Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Eleven

On the Eleventh Day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe Gave to Me

Eleven Months of Gheorgheness
Nine Admirations
Eight Matchups Worth Watching - not really
Seven Books for Reading
Six decades of Fairbank
Five bits and bobs
Four reasons to save 68 CDs
Three balls a-rainin'
Two more automotive wormhole websites
And a bald guy and some random hor-seys

It was always going to suck, this year, I suppose. And in a great many ways, 2017 didn't disappoint. Or, it disappointed, but didn't surprise. Well, it surprised sometimes at how much it disappointed, and to what degrees.

You get my point.

And if you didn't get my point, it wasn't from my lack of trying, at least early in the year. Fully 8 of my first 15 posts of 2017 dealt in some way about our new President*. While I'm too lazy to do the research for the rest of year, I suspect that the ratio only declined marginally.

Among my New Yhear's Resolutions for 2018 is to not obsess so much over our country's descent into a blackened hellscape. Which means you'll get lots of sunny content hereabouts. Other resolutions, should you care, include finally getting that tattoo I've been talking about for 20 years (I finally have a design), finishing my basement, and reducing the amount of time I waste on Twitter to a significant degree. I don't have a lot of faith in myself.

Where it didn't suck, though, was right here in Gheorgheville. It's true that the 212 posts we pumped out in 2017 represent our lowest output since 2007, but numbers don't always tell the full story. Now that Mark's finally joined us, we can admit that we're all 40-something heads of households with shit we gotta get done. That we cranked out any content at all on 58% of the year's days is noteworthy, according to me.

Hope you enjoy the look back:


The Gheorghian Calendar didn't mark the beginning of the year until January 5, as Gheorghemas 2016 didn't end until after New Year's Day. It's as if we wanted to hang on as long as we could to an era that held so much.

8 of the 15 posts in January dealt in some way with our new President

Of course we started the year with a Wrenball post.

The Women's March got some run. In a couple of posts.

FOGTB and FOD Lecky explained the rise of the asshole in chief.

One more heartfelt thank you from the Gheorghies to Barack Obama.

New Orleans was a good place to escape the reality of the Inauguration.

The President as Rick from The Young Ones. Yeah.

We had a lot of Japan-centric posts this year, starting with Pen Pineapple Apple Pen.


There was a lot of stuff featuring short people and music in the year's most diminutive month. Even Randy Newman made an appearance.

Delle Donne to D.C.!

Footie analysis with a side of Bigly.

Logo Go Go.

TWIW: The Next One? 

Support local actors. And support our friends' actor friends.

On Women's Basketball.

G:TB, providing parenting advice since 2003. Some of it good.

P-Funkin' the suburbs.

Buttwad, stewed.


We started the month with our last two Omar-themed posts and ended it with consecutive gems from TR. In like a lion, or something.

PSA, now that we're all middle-aged.

The Peeps Diorama Contest is Dead. Long live the Peeps Diorama Contest.


Better Know Your Asshole Politician. We don't have a big enough staff to make this one recur.

Whether to laugh or cry, a theme for 2017.

Have fun, go nuts, sing about the Flying Squirrels.

I like 'em thick. And boozy.

Sometimes hate wins.

Math! Hoops! Math!


Don Rickles and J. Geils both died in April, and it was still a great month in terms of quality and diversity. We soldiered on through our grief, apparently.

Man Races Dog, Is Elf.

Addiction is a bitch.

Kicks are art. Even moreso.

A very special Better Know.

So much winning, G:TB-style.

Squirrels begat humans. You're welcome.

Did we celebrate 4/20? Does the Pope shit in the woods with Ichiro?

Snoop Danny Dannnnnn.

Bubbachuck, served up Fairbank-style.

We majored in Bullshit.


If April was a strong group effort, May represented a bit of a breather. The first ten days were essentially filler, and we only hoisted up 15 total posts across the entire span. We got it together, eventually.

Whitney got himself a front-row seat at Preservation Hall.

Mexico took a good-sized chunk out of my internal workings, but Squeaky was there to help me out.

Joe Montana is laughing.

In retrospect, this might've been seen as an omen, as it wasn't even in the top ten worst things revealed to have been done by men this year.

Dog Bites Man.

No pressure, just $220 million on the line.

Once in a while, you get shown the light.


It's really hard to sum up June's output. Maybe just read it.

This was the best thing I did in 2017, across all categories.

TR made good decisions.

We said this, "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." Yep, we're still pissed.

The oddly-placed 'h' in his name should've clued us in to Grohl's Gheorghiness earlier, now that we think about it.

Zman took our normal half-assed new music posts to a new level: personalized recommendations.

Back to back Ztravelogues from Japan, featuring edible horse and stuffed tigers.

The G:TB Word of the Year: Distraction.


Summer was really a slog for many of us, if you judge by postcount. And how else would you judge something like that. Starting in June, we went 19, 16, 15, 15. But we distilled those posts to their goddamn essence.

TR celebrated David Byrne.

Teejay solved the mystery of the Russian election interference.

There's Only One Bradley Lowery. I think this was the best post I wrote this year. Or at least the one that moved me the most.

You gotta have heart, and set it to music for Greasetruck to record.

Humans are amazing.


What I learned on my summer vacation. (Spoiler:  I learned that (or better, was reminded that) the trappings matter so much less than the company. That, my good friends, is what keeps me coming back to this humble corner of the internet.

The season of Summer Dave was nigh to non-existent.

Arm me with harmony.

On August 16, management realized that we were half-assing it just a bit.

When we've got a good story, we don't hesitate to go back to it. 

On occasion, I amuse myself. And nobody else.

Whitney, your social chairman.

White Supremacy.

A Poem for Houston.


The first post of the month was about poop. It got better from there.

Poop for cash.

Bobby the Brain, he ain't.

Terra F-Irma.

Prince wrote Manic Monday, which gave me an excuse to Google Susannah Hoffs. Still making people happy, the Purple One.

A 9/11 Remembrance.

Whitney did it up, musically. Twice in one night? Not since I was a young lad. Musically.

TR wrote about Vietnam.

Return of the LHC, all sneaky-like.

A day of Days.


Things changed as the seasons did. We got a kick in the ass from an unlikely source, and we responded.

Norfolk celebrated the Virginia Squires, and one of us made smalltalk with Dr. J.

How to root for the baseball playoffs.

We wrote this: "A loss against cellar-dwelling T&T would be both unthinkable and disastrous. So we won't think about it." Checking...yep, still pissed.

C'mon, supervolcano.

Friday the 13th!

The annual G:TB Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Prediction Show.

Whitney went all Knute Rockne, and Team G:TB won one for the Gheorgher. 

Cryptocash rules everything around me.

Of wives, shoes, and automatic toilets.

The G:TB Guide to Surviving the Mueller Investigation.


After averaging 16 posts/month from May through September, Team G:TB kicked into what passes as overdrive over the final quarter. Thanks to Whitney's pep talk, we dropped exactly 21 posts in each month of the final three. Some of them were even fairly entertaining.

You can't make it through a year without Zman writing about the Bills and the Browns, and why would you want to?

One treeeelion dollars.

Our semi-regular exhortation to cancer: go fuck yourself. And another edition.

Z got some of us hooked on car auctions.

We predicted things about the Wrens. And predictably, our predictions seem to be less than on target.

Fuck you money would be nice.

The G:TB community responded to a party host in need.

Dave wrote a shitload of words about youth soccer in a post that was at once inspirational, compelling, and educational while managing to also be hard to read for people with short attention spans.

Your way-too-early World Cup 2018 viewer's guide: Vamos Los Ticos!

There's only one Olli Tot, and there's damn sure only one Gheorghe: The Blog. Much love to all of you that make this place home, and many thanks for listening to my lunatic rants without too much judgment. I'll do better next year.

Until then, Gheorghies.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Ten

On the Tenth Day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe Gave to Me

Nine Admirations
Eight Matchups Worth Watching - not really
Seven Books for Reading
Six decades of Fairbank
Five bits and bobs
Four reasons to save 68 CDs
Three balls a-rainin'
Two more automotive wormhole websites
And a bald guy and some random hor-seys

In an effort to keep things moving Big Gheorghe wanted to make this gift simple. Just a little Bo Derek to warm up a cold winter day. Long before she lived with John Corbett at the “corner of happy and healthy” she was the subject of Dudley Moore’s fantasy.

It was only two years later that Dudley’s taste in women slipped to where he fell for Liza Minnelli. I guess that’s what happens when you get caught between the moon and New York City.

Stay warm out there Gheorghies.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Nine

On the Ninth Day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe Gave to Me

Nine Admirations
Eight Matchups Worth Watching - not really
Seven Books for Reading
Six decades of Fairbank
Five bits and bobs
Four reasons to save 68 CDs
Three balls a-rainin'
Two more automotive wormhole websites
And a bald guy and some random hor-seys

The overwhelming theme of G:TB this year, at least things that I wrote, was abject dissatisfaction with the state of the American body politic. I whined, I bitched, I raged, and I metaphorically shook my head with dumbfounded shock at the daily degradations to our nation's norms.

In retrospect, that wasn't a terribly Gheorghie approach. Life's too short, and all that.

So as a means to make amends, I come here today to appreciate one good thing about this year. Call it a psychic cleanse, a way for me to wipe the slate as we head into a new year. 2018 might not be better than 2017, but it'll be different, and for that, we at least have hope.

And because I'm nothing if not efficient, I'm combining an appreciation of some of the things that bring me joy with your performance evaluations. If you've got an issue, please call the G:TB HR hotline.

Forthwith, nine-plus admirations and appreciations:

I admire Dave's polymathic and insatiable curiosity and brainpower. From publishing music to reading more books in a year than the rest of the Gheorghies combined, to providing the world with alternately insightful and self-unaware musings at Sentence of Dave, to coaching and teaching the youth of America, to podcasting, Dave gets more out of his days than most people I know. One of my New Year's Resolutions, such as they are, is to operate with more intent. Kinda like Dave. Three run-on sentence fragments out of five.

I admire Mark's resolute sense of self, his confident approach, and his artistic sensibility. Some may not consider tattoos, sneakers, and hip hop high art, but I do, and I wish I had more of Mark's attitude when it comes to carving his own path. We're going to need more posts from Mark in 2018, so we'll give him four smoked pork bellies out of five for his commenting, but an incomplete for his posting.

I admire the way Teejay reinvented himself as a family man, foodie, and scholar while retaining his essential sweetness and good nature, and his generosity of spirit. Also, his stubborn willingness to commit to a bit. His long-running Brian Posehn impersonation may trail only his McFisty online series on the list of things that amuse me. Our filler game suffered this year. May the Teej step it up. Two Star Wars socks out of four.

I admire Zman's fierce intellect, diversity of thought and influence, and clear conviction regarding his priorities. I'm heartened to know that when we're ultimately sued by some bigger website that's stolen our material and passed it off as its own, we'll be in good hands. Three Mini Innocenti tires out of four.

I admire Whitney's charisma, the effortless charm that draws people to him and gets him off of more hooks than even he probably recalls. And I deeply admire the way he walks the walk when it comes to being there for his friends, even when being there means he has to go out of his way. Finally, I admire his way with words, even as I wish he employed it more here. My goal in life is to have him give my eulogy, rather than the reverse. I'd just kinda like to see the rough draft. I'd also like to see him write more here. His mid-year exhortation to up our game certainly sparked a renaissance here, so we'll give him four Dale's Pale Ales out of six. So, like, Tuesday morning.

I admire TR's self-deprecation and ability to deflate his own balloon. For a dude who operates in a world lousy with type A fuckfaces, his humanity shows up regularly, at least in these cozy confines. Sure, he might get in the occasional fistfight with other soccer dads, but he can laugh about his fucked-up role in it. That lack of self-seriousness is the Gheorghian ideal. Three train beers out of five.

I admire Danimal's sense of adventure and his poise and polish, under which lurks a little bit of Dennis the Menace a twinkle-eyed troublemaker. Our man moves easily in a world where he hangs out with Snoop Dog one day and George H.W. Bush another, and where he's in China one week and Scotland the next. All this from a dude who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley. I don't think anybody saw that coming. Two Florida sunsets from four.

I admire Marls' compassion, hidden as it sometimes is behind an essentially New Yorker facade. You don't fool me, Marls. You care about other people, and show it in manifold thoughtful and selfless ways, and I like it. I admire his big brain, and deep understanding of how the world actually works, too. Three Grinchy heart-sizes out of four.

And I admire all kinds of things about the citizens of Gheorgheville, from Mr. KQ's taste in music and beer, Shlara's drive to do good in the world, Donna's servant-leadership, Rootsy's musical talent and laid-back good nature, Dave Fairbank's curiosity and fundamental Gheorghiness, KQ's willingness to admit that she knows us, Fat Guy in a Speedo's footie knowledge, and Squeaky's artisan beer/music sensibility. This list is woefully incomplete, for certain.

As we close out this dreadful annum, I hope that each of you got as much from our weird little corner of the internet as I continue to do. When St. Peter asks me what I did while on Earth to make the world a better place, virtually hanging out with you folks will be on my list.

Godspeed, and God Bless, Gheorghies.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Happy Boxing Day

In most countries comprising the former and current British Empire, today marks Boxing Day, which either celebrates people tossing out boxes from Christmas, upper-class citizens sharing their largesse with those less fortunate, or some other hazy tradition. More important than its origin is the way the holiday is celebrated: watching sports and drinking.

I'll be in a car headed from Virginia to South Carolina for the better part of the day, so I'll do neither, but I encourage you, good people of Gheorghe, not to let yesterday's goodwill and glad tidings be a one-off. Grab your friends, head to the pub, watch some footy over a couple of pints. You'll thank me later.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Joy to the World

Joy seems to be in somewhat short supply of late, in the context of our long-running national experiment. More locally, perhaps, we've got better options. Here's to all of you and yours in the Gheorghie family as we celebrate the season. May Santa, Hannukah Harry, or whichever vaguely deific being you count upon visit you with glad tidings.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Doppleganger? I Hardly Know 'Er.

Earlier this week, second division side Bristol City scored a goal in the final minute of stoppage time to stun Manchester United in the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup (nee the League Cup). (Full disclosure: G:TB has a small ownership stake in Carabao. Small enough that we have no idea what a Carabao is.)

Bristol City manager Lee Johnson reacted with predictable glee as the fans at Ashton Gate lost their everlovin' shit. Among those fans, a wee ballkid:
As I watched that scene, I had memories. Glorious memories of a young lad with big glasses. A lad who grew up to watch that scene and have memories. This lad, in fact:

I swear to whichever God you prefer that I've never been near Bristol City, and I sure didn't sleep with anyone there. Despite the evidence.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Gheorgehmas - Day 8

On the Eighth Day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe Gave to Me

Eight Matchups Worth Watching - not really
Seven Books for Reading
Six decades of Fairbank
Five bits and bobs
Four reasons to save 68 CDs
Three balls a-rainin'
Two more automotive wormhole websites
And a bald guy and some random hor-seys

Sooooooooo, this work week has be a complete crap fest with year closing and trying to make sure that my team gets off to a good start in 2018.  All of that has cut into the time I could devote to finishing my Gheorgemas Day post.  However, after a fine dinner at the home of our Tiny Dictator, I promised him that the post would go up today. 

Dutifully, I set my alarm for 4 AM to finish off the post before work.  Groggily, I put as much wit and wisdom into my analysis of the UEFA round of 16 matchups as I could and was reviewing the post before publishing.  Then it happened.  I got the dreaded Apple swirling color wheel of death on my now 8 year old Mac.    No big deal, I thought.  Blogger saves the post as you go along.  Negative - I lost all the work I had done this morning.  It was a Gheorghemas anti-miracle.

So folks, you will just have to wait for my witty UEFA analysis.   However, Gheorgemas must go on.  Therefore, I present to you Alex Ovechkin, AKA "The Great 8".  While I have no love for the Washington Capitals, as this clip from the 2016 "Snowzilla" illustrates, Alex seems to embody the spirit of Gheorghemas perfectly.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Wild Safari

So I was accessing the World Wide Web (WWW) on my cellular telephone today via the app (short for application... or appendectomy, can't recall which) Safari.  As I was doing so, I noticed that I had a plethora of open Safari windows to various URLs, dating back months to over a year.

In an idle moment, I decided to take a peek at each of them and see what piqued my interest enough in my own recent past to delve into the Internet (the 'net, for short) for some instant edification.

As you might assume, each site was evidence of my own cranial craving for some critically important piece of intellectual information. To whit, in reverse order (with terrible formatting, but the links work):

Drive-By Truckers It’s Great To Be Alive! T-Shirt
Still some shopping time left..

The Pogues Whiskey
As above...

Visual history of Jim Morrison’s grave
I visited the grave in 1986. I got no mention.
This made me laugh
Awww yeah
I last heard this song in 1986
Suck it, Brewster
My million dollar idea for music fans! 
No clue. From on the hopper, I assume.
Ha! Think this was a Halloween option.
Love this
And this
list of famous magicians - Google Search
Unreal. I googled this??? Was I drunk???
Flynn Forever
Abe forever. Until last May.
Pretty cool.
and finally...

Marls! Nice post.  Maybe another someday?

Oh well, I amuse myself with my own idiocy.  Check your own phone for similar silliness, I hope.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fashion is Dumb: I'M GUMBY('S HORSE), DAMMIT

The tiny dictator requested filler. I'm your huckleberry.

Via TR...

Pharrel and Pokey

Monday, December 18, 2017

Nailed It

This, my friends, is a wife who very much loves her husband. Check out these new nails spotted on the book of Face yesterday:


Gheorghemas Break

We have it on good authority that Day Eight of Gheorghemas is in the works, but won't be completed in time to maintain our strict editorial calendaring standards. As such, please enjoy some filler, courtesy of Mr. KQ.

Last night, several of us convened at Marls' lovely new home in the wilds of Loudoun County, Virginia. Mrs. Marls, KQ, Shlara, Mrs. Rob, and Team KQ's girls gathered in the basement/theater to watch Hallmark holiday films, while Marls, Mr. KQ, and I hunkered down in the den to watch American football and drink beer.

Really, really, excellent beer.

Mr. KQ told us he was bringing Heady Topper, so we were much excited. But that legendary tipple was just the starting point. Here's the full menu:

Heady Topper/The Alchemist, Stowe, VT

I'm a bit tipsy, so I'll leave the review to the links above. But each of these beers are world class. Just like the Gheorghies. That's a fine way to end a week.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Seven

On the Seventh Day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe Gave to Me

Seven Books for Reading
Six decades of Fairbank
Five bits and bobs
Four reasons to save 68 CDs
Three balls a-rainin'
Two more automotive wormhole websites
And a bald guy and some random hor-seys

Day Six is a tough act to follow-- especially since I'm posting a half-assed list cannibalized from Sentence of Dave-- but Dave Fairbank's post definitely got me thinking about the things I love and appreciate in my life. Some of those things reside close to home (my wife, kids, dog, and friends; playing and coaching sports and my guitar) some of them exist in what now seems like another galaxy, far far away: the mountains of Vermont and Colorado, the desert and badlands of New Mexico and South Dakota; the beaches and jungles of Thailand and Ecuador, the ancient ruins of Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan. I would love to return to these places and explore them more thoroughly, perhaps even move permanently to one of them, but I don't think that's happening for a number of years (at least not until my kids move out).

Anyway, one of the things I appreciate very much is reading, especially reading a good book. This is different than reading a magazine, which I still do (though it's totally retro) and it is certainly different than reading stuff on the internet. I feel like the sustained attention you give to an entire book is a special event. It's recursive, introspective, slow, and profoundly relaxing. Essentially the opposite of Twitter.

Lately, I've had some extra time to read (and play the guitar) because for the first time in 40 years, I haven't spent three hours a week watching the Giants (or any NFL football). We cut the cable at the end of the summer and our household is relying purely on high speed internet, a Netflix account, and "borrowed" passwords for screen entertainment. But mainly I read, and I'm proud to say that this year, I finished 44 books-- I'll put up the complete list on SoD at the end of the year-- and I'm halfway through Richard White's monstrous tome The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896, which is excellent (and should count as two books because it is so long). I would include it on this list, but this list is books for reading, not books for crawling your way through at a snail's pace. I will give you a quick summary of the story so far: just because you free a bunch of slaves, doesn't mean that the former slave-owners are going to treat them well, and it doesn't mean that these former slaves are going to quickly assimilate into society and the economy. The term reconstruction is something of a euphemism.

Anyway, day six made me realize that reading is also one of those things that I hope I'll be able to count on in retirement (or semi-retirement, which seems more practical and likely). Once I start collecting my pension, I may not be able to move from New Jersey to Colorado or Thailand or even the Outer Banks or Vermont-- that's going to depend on the health of my parents, the financial stability of my kids, and my wife's desires and plans-- but I'm pretty sure libraries will still exist and-- if my eyes get really bad I could always . . .

enlarge the fuck out of the font on the Kindle.

I will begin my list with a fantastic book that I just finished. This book is free on the Kindle, because as Zman pointed out, the the copyright has expired. Public domain! You don't even have to pay for the paper it's printed on. I will definitely be taking advantage of all these public domain freebies when I'm semi-retired and greeting folks at Wal-Mart (because the pension system imploded).

1) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Though it was published in 1868 and the story is told by an extensive epistolary spiral of narrators, this archetypal detective novel is totally readable. It's not just for English teachers. The book has all the typical classic mystery elements--  the superb but oddly touched detective (Sergeant Cuff) and the ominous historical overtones (the British colonization of India) and a butler (spoiler: he didn't do it) and a spooky setting (moors and tidal quicksand) . . . and it's got a bunch of elements that would fit right into a modern thriller: opioid addiction, Orientalism, secularism (for Gabriel Betteredge, Robinson Crusoe operates as both the I Ching and the Bible) and-- most significantly-- what might be the first instance of a state dependent and context dependent memory encoding and retrieval experiment in literature. I won't spoil the how and why of this, but read the novel-- it's excellent and it's free on the Kindle. Free! Or you could save this one until you move to the beach, as there's some really evocative littoral images.

2) One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Bryson uses a few months to paint a portrait of an America rolling precipitously into strange, new places, even faster than the America of today: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig invented the home run derby, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, Al Capone reigned, eugenics and involuntary sterilization were all the rage, Hollywood pumped out 800 feature length movies a year . . . and filmed it's first big "talkie," the Jazz Singer, Dempsey fought Tunney, The Federal Reserve cut interest rates which precipitated the stock market crash, Italians were regarded as a dangerous ethnic group, Gutzon Borglum began Mount Rushmore, Calvin Coolidge did nothing, the Mississippi flooded monumentally, Herbert Hoover supervised flood management, a lunatic blew up a school in Michigan and killed forty-four children, Henry Ford stopped production on the Model T Ford and began planning Fordlandia, a doomed model city and rubber plantation in Brazil, Shipwreck Kelly sat on a flagpole in Newark for 12 days, and Charles Lindbergh was adored by zillions, a consequence of his daring solo flight across the Atlantic (this is before his child was kidnapped, before he associated himself with the Nazis, and before it was discovered that he had several secret families).

3) Love Me Do! The Beatles Progress by Michael Braun

Love Me Do! The Beatles Progress is regarded by many credible sources as the best book about the Beatles and while I'm not the one to dispute this-- this is the only book about The Beatles I've read-- I think this is a great book on its own merits, a breakneck real-time gonzo journalism meditation on fame, mania, art, and celebrity. Michael Braun accompanies the Liverpudlians for several weeks of a world tour in 1963, just as Beatlemania is taking hold of the world-- and back in the early '60's, The Beatles presented a telling contrast to the three crooners of that era: Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Cliff Richard . . . all three were very male and rather sexual. No one over twenty could understand what was going on with The Beatles, meanwhile teenagers, mainly girls, flocked anywhere that a Beatle might turn up, and Braun was there to document it all . . . this is a quick read-- a magical mystery tour that you should experience for yourself, but here are a few moments I highlighted on my Kindle (for the complete list, head over to Sentence of Dave).

Ringo Starr, 23 years old . . . "I don't care about politics . . . just people."

George Harrison, 21 years old: "I wouldn't do anything I didn't want to, would I?" and then explains his ambition is to design a guitar.

Paul McCartney, 22, would like "to be successful" and wants "money to do nothing with, money to have in case you wanted to do something."

John Lennon, 23, explains: "The more people you meet, the more you realize it's all a class thing."

And a harbinger . . . in New York, just before the Ed Sullivan appearance, Cynthia Lennon wanted to go out shopping but was afraid to venture out into the city alone, and she noted "the fans here seem a bit wackier than in England."

This is the book of the year. I'm posting my entire rambling review from SoD. I think I had PTSD when I wrote it.

Mark Bowden's new book Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam recounts the Tet Offensive, the capture of the ancient provincial capital city of Hue by the North Vietnamese, and the ensuing epic 24 day battle waged by the Marines and the ARVN to recapture the city . . . the book is over 500 pages and a monumental day-by-day account of the heroism, atrocities, propaganda, misinformation, strategy, blunders, civilian casualties, destruction of ancient wonders, Communist purges, political failures, and-- amidst great effort and honor-- the futility of top-down command in warfare . . . Bowden interviewed scores of people from both sides, so while he focuses on American perspectives and tells the stories of many, many Marines and reporters who were at Hue and witnessed the bloodiest battle in the war, he also recounts civilian and North Vietnamese perspectives of the tragic month; the sum total of this grueling depiction is the ultimate expression of "I support the troops but not the war," although at times it's even hard to support the troops, who often busy themselves shooting dogs and civilians, prying gold fillings from the teeth of the dead, and committing other acts that could only occur in the moral vacuum of a chaotic, street-to-street, house-to-house plodding assault, where young men watched their friends get shot in the streets, tried to retrieve the wounded, were consequently shot and on and on-- the book graphically describes the many many deaths and injuries-- the Marines were used as fodder and many are still angry about this, none of the people higher up the chain understood the amount of NVA in the Citadel, nor how well entrenched they were, or that their supply chains were intact . . . they didn't understand how well-trained the NVA soldiers were, the generals thought they could be brushed aside with little collateral damage, they didn't understand that the spider-holes, trenches, towers, turrets, snipers, and occupation of the city created a maze of interlocking fire that just devastated our troops, nor did the people calling the shots understand the North Vietnamese strategy, which was simply to hold onto the city as long as possible, cause as many casualties as possible, and-- though the NVA knew they would eventually lose the battle-- they would win the war, because the American people and media (including Walter Cronkite) would finally realize that it wasn't worth the effort . . . so while the Marines heroically took back the Citadel, the generals (Gen. Westmoreland specifically) didn't realize that the death toll, the destruction of the city and its historical wonders, and the civilian casualties would drive Lyndon Johnson to bow out of the presidential race, and completely change the strategy in Vietnam . . . while the capture of Hue did not foment a fervent Communist uprising, and-- in fact-- many of the people in Hue (an educated, upper-middle class city) tried to stay out of the war and not choose sides at all, many of these people, the ones not killed by the initial battle, were killed by the Communists in purges . . . it was horrible and ugly on both sides, the genetically engineered IR8 rice didn't do the trick, nor did the Hanoi government, and while the war would slog on for several more years, as we tried to "seek honorable peace," the lessons were obvious and while we have gotten mired in places we don't belong, we at least know now that we have to "win hearts and minds" in order to achieve any kind of lasting success in a foreign proxy war (not that we're immune to this sort of thing, despite what we learned, we still managed to concoct Abu Ghraib . . . but that's still a far cry from the treatment of the civilian "gooks" in Vietnam, there was very little thought of collateral damage by the soldiers and the generals, despite the fact that we weren't fighting a war against Vietnam, we were supposedly fighting a war for the Vietnamese people . . . what a fucking mess, read the book).

Monty Python and the Holy Grail meets Pillars of the Earth. Fast paced, genuinely funny, and surprisingly educational.

Another great Detective Sean Duffy mystery, set amidst the Troubles in Northern Ireland during the 1980's. Musical allusions, murder by crossbow, a Fenian in Belfast . . . what more could you ask for? Mckinty also makes the list because he stopped by Sentence of Dave to explain the origins of a humorous moment in the book. 

A strange and indescribable book for Primer fans. Gleick is masterful writer and I recommend all his books. This one is especially strange and philosophically compelling, and it includes Nabokov's version of time-travel: rereading a book. When you reread, you return to a text knowing the framework and then start to observe it as a whole, outside of the timescape of flipping pages and forward progress, and you know it differently . . . so there's another thing to look forward to: rereading all these great books sometime in the future and experiencing them as something new.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Your Wildest Dreams: A RnRHof Update

Two months ago today, we filled you dedicated readers in on the latest batch of nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In addition to the roster of talent, I gave you my predictions as to who would get the nod this year:

And here are the results:

16 out of 19 nominees correct, not including the statement that Knopfler's band SHOULD be in.  That's 84%, not fratty (16/19 is) but a low B average.  We will take another crack at it next year and see how we measure up -- perhaps including all of GTB's Music Department staff.

In the meantime, we present you the soon-to-be-inducted rockers:
  • Bon Jovi
  • The Cars
  • Dire Straits
  • Moody Blues
  • Nina Simone
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe
It's not just Dave who thinks the Moody Blues is a marginal selection.  As much as I drone on about art being subjective in its valuation, inclusion in a Hall of Fame is somewhat less so.  Discography volume, chart positions, and presence across the globe can be quantified to a degree; impact on other musicians and ultimate place in the hearts of rock and roll fans is a harder metric to tally.

Anyway, the Moody Blues seemed lacking, but they have more hits than most folks realize, including the title of this post -- a song that littered soft rock radio about the time the Mets last won the World Series.

More importantly, Dire Straits and The Cars are in at long last.

It's a bummer that Ben Orr passed away years ago, diminishing the otherwise great fun of watching The Cars take the stage.  I believe all of the original DS players are still with us, so that could be entertaining.  The inductions and accompanying concert show usually shows up on cable in March or April.

For now, here's a playlist of tunes from those that got the call.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Six

On the Sixth Day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe Gave to Me

Six decades of Fairbank
Five bits and bobs
Four reasons to save 68 CDs
Three balls a-rainin'
Two more automotive wormhole websites
And a bald guy and some random hor-seys

In the spirit of the holiday, at least our little holiday, here's a remembrance that hits on the things that matter to Gheorghies of all ages, courtesy of FOG:TB Dave Fairbank. May we all spend our time focusing on this stuff, and not the batshittery whirling around us at seemingly unstoppable pace.

At least once a day, I stop and give thanks for the life I lead and the place I live. I am grateful and blessed beyond anything I imagined as a younger man. I have a permanent address in one of my favorite places on Earth – or at least as permanent as possible in a time of climate change, rising seas, and a thin-skinned, lying kleptocrat with access to the nuclear codes. It’s because of four people: my wife, my parents and my maternal grandmother. They’re the reason I am who and where I am, and why I’m in the next chapter of my life, even if I haven’t yet figured out what that entails.

Bob and Ruth
Start with my folks. Bob and Ruth were Bawl’mer natives who met after World War II and married in 1950, eventually moving to the wilderness south of Annapolis, where my sister and I grew up. Bob was a businessman who passed along none of those genes to his son. He was good-natured, slow to anger, and patient to a fault.

By the time he reached my age, Bob had raised two kids, helped build a small business, and founded a youth athletic association so that his rag-armed, no-hit offspring and his schoolmates would have an outlet. He served on business and civic boards and was respected in the community. Me, I wrote about Chuck Swenson, collected Muddy Waters albums, and trained our dog to sit.

Ruth quit work to raise my sister and me, and to keep house. She was quieter and more reserved than Bob, but she laughed often, joked that she could have been a barfly in another life, and possessed strength and toughness that I saw as I grew older. She likely inherited those qualities from her mother, a flinty, demanding woman who divorced her husband in the 1930s and raised two children on her own.

Bonnie loved her family and baked exceptionally mediocre chocolate cakes. She was as private as a Swiss bank vault, to the point that even my mother and uncle knew few details of her life and affairs. She worked as a secretary for decades and lived modestly, scrimping and saving and investing. When she passed away at 93, to the family’s astonishment she had amassed an estate of well over six figures.

Bob would have embraced me going into business at the company he helped run, but he never pushed me. In fact, he and my mother always encouraged my sister and me to pursue our own interests. Find something you enjoy, he often said, because then it doesn’t feel like work.

Bob passed away in 2006, Ruth four years later. I tell people that Bob had a great run and a shitty ending. His death was due to Alzheimer’s, a damnable condition that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. His decline was heartbreaking, particularly for my mother, who watched the man she knew and loved fade away over several years. He didn’t recognize any of us in the final months of his life and needed assistance for the simplest tasks.

(Back, L-R) Brother-law Bill, sister Sandy, Bonnie, Suzanne, FOGTB Dave
(Front, L-R), Ruth, Bob
Ruth contracted cancer a couple of years after Bob died. She endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments that my sister and I could tell kicked her ass, but rarely complained. The treatments didn’t erase the cancer, but she wanted no part of a second round. Where Bob’s decline was gradual, Ruth’s was precipitous. She went from home to hospital to hospice in a matter of days. She passed away exactly one year after my wife’s mother died. Jan. 13 isn’t a great day for us.

Suzanne and I met at the newspaper where we worked. We’ve been married 20 years and together for 25. She has an empathetic heart, an infectious laugh and a keen B.S. detector, valuable given the amount of dumbassery to which she’s subjected under our roof. We’ve been coming to the Outer Banks for years, first separately, then together. We entertained vague notions of relocating here, but nothing concrete.

Ruth knew of our affection for the OBX and told us repeatedly, during Bob’s decline: Don’t wait; if there’s something you want to do or a place you want to go, don’t wait because nothing’s guaranteed. She regretted that she and Bob held off on travel plans, and then his condition made them impossible. After Ruth passed, with her advice ringing in our ears and a few extra dollars available, we scraped together enough for a downpayment on a house at the beach. We scooted to the place often for brief stints, but our relocation timetable remained fluid. When Suzanne took a buyout during one of the paper’s purges and mutations, that indirectly began turning wheels. She worked part-time while I remained at the paper. I might have continued slogging along, chronicling various Tribesters, Monarchs and Pirates, but Suzanne prodded just enough to make me reconsider. I decided 30 years was enough, and if we were going to do it, giddyup.

With a small cushion and no definite plan, we took the leap two years ago, believing (hoping?) we’d figure it out once we arrived. We’ve discovered that the Outer Banks is a beautiful, unforgiving place whose year ‘round population is comprised of hardy souls with useful skills – and me. Suzanne landed a full-time gig (Yay! Bennies!), which has allowed me to freelance and to undergo doctors’ visits and medical procedures that haven’t broken the bank. I don’t tell her often enough how grateful and fortunate I am that she’s carrying more of the load, a shortcoming I will address going forward.
I don’t know what the next phase looks like for me, but I do know that gratitude will be a regular part of the journey. Too often, we didn’t thank those who made our lives and opportunities possible until after they were gone. Too often, we don’t tell those who shape our lives now how important they are. In challenging times, it’s the most human thing we can do.