Thursday, May 20, 2010


I have worked in the US wireless industry consistently since 1995, back when clunky cell phones like the Motorola StarTac or the Nokia “candy bar” phones were a big, big deal and no one had even heard of text messaging. Back then we would banter about something called “wireless data” – the ability to do something beyond phone calls – like it was a magical, far-off dream. For many years, it actually was. In 2001 I was in Ireland, and someone from a Japanese company played me and a bunch of others our first polyphonic ringtone – you know, a ringtone that was more than a bleeping, one-dimensional touch-tone sound – and people almost fell out of their chairs in amazement. Now those are considered anachronisms from another, less enlightened era, as are ringtones in general. I could go on and on with wow-isn’t-the-speed-of-technology-amazing stories, but that would be pretty boring.

No, I’m here today to marvel at a device that has sucked up more media air that just about anything ever created. Perhaps deservedly so – at least I think so. I’m not telling any iPhone user anything they don’t already know. It’s just that I’ve seen a hell of a lot of change, growth, triumphant companies, dying companies, dot-com bombs and whatnot firsthand over these past 15 years, yet I’ve never seen a single device nor “business vision” that’s so upended my industry as this one. This thing is so heads & shoulders above any other phone out there it’s not even close, and yeah, those Android devices are neat and all, and BlackBerries just keep getting better, but until Apple totally stumbles (and oh, they will, someday), the iPhone will become so ubiquitous and transformative that there’ll be those people who have the iPhone, and then those people who have everything else, looking longingly at the other group while they wait for their 2-year contracts to expire. It’s already that way, just not everyone knows it yet.

And I’m saying this not as Jay Hinman from MobiTV, by the way – the company I work for works happily and very closely with BlackBerry, Google, Samsung, HTC, all the wireless carriers and everyone else, in addition to Apple – I’m saying it as Jay Hinman, the consumer who sneeringly rejected the iPhone for two years (“I’ll never own a touchscreen device”) before getting one late last year, and who can’t believe how it has taken over dozens of things I used to do in other ways.

Here’s what this thing is to me:

1. My telephone. Duh. We don’t own a landline phone anymore, and since we also have Wi-Fi inside the house, it’s also my personal computer much of the time. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

2. My camera. As soon as the iPhone camera catches up to the other phone-based 5-8 megapixel cameras out there and adds a flashbulb, it’s game over. Then the final excuse for not getting one (outside of AT&T’s network) will have been vanquished.

3. My video camera. I wish it weren’t so, but this 3GS version is always with me and is “good enough”, so in the rare instances I want to film something – why would I carry a Flip Video or something more clunky?

4. My transistor radio. I can listen to pretty much anything I want, whenever I want, with a few app downloads. I listen to my San Francisco Giants games live on KNBR via the MLB At Bat app. I listen to WFMU shows live and via podcast. There’s Slacker, Pandora, and a bazillion other radio apps, some of them actually good, and most of them free.

5. My stereo. There’s a ton of room for my music and podcasts – keep in mind, this is an “iPod” (remember those?) too.

6. My television. No, it’s not just MobiTV – though that’s pretty cool – but I can rent movies in iTunes for $1.99 or even buy whole episodes of shows for the same price, and sprawl out on the bed or watch these on an airplane. Some people even hook them up to full-screen TVs and have reported excellent picture quality if you use the right cables. Wow. The kids these days don’t care about screen size, they just want to watch when it’s convenient for them – something Apple presciently anticipated and/or helped to make so. Oh, and the YouTube app that comes included has just about everything you’d ever want to watch, even keyboard cat and old Nixon speeches.

7. My notebook. It’s actually pretty easy to peck reminders, beer reviews or whatever into this thing. I’ve found the keyboard much easier than I’d feared it would be, and now I can power through an email or a detailed beer review nearly as fast as I could on the old BlackBerry I had.

8. My means of male bonding with my son. I don’t like and have never really liked video games, but I have to admit that thanks to easy & fun 99-cent games like Doodle Jump and Fruit Ninja, we can kill even more time together, hangin’ out like dudes, than we did previously.

9. My reading device. Thanks to free or super-cheap apps from Mobile RSS, the NY Times, Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, The Atlantic and many others, I’ve turned into one of those cliché morons who whips out his iPhone and ignores everyone around him while something very interesting is going on deep, deep inside his phone. You know what? I’m almost definitely reading your blog or something fascinating that you tweeted about.

10. A bunch of other things. My bank (so easy to transfer $ or check balances with a couple clicks); my impulse-purchase storefront (eBay and Amazon apps are great for buying books and CDs); my mapping tool (who needs to print out MapQuest directions beforehand the way we did just a few years ago, when you can quickly get a driving or walking route on the phone that’s always with you?); my photo album; my pedometer (great app called RunKeeper for you runners out there); my restaurant or bar finder (even in real time - Yelp with “Monocle” is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen); and a bunch of other things beyond those.

I didn’t set out to become a corporate cheerleader but I’ve watched even the hippest punk rock soldiers fall around me to sing the glories of the iPhone. Everyone seems to have this $200 super-machine in their pockets, and everyone else standing around them are just counting the days until their Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile contracts expire.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Me, one of the world’s great defenders of the fruit beer, is finally fed up with fruit beer. The unlikely catalyst is a brewer who is considered to be the United States’ finest exponent of the fruit beer craft – NEW GLARUS BREWING, from New Glarus, Wisconsin. I was positively ecstatic to receive a bottle of the RASPBERRY TART ALE in a trade with Aaron from the Captain’s Chair blog some time ago, and thus I saved it for a very, very special occasion. That’s right: Monday Night, May 17th 2010. I busted it open and got ready to party down with the #60 highest-rated beer in the world on Beer Advocate, the quote-unquote gold standard of the beer doofus sites. I was ready for something supremely out of this world; when something makes the Beer Advocate Top 100 and is not clocking in at about 10% alcohol, it’s probably pretty goddamn special. And then I tasted the beer. And lo, it was wrong – very wrong.

My 6-year-old son asked me if he’d enjoy the taste of NEW GLARUS RASPBERRY TART. Well, since it tastes like a fermented Trader Joe’s juice box - sure son, drink away. All the fruit with virtually none of the beer – and this juice just coats your throat with a sticky, wet, cloying raspberry taste that may well be a successful mixture of sweet and tart, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever had before in a beer. Seriously, something like DOGFISH HEAD APRIHOP is a true delicious spring/summer ale, a hoppy apricot beer made with care and attention to getting it right. This thing is still, sticky, salubrious and salacious. I don’t even know what those last two words mean, but I do know I’m treading lightly around fruit ales for a while. About the only good to come of my time with it was this photo, courtesy of an iPhone app called HIPSTAMATIC that zaps your photos back into the 1970s, long before there were any “artisanal raspberry beers” on the market.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I finally figured it out – I now know how to scan fanzines (or whatever I want) from the privacy of my own home, and then assemble them into PDFs that you, the Hedonist Jive reader, may then read or print out. My dummy example that I have practiced these wack digital arts on is this 1978 San Francisco punk fanzine called NEW DEZEZES. I bought it for a quarter from a musty record store box at least two decades ago. It has “coverage”, if you want to call it that, of CRIME, THE SCREAMERS, THE NUNS and more. Based on the internal masthead, I’m thinking that the magazine was actually supposed to be called “New Dezeazes” – which would make a little more sense – but that someone totally farmed it when putting together the cover. The editors were Jean Caffeine, Claudia and Peter Urban, and the photos are from James Stark, who was the main SF punk photographer of the day. It may even be from 1977 – judging from the germinal punk records reviewed on the second-to-last page.

Rest assured that this is the first of many ‘zines I’ll post here at the ‘Jive. I’ll start posting the eight issues of my own 1990-1998 fanzine SUPERDOPE, which is pretty much the reason I took the time to figure this scan-and-assemble thing to begin with. In the meantime, just click right here to launch the PDF and start reading.


So said one of the great Greek philosophers – I forgot whom – but you can find out on what is probably one of the two or three best podcasts ever created in the history of this young form, Dan Carlin’s HARDCORE HISTORY. His most recent show, which you can download as an mp3 right here, is about how strong of a role “toughness” plays in the success or failure of a people. Typical of a Carlin podcast, rather than simply dwell on one topic and beat it to death, he engagingly challenges the way we approach the study of history to begin with, and how the last 30 years have wiped out a lot of the opinionated “bias” in history that might’ve posited the one set of people were more “tough” than another. Carlin feels that we’ve lost something in the systematic, facts-and-figures approach to history, and in so doing, we’re forgetting how nations soften and become more flaccid in middle age. He believes – and I’m now convinced – that a more philosophical, and yes, biased approach to history is sometimes the best way to drive at deeper truths that can be learned from.

This is a fairly atypical Carlin history show, but it’s just as thought-provoking as all of his other podcasts. HARDCORE HISTORY’s a total must-listen the day each new one comes out. If you’re just reading about him for the first time here, I’d start with his series of WWII Eastern Front podcasts called “Ghost of the Ostfront” – which are masterful, and way better than any history class you’ve ever taken – and then work your way around some of these more pontificating “Blitz” editions.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Any exposure I’ve had to the world of deep-underground filmmaking comes from my pal Danny Plotnick (the once “king of Super 8”, and the renaissance man behind the PLOTBOX blog) as well as from my brief 1990s subscription to FILM THREAT magazine. Plotnick cast me in a key role in his 1999 film “SWINGER’S SERENADE” which you can watch here in its entirety on YouTube, and he’s also the guy who showed me my first George Kuchar film, “Wild Night In El Reno”, at some 90s film event he was curating. Compared to the Warholian escapades and weird gross-out films I’d been reading about by George and Mike Kuchar for years, this wordless, “inclement weather” film was pretty tame – but cool. Yet compared to their professed “no-budget” masterpieces like “Sins of The Fleshapoids”, “The Devil’s Cleavage” and “Hold Me When I’m Naked” that they’d been making for decades – well, there’s a lot catching up I wanted to do. I figured one way to do so was to attend a screening of Jennifer M. Kroot’s recent documentary on the Bronx-born & formed twin brothers and their oeuvre called “IT CAME FROM KUCHAR” so I could get the proverbial cut of their jib.

I’ll admit that I walked out feeling like I knew just about as much as I needed to know about their films. In other words – I’m a busy, jaded, 42-year-old curmudgeon, and any precious time spent watching no-budget experimental film needs to be spent watching the very best of the best. I’m not convinced where the Kuchars’ stuff ranks, but I’ll willing to bet it’s arguably funny to watch when you’re 23 and very stoned – and even then for about fifteen minutes. The San Francisco Chronicle review by the oft-mocked Mick LaSalle that I read of this film the weekend before I saw it summed it up pretty well, “It's probably a safe bet - though it would take too many months of movie watching to prove it - that the best film the Kuchar brothers have ever been involved with is the documentary about them and their work by Bay Area filmmaker Jennifer M. Kroot”.

I actually enjoyed the film on a much different level – not the “filmmaker and his misunderstood lowbrow art” level, but as a portrait of two aging eccentrics and their commitment to staying dirt-poor to do it their way. In no way, shape nor form did George and Mike Kuchar ever sell out their singular vision, whatever that might be – and though even Kroot has a hard time putting her finger on it, she has no shortage of talking heads like John Waters, Buck Henry and others who give it a good try. I was strangely fascinated with the scenes filmed in George’s dirty, cramped San Francisco Mission District apartment with his cats competing for space, and at Mike’s complete lack of dental work – juxtaposed with clips from recent films that show aimless cavorting, horrible costuming, and bizarre sexual overtones. These two have been cranking out these films since the 1950s (!) and they’ve made it their life’s work - and good for them. You certainly have to applaud it on some level, and I’m all for a documentary film being made and distributed to give them a slice of their due. It’s a well-made connection to a piece of the film underground that virtually no one knows exists, and how a vision such as the Kuchars’ can carry and age through eras of rapid technological and cultural change.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


My first true passion – obsessively collecting baseball cards and compiling decades’ worth of baseball stats in my brain – has colored my subsequent obsessions to such a degree that I wonder if my brain took its quantum formation leap during the years when I was 9, 10, 11, and 12 years old. Because I can’t seem to get away from that collector/expert mentality. It has played out with music, particularly record collecting. It even played out, and is still playing out, with craft beer – as well as a variety of minor obsessions that I’m talking about on this blog and really, to anyone who will listen: film, baseball, certain eras of history, NHL hockey, politics, artisanal chocolate, technology, and…….CHEESE. Yeah, cheese. Now when I say “minor obsession”, I mean truly minor. I marvel at the fact that anyone, myself included, would pay attention to foodstuffs in an obsessive way; yet judging from the enormous weight of food blogs and food tomes on the shelves, food-based navel gazing is having its moment right now, and that it turn is breaking off into multiple sub-obsessions. Like the fetish some people seem to have around cheese.

I wouldn’t even know about the “curd nerds” if I wasn’t already a beer dork myself. I published a beer blog for over 4 years myself, and in the course of doing so, found a cadre of like-minded folks who spent an inordinate amount of their time thinking about or blogging about certain foods like chocolate, charcuterie or cheese. Then a couple of things came to my attention over the past couple months. First was a magazine called CULTURE, completely and wholly devoted to the study and celebration of cheese. I bought a copy, mostly because I wanted to know more. For these people cheese is not just a lifestyle, it’s a life. The magazine is full of succulent pictures of weird cheeses from all over the world, along with helpful descriptions of varieties, of recent trends in the “cheese world”, and of the people who are carving out a more artisanal, experimental, and/or back-to-basics sort of cheesemaking that parallels a lot of what’s going on in beer as well. I actually enjoyed reading this thing quite a bit, while feeling sort of like it’s aimed at a demographic about 15 years older than myself. It made me head over to the local cheese shop and buy a couple of wedges of stuff I’ve never heard of – so, mission accomplished right there.

The other touchpoint in the new cheese awakening is this book “CHEESEMONGER – A LIFE ON THE WEDGE” by Gordon Edgar. Now, I don’t personally know Edgar, but I remember him from his days as a punk rock show denizen like myself, and as someone who used to work at Epicenter Zone, the San Francisco punk record store from the early 90s run by the Maximum RocknRoll commune. He’s taken cash from my hands, let’s say that. I don’t shop at the Rainbow Grocery food collective he now works at (and runs point on all things cheese for), but I love the idea that he’s written what looks to be a very funny book about his own personal cheese awakening. I’ve read a bit of it in a bookstore, and it’s definitely on my list to buy & devote some real time to. He obviously takes a semi-cynical eye to food fetishization while reveling in his newfound love & appreciation for the sort of edible art that can be spun from a farmer and a few simple ingredients. The book appears to be the story of his “journey”, with some good advice for those of us who barely know a thing about cheese and who want to know more. I’m gonna read this book someday, I promise. In the meantime, check out Edgar’s blog.

With my own affection for cheese growing by the day, here’s my first tentative stab at a cheese review. I bought a wedge of NICASIO VALLEY BLACK MOUNTAIN at a Berkeley, CA foodie store. It's picture above. These folks make their European-influenced cheeses just north of me in Marin County, CA. Black Mountain is a milky, buttery, medium-creamy soft cheese with a slight sour tinge. The acids don’t stay in the mouth long, though I’d still recommend a big breath mint when you’re done with this one. Wow – did I say butter? Really buttery cheese, one that’s fairly simple and can be approached by just about anyone. Buttery!

So there you have it – my baptism into cheese dorkitude. Grab one of the aforementioned reads and get your cheese obsession revved up as well.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


This crass and degenerate recent LP from THE BLACK JASPERS completely nails a certain sub-slice of the punk rock ecosystem, one that’s a little hard to define – but here goes. Picture a mop-haired greaseball with a leather jacket and a couple of missing teeth. He’s got a bullet belt and lots of acne. He might be what is commonly called a “guido”. When he writes a song, he likes to trot out well-worn rock and roll clichés like “in the city”, “c’mon baby” and rhyming just about everything with the word “brain”. Now add another guy like that, crank up the fuzz and static, foul up the language a bit, insert tongue deeply into cheek, and you’ve got THE BLACK JASPERS and one of my favorite records of the year.

Turns out it was actually recorded back in 2001, probably as the dumb-punk Killed By Death wave was cresting big time. The now-“legendary” KING KHAN of King Khan & BBQ, King Khan & The Shrines and multiple other bands formed this joke duo with another fella from a garage band called The Moorat Fingers, and then sat on the recordings til this year, when IN THE RED realized that a desperate public was in need for some palookaville punk rock. You can approach it on a couple of levels. If you just want to laugh, there’s plenty of mocking of greaser punk wankery to laugh at (they even use the word “wanker” a few times, like no North American I’ve ever met), though not a ton of out-and-out jokes. It’s an attitude that you’re either on board with or not (and oh how most people will hate this stuff). It’s also totally roaring musically. My favorite two-minute scorcher is one I’m going to post for you today – “Smart Car” – which dresses up overloaded socket-bursting guitar with a handclap-friendly singalong chorus right out of late 70s power pop. It has been compared to late 70s Chicago punk band THE MENTALLY ILL, and you’ve ever heard the masterpiece single that band put out, you’ll know why.

In short, this LP’s a total blast and a true contribution to the Guido Punk genre.

Play The Black Jaspers, “Smart Car”

Monday, May 10, 2010


There's a much-touted brewer from Durango, Colorado called SKA BREWING. Yeah- like "ska ska ska, Jamaican ska". Definitely high on the list of "least likely to be worshipped by beer dorks" list just due to their name alone, but, well, here we are. I only bought this 22-ounce bottle of DECADENT during my recent trip to Overland Park, Kansas because I'd heard these guys are absoulte monster brewers, and I wanted to find out if they could transcend the porkpie hats and two-tone shoes and truly impress me.

DECADENT is truly an "imperial" IPA. A big 'un. It's even got a skeleton on the label. 10% in alcohol, it's way-malty and runs a little hot and boozy. It's still and silent and not one of those but fruity citrus IPAs we supposedly favor on the west coast. Tastes run closer to caramel and butterscotch, with a liberal dosing of bittering hops, of course. It's not bad, I'll give it that, but trying to choke down a pint of this is a little much, to say nothing of the big bottle I bravely consumed (for research purposes). If you encounter this on draft and they're friendly enough to pour you a half pint, that's about right for this rude boy. 6/10.

Friday, May 7, 2010


When one considers the sheer volume of recorded music from the last century, it’s hard to come to terms with how little we in the west know about world musics, particularly that which was laid down on 78rpm cylinders in the first half of the 20th century. A lot of that just stems from sheer unavailability. There have been some great archival digital digs of lost recordings from 1910-1950 or so, most notably the wild & weird SECRET MUSEUM OF MANKIND series curated by Pat Conte, which is really the first place I’d ever heard pre-WWII “world music” (an ethnocentric term if there ever was one – in my country it means “not created in the United States”). I’m just starting to wrap my head around the other 78rpm-era stuff that’s out there – and to be entirely clear and fair, I’m well aware that for most folks, myself included at times, listening to Laotian chanting or crackly Bulgarian folk dances from the 1920s is more of an academic exercise than it is a pure plunge into pleasure. Yet I think I’ve found the compilation that most successfully balances the continuum where a collection of far-reaching world music becomes less a thing of study than a thing of entertainment.

It’s a CD called “BLACK MIRROR – REFLECTIONS IN GLOBAL MUSICS”, and it came out in late 2007 on the groundbreaking archival label DUST TO DIGITAL. (Their name tells you all you need to know about their mission). I just got it a couple of weeks ago. For something that travels around the globe (all your major continents get some play) and through time (1918-1955) so radically, the collection hangs together incredibly well. When the songs hone to a more conventional understanding of rhythm and “song”, as they do in the excellent “Ngo Mebou Melani” from Cameroun’s Paul Pendja Ensemble, it’s strikingly easy to get one’s feet tapping. When they go to another, much more “foreign” place, like the jaw-dropping, scary Serbian nationalist warble by Peter Perunovic-Perun, it’s easy to just get lost in tonal layers of sound and feeling. “BLACK MIRROR” has a ton of songs like that.

The Asian stuff is the most jarring to me. There’s one track near the end of the CD from Laos that truly is just chanting of single syllables for minutes at a time. I played it for my six-year-old and he thought it was pretty much the funniest thing in the world. Yet after he left the car, I played it several more times for myself. People spill acres of hyperbole about being “transported to another world” when they review discs like this, but there’s really something to it. Close your eyes, picture your surroundings, and go there. Sometimes it even works if the music is transfixing enough, and more often than not, the stuff on here is. Then there are little anomalies like one of my favorites on here, a 1954 child-sung folk lullaby accompanied by zither (!) by Sweden’s Christer Falkenstrom. Young Falkenstrom is 10 years old, and yet he sounds like a precursor to indie folk goddesses Joanna Newsom and Josephine Foster on his one moment in the sun. Truly great stuff.

This collection is the work on one man, a collector and record store owner named Ian Nagoski. The organizing principle on the disc is “my favorite recordings” – that’s it. He picked them off of scrap heaps, from junk sales, and from dusty corners of record stores no one but people like him go to anymore. People like Nagoski are among my heroes in the world, and he’s given us a collection of strange masterpieces that I encourage anyone to dig into it, whether you’re doing so with an academic or a hedonistic ear.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


When blogs first started, way back in the early roaring 00’s, they were pretty much all generalist blogs. “Here’s what I did today, here’s something I’m interested in, look at my kids, check out this link”. And lo, they were scoffed at – until it became clear that the cream very quickly rose to the top, and even the stereotypical pajama-clad stay-at-homes began pulling in traffic greater than traditional media websites. Most of the blogs were awful, sure, but soon there came two trends: the highly-trafficked generalist blogs, and the even-more highly-trafficked special interest blogs (often political) that have helped to define the form – your Huffington Posts, your Instapundits, your Daily Kos’s.

In 2003 I got a gander to start writing about music, as I always had in the past, and thought the blog format might be a low-stakes and completely costless way to approach it, far easier than the fanzines I’d put out in the past that required so much time and diligence. I scanned the horizon, and it looked like in early 2003 there were only a half-dozen or so blogs devoted to underground rock music out there. While that changed very quickly – 2003 and 2004 were huge years for the growth of blogging – my AGONY SHORTHAND blog actually became fairly well-read by my low standards, considering that it had no photos or YouTube clips (in 2003 the ability to do those things either didn’t exist, or were impossible to add to your blog without coding experience). The blog was really just me reviewing records and CDs from my collection, or popping off about whatever musical sacred cow I wanted to flay that week. It actually peaked near its end in 2006, with an average of 650 unique readers per day - which is totally small potatoes for someone who actually, unlike me, really cares about this sort of thing, but it was flat-out amazing to me. Me being the petulant and easily bored type that I am, I quit doing Agony Shorthand as it was peaking at this level, and then self-referentially bathed in the very few “oh please don’t go” comments that followed my short retirement.

There quickly followed an overlapping series of special-interest blogs that allowed me to explore my quote-unquote passions, and perhaps egotistically allowed me to try to convince others of my cultural & intellectual heft. Blogging is by nature egotistical and narcissistic, and since there’s no use denying it, I’ll at least say that I’ve tried to be as self-deprecating as possible in each of my endeavors. And no, I haven’t made a red cent off of any of them, save for the crap promo CDs I received for Agony Shorthand and Detailed Twang that I never solicited, almost never reviewed, and sold back for pennies to my local record stores. I knew that a niche blog would generate links from other blogs of that niche, and followers of that niche, if I kept it up long enough and maintained at least a “readable” level of quality, would perhaps come back often. (As it turned out, this was only true of my 2 music blogs and the beer blog - no one read the other ones).

Yet the rub with my blogs about film, politics, beer and 78rpm records is that they truly needed a fresh stream of content to keep readers interested, and for the most part, time simply did not allow me to do so. I did keep HEDONIST BEER JIVE updated every week, usually 3-5 times per week, but that’s only because I was drinking a copious amount of beer, and because beer is an exceptionally no-brainer topic to write about. The established journalistic bar is ridiculously low when writing about alcoholic beverages, so I could pop off a dumb review post in 5 minutes at work and be done with it. Not so with other things I’m interested in, and I’m pretty chameleon-like with my many interests. I might be frothing mad about government spending one week, deeply exploring new 45rpm garage punk singles the next, drinking a new brewery’s beers the next, and getting really heavy into some Swedish film director the next. I wanted a place where I could just slap it all together, and that’s why we’re now goin’ back to basics, baby. It's 2003 all over again.

In 2010 it would appear that blogging, to say nothing of non-specific, generalist blogging like we’re tackling here at THE HEDONIST JIVE, is in decline. Micro-blogging on Twitter and Facebook is what’s hot now, and where web and smartphone readers seem to be spending more of their time. In a world of instant access to media everywhere, what’s most popular seems geared to shorter and shorter attention spans, for better or for worse. I sincerely doubt I’ll come even close to 650 daily readers ever again, and taking off the narcissism hat that drives so much of my online behavior, I’m going to declare that that’s just fine with me. I’ve got no pretentions whatsoever toward making a buck here nor anywhere with any writing that I do – I make a comfortable enough living at my regular job, and I think blogging is more self-preservation than anything else. In other words, my writing is to capture my thoughts and interests at a particular point in time, and it would be nice to have an archive of that for posterity. Before my own mind and memory disappear, too, I’d like to collect stories and events from my fairly pedestrian life in one central place, because I can. Historians have had to mine previous generations’ saved written correspondence to take the temperature of the times, but now technology allows for an intensely detailed record of an individual life, and that’s a pretty amazing step forward.

Naturally I hope as many folks as possible think my fickle set of obsessions are worth looking at in real time, so please check back, ‘cause now that I’m unshackled from genre-based writing, pretty much anything’s fair game. Even the man won’t shut me up.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Almost more remarkable than my new favorite beermaker THE BRUERY being from Orange County, California (Placentia! Where??!?) is this cracked-up plan they’ve got to release a “12 Days of Christmas” beer every year, each based on a line from the verses of the song. So in 2008 there was the PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE beer. Late last year came this rare and oft-praised TWO TURTLE DOVES. One can assume that a THREE FRENCH HENS ale should be hitting the shelves this winter. Something about this one, though – for a few weeks it seemed like you’d have to move heaven and earth to find a bottle, and I just assumed I’d never find it. Truthfully, with so many great beers from THE BRUERY around these days, it’s not like you can’t taste a sample of the magic if you’re so inclined. I just petulantly wanted this one. Thanks to my pals at San Francisco’s Healthy Spirits and their secret “back room”, I got one.

And here’s the part where I say: And Oh What A Beer It Is. Folks, I may be confused at time by weirdo curveball beers these guys serve up – I’m still scratching my head about “AUTUMN MAPLE” – but when they’ve got their game face on, it it just game over. THE BRUERY makes beers that justify the existence of a “beer sommelier”, not simply because of their fancy corked bottles, but because you NEED a professional to talk you through all the amazing and creative things going on in a Bruery beer. I’m not professional, but let me tell you about TWO TURTLE DOVES anyway. This dark and rich Belgian-style ale has a wonderful smooth mouthfeel that just makes you wanna cuddle up with a snifter of it against a fire or something, as it is meant to be savored and not glugged. It’s a fairly sweet beer, with the pecans advertised on the label actually coming through in the taste. One also gets deep malts and big touches of cocoa and candy. It may be fortified in a big way with booze (12%!!) but such is these folks’ mastery of the brewing art that you don’t taste it, nor do you really even smell it. It comes on slow and easy and douses the mouth with amazing flavors and balance. If you come across a bottle, make the investment, as you’ll never see it again, and don’t listen to that poppycock about aging this thing for a dozen years., Drink it with extreme prejudice right now. 8.5/10.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I watched this 2009 film from Terence Davies over the weekend after seeing it land on all sorts of best-of lists & generate the sort of must-see hyperbole that usually prods me to action. “OF TIME AND THE CITY” is about a city I’ve never been to – Liverpool, England – and the era in which Davies grew up, roughly centered around the 1950s. It is elegiac and poetic, both literally and figuratively. Davies doesn’t so much narrate this film as recite a series of classic poems, disembodied hymns that may or not be his own words, and a series of nostalgia-tinged recollections about his childhood and the deep sense of loss associated with growing up and losing one’s innocence.

I had actually hoped for something a little different, something that would get to the root of this working-class industrial city and its place in Greater Britain, but “Of Time And The City” is not that kind of documentary film. Using a huge treasure trove of newsreel, documentary and found footage, Davies assembles what’s been called a “cinematic essay”, and yes, it’s definitely about Liverpool, but it’s mostly about Davies and his personal loss and regrets. He regrets being raised devoutly Catholic, and all the “wasted hours” spent in church. The film of course slathers reams of scary, imposing, black-and-white Catholic iconography upon the viewer. He’s gay, and there’s regret for having to live said life in the shadows for many of his years. Mostly he regrets the modernization of his city and the normal churn of history, and to his credit, he doesn’t lash out like a luddite, he simply misses the more simple times. And let me be clear – there’s a lot that must be visually inferred from this film – Davies doesn’t exactly jabber through the whole thing. There are long stretches with just images and music, music and images, and it makes for a compelling, if unusual bit of cinema. I get what the critics were talking about, and if you like your documentaries served with a heaping side of melancholy, this might be the film for you.