Thursday, March 30, 2017

NBA Potpourri - Math Nerd Edition

We're approaching the end of the NBA's regular season. This has been a fun one, with the three-pointers, the triple-doubles, the heated MVP race and the meshing of the Bay Area's superstar team. But we're seeing some twists toward the end of the regular season, as injuries have impacted several contenders and tightened races for home-court advantage. Let's dig in, shall we?

1) Russell the Love Muscle's Triple-Double Chase - It's in the Bag
After his latest ridiculous stat-line last night, Russell is averaging 31.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg and 10.4 apg this season. So the triple-double stat line is well within reach. Through 74 games, Russell Westbrook has 769 assists. That's a 10.4 per game clip. To ensure a triple-double, he needs 51 more in his last eight games, or 6.4 per game. So it's possible he clinches this portion of the feat in the next 4-5 games. He has 781 rebounds so far this season. At 10.6 per game, he only needs 39  more in his last eight games, a 4.9 per game clip.

2) The Eastern Conference Race for the #1 Seed is Wide Open
The Cavaliers are first right now, with 26 losses from their 73 games played. The Celtics are second, with 27 losses and 75 games played. The surprising Wizards are in the mix as well, with 28 losses and 74 games played. With the Cavs "reeling" (5-5 in their last ten games), both other teams have a legitimate shot. The real upshot of the #1 seed (other than home-court) is that you theoretically can play Toronto in the second round and avoid one of the other two. Methinks the Cavs pull this out, but will be fun to watch in the next three weeks.

3) The Western Conference Race - Also Wide Open
At press time, it is halftime of the Warriors-Spurs game, and the Spurs are leading by three at home. Going into the game, the Warriors had a 60-14 record and the Spurs had a 57-16 record. A Spurs win tonight would put them 1.5 games back, but only one back in the loss column. I think the Spurs get it done this year. Coach Pop has to be aware of the psychological significance of taking homecourt advantage, especially since the Spurs won the first two head-to-head match-ups this year, and are now leading in the third. I think the crew in San Antone gets it done and takes the #1 seed.

4) Back to the Thunder - is Big Russ the MVP? 
Today, my vote goes to Harden, given the Rockets' strong season (especially relative to the Thunder) and the comparability of his stat line (29/11/8) to Westbrook's (32/10/10). I am not a sucker for the "all in double-digits" pizzazz. But we still have about 10% of the regular season to go, so I have time to change. And the middle of the pack is pretty tight. The 4-6 seeds (Jazz, Clippers, Thunder) are separated by only two games in the loss column. Getting to the #4 seed would mean a team is only one spot behind the Rockets. So if Russ can lift his team higher (the #5 seed seems inevitable, given the Clippers find a way to suck balls at the end of every regular season), the MVP race could get tighter.

Happy viewing, fockers.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sometimes Hate Wins

There is an official mantra at this blog about not taking things seriously or something like that. I can't be bothered to check in the manual to find out what it really is. And I guess there is some sort of unofficial vibe that this is a place to visit to escape the stress/annoyance/ennui of the real world. So content that is put up here should check these boxes.

But sometimes it can't. Because sometimes the content needs to show that we will stand up for the things we have conviction in. Even if the conviction is a palpable mix of fear and loathing that runs through every vein in your body, a feeling that dates back to November 2016, to a moment that feels like the beginning of the end of everything you ever felt comfortable about in your previous life.

I am speaking, of course, of the worst pop song of all-time. A song that wormholed its way into my head when I first heard it, and occasionally pops up on that gawdawful SiriusXM station The Blend that my 7 year-old occasionally requests.A song that a good friend called "a tsunami of douche". I love that phrase and have no idea what it means.

The song is Play That Song. The band is the tsunami of douche otherwise knows as Train. The first time I heard this song, I thought it might be a sex groove. After all, what would you think if you heard the line "Play that song, the one that makes me go all night long"? But is far from a sex groove. Far, far far from it. Instead, it is a make-your-johnson-shrivel-inward-like-the-head-of-a-frightened-tortoise kinda tune. It takes the classic piano riff Heart and Soul, strips away everything authentic and sincere about it, and adds layers of cheese, synth and sadness to create something terrible.

The video below speaks louder than my alcohol-soaked verbiage can. It is just so goddamn awful that it makes me want to cry and punch something. The addition of the piano rug at the 2:20 mark, a sad, sad, sad call-back to Big, somehow makes this whole thing even worse. I wouldn't bet on the lead singer in a fight against a piece of corn in Robert Loggia's feces, let alone against Josh Baskin. Over 12 million folks have watched this video. That makes me all kinds of sad. This song is not catchy in a good way or a bad way, like the jammer Pen Pineapple Apple Pen. It

If you did not know this song existed and resent me for bringing it to your attention, just remember that I am showing you a side of this American society that is very real. And very sad.

I am sorry for ruining your week with this post. The only antidote I have is some unadulterated rock and roll. So enjoy the tune below and try to unhear the tune above. Screw you, Train.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Stouter The Better

Most readers of this blog know that I'm an unrepentant beer snob, a lover of the dank, bitter hop. It's not a big secret. Lately, though, I've been stepping out on my best girl (metaphorically, and beer-wise only) with a sweet, sexy, boozy little number. I'm talking about caramel, and chocolate, and vanilla, and ABV to keep you away from heavy machinery. I'm talking about Imperial Stouts.

It started over Christmas, where a friend had Weyerbacher Sunday Mole Stout on offer. I had two, and I couldn't walk straight. The Easton, PA brewery starts with their renowned Sunday Morning Stout, and adds a traditional mole blend, including ancho, pasilla, mulato, and chipotle peppers. It's got a nice late heat, and an almost sweet chocolate/coffee flavor. And, did I mention that it's 11.3% ABV? Dayum.

My interest in the dark arts piqued, I snagged a 22 oz. Stone Imperial Russian Stout at my local Wegmans. Predictably, one of America's best and most creative craft brewers serves up a righteous tipple. Ratebeer gives it a 100 score. At 10.5% ABV, it'll warm your cockles - it's a smooth yet full-bodied mistress. Stone themselves say that the stout is "intensely aromatic (notes of anise, black currants, coffee, roastiness and alcohol) and heavy on the palate...expect this mysterious brew to pour like used motor oil and taste even heavier! Serve at 55 degrees." This is one Russian investigation I'm not going to want to stop.

We've got a little restaurant here in town owned by a FOKQ&MRKQ, called the Leesburg Public House. The food's creative and consistently excellent, and the beer list is long, ever-changing, and diverse as all hell. It's in a location that's been death to restaurants in our town for years, and it's a testament to the quality of their execution that the Public House is thriving where many others have failed. My wife and I frequently head there for a couple of pops and apps when we're trying to escape our kids. About a month ago, I had a Lickinghole Creek Heir Apparent from LPH's taps. The brewery is based in Goochland, VA, home to at least a few FOGTBs, and Heir Apparent is a revelation from the Man above. In the words of the brewers, "Heir Apparent is an imperial stout with a complex caramel soul tempered by a chocolate and roasty undertone. Sweeter in style than Russian Imperial stouts at only 60 IBUs but balanced by the heat of fresh Mexican peppers, vanilla and cacao nibs. The Heir Apparent is ambitiously biding his time until he comes to power. His time will come." This 11.5% monster is fucking amazing. After trying it a the pub, I grabbed a 25.4 oz. bottle at the store. It was the sweetest ass-kicking I ever had.

And just this week, I found Afton, VA's Blue Mountain Dark Hollow. Just like the others described in this post, it's big, and dark, and boozy as all hell. Drinking it on a weeknight is poor decision-making. But if you want to sip something that'll take the pain away and leave a sweet haze covering everything, Dark Hollow will do just fine. It's an Imperial Stout that's aged in bourbon barrels "still dripping with uncut whiskey". I don't know what that last part means, but I do know that you can taste the brown liquor in the 10% ABV beer.

Like a junkie needing more and more, I appear to be ramping up to stratospheric ABV heights in my personal beer-based Vision Quest. The stuff I've gravitated to lately is closer to wine than to your normal American lager. This is the single best thing about the Trump era, as far as I can tell.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Have Fun, Go Nuts

One for all and all for one/We salute our champions/Hail to the Flying Squirrels/Who stand for you and me

So begins 'Hail to the Flying Squirrels', the brand new anthem for Richmond's AA Eastern League franchise, an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. As you might imagine, we're predisposed to like all things Flying Squirrel, but minor league baseball ain't exactly renowned for its highbrow cultural institutions. And as a result, we received the news that the Squirrels had released an anthem with appropriate caution.

As it turns out, it's a catchy little ditty. The songwriters from Richmond-based production company Black Iris, obviously listen to their share of the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, to name just a few.

I can't figure out how to embed an mp3 file into this newfangled blogging interface, so you'll have to go here to listen to the song (and download it, 'cause I know you'll dig it and want to have it at your fingertips).

As the chorus exhorts us all, have fun, go nuts.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Laughing with Tears in My Eyes

For a while there, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and the rest of Team Trump rode a wave of hagiography that cast them as paradigm-destroying, swamp-draining geniuses. The left added 'evil' to that description, but in general, a credulous media gave the new administration a great deal of credit for a systematic approach to dismantling the foundations of the modern American state.

That edifice crumbled pretty quickly, no? From a disastrous ban on foreign travel from Muslim-heavy countries, to a nearly-as-disastrous attempt to resuscitate it, to support of a widely panned healthcare bill, to a budget proposal that would be crippling in its breadth  if it weren't literally illegal to pass, the Trump brain trust seems to resemble nothing so much as the Really Rottens of Laff-a-Lympics fame. Their cruelty and bad intent is routinely scuttled by their incompetence.

It would be laughable, if it weren't so consequential.

It's still laughable, actually. Case in point, last week, the White House either completely failed to understand obvious satire and mockery, or never read past the headline of an article by Washington Post writer Alexandria Petri. That headline, "Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why", was followed by an obvious and over the top (so, really, quite Trumpy) sendup of the folks that are running our country at the moment, including such gems as:

The piece continued on to describe in ridiculous detail some of the specific cuts President* Trump's budget proposal (which, as I may have mentioned, is cruel and incompetent) suggests:

 Petri closes with a flourish, and a literal LOL line to boot:

The article was amusing, an obvious (to most) cathartic salve to the liberal soul. To at least one person who works in the White House (it's Trump, isn't it?), it was something different entirely.

Here's a screenshot of the White House Daily Newsletter from March 16, which includes the President's daily schedule, as well as links to a couple of articles the White House thinks are important for the public to read. One's a Politico piece about Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny's visit to Washington. The other, Petri's budget-praising snarkfest.

As Petri herself put it in a follow-up article/facepalm explaining how it feels to become part of the story, "This is 2017 in a nutshell: You start with what you think is obviously a joke, and then a few days later it is being sent out from the White House."

The stock market's just started to figure out that maybe Trump is full of shit and genuinely incapable of understanding or keeping his campaign promises. FBI Director Jim Comey (Go Tribe! If we're claiming him. Given the fact that there's a strong argument all of this is his fault, maybe we shouldn't.) confirmed D.C.'s worst-kept secret, telling Congress that the Bureau is investigating the Trump campaign's ties to the Russian government. We're basically all fucked.

At least we'll die laughing.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Madness, Day Four

You've almost made it, boys and girls. One more day to go in the first weekend of the tournament, and I know we're all feeling a little bit melancholy. Except for Danimal, who's been wearing the green in Savannah for the past few days, and might not remember his own name. It's Danimal.

But we're here for you. A little pick me up to get you ready.

Chuck Berry passed away yesterday, and while his personal legacy is a bit justifiably tarnished, his musical influence is undeniable. In a terrific 2016 New York Times Magazine piece, Chuck Klosterman argues that, "Chuck Berry may very well become the artist society selects when rock music is retroactively reconsidered by the grandchildren of your grandchildren."

I think Przemek Karnowski is my favorite player in the tournament, with Deonte Burton a close second. In the big Pole's honor, here's cut by Riverside, the Krakow Post's selection as the Best Polish Rock Band of 2015.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Musical Madness, Day 3

The on-court action hasn't been all that mad yet, so we fully expect today to be bonkers. And if it's not, all the better for the pool I filled out solely based on KenPom ratings. Go Zags! We're in the business of slapping together barely related musings this week, so here's a little more.

Both this fine blog and Sentence of Dave have posted about the legendary Tuareg band Tinariwen in the past few weeks. I'll be damned if you can't hear their influence in the first part of this excellent, multi-faceted (and wicked chill) new single from English indie group Alt-J.

Run the Jewels rolled into DC last month for a couple of shows at Echostage. While they were in our little town, they played one of the cooler NPR Tiny Desk Concert sets I've seen (and there have been some amazing Tiny Desk shows - you could do worse than spend an evening sipping a beverage of your choice and binge-watching on YouTube). The chemistry between Killer Mike and El-P is amazing in such a small space - their ad-libbing is effortless. Make sure you watch to the very end for a message from Mike.

As always, this is but a vehicle for your commenting genius. Go get 'em, champ.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Madness Open Thread, Day 2

Hey you. Don't watch that. Watch this.

Your commenting paradise awaits.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Madness Open Thread

On the best sports day of the year, our traditional* filler post, complete with my earliest/best childhood NCAA Tournament memory. I even remember the Bryant Gumbel cut-in:

*It's not, but I'm ticked I didn't think about it earlier. Go Seahawks.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Better Know Your Asshole Politician

Steve King (R-IA) just saw a black person on Capitol Hill
It's been a while since we dropped one of our signature 'Better Know' posts. Historically, we focus on minor league baseball mascots and the occasional Canadian Football League franchise. Today, a bit of a departure. I hope it's temporary, but there are lots and lots of potential entries in this particular category. Just wait until we get to Gohmert.

Name: Steve King

District: 4th District of Iowa

Tenure: 2003 - 2017, though technically he served the 5th District from 2003-2013, then didn't get the hint when the 5th was abolished and won election to the 4th in 2013.

Major Policy Issues: Healthcare, Agriculture, Immigration, Economy & Federal Spending, Unvarnished Racism

Legislative Accomplishments: Near as I can tell, based on a review of, King's accomplished fuck all in 14 years in Washington other than conclusively proving that he's soulless racist asshole. Maybe you can figure out where I've missed something.

Achievements in Jackassery: King made news this week for retweeting nationalist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, adding his own enlightened commentary.

David Duke quickly endorsed King's viewpoint, saying, "sanity reigns supreme in Iowa's 4th congressional district". By day's end, even Republicans were going on record to say that, "Hey, y'know, maybe that's a littttttle bit racist, bro. And we prefer our racism a bit more subtle." Paul Ryan said that King had maybe misspoken, but King clarified that he meant exactly what he said. It's refreshing, I guess, that racists are cool with coming out of the closet. Means we can see them coming.

So America got woke to Steve King's gross worldview this week, but this dude's been a fucking asshole for a long time.

He's compared immigrants to dogs, and suggested that America select them as if we were choosing the pick of the litter.

Predictably, he made an issue of Barack Obama's middle name during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

In 2010, he took to the floor of the House and insisted that racial profiling was an important part of police procedure.

He was one of 11 Representatives to vote against providing Federal aid to Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Because, blacks, I'm guessing.

I could go on. I won't because I'm becoming even more disgusted than I was when I picked up this pen* and started writing.

Fuck Steve King, and fuck a party that countenances people like him.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Morning Pajama Music

Ignore the awkwardness of the scene. Maybe don't even look at it - just listen to the tune. I've been digging on Pinegrove's Old Friends for a couple of weeks now. It's spare, and simple, and it somehow brings me back 20 years. Perfect Sunday morning coffee drinking, newspaper reading, bracket contemplating stuff.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Today is a #nice day

Morning folks. TGIF. I'd like to welcome you all to the 69th day of the year. Niiiiiiiiiiiice.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Announcing An Upcoming Announcement

Democracy Dies in Darkness is the earnest and timely new motto of the Washington Post. Peeps, apparently, die in the bright light.

On Sunday, the Post is set to announce the end of its popular Peeps Diorama contest's 10-year run. According to the Deputy Editor of the Washington Post Magazine, David Rowell, "Hard journalism this was not, but for us the contest offered its own sweet rewards. As fewer submissions began to come in, though, echoing the decline in readership of this feature, we knew that it was time to let bunnies be free again, and we have ended the Peeps contest run."

As staunch supporters of Peeps, and of the contest (several of us having submitted losing entries in years past), we can't stand idly by while Peep sculpture is denigrated as less than serious journalistic enterprise. Nor can we let this rite of Spring simply disappear.

We're not the only ones, apparently. The Washington City Paper quickly tweeted their intent to pick up the Post's sword and fight on, as will local blog Popville (I don't know them any more than they know us). And we're cool with that, because a) our idea transcends Peeps, and b) more importantly, we've always been kind of an NIT-level thing, and so our aspirations are fairly modest.

The Teej and I were in the midst of discussing logistics for G:TB taking over the Peeps Diorama contest when we realized we'd actually started seven years ago. Dave, who's known for a lot of things, but generally not for his prescience, actually prepared us for this moment when he inaugurated the first G:TB Circus Peanut Diorama Contest in April 2010. Here's a copy of the rules:

The rules for G:TB First Annual Circus Peanut Diorama Contest are as follows: 1) while making the diorama, you must be under the influence of at least ONE circus peanut. I ate two. 2) No Peeps allowed.

So we've got a framework, but we're going to make a few changes. We'll announce the complete rules on Monday, which will likely expand the candy palate to the entire Easter ouevre (yeah, that's right, you can use Cadbury Creme Eggs and those crappy thin-shelled chocolate eggs, if you'd like, and Peeps will be allowed). But fret not, Post Peeps peeps, we're here for you. Get to work.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Check Ya Rec(tum)

Last night, I had a delicious meal of pork dumplings and Asian slaw, which I followed with a large chocolate chip cookie. I had a beer at about 9:30 (Rogue 7 Hop IPA, if you're curious, courtesy of the new Total Beverage in my hometown - and ain't that a gift from the Gods). And I won't have anything else of any substance until 3:00 PM tomorrow.

I'll be subsisting on Jello, coffee, broth, and water today, and I can't have anything at all tomorrow morning. Beginning at 4:00 PM today, I'll be cranking 12 oz. of SuPrep and 80 oz. of water to Roto Rooter my insides. Then, tomorrow, a doctor's going to knock me out and shove a tube up my ass.

I'm doing this for you, friends.

You see, my family's got a history of lots of different kinds of cancers, chief among them colon, with esophageal and prostate running close behind. As a result, my doctor suggested that I accelerate the normal timeline for men to get their shit checked out (literally, I guess), and I'm scheduled for my second colonoscopy tomorrow. The first one was a thing of beauty. The pictures, anyway. My colon's a kaleidoscopic marvel. I'll spare you actual visual.

So if I'm cranky online today, you'll understand why. Just remember that I'm sacrificing so that you'll have me around for a good long while, and make sure you ask your doctor about your own colonic health. The life you save may be your own.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

This Week in Wrenball: There Are Mountains

Sublime confluence of superstition, laziness, and Gheorghian repetitive tendencies this morning, as we get you ready for the Tribe's 2:00 tip against top-seeded UNCW in the CAA Tournament semifinals.

As we told you previously, W&M needs senior Omar Prewitt to play to his potential to have any chance of breaking history's grip on the program. Prewitt scored 10 of the Tribe's first 16 points on the way to a 20-point, 13-rebound effort in a 71-66 quarterfinal win over Elon. One down.

Number two will be much harder, and 71-66 is more likely to be a halftime score than a final. UNCW dropped 101 on W&M in the teams' first meetings before the Wrens turned the tables, scoring 96 to blow the Seahawks out in Williamsburg. Both teams have strong offenses and like to play at reasonably quick pace. Wilmington is deeper, and in Devotae Cacok have an inside presence that the Tribe is hard-pressed to match.

The Tribe are underdogs, there's no question. For them to reach their third CAA final in four years, a lot of things have to click. You know what one of them is.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

This Week in Wrenball: CAA Tournament Preview.

We're kinda exasperated, too, Tony.
The 2017 CAA Men's Basketball Tournament begins tomorrow in Charleston, SC with the annual Pillow Fight Friday play-in games. Your William & Mary Tribe (16-13, 10-8 CAA) nailed down the 4th seed with a nerve-wracking 83-79 win over Towson last weekend. The winningest senior class in school history (all 318 years of it) takes on 5th-seeded Elon at 2:30 Saturday afternoon.

Let's dispense with the obvious. I don't have the first clue what to expect from this W&M team. They beat every team in the conference at least once, and lost to everyone except Delaware. They ran then-unbeaten-in-league-play UNC Wilmington out of the gym in Williamsburg, winning by 18. They topped Elon at home, too. The Wrens also got ripped by 24 in Wilmington, and lost on the road against a dreadful JMU team and a lousy Drexel squad.

The Tribe can win this tournament. There's an equal chance that they lose to Elon.

I've been wandering through a thicket of statistics to see if I can figure out a key to W&M's success, and I'm struggling to come up with anything concrete, other than a fairly obvious correlation between shooting percentage and victories. When they shoot well, they win. When they don't they usually lose. The Tribe's not gonna create a bunch of extra possessions via turnovers and offensive rebounds, so they need to make their shots. Rocket surgery, it ain't.

While I was engrossed in hoops stats, I did find something that amazed me. Check out this comparison (click on the table to enlarge it):

Player A is Marcus Thornton during his senior season in 2014-15. The consensus CAA Player of the Year and unquestioned greatest to ever wear a W&M basketball uniform was incredibly productive, for sure.

We'd take another game like this one.
Player B is Daniel Dixon this year. Nearly across the board, his senior year numbers are better than Thornton's. He's been a more efficient shooter, better from deep and from inside the arc. He's rebounded effectively, passed well, and been a better defender.

Color me bumfuzzled.

You could argue that Thornton had greater responsibility, initiating the offense while being the unquestioned focus of opponents' defensive game plans. And you might note that Dixon has the luxury of a pass-first point guard in David Cohn to get him looks and carry the primary ball-handling load. You'd be right in both cases. But as good a season as I know Dixon's had (he's scored in double figures in 22 straight games, dropping 30 or more five times - the most for a Wren since Adam Hess did the same in 2003-2004), I had no idea he was scoring at such an elite level.

Dixon's numbers get even better in CAA play, where he's shooting 60% from two, 40.7% from three, and a league-best 86.7% from the line. He's averaged 29.5 points per game in his last four, getting stronger down the stretch. He pulls down nearly six boards a contest in league play, and drops almost three assists a game. He's a no-brainer first-team All-CAA selection who'll get some POY votes. Considering where he came from the first time we wrote about him (in a cameo performance in the greatest basketball story ever told), Dixon's step up has been the story of the season.

As good as he's been, he's going to need help in Charleston. Omar Prewitt's senior year has been as strange as Dixon's has been sublime. Prewitt's scoring and efficiency numbers have declined across the board, and his three-point and free throw percentages are the worst of his career. He looked lost at the line late in the Towson game, short-arming a pair of crunch time freebies. He's capable of dropping 30 or completely disappearing - he did each of those things in the season's final five games.

The Tribe's two-headed post has stepped up of late, with both junior Jack Whitman and freshman Nathan Knight recording big games in the season's final stages. Cohn's been a solid and reliable triggerman. Greg Malinowski's been less consistent than Wrenville would like, but he's capable of getting really hot from deep. All of those guys need to deliver to keep the impossible dream alive, but we need the Omar that showed up in the epic Hofstra semifinal in 2015 to have more than a slim chance.

It ain't Baltimore any longer, but it may be our last time to type it. Omar need to be comin', or the forces of good can't hold this corner.