Friday, September 30, 2016

Chicken Friday Steak

Pop Culture for today...

New book out this week - Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run.
Read it.  NYT Review.

New movies out today - American Honey, which didn't catch my eye in a trailer but reviews quite well, and Masterminds, which I was hoping would be good but which has reviewed somewhat poorly.
View it at your own peril.

New album out today - Drive-By Truckers, American Band 
Hear it.  Reviews thus far.  (All are very positive, but we wait for Z's.)

Dave hasn't reviewed much lately, so we thought we'd sub in here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thorazine Thursday

Last week of the Federal fiscal year, and I don't have time to do anything, let alone craft one of my normal meticulously sourced and deeply reasoned posts. But thanks to Clarence, enjoy Morrissey covering the Ramones:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wayback Wednesday

I have it on good authority that several Gheorghies loved this tune as kids (Hi, Danimal!), and since it's Shaun Cassidy's 58th birthday today, it seems fitting that we celebrate it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

George and Me. And Arnie.

In 1996 I began working for the company that I still work for today. Without getting into great detail we work in the golf industry and in short, we act as “the help” for clubs and resorts around our country and abroad.

Founded in Northern Virginia by a fellow JMU’ster, early on 100% of the business was generated within a 30 mile radius of DC – Bethesda, Rockville, and NoVa. In early ’96, he got a tap on the shoulder from some hob knob clubs in Houston who had read about the services in a regional golf magazine. It was this opportunity outside of DC that precipitated my engagement.

Fast forward to the fall. I had been in Houston almost a month working at one of the previously visited clubs that requires a Thurston Howell imitation when you say its name. It’s an old-school joint with gobs of oil money and people like James Baker hanging out on the practice range. (A little side note – my accommodations were provided by one Mrs. Buckles, who was engaged to be Mrs. Buckles at the time. She was there getting her Masters at UT Houston. She worked as a waitress at a little joint down in the Rice U area called the Gingerman - I spent 3-4 nights per week there and untold dollars. Mrs. B. also introduced me to a lassie or two but that’s another story).

What was near my last week working in Houston the Head Pro, we’ll call him Dave, pages me, yes pages me on a Saturday evening when I’m sitting in Ms. Buckle’s apartment watching football. I call him back and he says that he has a VIP group coming in tomorrow and that he needs some good guys to caddie for them. I said, “No problem – what time and how many?” He tells me. I say, “Can I ask who it is?” and he says, “Sure, it’s President Bush, Arnold Palmer, Steve Pate who is the Chairman of Pennzoil, and myself.” He did add that there was a slight chance there could be a last minute cancellation.

I tried to sound cool, like I handled that sort of thing every day. I conveyed that he’d have the four best guys and I rattled off the names knowing he’d recognize who I was talking about and hopefully give his blessing.

He said, “Well, Dan, actually JT (Asst Pro) is going to caddie in the group. Two of those other guys you mentioned are fine but I’d like for you to be in the group as well.” Customer Service 101 requires you to say "OK” here, which I did. Having spent a month or so there by this time, it had been conveyed to me that Dave and H.W. were not just acquaintances but very good friends. Regardless, I like Dave and technically he’s my boss at this juncture so I don’t want to let him down.
The next morning I get to the property at the normal weekend time, 6:30/7:00. The VIP’s aren’t scheduled to play until mid-late morning. By 9:30 or 10:00 there was no sign of them and doubt began to creep in among the staff as to whether they were going to show up. I had not eaten and desperately needed some coffee so I told one of the other Assistant Pro’s that I was going to head down the road to a bagel joint and to page me if he hears anything.

I head to Bagel Town, or whatever the hell it was called. I’m chomping on a nice warm and toasty onion bagel with a little bit of cream cheese and a big cup of joe. Hmmm.  The club’s number comes up on my Motorola Advisor. It’s on bitches! I call the golf shop.  One of the 12 Assistants answer and says, “they’re on their way.”
I scoot back to the club and head to the golf shop. No one there yet. It’s time to get a little nervous. JT tells me that he and I are to take care of Mr. Palmer and the President, as per Dave. I say to JT – who do you want to caddie for? He was having trouble deciding. You know, because when your options are The King and a President it’s not a no-brainer, regardless of your political leanings.

He chose the King. I had mixed feelings but felt WAY better once we were told Mr. Palmer was going to be in a cart. So JT was simply going to be driving him all day. BOOOORRRRIIIIING!
JT is already decked out in all white – white pants, white golf shirt, white shoes - rather than don the full white coveralls that were way beneath him. I should add that JT is actually a pretty good guy who is now a HP at another established old club in Louisiana. I see him every year at a golf boondoggle in Orlando.

He and I and the other 2 caddies are standing in front of the golf shop when a caravan of SUV’s pulls up to the bag drop. Two guys, one from each get out of the first two vehicles and come straight to us. There were surprisingly few questions asked and I don’t even remember being patted down, but I was nervous. He could have tugged on the twig’n berries and I may not have felt it.
The next set of vehicles pulls in a few minutes later. More SUV’s and a limo. Remember – this is ’96 so Saddam is still in power and we are 4-5 years post-Gulf War and H.W. Presidency. (also, another side note, Clinton is in office and we are 30 days away from re-election)

The group goes to the range where we are to meet them and get introduced. We do so. Pleasantries are shared and they start beating balls. The President & Mr. P. are set up next to each on the range. With me. Pennzoil guy and Dave are further down the way. I am simply standing there watching them hit balls and listening to them shoot the shit while I try and look busy cleaning clubs. The Pres engages me in a conversation, asking what my story is. I tell him, tell him why I’m there and that my home is in Annandale at the time. He inquires a little bit about my work and says, “did ya hear that Arnold?” Arnold says “No” so George reiterates my purpose in life at the time. It was my first out of body experience.
And we begin the round. The pairings are Dave & the President against Mr. P and Mr. Pennzoil. The day prior everyone was asked not to mention who was playing golf today and at a club like this where this is a pretty common occurrence, everyone abided and because so there was no one near the first tee to watch. Well, maybe a few people, a half dozen or so but not more than that.

Everyone on the planet knows that H.W. is a notoriously fast golfer and that is so very true. I was 26 at the time and though it was well before entering into my tri/fitness phase, I wasn’t a slouch. I REALLY had to hump it to keep even or ahead of him.
I’m not going to give you a hole-by-hole description but very early on, he enlisted my services. On the 2nd hole just off the green, he was indecisive about whether to putt or chip as his ball lay just off the fringe of the green and just in the grass, probably about an inch or two at most. He was the first person I had ever seen use a long-putter. It was big and heavy, like my johnson and was a pain in the ass to have in the bag. He asked me what I thought he should do so I told him, and my advice had nothing to do with the type of putter in his bag but simply on the position of his golf ball relative to the fringe, slope of green, etc.

“Take your pitching or sand wedge and hit the ball right to this area (as I pointed with the end of the flagstick) and the ball will bleed right down within a few feet of the hole.”
He grabbed his pitching wedge. I thought, holy shit. If this works out I’m going to be his bitch (in a good way) all day long. It really was an easy shot. I felt if he putted it he could easily get the putter stuck in the grass or not hit it hard enough through the fringe. It was a no-brainer.

I stand there silent as he takes a few practice strokes. Everyone is silent, not so much because it’s the game of golf but because it is George Bush. He addresses the ball, takes a few small waggles, looks at his spot and takes the club back. All looked good until he started the club’s descent. Oh boy. That looks a little slow there pards. Non-commit much? The clubhead gets to the ball and time just sorta stopped. And then it started again but slowly. The contact with the ball was not solid, not clean at all. Too much grass between the two. Add in the horrific execution and whaddaya get? That’s right people. He TC Chen’s it! For those too lazy to check out the link, he double hit the ball which results in a penalty. How do you double hit the ball might be a question of yours, especially if not a golfer. Well, a few things must happen to do so. And they all happened. The key ingredient though is a really shitty swing.  George was irked. He looked at me. He gave me that look, ya know….he’s got that look. FUUUUUCK. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Fuck. Fuck me. Fuck me runnin. If I had been in a situation where he was one of my pals and my playing partner, the feedback would have been anything but supportive – like a sarcastic “Nice, nice effort,” or a “don’t worry, you just lost the hole for us,” or simply “that was terrible.”
He got over it after a couple of holes. I didn’t though. Anyway, a couple of holes later A.P. is chipping onto the green from about 10 yards off and in front. The others are already on, including his competitors who have the advantage. Arnie takes it back, clips it off the Texas hardpan and the ball takes one big kick before it sizzle spins, checks, bounces, and drops into the cup. “Sizzle spins” is a phrase I just now coined by the way. By this time we’ve got a few dozen people following the group, so the birdie is accompanied with a small roar.  Because of where I was standing in relation to his position, about 15 yards off his belt buckle, with nary a reaction he watches the ball drop, looks right at me, smiles, and winks. Smiles. And winks. Arnold Palmer. At me. I spent about 4 ½ hours attached to a former President’s hip yet this is what made that day. That month. That year.

I’ve been fortunate to have been in his presence a handful of times since, as recent as this past Summer when I was invited to his club in Orlando, Bay Hill, by a good friend who works with a good friend of Arnie’s. Ya hear that a lot, “oh, I know a guy who is a friend of Arnold Palmer’s…” Well that’s because he does have a lot of friends. This guy is inner circle. When Arnie flew to Augusta for the last time this past April, this guy was on Palmer’s plane with him. My buddy has been trying to get me down there for the better part of the year to hang out and meet Arnie.
So was able to make it happen. We play and then hang out down in the men’s locker room & grill. It’s a who’s who of older guys playing cards. Hawk Harrelson. Dick Ferris (Former United Airlines CEO and Pebble Beach owner along with Arnie and a few others you’ve heard of). Dow Finsterwald. A guy from the family who used to own the Minnesota Twins. A descendant of the guy who founded Oakmont. Former PGA Tour player Robert Damron. My buddy has gotten to know all of these guys because he spends no less than 30 days a year there at the club and these guys I mention – they’re there almost every day. Golf. Cards. Drink. Eat. Repeat. And A.P. is right there with them minus the golf.

My buddy and Bob (Arnie’s good pal) are at a table next to these guys playing cards. Dow comes over and sits down. An hour later he leaves our table. An hour of Arnie stories from Dow Finsterwald all the while sitting 8 feet from the subject, sippin on chilled Tito’s. Dow is an 11-time winner on Tour, PGA Champion, 4-time Ryder Cupper, and if it weren’t for Arnie would have another 3-4 majors under his belt. Dow and he were bro’s, neighbors, runnin buddies. I’m feeling for Mr. Finsterwald today among others.
From that round in Houston I have a couple of mementos. Two golf balls with the presidential seal. One scorecard that I kept and had both Bush and Arnie sign. And a picture I took with my piece of shit disposable of those two guys posing for a picture. It would not have been kosher to ask someone to take a picture of us, so I did the next best thing. It’s a crappy picture but it’s one of those two guys standing side by side, posing for a picture that I took. I have the golf balls but after a few moves am unable to locate the other stuff. Here are the ballthz.
Though I didn’t get to sit and chat with the King as was expected (not be my but my buddy), I did get to shake his hand again and look him in the eye one last time. And I knew it was the last time.

The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

There may, in the course of history, been men cooler than Arnold Palmer, more charismatic than The King. But you could likely count them on one hand. Your grandfather wanted to be him. Your grandmother wanted to be with him (and many of them probably were). All-American, one of a kind icon.

The King and The Greatest are having a heck of a conversation right about now.

Friday, September 23, 2016

In For a Penny...

Since it turns out that this is Beavis and Butthead week (again?) here, we'd be remiss if we didn't offer an opinion on the top episodes of all time. Not our opinion, mind you - that requires effort - but the opinion of the OC Weekly, which I believe is fictional.

See it here, and provide your biased commentary in the, um, comments. Cool.

As might be expected, they go with 'Cornholio' as the top episode. Hard to argue that, but it's also the safest route. Still makes me laugh, though.

Beavis and Butthead vaya cornholio by AeroLIger

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ledell Betts, Alfred Morris, and Clarence's Pal

Won't you join me in wishing our friend Whitney a happy 46th birthday today? By request, one of his favorites:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Your periodic compendium of things cobbled together from around the Gheorghosphere.

After November, regardless of the outcome of the election, there's going to be a reckoning. I feel pretty strongly that the Trump campaign stands firmly on the wrong side of history, and even if he were to win (which still isn't probable, but sure as fuck is more likely than sanity would presume), his impact over the broader arc of time will be seen as an aberration, the last gasp of a terrified racial nationalism that was morally dead by the 1960s. And even if we wins, we will find a time as a nation to take a roll call of those that supported him directly - and more importantly, of those that enabled him, like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the roster of leading Republicans too fearful of losing their own place in elite circles to choose principle and nation over party and power. History will not be kind to those men and women.

It will, according to the G:TB historical analysts, be kind to George H.W. Bush. (Do you have any idea how hard it was to type 'George' without using an 'h'?) The 41st President has apparently been freely telling acquaintances that he supports Hillary Clinton for President. That he's a Republican makes this newsworthy. That she's the wife of the man that made him a one-term President makes him a goddamn American hero. We salute you, H-free George.

I insist that you read, deconstruct, and think deeply about yesterday's Sentence of Dave. It both captures the genius and cultural moment of Seinfeld precisely and analyzes what we've lost as a society since that show left the air succinctly. It ends thusly, "...but not knowing that the Seinfeldian brand pre-9/11 irony and absurdity was on its way out, to be replaced by something darker, and the hypersensitive, super-silly tone of the '90's was about to end, and people my age (46) would yearn for this feeling for the rest of their lives (Beavis and Butthead)."

That's fucking brilliant.

One of you (or some combination of ones of yous) has to have enough money to make a dream come true. The legendary Dixie Liquor in Georgetown (another fucking no-h George) has fallen on hard times. Closed since July 4, the packie at the foot of the Key Bridge (head, maybe?) is rumored to be up for sale. As a personal family friend of a former owner of the joint, I might be able to put a word in for you, if you want in.

Many thanks to my man Clarence (who's just 24 hours from celebrating his friend Whitney's 46th birthday) for sending me this video from 60 Minutes Australia of Neil Finn and Paul Seymour playing 'Don't Dream It's Over' for the first time in five years (the song starts at . There are very few songwriters who match Finn. I will not argue this. This song takes me back. Don't let them win.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Talent, Also Filler

The Pixies inspire a wide range of emotion in the alt-rock community, mostly because of the high expectations they set for themselves with their early work. They haven't released an album since 1991's Trompe Le Monde, which, honestly, was okay. But it wasn't Doolittle.

So many albums weren't Doolittle, as it turns out.

25 years later, Black Francis and Frank Black and all the rest of the gang, sans Kim Deal, have finally released a new record. And this conflicted alt-rock kid kinda digs the new single, 'Talent'.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Whitney's Back

Founding Gheorgie Whitney hasn't been seen or heard much around these parts in quite some time. Some say it's because he grew up and put away childish things. Others that he's simply too busy to make his way to this remote corner of the blogosphere. (Still others can't believe we still use the term 'blogosphere'.) Clarence, who probably knows him the best, generally tries to change the subject when it inevitably comes up.

We think we might've solved the mystery, though. Whitney was always into music, and as the lead singer of Random Idiots and several side projects with Greasetruck, Almighty Yojo, Dave, and others, he perfected an everyman vocal style that was at once relatable and not all that good.

That's all changed.

Last month, Whitney released a new record. His voice has risen to a Bon Iver-esque falsetto, and the production values have improved significantly. His band now features horns, noodling guitars, and a melancholy affect, as evident in his first single, 'No Woman'.

While none of the guys in the band look particularly like the Whitney we know, the prominent use of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the video is a dead giveaway.

Whitney plays DC9 in Washington on October 6. If that's not a great opportunity for a mini-Summit, then I don't know what is. Maybe we can get Clarence there, too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

When a moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a-Gheorghe

Apparently, the big fella is back in the ad business. Not sure this is a Don Draper special from the fine folks at Paisano's.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

#39 on Your Roster, But #1 in Your Heart

While this is not a 9/11 post, there is some discussion of religious belief and mind control, and I suppose you need both those things to convince 19 hijackers to fly planes into buildings. But let's go back to a simpler time, pre-9/11 . . . 1990.

It was my sophomore year at William and Mary, and Whitney, Rob and I liked to listen to Paul's Boutique. All the time. We had the luxury to do this because we skipped class. All the time.

Time was on our side. All the time.

One of the classes I skipped all the time was "American Cults, Sects, and Small Denominations." I took this class because I found cults and fringe-religions interesting. As a bonus, the class had the word "cult" in the title, and I loved the rock band The Cult. So I took this class despite that fact that it required some prerequisites (which I had not taken) and despite the fact that religion classes at W&M were notoriously difficult.

I didn't do my reading, nor did I attend class very much, and so I wasn't particularly surprised to receive a D- on the first test. As a bonus, the professor-- I can't remember his name-- gave us an extra piece of data along with our grade: your class rank on that particular test. I was #39 out of 42. I took solace in the fact that I wasn't dead last, but I never counted more than 39 students in class . . . so the other three students-- the students that finished below me-- could have been dead, comatose, or nonexistent (perhaps the professor didn't want me to have terrible self-esteem, so he invented three people to buffer me from the very bottom).

I took this low test ranking to heart-- as our grade would only comprise two tests and a final exam-- and so when the next exam approached, I was determined to study. I would do the reading, acquire the notes, and get my act together. This was the plan. Or it was the plan until someone told me something life-altering. Something that would literally alter the course of my life. What did this person tell me? She told me this: There's a hypnotist at the student center. People are gonna get mesmerized! Hypnotized! A once in a lifetime event.

I had a great time at the show. I tried my best to get hypnotized, but my hands didn't stick together. They felt a little tacky, but I was able to pull them apart. Other folks couldn't separate their fingers, and these people-- their hands stuck together with hypnotic crazy glue-- walked up to the stage. Within moments the hypnotist had them in his command. The enthralled students enacted a circus, saw aliens, and swooned when the word "lemon" was mentioned.

It was awesome to watch. I felt relaxed and energized. It was far more salubrious than studying. I went into the exam brimming with confidence-- I was calm, cool, and collected. I had an excess of mental energy. I had done no reading and I had perused no notes. Yet I was a ball of cognition, a flaming sphere of mental activity. The power of my mind had been released.

I believed this was all due to the hypnotism show at the student center.

Several weeks later, when I received this exam back, I was (mildly) shocked to find that I scored a D- again.  The mildness of the shock was due to the fact that I had inured myself to bad grades in the previous seven years. But I learned a lesson. Hypnotism is fun, but it's no substitute for reading the text, especially in an obtuse religion class. But while I was disappointed with my grade, I was oddly pleased by the fact that once more I was #39 out of 42 in the class ranking. It's always exciting to discover a pattern. And I still couldn't locate students 40-42.

Weeks passed. Whitney, Rob, and I memorized the lyrics to Paul's Boutique. We skipped class more than ever. Then it was time for the final exam, and I realized the gravity of my situation. I studied. I really did. I read some shit, and got a hold of some notes. I wrote a lot. And then I saw it. At the end of the exam, there was a spot where you had to verify your test scores during the semester. I smiled. I smiled knowingly. This was the perfect spot for me to plead my case and improve my grade. Who could resist my wit? My clever clever wit. I wrote "D-" and "D-" in the two grade slots, and I included my class ranking with each grade. I put the information in parentheses. Number 39 out of 42. Then I wrote:"Dave . . . number #39 on your roster, but #1 in your heart."

I received a D- for the course. I assume the professor just didn't get it. But I wish he could see me now . . . because The Test has just released two religious episodes. One is on cults, but no prerequisite podcasts are necessary to enjoy it. The other is about the Bible . . . mainly the Old Testament. This episode is as close as we've come to informative (although God has a couple of monologues that some folks might consider heretical). Check them out, keep score, and see if you can virtue signal your way through the pearly gates.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Make G:TB Great Again: A Bills Season Preview, Alternatively Titled Zut Alors, C'est le Football Américain!

While we're all eager to celebrate all things football, this year's opening Sunday falls on a somber anniversary. I hope you find the time to reflect on that day and everything you've been fortunate to experience since then.


Now back to our regularly scheduled dipshittery.

Robert Mays beat me to the punch as to why the Bills will stink this year. In a nutshell, their defense lost Pro Bowler Marcell Dareus to rehab, first and second round picks Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland to injuries, jawbreaker IK Enempkali to injury, Nigel Bradham to the Eagles, and Mario Williams to the team's general stupidity. And they cut Manny Lawson.

Accordingly, I am not optimistic that they will improve on last year's 8-8 record. In fact, here's how I see things unfolding weekly.

Most of these columns are self-explanatory, except for the "why" column, which I will explain.

"west coast" means that the Bills will lose the game because it's on the west coast. In the Pacific time zone, Buffalo is 16-36-1 all-time; 5-15 in their last twenty games; 2-9 since 2000; and 0-5 in their last five games. I see no reason for optimism in any of the road trips to Seattle (one of the best three teams in football with serious home field advantage), Oakland (everyone's favorite up-and-coming team), or LA (fearsome pass rush, Todd Gurley).

Running tally of losses: 3

"pats" means that the Bills will lose the game because it's against the Pats. Against the Patriots, Buffalo is 4-28 since 2000; 2-18 in their last twenty games; and had a fifteen game losing streak from 2003 to 2010. The week 4 game will feature Jimmy Garappolo instead of Tom Brady, but Buffalo will lose anyway because it's at Gillette. In away games versus the Pats, the Bills are 20-36 all-time; 2-14 since 2000; 3-17 in their last 20 games; and had a twelve game losing streak from 2001 to 2013. Think about that last factoid--that span includes both of W's terms, all of Obama's first term and a year of his second term! I see no reason for optimism in these two games.

Running tally of losses: 5

"pitt" means that the Bills will lose the game because it's against the Steelers. Against Pittsburgh, Buffalo is 8-13 all-time; 0-5 since 2000; 2-8 in their last ten games; and 1-8 all-time at Pittsburgh. The Steelers have won 61 games in the past six years. By contrast, the Bills have won 59 games in the past nine seasons. I see no reason for optimism in an away game versus Pittsburgh.

Running tally of losses: 6

"jets split" means that the Bills will split the series against the Jets because they are the Bills and Jets. Against the Jets, Buffalo is 17-15 since 2000 and 10-10 in their last twenty games. On the road against the Jets, the Bills are 27-28 all-time; 10-10 since 2000; and 8-12 in their last 20 games. Buffalo won the last five games in this series and the math makes it appear that this trend can't continue much longer.

Running tally of losses: 7

"fish split" means that the Bills will split the series against the Fish because they are the Bills and Fish. Against Miami, the Bills are 17-15 since 2000 and 12-8 in their last 20 games. In games played in Miami, the Bills are merely 17-32-1 all-time but 7-9 since 2000; 8-12 in their last 20 games; and 5-5 in their last ten games. Hence I predict a split. Miami will lose in Buffalo because the game will be played on December 24. I guarantee that the weather will be brutally cold (hence the "cold" in the "why" column) and will make the Floridians want to get back on the plane as soon as possible. Except for Jay Fiedler, they will also be unhappy that they have to travel western New York to play a game on Christmas Eve in a frozen wasteland of unemployment and alcoholism instead of celebrating the birth of the messiah with family and friends in beautiful south Florida.

Running tally of losses: 8

"good team" means that the Bills will lose the game because it's against a good team. The Bengals made the playoffs five years running, with 52 wins over that span. By contrast, the Bills won 52 games over the past eight years and haven't made the playoffs in sixteen years. The Cardinals are no slouch either, with 34 wins and two playoff appearances over the past three seasons. I see no reason for optimism in an away game versus Cincy or any game against the Cardinals.

Running tally of losses: 10

I think they can beat the Niners at home and the Ravens in Baltimore because they are bad teams, even badder than the Bills. They'll beat Cleveland because Cleveland used all its mojo up with the Cavaliers. I have no idea why they'll beat Jacksonville, I guess I'm just not picking up what the Jaguars are putting down. Splits with the Jets and Fish account for the other two wins.

So the Bills will go 6-10. If I'm in a really optimistic mood I might convince myself that Buffalo can sweep the Jets and Dolphins. Thus even my most optimistic view is another 8-8 season.

I'm happier to hear, and even encourage, rosier predictions for the Bills in the comments. But I don't expect any.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

WWzD: I need this 504 convertible

I spend more time than I care to admit pawing through the Hemmings app. My desire for a vintage air-cooled 911 in a lurid hue is well documented. Unfortunately others in my age demographic share this desire, and the ballers among us have driven 911 prices through the roof. There are several other cars I'd like to own and that are within the reach of my relatively limited means. Foreshadowing for another episode of WWzD!

I've also considered buying a cheap but cool old car abroad--although many foreign cars are impossible to register in the US, once they are at least 25 years old you can import and register them legally. Now all the big-timers out there can get their 959s!

The ideal car would be good-looking (sorry all you homeless Lotus Europae out there), European (the entire impetus for availing myself of the 25 year rule), relatively uncommon in the US but plentiful abroad (so it's easy to get parts), convertible (natch--anyone who dislikes convertibles never owned one or simply has no soul), and cheaper than a Honda Accord (because I'm cheap).

That said, I always believed that the likelihood I would ever find something I would legitimately want to buy on Hemmings was barely more than zero. But then I found this 1978 Peugeot 504 convertible.

Only the French--those brilliant voluptuaries who brought us mayonnaise, brassieres, Laetitia Casta, champagne, tongue kissing, cabarets, fried shoestring potatoes, Bridget Bardot, foie gras, roulette, menages a trois, Catherine Deneuve, latex, bikinis, and the Statue of Liberty--could make something so aesthetically wonderful.

The proportions are fantastic and make ladies swoon. The front swells over the wheels and plunges down to meet the headlights, giving the front a serious and purposeful, but not overly/comically intimidating, mien. The front overhang is almost nonexistent. The interior is preposterously Gallic: the steering wheel has only two spokes (and they're at 3 and 9 o'clock for proper hand placement); none of the switches are labeled; the air vents are positioned so that they cannot possibly blow air on the driver or passenger; the most prominent control, other than the steering wheel and shifter, is the center-mounted cigarette lighter; and the windows appear to be raised and lowered via a knob (as opposed to a more practical crank).

According to this fool who also fell victim to the Peug's siren song, there are about a dozen 504 coupes and convertibles in the US. So this drop-top 504 ticks almost all the boxes. At 26500 Euros it's less than a fully loaded Accord, but it's still more than I'm willing to spend. Perhaps I should modify this particular requirement to a used-but-well-loved-and-maintained Honda Civic from the 20th century.

Further, I have no idea how much it will cost to get this beauty over here from the Netherlands. And my garage is too small to hold a car. And I wouldn't want to store this exposed to the elements in my driveway (which would be at max capacity with another car). And zwoman would not appreciate the expenditure (as opposed to saving up to remodel the kitchen or send zkids to college). A man has to have dreams though.

PS: I hope you enjoy the 6th day of the 9th month!

Monday, September 05, 2016

zTravelogue: I Know It When I See It, Especially At Dinner Time

I didn't consume only western media and Japanese pop culture on my trip to Osaka, I consumed lots of food. Lots of really really good food, mostly seafood. The quality of the food alone makes Japan a worthwhile vacation destination. And I had work-related meals every night I was there so I got to see a broad range of good authentic Japanese cuisine. Here are some highlights.

I went to dinner with some Bostonians my first night in Osaka. They wanted to go to the Dotonbori neighborhood because "it's the Times Square of Osaka!!" I bit my tongue and went along with it. Lots of neon, lots of bootleg t-shirts, lots of tourists. Yep, it's the Times Square of Osaka!! But there are plenty of good restaurants. We went to Chibo, a spot that specializes in okonomiyaki, which is sort of like a cross between an omelette and a pancake stuffed with seafood and coated with mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. It's much better than it sounds. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chef isn't Jewish and doesn't take Leviticus seriously--everything contained shellfish, pork, and/or meat with cheese. I got the "number one" which has cuttlefish, octopus, scallops and a giant prawn sticking out of it:

The next morning I went to the hotel's complimentary breakfast buffet:

Fish and pickled vegetables for breakfast! Miso soup too. I'm a shameless caffeine addict so I washed it all down with coffee, which was surprisingly and uniformly excellent throughout Osaka. I got used to this combination after a day or two.

I tried big sushi plates twice. The first was at an upscale shopping center:

It was very good although not the best I ever had. It's more like the clean, refined flavors of Yasuda than the bold Americanized fusion stuff you get at Nobu or O Ya. There were a few noteworthy differences. The wasabi is completely different from the wasabi you get here, aside from its color. Taste, texture, solubility, consistency, you name it it's different. The wasabi is always complemented with these little red flowers, which you're supposed to put on the sushi along with the wasabi. Sometimes you get a pile of chunky sea salt which also belongs on the food (they include this salt with lots of stuff, not just sushi).

Later I went to dinner with two guys I know very well. They're native Osakans in their mid-to-late thirties so they took me to a cool neighborhood with lots of trendy restaurants and young people. We ate and drank our asses off at The Swimming Squid. Highlights include some of the best sushi I've ever had:

The pink strips on the left are fatty tuna, and they absolutely destroy the stuff we call fatty tuna here. It dissolves in your mouth like a fishy communion wafer and it's just as religious an experience. Indeed, if a food can become the body of Christ then the fatty tuna at The Swimming Squid is mostly likely the Messiah.

The white fluffy looking stuff on the bottom left isn't rice, it's sweetfish carefully chopped all the way through the meat but not the skin, so they can turn it inside out and make it look like rice. Apparently this is a traditional way to prepare it in Osaka. The three solid white fish are cuttlefish, squid, an octopus. I can't remember all the other fish but they were outstanding.

They ordered some stuff expressly to gross me out but with no success. One such dish is made as follows: take a squid and hit him with a mallet so he's stunned. Then take a knife and cut him into strips. Slide everything on the cutting board into a bowl. It looks like this:

It was very salty but not bad. The bowl clearly contained ink and other squidly fluids, some of which I don't want to ponder too deeply (like squid shit and squid jizz).

Another gross-out attempt was dried ray wing. They cut the wings off of stingrays and dry them like jerky. They serve them with an open flame so that you can heat them to make them soft, then you dip them into mayonnaise. I liked it.

The final and allegedly grossest course was giant fish eggs on rice. One of my friends was absolutely stunned that I scarfed it down.

I said "What's the big deal, it's just fish eggs and rice" to which he replied "That's not rice."

Turns out the rice were baby sardines or something similar. I don't see why this is any grosser than eating full-grown sardines so I kept on munching. It was really tasty.

This segues nicely into my favorite aspect of Japanese cuisine: what you're eating often looks the same as it did when it was alive. You know it when you see it! Like this squid dish:

And this sweetfish dish:

The only truly unsettling part of a Japanese meal is the alcohol. Every meal starts with beer, which over there is really malt liquor. From there you move to saki and then shochu, which is sort of like a 60 proof vodka made typically from rice (although the stuff made from chestnuts is faaaaaaantastic). After this approach was explained to me at my first big dinner, I blurted out "So we're doing beer before liquor?!?" which made my fellow Americans smile and my hosts reply with a matter-of-fact "Yes."

If you ever go to Japan I encourage you to keep an open mind when it comes to food and try everything you can no matter how intimidating. You never know when you'll stumble across a hidden gem like aloe yogurt!

Saturday, September 03, 2016

I Know It When I See It, and I See You Austin Murphy!

"I know it when I see it" isn't a particularly impressive legal test--it's possibly the most subjective line of reasoning anyone could put forth to justify an outcome. But sometimes it just works.

For example, when I introduced "Blurred Lines" to G:TB just over three years ago, I said "If 'Blurred Lines' doesn't sample Michael Jackson's 'Whew!' and rip off Marvin Gaye's 'Got to Give it Up' then I'm Quincy Jones." Marvin Gaye's kids probably read G:TB because they sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for copyright infringement and won. I knew it when I saw it!

When the New York Times reported on the case, they said "the music industry has been gripped by a lawsuit over whether Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit 'Blurred Lines' was merely reminiscent of a song by Marvin Gaye, or had crossed the line into plagiarism." The line between reminiscence and plagiarism has again been blurred at G:TB.

Three and a half years ago, rob wrote a post about rubgy and the NFL. To call it a post doesn't do the piece justice. It's like calling David a statue of a naked guy. It's so good that one particularly erudite commenter said "This is fucking brilliant."

The piece is set in 2030 and it opens with the contrivance that rubgy has passed the NFL in popularity. Although the NFL still exists, more people watch the rugby championship than they do the Super Bowl. Along the way it quotes Ta-Nehisi Coates, cites various concussion-related events that took place before the real date on which the piece was written, and references the fictitious "upstart American Rugby League."

Three days ago, Austin Murphy wrote a piece for about the future of football. The piece is set in 2036 and it opens with the contrivance that rugby has passed the NFL in popularity. The NFL no longer exists, so instead of watching the Super Bowl people watch rugby. Along the way it quotes Ta-Nehisi Coates, cites various concussion-related events that took place before the real date on which the piece was written, and references the fictitious "American Rugby League."

Blurred lines indeed. I know it when I see it.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Gheorghe's Milestones in Music

A recent survey conducted by the Clarence Institute of Finding Shit Out (CIFSO™) shed some light on some of the foundations of musical event attendance by the gheorghies through the years. Its intent was to allow GTB writers and readers alike to develop a contextual understanding of some of the posts and comments where rock and roll music is the topic. I dare say that we have learned a lot.

Note: if you consider yourself a gheorghie (a. get help, but b. . . .) and you were not surveyed, please do not take offense.  CIFSO standards and practices ensure a level of disorganization, gaps, scattershotness, haphazardry, outdated e-mail addresses, and erroneous data collection.  By our very design we incorporate a percentage error plus or minus 37.  It's what we do.

On to the findings.

We wanted to learn about concerts attended.  It's our belief at CIFSO that something as simple as the purchase of Snow's Twelve Inches of Snow is an egregious music error, but it's one easily made (sort of) and without much consequence.  (Like twelve bucks or so.)  It should not reflect too poorly on the purchaser nor render his opinion of Social Distortion's major label debut moot and meaningless.

Going to a show, though?  Well, mistakes can be made, but in our statistical expert opinion, it's a far more telling barometer of the quality of rock music taste.  Or lack thereof.  It says a lot about you if you have seen Billy Joel 27 times. Or moe.  Or Ned's Atomic Dustbin.  Or Garth Brooks.  Or the Weather Girls.  And the knowledge of whom you pay and/or travel to see rock it out helps serve our reading audience with background information.  Let's face it, reading Dave's well-crafted post from yesterday with the backstory that he either: (a) pays to see Jersey Shore cover bands meticulously cover old songs while he hates the original versions of those old songs, (b) was an indie pioneer and saw the Flaming Lips in a tiny room in college, or (c) got a hard rock band tattooed on his leg and then went to see them more than any other act . . . well, the more you know . . .

Anyway, that stuff plus the gheorghies' original foundations of seeing music once upon a time, as well as how far each concert-goer was willing to travel for a certain act all makes for good intel . . . for filtering out the bullcrap of some yahoo who broke their cherry on Warrant and made connecting flights to see Toby Keith.

Here we go.

The first question we asked of the GTBers was what their first concert was.  Who took your rock show virginity?  You always remember your first.  Unless you're Dave.

G:TB's First Concerts
TR: Whitesnake/Great White
Danimal: O.M.D. opening for Thompson Twins '85
Marls: Herman's Hermits/The Turtles
Squeaky: The Cars, Hampton Beach, NH
Zman: John Denver
Dave: either Sting (Dream of the Blue Turtles) or R.E.M. (Fables of the Reconstruction) with the Feelies, 1985
Mark: Warped Tour (Fishbone/Rancid headliners)
rob: Chicagoooo!!!
Shlara: The Jacksons (as in Michael and his brothers) Victory Tour at RFK
Whitney: The Monkees (w/ Herman’s Hermits); Grateful Dead a few months later.  Apparently I was born during WWII...
TJ: Steve Winwood, 1990, SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center – great venue). Warren Zevon opened for Winwood. That is correct – Warren Zevon opened for Steve Winwood. Almost 30 years later I’m still baffled by this.
KQ: Go-Go's at Kings Dominion. BoDeans opened.
Mr. KQ: Peter Frampton
Clarence: Eddie and the Cruisers at Tony Mart’s, followed quickly by Stillwater
CIFSO can draw some interesting conclusions here, both individually and as a group.  But we won't. That's not what we do!  Instead we will let you do that in the comments.

We followed that question with this one: What's the furthest you ever traveled for a rock and roll show?

G:TB's Longest Road Trip for a Show
Zman: NY to Boston to see BRMC with Squeaky. NJ to Boston to see Jane's Addiction, Dinosaur Jr, and Living Colour with Squeaky but he didn't get the tickets so we saw a bluegrass band instead. So 225 to 250 miles.
Whitney: San Francisco for Outside Lands Music Festival ’14. Non-festival: Wilco in Brooklyn with Squeaky or the RnR HoF opener in '95 with Evan.
Squeaky: While living in VA saw a band at the Crocodile Club in Seattle. Can't remember the band but it was an offshoot of Mudhoney. And also 54-40 in Vancouver.
Mark: Smokin Grooves Tour - Cleveland, OH (Jurassic 5, The Roots, Outkast)

rob: Does JazzFest count? If not that, we saw King Sunny Ade at Millennium Park in Chicago last month.
Shlara: Foo Fighters in London
Danimal: U2 in Chicago
Marls: Don Ho in Honolulu
TR: Saw a Panic run at the Wiltern Theatre in LA in '01
TJ: OK, well, if you count Latham as my home, I guess it’s the Tribe Called Quest concert I saw at William and Mary. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever traveled to see a concert – I’ve always seen concerts in close proximity to where I was living at the time. [Ed. Note: Lame.]
KQ: That's probably Sister Hazel in Atlanta.

Mr. KQ: B-52’s, Orlando, FL circa 1981
Dave: Daytona! Primus/Salt 'n' Pepa/Ugly Kid Joe/Naughty By Nature [Ed. Note: a couple of other gheorghies were there as well, so this might be their actual pick]
Clarence: Spinal Tap, Cleveland / Detroit; Nick Rivers with special guest Autobahn in Germany; Infant Sorrow at the Greek
As CIFSO could have predicted (but didn't), answers ranged from inter-continental to barely across town. Interesting, mildly.

Finally, the crack engineers of this survey felt that its centerpiece had to be the band each of the group has seen most.  There are few truer gauges of your musical taste than the artists you have plunked down cash and gone to see the most.  One stray visit to a Dead show is one thing, but if you have seen 73 Phish concerts, we can assume more things about you.  Prejudices are created, like chances are you don't think of "Ringwald" when I say "Molly."  You get it.  This is like KGB.  Answer questions, please, comrade.

G:TB's Musical Acts Seen the Most in Concert

Okay, children, it's time for a game.  Match the gheorghie to their most-seen band!

The gheorghies:
(Ed. Note: The Gheorghies is a good name for a band . . . if it's not already taken)
Clarence – Danimal – Dave – KQ – Mark – Marls –Mr. KQ – rob – Shlara – Squeaky – TJ – TR – Whitney – Zman
The concerts (and how many times):
- U2 - 6 times 
- Aerosmith (3 times between 1994 and 1998) 

- Probably Pearl Jam, though Carbon Leaf and Sister Hazel are up there. (I could count but I was under the impression there would be no math.) 

- Drive-By Truckers (5 or 6 times and Jason Isbell twice). Allmans 4 or 5 times. 

- Widespread Panic (35-40x) 

- Either Old 97’s or They Might Be Giants. If you count Rhett solo shows, it's probably the former. (8ish) 

- Wilco (~17 times) 

- Has to be The Cult! (7?) 

- Either The Allman Bros or Springsteen (Sorry, 70’s and early 80s a bit of a blur) 4 or 5 each 

- The Roots (7-8 times) 

- Foo Fighters (like 8 or 9 times). Everyone else is only 4-5 times: U2, Grateful Dead, Bruce, Old 97's, Glen Hansard 

- Reverend Horton Heat (4 or 5 times) 

- Bob Mould (7 times) Widespread Panic, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order (4 times)

- Either The Zack Attack or Wyld Stallyns, maybe 69 times each . . . although I spent a lot of time seeing Dr. Fünke’s 100 Percent Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution, much of which I don't remember thanks to the forget-me-nows

Make your picks at home and wait for the Answer Key to published in this space soon.  Good luck!

CIFSO's survey is complete.  Please do not find fault in the process. Because there is none.  Just learn about your co-bloggers, judge if you must, mock as a rule.  Enjoy.  (And go see more shows.)