Sunday, July 29, 2012


Fear not, Hedonist Jive reader, for I have not strayed. I have every intention of soon returning to a regular publishing schedule for this blog - whatever that means. It pains me greatly to go an entire week without reviewing a book, a film, a "record", a political idea or without sharing a set of photos from my youth or from my present shenanigans. Life, however, sometimes dictates that we spend our time on pursuits more noble. I've decided for the very short term to focus my attentions on my brand-new job (which is intense and all-encompassing in all the right ways, except for blog-friendly ways), my family, and to the easiest blog in the world to keep up to date: Beer Samizdat, my resurrected beer blog. Taking the pressure off myself to keep this one aggressively active and perpetually updated for the next few weeks will help silence the voices in my head that tell me I'm a failure. I hope you understand.

I have more that I need to accomplish here, and I hope you'll keep The Hedonist Jive in your RSS Reader or your bookmarks. I need to post scans of the final three issues of my 1990s fanzine, SUPERDOPE, for one. I have other great photos sets to share. I'm reading books and/or listening to audiobooks like a total fiend in my limited spare time, and I have a compunction to review every one I read/listen to in this forum. (Though I just got set up on GoodReads, which is a pretty cool book dork social network). And given my hour-long commute every day - each way, I might add - I have no shortage of new CDs, mp3s and streams to tell ya about. Then there's activity from the world of sports. I know my posts about baseball and hockey are absolutely beloved all over the world.

So give me a little time to reconfigure my life so I can return to regular blogging in this forum - and if you like to drink beer, come visit me over at Beer Samizdat, where regular blogging continues. Thanks!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Like many, I've got a perverse fascination with what daily life in Mexico must be like right now, particularly in cities like Ciudad Juarez, the very deservedly acclaimed "murder capital of the world". There are spiderwebs of drug cartels fighting each other - this book focuses its lens on "La Linea" vs. the Sinaloa Cartel, the primary two players in Juarez's murderous drug war - and as you may have heard, the police, the politicians the business elite are very often tied to the cartels, either for their own enrichment or personal protection. Innocents are routinely kidnapped and murdered, and it is exceptionally common for the murdered to be strung up from bridges or decapitated and left in public squares as "warnings". Juarez is the worst of the worst - a city of millions of people teeming right on the other side of El Paso, Texas, with bridges connecting the two countries that many people seemingly cross with impunity at any and all hours.

Against this backdrop, in a city in which "civic pride" is quite low (as you might imagine), journalist Robert Andrew Powell moved into Ciudad Juarez to document the pulse of this place, and to embed himself with one of the only institutions left to matter in this city - their soccer team,  Los Indios de la Ciudad Juarez. The Indios found themselves vaulted into the primera, Mexico's top fĂștbol league, after improbably winning the minor league title and being elevated into the big leagues. (In Mexico, as in the UK, the worst teams in the top league are relegated to the minor league while the best from the latter are called up. It's a huge source of revenue, sort of like winning the lottery, if your team can make it into the primera from the lower rungs). Powell latches onto the team, and their crazy alcoholic fans ironically self-dubbed as "El Kartel", in their first - and as it turns out, only - year in the big leagues.

Of course, Indios become a metaphor for all that is good and right about Ciudad Juarez, despite the team being absolutely horrible - losing or playing to a draw 27 games in a row during the course of the book. Powell is beyond the cliche, however, and pilots a tight storyline between his experiences with the team, his explorations of the city, the people he meets, and the wider story of Juarez's horrific violence. It occurs all day, all night, every day and every night. Powell hears murders happening outside his front door; stumbles upon the aftermath of mass killing multiple times; learns that a restaurant he'd just eaten it becomes the target of a gangland killing an hour later; and so on. That said, he finds beauty and truth and strength in the many people he becomes friends with, both on and off of the team and their band of never-say-die admirers, and before long becomes inured to the violence that surrounds him, as one living within it must.

A big eye-opener in this book is the chapter about the murders of women in Juarez, which I'm guessing might be the one thing you know about the city (aside from its violence, its placement next to El Paso and its maquiladoras, it's all I knew). Juarez has been the setting for a spectacular amount of female murders, or femicide, and there have been numerous theories floated and followed about serial killers; deliberate targeting by cartels; a government/police conspiracy to murder women and so on. Powell very convincingly debunks the many possible links to all this femicide before arriving at the most obvious conclusion for why so many women are killed here: because so many people are killed here. As it turns out, the per-capita murder rate for women in lower than in most US cities of comparable size; lower than that of Mexico City, and so on. In a violent city, in which murder is so easy to commit without consequences, it's also easy to kill a girlfriend, wife or sister who happens to be in the way or who a bad guy would like to see disappear. It's heartbreaking, and it's surprising to see this story end up there. 

"THIS LOVE IS NOT FOR COWARDS - SALVATION AND SOCCER IN CIUDAD JUAREZ" is a terrific bit of first-person journalism, and whets my appetite to learn more about this amazingly messed-up yet inspiring and fascinating country to my south. It shows you what happens when civic life breaks down, and how real people attempt to rebuild it using the institutions - like sports teams - that we innately rally around as human beings.

Monday, July 16, 2012


One of the only great things about being semi-unemployed, which I have been for a few weeks whilst looking for my next "career challenge", is hitting early-day matinees to see films for the low, low "reduced" price of $8, and then following that up with an evening Netflix or two. (Oh, in case you're still fretting about my vocational situation - I start a new job next week). I've seen a few films the past couple of weeks that I figured you'd want to know about, for good or for ill, so without adieu, let's get into it, OK? 

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD - I suspect this one, which only recently started opening on theaters in big cities, will go one of two ways: either it will fade quietly and live on very loudly in the minds of the very few people who've seen it, or it will snowball and spawn an Oscar campaign and a huge constituency worldwide, and by early next year you'll see little Quvenzhané Wallis walking the red carpet, statues in hand. No question she - and the people who made this enveloping, beautiful, heart-wrenching film - deserves it. There are very few precedents for a dramatic, "environmental" film this intense and riveting, and I suspect it will also spawn copycats and be referred to as a masterful original work by critics and film geeks for years to come.

Wallis plays Hushpuppy, a six-year-old (or so) black girl who lives with her daddy in an ultra-remote island bayou/swamp area of Louisiana they call "The Bathtub". They're so beyond "poor" that the word doesn't do it justice. This is pure subsistence living, but in a tight community of like-minded, fiercely independent people who drink all day and night and don't want no government and no people "on the other side" telling them what they can or can't do. Of course, when the big storm comes that they all anticipate (we can assume it was Katrina), it throws a little havoc into their island of independent communal living, to say the least. Yet the film is really about childhood, about death, and about metaphorically confronting those things in life which are difficult and that require bravery. It's a truly world-class film that you should rush out and see right about now. A

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED - You may recall that I'll see anything that Mark Duplass writes and/or stars in. He's an alternate sort of weirdo "leading man" & modern auteur who fits right in with my left-of-center cinematic sensibilities. Anyway, he is only a main character in this one, and he and his brother Jay did a little production on it - but it's not their film per se. It's definitely worth checking out, if a little syrupy at times.

It stars Aubrey Plaza, the cute mopey girl from "Parks and Recreation" (April Ludgate, people!!). She's an aimless intern at a Seattle alterna-press paper, and gets roped into traveling to wild, coastal Washington State to help build out a story on a guy who's placed a classified looking for someone to time-travel with him. She travels with another intern and the lead douche writer on a bit of a lark, but after a couple of undercover meetings with the rough, paranoid, gun-loving, time-traveling mountain man played by Duplass, she gets him to trust her enough to go with him on the journey - under false pretenses, of course.

The film is quite funny in parts and just strange enough to appeal to fans of "The Puffy Chair", "Cyrus" and the like, without quite being in that league. Put it this way - it's easily good enough to see in a matinee, maybe even at night for a big $11. B+ 

TAKE SHELTER - I didn't even know what this was when my wife and I started watching it, but it's a totally riveting, even horrifying 2011 film about a decent, honest man's descent into mental illness and paranoia. I've seen so many great films in which this sort of spiral happened to women - my wife loves to remind me that I'm unduly obsessed with films like "A Woman Under The Influence", "Three Women" and "Repulsion" - but rarely to a man.

Michael Shannon, whom I'd only heard of but never seen before, is amazing as a guy who becomes obsessed with a coming storm of fire-and-brimstone proportions, and who takes every possible step he can to protect his family from it. I'll say no more, because I truly don't want to blow it for you. The Midwest cinematography is sweeping and beautiful, and I'm serious, this actually has Exorcist-like levels of fear and loathing. No idea how this one passed me and likely so many others by last year. A- 

THE ARTIST - No kidding, this is as cutesy and as fun as advertised, but I really found it to be a lot lighter and less enthralling than so many others did. I'm just glad it wasn't 100% silent - there is, as I should have known, musical accompaniment through the film. I too swooned for "Peppy Miller" as all of Hollywood did - I hope actress Berenice Bejo has a long and fruitful career in which she also gets to speak - but I almost instantly forgot everything that happened in "The Artist" within 48 hours of seeing it. A nice trifle, one that I recommend for a Tuesday night or something. B 

JELLYFISH - A somewhat pretentious and overly dramatic allegorical Israeli film from 2007, "Jellyfish" plays the "three women" card as well and seeks to connect several secular Israeli (one a Philippina immigrant) women by the aimless and not entirely-fulfilling lives they lead. The sea seems to be a big theme here. There's a suicide, and there's a lost, mute little girl. There's even a man falling asleep on his couch in San Francisco. C-

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The past couple of weeks I've been "spinning" a couple of new "platters" I'd like to tell you about from CRASH NORMAL and GRASS WIDOW, respectively. No, they're not really records, though I have it on good word that both of them actually exist on vinyl. Here at The Hedonist Jive, unfortunately and however, we've graduated to the digital age and have reduced our internal carbon footprint by eliminating a turntable. That said, we still haven't figured out what to call a new release other than "record", so you'll have to forgive us our antiquated terminology when discussing these packaged, sequential collections of musical entertainment. 

CRASH NORMAL - "Your Body Got A Land" 

On the evidence provided by their singles in the past, I've associated this French act with quirky, unfunny, garage-based noise - the sort of band that might knock out a decent sheet of sound and a good riff but who then has to go turd-in-the-punchbowl by following it with a track that's just a squiggle of noise, some "found sound" or someone talking. So imagine my proverbial surprise to hear their new full record, and it's treading much more along territory laid by Thee Oh Sees - still quirky, reverby and deafeningly loud at times, but also with real songs and a consistent worldview of alien weirdness, swampy guitars and experimentation more in line with The Country Teasers' tomfoolery than something a bored child might put to vinyl.

It holds together really well, and if "Moon Food", the track I'm posting here, isn't the best mp3 of the year then you'll have to tell me what is. 

Download Crash Normal - "Moon Food"

GRASS WINDOW - "Internal Logic" 

Am I being nitpicky about one of my favorite bands on the planet if I mention that this is probably the worst album cover that anyone's released in at least five years? Now that that's out of the way: "Internal Logic" evolves this harmonizing trio's angular art/punk into new realms, with some of the harder edges rubbed a little cleaner without any real loss in quality. I've spent a bunch of time with this one and have seen some of its songs performed live - Grass Widow have been "my favorite current band" for a good three years now - and I may yet even pronounce it better than "Past Time", their previous record - though I doubt it, since that record rules.

Aside from two needless short piano and guitar pieces tossed in to underline the point that "we're growing up and evolving", "Internal Logic" breezes by with one excellent chugger after another, all tightly-wound and full of echoed choruses overlaid on top of one another to create an angelic, "chamber" feel while still being rooted in punk rock and the foundation laid by The Urinals, Wire, and the Inflatable Boy Clams (!). I think inventive-but-understated guitarist Raven Mahon would be the band's secret weapon, except that she's right out there in front and one of the soaring vocalists as well. You'd find this kind of special DIY record coming out of the UK or San Francisco in the early 1980s, except it wouldn't have nearly as many flawless songs and the band would have broken up already anyway. Here's to another three years of Grass Widow "records", right? 

Download Grass Widow - "Advice"

Thursday, July 5, 2012


For years knowing that there was a filmmaker who pretentiously chose to go by the name "Costa-Gavras" bothered me nearly as much as knowing that there was also a filmmaker known as "M. Night Shyamalen", and even worse, "McG". No, that wasn't why it took me so many years to finally see "Z", his much-discussed 1969 political thriller - just inertia and an overload of other entertainment choices. Got this from the local library, actually, which is fitting given its tre-sixties look, feel and political subject matter. I was expecting something fast-paced and a little dark; I was surprised at how much more like manic 60s films like, say, "BLOW-UP" or "BEDAZZLED" this was, as opposed to, I don't know - "The Battle of Algiers".

This isn't to say that "Z" is a total full-on swinging-sixties montage of miniskirts and rocknroll. Yet it was filmed in glorious rainbow-drenched technicolor, and Costa-Gavras' intensely jumpy editing style (which kudos to him, works great here) heightens the youthful, playful feel of the movie, despite its somewhat bleak subject matter. This is a leftist, youth-in-revolt sort of film that nonetheless keeps its overt politics in check while being a straightforward black-and-white portrayal of how a brutal European military dictatorship might come to power at a time when youth are pushing back against years of bland, conservative, crown-and-bible, backward-looking government. While Costa-Gavras himself saw this very sort of anti-revolution happen in his home country of Greece in 1963, this film is entirely in French - though very little makes it stand out as taking place in "France", per se. I kept picturing coastal Greece while watching it, despite the language being spoken.

The film moves at a brisk pace, and concerns the investigation into the murder of a crusading leftist politician whom the rebellious youth are marching in the streets for. The conservative, military-dominated government vows to crush this man and his movement, and they act to do just that in stealth, by mobilizing the dumb, clueless hoards to do their violent, reactionary dirty work for them. An investigating judge pieces together what happened leading up to the politician's murder, and encounters resistance and lies from the government. Meanwhile, witnesses are being murdered or chased down in the streets by hired thugs. Just when you think the good guys are going to win....well....I won't tell ya.

Again, this is a real time capsule piece but one that's fairly dazzling to watch, with great side-of-frame moments like the police cutting off a hippie's hair, close-ups of the Russian beauties from the Bolshoi ballet (in town for a peace offering from the Soviets) and multiple agitprop political posters on the streets of the city. The final minute of the film is intense and almost comic in its harshness - and and in its ultimate predictability during the previous two hours. Oh, and the bouzouki- driven soundtrack is great and is deployed at exactly the right moments in the film. Glad I caught this, and hope you do too.

Monday, July 2, 2012


It has been a while since one of these massive “omnibus” beer review posts either here or on my recently-deceased beer blog Beer Samizdat, but I know you’ve been patiently sitting on your hands waiting for my verdicts on the ales and lagers of April, May and June. So it’s time to reward you for your unceasing patience. Without delay, here’s a compendium of short-ish reviews for every new beer that passed my lips during that time period that we haven’t already covered in separate posts on this here blog. I’ll helpfully break them down into categories to help you further with your purchasing decisions. You’ll undoubtedly note that the outstanding & very good ones are front-loaded very heavily this quarter, which I guess shows more than anything else that I selected and paid for beer based upon the good recommendations of others, and that strategy paid off, as it shall when you take my advice and do the same with the reviews below.

Let’s start with the winners before moving on to denigrate and mock the losers, shall we?


HAANDBRYGGERIET – “DOBBEL DRAM”: This Norwegian brewer, whom I’ve raved about before and whom I don’t believe have quite received their complete due in the beer dork world, had me from the get-go when advertising this one as a “Norwegian Double IPA”. What in the world could that be? Well, while it had absolutely zero head to speak of, bubbles just surged up the glass in a figurative race to my gullet, and the beer itself was tremendous. A malty, fruit-packed and mildly spiced orange IPA that definitely didn’t taste “American” or “west coast” in any way, yet retained many of the essential olfactory & gastronomic qualities of the classic imperial IPA. Definitely one to bring into regular rotation, provided you have the cash to do so (it’s pricey). 9.5/10.

RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING – “ROW 2, HILL 56”: A new and surprising bottled beer from one of humanity’s all-time finest brewers – a “tribute to the Simcoe hop” that is as good as Blind Pig IPA and better than Pliny The Elder. It has a lovely pine flavor and a tingling hop bite; more of a hoppy pale ale, I reckon, than an IPA straight-up. What’s the dif, right? Excellent beer and hopefully not just a one-off. 9/10.

ALLAGASH BREWING – “VICTORIA ALE”: You gotta hand it to Maine’s Allagash Brewing – I’d had this fruity Belgian pale ale pegged as only the second “low-alcohol” brew I’d ever tasted from them, only to find it pumped up at a big 9% ABV. It truly goes down smooth-n-easy, with herbal-ish tastes of apricot and grape. In my notes I’d totally pronounced it a “table beer”, and I’ll stand by that as long as you’re sitting at my table. 9/10.


ALMANAC BREWING – “SPRING 2012 BIERE DE MARS”A beer made with fennel!! This delicious ale continues this San Francisco brewer’s 4-beer winning streak in a mighty way. “Biere De Mars” is very fruit-packed with a mild zest to it, and is quite different than anything else I’ve had, like, ever. It’s a farmhouse ale that tastes of figs and perhaps of honey, and is not dry and is far juicier than many of its ilk. Given its unique place among the many beers I’ve tried, not really sure what ilk that is, but I’m happy to bestow a hearty 8.5/10 upon it.

GREEN FLASH BREWING – “RAYON VERT” – Wanted to try this one so badly that I sprang for a 4-pack, something I never do (sixers are generally forbidden in the house as well - the better to try a new, weird and unfamiliar beer at every turn). Rayon Vert is Green Flash in Flemish or something, and this is a delicious, soapy Belgian pale ale which packs much more Belgium into its 12-oz. bottle than it does pale ale. Easily could have been made by De Proef or De Ranke or some abbey and we’d have been just as happy – nice to see this one for sale (and affordable!) at Safeway and Whole Foods. 8.5/10.

MIKKELLER – “BEER GEEK BRUNCH WEASEL”: This is a tribute to the transcendent and sometimes ephemeral powers of the imperial stout, attempted by many and mastered by few. So glad my pal Geoff hung onto this for me for many months just so we could experience it together. It’s a medium-bodied, roasty (but not bitter) chocolate ale; not velvet-smooth by any means, but certainly not a scorch-your-mouth firebreather either. It clocks in at about 11% alcohol but is finely engineered to taste like something closer to 8% instead. Outstanding. 8.5/10.

MARIN BREWING – “THREE FLOWERS IPA”: A super-fresh, light-yellow, crisp and juicy IPA that I drank on draft at City Beer Store and just loved from the word go. Not many notes taken on this one, but I remember its terrific hop balance and how much I just hated that I had to drive home and couldn’t drink seven more of these. 8.5/10.

DOGFISH HEAD BREWING – “MY ANTONIA”: I read the original “My Antonia” book in college, yet I missed the original beer, a collaboration with Italy’s Birra Del Borgo, in bottles and on draft. Looks like Dogfish is now going this one alone, and it’s exceptionally drinkable. It’s a creamy, hoppy pilsner that earns every letter of the word “imperial” but which is easygoing enough for the properly-adjusted palate. It’s as good a pilsner as I’ve had since Moonlight’s Reality Czech, and that’s pretty damn good. 8/10.

CIGAR CITY/THE BRUERY – “DOS COSTAS OESTE: LEMON-WOOD AGED”: “Two west coasts” – get it? A wonderful collaboration beer from Florida and California brewers who just happen to be two of the best in the business of great beermaking. This was brewed at Cigar City as part of a barrel-aging series of four ales. It’s a deep and rich beer; orange in color and taste; slightly sour with tastes of ginger, coriander and orange peel. Yes, like a witbier, except this one’s got a thick mouthfeel, lots of tang and has gone slightly off the rails in the best way possible. I’m crying in advance because I doubt I’ll ever see it anywhere again. 8/10.

STILLWATER ARTISINAL ALES – “OF LOVE AND REGRET”: Orange IPA color but a tangy, yeasty Belgian saison through and through. You definitely taste the yeast and even a little cinnamon once you let the enormous head of foam calm down and allow you to get down to business. Loads of spice in this one; like an experimental saison with enough moxie to beat the next beer by a half point. 8/10.

SLY FOX/DE PROEF – “BROEDERLIJKE LIEFDE”: This spicy saison sat in the beer fridge for a good 6 months waiting for someone to split it with – heavy bottle, cork-top, you know the drill. Imposing. Turns out it’s a very good dry Belgian saison with strong carbonation and rip fruit flavor. Smooth on the sip, but with a sharp and hoppy aftertaste. Expected something maybe a point or two higher – it is De Proef, after all – but no one’s gonna walk away sad after drinking a 7.5/10.

CATHEDRAL SQUARE BREWING – “BELGIAN-STYLE ABBEY ALE” : Got this via mail order from the excellent Wine and Cheese Place. I selected it somewhat at random in order to try some Midwest breweries I’d never heard of; Cathedral Square are from St. Louis, and let me tell ya, they make a pretty fetching Belgian-style abbey ale. In fact, that’s what they call it. Pours a reddish-brown, and is toasty, smoky and fruity with medium body. Ever had a Belgian “singel”, like Trappist Rochefort 6? This tastes like one of those – a little lighter and easier on the gut and on next day’s brain, but very impressive nonetheless. 7.5/10.

SIX RIVERS BREWING – “IPA”: I know this brewer, they’re part of the Humboldt county crew up in extreme Northern California, and now I also know that they make a strong and unique IPA that I’d be proud to go to again. Pours a deep reddish-orange with high carbonation, and while hoppy, has a citrus taste that actually leans more orange than grapefruit. Very approachable and good. 7/10.

BEAR REPUBLIC BREWING – “RED ROCKET ALE”: It had been many a year since I’d tried this imperial-ish amber ale, one of the first hoppy red beers ever poured far as I know; figured I should give it a go again. It is a sweet one, surprisingly, but still much grounded in the ways and means of the hop. It’s cool, smooth and malty but with a strong bitterness that was off-putting at first. This was tempered a bit by how much better it became as it warmed. I think this is exactly what I rated it five years ago, a comfortable and quite solid 7/10.


IRON FIST BREWING – “DUBBEL FISTED”: This zesty dubbel from the San Diego area is definitely not without its charms. It’s a deep amber-brown ale that’s a little thin for my tastes and perhaps a bit sweet. They say I’m supposed to be getting tastes of chocolate, caramel and plum. I get none of any of those. OK, maybe a little caramel. Moving on. 6.5/10.

STILLWATER ARTISINAL ALES – “HOLLAND OATS” : A Belgian amber made with Emelisse in Holland.. Super hoppy. Lots of aftertaste. That is all I can say about this fairly unremarkable ale. 6.5/10.

OSKAR BLUES – “DEVIANT DALE’S”: Keep in mind that I gave this normally stellar Colorado brewery’s flagship “Dale’s Pale Ale” a savage review a couple of years ago. Was it any surprise I didn’t really care for its “imperial” brother either? This is an 8% ABV version and is, yes, Very Hoppy. What’s deviant about it is its marginality. It’s a fairly standard, bitter IPA with not a lot of malt action. Definitely for hopheads, but not a smooth nor particularly enjoyable ride for me. 6/10.


KNEE DEEP BREWING – “SIMTRA”: With all due respect to the Sacramento-area’s Knee Deep Brewing, but this “triple IPA” is the worst beer I’ve tasted in 2012. Intense, ugly and teeth-gnashingly gross to its core, this is a total monster IPA but tastes like one that wasn’t completed. No head at all and zero balance whatsoever. It really tastes like someone grabbed it from an early-boil tank and forgot to complete the recipe. If you want to experience what a masterpiece “triple IPA” can taste like, grab a Moylan’s “Hopsickle” instead and stay far away from this one. 2/10.