Monday, July 24, 2017

The Great Gig in the Sky

So apparently Eddie Vedder joined Roger Waters onstage for "Comfortably Numb" recently.  Not bad.


Now, Roger made the Douche List AND has irritated a whole lot of people lately with his anti-Israel remarks. Meanwhile, a friend of mine who works for the best music venue in Hampton Roads (and whose family co-owns the cottage we inhabit for the fishing trip) tells me that the band I saw last night is a bunch of truly nice people.  So maybe you should watch their rendition of the same song instead.


And for those brothers of the Virginia Psi chapter of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity*, you may want to watch this.  And fall into the fetal position, shaking. Enjoy the inflatable kangaroo.

*before it went all soft in the eras of Marls and Teej; they may not appreciate this


Anyway, Roger Waters and David Gilmour are done playing together forever.  Their reunion for the Live 8 concert was 12 years ago now.  You can go see one of their individual shows and pay some inflated rate to watch a grumpy famous guy or you can watch The Australian Pink Floyd Show crank out astoundingly note-for-note, brilliant versions of the classics.  (They started with a full run-through of Dark Side of the Moon and then went from there last night.)

Good stuff.

Friday, July 21, 2017

G:TB Writing Challenge/Friday Filler

On this day in 1899, Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, IL. In honor of Papa's birthday, we kick off the first-ever G:TB Writing Challenge. See the advice in the image below, and head to the comments to enter. Some restrictions apply, namely, if you're Dave, don't assume that the judges will have the same interpretation of 'sentence' as you do.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Get Up, Get Moving

We've talked about NPR's Tiny Desk concert series here before, though probably not enough. One of these days, I'll do a post about my favorite sessions. (Note: that probably won't happen, as it'd require effort.)

Today, though, a little get off your ass and move music to get the day started. Here's Rare Essence from earlier this week, all packed around Bob Boilen's desk and delivering D.C.-style go-go. Hard to watch this and not get body movin'.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Chronicles of an Aging Gheorghie Meets Greasetruck (Eventually): The A-Fib Blues

Our man at the beach returns with another cautionary tale about growing old, getting medical tape stuck to groin-area hair, and surgical adventure. This time with a twist, as sedation met inspiration. Today's post is the first of a multi-parter, wherein Fairbank writes lyrics for a different Dave to set to music and record. Stay tuned.

I’ve been saddled with heart arrhythmia, specifically atrial fibrillation, for several years. It’s not constant, it doesn’t limit activity or exercise, and I rarely feel it. Still, if left untreated, it increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and other unpleasant outcomes. I’ve come to think of my heart as a family, where three or four responsible, hard-working siblings will eventually be brought down by the alcoholic brother with a couple of priors who can’t hold a job.

Which is how I found myself recently at the Norfolk Heart Hospital for Round 2 of Fun With Catheters and Electrically Charged Wires. Not to denigrate the good folks at the hospital, who are wizards that perform daily damn miracles, and in my experience, are uniformly engaging and of good cheer.

Atrial flutter and fibrillation can be treated with medicines or surgery. One isn’t superior to the others, and is often a personal choice. Meds treat the symptoms. The more invasive procedure, an ablation, is the only option that offers the chance of a permanent fix. An ablation consists of inserting a catheter into a vein in your groin area and sliding it north several inches through your hip. A small wire is snaked through the catheter, into your heart and deadens the area causing the faulty electrical impulses responsible for the arrhythmia.

Am I the only one that thinks A-Fib looks like Gonzo?
I had an ablation done 18 months prior, but that didn’t take. Further testing determined that the offending area this time was in a different heart chamber. The success rate for that particular procedure isn’t as high as the electro-cardiologist would like – 75 to 80 percent. But again, it provided the only chance at a fix, and beat the prospect of a lifetime of blood thinners and heart regulating meds. The procedure required catheters in each groin, a smaller one on the left side to check the previous ablation, and a larger one up the right side to address the current fib. The doc said afterward that early indications are that this one will take, though only time will tell whether I’m part of 3 in 4 or the less fortunate 1 in 4. After an overnight stay for observation, I was home the next day. I’m padding around for a few days, and peeling off the tape and dressings from around the groin incisions was a special moment.

Sometimes, discomfort and adversity inspire creativity. Or in my case, a frivolous diversion. With apologies to Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins, here’s a traditional style, slow blues number I wrote while laying in my hospital bed as the anesthesia wore off and I stared at my IVs and heart monitor.

                                                                A-Fib Blues
Gypsy woman told me
You won’t stammer or stutter
But you’re gonna have
An atrial flutter

Heart can’t tell
A saint from a sinner
But you’ll need a beta blocker
And a big ol’ blood thinner

Won’t do no good
To wail and shout
Just avoid sharp objects
And try not to bleed out

CHORUS
Talked to the cardiologist
He gave me the news
Son, your heart’s quiverin’
You got them a-fib blues

They see this condition
All over the nation
Doc recommended
A cardiac ablation

Pretty little nurses
Gonna tend to your groin
And you don’t even have to
Give ‘em no coin

Needles and tubes stickin’ in
Guaranteed not to please ya
But you’ll catch a break
When you’re under anesthesia

They snip pulmonary vessels
And cauterize nerves
I said, please, please doctor
Don’t let your hand swerve

CHORUS
Talked to the cardiologist
He gave me the news
Son, your heart’s just a quiverin’
You got them a-fib blues

Recovery ain’t bad
Body’s a little off
But whatever you do
Don’t sneeze and don’t cough

Doc thinks it’s fixed
Don’t believe he’s a faker
Just hoping to avoid
Getting a pacemaker

CHORUS
Talked to the electro-cardiologist
He gave me the news
Son, your heart’s quiverin’
You got them a-fib blues
Son, your heart’s not deliverin’
You got them atrial fibrillation bluuuues

Saturday, July 15, 2017

There's Only One Bradley Lowery

The athlete visits sick kid trope is nearly as old as modern sports. Babe Ruth legendarily hit a trio of homers in Game 4 of the 1926 World Series after visiting 11 year-old Johnny Sylvester in the hospital and promising a round tripper. So legendarily, in fact, that Sylvester has his own Wikipedia entry.

Sometimes, probably most times, the athletes in question provide a momentary bright ray for a stricken child before they return to their lives. More rarely, kids and their heroes develop real relationships, a testament to a shared humanity that transcends age and class and circumstance. Recall, for instance, Michigan State basketball player Adreian Payne and his friendship with little Lacey Holsworth, who lost her life to cancer in 2014 at the age of 8.

In the case of English soccer player Jermain Defoe, there's only one Bradley Lowery.

Defoe is the 7th-leading scorer in English Premier League history, tallying 158 goals in 16 seasons in England's top tier, with another 20 in 57 appearances for the English national team. At 34, he's nearing the finish line of his decorated career, but he still managed to bang in 15 goals for Sunderland last season. His efforts weren't enough to keep the Black Cats from relegation, so he moved on after three seasons in Tyne and Wear, signing with Bournemouth for the 2017-18 season.

Lowery was five years old when he met Defoe earlier this year. The youngster, a huge Sunderland fan, had been battling neuroblastoma, a cancer of the brain, since 2013, and been invited to be a mascot for his favorite club. Defoe and Lowery struck up an instant and fast friendship.

"As soon as he saw me, he ran over to me and jumped on my lap," said Defoe, recalling his first meeting with Lowery in February. "I think probably from that moment, it was sort of overwhelming, because I was like 'oh wow.' And that sort of love he gave me from day one was just like, that instant moment, was sort of like when we bonded. It was just a great feeling."

The two famously appeared together at Sunderland matches, in addition to English national team ties. In March, Lowery accompanied Defoe as the latter walked onto the pitch for an England/Lithuania World Cup qualifier.

Said Defoe, "All the lads know the bond between me and Bradley and how important it is for him to be happy and enjoy every moment ... I mean, these moments will live with me for the rest of my life. I will never forget all the times he's walked out with me."

Defoe scored in that match, a 2-0 England victory.

Last week, at the age of six, Bradley Lowery succumbed to the cancer that racked his little body.

In the days before Lowery's passing, Defoe spent time with the boy and his family. He was asked about his relationship at his introductory press conference in Bournemouth:



Defoe joined a number of Premier League players and officials at Lowery's funeral in Sunderland. His emotions matched those of the thousands of people who lined the route from the church, thousands who didn't know Bradley Lowery personally, but who were touched by his story, his pure joy in the real friendship of a man from an entirely different background who played a game for a team he loved.


There's only one Bradley Lowery. But there's only one Jermain Defoe, too.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pretty in Pink

Who wore pink better:

The increasingly creepy Sammy Sosa...
(no, the color on this picture has not been altered)



or Ringwald?



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I made a good tweet

My tweet is a high-quality tweet and I applaud its transparency.

SHARK

I'm on one of my semi-regular jaunts to the Twin Cities. As usual, I landed at MSP. made my way to the rental car lot, and turned on 89.3 KCMP, The Current, one of the great public radio stations in America.

This song came on as soon as I pulled out of the airport:



Fuck, but it checks all kinds of boxes. Haunting vocals from a dead cute Australian girl singer. Love, loss, longing. And, oddly, random scenes with international-standard basketballs.

From the blog that brought you Mumford and Sons before you knew who they were, keep your ears open for Amy Shark.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

The G Stands for Gangsta

FOGTB Dave Fairbank has a lot of time on his hands, apparently, what with the beachside living and all. He sent me the following DM via Twitter a few days ago:

"I'm late to this, but you must find John Oliver's show from last Sunday (big chunk is on Sinclair Broadcast Group), but the kicker is at the end. A fabricated movie about the life of Warren Harding - takes too long to explain, just trust me on this - that includes one of your faves."

The show in question is Episode 107 of Last Week Tonight, Oliver's increasingly must-watch HBO commentary. And the Sinclair stuff is indeed worth watching, if you can carve 19 minutes from your busy schedules of kid-wrangling, imbibing, commuting, and fallout shelter digging. (I've included it at the end of this post for your rage-viewing pleasure.)

But the Fairbank-described kicker is in the eight-minute piece below, which really defies easy explanation. Let me just say that I've never been turned on by a scene featuring a wax president before.



Here's the piece on Sinclair Broadcasting. It'll piss you right off.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Call The Police for postcount

In the comments a post or two ago I recommended a song, but no one probably saw it because I commented just as a new post was going up. So, in the spirit of postcount, I am turning my comment into a post.

LCD Soundsystem's new single, "Call The Police," is perfect dadrock. In it you can hear strains of The Killers, U2, The National, and of course James Murphy. You should add it to your summertime BBQ party jam play list to elevate your already premiere status as the musical cognoscente of your piece of the suburbs.



I also encourage you to comment more today--I have the day off and it's raining like crazy so I can't play tennis or fish so I need some other source of entertainment.

via GIPHY


Candidly, you guys aren't doing much in the commenting department lately. Step it up.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Gheorghebait

The headline on the Paste Magazine story read, "Watch The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" Video Recreated Sesame Street-Style".

Based on our editorial policy, we're obligated to run with it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

You been grooving out to that iPhone 7 commercial too? Thank David Byrne

You know that commercial. The one with the barber shop. But you may not know the back story of the song.

Well, I don't know it either. But I know that the song rocks. A direct link to it, sung by Nigerian funk musician, can be found here (go to the 35 second mark if you have a short attention span).

But if there's a cover version that can rightfully pay tribute to the eclectic funk savant that William Onyeabor was, it is David Byrne. So here is David Byrne singing that song for Jimmy Fallon:



In case you're wondering, David Byrne has been blowing minds for smaller crowds for over twenty years since the Talking Heads broke up. I was lucky enough to catch him a couple times in NYC, at both the Apollo Theater and Irving Plaza, and since I'm eleventeen scotches deep, I'm gonna hopefully seduce you down the rabbit hole to fully appreciate Mr. Byrne.

Here is a song from Shuggie Otis, an artist David brought out from irrelevance almost 20 years ago on his Luaka Bop label. I bought this CD way back in the day when living with Juan Carlos in the West Village, given its strong review and its ties to Byrne. I think both Juan and I made sweet love to ones of women while playing this song:



Let's move on. Here is David Byrne's video to the song Miss America, from his late 90's solo album Feelings. This song is as eclectic as it is brilliant, and the biting lyrics add a bit of punch.




While we're at it, let's fully show the magic Byrne has an arranger and composer. Here he is covering Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," accompanied by a bunch of string players. He played this when I saw him at one of the shows in the early aughts.



I strenuously urge you all to play these tunes in your car/office/cubicle/house/pool club, often and with great relish.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Independence Day Open Thread

Happy Fourth of July Gheorgies!!  Here is a little cup or two of Independence Day cheer to enjoy while beaching, BBQing, boating, or just bloating.

For the jaded cynics:


For the God-fearing patriotic draft dodger:


For the traditionalist:


For fans of Neil Diamond, Shirley MacLaine, and Ronald Reagan:


And finally for people who love this country no matter how screwed up it may seem at times:




Sunday, July 02, 2017

Gheorgasbord

Unburdening the hungover mind grapes of a handful of generally irrelevant but somewhat timely thoughts, GTB-style.

A couple of days ago, baseball writer Rob Neyer retweeted a comment about the animated comedy Ratatouille:


I hadn't really considered his point, but after pondering it, yeah, I'm down with that. It's a fantastic little film, visually as well as narratively. If you haven't seen it, or if your kids haven't, please rectify that.

The new U.S. Men's National Team kits might be my favorite of all time. They're sharp as hell. You can get one for a cool $154.99 via ussoccerstore.com, just in case you're looking for a gift for me. I wear a medium.

The good guys played pretty well in them yesterday, too, as a relatively inexperienced American side put on an attractive footballing display in a 2-1 win over Ghana. The 2017 Gold Cup starts Friday, and the Ghana friendly has this observer optimistic about the Yanks' fortunes.


If you're looking for a reason to question your Christian faith, may I recommend Reza Aslan's Zealot. It's a painstakingly-researched history of Jesus of Nazareth's life and the emergence of Christianity. Dave couldn't make it through the book, so I'm little bit nervous that I won't finish the journey, but I've read enough to be fascinated.

Speaking of soccer kits, if you want to know what my 13 year-old looks like, check out the kid on the right, modeling our Club's new unis. She looks a lot fiercer than she plays. I'm kinda ambivalent about the white and red jerseys, if we're being honest. 


And finally, as the deluge of public policy outrages continues apace, we note with some dismay Florida's new law allowing any resident of the state to challenge what kids are taught in science classes. Or, more accurately, implementing a process to facilitate such challenges by anyone, regardless of whether they are the parent of guardian of a student in the public system. The continuing assault on expertise can't be anything but a negative.

One can see the contours of a somewhat dystopian future where red states become increasingly hostile to science, while blue state residents double down on the value of experts across fields, exacerbating the economic and attitudinal divide that plagues our wobbling nation.

On that happy note, hope you and yours have a glorious Independence Day.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Distraction

Today, as much as any day in the past five months, I need a distraction. Because real life is fucking barking mad.

I feel like Alex Honnald is pretty good at blocking out distractions. The 31 year-old Sacramento native famously became the first human to ever free climb Yosemite's El Capitan, finishing the nearly 3,000 foot Freerider route in just under four hours.

Without a rope. Or a net. Or Twitter.

I held my breath just watching this 30-second clip. I can't imagine actually doing that for four hours.



There's balls. And then there's whatever Alex Honnald has.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Professor Truck!

I just finished recording and mixing a new song-- "Circumscribed"-- and I learned so much during the process that I've decided to award myself an honorary doctorate. If Bill Cosby can have one, then so can I. So from here on out, I'll go by Professor Truck. 



I've made a list of some of the reasons why I've graduated from Greasetruck to Professor Truck (also, Grease Truck is a drone band from Canada and I don't want to share a name with a drone band . . . especially if they're from Ontario). I must warn you, though, the next section gets a little technical and nerdy. You can hear it all in my new song, which started off as my usual silliness but eventually became an epic rock adventure. Mainly, I'd like to say that I really enjoy recording audio as a hobby and highly recommend it. There's never been a better time in history to screw around with this stuff.

Here's why I deserve my honorary doctorate:

Professor Truck knows how to use envelope filters, both for panning and gain.

Professor Truck used a noise gate to get rid of a hum on an overly distorted track.

Professor Truck knows how to use an arpeggiator!

Professor Truck made a template of loops, subtly changed the meter in places, and then recorded over the looped template with live guitar.

Professor Truck uses drum fills.

Professor Truck updated his mastering software.

Professor Truck listened to his mix on headphones and monitor speakers, so you should be able to crank it without distortion.

Professor Truck can play the microbass.

Professor Truck used a send and a bus for the vocals, and then added separate EQ and reverb.




Monday, June 26, 2017

The Test Approaches Dave's Mental Age

Long ago, Whitney pegged my mental age at 92 . . . for those of you unfamiliar with this concept, your mental age is the age that most consistently reflects your behavior and personality throughout your entire life. He's probably spot-on: I can be irascible and stubborn and grouchy, I often act like a know-it-all, I struggle with change and technology, I find many of the things people do a waste of time and effort, I like to go to bed at 8:30 PM and get up eight hours later, I've seen it all, I don't mind being alone, and-- despite all these willful characteristics-- I'm fairly easygoing because I know we're all going to die soon, so it's not worth getting too upset over anything.

My podcasting partners, Stacey and Cunningham, are both much younger than me, but Stacey's mental age is 18 (and mentally she's a male) and Cunningham's mental age is somewhere around 64. On this week's show, we are joined by special guest Little Allie Hogan, who is chronologically rather young, but has the mental affect of a 42 year old Amish woman . . . from 1880.

Quite a crew.




If you haven't tuned in to The Test for a while, this is a good one. And now you can listen on iTunes, Google Play Music, Stitcher, etc. Please subscribe and give us a good rating. We're getting 12,000 or so downloads a month, which is in the vicinity of being real. Marls, you can subscribe and never listen, we won't be offended.

Anyway, we finally got back to "the studio," a little carpeted room in Stacey's house that is great for recording audio, and I've figured out how to compress and EQ everything so it sounds fairly professional. I've also made a stellar quiz on this one, the answers will most definitely surprise you, and probably make you a little embarrassed to be a modern American.  It's only taken 90 episodes to get it right, but I don't think I'm ever going to sound like this guy again . . .






Podcaster Makes Solemn Promise To Improve Sound Quality Next Episode



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Goo Goo Muck

Last time we came here to sing the praises of Open Culture, an incredibly diverse and extensive compendium of free literary, academic, musical, and artistic resources, we reveled in Bob Ross' pretty little trees.

Less pretty, our subject today, but no less impactful.

From Ronnie Cook and the Gaylads to Green Day, from MC5 to the Buzzcocks to Black Flag, over 50 years of punk and its progenitors get a nod in a well researched post and an 11-hour Spotify playlist featured this month in Open Culture. The 250-song curation is offered in chronological order, beginning with the aforementioned Gaylads (who gave The Cramps a hit song) and ending with 'Not a Fan', a 2017 track from Orange County, CA band Skaal.



Punk kinda feels right for the moment, y'know? So put on your headphones, turn off the world, and let Brother Stummer and his high priests proclaim the word.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NBA DRAFT NIGHT OPEN THREAD

Join us in the comments for world-class analysis and hi-jinx. Now, some pictures to get you excited for the evening.




Wednesday, June 21, 2017

zTravelogue: I Love The Hanshin Tigers

For my last night in Osaka I went to Koshien Stadium to watch Osaka's beloved Hanshin Tigers play the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. I think this was the best live sports experience of my life.

Tigers fans are notoriously passionate, possibly the most rabid fans in Japan. The Tigers are also perennial losers. Taken together, they were called the Red Sox of Japan until 13 years ago, and fans still use that analogy to explain their vibe to foreigners. When I went to the game they were in first place but the guys who took me assured me that it wouldn't last for long. They are 4 games out of first place as I write this.

I was invited to the game before I even left the US and I jumped at the chance, name dropping Kosuke Fukudome in my reply email after checking the roster and recognizing the former Cub. That I knew who Fukudome was put me in good stead as he is one of my host's favorite players.

I work closely with the two guys who took me to the game but I've only met them in person a handful of times. Most of our interaction is by phone or email. But they like to drink beer and watch baseball and we get along well so I was sure we would have fun.

In order to foster more eating and drinking in Osaka restaurants and bars, the local government started this "Premium Friday" summer program where corporations are incentivized to let employees leave early so long as they go out and have fun. Sort of like summer hours crossed with beer bash. As luck would have it, my last night in Osaka was the first Premium Friday ever so I went out with a large contingent of colleagues.

People in Japan love to drink, and if you aren't drinking speedily or volumetrically enough booze, someone will say "Will you drink my sake?" I Apparently this is trash talk (I think it sounds more like smack in Japanese) so when someone explained what was going on I started telling everyone "Oh, I'll drink your sake!!!" Aggressively. But it went over well (Osakans love humor, even misguided American humor) and I drank a lot of sake and malt liquor and ate some beef and fish and headed over to the subway.

A ticket from Umeda Station (right by my hotel) to Koshien is 270 yen, or about $2.50. As with all trains and subways in Osaka it was immaculate and the AC was forceful. We got there in about 20 minutes. I got off the train and the weather was perfect.

Koshien is the oldest stadium in Japan but you'd never know it. It looks modern and spotless, although the stadium itself doesn't look like much from the outside.


On the way in my hosts got all excited when we passed a trinket stand. They bought a bunch of what appeared to be unrolled condoms with very large reservoir tips and insisted that I do so too. They were balloons. More on this later.


We also passed a bunch of food vendors. Suffice it to say that ballpark food in Japan is different than what they serve in the Bronx.


Later we passed some higher quality merch. I abstained.


Then we went inside. The first order of business was getting more beer, then we found our seats in right field, near Fukudome. I settled into my seat and I was not prepared for what I saw. An entire section in left field was blue jerseys--Baystar fans. And they had flags and drums and trumpets and chants. It was hardcore. And it was clear that I would never run out of beer--the vendors are 21 year old girls in pink Asahi outfits carrying small kegs in backpacks. They are ubiquitous.

video


The Tigers fans soon clapped back. Turns out they have their own band in center field, sort of like the Bleacher Creatures only more musical. They even have a conductor. The whole crowd got into it.

video


One of my friends disappeared, presumably to go to the bathroom, and returned with two yellow Tigers jerseys. He told me "This is my gift to you so now you are a Tigers fan! And now we will wear them." I'm the fat guy on the right.


They don't play Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch. Instead they do this.

video


That's what the balloons were for. Fun, right? But that wasn't my favorite moment of the game. Here's my favorite moment of the game.

Top of the fifth inning, Fujinami, their 6'5" 19-year-old fireball-throwing future phenom with control problems (think of an Asian Nuke LaLoosh) gets into a jam. Japanese managers let their pitchers try and work out of it longer than Americans do--it only gets worse and he gives up three runs (one unearned) and they pull him with two men on. Iwakazi comes in and gets out of the inning but gives up two more runs. My friends are pissing and moaning, in English, throughout. "Oh, bad control!" "He trying to kill me!" "I've been saying he too young!" "Ug. Tigers." It really was kinda Red Soxy.

Bottom of the fifth, runners on first and second, Fukudome comes up to bat. He's 40 but he's still a slugger in this league and you can feel a energy and hope ripple through the crowd as he enters the box. The bandleader calls up their rally song--every batter has their own song, but this time they play the Hanshin rally song (this was explained to me by one of the other guys). You know how sometimes you can just feel a big play coming? Here's what happened. The video is a little over 2 minutes long but I think the payoff is worth it.

video


That was great. But it wasn't what made me title this post "I Love The Hanshin Tigers." I've never experienced a sporting event like this. Plenty of people were drinking, many heavily, but no one even considered getting into a fight. We were all having fun. There were tons and tons of children at the game. They were all well behaved and all the adults behaved well in front of them. There was passion and heartbreak (the Tigers went on to lose 5-2) but everyone was happy and upbeat. Everyone cheered together and no one took the loss to heart. Everyone knew all the songs and all the cheers, everyone wanted the home team to win and yelled themselves hoarse, but no one was a meathead or a jerk. No one gave the chubby American guy a hard time. Instead, for a few hours on the west side of Osaka on a perfect May afternoon into night, I was passively taken in by a community of people, embraced and accepted and included, and despite the fact that I had no idea what they were singing or why they were singing it, I had a spiritual experience. Those who know me well know that I laugh when people wax overly poetic about sports, and my sister says I'm the coldest person she knows, but God help me I got misty-eyed at the affection on display between parents and children, groups of friends, complete strangers. It was like a cross between an SEC football game, or maybe a Premier League soccer match, and a Quaker meeting. Maybe it was the alcohol, who knows. But I can't wait to get back to another Tigers game.

Monday, June 19, 2017

zTravelogue: Another must-try restaurant in Osaka, alternatively titled "Mm.. Food"

I went back to Osaka a few weeks ago and did two things for the first time that were post-worthy (no TR, not those kinds of things). I will regale with each in separate posts. Suspense!

I'm good friends with two guys in Osaka. The last time I went they took me to the Swimming Squid (which is still my favorite restaurant in Osaka). This time they took me to Umapero, a horse meat spot. The menu is all horse all day. For real.


It turns out horse is really good! And Umpero is really cool! As I should've expected from the Google translation of their website and the horse pinatas mounted over the door.


Fun drinking party girls' association! Reasonable horse meat! Homemade sangria and grilled wine glass! What could go wrong?

Our first course was horse sashimi. The white stuff on the right comes from the horse's neck, right under the skin below the mane. The stuff above the neck meat is skirt steak (which is the diaphragm). I think the thick pink meaty stuff on the top left was tenderloin. The stuff below that was cured tongue. The stuff below the tongue was sirloin, I think.


The neck meat wasn't particularly flavorful, but the other selections had clear, clean flavors. The tongue, skirt, and tenderloin were all lean and different from beef but not gamy or cloying like venison can be. The sirloin was fattier but not not nearly as fatty as Japanese beef.

After that was horse sushi. It was good but after that sashimi platter it was just more of the same and the rice actually detracted from the flavor of the meat.


I ate cooked food too, like this horse steak frites (which was completely indistinguishable from American beef).


We had a bunch of other cooked and raw courses, but the most interesting (at least to me) from a cultural perspective was the pastrami and pepperoni platter.


The ambiance is great too. The waitresses are friendly, cute, and speak serviceable English. Their uniforms include a golf shirt with one of those giant Polo logos, except instead of a mallet the polo guy has a giant fork. I was the oldest person there. Everyone was knocking back malt liquor and/or sake and you can smoke if you want. There were several tables of ladies that definitely made the place seem like "Fun drinking party girls' association." The tables are close to foster conversation between parties, and if things go well you don't have to go far--during a conversation about Japanese politics and societal norms, my friend Soichi pointed out the window to a building and said "That is a place for sex. If you meet a girl and want to have sex you don't have to take her home, you just go to an hourly place like that. They are all over the city." Umapero even has an adjacent hourly sex hotel! But be sure to bring some Alka-Seltzer and be prepared for strange smelling farts.

Umapero gets a 5 out of 5 spur rating. You should absolutely check it out if you're in Osaka. And if you need a reason to visit Osaka you should read my next post ...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

New (and Newish) Stuff I'm Listening To

Here's some new music I'm enjoying and you might too.

White Reaper, "The World's Best American Band"

Who would like them? TR, Clarence

What do they sound like? Everything there is to love about Van Halen, Queen, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy; Japandroids if they got laid more and listened to AC/DC.

What's your favorite track? Crystal Pistol




The Regrettes, "Feel Your Feelings Fool!

Who would like them? rob, Squeaky, anyone who won't be depressed to learn that the band members are in high school

What do they sound like? An angrier harder Dum Dum Girls; a post-modern feminist take on 60's rock n roll; a cross between the Pixies and Florence and the Machine if Florence had a sore throat and recorded an album in a broom closet using old and marginally functional equipment.

What's your favorite track? It's hard to say, the whole album's really good. I Don't Like You is good, but Hey Now and Hot have actual music videos so I'll post those.





And this isn't on the album but it's worth listening to.




Talib Kweli, "Indie 500" (This isn't new but it escaped my notice until recently.)

Who would like them? Mark, maybe Dave

What do they sound like? Exactly what you would expect a Talib Kweli/9th Wonder collaboration to sound like.

What's your favorite track? Every Ghetto. This song is so sparse and so hard that it inspired me to write a post about the sparsest hardest conscious songs in hiphop history but I never wrote it.




Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, "The Nashville Sound"

Who would like them? Rootsy, Whitney, rob, anyone who appreciates lyrics that are simultaneously austere and a punch to the gut

What do they sound like? Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, which is to say damn good.

What's your favorite track? This album comes out June 16 and I'm writing this on June 15 so I've only heard four songs. That said, If We Were Vampires is the weirdest love song I've ever heard but it's sincere--you can hear Isbell's voice crack around the 1:56 mark.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I Want My MTV

Okay, so if you're the opposite of the guy who needed 40 years of hip-hop videos crammed into one 4 minute song, this is for you.  Got all day and nothing to fill it? Well, here's one hour and 18 mins of MTV from June 16, 1982.  As in 35 years ago today.

The videos are limited to a few seconds of each, which is as much as you need of certain acts.  (I'm looking at you, Loggins.)  There are old commercials, amusing and nostalgic.  (Erasable pens! Wow!) Touring info like Asia playing Norfolk Scope on June 25, and tons of cool arty graphics of the MTV logo.

And lots of Martha Quinn.Who doesn't love Martha Quinn?


Total waste of time but more compelling than I would've thought.

Did you know?  Five (5) of the first 50 videos aired on MTV were Rod Stewart tunes.  What gives?


Untitled . . . or Monkey Wrench, Whichever

Gheorgheness occurring is worth celebrating these days, what with some decidedly un-gheorghey people barking most loudly.

Dave Grohl did a cool thing, one which probably didn't require a large degree of skin off his back, but (a) plenty of folks in his position don't do that and (b) it was still very kind and very thoughtful.

Personal backstory: I don't boycott many things in my life, in part because I enjoy a lot of stuff and in part because I don't have the will power to see it through.  But I boycotted Dave Grohl for a while.

I formally abstained from the Wendy's on Lee Highway in Arlington when I was living with Rob (when he boycotted Best Buy).  They mangled every drive-thru order, just total and complete ineptitude.  Never to my advantage.  I let them off the hook in 1996, and on the very first run-through they forgot my order of chili.  I don't eat much fast food these days, but since that night that particular Wendy's has had a lifetime ban.

I have consistently forbidden myself to frequent Paul's Deli in Williamsburg, Virginia since 1989. Our fraternity was banned from entering for a semester for throwing snowballs at the place during an inter-frat pelting one snowstorm in late '88, my freshman year. Banned in a really heavy-handed manner by the owner, George.  Then he proclaimed in the spring that we were once again allowed to resume spending our limited funds at his establishment.  Didn't go over well.

A huge group of our gang rolled into Paul's one afternoon.  George was all smiles, very welcoming.  Everyone lined up and ordered sandwiches one by one, and ordered some pitchers.  The sandwiches were being made.  The pitchers were all poured.  And just as it was time to pay, one of our most smart-assed brethren said for all to hear, "Eh . . . let's go over to College [the adjacent, rival deli]."  Mass exodus.  Permanent ban of our fraternity!

The permanence of that ban was severely tested.  George forgot about it after some years.  Meanwhile, some of our less-imbued fratres caved very early.  Others over time.  I have never purchased food or drink there since, and although I don't really care at all, I'll go ahead and take advantage of the opportunity to mockingly question any of our vintage who do.

Worth noting that George bought the College Delly some years back.  Point totally moot at this point.  But still . . .

In 1997 or 1998, I was living in Arlington, fairly newly married.  Sitting on the couch and watching Kilborn interview Dave Grohl on the "Daily Show" prequel.  Kilborn asked Grohl what kind of music he listened to, other than that which he created.

Out of nowhere, utterly unprovoked, Dave Grohl responds:
"Why, what do you listen to, Craig?  Bruce Springsteen?  because if he's the Boss, then I quit!"
I remember shouting angrily and shaking my fist -- with no one around.  Always a bad sign.

That was it.  The boycott was on.  I told Evan and he would have boycotted Grohl and the Foo Fighters as well, if he had been otherwise interested in that band at all.

That ban lasted for a few years.  Signifying nothing, of course, but it was the principle.  Those years were the apex of my chronic CD-buying time, and I steadfastly refused to buy their album.

Sometime after acknowledging that "My Hero" and "Everlong" were great tunes and I was only impacting myself with the ban, I later broke down and eventually bought The Colour and the Shape.

Used.  Ha ha!!  Take that, Dave Grohl!

Over time, of course, Mr. Grohl cemented his reputation as a top-shelf music composer and performer, as well as an all-around great dude.  No more boycotts.

Makes you think, though -- did my punishment help turn him into who he is today?  One has to wonder.

Fast forward to now.  Among a number of other cool things, Dave Grohl reached out to a mourning fan and did this:

Dave Grohl Sends Heartfelt Note to Husband of Fan who Died of Cancer 

The band is expected to dedicate 'Everlong' to his late wife at Glastonbury.

Dave Grohl has a big heart, as he proved yet again by sending a touching note to the husband of UK Foo Fighters fan who recently died of cancer. 

 The woman, Laura Plane, suffered an eight-year battle with the disease before she died last year. She and her husband Jon were huge Foo fans. When they were married, they danced to the band’s song “Everlong” for their first dance and they had planned to attend a Foo Fighters gig to celebrate their 10th anniversary. But Laura was too ill to make the show. So her husband posted a note to the band to ask them to play “Everlong” at Glastonbury festival in her honor. 

After the post went viral Grohl wrote a response to Plane on a piece of scrap paper: “Jon – Dave here,” he wrote. “Heard about Laura. Sending you much love and hope and light. Will be thinking of you at Glasto. Take care mate.”

Full article here.

Kudos to Dave Grohl and the gheorgheness he brings on a pretty routine basis.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I Come Bearing Mashup Magic

Sure, it's not the Muppets, but it's definitely in our wheelhouse:



[H/T here]

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bubble Football With Bulls

 
This looks like fun.....
 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Underdogs, Rise Up

And a child shall lead them. We hope.
The U.S. Men's National Team is breathing slightly easier after grabbing seven points from a possible nine in its past three matches. Bruce Arena's boys have risen from dead last in the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying to third - and three teams automatically qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

The Americans aren't out of the woods just yet, but the panic that set in after consecutive losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to begin the Hex has subsided.

All of which makes this evening's roadie against Mexico in Estadio Azteca somewhat less nervy that it might be. Had the Yanks needed a result in Mexico City, it'd hard to be confident. Mexico is 19-1-2 all-time against the US in Mexico, having never lost in World Cup qualifying on home soil. We'd be thrilled with a draw against El Tri, but even that's a tall order.

But while we're all focused on the big one tonight, there's an even more compelling David vs. Goliath story unfolding in the U.S. Open Cup. On Tuesday night, MLS side D.C. United hosts pub-leaguers Christos FC, an amateur side from Baltimore, quite literally named for and sponsored by a liquor store.

Christos FC was founded in 1997 by a group of soccer-loving friends. The club competes in the Maryland Major Soccer league, and won last year's United States Adult Soccer Association Amateur Cup, which qualified it for the U.S. Open Cup, the national championship tournament.

After dispatching fourth-division Fredericksburg (VA) FC, 3-0, in the opening round, Christos FC figured to bow out against the USL's Richmond Kickers. But a 79th-minute goal by Baltimore Blast midfielder Geaton Caltabiano held up and send the upstarts to Chicago for a third-round match against Chicago FC. The team resorted to a GoFundMe campaign to cover travel costs to the Windy City, and only dressed 14 players.

And still, they won, topping Chicago by a 1-0 count.

So Tuesday at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland, Christos FC - the last remaining amateur side in the tournament - takes on one of MLS' most storied clubs. DC United isn't having a great season, but they're still a full-time professional side. Christos is a decided underdog.

But they're not going to Mexico City. Viva Christos.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Well That Turned Out to be a Terrible Idea


Those of you who have known me longest know that I have been prone to some epic bad decision-making. Since my college days, I have made mostly good decisions on the job/family front, but my college years could best be summed up as "Bad decisions and their unfortunate consequences". This refers to academics, military endeavors, fraternity decisions, substance use/abuse, matters of the heart and (more often) matters of the groin.

Fast forward to today. We are living in the world of Trumplestiltskin. And it is an unpleasant time. The potential for civil liberty erosion, a potential war with North Korea, the increased rancor in everyday life, and the idea that I actually agree with Rob on political matters is too much for me to handle.

The 24/7 news cycle has become too much to handle, and I found myself diving down the rabbit hole every time the liberals and the never Trump Republicans wet the bed getting worked up on the fat man's latest misstep. As a result, I recently had to do a self-intervention with technology, realizing that I spend far too much evening time on my electronic devices. It is affecting my sleep, because I am now no longer reading before nodding off, something I have done for most of my life.

So I had multiple reasons to pursue distractions from CNN's 96-pt font hyperbole (BREAKING NEWS!!!) on my iPad and TV. On a recent Acela train from Boston to NYC, I started digging into The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu. On that same train, I ordered some books from Amazon, to try to re-ignite my love for the ancient hobby of reading paper books. I ordered a Winston Churchill biography, as well as Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The latter item was something I'd been itching to dig into for a while - a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that others spoke highly of. But I have to admit I knew little of the details. When both arrived, the massive Churchill tome immediately looked imposing. So I opted for the smaller McCarthy book.

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What does this mean? It means I spent the last three weeks escaping the Trump presidency by watching The Handmaid's Tale and reading The Road, two extremely personal tales of tortured souls trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic America. Yep, that turned out to be a terrible idea. A really really bad one. A shiver-inducing, may-as-well-drink-scotch-while-it's-still-available kinda decision. Both works of art make me want to build a bunker and buy some guns, which is unfortunate, because the (sur)real world of Trumplestiltskin occasionally makes me want to do the same. I almost took a break from these show/book to watch Schindler's List to cheer myself up. Praise be.

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After finishing The Road over Memorial Day weekend, I needed something light. Immediately. So I dug into a book I had purchased a week before, unaware how ironic the timing would prove to be. The book is the highly entertaining Gregg Allman biography My Cross to Bear. It arrived less than a week before his passing. Reading about the teenage Allman Brothers learning the blues and sowing their oats in Daytona and Los Angeles in the late 1960's is a more apt form of escapism for my weary soul these days. As my buddy Lester Burnham said in American Beauty, "At least once a day, I want to retire to the men's room so I can jerk off while I fantasize about a life that doesn't so closely resemble Hell."

Happy 6/9, gents and dames.

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