Saturday, November 30, 2013

Turkey Day Weekend "To The Pain" Pick' Em 'Stravaganza


DANIMAL PICKS

The last 3 weeks have been pretty good to Danimal who is 6-3 vs Mark’s 3-6, enabling the non-tattooed one to get within 2 games. (Dan is 20-18-1; Mark is 22-17).
Oooh…rivalry week! Listen, I apologize for last week’s slackishness. I will make up for it today, promise.

You want picks you greedy bastards…I’ll give ya picks!

Va Tech -13 at UVA, a.k.a. The Commonwealth Cup (3:30 p.m. EST)
The Hokies have won the last nine Cups, and 16 of the last 20 – a pretty nice stretch. This was a game I used to attend during my college and just out of college days. I remember Buckles attending one with me. My oldest sister lived there and was a season ticket holder with her assfaced husband, since divorced. Hi Keith. Dick. We ran out of beer or bourbon, or both at the tailgate. Don’t judge me, we were young and very poor. My sister’s good buddy Bill had scotch. So we drank it. Mixed it with a little water and a coupla rocks. Dewar’s if not mistaken. Buckles & I ended up crashing at Bill’s house. Bill liked to party. Hi Bill. Miss you.

Sorry, got off track there. So, Tech was a major disappointment this year. They played a great deal of uninspired football led by their super inconsistent quarterback Logan Thomas. And Frank Beamer – the man will, deservedly so, have a statue outside of their stadium at some point, but it’s time big guy. Time for you to pack up all your turkey calls and get on with your version of Duck Dynasty, kay fella?  With losses to Duke, Maryland, and Boston College, why on earth would anyone pick you while giving away nearly 2 touchdowns to UVa, a team that hates you as much as you hate them, and a game that takes place in daVille? Well, I’ll tell you why! Because the Cavaliers have one of the worst teams in big boy football. They are 2-9 overall and 0-7 in the conference, the ACC.  They don’t crack the top 100 in offense. Or Defense. WOMP WOMP! That is an unenviable position to be in going against a ginormous rival, who by the way has one of the best defenses in the country and will never ever tire of beating the Cavs. Oh, and playing in Charlottesville is about as scary as the haunted house in your kid’s kindergarten class, that is unless your entire team is allergic to the scent of chardonnay and gruyere. Lastly, you and your team NEVER play uninspired football against those douche nozzles from Vuhginia. And you won’t this time. You and your team, and your coach-in-waiting Bud Foster, the super Defensive Coordinator that he is, are going to put the smother on the Wahoos. Now go out there and get’r done, Frank. GET TA STEPPIN!
GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE! – Tech by 24

Notre Dame +14 at Stanford (7:00 p.m. EST)
I know this doesn’t quite go with Rivalry Week, but it’s the last regular season game of the year so I felt compelled to give you another Irish pick. I’m sure that makes several of you very happy, especially Zman. And TR. And Mark. And Rob. And Clarence. And that guy Whitney that used to hang out here. Yeah I know, it’ll make you happy when they lose. The likelihood of that is very good so until then carry on with your piss poor attitudes. Likelihood in this instance is defined as a 4 out of 5 chance. That’s 80% for you short on the math skeelz.

In August, I was counting this game as a definite loss. Now I think it’s a very likely loss but with possibilities. It hinges on you-know-who. Will “Touchdown Tommy” show up or “Tommy Turnover”. If the former, they keep it at least competitive and maybe even pull a shamrock out of their arses. With Stanford’s very solid running D, I’d guess that we’ll see a good # of Rees to TE Troy Niklas shorter routes. Niklas is a 6’7” TE who actually went to ND to be a lineman. And on the running side, true freshman and one of Mark’s old neighbors Tarean Folston is turning into what most predicted as one of the top 3 backs coming out of high school – bad-ass. Each week he gets more and more comfortable. He only has 347 yards on the season but 231 of those have come in November on 35 carries (6.6 yards – keep your calculator in your pocket).

On D, ND MUST get to the QB, Kevin Hogan, who by the way will have a chip on his shoulder because he wanted an offer from ND coming out of high school. The man that will be counted on to do so is future 1st rounder Stephon Tuitt. Hopefully he won’t have some bullshit targeting penalty like he had called early in the 2nd quarter against Pitt. Seriously, that was a horrific call. And Tuitt will need another true frosh to make a play or two – Jaylon Smith who like Folston, has made some big time plays over the last few weeks. Stanford is beatable – just ask USC & Utah.
Irish Cover

IRON BOWL!!!!
Bama -10.5 at Auburn! (3:30 p.m.)
A 10.5 favorite, on the road, against another Top 5 team. Hmmm.
This is going to be fun. With my #superdad feats of last weekend, guess who gets to watch college football for the better part of Saturday? (I failed to complain to GTB’rs on Sunday that I was solo w/all 3 while my wife and mother-in-law went to a “movie” that had her out of the house for 4 hours and 45 minutes, approximately) I probably shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself though – this could change at a moment’s notice. Wife now talking about getting tree and decorations up a week earlier this year for a few reasons yada yad yada. I will go into fetal position if that happens.

Let’s breakitdown!

Bama: #1 Defense. Aub: #2 Rushing Offense. Both near identical in total scoring. Auburn has two nice ball carriers, one of which is their QB Nick Marshall who averages 6.7 yards a carry. He’s their 2nd leading rusher. Tre Mason has 1100+ yards and averages 5.5 yards per carry. It’s the running QB that is going to help open things up a wee bit, that is IF he doesn’t fumble  (cautionary note for Auburn leaners – Marshall has fumbled the ball 10 times this year).
LSU manhandled Auburn – the 2 TD margin was much better than it looked. Howevah, Auburn played a shit game on the road and in terrible weather. They lost the turnover margin and botched an attempted punt deep in their own territory which translated to a quick TD. And 2 of their other 3 turnovers also led to TD’s. In looking at Bama’s win against A&M, A&M also lost the turnover battle – one of which led to a 14-point swing with a short INT in Bama’s end zone. Whoops. Something tells me Gus and his fellow coaches have been preaching the turnover thing this week, a lot.  So….here is what I am betting on – I am betting on Auburn breaking even or winning the turnover thing, and thus covering the line. IF they get to +2 on turnovers, I say they win. But like they say, if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle. And by the way, which aunt are they talking about when the say that? Very confusing.
WAR EAGLE!!!!



MARK PICKS

We're at the end of the College Football regular season already? It would appear so. Usually I'd be bummed out that we'd already reached the end of the road. However, this is one College Football season chart I'm happy to see end. I can only take watching Florida's anemic offense so much before I snap. Fortunately for you, there's a good chance I'll snap today while watching Florida State run roughshod over my alma mater on their home field. Will I watch today's game with the faintest glimmer of hope that a miracle could occur? Yes. Will I likely give up this hope by halftime and head to the gym to take out my frustrations? Absolutely. Listen, there are a number of other games worth watching today. It just so happens that Florida-Florida State isn't one of them.  Anyway, on to the picks.

Ohio State @ Michigan +17.5
Michigan has been a colossal disappointment this year. They might be the only high profile team ranked in the preseason who has an offensive line that could rival the ineptitude of Florida. On top of that, first year QB Devin Gardner has been something beyond turnover prone. Turnover friendly? Turnover loving? Whatever. He turns the ball over a ton. On the other hand, Urban Meyer is doing what he always does during his second year at a new school. He's turning his team into a killing machine. Ohio State still has some holes on defense and their passing game comes and goes but they are far and away the class of the Big Ten. I think the Buckeyes are far better than Michigan but I can't quite convince myself to lay 17.5 on the road in a historic rivalry game. Go Blue.

Duke +5.5 @ North Carolina
Duke is in the midst of it's best season in, well, nearly forever. Duke hasn't been this good since before Steve Spurrier led them to three straight bowl games in the late 80s. North Carolina would like nothing more than to knock off the Blue Devils at home and earn some redemption for themselves in a season that's been somewhat of a disappointment. The Tarheels are on a roll of late, having won their last five games and absolutely embracing Old Dominion last week in a game that featured a 10 minute fourth quarter. There's a chance that Carolina pulls the upset here but either way the game's too close to give up 5.5 points. Take the Devils.

Kansas State -17 @ Kansas
This isn't quite the first game that comes to mind when someone mentions rivalry weekend. It is, however, a rivalry. A rivalry that often means more on the basketball court? Yes. But a rivalry nonetheless. Kansas has been garbage all year. Notching just on Big 12 win in a 31-19 home win against West Virginia. And while Kansas State isn't exactly a wrecking ball, they're still very much a tough, disciplined Bill Snyder type of football team. 17 points is a lot to lay on the road in a rivalry game but I'm confident that Charlie Weis and the Jayhawks can suck enough to make it worth it. Take the Wildcats and their awful, awful mascot for the win.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Goldieblox's Argument is Juuuuuust Right

I'm sure you've heard that Goldieblox filed a declaratory judgment suit against the Beastie Boys because the Beasties sent them a letter in which they assert that this video infringes their copyright on their song "Girls":



You've also probably read various ill-informed articles about this case. Without calling any particular authors to task I'd like to make a few points as a neutral observer.

First, many people have said things like "It's bullshit that Goldieblox sued the Beasties when it's Goldieblox that's doing the copying." In fact, the Beastie Boys had the same gripe in their open letter to Goldieblox.

Declaratory judgment actions are perfectly legitimate and they happen in the IP space all the time. Like when Robin Thicke filed a declaratory judgment against Marvin Gaye's estate. People do this because they have been threatened with a lawsuit and they don't want to be sued in an unfavorable jurisdiction. If you want to learn more about the standard, read this.

Second, many people think that the Beastie Boys should win because they don't license their music for use in advertisements based on a request in MCA's will. While I respect that position, MCA's will doesn't override our copyright laws.

About 20 years ago, Roy Orbison sued Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew alleging that Campbell's song "Pretty Woman" infringed Orbison's copyright to his song "Oh, Pretty Woman". Here's the 2 Live Crew song:



And the Orbison song:



You can clearly hear strands of Orbison's music in Campbell's song, and Campbell definitely built his lyrics around Orbison's.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and Campbell won. The Supreme Court said this was a parody of Orbison's song and thus constituted "fair use" under 17 USC 107, even though Campbell's lyrics were offensive.

The Beastie Boys' case is almost perfectly analogous. In fact, unlike Campbell's parody, Goldieblox took the Beastie's misogynistic song and turned it into something feminist. This looks like fair use to me under the Orbison/Campbell case.

Finally, if anyone should be pissed off about all of this it's Bo Diddley. But if he went after the Beasties I'm sure they would claim fair use ... otherwise they'd be in a world of financial hurt for their uncleared samples on Licensed to Ill alone.

The easiest way for this situation to resolve itself is for the court to find a lack of standing in the declaratory judgment suit (which may be easy to do depending on the content of the Beastie Boys' first letter to Goldieblox). Then Goldieblox should pull the video and make a donation in MCA's name to a charity that helps girls. The amount should be a value both sides agree to, probably based on some form of statutory damages.

You can call me Solomon from now on.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Very G:TB Thanksgiving

We don't have many traditions here (though I know how eagerly you're all anticipating the Twelve Days of Gheorghemas), but our sort of annual (this is the third time we've done it) Thanksgiving tribute to humanity is one of them.

Do enjoy, and may you and yours continue to have a cornucopia of reasons to be thankful.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Know Your Minor League Mascot: Wrenball Style

Best I can tell, we haven't celebrated big felt heads (eaaaasy with that turn of phrase) and whimsical small-town logos in over 30 months, when we left off with the Toledo Mud Hens. We're killing two birds with one stone today (neither of them anthropomorphic representations), celebrating things wild (appropriately, on the 50th anniversary of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are), and things wren. 

Team: Springfield Armor
League: NBDL
Affiliation: Brooklyn Nets
Mascot: Steal (it's a homophone with a hoops twist!)

Self-Absorbed East Coast Elitist Commentary: My sister graduated from Springfield College after an ill-advised freshman year at Baylor. As it turns out, the town from Footloose was based on the latter's social life. Springfield was more to my sister's lushy liking. To continue the self-absorbed theme, my father's parents met in Springfield while freshman at American International College. It's no stretch at all to say that these words would never have been written if not for the gritty Western Mass town.

Springfield is also, as you know, the birthplace of basketball and the home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, so it's a fitting location for a professional hoops squad. The Armor enters its 5th season in the NBDL with a dismal 67-133 overall record - the team's only finished over .500 once, and comes off an 18-32 season.

A team with a history of losing and low expectations? That's a comfortable place for G:TB's favorite Armor player. W&M's own Quinn McDowell parlayed his scoring title in Australia's State Basketball League (where he dropped 29.4 points per game) into a D-League roster spot. While he only played one minute in the Armor's season-opening loss to the Maine Red Claws, McDowell's closer to the NBA than any W&M player in recent memory.

Gheorgheness Quotient: 50/77

It's a decent mascot, and a solid homage to the historic Springfield Armory, but it's no Richmond Flying Squirrels or Cluj 77ers.

This Week in Wrenball: Like you, McDowell will be listening via TribeAthletics.com this evening as W&M takes on VMI in Williamsburg. The Tribe looks to go 2-1 against the Big South, after a win over Liberty and a loss to High Point.  

Tony Shaver's Wrens finally put together a good half of basketball in their most recent outing, outscoring Rutgers, 48-29, after halftime to coast to victory. Marcus Thornton took advantage of the new officiating emphasis to get to the line 19 times, making 16 on the way to 28 points. Thornton's averaging 9 free throws per game over the first five games of the season, up from 4.4 per game last year. The Tribe junior is starting to get national attention, appearing in columns by both Jay Bilas and Jon Rothstein this week. When his three-point shooting reverts back to his normally excellent mean (he's 11-40 on the season), Thornton may drop 40 on some unsuspecting opponent.

Hopefully, that'll happen on Saturday, when Shlara, the Teej family, and my gaggle head to Howard University to watch the green and gold take on the Bison.

Technology is Neat. So is Bob Dylan.



So Bob Dylan's team just came out with something super-cool, and I want to share it. I don't think I can embed it b/c it's too fancypants. So I'll just put a hyperlink below. 

Sony Music has released a video for the song "Like a Rolling Stone" with a bunch of different "channels", with the channels being simulations of banal cable TV programming, with characters lip-synching the song. There is Drew Carey from The Price is Right, a Home Shopping Network segment, reality TV, Marc Maron, etc. 

If you choose to click the link here, you should note that the "TV screen" has channels you can change. Give it a whirl. It's Thanksgiving Eve and you ain't got nothing better to do.

Full article from Dylan's official web site is below. Happy Turkey Day, fockers.
New York, NY - When Bob Dylan released “Like A Rolling Stone” in 1965 – forever shattering all pre-conceived notions for what a pop single could be in terms of length, sound and subject matter - no official music video was ever created to accompany his release. But nearly a half-century later, a groundbreaking interactive project has been created for the song, allowing fans to experience the classic recording in unprecedented ways. Today, the Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone” Interactive Video is unveiled worldwide on bobdylan.com, coinciding with The Complete Album Collection Volume 1, just released on Columbia/Legacy Recordings. 
The Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone” Interactive Video showcases a patented technology platform, created by the digital media company Interlude, which allows viewers to play an active role in the story of the music video. The experience begins when users press play and have the ability to surf 16 different “TV channels” within the video in real-time. These channels are comprised of American TV formats in which, no matter what channel you are on, the hosts and actors are all lip-syncing the lyrics to "Like a Rolling Stone" as the song continues to play seamlessly. No two people will engage with the video in the same way twice. The full interactive video can also be experienced on iPhones and iPads and is easily shared across social media platforms. 
A number of recognizable TV shows and talent can be spotted throughout the firm, and savvy viewers will no doubt make connections between some of these appearances and the song’s lyrics, as well as to certain moments from throughout Bob Dylan’s 50-plus years as a worldwide cultural figure. 
“We're forever looking for compelling, creative ways to distinguish our artists and their music from the din. The Interlude treatment of “Like a Rolling Stone” provides us with a unique, playful, highly engaging platform from which we can reach - and ideally attract - Dylan fans from across the spectrum," said Adam Block, President of Sony Music/Legacy Recordings. 
“As a musician myself, I can’t imagine a more thrilling project to be a part of than helping create the first video for ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ which is widely regarded as one of the greatest songs of all time,” said Yoni Bloch, founder and CEO of Interlude. “The song has repeatedly been voted the No. 1 Greatest Song of All Time by Rolling Stone, and is generally regarded as revolutionary, influencing both artists and popular music around the world. Like the song, we hope Interlude will inspire creative professionals everywhere to develop new and unique ways to tell stories through video.” 
With its cutting-edge interactive video technology, Interlude (repeat winner of Most Innovative Video at the MTV O Music Awards) partnered with award-winning content creator Pulse Films (LCD Soundsystem’s "Shut Up and Play the Hits" and Blur’s "No Distance Left to Run") and Walter Pictures (Best Music Video Award winner by Time Magazine, Pitchfork, and MTV Woodie Awards) to make an extraordinary first official video for Dylan’s seminal song. 
The video is being released in conjunction with The Complete Album Collection Volume 1, from Columbia/Legacy Recordings. This 47-CD boxed set contains 35 studio titles (including the first-ever North American release of 1973's Dylan album on CD); 6 live albums; the 2-CD Side Tracks, which compiles in one set previously released non-album singles, tracks from the original Biograph boxed-set and other compilations; a deluxe-bound hardcover book featuring new album-by-album liner notes from famed author Clinton Heylin and a new introduction by noted journalist and television personality Bill Flanagan. This project is also available as a limited-edition harmonica-shaped USB stick containing all the music, in both MP3 and FLAC lossless formats. The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series App was also just released, featuring over 500 pieces of rare and historical content.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hope, Dreams, and the Genius of Harry Redknapp

I caught a story on BBC Radio during my drive home last night that fits so squarely with the Gheorghian ethos that it must be retold. It features, among other things, beer, irrational fandom, tattoos, the thickest of East End accents, and Harry Redknapp.

Let's begin at the beginning, shall we?
Ever since he was five years old, Steve Davies dreamed of playing for West Ham United. He grew up in the rain-thrashed English working-class town of Rushden, where by birthright he should have supported Rushden Town, or Northampton, or even Coventry City. But after watching West Ham triumph over Fulham in the 1975 FA Cup final, he became a long-distance fan, pledging his allegiance to the claret and blue of the Hammers.
Davies and a few mates traveled all over England to watch the Hammers play, cementing his love of the team and bonding over football. He became a decent pub league player, but like most of us, his professional dreams never amounted to more than the most wishful of thinking.

West Ham earned promotion to the Premiership in 1993, while Davies married, had a child, and began working as a courier, while still following the claret and blue.

In 1994, West Ham played an exhibition against lower-division Oxford, and Davies' friend Chunk wanted to attend.
"He's a true mate," says Steve. "My first wife was called Kelly, and Chunk's missus was also called Kelly, and they got pregnant at exactly the same time." The Steves and their Kellys once drove 230 miles to Torquay to watch West Ham play when the Kellys were five months pregnant. "Every five miles we had to stop for them to be sick at the side of the road," Steve says. "We nearly missed the kick-off.

"Chunk called me up one day and said, 'We got a pre-season game over at Oxford – fancy it?'" remembers Steve, who never said no to West Ham. "We liked to get a couple of games in early. We get withdrawal symptoms when the season finishes in May. I very rarely missed a game, and I fancied a little away trip to Oxford anyways." Steve's mate Bazza was also in Chunk's Cavalier as it idled outside Steve's house.
As the first half of West Ham's knock-the-rust-off friendly with Oxford Football Club kicked off at Court Place Farm, Davies found himself irritated at the Hammers' striker, Lee Chapman. Davies' loud protestations were impossible to miss in the tiny venue.

So loud, in fact, that Harry Redknapp, West Ham's assistant manager (and later legendary skipper) walked over to the barrier separating the field from the fans at halftime to speak with Davies.
The rest of the tale is hallowed football folklore. "I slung a leg over the barrier and Harry walked me down the tunnel," says Steve. "What's your name, son?" Harry asked, sizing up this apparent hooligan. "I couldn't believe it. Inside the dressing room, the players were sat down resting at half-time." West Ham were two-nil up, but the team was carrying injuries. "Then Harry and says, 'Lee you're off; Steve you're on.'"
The West Ham equipment manager gave Davies a kit and boots, and he entered the game at the beginning of the second half, replacing Chapman. As he tells it, the next 45 minutes were a bit of a blur (and he was two beers and a dozen cigarettes in). When it was over, all he had to show for it was some sweat, abused lungs, and a hell of a story.
Then, as suddenly as it began, the dream was over. The kit manager wouldn't let Steve keep his No3 shirt – they'd need it against Newcastle the next week in the Premier League. And 25 minutes later, Steve was back in the Cavalier with Chunk, Bazza, and his missus, stuck in traffic on the road back to reality.


But there's a twist that I won't ruin for you. Read the story in its entirety - it's long, and textured, and guaranteed to make you smile.

Good on you, Steve Davies. May you meet Irwin Fletcher some day, and may the wind be always at your back and the ball land softly at your feet.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Goodlatte, b.A.A.d. logic

On October 30 I sent the following email to rob:
Have you been following this? Insane.

http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2013/10/democrats-republicans-spar-over-dc-circuit.html

http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/10/30/62473.htm

I might turn this into a post.
He said nothing so I thought it un-postworthy. Recent comments (namely rob's directive to "write that shit z") spurred me to action.

As you can see in the links I emailed rob almost a month ago, Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia accused President Obama of "court packing" the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, alleging that the President's "three nominations, with the confirmation of another, is intended to pack the D.C. Circuit to capacity of 11 authorized judgeships." As George Will would say ... Well.

The term "court packing" came about when aspects of FDR's New Deal legislation were struck down by the Supreme Court in several 5-4 votes. Article III of the Constitution requires a Supreme Court but it doesn't say how many Justices must sit on its bench. Originally there were 6 and currently there are 9 (nice), but at one point there were 10 and at another time there were 8; for a while there were only 5. FDR decided that he would push his New Deal programs through the Supreme Court by increasing the number of Justices from 9 to 15, the logic being that his 6 appointees would vote for his programs and thus he would always win handily by 10-5 margins. Before this happened, Justice Roberts started voting in FDR's favor and there was no need to pack the court. This is famously referred to as "the switch in time that saved nine."

More succinctly, court packing happens when the President adds more judges to a court than the court currently holds. As Rep. Goodlatte acknowledged, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has 11 judgeships. Right now there are only 8 judges in the D.C. Circuit, thus simple arithmetic shows that 3 of the positions on this bench are currently vacant. By filling those 3 vacancies, President Obama will bring the D.C. Circuit to 11 judges. 8 + 3 = 11. Further, 11 = 11. It cannot be said that 11 > 11 or that 11 < 11. Thus, when President Obama fills the 3 vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, he is returning it to its full capacity. In fact, when he took office the D.C. Circuit had seats for 12 judges, and it was reduced to 11 in 2009! If anything, Obama has reduced the size of the D.C. Circuit! So President Obama clearly is not engaging in "court packing" by putting up 3 names for 3 empty seats on the D.C. Circuit.


I understand this and I'm an idiot. I also disdain history; it was my least favorite subject in school and I haven't taken a history class since 12th grade. Nonetheless, I know that know what court packing is, and I know that 11 = 11, thus I know that there is no court packing afoot with respect to the D.C. Circuit.

Bob Goodlatte knows this too. He's a smart man with a degree in political science from Bates and a J.D. from Washington & Lee, and 20 years of service in Congress. He knows what court packing is (again, he has a degree in poli sci from Bates), and he knows how to add 3 and 8. So he knows that there is no court packing going on here.

Do you know what I call it when someone says something that they know isn't true? Lying. Bob Goodlatte is fucking lying when he says that President Obama is trying to pack the D.C. Circuit. And that's shameful.



If I were a weasely Federalist Society lawyer I would say something like "Rep. Goodlatte said 'pack ... to capacity,' he did not explicitly accuse the President of 'court packing.' These are two completely different things." And whoever says that is fucking lying too. It's crystal clear that Rep. Goodlatte is trying to make this into something it isn't. Everyone who graduated from high school knows that the term "court packing" has a pejorative connotation and is associated with Presidential over-reaching. Rep. Goodlatte is falsely trying to make it appear that President Obama is over-reaching by using a phrase that jogs everyone's memory as being negative, even though they don't remember why.

smh.gif

Assuming that Rep. Goodlatte isn't lying, and that he simply wasn't paying attention at Bates or W&L, his logic is still deeply flawed. President G.W. Bush had two open seats on the Supreme Court and he nominated C.J. Roberts and J. Alito because he knew their political ideologies are similar to his and that they would vote in a way that made him happy. Did President Bush "pack the [Supreme Court] to capacity of [9] authorized judgeships"? Of course not. Bush didn't pack SCOTUS, he merely returned it to a fully armed and operational court.


Or to make an equally stupid analogy, under Rep. Goodlatte's logic the people of the state of New Jersey "pack[ed] the [Senate] to capacity of [100] authorized [senators]" when they held a special election to fill Frank Lautenberg's seat. Here's another proposition that's just as stupid: Gov. Chris Christie "pack[ed] the [Senate] to capacity of [100] authorized [senators]" when he appointed Jeffrey Chiesa as interim senator when Lautenberg died. The Senate doesn't do anything these days except shut the government down so surely they can get by with 99 senators.

Which segues nicely to my next rant. It has been argued that the D.C. Circuit doesn't need more judges because they don't hear as many cases as other appellate courts. For example, the Wall Street Journal notes that the D.C. Circuit handles "only" 149 appeals per judge, and if it had all 11 judges on board they would "only" handle 108 appeals per judge. This is a bullshit argument. The Supreme Court hears 75-80 cases a year, so by WSJ's logic we could get by with just one Justice. Further, Congress controls the number of judges in any Circuit Court under 28 USC 44, so if you think there are too many judges in the D.C. Circuit then get Congress to shrink it!


Perhaps most egregiously, these nattering Republicans ignore the fact that the D.C. Circuit has 6 Senior Judges, 5 of whom were appointed by Presidents Reagan or G.H.W. Bush. After judges take Senior status they still hear cases, albeit at a reduced workload of anywhere from 25% to 75%, depending on how much any individual judge wants to work. So even if President Obama's nominees are confirmed, 9 of the 17 judges on the D.C. Circuit will be Republican appointees. Given that an appellate panel has 3 judges, there will be 1,080 possible panels of D.C. Circuit judges that have 2 or more Republican appointees (9 x 8 x 15 = 1080). By contrast, there will be 840 possible panels that have 2 or more Democrat appointees (8 x 7 x 15 = 840).

So stop lying and whining, you Republican ninnies. And this is all the Democrats' fault in the first place.


The person who wins the presidential election gets various powers to do all sorts of important stuff, including the appointment power. Some of that is highly visible, like picking federal judges. Other aspects are not that well publicized, like appointing the Librarian of Congress or the Deputy Director of the USPTO. Regardless of how much press these nominations get they are all important, and they are one of many reasons why presidential elections are important. It seems like every four years some boob at the Washington Post writes an editorial about how this election is the most important election ever because Justices X, Y, and Z are old and will soon die or retire, and the winner of the election will therefore shape the Supreme Court for years to come. Informed voters know this and vote accordingly. All Presidential nominees deserve an up or down vote regardless of which party holds what office, and in my view they should be confirmed unless they are blatantly unqualified for the job or if they have some blemish on their record that calls their character and fitness into question. You know I'm right when Charles Krauthammer agrees with me -- "Elections have consequences"!

Sorry Rep. Goodlatte, your candidate lost. I understand that you're unhappy, but don't lie to get what you want. It's unseemly. Just keep calm and if your candidate wins in 2016 you can unpack all the courts you want.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Sesame Street Silliness

Basically, this is your NFL Sunday Open Thread. I've just thrown in this mildly entertaining Sesame Street graphic to fill space. Oh yeah, POST COUNT.


[Via the internetz]

Saturday, November 23, 2013

To The Pain: Week Whatever

It's week 13, I think, of the college football season. Danimal and Mark are back once again to provide you with some select game previews, well, at least one of them is this week (damn u lazy this week, danimal).

DANIMAL PICKS

Down 3 to Mark. Scratchin ‘n clawin baby. Rippin ‘n tearin! (you guys remember that?)
A short one today….sorry. Where has the week gone?

Georgia Southern +28 at Florida
Sorry Mark – will go GA Southern here. If it makes you feel any better, Notre Dame will lose their game vs BYU.

Missouri -2 ½ at Mississippi
Lots of people calling an “upset” here…but I don’t think so. And besides, if a 2.5 point underdog wins at home, is it really an upset? I think not. Regardless, Missouri wins and covers.

It appears the "next Johnny Football" is benched today in favor of James Franklin
Pittsburgh +1 at Syracuse
Both teams coming off of losses and both playing for bowl eligibility. I’d be lying if I said the 2 games the Orangemen lost by 56 each, one of which was to GA Tech, wasn’t a concern. On paper, Syracuse is a better team and they tend to finish strong. Throw in home in the dome and it’s no-brainer. Syracuse

MARK PICKS


Not much prose from Danimal this week. Maybe he's mad at me because I didn't reply to that email he sent earlier this week. Hey, listen Dan. I'm busy. I was doing adult things this week. Signing papers and shit. I'll get back to you.

Meanwhile, as earlier stated, Dan is creeping up on me in the standings. And I'm pretty sure Rob is rooting against me. Whatever, dick. I need a good week so let's get right to it.

Michigan State -6.5 @ Northwestern
Michigan State's defense is among the very best in the country. They're only allowing 13.2 points per game. Sure, their offense is terrible. But it's not as terrible as it was at the beginning of the season. And with the defense scoring some too the Spartans have averaged over 37 points in their last 3 games. Northwestern once looked like a contender for the Big Ten crown but has seen their season go in the tank since at loss at home to Ohio State. The Michigan State defense will just be too tough on the road. Sparty.

Oregon -22 @ Arizona
Oregon didn't cover last week for the second week in a row. Is it time for me to jump ship with a road game against an underrated Arizona team? Does it matter that, earlier this week, some Oregon players said publicly the possibility of going to the Rose Bowl isn't all that exciting to them? I don't think so. Until last weeks loss at home to Washington State, Arizona had given up at least 31 points in it's last 8 games. Oregon's offense got untracked in the second half last week. Give me the Ducks.

Texas A&M +5 @ LSU
Kevin Sumlin is 13-3 in "revenge" games. He's also 7-0 when his opponent is coming off a loss. So Texas A&M is a sure thing in Baton Rouge, right? Not exactly. A&M is never a sure thing with that shitty defense. Luckily for the Aggies, LSU's defense isn't up to it's usual standards this year either. I expect a shootout that elicits several "How about those SEC defenses?" from annoying ACC/Big Ten/Big 12 fans. The last number I saw for the over/under was 71. Take the over and John Football. Gig 'Em Aggies.


Snoop...Tiger?
Bonus: Georgia Southern +28 at Florida
So, about last week. I really thought South Carolina was going to wipe the floor with Florida. Sorry about that. I really had no idea that Florida was going to slow it down and run a junior high school offense. Sklyer Mornhinweg threw five passes. Five! Even more shocking is that South Carolina couldn't consistently stop it. Also of note, I might be rapidly falling in love with Kelvin Taylor.

Okay, back to the game. Florida's not winning by 28 points. Not with the 3rd string QB throwing with single digit pass attempts against a triple option team. I expect roughly 100 combined rushing attempts in this game. Did I mention that this game is only available on PPV for $50? I think I'll pass. But by all means, take Georgia Southern. Make yourself some money.

Gator bloodbath

Friday, November 22, 2013

Funny Muppet Video For Kids!

Not only is this Muppet filler, but also a rare  recurrence of "What the High School Kids Are Watching."

Find a cute little kid and show them this video.

Mwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahaahahahaahahahahahahaahahahahahahaahahahahaahahahahahahahaha!

But SFW.


This Week in Wrenball: Fat Cats and Bad Basketball

I come here not to bury the Wrens, but to ignore them.

Not them, per se, but their results to date. And really, their results before the beginning of the CAA season.

Sure, losses to Hampton and High Point are going to be really hard to explain to the Selection Committee come tournament time, and it's unlikely that the NCAA will give W&M any credit for leading at halftime against Wichita State. But the team that's played the first four games for Tony Shaver isn't the team that will take the floor beginning on December 20.

And that's the peg upon which we'll hang our tri-corners.

Brandon Britt did a stupid thing, driving while intoxicated, and the process dictates that he'll serve a deserved 9-game suspension because of it. He returns to the court on December 20 against Goucher (I'd make a snide remark about Goucher, but hell, we lost to High Point.), and will play in the Tribe's final four non-conference games. He'll get his court legs agains West Virginia, Old Dominion, and Western Illinois, in addition to the Gophers (the Goucher Gophers? Why haven't we commented on this previously?).

It's difficult to precisely pinpoint what ails the Tribe in Britt's absence, except to say they've been...off. W&M's been far less efficient on offense - despite averaging 71 points per game, they're only making 32.1% from three-point range - and ineffective generally on defense, giving up 77 points a contest. Marcus Thornton's averaging 20 points per game, as expected, but he's only made 9 of 34 threes. Tim Rusthoven's only grabbing 3.5 rebounds a contest after pulling down double that last season. He's also fouled out twice in four games.

On the bright side, frosh Omar Prewitt's hit the ground running (and gunning), tallying 14 points, 6.8 boards, and 2 steals a game while making nearly 50% of his threes and doing it all coming off the bench. Sophomore Terry Tarpey's filling the glue guy role vacated by Matt Rum extremely well, grabbing 6.5 rebounds and scoring 7.5 points per game.

Production drops off pretty quickly after those four, though, which is perhaps the place where Britt's return means the most. Another penetrating frontcourt weapon spreads the floor for Thornton, and allows Rusthoven room to operate in the paint. Britt also provides a scoring option that diversifies a starting lineup that's relying far too heavily on too few players.

But hell, we're four games in. W&M wasn't ever going to run the table in non-conference play, and nothing's changed about the only thing that matters.

Fun one for Team G:TB (or at least one of us) tomorrow in Piscataway (or wherever the Rutgers Athletic Center is located), as W&M heads north to take on the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers stinks by the standards of the American Athletic Conference. We stink by an entirely different set of standards.

And that's okay.

For now.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

George Is Gheorghey

Last night I saw a fantastic musical performance, just a young man and a guitar.  It lasted only one song, but that was enough.

George Dennehy played at my organization's annual meeting in Newport News, VA.  The 19-year-old tells a compelling story.

George was born in Romania.  A Romanian named George -- that there is Gheorghey in and of itself.  Add to that that he was adopted by parents in Richmond, VA when he was just an infant because his parents couldn't properly care for him in his homeland.  He grew up feeling (and being treated as) different than most kids but learned to play music, and somewhere along the way, his story caught the attention of local press, The Goo Goo Dolls (with whom he has played live), and now media outlets everywhere.

It's a cool success story for anyone.  But here's the kicker that makes it unbelievable . . .

George Dennehy was born without arms.


He plays guitar (and cello, bass guitar, piano, and whatever else he can find) as he does most everything else for which people might assume you need arms and hands -- with his feet.  He's incredibly skilled, and it's no exaggeration to say that I've been playing guitar in my spare time for 15 years, and he's far better with his toes than I'll ever be with my fingers.  He's also an unassuming, grateful, and inspirational young fellow with great big doses of perspective to share with every story he relates about his life.

The nonprofit where I work supports people with disabilities of all kinds, and the beauty of this place is that on any given day you can see the kind of thing you wouldn't expect to see, no matter how long you've been here.  Preconceived notions about the nature of disabilities are trashed here on a daily basis, and George Dennehy did just that once again yesterday as he played for a couple hundred mesmerized people with other types of disabilities (the ones officially diagnosed as well as the ones the rest of us have).


This video is well worth watching, and if you ever get a chance to see him play live, please do it.




Transitions: From Pope to Poop in One Easy Step

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has an incredibly ambitious and important mission. They seek to eradicate (or drastically reduce) the spread of disease in the world. One of the ways the foundation is using its substantial resources is in developing better sanitation systems for the billions of people across the planet who lack access to modern plumbing (wrap your head around the scale of that problem for just a second).

Here's a quote from a Fast Company story on the topic that puts it in even sharper terms:

"Only 4.5 billion people in the world have access to clean toilets. That may sound like a lot, but compare that to a different statistic: 6 billion people have access to cell phones. This lack of toilets is a major cause of sanitation-related diseases, which is why the Gates Foundation has long worked to promote the cause of better toilets for the developing world."

Turns out, though, that in order to build a better toilet, you need to build better fake poop to facilitate the testing process. Enter Maximum Performance, the synthetic feces manufacturer of choice for your discerning billionaire foundation leader. As part of its broader toilet development and testing mission, MaP developed a soybean paste and rice mix that's a more than reasonable facsimile for poop. Says, Fast Company:

"The Gates Foundation procured 50 gallons of fake poop for its Reinvent the Toilet Fair, flushing it down all sorts of new kinds of commodes. When MaP isn't supplying feces for developing world toilet prototypes, it performs "flush performance" tests on all sorts of conventional toilets."

That's some powerful shit.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pope, He's Dope

I was raised a Christian, attending church on most Sundays from the time I can remember until I went to college. Like a lot of people, I drifted away from things overtly religious while in college. My wife and I started sporadically attending a progressive Methodist church in our town after our oldest daughter was born, but the explicit religious overtones of the 2004 election, and its culture war themes soured me on the idea of organized religion.

When my father died in 2010, I found substantial solace in a church community, for which I'll always be grateful. For a year or so thereafter, our family were relatively regular attendees. But even as I genuinely liked the individual people in our church, I found myself increasingly struck by the hypocrisy I saw in the broader Christian world. I saw self-proclaimed Christians actively working to spread intolerance towards gays and Muslims here and abroad, and pursue policies that enriched the powerful at the expense of the poor. I watched Catholic leaders continue to cover up the most heinous crimes against children, protecting the institution of the church instead of displaying basic humanity. I grew angry once again as politicians co-opted God in the pursuit of personal and party gain. (There's a great book on the latter topic called God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, by Jim Wallis, a Protestant pastor and leader of a non-partisan Christian activist movement.)

And so I withdrew again to the comfort of my couch and my own personal beliefs, which can really be boiled down to the Golden Rule - do unto others, and all that. Or, as I explain it to my kids, 'don't be a jerk'. I fail at this constantly, because I'm pretty awesome, but I try to approach the world with humility. I believe in Gheorgheness, in the value of being silly, in trying really hard not to take myself seriously, and truly, in trying (failing, often) to view the world through others' eyes.

Pope Selfie
With all that as background, among the very last things I expected was to find myself captivated by the words of a Catholic Pope. More than that, excited. In July, Pope Francis said, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will," he said, "who am I to judge?" Gobsmacked is too weak a word to describe the reaction of most observers of the papacy.

In September, he gave a lengthy interview to America magazine, a Catholic review. At the outset, when asked by the interviewer, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?", the Pope replied, "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner."

Later, in a discussion about the church's position on abortion and gay marriage, he said,

“I see clearly … that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up."

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all."

He moved from the vast, ornate apartment of his predecessor to a simple flat in a building shared by other priests. He shunned Benedict's Liberacean vestments for plain garments. He drives a beat-up Renault around the Vatican, on his own. He's washed the feet of prisoners, women, and Muslims. He wore a clown's nose to help a couple celebrate their marriage.

And most importantly of all, he's spoken repeatedly of the things he finds important, and they're not bureaucracy and politics and power. With respect to the latter, he says, "Politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion." Even more direct in his criticism of the power-seekers in the Vatican later, he said, "Leaders of the Church have often been Narcissus, flattered and sickeningly excited by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy."

No, Pope Francis' message is personal, not political. Love, joy, and mercy above all. Says the Pontiff, "When a person or a society suffers devaluation and disintegration, certainly in the bottom of their hearts they lack peace and joy, and sadness nests. Disunity and contempt are children of sorrow. Sadness is a truth that belongs to the spirit of this world, and the remedy is joy.”

I'm the furthest thing from a theologian, and I'm completely unqualified to assess the broader doctrinal impact of Pope Francis on the Catholic church. I don't know Vatican II from Porky's 2. But I know that a world where we treat each other like people, where our better angels govern our actions, where pursuit of joy trumps pursuit of power is a far more appealing place than the alternatives. And when the leaders of one of the world's great religions speaks and acts in the manner of Francis, the ripples reach us all. Life's complicated as shit, for all of us. We're all fucked up in our way, and we're all seeking. When a man who speaks to billions of people is focused on joy, and love, and simple humanity, that's a powerful force for good.

So count me as a fan of Pope Francis, and his humility and grace. I'm still probably not headed to church anytime soon, but if a little Francis-style church gets into our headspace, that ain't a bad thing.

You could almost make the argument that he's a little bit Gheorghey.  The first Gheorghian pope? We could all get down with that.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

CFB Picks TTP: Week 12

Danimal's Freight Train of Awesomeness
With the Teej and his bride gallivanting across the Pacific Northwest, I've* been called upon to serve you up your weekly helping of degenerate gambling and community college-level grammatical displays. Also, Mark's picks and prose.

* - there are so many authors at this point that 'I' could pretend to be anyone. We'll let you figure out who wrote the intro.

There was some controversy during last night's exchange of picks. As I was unfamiliar with the highly disciplined kabuki dance of the TTP process, I inadvertently exposed Danimal's slate of choices to Mark. Fortunately, Mark is both a man of honor and smart enough not to pick the same games the same way as Danimal. Crisis averted, but not before a swap of creative name-calling and swearing. I believe I apologized to Danimal for 'fucking up your freight train of awesomeness'. In retrospect, I should've gone with 'derailing your fucking freight train of awesomeness'. My bad, all the way around.

Bygones, then. On to the picks:

Mark

TJ is still out on the west coast taking a trip down memory lane with Mrs. Teej. So once again it's left to me to get the latest edition of the week's College Football picks up and ready for your reading and wagering pleasure on this Saturday morning. It's a good thing I love all (well, most) of you so much. I mean it is HARD GODDAMN WORK writing these posts and making you money with my prognostications. Actually, that's not entirely true. Neither Dan, nor myself has made you much money the last couple of weeks. Sorry about that. We're going to fix it this week though. Well, I am. I can't speak for Danimal. Who knows what the fuck that guy and his 13 kids are up to.



Mississippi State @ Alabama (-23.5)
Alabama proved, once again, last week that they are a wrecking ball the likes of which few of us have ever seen in CFB. I actually thought LSU might win last week. Right up until JC Copeland fumbled as he was going in for a TD on LSU's initial possession. We all know what happened after that. Bama settled in and dominated the 2nd half on their way to a route of the Tigers. So does Bama suffer a bit of a letdown against Mississippi State this week? In a word, no. Nick Saban still remembers what happened the week after a victory against LSU last year, when Johnny Manziel came in to Tuscaloosa and shocked not just Alabama but the entire nation. You can believe that Saban harped on that all week. The Tide will be ready to play and the Bulldogs will be coming into this game without one of their two QBs (both play, and both suck). Alabama could be giving up 30 here and I'd still take them.

Utah @ Oregon (-26.5)
I'm more worried about a letdown/hangover for Oregon here than I am for Alabama. Speaking of hangovers, Greg is in town from now until the end of Thanksgiving weekend. Which means there is at least a 50% chance that I'll be unemployed when December gets here. Anyway, I think Oregon will start slow as they're still recovering from having their National Title dreams crushed by Stanford's 7 and  8 Offensive Linemen formations last Thursday but recover in time to take it to an very average Utah team (that loss has go to KILL Stanford fans, players and coaches) and cover like they seem to do nearly every week. DUCKDUCKDUCK.

Texas Tech @ Baylor (-28)
Texas Tech started the year on fire. After being picked to finish 9th out of 10 teams in the Big 12 (What?) they surprised everyone as Shlara's latest coaching crush, Kliff Kingsbury, led the Red Raiders to 7 straight wins to start the year. Since then…well things have regressed a bit. The Tech defense has gone to shit, giving up an average of 30 its/game in the last 3 games (all losses). A leaky defense isn't a good recipe when you're traveling to Waco to face Art Briles and his Magical Touchdown Tour. I'll take yet another huge favorite and lay the points. Baylor.

Don't ever say I don't look out for you, Shlara.

Bonus: Florida @ South Carolina (-12.5)
A new week and the same old story. I'm telling you. No, begging you to take the Gamecocks here. Florida sucks, that much was proven last week in a blowout loss at home to Vanderbilt. It might be hyperbole to say this is the worst season for Florida Football in my lifetime, but just barely. It's actually the worst season since 1979 when Florida went 0-10-1. Not surprisingly, Florida has more injury issues this week. Starting QB Tyler Murphy (who's actually the backup…and was the 3rd stringer last year) is likely out for the trip to Columbia. In his place, Florida will start redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg who has exactly zero career pass attempts. 12.5 points isn't nearly enough to make me consider taking Florida at night in Columbia and you shouldn't either. Take all that money you bet on Vandy last week and lay it on Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks.



Florida used to be good at offense… I swear.


Danimal's Picks
Danimal picks up 1 game on the Hughester (Editor: Don't ever call me that…) to get to 4 games back on the year. Still within striking distance but time is running out. The score: Danimal 16-16-1; Mark 20-13. With 4 weeks left of regular season CFB, I need a major trip-up by someone other than me.  Nnnnnnnoooonan! Onward & upward!

TCU +10.5 at Kansas State
KState has won its last 3 and comes into the contest at 5-4 after handling Texas Tech by 23 on the road. They are a top 40 club in rushing, defense, and scoring. Meanwhile TCU has lost 3 of its last 4 including a 3-point OT loss to WVU. For what it is worth, probably nothing, KState beat the ‘eers by 3+ touchdowns. I like their helmets too.
Kansas State

Indiana +23 at Wiscaaaansin
I just love saying that, I really do. I get to go to Wiscaaansin every year or two on bidnass. It’s good territory filled with a good people. Wholesome, hard-working, gritty & tough. Beers, braaats, and Beeadgers yeah? Fuckin a right me-an! Didja know that Allen Edmonds is in Wisconsin? Sure is…it’s directly between Mil-ay Wa-kay and the town of Kohler, right off the highway there –just look for the signs! They’ve got an outlet store attached. It’s a ritual to pop in, time permitting of course, to see what they’re giving away. And they usually are. Not literally of course but lots of stuff under $100. That’s value, people. What does this have to do with football you ask? Nothin…just trying to assist the readership should they have future travels to the region. We do dabble in travel rec’s here at GTB. Plus the likelihood of me getting this pick correct is about 50/50; my rec on the Edmonds stop – that’s just a straight up winner all day long. Oh, by the way, the Badgers are 8-0-1 Against The Spread this year. Indiana is 4-5, and 0-2 on the road.
Hoosier Daddy? The Badger is! (if unclear, I’m taking the Badgers)


Purdue +21.5 at Penn State
Purdue is not a good football team. Penn State is “ok”. Yes, I remember taking Michigan State a few weeks back and paying for it as the makers of boils covered. Well not this time my friends! With Nebraska and Wisconsin left on the schedule, Penn State knows this is their last chance for a 6-win season. I look for them to come out and beat the pants off of Purdue. (let’s stay away from the Sandusky jokes there hey guys?) You see my theme here? I’m going with the decent/above average home fave against the far inferior opponent. It’s pretty simple really.

Nittany Lions BIG

Join Dan and 'I' in the comments... (or 'me', technically)

Baller For Life: SNL Edition



As the photos above show, I've been a freak of the industry since I moon-walked out of the womb a few decades back. However, my social life has taken a bit of a hit in recent years, due to fatherhood, commuting and general apathy. This will change in a big way on Saturday night. The wife and I have gotten a long-awaited invite to attend a live taping of SNL with another couple (the wife in that couple is Bobby Moynihan's sister). While I am not overly excited by host and musical guest Lady Gaga, it should be a bitching time. We will start the night with a dinner at Del Frisco's, then watch the show from the dressing room, where we can sip on brown liquor and (hopefully) find Keenan Thompson's entourage, which we've been told consists of aggressive papal electors.

I have been a huge fan of SNL since I was a kid. I remember taping the 15-year anniversary show on VHS and watching it repeatedly. That was 23 years ago. Pretty impressive run. So I will do my best to keep my inner fan-boy at bay while seeing the stage, watching the show and heading to the after-party. I told my wife my goal for the night was to finger-blast Aidy Bryant, and that it wasn't really cheating if we didn't kiss. That joke went as well with her as it probably did with our ones of female readers

Wish me luck. The night could go until 5 AM and I will be lucky to sleep until 8 AM on Saturday morning. Thanks to Zman for offering to take my boys until 4 PM that Sunday, although I may not have asked him this favor yet.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Clarence Is A Punk Rocker (Part 1 of 5)

I don't know if it'll make any change, but I figured it's time for me to start posting some music stuff again.

Last time around, I offered up 25 vintage 1980’s rap classics. This time I’ll throw out a five part-series of one of my favorite genres: the widely encompassing label known as punk. For what it’s worth, I love punk rock in all its form, really good and totally crappy.

If, as Harlan Howard surmised, country music is simply “three chords and the truth,” punk rock might be two chords and a sneer. Punk, after all, was and is much more about the attitude than the musicality. (“When I saw the Pistols, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t alone in the fact that I couldn’t play too well.” – Joe Strummer) In most cases in rock history, style over substance has made for utterly shite tunes . . . Somehow in this case that ridiculous formula worked masterfully in many cases, with the dirty little secret being that a lot of these guys were/became pretty damn skilled.

Here’s a layman’s recipe for punk rock music. Chuck in equal parts:

Driving guitars
Vitriolic disdain
Defiantly simplistic lyrics
Defiantly simplistic chords
Atonal singing
Nothing pretty at all costs
Short songs, some times startlingly so
A horribly menacing sound
Content that equates a middle finger or two
Your natural accent . . . or a bizarrely affected accent
Social message
Or antisocial message
Or anarchic message
Or peaceful message
Or no message
Or whatever the hell you want

Mix together and remember one thing more than the rest:

If it’s worth playing, it’s worth playing loud

The first segment of this playlist series is punk’s heyday, the 1970’s. I have intentionally left out three of the stalwarts of the genre, as they deserve individual playlists of their own. You’ll know of whom I speak right away.

1-2-3-4 . . .

1. The Adverts, “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” 
Gary Gilmore was one of the most interesting murderers of all time, immortalized by Tommy Lee Jones, Norman Mailer, and The Adverts. Gilmore donated his eyes to science. Some poor sucker got them. Yikes.
1977

2. Tom Robinson Band, “2-4-6-8 Motorway” 
Dave likes songs that count or say the days of the week (a la “Police on My Back”), and this one does the evens and odds for him. Enjoy, D. Pave.
1977

3. Sham 69, “If the Kids Are United” 
Punk anthem. Shouted, not sung.
1978

4. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” 
This song was known for a couple of things – Feargal Sharkey and his mates were 19-year-olds from Northern Ireland who shot to fame and never really matched it, and famed British DJ John Peel fell head over heels in love with this tune like none before or since. Hype aside, it’s pretty damn good.
1978

5. Richard Hell and the Voidoids, “Blank Generation” 
While Billy Idol’s Generation X would see their name plagiarized by lazy twentysomethings in flannel resembling Rob and me in the 1990’s, the blank generation was its punk predecessor. Other than Jello Biafra, John Doe, and Death, Richard Hell is arguably the best punk name.
1977

6. The Only Ones, “Another Girl, Another Planet” 
Covered by The Replacements (sloppily) and Blink 182 (crappily), the original one-hitter is one of the great songs of the era.
1978


7. The Damned, “New Rose” 
The Damned did everything first and got nearly zero credit, aside from Bob Marley’s song “Punky Reggae Party.” Damned if you do...
1976

8. The Modern Lovers, “Pablo Picasso” 
So good, so punk attitude. You know Jonathan Richman from There’s Something About Mary, but long before, he explained the quintessential difference between guys like you and guys like Pablo Picasso. He never got called asshole.  Not like you.
1976

9. Wreckless Eric, “Whole Wide World” 
A little-seen film (that I heartily enjoy) called Stranger Than Fiction resuscitated this tune a few years back, but it’s another off-kilter song worth hearing or trying to play.
1977

10. X-Ray Spex, “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” 
If you think the title or the shouted lyrics are punk, they pale in comparison to whatever the hell that ridiculous instrumentation that comes in about the :20 mark. (Bad sax?) Random Idiots-esque, and somehow they made it popular.
1977

11. Alternative TV, “Action Time Vision”
Lousy band name, lousy song name, but a rock song worth turning up.
1978

12. Blondie, “Hanging on the Telephone”
Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Co. went fairly pop before too long, but this is by far my favorite of their early efforts. And she was super-hot, for those that have only seen the latter-day beefy Blondie.
1978

13. The Jam, “Eton Rifles”
Beyond the Pistols and The Clash, you’d probably list The Jam as the next most prolific punk-origined band. Either “In the City” or this one as top early number.
1978

14. Magazine, “Shot By Both Sides”
Good and sinister. Lively punk.
1978

15. Television, “Marquee Moon” 
Not terribly punk – the weak singing excepted, but it’s good guitar rock by rebellious bastards with some random cross to bear. Two chords, my ass, I can’t play it.
1977

16. The Ruts, “Babylon’s Burning”
With anxiety. Appropriately wicked.
1979

17. Stiff Little Fingers, “Alternative Ulster” 
Made me consult an atlas. And write “Alternative Norfolk,” which never made the charts.
1979

18. The Members, “The Sounds of the Suburbs” 
The ultimate pain-in-the-ass middle class kid’s rejection of his surroundings. This is the sound.
1979

19. 999, “Homicide” 
In punk songwriting, a one-word chorus is just fine, if that word is “homicide.”
1978

20. The Skids, “The Saints Are Coming”
Given a rebirth by Green Day and Bono on MNF when the Superdome reopened after Katrina, the original featured later Big Countryman Stuart Adamson. Good shit.
1978

. . . and now my 5 favorite punk songs of the 1970’s (not performed by The Clash, Ramones, or Sex Pistols)

21. The Buzzcocks, “Ever Fallen In Love” 
Part of what's great about punk rock – just when you start to have it pegged, you’re wrong. Frenzied, guitar driven lover’s lament. The answer is yes.
1978

22. Dead Kennedys, “California Über Alles” 
Easily one of my favorite punk acts for its humor-drenched fantastic rock songs. This should be the Cali state song.
1979

23. Wire, “Mannequin”
This is a real rock song, and a great one, while . . .
1977

24. Wire, “I Am the Fly”
. . . this is one of the most menacing songs ever recorded. It exists basically to torment, and is therefore exquisite. The repetition, aggravating sounds, and degenerate lyrics make it almost the perfect punk song. Second only to . . .
1978

25. Black Flag, “Wasted”
Pre-Henry Rollins. 52 seconds. Simple. Rocking. So great. This should be the first song every fledgling band learns. And it won’t take long. Did I mention 52 seconds?
1978

Enjoy.  More to come.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bite Me Randy Newman: Farewell to the Little Master

Today's an emotional day in India, as legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar competes in his final test match for his country. Described as "the Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan of cricket" by contemporaries, Tendulkar closes his 24-year international career against the West Indies in his home city of Mumbai.

The diminutive Tendulkar made his debut for India as a callow 16 year-old, starring for club and country for nearly a quarter-century and completely rewriting the sport's record books. He was the first batsman in international history to score 100 international centuries (scoring 100 or more runs in a single innings), the first to score a double century in a one day international (ODI), and the first to score more than 34,000 runs in a career.

"It is hard to imagine any player in the history of the game who combines classical technique with raw aggression like the little champion does," said legendary Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar in a 2008 article.

No less an authority than Sir Don Bradman, widely considered the greatest batsman of all-time, and the only player thought to be Tendulkar's equal, was a fan. In his biography, it's said that Bradman "...was most taken by Tendulkar's technique, compactness and shot production, and had asked his wife to have a look at Tendulkar, having felt that Tendulkar played like him. Bradman's wife, Jessie, agreed that they did appear similar." Setting aside that business about having his wife look at another dude, that seems to be high praise. Maybe it's some sort of cricket thing.

Tendulkar's rise on the international stage was matched in time by that of his nation, linking him inextricably with India's emergence. Says The Guardian, "For a quarter of a century he was the repository of a nation's hope, its favourite son, and in so many ways the stages of his journey mirrored the Indian nation's own progress on the world stage."

Standing a mere (but robust) 5'5", Tendulkar was dubbed 'The Little Master' early in his international career. He became one of India's most beloved sportsman, ranking 51st on Forbes list of most highly compensated athletes even this year, earning $22m despite being well on the downside of his playing run. Derek Jeter is said to hold him in high regard.

In a touching side note to the legendary Tendulkar's swan song, his aging mother, who has never seen him compete in an international test, will break her custom and attend today's match.

So Bite Me, Randy Newman, and a fond farewell to Sachin Tendulkar.

I guess this means 'The Little Master' is up for grabs. I've got some ideas.