Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Other Paul Newman Things I'd Rather Have Than Paul Newman's Paul Newman

Paul Newman's Rolex "Paul Newman" Daytona sold last week for $17,752,500, making it the most expensive watch ever. This was surprising in horological circles. The fact that this was Paul Newman's Paul Newman was cool, as was the full back story, but this is a lot for a watch that was unloved for decades, and it wasn't a limited edition from the Holy Trinity of Swiss watches. My father-in-law has one for God's sake! If you want to buy one, read this first.

Anyway, $17,752,500 is a lot of scratch. I can think of a lot of Paul Newman's other stuff that I'd rather have if I had that kind of money.

For example, Adam Carolla (not Toyota Corolla) bought Paul Newman's 1979 Porsche 935 for $4.4 million. I'd rather have Paul Newman's 935 and $13,352,500 than Paul Newman's Paul Newman.

Paul Newman's house is on the market for $5.5 million. I'd rather have Paul Newman's house and $12,252,500 than Paul Newman's Paul Newman.

Paul Newman's Organic Italian Salad Dressing is $2.99 at Target. I'd rather have Paul Newman's Organic Italian Salad Dressing and $17,752,497.01 than Paul Newman's Paul Newman.

After all, as cool as Paul Newman is I bet Steve McQueen could whoop his head.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Stay Strong

Gird your loins, People of Gheorghe. If our sources are to be trusted, today marks the beginning of what promises to be a protracted legal shitshow, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's first indictment related to his investigation of improprieties surrounding the 2016 election is handed down.

As Marls and I discussed over beers this weekend, we live in impossibly stupid times. The refusal of erstwhile America First 'conservative' Republicans to acknowledge the obvious deficiencies with their party standard bearer in service of rich-enriching fiscal policy is but one of the too-numerous examples. And the Democrats' inability to defeat that standard bearer doesn't exactly cover them in glory. Regardless, the normal rules of political physics and basic decorum certainly don't apply at the moment.

So we'll need some help as a people in getting through the next few months. God help us if it takes more than months.

Since we're nothing more than servants of the public, here's the definitive G:TB guide to sustaining sanity in a world that no longer makes very much sense.

Be Informed

We can't, as much as we might want, go the way of the ostrich and bury our heads in the sand and ignore reality. So our first bit of advice is to find a good source of impartial information. Me, I'm a big fan of the Lawfare blog from the Brookings Institution. Lawfare writes concisely and intelligently about legal issues related to the post-9/11 expansion of the national security state. Co-founder Ben Wittes is friends with Jim Comey, and has unique insights into the investigative process. I'm professionally acquainted with Wittes and find him deeply serious and wicked smart. His piece on how to interpret reporting about the investigation is a must-read.

I also find Tom Ricks' writing to be invaluable. The long-time chronicler of the American military has deep connections and a hard-won understanding of the Defense establishment and its place in our society. As I become increasingly uneasy with the trend towards unthinking worship of The Troops, Ricks' writing provides useful context about the military's historical and current position in our civilian-led body politic. There's a G:TB post in my head about the emptiness of  'Thank You for Your Service' in a world where support of the military is used as dangerous shorthand for love of country.

Take Jim Valvano's Advice

In his famous ESPY speech, delivered just months before his death, Valvano said, "If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

So let's work on that. Netflix has a shitload of great standup comedy available to assist you in fulfilling your laughter quota. The Test Podcast is up to 100 episodes, and I know all of you haven't kept pace. 99% Invisible is a thoughtful podcast about how the things around us came to be, or as they describe it - "the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world". Those'll help you think, at least a little. As for crying, feel free to watch video of William & Mary's offense against Maine this weekend. It's downright triggering. Your mileage may vary.

Drink Good Beer

My tastes run to the ridiculously high-octane at the moment, so I'm compelled to recommend Founders' Backwoods Bastard (a wee heavy ale which checks in at 11.2% ABV), Stone's Woot Stout collaboration (an absurd 13%), and Blue Mountain's (from Afton, VA) Dark Hollow Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout (a lightweight at 10%). A pint or two of these, and it's easy to forget the troubles of the outside world.

Move Your Body

The positive impact of exercise on mental health and stress levels isn't a secret, but we highly recommend it even in normal times. You've just gotta find something that works for you. Not all of us are wired to train for triathlons, but if that's your gig, get after it. Take a run, if that's better for you. Dave turned me on to a Crossfit routine via Sentence of Dave a few years ago, and it's a deceptively good way to get your heart rate up in a short period of time. Similarly, I found a workout on Men's Health that takes about thirty minutes, and makes a motherfucker sweat. Here it is:

Entertain Yourself

Kurt Cobain felt stupid and contagious, which is an apt description of modern America. Here we are now. Entertain us.

Watch the new Stranger Things season. Listen to the new St. Vincent record. Write more blog posts. Go to a rock show, with or without Whitney. Read some stuff (if you're into prescient techno-dystopian fiction, try Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, which I just read, even though it was first published in 1992). Peruse old G:TB posts, from when life was simpler. Go see the Black Panther movie (in February), but maybe don't read Ta-Nehisi Coates' new anthology for a while - we're trying to flee reality, not be reminded of it. Couchsurf your way around a packed sportsball calendar. Hell, lose yourself for weeks in Open Culture, which remains an amazing compendium of cool shit.

And if all else fails, I hear Canada is nice this time of history.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Joy is a Teenager

Thirteen years ago today, in the instantly inaptly-named Misery Loves Company, I wrote what will likely be the best paragraph I will ever pen:

Somewhere, Charlie Brown is smoking a cigarette, the Little Red-Haired Girl's head nestled against his shoulder as they lay in the afterglow of beautiful cartoon lovemaking. Lucy's sitting outside wondering how the hell he kicked that ball so far.

Me quoting myself using this very piece of prose is becoming something of a tradition this time of year. This is at least the fourth time I've done it. Perhaps it's because that memory is still seared so vividly in my mind.

So forgive my indulgence while we wait for a new fanbase to experience the pleasure of amorous animation. It was just so bolt from the blue blissful.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Random Inbox Fun

For no reason at all, received this email last evening at 10:04pm.

To: me
From: TR
Subject: Squirrel

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

If a Tiger Cub's mom poops on a Toto, is TR there to hear it?

My son joined the Cub Scouts this year--he's a Tiger Cub, which is some new-jack form of Cub Scout to get 6-year-olds involved. This weekend was the council jamboree so Cub Scout packs from all over the area descended upon Allamuchy State Park for a weekend of camping and camaraderie. We both had a great time. There were a lot of things I didn't enjoy about scouting, but this trip involved much of what I loved about scouting: fishing with worms we found between our campsite and the pond; launching apples 100 yards into that same pond using a home-made trebuchet; throwing rocks; sleeping in a warm sleeping bag outside in cold weather; making s'mores 'round a campfire of our construction while the older kids told stupid jokes and sang goofy songs; peeing in weather so cold that it the stream made steam. I also deeply enjoyed showing my son how to do camping-related stuff and we spent something like 36 hours together.

I didn't get to meet too many other fathers on the trip. Two of my son's friends went and they came with their mothers instead of their fathers, so the time we spent with other kids was typically spent with these ladies. They are super nice and good campers, but they're 100% moms with constant exhortations like "Don't run!" or "Don't touch each other" or "Stop tackling each other" or "Stop throwing rocks!" or "Don't pick up the salamanders!" or "Don't swing that stick!" And that was just what they said to me, they were much more restrictive on the kids.

I met two dads and both were extremely nice but not at all fratty, which is fine in this setting. No one brought any booze, at least that I noticed. I was surprised by the dad rocking fours, skinny sweats and a big beard--I thought about asking if he was holding but this didn't seem like the right venue, at least not for our first conversation. Luckily no one was a total drag.

That said, there were some oddball parents from other packs. Like the dad with the greasy mullet who couldn't close his mouth and stared gape-mouthed while kids zipped down the zip line. Or the obese braless mom with massive pendulous breast swinging freely beneath her Pack 66 shirt, over the back of which flowed her multicolored tresses of hair all the way down to her back, which greatly contrasted her abrupt bangs--all this was so distracting I barely noticed her tooth which could not be contained within her lips. Or all the dads rocking Pack 69 tshirts without an ounce of irony or frattitude. Or all the grown men in "Dress A" Boy Scout uniform shirts.

TR warned me about this. TR, one of my oldest and closest friends, whose boys are a little bit older than mine and thus can always forecast what I'm about to face as I enter a new stage in parenting. He went through something similar and his boys quickly lost interest in scouting.

While walking to the fishing pond, as my son was collecting worms, I saw that I missed two calls from TR. I was concerned that he had an emergency and needed my help--we text somewhat frequently but almost never talk on the phone--so I called him back. Sure enough, TR, one of my oldest and closest friends, whose boys are a little bit older than mine and who kindly and thoughtfully gives us all manner of hand-me-downs, was looking for a pair of cleats he had bequeathed to us too soon. His youngest was in need of these spikes and TR was looking to get them back. I told him that I was away but to come over in a few minutes, I would call zwoman and get him squared away.

All the necessary arrangements were made in a few minutes, zwoman hung the shoes on our front door so that TR could grab them quickly (he was running late to a soccer try-out), and I was back on my way to the fishing hole.

TR, one of my oldest and closest friends, whose boys are a little bit older than mine and thus more entrenched in the machine that is our local travel sports program, was stressed out and late. Unfortunately, I directed zwoman to the wrong set of spikes (zson's were in the closet to which I sent her, TR wanted the ones I put away in the basement as they are too big for zson this season). So when TR, one of my oldest and closest friends, who was up against a time deadline and didn't want to disappoint his youngest son, got to my front door, he was disappointed.

Because TR is one of my oldest and closest friends, we have a bit of an open door policy: ring the bell and come on in. Which he did.

Meanwhile, zwoman, the woman I truly love, was doing the thing I miss most while camping: using my Toto toilet. So when TR started calling "Hello? Hello?!" in what appeared to be our empty house, zwoman, the woman I truly love, freaked out. She knew it was TR; she knew she put the wrong cleats in the bag; she knew that she had to go talk to him; and she knew that he would know what he had interrupted as soon as she stood up (the toilet flushes automatically). Luckily she hadn't gotten down to brass tacks yet so she was able to pull herself together quickly and head downstairs. But she knew that he knew what she was up to. I'm not sure exactly how the conversation went, but TR left without the sneakers he was looking for. I don't think anyone made eye contact.

As a result of my inaccurate direction to the shoes in question, the woman I truly love and one of my oldest and closest friends shared a painfully awkward moment; my wife suffered poopus interruptus; my friend became even more stressed out; and my friend's son had to go to soccer tryouts in running shoes. I blame it on the Cub Scouts.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Pain, Art, Comedy

As the saying goes, comedy is just tragedy plus time. In what passes as some tangled form of irony, Patton Oswalt entitled his 2014 standup special Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time. The comic famously lost his wife, Michelle McNamara, in early 2016, and tested the old saw last winter, performing a limited tour that included a pained, rueful, wrenching, and ultimately still sharply funny remembrance of his wife and the events surrounding her death.

Netflix just released a special filmed in Chicago during that tour, and it's not just brilliant comedic work. Oswalt's ability to turn the worst moments of his life into relatable comic material elevates standup to art, the ridiculous to damn near sublime. Several of the G:TB editorial staff members saw the D.C. leg of this tour, and I recall being struck by the emotional swings. I didn't remember how well crafted the set was, probably because of the half-dozen beers I had before we got to the venue.

So even though I'd seen the material, viewing it again this weekend was nearly as simultaneously gutting and gut-busting as the live version. Oswalt's in the conversation about the best comics working today. And this effort is on a short list of the best standup can be. Give it a watch, but be sure to have a tissue or two handy.

Friday, October 20, 2017

America 1, Bad Luck 0

Earlier this week, walking distance from my home, this happened:

Bald Eagle Spotted Eating Black Cat on Downtown Norfolk Sidewalk

    A bald eagle randomly alit onto a sidewalk on Monticello Avenue in Norfolk and made a public feast of a black cat.

    Highlights from the Virginian-Pilot Article:
    • Dozens of people crowded around as the eagle ate the cat on the sidewalk. 
    • The eagle was more than two feet long from head to tail and stood around a foot and a half tall.
    • The eagle’s meal looked like a fully grown black cat. 
    • The eagle nearly picked it clean over the course of about 45 minutes.
    • Stranger still: the bird seemed unperturbed by the onlookers. “It was going to enjoy its meal as long as nobody was bothering it.”
    There's a reason our nation uses this bird as a symbol.  Bad-assed.

    There's a video of it in the Pilot article for the gross people among our readers.

    A few years back, this happened in my back yard.

    That's what we believed to be a Cooper's hawk devouring a squirrel on our deck.  As you can imagine, given my long friendship with the gheorghie sometimes known as "The Squirrel," that was very upsetting.  So I videoed it.

    This time, however, I am exulting in what I take to mean a symbol of the USA beating back bad luck.  By eating it.  AMERICA!!

    Unless this is supposed to be a harbinger of unpleasant results from this week's Monday Night Football game.  In which case . . . yeah, that's about right.

    Ghostface Killah Has His Own Cryptocurrency

    I don't understand what blockchains are but they're remarkably popular these days. So popular that Ghostface Killah is getting into the cryptocurrency game. I'm a pretty boring guy, especially when it comes to investing, so I'm skeptical.

    It's called Cream Capital, which is a take-off on the song C.R.E.A.M. The "C" in the instant situation stands for "cryptocurrency." Get it?

    via GIPHY

    This "white paper" explains the scam how it works. Except it doesn't. ATMS are involved somehow.

    "What the hell does GfK know about cryptocurrency and why should I invest with him" you might ask. Here's what CEO Brett Westbrook has to say on that topic:

    "Ghostface Killah is a long-time business partner of ours," he explains. "I personally connected with him during a Reddit AMA on /r/hiphopheads last year when he was seeking tech-inclined people to work with in future technology focused projects. Dennis is a very forward thinking person and has a keen interest in emerging technologies. It's hard to ignore blockchain tech today even when you're a busy, touring hip hop artist.

    "He doesn't have any technical background with cryptocurrencies. However, remember that Wu-Tang is for the children. He is very focused on what the youth and millennials are interested in. He is a very solid businessman and has surrounded himself with bright individuals with a hunger for bring new, groundbreaking technologies to market."

    Oh right, Wu-Tang is for the children!

    And Pretty Tone is the Chief Branding Officer--no problem, take my money.

    via GIPHY

    And if this enterprise collapses you know it will be easy to hail the Wallabee Champ into court. What could go wrong?

    Thursday, October 19, 2017

    Hey Gheorghies!

    Pub post count.

    Inside Baseball

    I mentioned a few days ago that my professional stress level has been elevated in recent weeks. Just this minute, I finalized a deal that's highly visible and important to my boss and my business, and that featured a self-imposed and insanely tight deadline. And in reality, it was a deal to agree to do a deal, so the work isn't done. But in order to get past this first milestone, the amount of bureaucratic clusterfuckery that I had to navigate with my team was crushing. To celebrate, one of my teammates - a woman who was integral to getting us this far - sent me this image:

    I'm now trying to decide whether to laugh or cry. I'm not deciding whether to drink heavily this evening. That decision was made long ago.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Q3 Statistical Analysis: A One-Man Band

    The G:TB interns ran some numbers that I will share as a motivational speech for our roster.

    2017 Blog Posts on Gheorghe: The Blog by Author


    Yes, I send this to pat myself on the back for contributing to GTB postcount for the first time in years.  Moreover, though, it's a call to action for some slumbering gheorghies. Rob is doing nearly all of the heavy lifting around here. 

    Gheorghe is currently on pace for exactly 200 posts, our lowest output since 2007... when it was just Teejay and robbie and me posting... and we also had another blog that took up more of our time.

    I'm not gonna Glengarry Glen Ross here, mainly because I portrayed Shelley "The Machine" Levene in my Beginning Acting class at the College of William and Mary (scored an A), and Jack Lemmon's/my tour-de-force performances are always shelved behind the single show-stealing ABC scene.

    But let's see what we can do with a little bit of time left in 2017. Look, this low number is not etched in stone. We have 2.5 months to stop jerking along. Why don't you use that time to give us your best shot? Put in the hours. Dazzle me.

    Rob already has the MVP award sewn up.  (Frankly, he did by Spring Break.)  But Comeback Player of the Year, Best Post of the Year, Best Quality Output, Best Filler Contributor, Best Use of Muppet Video, Best Gheorghemas, and other awards still hang in the balance.  Plus, knowing you will be measured against your peers on the GTB roster, you know you want to beat some of these guys. The Zman/TR, Mark/Marls, and Dan & Dave races to the finish are surely to entertain.

    Also, rob has generated 64% of GTB posts this year.  He is gunning to up that by 5% by year's end.

    Now get out there... and deliver.

    Monday, October 16, 2017

    Gheorghasbord: Ides of October Edition

    Lots of ephemera floating around the old gray matter today, most of it a defense mechanism, my subconscious working hard to block out the steady drumbeat of the decline of the American empire. Some of the stuff in my head is even fun.

    Like, for example, the baseball playoffs. I'm obviously bummed that the Red Sox are gone, but I didn't really expect much of them from the beginning of the season. That a team with no power and middling starting pitching won a division title, Boston's first consecutive such finish in history, is both remarkable and unexpected. Anything else was gravy.

    I hated seeing the Nats go out the way they did, too. That team's rapidly piling up exactly the wrong kind of anguished history, and I know a lot of people that experienced the kind of hurt that I remember from days gone by, just because they chose the wrong sportsball team to support. Some day, Nats fans. Some day.

    But the four teams that remain are all great stories, and we've already had an embarrassment of riches, narratively speaking. The Yankees, who remain evil, are nonetheless a fun team to watch, with the thunder of their mashing bats and the lightning in their bullpen. They may not overcome a really deep Houston team, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified of their prospects for next year.

    Those Astros, after dispatching my Sox, have become my rooting interest for the remainder of the postseason, and not just because they're playing the Yankees. The primary reason is pretty easy to guess, if you're paying attention. This made me exclaim loudly, despite the fact there were 10 teenagers pregaming for the Tuscarora High School Homecoming dance in my house.

    The Cubs are, even after winning a championship, a likable, fun, and really good team, and the Dodgers, despite overtaking the Yankees in the better winning through exorbitant spending sweepstakes, are hard to hate. Probably because of Dave Roberts. Who did a thing back in 2004 for which I'll always love him.

    Speaking of that Homecoming dance, please allow me to get a little bit selfish, and a tiny bit maudlin. I dropped my daughter and her boyfriend off at the school, and as they walked away, he reached out his hand and took hers in it. And goddamn if tears didn't well up as I caught a tiny glimpse of the future, where she'll walk away from me for good.

    Three years ago, my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with an incredible five days in Sonoma, CA. I remember both that area's natural beauty and its relaxed, beer and wine-heavy charm. I remember Santa Rosa, and the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, full of Sparky's art, and life. As we drove to Sonoma from the San Francisco airport, I remember being struck by the dryness of the landscape, the fields of grasses browned by too little water for too many months. Even so, I'm stunned by the scale and scope of the destruction wrought by the fires in that part of the country, and numbed by the pace of disasters befalling our brothers and sisters across America.

    In the midst of what's been one of the more stressful professional months of my life, at least as far as I can remember (which, let's be honest, isn't very far), FOGTB Dave Fairbank hit me with a fun Twitter DM question: "saw a tweet in your wheelhouse. guy asked for folks' 5 most important albums. not necessarily faves - though they may overlap - but 5 most important to musical growth, understanding, whatevs."

    To which I responded, after some heming and hawing and complaining about how hard that question is to answer: "okay, off the top of my head:

    queen, 'the game' was the first cassette i bought with my own money, and turned me on to the album format. which i never listen to anymore.

    the smiths, 'louder than bombs' introduced me to alternative rock as an impressionable 15 y/o

    son volt's 'trace' made me love alt-country and driving with the windows down

    the beastie boys 'paul's boutique' was the first rap record i loved, along with l.l. cool j's 'bigger and deffer'

    and a compilation of world music for kids by putamayo opened my mind to a whole different kind of rhythm and melody"

    I should've just sent him the link to this post.

    That same little girl who made me cry has a dark side, too. Or at least a dramatic side. For the past three years, she's been part of the cast of Shocktober, a haunted house staged at a creepy as all fuck old mansion that now serves as the centerpiece of a local community service campus. Shocktober is one of the major fundraisers for the campus, which hosts the local ARC (with which Whitney will be familiar), among a number of other organizations. And my beautiful kid looks like this tonight, scaring the pants off of kids of all ages (including just a few weeks ago, multiple members of the Washington American Football Club's defensive line).

    They grow up fast. And weird.

    Saturday, October 14, 2017

    Oh, We're Halfway There

    It's that time of year again already.  No, not Halloween (see yesterday's post for that), but time to announce this year's nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Time to review the list, see who's new to it, see who the holdovers from years past are, feel the outrage for the snubbees, and wax philosophical about the process and what "deserving" really means.

    Eh.  The Hall inductions started in 1986 with:
    • Chuck Berry
    • James Brown
    • Ray Charles
    • Sam Cooke
    • Fats Domino
    • The Everly Brothers
    • Buddy Holly
    • Jerry Lee Lewis
    • Little Richard
    • Elvis Presley
    Pretty formidable.  31 years later, as a crop of rockers or otherwise gets ushered in each year, it's a much more inclusive group, and most within reason get the nod.  This isn't the BBWAA keeping Cooperstown for the elite only, lording their authority over every nominee.  (Nolan Ryan received just 98.8% of the vote tally, because, you know.)  The Rock Hall is far more like the NFL Hall.  You were great for more than an instant, you're getting considered.

    As such, you have Morten Andersen and Yes.  Kevin Greene and Cheap Trick.  Joan Baez and Ray Guy.  Inductees who hung around long enough to be classics, folks a little out of the usual mold, and people that other people enjoyed at some time in their lives.  As it should be.  Exclusivity is passé .

    So... who's in this year's crop?  Who will get in?

    That's the way I see it. There's a groundswell of support for Bon Jovi and the Moody Blues (somehow), and they do want to fill the event next March.  The Cars are just way too good.  The Hall throws the underserved metal peeps a bone and keeps many more at bay.  Radiohead is a vote for cool and trendy, and they seem a shoo-in.  The inductors add in one random genre pick every year, so maybe Nina Simone.  The Meters could fill that spot, but Dr. John got in 6 years ago and they may space that out.

    Meanwhile, The Cure, Smiths, New Order, Pixies, Sonic Youth and others who inhabit hero-dom to alt-rock lovers of the 80's and beyond continue to starve.  Depeche Mode should have been in last year.  I don't know.  It's like reggae: Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and then nothing ever.  Peter Tosh, Steel Pulse, the Maytals, etc.  If you have any reggae in a "rock" Hall, do it right.

    Rage Against the Machine is getting hyped for entry, but I don't know that they have the discography of most inductees or the clout of the Nirvana / GN'R types. Meanwhile, LL's exclusion continues to stump me, especially when Tupac got in last year.  Ladies Love Cool James must've pissed somebody off.

    Don't count on the feelgood posthumous vote for J. Geils.  Cornell/Soundgarden got no love.  Lemmy/Motörhead got no love.  They don't care.

    And a rock and roll hall of fame without Mark Knopfler in some form or fashion, at this point, is just stupid.  Same with Willie Nelson.

    That's all for now from your resident rock snob.  Go vote for the fan's choice here, if only to combat the Moody Blues campaign. Here's a Spotify playlist with 3 selected songs from each nominee...

    Friday, October 13, 2017

    Today's Your Lucky Day

    Happy Friday the 13th, gheorghies!

    Okay, so not everyone is excited about this ominous date.  Some folks dread the bad luck and misfortune oddly associated with this day.  A few even hide at home, fearing the worst if they venture out.  Pretty ridiculous, but let's take a look at Friday the 13th.

    What's the deal?  Well, it's certainly tied to the overall fear of the number 13, or triskaidekaphobia.  Dave has attributed the phobia to there being 13 witches in a coven. The devout Christians at GTB look to the Last Supper and Judas as the most reviled #13 since Alex Rodriguez. Historians refer to Hammurabic code. There were 13 steps to the gallows (12 up, and one down). 13 proper studio albums for the Beatles before they split. Whatever the true origin, it's a creepy number that building architects acknowledge and fans of the space program swear by.

    Then there's Friday the 13th. Again, tales of origin diverge. One such hypothesis, owing to "Friday, 13 October 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar" is particularly . . . well, uninteresting, compared to the sordid saga that enters all of our minds when we think of Friday the 13th.
    A young camper (seemingly) drowns whilst caretakers cavort.  Revenge, misplaced as it may be, is merciless.  And endless, as it turns out. 
    The original Friday the 13th begat a sequel, then became a trilogy, then spawned such a litter that the series is now a dodecalogy.  That's 12 films over 37 years.  Yikes.

    And even if you've never seen one frame of any of the 12, you know his name.

    Barroom Trivia Question:  Who's the killer in the film Friday the 13th?

    If you said Jason, you owe me a shot. (In the original, it's Jason's mom. Acceptable answers include Mrs. Voorhees or "his mammy.")

    Bonus Trivia Question: Name the link between Kevin Bacon, Johnny Depp, and Jamie Lee Curtis.

    Each appeared in the first installment of the major horror franchises of the 80's (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween, respectively).

    Anyway, our friend in the hockey goalie mask with the machete or chainsaw, Jason, is now the most lasting image of the day Friday the 13th.  Destruction, terror, and mayhem. Any camp counselors, Jason will slay 'em.  These moviemakers have done nothing to ease the dread of this calendric occasion.

    Here's the thing, though.  It doesn't need to be a bad luck day. Why begin any 24-hour period with even a passing notion that ill fortune is headed our way?  13's no big deal.  Wilt the Stilt wore #13, and he . . . did well.  Dan Marino and Steve Nash won a ton of regular-season games. Dave Concepcion. Lee Mazzilli (in 1986 for the best team in baseball).

    Mill-ard Fill-more!
    (to be shout-sung like R.E.M.)

    Baker's dozens! Who doesn't like that extra doughnut (or cupcake)?

    13 Songs!  Very fine album (EP amalgam) from Fugazi, good for listening to while you're waiting in the waiting room.

    Glenn Danzig wrote the song "Thirteen" for Johnny Cash.  It supposedly only took him 20 minutes to pen, and it's full of misfortune and pain, so that tells you something about Danzig.  Good tune, though.  "Thirteen Sad Farewells" by Stu Larsen is also a fine listen.

    Depressing and sad aren't the order of this Friday the 13th, however, so I'll close with this gem, maybe the best 13-based song of all time.  Cue the Big Star:

    Rock and roll is here to stay.

    Let today be a day of good luck. Stop wishin' on bad luck and knockin' on wood, good people.   Make your own fortune, and wish well to your fellow gheorghies.

    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    Come On You Yanks

    Just one short month ago - a far more innocent time - we took a break from holding our hands over our eyes and practicing nuclear blast defense drills to celebrate soccer's ability to render grown men weepy.

    That was just a prelude to the events of the past few days.

    As qualifying for the 2018 World Cup draws to a close, national sides both legendary and little-regarded have clinched their berths in the 32-team competition. Their fans have celebrated appropriately.

    In Alexandria, Liverpool striker Mohammed Salah scored a pair of goals to send Egypt to Russia, the first time since 1990 that the Pharoahs qualified for the finals. The broadcaster was...happy (the first 1:48 or so will give you the gist).

    Iceland became the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup finals, defeating Kosovo by a 2-0 score to win its UEFA qualifying group. 300,000 nordic revelers will wake up tomorrow with the mother of all hangover, and it'll be okay.

    Most of them were here:

    And those that weren't celebrated Viking-style with the team.

    Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic has played in his share of big games, but the Serbian was overcome by emotion after his country qualified for their first World Cup since 2010 with a 1-0 victory over Georgia.

    And much, much closer to home, the U.S. Men's National team put aside weeks of panicked commentary and punditariat hand-wringing in a stirring display, drilling visiting Panama by a 4-0 score that probably could've been 7-0. Or 7-3, given the several defensive lapses the visitors failed to bank. Christian Pulisic opened the scoring with a bit of skill rarely seen by American players, then added an assist on the second goal. It's already reasonable to argue that Pulisic might be the best American ever to play the game.

    The Americans play tonight in Port of Spain against Trinidad and Tobago. A win guarantees our ninth consecutive trip to the World Cup finals. Barring some epic goalscoring binges by Honduras and/or Panama, a tie will be good enough, too. A loss against cellar-dwelling T&T would be both unthinkable and disastrous. So we won't think about it.

    Some of the biggest teams in the world still haven't done all the work, and find themselves in the same place as the USMNT. Portugal and Italy will have to win a qualifying playoff to book their tickets, while the Netherlands are all but out. Tonight, Lionel Messi and Argentina currently sit in sixth place in CONMEBOL qualifying, where four teams automatically go through, and the fifth gets to drub New Zealand for the pleasure. The Albiceleste are tied with Peru on 25 points, only three behind second place Uruguay. Paraguay is only one point back with 24 points. Six teams are legitimately in the mix for the final four places.

    But at least they're not Wales. Needing a win over rivals Ireland to clinch at least a UEFA playoff spot, the Christian Bale-less Welsh yielded a second-half goal to James McClean to fall, 1-0, and extend its World Cup finals drought to 60 years. The Welsh fans opened the match with an amazing rendition of their national anthem.

    But in soccer, as in life, there are winners and losers. Yesterday, the Welsh finished out of the money. Here's hoping (praying) that tonight tells a different story for the red, white, and blue.

    Sunday, October 08, 2017

    The Happiest Place on Earth

    Every other year for the past six, my family's packed up the truckster and headed to Orlando. My now 16 year-old daughter (as of today, to be exact) dances with a local company, and the whole lot of them head to Disney to do a workshop with Mickey's professional dancers and perform on a stage at Downtown Disney. For all my kvetching in advance of our first trip back in 2011, the entire experience is a blast.

    Among the things that makes it so is the timing. I imagine there's never a time when Disney parks are truly less than crowded, but late October/early November is, in my experience, at least tolerable. The weather is moderate and the flights are reasonable. And, much to my surprise (the first time) and giddiness (every subsequent time), the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival always corresponds with our visit.

    Thirty-five different pop up food venues representing countries, regions, and food-based folkways from around the globe ring Epcot's mammoth perimeter. The food is almost universally good, and there's local beer, wine, and booze at just about every stand. You can snack your way around the globe while catching a more than proper buzz if you're of a mind to do so.

    And I was amazed to see on my first visit that a lot of people are of that mind. For a place that bills itself as a family attraction, this little corner of Disney turns into a pub crawl-style shitshow during the evening.

    Just last week, as a matter of fact, that shitshow featured one of American sports' most prominent ladies. U.S. Women's National Team (and Orlando Pride) star Alex Morgan, her husband, Orlando City FC midfielder Servando Carrasco, and a large group of their teammates and friends made the rounds at the Food and Wine Festival. Judging from reports, they got their money's worth.

    Did they get overserved and a little bit belligerent? I mean, it certainly looks that way. Morgan's, "I know the Orlando SWAT team" version of "Do you know who I am?" is a bit of a giveaway. But who amongst us hasn't wandered around drinking copiously on a beautiful day in the company of friends?

    Getting escorted out of Epcot is a nice touch, a feat that most (all?) of us can't claim. But we've all been politely asked to leave worse joints. I just need to keep my wits about me next month when I make a return trip.

    Meet me at Epcot, anybody?

    Thursday, October 05, 2017

    Baseball Roots (Not a Miniseries Mash-up)

    My woeful team was put down like Old Yeller a long while back. I enjoy baseball. For whom should I root, root, root now? Certainly not just the home team each game, right?

    I'm in luck. With the Wild Cards done and the Fall Classic in view, it’s time for Gheorghe to tell us supporters of non-playoff teams (and Twins and Rockies) which clubs to pull for. Here’s a table that will show the criteria:

    The City Itself: Is it fun? Charming? Boring? Disgusting?
    The Fans: I think this gamut runs from those at Busch to those at the Vet (RIH)
    Mascot/Logo: Beloved? Asinine? Confusing? Offensive?
    Stadium: Cathedral or glorified softball park…
    History/Rootability: where the cosmos seeps into sports, where the good guys sometimes prevail, and where decades of wrongs get righted
    Underdoggedness: Fate has a fickle finger; favorites don’t always fare favorably
    Star Quality: Stars shine in October
    Food from the City/Region: Perhaps the most subjective category of all
    Bands from the City/Region: Never mind, this is
    X-Factor: That little edge could be telling you something

    So, whom do we like in 2017?

    Boston Red Sox
    City: Great town. Wish they could drive. 3
    Fans: Increasingly hahd to tawlerate. 1
    Mascot/Logo: Uniform timeless. Wally not. 0.5
    Stadium: A classic. 1
    History/Rootability: Used to be a 5. Now… bleh. 1
    Underdoggedness: Slight. 2
    Stars: Not relative to the Cowboy Up days. 0
    Food: Lobster rolls and Harpoon. 1
    Bands: The Cars. Aerosmith once upon a time. Pixies. 1
    X-Factor: Belichick. 0
    Total: 10.5

    Houston Astros
    City: Wasn’t much before the floods. 0.5
    Fans: Nondescript at best. Texans. 1
    Mascot/Logo: Still clinging to NASA? Ok. 1
    Stadium: Are you kidding? 0
    History/Rootability: Well, given recent events in the region, it’s better. Never won a Series. That helps. 5
    Underdoggedness: Many folks have picked them. 1
    Stars: I like Altuve. 1
    Food: Brisket, maybe? 1
    Bands: Beyonce and ZZ Top? 0
    X-Factor: Harvey. 1
    Total: 10.5

    New York Yankees
    City: Of course. 3
    Fans: Like mosquitoes, they’re everywhere and annoying. GTB Yanks fans only reason for a point. 1
    Mascot/Logo: Vintage. Ubiquitous but vintage. 1
    Stadium: I preferred the one erected in the 70’s. 0
    History/Rootability: Too good for too long. Can’t get behind them. 1
    Underdoggedness: Don’t believe the hype. A gift to earn a 1. 1.
    Stars: My name is Judge. 1
    Food: Like everything in NYC, it’s good on its own but overhyped. 1
    Bands: Ramones. Run-DMC. Dave loves Billy Joel. 1
    X-Factor: Not feeling it. 0
    Total: 10

    Cleveland Indians
    City: No Bueno. I’m sorry. 0
    Fans: Dedicated through all the crap. Even Randy Quaid. 3
    Mascot/Logo: Chief Wahoo. Nope. 0
    Stadium: One of the original new classics alongside Camden. 1
    History/Rootability: Stands to reason. 5
    Underdoggedness: Only because they blow this every time. 1
    Stars: You met them last fall. 1
    Food: Just drink. 0
    Bands: Nine Inch Nails and Joe Walsh. 1/2 point for the HoF. 0.5
    X-Factor: It’s time. 1
    Total: 12.5

    Washington Nationals
    City: Good town. 2
    Fans: Homers drag this one down. 2
    Mascot/Logo: Love the presidents. 1
    Stadium: Not bad at all. 1
    History/Rootability: Les Expos! The curse of the strike of ’81. Jarry Park! 4
    Underdoggedness: Marginal. 1
    Stars: Like white on Bryce. 1
    Food: I lived in DC for 12 years and can’t tell you what DC food is. 0
    Bands: Fugazi. emmet swimming?? 0
    X-Factor: Un peu. 0.5
    Total: 12.5

    Chicago Cubs
    City: Good but cold. 2.5
    Fans: Trending Beantownish? 1
    Mascot/Logo: Timeless. 1
    Stadium: Same. 1
    History/Rootability: Last year a 5. This year… eh. 1.5
    Underdoggedness: Solid. 2.5
    Stars: You met them last fall. 1
    Food: Brats and Old Style. Yes. 1
    Bands: Peter Cetera. Smashing Pumpkins. But EWF. Muddy Waters. Wilco. 1
    X-Factor: Not this year. 0
    Total: 12.5

    Los Angeles Dodgers
    City: Fun but not my bag. 1
    Fans: LA people. Meh. 1
    Mascot/Logo: Only missing the BROOKLYN embroidery. 1
    Stadium: Chavez Ravine! Good enough. 1
    History/Rootability: Debatable. Been since ’88, spent too much $, Boehly. 2
    Underdoggedness: Was a -3 earlier in the season. 0
    Stars: Yeah, yeah. 1
    Food: Dodger Dogs and avocado. 1
    Bands: RHCP, GN’R, Doors, etc. Strong. 1
    X-Factor: No love here.0
    Total: 9

    Arizona Diamondbacks
    City: Not my climate. 1
    Fans: No idea. 1.5
    Mascot/Logo: I hate snakes. 0
    Stadium: Pool. 0
    History/Rootability: They won in 2001 in an all-timer. Other history? 3
    Underdoggedness: Significant. 3
    Stars: Maybe this postseason will make them brighter. 0
    Food: Tex-Mex. Okay. 1
    Bands: Stevie Nicks and Meat Puppets. 0
    X-Factor: The ghost of Luis Gonzalez (RIA) 1
    Total: 10.5

    Tribe vs. Nats!  Not bloody likely but there you have it.

    **if you use this for betting purposes, you are dumber than Dumb Donald.  Or even Dumb Donald.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2017

    Is There a Doctor in the House?

    As I commented last week, it was a busy 10 days or so in my social life. But as a former Social Chairman for the Virginia Psi chapter of Pi Lambda Phi, I have to expect that, right? I saw Adam Ant in Richmond, Jack Johnson in Virginia Beach, the Psychedelic Furs in Norfolk, and a Grateful Dead cover band at a burger bar in my neighborhood. All highly enjoyable.

    Wedged in between Jack and the Furs, however, was something non-musical in nature but just as worthy of singing about. The Squires came back to town!

    You see, from 1970 to 1976, there was an American Basketball Association (ABA) team here in Norfolk, VA called the Virginia Squires. For six glorious seasons (okay, two great ones, a so-so one, one weak one, and two of the most putrid campaigns ever recorded), the Squires rocked Norfolk (and Hampton, Richmond, and Roanoke on occasion) at the ODU Fieldhouse and then Scope Arena.

    Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, text
    If time has unfairly diminished the ABA’s importance in hoops history, then it has nearly wiped clean the national memory of the Virginia Squires. That said, for one night last week in Norfolk, it became apparent that many locals have never forgotten. While I was just 3 ½ weeks old on October 17, 1970, when the inaugural Squires defeated the Pittsburgh Condors 133-116 behind 29 points from the great Charlie Scott, that night a number of folks older than I began a fondness for the hometown team in their red, white and blue that has endured through decades of dormancy.

    The cause for the reunion was a documentary on the Squires, and in particular their owner: The Dream Maker: The Earl Foreman Story.

    Dream Maker 2017 Trailer from Eric Futterman on Vimeo.

    Sadly timed, the Dream Maker died in January of this year, but his family, friends, and players came out to a theater in downtown Norfolk take in a screening, tell old jokes, and remember the man and the time.

    Who was there?
    In the weeks that preceded the event, announcements were made on Facebook and the like regarding who was being recruited to come back to Norfolk for it. 

    • Early ins were coach Al Bianchi, Jumbo Jim Eakins, and ODU alum and Squire Dave Twardzik. 
    • Mike Barr and Neil Johnson, old Squires.
    • Charlie Scott, one of the true Squires greats in the early years, posted. All smiles.
    • Lefty Driesell showed (as a former recruiter of Charlie Scott, friend of the Foreman family, and former hoops coach at a couple local high schools here) and spoke (until Charlie Scott gave him the much-needed hook.
    • Celebrating Virginia hoops? Why not Johnny Newman?  He looked sharp and like he could still play.
    • A number of others... ESPN's Charlie Neal MCed, and he recognized them all.
    I had missed the late announcements that the two most prominent Squires would indeed attend.  I didn't realize that 8 rows in front of me were the Doctor and the Ice Man.  Julius Erving and George Gervin were only teammates for part of a season, but two of the top 50 NBA players of all time dunked and finger-rolled on the same court at Scope, and it makes this small-market town proud. They were acknowledged and got some Virginia love.

    After the credits rolled, the Squires were clapped out.  At the end of my row, I talked for a second with Charlie Scott (the dude next to me had a Virginian-Pilot picture from 1972 with him as a kid and Charlie that the big man signed), I got a head nod from George Gervin, and I had the most brief of cool encounters with my favorite player as a kid, Dr. J.  Erving was walking up the row and stopped for a handshake.

    Okay, so as "meeting" famous people go, it obviously pales in comparison to a lot of stories, but I'll take it.  With another second or two to plan, I would have thought to thank him for coming to Norfolk and that while larger cities might take that kind of thing for granted, it means a great deal to us and to these old Squires fans.

    Yeah.  I pretty much couldn't believe he paused to say hi, marveled at how much his paw engulfed my hand, and just said, "Hey, how's it going, Doc?"  If' I'd said, "What's up, Doc?" I hope he would have punched me.  Lord.

    As I continued to mumble something, he smiled and said good, thanks, then someone grabbed him and told him he was needed in some sort of VIP area.  I'm not a VIP. I didn't even get a friggin' picture, though there is tell that one of the other dudes around me snapped one.

    The documentary is worthy.  Amateurish at times (criminy, learn to spell Phoenix), but good interviews and footage and a fine tribute to Earl Foreman.  As importantly to 600 Norfolkers on a Thursday night in the old downtown, it was a terrific encapsulation of a moment in time when we had a pro team and some of the greatest talent of all time.  Tons of fun.

    Tuesday, October 03, 2017

    Baseball Postseason Kickoff Post

    Like Julius and Vincent, we're all Twins today. Enjoy the beginning of postseason baseball, and feel free to comment below.

    Sunday, October 01, 2017

    The Full Bogar

    Andrew Romine isn't very good at professional baseballing. In 508 games, he's hit 10 homers, driven in 79 runs, and posted a .602 OPS. He aspires to mediocrity.

    But tonight, he entered into the G:TB pantheon. Tonight, Andrew Romine went Full Bogar.

    In the waning days of a miserable season for the Detroit Tigers, skipper Brad Ausmus let Romine play all nine positions, making him the fifth player in history to do so at the major league level. It's likely to be the highlight of Romine's MLB career, just like it was the highlight of a long-lost minor league ballgame for a group of college-aged idiots.

    Sports, though they're too conflated with the clusterfuckery of the modern world at the moment, are still awesome.