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.

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: December 11, 2018
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. Muted titles are rereads. "Library Book Club" selections are noted in red to represent the spectre of death.

JRR Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
The Two Towers (1954)
The Return of the King (1955)

Stephen King
From The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
"The Gunslinger" (1978/2003 revision)
"The Way Station" (1980/2003 revision)
"The Oracle and the Mountains" (1981/2003 revision)
"The Slow Mutants" (1981/2003 revision)
"The Gunslinger and the Dark Man" (1981/2003 revision)

Agatha Christie
Sleeping Murder (1976)

Edgar Allan Poe
"Review of 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)

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)

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 Philosophy of Furniture" (1840)
"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" (1954)

Ben H. Winters
Underground Airlines (2016)

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

Andrew Boylan
Sacrifice (2016)

Edgar Allan Poe
"A Few Words on Etiquette" (1846) *
"Morning on the Wissahiccon" (1844)
"The Philosophy of Composition" (1846)
"A Few Words on Secret Writing" (1841)
"Fifty Suggestions" (1849)
"Some Account of Stonehenge, the Giant's Dance, a Druidical Ruin in England" (1840)

Robert W. Chambers
From The King in Yellow (1895)
"The Repairer of Reputations"
"The Mask"
"In the Court of the Dragon"
"The Yellow Sign"

Kurt Vonnegut
Player Piano (1952)

Edgar Allan Poe
"Byron and Miss Chaworth" (1844)
"Harper's Ferry" (1842) *

E. Christopher Clark
From Those Little Bastards (2002)
"Ezekiel and the Harvesters"
"Sylvia's Masterpiece"
"Deux ex Machina"

Edgar Allan Poe
"An Opinion on Dreams" (1839)
"Instinct vs. Reason: A Black Cat" (1840) *
"Pay of American Authors" (1845) *
"Wood Pavements" (1845)
"Why Not Try a Mineralized Pavement" (1845)
"Old English Poetry" (1836) *
"The Capitol at Washington" (1839) *

Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City (2003)

Agatha Christie
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)

Edgar Allan Poe
"Our Magazine Literature" (1843) *

HP Lovecraft
The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1936)
"Discarded Draft of The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (1931)

Mark Twain
"The Million-Pound Bank Note" (1893)

Edgar Allan Poe
"American Novel-Writing" (1839)
"American Poetry" (1845)

Rachel Joyce
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (2012)

William Peter Blatty
Which Way to Mecca, Jack? (1959)

Stephen King
The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991)

HP Lovecraft
The Shadow Out of Time (1936)

Edgar Allan Poe
"Letter to B––" (1836)
"Review of 'The Culprit Fay' and Other Poems and 'Alnwick Castle' With Other Poems" (1836)
"Review of Poems" (1837)
"Review of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' and Other Tales and Master Humphrey's Clock" (1841)
"Critical Notes Exordium" (1842)

E. Christopher Clark
From Those Little Bastards (2002)
"Two Weirdos, a Shovel and Lots of Open Land"
"The Breakdown"
"A River Runs Through These Three Points of View"
"God (The Fine Art of Letting Go)"

Robert W. Chambers
From The King in Yellow (1895)
"The Demoiselle d'Ys"
"The Prophets' Paradise"
"The Street of the Four Winds"

Graham Norton
Holding (2016)

John Buchan
The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)

HG Wells
The Sleeper Awakes (1910)

Edgar Allan Poe
The Journal of Julius Rodman, Being an Account of the First Passage Across the Rocky Mountains of North America Ever Achieved by Civilized Man (1840)

E. Christopher Clark
From Those Little Bastards (2002)
"Death by Cursor"
"Out of the Groove"
"Those Little Bastards"
"The Perfect Pitch"
"The Girl Who Isn't Ready"

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"The Daemon Lover" (1949)
"My Life With RH Macy" (1941)
"Pillar of Salt" (1948)
"The Intoxicated" (1949)

Robert W. Chambers
From The King in Yellow (1895)
"The Street of the First Shell"

Angela Flournoy
The Turner House (2015)

Robert W. Chambers
From The King in Yellow (1895)
"The Street of Our Lady of the Fields"
"Rue Barrée"

Edgar Allan Poe
"Ballads and Other Poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow" (1842)
"Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne" (1842)

Bruce McCulloch
Let's Start a Riot: How a Young Drunk Punk Became a Hollywood Dad (2014)

Agatha Christie
The Secret Adversary (1922)

HP Lovecraft
At the Mountains of Madness (1936)

Edgar Allan Poe
"The American Drama" (1845)

Jeffrey Archer
Kane and Abel (1979/2009 revision)

Edgar Allan Poe
"Marginalia" (1845–1849)
"Some Secrets of the Magazine Prison-House" (1845)
"Literary Small Talk" (1839)
"Palæstine" (1836)
"Anastatic Printing" (1845)
"Street-Paving" (1845)

Stephen King
From Four Past Midnight (1990)
"The Langoliers"

Edgar Allan Poe
"Intemperance" (1839) *
"Cabs" (1840) *
"A Moving Chapter" (1844)
"Desultory Notes on Cats" (1844)
"A Chapter of Suggestions" (1844)

Stephen King
From Four Past Midnight (1990)
"Secret Window, Secret Garden"

Edgar Allan Poe
"Souvenirs of Youth" (1843)
"The Head of St. John the Baptist" (1843)
"Memo to Rufus W. Griswold, Esqre., Boston, Mass." (1841)

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"Like Mother Used to Make" (1949)
"Trial by Combat" (1944)

Philip K. Dick
"Second Variety" (1953)

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"The Villager" (1944)

Philip K. Dick
"Exhibit Piece" (1954)

HP Lovecraft
"Fungi From Yuggoth" (1929–1930)

Sam Eastland (Paul Watkins)
Eye of the Red Tsar (2010)

Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968/2008 revision)

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"The Witch" (1949)
"The Renegade" (1949)
"After You, My Dear Alphonse" (1943)
"Charles" (1948)

Stephen King
From Four Past Midnight (1990)
"The Library Policeman"

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Literati of New York City" (1846)
"Autography" (1836)
"A Chapter on Autography" (1841)
"An Appendix of Autographs" (1842)
"A Chapter on Science and Art" (1840) *

Stephen King
From Four Past Midnight (1990)
"The Sun Dog"

Edgar Allan Poe
"Pinakidia" (1836)
"Omniana" (1840) *

Samanta Schweblin
Fever Dream/Distancia de Rescate ("Rescue Distance") (2014/2017 translation)

Edgar Allan Poe
"Doings of Gotham" (1844)

George Saunders
From Tenth of December (2013)
"Victory Lap" (2009)
"Sticks" (1995)
"Puppy" (2007)
"Escape From Spiderhead" (2010)
"Exhortation" (2000)
"Al Roosten" (2009)
"The Semplica Girl Diaries" (2012)
"Home" (2011)
"My Chivalric Fiasco" (2011)

Matthew Dicks
Something Missing (2009)

Edgar Allan Poe
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838)

John Buchan
Greenmantle (1916)

Philip K. Dick
"Beyond Lies the Wub" (1952)
"The Defenders" (1953)

Carrie Fisher
Postcards From the Edge (1987)

Philip K. Dick
"The Crystal Crypt" (1954)
"Beyond the Door" (1952)
"The Eyes Have It" (1953)

Herman Koch
The Dinner/Het Diner (2009/2013 translation)

Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
"Coda" (1979)

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"Afternoon in Linen" (1943)

HP Lovecraft
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927)

Robert W. Chambers
"The Maker of Moons" (1896)

HP Lovecraft
"Azathoth" (1922)

Philip K. Dick
"The Gun" (1952)

Joseph Heller
Good As Gold (1979)

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"Flower Garden" (1949)
"Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors" (1949)
"Colloquy" (1944)

David McCullough
The Wright Brothers (2015)

[Thus ends Year One of my involvement with the Ladies. Skipped titles were Ron Hall and Denver Moore's Same Kind of Different As Me and Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. I am penciled in for Year Two—at least through another "one book" offering—but I may drop out in favor of starting my own group at work. Stay tuned.]

Philip K. Dick
The Variable Man (1953)
"Tony and the Beetles" (1953)

HP Lovecraft
"Beyond the Wall of Sleep" (1919)
"Celephaïs" (1922)

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"Elizabeth" (1949)
"A Fine Old Firm" (1944)

Philip K. Dick
"The Hanging Stranger" (1953)

HP Lovecraft
"Cool Air" (1928)

Kevin Courrier
33⅓: Trout Mask Replica (2007)

Stephen King
The Eyes of the Dragon (1984/1987 revision)

HP Lovecraft
"Dagon" (1919)
"The Doom That Came to Sarnath" (1920)
"Ibid" (1928)
"The Rats in the Walls" (1924)
"The White Ship" (1919)
"The History of The Necronomicon" (1927)
"The Terrible Old Man" (1921)
"Memory" (1923)
"Ex Oblivione" (1921) *
"The Evil Clergyman" (1933)
"What the Moon Brings" (1923)
"A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson" (1917) *
"The Tree" (1921)
"The Tomb" (1922)
"The Street" (1920)
"Sweet Ermengarde" (1921) *

John Buchan
Mr. Standfast (1919)

Philip K. Dick
"The Skull" (1952)
"Piper in the Woods" (1953)
"Mr. Spaceship" (1953)
"Strange Eden" (1954)

William Landay
Defending Jacob (2012)

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"The Dummy" (1949)
"Seven Types of Ambiguity" (1943)
"Come Dance With Me in Ireland" (1943)
"Of Course" (1949)

John McMillian
Beatles vs. Stones (2013)

Philip K. Dick
"The Unreconstructed M" (1957)

Kurt Vonnegut
The Sirens of Titan (1959)

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"Men With Their Big Shoes" (1947)
"The Tooth" (1949)
"Got a Letter From Jimmy" (1949)

Philip K. Dick
"Sales Pitch" (1954)
"Shell Game" (1954)
"Roog" (1953)

Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" and Other Stories
"The Lottery" (1948)

CJ Tudor
The Chalk Man (2018)

Philip K. Dick
"Breakfast at Twilight" (1954)
"Paycheck" (1953)
"Impostor" (1953)
"The King of the Elves" (1953)

Cyril G. Wates
"The Visitation" (1927)

EM Forster
"The Machine Stops" (1909)

Philip K. Dick
"Adjustment Team" (1954)
"Foster, You're Dead!" (1955)
"The Crawlers" (1954)

Nathaniel Philbrick
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (2000)

HP Lovecraft
"The Music of Erich Zann" (1922)
"The Cats of Ulthar" (1920)
"Old Bugs" (1919)

Philip K. Dick
The Golden Man (1954)
The Last of the Masters (1954)
The Turning Wheel (1954)

HP Lovecraft
"He" (1926)
"The Picture in the House" (1921)
"The Outsider" (1926)

Philip K. Dick
"Upon the Dull Earth" (1954)
"Human Is" (1955)
"Meddler" (1954)

HP Lovecraft
"The Quest of Iranon" (1921)
"Hypnos" (1923)
"Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" (1921)

Upton Bell/Ron Borges
Present at the Creation: My Life in the NFL and the Rise of America's Game (2017)

Mark Twain
"My First Lie and How I Got Out of It" (1899)

A second book club emerges! In blue, to represent the spectre of… another man in the room? Tis an unshackled Commissioner Rico himself! And lo, "CSGNFBØQEBCBBL" initiates its culturally significant gasbaggery with…

Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

Philip K. Dick
"Autofac" (1955)
"The Minority Report" (1956)
"We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (1966)

Mark Twain
"The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" (1899)

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. 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!

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 the third The Dark Tower book—"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, and 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 take my time planning 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?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Beer and football VIII — week two

The game: Patriots at Saints
The beer: Riverwalk Storm Door Porter
The result: Win, 36–20; Raiders win, 45–20
The commentary: "What album cover banned or censored because of nudity deserved it the most?" I took out the unnecessary comma after "nudity" but resisted rewriting Johnny Keno's question for him (almost: "Which banned or censored album cover deserved it the most?"). Anyone who didn't vote for Blind Faith can proceed directly to jail: "The release of the album provoked controversy because the cover featured a topless pubescent girl holding what appears to be the hood ornament of a Chevrolet Bel Air, which some perceived as phallic." God forbid a perverted consumer is presented with an adult cock—it might turn him gay—but an eleven-year-old's tits—not simply breasts because they're sexualized here and meant to be ogled—are A-OK with the red-blooded eighty-three percent of voters. When are people going to learn?

Not by coincidence, 1969 is when child-pornography curator Eric Clapton began to suck. Blind Faith was a lousy band and everyone involved—even Rick Grech, who made a couple of decent albums with Family beforehand—was capable of better, proven by the well done and Clapton-less Ginger Baker's Air Force seven months later. "Slowhand" (what does that even mean?) responded with pure shit, most of which he didn't even write, like his beige eponymous album and a bunch of directionless collaborations with Duane Allman, Delaney & Bonnie and Leon Russell that he probably sulked through and discredited afterward, per his MO. I'd bet forty more units that all of his circular seventies licks are straight out of George Harrison's rubbish.

Speaking of units—not that kind, Fred—I don't know how chronic gamblers survive. After last week's gaze upon and triumph over the Bears abyss I was barely able to continue and so relied upon what Midwestern/Northwestern fucktard Michael Wilbon derides as "chalk" by picking the Raiders against the visiting Jets. The Buccaneers were my other serious contender and also won in a blowout over… the Bears—I just couldn't do it two weeks in a row, baby. The late-afternoon time slot meant I could set stress aside in the middle of another maize—har! har!—while carefully avoiding the (recording) Pats–Saints score as I checked in to root against the Ravens, Panthers, Cardinals, Titans, Chiefs, Vikings and Bucs to little avail. Drag. The Vikings, Giants and 49ers, of all teams, produced three strikes, the last of which took someone all the way out: farewell, poor Kelli, for I'm no longer anonymizing other participants due to volume. In her defense, it remains unclear what time documented RICO hub CBS Sports locks you out from picking same-day games, which is why Thursday-evening commutes home will serve as a deadline until the end. Until my end. Her exit brings us very slightly down to fifty-six and a magic number of one hundred three, with one to give.

How does one live like this? It was stressful enough to track the overtime Cardinals–Colts while wondering (wandering) if G's decision to enter the white section of the maze instead of sticking with the yellow was a good idea (I'm here, aren't I?). There was nothing at stake except for the possibility of competitors being disadvantaged, which is an interest of sorts, just one over which I had no control. I'm not even worried about losing the forty units at this point—it's already gone and I would have blown that and more on a school night in Cambridge (next paragraph). It's losing the chance to keep playing that worries me and no more. What if I had a thousand on the line? Six months of mortgage payments? Thumbs? What if I were keeping this all from A. and afraid G. would grow up to discover her father is a degenerate who might have to pull her out of school to find a job? Instead I'll pout, as I've done three times before (the initial effort never got off the ground), because my tracking spreadsheet will turn obsolete after a second loss. If Tavin (somehow not an alias) and I are the final two battling it out in week seventeen, my Bills (shudder) against his Dolphins, it would be unfortunate to watch a quarterback anti-clinic between, I don't know, Ryan Mallett and Matt Cassel—since Tyrod Taylor and Jay Cutler will have been on IR since before the trade deadline—result in a three-zip elimination loss for me. But the spreadsheet? But the spreadsheet! It were to expire anyway and closure is, in itself, victory. Just not two-thousand-two-hundred-forty-units-in-the-black victory.

Item! Thee Oh Sees sold out! No, not in dropping "Thee" like the Jesus Lizard caving to major-label typographic coercion and setting "The" on its baseline from 1996 to 1998. I mean the Cambridge show last Wednesday sold out… in fucking June! How am I to compete with that? (Spinning Live in San Francisco, the new Orc and several dozen other albums fills the void.) These roving packs of freshmen are scene-motivated because even Quicksand this Saturday is a no-go—it ain't 1994 and Brainiac ain't opening this time, poseurs. Ivan blames his own lack of follow-through. I have to agree. Old age is a bastard.

Back to Thee Oh Sees, who will always be Thee Oh Sees to me since I started liking them in a post-Orinoka Crash Suite/OCS/Orange County Sound/Ohsees—and pre- and post-Oh Sees—universe about eighteen months ago. (I hear their next album will be released under the OCS moniker. Not in my library.) It's a shame to have missed the show as I haven't attended one since seeing Ty Segall early last year and, no, Will Oldham's bitchin' hot mess does not register. I take comfort knowing I also missed the chance to circle Cambridge's one-way streets for twenty minutes in search of parking and also, I imagine, a bunch of sweaty Harvard twits who would empty trust funds on multiple thirty-dollar, inferior-sounding "exclusive limited-release editions on bone-colored vinyl" LPs to bring to Turntable Night at those hipster bars that encourage people to spin their own for some reason. Millennial look-at-me-ism at its finest. (I was killing time at Notch in Salem a few weeks ago when it happened to be Bring Your Bluegrass Night or some shit and every song sounded exactly like the one the Beastie Boys sampled in "5-Piece Chicken Dinner." One of them had to be it but all of them could not.) Instead, as a deliberate affront to all they hold dear (until this cassette phase shifts their credibility standards yet again), I bought Orc on CD for twelve bucks, ripped that bastard into the gloriously portable MP3 format and sold it on Discogs a few days later for nine plus shipping. An enviable margin, considering I still own the music, that might have paid for one and a half beers at the Sinclair—I guess staying home, drinking pinot grigio and re-watching the "Devastator" episode of Mr. Show isn't too bad an alternative. "He broke his neck and then he drowned!" Anyway, Orc will surely be 2017's Biff-Banger by default.

Football! In case you can't tell, I'm not going crazy with "They're back!" and "MFGOAT!" and all that after one (convincing) win (over a mediocre Saints squad), just like I didn't queue up for the Devastator after the Chiefs unpleasantness. I'm encouraged by Brady's performance while concern emerges over a series of "minor" muscle injuries to his receiving pool. The defensive personnel, meanwhile, is an unsolvable problem historically, despite last season's fluky statistics—this is where poor drafting (Ron Brace, Jermaine Cunningham, Ras-I Dowling, Tavon Wilson, Dominique Easley, Jordan Richards, Cyrus Jones, et al… and these are just a handful of the flameout first- and second-rounders since 2009 who should be in their prime by now) hits hard—and the team will need to win a lot of shootouts. They're able to, but let's see what happens against a strong Texans defense… and a bad Texans offense. See? Nothing is settling anything just yet.

(Volume eight of Lamenting Thine Rampart, presented early this season, is brought to you by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Tavins. Won't you give today?)

Up next: It is in poor taste to make a joke at Houston's expense right now. Instead I'll target locally and share that HP Lovecraft's "The Festival" was inspired by a trip to Marblehead, where isolated weirdos make the police log a must-read. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Beer and football VIII: What is there that I can be?

Week one
The game: Chiefs at Patriots
The beer: Maine Lunch India Pale Ale
The result: Loss, 42–27; Falcons win, 23–17
The commentary: "There goes the no-hitter," as I would say—every time—in the days when I attended Red Sox games. "Patriots eat shit in front of God and everyone," says some "unionized" basement-dweller under the Deadspin banner. It happens. Check with us in January, Emma.

Losing Thursday was weird. I started the game later than I'd hoped after A. pouted a bit over Project Runway's postponement (it is pretty great so far), catching up to the broadcast at halftime and assuming Belichick would straighten everyone out in the interval. Maybe next weekend.

After a fast start by Brady that pointed to blowout city, the Chiefs outclassed the good guys in literally every way. Offense, defense, special teams, coaching, general enthusiasm. The new banner was blue, right? The Pats were wound too tight, made evident after Gronk's overturned touchdown—he appeared to have the wind knocked out of him (let's hope that's all it was) and recovered enough to never enjoy himself. No one did. The gloom stuck as Amendola and Hightower went down, various defenders got dusted like it's Tecmo Bowl and Mike Gillislee scored three touchdowns when he wasn't stuffed on fourth down(s). By quarter to midnight—this was a long game—I fought to stay awake for, I don't know, principles. I'm still paying for that. At least the undefeated talk can go away, "We're on to New Orleans" and all. I just don't know if talk of this historically bad defensive performance will disappear so quickly.

What doesn't disappear is the past. (Right, Mark Wahlberg? Manage to make it through this one?) Hours of new LI-centric television will heal all opening-week wounds, even if Edelman's shameless, douche-y plug of his children's book throughout America's Game means less screen time for the always affable LeGarrette Blount and the insightful and rightly proud Dont'a Hightower—"Duntuh" addressing Orange Is the New Black is a nice touch. A rerun of February's Turning Point (answer: Hightower's strip-sack), Top Ten highlighting an odd selection of Brady's "best wins of all time" (XLIX at number four??) and—saving the best for last—Do Your Job, Part II will keep me afloat until Sunday. It's a looong season, despite levels of panic that should be reserved for hurricanes and, you know, incompetent presidents. Patriots fans are the worst.

On the bright side, the Thursday game meant Sunday was wide open to eat away at my stomach. G. attended a fun bowling party at Market Street in Lynnfield, allowing A. and me to duck out for some adult time. And so: Starbucks! It was the first stop even though we neglected the Lululemon/Ezekiel Elliott (!) dress code. Ineffective window shades demanded indoor sunglasses as we stared in horror at preteen girls ordering Frappuccinos and wondered when G. and her friends would begin stunting their growth at the hometown coffee shop. You're in for a future of headaches, ladies, should you ever fail to get your caffeine fix before noon.

A. left a bit before one to do some shopping while I nursed my coffee and wondered why the CBS Sports app wasn't displaying anyone's picks yet. What does it take? Eventually, by the time I walked over to Kings to pick G. up, the early-game blanks were filled in and a convincing majority—thirty-six out of what ballooned to fifty-seven of us, as if this thing wasn't already dragging into next season—went with the Steelers over the Browns or the Bills over the Jets. They all had a lot less to worry about than I did, with the fragile Falcons—in a game that would have ruined their season and beyond had they blown it—keeping things interesting with my heart pounding and my palms sweating on the wheel circa four o'clock. Exiting the Trader Joe's parking lot I knew the Bears—isn't is always the Bears?—were advancing and time was expiring. I awaited Iggy proclaiming "Yeah!" out of my phone to signal either a game-tying score by the Bears (and a deciding PAT attempt to come) or the end of the game—oh, to be able to assign different ringtones to different outcomes. Iggy kindly sounded off at a red light and a peek at Android Oreo's creamy-filling notifications indicated survival, barely, prompting an apology to my family for several minutes of agitated silence. I am not cut out for this.

Houston's handful of fans were not so lucky—I've been on both ends of that. They and someone who miscalculated a Cardinals rebound represent the weekend's six losses, as my silver-lining scenario of the Pats taking people down with them never panned out. Drag. At least I already won the privacy contest since no one else chose to mistrust the inter-net and obscure his or her last name and email address. Good luck with that next credit report, losers. Otherwise, with all participants given two strikes and no buybacks, the magic number is one hundred six. Good lord.

Up next: Tom Brady improves upon his bottom-dwelling completion percentage. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Beer and football VIII — training camp/the all-important third preseason game

The beer: Ipswich Blueberry Shandy
The commentary: I dreamed I was Julian Edelman. On the goal line leading 4–2 (!) over the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl or the opening game—there was tension beyond what the scheduled week-four matchup deserves—"Julian" went in motion behind Brady and told him "I want a touchdown!" I/he scooted past Brady before the snap as he stuck the ball forward for me, over the line of scrimmage, into the end zone, and I lunged forward to pluck it for the score. An irate (understandably so, given the blatant false start/illegal motion/chicanery) Bucs assistant coach bolted onto the field, got in my face and throttled me until he either stumbled to the ground or I knocked him down. He was not out of options and so grabbed onto my ankle like a bear trap, refusing to let go as I taunted him with "Look at the scoreboard!" even though "we" were only up 11–2 in a dreamworld where touchdowns counted for a full seven points. Edelman is a douche even when I'm playing him in the ether.

This occurred days before he was lost for the year during the all-important Detroit layover. I'm cautiously optimistic in that Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell, plus whichever rookie sticks to the roster, can fill in for him while Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks and Gronk expand the field beyond dinks and dunks. We'll see how many of them can stay healthy. It's the preseason, sure, but Brady and company looked pretty great against the Lions' starters. It should be fun.

Training camp was a little subdued for G., my father and me this year as an overwhelming crowd obscured much of the action in a joint session with the Jaguars. I appreciated Papa's vow to appeal to Robert Kraft about moving a particular tree—passion over right and wrong, or over things in our way, runs hot in the blood. G. didn't like how "the flavor" kept seeping to the bottom of her slushie and more or less refused to have her picture taken. I managed to get a couple of keepers before a lack of balloons at Red Robin brought it to a full stop. At least 2016's Etsy dress still fits, even though we needed to bring it to a seamstress—whose workspace resembled a Hobbit hole—for repairs. Beware the internet and its shoddy stitching.

New England (the region) enjoyed a proper, old-school Summer this year and we took full advantage of a general lack of humidity, a welcome amount of rain after last year's drought and all-around excellence. The last week of June was spent around Penobscot Bay in Maine, where Belfast and Rockland suited us better than an overrun Camden. Our cool lobster-boat tour did originate from there, though, and finding the dock took Olympic-level skill over a slalom course painted shades of gray and pastel.

A month later I took a… butterfly mermaid?… to "Daddy Daughter Princess Night" with the Lowell Spinners, an A-level Red Sox outfit. Who doesn't love visiting Lowell? It was a fun night capped off by a costumed Princess Jasmine's bosom and a fairly spectacular fireworks display, both (all three?) of which approached a kind of danger. An earlier snafu at the box office left a bitter taste, though, as I had the audacity to request a seat next to my daughter—by the time everything was sorted I'm sure the guy behind the glass hated me as much as I did him. Good luck with your ticket-distribution career, failed hipster meathead.

Outdoor dates with Circus Smirkus and a Snow White/Alice in Wonderland mashup followed, where irresistible trees beckoned children until we were told they were imported from Japan and therefore unsuitable for climbing. Good luck with your woodland-authority career, public-theater roadie lady.

And Canobie? And Canobie! The lady behind us in line at the Ferris wheel was stroking a stuffed Moana pig and complaining that Columbus didn't discover the New World because "Cuba isn't America." You can see her and her bra straps in the other car while G. posed for a Heroes reissue shoot.

The Dragon Coaster was in full effect this year as my six-year-old monkey embraced rides beyond the carousel and the Ferris wheel. She started a little slow with the Kiddie Canoes and said afterward that the cave was full of spiderwebs.

Eventually she perfected her horror-queen scream on the Dragon Coaster, Flower Power and Over the Rainbow before mellowing out with the Sky Ride (a favorite in my youth) and the Alpine Swing. You might be on your own on Untamed next year, kiddo.

Downtime with Rosie and her infamous vanilla leg was and is valued as well. It's not all beaches and tee-shirt cannons.

The knockout pool, you ask? It's back! In corporate form, as the organizer has outsourced management and tracking duties to the home of Silk Stalkings. How CBS Sports can get away with enabling illegal stakes is beyond me—hopefully it at least means we'll find out everyone's picks before the games are played. Other changes: instead of running several separate contests (of which I participated in one), my man is lumping everyone together. More people means more total units to win, especially with a one-time contribution of forty each instead of twenty and no buybacks this time—great, right? However. The odds of a single winner emerging by the end of the regular season are nil because everyone gets two strikes and ties now equal wins. I'm not allowing myself to get too worked up over the latter because ties are rare enough but, with fifty-three people and one hundred six strikes, we'll be lucky to have fewer than fifteen left come January. A popular vote among those who remain will supposedly decide between various split-the-pot or kick-in-more-and-keep-going scenarios that I'll worry about should I be involved. Mudhoney's fantastic The Sound and the Fury From Seattle, in the meantime, will assist in maintaining realistic expectations… excepting local football heroes, of course. "Fuck you! Keep it outta my face!"

Up next: Don't all teams have a chance at three championship titles in four years? Twice? Cheers!