notes from
the MUCK . . .

How does your garden grow? With muck, muck and more muck! I spent much of today finishing the final muck box and then shifting muck from one box to the next. The first box, which the Big Lad is enthusiastically pointing out, has been rotting down for two years now and once we’d removed the top quarter of unrotted material, we found we’d hit the pay dirt.

Monday, October 31, 2005

All Hallow's eve

I was supposed to write a piece on why The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a near-perfect horror movie, but since I never do anything I say I'm going to do, I've decided instead just to post a link to the movie itself (sort of).

This is actually a reenactment of the remake, but it's still pretty good.

Happy Halloween. Now go get some cavities.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday Random Ten

Bob Dylan, Queen Jane Approximately - I used to pride myself on the fact that my favorite Dylan albums weren’t from the Bringing It All Back Home-->Highway 61 Revisited-->Blonde On Blonde trilogy. I liked the obscure stuff best: the Desire, the Street Legal, the Shot of Love, and the Oh, Mercy! However, I’ve recently discovered that in fact my favorite Dylan albums are Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home (with Blonde On Blonde a very close third), which makes me like pretty much every other schmuck in the world. On the other hand, damn but those albums are good.

Ray Charles, Let the Good Times Roll - My wife, my 3-year-old daughter and I recently drove to Cleveland together for a family wedding. At one point as we were cruising up the highway in the darkness and relative silence, a small voice chimed in from the back car seat: “dad, play some Ray Charles.” I believe this officially makes me A Good Father.

Black Sabbath, Electric Funeral - As a former drug abuser and high school drop-out, I am morally obligated to have at least one Ozzy-era Black Sabbath album at all times.

Mos Def, Modern Marvel - Like every other white boy in the world, I’m a fan of Mos Def.

Crescent City Gold, Slick Is - A collaboration of Dr. John and Allen Toussaint with several other outstanding New Orleans musicians. Makes me a little sad to hear this now.

Brendan Benson, I’m Blessed - Jeff turned me on to this singer-songwriter. I heartily recommend this album, “One Mississippi.”

Ted Hawkins, No Other Love For Me - If you’ve never read about the life of Ted Hawkins, do it now. Then sit in the dark and listen to him sing while you try not to cry.

The Meters, Chicken Strut - No lyrics in this gem other than the refrain “keep on struttin’” and one of the Neville Brothers making chicken noises. It doesn’t get much funkier.

matt pond PA, It Is Safe - I just started listening to this band within the last week or so. I haven’t really formed a strong opinion yet, but I think I like them.

The Olivia Tremor Control, I Won This Dog at the Driftwood Reunion Carnival - Another band I just started listening to on Jeff’s recommendation. Good stuff.

A confession: This is actually the second stab I took at a Friday Random 10 today. The first one I deleted because it just sucked. It wasn’t even embarrassing (embarrassing I would have posted), it was just boring as hell. This one is much better and I thank Jeff for encouraging me to try again.

Muck Of The Week

Note to Self:

Don't ever fuck with The Onion.

Earlier this week, Bush Administration lawyers contacted the staff of The Onion and demanded that they stop displaying the presidential seal on their web site because, in the words of White House Spokesman Trent Duffy, "[i]t's important that the seal or any White House insignia not be used inappropriately." Apparently, even with indictments coming down the pike, approval ratings in the toilet, and of course the ongoing War On TerrorTM the Bush Administration doesn't have more pressing issues to address.

At any rate, not only is The Onion continuing to display the seal, but they've recently posted this special Onion Weekender cover.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ghost Riders in the rumpus room

Unless your under 10, or thereabouts, you don't get to celebrate halloween in the UK, or maybe if you're an undergrad, but then only in an ironic way. Sadly I have no ghoulish party to attend this coming weekend, but I do have a date with horror and terror. I will be watching Most Haunted a programe where mediums, historians, memebers of the crew, spend a night in various places across the U.K. that are believed to be haunted.

It does mimick the style of "Blair Witch Project", with lots of scared faces looking petrified into a nightvision camera, but it does make a big effort to actually take the effect of that fear into account and actually document and analyse what could be real phenomenon. They will hear bumps and bangs, sometimes even voices, but very often they will not hear anything. I like this about the programme and it makes me even more engrossed in the whole thing. I would like to believe that ghosts exist but am pretty doubtful they do; i don't want to be tricked, I just want to see what's out there, I want to be scared, made uneasy...Blood dripping on the walls doesn't cut it for me, rythmic, unexplained rapping at a window does.

Anway, on this show, the mediums often describe what the ghosts are wearing, where they are, and sometimes why. The why, in this context, is always down to the soul of the deceased. The place may be of great importance to them because they died (maybe were killed) there, loved, were cheated upon, or went through great grief in that place. I can just about appreciate the concept of a soul being stuck in a place it felt tied to in some place; but I wondered if a ghost can haunt more than one places at once? Does a ghost actually have to travel to and from the places it haunts, or does a version of its soul exist in all the places it feels attracted to? Or maybe, it had to make a choice of just one place to occupy for eternity; tough choice and I don't know if I could make it. I'd like to think that once I buy the farm there are numerous places I'd like my soul to roam; and I certainly don't want to be hovering/floating or whatever my means of transport will be between these locations. I'd go to back to childhood haunts, maybe my granparents old house where I learned to ride a bike, also Australia where I got to heard horses while on a motorbike, in the Indian ocean swimming with sharks, and of course, sat at the poker table quietly killing the me who decided before coming that I would definitely fold more often. How would this work, would my soul be split up? And what about the soul that visited childhood haunts, and the one the one that visited areas relating to my later life, would it be different souls each able to appreciate that specific area and time, or would it be one soul, the one of the old man (knock wood) that died, thinking, "jesus, i really don't remember any of this...".

What would I wear as a ghost? Like I said, I can just about appreciate the notion of a soul drifting around, but how can their clothes physically manifest? If I was a ghost, then I've been me for sometime, I think i could be responsible for the me part being visible because, well, it would be me. But how could I get inanimate obects to materialise? Would I be wearing underwear or would i just conjour up an outer layer to let people know what period of time I was from?? In that case, what is in this whole ghost thing for me??? I certainly don't want to be a performing monkey. Would the clothes be as they actually were, or just how I perceived them to look on me? In that case, there may well be a highly buffed 8 year old running down my road in 60 odd years wearing an exact replica of the superman outfit; or there may just be some kid running down the road in his pyjamas with red y fronts over the top and a red dressing gown tied round his neck...

So...where/what would you haunt, what would you wear and why? Me, my living room, 5th birthday, wearing my silver guns and holster set i'd just unwrapped. It's been a downhill slide ever since.

Get Her Ray

As noted by Jeff, the approach of Halloween should instill many feelings, all of which should be positive and dripping with ectoplasm, blood, and other such ghoulish things.

I like Halloween because I like being scared, and, as some people know, it is pretty easy to scare me. I have been a wuss for as long as I can remember. When I was 8 the movie ghost busters came out. I couldn't go and see it at the cinema but my aunt had a pirate copy of it and was bringing it round on the day of my brother's first birthday. For some reason during that period in my life, I also dug my brother's birthday, so you can imagine how excited I was during the day. We had a camcorder; I filmed an exhibition football match with me and my friends, then we put on an improv ghost busters adventure, where I played the part of Winston ably but stilted by the excitement that in mere hours I would be sitting down to the real thing. Anywho, we still managed to get the marshmallow man, and then it was just a matter of waiting.
The camcorder captures the moment when my aunt arrives, my eyes light up, I spring to my feet, spontaneously clap several times, before leaping out of the room to welcome in the missing part of my life that would ensure contentment forever. (See earlier post). It also captures me watching the video, dutifully smiling at the camera but not wanting to take my gaze from what is unfolding on the tv.

It does not capture, however, the moment when the librarian suddenly turns on them like some hellish banshee, all her skin falling off her and whatever, her hair all wirey, scary scary scary. I ran from the screen, the room, the horror to my bed. My mum, or someone, I don't actually know, I wasn't there, turned the video off, and it was put away for a good while.

But I went back. I watched that film, I loved that film, I love that film, my performance of Winston improved dramatically. Eventually I went to NYC and had my picture taken outside of the library where it happened. I conquered my fears and I can look at that excited 8 year old kid in the video jumping up to answer the door square in the eye now. Of course, I also have to break it to that kid that I never made it as a professional footballer, that I never grew up to look like superman and that we have the same amount of leghair.Yes, other facets of my emotional psyche remain shamefully stunted and will do so forever, but its the little victories that count in the life of muck; mostly because they are the only ones we get. Take pride in yours whatever they are this Halloween.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Greatest Films Of All Time (?)

I find Total Film's list of the 100 greatest movies ever made both refreshingly subversive and completely idiotic. In regard to the latter, can anyone over the age of 15 truly say that Fight Club is better than, oh I dunno, the first two Godfather movies? Or, more to the point, can anyone really argue that it's one of the top 5 films of all time.

Top 5. Of all time. Seriously?

And that's just one example of how bizarre this list is. It reads like the rough draft of some pimple-faced teen's "bad ass" movie list, drawn up on notebook paper some dateless Friday night (trust me, I still have mine somewhere). It was spawned in some esoteric, alternate universe where The Matrix is better than Hoop Dreams, Donnie Darko is better than Psycho...The Wizard of Oz is better than Donnie Darko. Let's not even mention all the movies that were left out. I could go on and on. We all could.

Maybe that's the problem: this list offends everyone. It's too personal, rather than general. Of course, the very idea of such a list is stupid, but if an organization takes on the challenge I expect a little more consideration for objectivity. That was the approach taken by AFI when they made their top 100 list several years ago. No one agreed with all the details of the list, but nobody was shocked, either. It made sense. On the other hand, it was also totally fucking boring. So, there is a part of me which respects the spirit of Total Film's attempt at shaking things up, but they really could have made some smarter choices. There are far too many contemporary, too many testosterone-driven works here. The whole thing seems geared towards one set of tastes, one demographic. That's all fine, as long as it's placed in that context, but it wasn't.

I'm still waiting for a fresh, intelligent, and provocative approach to the ongoing problem of establishing a film canon. As in literature, it's debatable whether such a canon is ultimately a good idea or not, but there's something else to consider here. The art form of cinema is so very young, a mere 100 years old, and it's got a long way to go. While I recognize that the creation of a satisfactory top 100 list is a futile and meaningless task, I also believe that the debates which inevitably accompany such an endeavor help to get the ideas flowing about what qualities a great film should have. The answer is always elusive, but the exchange of opinions and philosophies on the matter might propel the growth of the art form to a more exciting state.

In light of all this, but mainly just for fun, I've decided to create my own top 100 list. I hate making these things because I can never decide what to exclude, but I'm going to take a stab at it anyway. I also hope that some of you will make your own lists. I'll post mine here when I get it finalized. In the meantime maybe someone can help me figure out exactly which Crash is the number 21st movie of all time. Way to be specific, Total Film.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Master of None

For all of you out there keeping up with my poker activities, I have some unfortunate news. I've decided, for the second time now, to retire from online play. I just keep losing, and unless I can figure out why, there's no reason to continue throwing my money away. If one were inclined to look on the bright side of matters, one could point out that my results were, overall, much better than they were the only other time I attempted this (I lost ALL my money then...quickly). And, I suppose, you could also say that I've learned a lot about the nature of the whole enterprise, even if I still suck.

After losing so incessantly last week in the sit and go's, I had more fortunate results in a live game, and saw mild improvement online this week. However, even though I've gained back some of my losses from those previous sessions, the rate at which things are going is just a little too slow for my patience. I'm in a slump, and whether it's the cards or me, or both, I no longer care. The bottom line is that I'm not making money, and I can think of far better things to be doing with my time and resources.

I've already cashed out my remaining bankroll from Empirepoker. If...ok, WHEN I attempt this again, I don't think I'll be playing there. The main reason is that I favor the sit and go tournaments over trying to grind it out in the cash games (after attempting them again today I've concluded that, yes, they are interminably boring online). However, I don't like the structure of Empirepoker's s&g's. Specifically, they start you with very few chips in relation to the blinds. This is not meant as an excuse, it's just a detail I find frustrating. Matt had mentioned that before, but it sank in when I played in a $50 sit and go, where they do give you more starting chips, and found it much more comfortable. I made it to the money in that game, and that was the last thing I played (an attempt to end, at least somewhat, on a good note). Empirepoker is also just generally kinda lame. If anyone knows of a better site, let me know in time for the next great losing adventure. Just post it in a comment below, you non-existent reader you.

Another positive aspect of this is that I will be forced to play more live games if I want to get my poker fix. I enjoy those more, and seem to do a lot better with them. In any event, I think I'm finally ready to accept the ugly reality that has forced itself upon my daydreams - poker will never be a significant means of income for me. It's a little embarassing to admit this now, but I sincerely hoped it would be. Not any time soon, maybe, but in the future. I wanted to work up to it, slowly but surely. It's the second part of that plan that's giving me trouble. They are a lucky few who can make a living playing this twisted game of skill and chance, and I cannot count myself among them. Good luck to you all.

For me, it's now clear that poker is just another hobby I'm mediocre at. Fine. I'll throw my poker books in the same box as my watercolors, my sketchpads, my 35mm camera, my chess set, my 2nd place Tae Kwon Do trophies, my cookbooks, and my creative writing journal. I'll throw them in there, but I won't quit playing. You wanna know why?

Because, damnit, I'm good at being mediocre.

Such is life in The Muck.

Muck of the Week

In the spirit of Matt's Friday Random 10 posts, I'd like to get another tradition going here: The Muck of the Week.

Each week, we will present for your viewing pleasure a carefully selected, muckworthy image taken from a Google search of the word "muck."

Now, just to make sure we start things off on the right foot, we'd like to give you a little something special up front (but don't expect this level of titillation each week, folks...many of our readers are juvenile).

So make sure the boss ain't looking, then click here.

Friday Random 10

Well, you all mocked this game the last time around. But a mocking response is better than no response at all, which seems to be what this blog is best at generating, so here goes again. This time with commentary.

1. Danger Doom, The Mask (featuring Ghostface) - I just got this album a couple days ago and I can't tell you how thrilled I am that my beloved iPod chose it first. The whole album kicks ass, and this track is no exception. We're off to a promising start.

2. Wyclef Jean, Carnival - After a lot of waffling on the issue, I've come to the conclusion that Wyclef kind of blows. Listening to this song is reinforcing that judgment. Color me embarrassed. Thanks a lot, iPod.

3. Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams Are Made of This - No apologies. I really like this song.

4. XTC, Limelight - We stumbled after Danger Doom, but seem to be well on our way to recovery. Another fun track.

5. Bob Dylan & The Band, Knockin' On Heaven's Door (live) - Before the Flood is one of my favorite live albums, but this isn't one of my favorite recordings of this song. Nor is it one my favorite Dylan songs. Still, it's Bob and The Band and that never totally sucks.

6. XTC, Making Plans for Nigel - I only have one XTC album, but two tracks by them today. Primus covered this song, for whatever that's worth.

7. Pigeon John, Identity Crisis - Got this album at the Lyrics Born show the week before last. Pigeon John opened and was very cool about signing CDs for me and Jeff after his set. I haven't had a chance to give this much of a listen yet, but I remember liking this song when he performed it.

8. The Band, The River Hymn - Any song that Levon Helm sings is worth listening to. Otherwise mediocre, though.

9. Jane's Addiction, My Cat's Name Is Maceo (Demo 1987) - Maceo seems like a good name for a cat.

10. Mozart, Concerto for Two Pianos, k. 365; 3rd Movement - From the phenomenal Amadeus soundtrack. A lovely complement to the Jane's Addiction.

A so-so week. My hopes were high after the Danger Doom start, but it was downhill from there. Incidentally, the iPod is still playing and the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars just came on, so if you thought it couldn't get more schizophrenic, it did.


One Republican scumbag down:

One to go:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Happy October 20th!

Yep, it's that time again - October 20th has arrived! My, how time flies. Whoo-hoo!

Happy Birthday, Snoop Dogg!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Poker, anyone?

Last week, I posted a rather whiny blog regarding the bad streak I've been having in my recent poker games. Since then, I've received a number of emails asking me if things have picked up. Well, fear not dear readers, my luck has turned around (kinda). Put down the violins - I've seen some decent cards! Now the highest starting hand I've had featured a couple of cowboys, and some of my other playables actually hit on the flop. Since that last post I've shown down a straight, the nut flush, and even a full house.

Now, it's clear to me more than ever that I was, indeed, having a terrible run last week. That happens. But what has also become clear is that something else was going on, too. Yes, I had crappy cards, but should I have lost SO badly? Was I playing my best? The answer is no. I realize now that, by moving up to a higher level than I'm used to (even one where the players are decidedly not any better) I was playing with what they refer to in the poker world as "scared money." Looking back, I can't exactly pin down any specific errors I made, but I now sense that there must have been times when I could have made a move, a bold call, something...but didn't because I was somehow more concerned about losing $20 than losing $10. This is absurd, and makes for chicken-shit playing in a game where fearlessness is a vital component. Did I do anything majorly stupid? Maybe not. But I didn't do everything necessary to win, either. Looking back, if some soothsayer were to inform me that I wouldn't see a decent set of cards for the next 10 games straight, could I possibly have insisted on playing the same strategy that normally works in these s&g's? (Be patient, let the others knock themselves out, maybe play a couple of big hands if you're lucky - then get agressive once you make it to the money.) To a better poker player, the answer would be obvious. In the future, if my normal style of play isn't working, I need to be able to shift gears. Besides, even if I had made a bunch of (hopefully well-timed) moves and still lost all those games, I would've had a lot more fun doing it.

'tis the season

For those who don't know me...well, you probably aren't reading this post. For those who do know me, you might or might not realize that Halloween is my favorite holiday. In the spirit of that fast approaching and ghoulishly delightful night (remember - it's the only time of year we can use the word "ghoulish," so don't hold back), I'd like to unveil my pick for the number one horror movie of all time. Actually, Ben, you might be pleased to learn that your fellow countrymen got it right. Yes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre reigns supreme, lording its mighty Saw over all the other monsters of the genre. I'm not going to spend valuable Muckspace elaborating on the whys and wherefores of this proclamation...not yet, anyway...but I would like to elaborate by way of another, perhaps equally as bold, opinion on the matter: not only is Chainsaw the greatest horror movie ever made, but it also contains the single greatest ending in the history of the genre, and one of the greatest in the history of cinema.

The visceral impact of the final shot leaves one stunned by a cocktail of emotions: terror, relief, confusion, fear, pathos and awe. And we can go deeper still. What would Freud, for instance, have said about the image of a deformed mamma's boy, wildly slinging around his phallic weapon in frustration after having failed to penetrate the nubile body of young Marilyn Burns? To me, though, the scene is so great simply because it captures the essence of true cinematic horror. I'm planning a follow up post to expound on that notion, but until then I'll leave you with a little teaser:

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Desperately seeking muck

NFTM revels in muck, and rightly so. However, we would like to spare a moment of contemplation for a group that loves muck more than us; so much so that if they were to be without muck, they would die. I'm talkin' 'bout hippos people.

Hippos without muck; is there a sadder picture?? Apparently the irrigation methods in Africa mean that they are deprived of water; a vital componenet of muck.

NFTM would like to send some muck to Africa, but we can't; it would be silly. Instead, gaze upon the picture and think about these hippos the next time you clean your car, shoes, child, or even your good self clean of muck...They would love to be in your position of having an excess of muck and we should be humbled by the amount of muck we have.

Good luck hippos.

Winning the War On TerrorTM

The Axis of Evil continues to crumble:

U.S. forces in Iraq said on Saturday that they were holding a man suspected of acting as a barber to senior al Qaeda militants and helping them change their appearance to evade capture.

The man, named as Walid Muhammad Farhan Juwar al-Zubaydi -- "aka 'The Barber,"' the U.S. military statement said -- was arrested in Baghdad on September 24, the day before U.S. troops caught up with and killed a militant they described as the most senior al Qaeda leader in the capital, Abu Azzam.

Osama may remain on the loose, but if he thinks he's getting his hair styled any time soon, George W. Bush is gonna' have the last laugh.

What, has he never burped?

Somebody from Slough visited the blog this morning. Whoever you are, you made my morning. Welcome.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


On the day that I left the U.S. to return home to the U.K. i lost my mp3 player. This loss confounded what was already a very emotional experience; I had just put some new tunes on there; and was even going to try and get a playlist specially for me rolling out of town including "here i go again on my own", and "London calling"...Swish eh?
Upon returning I found life pretty hard to adjust to; something i blame wholly on the absence of my mp3 player. I thought of all the tunes i could put on it; all the journeys on the underground that it would keep me company, all "the burns" it would help me feel, or run through while i was jogging (here i go again on my own would've done wonders, as would of the superman theme)...instead, I hung my head and looked at photos of me during the time I had the mp3 player; and wallowed in the fact that i would never be that man again.

Then my girlfriend rang me and told me she had found it and would send it over. Happiness has no end.

A week after she sent it; I felt that it would arrive anytime...Every morning i would excitedly run to check out the mail and see if it had come; everytime i trudged back despondent and mp3less. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into a little over a month; and just around Friday, i lost hope in it ever coming; and wondered what I would have to do to claim the insurance for it. Enter mp3 player, stage left.
So many wondrous moments, new songs to put on and play, so many reasons to make up in order to go for a walk (not a run, i don't feel ready for that)....aaaaahhhh, life is sweet.....

Sweet as it is; it's not as good with it here, as it was bad when it wasn't. Maybe its just me, i think that I am one thing away from ultimate happiness. When I was 8, it was a dart board. I told my mum i would never be bored if i had one. Likewise with the Amiga 500 and the amazing back to the future II game where you got to ride on hover boards...then the Super Nintendo...then the puppy...all these i had, and still, still, they didn't enter my head whilst I was waiting for my mp3 player...

What will it take for me/anyone to be satisfied...I think if I could have one wish (somewhat material but encroaching on the territory of fantasy), I think i would like to be able to growl like a wild animal, a puma or a tiger; something like that. I got the idea when I was watching Teen Wolf and how, when he got pissed off he would roar; starting by emitting a low guttural rumbling from throat to a full fledged SNAAAAARRRLLLL!!! YEAH! Just think of the words we waste trying to describe certain people or situations when we could just growl...similarly, how many times would you like to see some dick head strutting down the road, creased khakis cutting through the air like a cape cod catamaran; sweater draped over shoulders (hey, he's casual), sense of entitlement dangling from his belt, bush stickers on his SUV...sucking in precious air...he sees you and instantly judges the fact your trousers are not pressed, you didn't spend 5 hours preening your hair, you are not as wealthy as him, and you believe gay people should be able to get it on. No need for silent fury; ROOOAAARRRRRR....and then, just like in teen wolf, see him take a dump in his pristine khakis...sweet.

If anyone thinks they would be eternally satisfied with the acquistion of just one thing; post it in comments. If you don't, shame on you. If you're already satisfied, good for you.

Enough jibber jabber, but think about it; roaring can bring great happiness.

NFTM Wedding Guide

Notes From the Muck endorses the following wedding guidelines:

1. Spend the extra cabbage for a live band, not a DJ.

2. Feed people early and often.

3. Don't make it an adults-only reception. Weddings just aren't interesting enough to permit adults to entertain themselves, even with all the alcohol. You need a bunch of little bastards running around dancing and breaking shit and generally misbehaving. It really keeps things moving along.

4. For the love of God, skip the garter belt thing. T-A-C-K-Y. You may as well just be throwing her panties to a crowd of men, which, come to think of it, might be a lot more fun.

5. If there is a room available, have a poker game. This also applies to bar mitzvahs and funerals.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


So, perusing the ol' BBC website, i noticed that there was a big picture of Margaret thatcher on the front page...My heart flicked a beat for a second; has she gone to meet Ronny baby?? No, she has turned 80.

FAR be it for me to start wishing ill on people, but isn't it unfair that we have Thatcher, and yet so many other gifted, generous, and, well, not evil people are on the wrong side of the mortal divide? When Thatcher does cash in her chips, I say we get one back, sort of like chess; who though? I would choose Jimi Hendrix, maybe something of a cliche but aside from being a god like guitarist he was gifted at producing his records and was fascinated by things like stereo and would spend ages using such technology on his records. Sadly, due to the amount of drugs he and his peeps were taking, he lost some of those recordings...I think if he were alive right now Jimi would have gotten onto the mash up thing some time ago and would be at the forefront of studio production...

Who else though? Whole of history, music, wars, presidents, dunks, anyone...if you feel like it post your nominee and reason...

In the meantime; Many Happy Returns Maggie, you soulless ball of greed.


while we wait on our new contributor to make his appearance, i'd like to do some serious griping.

look, i'm not a great poker player. but i'm better than i've ever been, and i like to think that i'm at least better than most of the online players at the low limits. this notion has been born out in recent times by a fairly steady winning rate in the sit-and-go tournaments. granted, i haven't been cleaning up, but i've held my own. i started with the $5 buy-ins, then moved to the $10 ones. i put a fairly large deposit into my account with the idea of playing exclusively these very same tournaments until i had enough of a bankroll to play at the $20 level. well, a friend encouraged me to jump right to the $20s, saying my bankroll was large enough already, and that the games aren't any more challenging than the $10 buy-ins. he's given me good poker advice before, so i folded my plan and moved on up.

i should make it clear now that i'm not questioning my friend's advice - i think he was right. Instead, i'm questioning...what the hell is going on? since returning from vegas to my fresh bankroll, new broadband connection, and commitment to sit-and-go success, i have lost no less than $150 in 3 days. ???!!! what confuses me is that my friend was right - the players really aren't any better. and i'm pretty sure i'm playing the same way i was before, so....

i hate that i'm going to go here, and i know better even as i can't help myself - i gotta blame luck. this, of course, sounds shady. however, i'm at a loss for any alternative explanation. recall that i admitted right off the bat that i'm not a great player. BUT one would think that as long as i'm being consistent, my results should be fairly consistent. they are not. you lose three tournaments in a row and it kind of gets to you, but you accept the streaky nature of the game and move on. then you lose another one and you start to curse a little bit and realize you're going to have to get first place next time. then you lose again. then again. and again...

i'm resorting to blaming the cards because, frankly, my cards have sucked. in 12 tournaments in three days, i think jacks is the best hand i've seen. any other playable hands i get seem to find me out of position, and when i'm lucky enough to hit the flop, i do my job and bet only to have them end up second best. today, i was the first one out of two games when i bet and bet the best hand to the river only to have somebody chase and make a straight. then i got knocked out when i flopped the straight, bet it and got raised by some jerk on a flush draw - he called my all in (to deprive him of the odds he needed) and hit the flush on, you guessed it, the river.

at what point do i give up? maybe it wasn't meant to be, me and online poker. or is this not uncommon, this streak? or, maybe i'm wrong - maybe i'm making more (and more serious) mistakes than my opponents. i dunno, but this is getting real old, real fast.

Singing for England

Since leaving Charlottesville this past Summer I have not played a game of poker. This has come as quite a blow to my sense of being as, for a long time, it was a lot of things to me;the one time in the week when I knew I would go out socially, the one time i knew I would have a little drinky poos (Champaigne of beers all the way)...and of course the one time i got to play poker. Ok, only 3 things, but they meant a lot. It was with a heavy heart I left the selected venue, knowing that a week would pass before I was sitting down trying to contain my glee at getting dealt a Jack 6 before having said glee quashed by people who actually had something and resolving to be cautious from now on in, until I get dealt pocket 6s. a one way ticket from joy to the dull throbbing reality that it is my poker game. Repeat for around 5 hours, mingle with fine conversation, beer, cigars and alter egos and you have yourself a friday night.

In the meantime I have football; a sport which made me cry when Diego Maradona handballed the ball into the back of the England net...see above and right. We lost the game, and I cried. Some days later I saw a picture much like the one above (I really hope it came out) clearly showing Maradona handling it. "Great" I thought, this will mean the game will be replayed, we'll learn from our mistakes and win. Or, even better, as Argentina went onto win the tournament we would just be given the World Cup. If you've never seen the trophy, it is beautiful.

Again, I hope it appears here...this is my first time doing a blog post...Note the hands clamouring to touch it...these are professionals who have lived most of their lives winning games, and being the best players. They don't know what it is like to be the person out of breath 3 minutes into a game looking to get substituted because their ankle slightly hurts and their thighs are chaffing. They take victory in their stride, they have had numerous ticker tape parades in their honour, had trophies named after them, always been the cool kid who got the girl/boy they wanted, been given the key to several cities (good ones at that), and some are voted to be president of their country after they hang up their boots. This type of life is normal to these people; they view being carried of the field in a sea of adoring fans, jumping into a bath full of supermodels,attracting more crowds than any dictator history cares to conjour up the same way you or I treat eating toast in the morning. And here they are, fighting just to touch this trophy. THAT'S why I cried. Incidentally, more people now associate Argentina with this game, or more importantly, that goal than they do the Falklands War. We also begrudge Germans more for beating us in numerous tournaments than for various wrong doings in not one but TWO wars.

And so I return to football...we are awkward around each other, glad to see each other but i miss my poker, and I know football looks down on me for abandoning it for so long.

Well, I have digressed too much. Incidentally I saw someone pusing their kids in a pram which was built for two, no suprise there, usually the two kids are side by side, but not here. One was in front of and on top of the other, so one kid got to look out on the world passing by while the other was staring up at the back of his (or her, I din't get a good look) seat. Way to make your child feel unwanted number one i think.

Introducing... Beldaz!

As part of our ongoing efforts to satiate our readers' unceasing demands for more some content, we're pleased to announce the addition of Ben, AKA Beldaz, to the Notes From the Muck writing staff. Ben is the cowboy in our poker triumverate, as featured in the now-permanent contributors' portrait in the right sidebar. As a Brit, Ben's role will be to supply dry wit and drollery to the blog, as well as to boost our international readership, which up until this point has been limited to Ben himself (aside from the occasional Peruvian comment spammer). So if you ever needed an excuse to visit the Muck more than nine or ten times a day, now you've got it.

Take it away, Beldaz.

Jeff and Matthew


Last night, ESPN started airing the main event of the 2005 World Series of Poker. For two hours every Tuesday for the next six weeks, we can watch the most exciting moments of the highest paying (official) competition the world has ever known. It’s a great learning opportunity. The problem with most poker broadcasts is that they only show the final table, when the blinds and stakes are far higher than they were in the opening stages of the tournament. For novices such as me, this can lead to some grave misunderstandings about the game. Granted, there’s far more drama at a final table, when players are constantly going all in with moderate hands and short stacks, and when the prizes get larger and larger with each elimination. However, we must remember that strategy changes greatly at this late stage. Watching the ten or so hours of footage leading up to the main event final table serves as a great reminder of this fact. It’s a chance to watch great (and not so great)players handle the decisions one will face 99% of the time at the poker table. Sure, ESPN is still editing it down to the most interesting confrontations, but there’s plenty of opportunity to witness the discipline and thoughtfulness of poker at it’s finest. The best game I’ve ever watched was a live broadcast that ended in a match between Phil Ivey and John D’Agostino. This was a defining moment in my poker education. Watching it live provided me with a glimpse of the nuance and, yes, tedium of expert play. It was an eye-opening treat seeing these guys trade chips back and forth, fold, get lucky/unlucky, and, ultimately for D’Agostino, fatigue and start making mistakes. It really drove home for me the lesson that poker is, above all, a game of patience. As 5,619 players vie for the WSOP top prize, I look forward to seeing a little more of that.

C-vizzle in the hizzle

There has been a sudden rash of great hip-hop acts playing in Charlottesville recently. First it was Blackalicious (and if you don’t already have The Craft, get thee to iTunes now) and last night Lyrics Born, formerly of Latyrx. Jeff and I were talking on the way home about how surprised we were that these acts were playing here in Central VA, and decided it was mostly attributable to the new Satellite Ballroom venue off the Plan 9 record store on the Corner. (Next up at Satellite Ballroom: The Perceptionists on Nov. 7). It’s pretty hilarious when these guys give props to Charlottesville and the “wild Virginia motherfuckers” in the crowd. Hearing shout-outs to the heart of the Confederacy is always an incongruous experience.

Anyway, last night’s show was easily the best hip-hop show I’ve seen, and probably second only to David Byrne for the best post-law school concert I’ve attended. To my surprise, LB took the stage with a full band (drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards) and no DJ. I hadn’t been aware of much live instrumentation on his records, so I did not expect a band, but I was amazed at how well they were able to recreate the music from both Later That Day and the re-mix album Same Shit, Different Day. In what was probably the highlight of the night for me, the band abruptly switched from the original Stop Complaining to the re-mix version right in the middle of the song. Other highlights were Shake It Off (the opener), Bad Dreams (in the encore), and Callin’ Out, which really got the small but enthusiastic crowd into the show. More than most artists, LB really straddles the line between rapping and singing and last night’s show felt a lot like a rock concert at times, yet there is something quintessentially hip-hop about LB’s music, even when he’s singing and being backed by a live band. All told, the show was one of the most energetic and plain fun I’ve ever seen.

If I have any one gripe, it’s that they don’t seem to have figured out the sound system at Satellite Ballroom quite yet. The band sounded great, but LB’s voice was often distorted, which was a shame because he seemed to be in great form. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I also wished they would have turned the volume down a little. My ears haven’t been ringing like this since my Slayer days, and I couldn’t hear a thing Cleo said to me this morning on the way to school. I also remember being underwhelmed by the sound quality at Blackalicious, and I hope they get all the kinks ironed out soon because they’re booking some incredible talent.

Finally, a quick word about the opening act, Pigeon John, who appears to have about four albums out and just got signed to Quannum (the collective that includes Blackalicious, Lifesavas, Lyrics Born, and a bunch of other great acts). He put a great show himself and was really able to pump up the crowd while maintaining an ironic and hilarious persona. He was also kind enough to come out between acts and sign CDs for me and Jeff, so you should all check him out so that he blows up and we can make a lot of money on E-bay. We’ll let you know how the albums sound after we’ve had a chance to give them a listen.

Here’s the rest of Lyric Born’s tour schedule (click on the “Shows” tab). He’s in Atlanta tonight, and then swinging through Louisiana and Texas before heading back out West. Definitely catch him if he’s coming your way.

Friday, October 07, 2005


I have a mild fear of flying. Any change in sound, speed or altitude sends a wave of brief, but intense, anxiety surging through me. Granted, many people have it worse than I do, but I fly a fair amount and could certainly do without freaking out at least once per trip. Well, I think I found a cure. The great thing about the information age is that one person's wisdom and experience can be shared with millions of others at the click of a button - which is why I'm posting this blog. There's no need to keep this to myself when I can do my part to make the world a better place. So, if you too suffer from pteromer...whatever...then don't worry, your troubles are over. Now that I've built it up so much the revelation will be something of a let down, but here goes: sudoku. That's right, the number puzzle that's driving people mad all over the globe is also a very effective distraction during those fear-inducing landings and take-offs. This isn't quite the life changing bomb dropped by Matt and his banana (see his link below), but I hope I've reached someone out there. Start practicing here.

The Blog Is Not Dead

Rest assured, dear readers, this blog is not dead, despite clear indications to the contrary. Content will return, and it will be better than ever. It's just that life after Las Vegas is rather... well... unstimulating. Until we can get our acts together, you should all just practice opening your bananas from the opposite end. You can thank me later.

Special bonus time waster: The Roshambot.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

McCarran County Airport. Boarding begins in 8 minutes. Free WiFi makes it seem irresponsible not to blog, but we realize that there is very little to say now. The eggs and sausage here are terrible and Jeff just paid $2.79 for a bottle of water. Anxiety about the cost of getting my car out of the Dulles economy lot is starting to set in. It seems the fear and loathing never stops in this place. On the other hand, though we're leaving this city poorer than when we came, we're far richer in spirit, or some such cliche. Plus, we will always know that a cabby named Richard in Las Vegas will give us a free ride to a strip club, where we can get a square meal and a lap dance any time we need it.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Almost 2AM...for all intents and purposes, the Vegas trip is over. Well, Matt's down there at the blackjack tables, but I can barely even count to twenty-one right now...have decided instead to post a quick blog before retiring to bed. I came here to play poker, and play poker i did. First there was the 3/6 game at Harrah's on a very jet-lagged Saturday evening. Then after the requisite Vegas buffet meal for brunch on Sunday, I tried my hand at the 10 table No Limit tournament at our hotel. Subsequent to getting knocked out of that, I sat at the 2/4 cash table for what Matt has told me was several hours. Today brought the challenge of another tournament at Balley's...followed again by a session at the low limit table. Then sustenance, then more low stakes madness at the Paris. Ended the night in our first No Limit cash game back over at Balley's. Cab ride. Blog.

As far as poker goes, I'm happy with my performance. I even ended in the black. Having said that, I learned a lot about the weaknesses in my play, and can point out several blunders I made that I will do my best to avoid the next time I'm at a table. And I think we both learned a lot about the swingy nature of luck. Read all the damn books you want, but if the Poker Gods want to give you 94o for three hours straight, there ain't much you can do but stay patient and take advantage of the free drinks.

Meanwhile, I've also learned an awful lot about the depravity of the human species. I will forever equate the relentless beeping and cha- chinging of slot machines, not with the promise of riches, but with the shameless lies and Great Evil that keeps this city going. But who is really to blame - the powers that be...or us? Amidst the stimuli and sensory overload one is subjected to out here, one thing is crystal clear: we want this, and we want more of it. Forget the political mumbo jumbo about American values that we're confronted with so often. It's a deceit. Vegas is America unmasked. A city built on a foundation of violence, cheating and all around bad manners. A desert mecca where we can come to worship the Idols we care about the most - Sex, Money, and Bullshit. I'd like to say I'm above all this, but I'm here, aren't I? On the other hand, I had a lot of fun. I can't seem to stay hydrated, but I'm not sure if that's from the dry heat, or because I've been subliminally induced to slobber all my saliva away.

But I suppose I've said too much. In a land where money flows upstream and waitresses don't wear pants, there are only a few real lessons worth writing home about: stay away from the chicken ranch, don't believe anything anyone tells you, and always have a good kicker. Anything else stays in Vegas, as well it should.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Vegas Update

Well, the blogging thing hasn’t been going as planned - blogspot has been down for the past two days and so we haven’t been able to do any posting. Things seem to be up and running now, though, so here are the quick and dirty highlights before we head back down to the poker room:

• We’re both pretty much breaking even at this point. Our first night here, I won $40 in a limit cash game at Harrahs, and yesterday I placed 10th out of a field of 101 in my first tournament here at the Orleans, netting $115 over my $75 buy-in ($55 plus a $20 re-buy). I also picked up $20 in bounties, by knocking four other players out of the tournament. Less luck today: I played two tournaments - a $65 buy-in at Paris and a $55 buy-in at Ballys, finishing out of the money in both. Net total so far: up $55. In the Ballys tournament, I finished 5th out of about 40 players, but only the top 3 were in the money. Hopefully have time for at least one more tournament tonight and maybe some late-night and/or early-morning cash games before we leave.

• Jeff hasn’t been having good luck in the tournaments, but is doing very well in limit cash games. Today, he finished out of the money in the Bally’s tournament, but made his buy-in back, plus a little more, in a cash game afterward. I think he’s very close to even, too.

• Most disappointing so far, we failed to get Jeff into Ashlee Simpson’s 21st birthday party, hosted by MTV last night at Caesar’s Palace. We did get a picture of him with a sign of Ashlee, though, which we will be post at our first opportunity. BUT in other big celebrity news: I shared an elevator with the current drummer of REO Speedwagon, so that’s not nothing.

• Richard, our cabby on the way back from Ballys, recommended two whorehouses: Cheri’s Ranch and the Chicken Ranch. The girls are apparently less hot at the Chicken Ranch, which we somehow suspected before he even told us. He seemed very disappointed that we didn’t want him to take us to a strip club and told us that he could recommend one that offered free food to the clientele. Unfortunately, we had just eaten. He then showed us a catalogue of the prostitutes at Cheri’s Ranch - yes, he actually had a catalogue - and we perused that for a little while until it just got too uncomfortable. When we discussed the matter later, we discovered that Jeff had noticed a nipple in the catalogue, but I had not. When we got out of the cab, he gave me a card that says:

Richard (702) 265-1261

So you'll all want to jot that down for future reference.

Lots more to tell, but gambling time’s a’wastin’, so it’ll just have to wait.