Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dishing Out Some Spoon

This is part of why I really dig me some Gheorghe.
Personal thoughts on music, as on any form of art, are to be taken with salt grains.  So goes the crude adage on opinions.  I read rock and roll reviews all too often, and more often than not they're onanistic drivel. (Adding a huge caveasterisk to this entire post.)

And then there's Gheorghe.  (And then there's Maude.)  By now I have come to know those among you scribes with musical tastes that approximate my own.  And even the Gheorghies with different leanings make me at least want to sample your recs.

TR's selections are usually within my area code of favorites, if not my ZIP code.  Although we don't always jibe about our jive (he was luke on KoL's Because of the Times excepting "Fans," whereas I liked it quite a bit and would rank "On Call," "Knocked Up," and especially "Ragoo" above "Fans"), most of what he tells me to hear, I enjoy.

Which is why I raised an eyebrow when he gave a vigorous shout-out to Spoon's 2014 effort, They Want My Soul.  I had somewhat passed it by after a handful of listens last year.  "Inside Out" I dismissed, "Do You" I liked fairly well until SiriusXM drove it into the ground last summer, and "Rainy Taxi" was a finalist for 20 for 2014 (x 2) inclusion but fell short.  Eh.

It may have stemmed from a disappointing show I took in at the amazingly great Outside Lands Festival in August.  They had the short straw of an early-in-the-day, drizzly weather, not crowded, largest stage time slot.  And let's face it, I had a wicked hangover, so I wasn't in fine fan form.  The set was absent a few of my favorites, and it just wasn't what I had hoped it would be. 

Subsequently, and maybe because of that, I didn't wriggle out of an obligation in September, thereby missing their show in my town.  Big mistake, I now think.  Overall, my penchant for all things Spoon (except for Spoonerisms and spooning) was on the wane.  But now, thanks to TR's praise, I'm revisiting TWMS.  (Acronym!) I haven't vaulted it to the top of the list, but I'm workin' on it.

Here's why I have such lofty expectations for new Spoon releases.  I've assembled a list of my Top 20 Spoon tunes (Spunes?), counting down to my most liked even though the numbering goes up.  (I don't know.)

I first heard the band in 2000 when a fellow W&M alum and DC neighbor (former cheerleader) told me to give it a spin.  And the first Spoon song I ever heard is still my favorite one.

A few quick facts about the band as you listen:
  • They were formed in Austin in the early 1990's -- before the town became a hip, hip place like Seatthens.
  • They named themselves after the song "Spoon" by the German band Can.  Which I don't love.
  • Their tunes comprise much of the soundtrack to the 2006 Will Ferrell/Maggie Gyllenhaal film Stranger Than Fiction.  Which I do love.  Especially her.
  • Lead singer Britt Daniel also fronts the band Divine Fits.
Okay, good people.  Enjoy some Spoon. Especially you, TR.

Friday, February 27, 2015

More Non-Filler! Girl vs. Death Squad

Things are humming along right now at Greasetruck Studios: I've upgraded my DAW software and my operating system-- Sonar Professional and Windows 8, respectively-- and I've replaced some essential equipment . . . both my digital/audio converter and my MIDI drum machine died in the span of a week, but fortunately this tragedy occurred in the general vicinity of my birthday (which gave me license to buy some stuff).

I'm doing something really weird and retro: working on a collection of songs that are vaguely related, both sonically and thematically . . . I think they used to call this an album (or, even worse, a double album . . . which is generally the kiss of death for a band; e.g. Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion and Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness).

My goal is to record ten good songs, and insert a few musical monologues in between the main tracks (I love musical monologues). I've got an awesomely phenomenal new name for my project: Slouching Beast. Sounds cool, conveys the way I feel most days, and contains a literary allusion . . . so it covers all the bases.

If anyone wants to collaborate (Clarence . . . vocals? Rob . . . rubber whale? Teej . . . groupie?) head on up to Jersey. People from Jersey need not "head on up," you can just get on the Turnpike and "head on over."

Here is the first track-- it is inspired by all the Mexican drug cartel stuff I read last summer.

I met a girl, I really liked her.
Thought it was going somewhere.

But she was with the revolution.
I didn't know she cared.

So when the death squads came,
what could I do?

You would have done the same--
step in my shoes.

Call me a coward, call me a snitch--
but when the death squads come,
you'll be their bitch, too, 
yeah you.

I met a girl, I kind of liked her,
but she wasn't all that.

When times are tough
you've got to think quick.
You've got to learn to adapt.

So when the death squads come
what will you do?

Look out for number one, not number two.

Call me a coward, call me a snitch--
but when the death squads come
you'll be their bitch, too, 
yeah you.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

This Week in Wrenball: The Greatest

The record came calmly and quietly, at the foul line, with an easy, fluid motion honed and perfected over thousands of hours of practice. That’s Marcus Thornton. 

What led to the record-breaking free throw was also Marcus Thornton. Movement, recognition, an open lane to the basket. An explosive, almost violent dunk attempt that would impose his will on the game, that would provide one more memorable moment in a career full of them.

In somewhat typically Gheorghian fashion, we wrote our farewell appreciation of Marcus Thornton back in December. So we won't rehash it in painstaking detail this morning, twelve hours after a first-half free throw against Towson gave him 2,053 career points and broke the nation's longest-standing career scoring record. If you're into the details, we commend to you Dave Fairbank's gamer (which includes the quote above), which will tell you that Thornton scored 23, but junior do-everything wing Terry Tarpey dropped 24, grabbed 13 boards, blocked 5 shots, and recorded 3 steals and as many assists in W&M's 65-50 win. (While you're at it, you should read Fairbank's feature on Chet Giermak, who held W&M's career scoring mark for 65 years.)

I really like listening to W&M coach Tony Shaver talk about Marcus, because his love and admiration for William & Mary's greatest-ever basketball player is evident. The words are one thing: “I’m just really proud for Marcus,” Shaver said. “I mean, this is not about him and I think our team really understands that. But I am happy for him. He’s helped take this program to a new level, and he deserves it. He works so hard. I’ve never coached a player who spends as much time in the gym as Marcus – ever.”

But watch Shaver's face, and listen to the tone of his voice. Makes you proud to have had the opportunity to watch Thornton wear green and gold for four years.

Those four years are nearly at end, that skinny hyper-kinetic kid replaced by a still-lean, coiled, explosive yet controlled veteran. Saturday marks the final home game of Thornton's decorated Tribe career. While he'll justifiably receive the loudest cheers from the Kaplan Arena crowd, the entire team still has work to do.

With a win against a depleted Drexel squad, missing its best player, CAA Player of the Year candidate Damion Lee, W&M will clinch its first-ever CAA championship. Sure, they'll likely share that honor with at least one other school (UNCW and Northeastern are good bets to finish with the same record), but the Wrens hold all the tiebreaker advantages. The win would give the Tribe the top seed in next weekend' CAA Tournament, and advance them to at least the NIT.

Miles to go before they sleep, then. And Marcus Thornton's great promise to keep.
Late update:

Here's a great video of the point that broke the record. Voiceover from Tribe radio play by play man Jay Colley, and a terrific shot of Thornton's parents. Check out the smile on Marcus' face after he was fouled on a dunk attempt that would've made SportsCenter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The G:TB Review of Books: Hinkle Fieldhouse: Indiana's Basketball Cathedral

Eric Angevine is a proud member of the CAA diaspora, his ODU Monarchs now a part of some far-flung conference that isn't Virginia-based. One of the proprietors of the late, lamented Storming the Floor blog (which remains intact on tumblr), we first connected with him over a shared affinity for CAA hoops. He even published a long, whingey piece we wrote on W&M basketball's historical 'achievements' back in 2008 (lost, sadly, to the sands of time - trust me, it was pretty great).

He's also the author of Hinkle Fieldhouse: Indiana's Basketball Cathedral, which will be released on March 2 as a part of Arcadia Publishing's Landmarks series.

Angevine's written about college basketball for, CBS, NBC, and a number of other generally more reputable outlets than ours, but we're pleased and grateful that he spent a generous amount of time answering our moronic questions about his new book. We're told that we're important in reaching the jackass demographic, so we're happy to help. G:TB's questions in bold, with Eric's answers following. Probably should've given the guest of honor the bold-type treatment, I guess:

Hinkle's obviously one of the great cathedrals of college hoops, but there are certainly others. What convinced you to choose Hinkle as the subject of a book? 

This was actually almost a case of the butterfly effect. Back in 2010, before Butler had been to the Final Four, I was freelancing for ESPN, and the Final Four was going to be in Lucas Oil Stadium. I had always wanted to see Hinkle, so I proposed making a trip there and making it do double duty: I'd write about Lucas Oil for one article and Hinkle in another. As it turned out, Butler was the big story that year, and both articles got a lot of views and were re-run a couple of times. So, when the History Press was looking for someone to write this book, and all the reputable writers had said no, they found my articles and asked me if I'd do it. I said hell yes.

In retrospect, there are things about Hinkle that make it an ideal subject for this kind of book. Tony Hinkle as the sort of human embodiment of the athletic program for decades gives it a through-line. The single-class high school basketball tournament being played there allowed me to write about players like George McGinnis, Oscar Robertson, John Wooden, and others who never suited up for Butler. And the building hosted presidential speeches frequently, so that gave me a lot to write about.

What's the relationship between the Butler student body/community and Hinkle? Do they revere it, or is it just another building on campus? 

It's a very tight bond. There are only around 2,000 students at Butler, so you could put every one of them in the building on game day and still have room for all of the alumni and fans who want to attend. The fieldhouse is also used as classroom space and the school's commencement is held there, so even those who might not love sports the way we do have a deep connection to it.

We know the Hoosiers story, and Butler's history at Hinkle. Since our producers haven't been able to procure an advance copy of the book for us to read and prepare questions, what was the most interesting story about the building that you uncovered in your research? Also, do you have any leads on producers, as we seem to need some?

Like you, I felt I had a pretty good grasp on the building's basketball legacy, so it was some of the other events that really drew me in as I researched them. In the 1930s, the building hosted a six-day bicycle race, which was apparently a huge deal back then. I spoke with a historian who really brought the event to life for me. I also loved getting volleyball legend Karch Kiraly on the phone to talk about the 1987 Pan Am Games, when he and his teammates faced off against Cuba during the cold war (though he said it was blazing hot inside un-air-conditioned Hinkle that summer).

Basketball-wise, the story that meant the most to me, and that I hope I got 100% right, is the story of Oscar Robertson and Crispus Attucks becoming the first segregated all-black team to win a state title. It happened the year after the Milan Miracle, and it didn't resonate as much with the state at large, so I felt it needed to be told and emphasized as an important historical event. (Note: this story is excerpted on NBC Sports Game Changers site.)

You have an undergraduate degree from Kansas (if we have our research right). Were you a big basketball fan before you made your first trip to Allen Fieldhouse, or was that formative for you? For those of us that have never attended a game in the Phog, give us a sense of what it's like to be part of 'Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk'.

I should have my degree from Kansas. I spent five years there but was defeated by Calculus. I went back to school at Old Dominion as an adult to finish up, which is how I stumbled into the bad part of town and met you losers. (Editor's note: Of COURSE we didn't have our research right. Probably Teejay's fault.)

HOWEVER, Kansas was THE formative influence in my reverence for college ball. I was a freshman in 1988 when Danny and the Miracles won it all. Prior to that season, I had a passing interest in the game, which was the annual talk of the town in Lawrence, of course. But that was the first time it really felt like my team, and I was hooked.

Allen Fieldhouse is an unusual structure. It's huge inside, but the acoustics are ideal. It gets loud. And the rock chalk chant is haunting as it echoes throughout the arena. As for how it feels? I got goose bumps just typing that sentence.

Obvious question here, perhaps, but you've now got a foundation from which to tackle other great collegiate hoops landmarks. Is that something that you're planning? What great old arena(s) interest you from a historical perspective? 

I actually sent a promo postcard to the staff at Williams Arena in Minneapolis with the note Got Next? That's a hidden gem that I've never been to, and I suspect I could find some good stories. My bucket list still includes The Pit in Albuquerque, Rose Hill Gym at Fordham, and Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, OK. Now that I have some publisher street cred, I would love to leverage it into more writing about old, possibly endangered venues.

Counting Michael Litos and Jerry Beach, we now know three authors of books about sports. Do you think you could take the other two in a game of '21'?

Oh, god, I just pictured that game in my head. There are no winners. I do have a sneaking suspicion that Litos cheats, so he'd probably win.

The book is subtitled, 'Indiana's Basketball Cathedral', and Hinkle had a close association with Indiana high school hoops for decades. How do people in the rest of the state view the building today? Is it considered part of the state's heritage, or now that Butler has ascended to a more national profile, does the rest of Indiana downplay the historical association?

It is a statewide point of pride for exactly the reason you mention. Just about every corner of the state can point to some local team or player who made his mark there. I wondered if younger generations had lost that reverence, since the high school game is no longer played there, but I spoke to Brandon Crone, who played for Butler under Todd Lickliter, and he assured me that the mystique was still present for his generation.

How does the gameday experience at Hinkle compare to other arenas you've visited? Are the soft pretzels there as bad as the ones Teejay and I ate at LaSalle's Gola Arena?

It's a fantastic gameday experience, because it starts feeling special as you're walking from your parking spot, and you see the building in the distance. Then you go inside and wander around and look at the historical displays in the corridors. There's no secret entrance to the floor, so you end up passing the team in the hallways. And I love the moment early in the game when the bulldog Trip runs across the floor and the student section gives him a massive rawhide chew toy to enjoy during the game.

In the old Hinkle, there was almost no room for concessions, and I don't remember anything they served being particularly special. Not sure if that's changed in the renovated space. But Trip usually shares the rawhide (not a euphemism) so I never get hungry.

Please tell us the book has pictures from the Sonja Henie Ice Show. Or at least a Mellencamp concert.

I wish. I keep hearing about some of these other events that happened there, but I could never find pictures.

When William and Mary makes the NCAA Tournament and plays Kansas in the first round, you'll be rooting for the Tribe, correct?

Incorrect. I know rooting for Kansas is like rooting for Darth Vader in some circles, but I grew up in Lawrence, so it'd be like rooting against my own childhood. However, I am a rational fan. When one of those small schools takes down the Jayhawks, I'm happy for them. I don't get the logic of being mad at another team for taking advantage of your own failures. And if it was the Wrens, I guarantee I'd be thrilled for them. I guess I could live with the fact that it would make you guys insufferable to be around.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sony Answers Back

The last time I posted about Jack Urbont I described his motion for summary judgment. Sony recently replied to that motion and made their own motion for summary judgment presenting two basic arguments. First, Sony asserts that Mr. Urbont does not own the copyright to the Iron Man Theme because it was a work for hire and thus Marvel Comics owns it. Second, Sony asserts that the Iron Man Theme is not a "sound recording" under the Copyright Act of 1976 and thus Mr. Urbont's state law claims are preempted. In either event, Mr. Urbont lacks standing to sue, according to Sony.

In support of all this, Sony submitted a "counter-statement of material facts" to combat some of Mr. Urbont's assertions, a bunch of exhibits, and a declaration from one of their in-house lawyers. It's the same lawyer who said he didn't know that Robert Diggs is the RZA. Interestingly, his declaration says that he has "personal knowledge of the fact[]" that "Robert Diggs ... is also professionally known as 'RZA,' ...." I guess he learned that during or after his deposition.

Anyway, Sony's first argument goes like this: there's a test for whether a copyrighted work is a "work for hire," and facts surrounding the creation of the Iron Man Theme satisfy that test, so Marvel owns the copyright not Mr. Urbont. The only reason Mr. Urbont made the song (and six others--four more superhero themes and two generic Marvel-related ditties, more on them later), according to Sony, is because Marvel asked him to. He had no idea who any of these characters were before Marvel contacted him and send him some comics to read as background, and he would not have done so absent Marvel's offer to pay him to write the songs. Marvel paid Mr. Urbont a fixed sum of $3000 to write and record the song and Mr. Ubont did not retain any royalty rights. So far so good ... but then it gets a little murky.

Sony argues that Mr. Urbont can't rebut their argument that the Iron Man Theme is a work for hire. In support they note that there is no written agreement between Mr. Urbont and Marvel stating that he owns the copyright. This is true with respect to the 1966-ish timeframe when the songs were created for Marvel. But later, in 1995, Mr. Urbont entered into a "Settlement Agreement, Release and License" with New World Group and Marvel (Marvel was owned by New World at the time, Rupert Murdock later bought the whole shebang) for various superhero songs, including the Iron Man Theme.

The license agreement refers to Mr. Urbont as "Owner" and New World as "Licensee" and requires New World to pay $90,000 for a license to the various superhero songs. The license only allows New World to use the songs in conjunction with the cartoons. According to the license agreement, "Owner reserves all other rights of every kind and nature to use and to license others to use" the superhero songs.

This strikes me as strange. If the songs are a work for hire, why would Marvel license them from Mr. Urbont? They would already own them. The agreement is also stylized as a "settlement" so perhaps Marvel found it cheaper to pay Mr. Urbont than to litigate when he came after them for using the songs in the cartoons. But if that were the case, why didn't they take a license to all rights to the songs (or just buy them outright)? I guess it was a business decision to only use the songs with the cartoons, but it seems odd that a sophisticated publishing company like Marvel would own the copyright to something, but then pay someone else for a limited license to that work (and acknowledge the licensee as "Owner") without trying for more. The brief is redacted so maybe this would be clear upon reading the whole thing.

Perhaps most interesting is this part of the license agreement:

If this license agreement supersedes all previous agreements between the parties, does this mean that it makes Mr. Urbont the owner even if these songs originally were works for hire?

Also strange, for several reasons, is Sony's argument that Marvel owns the copyright because in 1967 Marvel released a record containing two of the non-superhero-specific songs written by Mr. Urbont: "The Merry Marvel Marching Society" and "The Marvel Super-Heroes Have Arrived." The record was distributed to members of Marvel's fan club, the Merry Marvel Marching Society. That isn't strange I guess. But I found the record on eBay for $99.99 and that's some strange shit to spend a hundo on. Seriously, would you pay a hundred bucks to listen to this?

Or this?

Sony asserts that this record is proof that Marvel owns the superhero songs because these two songs are from the group of seven Marvel asked Mr. Urbont to write. The record says "COPYRIGHT 1967 MARVEL COMICS GROUP" and it has the C-in-a-circle symbol on it. This is a strange assertion--I could print copies of "For Esme--With Love and Squalor" and write "COPYRIGHT 2015 ZMAN" on the books but that doesn't mean I really own the copyright. And if Marvel owned the copyright then, again, why did they take the limited license in 1995? Also strange--the 1995 license agreement does not mention these two songs, it only mentions the five superhero intros. So if these songs are related to the other five, why aren't these two included in the license? Perhaps the unredacted brief makes this clear.

The license agreement also references certain "master recordings" of the superhero songs as Schedule A to that agreement.

Schedule A isn't included in the copy attached to Mr. Urbont's brief though, and Sony alleges that they asked for but never received proof from Mr. Urbont that he owns any actual recordings of the Iron Man Theme (as opposed to, for example, sheet music for the song). Why hasn't Mr. Urbont produced these master recordings? Do any exist? If not, then how could Ghostface and RZA have copied them? Which segues into Sony's next argument.

Sony alleges that there is no recording of the Iron Man Theme separate and apart from the cartoon, therefore, the song is part of an audiovisual work and is not a "sound recording" for purposes of the Copyright Act. Here's the cartoon with the song on youtube. I'd embed it here but that seems like bad karma in light of the foregoing. In any event, it appears that RZA copied the song from a recording of the cartoon. Mr. Urbont even testified that this is probably what happened--he said that he has the "master recordings" and that no one copied those because they're in his apartment so RZA must have copied the song from a home video of the cartoon.

Sony argues that copying the sound from an audiovisual work does not constitute copyright infringement of a "sound recording," so Mr. Urbont's state law claims are preempted by the federal 1976 Act. You might say this is why people hate lawyers, but I think Sony is right here.

After reading briefs from both sides I'm confused. I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Urbont wrote multiple Iron Man Themes and retained ownership of one and sold the other to Marvel, or something weird like that. That might explain the various other oddball documents in the record--apparently conflicting copyright renewal forms, documents reciting ownership by Urbont Music, by Jack Urbont Associates, by Mr. Urbont individually. Or maybe the facts are just confusing, at least as presented in the briefs.

I am, admittedly, a stupid guy, but the asserted facts in this case are too unclear for me to figure out exactly what happened. The preemption argument is stronger than the work for hire argument but even there, is it really clear what RZA copied from? So I don't think either side will win a motion for summary judgment--there's a genuine dispute.

Monday, February 23, 2015

You Can Stream "Sour Soul" Now!

Ghostface Killah's latest album is called "Sour Soul" and it's a collaboration with some Canadian guys called BADBADNOTGOOD. You can't buy it yet but you can stream it. I suggest you go get your headphones and start listening. For the third album in a row Pretty Tone chose to work with a live band instead of rhyming over samples or computer-produced sounds. All three have a vintage soul vibe but these particular tracks have a 70's funk feel reminiscent of the movies I used to watch on Sunday afternoons on WWOR and WPIX when I was a kid.

That probably provides no context for you, but suffice it to say that there's something authentically vintage about this music. I don't think this will go down as one of GFK's all time classic albums, but it's definitely an interesting continuation of an already interesting departure from his previous style.

My favorites are Ray Gun, Nuggets of Wisdom, Mind Playing Tricks, Food and Gunshowers.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Hyperbole is the coin of the sports media realm. Perhaps it's always been so. But 35 years ago today, the greatest upset in the history of international sports took place, and you'll never convince me otherwise.

I watched it in the living room of my family's cramped military-issue apartment. After the second period, the local news cut in and told us that the USA had won (the game itself was tape-delayed). At once incredulous about the result and annoyed that it had been revealed, we nonetheless watched the third period on the edge of our seats. Even as we knew what was coming, we couldn't make ourselves believe it.

Here's the final minute. Without fail, it produces goosebumps when I watch it. Without fail.

And if you've got some time to kill, here's the whole glorious thing.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

This Week in Wrenball: Three Days in March

Let's stipulate that we would prefer, nay, be thrilled if our Wrens can find a way to grab the top seed in the 2015 CAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It would, as it happens, be the first time that W&M earned that bracket slot. It would also be optimal for Team G:TB's viewing and drinking plans in Baltimore.

But we're not gonna lose any sleep over it this week. Because the only seeding objective that matters in this bizarro CAA season is finishing in the top six. The bottom four teams in the league have to play on Pillow Fight Friday for a slot in the quarterfinals. The top six start their tournament on Saturday.

William and Mary has done enough at this point to assure a top six finish. Despite losing consecutive conference matchups for the first time this season, the Tribe remains atop the league at 10-5. (While W&M is part of a four-way clusterscrum at the top of the table, we hold the tiebreaker advantage over the other teams by dint of a better combined head-to-head record - it's one of the hidden benefits of losing most of your league games to the conference's dregs.)

Correlation's not causation, but those two straight stumbles (at home against Delaware and at Northeastern) drop the Tribe's record without sophomore guard Daniel Dixon to 1-2. Dixon is W&M's third-leading scorer, and as importantly, the team's best perimeter defender. He's making 45.6% of his three-pointers, better than Marcus Thornton, and second-best in the CAA.

With Dixon, Thornton, and Omar Prewitt in the lineup, opposing defenses are hard-pressed to defend Tony Shaver's well-spaced and diverse offense. (See this terrific post by Shades of 48 for a tutorial on the Tribe offense.) Without Dixon, the combination of freshmen Greg Malinowski (a deadeye shooter who lacks Dixon's explosiveness), Oliver Tot, and Connor Burchfield (or, as coined by Dave Fairbank, Mali-Tot-Field) has struggled to carry the all-around load. The three frosh have averaged a combined 8.3 ppg on 38.1% shooting in the three games Dixon's missed. Opponents make 49% of their shots from the field against the Dixon-less Tribe.

Dixon didn't make the trip to Boston, and likely won't play tomorrow at Hofstra. W&M closes its regular season with home games against Towson and Drexel, both of whom the Tribe throttled on the road earlier this year. Drexel, though, is the hottest team in the CAA at the moment, winners of six of their last seven.

Field is somewhere in here
(It should be noted here that Thornton is 36 points from tying Chet Giermak's all-time school scoring record. Giermak has held the record for 50 years, the longest-standing mark of any school in Division I. It's a measure of the weirdness of this season that it took us seven paragraphs and required a parenthetical to mention Thornton's assault on the top of the Tribe's list.)

Two wins in the final three games is a reasonable expectation. Worse would suck, but wouldn't be the end of the world. A healthy W&M is the most talented team in the league. And if that's what we bring to Baltimore, then we'll take our chances.

It was always down to March.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Your Daily Affirmation

There's some bleak shit in the world right now. ISIS casts a pall over the Middle East. Politicians of all stripes in the U.S. wage rhetorical war to no end other than power (at long last, Mr. Giuliani, have you no shame?). Racial animus here and abroad erodes our collective humanity in ways public and private. And it's cold as fuck across the country, making us all over-bundled assholes.

So, at the risk of charges of blatant pollyannaism (though, really, is that such a bad thing?), a little respite and maybe a life lesson worth pondering. From the wife of the late Roger Ebert, this message from a man who found his true calling late in life.

It may not warm your flesh, but it'll give your spirit a little pick me up. And I think Gheorghe would approve.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Cross-platform blog network synergy, saving Dave time and effort, and finally filling the space left by Giannis Antetokounmpo's large eurosteps.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

G:TB Adopt-a-Player: Rubber Band Man

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a sensation. He stands 6'11", though his mantis-like limbs and slim build (he's listed at 216 pounds) make him seem even longer than that, if such a thing is possible. He can cover the length of an NBA court in five steps (possible hyperbole, but he can do it in two dribbles). But his physique and athleticism aren't the only reason we celebrate him here. He can play.

The 20 year-old Milwaukee Bucks forward is the reigning NBA Eastern Conference player of the week. His performance in this weekend's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest was disappointing, but turns out to have been a one-man protest against his teammate Brandon Knight's loss in the Skills Challenge*. On the year, he's averaging 12.0 points and 6.6 boards a game, authoring a .564 true shooting percentage, as he matures physically and athletically. But in February, he's taken another (impossibly long) step.

* - wink, nod, noted

G:TB NBA expert Mark Hughes offers this scouting report on the Greek native:
"He's an actual point forward. This term is thrown around far too often but Giannis was able to develop this skill as he was always the most athletic, talented guy on the mid to low level Greek youth teams he played on. That plus European basketball's emphasis on all around skill development for all allowed him to grow into a huge, athletic point forward. He doesn't pile up huge assist numbers but he's a willing and creative passer who allows the Bucks to run Brandon Knight off screens for open jumpers."

At 20 years old, Antetokounmpo is still growing into his abilities. He's capable of insanely athletic feats, extending his legs, giraffe-like, and galloping from end line to end line before defenders can block his path. As Hughes notes, "Defensively he's still figuring out how to best use his skill set and despite that and still only playing 28 minutes a game he's basically averaging a block and a steal a game. As he continues to mature physically and mentally its not unreasonable to imagine him averaging 2.5 steals and blocks per game."

Finally, and it's no small thing, there's the matter of his name. Pronounced [ˈʝanis a(n)detoˈku(m)bo], it's one of the more fun things to say in all of professional sports. Come on, do it with me. Yannis...Ahn/De/To/Kuuuuuuuumbo!!!

Made you smile. So does Giannis. Learn to spell his last name, 'cause this certainly won't be the last time we talk about him.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Thunder(snow) Struck

One of the recurring themes of our work here at G:TB is the pursuit of passion and joy. Very few people in this world get to spend their days doing the things that make them happiest. Those that do are worth celebrating. And worth emulating.

I want to be as passionate about something as Jim Cantore is about the weather.

You're likely familiar with Cantore, the Weather Channel's alpha meteorology geek. He's equal parts carnival barker, scientist, and daredevil, with Ed Hochuli's guns and Dick Vitale's enthusiasm for his work.

And this week in Boston, he found his muse:

Rock on, Jim Cantore. We feel you.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

40 Years of SNL

In preparation for tonight's three-hour (!) celebration of Saturday Night Live's 40 years in production, here's are a couple of clips from my favorite cast member. Feel free to add your own, or play along in the comments.

Friday, February 13, 2015

This Week in Wrenball: Omar Comin'

On Wednesday night, William & Mary made history. For the first time since the founding of the
Colonial Athletic Association in 1985, the Tribe won a game while holding sole possession of first place in the conference this late in the season. That jumble of words is about as tortured as the emotions of W&M fans right now, wondering if this is the year.

The win over Elon boosted the Wrens' record to 16-8, 10-3 in conference play, and avenged W&M's first loss of the conference slate. The Tribe is 8-0 against the top six teams in the league, and 2-3 against the three cellar-dwellers.

Sophomore guard Daniel Dixon missed the Elon win with a hamstring injury that may keep him out for a few weeks. Dixon's having a breakout season, third on the team with 11.2 points per game, and second in the CAA in three-point percentage. He's knocked down 45.6% of his triples, making all six of his attempts from deep in the Tribe's 100-79 drubbing of Hofstra. His perfection in that game set the school record for most three-point makes without a miss. Dixon followed that performance up with a career-high 25 points in a win over JMU. He's also an active, athletic defender.

W&M is among the deepest teams in the league, but it's fair to say that Dixon's absence bears watching, especially if it drags into March. Sage CAA heads don't think the Tribe can win the league tournament without the 6'5" sophomore.

Omar gunnin'
While Dixon's emergence has been one of several important stories for the Wrens this season, fellow second-year player Omar Prewitt's season had Tribe fans scratching their heads until recently. After the CAA's reigning Rookie of the Year scored a meager eight points in W&M's first win over JMU, his scoring average stood at 10.9 points/game, below his freshman tally.

Since that time, though, Prewitt's shaken off whatever sophomore slump had ailed him (for the most part, though he only tallied a total of 11 points in wins over Hofstra and UNCW), averaging 15.8 points per game in nine games (18.7 if you throw out the pair of stinkers). Prewitt connected on 59.7% of his field goals over the span, which saw him put up three 20+ point totals and a career-high 30 against Delaware. His scoring average has risen to 13.2 per game, and his confidence is headed the same direction. Prewitt's 18 first-half points paced the Tribe to a 42-23 lead against Elon.

Prewitt showed a bit of a gunslinger's confidence in the 2014 CAA Final against Delaware, his driving dunk pacing the second-half run that nearly carried the Tribe to the title. His indifferent play in the early part of this season was a cause for some concern, though the rest of the Tribe's contributions masked some flaws. Tellingly, Prewitt's made 86% of his free throws in his current streak, after making only 55% through the season's first 15 games. For a shooter as talented as Prewitt, that latter number is close to inexplicable. His resurgent form speaks to a confidence that's vital to W&M's ultimate success.

All the pieces are fitting together, with senior Tom Schalk putting up a career-high 13, including the game-winner, against UNCW, junior Sean Sheldon adding a solid 7.8 points and 4.8 boards, and underclassmen Greg Malinoski and Oliver Tot giving Tony Shaver solid minutes.

And we haven't even mentioned Marcus Thornton (80 points away from W&M's all-time scoring record) and Terry Tarpey, both of whom are likely (or at least deserving) first-team all-CAA selections.

People in the know are saying things about W&M's talent. Unprecedented things. Things that at once make me proud of this team and anxious about the next few weeks. The Tribe is showing up in all the mock brackets posted now, and even if that's only because the leader of every one-bid league gets the default slot right now, it's easy to dream.

Dreams die hard, don't they.

But sometimes they come true.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


The greater Boston area is in the throes of one of the epic snow events of our time, non-Randy Quaid version. Roughly 69" have fallen in Hopkinton over the past ten days, for example, with another 12"-18" on the way this weekend. Fortunately, we have a correspondent in the area to chronicle the devastation. FOG:TB Squeaky offers this photo/video essay:

Here are some photos and vines of the snow at our place. (Editor's note: Squeak is an adherent to the old adage, 'a picture is worth a thousand words'.)

Feb 3rd before the last two storms (another 2+ feet of snow)

Earlier today after a lot of melting  

Plow guy (actually backhoe) cleaning up the driveway 

Stay safe, Squeak.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tribe Pride

I still haven't fully processed Jon Stewart's departure from The Daily Show. It's probably time, frankly, but it's hard to overstate how good he was, and how influential his ostensibly comedy program was, for 16 years.

While we ponder deep thoughts, one of Stewart's most memorable moments below, from the time he demolished Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson on their own show, Crossfire. Balls.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mail It In, Big Man

I've got several really good post concepts brewing in my brain kitchen (and by 'really good', I mean, 'posts that require at least three paragraphs to execute'), but I've been busier than Brian Williams at Bread Loaf (trust me, it's wryly amusing in an ironic, Vampire Weekend kinda way) this week and can't even find 10 minutes to string together enough cogent thoughts to make a sentence.

So instead, here's a compilation of the memos the G:TB assignment desk has sent me recently. Feel free to tell me what else you'd like to read about, so long as you're willing to wait a few months. Some of these will (may?) eventually become posts:

Andrew Sullivan called it quits at The Dish this week. His was the first and arguably most influential political blog, and he kept it relevant, intelligent, and thought-provoking for 15 years. We might keep it going for 15 years, but it won't be any of those things.

Our new favorite NBA player might be Giannis Antetokounmpo. He's like a giant praying mantis with handles. And he was just named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

The Washington Post and have both written stories about William & Mary basketball and its latest, best chance to end the NCAA Tournament drought we're all so keenly aware of. Firstly, welcome to our beat, interlopers. (And Dave Fairbank's. That dude won't lede you astray.) And secondly, this makes me nervous. I'd prefer just to chew my fingernails in obscurity, thank you very much.

Charlie Pierce is the best writer going, non-Ta-Nehisi Coates category. His piece on Dean Smith yesterday is shake-your-head-in-awe good.

I'm doing a podcast through work that had over 1,000 listens last week. If it keeps going, I might tell you guys about it.

Insect fucking is weird. Like, insects fucking each other, not that thing you were thinking. Perv.

Mailing it in. A G:TB tradition since 2003. (!)

Monday, February 09, 2015

Monday Filler

Before leaving her animal figurines to head somewhere with her mom, our 2-year old placed them in this position.
We found it amusing at first, then tried to figure out where she might have seen such a move. 

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Next Saturday, the NBA's best dunkers will, well, most of them will be sitting on the sidelines watching the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Our money's on the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But we're offering a handful of write-in contestants of our own. Last night, Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein dropped an epic hammer on Florida's Devin Robinson. Twitter crowned him the king of kings.

And two night's ago, High Point's John Brown took one of the great alley-ooppasses you'll ever see from Adam Weary (great in terms of how it was delivered, not necessarily its accuracy) and did this:

Finally, earlier in the season, Notre Dame's Jerian Grant took an inbounds pass against Georgia Tech and nearly decapitated himself on the rim.

For my money, it's Brown, Grant, and Cauley-Stein in a photo finish. Your results may vary.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Chicks, Rock

You know how we feel about ladies with big...voices. And guitars, too. It's been far too long since we celebrated ladies who play it loud.

Clarence included Sleater-Kinney in his Gheorghemas finale, so they've been mentioned here recently. They should be mentioned more. Their long-awaited reunion has critics agog, though it would've even if didn't rock.

Ex Hex released Rips in October. It does. The D.C.-based band (bassist Betsey Wright still works at The Black Cat) is led by veteran punk Mary Timony, who's exactly my age. If slightly more edgy.

Indie types will know Courtney Barrett from her summer hit 'Avant Gardener', a slow-moving, but clever story of an anaphylactic episode (rock and rolllllllll). "Pedestrian at Best' starts with a grungy riff and stays there.

Finally, badass Annie Clark has another new track out (as a part of a forthcoming digital remix of her self-titled 2014 record, St. Vincent). We've lauded her before, but man, she's as good as anyone making music today.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

It's All Right

I've watched waaaaay too much "Saved By the Bell" in my life.  I quickly went from mocking my little sister for watching such a dumb program to going to a college and joining a fraternity that had no cable television.  So we watched TPIR, we watched "Small Wonder," and we watched SBTB.

As such, we drank our college days away to the Zack Attack, watched Jessie get hooked on pills, and stared at Kelly Kapowski doing pretty much anything onscreen.  Age of consent be damned.  We knew what MVEMJSNUP means, we know that AC stands for Albert Clifford, and we know that Tori Spelling was pretty lousy in any role she ever played.  And then we went to see Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls on Opening Night.  Of course we did.

This is pretty much what our fratres talk about when they speak of hideously wasting an amazing resource that was the College's education.  Eh.

The other night Jimmy Fallon did this:

Screech is in the pokey and Lisa is somewhere doing something less cool than this, I guess.

Worth a chuckle for the sadly initiated.  Belding's appearance might just scare me into getting in shape.  And Kelly's still got it.  This definitely makes me think we ought to post some of our old undergrad feature films.  (At another university they would be sex tapes, but nope, not at our old school.)


Here's what I think about Rex Ryan.

There is an inordinately optimistic number of Bills fans. Some might call them naive while others might select the word moronic, but for reasons I do not understand there are tons of the-glass-is-half-full persuasion on message boards like Two Bills Drive. Here are search results relating to EJ Manuel in April 2013. Comparisons to Warren Moon. To a better version of Daunte Culpepper. To a "grown-ass man." The headliner from the best first day of a draft since John Butler. Anyone who watched college football knew Manuel was ... limited. Despite our comments here at G:TB, Bills fans were positive.

And it turns out they were wrong.


I think this bodes well for the Bills' future because unlike drafting EJ, I am relatively enthused about Rex Ryan while folks on Bills message boards seem displeased. Many in the tri-state area also panned the hire including Mike Francesa who concluded that Ryan is a bad coach because he isn't as good as "Paaaahcells." Here's why I'm all in.

1. The Bills didn't put themselves in this position.

As you may recall, the Bills didn't fire their previous coach, he resigned. Perhaps the Billsiest thing that could possibly happen, their head coach literally quit on the team to become the O-line coach for the 4-12 Jaguars. So it's not like the Bills put themselves in the position of needing to hire a new coach, their old coach did it to them suddenly and unexpectedly. They needed to make lemonade out of lemons and I think they did.

FYI, here's what a google image search for buffalo lemonade dredges up:

I think I got chlamydia just from looking at that picture.

2. There wasn't anyone out there clearly better.

I ask everyone who shat upon this hiring to suggest someone better. When making such a list the natural starting point would be available coaches with rings ("CWR"). There are a fair number of CWR out there but none would fit. Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson have multiple rings but they are old and have no reason to stand on a frozen Buffalo sideline at this point in their lives. Ditto Dick Vermeil, Joe Gibbs, and George Seifert.

Gruden, Cowher, Dungy, and Billick have cushy TV gigs that they aren't giving up.

CWR Mike Shanahan is available but after what he did in Washington I don't think he's a legitimate option anymore. I have no idea where Holmgren and Switzer are, but I think they're equally illegitimate now too.

All the other CWR I can think of already have coaching jobs with better teams.

The next place to look would be recently fired head coaches. That would be Rex, Mike Smith, Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano, and Marc Trestman. Not exactly a stocked vineyard. John Fox wasn't fired yet when the Bills hired Rex and I'm not particularly enamored with him anyway. I think there was never a doubt that Jim Harbaugh was going to Michigan so he doesn't count either.

That leaves all the popular coordinators and I don't buy into any of them. Adam Gase would be a bad hire. Denver ran the same offense that Peyton Manning had in Indy so it's not like Gase came up with the system. Instead, he has one of the best QBs of all time directing the system he used for 17 years and probably is just as much the OC as Gase. If anything, Peyton should be in line for a HC job somewhere.

Dan Quinn runs a high school system in Seattle. They're successful because Seattle has an insanely talented defense. Quinn was born in Morristown NJ and he coached at William & Mary so I ought to like him, but sitting here today I can't tell if he's a good coach or if he just lucked into a remarkably talented team at the right time.

People were excited about Darrel Bevell but then he did this:

Todd Bowles got some love in the media but clearly he's nuts. He hired Chan Gailey to be his offensive coordinator. Terrible.

Now if Buffalo got a guy like Urban Meyer or Gus Malzahn or some other genius from the college ranks I might be more excited. But of course for every Pete Carroll or Jimmy Johnson you have a Chan Gailey or a Doug Marrone. College coaches are by no means a sure bet.

In light of the foregoing, Rex is the least of multiple evils.

3. An offensive coach won't solve this team's problems.

I've heard myriad people say that the Bills should've hired an offensive coach. Not that Rex isn't offensive--he is from a behavioral perspective--but an offensive coach can't solve this team's problems.

This was the first winning season for the Bills since 2004. From 2004 to 2014 the Bills had four head coaches and one interim head coach. Three of those four were offensively minded. Here's how they did:

Two above average years with respect to points but otherwise all of these offenses stunk. Probably because the offensive players stunk. Much like Buffalo's current stinky QB situation. Simply put, no one can make this team into a scoring machine with the current personnel.

To illustrate my point, here are the various rankings of Brian Billick's teams. (Click on the image to make it bigger.)

Completely devoid of context, you would think that Billick was an offensive genius from 1994 to 1998, at which point he hit his head and became offensively inept but simultaneously transformed into a defensive mastermind. But you know that isn't the case--he had one of the best offenses of all time in Minnesota and one of the best defenses of all time in Baltimore. The players make the coach. Even the great Bill Belichick is 47-49 without Tom Brady (including his 11-5 season with Matt Cassel).

A really good offensive game-planner like Bruce "Kangol Kid" Arians might be able to eke an extra win or two out of this offense, but he already has a job.

4. Rex can make Buffalo's defense historically good.

Buffalo's defense was really really good last year. I think Rex can make it historically good in at least two ways.

First, he's one of if not the best defensive minds in the game. With the talent on the roster, including former defensive ROY Kiko Alonso who missed all of last year dude to injury, Rexy should be able to scheme up some nasty shit.

Second, I think he'll be very good at recruiting players. For example, Darrelle Revis is a free agent and I wouldn't be surprised if he would like to reunite with Rex. It's hard to get people to come to Buffalo. A guy like Rex provides a reason.

Sure, the offense will probably suck largely due to the QB situation, but Ryan went to the AFC Championship Game with Mark Sanchez ... twice!

The Bills were handed a bit of a shit sandwich when their coach spontaneously walked away from the team. Facing an unexpected coaching vacancy in a market with sexier options for head coaching opportunities, they hired someone with previous head coaching experience and success in the playoffs who is also considered to be a defensive genius who could make the most of the team's outstanding defensive personnel. If Rex is worth one or two more wins than Marrone, which I think is probably the case, then Buffalo might actually get a playoff game for the first time since the Clinton administration.

I like to complain ... a lot, about everything including the Bills. But I can't complain about this outcome.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The Act of Making Love is a Car with 73,000 miles

People across the blogosphere have been crying out for another "What Would zman Drive" post. Today's your lucky day!

The BMW 8 series came out in 1989 and at the time it was remarkably stylish. Twenty-six years later it's remarkably dated.

The low beltline, small wheels, slab sides, and absence of chrome scream "1990s" and not in a great way. The absolute killer though are the pop-up headlights. Even GM gave up on the Corvette's pop-ups in 2004, a design feature on that model since 1963.

As a result, you can pick up a pristine 8 series with about 70,000 miles for around $11,000 according to And that's for the 850i, the one with the V-12 engine (as opposed to the 840i with a V-8) making 295 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. It's certainly an affordable option if you're in the market for a 12 cylinder toy.

A guy in Indiana wants $14,000 for his 1991 850i with 73,000 miles. Seems like a pretty steep mark-up over book value until you read the ad. This car is, allegedly, the same 850i featured in LL Cool J's video for "Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Getting Crushed by Buildings"!

My favorite part of the ad is the last photo--the cover of "14 Shots to the Dome." If I were in the market for historic rides from "14 Shots" videos I'd go with the Pathfinder from "Back Seat (Of My Jeep)" especially if it still had that wood steering wheel and vanillaroma tree.

I expect a stampede of our midwestern readers (DB?) is heading to Indiana right this moment to get their hands on this gem.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Jack Urbont Moves for Summary Judgment

As you all remember, Jack Urbont obtained a default judgment against Ghostface Killah in his copyright case involving his "Iron Man Theme." On January 20, he moved for summary judgment against the remaining defendants Sony Music Etnertainment and Razor Sharp Records.

The brief itself isn't exactly a riveting read and now that GFK isn't involved the matter isn't quite as entertaining (at least for me). But I plan to see this thing through to a final judgment for the sake of completeness. Somewhat entertaining was this piece of a transcript from the deposition of one of Sony's in-house lawyers:

Seems unlikely to me that anyone in the music business doesn't know the RZA's real name, especially in light of the fact that the RZA has the production credit for "Intro" and "Iron's Theme - Conclusion," the songs from "Supreme Clientele" at issue in this case. And he's named in Urbont's Rule 26 initial disclosures. But who would pay attention to stuff like that?

Up next: the defendants' responsive brief! I suspect their legal maneuvering will not be mere child's play.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX G:TB Open Thread

Come, join us in the comments section to discuss your predictions for today's footballing contest between the sea chickens of Seattle and the cheatriots of some Boston suburb. Let us know what absurd prop bets you may be be wagering on as well as your thoughts on the $4.5 million commercials rolled out during the game. And may this game be a helluva lot closer than last year's ass whoopin'.