Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Nurse the Hate: 2019 MLB Win Totals

I was one of the biggest baseball fans around just a few years ago.  I traveled to see my beloved San Francisco Giants play away games, watched about 120 of their games a year on TV, and played in two fantasy baseball leagues.  If you wanted to know about the Mets utility infielder, I was your guy.  All of the sudden, I stopped watching baseball.  One would think that this would not be the case with my advancing years.  All middle aged white men are supposed to love baseball.  These are the only people that reliably attend games.  Yet I find myself watching less and less baseball.  This was for a few easily identifiable reasons.

First, I essentially stopped communicating daily with anyone that watched baseball.  I found that my social circle of close male friends continues to shrink further and further with each passing year.  When my father was my age, I'm not sure if he had one real male friend.  I spend a lot of time with Leo, but let's be honest, he usually isn't positive on where he is much less if the Giants should trade for a situational left handed reliever.  I think Hector is moderately down with baseball, so maybe I will lasso him into going to Pittsburgh to watch the Giants inevitably lose to the Pirates while Yinzers scream out "Raise the Jolly Roger" as I walk out to the triumphant fireworks.  Yet, they don't have the sarcastic edge that Krusty and I enjoyed while watching the horrible Indians teams of the early 2000s.  It's a loss.  Maybe I need to place a personal ad along the lines of "Fading indie rock singer guy seeks male companion willing to attend poorly played National League games and talk shit while moderately buzzed up on local beer".

The other big issue was I got cheap.  Up to this point, the only things I knew not to skimp out on were cheese and shoes.  I didn't know that buying the season ticket for Giants games versus MLB Season Ticket on Direct TV would result in only watching "OTT" versions of Giants games where placed internet ads took over the Fox Bay Area feed commercial breaks. Instead of watching a wide variety of ads including an uncomfortable Duane Kuiper endorsement for a solar company, I would get the same 4 ads across an entire game. With 9 innings, that means 18 commercial breaks.  Hence, I would see the exact same ad break of Cleveland Clinic/Marriot/some financial company/ promo 18 fucking times in a row.  It was maddening.  I couldn't watch it.  It didn't help that the Giants were boring.

I am committed to getting back into baseball this season.  I find it calming to be uptight about my shitty team.  I like to be able to be exasperated when my least favorite middle reliever comes in to throw gas on an inning.  I am not sure why ESPN refuses to provide baseball news in their sportscasts despite airing games all summer long.  Each day the talking heads shows pontificate about the NBA soap opera (no actual basketball is discussed at anytime in NBA coverage, only where So-And-So wants to play) and Tom Brady.  That's it.  The season starts tomorrow and I'm not positive on who's good.  That is why I decided to lock in the only way I know how... with a few monster wagers on win totals.

Vegas Booms are DARING YOU to take under 59.5 wins on the Baltimore Orioles.  It should be noted that they only won 49 games last year and made no apparent moves to improve.  Yet, if I made a few calls, I should be able to get a group of guys together that could win 60 games in the majors.  That's the way baseball works.  A terrible teams wins 40% of the time.  A great team wins 60% of the time.  40% of 162 games is 64 wins.  Great news!  The Orioles are worse than terrible.  With a win total that low, the Vegas books know goddamn well this team is a disaster.  The O's have to play the absolutely loaded Red Sox, Yankees and Rays about a hundred times this season.  That's bad news.  It's real bad news.  Baltimore UNDER 59.5

I am going to commit to rooting aggressively against the Cubs this year.  Just like when the Red Sox finally won a World Series, Cubs fans became immediately dislikable.  That entire Wrigley Field, Go Cubbies! horseshit was just too much to handle.  All those preppy ass North Side guys waxing on about the pain they had suffered of watching the Cubs lose (ignoring the Bears/Bulls/Black Hawks titles) made me think "fuck you guys".  I would like the Cubs and their alleged genius big payroll GM Theo Epstein to return to their heartbreaking ways.  Nothing will bring me greater joy than to see the Cubs bullpen blow leads late than to be on the under.  Jon Lester is 35, You Darvish is coming off injury, and I'm not bought in on a resurgent Cole Hamels.  The Central is going to be tough.  Chicago Cubs UNDER 88.5 wins.

The Giants are going to be terrible.  There are about 4 legit MLB players on the roster.  The Dodgers will destroy them all season.  The Rockies will shove them around.  They can probably beat the D-Backs and Padres every now and again.  But the rest of the NL will kill them.  It's an injured Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and a bunch of bad contracts.  San Francisco Giants UNDER 73.5.   

Monday, March 25, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Mueller Report

Like about half of the United States, I got sucked into the Mueller Report, believing that this written document would somehow swiftly bring justice to the abhorrent Trump Criminal Organization.  My thinking was that after two years of intense investigation, an official verdict would emerge from what was being done in plain sight the entire time.  I do recall Trump saying "Russia, if you are listening, please hack Hillary's email" and they did.  I watched an astounding number of his inner circle lie over and over again about Russian contacts.  In fact, most of them lied when it didn't seem like there was even a reason to lie.  "Russia?  Never heard of it."  Then Trump denies, denies, denies that Russia tried to sway the election his way while acting spectacularly deferential to Putin.  Then we find out he had negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, complete with shady financing discussions with Putin tied in oligarchs.  This would be his comeuppance!  Justice would be served!  Wait?  What?  Son of a bitch...

In retrospect, thinking that Trump's son Spalding (or Don Jr as he is sometimes known) could head up a plan of some kind seems unlikely.  He seems more like a guy you have in charge of getting the pizza for the after party instead of organizing "synergies" with a foreign power.  And while Trump lies about EVERYTHING, it should also be noted that because he reflexively lies about everything the truth is essentially unknowable.  Trump doesn't even know what the facts are anymore.  Hell, his attorneys knew he would perjure himself when asked questions from Mueller as he is physically incapable of being honest.   His entire inner circle except that shit Jared are all going to jail for some crime or another.  To think he's clean suspends logical thought, but no one can prove anything on collusion and apparently no one wants the circus of the obstruction of justice charge.

I think anyone with common sense can look at Trump and know that he is committing some white collar crime the second he wakes up.  He has been doing it so long that he doesn't even know he's doing it.  It's just his "brand".  There are so many inquiries and legal actions swirling around him, he will be in court for the rest of his life.  I think he has been tangled up in court for so long, it doesn't bother him.  He'd rather pay a lawyer than do the right thing ethically.

That's why this victory lap he will do for the next couple of weeks will be so painful.  The outrageous rhetoric coming not just from him but his entire team of souless human beings (I'm looking at YOU Sarah Sanders!) will be the most bitter pill of all.  "We told you so."  Son of a bitch, this medicine is going to be hard to take.  I find the man so irredeemable that I will admit I became totally bought in that he would be found guilty of SOMETHING.  Now for the next two years of already started election talk, the blah blah blah from both sides of this fight will be nothing but painful noise.  In fact, the spin from this will somehow make Trump a victim and make everyone forget that he is completely incompetent.  He will probably get re-elected.

What a bust.    

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The End of the NCAA Tournament Fiasco

I had dug myself into an 0-5 hole, one that required steely nerves and financial resources to dig myself out of.  I just kept doubling up on my losses.  When you go 0-5, the numbers add up pretty quickly.  Thus I found myself with an outsized wager on Michigan, on a game I could have cared less about.  In fact, I couldn't even bring myself to watch the game.  That's how sure I was that I would lose this as well and find myself as one of those guys dressed in a Statue of Liberty costume outside a tax preparation outfit located in a strip plaza.  Thankfully I don't have to spend my weekends twirling a sign for cash as Michigan covered.  I can now gracefully exit the tournament with my wallet intact, but a second consecutive year of lost dignity.  As Leo P. Love once famously said, "I have learned no lesson.  I have learned NO LESSON!".

I knew damn well I didn't know anything about college basketball when I launched this foolhardy operation.  Perhaps I thought I would somehow split the games and manage to distract myself for a few hours this weekend.  If I'm being honest with myself, I was actually thinking I might catch lightning in a bottle, like a legendary 8-0 run I went on at the otherwise forgettable Paris Casino in Las Vegas in the early 2000s.  If I tear away all the protective armor away from myself, this is probably what I thought could happen.  The problem becomes when you think it will happen.   Then you end up twirling an arrow sign for Liberty Tax Preparation hoping not to meet the gaze of passing motorists.  It's hard to look happy in a costume when everyone that drives by feels sorry for you.

A friend of mine named Stacky once lost hundreds of dollars playing Pai Gow poker in the middle of the night at the Bellagio.  There were two main reasons for this.  1.  He had never played Pai Gow poker before.  2.  He didn't seem to pick up on the rules as the he played.  I think we can all agree that if you are trying to learn a casino game, the best way to learn it might not be on The Strip with Saturday Night table stakes.  Stacky though claimed he had a great deal of fun, and wound up befriending a Chinese businessman that smoked three packs of cigarettes in the time they played together.  Stacky later wound up convincing him to play Blackjack where the man introduced Stacky to the idea of yelling "Monkey!  Monkey!" when you needed a face card for blackjack.

It is important to note that neither of these two decided to venture over to the sports book and lay down action on Wofford +5 over Kentucky.  If I am being honest with myself, I am slightly more sad than Stacky playing Pai Gow at 4:15am with a new friend he couldn't understand.  I am now fully backed out of the casino and back at my room.  Maybe I will shower later and watch Celine Dion.  All I know for sure is I won't be taking Duke to cover later.  Well, I don't think I am anyway...  

Saturday, March 23, 2019

NCAA Basketball Fiasco Day 3

I can unflinchingly say that my 2019 NCAA Tournament gambling efforts thus far are somewhere between a "disaster" and a "fiasco".  These are not places you want to wake up on a Saturday morning.  Now I find myself chasing.  I also have a bad case of the yips.  I don't trust my judgement in anything right now much less gambling on college basketball.  I found myself looking for answers in an unlikely place. Yes, I called Krusty.

Krusty is right now in New Jersey.  With the recent legalization of sports gambling in Jersey, Krusty can simply click on his app and get action on anything.  As a result, he has found himself betting on meaningless NBA games and college basketball all winter.  While I have no idea of what is going on, Krusty has probably already been burned by a Tuesday night Under involving New Mexico State just because they popped up on ESPNU while he was bored.  He actually has an opinion on these games.  It should be noted, he doesn't know much more than I do, but I'm looking for even the semblance of expertise here.

The interesting thing about this New Jersey sports gambling thing is that now BW3 locations are essentially low rent sports books.  Every Jersey gindaloon has action on the games, most with impossible cross ties and parlays.  "Yo!  Vinnie!  I got Northeastern wheeled in with Iowa St OVER in the late game but need a three teamer to hit so I can get some action down on the Mets Cactus League game tomorrow."  You know those obnoxious BW3 ads airing during all these tournament games?  Imagine every one of those assholes that is tearing into those chicken wings has a $100 on Maryland.  Now you've got something.

I got Krusty on the phone and he regaled me with tales of a few wins from yesterday.  That's all I needed to hear.  I would have bet on whatever he told me, and in fact, I did.  As a result, I am in up to my eyeballs on Wofford +5 over Kentucky and Michigan -6 over Florida.  I'm sure there are some legitimate reasons why he thinks these will come to pass, but I don't really care about that.  I always enjoy betting against Kentucky basketball.  First, it's really annoying how everyone in the state of Kentucky is completely geared up about the team.  It is clearly one of the most crooked sports enterprises in America, joining Ohio State Football and all Oregon University sports as being pro teams masquerading as college students.  I'll bet you that most of the Kentucky basketball player's parents made more money as "consultants" to various Kentucky alumni booster's businesses than I did hustling for The Man.  It means so much to the good people of Kentucky that their team does well, it brings me joy to see their dreams crushed live on TV.  I'm a shit like that.

The Michigan wager is just something for me to focus on in case the Wofford effort falls short.  I tremble to think of what it will be like if I am 0-5 and looking to make one big move to get back to even on Michigan.  I have no idea who is on either team, what their records are, or if they match up particularly well or poorly.  I'm just in.  I will make a monster bet on Wofford to kick off the afternoon in an attempt to recoup all my losses in one fell swoop.  If that heads south, I will double up again on Michigan.  If that fails, and I am somehow still alive after all the damage of the stress, I will have to take a real hard look at myself.  And then chase again on Sunday.

Let's go Wofford.


Friday, March 22, 2019

NCAA Tournament Guess Day 2

I was 100% incorrect with my wild guesses on yesterday's tournament games.  This is because I don't know anything about college basketball.  Still, one would think that I would have at least gone 1-2 as these were essentially random guesses on a 50/50 proposition.  That is just not my luck in the NCAA Tournament though.  I need to face the facts that I don't know anything and I should just walk away.  I might as well be betting on jai lai or European Turf Racing.  Maybe I should take a flier on a La Liga match this weekend, just get in top to my eyeballs betting on Pisa.  I know Pisa has a club because I almost got caught up in a railroad station brawl between Pisa supporters and Milan fans about 15 years ago.  Everyone was very worked up and a couple dudes expended a lot of effort waving giant flags.  I ducked into the wrong coach for my train and had to move to another car in disgrace, losing my costly, costly sunglasses in the process.  What a fiasco.

The move today is one big bet on something there appears to be an advantage and compelling narrative.  I present to you #1 seed Virginia vs #16 seed Gardner Webb.  As you may or may not recall, last year Virginia became the first #1 seed in the history of the tournament to lose to a #16 seed.  This was an embarrassment on a grand scale.  It's like Alabama went out and lost to Coastal Carolina on national TV to start the football season after being discussed as a possible National Champion.  Virginia has had an entire season to think about that loss last year, as well as a week of press asking them "Since you lost to a #16 team last year, does that make you any more focused this year?".

Gardner Webb finished third in the Big South Conference, a group of schools including Radford, High Point and Longwood.  I have no idea where any of these schools are located but my guess is "somewhere near the Carolinas".  Gardner Webb's two big rebounders are 6-5 and 6-6.  They are probably pretty good mid major players.  Virginia has a roster with 8 players 6-8 or taller.  They are unquestionably one of the best five teams in the country AND they are motivated.

The last thing anyone on that Virginia sideline wants to do is go in at halftime with Gardner Webb in a position to possibly win.  "Oh fuck.  Here we go again..."  I think Virginia will got out and kick the living shit out of Gardner Webb in the first half in a merciless manner.  I am looking for them to keep the foot on the gas.  That is why I am taking a firm position on Virginia First Half -11.  I believe this to be the bet of the entire tournament.  An outmanned Gardner Webb, just happy to be there, is going to have to absorb everything a vastly more talented and motivated Virginia roster can dish out.

This should make this afternoon interesting to say the least...  

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Nurse the Hate: NCAA Tournament Guesses

There was a time in my life when it was understood that if it was the start of March Madness, I would be sequestered in a Las Vegas sports book making wildly unfounded wagers on college basketball teams I knew almost nothing about.  It was a simpler time then, in many respects.  This was well before we found ourselves in The Information Age, or as I prefer to think of it as "The Misinformation Age".  Most information that was gleaned about these matchups was based on assumptions and gut feeling combined with whatever sports talk nonsense you had allowed to permeate your brain.  As a result, massive sums of money could be bet on such ideas as "The Big 10 is down this year" or "The MAC is better than people think".  As a result, you would be white knuckling it at Caesar's Sports Book with a bunch of other Rubes on Bowling Green +7.5 over New Mexico State without ever really admitting to yourself you had just dropped $100 on a coin flip.  Ah, those were good times...

Now the problem is that there are almost unlimited websites declaring "Five Surefire Tournament Sleepers" and "Bracket Buster Predictions" that are just the internet equivalent of some guy talking shit in the Bally's men's room.  The basic problem is that there are only five people in Americas that watch a ton of college basketball and understand what they are looking at.  The deeper issue is that I have not been able to identify these five people.  As a result, I am just one of the herd betting on shadows, rumors, and totally unfounded opinion.  I would be better off taking my money and investing it in penny stocks.  But what can I do?  This is tradition.

I am going to take Northeastern +8 over Kansas.  Let me be completely honest.  I don't know much about either team.  Kansas has been crappy down the stretch, and I look for teams that are fading instead of getting hot.  Northeastern is one of those schools that has a really good team, but no one has ever heard of the college.  They've won 12 of their last 13, though admittedly two of those wins came over Bryant and Stratton.  Kansas has a team filled with athletic gazelles that should be able to show up and beat almost anyone, but I have gotten sucked into the idea that they are having a "down year".  Hey, that's enough for me.  Northeastern +8

Every single article that I see about the tournament declares "Murray State Hot Sleeper Pick!!!".  I am going to suggest that if every media outlet is declaring Murray State is a surefire underdog lock to win and The Public is lining up behind that thinking, it's time to get on Marquette.  If EVERYONE is on Murray State, it no longer qualifies as a "sleeper", now does it?  This is one of those teams that people like to take in their bracket so later on this weekend they can say things like "Oh, I had Murray State in my bracket" as if that portends a great wisdom.  I swear the Christ, if I hear someone say "Murray State losing killed my bracket", I will break a bottle over their head.  Yes, I will face criminal prosecution, but there isn't a jury in the land that will convict me if I methodically layout the detail of this person's complaining over losing a first round game in a $5 bracket challenge.  Marquette -3.5.

I am going to take Michigan State -18.5.  The one thing that can be counted on is Michigan State being good.  I have no idea who is on the team, but they'll be in the Elite 8.  They are 24-10 ATS in the tournament.  That 18.5 number is a scary one for The Public.  Bradley is not going to have the horses to deal with 40 minutes of Michigan State.  I am sure it will be tight, but this is the kind of game that the network wants to end so they can put something competitive on the screen.  Look for long shots of the sad Bradley bench and peppy end of bench Michigan State guys jacking up threes with two minutes left and a 15 point lead.  

Monday, March 11, 2019

Nurse the Hate: The Wine Shipwreck Dive

I receive a wine and spirits newsletter each morning called “Drinks Business” that originates from the UK.  Normally the articles have no bearing on me whatsoever, but I remain somewhat fascinated by them.  Example:  “The former head chef of Hackney-based restaurant Pidgin is to open his first solo venture, called Casa Fofó, in Clapton.”  As far as I know, all of this information could be completely fictional and consist of Harry Potter references.  I still read it.  I like to know that “UK wine retailer Majestic saw its website crash on Saturday following high demand for one of its wines, after the bottle was mentioned on ITV's James Martin's Saturday Morning.”  I like to think that James Martin Saturday Morning is like the only other UK talk show I’ve ever seen, the clip of the Sex Pistols in 1976 on the Bill Grundy Interview.  I hope a skinny John Lydon also said “shit” on James Martin Saturday Morning.

Today however, there was big news.  “World War 1 Wine To Be Salvaged From UK Shipwreck”  What’s that?  I read the article to discover that not only was there a shipwreck off the English coast in about 100 meters of water, but it’s filled with hundreds of still sealed bottles of Bordeaux, cognac and champagne.  Just discovered last year, there is an expedition afoot to recover the wine and sell it in the auction market.  Then I read something that really caught my eye.  “Cookson Adventures is also offering one of its clients the chance to be there alongside a documentary team and various other experts from the worlds of wine and archaeology.”

Rarely has something coalesced into a perfect activity for one person as this does for me.  I can dive a World War I shipwreck and retrieve fine wine with a team of expert divers and wine experts.  I would be a damn fool not to get on this expedition.  It is literally the perfect combination of all my interests.  I suspected that the costs would be crippling, but I had to know.  I reached out to Cookson Adventures for more information.

When I went to the website, I became concerned that this would be well beyond “pricey” and more into the “absurd” category.  Still, I sent the email.  In less than an hour, I was contacted by a confident woman named Amanda.  Amanda was sure to alleviate my fears in letting me know that I could either tie my personal yacht to the operation vessel, or if I preferred, could be shuttled to the ship via helicopter daily.  “Will you be bringing your own submersible?”  I think we can all agree that if you are a normal human being and you are involved in a discussion about logistics about your own personal submarine, you may have wandered into the wrong room.  I didn’t ask Amanda if I would be allowed to bring my kayak, but I was under the impression that the good people at Cookson can make just about anything happen if you cut them the check.

The trip is rather murky right now.  Cookson is working with the underwater salvage team that discovered the wreck, and that firm is playing it very close to the vest.  The vessel has not been named, so the manifest about potential cargo is a moot point.  The hundreds of bottles at the bottom of the sea could be 1916 Latour, or they could be $1 table wine.  Whoever agrees to take part in this trip will get a stake in the salvage haul, but that number is still very much in question.  There is also an issue in that the bottles keep breaking on the way up due to the pressure.  Making matters even more complicated, the wreck is now 100 years old and has been deemed a UNESCO Heritage Site.  I can’t imagine how much red tape is involved plundering a UNESCO Heritage Site for profit in British Waters in a shipwreck that likely has human remains.  Unlikely conversation from British official:  “OK mate!  Just take a dive in and see wot you come up with!  Fill out some forms later Sunny Jim!  No bother!”

Depending on how long it takes to get paperwork in order, the operation will launch this summer or more probably next summer.  Scheduled activities on this “adventure trip” include exploring the wreck in a submersible, “sailing to the bays of Lizard Point with a glass of champagne in hand”, access to a private beach from your 10-bedroom mansion in Cornwall complete with a private chef and concierge, and, of course, private helicopter transportation.  “Well that sounds quite pleasant Amanda.  I am guessing that this might be a tad more expensive than I had planned.  What is the price tag for this?”  It will be dependent on your variables of course, like if you will be using your yacht or own submersible, but it will likely be in the area of a half million dollars.  “Oh, I see.”

I do like the idea of scraping together a half million dollars with a “get rich scheme” of selling treasure from a shipwreck at auction.  Then, it will inevitably fail, leaving me shirking my creditors for the rest of my days.  I can see me now running a souvenir stand in Curacao under the alias “James T. Johnson”, or perhaps a small steakhouse in Buenos Aires called “Senor Guapo’s” under the guise of “Santiago Gomez”.  Ultimately, I will end up like all lowlifes and scammers, tending bar in Key West.

This is a goddamn travesty that I can’t be involved in this.  It’s literally the perfect adventure for me.  I don’t know how I can slip into it though as I don’t have an extra half million just laying around.   I saw someone on Facebook was asking for donations for cancer medication via GoFundMe.  Maybe that’s the answer.  I’m just a little concerned that I might come off as tone deaf asking for $500,000 to go scuba diving for 100-year-old wine while being shuttled around with my private chef in a helicopter.  I’ll have to give it some thought.  You all will need to dig deep on this, and maybe not give to the cancer medication efforts.  We need to prioritize.  “Greg Miller is $499,878 away from his goal.  Donate now!”

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Italian Wine Scholar Update

I have been taking Unit 2 of the Italian Wine Scholar course via “distance learning”. That essentially means the good people at Italian Wine Scholar sent me a very detailed book and an access code to their website, so I can plod through the material on my own. This is not the best way for me to learn as I am completely in the void. I’m a guy sitting at his dining room table trying to remember the first DOCG in Puglia (which is Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Natural by the way, an area that specializes in making fortified sweet wines out of primitivo, which is so unfashionable right now it’s like trying to sell stone washed Supertramp jean jackets). The course is primarily built on memorizing names of DOCs, DOCGs, grapes, rivers and mountains. As you might have guessed, everything is in Italian, so my memorization tends to remember something like the DOC “Est!  Est!!  Est!!! di Montefiascone” as “that fucked up name with the increasing exclamation points in front of the unpronounceable name”. This is not exactly ideal if you want to pass yourself off as some kind of expert in Italian Wine.

The reason I am doing this is to try and patch a sizeable hole in my wine knowledge. I managed to slip through the WSET Diploma Exam (which is no fucking joke let me tell you) by getting lucky in not being asked about anything in Italy except amarone, which I somehow knew about. If I had received a question like “discuss Campagna wine grapes in regard to winemaking styles” I would have had to calmly stand up from the exam table and throw myself through the window. It would have been more honorable than the shame of writing something like “wine grapes of Campagna are very unique and are usually grown in Campagna to make unique wines to Campagna.”. Those Brits grading that exam would have undoubtedly written “what the fuck is that mate?”. They can be quite cruel. Trust me. Nobody wants to be judged by a pissed off Brit.

I don’t have a choice though.  I have decided that I am going to become a Master of Wine or die trying. The United States has had 39 ever. I am going to be #40. Well, unless someone else gets there first, in which case I will be #41. As you can guess, you need to be able to wax on in greater detail about anything wine related beyond “Campagna grapes come from Campagna to make Campagna wines”. I need to learn this stuff. The problem is, I can’t make it sink in as fast as I’d like...  I think all these rock and roll shows and years of self abuse have finally caught up to me.  The bill has come due and I’m searching for cash in empty pockets.

Let’s be honest. Trying to learn about Italy and their wine culture is probably best done by going to Italy. My gut tells me that more will sink in if I see what Basilicata looks like as opposed to trying to remember difficult to pronounce Italian words sitting at a dining room table while being hassled by two basset hounds for attention.  It’s amazing how many times I cannot answer the flash card “What was Puglia’s first DOC?” no matter how many times I see it.  I am somewhat confident that I cannot get the lapel pin or whatever the fuck I get for passing this exam by answering “Oh, that sweet ass red wine that nobody drinks…  Umm…  You know…  That one…”.  I just don’t think they will let me slide with that, but I should probably investigate online just to make sure. 

The real sticky wicket on this thing is I am “distance learning”, which translates to “not knowing if I am absorbing the material as fast as I need to be” or “am I woefully unprepared to take the exam?”.  At least with the WSET Diploma I went to San Francisco classes where I would notice the entire table knew about Brunello production while I had a very flimsy grasp.  By the way, I can’t tell you how many times I saw glances exchanged when I looked blankly at some basic fact I was clueless on.  I know, with great certainty, that a large number of people in that class, all in the wine industry, must have called each other when they learned I passed and they didn’t and said “Did you hear that jackoff from the shitty band passed?”.  That makes me smile. 

Perhaps that’s what I am missing, a perceived foe.  I tend to perform better when I am trying to outlast my detractors or engaged in a brutal struggle only I know I am embroiled in.  This is, of course, a sign of potential mental illness but I will just ignore that and proceed forward.  I will continue to drill myself over and over until I can lodge these obscure facts into my head and hope they stick in there at least until I pass the exam.  The reward?  Another Italian wine unit of obscure unpronounceable villages, rivers and grapes.  Good Lord.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Thoughts On The Studio

We are headed back into the studio to begin work on our 13th full length record.  Or maybe it’s the 14th.  I’m not really sure.  I don’t look in the rear-view mirror that often.  I prefer to keep the foot on the gas and move ahead to a new challenge instead of fixating on what I would have done differently on the mix of “Cosmic Cowboy” on “The Good Fight”.  We don’t have the luxury (or budget) to spend weeks at a time in a studio, trying different arrangements and tones.  Our recording process is an efficient machine.  Day one we lock in basic drum sounds and mess around with guitar sounds a bit.  Day two we will knock out 12 or so basic tracks, the full band playing it just we do live.  If we have the stuff down cold, we will finish that in about six hours.  Then we start to lay in overdubs like acoustics, stray solos, and whatever little ideas that have popped in our heads listening to playback 17 times.  On Day 3, I will attempt to get all 12 vocals finished.  Then we drive home and let John mix.  I think Guns N Roses spent a decade on Chinese Democracy.  We usually take 2 or 3 days.  

For all intents and purposes the album format is dead.  The Public has an attention span of 6.8 seconds.  I am surprised when someone listens to a full song, much less an entire album in one sitting.  Making matters more challenging, there is less personal investment in the groups people follow now.  The vast majority of people don’t buy music.  They gain access via streaming services to everything on the planet.  What do you listen to when you can literally listen to ANYTHING?  How does anyone find us?  How can they concentrate long enough on 12 songs when they could click their phone to see if there is an alternate live mix of a Radio Birdman B-side they could be listening to instead?  The brain gnaws at you…  What are you missing when you spend the three minutes on this song?  Keep clicking.  Keep moving.

If you are lucky, you can have a single song resonate with the listener.  Then perhaps that song will be added to some sort of “personal playlist” and accidentally shared with someone else who might ask “What is that?”.  God willing, if that person is a curious sort, they just might attempt to listen to more of what you have painstakingly made in a Detroit concrete bunker over three days with your musical brothers (and sister).  Meanwhile, we do our part and try to spread the gospel one gig at a time and invite others into our obscure little musical world.

The utter hopelessness of having anyone notice what you are saying used to weigh on me.  Each band is one shout in a world chorus all shouting to be heard in an indifferent sea of noise on the internet.  It’s almost impossible to find anything new because there is just too much shit to sort through.  Who has the patience?  Meanwhile, there has never been a better time to be a music lover as anything you can dream of is available somewhere.  You just have to persevere to find it, whatever “it” is.
The bottom line is that I don’t really have a choice.  The songs are coming.  Writing songs with the band is what I do.  It doesn’t matter if anyone ever finds them.  They are coming regardless of demand and only by recording them to they become tangible.  I have a passing dream that one of our songs might become an inspiration to a bunch of kids yet to come, like the songs The Cramps dug up from garage sales and record swaps.  Hell, The Cowslingers covered a song from the 1840s, so the idea isn’t THAT crazy.

Thanks to all of you that continue to support what we do.  I can’t tell you how impactful it is when you share that a particular song reached you in some way, or one of our albums is a good driving companion to you.  There aren’t many of us out here these days that like country and punk rock equally.  We are going to keep doing what we do as long as we can.  You just give us a good excuse to keep the train on the rails.
G. Miller 1.3.19