Monthly Archives: August 2014

Hemingway-Daiquiri

What we’re drinking — Hemingway Daiquiri

Sure, Labor Day is the symbolic end of summer… but really, it ain’t over yet and you owe it to yourself to wring out every last drop of summer fun. So there’s still time for warm weather cocktails to go along with your end-of-season cookouts and outdoor entertainments even if the days are getting noticeably shorter. One of the archetypal summer cocktails and certainly one of my favorites is the Hemingway Daiquiri.

As the well-worn legend has it, Papa Hemingway was famous for downing epic quantities of this brisk rum-based drink during his time in Cuba when he would hold court at the El Floridita Bar in Havana. If you want a double-sized version of the drink, which Hemingway usually did, it’s therefore called a Papa Doble.

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There are, of course, variations to the recipe but in my opinion the best way to make this particular daiquiri is with simple syrup rather than sugar because then it’s easy to blend and you won’t have the problem of the undisssolved sugar collecting on the bottom of the glass or staying in your cocktail shaker and leaving the majority of the drink too bitter. Like all daiquiris this is a white rum-based cocktail, so leave the Mount Gay for another occasion. I prefer something of premium quality like 10 Cane or Cacao Prieto over plain old Bacardi because, after all, to make a really good drink you should use really good rum. And if you don’t have proper Mareschino liqueur handy, I feel that readily available Kirschwasser, another type of cherry-flavored clear brandy, is an acceptable substitute. Continue reading

Tee it up!

How To Win Your NFL Pick ‘Em Pool in 2014

NFL Football is BACK with the defending Champion Seahawks and storied franchise Green Bay kicking things off for real in less than a week. I know that I’ll be joining multiple football pools of various types (NFL Fantasy, NFL Survivor, 40-Plus, etc.), but I’m most excited about my first love, the good old weekly pick em vs. the spread pool. I’ve been doing them and running them for over 25 years, and I’ve finished in the Top 3 in no fewer than ten of those years. If you think that’s lucky, I’m here to tell you….luck has little to do with it.

In fairness, I wrote a computer program back in 1992 to help me do my picks, and yes….if I were more of a gambler, I would likely be a rich man by now, but I’ve NEVER finished below 52% for a season, and that’s better than most handicappers. How do I do it? I have a system, and while I can’t share my program with the world, I’m perfectly willing to share with you the logic behind it.

So, without further ado, here are 5 tips that will help you win your NFL Weekly Pick ‘Em Pool in 2014.

Have a System

Now not everyone is as geeky as I am, so I’m not expecting you to write a computer program, but if you want to have success, you need to have a system. Some people take all dogs, some flip a coin (don’t laugh…you’re all but guaranteed at least close to 50%, and statistically most players end up below that line). I based my system on trending based on match ups (within the division, in conference, out of conference, etc.) and programmed my system to weight the teams accordingly.

Be Consistent

Winning a week or even two in a season is great, and depending on how much your buy in is, that could pay for your entries for a couple of years.  That said, winning the whole enchilada is where the big bucks come in, and a regular season championship could finance your pool habit for the rest of your life. Once you have a system, STICK WITH IT…don’t let one sub-par week throw you. The second you start going based on hunches or inconsistent systems, you’re dead!

Talk Smack

Normally, I’m not a big proponent of trash talking. I never do it on the court or the softball diamond, but in the world of your pool…it can be essential. Continue reading

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A big MFL welcome to our new contributor Dick Bonneville

We’re very happy to announce that a new man has joined our little enterprise here. He goes by the handle Dick Bonneville and with admittedly perfect timing for the fast approaching NFL season, he’ll be covering the Pro Football beat with a special emphasis on weekly matchup spreads, as well as whatever else tickles his fancy. As one of the resident experts over at TheOfficePool.com, he’s a good man to listen to when it comes to your Sunday lineups or pick ’ems. So a warm welcome to the MFL team, Mr. Bonneville, and a toast to your pigskin prognostications. We certainly feel like dancing in the end zone at having another well-rounded chap to help carry the rock.

Free

What we’re listening to — Free

Before the excellent blue-eyed soul vocalist Paul Rodgers came to Top 40 omnipresence with 1970’s Crap Rock powerhouse Bad Company he was the frontman for English blues rockers Free. With a harder, less polished sound than Rodgers’ later endeavor and avoiding the easily parodied obsessions with American Western imagery, Free cranked out some of the best and most righteous hard rock of the early 70s. With the twin forces of one of the best vocalists in Rock history ably abetted by the superlative guitarist Paul Kossoff, Free reached their commercial zenith in 1970 with the smash hit that became an evergreen of Classic Rock radio, “All Right Now”.

Between the playful pick up banter of the lyrics over the tense staccato guitar licks giving way to a smooth flowing bass groove on the hooky chorus and the mid song break for Kossoff’s elegant, high hat-supported solo, “All Right Now” was five and a half minutes of irresistible good time music that put Free on the map on both sides of the Atlantic. But with nimble teenage bassist Andy Fraser and steady Simon Kirke on drums supporting Rodgers and Kossoff, Free was ever so briefly more than the sum of its parts and produced several stone classics that rival “All Right Now” even if they’re not as well known. Among those was the killer title track from the same album, “Fire and Water”.

Equal parts heavy licks and carnal yearning, “Fire and Water” pointed Free down the path of that most abused sub genre in Rock, the power ballad. But Free had the knack, whether through Rodgers’ beautifully gritty and emotive voice or the bands’ razor edge as a whole, to transcend schmaltz and deliver the softer stuff with real passion and expressiveness. The resigned sadness of “Soon I Will Be Gone” is one of the finest exemplars of their sensitive side in action.

But despite their skill and seemingly unlimited future success, Free imploded, like so many other bands, due to drug and ego problems. The great Paul Kossoff in particular developed a terrible heroin addiction that proved the real undoing of the band. After a breakup in 1971, reunion in 1972 and the release of the decent but not really Free Heartbreaker in 1973 (it was mainly Rodgers and Kirke with hastily assembled support when Kossoff couldn’t and Fraser wouldn’t go), the band finally called it quits for good. Rodgers and Kirke went on to even greater fame and fortune with Bad Company and Fraser eventually became one of the 70s preeminent songwriters for mainstream rockers. Sadly, Kossoff’s masterful licks were forever silenced in 1976 by a heart attack at the age of 25, undoubtedly caused by the ravages of his addiction.

Kossoff

But the music, as they say, lives on. In their brief and tumultuous existence at the dawn of the 70s, Free produced a brand of hard, bluesy Rock music that made most of what was to come in that genre look a like slick, soulless imitation. The outstanding compilation Molten Gold testifies to that excellence with its 30 standout tracks. “Molten Gold” was also one of Kossoff’s finest contributions even if it is technically a solo work, his valedictory as one of the best, if now sadly overlooked, of the great British rock guitarists.

Rosberg Hamilton Spa accident collision

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium — Results & aftermath

Apologies but due to logistical difficulties I was not able to file my report on the Belgian Grand Prix until now. But here’s what went down on Sunday in the Ardennes at Spa-Francorchamps…

Surging Ricciardo takes 2nd straight win for Red Bull, Rosberg relegated to 2nd after early race incident with Mercedes teammate Hamilton; Bottas grabs another strong 3rd for Williams

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium

The echoes of Senna-Prost grew a little bit stronger Sunday at Spa as Mercedes teammates and Championship contenders Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton clashed early on lap 2, damaging Rosberg’s front wing but catastrophically puncturing Hamilton’s right rear far from the pits. The Englishman, who had been ahead as Rosberg tried an inside move when tire and wing came together, then had to limp home as his tire delaminated and began buggy whipping his bodywork for nearly 4 miles. While his Silver Arrow was able to continue it put him so far back in the pack that eventually the team retired the car in order to save the engine for future use, earning Hamilton zero Drivers’ points after starting from 2nd on the grid. Rosberg, who had won the Pole in wet conditions on Saturday, was able to soldier on despite an off sequence pit stop for a front wing change, showing great pace as the race wound down and coming home in second place and with a tidy 18 Championship points. Afterwards, the acrimony between the teammates was palpable with claims by Hamilton that Rosberg had stuck his nose in deliberately to “prove a point” and Rosberg putting it all down to a racing incident but certainly not apologizing. Mercedes team management was less than thrilled with the loss of Constructors’ points from the clash and vowed to give both drivers a stern talking to. But then again, it’s racing not a Sunday drive in the forest so these things happen between intense competitors and any ill will generated by them only serves to spice up the Championship going forward, especially with Mercedes running away with it. I say keep it up, lads!

Almost lost in all that controversy was another outstanding performance by Red Bull junior driver Daniel Ricciardo, who took advantage of the Mercedes infighting to run away to victory. Continue reading

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The Allure of Military Watches — IDF Eterna KonTiki Super

One of my favorite MilWatches is the early 1970s Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Eterna KonTiki Super, which was issued to Israel’s elite naval commando unit Shayetet 13, some really hardcore Special Forces operatives and essentially Israel’s version of our SEALs. You can read about S’13 history here but suffice to say they were in the thick of it during very perilous and conflict-filled times for Israel and many of these watches have seen genuine naval special forces combat.

S'13Ops2

Although the tonneau-style case is not everyone’s cup of tea, I really like it and you can find similar typically ’70s shapes on several other dive watches of the period, including the Aquastar Benthos divers’ chronographs. At 41mm wide x 45mm long x 14mm thick this is definitely a man-sized timepiece and the super-chunky uni-directional elapsed time bezel is easy to get a grip on in wet conditions and when wearing dive gloves.

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Obviously, as with so many military watches, what differentiates the IDF KonTiki Super from its civilian brothers are the issue marks engraved on the back by the quartermaster. In this case, the engravings are primarily in Hebrew, as well as containing the general spec & unique issue number of each individual watch in Roman numerals. Despite the exotic look, the Hebrew writing is essentially standard information translating to “catalogue number” and the “ע” (Tzade) symbol standing in as an abbreviation for IDF (“Tzahal”) (h/t milspectime.com).

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I suggest doing your homework on the correct font and style of these engravings, because like a lot of other valuable commodities in the military watch world the IDF KonTiki is faked and faked often .

With its heavy steel screwed-back construction, screw down crown and high-pressure mineral crystal, the KonTiki Super is tough as nails and was ultra-water resistant in its day. Continue reading

Eels-1

What we’re listening to — Not Ready Yet by Eels

Since depression is the watchword the past few days, I think this Eels song from 1996’s Beautiful Freak does an amazing job of encapsulating the hoepless feeling and the futility of someone else telling you to buck up. Listen to the lyrics and tell me if you don’t agree.

Sometimes the best way to beat sadness is to listen to sad music, especially when the singer has more than a passing knowledge of what he’s talking about (as frontman E certainly does). Not everyone’s preferred therapy, I’m sure, but works for me.

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RIP Robin Williams — 1951-2014

Ok, I’ve been procrastinating on posting this because it is so fucking sad. Robin Williams died this August 11th of suicide by self-asphyxiation. The great actor and comedian had been battling depression, as well as falling off of the sobriety wagon in recent years. Williams was just 63 years old. His New York Times Obituary is here and a very good A.O. Scott appraisal with video is here.

Obviously the tragic irony of one of the world’s funniest men succumbing to depression is well-trod ground by now. To think that someone that successful and accomplished could not get the help they needed to make it through the darkness is simply frightening. But in the end we often walk alone in this world and what drives an amazing artist, which Williams undoubtedly was, can come from the dark places of insecurity and sadness deep within, even if the art in question is comedy with a capital C. I can’t think of another person funnier than Robin Williams when he was at his manic improvisatory best. If a talk show appearance can be called art, Williams performed it, on Carson or Letterman or a million other venues that should never have had room for such pocket Dada free associative miniature moments of brilliance. He enlivened the most mundane show business rituals with electric bolts of inspirational lightning. The sense that he was barely in control of his manic energies only added to the thrill ride.

As the years went by, well after his comet-like appearance on the scene in the late 1970s, Williams evinced a melancholy sensitivity in movies like Good Will Hunting, Awakenings and Dead Poets Society that saw him turning into a sounding board for people in need of compassion, especially young people, and an outsider’s point of view to deal with a stifling world. But that sad smile has been there from the start like the tears of Pagliacci, at least as far back as The World According to Garp, Moscow on the Hudson and bursting to raw fruition in Terry Gilliam’s revelatory The Fisher KingThat undercurrent of melancholia was probably a major part of Williams as a person when he wasn’t “on”, obscured in the early days by his irrepressible, some would say uncontrollable, daffy genius when he seemed to be very nearly Bugs Bunny come to life. To be sure, Williams felt loss and sadness keenly through the years with the deaths of such friends as John Belushi, Andy Kaufman, Christopher Reeve and, most recently, his mentor and idol Jonathan Winters. Maybe we just didn’t want to believe that such real life losses would take their toll on our favorite comedian.

A genius in more ways than one, Williams’ gift must have also been something of a curse, creating the expectation in his audience that he must deliver to them transcendental moments of hilarity on demand and at all times. Continue reading

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Documentary view — Salinger

One of the literary world’s great mystery men, J.D. Salinger famously disappeared from public view in 1965, when his last work was published and 14 years after the release of The Catcher in the Rye, arguably the most influential novel of the post-World War II era. Immensely private almost to the point of mania, Salinger’s opaque personal history and life in seclusion have fascinated generations of fans, literary peers, critics and the media. Shane Salerno’s 2013 documentary Salinger, which can be viewed via streaming with a Netflix membership, attempts to “find” the reclusive author by investigating and fleshing out his pre-fame life and examining the motives behind his self-imposed exile after achieving literary immortality. For the most part, it succeeds extremely well at this daunting task.

Not a great documentary but a pretty damn good one, Salinger features interviews with lifelong friends and acquaintances dating back to his pre-WW II days in New York City when he was just an aspiring writer striving for success and any sort of recognition. Significantly, it explores his engagement to the fetching debutante Oona O’Neill, Eugene O’Neill’s daughter, who eventually dumped Salinger for the much older Charlie Chaplin. Shortly thereafter Salinger was sent to Europe as a combat soldier in the Army. Salinger saw action on D-Day, in the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and was at the liberation of one of the Dachau concentration camps. The documentary posits convincingly that it was these twin traumatic experiences, particularly his harrowing war service, which informed all his future work and lead to his compulsive focus on unspoiled youth, eventually driving Salinger to seek to create and control his own private universe.

It also chronicles how he was constantly submitting to and being rejected by his dream venue, The New Yorker, before during and after the War, even as he achieved modest success in the so-called “slick” magazines. He finally found a sympathetic figure at the The New Yorker in fiction editor William Maxwell, who agreed to publish “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, which became a major success. It also introduced the world to the brilliant and strange Glass family through its troubled eldest son Seymour Glass, a shell-shocked war veteran. The history of the Glass family would later become Salinger’s lifelong obsession. But before that detour, several more short stories were published by the New Yorker, including “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut”, which Salinger eagerly optioned to Hollywood for a film version. The result, a Dana Andrews-Susan Hayward romantic vehicle retitled My Foolish Heart, was so unfaithful to his original story that Salinger never again allowed a film version of his work despite his obsessive love of cinema and constant entreaties from producers, directors and actors.

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But if Salinger was smarting over Hollywood’s betrayal he put that anger to good use, channeling his rage at the “phonies” into the archetypal youth novel, The Catcher In the Rye. Continue reading

Rock Group "The Yardbirds"

What we’re listening to — The Yardbirds

There’s no arguing that The Yardbirds were one of the most important bands at the forefront of the British Invasion following the Beatles trans-Atlantic seismic smash-through. They were also an incubator of greatness. There is no other band in Rock history that can boast of having three of the most legendary guitarists grace their lineup at different points in its evolution. But with first Eric Clapton then Jeff Beck and finally Jimmy Page, The Yardbirds can stake exactly that claim. While they were somewhat eclipsed as a band by their illustrious members’ later fame and renown, it’s important to remember just how bloody good and groundbreaking The Yardbirds really were.

They started out by covering American Blues with an original lineup consisting of lead singer Keith Relf, Paul Samwell-Smith on base, Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar, Jim McCarty on drums and the short-lived Anthony Topham on lead guitar. When Clapton replaced Topham and the band took over the Rolling Stones’ spot at the famed Crawdaddy Club in 1963 the word was out in R&B-mad London that there was a new force to be reckoned with. But, much like the Stones and the Animals, The Yardbirds were not content with traditional Blues covers despite their proficiency and they rapidly branched out into offbeat, minor chord arrangements and a desire to push the Blues further into a heavy rock feel by utilizing distortion and feedback. It’s no accident that the last incarnation of The Yardbirds was actually the first coming together of Led Zeppelin in all but name only. It can be argued that there is a direct line from The Yardbirds fist pioneering improvised raveups circa 1964 to the heavy English Blues explosion of the later 60s that led to not just Zep but Cream, Iron Butterfly, Free, Deep Purple and a million other hard rocking white boys, eventually morphing into Glam and Heavy Metal.

With the charismatic Relf’s distinctive, somewhat ominous baritone and the band’s penchant for offbeat tempos and Eastern influences, The Yardbirds consistently produced some of the most interesting singles of the 60s, beginning with their breakout hit, “For Your Love.”  Continue reading