Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"To The Pain" Bowl Season Bonanza: Part 1

Mark and Danimal are back the next week to 10 days in order to wrap up their season long college pick 'em bonanza. They rightfully chose to ignore many of the bowl games that have already occurred. On to their picks...


Down 2. Not much time left. My picks for today.

AdvoCare V100 Bowl! (12:30 p.m. EST)
Arizona -7 vs Boston College
What the hell is “AdvoCare” you ask? Beats the hell out of me. That’s the purpose of sponsoring a bowl game though jerky. You’ll know, hopefully, by the end of the game. Way to go AdvoCare!
Two 7-5 teams. BC with the edge in strength of schedule and wins. Plus they are 7-5 against the spread and they are just good wholesome Catholic kids, like I used to be.

Hyundai Sun Bowl (2:00 p.m. EST)
UCLA -7.5 vs VA Tech
Mark & I love to hate VaTech when it comes to wagering on them. WTF. There’s no way in hell he’s going to bet on the Hokies, which makes me want to grab some sack and do so. But I can’t. VaTech, capable of beating the shite out of UCLA (yes, I believe that), will more likely make loads of mistakes, turn the ball over vis-à-vis Logan Thomas, and lose by 8 points or more. VaTech is 4-7-1 ATS vs UCLA’s 8-4 too.

Chic-fil-A Bowl (8:00 p.m. EST)
Duke +12 vs Texas A&M
Other than a couple of guys I know, there won’t be many homosexuals at this one.
Manziel’s curtain call. Duke’s first big bowl game since Moby Dick was a tadpole. Two great coaches. Did you realize that Duke went 10-3 this year? I didn’t. They can score points too when they play against shitty D’s (1 last DEES NUTS! for 2013)….and we all know A&M has one of those. Twelve points….as we say at the blackjack table... “TOO MANYYYYY!!!”


[From the picker] Wife is at a tattoo appt and I'm running errands with the kid so just the picks for today. Ill jump into the post and add some words later.

Arizona -7 over Boston college
UCLA -7 over Va tech
A&M -12 over Duke

I'm about to go meet my wife for some post tattoo drinks to celebrate her birthday (Yes, it's today. the Birthday New Year's Eve combo is a doozy) but I figured I owed the loyal G:TB readers some thoughts behind today's picks. Basically, the first two games come down to this: The ACC sucks and the PAC-10 is pretty good. The second best conference in America this year after the SEC. And I think the ACC might be worse than the AAC (the old, fractured Big East in case you didn't know), especially once you get past Florida State. So, with the difference in conference strength being so pronounced I went PAC-10 for both of today's early games. I don't see motivation being an issue for Arizona or UCLA today either as both programs are on the rise and won't turn their collective noses up at the idea of competing in a lesser bowl game.

As for tonight, I think Duke will give A&M a pretty good run for the first half and maybe even into the third quarter. As Danimal stated, the Aggie defense is awful and Duke should be able to move the ball. I'll be watching the Duke offense with a special interest as Duke's OC Kurt Roper has been hired as the new OC at Florida effective January 1st. In the end, the A&M offense will be too much for Duke and Johnathan Football will go out in with a win (and cover) in his final game at Texas A&M.

Happy New Year! I'll be drinking soon so I'll see y'all in the comments.

The 12 Days of Gheorghemas: Day 10

On the tenth day of Gheorghemas, Dennis gave to me...

Nothing. Not a Single Thing.
Nine Gifts for Friends
Seven Books for Reading
Six cocktails
Five gooooals / things
Four legal mic drops
Three critters and an otter
Two names for naming
And a fat guy in a jer-sey

Worst present ever. Though fittingly Gheorghey.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Alienation's for the Rich and I'm Feeling Poorer Every Day

Despite my public renouncement of Redskins fandom (more particularly, as you know, of rooting for anything connected with Dan Snyder), I take no joy in the team's dismal season, nor in the sacking of yet another coaching staff. I only offer this dead-right observation, from Tom Boswell's column-long sigh about the end of the Shanahan era:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Photo of the Year

There are lots of great year-end lists - we'll have our own at some point later this week. National Geographic's list of the year's best photos is well worth your time, as is Reuters' (warning: some of the latter's photos of the year are graphic depictions of violence). Largehearted Boy offers an exhaustive compendium of lists of the best books of the year - a list of lists, if you will. I assume Dave has read all of them. Every radio station worth it's salt has offered its take on the year in music. My favorites include the SiriusXMU Top 41 and the KEXP.com Top 90.3 albums, but your results will vary.

With all that effort expended by others, who are we to try to pile on? No, we'll keep it short and amazing. The G:TB Photo of the Year was taken in 2013's first month by Portugese surf photographer To Mane at Nazare, Portugal. The shot captures Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara's ride of what is allegedly the largest wave ever surfed. I was captivated by it the first time I saw it, and I have the same reaction every time I come across it again. It's stunning, and not done justice in any way at this size:

Here's video of McNamara talking about the ride:

I imagine both McNamara and Mane will be both pleasantly surprised and more than a little confused when the commemorative chocolate statues of Gheorghe arrive at their homes.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gheorghemas: Day 9

On the 9th Day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me . . .

Nine Gifts for Friends
Seven Books for Reading
Six cocktails

Five gooooals / things
Four legal mic drops
Three critters and an otter
Two names for naming
And a fat guy in a jer-sey

After some delay, I'm here to bring you Day 9 of Gheorghemas. Some may attribute this delay to general laziness, or being drunk for the past two days. Those people, while possibly correct, are...well...somewhat correct. I am lazy and I have been consuming my fair share of alcohol the past few days but I've also been participating in no less than three separate Christmas morning (or afternoon) celebrations as well. A byproduct of the varying schedules that both my family and those families around us have to deal with during the holidays.

However we got here, I kind of like the idea of having my annual Gheorghemas gift giving extravaganza on Boxing Day. I mean, why should this blog only participate in American holidays. We're an international set here at G:TB and our holiday schedule should reflect this.

Speaking of reflection, it's been a hell of a year so far. The roster of G:TB has continued to grow as has our influence. We're not at least the 69th most trusted source on the internets for College Football gambling as well as a leading source of hip hop related lawsuits. Who knows what subject we'll tackle (dominate) next? Stay tuned in 2014.  Now on to the gifts.

Clarence- It's undoubtedly been a rough football season for you as the DC football team has struggled to be anything more than a weekly soap opera. Though I don't think you should be surprised. You have one of the most meddlesome owners in all of professional sports and your Offensive Coordinator has another man's initials tattooed on his ankle (not that there's anything wrong with that). You could certainly use (another) drink. With that in mind, treat yourself to a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. Always a tough find, it's been made even more rare after 65 cases were stolen from the distillery earlier this year. If a bottle of Pappy is too rich (or too hard to find) for you, you can always grab a glass the next time you fly through the Atlanta airport. Just stop By One Flew South in Terminal E and tell them I sent you.

TJ- I gave TJ his present some time ago when he and his lovely wife came down to Florida for a visit in March. We went to a spring training game, we celebrated St. Patrick's Day and we introduced The Teej to Mustard's Last Stand, our local hipster run gourmet hot dog stand. It's delicious, unbelievably unhealthy and they serve tall boys of PBR for $1. I can't overstate how great this place is. TJ…I'll have the breakfast dog before the year's end…just for you.

Zman- As all of you are aware at this point, Zman and I share many loves. A love of hip hop and sneakers chief among them. I was blessed by my dear wife with two very nice retro sneaker purchases this Christmas and I'm quite grateful. So here's a tip on a way to feed your sneaker obsession while saving a little money. Its the clearance section of nikestore.com . I go here about once every two weeks to see what's come up for sale. Sometimes there is nothing of note, sometimes you get a pair of Air Max 95 Tape Camos for 25% off. It's a nice way to waste time while you're running up billable hours.

TR- I've never met you so it's tough for me to pick out a good gift for you. So, I'm going to take the easy way out and give you the gift of schadenfreude. It's one of the best gifts any sports fan can get and you are getting your money's worth in the form of this year's New York Knicks. Just know that while you're eating up on the Knickerbocker misery, I'm right there with you. Cheering against the Knicks while I dream of two top 5 draft picks for the Orlando Magic.

Dave- Another guy I've still never met. But one who I feel like I know pretty well based on his essays here on G:TB. Dave clearly likes to read and is quite accommodating in passing out book recommendations. So I have two books for you, Dave. First is ?uestlove's autobiography 'Mo Meta Blues'. Even if you're not a fan of ?uestlove or the Roots it's a great read for music lovers as the sheer width and breadth of his musical love and knowledge will enrich your own musical life. The second book is 'Hellhound on his Trail', a book I just recently finished that follows the manhunt for James Earl Ray after his assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It's an enriching read historically and as riveting a read of historical nonfiction as I've come across in some time.

Shlara- I think we all know what I'm getting Shlara this year, right? Enjoy.

Danimal- Technically Danimal and I are still competing in our College Football pickstravaganza so I'm not feeling very generous towards my fellow Sunshine State resident just yet. But if I must get him something, we'll go with the return of former Notre Dame starting QB Everett Golson in 2014. It looks like everything is a go for that to happen and after having to suffer through yet another season of Tommy Rees, I'd say Daniela deserves it. Good luck, buddy. Once the bowl season ends, of course.

Rob- As some of you recall, I was astonished at Rob's admission last year that he didn't own a single hoodie. He's since rectified this but is still undoubtedly woefully short of the minimum number of hoodies that a man who lives in a (somewhat) northern climate should own. So I'm sending Rob a hoodie of his own. He probably won't receive it until after the New Year and I don't want to ruin the surprise for the little guy but he's getting an actual present in the mail from me. It aint quite the bottle of whiskey he sent me after my kid was born but it too will help warm him up during the long winter months ahead.

Geoff- Geoff's not technically a member of the G:TB staff but he's a part of the family. Kind of like the stuck up cousin who comes around every once in a while and tells every one else in the family how horribly wrong their thoughts and current path of life is (I think many of us at G:TB may fill that role in our own actual families). Plus, I've always had a soft sport for Geoff ever since my dog attempted to murder him by trying to chew his foot and flip flop off during his maiden voyage to Gainesville. I hope you'll enjoy this picture as much as I do.

Ron thought it was about time for Frank to give back Nancy and it's probably time for me to end this post. If I didn't get you something it's because I'm a bastard, not because I don't love you. Merry Gheorghemas!


The Detroit Lions just signed Carlin Isles to their practice squad. This at once bums me out and confirms that the NFL believes in GTB's theory of rugby ascendancy. Roger Goodell's minions are cornering the market on rugby talent. I hope Mr. KQ and Clarence are in proper rugging shape.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Italian Gheorghemas Eve

As one or two of you know, I grew up on Long Island.  This leads certain people to make assumptions about my background.  A friend from college once asked whether I was "Italian or Jewish".  Confused, I advised I was neither and inquired why she thought I was either one.  She said that she knew I was from Long Island and assumed I had to be one or the other.

While I am not of Italian descent, going to Catholic boys school (insert joke here) (insert "insert" joke here) I did have a good amount of Italian-American friends.  Around the Christmas, this meant two things...."Dominick The Donkey" and The Feast of the Seven Fishes.

"Dominick the Donkey" is a little Christmas ditty sung by none other than the locally famous Lou Monte.  Clarence will recall that Mr. Monte is also the Campari tongued crooner who sings "Lazy Mary", which the New York Mets Baseball Club plays after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to distract fans from the fact that their team is nine outs away from losing another game. 

Essentially, "Dominick the Donkey" explains how Santa deals with the very complex problem of his reindeer's inability to travel the hills of Italy.  Here is a music video put together by a few of Brooklyn's finest to accompany Mr. Monte's opus.

The other Italian Christmas tradition that I was exposed to growing up was the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  Wikipedia describes it as such:
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American Christmas celebration.  Today, it is a feast that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. However, some Italian-American families have been known to celebrate with nine, eleven or thirteen different seafood dishes. This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.
What I remember is my friend's families getting together to eat an obscene amount of food, drink lots of cruddy red wine made by one of their uncles, and yell at each other.  Needless to say it was always a fantastic event.  One year, when I was lucky enough to attend one of these all day events before going off to celebrate with my family, the matriarch of the family was almost in tears when she realized she had only prepared six "fishes" for the feast.  Thankfully, someone saved the day by printing out this picture and putting it on the table...

Merry Gheorghemas Eve!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

The 12 Days of Gheorghemas: Day 8

On the 8th Day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me . . .

Seven Books for Reading
Six cocktails

Five gooooals / things
Four legal mic drops
Three critters and an otter
Two names for naming
And a fat guy in a jer-sey

I had to check the lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to see what Day 8 was all about, but in retrospect, I'm not sure why I did this, since the Gheorghemas posts never allude to the lyrics of the original song (Two Names? Three Woodland Animals and a Cool Little Otter? Is the G:TB Staff even trying?)

If you are ignorant like me, the eighth day of Christmas features "eight maids a milking," which sounds kind of sexy, but when I searched "eight sexy milkmaids," I got a whole lot of nothing. I did find one (fairly) sexy milk maid, but she's nothing to write home about and could hardly sustain an entire Gheorghemas post.

Further research revealed that the "eight maids a milking" actually refers to the Eight Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew. "Blessed are the meek" and all that. Total kibosh on my sexy milkmaid post. So I will give up on the busty farm girls, and instead give homage to the Golden Rings (which may either refer to the first five books of the Old Testament-- the Torah -- or to five ring-necked pheasants).

To make things even more ambiguous, in some versions of the song, the eight maids a milking are "ladies dancing" or "hounds a running" or "hares a running," so the lesson here is that it's anything goes as far as the lyrics (and that the G:TB Staff got it right after all).

One thing about the song is certain: Frederic Austin is the guy who came up with the prolongation of the phrase "five golden rings." That is by far the most memorable part of the song. Good job, Frederic.

As many of you know, I am not a big fan of the Christmas season, and I don't think it's because I have a Grinch-like streak. My problem is that if you are a relatively successful American, then every day is Christmas. We have plenty of food and plenty of possessions, and we don't need an excuse to consume even more. If the holidays were truly only about friends and family, then they would be tolerable . . . perhaps even kind of fun (but a bit tiresome for an introvert like me, who is perfectly content to limit my socialization to my Thursday night pub outing and one weekend event, plus a bunch of kid-related shit). But the holidays are NOT simply about friends and family. They are about shopping and decorations and Black Friday and wrapping paper and traffic and full parking lots and guilt over not getting a good present for your wife and driving around like a lunatic to several locations in one day and gaining a bunch of weight because people bake butt-loads of cookies and then bring them to work.

But I'm going to try to forget about the stuff that makes me angry, because there's nothing I can do to stem the tide of this unstoppable wave of unnecessary consumption. Instead, I am going to focus on some things that are awesome in my life right now, day in and day out. Things that make it Christmas every day in my world. And when you say it, don't shake it like a polaroid picture . . . prolong it like Frederic Austin.

Eight Awesome Things . . .

1) My wife.

As the years pass, I keep getting hairier (except for my head, of course). Meanwhile, my wife is still sexier than eight maids a milking, and she's also a great cook. Quite awesome.

2) Playing sports and games with my kids.

Coaching my kids can be torture. The practices are chaotic, and it's better not to watch the games to closely. One of my sons is a space cadet and the other one can be downright mean. But -- and this is awesome-- my boys are always up for doing something athletic and/or competitive: basketball, soccer, RISK, snowboarding, extreme sledding, chess, Settlers of Catan, tennis, catch, throwing a rock at a tree, whatever. You name it, and they'll do it at the drop of a hat. I consider myself very lucky in this regard, because playing sports and games with the kids has become "my department." It keeps me active, and makes parenting tolerable. And my wife usually handles checking the homework (another reason she is awesome).

3) Friends and family at the beach.

Though I'm more mountain person, happy to put on headphones and hike or snowboard, I have learned to appreciate the beach, for social reasons. Most summers I take three trips to the shore -- one with my extended family, one with some good friends, and one to the OBFT. The beach is an awesome place for me because if I ever get sick of interacting with people, it's perfectly acceptable to go swimming or paddle-boarding, or even to sleep or read a book. Plus, I'm fucking awesome at cornhole.

4) Rdio

Pandora is good. Spotify is better. But Rdio has got me excited about music again. It inspired me to do some research and buy an awesome pair of computer speakers (Edifier e10 Exclaim PC speakers). Rdio combines the best features of Pandora and Spotify, and it privileges the album instead of the song/playlist. I'm an album guy. Plus it's got this great little five dot continuum when you create an "artist station" -- you can adjust it from "Artist Only" to "Adventurous."

5) My Kindle

I still love taking out books from the library, because I am cheap, but there's nothing like having a book on the Kindle. If I can't sleep, I can reach into the darkness, find it, open it, and I'm reading. No book light necessary. No complaints from the wife about the rustling of pages. If my eyes get tired from a marathon reading session, I can make the font bigger. And I can bring lots of books on vacation without increasing my encumbrance.

6) Podcasts

I know I'm a bit behind the times, but podcasts are awesome. My favorites are Freakonomics, All Songs Considered, This American Life, 99% Invisible, Dan Carlin's Hard Core History and Radiolab. Podcasts have made long car rides bearable (in fact, I started on my podcast jag on the way to the last OBFT), and they have made me love walking the dog (but not picking up his steaming hot feces).

7) My job.

Specifically, teaching a Shakespeare class. Though I hate plays, I love Shakespeare. While there are plenty of annoying things about teaching -- the early start time, the students, the grading -- there's nothing like getting paid to watch Ian McKellen be Richard the Third. These are tough economic times, and I find it fairly awesome that I have a job at all.

8) Three Way Tie! The Hey Gheorghies Trope, Good Beer, and My Dog!

Any Australian bloke who still says American beer is "fucking close to water" is fucking nuts. There are so many good American beers that I have trouble drinking them all. Although I love Dale's Pale Ale, there are a few that I like even better. I'm a big fan of all the varieties of Southern Tier Brewing Company, and the same with Green Flash. Long Trail Limbo IPA is awesome, as is just about every kind of Smuttynose, and if you can ever get some Switchback from Burlington, buy a case of the big bottles.

Though the Park Pub is a local dive that opens at 7:00 AM, Pete always has Troegs Hopback on tap (along with some kind of Long Trail and something German, usually Spaten). I find this awesome, and so I can usually stay up far past my bedtime on Thursday nights, which leads me to how much I love the "Hey Gheorghies" trope . . . almost enough to tolerate the name of this blog. Not quite though.

And when I get home late from the pub, though the rest of the house is asleep, my faithful dog is there to greet me. Though having a dog can be a pain in the ass -- you can't travel at a moment's notice and picking up chunks of shit in the dark in sub-freezing weather is nobody's idea of a good time -- but there's nothing like taking a nap on the couch while your loyal companion guards you from all threats . . . and though the saber-tooth tiger has long been extinct, you know that your dog doesn't know that, and that he's ready to defend you from whatever dangerous mega-fauna rears its ugly head, and that is an awesome thing.

Ba Ba Boxing Day Booey

Fat Guy in a Speedo returns to make your holidays just that much brighter, dropping Premiership science and historical nuggetry.

Season’s Greetings habitués of the internet’s premier sports, music, travel, legal, Romanian lifestyle blog.  It’s that most horrible sporting time of the year when we must suffer through the offerings of the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl, rare decent college hoops matchup, tail end of the played out NFL season or be forced to watch any of the shit show known as the Knicks before things pick up after the new year. But fear not sports enthusiasts, there is an equally stimulating alternative being played out across the drink on waterlogged pitches for the Boxing Day EPL schedule.

December 26th is known as Boxing Day everywhere around the world of whitey (excepting in ‘merica for reasons unknown to me).  Apparently this is the day when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts from their bosses or employers, known as a "Christmas box ".  Seemingly, in America the only box our forebears’ ‘servants’ would get is a bang on the ear.

Given the fact that most leagues take the Christmas week off and the Germans take three weeks off (how inefficient) it should come as no surprise that our industrious former overlords schedule no less than three games over the holiday week in the English Premier League.  This glut of games not only allows us to watch overpaid foreigners hard at work playing kickball while we sit on our collective arses enjoying treacle tarts but also is thought to be a defining week of the season; afterwards, we know which teams are genuine title contenders and also those doomed to relegation like Fulham (rumors of a decidedly mediocre Clint Dempsey return abound - sadly his wife Bethany would have to follow and watch this travesty).

Regardless, here’s a quick preview of what magic lies in wait for all.

Saturday, Dec. 21 – Not much magic today, a clash of the United’s, Manchester and West Ham might offer yet another embarrassment for the title holders. Currently in 9th place, United look well poised to lose at home yet again to another average side.

Sunday, Dec. 22 – Only two unmagical games to choose from but Southampton-Tottenham is the one to watch. Southampton look great for a broke team of unknowns while Spurs look like crap and have just fired their 9th manager in 12 odd years last week after getting shellacked 5-0 at home to Manchester City.

Monday, Dec. 23 – Schedule heats up to tepid magic today.  Arsenal play Chelsea, both of these title contenders need to notch a win in this always contentious derby.  Look for Chelsea to take it to Arsenal away from home and literally kick these Eurotrash short passers all over the pitch, English style.

Thursday, Dec. 26 – Boxing day is here! All teams are playing so choose wisely but Manchester City vs Liverpool is the obvious headliner. Two more title contenders, City’s oily mercenaries will thump an up and coming Liverpool team and follow it up with a loss to awful Crystal Palace days later. Luis Suarez will have bitten and racially slurred at least two players and will be banned until he’s flogged off to Spain in the January transfer window.

Saturday, Dec. 28 – eh, getting sick of all the magic by now.

Sunday, Dec. 29 – Chelsea vs. Liverpool. I’d favor moving to Ohio over  supporting either of these teams. Watch Everton vs. Southampton instead, NJ hometown hero Tim Howard will shut out these dogs while wondering why he ever ditched this look.

January 1 – Everyone’s sick of footie at this point after watching our teams lose or tie 3 games in succession but we will watch a Manchester United – Tottenham Hotspur shitfest  while preparing for a tasty Rose Bowl matchup. Old school smashmouth football will see the Spartans over the 4 point favorites Stanford and in the strangest bowl matchup, the Pinstripe Bowl will see Rutgers lose but easily cover the 17.5 point spread for Notre Dame who rarely win by double digits, especially when helmed by the pocket-interceptor that is Tommy Rees.  

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”
Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The 12 Days of Gheorghemas: Day Seven

On the seventh day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me . . .

Seven Books for Reading
Six cocktails

Five gooooals / things
Four legal mic drops
Three critters and an otter
Two names for naming
And a fat guy in a jer-sey

I'm not going to beat around the bush and attempt to humblebrag. I read a lot of books. Real books. LONG books. Can you even brag about something so nerdy?

I attribute this not simply to the fact that I like to read. A lot of people I know like to read, and many of them don't read a lot of books. I get shit done in the book department because I don't mind starting several books until I find one I really like, and once I really like a book, I don't mind committing to it. Though I've been called ADHD as much as anyone (who is not actually diagnosed with ADHD) the truth is that I don't really love surfing the web, or browsing magazines. I don't watch the news or scan through the channels on TV or go on Facebook or Twitter. I like albums over songs. This can be a disadvantage. At times, I can be be totally out of it, and not know basic current events or pop culture. But I love getting lost in a big idea or a convoluted plot, and I also have a deep appreciation for people who spend years of their lives researching and writing on one topic.

I went through Sentence of Dave, and I think this is a fairly accurate list of the books I finished this year. If I actually finished a book, that's a credit to it, because I'm willing to bail on a book I don't like fairly quickly. I am rather arbitrarily choosing seven of these books as "must reads," but don't take my choices too seriously -- they are all good reads (except the George R.R. Martin fiasco A Dance with Dragons . . . I hope that guy dies before he finishes his next exercise in prolixity).

Some Books I Finished in 2013:

Far From the Tree, Wild Ones, The Goldfinch, Antifragile, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Columbine, The Great Stagnation, The World Until Yesterday, A Perfect Mess, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., I Wear the Black Hat, Fist Stick Knife Gun, The Looming Tower, A Dance with Dragons, The Devil in the White City, Overdressed, House of Mirth, Psychiatric Tales, Collision Low Crossers and Infinite Jest.

Here are the seven that I urge you to read.

Collision Low Crossers: A year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football

by Nicholas Dawidoff

I just finished this one, and while I would probably have enjoyed it even more if it were about the Giants (I can imagine how compelling this book would be if you were a diehard Jets fan) but, rooting interests aside, I think this is going to be regarded as one of the greatest sports books ever written. Take that recommendation with a grain of salt, because I love saying something is the best thing ever (until the next best thing ever comes along). Anyway, this is my book of the year. 460 insightful, vivid, brilliantly written pages.

What does it offer? Nothing typical. No Cinderella story. No dramatic run to the Super Bowl (that would be the 2011 Giants). Just a great reporter, who "embedded" himself with he 2011 Jets and writes a comprehensively detailed account of all the stuff you don't see on Sunday: the camaraderie, character, and monomania of the coaching staff, the hours of watching film, tactics at the Combine, grading and evaluating players, the invented language of football, what goes on during the countless hours these men spend at "the office," the complexity of play-calling and strategy, the mind-numbing mundanity of the meetings, the anxiety of trying to play a violent sport at the highest level possible, how to be a leader of men, what happens when you don't win, what happens when your quarterback doesn't step up, loads of everyday minutia, and defense, defense, defense. An inside look written by a total outsider. Right up there with The Blind Side and Friday Night Lights.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

by Catherine Boo

Everything you need to know about living in a Mumbai Undercity (and more!) An incredible work of journalism, and a great reality check that will make you appreciate your life (unless you live in a Mumbai Undercity . . . then it might just offer some practical tips on how to get by salvaging junk and navigating the byzantine Indian legal system).

The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt

Just noticed that this is the only novel on the list. That says it all. Dickensian to the max. Picaresque.

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

by Andrew Solomon

If you are a parent (or have parents or know any parents or have ever been a child or know any children) then you must read this book. A magnum opus that took ten years to write. The least you can do is spend a couple weeks reading it.


by Dave Cullen

If Newtown disturbed and confounded you, take a step back and read this comprehensive account. Another ten year effort.

Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America

by Jon Mooallem

This is one of those books that I serendipitously stumbled upon, and immediately felt like it was written expressly for me. Butterflies, cranes, and polar bears. Occasional mega-fauna.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

by Erik Larsen

If you like architecture and serial murder (and who doesn't) then this is the book for you. Because I read a lot, I forget a lot. Though I read this a while ago, I still remember it vividly, and I imagine the images from this book will stick with me for the rest of my life.

The book I am most proud of finishing this year -- Infinite Jest -- didn't make the list because it's ridiculously long and probably only geared for elitist douche-bags. That being said, it is about sports, and it is kind of humorous, and Jerry finished it long before I did, so it is another one to keep in mind, if you like tennis and have (more than) some time to kill.

A little video clip between Gheorghemas days

An avid GTB reader, if not commenter, sent along this article/clip from a few days ago. It stars the VCU basketball team and some badass kids at Children's Hospital in Richmond (as well as a cameo from a doctor some of you may recognize). Just a warning, you might want to grab a tissue before hitting play:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas - Day 6

On the sixth day of Gheorghemas, big Gheorghe gave to me:

Six cocktails
Five gooooals / things
Four legal mic drops
Three critters and an otter
Two names for naming
And a fat guy in a jer-sey

My parents would be so proud to know I’m the resident “expert” on cocktails and gambling (1 of 2 of course) for this here blog, after of course explaining to them what a blog is, unsuccessfully. At first thought this assignment seemed daunting. Yes, it did. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to provide 6 drinks that I, 1) have a good deal of experience making & consuming, 2) that my fellow GTB’rs would definitely enjoy, and 3) that are a fit for the holiday season. That thought lasted as long as most of my others.

Back to parents – good, bad, or indifferent, and probably bad, it was their influence very early on that introduced me to alcohol at large. I’d pour beers as a youngster for them and their cronies. My dad had a bar constructed in our basement when we lived outside of Syracuse. Equipped with draft beer with the kegorator behind a wall and in an entirely different room, every liquor imaginable (with pourer spouts of course), coasters, shakers, strainers, garnishes, and even a nice little cushion that ran the bar’s length so your elbows wouldn’t become sore or bruised. It can happen ya know. It was L-shaped, I’d guess about 12’ on the long side and 4’ on the short. It was lacquered nicely, you could sling a beer from one end to the other with no problem at all.  With low ceilings, a nearby couch, recliner and television, it was pretty damn inviting. I’d pour beers at the ripe old age of 11 during Super Bowl parties, post-Sacrament parties, regular no-reason parties, Christmas parties, the occasional Tuesday, you name it.  

The first two drinks harken me back to those days. My parents would never have me mix these – far too risky. And what kind of parenting would that be? My mom liked the Old-Fashioned. When I became a little older, ya know, like 15, she’d entrust me with the task. Once my palate further developed, for what I once thought as “yucky” the Old-Fashioned became my friend, that friend you don’t see very often but when you do, you feel good, all warm & fuzzy inside, just like last time you saw each other however long ago that might have been.

The Old-Fashioned
I’ve never been a measurer. Takes too much time. If nervous, go ahead and get yourself a shot-glass and use as needed. Here is how I was taught to make an Old-Fashioned decades ago and how I still do to this day. The process has been approved and rarely doesn’t meet or exceed the expectations of the consumer.

In the days of yester yore, it was some crap whisky that I’d be using – Canadian Club for example. No. Please don’t do that. If you’re going to do it do it right.

-rocks glass
-orange slice & a cherry or two
-juuuuust a touch of cherry juice
-juuuust a ‘lil bit of sugar – ½ tsp
-bitters – just a couple of drops now!
-muddle that up dawg!
-add ice
-Woodford Reserve / Maker’s / Knob Creek / Bulleit - pick just one
-just a wee bit of soda, or plain water if no soda…or if you haven’t the soda, I’d leave it as is but that’s me
-stir & begin drinking

 (fyi – there are a few different Ron Zacapa Old Fashioned recipes out there that look dee-lish, but have yet to make. But stay tuned)

What I like about the Old Fashioned is its versatility. It works during any part of the year. Over the yule tide log or while watching the Derby - it works.

The Manhattan
This is another concoction that very early on I thought repugnant. But come on, I didn’t even have pubes yet. My dad and one of his very best friends introduced FOGTB Buckles to said drink in the summer of ’93? Beach trip, Emerald Isle…

Buckles - “Hey, what are you guys drinkin?”

Ed - “Manhattans, want one?”

Buckles - “You bet”

8 or 9 later it was time to switch to beer, but a fan had been created.

I’ve always been a rocks guy. Drinking up or on the rocks is preference and if anyone gives you a hard time because of a different opinion so be it. No need to cow tow. For me, the stability of the glass is assuring. With three under five running around plus a couple of pussy cats, stability is important. There's the sound of the ice too…maybe one of our wordsmiths can sum it up for me. It just feels right. If up, obviously use a shaker. And if you’re using a mixer/shaker because you’d prefer not to dilute the drink too much, keep the shaking to a minimum and be gentle. So very, gentle. 

-rocks glass
-rocks – just a couple/few
-whiskey of your choice, but see bourbon options shown for the “Old Fashioned”
-hopefully you kept the bitters out
-sweet vermouth – ½ oz or so – this again is preference...experiment a little; have several while each time altering the amount of both the vermouth and the bitters, if stumbling or slurring speech, that means you like the bourbon part
-a cherry if you feel so inclined
-if feeling frisky will throw in a spoonful of cherry juice – depends on the mood 

The picture of the Old-Fashioned above…well imagine that without the orange and that’s your picture for The Manhattan. There you go little buddy. Nice goin.

I love me a Manhattan during the winter time, ESPECIALLY prior to a nice meal in an obnoxious steakhouse. Yes please.

The Stinger
During and post-college, I may have mentioned that I bartended at a, or THE rather, fine dining establishment in Winchester. Go ahead – insert your little Winchester jokes here. “Lone Star is fine dining?” “Bob Evans had bartenders?” Hahahahahah. You guys are funny. 

So the clientele was older, 40+ (I was 21/22/23 at time) with a lot of older farts too. There was a guy who always used to order a Stinger after his dinner. After making and trying, I understood why.

-rocks glass (or up)
-white crème de menthe
(3 parts brandy, 1 part crème de menthe)
How great is that huh? You are so very welcome.
And guess what – substitute the white crème de menthe with green crème de menthe and do you know what you have? A GREEN HORNET, shown here….

And here!  

The Stinger is stingalicious, warming to the core. Build yourself a little fire, put on your favorite slippers, and retire to the couch with your favorite tome and enjoy being you. That's what I'd do.

This one is for the ladies. Speaking of Brandy…

The Brandy Alexander
This usually came with the request to have frozen, to make in a blender. The (lazy) bartender’s dread….THE BLENDERRRRRR!!!!  It’s loud and it has to be cleaned after use. Though I will say, it is mighty tasty, and that is whether blended, up, or on the rocks. It doesn’t matter how you make it, it will go quickly so make enough for a few. I think I’ll go with a martini glass for this one.

-3 parts brandy
-1 part crème de cacao
-1 part half & half
-do as Ric Ocasek said to and shake it up
-strain into a pretty little martini glass
-add some nutmeg on top and…

The Brandy Alexander is the quintessential dessert drink. Rather have something fulfilling from a caloric and taste perspective while continuing to fill the bloodstream with alcohol? This is what you want.

The Nose Warmer
Full disclosure. I’ve never made this one and have only consumed it once in a restaurant. Every time I think of this drink I hit myself for not having purchased the goods to make it at home.

This is one of those after holiday dinner drinks for when you’re feeling extra hog-like. You’ve eaten early perhaps and you still have many hours left of getting your swerve on. You just want to stretch out under the table and close your eyes. Sleepytown is calling. Sleeeepy. If you have another glass of red or IPA, you’ll doze off in what's left of the green bean casserole on your plate. Yuck. That would be embarrassing, for some. You need a coffee drink with alcohol so that you can maintain or even enhance your inebriation, while also giving yourself a little pep. Is it a bonus that it’s delectable? You bet it is.

-1/2 oz Tia Maria
-1/2 oz Frangelico
-1/2 oz Baileys
-1/2 oz Grand Marnier

Put all of that together in your favorite Nancy Pelosi mug, maybe even add a little whipped cream (you know Nancy loves her whipped cream), and get ready for round 2 of your drunk.

The Hot Whiskey!
This one is for Clare Bear.
On a whim in the year 2002 maybe, a good buddy (klynch) and me went to Ireland during the month of January! (whatever year the Ravens won the Super Bowl) AerLingus had just begun flying to and from Bawmore for the price of a few pints. Plus, who doesn’t love ‘em some lingus once in a while? We got on board. Of course when we got on board, we were already extremely hung over, tired, blah blah blah. I had a bit of a cold coming on. Felt like shite from the previous night's session but upon getting there couldn’t wuss out on the cràic. That’d be rude. I explained my state to the first barkeep and without hesitation he says, “ya need a hut whisskey!” “I do indeed kind sir!”   

If I lived in a cold state, I’d probably have one or two of these a week. If you do, or if you have a case of the sniffles and you’re not feelin the beer or Vod, have your loved one make ya one of these. Ringy Dingy.
-boil water (about 3/4th cup per drink)
-pull out a whiskey sour glass, a coffee mug that says “world’s best dad”, or one like pictured below
-1 slice lemon
-2-3 cloves
-tsp of sugar – or you can use honey or simple syrup – you get the drift
-1 ½ oz or more of Jameson/Bushmill’s/Powers/Paddy/Locke (not of each, just 1)
BOOM – turn that frown upside down. Sooner than later you’ll be back up on the table and making an ass of yourself!

Enjoy, all. And let's be careful out there.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day 5

Please sing this, people!

On the fifth day of Gheorghemas, big Gheorghe gave to me:

Five gooooals / things
Four legal mic drops
Three critters and an otter
Two names for naming
And a fat guy in a jer-sey

Okay, after much fanfare, this falls a bit short. Hey, commiserate with all my girlfriends and wanna-bes (if you can find any who'll confess). Well, TJ's going to grad school, so our world is topsy-turvy enough. Your gift from Señor Clarencio is five things that will make my life better and/or much tougher, and in turn, I will pay forward that happiness/misery. Here we go.  Within the first five (5) months of 2014, Clarence will deliver to you:

1. The Five Parts of Punk Rock
I delivered Part 1 of 5 recently, and Rob -- wisely -- asked me if this would be yet another recurring feature destined not to recur.  We have a few of those here.  While I managed to finish the Cauc Hop and Rob has carried on a few such features (as has Teejay), there are more unconcluded epics than we'd care to admit. Well, I have a lot to say about punk rock, or more appropriately, a lot to share.  You'll learn about Sid Vicious, D. Boon, and every single damn Ramone by May 31.  Or my name isn't Clarence.

2. Five Rock and Roll Shows
I've abstained from all too many rock shows in 2013, mostly because of a lack of cash flow.  That will change in the new year, even if I have to sell my body to do it.  One cut at a time.  Please join me when you can. Send suggestions.  Stay tuned for music reviews and recs to come!

3. Five G:TB Mini-Summits
In 2012 I saw nearly every G:TBer at least once, and we drank at least six beers on average every time.  Terrific.  2013 sucked for me in that capacity.  My friends came to visit me for nuptials and the OBFT; I did nothing. Even Mr. KQ came to visit me, and I could not reciprocate. I vow here and now to interact with at least five of you assholes in the first five months of the next year, and I will make the traveling effort.  Who, where, when, how, and what we drink remains to be seen. Send suggestions. Game on.

4.  Five Random Idiots Songs
I pledge to write -- if not record for your listening pleasure -- five worthy, semi-worthy, or bloody awful tunes to record with my old friend Dave.  It's been since 2009's "Dear Ozzy;" blimey, The Stone Roses record at a more frequent pace.  And if #3 includes a winter summit to central NJ (one of my favorite things in life), you'll get audio delight by Memorial Day.  Get psyched, fans.

5. Five Miles
Listen to "Lightnin' Hopkins"
Damn you, Rob.  Damn you to hell.  I am vowing now to participate -- maybe run a little, probably walk most of it -- in Virginia Beach's 2013 Shamrock Marathon . . . ha ha, just the 8k.  5 miles.  Let us not forget that life-lover Dave Flynn was trying to get his sorry body in shape in 2006 when he keeled over and left us for good.  If Rob kills me, I implore all of you to avenge my death by playing/singing "Short People" and jamming his head in the toilet every time you see him.  And or killing him so I have someone to drink with in the rebel side of heaven besides Flynn, Evan, Lud, Scoop, and our other mates.

That's it for 5. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Linda Lovelace Sinks Ships

While we are awaiting Clarence's day 5 contribution to our celebration, I thought some of you (I'm looking at TR) might be interested in a news item that was likely lost in the Gheorghemas madness so despised by Dave.

On December 9, the Museum of Sex in New York opened an exhibition entitled, The Eve of Porn: Linda Lovelace.  While I doubt there is going to be Marls family outing to this one, the coverage by the fine newshounds at the NY Post did pique my interest.

Lovelace, the star of "Deep Throat", is credited with helping to bring pornography into the mainstream during the early 70's.  Celebrities were organizing parties to show the film and major media players like the New York Times and Roger Ebert were reviewing it.  During this "Porn Chic" period, a term coined by the New York Times, Lovelace became a household name who helped lay the foundation for the "adult entertainment" industry of today.  However, Lovelace's participation in the industry is not easily defined.  There are allegations that her early performances were forced under threats of violence. Additionally, by 1980, Lovelace had come to renounce her participation in the industry becoming an outspoken member of the anti-pornography movement.

For those of you unable to make it to Museum of Sex to take in the exhibition, there is also a soon to be released documentary entitled: Linda Lovelace's Loose Lips that includes portions of a final interview prior to her untimely death in 2002.

This man was unavailable for comment...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Verses From the Abstract ... AND the Dragon!

Long-time readers know how much I love A Tribe Called Quest. Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes (formerly of Leaders of the New School, another member of the Native Tongues posse) released a new mixtape of old and new songs. It's like Gheorghemas came early!

As a special bonus, here's the video for "Thank You" which technically features Lil Wayne and Kanye West, although they add nothing.

Be alert look alive and act like you know!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

VH1 Cooks Up Some Red Velvet

It's as if executives at VH1 said "What can we do to make zman watch one of our shows?" Ghostface Killah and his wife Kelsey Nykole will appear on the new season of Couple's Therapy starting January 2.

I guess Kelsey just read the lyrics to Wildflower. I can't wait to see Pretty Tone do his thing, although I hope the show doesn't turn GFK into a caricature of himself like Surreal Life/Flavor of Love did to Flavor Flav. Set your DVRs accordingly.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day 4

On the fourth day of Gheorghemas, big Gheorghe gave to me:

Four legal mic drops 

Three woodland animals and a cool little otter
Two names
A fat guy in a jer-sey

Gheorghe: The Blog makes no apology for our historical focus on whimsy and our generally self-serving editorial output. But lurking below the surface mix of filler, inaccuracy, and navel gazing is a consistent thread of  professional and personal expertise. Put more simply, one of my favorite things about being a part of the G:TB community is the fact that I learn things on a regular basis.

In recognition of that, a big Gheorghemas huzzah (the official G:TB exclamation of the season, along with 'Hi, Gheorghies!') to zman, who staked his claim in 2013 as the internet's leading authority on the intersection of rap and the law.

To be sure, Z'd done good work on this topic previously, raising awareness of Jack Urbont's legal beef with Dennis Coles (d/b/a Ghostface Killah). But his efforts this year cemented his place in Super Lawyers' list of the industry's top purveyors of legal wisdom. (Don't bother searching for him, though, his modesty requires that his name not be included - he's a bit like a superhero in that way.)

Method Man - The Turn by mastho50

After spending the first part of the year focused on legal issues unrelated to rap (and automobile porn), Z turned his considerable analytical acumen back to dropping science in July. In the first of several cases involving the Beastie Boys (who seem to be the target and instigator of quite a bit of litigation - news for crews who'll be sucking like a leech, I suppose), Z noted the dichotomy between Judge Paul A. Englemayer's incredibly distinguished resume and his complete lack of understanding of the rap game:
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.
The persistent Mr. Urbont reappeared in the pages of G:TB in August, as Z chronicled the latest in the ongoing legal saga. In a noteworthy programming update, discovery for the case is scheduled for completion in February 2014. We eagerly anticipate Z's pre-trial analysis.

Judge Alison Nathan stands in sharp contrast to the aforementioned Judge Engelmayer, in rap-world knowledge, though not professional achievement. Z praised her skillz in September, acknowledging both her definition of 'MC' in a footnote, and her obvious affinity for G:TB. (As an aside, as courts across the U.S. have increasingly cited online materials in their opinions, the challenge of 'linkrot' has arisen. For this reason, we'll have to keep G:TB alive in perpetuity, as it seems next to certain that Judge Nathan will cite Zman's work in relatively short order.)

Finally, just a few weeks ago, Z weighed in on yet another Beastie Boys-related legal matter, siding with the makers of Goldieblox in their minor kerfuffle over the fair use of the former's 'Girls' in an advertising campaign. Notes Z on the band's standing policy of not licensing its music for commercial purposes, "While I respect that position, MCA's will doesn't override our copyright laws." (That right there may well be the legal reasoning cited by Judge Nathan at some point.) That Z applied legal principles in a way that supports Goldieblox over the legendary rappers on serves to strengthen his position as a neutral arbiter of legal flow.

Beyond issues of the law and rhyme-spitting, Z also weighed in on judicial misconduct, the Redskins' trademark, and Congressional claims of court-packing this year, a banner annum for legal productivity. (Here, anyway. I guess he ought not submit this post as a part of his performance review.)

As Method Man might say on the occasion of this, the 20th anniversary of 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)', "Respect when a grown man is speaking".