Biff! Bang! Pow!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Beer and football VIII — playoffs, week four (bye)

The beer: Great Divide Hibernation English-Style Old Ale
The commentary: An excerpt from the—by god—forthcoming "Don't gimme no affliction: 25 years of 'Moonlight on Vermont' and other bush recordings."

During the Summer of 1993, which fell between my freshman and sophomore years of college and proved to be the final extended stretch of time I referred to my childhood home as "home," some high school friends—Ivan, Oskar, Pierre and others since forgotten—and I piled into someone's mother's minivan for a trip to Canobie Lake Park. It was the nearest "big" amusement park, certainly larger than Whalom Park, which was soon to be closed and condemned—the decaying clown mural on the back of its potato-sack slide loomed like a horror over Route 12 for years afterward. So it was Canobie. It was always Canobie.

Road trips to New Hampshire were common, whether to Pizza Hut in Nashua or Clark's Trading Post in Lincoln. "They wanna see you, bear, not me bare." Canobie was somewhere in between and the weekend traffic exiting 93 demanded a more consistent soundtrack than WFNX could offer. Enter Oskar, who used to make mix tapes for the rest of us from his own and his brother's fantastic collection of Touch and Go, Amphetamine Reptile, Sub Pop and other releases: Tad, Love Battery, Big Black, even big-timers like Nirvana and Ice Cube. It was great stuff—these were formative years and I would not be the know-it-all purveyor of taste I am today without those tapes as a launching pad. I received four of them over the course of eighteen months or so and number three was produced and delivered ahead of the Canobie trip. Somehow I ended up in the seatless back of the van that afternoon, a handsome and serviceable spare tire, and for my inconvenience I insisted we pop that shit right into the deck for its debut. Everyone agreed.

Following an indeterminate and undoubtedly solid indie-rock set, out of nowhere—and I mean nowhere, because to that point Oskar had covered from, say, 1985 on—hits "BUM-BA-DE-BUM, BUM-BA-DE-BUM," the Drumbo (née John French) brilliance that opens Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band's "Moonlight on Vermont" from 1969. Then the guitar, that riff, that strangled untuned riff! And here's the Captain, an impaled Howlin' Wolf on (battery) acid, "Ooonlaht on Ver-maw-uhh… fektid errehbodday, eee-vin…" Even me! Especially me. Passengers were skeptical and a sheepish Oskar apologized for its inclusion. "No," I responded. "I… like it?"

I don't remember much else about the day, how many of us there were, how many times we rode the Turkish Twist… what else was even on the tape—sadly it, the other three and my own mixes, Interrupting Cow Blues included, are among the missing. (I do recall a proper seat for the return trip.) But I listened to it a lot sophomore year and beyond, hearing "Moonlight on Vermont" over and over, and sometime later I walked to Newbury Comics (now back to prioritizing comics over music) in search of the Trout Mask Replica source. It was a naive impulse in the "Maybe it all sounds like this" vein, given that most of my sixties exposure was limited to the Doors, Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Animals and Steppenwolf, excellent bands that nonetheless did little to evolve or challenge themselves. (Flameouts Cream and Hendrix as well as the Stones, whose More Hot Rocks nudged me toward their experimental 1967, are exceptions; early Pink Floyd, represented my freshman year by the roundly ignored discs one and nine from my friend's Shine On box, were a ways away; the post-Please Please Me Beatles were somehow even further.) An oddball artiste like Beefheart stood no chance and my sonic adventure was doomed to fail—I was nineteen or twenty and simply not ready.

The following weekend or thereabouts—likely emerging from a haze of Saran-wrapped mushrooms, several Southern Comfort/pink lemonade cocktails and a Beavis and Butt-Head marathon—buyer's remorse approached the stereo and ejected the error halfway through my rotating-DJ set in favor of something crowd-friendly like Meddle or A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. My college friends, unable to rank Teriyaki Asthma and Dope, Guns and Fucking in the Streets releases like the elitist pricks in that van, each fell somewhere along a decidedly more mainstream spectrum of Alice in Chains, Bob Mould, the Grateful Dead and fucking Snow. My evolving catalog, therefore, was often met with the blank stares and/or targeted derision that often accompany "weirdo shit" scorned by MTV and Spin culture. No one offered "Stick with it!" encouragement or "Who cares what we think?" wisdom, predictably, and the disc remained in my collection for novelty reasons alone, its overlooked red spine fading to pink in the Boston glare. "No, it's 'Hair Pie.'" Drag.

For years, Trout Mask Replica was reduced from a double album to an unsupported single. The enlightened advice of "It's not too late for you if it's not too late for me" from the opening "Frownland" was aggressively avoided in place of biased muscle memory: Insert disc/Press play/Skip immediately to track six/Listen for four minutes/Stop-fast-stop-now! (The "squid eating dough…" introduction to "Pachuco Cadaver" served a purpose as the outgoing message on our answering machine for a period—I'm sure my roommates and their calling parents loved it—and was only acknowledged in the first place because, as track seven, my Stop! finger was slow on occasion.) Even the album cover was strange, the good Captain sporting a trout mask, replica or otherwise, which served as a minor accessory to his thoroughly batshit ensemble. And the illustrations? The illustrations! Lo, the Mascara Snake, what hath mine credit card wrought?

Time passes and people change. John Elway and the Broncos won two straight Super Bowls after losing three of four—badly—a decade earlier. Ian Svenonius emerged as David Candy after the estimable Make-Up was ruined "due to the large number of counter-gang copy groups which had appropriated their look and sound and applied it to vacuous and counter-revolutionary forms." Kyle Katarn, having forsaken the Force since the events of Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, regained his powers—and his lightsaber—in order to save the galaxy in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. And Jarrod P. Biffington (Jr.), future blog-maker, decided "Sure, 'marketing assistant' sounds like it pays OK."

As a late-nineties nine-to-fiver with a thirty-minute reverse commute I was at last open to music beyond my Unwound/Blues Explosion/Six Finger Satellite comfort zone, embracing mid-sixties Coltrane, English freakbeat and American garage and assembling them into a full-body orgasm of psychedelia that is well represented in the playlist blather at right (beginning, largely, with Volume 2). Trout Mask Replica, fortunately, had held fast to its dusty real estate between Cake Like's Delicious (1994) and Cat Power's Moon Pix (1998)—pigeons do enjoy their holes!—and my generous patience with an ugly relic was to be rewarded. The delayed appreciation of a masterpiece had begun.

Up next: Sanctimonious bastards love income inequality. Pats by six. Cheers!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Beer and football VIII — playoffs, week three
AFC Championship

The game: Jaguars at Patriots
The beer: Gun Hill Void of Light Foreign Style Stout
The result: Win, 24–20
The commentary: Complacency is a bitch but also a defense mechanism and that's how a fourth-quarter, two-score deficit keeps the terror-sweat at bay, however barely. You've got it good when your six-year-old declares with certainty—in the second quarter—that "Sorry, the Patriots aren't going to the Super Bowl" and all you can say—and be correct in saying—is "Let's keep watching" because she's six and doesn't know better. I hope for her sake that Brady plays into his fifties.

We New Englanders (excluding half of Connecticut, most of Rhode Island, all of Vermont and undeclared pockets of Maine) can understand not what it was like to be a fan of the dominant 49ers or Cowboys twenty-some years ago but rather a fan of both the 49ers and the Cowboys back then. Sure, the Eagles might win next Sunday and leave us with a mere five championships (so far), falling short of the six the 49ers and Cowboys combined to win from 1988/1989 to 1995/1996, but I'm feeling pretty good because that terror-sweat has been dormant awhile. The Pats could be down ten, fourteen, twenty-five points in the fourth quarter… Gronkowski pacing in street clothes on the sideline… McCourty perfecting bad angles against Alshon Jeffery… but you keep watching because it's Tom Fucking Brady out there.

"I'm feeling pretty good."
Bill Belichick
February 2, 2008

When the end comes it will do so swiftly and never be assumed. It will be witnessed. Everyone will have kept watching, maybe even Mark Wahlberg, and it will be tragic (for some) or wonderful (for most), a moment marked by zeros on the clock. Zeros. Good luck, NFL.

Up next: A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous. Got me? Cheers!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Beer and football VIII — playoffs, week two

The game: Titans at Patriots
The beer: Mayflower Oatmeal Stout
The result: Win, 35–14
The commentary: I would never have read Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry were it not for the Ladies. From the book club's first meeting—back when the Pats had won a game more than it lost—and nominations were flying around I immediately liked the overview. It sounded wry and English, especially in the presenter's accent, though if the embellished, feminine typography of the paperback edition replaced the slab-serif hardcover she displayed then I might have walked out for good. (These look like unrelated books, never mind the alternate cover, which is my favorite of the three.)

Regardless of the shell, I knew I could read three hundred pages in a week and so waited until early this month to pick it up from the library—retention, etc. Alas! All copies were checked out of the local branch. The neighboring town had a copy so G. and I drove over for it, checking out a few for her as well. In the children's section were heroic illustrations of Martin Luther King (Jr.) for kids to color and G. sat down with a couple. "Please don't use black," I thought. She used orange.

Back to our friend Harold Fry, about whose story I'll leave the "gorgeously poignant novel of hope and transformation" bullshit to Oprah and remark instead that a gentleman takes a walk for reasons he deems important. I loved this book and only an asshole would not. Joyce is a gifted writer—the dreaded "female authors" are two for two so far while poor Ben Winters bums laundry quarters off of his fellow fiction-workshop-retreat guests. Ron Hall and Denver Moore might have joined him if I didn't skip their Same Kind of Different As Me dreck last month. We'll see how Graham Norton does with Holding in a few weeks.

Was there a game?

Up next: Complacency (kəmˈplāsənsē) NOUN – A feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc. Cheers!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Beer and football VIII — playoffs, week one (bye)

The beer: Maine Mean Old Tom Stout
The commentary: In honor of the MBTA refusing to look forward—with excuse-ridden complaints of "last week's historic tidal surge" delaying and outright canceling countless commuter trains ever since—and also of Commissioner Rico finally paying out, here is the closing set of knockout-pool statistics that interest only me… and Oren and Katie, who belatedly declared the previously disclosed "tendencies" to be "wicked awesome." She's got a point.

Simply put, which teams won for people? Which lost? How often? And for how long does a shampoo pompadour generally hold?

You chose wisely
Green Bay Packers – 32
Oakland Raiders – 31
Seattle Seahawks – 28
Philadelphia Eagles – 23
Buffalo Bills – 21
Pittsburgh Steelers – 18
New Orleans Saints – 15
Kansas City Chiefs – 14
Baltimore Ravens – 12
Detroit Lions – 12
Minnesota Vikings – 12
New England Patriots – 12
Jacksonville Jaguars – 11
Atlanta Falcons – 10
Los Angeles Chargers – 10
Los Angeles Rams – 10
Tennessee Titans – 10
Houston Texans – 9
Cincinnati Bengals – 8
Dallas Cowboys – 8
Carolina Panthers – 7
Arizona Cardinals – 5
Washington Redskins – 5
Denver Broncos – 4
Indianapolis Colts – 3
New York Jets – 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2
Chicago Bears – 1
Miami Dolphins – 1

You chose poorly
Pittsburgh Steelers – 25
Atlanta Falcons – 17
Miami Dolphins – 15
Denver Broncos – 8
Houston Texans – 6
Kansas City Chiefs – 4
New England Patriots – 4
New York Giants – 4
Seattle Seahawks – 4
Baltimore Ravens – 3
Cincinnati Fucking Bengals – 3
Dallas Cowboys – 3
Saginaw Mysterians – 3
Detroit Lions – 2
Arizona Cardinals – 1
Buffalo Bills – 1
Minnesota Vikings – 1
New Orleans Saints – 1
New York Jets – 1
San Francisco 49ers – 1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 1
Tennessee Titans – 1
Washington Redskins – 1

Quick sizzle: Yes, the Jets and Bears wins all came against the Browns. It's remarkable that the leading Packers, Raiders and Seahawks represented twenty-seven percent of all wins (ninety-one out of three hundred thirty-seven) and missed the playoffs. Remarkable! Meanwhile, the Steelers, Falcons and Dolphins were responsible for fifty-two percent of losses (fifty-seven of one hundred ten), as if a team that benched Jay Cutler to close the season can hang with two legitimate contenders. Lastly, Craig, Kim and one of the Matts defaulted to the Saginaw Mysterians after deciding (in weeks seven, four and three, respectively) that the pot was too small to be bothered. Good riddance.

Thus ends all talk of my quarter share of this season's knockout distribution, especially since the Chiefs would have eliminated me had we continued into the playoffs. (Shudder.) In conclusion, I drink a Maine beer toast to weeks three, four, five and six for eliminating more than half of the competition. May Project Also-Rans purge so cleanly.

Up next: Belichick, in a show of resilience and/or animosity, kneecaps his burdensome quarterback moments before kickoff and they still manage to advance to a seventh straight AFC title game. Cheers!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Beer and football VIII — week seventeen

The game: Jets at Patriots
The beer: Down the Road Wolfgeist Dunkel Lager
The result: Win, 26–6; Lions win, 35–11; Jarrod/Dan/Katie/Oren win, 4–53
The commentary: With apologies to Commissioner Rico, we knockout-pool participants who remain after seventeen regular-season weeks of entertainment—Dan, Katie, Asterisk Oren and myself—have copped out and agreed to split the dough four ways. Rico pushed hard to continue into the playoffs and we might have been convinced were a solid structure in place. Instead his "interesting" suggestions to address my concern that we four (with a reset list of teams to choose from) would settle on the same picks through to the Super Bowl were, basically, unreasonable and desperate: for example, "How about two of you have to pick AFC teams and the other two NFC teams?" Um… no thanks. Five hundred-something net credits is better than the nothing I might end up with in an all-or-nothing affair, which is as much as poor Kelli took home after going o-fer, and that would be a goddamn shame. No thanks. (For fun though? Chiefs over Titans tomorrow.)

Week seventeen outcome
Dan – Vikings over Bears
Katie – Redskins over (home) Giants Falcons over Panthers
Oren – Patriots over Jets
Robin – Saints over (home) Buccaneers
Tim – Ravens over Bengals Redskins over (home) Giants

Way to finish, Tim, though you really left yourself with nothing (the projected Ravens lost as well). I recommend a glorious spreadsheet of your own, from which you might one day cull the following in an email to fellow quitters:

Anyone like stats? Or tendencies, at least…

Over 17 games I picked 12 home teams. Dan, Katie and Oren picked 11.

Katie and I favored the NFC with 9 picks vs. 8 for the AFC. Dan picked 10 NFC. Oren picked 10 AFC.

Dan and I picked the same team in a week 3 times. Katie and I did too, as did Katie and Oren. Dan and Katie shared 6 picks while Dan and Oren shared 7. Oren and I had only one pick in common.

Dan, Katie and Oren all picked the Steelers in week 1 (at the Browns), the Lions in week 10 (hosting the Browns) and the Jaguars in week 11 (at the Browns). Dan, Jarrod and Katie all picked the Eagles in week 5 (hosting the Cardinals). Dan, Jarrod and Oren all picked the Chargers in week 13 (hosting the Browns). "Tendencies."

Dan and I started with 13-game winning streaks. Katie's loss came more in the middle and she ended with 11 straight wins. Oren finished strong, winning 14 after an early loss. (Tim won 15 straight before losing the last 2. Ouch.)

Over the course of the season we each took the Ravens, Jaguars, Chargers, Patriots, Saints, Eagles, Steelers and Seahawks. None of us ever picked the Bears, Browns (shocker), Broncos, Colts, Giants, Niners or Buccaneers.

Lastly, everyone's losing team (Jarrod—Bengals; Katie—Ravens; Oren—Dolphins) missed the playoffs except for Dan's (Pats).

That's good stuff, though Oren was the only one who expressed interest: "I love crap like this!" Right on. His asterisk remains even though I suspect no real shenanigans—Rico handled himself well in dealing with bullshit and, ultimately, ruled with an appreciated iron fist. The whole ended as it began—drinking iced coffee at Market Street, though with decidedly colder temperatures. At least I remembered to take a picture this time. And I did eventually get the hang of the CBS RICO app, which worked well even after losing a few weeks ago. "CONT." It's my own fault but I'm happy to watch the Bengals eat shit for eternity in their Marvin Lewis malaise.

In other news, a halftime promo for Celebrity (?) Big Brother introduced two female cast members who claimed to "work in the boxing industry." If they're not simply "boxers," which is a straightforward job title, do they hold those cards that tell you what round is coming up? Sticking with reality television, Project Also-Rans started last night with its odd determination of categorizing multi-appearance contestants (from Also-Rans and/or the flagship show) as either "veterans" or "rookies." Amanda was onscreen for literally one second before I yelled at her for wasting our time. A. told me to cool it: "I know you don't like the format but can we just try to enjoy this?" I'll never miss an episode. Never.

Seth Wickersham is the troll of the day, gifting us with the antithesis of a Friday news dump as his ESPN hype machine picks the low-hanging fruit and squashes feel-good stories about the wild-card Bills and the Super Bowl-hosting Vikings. "The Patriots, in the only statement anyone associated with the team would make on the record for this story, responded to specific questions by saying that…" "…we won thirteen games this year so what gives?" Is Wickersham wrong if the team wins another title in a few weeks? If they fail, does anything he's right about even matter? It feels like a Cliff's Notes version of every "Brady and Belichick don't like each other" and, more recently, "Belichick and Guerrero don't trust each other" pieces written by hacks who otherwise ignore the football being played. Wickersham's article is the story of the offseason, whether the Pats lose to the Chiefs or defeat the Saints, and the playoffs haven't even begun. Just don't forget that the incident related in its opening paragraphs, in which Brady F-bombs McDaniels on live television, happened a month after Garoppolo was traded and Brady "seemed liberated" and "especially excited." History is seldom written by sour Raiders fans but when it is they end with a flourish: "…their collective will to stave off the fall." Bravo! And don't forget about John Jastremski and Jim McNally!

Up next: "Those interviewed describe a lingering sadness around the team." Meanwhile, twenty others missed the playoffs. Cheers!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week sixteen

The game: Bills at Patriots
The beer: Two Roads Holiday Ale
The result: Win, 37–16; Ravens win, 23–16; Ben wins, 5–2–1
The commentary: Completing last week's poem:

Wine before beer…
Death, I fear!

Wednesday was not so clean, as happens to the best of us in weaker moments. Weak, like Paul and Undefeated Tim trusting the traveling Lions more than the home Pats and Ravens, respectively.

Week sixteen outcome
Dan – Panthers over Buccaneers
Katie – Chiefs over Dolphins
Oren – Patriots over Bills Panthers over Buccaneers
Paul – Patriots over Bills Lions over (home) Bengals
Robin – Chiefs over Dolphins Bears over Browns
Tim – Ravens over Colts Lions over (home) Bengals

You've got to make it to week seventeen, Paul, if you're saving the Pats for then. And Tim? And Tim! He joins the rest of us with one loss and might be in trouble this week. (As if my locked-in… Lions… and I are feeling any better.) We are down to six, single-elimination style, with all level playing fields leading to playoff tiebreakers. The "Shall we split the pot?" emails are flying and Commissioner Rico isn't having it.

Week seventeen predictions
Dan – Vikings over Bears
Katie – Redskins over (home) Giants
Oren – Patriots over Jets
Robin – Saints over (home) Buccaneers
Tim – Ravens over Bengals

As indicated, I'm not feeling great about the Lions today. Jim Caldwell's hot seat has grown cold (since he reportedly won't be sitting there any longer) and if the Chiefs weren't locked into the fourth seed and starting a rooking quarterback in Denver then I'd be on them instead. Elsewhere, Dan, Oren and Robin should advance/finish easily while Katie, Tim and I are in toss-up territory. Who knows what happens with Rams–Niners so the Redskins are the only team that "makes sense" for Katie. I considered them for a few minutes but they have nothing to play for and probably stink anyway. Had Tim taken my Ravens last week then he'd likely be sweating over the Lions today so what do I know, though he'd still be undefeated and could avoid watching the Bengals purposely injure his team all afternoon as they normally do against NFC North opponents to close a season. What was I thinking with those assholes?

A quick comment regarding Survivor: once Jeff told Chrissy with a straight face that her "advantage" allowed her to choose one person to take to the final three instead of the usual two then they might as well have handed the check right to Ben. It was the equivalent of the AFC and NFC champs being told "Congratulations, you each get to play one more game before the Super Bowl!" Oh well. I actually liked the twist because the final immunity winner always had too much power but call it something else. A "crippler" or a "snafu." At least they're bringing in all new people next season—I think they've gotten the hint that A. and I, the only people in the world who still watch this show, don't ever want to see Rupert again.

More entertainment! Today it is official:

Crowned 2017 Biffy® champion
(Thee) Oh Sees – Orc

And next year might be sealed up as well with the promise of what looks like a double album. Shades of Emotional Mugger's January inevitability:

Projected 2018 winner
Ty Segall – Freedom's Goblin

Here's hoping the rest of 2018 plays out so smoothly, with (election) results rewarding those who remember a time before "FAKE NEWS" defended all criticism. Someone should change our president's diaper. Pathetic! (But thanks for the Twitter template.)

Up next: Should I have insisted we split the pot after all? Happy new year!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week fifteen

The game: Patriots at Steelers
The beer: Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale
The result: Win, 27–24; Jaguars win, 45–7
The commentary: Survivor's Jeff Probst, wisest of the wise, laid on the tribal-council empathy last week and—moments before Devon incomprehensibly voted out his lone ally, positioning Ben as his future destroyer instead of a possible swing voter in a Devon/Ashley–Chrissy/Ryan showdown—reasoned "I cannot look at tonight's vote, I have to look at the end and start looking backwards." Other than the "look" redundancy and my personal preference for "backward" over "backwards" (likewise, "toward" over "towards," etc.) I have to start thinking the same way before I lose my marbles. How will others pick? Who do I expect to… survive… each week based on the teams available to them? Is Undefeated Tim going to ride some Not-Browns bullshit to the end?

Call it the game within the game within the actual game(s). After four eliminations last week—Bengals–Bears took out Andy and Mike, who apparently can't read, and revived some bitter quick sizzle for breaking my streak; previously undefeated Dan similarly busted on the Pats, who struck Whining Peter outright; and the Titans took out Thomas because they're playing well enough to trust wholeheartedly with the Saints, Vikings, Seahawks and Ravens in his pocket (all of whom lost… oh well)—we're down to seven and, unless Paul's Falcons lose tonight, there will again be no movement after last week's relief. Drag.

Still, it doesn't hurt as bad if I see it coming. Four of the six picked the team I would have were I in their positions: Katie and Tim had the Vikings, Asterisk Oren the Saints and Paul the Falcons, even though I couldn't possibly wait until Monday Night Football. Dan decided he didn't want to save the Ravens for the Colts next week—like I did—and Robin preferred the Wentz-less Eagles and another nail-biter against the Geeee Mennnn instead of Saints–Jets. Survive, advance and do anything to keep it interesting.

Week sixteen predictions
Dan – Panthers over Buccaneers
Katie – Chiefs over Dolphins
Oren – Patriots over Bills
Paul – Patriots over Bills
Robin – Chiefs over Dolphins
Tim – Ravens over Colts

Shit, since we're here…

Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers finale forecast
First elimination – Devon (four against one, he votes for Ben)
Second elimination – Chrissy (three against one, she also votes for Ben)
Third-place bystander who receives no winning votes – Ryan
Runner-up drag-along who never stood a chance – Mike (with Lauren's vote)
One! Survivor! – Ben (with the rest, including the producers')

This is fun! A Bucs upset tonight could affect Dan—and certainly Paul—while a Panthers blowout maybe sways Robin to their side. Oren and Paul will be tempted to do the same and push the Pats into a potentially meaningless week seventeen (Jets). Too risky. What do I know.

(That's right, I'm back to talking almost exclusively about the knockout pool. You stopped reading ages ago anyway.)

Pats–Steelers was unspoiled primetime action, with a professional (despite the photo) and surreal (aren't they all?) performance of The Nutcracker in Beverly (same theater) taking precedence that afternoon. Clara might as well have joined us in the audience for the second act. The evening's main event featured a less-itchy trigger finger in order to appreciate how these teams match up—it was an important game and I didn't want to miss anything… except for replays of several huge Steeler gains. For this reason I pouted and blew past the catch/not-a-catch drama, skipping ahead to the inevitable point-after kick. And skipping. What was taking so long? Arriving at Tony Corrente's reversal I was slightly euphoric and, upon watching one replay and determining "No catch!" without wondering how I'd feel were Gronk the tight end, braced myself for a third down that would likely clinch the win. (Later, re-watching the entire sequence, it was obvious that the television angles did not show enough to overturn the touchdown call—was Jesse James's right hand under the ball when it moved?—and that Jim Nantz and Tony Romo didn't even consider an incompletion to be in the cards. Three minutes later Roethlisberger and the offense were equally perplexed and, somehow, seemed unprepared to run another play. Exhibit A if you're wondering why Belichick and Brady have won five in a row and eleven—eleven!—of thirteen overall against these guys.

The acronym holiday party takes place on company grounds tomorrow before we likely regroup at some bar or other afterward. Consensus proclaimed Monday's InterContinental VaGina affair a Pats-usurping, shrimp-less letdown that produced no drama—cutting myself off after four more-or-less chugged Sam Winters was proper etiquette. A respectable train ride home reading Agatha Christie and marveling over my strong core (i.e., bladder) meant I could blast through that steaming pile of Dolphins game in an hour and keep Tuesday equally respectable. Will Wednesday be so clean? What completes the "Wine before beer" couplet?

Up next: The whole hood want Gronk? Fine. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week fourteen

The game: Patriots at Dolphins
The beer: Samuel Adams Winter Lager
The result: Loss, 27–20; Bengals lose, 33–7
The commentary: You get what you ask for and this defense still blows. Phooey.

Up next: Mike Tomlin oozes masculinity out of his pores. Cheers!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week thirteen

The game: Patriots at Bills
The beer: Long Trail Ale
The result: Win, 23–3; Chargers win, 19–10
The commentary: Nothing more about the knockout pool until people start getting knocked out again. Three straight weeks at eleven with the playoffs likely coming into play? Gimme a break. In the spirit of "nothing," I'm a bad father who took no pictures of his daughter last weekend, so here's one Facebook reminded me about from six years ago. Those cheeks! That skepticism!

Leaving work last week the friendly security guard pointed at my copy of Player Piano (not as good as I remembered, though the second half triumphs) and asked how many books I read a year. "Do you keep track of them?" "Um, no. I should!" I met E. Christopher Clark at a local author fair recently and liked the sound of his Those Little Bastards story collection. One sample download later and the opening "Revelation" was strong enough to earn my three bucks on Kindle—he had me thinking of Vonnegut, for crying out loud. A dozen pages later he lost me with the hateful and tasteless "Hacker." Two more sexual-awakening romps reminded that a bag of Doritos also costs three bucks. "Deux ex Machina" returned, with less success, to the enjoyable "Revelation" storyline but the juvenile, erectile, bad-fantasy stink lingered like a broken-in Body of Evidence cassette. Several stories remain, some with promising titles "Death by Cursor" and "Two Weirdos, a Shovel and Lots of Open Land," but Clark has a lot to overcome—keep it to adult themes instead of adult situations, alright? Bokononism weeps.

And hey, sixty-nine (har! har!) cents more and I've got Edgar Allan Poe's Complete Essays, Literary Studies, Criticism, Cryptography and Autography, Translations, Letters and Other Non-Fiction Works in response to lingering "complete works" despondency. Now I can read three essays about street-paving techniques of the mid nineteenth century: "Why has not the mineralizing process been adopted in the preparation of the wooden blocks with which we have so frequently experimented in the pavement of our streets?" Compelling!

Speaking of marginalia, is it Christmas yet? Let's start naming these playlists: I'm Weary All the Time the Time.

1. Billie Holiday – Stormy Weather
"Billie Holiday received numerous awards and accolades while still alive and posthumously. These include being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame and the Biff! Bang! Pow! Hall of Early December 2017 Excellence in Holiday Sequencing."

2. Fuzz – Sleigh Ride
Newly anointed "Christmas music" copied over from my regular library this year, alongside Fuzz's "Sleigh Ride": Guided by Voices's "Snowman," Nazz's "Under the Ice," the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "High Gear," the Groundhogs' "Snowstorm," Unwound's "December," Captain Beefheart's "Steal Softly Thru Snow," the Mothers of Invention's "Uncle Bernie's Farm," DR Hooker's "Winter," Six Finger Satellite's "Deep Freeze," the Misfits' "TV Casualty" ("Christmas cards to which I never reply!") and Metallica's "Trapped Under Ice." Ridiculous.

3. Ginger Baker's Air Force – We Free Kings
That Blind Faith redesign is my crowning achievement.

4. Second Hand – Death May Be Your Santa Claus
Merry proggy Christmas! These are the seasonal problems I create for myself: ten minutes deciding between the standard "Death May Be Your Santa Claus" and its extendo-jam "Reprise" for inclusion in a blog post no one will read.

5. Bobby Timmons – Deck the Halls
Timmons' great Prestige Records release Holiday Soul from 1966—not to be confused with Don Patterson's good Prestige Records release Holiday Soul from 1964—is a welcome addition this year since A. is embracing more of jazz's depth. Meanwhile, G. just wants to hear "Christmas Wrapping" over and over. How much better would new wave bands have been without bad eighties saxophones?

Up next: Sure, go ahead and schedule that InterContinental VaGina holiday party during the Pats on Monday Night Football. Cheers!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week twelve

The game: Dolphins at Patriots
The beer: Little Wolf Pale Ale
The result: Win, 35–17
The commentary: Discouragement looms over a new installment of "Beer and knockout-pool drama." Six projected outcomes resulted in eleven wins: Katie, the third and final Mike, Robin and I went with the Pats; Andy and Dan with the Falcons; Asterisk Oren and Paul with the Ravens; Peter with the Eagles; Thomas with the Panthers; and Tim with the Bengals. Regret, too, looms as a last-minute decision to forego the Redskins on Thanksgiving night—karma, etc.—means the Pats are no longer an option. Drag. I'm formally sketching out the remainder of the season with teams I don't fully trust or even understand. Chiefs? Lions? Bengals? Who are you people?

The silver lining is a fair playing field: when Paul related to me Tuesday that he emailed his Pats pick to Commissioner Rico a few minutes after one o'clock on Sunday—am I the only one who cares about this thing?—he was told "Too late, no dice." The lack of mercy is appreciated. The pathetic Texans against his fallback Ravens were not.

Rooting for lousy teams to overcome odds, outside of Chiefs–Giants, has been a degrading experience. Sunday should avoid this miasma, assuming everyone falls in line behind me and the Chargers over the Browns. (Jaguars—who the hell are they, anyway?—over Colts is off the table for all but me.) The Chargers are the pick—everyone can and everyone should. Those who don't are either scared off by last season's affair—I don't know if the Browns' first and last win affected the pool because I was out by then—or… whatever. Garoppolo in Chicago? (Tempting.) Geno time in Oakland? (Not so much.) Gronkowski in Buffalo? (Save it for the home rematch.) "LAC" will likely fill the Excel row despite Rico's Not-Browns disdain and, should that be the case, I'll again root for a lousy team to overcome odds, eliminate eight players and leave Dan, Tim and me with one strike apiece. "No mask? No mask!" Beautiful.

Then next week I can take the Chiefs, the Lions or the Bengals. Goddammit.

Up next: Remember when the Bills were good? Me neither. Cheers!