Tuesday, July 17, 2018

...And Ned Beatty As Donald Trump

I'm perhaps second only to Teejay around these parts as someone averse to spending time on politics, and when I do it's pretty dumb.  So here goes.

There is exactly one thing that came to mind as I saw the footage of the much-assaulted Putin-Trump besties press conference yesterday.  And it's a movie scene from my adolescence.  Please watch this for couple of minutes and tell me this isn't exactly what went down in Helsinki when DJT was asked about the Russian election meddling..

(Because every political blogpost should feature Rodney Dangerfield.)


It could be argued that our President also has startling similarities to another Ned Beatty character in celluloid history, his Otis to Putin's Lex Luthor.

Now... if only Donald Trump could give us a spot-on all-time Ned Beatty scene from another entry in his filmography...

And finally, because Jon Stewart is seen as much on TV as he is in the College Delly these days, here is your "Moment of Zen."


Monday, July 16, 2018

Stuff You Slept On, Alternatively Titled "layzman's filler" -- zman Edition

You should check out "Done by the Forces of Nature" by The Jungle Brothers. Perhaps the coolest thing I ever did as social chair was put "Feelin' Alright" on a party mix--a bunch of Thetasfrom southwestern Virginia wearing pearl earrings and cardigans spontaneously started dancing to it even though they didn't know the song at all. One of them even went "Alright!" when she heard the singer go "Woo-oo-oooooo-oo-oo" at the beginning of the song. That's how good it is.



1989 was a banner year for influential albums: "Three Feet High and Rising" came out in March 1989, followed by "Paul's Boutique" in July, then "Done by the Forces of Nature" in November. All three, in my humble opinion, influenced the way people sample. For example:



And this:



It makes you wanna freaky-deaky, right?



Although the album was produced by DJ Red Alert, an East Coast stalwart, you can hear the West Coast influence in songs like "'U' Make Me Sweat," which sounds like early Dr. Dre:



You can also hear how this song sounds like "Belly Dancin' Dina," albeit much angrier:



The album also features a number of conscious Afrocentric songs like "Acknowledge Your Own History."



If you're just going to download one song, and, like Connell, you like your hiphop bangin, I suggest this:



Despite having 16 outstanding tracks, no one ever talks about this album, let alone listens to it. You can change this. Get the album now and rock it at your next BBQ--no swearing, no racial epithets, some sexual innuendo but it's oblique enough that prudes won't get it. How can you have a bad time when this is going on in the background?





Sunday, July 15, 2018

Official G:TB World Cup Final Preview

On paper, today's World Cup Final between France and Croatia appears to favor Les Bleus. One of the youngest teams in the tournament (tied with England, with only Nigeria sending a younger roster), France nonetheless boasts luminaries all over the pitch. From Atletico Madrid's sensational Antoine Griezmann and Chelsea's Olivier Giroud up top to the brilliant attacking athleticism of 19 year-old Kylian Mbappe to Paul Pogba's majestic presence and skill to the imposing central defense pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Verane and the flashy if not always consistent Hugo Lloris in the net, the French are deep, talented, and appropriately arrogant.

And I haven't even mentioned the best player in the world, N'golo Kante, France's diminutive
wrecking ball of a defensive midfielder, nemesis to attacking plans, coverer of more ground than kudzu, and radar-guided disruptor.

A tall order, then, for this gritty Croatian side.

The Balkans aren't lacking for talent of their own. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic (key men for Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively) make up a formidable midfield, one that will test Kante's considerable engine. Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic scored the overtime goal against England that sent his country through to the final, and an amazing overhead tally in the 2017 Champions League Final. Liverpool center back Dejan Lovren anchors the Croatian defense.



France has built into the final, with a middling at best performance in the group stage that saw them lucky to beat Australia before going through. They trailed Argentina, 2-1, in the second half of the first knockout round match, until they flipped a switch and roared to three goals in 11 minutes. The French comprehensively dismantled a good Uruguay squad in the quarters before dominating a Belgium team that had played some of the tournament's best attacking soccer to reach the final. The French are coming off of consecutive shutouts in games where Lloris really hasn't had all that much to do. They appear, in the best sense, imperious.

Rakitic, Modric, Frenemies
The gritty Croatians, on the other hand, have had to go to extra time in each of their three knockout stage matches after cruising through the group. They eliminated Denmark in a shootout, then did the same to host Russia after conceding a goal with three minutes to play in the second extra time period. Then, after going down early to England, Croatia found an equalizer in the second half and won the game on Mandzukic's goal. They dominated the Three Lions for the better part of the game's latter stages. They've been tested far more sternly than their finals opponents. The question is whether their legs will hold up against a young, fast, physical team.

For much of their semifinal game, England's quicksilver Raheem Sterling gave the bulky but slow Croatian back line fits with his pace. Mbappe might be the fastest player in the tournament, and Griezmann doesn't lack for speed.

Croatia is much closer to Romania than in France, so Gheorghe's positive energy may play a role, but it's not all that close, so the power may be muted. My kids have been in France this week, which means nothing, but it's interesting. They're in Italy now, so, really, no impact there.

France are an overwhelming favorite to win, at -210 on the money line (bet $210 to win $100), while Croatia are at +175 (bet $100 to win $175). I've been trying to find ways to credibly pick the underdog, but I can't convince myself of anything other than a France win. Croatia will likely sit back and absorb pressure, try to put bodies on Mbappe, clog up the central midfield and limit Pogba's influence, and hope to get Modric free on the counterattack to create. It could well be an ugly affair.

And when it's over, a young French team will lift the trophy. Which should scare everyone else over the next cycle or two - they're young, skilled, and really good.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Serious as Serious Can Be

I've spent a fair amount of time in my hometown over the past three weeks. It's a 30 to 45 minute drive each way so the trip gives me plenty of time to listen to music. zson accompanied me on one or two of these trips and he has a bizarre musical palate for a seven-year-old--I suspect no one else in his class gets in the car and demands LCD Soundsystem or The King Khan and BBQ Show songs by name. Lately he's into Jane's Addiction and we were listening to "Nothing's Shocking" as we pulled into Teaneck. Driving around town listening to this album made me feel particularly maudlin, as it pulled up memories of time spent inebriated with friends twenty-five-plus years ago. Then "Summertime Rolls" came on.



For a second, the line "It's oh so serious, as serious as can be" made me think of the serious state of things around me, but then I snapped out of it. This is a goddamn love song about summertime love, the one of the most fleeting and youthful things on earth. It isn't serious!



I realized I needed to lighten up, remember the Gheorghe mission statement, and try to take things in stride. So from the depths of my iTunes library, here are a bunch of fun songs about summer to help you (or at least me) get through the rest of June.










I used to know how to make yootoob videos turn into a playlist in an embedded player but clearly I don't remember how. No matter! It isn't worth fretting over. Just enjoy the tunes.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Good Job. Good Effort.

I leave tomorrow morning for three kid-free days in the Virginia Piedmont. Before I do, though I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this with you.

In this image, Billie Joe Armstrong hugs a reporter. Probably.
I'm a big fan of The Washington Post. It's unquestionably one of America's best newspapers, and it's consistently good across all of its sections.  Though I no longer get the daily version in physical form, I do get an actual paper on Sundays. And perusing the Sunday Post (in this order: Sports, Business, Outlook, Style, Front Page) remains one of the simple pleasures of my week.

Today, though, Ben Bradlee spun in his grave.

In a story about a campaign in England to get Green Day's 'American Idiot' to the top of the UK pop charts in advance of President* Trump's visit to London, the Post cited an article written by Billie Joe Armstrong on ClickHole. As noted by The A.V. Club, ClickHole is affiliated with the Onion, which we all know (well, most of us know, and one Post reporter definitely knows now) is a satirical website, and as such, really does print fake news. The A.V. Club goes further in assisting the Post in checking the veracity of its sources, offering the following advice:
  • "Generally, reputable news sources end in a .com or .org web address. Beware bizarrely complicated domains. For example, nbcnews.com is real, whereas nbcnews.com.co.net would be bullshit.
  • If you’re not sure if a site is real, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “about us” link. Many faux news sites, even completely unfunny ones, say they’re “satire” in their mastheads.
  • Google is your friend. If you see an image you think might be Photoshopped, do a reverse image search. You can also search fact-checking sites like factcheck.org, politifact.com, or that old reliable, snopes.com, to verify dubious-sounding assertions or statistics.
  • ClickHole is part of the Onion family of websites, of which only the site you are reading right now deals in non-joke information".
This will NOT help the mainstream media and right-thinking America win the fake news battle. Of that I'm quite sure. 

And now, off to get drunk and try to forget the world.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Anthem to a layoff / Appreciating 80's Clapton

Image result for unemployed gif

As most of you have heard, I was laid off in mid-March. It was for the best, to be honest. I hated my 60 y/o boss and her 60 y/o boss, both of whom enjoyed screaming and yelling at subordinates in a toxic, bureaucratic, heavily political atmosphere.  It was a bad match, like when you realize you have a boyfriend/girlfriend who is totally crazypants and you need to get out, despite the reasonable paycheck/sex. I needed them to break up with me for a couple specific reasons, and it happened. Life is too short for that nonsense.

With that said, it has not been a great time to be an out-of-work Wall Streeter. The model is changing for my industry, and not for the better. I looked hard at other industries and other cities, and even went to a franchise convention. Hooters was there! Not sure the wifey would love that one.

While unemployed, I was able to get to the gym quite a bit, because no job. So I had that going for me. As a creature of habit, I set a nice routine. I job-seeked (job-sought?) in the morning, ate a keto lunch at 1130, hit the gym at 1 and scooped kids from school at 3, often seeing my pal Zman there.

I realized one day in May that I was playing the same song every day on my five-minute drive to the gym without intentionally realizing it. It was a song I stumbled onto the previous winter, an 80's Clapton tune that I first heard Deep Tracks play on Sirius. I have come to realize I am a bit of a sucker for 80's Clapton. I love Forever Man, and will admit that when I was a kid watching Spacecamp, I registered the scene where bad boy junior astronaut Tate Donovan rolls into camp in a Jeep cranking that song. I remember thinking that was very cool. I finally got a Jeep in 2001, but I'm not sure I ever cranked Clapton while peeling into space camp.

(If you want to see the scene that I remembered, go to the 4:09 part of this clip here. It does not really hold up. I was not cool at age 11 and did not realize that aspiring to be like Chris Knight from Real Genius was not a valid life goal.)

Anyhoo, the tune that became my unemployement anthem, the one I cranked on my way to the gym every day, is Ain't Going Down, from Clapton's 1983 album Money and Cigarettes. I can't tell you why it resonated with me like it did, but messages like we're all lucky to be alive, and I still got something left to say hit a mark.

That song reminded me to stay humble and focused in my search, as I sought to keep providing for myself and three other important people in my life. After a couple months of keto lunches, pec wailing and job searching, I linked up with a former boss and former colleague who did not know I was on the beach. There was some mutual courting, and things came together quickly and cleanly, allowing me a couple more weeks off and a quick family vacation.

So enjoy the song below. And do yourself a favor and be kind to the next decent person who tells you they are out of a job. You can take the measure of a man/woman by the way they respond to you when you tell them you are unemployed and want to have a chat with them.



I think I will play this song on my commute on Monday morning, but maybe not again for a while after that. Thanks Eric. And thank you, Spacecamp, even though you tried to pretend Lea Thompson and Kelly Preston were unattractive nerds.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Gheorghasbord

It's pouring buckets here on the lake, and I'm going just a tiny bit stir crazy, so you're the winner, gentle reader.

Just two days before host country Russia takes on heavily favored Croatia in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, an interesting bit of business news from the Balkans. Troubled Croatian retail food conglomerate Agrokor agreed to sell a 47% stake to a group of Kremlin-backed banks as part of a restructuring designed to get the company back on solid financial footing. Agrokor's revenues
represent 15% of Croatia's GDP, and the firm's 60,000 employees make it the largest privately-held employer in the region.

The timing here is...interesting. 15% of Croatia's economy is in Russian hands on the eve of a huge international sporting competition between the two countries. Maybe we'll see a curious series of just-off touches by Luka Modric, or a suspiciously awkward foul by Dejan Lovren in a crucial situation (that'll probably happen regardless). Putin's a damn mastermind.

Scott Pruitt, arguably the most corrupt member of the Trump administration (and what a hell of a titanic accomplishment that is), resigned. I don't have a joke to make here. I'm just amazed that someone so transparently engaged in grift and mendacity lasted as long as he did. Unfortunately, his successor, Andrew Wheeler, is a coal lobbyist and protege of Oklahoma Senator and noted insane person and climate change denier Jim Inhofe. So, less corruption, more competently executed planet rape.

Here's a poetic justice headline, non-Pruitt category: "Lions killed poachers, leaving behind shoes, rifles and 'not much' else, officials say". Three dudes who were up to no good started making trouble in the Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa, armed and heavily-provisioned, and apparently looking to slaughter the Reserve's population of rhinos. A pride of lions, described by Reserve head Nick Fox as "our watchers and guardians", went all Scooby Doo on the meddlesome villains, only slightly more violently. Said Fox, "They picked the wrong pride and became a meal".

This bodes well for England, for what it's worth. Three Lions, and all that.

A headline of a far different sort: "Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity". We live in an age of electrified arachnids? Fuck it, man. Let Andrew Wheeler have his way and burn the whole planet down. Earth 2 has to be a nicer place.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

America Filler

I'm on a mini-walkabout, sorta trying to disconnect from the realish world with family on a lake in Ohio. And I've been trying for a while to write something that encapsulates a coherent philosophical framework that explains how I view the world and our place in it. Trying, but failing.

Until I figure it out, in recognition of our need to feed the tree of Gheorgheness with the blood of new content, here's something I posted on Twitter yesterday that I'll return to over and over again. This is how I think about America:

I think of patriotism like I think of parenting. I love my kids fiercely, and I get pissed off when they fail to do the right thing. I love my country fiercely, and I get pissed off when it fails to do the right thing. Expecting more of America doesn't make me less of a patriot.

God bless America. May she actually be what we believe she already is.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Baby You're a Firework

I am, by most measures, a cautious and conventional person. I've a house in the suburbs. I drive a Camry with 215,000 miles on it. I work for a giant multinational corporation, safely salaried with all the necessary benefits. College funds for my kids and a modest but growing nest egg.

As we've discussed numerous times in these pages, I've got tons of ideas and no follow-through. You guys remember Gheorghe: The Book, right? And the Mini Cooper that I first started talking about 10 years ago? (Zman has me pointed towards a Miata now. Maybe when my kids graduate college.) And I've been threatening to get a tattoo for years, but i really don't know how serious I actually was for most of that time. It sounded cool, anyway.

I did jump out of an airplane. That was pretty badass.

But as this anything but a pirate looked at 50, struck by the cliche desire to break out of the deepening ruts of convention (and to get the hell away from the news), I took a risk this week. And even this symbolic risk, doing something that used to be the exclusive province of rebels that's become common among housewives and hipsters alike, is meaningful to me, a consummate rule-follower.

I did this:


As I explained a few months ago, my father took to repeating the phrase 'it is what it is' while he was battling cancer, in hopes of deflecting people's concerns. He hated to be pitied, and he didn't like attention all that much, so he adopted a mantra that let him dictate the terms of engagement. I've worn a bracelet with that saying since he passed in November 2010.

I recorded my daughters saying 'it is what is is' on my phone, then I used the audio file to create an image using Soundviz.com:

When I shared it with my tattoo guru, Mark, he told me that particular design might be tough to do at the size I desired, given the fine lines and detail. He encouraged me to consult with a tattoo artist to see how it might be executed.

And when I first met Corey Wheeler at The Body Gallery in my town, he said he could do it, but only if I wanted the tattoo to span my entire back. I'm not quite there yet, so I asked him to play with it and see what he could do. I'd seen lots of his work online, and I like his informal, almost watercolor style, so I put my arm in his hand. Literally.

When he showed me his revised design, my first reaction was, 'man, that's a little bit bigger than I wanted'. My second, 'fuck it, take a risk for once'. I'm really glad I did.

As the process started, Corey was a bit quiet, working methodically on the outline of the image. As he started to fill in the coloring, he became more and more animated. First, 'this looks really fucking cool', then 'I've never done a piece like this - it's fucking badass' (note: really glad he didn't say that until we were almost done), to almost giddy by the end, calling over his colleagues to look at it. He seemed really proud of the work (he posted it on his Instagram feed a couple of hours later), and I was struck by the sense that I was watching an artist create. That part of the experience was entirely unexpected, and one of the things I'll remember the most.


My 16 year-old daughter was blown away. My sister said it looks like a firework display (and it kinda does). My wife, skeptical of the notion, digs it.

As for me, I'm still coming to terms with this 'new' image, the tattooed hipster dad (as my 14 year-old dubbed me). The design extends beyond the cuff of my dress shirts when I roll them up, as is my custom, so I guess I'm not hiding it at work. I hope that the symbolism will stay with me as I make decisions, even as it reminds me of both my Dad and my kids.

In any case, I'm glad I broke my pattern. I'm really happy with the art, and as much so with the fact that I followed through.

Now I just need to figure out what to put on the other arm. For balance, you know.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

"You Put Out a Paper. It's What You Do."

I wrote 'Fuck civility' the other day in the wake of the shootings at The Capital Gazette. Our friend Dave Fairbank has a much more personal perspective on the events of that afternoon. In an email he sent me expanding on his thoughts, he said this," Good journalists are terrified of making mistakes. I can't tell you how many times I woke up in the middle of the night afraid that I'd botched a score or misspelled a name. I'd fire up the laptop and check. I nearly always had it right, and I was miserable if I didn't." Most of the people using the media as red meat to fire up their political base know this to be true, and they choose to inflame regardless. Sad and shitty and stupid, these times of ours.

I've been sad and angry the past couple of days, courtesy of two of my least favorite aspects of present American society: mass shootings and contempt for journalists. Five people were killed at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md., on Thursday afternoon, and it felt a little like family had died.

I was a newspaper reporter for almost 35 years. I grew up south of Annapolis, and the Capital is my hometown paper. I worked at the Capital as a part-time sports writer for a couple of years after college, trying to assemble enough clips and experience to land a full-time newspaper gig.

I knew none of the victims personally, but in 30 years at the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press, I'm certain that I shared press boxes and press rooms with John McNamara, who covered University of Maryland athletics for many years.

I love newspapers. What I love most about newspapers is newspaper people. Yeah, we can be selectively thin-skinned, and we sometimes devote way too much time and ink (pixels?) to ourselves. But most newspaper folks are bright and curious and quirky and committed. We discovered an outlet that allows us to be nosy and informative and occasionally entertaining for a living. Most of us work long hours for crappy pay in a business where they're throwing people overboard like they're auditioning for "Pirates of the Caribbean." And yet we come back every day because we yearn to tell stories and to make a difference in our communities.

That came through as I read about the victims. McNamara was a jack-of-all-trades who had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of local sports. He could write, edit and design pages, and was capable of covering most anything. He was described by one reporter as funny and humane and "a thoroughly decent person."

Rob Hiassen, brother of longtime Miami Herald columnist and novelist Carl Hiassen, was a big-hearted, award-winning feature writer who often found peculiar angles and subjects. He then became an editor and was much respected for nurturing young reporters.

Wendi Winters wrote her way onto the staff as an earnest and prolific freelancer. She studied fashion design in college and ran her own boutique in New York City before moving to the Annapolis area 20 years ago. She immediately started writing for the Capital, where she became invaluable.

Rebecca Smith was a sales assistant and a relatively recent hire at the paper, praised for her efficiency, heart and humor.

Editorial page writer Gerald Fischman was described as the conscience of the paper and the community for more than two decades. He was a quiet, exceptionally learned fellow who often communicated with colleagues via post-it notes and met his wife, a Mongolian opera singer, online.
So damn sad. I feel a twinge when any journalist is killed. But these weren't journalists in a war zone or some banana republic. They were in Annapolis, for Christ's sake. They were in a newsroom doing their jobs when a troubled asshole with a vendetta against the paper shattered their world.

The hell of it is, the alleged shooter had no gripe with any of his victims. His beef with the paper goes back to a 2011 column that called him out for stalking and harassing a former high school classmate, a woman. He sued the paper, unsuccessfully. Neither the columnist nor the publisher, who he frequently blasted by name on social media, is at the paper any longer. The publisher is retired and lives in Naples, Fla. The columnist now works at the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

Certainly, the alleged shooter knew that, since he told a judge during one hearing that his legal actions against the paper had become his life. Still, it didn't dissuade him. He reportedly armed up, went to the newspaper offices Thursday afternoon and barricaded the rear exit door to prevent escape. He then went around to the front, blasted the glass doors and walked through the newsroom, shooting and reloading his shotgun. Fortunately, police arrived within a minute of the first 911 call and were in the building within two minutes, or the death toll likely would have been much greater.

That's where the anger comes in. Another day, another mass shooting in America. Thoughts and prayers. Too soon to talk about possible fixes. Fades away. Until the next one. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The fact that the alleged shooter had a specific grudge against the paper supposedly meant that the act wasn't politically motivated. He wasn't some patriot targeting the lib'rul media.

Maybe not. But you don't think that a president who routinely bashes the press might implicitly validate reaching for a Glock in an increasingly divided country with 300 million guns and ready access to firearms? He said Friday that journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being attacked while doing their jobs. Sorry, Chuckles, you don't spend years calling the press "enemies of the people" and using them as stage props at your rallies and then get a pass for a few comforting words in the wake of a massacre.

Bashing the press pisses me off, as well. Sure, there are reporters and outlets with agendas. But most journalists are grinding in the trenches, doing their damnedest to get it right. They could barely organize a decent softball game, never mind operate within vast media conspiracies.

Heartbreaking as it was to see Thursday unfold, I was proud of the Capital staffers' response. Shaken to their cores, they still got back to work. It's something I've seen and experienced at newspapers all over the country. Floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, mass shootings, unfathomable tragedies. Doesn't matter. You put out a paper. It's what you do.