Tuesday, February 28, 2017

PSA: Soccer Safety

In every youth soccer league of which I'm aware, the kids are required to wear shinguards. On it's face, this seems like a prudent policy, but if you delve below the surface, it's really just a ploy by Big Shinguard to get millions of American parents to drop extra coin on thin pads that don't provide that much support.

Or so I thought, until my weekly run with the rest of the old guys. I cleared a ball off the line, but just barely. As I tangled with an attacking player, he attempted to backheel the ball into the net. He made solid contact. With my unprotected shin. I pretended it didn't hurt.

It hurt like a motherfucker. It still kinda hurts, but I'm so sore for several days after playing soccer that it kinda blends in with the rest of my aches.

I'm buying catcher's shin pads for next week's run.

And I prevented the goal, and later scored on a sweet flicked header, so glory is mine.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Game Over, Man. Game Over.

As most of you know, Bill Paxton died today at the way-too-young age of 61. He was Gheorghe's kind of actor, versatile and funny, with an ever-present hint of mirth in his eyes. He appeared in two of my very favorite films, stealing the show as Chet Donnelly in Weird Science, and catalyzing Kurt Russell's badass turn as Wyatt Earp's younger brother Morgan in Tombstone. Ironically, in both cases he played the brother of a character named Wyatt.

We'll pour a few in his honor this evening while watching the Oscars.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Turn This Mutha Out

As I haven't been shy to disclose, my wife and I walked around the corner to see George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at a cool little music venue in our town. The Tally Ho Theatre's been around for a while in various incarnations, but at present, it's a 500-ish capacity joint with great acoustics and good beer. We usually get touring tribute bands, local talent, and the occasional one-hit wonder (Gin Blossoms have been here a couple of times), so it was a bit of an excellent surprise that the Mothership landed in Leesburg.

Brother Clinton is pushing 80, and his role is more that of conductor than full participant in much of what his band kicks out, but he led P-Funk through a nearly three-hour set of funk, rap, metal, blazing guitar from Blackbyrd McKnight, and more funk. 

I grabbed a couple of shitty videos, but I missed capturing McKnight's incendiary ten-minute solo work on Maggot Brain. You can check out a reasonable facsimile here:

Here are the few that I took, and no, I have no idea how to rotate the second one. Just tilt your heads. Coulda sworn I got video of Atomic Dog, too, but there's no proof of that. Clinton's the one wearing the white bathrobe, though he's done away with his trademark rainbow dreads. We got close enough to the stage by the end of the evening that my wife managed to snag beads tossed by the band on their way off the stage. Didn't ever think I'd get see P-Funk live, and I sure as heck didn't think it'd happen walking distance from my house. Pretty, pretty cool.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I need some parenting advice

How am I supposed to handle this?

When I sat zson down and told him he wasn't allowed to use potty words at school he said "Like what?" and I said "Like poop and butt" and he laughed and I started to laugh and caught myself. Then he asked "Can I yell penis?" and he has a lisp so he said "penith" and I almost lost it but held it together and said "No, you can't yell or even whisper penis." So he whispered "penith" in my ear. I don't think the talk was successful.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Soothing a Savage Beast

It's Presidents Day, but we're not here for that. We're here for a whole bunch of new music by bands we like. And we're here for you adding new stuff to this post, because you like bands, too.

Longtime GTB faves Old 97s release Graveyard Whistling, their 11th studio album, on February 24. Rhett Miller and the boys recorded the record at the same studio they used to make their 1996 major label debut, Too Far to Care. If the first two singles are any indication, this one will be on the dark side. Here's the second single, All Who Wander.

Indie darlings The Shins (famous mostly for the namedrop on The Test podcast) are out with Heartworms, their newest album, on March 10th. The first single, Name for You, sounds very Shinnsy.

New Pornographers are one of the most underrated bands of the last fifteen years. A.C. Newman stands in line to nobody when it comes to writing a pop hook. Their new album, Whiteout Conditions, hits on March 10. They'll be at the 9:30 Club on April 28 and 29 if anyone wants to go see them. This is High Ticket Attraction.

Red Baraat might be the world's best party band. They release Bhangra Pirates on March 24, and will conveniently be playing The Hamilton in DC that night and the next. Haven't seen any videos yet for this record, so enjoy this NPR Tiny Desk Concert from 2012.

Last, but certainly not least, Son Volt released Notes of Blue last Thursday. You can hear Promise the World here, and listen to the entire record at NPR. Jay Farrar might not have the critical and public acclaim of former Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jeff Tweedy, but Son Volt are reliably excellent and evocative of a place and time.

What else is out that the Gheorgheverse needs to hear, boys and girls?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Minnows and Narhwals

Embarrassment of footie riches this month, as our friend Fat Guy in a Speedo has been productive. The fifth round of the FA Cup kicks off this morning, with storylines to please the most discerning fan. We've got bigs versus littles, hooligans against champions, and probably an unavoidable thrashing or three. Fingers crossed that Fulham avoids getting completely throttled by a pissed off Tottenham side that's coming off dismal performances against Liverpool in the league and Gent(!) in the Europa League. Herewith the Fat Guy:

It’s the fifth round of the FA Cup this weekend and we all know what this means; a week off of soccer watching for everyone but the single, male whose team is still in the tourney. That being said the Cup still delivers in the minnows vs. narwhal scenario that was envisioned at its inception. Or maybe the FA never thought that grown men would kick a ball on some grass for a metric shit ton of poundage 120 years in the future.

The two teams to surprise this year are Lincoln City and Sutton United, two non-league teams - which means they are mostly made up of amateurs whose day jobs consist of non-soccer related activities envisioned by the FA 120 years in the past. (Speaking of Fat Guy, Men in Blazers had an awesome interview with Sutton's backup goalkeeper, 280-lb, 46 year-old Wayne Shaw.) Put into perspective by the Guardian (and proving its reporter wrong), “You probably won’t read this anywhere else this weekend, but just nine non-league teams have made it to the fifth round of the FA Cup since the end of the Second World War. This season, two of them have done so for the first time since the establishment of the Football League in 1888.” So there’s that.  

Unfortunately, statistical significance doesn’t equate to real-life excitement as prior girlfriends can confirm. Sutton United play an Arsenal team whose 5-1 midweek tonking in the Champions League by Bayern Munich should inspire them to victory in pursuit of the only silverware they might have a shot at this year. It’s actually looking like Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will finally part ways with the club he’s been at for twenty-some years this summer. I hope not, as the angst of Arsenal fans worldwide has provided the rest of us with huge amounts of schadenfreude over the past decade. Lincoln City vs. Burnley might be more competitive but I doubt it. 

So, what’s worth watching you ask? Fuck if I know. Millwall plays Leicester City, and this might be interesting in that high-flying underdogs Leicester City won the league handily last season and are in danger of relegation this season, which would be a first in the modern era; paradoxical in light of the highly consistent Lester with whom we're all familiar. Plus, Millwall’s fans will chant “No one likes us, we don’t care” whilst hooliganing the shit out of the place as is their wont. Fulham – Tottenham has potential unless you follow oddsmaking. 

It's supposed to be beautiful outside this weekend. Maybe just go for a walk. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Keeping It 100

On Tuesday night, four-time women's NCAA Division I basketball champion Connecticut defeated sixth-ranked South Carolina, 66-55, marking the Huskies' 100th consecutive victory. That's an amazing number. The excellent Sally Jenkins wrote a compelling piece on the victors' run, calling out John Feinstein by name under a headline that read, 'Bored by UConn women's dominance? You must not like basketball.'

I was amused by the rare public slap, and enjoyed the article's dissection of Geno Auriemma's exacting standards. But I didn't think much about the thesis until I got a direct message from a friend on Twitter, which read:

"As a keen and varied sports observer, father of daughters, and possessor of Y chromosome and all of its lunkhead qualities, curious about your take on UConn women and 100 in a row and where it rates on your spectrum."

I am, in fact, a keen and varied sports observer. I watch all kinds of athletic contests, male and female. I've watched more women's soccer over the last six months than I've watched NFL football. It is also true that I possess one or two lunkhead qualities. But I do have daughters, and I'm an unabashed lefty women's rights supporter. Hell, I've written multiple posts right here about Elena Delle Donne.

And after careful thought, I realized that I don't give much of a damn about the UConn streak. In fact, I kinda agree with the aforementioned Feinstein, who responded to his close friend Jenkins this morning. The nut of his thesis is basically this: I prefer men's basketball because I know it better, and because it's more competitive:
But, Sally my love, here’s the thing: I’m going to continue to watch the men because I know and understand the game and I know and understand the people. If you prefer the women’s game—or, for that matter—the NBA, I am 100 percent fine with that.

I would never criticize you for not finding Saturday’s game between UMBC and UMass-Lowell as interesting as I will find it.

And I’d never call you stupid for two reasons: 1: I know you are smart as hell. And 2: you’ll always be the sister I never had.
Geno Auriemma is a hell of a coach. Connecticut's accomplishment is stunning, incredible, and unlikely to be repeated. Unless they do it again, because as Feinstein points out, the rising tide of women's basketball has yet to lift all boats. UConn has yet to have an opponent come within 10 points during the current streak. That's impossible. Or at least impossible in a sport that's got any kind of real competitive balance.

But it's a crazy streak, regardless. It just doesn't move me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Go Buy Charles's Stuff!

My friend and former colleague moonlights as a professional actor. A few years ago he told me about an improvisational dramatic film he was working on. It's now available on iTunes, Amazon and at live screenings. Here's the trailer.

I suggest you support independent film and rent (or even buy!) Somewhere In The Middle this weekend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

World Music Tuesday

What, you're not familiar with World Music Tuesday? Maybe you should pay better attention.

One of my favorite Tuareg rock, folk, blues bands released their newest album last week. Tinariwen, featured here previously, has an amazing backstory, full of legitimate danger and intrigue (and Roy Orbison), and a dizzying melange of influences on their unique sound.

Dig their new single, Sastanaqqam, from their album, Elwan:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

This Week in Wrenball: The Next One(?)

A little over five years ago, something happened in a William & Mary basketball game that made me literally jump out of my seat with wonder and surprise. Marcus Thornton's audacious drive and dunk attempt signalled a new era in Tribe hoops history - unto us that day a (near) savior was born.

Marcus is two years gone now, learning his trade as an offensively talented but still raw professional point guard. He's averaging 11.3 points and 1.6 assists (with 1.9 turnovers/game) for Consultinvest Pesaro in Italy's top league. But just his week, something else happened in a William & Mary game that made me sit up and take notice, if not exactly jump.

Early in the second half of the Tribe's eventual (and brutal) road loss to Towson, freshman center Nathan Knight grabbed three boards (two offensive), scored a basket, made two free throws, and ran the floor to make an acrobatic block on Tigers veteran forward John Davis. Knight's efforts helped the Tribe extend their lead to 15, and though they ultimately blew that lead, it was a bit of a coming out party for the exuberant 6'10", 250-pound newcomer.

Knight scored a career-high 15 points in 19 minutes against Towson, making 4 of 6 from the field and 7 of 8 from the line, adding 5 rebounds and 5 blocks in his best collegiate performance. He tied that career-best scoring mark yesterday against Charleston, going 5-7 from the floor and making all 5 of his free throws to go along with 6 boards in a tidy 19 minutes. In his last four games, the Syracuse native is averaging 12.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2 blocks, despite never playing more than 19 minutes in any of those games.

The big lefty served notice of his talent early in the season when he dropped 14 on Louisville despite missing 7 of 9 free throws. He took 12 shots in that game, refusing to back down against the Cards' big, athletic frontcourt. After his recent upswing, he averages 7.9 points and 4.4 boards per game, making 54.0% of his shots, and leads the CAA in blocks/game, averaging 1.5. His 37 blocks are already the 8th best single-season tally in school history. All of this in an average of only 17 minutes.

W&M's had some talented offensive big men, and they've had guys who could get after it on the glass and defend the rim, but they haven't had both in the modern era. Nathan Knight looks for all the world like he combines Tim Rusthoven's skill in the post with David Cully's strength and defensive talent. And if he continues to develop, G:TB readers will get very familiar with his name and his game.

After yesterday's win over Charleston in Williamsburg (where W&M has yet to lose this season), the Tribe are 14-10, 8-6 in the CAA. They're tied for fourth in the league with Elon, and appear assured of a top six finish, which is all that matters at this point. The league's six best teams avoid Pillow Fight Friday, where the 7-10 seeds square off to see who advances to the CAA Tournament quarterfinals. Just like every year in the past decade or so, W&M has enough talent to win the title. And just like each of those years, they're one inexplicable hairball puke away from losing to someone with inferior talent.

But whatever happens this year, Nathan Knight's big smile and bigger game portends good things for the next three seasons.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Fill 'er Up Friday

I spent the week in Orlando with a bunch of sales guys. Recovery starts now.

But the world still needs us, so I can't shirk blogging duty. Our man Teejay offered this spot-on political analysis this morning:

Inspired by his simple wisdom, I reached out to the White House for comment. The response did not fill me with confidence.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


Our tiny dictator wants a post up pronto.  What with our doofus overlord vacating the position 36 months ago, you're our only hope, Obi Wan.  Oh, wait, is that me?  Filler ensueth.

Every good rock band needs a logo.  The bigger and better your band gets, the more ubiquitous that logo is, and the more that image -- often without any words to associate it with the band -- stands just fine as a symbol of the group.  There are specific criteria that separates the best logos from the rest, some objective and most subjective.  I won't list them.  You get it.

Instead, I will proceed directly to the List of the Best Musical Act Logos.  A better name for this is Best Rock 'n' Roll Logos, but some might argue about certain acts' inclusion in the "rock" category. Whatever.  You get it.  Here we go.  This is what I came up with...

Top 12 Logos that Include the Band Name:

Top 15 Logos That Don't Include the Band Name:

Sometimes logos are meant to be mashed up.  Check out this T-shirt on local DJ Les Coole:
Feel free to add to this list.  

Oh, and yes, #8 is of course Random Idiots.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Bite Me, Randy Newman

The Michigan directional schools are making a serious play for my affection. First Eastern Michigan and the legendary Earl Boykins, and now the Chippewas of Central Michigan, who've doubled down on diminutive dribblers. (Yeah, that's right.)

Marcus Keene leads the nation in scoring with 30.2 per game, and he's deservedly received a great deal of run in the national media. Sports Illustrated just profiled the 5'9" guard, and he got an ESPN highlight package of his very own just two nights ago. He dropped 50 in a 101-92 win over Miami (OH), and a cool 36 when William & Mary came to Mount Pleasant.

Keene also gets 5.1 assists and a ridiculous 4.5 boards per game. A good percentage of those dimes come on passes to fellow 5'9" guard Braylon Rayson, who averages 20.3 points of his own in coach Keno Davis' freewheeling system.

Davis encourages his team to let fly - Central Michigan is 4th in the NCAA in points per game, 3rd in the country in 3-point attempts, and 2nd in 3-pointers made per game. And judging by some of Keene's highlights, he's cool with his players, um, expressing themselves. Check out what Keene does at the 5:40 mark of this highlight package against Wisconsin Green Bay:

Six point game, a couple of minutes to go, your starting point guard pulls of a gratuitous reverse spin and steps into a deep three, that he drains? Cool, cool.

So in Central Michigan we've got not one, but a pair of Tiny Archibaldalikes in one starting backcourt? Pinch me, I think I've found the Lollipop Guild. The Chips are 15-8, 5-5 in the MAC, so they're gonna need some luck to play on a bigger stage.

Perhaps we can arrange some leprechauns.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

zSuper Bowl zPorn

Big game tonight, I guess. I'm mostly excited about the appetizer festival we're making as a family to celebrate America. But our tradition of service as a comment zone for big national events demands that we post something. The public needs us. And we're not a blog that shirks its duty.

If you've got $312k burning a hole in your bank account, and you aren't willing to wait for the GOP to destroy the economy to see it disappear, then I've got just the thing for you. Legendary British automaker Aston Martin, James Bond's preferred ride, just announced a convertible version of its Vanquish platform, and holy Lord above is it a gorgeous piece of automotive ass.

Not only does the V12 engine pump out 580 horses, but it packs Satin Chopped Carbon Fiber panels and a Sumptuous Bridge of Weir Caithness Leather. If you know what that means, you'll know how incredible this car is. And if you know, I'd love it if you could tell me. Because I don't know.

But look at that thing. It's a damn sculpture on wheels. Prettier than anything we'll see tonight, with the possible exception of Julio Jones.

Roll Tide.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Bigly Football

The English FA Cup fifth round matchups were drawn earlier this week. For the first time in history, as far as we know, two non-league sides have reached the final sixteen, with matches to take place two weekends from now. Sutton United will likely get smoked by Arsenal, and Lincoln City is a big underdog against Premier League minnows Burnley, but it's a miracle that both fifth-division teams are still alive. For what it's worth, I dated a girl named Sutton once. She was really cool and hip and I have no idea what she saw in me. The first night we met, I impressed her by putting an empty bread bag on my head. My game was strong. She still is cool and hip, actually. She's a lesbian art director in San Francisco now. 'An art director who happens to be a lesbian' might be a better way to write that sentence. So I'm rooting for Sutton United.

I'm also rooting for Fulham, who take on Tottenham Hotspur on February 19. The Cottagers are in good form, and Spurs won't necessarily field their first team. So I'm sayin' there's a chance.

We asked our so-called football expert, Fat Guy in a Speedo, to give us a fuller preview of the fifth round. We got more than we bargained for.

Okay? Look. Many, many people have been telling me many, many things about this FA Cup thing over in England. No one knows that I am a huge fan of English soccer, it’s true I am a tremendous fan, believe me. My friend, who happens to be a very famous soccer player, probably the most famous player ever, told me that no one is a bigger fan than me, no one. It’s true he said that.

 People, lots and lots of people, ask me why I’m such a huge fan of the FA Cup, they do, they really, really, do. Is it because it’s 144 years old, they ask? Look, I tell them, so what if it’s hugely, hugely old? John McCain is really, really old and he’s a total loser, big league. Could you imagine a 144-year-old broad? Please, what a total disaster that would look like. I would rather grab a total pig like Rosie O’Donnell’s pussy than some 144-year old’s. It’s true.  Believe me.

“Well,” they ask, “is it because every team in England gets to play in it, amateur and professional? David vs. Goliath?” Listen, I don’t care about a bunch of losers playing against their superiors. I mean what are we now, Communists? Wait, can we strike that quote. I actually know some important Communists, I mean they are very, very, very important and they are really great people, really great, believe me. If I ran the FA I would get rid of amateur teams, I mean, who needs them, who wants to pay money to watch their loser team do what they do best and lose? And we’re not even talking about a lot of money here, we’re talking about really not a lot of money. These are really, really, not smart people.

“Then why do you like it?” they ask, and it’s simple, so simple even that handicapped reporter the lying press said I made fun of could understand it. Fake news! Fake news! I was a tremendous soccer player when I was young, it’s true, ask anyone. I could play any position and I was the best at it, really the best. For free kicks, I used to build a wall with the other team’s players. It’s totally true, ask anyone. Everyone thought I played soccer because my tiny hands didn’t have to hold a ball but that is more fake news. True, I never had a handball but they were all very, very jealous losers. I mean, where are they now? Exactly. They all respected me a tremendous amount. I quit playing because team sports are for failures. Everyone knows this is true, go ask anyone. Winners don’t need to be dragged down by losers just because our team shirts are the same color. I mean, did you remember those shirts? How ugly were those things? I wouldn’t use them for toilet paper, am I right? Well we’re bringing the shirt making back to this country and it’s gonna be great and a lot of people are gonna have a lot of new jobs. People without jobs destroy things. What, you say they don’t? Well somebody out there is destroying those things.

Wait, wait, what’s that? You want to know who’s left in the Cup this year? All the big-league teams and some of the losers are left. Fulham plays Tottenham, I know this because Fulham are now total crap. They were good when they were owned by my friend Mohamed Al-Fayed and he had lots of Americans playing for him but he sold them and they are really, really, crap. His kid killed Lady Di, true story. I once rented him a hotel in London, the whole thing, for double the price it was worth. Then I told him he couldn’t stay there but he had to pay anyway and he did, true story.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Finally, Some Good News from Washington

We're gonna do a post every other day this godforsaken year whether they're any good or not, so help me Marcus. I'm working on a longform one, and I've got some of our contributors hard at work on some recurring bits, but none of that is ready to go today, so instead, a formal celebration of something we all already know about.

Delle Donne!

Our fondness for the 6'5" former Delaware Blue Hen is well documented. And now she's coming to Washington, reportedly because she wants to be nearer to her family, with which she's famously close. Chicago's loss is our gain. The 2015 WNBA has averaged 20.5 points, 6.6 boards, and 1.7 blocks per game in her four professional seasons, never missing the playoffs with the Sky. She'll make the Mystics instant contenders, a status deeply unfamiliar to Washington's bumbling franchise.

(So bumbling, in fact, that I can't even waste my hard-earned money on Delle Donne swag yet, because they haven't slapped any together and put it for sale. Can you imagine that happening to a big free agent inked by Little Danny Starfucker?)

John Wall welcomed EDD to town, as did teammate Emma Meesseman. No word yet from former opponent Wale.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Adults Suck

America at this moment is bogged down in uncertainty, wallowing in the still difficult to believe new reality of our lives. Decisions, many of them hastily-conceived and influenced by fat white guys, are being made that impact the future. I'm obviously talking about National Signing Day, and I, for one, will not sit idly by while we celebrate fax machines and scream virtually at 18 year-olds who can run, jump, block, and throw - or in the case of Baylor University, do all those things while grossly violating standards of common decency, women's rights and ostensibly Christian values. No sir, not me.

Rather, in the spirit with which this blog was founded, I'm here to offer a silly filler post that serves as a vehicle for your commenting genius. And it'll make you smile, if you like the idea of 6,500 British kids singing They Might Be Giants' Birdhouse in Your Soul.