Monday, June 30, 2014

Raising a Ninja

You probably don't know Jimmie Manners, though if karma has anything to say about it, you will. He's a dancer and a choreographer. If you watched last night's BET Awards, you saw him when he performed with Usher. You may have also caught his silver screen debut in 'Step Up 2: The Streets'.

Our family knows him best, though, as my oldest daughter's favorite dance teacher. Until he left the DMV last September to seek his big break in Los Angeles, he taught kids to break it down like this:

My daughter isn't the most technically accomplished dancer. Her father's genes doomed her to a short, compact build, and denied her the long, graceful limbs that characterize elites on stage. She was blessed, however, with exceptional rhythm, and a stage presence that routinely elicits praise from even the most jaded observers. (I'll take credit for the rhythm, too - I rock mad internal beats.) She is, from this unbiased perspective, a born performer.

While she performs in jazz, tap, and lyrical routines, ever since she first learned to dance hip hop, it's been her favorite. In part because it suits her talents really well, and in even larger part because of Jimmie. From the first, she lit up when she talked about him, while he seemed to genuinely enjoy teaching her, and got a kick out of watching this tiny little white girl get after it.

On his last night in the DC area before moving to California, Jimmie came way out to the boonies to meet my daughter for frozen yogurt so she could say goodbye to him. That gesture alone touched us, and spoke volumes about his character and commitment, and his words that evening and belief in her for the two years prior continue to have deep meaning for my little one.

The two of them took a picture that evening - a bit of a study in contrasts, you might say. Just two days ago, he posted that image on Instagram, with an unsolicited shoutout to my kid. She's tried to play it cool, but it's fair to say that she's over the moon. He keeps motivating her, even now.

As for me, I'll be rooting hard for Jimmie. In addition to being an incredibly talented performer, he's a genuinely kind soul and one of the best role models my daughter's ever had. She's found something she loves to do, and Jimmie Manners is one of the people who opened that world to her.

The ninja thing, though, is something I need to wrap my head around.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Calendar, Marked

Labor Day traditionally signals the end of summer, and the date on which conscientious Americans put away their white bucks and seersucker. Most of us spend it nursing the hangover we earned by celebrating a bonus socially acceptable drinking evening.

This year, though, we'll want to make sure all of our faculties are intact and our schedules are cleared. On September 1, 2014, Lifetime is set to air a tell-all film about what happened behind the scenes on "Saved by the Bell".

"The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story" takes up where Dustin Diamond's autobiography left off, dishing dirt on the sex, drugs, and more sex and drugs enjoyed by the young cast members. (Let's, for a moment, pause to consider the 'unauthorized' portion of the title. Is there any actor in that original cast, with the possible exception of Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who wouldn't kill for the publicity this tell-all will bring him or her? They may not have signed a contract giving permission, but they're damned sure sitting at The Max waiting for the new job offers to come in.)

Clarence and I, for two, will be hunkered down in front of our televisions, popcorn at the ready. We saw "Showgirls" in a theatre. "Unauthorized" has a high bar to clear to surpass Elizabeth Berkley's star turn. But we're willing to give it a chance.

As long as Belding keeps his clothes on.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gheorghe Loves the Draft

Once again it's time for the biggest night of the G:TB year, NBA Draft night. For whatever the reasons, the night of the NBA Draft almost always draws a large and possibly intoxicated crowd in the comments. It probably shouldn't come as a surprise given all that the NBA Draft entails…hugs, tears, trades, truly regrettable sartorial choices (we're not just talking about the draftees here), vicious booing of the NBA Commissioner (Get ready, Silver. You can't hide behind David Stern anymore) and the occasional draftee emerging from the stands.  I'm getting excited already.

This year promises to bring us all (or most) of that and more. Unlike recent years which saw some extremely uninspiring crops of prospects, this year's draft is loaded. Featuring both elite talent near the top and possibly the deepest overall group of prospects in a decade.

On a personal note, I've been locked into draft coverage even more than usual because my Orlando Magic have two picks in the draft's top 12. Of course, as luck (?) would have it, the recent injury to presumed #1 pick Joel Embiid has completely changed the landscape of this year's draft at nearly the last minute. It once seemed like a lock that the Magic would take Australian  guard Dante Exum at #4. In anticipation of that I watched approximately 40 hours of Dante Exum clips on YouTube over the past couple of months and, as a result,  had completely talked myself into him. Now it's looking more and more likely that Exum will be gone by the time the Magic make their first selection and nearly as likely that I'll be pissed off at whatever that selection is. But enough about me. Well, that's not true. More about me actually. As always, here's my list of potential draftees I like/Don't Like/ Have No Clue How About.


Nik Stauskas (Michigan) - Stauskas is the player I had targeted as my personal favorite for the Magic's pick at 12. Of course, because the Magic can't have nice things. it now seems that Stauskas has built up enough momentum over the last month that it's likely he won't be available at 12. Either way, I love Stauskas' current game and future potential. He already has an NBA ready skill as a shooter. He can catch and shoot as well as make shots off the dribble. He's 6'6" and showed himself to be a much better athlete during his sophomore season at Michigan than most originally thought. Further, Stauskas improved immensely as a ball handler and passer over the past year. This is a pretty deep draft for shooting guards (which is currently the weakest position in terms of depth in the NBA) and Stauskas is the best among them. Did I mention he can shoot?

PJ Hairston (UNC/D-League) - Another shooting guard. If Hairston had played at UNC this year he'd be a lottery pick. As it is, he ended up getting kicked off the team at UNC. As a result, Hairston has been dinged by scouts over character concerns. Essentially, Hairston was kicked off the Tarheels for smoking weed and not having enough common sense to avoid being pulled over (repeatedly) for speeding in a car an agent's runner rented for him (multiple times). Neither of these concern me much. Hairston ended up playing in the D-League this season where he averaged over 21 ppg on 45% shooting and 36% shooting from 3. He's 6'5', athletic, a rugged defender, as well as a terrific rebounding guard. If a team gets Hairston in the 20s then they're getting a steal.

Elfrid Payton (Lousiana-Lafayette) - I first became aware of Payton when he played for the Billy Donovan coached USA Basketball team at last summer's U-19 World Championships. Payton was the last player invited to the tryouts after his coach lobbied hard for his inclusion after Payton wasn't invited to the Chris Paul Nike Skills camp. Payton showed up to tryouts, beat out a number of higher profile players and eventually ended up starting every game for the gold medal winning team. This past season, Payton led the NCAA in free throw attempts per game while leading Lousiana-Lafayette to the NCAA Tournament. He has reportedly been extremely impressive in predraft workouts. Taking on all comers and more than holding his own. Payton still needs to improve his jumpshot and I'd love him more if he was slated to go in the mid-teens to 20s like he was just a month ago but he's still only 20 with great size for a PG and is a lockdown defender.

Julius Randle (Kentucky) - This is largely about value. Randle has gone from being a projected top 3 pick to somebody that may fall out of the top 10. That's ridiculous. While Randle isn't Zach Randolph (that's a lazy comparison because both are left handed, tough post players), I don't' believe their are 10 players better than him in this draft. Like most young players, he still has to learn how to diversify his offensive arsenal as well as become a better passer against double teams. With that said, he's a true post presence in a league where that is becoming increasingly rare. It's also my belief he did less than he's fully capable of this past season at Kentucky because of the makeup of that team (if he wasn't playing on the block then nobody was). He may struggle to finish over NBA length and athleticism early on but he's skilled enough to figure that out.

Aaron Gordon (Arizona) - Here's all the things wrong with Gordon: He can't shoot (42% from the line as a freshman), he doesn't have a defined position and he is somewhat slight of build. Here's why I don't care about these things: He's 6'9" and amongst the best athletes in this draft. He has elite lateral quickness and vertical explosiveness. He's a beast on the glass and already a very good and versatile defensive player. He's also billed as a great kid and an extremely hard worker. He has an older brother who was first team All Mountain West at New Mexico after transferring from UCLA and now plays in Europe. Finally, he's 19. It's my belief that Gordon will become a better shooter.  Certainly adequate enough to force defenses to guard him in certain areas of the floor  Ultimately, he's big and athletic  enough to play some time at each forward position. As the NBA continues to evolve to a more wide open, somewhat position-less game this defensive versatility is extremely valuable. I think he has a great chance at being Shawn Marion 2.0 (possibly better). If a team gets that between 8-12 in this draft they'll be happy.

No Thanks

Joel Embiid (Kansas) - This is all about injuries. I had Embiid in the 'Like' category until his second major injury of the predraft process. Now I'm like nearly every other person evaluating him. I'm scared he'll never be fully right physically. If he is, he and Anthony Davis will be the two most dominant big men in the league in 5 years. If he's not, he might not even be in the league by that point.

Gary Harris (Michigan State) - Depending on who you ask, Harris is either the #1 or 2 ranked shooting guard in this draft. I, however, just don't see it. He's a bit undersized, isn't a great athlete and doesn't excel at creating shots off the dribble. He's billed as a shooter but he's far from a knock down shooter like Stauskas or Doug McDermott. When I watched Michigan State I rarely ever found him to be their most impactful player. He's slated to go in the lottery. I think he's more of a mid to late first round type of talent.

Rodney Hood (Duke) - Hood is too one dimensional for my tastes in Small Forwards. Scouts see his size (6'9") and his frame and project what he can become. I see a player who created very few shots off the dribble in college and wonder how he changes that against bigger, more athletic players. Hood will be a decent NBA player but I doubt he's ever anything better than a fifth banana (at best) on a good NBA team.

Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) - Saying that I "don't like" Ennis is probably too strong. I do, however, struggle to see what makes him a good to great starting PG in the NBA. While Ennis plays with nice pace and knows how to run a team I don't think he's quick enough to consistently get in the lane or (more importantly) keep other PGs out of the lane. Ennis also, at this point, isn't a good enough shooter to keep teams honest and space the floor when he spots up. Ennis reminds me of a poor man's Jose Calderon at this point. He's efficient, won't make a ton of mistakes and will get you into your offense but I don't believe he's a difference maker on either end of the floor.

Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee) - Stokes is a rebounding machine and rebounding (along with blocks) generally translates from college to the pros. I'm not sure what else he does in the NBA though. He's only 6'8" (though he does have a 7'1" wingspan) and he doesn't get off the floor all the well. He has good hands and is tough but he mostly played Center at Tennessee. I believe Stokes will carve out a niche for himself but he lacks a consistent jump shot or the size/athleticism to guard other 4s in the NBA. At this point, Stokes reminds me a lot of DeJuan Blair. Not a bad player, but not somebody worth a mid first round pick in a draft this deep.

No Damn Clue

Zach Lavine (UCLA) - This draft's ultimate boon or bust prospect. He has great size (6'6"), a good stroke and played PG in high school so he possesses a strong handle and creativity off the dribble. On top of that, he's in the conversation with Andrew Wiggins and Aaron Gordon as the draft's most athletic player. However, he didn't start at UCLA and averaged less than 10 points a game as a freshman. He could be an All-Star in five years or he could be out of the league. Somebody's going to gamble on him in the top 20 and I doubt they'll feel good about it.

Kyle Anderson (UCLA) - Basically the exact opposite of his former teammate, Lavine. His nickname is Slo Mo for two reasons. First, he plays with a slow, methodical pace that's unlike few, if any, players around. Secondly, it's because he's actually slow. Like, really slow. Point forward is a terribly overused term but Anderson actually is. He's probably the best passer in the entire draft (6.5 assts/gm). The closest comparison to him is a better shooting, less lazy Boris Diaw.  So, the lack of speed isn't a huge problem on offense. Defense is another story. Most question whether he can guard anyone in the NBA. His coach at UCLA, Steve Alford, is a Bob Knight disciple and thus never plays zone. Ever. Until this year at UCLA where they played zone almost exclusively. That had a lot to do with Anderson. He's 6'9" but he's frail and he's slow. I believe he can be successful in the NBA but much of that will be determined by where he ends up and if he has a coach that can properly utilize his strengths offensively while also hiding him defensively.

Mitch McGary (Michigan)- He hasn't played in a year due to back surgery and when he last played he was riding the wave of a really good six to ten game stretch following a somewhat underwhelming freshman season for such a highly touted prospect. He's also already 23 and just 6'9" with decent but not ideal athleticism for an undersized big man. Is he rugged enough to give a team minutes as an undersized center? Does he shoot it well enough to play in the high post?

Cleanthony Early (Wichita St) - Another guy who's old for his class (sophomore) at 23 years old. He played great against Kentucky in the NCAA Tourney but hasn't shown himself to be a consistent shooter or someone who creates shots off the dribble. If he can't create shots as a small forward then he has to become a knock down shooter on corner 3s, at the least. He's a big, strong athlete but he's also making a major jump in competition level on a night in/night out basis. If he becomes a more consistent shooter he can be the "3 and D" guy that NBA teams covet in their wing players. If not? Better get that passport updated.

TJ Warren (NC State) - I'm not sure what TJ Warren does really well. Make no mistake, having a definable elite skill is a large part of succeeding in the NBA for second and third tier prospects. Warren was a prolific scorer at NC State and was a constant matchup nightmare for ACC defenders. But will he be able to exploit mismatches as the competition becomes bigger, stronger and more athletic? He shot 27% from 3 in college and won't blow you away with his speed or leaping ability. He has a knack for finding ways to score but how does that translate when you're not the #1 or 2 option for your team offensively? Playing in an uptempo system like Phoenix or Denver would be a good match for him.

Come join me in the comments and tell me how wrong/stupid I am.

Lunch with Liberty

Good to see you, old friend. Miss us? That trench warfare sure was fun, right? And where's that thank you for us hooking you up with our boy Hoff? Thanks for the Scorpions, they are most righteous rockers. Maybe by the time today's game is over you can explain what the fuck this new movement is?

USA vs. Germany. Noon. Too many scenarios to explain in terms of result and advancement, so maybe this chart will assist you:
You know the drill by now...

Optimus Prime knows what's up

Even completely outdated MTV bits can get in on the fun

Not at all soccer related, but excellent work Minnesota State Fair. VERY 'murica

Gametime apparel
So, Mark (and now all of Twitter) informs me that the conditions for today's game might be a bit messy...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mark Harmon, Hollywood Royalty

Quintessential 80s film, underrated classic. Still impressed that one kid who was in the bathroom all summer got the highest grade in the class. This is how you filler, folks.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kings of the Dive-berian Peninsula, amirite?

Hey, our men's national soccer team hits the pitch (futbol term!) today for a very important match (another one!), facing international playboy Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. The Portuguese were blitzkrieg'd in their first World Cup contest, 4-0 by Germany, while the fightin' fifes and drums triumphed over Ghana and their lack of giraffes, 2-1. If what the internet tells me is true, a win by the United States squadron advances 'Murica to the Round of 16, which would be like the tits, yo. *** OK, this now ends the soccer portion of our program...

Since I am 100% sure it was my GTB post that lifted Dempsey and Co. to victory in match #1, we're gonna ride that patriotic sucka back:

Stars and Stripes forevah

Shlara selection. Here, we see Clint Dempsey moments before murdering someone.
Patriotic handling of the meat

Here is Ronaldo flopping. It is not an uncommon occurrence, I am told.
The tie is a nice touch
*** I could be wrong. I don't actually pay attention to what I read.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

There But for the Grace of God

On August 31, 2011, Daniel Bard was one of baseball's most dominant setup men. The hard-throwing right-hander handled the 8th inning for the Boston Red Sox, keeping opponents at bay far more often than not before handing the ball to Jonathan Papelbon. Bard, then 26 years old, was widely expected to be Boston's closer of the future, except by those in the know that figured he'd find his way to the top of a rotation that also included Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. He pitched a scoreless 8th in a win over the Yankees that night, striking out one and lowering his ERA to 2.03.

One week later, Bard walked three and allowed five earned runs in a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, starting a chain of events that culminated earlier this week with his release by the Texas Rangers. In 11 innings that forgettable September, Bard walked nine batters, allowed 13 runs, and was charged with four losses, spiraling out of control as the Red Sox similarly spiraled out of contention.

Bard posted a 1.736 WHIP in 2012, walking 43 and allowing 60 hits in 59.1 innings. He only appeared in two games for the Sox in 2013, making his last major league appearance on April 27, 2013.

Claimed by the Cubs and then waived, Bard was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and underwent surgery in February before being signed by the Rangers.

He faced 18 batters this spring for the Rangers' Single-A Atlantic League franchise, the Hickory Crawdads. None of those batters got a hit, and only one of them put the ball in play. But 16 of them reached base, nine via walk and seven via hit by pitch. Bard's 175.50 ERA and 13.50 WHIP are among the saddest, most cringeworthy numbers this side of Steve Blass and Rick Ankiel.

"Of all sad words of tongue or pen," wrote John Greenleaf Whittier, "the saddest of these, 'it might have been'". Watching someone tumble from such heights threatens us with our own sense of emotional vertigo - if that could happen to someone among the most elite in his field, what might happen if we stop delivering spotless TPS reports? Baseball mortality mirrors our own, forcing us to think thoughts we prefer to leave laying quietly unthunk.

Daniel Bard pitched for parts of five years at baseball's highest level, so he's not likely looking for our sympathy. But we're rooting for him to figure it out, because his potential redemption means we've got a few years left, too.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Raging zBullabaisse

This is a poor attempt at creating a recurring post while rob is travelling.

1. You say lache that, yo holmes lache this

Frank Petrella wrote a screenplay with Jake LaMotta about LaMotta's life, which they copyrighted in 1963. They assigned their rights to the screenplay to United Artists/MGM in 1976, and it became the movie "Raging Bull" in 1980.

Petrella died in 1981 and because of various peculiarities of copyright law, the renewal rights to his copyright in the screenplay passed to his daughter Paula. She renewed the copyright in 1991. In 1998, Paula informed MGM that their exploitation of "Raging Bull" infringed her copyright to the screenplay. She and MGM exchanged correspondence on this matter for two years. Then, in 2009, Paula sued MGM for copyright infringement. MGM asserted a laches defense--Paula waited too long to bring her claim.

I won't bore you with the details, but the case made its way to the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg (whose daughter is a copyright professor) wrote the opinion of the Court, holding that laches was not a bar and that Paula could receive damages for MGM's infringement over the past 3 years (the statute of limitations for copyright infringement is 3 years). So when someone else starts making money by ripping off our Ghooghles and Gheorghemas posts, let's wait until they start making millions before we sue them.

2. Jack Urbont ain't nothing ta lache wit

This development is particularly relevant to Jack Urbont. I previously noted Ghostface Killah's potential laches defense against Mr. Urbont but it looks like that won't hold up now. This may become important because last month Judge Buchwald wrote what appears to be an open letter to Pretty Tone stating that "you failed to appear for a deposition scheduled for April 30, 2014 and ... you have not produced a single document since July 19, 2013." She also said she would sanction him if he doesn't appear for his deposition and fulfill his other discovery obligations.

I think it's odd that Mr. Urbont has had problems locating and deposing The Kid given that he appeared on a reality TV show which required him to live in a house with a bunch of crazy people.

I also note that the last time Ghostdini was in one of these copyright infringement scrapes he never entered an appearance, he just laid in the cut and let his record label win the case. See Abilene Music, Inc. v. Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., 320 F. Supp. 2d 84 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). So maybe that's his plan.

3. Is Jay-Z infringing GFK's IP

It appears that Jay-Z is taking a page from the Wallabee Champ's potentially proprietary playbook. He and Timbaland were sued by Osama Ahmed Fahmy, the nephew of the guy who wrote "Khorsa Khorsa," because they sampled it on "Big Pimpin'".

Fahmy sued Jay in 2007, almost 8 years after the song came out. Interestingly, the judge in that case limited the timeframe for infringement based on laches. I suspect that ruling might change. Anyway, the case has been going on for 7 years and Hova still hasn't sat for a deposition. Pretty gangsta.

4. Jay-Z is not as gangsta as politicians from Bogota, NJ

Tito Jackson, the mayor of Bogota, NJ, was punched in the face by a rival's 80-year-old father. Seriously. Here's a video of the old guy's admission. I guess he'd just seen "Raging Bull" and was fired up. Naturally, both men filed police reports.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Of Snobbery and Yellow Umbrellas

"Maybe I’m out of touch, but I’d rather go to an actual shop — preferably a small one — than to a harshly lit superstore, or, worse still, a website. I don’t want to buy my books and my toilet paper and my clothing all under the same roof. I want beauty in my life. I want charm. I want contact with actual people. It is, for me, a large part of what makes life worth living." --- David Sedaris

My wife gives me ceaseless grief about my strong preference to eat at local restaurants rather than chains. (A notable exception to that rule, and a betrayal of my socio-political beliefs, is my affinity for Chick-fil-a. Those God-fearin' chicken people make a delicious goddamn sandwich.) She calls me a snob. She's mostly right.

But Sedaris, the brilliantly funny essayist, frames this preference precisely. I want charm. I don't want quality controlled sameness and repetition. Lord knows I get enough of the latter surfing the same six sites on the internet every day. I want local ownership, and license plates on the ceiling, and the occasional goofy foodstuffs.

Sedaris made his comment
in an interview with the blog for Parnassus Books, a Nashville bookstore owned by author Ann Padgett. Parnassus is a story in its own right, started by Padgett and a friend as a reaction to the town's only bookstores closing. It's become the flag bearer for independent bookstores across the country as they carve out a niche in an Amazon-dominated publishing world.

My favorite bookstore is Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham, MA. It's tiny, and the selection is necessarily limited by the size of the store. But it's got an amazing section of antique nautical books, and a ton of Cape Cod-centric titles. It provides me with an unerring sense of place, of familiarity and comfort. It generally doesn't hurt that most of my visits come after a liquid lunch at The Chatham Squire, which is a short block away.

And it's charming as hell.

Monday, June 16, 2014

We Ghana Do It

Futbol. Tonight. Los Estados Unidos vs. Ghana. 6pm ET kickoff. Get thee to a television and enjoy the match. This is not a preview post, because hell if I know much about the USMNT. But it can serve as live blog central, and since we're here, why not some clips and vids:

You know Lee Greenwood is fired up for tonight...

As are these marionettes...

The Hulkster knows what's up...

According to the interwebz, this young lady rooted on the good guys the last time Ghana and the U.S. face off...

Which I imagine is where these two fellas met...

For the Shlara set...(sure, he didn't make the team, but the request was made)

And one more fan foto for good measure...


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Terrible Father's Day Post Topic

Sad news from the world of absurdist British comedy programs of our youth. Actor Rik Mayall, best known in the U.S. for his portrayal of Rick in The Young Ones, died yesterday at the age of 56. May heaven be full of telescopes with mice in them.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Everybody Was...

The 2010 World Cup final pitted two of the world's most skilled and dynamic a match that was among the most desultory in the history of the championship.

The Netherlands' thuggery was personified by Nigel de Jong's brutal foul on Spain's brilliant Xabi Alonso. The only thing worse than the cleat-first heart massage was the fact that it only drew a yellow card.

I'm a sucker for the Oranje, so I'm planning to forget all about that unfortunate series of events this afternoon when the same teams meet at 3:00 EST in their Group B opener in Salvador. The match marks the first time in history that finals opponents meet in the group stage in the subsequent Cup.

Hup, Holland, Hup!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Let's World Cup

So, the World Cup officially begins today, with host country Brazil taking on Croatia. Some Brazilian citizens have even found their way to the stadium to watch the match, while the rest riot throughout the streets of São Paulo and other parts of the country. Should be a good time all around.

You know who else is excited for the World Cup to kick off? The motherfucking Pope, that's who:


Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Heady days, boys and girls, less than a week away from the U.S. Men's National Team's 2014 World Cup opener against Ghana. While we're unlikely to be real contenders this year (even if advancing out of our very difficult group isn't as daunting as it might seem), the U.S. has definitely closed the gap on our global adversaries in the supporter chant category.

You may have caught this as it made its way around Twitter yesterday, but it's good enough that it deserves a second view. The American Outlaws, the preeminent group of U.S. soccer supporters, appropriated one of the more stirring sporting exhortations I've seen from the U.S. Naval Academy and made it the soundtrack of U.S. Soccer. Like all good things, it'll be overplayed into vuvuzelan oblivion over the next few weeks, but for now, with the anticipation at near-peak, it's damn near perfect.

I believe that we will win.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tiger and Me

At the last US Open held in Pinehurst way back when in 2005, my wife and I were locals with me having lived there for 6 years at the time. We weren't even married yet, blissfully living in sin. It was a good home and a place we will get back to permanently before it's all said and done. Yeah, we love us some Pinehurst and miss it dearly. The entire Danimal clan will be piling into the Honda and head up I-95 early Wednesday morning to reunite with some peeps and watch some gawf, but mostly reunite with peeps.

At the last US Open, I was able to get my then 16-year old nephew a standard bearer gig. When he wasn't walking the fairways he was with me and fogtb, Corey P. partaking in the festivities. Watching golf on TV is something I rarely do unless it's a major or if Tiger is contention. Shocking, I know. But watching live, especially a major like the Masters or the US Open is just riveting to me. Getting to spots where you are up close and just feet away from insert any pro's name here is just awesome. It's not being next to the guy, it's seeing what he does and how he does it. The "these guys are good" campaign is such an understatement. If you've never stood close to a Professional golfer and seen a tricky shot, or a yawner of a 100-yard sand wedge, executed up close and personal, you're missing out.

So back in '05, my pal and I are imbibing along the 18th fairway, right side, near the landing area of the drive. We had spent a good 90 minutes there, strategically situated next to a beer tent and in the shade. My nephew is there too after having beared his standard for some young up and comers. A ball lands way right and we see it immediately and head on over. From where we were, we couldn't see who hit the drive but we knew there was a 33% chance it was Tiger.

Sure enough....'twas Tiger. So having done this a few times before, I knew where we had to position ourselves before the masses arrived and we did. My nephew sent this pic to me today on Twitter....

"The photographer must have been standing right beside us when he took this pic. Remember this ?"

A large portion of that dirt landed on my and my nephew's shirt, which was a Jeff Spiccoli kind of awesome. But to watch Tiger get to his ball, assess the situation as he did while not hearing or seeing one other person around him other than his caddie, talk it out with him for minutes, then to execute the shot which was hard times 10 (you can't see the tree and branches he has to navigate around/through/under) EXACTLY as they'd discussed WHILE hitting it so square in this god awful lie, and then  proceed to the next shot as if he just finished tying his just doesn't get old people.

It's unfortunate that Tiger won't be in the Sandhills this weekend, but we will.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Silver Linings Playbook

There are a lot of reasons why crossing another number off of life's tally sheet might be considered a negative. I'm noticeably more gray at the temples now than I was at this time last year, for example. The hangovers hurt more than they used to. My God, do they. And let's not kid ourself - every additional numeral represents that much additional sand that's fallen through the aperture into the wrong half of the hourglass.

But in my case, at least this year, there's one substantial advantage to tacking on one more number.

As I assume most of you do, I associate each year of my life with the uniform number worn by an athlete, famous or just important to me. 33 was awesome, because Larry Bird. (I had a daughter that year, too, which was pretty cool, too, I guess.) I'm really looking forward to 77, for obvious reasons.

But 44 is so much better than 43. Dennis Eckersley's not bad, and he played for the Red Sox. And Richard Petty is The King. Brad Daugherty wore the digits in his honor. My man Darren Sproles carried 43, too. The pickings are slim for that prime number, though.

44, on the other hand, represents royalty. Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Jim Brown, and George Gervin wore double fours. So did Willie McCovey, Chris Pronger, and Dan Issel. Mr. NBA himself, Jerry Brown, wore 44. Pistol Pete, too. Nolan Ryan threw a no-hitter when he was 44.

Intermission: Here's an awesome video of Gervin and Maravich playing a televised game of H-O-R-S-E. Ignore Pete's number 7 - he wished he were wearing his favorite digits:

Closer to home for me, Orlando Cabrera donned 44 when the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004. It was Danny Ainge's number when I was a huge Celtics fan as a kid - he won a pair of championships in that jersey. POTUS 44, too, suits me just fine.

There's a guy, though, that ends this discussion, even given the greats that have worn number 44. Clarence, I'm quite certain, grasped this punch line about five paragraphs ago, Sandy baby.

44 is the baddest ass of all years, because of this guy:

May my 44th year be filled with a fraction of the spirit, camaraderie, and joie de vivre that characterizes Riggo's time on Earth. And in those too-often moments when you catch me worrying about shit that's far too petty, may you call me on it, Riggo-style.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Unfathomable Bravery

The only words really necessary - and capable of conveying the scope and scale of our debt - are "thank you".

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Dave's Definitive Quadrennial World Cup Preview

Hola! Buon Giorno! Oi! Guten Tag! Can you believe four years have passed since the last World Cup? Can you believe there's a word for things that occur every four years?

You'll notice that "hello" and "marhaba" and "jambo" and"lei ho" were not included in the list of greetings. That was on purpose! No country from North America, Africa, Asia, or the Middle East has ever won the World Cup. So you should not concern yourself with those places (unless you like bribery . . . then you should head to Qatar).

Though I don't watch much professional soccer, my life is engulfed by the sport. I think about soccer. I read about soccer. I spend at least a half an hour a day daydreaming about drills and tactics. I also spend quite a bit of time talking to other soccer coaches. I play soccer on the weekends with people named Gio and Guillermo and Felipe. I run practices year round. I coach both high school and youth players.

Because of this, I also assume that other people are thinking about soccer all the time. This might be true, or it might be that people view me as a soccer guy (I have a lot of shirts with soccer balls on them) and if they have any association with soccer, then it comes up in conversation with me. This makes me think that soccer is the primary thing on most people's minds. So it was revealing (and a little mind-blowing) when I conducted some interviews about the World Cup. The main thing that I learned was that the general population (as represented by people hanging around the English Office and the high school kids in my classes) is NOT thinking about soccer. There's some actual information buried in this preview, but I'll warn you, getting to it isn't going to be pretty (except for the beefcake pics).

The following statement represents the opinions of several women I interviewed:

"You should put a picture of Ronaldo with his shirt off."

No problem.

My friend and colleague Stacey confided in me that she's "heard great things about Pele."

Chantal knew that there was a "theme song by Pit Bull."

Once I got the World Cup discussion rolling in the office, I overheard two English teachers discussing Halfthor Julius Bjornnsson.

"Halfthor Bjornnsson? What team does he play for? Croatia? The Netherlands?"

"Oh, he's not a soccer player. He plays "The Mountain" on Game of Thrones."

They put a piece of paper high on the wall in the English office that marks exactly how tall the Mountain is. This is what The Mountain looks like. He would be difficult to cover on a corner kick.

I asked them if they had any insight on the World Cup, and the nerdier of the two (no mean feat) looked at me and with great sincerity, said, "Luxembourg . . . Trinidad and Tobago . . . Ivory Coast . . . Lichtenstein." I agreed that those were countries in the world, but leveled with them that-- aside from Ivory Coast-- they were not represented in the World Cup.

Since the Caucasian nerds were useless, I decided to ask the more ethnically diverse folks. This didn't help much. Our token Jamaican woman said she was rooting for Brazil. The new teacher, who is half-Spanish, said she is "going for Spain." And the Greek guy with the fantastically ethnic name of Arghiris admitted that he knew nothing about soccer, but every four years he "pulls out the blue and white." That would be quadrennially.

Of all my students, only one spoke with confidence. He said he watched a lot of FIFA and the thing to remember was "don't waste your time rooting for America." A real patriot.

And then there is my friend Terry. You may remember him from several soccer expeditions.

While Terry can be annoyingly opinionated on many matters, there is one thing that he knows inside and out: the state capitals. Even the Dakotas. Terry occasionally comes off as being mildly autistic.

While Terry's comprehensive knowledge of geography is impressive and annoying, he also knows quite a bit about soccer. He is the boy's varsity coach at our school, he still plays (when he's not injured) and he is an avid fan. When it comes to soccer, you can trust him. Here's what he has to say:

The United States has a 40% chance of surviving their group. Their problem is defense, so they are going to have to score first and outscore teams.

The players to watch are Argentina's Sergio Aguero, Brazil's Neymar, and Uruguay's Luis Suarez.

Everyone believes the favorite is Germany and Terry is no exception, but his dark horse picks are Belgium and Ghana. Ghana is a bit young-- with an average age of 24-- but they have nine Premier League players

Belgium's team-- led by Eden Hazard-- is regarded as the "golden generation." This could be a good thing, but Terry also sees it as a kiss of death. He reminded me of 2002, when the U.S. upset the golden generation Portuguese team, and how the U.S. pulled the same stunt against the golden generation Columbian team in 1994.

That's all I've got. The important thing is that most people in America don't give a flying frack about soccer. And some people-- especially the ladies-- don't care much about how the ball bounces, they just like shirtless pictures of fit men. One of these ladies was despondent that Fabio Cannavaro retired and would not be playing for Italy. This is for her:

And finally, a student named Hector, who likes to write computer code and doesn't know anything about the World Cup, advised me that I should "include a lot of hashtags in your post." Okay, Hector.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Lollipop Parenting

The nation eagerly awaits the start of the World Cup (a mere eight days now), and the G:TB community patiently stands by for Dave's preview of the same. As I peruse the web in a search for soccer news and notes, I admit to having missed an excellent piece by Will Leitch at Sports on Earth about U.S. head man Jurgen Klinsmann and his broader purpose. (Not his special purpose, mind you.)

In the piece, which highlights Klinsmann's mission to reinvent the way the entire American soccer system operates, Leitch presents a quote from the former German superstar that neatly captures the essence of the game and how it's coached and played:
"When you talk to coaches and parents, it's very difficult for them sometimes to understand that the kid in soccer is self-taught. Coaches, different from baseball, basketball and American football, with a lot of timeouts and plays and all that stuff, are really just more the inspiration of the whole thing -- the guide, in a certain way. But he's not the decision maker on the field. This is a very different approach. Parents and coaches think they are making the decisions. I tell them, no, you're not making the decision. The decision is made by the kid on the field. So maybe here and there you should just shut up and let the kid figure it out."
As the parent of a (lower-level) travel soccer player and a member of the Board of Directors of the largest soccer club in Virginia, I say that there's ground truth in that statement. And as someone who's stood on the sidelines while other parents on my daughter's team incessantly coach their kids (often in direct contradiction to their actual coach) during games, I wince a little bit at the distance between today's American mindset and Klinsmann's vision. One of the parents on the team went so far as to buy a giant bag of lollipops and pass them out to the other parents before a game - it's become a bit of a tradition now.

If I'm being honest, I'm guilty of that same sin myself, more often than I'd like to admit. Even as I try really hard just to offer words of encouragement, my own competitive nature gets to me too often.

As a parent in modern society, I think Klinsmann's words offer lessons far beyond the field. Too many times too many of us seek to control our kids' actions and activities. Far too infrequently do we let them make their own decisions, and by definition, their own mistakes. It's an instinct in myself that I wrestle with - nobody wants their kids to get hurt, physically or emotionally, but sometimes that's how they learn. My youngest daughter has some soccer talent, but she's an exceptionally lazy kid (thanks, Dad!). She's watched other players on her team surpass her skill level because they've worked hard on their technique outside of practice. As a result, she's probably going to drop down a level in our Club's ladder of teams.

I could demand that she practice at home, force her to get outside and dribble, but at some point you can't want something for your kid more than she does. It's an opportunity for her to decide how hard she's willing to work, how much she actually cares about something. So I'll listen to Jurgen and just shut up and let the kid figure it out.

And buy a shitload of lollipops.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Muppets and Marley?

Yeah, it took me all of 69 seconds to copy the embed code and get this thing posted here. The very definition of "GTB Wheelhouse".


Monday, June 02, 2014

New Hamsterdam, CO

Oscar Wilde said "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life." Obviously he was a fan of The Wire. I say this because aspects of Season 3's Hamsterdam plotline are playing out in Colorado.

If you haven't seen The Wire, here's the premise of Hamsterdam in a nutshell. In an effort to reduce violent crime in his territory, Major Bunny Colvin tells all the drug dealers and junkies that they can do whatever they want within a particular part of town that is completely abandoned. He tells them something like "It's just like Amsterdam" and the crackheads think he said Hamsterdam. Hilarity ensues.

In January 2014, Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. The results are a bit like Hamsterdam--a comedy of unintended consequences. For example, banks won't offer services to marijuana stores because they are illegal enterprises under federal law, and no one wants to be a party to money laundering. As a result, marijuana is a cash only business in Colorado and the stores have nowhere to put the cash other than safes and lockboxes. Almost instantly, they became prime robbery targets. Sort of like this.

In response, marijuana security firms cropped up. Apparently they're all staffed with Russian hitmen.

This drives up the cost of business, so an ounce of weed in Colorado is $400!

In response, the Colorado legislature made like Stringer Bell and set up a co-op.

Well, not exactly. They passed the Marijuana Financial Services Cooperative Act which permits the creation of cooperative banks to serve marijuana businesses. It'll never work.

First, it requires that each co-op receive approval from the Federal Reserve, and that ain't happening. Even if it does, operating such a co-op would be a compliance nightmare. For example, the co-ops would be required to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act, meaning that they would have to report any suspicious activities they see. Every marijuana-related transaction is a suspicious activity under the Act so that's a lot of paperwork. And the co-ops would also have to comply with various DOJ mandates, requiring insanely in-depth due diligence on all firms who bank with the co-op beginning when the open an account and continuing throughout their participation in the co-op.

Second, the Marijuana Co-op Act says that deposits in the co-ops will not be insured. I have to imagine that these co-ops will be massive targets for theft--instead of picking off pot shops one by one, enterprising robbers will hit the co-op because that's where all the cash is aggregated. These endeavors aren't going to be big operations like BOA or Citi, they'll be mom-and-pop shops operated for and probably by potheads. So I doubt they will have state-of-the-art security systems. Add in the usual risk of fire or natural disaster and it's tough to hand over all your money to an uninsured bank.

Finally, who the hell wants to open a bank to provide services to companies that openly flout federal drug laws? If we elect some fire-and-brimstone conservative in 2016, he or she could put the kibosh on all this in a hurry simply by deciding to enforce federal laws in Colorado, shutting down the pot shops and the co-ops, and then seize all the money! Oh, and they'd send the bankers to jail for money laundering. At which point the bankers would react like this:

Thus it appears that the legal sale of marijuana as currently constituted in Colorado is unsustainable. Cash keeps rolling in but there's only a finite amount of space under mattresses and inside safes to put it all. Until someone comes up with a safe, secure, reliable, and legal way to store marijuana-related proceeds, Colorado's pot shops may put themselves out of business because they are so successful. That's some crazy macroeconomics for you.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Lawyer Up

This is asinineZazzle gave me instructions on how to file a counter-notice, and I plan to. Not because I really care about the dumb design, but because this is ridiculous asshattery that shouldn’t be allowed to continue.” -- Dave Lartigue, t-shirt designer and wordsmith

Like the salmon flocking to Capistrano, the lure of the phrase 'ridiculous asshattery' is one we find impossible to resist. So when used it as a tag in this story on a trademark infringement claim, tractor beam - sucked us right in.

U.S. trademark registration 4,473,631 gives Paul Ingrisano, dba Pi Productions Corp, a New York corporation, the rights to the symbol for pi followed by a period. Ingrisano uses the mark on t-shirts. So far, so good.

Our story took a turn, though, when Ingrisano found that Zazzle, an online print-on-demand retail store, was selling various items with pi imprinted upon them. Through his attorney, Ronald Millet, he filed a cease and desist order (or, more accurately, a CEASE AND DESIST order - I think he really, really meant it).

Clearly intimidated by the all-caps demand, Zazzle removed all items with pi from its online store, which prompted Lartigue's indignation. After several days of backlash, the company did begin once again allowing its users to sell pi-based articles.

No word yet on which words Millet will capitalize in his next complaint to Zazzle.