was followed by fasting and famine.

A dark and stormy is pretty tasty, but it seems awfully close to a Chocolate Choo-Choo. Gin and tonic is doable, but drinking one of those makes me feel like a 90 year old female alcoholic.

I want to look like John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance . . . drinking straight brown liquor from a glass. No ice. But unless my taste buds decay fast, it's not going to happen. Instead, I'll be swilling beer, and running waist-deep into the ocean every seven minutes -- which doesn't look very macho. John Wayne doesn't ever have to pee when he's drinking.

Could I do more to combat this weakness in my character? Absolutely. I could follow the dinner-time advice I give to my kids: you have to try something ten times before you decide if you like it or not.

I could listen to my friends when they drone on about single malt scotch. I could find a liquor-mentor. I could read up.

Have I done any of these things. The answer is a shameful "no." Why not?  Because I like the taste of beer! And maybe there's nothing wrong with that.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Can I do more? Why haven't I?


When my mother remarried, she and I moved to Teaneck, NJ where my stepfather and his kids lived. They lived in Teaneck because it was a convenient commute for my stepfather and, more importantly, it was one of the few towns in the area (if not the country) where interracial families were commonplace. My stepfather's son from his first marriage is adopted and of another race, so this was an important consideration for the family.

I knew no one on my first day in the new school system but I was lucky to share all of my morning classes with a nice guy who sat next to me alphabetically, and he invited me to eat lunch with a group of kids. It was a mixed group in terms of race, ethnicity, and religion but that wasn't discussed much. Instead they talked about sports and TV and girls. One of them is still a close friend. Another was a kid named Phil. Phil's home life was a lot different from mine but not much different than a fair number of other kids in town. For example, I've always had a strained relationship with my dad, but he never made me act as a lookout while he robbed a tire store. The summer before 6th grade Phil was arrested helping his dad with just such a caper.

I ate lunch with this group of guys for the rest of the year and hung out with them when I could, playing intramural sports and stuff like that. With each progressing year of school, the crew drifted apart and became more racially stratified. I don't think this was intentional, but rather a function of where everyone lived and thus hung out. So the black kids ended up spending more time together in the black part of town, the white kids in the white part of town, and the lunchroom tables reflected these changes in the social dynamic. The black kids who continued to eat and hang out with the white kids were the ones who lived in the whiter parts of town, and generally were from middle-middle-class to upper-middle-class homes. By the time we got to high school my original lunch group was scattered to other tables.

But at the same time, the Teaneck public school system boasted about its multiculturalism and its multicultural curriculum. We were learning about Timbuktu and reading Zora Neale Hurston, and not just in the honors classes. In fact, Teaneck was the first town in the country to voluntarily integrate its public schools. This was a source of pride for the community, even if the pattern of the lunch tables looked like a checkerboard rather than a melting pot.

I didn't talk to or even see Phil after middle school, to the best of my recollection. Apparently he moved to the next town over and eventually dropped out of high school. One night when he was back hanging out in Teaneck he was shot and killed by a white cop.

Phil was black and he was shot while hanging out with black kids on a playground in the black part of town. The cops showed up at the playground because there were reports of someone waving a gun. When they frisked Phil they felt something in his pocket and reacted. Phil ran, the cop followed, and when Phil turned around the cop shot him. In Phil's pocket was a starter's pistol. Which Phil had modified to shoot real bullets. Because for the crew of guys he hung out with, it was cool to have a gun. But Phil couldn't afford one so he had to rig up this homemade zipgun.

The cop didn't know any of this, all he felt was a gun-shaped object in Phil's pocket.

In a few days a vigil was held outside of the police station. It turned into a race riot. Cars were flipped, windows were shattered, news crews descended. Fire alarms were pulled in school at least 4 to 5 times a day. Students yelled and swore at the police when they arrived. Al Sharpton showed up to make things worse. Sharpton held a "vigil" in one of the two churches across the street from my house, bussing in people from Brooklyn and elsewhere. He worked the vigil into such a rage that everyone stormed out of the church and started rioting on my street. I swear to god, Al Sharpton was on my front lawn with a bullhorn. The guy two houses up the street was volunteer cop and he rolled into the street wearing a badge and a pistol, with a nightstick in one hand and a leash tethered to his Great Dane in the other. To this day it's the ballsiest thing I've ever seen anyone do. The crowd dispersed as more cops showed up.

The fire alarm situation got so bad that school was perpetually disrupted. Eventually Jesse Jackson showed up and collected the entire school in the gymnasium. He gave a speech that calmed everyone down, even though he referred to Phil's death as an assassination. I honestly think that he was the only person on the planet who could have defused the situation in April of 1990. The school year ended in June. Everyone who could afford to sent their kids to some form of summer camp for as long as possible.


This was a surreal experience. I felt confused and helpless. Everything I was told about our town's multiculturalism and harmonic community was a sham. White adults sided with the police. Black adults sided with Phil. The kids were angry and scared. Things had settled down to serviceable normalcy when I graduated in 1992, but there was always a tension in the school about the incident and about race.

The officer who shot Phil was found not guilty and that deprived a lot of kids from a sense of closure. Including me. Was Phil stupid to carry a gun? Probably. Was the cop scared? Probably. But someone I knew who was friendly to me when I knew no one, who sat with me in a lunchroom at a time in my childhood when eating alone was tantamount to leprosy, who was genuinely a nice kid, was now dead.

I couldn't understand how the man who killed him suffered no consequences. The judge instructed the jury that "[e]ven if you believe Gary Spath made a mistake, as long as you feel that mistake is reasonable, you can accept his explanation of self-defense." The idea that it's reasonable to shoot kids on the playground as they're running away blew my mind. This was completely irreconcilable with everything I was taught and everything that my allegedly tightknit multicultural community was supposed to stand for.

Phil's death haunted me. I decided to find a college far away in a relatively rural setting in a real college town, a place where guns weren't a status symbol and where the cops didn't shoot at kids out of fear. Turns out that the stuff I was running from is everywhere. I encountered racism (like people who used the n-word) and ignorance ("What's it like to have a Jewish roommate?") in Williamsburg, and the only time I've had a gun in my face was in the back of Paul's Deli.

Over time the whole incident got stuffed into some back corner of my brain. It wasn't until years later that my old feelings of anger and confusion resurfaced in, of all places, law school. During a discussion of People v. Goetz, the famous "subway vigilante" case from New York City in the mid 1980s, we learned that in New York you can use deadly physical force on another person if you "reasonably believe[] that such other person is using or about to use deadly force ... or [if you] reasonably believe[] that such other person is committing or attempting to commit a kidnapping, forcible rape, forcible sodomy or robbery." The court said in Goetz that "[t]hese provisions have never required that an actor's belief as to the intention of another person to inflict serious injury be correct in order for the use of deadly force to be justified, but they have uniformly required that the belief comport with an objective notion of reasonableness." As a result, Goetz was found not guilty of attempted murder and assault when he shot four kids on the subway, because he "reasonably" believed the kids were going to rob him. I was stunned to learn that I was one of only three students who thought this was the wrong outcome. Everyone else essentially cosigned the idea that it was reasonable for a middle-aged white guy to shoot at black kids because black folks are scary. Some even thought that Goetz was a hero for cutting down his alleged would-be muggers in a crowded subway car. The other two students who sided with me were the only African-Americans in the room.

Admittedly, many people likely didn't want to engage in open conversation on a touchy issue like this and kept silent even if they agreed with me. But I will always be disgusted by several of the students in that class because of what they said that day.


My old feelings returned when I first heard about Trayvon Martin's death. I was in a livery car on my way to the airport and the driver had NPR on the radio. The story made me sick to my stomach and I was distracted by it for days. I remembered how I felt when I was 16, and I thought about how Trayvon's friends and family must feel now.

George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict intensified my emotions. The jury instructions in the Trayvon Martin case said that Zimmerman was guilty of manslaughter if the state proved that "1. Trayvon Martin is dead. [and] 2. George Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin." Check and check right? No? What if I told you that "In order to convict of manslaughter by act, it is not necessary for the State to prove that George Zimmerman had an intent to cause death, only an intent to commit an act that was not merely negligent, justified, or excusable and which caused death." So he's guilty of manslaughter even if he didn't mean to kill the kid, he just had to intentionally do something that ended up killing the kid ... he's guilty right? The jury instruction also said that "[a] person is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself." There's that reasonability standard again.

These instructions reminded me of my frustration in high school and again in law school that it is reasonable to kill someone if you are scared of them, particularly in a society where it's apparently reasonable to be scared of black kids. President Obama's remarks hammered this point home. I carry my high school's tragedy with me and I'll likely never shake it as long as kids are gunned down without any repercussions for their shooters.


The facts surrounding Phil's death are different from those of Trayvon Martin's, and I understand that we could debate the reasonableness of their shooters' actions. What is not debatable, however, is that their deaths were pointless, wreaking havoc in their families, schools, and communities, and causing national outrage. Their deaths were exquisitely preventable--the causes were multifactorial and if even just one were addressed both young men might be alive today.

And yet I've done nothing to prevent these types of deaths. I talk a mean game about repealing the Second Amendment, and my feelings in this regard began entirely with Phil's death and the cache guns had in my high school, but have I done anything at any level to make that happen? Have I lobbied for gun control? Or to reform self-defense laws?

Have I ever mentored kids to stay away from guns and crime and situations like Phil's? Have I even given money to organizations that do this type of work?

Have I made noise for increased training for the police? Or for background checks and mandatory registration for "neighborhood watch" participants?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding and shameful "no." I continue to live in a society where it is reasonable to kill black teenagers out of fear, simply because they are young and black, and I've done nothing about it.

Can I do more? Absolutely. Why haven't I? Sadly, I don't know. It's time to start.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dear Mr. Watterson

The greatest comic strip ever written careened like a lunatic comet from 1985 to 1995, and then abruptly ended, as its creator tired of the form and of the pressure to commercialize his creation. Now, thanks to Kickstarter, a "thorough celebration of the man's profoundly fun work" is coming to theaters in November.
a thorough celebration of the man’s profoundly fun work - See more at:
a thorough celebration of the man’s profoundly fun work - See more at:
a thorough celebration of the man’s profoundly fun work - See more at:
a thorough celebration of the man’s profoundly fun work - See more at:
a thorough celebration of the man’s profoundly fun work - See more at:
Dear Mr. Watterson, directed by Joel Schroeder, has been in the works for years. And it's a full-on celebration of Calvin, Hobbes, and the man that imagined them. Count me in.

Friday, July 19, 2013

You'd Think Jason Kidd Would Be Able to Drive Drunk

Jason Kidd is regarded as one of the best passing and rebounding point guards in NBA history. He is second all-time in the categories of assists and steals (behind John Stockton in both categories). He led the NBA five times in assists, and his 107 triple-doubles leave him behind only Oscar Robinson and Magic Johnson. As his career progressed, he even learned to shoot from outside. This isn't news to anyone, but I'd just like to review the facts: Jason Kidd is a gifted athlete with astounding reflexes and keen peripheral vision. He also has an uncanny ability to judge how moving objects are going to behave. If anyone could drive drunk, it would be him. But, obviously, this is not the case, as he just received probation for  a DWI incident where he ran a Cadillac into a utility pole.

Now I'm not espousing drunk driving, but if I were going to let anyone who'd had a few too many suds get behind the wheel and drive me around, it would be Jason Kidd. Think of his vision! Over 12,000 assists! As a requirement of his sentence, Kidd has to talk to Long Island high school kids about the perils of drunk driving, and I think he should use the aforementioned tack. If he can't drive drunk, then who can?

The crash still boggles my mind, and I wonder if there was some other element at play. Perhaps he was drugged, or maybe someone fouled him as he went into the turn. I think I would still trust him to drive me around, even if he was a little tipsy. The man made nearly 2000 three pointers! There's something fishy about that utility pole. Or maybe I'm just an idiot.

Still . . . though it might not be logical and responsible, there are certain folks who you trust to do a good job, even if they've knocked back a few adult beverages. The Replacements could still put on a great rock show, even if they were three sheets to it. Drunk, sober, or hungover . . . Mickey Mantle could still swat one out of Yankee Stadium. Rob will play a mean game of zoom (have one) at the OBFT, even though he can't walk a straight line. I'll be slurring my words, but I can still throw a dart or a beanbag with deadly accuracy. And despite being well over the legal limit, Clarence will drink you under the table.

What am I trying to say here? I'm not sure. Should we have drunk-driving road tests, to ascertain who is allowed to drink and drive, and who is not? That's probably not a good idea, although that road course (and affiliated bar) would be a fun place to hang out. I guess this incident is just a reminder that things aren't always as they appear, and they are even less so when we are drunk. I really thought that girl I was talking to was cute. And for a few moments, late at night, in that college bar -- she was!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Slowest Neophyte Suddenly Runs More Swiftly

If you are a man living in Northern Virginia, chances are your sneaker situation consists entirely of a pair of grey New Balance trailrunners or a pair of white leather Reebok crosstrainers. It's time to step your shoe game up and rob's Slingblades aren't the answer.

I urge you to step outside your comfort zone (pun!) and try something new and exciting like Nike's new Free Flyknit running shoes.

Before you get apoplectic about wearing sneakers with color go check out Nike's website, they have some more staid colorways to choose from.

If you really want to push the envelop, get a pair of Free Hyperfeels.

You can avoid looking like an old man without having centipede feet like rob. Get out there and pretend you're cool. You might even run swiftly!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Role Model

Ricky Gervais is, unquestionably, a brilliant comic mind. He's prolific, fearless, and unique. And yesterday, I accepted him as my new professional mentor.

Gervais published a post on his eclectic blog about creativity and value of time spent, as he says, 'dicking about'. From the post:
I'm loving having a YouTube channel to dick around on. I know I've always dicked around, whether on radio, TV or at the Golden Globes, but with this it's actually expected of me.

I discovered that this is the best thing about Twitter too. Just playing; mucking about for the hell of it. Although, I could technically count that as work. Dicking about should be tax-deductible for me.

Let me explain. Scientific studies of creativity have basically concluded that it can't be taught, as it is a "facility" rather than a learned skill. Putting it very crudely, creativity is the ability to play. And, to be able to turn that facility on and off when necessary. This makes perfect sense to me. Everything I've ever written, created or discovered artistically has come out of playing.

Fast Company connected the dots in a business context, noting that, "It's safe to expand this point from art to other creative fields, like business, especially the kind that's preoccupied with innovation, as we at Fast Company incessantly are. To that end, there are two points for us to unpack here:
  • that creative work requires exploratory mistake-making
  • that exploratory mistake-making won't happen regularly unless systematized"
You could, I suppose, accuse me of cherry-picking a theory that justifies my penchant for procrastination, for wasting time, for, well, dicking about. You might well even be right.

But you'd better believe I'll be showing this to my boss the next time he catches me blogging at work, and explaining to him how important Gheorghe is to our team's success. I'll let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You've Got to Have Money (To Have a Midlife Crisis)

A friend of mine recently bought a triathlon bike that cost over three thousand dollars. I was impressed by the expenditure, but relatively speaking, it's pretty cheap for a midlife purchase. In fact, his wife had absolutely no problem with the amount he spent (though she did claim that "nothing on earth has less purpose than a forty year old man.") Sarcasm aside, triathlons will keep you in shape, and they are far safer than motocross. As far as midlife crises go, buying a nice bicycle is pretty tame.

Now a cigarette boat or a high-performance car is going to run quite a bit more than a high-end bicycle, and there's more inherent danger. None of my middle-aged friends have made a purchase this bold. And it's not that I don't think they're capable of it, I just don't think they have the money. Sadly, the archetypal male midlife purchase is going the way of the dinosaur. Why? You could blame it on the weak economy and the collapse of the housing market. Or you could attribute it to changing gender roles. Women are often the main breadwinners of the family, or at least pulling in equal pay. And women don't covet cigarette boats. Perhaps people aren't as ostentatious about their materialism these days. And, of course, there's the rising cost of college. It's hard to buy a dune-buggy when you've only saved .1% of your children's tuition. These are rough times for expensive impulse buys that demonstrate machismo.

There are still wonderful stories of midlife excess from people who have money to burn.  James Hetfield took a  vodka-clouded bear hunting trip to Siberia. He missed his son's first birthday party. Whoops! But most of the guys I know buy a Bose bluetooth speaker or some high-end tequila and call it a day.

And then there's the final level, which is really expensive. I'm talking mistress level midlife crisis. Very few folks in my crowd have the balls and wherewithal of Roger Sterling. I don't know a single dude who puts up a "gumad" in a city apartment, so she's always at his disposal. Where have all the good times gone?

I labor over any purchase, so this is purely hypothetical . . . but if I were to do it, I think I would go with something fairly cliche. A motorcycle, chopper style. This is not going to happen, of course, since I live in central New Jersey, and riding a motorcycle on the roads I travel is akin to suicide, but if I lived out West and a rich aunt left me some money, I imagine I'd spend it on something like this:

I doubt I could handle the motorcycle and I certainly couldn't handle the accessory, but a man has to dream.

I learned something vaguely related to this theme recently from some colleagues. It seems -- and this is a total generalization based on anecdotal evidence -- that people around my age (43) don't have college debt. People a few years younger do. These people with college debt are from middle class families -- just like mine-- but they missed the cut-off (just as many of us missed the cut-off for good pensions, cheap land, strong unions, collective bargaining and early retirement). This cohort is definitely not going to make any crazy purchases when they hit middle age, because when they finally get out of debt, they'll need the money for a house, a new car, or home improvements. This is the new middle class. Doesn't seem fair, but, course, there's more than two billion people living on two dollars a day, so it's hard to complain that you can't get that jet-pack you've always wanted.

All this depressing stuff may sound like ridiculous fodder for a song, but The Moving Rocks are always up for a challenge. Enough introduction, it's time for some music:

You've Got to Have Money (To Have A Midlife Crisis)

You wake up most mornings, feeling lost.
You cannot lose those stubborn thoughts.

But you woke up this morning, feeling found.
You could not wait to get your feet on the ground.

You woke up this morning, with an idea.
Buy a motorcycle and ride out of here.
Buy a motorcycle and ride on out of here.

But it's not that kind of song.
If you think so, then you're so fucking wrong.

Because you've got to have money to have
a midlife crisis. Yes, you've got to have money to have
a midlife crisis.

You've got to have some cash to burn,
the only way a grown man learns.

Wake up most mornings, you feel like dirt.
Put on your pants and go to work.

Maybe someday you'll pay off your loans,
until then you're stuck at home . . .

Because you've got to have money to have
a midlife crisis. Yes, you've got to have money to have
a midlife crisis.

While we wait on SummerDave...

...I stumbled upon a pretty interesting link on Tumblr (for once not nude chicks or dressed up pets). And given that SummerDave's next post is likely about music or perhaps the unveiling of a new song, this link seemed to fit as filler.

A Brazilian design student has created a product called Sound Track, "a mash-up that aims to teach kids how music works while it simultaneously teaches them motor skills." Now, I do not have children nor am I musically-inclined, but this seems pretty genius to me. Is this something you G:TB parents would get your kids?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I Like the Way You Walk, MmmHmm

It's a semi-well-known fact that we've got sneakerheads in our community. Zman dropped science about the awful Air Obamas released in 2009. And just today, Mark nodded approvingly at former Gator Joe Haden's impressive collection of kicks:

We've also got a couple of runners in our number. Danimal's a damn Ironman, I log a few miles when not loudly suffering from poison ivy, Dave's run a marathon, and Clarence has worn a mean path from his couch to his fridge.

I don't think either group will have many kind things to say about Adidas' new offering. The Springblade (pictured below) will go on the market on August 1, retailing for $180. The shoe will immediately serve to identify poseurs who have both way too much disposable income and a substantial need to have people make fun of them behind their backs.

According to Adidas America's Director of Running (setting aside his support for these abominations, that seems a cool job) Mikal Peveto, "Six years in the making, Springblade provides one of the highest energy returns in the industry." Six years in the making, and nobody looked closely and said, "Dude, it makes me look like a millipede"?

I get the need to innovate, and I understand that true trailblazers run the risk of looking like idiots. You're talking to the guy who's leading the 'rugby will be America's sport' bandwagon. And wore seersucker pants to a biker bar. Truly, I get it.

I'm also a huge Adidas fan - I like their styling much better than any other major athletic brand. I own multiple pairs of their shoes, several pairs of shorts, multiple shirts, and even a golf jacket. I'm pro-Adidas, in a major way. (Note to Adidas: I'm not one of those bloggers averse to taking free stuff to say good things about products and/or companies. Hit me up. We'll talk.)

But I'm not wrong about the Springblade. Those things are awful. Bookmark this post, because it may be the only place you can see a picture of these shoes.

Other than Mikal Peveto's closet.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Moving Rocks Roll On

For quite a while now, my fans have been requesting a song about community college. And not community college like on the show Community. Real community college. So I took them up on the offer, and though I don't like to brag (actually, I do like to brag . . . but it's because I have self-esteem issues, so it's okay) but I think this may be the most rocking song about community college ever written. It may also be the only rock song with the word "registrar" in it. It is definitely the only rock song with the word "bacteriophage" in it.

This song-- like the one I recorded a few months ago (Cutter) -- is definitely inspired by Hanna Rosin's book The End of Men and the Rise of Women.  I am starting to think that Team Male is in serious trouble. Read the book to learn why, but all I can say is: we've had our turn, and we really fucked things up good, so maybe the women will do a better job. Maybe things will end up like Charlotte Perkins Gilman imagined. Boring, but peaceful. In the interim, things will be like this:

Brittany's Going Back to School

Brittany got pregnant at her high school prom,
raised up the baby with some help from her mom.
Twelve years later and the kid is getting old,
wants her own phone and a closet full of clothes

She was making ends meet, working at the bar,
but working at the bar won't get you too far.

She's got to take a trip to the registrar.

Brittany's going back to school.
Community college never looked so cool.
No drunken parties on the lawn.
She's got to commute home, to relieve her mom.

And she just wants to pass.
She caught her Calc teacher checking out her ass.
All these kids seem half her age.
She needs to define bacteriophage.

And if you're wondering where the dad went,
I'll give you a hint.
He's playing Call of Duty in Tim Kerr's basement.
That's where he went.

He really wants to lend a helping hand, be a good man.
But he's trying to so hard to make it in his punk rock band.
At least that's the plan . . .

And Brittany's going back to school.
Community college never looked so cool.
No drunken parties on the lawn.
She's got to commute home, to relieve her mom.

Bacteriophage: a type of virus that infects bacteria

Thursday, July 11, 2013

This Won't Suck

On July 22nd Springsteen & I, a documentary created by and for Bruce Springsteen's loyal followers, will be simulcast to cinemas around the globe. In anticipation, Rolling Stone has five minutes of exclusive footage from the long-awaited documentary, produced by Ridley Scott, which puts into sharp focus the camaraderie and common ground that Springsteen disciples share.

Web link is here.

(h/t to

Culture Up (Out?) Your Ass Thursday

Say what you will about Chinese sculptor Chen Wenling (just the other day, talking to some colleagues, I said I found him shallow and pedantic, but I may have mistaken him for someone else), his work is certainly striking.

Take, for example, his 2009 series, What You See May Not Be Real. The painted fiberglass works skewer (below, literally) the Wall Street culture that berthed banking crisis of the late 2010s. In the work below, the figure pinned to the wall by the gas-powered bull (according the The Design Inspiration, farting implies bluffing or lying in Chinese culture) is intended to represent disgraced financier Bernie Madoff.

Subtlety, it seems, may not be a Wenling attribute. 

But if you like your art muscular and flatulent, Wenling's work is available through Ode to Art Contemporary Singapore. Pick up a couple for the team next time you're there.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

(Face) Fashion is Dumbbbbbbbbbb

Sent to me by FOG:TB @dumbartonsbeer here comes the latest, and possibly dumbest, entry in our actually recurring "Fashion is Dumb" series. Seriously, Maison Martin Margiela, I hate you:

Frankly, since no one asked, if I were to unveil a line of fashion face masks, this seminal classic from my youth would be the inspiration:

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

OBFT: The Wordle

The 20th Annual Outer Banks Fishing Trip is approaching, and if you've been on one of the previous nineteen trips, then you know what to expect. If you haven't been, but want an idea of what it's like (and this is ersatz at best) then check out the Wordle below. The important thing to remember is this: there is no fishing on the fishing trip. Two decades of this joke, and my parents still think it's amusing.

To create this Wordle, I plugged in my Sentence of Dave OBFT synopses, some Gheorghe posts that tangentially mention the trip, and a few of the pertinent e-mails. It is by no means the definitive Wordle on the OBFT, and I encourage you to make your own, but it turned out to be fairly accurate. 

I especially like the serendipitous sentence "Whitney needed mustaches."

Drink like a fish, fish like a drunk, and tackle box.

Monday, July 08, 2013

This is real, and it is spectacular

Following in the footsteps of Sharktopus and Jersey Shore Shark Attack comes this absolute doozy...


This airs Thursday night.
Bless you, Syfy network.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

A Half-Assed 2013 Wimbledon Men's Finals Preview Containing Several Botched References to Scotland and England

rob asked me for a Wimbledon men's finals preview and a preview he shall have, albeit a half-assed one. As you likely already know, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are set to square off for the Wimbledon title on Sunday. Djokovic has beaten Murray in 11 of their 18 meetings, including the last three in a row. The two have met in Grand Slam finals four times, with Djokovic winning three. But Murray has some odds in his favor. For example, won the only time they played on grass, the 2012 Olympics which were held at Wimbledon. And Wimbledon is in England, which is where Murray is from ... well, not really. Murray is Scottish, and an Englishwoman that I used to work with explained that Britons from England didn't consider Murray to be a true Briton until he won the Olympics, despite the fact that there's nary an animal alive that can outrun a greased Scotsman. After that they decided to acknowledge his Brittitude with the hope that he could be the first Brit to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936 blah blah blah. I'm not sure why the Brits are so enamored with Fred Perry, he seems to spend all his time designing clothes for emaciated sallow foreigners who look like they fell out of an Irvine Welsh novel:

Perry certainly lost his fastball from the 70's when he designed for mustachioed men with feathered hair and tube socks:

Speaking of clothing, Djokovic rocks UNIQLO gear, and Amanda Warner (half of MNDR) is a UNIQLO spokesperson. So don't front on what the Djoker's wearing on Sunday.

Sartorial asides aside, I expect Sunday's match to be a slugfest. Two of their last three Grand Slam matches went 5 sets, and the third was a 4-setter. More importantly, both play a similar defensive/counterpunching style, and by that I don't mean to suggest that their games lack offense. Both play consistent, relatively high percentage tennis by keeping the ball deep and high over the net, moving their opponent around, and crowding the baseline to the extent possible. Sure, they will take advantage of a short ball and put it away, but typically in a high percentage manner.

By contrast, Juan Marin del Potro is more of a gunslinger. He likes to rip backhands down the line, which is a lower percentage shot than crosscourt because the net is higher and you have a shorter distance in which to land the ball. He also likes to force his opponent to hit a short ball in the center of the ad side of the court so that he can unleash what is probably the nastiest inside-out forehand in the game. Check out the shot at 0:37.

Against Djokovic he went for a lot of insanely angled short inside-out forehands from the ad side and hit many. But he missed many too. I suspect that this shot was less painful to hit with his hyperextended knee than the backhand was, and that he wanted to end points as quickly as possible given his injury.

While we're doing short post-mortems on today's matches, GTB's favorite son Jerzy Jankowicz fell in love with the slice forehand/drop shot, of all the improbable shots to develop a crush on, during the third set of his match against Murray and it was his undoing. He should have stuck with what got him to the semis: big serve, big forehand, big Pole.

I once asserted that Andre Agassi would've been one of the greatest of all time if he worked hard and gave a shit. I think Djokovic's skill set is quite comparable to Agassi's and the Djoker certainly has more heart. He also has similarly bad musical taste; according to Wikipedia, "His favorite songs are Carl Orff - Carmina Burana,Vangelis - Chariots of Fire and Pulp Fiction Soundtrack - Opening Theme." Djokovic has the remarkable ability to produce offensive shots from defensive positions--even when he's forced to hit an out-of-position shot, he creates something that puts pressure on the opponent and get him out of position. Watch this sequence.

He plays smart tennis and his base game has no visible weaknesses ... and he really really gives a shit. Taken together, I think Djokovic could wind up a top-10 all time great, becoming what Agassi should have been. He'll probably beat Murray on Sunday in 4 sets.

Murray came back down 0-2 to Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals and at the time I felt like that would get him over the hump, along with the home crowd backing him while eating crumpets drenched in HP sauce and pounding pints of Samuel Smith's India Ale. Then I watched Djokovic beat del Potro and realized that Djokovic simply has better stuff right now. Every man, woman, and child in London could attend the match and cheer for Murray, but it won't be enough. Not even his Felicity Shagwell look-a-like girlfriend will be enough to derail Djokovic, not the way he's playing now. Murray's a damn fine counterpuncher, but unless he suddenly grows to be seven feet tall and learns how to shoot fireballs from his eyes, Djokovic has the potential to run him over on Sunday. Simply put, Murray cannot stop the Djoker.

That said, rooting for Murray is the right thing to do and I encourage you to do so. Just yesterday we celebrated our independence from Britain and the subsequent asswhooping we meted out upon them. Britain has been a steadfast ally ever since and their opportunity to fete a native son for vanquishing a foreign invader is long overdue. Freedom! And all that good stuff.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

America, Fuck Yeah

'There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.' - Bill Clinton


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The 27,000 Reasons Why Candlepin Bowling is Better Than Ten Pin Bowling

I am forty-three years old, and for most of those years, my family has vacationed in Chatham, Massachusetts. I consider myself lucky that I've spent so much time on the Cape. It is scenic, historic, and full of natural wonders. And while it's not my favorite seaside destination, it has moved up in the rankings recently -- and sadly, this should have happened many years ago. Though the Orleans Bowling Center has been in existence for my entire life, just a few miles up Route 6A, it wasn't until yesterday that I tried my hand at candlepin bowling. And now everything is different.

It is hard to explain how much better candlepin bowling is than regular ten pin bowling, but I will try. Now that I have bowled candlepin, I want to do bad things to my ten pin bowling ball. That's right, I  have my own ten pin bowling ball. Sixteen pounds. I even have my own shoes. And I HATE ten pin bowling. I gave it the "college try." Went Monday night with some buddies. Drank beer. Rolled the ball. Tried to learn to hook it into the pocket. Hurt my wrist. Drank more beer.

But now I want to chuck my ball out of a moving car. I want to hit it with a wrecking bar. I want to hurt it. Sodomize it. Fill the holes with cement and toss it off the Donald Goodkind Bridge.

Now that I have experienced the thrill and convenience of candlepin bowling, I hereby swear -- with Gheorghe as my witness -- that I will NEVER ten pin bowl again. NEVER! I might drink beer in a ten pin alley while my friends bowl, but never again will I stick my sweaty fingers into one of those giant ten pin balls and try to spin it down the lane. Instead, I will sit back, quaffing my lager, and expound upon the merits of candlepin bowling, until my friend's either kick the shit out of me, or convert to my frame of mind. Frame of mind. (There is the problem that there are no candlepin bowling alleys in New Jersey, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it).

For those of you who have never candlepin bowled, let me try to explain what makes it so great. And don't get me wrong: it's not THE greatest thing. I'd still rather play soccer or darts. It's just that it is so much greater than regular bowling. Here are some reasons why:

1. Everyone uses the same ball. It looks and feels like a bocce ball. There are loads of them, and they are interchangeable. You can't even tell the difference between them. There's none of that interminable walking around the lane, trying to find a ball that fits your fingers. And there's no advantage to bringing your own ball. So there's none of this business:

2. No finger-holes to worry about. I sweat a lot, and I have a thick thumb. This is a dangerous combination: I'm either worried about getting my thumb stuck in the ball or losing my grip completely. And I hate holding my hand over that little air-vent.

3. After you bowl, you don't have to wait for your ball to return. Just grab another one from the rack and chuck it! This is great for my ADD.

4. You get three tries. Three is the magic number of jokes and darts and Star Wars trilogies. Two is not enough. Five is right out. The number of the counting shall be three. That's three, sir.

And you bowl two frames at once. So you get six rolls on your turn, which is enough to get a feel for things. Two rolls and then your turn is over? That's just stupid. The number of the counting shall be three.

5. No ball weights to worry about. I own a sixteen-pound bowling ball, because I'm a real man. I used to bowl with it on Monday nights. Tuesday mornings, my elbow always hurt, because not only was I a real man, but I was also a real idiot. If I used a lighter ball, I probably could have been a decent bowler, but I wasn't going to sacrifice my machismo for skill. Candlepin bowling removes the testosterone factor.

6. The fallen pins aren't cleaned from the lane. They just lie there, and you can use them to knock down the other pins. Sometimes, the best thing to do is roll a gutter ball, because it will hit a dead pin and consequently knock down a corner pin (I'm not sure about the legality of this move, but it works like gangbusters).

7. Three, count them three foul lines! One foul line is lame. Two lines aren't quite enough. Four foul lines would be ridiculous. Five . . . right out. But three foul lines is perfect. There's a foot fault line, of course. Then there's the lob line, ten feet out -- so you have to roll the ball, not hurl it softball style. And finally, there's the fantastically named Dead Wood Line . . . if a pin rolls two feet forward of the head pin, you can't knock it into the other pins with the ball, but if it's "live wood" then you can use it to knock down the remaining pins.

8. Candlepin bowling is impossible. The highest score EVER recorded is 245. If you can bowl over one hundred, that's a good game. No one has ever bowled a perfect three-hundred. So every time you head out to candlepin bowl, you might set the record.

I, for one, am sick of hearing about people who have bowled a three-hundred game (unless, of course, it's Homer Simpson. You can do it Otto! You can do it Otto! Make this spare and I'll buy you free gelato!)

I've had several students do it, and a good friend of mine. It's annoying. What's left once you bowl three hundred? Nothing. You might as well off yourself, because you've achieved perfection. The rest of your life will be a complete let-down. An exercise in futility and disappointment. But if you're a candlepin bowler, there's always something to shoot for . . . two forty-six, baby, two forty-six.

9. Kids are just as bad as adults at it. Among the five of us who bowled yesterday, my nine year old son Alex had the only strike. He followed it with a "one." I was the only person to get a spare. I followed it with a gutter ball. Men, women, children, cripples, the blind . . . everyone sucks at candlepin bowling.

10. Even though you'll suck at it, the motion is smooth and easy. It's essentially like pitching a softball. And who doesn't love a softball pitcher?

I'll leave the 26, 990 other reasons for another post, but follow my advice: get in the car and drive to Cape Cod, toss your ten-pin bowling ball into the Nantucket Sound, and give candlepin bowling a whirl. I promise you'll never go back. And if you ever catch me in a ten pin bowling alley, drop a sixteen pound bowling ball on my testicles and remind me of my promise: that I will never roll a ten pin ball again, as long as I live.

P.S. I'd love to open a candlepin alley in New Jersey. I am guessing once you read this post, you'll be willing to financially back me. Who is in?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Don't Get Cocky, Bed

With the return of Summer Dave, and recent appearances by Mark and TR, we won't need as much filler for the next few months, but sometimes there is filler too good to pass up. Such as the out of this world item below:

And, don't forget, if you want to enjoy Star Wars bedding outside, there is always this option.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Advice for Young Men

You and I never met Robert Littell. He passed away in 1963 after a career in letters, highlighted by a run as the senior editor of Reader's Digest (which meant a bit more then than now). But I think we'd get along with Mr. Littell handsomely.

In 1933, inspired by watching his then-seven year-old son climbing high into the branches of a tree, Littell penned a lengthy meditation on the things a young man should know to be a successful member of society. As he himself put it in an essay in Harper's, "What are those abilities, skills, or accomplishments, those extra-curricular proficiencies that every man should have in order to be rounded and self-sufficient, and when can he acquire them, and how?"

Many of Littell's 'extra-curricular proficiencies are those that would come immediately to most of our minds. Things like cook, drive a car, swim, and speak in public seem somewhat self-evident.

But Littell had an advanced sense of what it takes to be a man, whether during the Depression or now. As he writes:
American social habits being what they are, there is one indoor skill which seems to me not only far more important than bridge or dancing, but actually compulsory — drinking. A young man who could convince me that his lips really would never touch liquor might be let off my required course in drinking. But he would be an exceedingly rare bird, and alcohol is so much more evident a liquid in the United States than water that it is probably quite as necessary for a young man to learn how to drink as it is for him to learn how to swim. If the youth of the country had been taught how to drink, just as they were taught not to eat between meals or swallow before they had chewed, we should never have had Prohibition. It is a more difficult art than most, for every man reacts differently, and every man should know, long before the time when (according to our customs) he indulges in his first collegiate binge, whether liquor goes to his head, his legs, or his morals, whether he is the type that sings, fights, weeps, climbs lamp-posts, or pinches the girls. Furthermore, he should learn his capacity and stick within its limits; he should know something about the different kinds of drink, and which drinks produce chaos within him when mixed. By all means let him leave drink alone if he wants to. But since, nine times out of ten, he will drink, let him do so sensibly. 
Other than the 'stick within his limits' nonsense, I endorse Mr. Littell's advice wholeheartedly. Bear this great American in mind this week, gentlemen (and ladies, be sure to stay away from girl-pinchers), as you celebrate our great nation's independence. Since ten times out of ten, we will drink, let us do so sensibly-ish.