Biff! Bang! Pow!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week eleven

The game: Patriots vs. Raiders
The beer: Boulevard Tough Kitty Milk Stout
The result: Win, 33–8; Steelers win, 40–17; Brandon Kentaro wins, 4–0–0–0
The commentary: The Geeee Mennnn! Hal, Asterisk Jeff, Stephanie, the third and final Tom and the Kansas City Chiefs were no match for the Giants, G. and me at A&B Burger in Beverly following Pooka in the Woods. "Here kid, color on your own so I can observe my encroaching degeneracy and engross myself in the closing minutes of high-stakes football game"—I am the perfect horrible parent and she's doomed to a casino lifestyle. We're down to eleven, folks, and the bad juju/bad karma elements are gathering as I consider the Redskins over the celebrated Geeee Mennnn tomorrow night. Pats over Dolphins instead to simplify the weekend's rooting interests? Too soon? Is mine a winner's mentality?

I forgot to talk about Kentaro winning Part Two of the Season Finale of Project Runway last week. This is clearly a separate series from the proper Project Runway and if I didn't enjoy the design process so much I'd skip right to Fashion Week. Why bother to watch: Brandon win three times, place or show five more and never once land on the bottom; Kentaro sleepwalk through the season, win one challenge, perform well in three others and nearly collapse down the stretch while ignoring all criticism throughout; Ayana coast before peaking at the right time with a top–win–top sequence in the final three non-finale challenges; and Margarita in general because of her entitlement and atrocious taste. Even Claire and Shawn fizzled out in a blatant attempt to get their own show—stunt casting at its finest. Maybe Kentaro did have the best finale collection but to act as if anything Brandon—or Ayana—did in the previous thirteen episodes was immaterial in deciding the season winner then why am I wasting my time instead of starting Stranger Things upon its release?

I rooted for Brandon all along and was emotionally prepared for Ayana to come through in his place. His collection was a little samey but still good enough to not undo all that came before—I'm not sure the judges had one negative thing to say about his creativity, vision, construction, methods, fabric choices, versatility or styling—and, therefore, he was robbed. Not like Mondo but right up there with Kelly last season. Tim Gunn, I wish I knew how to quit you.

Speaking of inappropriate usage of the N word, the Old Lady Book Club and I discussed Ben Winters's Underground Airlines last night. A's uncle once criticized the motivation behind Mad Men as an excuse to write for prejudiced and chauvinistic characters who smoke all the time and I could apply that thinking here: it's "acceptable" in the Airlines world for black characters to be derided and mistreated so, by Winters's own rules, it's OK for him to profit, financially and critically ("Astonishing!" "Extraordinary!"), from his contrived racism set piece. Good for him, though he should learn how to write. The Pride and Prejudice and Zombies fad is no classroom and Cthulhu weeps.

This book sucked and I wasn't the only one at the library—the very same "library" from "Library Book Club"—who thought so. Still, there was a much talk of action, intrigue and twists that must have been edited out of my copy. Winters starts with a strong concept (if speculation is your thing), tweaks a few political milestones between Lincoln's time and ours and leaves most of the rest of history untouched by noted quantum physicist Ashton Kutcher's butterfly effect. For every shrewd rewrite shifting economic dominance from the North to the South there remain FDR and LBJ presidencies. The humanitarian outside world shuns the US and imposes trade sanctions… and Michael Jackson is a cultural phenomenon. James Brown abandons the US in favor of European stardom… but he still has the opportunity in the first place. Texas secedes, the Carolinas unify… and the Toyota Altima exists as a practical vehicle. Oh, and the real Underground Railroad has been replaced not with an Underground Airlines—a term the protagonist discredits almost immediately, damning the author's turn of phrase as a throwaway line—but rather with an actual underground railroad: a subway! I'll take my metaphor with a large pile of rocks, please.

Most decisions by Winters and Victor/Brother/Whozits alike are half-baked, like they started at the solution and worked backward before tiring. Slavery remains legal in the South until some states abolish it as no longer… suiting their needs? It's never explained. "Carolina" exists because "the Hard Four" (decided upon arbitrarily—how does Georgia deviate from Carolina?) sounds better than "the Hard Five." And super-detective Whozits? The runaway is in the drainage tunnel! The driver had the package all along! Martha can single-handedly carry this entire espionage sequence! How did he reach these conclusions? Who cares.

The Martha bit took the biggest leap. She's introduced as a helpless teenager-type who gets busted crashing a cheap continental breakfast and suddenly we're to take her for a dynamic business opportunist with sexual powers? Whose cherished, vulnerable son is written out of the story as "staying with her sister"? I wasn't buying it either. What is Winters trying to accomplish here aside from should-a-white-guy-write-this controversy? (I admit to feeling uncomfortable reading it on the train due to the subject matter but not with The Cold Six Thousand, a more racially brutal book that doesn't hide behind science fiction.) To inform us that slavery is an American embarrassment and racism exists everywhere and always? Thanks for the tip. The book club's head Lady shared a remark last night from a former psychology professor: "In the South, white people hate the black race and love the black individual. In the North, they love the race and hate the individual." This provokes more thought than any sub-Dan Brown adventure.

Unfortunately I'm missing next month's meeting because of an office party. No, not at the InterContinental Vagina, that's earlier in December. But an open bar rules all, especially when the book is Same Kind of Different As Me and most Amazon reviewers agree it is "heartwarming," "touching" and "inspirational." Pass. The one-star reviews tell me all I need to know: "How many evangelical clichés can you fit in one book?" "By the time the author had the wife on her deathbed motioning as if climbing Jacob's Ladder I was just sickened." "Do you have it in DVD? Because that's what I thought I bought." I'll see you all in January with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. ("A gorgeously poignant novel of hope and transformation." Good grief.)

Up next: It's the annual guilt trip over skunky, expired Sam Adams versus whichever beer I bring to Connecticut. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Beer and football VIII — weeks nine and ten

Week nine (bye)
The beer: Down the Road Patchwork Kilt Scottish-Style Ale
The result: Saints win, 30–10

Week ten
The game: Patriots at Broncos
The beer: Lagunitas NightTime Ale
The result: Win, 41–16; Seahawks win, 22–16

The commentary: Root for either the Saints or the Seahawks. Almost: root for both the Saints and the Seahawks in that order. That was the key, and since Saints–Bucs was a one o'clock contest two weeks ago I didn't want to be in a position to kick myself had they won without my taking them. Looking ahead—which I can afford to do with one game still to give (for now)—I assumed the Seahawks would beat the Redskins in Seattle and carry that momentum to Arizona, so why not keep them in my pocket another week? And it worked out, sure, but following that wild finish on a phone is not recommended. A win is a win but a six-point, closing-moments win is not as comfortable as multiple-touchdown differentials since week four. And that safety? That fucking safety. As if I could handle another five-point affair. I'm glad they're no longer an option.

Thursday wins are the best, leaving the weekend clean to anticipate everyone else's picks and root hard against, for example, the Lions. The Browns looked good (on my phone, anyway) for awhile before they went all Browns and dashed a sketched-out "Detroit Music" motif you're reading in an alternate universe. Drag. No losers except for Alex and the Jets for some reason. I admire that to a point—I wish I had the guts to take them over the Bills in week nine—but he went out leaving the Pats, Eagles, Steelers and Vikings on the table in favor of two AFC East also-rans (Dolphins in week three). So long, chump. Fifteen people remain, all but two—Dan and Tim, whose potential scenarios now play out in a separate spreadsheet—playing a single-elimination game. We need movement—it's almost Thanksgiving!

How 'bout them Patriots? And Brock? That poor guy on the sideline missed becoming the Halloween costume of the year by twelve days—it wouldn't be difficult to affix a football to your forehead and rig a Broncos hat to float three feet behind your head. Lost opportunities aside, I agree with everyone calling this a "classic" Patriots win. The offense capitalizing on an opponent's mistakes, strong special-teams play, adequate defense… this result is and always will be forty points scored and a halftime so free of stress that you fall asleep for the second time this season. It's good to have Tom Brady on the sidelines, waiting for the right moment to be ensnared in my RICO conspiracy. Those others, though: Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, Blake Bortles? Movement.

I'm learning that my copy of The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe is not called The Complete Tales, Poems and Essays for a reason, though it could be The Complete Tales (More or Less), Poems and a Handful of Essays, in which case I would criticize its use of "handful" because that's what I've become. The "more or less" qualification comes from my volume's exclusion of the (likely) unfinished "The Light-House" (though its conclusion succeeds without detailing what took the place of "solid masonry"), a cobbled-together draft of his play Politian and the incomplete serial novel The Journal of Julius Rodman, the last of which I've yet to read but is (like "The Light-House") included in a different "complete" collection I've since downloaded to my iPad. So, yeah, just when I thought all that remained was The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Wikipedia calls bullshit on that with a list of "other works." I'll still save Pym for last but the question remains: will I cop out and read the Kindle version or remain loyal to the thick book I've owned for twenty-plus years and, recently, been content to lug around as a carrying case for my Sip Café punchcard? It's odd to have read every word (minus the poetry—that mode of expression isn't for me) and then leave off the closing epic. But the convenience? These are the problems I create for myself.

Meanwhile, I finished this month's "Library Book Club" selection Underground Airlines. It sucked. More on that and the Ladies next time.

Up next: The Steelers won for me on Thursday so I'll pour all of my non-Patriots-in-Mexico energy into a Browns upset, figuring everyone else will run with the Jaguars. "I Love Living in Jacksonville, Florida" motif? Cheers!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week eight

The game: Chargers at Patriots
The beer: Murphy's Stout
The result: Win, 21–13; Vikings win, 33–16
The commentary: "Come on you motherfuckers! I'm supposed to win this goddamn thing!" Competition brings out the worst, particularly when your heavy favorite is settling for field goals and your wife and daughter are out of the house. Entitlement is ugly.

Another week correcting earlier damage done by the Dolphins, Steelers (twice) and Falcons (twice more) leaves us with an in-the-black twenty through eight weeks, thanks (presumably) to a forgotten Hotmail password two weekends ago—welcome to the late nineties, Craig. But wait: "in-the-black"? I've plotted out the projected failure rate required for me to win this goddamn thing—the "remaining," "undefeated" (four) and "magic number" (twenty-two) figures are promising against the benchmark (twenty-eight, twenty-eight and fifty-six, respectively) but if the "remaining" line stays flat for three more weeks then I'll be in the red and concerned. Maybe Sunday will be better. Maybe I should relax.

It was a week to drink. Wednesday saw an evening with Commissioner Rico himself! He is knocked out and done with this shit, since CBS's strict anti-gambling policy zero-tolerance racketeering scheme piles on the manual work. "Are you gonna win?" I hope so, man, because it sounds like you aren't doing this next year. My spreadsheet and I remain the logical successor(s) but I won't do the crime since I can't do the time. Put the next round of Lawson's IPAs on Ice Cube's tab.

On Friday I met Hector, Ivan and Oleg at the Trillium Beer Garden because eight-dollar beers are better enjoyed outdoors in the dark. Ivan and Oleg were pregaming a Mighty Mighty Bosstones concert (shudder) while Hector wonderfully took his time relating an HR nightmare involving sex, race-bating and videotape. As if management isn't for suckers. Dinner at Mr. Dooley's invited an appreciation for Murphy's stout, "vegetarian" platters consisting of beef stew and shepherd's pie and a typecast Irishman (pictured) playing the music of Pink Floyd—shudder—and other seventies mainstays. Our waitress was made to constantly repeat herself but it wasn't due to the noise. "Excuse me?" Typecast.

Somehow we never hit the Caddyshack bar—"T'anks fer nuttin!" At least Hector didn't get a parking ticket and I caught the nine ten with ease, spitting out two hundred half-assed words while waiting to board. I learned at dinner that Hector and Oleg are semi-regular readers (!) and, therefore, potential members of the "Biff! Bang! Now!" Facebook group I'll one day create in a drunken fever dream. "Yeah, I mostly skip over the football stuff." Good luck.

Up next: Root for either the Saints or the Seahawks. You've come this far, baby. Cheers!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week seven

The game: Falcons at Patriots
The beer: Anderson Valley Fall Hornin' Pumpkin Ale
The result: Win, 23–7; Cowboys win, 40–10
The commentary: I thought the death blow was coming for us all. Given the reasons I listed last week, none more so than "watch your ass," I suspected an overabundance of Steelers, Panthers, Titans and, yes, Cowboys enthusiasts (since no one took the Chiefs) would be dragged into mediocre depths. Instead the weekend played out as an overdue correction—no losses, no eliminations… even though Craig didn't register a pick. We're down to twenty if he's out. I'll have a word with Commissioner Rico about that.

A fifteen-minute timer designed to wake me after a Super Bowl LI-II halftime power-nap? These are the innovations I create for myself. Falling back asleep minutes into the third quarter? Not so much. I missed nothing except for the possible end of the Falcons' short run of success. And the Pats? Their first signature had-em-all-the-way win of the season. "Maybe, just maybe, there's the one you need." DVR is wonderful.

A different year, a different scarecrow and a different attempt to use distance and scale to keep G. young and small. It won't work forever. Drag.

Up next: Remember, "Frankenstein" refers to the scientist and not the creature. Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week six

The game: Patriots at Jets
The beer: Ballast Point Dead Ringer Oktoberfest Lager
The result: Win, 24–17; Texans win, 33–17
The commentary: "Recency bias is one of the trickier forms of bias that may interfere with an effective performance review. When managers RICO perps are affected by this they tend to over- or undervalue short-term events to the detriment of the employee's long-term performance one's undocumented winnings. Failing to take into account the entire time period can lead to ineffective and false results." Man, I had to clean up a lot of grammar and redundancy there. Maybe "learn that" before teaching anything else.

I blame recency bias for thirty-six outright eliminations through six weeks so far, a ridiculous total befitting the season. Last week saw Atlanta and Denver wound three players and murder ten more and I was lucky to avoid both: Atlanta because I'd already picked them in a white-knuckle opening week and Denver because, plainly, I hadn't the patience to wait for Sunday Night Football. "Ohhh, Sunday night." Enjoy your artificial career and a fanbase of dipshits, Carrie Underwood.

Inner turmoil over recency bias—and its backlash—consisted of the following points and counterpoints last weekend:
1. The Falcons are too good to lose two in a row.
2. The Falcons are too good to lose at home to the Dolphins.
3. The Dolphins are awful.
4. Both Jay Cutler and the Dolphins have fucked me before.
5. Thee Falcons? Indeed…

6. The Broncos never lose at home.
(6½. The Broncos never play away from home.)
7. The Giants are awful.
8. As a Patriots fan, the Giants can never be counted out.
9. The Giants are due.
10. "Ohhh, Sunday night…"

11. Deshaun Watson and the offense are good enough to overcome the losses of JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus on defense.
12. The Browns are awful.
13. The Browns, maybe, are historically awful.
14. The Browns will win a game this season.
15. Watch your ass.

This was the progression and, in the end, I felt pretty good that the Texans would whoop the Browns in a season where such confidence is often punished. I was certain the Dolphins had no chance in Atlanta and would absolutely have taken them were I able. Thank goodness for small, twenty-two-hundred-unit favors because the Falcons by themselves are responsible for sixteen strikes, second only to the Steelers and their twenty-five. In related news, I'm considering said Steelers over the Bengals on Sunday.

"I'm feeling pretty good."
Hillary Clinton
October 27, 2016

Here is this week's attempt (so far) to buck recency bias and pick a team that won't keep me awake all weekend, phase one of which lasted until kickoff last night and was rewarded immediately upon waking this morning:
1. The Chiefs are too good to lose two in a row.
2. Charcandrick West is out but Tyreek Hill is in.
3. Derek Carr's fractured spine can't hold up over two games in five days.
4. It would be nice to get a win out of the way before the weekend.
5. Are the Raiders bad enough to doom their season so early?
6. Carr's stats against the Chargers weren't bad for someone with a fractured spine.
7. I'd feel better if the game were being played in Kansas City.
8. The Raiders are honoring Al Davis and the 1967 AFL championship team.
9. It's bad juju to pick against a team after picking them—successfully—to win earlier in the season…

10. The Panthers are due to bounce back.
11. Mitch Trubisky is potentially lousy.
12. The Bears stink.
13. Thee Bears…

14. Domestic violence is preferable to… air-pressure gamesmanship?… so Ezekiel Elliott is playing.
15. The 49ers stink.
16. The 49ers have kept things interesting since week two.
17. The 49ers kept things too interesting in week three.
18. The Cowboys are a total wild card and I have never picked for or against them through four-plus seasons of knockout-pool entertainment…

19. The Steelers are probably kind of pretty decent.
20. Ninety-one percent of NFL "experts" can't be wrong again.
21. Those twenty-five strikes noted above have resulted in ten eliminations.
22. The Bengals have only scored eighty-four points so far but have given up eighty-three.
23. The Misfits are not walking through that door…

24. The Titans eventually looked dominant against a shitty Colts team on Monday.
(24½. Still rooting for Jacoby Brissett.)
25. Marcus Mariota can borrow someone else's hamstring for a few hours.
26. The Browns, maybe, are historically awful.
27. In a season lacking sure things, the Titans are not a sure thing.
28. I'd feel better if the game were being played in Nashville.
29. I'd feel better if the Titans were called the Nashville Kings.
30. Watch your ass.

I still don't know whom to pick—or whom to pick against—and I'm overthinking things even worse than I did leading up to 2015's Raiders-Bears unpleasantness. I even resorted to superstition in noting to A. this morning that the Chiefs loss, after a last-minute recusal, is "maybe a good omen." I'm holding onto this extra life like it's Rush'n Attack and I need to get on with it.

As for the Patriots, I considered them last weekend as well but decided to save them for a later game when their intentions will hopefully be clearer. One can dream. It should never have come down to an overturned touchdown but that's the way it is with this defense. A win is a win (PFW's Paul Perillo admitted to feeling guilty over the touchback and I agree that it is an odd rule) (just like the tuck rule!) but I'm dying for a comfortable blowout sometime soon. It probably won't come Sunday night—"Ohhhhh, Sunday night"—against an equally flawed Falcons team in a game that has generated more talk about whether or not it can be called a "Super Bowl rematch" (since the stakes are different) than about how both teams are sloppy, unreliable shadows of their 2016 selves. Both offenses and both defenses have something to prove and, if I were to gamble outside CBS's lawless haven, I would take the over.

And if I were (shudder) a Jets fan? I'd prefer that a team of overachievers win as many games as possible and compete well in losing efforts. Drew Bledsoe was the consolation prize in 1993, not the goal, and some other dude was a sixth-round afterthought.

Nothing out of the ordinary from the Old Lady Book Club meeting the other night. I timed things perfectly and finished Romantic Outlaws on the train ride home that evening, though only two others were so fortunate—I couldn't read six hundred pages in a month either were it not for my commute. Clearly, bizarrely, I was the most enthusiastic about the double biography and its alternating-chapter format, suggesting that it was the only way to present both Marys in detail while demonstrating the parallels in their lives (so much so that we all admitted to occasionally checking the chapter headers to see whom we were actually reading about). One Lady said the book bored her with constant reminders of female oppression in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries since it was "nothing new," to which I responded that this eye-opening account might be the reason I enjoyed it so much. My input was welcome, I appreciated the discourse—avoiding the instant closure of "finishing one book and starting another five minutes later" like I'm about to do with Ian McGuire's The North Water—and I'm glad I joined. Up next for the Ladies and me is Ben Winters's Underground Airlines, another among a strange batch of "thought-provoking" speculative fiction where the bad guys prevail. "What if the Civil War never happened?" "What if Germany won World War II?" "What if the moon landed on us?" Enough. At three hundred something pages, though, more of us should finish this time.

Up next: Julio Goddamn Jones. Cheers!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week five

The game: Patriots at Buccaneers
The beer: Bear Republic Racer X Double India Pale Ale
The result: Win, 19–14; Eagles win, 34–7
The commentary: Too soon? But that's my ET stuffie since Christmas 1982!

This fucking defense still blows but what are you gonna do? Trade Malcolm Butler for a tight end? No thanks. An off day for the offense forces Nick Folk to lose the defense to win this one. Win. Any way you can get one.

Just ask the twenty—twenty!—people whose Steelers got thumped by the Jaguars on Sunday in the ultimate stay-away game. Eleven of these motherfuckers are now eliminated, along with three who staked their survival on the Giants—I get it, they're going to win eventually, but shouldn't you witness it before guessing? This marks three straight weeks of an upset wiping out a collection of rash Peter King followers after fifteen casualties/one fatality for Miami and ten/three for Atlanta. We're down to thirty-two after five weeks (smell the magic: thirty-eight) and this is progress I never anticipated, especially since twenty-four of us—though not I—have already lost once. A league full of mediocre teams and toss-up contests will do that. Who are the dominant teams? The Chiefs alone are undefeated—three remain winless, which is just as red-flaggy to me—but can they be trusted much longer? Not by me until they lose, which might happen Sunday against the confounding Steelers. Who knows. Good grief.

Gimmes are few and far between and my choice of the Texans over the Browns, sitting at a solid ninety-eight percent at NFL Pick Watch (and only because a substandard and panicked Jason LaCanfora is resorting to a string of improbable upsets to boost his rating), is likely to be a common one. Will orange (strike one) and red (strike two and you're out) instances of HOU populate an otherwise black row on Monday? Let's hope not, for my sake. For my spreadsheet's sake.

Two nights ago, some dogmatic bastard with an unread blog indicated to Commissioner Rico (not to be confused with RICO, though coincidence becomes a pattern) that shenanigans were afoot. Shenanigans! Player Oren was granted an apparent third life after losing in weeks three and four but my man admitted he accidentally gave him the Chargers instead of the Cardinals two weeks ago. (I believe him because who takes the Chargers at all?) (However… who takes the Cardinals? Hmm.) Rico is learning the hard way that the CBS RICO environment cannot handle a two-strike league and so he has to manually enter picks for those of us—though not I—with one loss, work he hoped to avoid by offloading data management to the inter-net. Drag. Errors are inevitable and I am watching everyone like a hawk. (The easy solution? I should run this myself. The complication? It's a legal minefield I want no part of.) Take one of the Jeffs: CBS recorded a skipped week four (equating a loss) but Rico took the blame, claiming Seattle was the emailed pick that was never entered. Fair enough—eighteen others took them as well (Colts blowout) so skepticism wanes, since eliminations are in Rico's interest given hist last-leg urgency (thanks again, Dolphins!). I'm also keeping an eye on Kim and one of the Matts, for they each have several empty cells after losing for the first time in weeks three and two, respectively. Stay dead, you. These four are marked with asterisks and the fury will manifest should one of them win the pot. Enabled macros never forget.

Up next: Sure, go ahead and schedule that birthday party during a Pats game for the second year in a row. Cheers!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week four

The game: Panthers at Patriots
The beer: Castle Island Candlepin Ale
The result: Loss, 33–30; Packers win, 35–14
The commentary: This fucking defense blows. This? Fucking defense! Blows this. Fucking… this fucking defense blows. This fucking defense—this fucking defense—blows. Blows!

Up next: This fucking… defense?… blows. Cheers!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week three

The game: Texans at Patriots
The beer: Warsteiner Dunkel
The result: Win, 36–33; Rams win, 41–39
The commentary: Football! If I can survive the Rams game (those color-rush yellows were it), with Brian Hoyer (!) evaporating a fourteen-point third-quarter deficit while I remained blissfully unaware until switching over to the NFL Network after Project Runway, and another—another!—epic Brady comeback then I am a golden god. But wait! Do I really consider a second consecutive Thursday Night Football pick tonight, this time against the goddamn Bears?? It's either that, the bewildering Seahawks over the Colts or the Saints over Jay Cutler (shudder) and the Dolphins in London. Prepare the gilding, motherfuckers.

I am not alone (though I was early: see weeks two, four, ten and seventeen from last year's "top-rated" season and the archives back through beer-and-football's inception) and there is much falling-skies talk in New England regarding Matt Patricia's crew of merry Pro Football Focus subscribers. No pass rush, poor on-field communication, little confidence in presumed role-players who got paid in the offseason, a lack of "Free Free Safety Advice" instructional videos on YouTube… lucky for us that pliable old quarterback is rolling along. Gronk, White, Cooks, Hogan, Amendola, the goal-line version of Gillislee, some flailing man named Dwayne Allen who has as many catches as I do: this offense is averaging thirty-two points a game behind an atrocious line and some (dwindling but ever-present) questionable Josh McDaniels calls—fun to watch and root for as various acids churn away downstairs. This will be a season full of action.

Football (pool)! It was a goddamn slaughter, distributing twenty-two strikes (two-thirds courtesy of Jets–Dolphins) and fully eliminating Ken, one of the Brians and maybe a Matt—the CBS RICO app could use a data-visualization and user-interface overhaul. Meanwhile, my spreadsheet blossoms as strategic color application and a new (this week) magic-number calculator (now seventy-nine) put the commissioner to shame. Again. Prepare the units, motherfuckers.

A guest brought the dunkel to G's birthday party a few weeks ago. I don't know how many successive parties' refrigerators it passed through but it found a home here and wasn't bad. I was prepared to write about a blowout win signifying the good guys "dunking" and/or declaring "war" on the league but that metaphor expired early… until a Rumsfeld Brewing Co. Warhammer Slammer IPA toasts a win against the Falcons in three weeks.

Quick sizzle: On the train the other day I misread a guy's TOUGH MUDDER shirt as THOUGHT MURDER, which will be the name of the black-metal song I compose after the same Falcons game: "Thought murder! Johann Herder! Thought murder! Doo-bee-der-der!" (Needs more fairy dust.)

Up next: "Charlotte Gordon has written a book about two women who changed not only the way we think, but the way we are." Hoo boy. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Michael Irvin and Tom Bombadil walk into a bar

Updated: November 22, 2017
Chronicling, for some reason, every book and short story I've read since The Lord of the Rings in the late Spring of 2017. This is a companion to the rabble-rousing "Selected readings from the Old Lady Book Club," protested openly by AARP, NOW and other pro-civility agencies. You cannot spell literati without ire, nor geriatric without rage.

Critical remarks are avoided in similar fashion to another fine list. "Library Book Club" selections are noted in red to represent the spectre of death.

JRR Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings (1954–1955)

Stephen King
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1978–1981) – REREAD

Agatha Christie
Sleeping Murder (1976)

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Quacks of Helicon" (1841)
"Astoria" (1837)

Elmore Leonard
Glitz (1985)

Agatha Christie
The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side (1962)

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Domain of Arnheim" (1847)
"Landor's Cottage" (1849)
"William Wilson" (1839)

Jeff Pearlman
Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty (2008) – REREAD

HP Lovecraft
"The Nameless City" (1921)

Keith Cameron
Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury From Seattle (2013)

Elmore Leonard
Pronto (1993)

HP Lovecraft
"The Festival" (1925)

Edgar Allan Poe
"Berenice" (1835)
"Eleonora" (1841)
"Ligeia" (1838)
"Morella" (1835)
"Metzengerstein" (1832)

Stephen King
The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987) – REREAD

Edgar Allan Poe
"A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" (1844)
"The Spectacles" (1844)
"The Duke of l'Omelette" (1832)
"The Oblong Box" (1844)

HP Lovecraft
"The Colour Out of Space" (1927)

Edgar Allan Poe
"King Pest" (1835)
"A Succession of Sundays" (1841)

Kurt Vonnegut
"2 B R 0 2 B" (1962)

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Devil in the Belfry" (1839)
"Lionizing" (1835)

HP Lovecraft
"The Call of Cthulhu" (1928)
"The Dunwich Horror" (1929)

Charlotte Gordon
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley (2016)

Ian McGuire
The North Water (2016)

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Rationale of Verse" (1848)
"The Poetic Principle" (1848)

Mary Shelley
Frankenstein (or: The Modern Prometheus) (1818)

Edgar Allan Poe
Politian (1835)

John William Polidori
"The Vampyre" (1819)

HP Lovecraft
The Whisperer in Darkness (1931)

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Light-House" (1849)

HP Lovecraft
"The Dreams in the Witch House" (1933)
"The Haunter of the Dark" (1936)

Kurt Vonnegut
"The Big Trip Up Yonder" (a.k.a. "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow") (1954)

Ben H. Winters
Underground Airlines (2016)

Edgar Allan Poe
"Eureka: A Prose Poem" (1848)

Andrew Boylan
Sacrifice (2016)

Edgar Allan Poe (maybe)
"A Few Words on Etiquette" (18––)

E. Christopher Clark
"Revelation" (2002)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Selected readings from the Old Lady Book Club

I read a lot. Two hours on the train every day, there's no excuse not to—I pity those who feel the need to jab at giant laptops in a can't-leave-work-at-work cry for help. Newspaper Luddites filling up on yesterday's analysis and the weirdos who stare straight ahead without listening to headphones or looking out the window are best left alone. And adults who play juvenile sensory-overload games on their iPhones, buying "lives" from Tim Cook every twenty minutes? These halfwits might as well come from Mars. Books, people. Portable, digestible books! It's not all The Brothers Karamazov (though that is on the shelf) and it's easy to embrace such lighter fare as macabre satire and sports-celebrity excess. Why not chuckle, wince or cry in front of commuters you partner with every morning and/or evening? You make nicknames for them and they probably have their own for you anyway. Reading, at the very least, will pass the time. More likely it will give you something to contemplate… or to look up on Wikipedia afterward.

Nothing is so anticlimactic as finishing one book and starting another five minutes later. There are times when I'll lug a second book to and from Boston in order to avoid skimming outrageous Trump-related headlines on my phone for any stretch—the heart can only take so much. Often, lately, this filler consists of portions from one thousand plus pages of Edgar Allan Poe's collected Complete Tales and Poems so I can cleanse the palate with a handful (watch it with that word) of short stories—this has been the drill for about a year and a half and its concluding The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, plus a couple of essays about poetry that I may or may not read (though likely not the poems themselves), are all that remain. One hundred sixty pages of Poe's Greatest Hits, in chronological order? I'm glad you asked! Here be thirteen-ish:

1. "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall" (1835)
2A. "The Psyche Zenobia" (a.k.a. "How to Write a Blackwood Article") (1838)
2B. "The Scythe of Time" (a.k.a. "A Predicament") (1838)
3. "The Man That Was Used Up" (1839)
4. "William Wilson" (1839)
5. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841)
6. "A Descent Into the Maelström" (1841)
7. "The Gold-Bug" (1843)
8. "The Black Cat" (1843)
9. "The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq." (1844)
10. "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" (1845)
11. "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846)
12. "Hop-Frog (or: The Eight Chained Ourang-outangs)" (1849)
13. "X-ing a Paragrab" (1849)

A. had at least read "The Black Cat" and so discussion ensued over that and the similar buried-alive treatise "The Cask of Amontillado." So stimulating! The opposite of FOMO, to be able to engage another over something still fresh in your mind. After that though? Plans for us to see The Dark Tower petered out thanks to lukewarm reviews and a why-bother ninety-minute runtime. Maybe it will be on Netflix or Amazon Prime before long. Maybe I'll keep rereading the books instead.

This literary… malaise?… compelled me to seek out other readers—given the success of hack superstar David Baldacci, the world must be full of them. Full of something. I will join a book club! (How does one join a book club?) Searching the office intranet came up empty outside of bullshit for finance enthusiasts to pretend they understand. Not for me, more cries for help and all. Local Facebook groups also turned up nothing and maybe that's for the best, as I can see "book club ;-) bring muffins" fronting a vibrating gaggle of perverts. Pass.

Consulting my local library's website, then, the "Library Book Club" (a little on the nose) and the "New Book Group for Non-Fiction Readers" (let's get a brand manager in here!) were listed, and since the non-fiction coordinator didn't respond to my email—hard to get a new endeavor off the ground that way, dude—it was the former by default. If the… aged… voice of the woman who answered the phone didn't paint a picture then her reaction to my interest surely did: "You'll be our first man!" Not only this year but in her sixteen years participating! Hoo boy.

Nonetheless I persisted. Last Tuesday was the initial get-together and I was one nervous motherfucker ascending the staircase to the library's second-floor meeting room. There, ten or so women with a mean age around seventy—my mother is seventy, but theirs is an old seventy—greeted me with "You must be Jarrod!" The energy was appreciated and awkward. Still I sat and introduced myself, explaining as above that it's a shame to finish a book and forget about it, before additional demographic arrivals totaled sixteen of X and one of Y. Many were kind, even lovely. Some couldn't be bothered—"What's this guy going to contribute, anyway?" Still preferred over the not-quite-hostile "Interloper!" expressions I read on a couple of faces. I see their point, though it's not as if any of them showed up in their nightgowns carrying boxes of chardonnay. Or that I was quoting Caddyshack. They just like to read. So I settled in, demonstrated attentiveness and only glanced at the clock about fifty times. It was right across from me.

Stacked in front of the others but not me—I missed the memo, which was probably an actual memo—were two or three books each to be nominated as the club's choices for the next twelve months. (Eleven, actually, since the community "one book" selection—Charlotte Gordon's pink-spined Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley—was already in place for October.) Many of these had flowers and shit on the covers alongside—shudder—female author's names. (The stairs are right there! Flee, and let gravity do the rest!) Call me old-fashioned but female fiction authors, in my experience, often write for a female audience. (Men are as guilty but, right or wrong, double standards usually work out in my favor.) Going around, everyone took turns holding up recommendations and I had to improvise mine, figuring others might be lost jumping right into book three of The Dark Tower"Does anyone relate to Gasher? What motivates him?" Instead I suggested female author Lynne Olsen's Troublesome Young Men and Matthew Dicks's Something Missing, a quirky novel reminiscent of Monk that I enjoyed a few years ago. Surprise, everyone, for I have depth! The latter option filled a comedy void and so it's become our June assignment, with yours truly presenting—"If you're still with us," joked one. No kidding.

An hour later I'm pleased to report that the Ladies (as I'll address them here) came through for me: for every author named Angela there is a David, a Ben and a Graham, and that is a ratio to celebrate. Getting together with… my book club… one night a month through August? I can handle that. Maybe I'll even experience the satisfied closure I seek with each completed book. Worst case? I'll read a few I might not have otherwise and there will be plenty of time to plan a graceful (eventual? inevitable?) farewell. Something along the lines of: "It's not you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you… or you. It's me." Why must it always be the man's fault?