Monday, July 6, 2009

Well Hello

My my, has it been a busy couple of weeks. What with the end of month of one of our most stressful months of the year at work (both Diageo and Foster's Wine Estates' fiscal year ends) bookended by two ridiculously debaucherous and alcohol filled weekends, let's just say there just hasn't been a ton of time for writing. Oh, and did I mention getting all the work done for my vacation (a week and a half in Seattle and Portland)? I've been busy to the point that I even cancelled my WAR subscription due to lack of playing time, and havent logged a minute of TF2 in two weeks. So in that vein, some Matt-related quickhits;

-I will admit to getting atleast a little general nerdiness in, as Luq alerted me to the fact that Steam (a service I've totally come around on and really, really love now)was offering EQ2 for the low, low price of $9.99 (all expansions and 30 days free included), an offer I simply couldn't pass up to atleast give the game a chance. Now it was beyond disappointing, something I fully expected, but now I can atleast add it to the extensive list of MMO's I've played and quickly tired of before and since Dark Age of Camelot, bar none the best MMO I've ever played.

-On account of the aforementioned debaucherous weekends, atleast the most recent one, I've had a nice hungover sunday which afforded me and my general uselessness the ability to lay in bed all day with the curtains drawn and watch television, in much the same way I was introduced to True Blood a few weeks back. This sunday though was dedicated to finishing season one of Dexter....all 8 episodes I had left. It was good stuff. While certainly not The Wire, and maybe not even as good as Oz, it made moderately entertaining TV and I'm going to atleast watch season two. The characters can be a little unbelievable at times, but it seems they've begun to develop them quite a bit as the season wore on. Likewise, as any good television show (read: unlike Fourth And Long, which is god awful) does, the plot thickens as the series goes on and sucks you in a bit. I'm not gonna give it the must-see status The Wire gets, but it's good enough.

-I'm now two days from vacation. Ahhhh, sweet sweet vacation. 10 days in the beautiful and not hot Pacific Northwest. And as if things could have worked out any better, after booking the dates it turned out the Rangers are going to be in Seattle this weekend (already have tickets to see them at Safeco) and Mudhoney is playing a free show in Seattle. Throw in a crab dinner, a couple rounds of golf and some time with the extended family and that makes for a pretty nice trip before I head down to Portland to spend a week enjoying the great outdoors and craft beers. Have I mentioned I'm a little stoked?

Tha said, unless you want to hear about the Rangers or how much Beringer/Sterling/BV I had to sell last month (a lot) then I really don't really have a whole hell of a lot more for you. So until I'm back from vacation, I bid you adieu.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Suny Day Real Estate reuniting, touring

I'm not sure exactly when I first got into Sunny Day Real Estate. I remember hearing and liking Diary....and even LP2. I remember liking Rising Tide quite a bit too, but they were always just one of those fringe bands for me.....a band that I liked, but didn't love. When they reunited in 1997 they were a band I'd have liked to have seen, but were certainly nowhere near the top of my list....I was only 16 at the time, and truth be told I think I was just too young to get their music. I'd just started growing out of my metal phase (Pantera/Sepultura) and growing into the drunken indie rock phase (Mudhoney) where I've apparently stalled out all these years later (though I did develop quite a love for rockabilly/psychobilly music as well).

It wasn't until my early to mid 20s that I really started to get into them (somewhere between 2001 and 2005) on account of one night sitting at my computer and Diary began to play....and I listened to it in order in it's entirety. And I realized that there was something new to me about it, something I hadn't heard when I was younger. Most people get into "emo" music when they're teenage hormones are raging and they think the world is out to get them-but I was never one of those people. It wasn't until my 20s that I had the depth of life experiences to appreciate just how powerful and moving the music was. And not just that, but also how musically brilliant it tight it was, how the melodies flow perfectly and how they balance the falsetto and the driving guitar. For me, it was akin to discovering Mudhoney's Superfuzz Bigmuff-something so great that I couldn't stop listening to it. Then I started listening to Rising Tide, and appreciating how similar the music was, and yet how it had grown with age.....Rising Tide was the older, more mature version of Diary. Still just as moving, still just as powerful, but the music had become so much more complex.

Somewhere around 2004 or 05, I started having relationship problems....problems that if you know me you're quite familiar with, and if you don't you really probably don't have any interest in-and I started to fall into a period of self-loathing and guilt-and it wasn't until then that LP2 really hit home, that I really got it. LP2 to, to me, is probably the most beautiful and moving rock record I have ever heard-and between a couple failed relationships and the dying of my Aunt, in many ways Sunny Day Real Estate helped me get through all that. They were able to say for me what I couldn't say myself, they brought out emotions and feelings I didn't know I had and in many ways I believe helped me grow a lot as a person. So as you can imagine, this is a band that means a lot to me.

So a couple days ago when rumors started popping up that they'd be not only reuniting, but touring....and with the original lineup, well let's just say I was ecstatic. Outside of Nirvana (obviously never going to happen) this is the band I most regret having never seen. A few dates started to trickle out....Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta.....if they weren't coming to Dallas, then I was going to fly somewhere else and see them and that was that. Period, nothing was going to stop me from getting a chance to see SDRE live. So then, you can imagine my delight this afternoon when i read at Pitchfork that they were not only reuniting and touring, but that the tour was set and Dallas was going to be a stop. You can see the full schedule at the above link, but October 5 they're playing Dallas (Granada Theater) and the next two nights Houston and Austin. Anyway, tickets go on sale this friday at 11am for Dallas-and if I can swing it, I'm going to try to do Houston and Austin as well.

In short, I'm beyond ecstatic right now.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mighty Arrow Pale Ale by New Belgium Brewing Co.

Me and hops have a very odd relationship. Always have and as far as I can tell, we always will. You see, while I accept and am totally OK with the fact that hops are a part of the brewing process, I am of the belief that the American brewer in many cases has taken the use of hops to such an extreme level as to make their beers close to undrinkable. I am of the (apparently unpopular) belief that a beer should not taste like a bar of soap (see: Sam Adams), nor should it be so bitter as to be undrinkable (see: Hop Devil among others). In much the same way as I (and most other people) enjoy a little tannin in a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon but too much ruins it, I want a little hop in my beer but I don't want to be overwhelmed with piney bitterness. Hops is the "spice of beer," and I don't want it over-hopped anymore than I want a cook to dump an entire jar of black pepper in my soup.

Hops perform two functions in the brewing process. They're used to add flavor (again, the "spice of beer") and they act as a stabilizing agent/preservative. A story I've recounted dozens of times (and oddly enough, seems to impress chicks....which I totally don't understand) is that the foundation of the over-hopped beer is the India Pale Ale (IPA), and that it was over-hopped out of necessity-not because they necessarily liked the flavor. When English beer couldn't survive the trip by boat from England to India (then a British colony) without spoiling, thus depriving the English settlers beer (a problem, I admit), some clever brewer realized if you dump a boatload of hops into the casks of beer during the brewing process, it would preserve the beer long enough to survive the trip by ship to India. Voila, now you've got Indian Pale Ale and a bunch of happy English settlers in India. A practical solution to a real problem.

It isn't that people like IPAs that bothers me, everyone is obviously entitled to their own taste in beer, its how the thought process behind the IPA has spilled over into other American beers. Sure an American Pale Ale should be hoppy, it just shouldn't be overly hoppy. It's a Pale Ale, not an IPA. And I think that's my beef with New Belgium's Mighty Arrow follows this new trend of making Pale Ales into IPAs.

Which isn't to say it's terrible, it's just not my taste. It's got nice head and a nice body, pours a clear orangish color...from the appearance it looks excellent. But after you take that first sniff, you are just overpowered by bitterness. Sure there's a little orange, but it's mostly just floral bitterness. The taste? Well it's just more of the same. Bitter on the front, bitter on the end....a little caramel and a little citrus mixed in, but at it's heart it tastes like hops. I wouldn't recommend it, but if you're an IPA person, you may very well like it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Va de Vi Sparkling Wine

In my line of work, we get to taste a lot of wines. I know-you feel bad for me, right? But its one of those things that comes with the territory, and one of the things I not only relish but also find to be necessary for the performance of my job. The portfolio I represent is vast to say the least, and while I can't be intimately familiar with every potential vintage of every wine I do sell, I do my best to have atleast an honest opinion of most everything I do sell. And while I sometimes am required to sell something that-as a person that appreciates good wine-isn't something I particularly care for, sometimes I also get the oppurtunity to sell something which I'm not only impressed with, but fervently enjoy and want to share with other people. Yesterday we kicked off a brand that I can honestly say that I feel that way about, as we kicked off Gloria Ferrer's (who's parent company is Spain's Freixenet, the largest sparkling wine producer in the world)new Va de Vi sparkling wine.

Now I must admit off the bat, I'm a sucker for good bubbly-it seems to be a bit of a family curse, as at family gatherings Champagne doesn't tend to last long. But this was one of those rare wines that I tasted and immediately thought, "Damn, thats a nice bottle of wine" and then took out to my customers and had every last one of them remark something similar and then order cases-not a case, but cases. So what is it?

Va de Vi is Gloria Ferrer's version of an "extra dry" similar to how White Star is Moet & Chandon's. But you see, in confusing Champagne and sparkling wine nomenclature, extra dry is actually sweeter than brut (the driest of the sparkling wines)-a fact that most people don't know. Brut has the smallest dosage (sweetness added to the wine during production) at 15g or less per a liter followed by Extra Dry(25g or less), Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux in order. Want a little more wine nerdiness? In the US the regulations are lax to say the least for sparkling wines and products such as Andre Brut have over a 20g/L dosage and Cooks Brut and Extra-Dry have virtually the same dosage (25g and 26g/L respectively). The end result is American sparkling wines can label themselves as pretty much anything and while the French and Spanish have tight regulations on labeling, Americans in general don't understand them.

Fun, right?

Which brings us back to Va de Vi. As what would be characterized as an "extra dry" in Europe (it's made in Carneros, CA from Carneros grapes), it does have a bit of sweetness to it-but nothing like a spumante. It's not a sugary sweetness, but instead a very natural and fruit forward one-peaches would be the way I'd describe it. And unlike most Champagnes which are made with something like 33% Pinot Noir, 33% Pinot Meunier, and 33% Chardonnay Va de Vi is 89% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay, and 3% Muscat (hence the peaches and tropical fruit). It's got the body of a great sparkling wine, as well as the structure....there's enough acid to complement the sweetness but not too much of either. In short, it's fantastic...and this is coming from someone that generally shuns sweeter wines. And what's more, it's got a retail bottle price of under $20.....which, with most Champagnes retailing at $40 or more, makes it quite the bargain-especially considering it's competitive quality-wise with most Champagnes.

It's a new product so far launched in only three US markets (Dallas, Seattle, Denver) and not found in grocery distribution, but if you happen upon it I can't recommend it enough. I'm doing a wine tasting for some friends in a couple weeks and this bottle of wine just made the list. If you're in Dallas, you can find it at Kindred Spirits, Mike's, Cork n' Bottle, Parkit Market, and Payless Discount among others. Give it a try, and please....let me know what you think. Cheers!

Monday, May 25, 2009


Back in December I wrote a little bit about the new quality TV Programming the Fall of 2008 gave us. And while Heroes has since jumped the shark for the 15th time and I'm totally checked out of that series, and House has resorted to fighting for proverbial plot scraps to maintain my attention (though the hallucination plotline this past season ended on was a good one, I just wish they'd make it less formulaic), there were some high points. No I don't mean the return for new seasons of Gangland and Deadliest Catch (though those do start this week). Nor do I mean a second season of Sons Of Anrchy (which will return in Summer '09 with Henry Rollins. No, I think what impressed me the most was the way they wrapped up the first season of Fringe.

I originally billed it as a bit of a revised X-Files, and while I still think it fits the bill there, its also a bit more linear than the X-Files was. In much the same way Law & Order does things with the X-Files there were certain linear aspects to the story (ie, plot points that carried over from episode to episode and season to season), for the most part each episode seemed to be a stand-alone episode with only a few minutes a week given to the over-arching story. Burn Notice is another show that does this. Fringe meanwhile has each episode contributing to the building of a larger story in the much more traditional format for a drama.

Semantics aside though, what's really impressed me about Fringe is how they've tied together the most confusing (don't mistake that for outlandishly absurd like Lost) and far-fetched beginning of the series and progressed it to the point where it starts to actually make sense, but becomes compelling. At the end of the first half of Season One I was really unsure of the show, but at the prodding of a few friends decided to give it another go and they were dead on-the second half of the first season they actually explained who people were, what was going on, and managed to make the characters more endearing and interesting-in other words, the series finally had life.

At this point in time, I feel fairly confident saying that Fringe and Sons of Anarchy were the best new television shows 2008 gave us, even if Fringe spilled over into 2009-and if you're something to replace a show you've lost, I can't suggest enough giving them a try.

Monday, May 11, 2009

To Be An Eight Year Old. An Eight Year Old With A Beer.

Back in March I wrote a little bit about my love/hate relationship with the Texas Rangers. How they're so ingrained in me that I just can't stay away, no matter how maddening they are and how much I dislike their owner. Likewise in that piece, I wrote a little bit about a day when I was a kid....couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old....when my mother took me to a local Dallas rec center to meet a few of my heroes, the then Texas Rangers. I got to meet Chad Kreuter, Scott Fletcher, and Jeff Kunkel (whom all probably work at a Home Depot now...), got them to sign a baseball....seriously-at that point in my life, it was probably the coolest thing....ever. Now fast forward to today....

A few months back when Bob Sturm moved his blog to D Magazine's Inside Corner I became a bit of an avid reader. It's got great content, good writers, and a decent reader base that gives me an oppurtunity to interact with other Rangers fans (all 6 of us.....) during the games. Even better, about a month ago they announced that they'd do a "Home Run Happy Hour." The idea was that a few players would come out, mingle with interested fans, do some Q&A, have would be a low key affair at the Pappadeux on Oak Lawn. An awesome idea that got even awesomer when it was announced Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Marlon Byrdand Chris Davis would be there.....and even more awesomer than that when Derek Holland, Scott Feldman, and Taylor Teagarden agreed to show up (so too did Darren O'Day, but he did not...). The event was scheduled for today at 5:30 at the aforementioned Pappadeux location, and I was stoked-while it made it's rounds on the blogosphere I knew that wouldn't have the mass appeal to make it a circus. Then Evan went on The Ticket talking about it this afternoon, and I thought it was going to be a madhouse....after all, The Ticket is the no. 1 station in D/FW for men 25-54 aka the demographic that would show up at this sort of thing. That said, figured I'd roll the dice and drive by there (its just a few blocks from a couple of my accounts....) at 4:45 and see how crowded it was.

It wasn't. At all. I walk in, grab a beer ($4 24oz beers for Happy Hour....for Dallas, that's a bargain), and walk up to about a dozen people in Rangers garb asking where the line was.....and I was in it. About ten people back. Over the next 45m maybe another 30 people show up, and by the time it was all over there couldn't have been more than 150 people. I was given a free baseball to get signed (I hadn't planned to get autographs, just wanted to shoot the shit, but hey, why not?), a coupon for a free beer (so wait, I get to meet the Rangers and get a free beer?), and stood there talking with other fans. The players finally show up, and they were awesome....each one shakes my hand, signs the ball, and we shoot the shit for a bit. After about an hour of signing at a table that ends and they get up, and start mingling with the crowd which was followed by a Q&A session with about 30 of us looking on. As you can see here, I'm about a foot from Mike Young, as well as Marlon Byrd. In case you were curious, Young says he got that hat in Baltimore but couldn't remember the name of the store. I even had a funny conversation with Derek Holland while he was at the urinal next to me (it may be a breach of male etiquette, but im ok with that), as he told me things he would like to do to a couple Hooter's girls.

They were all just really cool dudes. Michael Young was having a Shiner Bock, Marlon Byrd a Crown Royal & soda...and all of them willing to fight through autograph requests and conversation. I even talked to Eric Nadel for a while (his son apparently also went to Jesuit)-a man legendary in my mind and linked forever to Rangers baseball as their radio voice. I always wonder if players are as cool in interviews/on the field as they are in person, and in this case I'm happy to say that they are...these were good dudes. Kinsler even managed his anger quite nicely when some jackass spilled a glass of water in his lap. The entire time I was there I just had this shit-eating grin on my face....and while I know they're just dudes, most of them younger than me....they're still the Rangers. And for a couple hours I was 8 years old again, like I was meeting Jeff Kunkel.....except with a beer.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Live To The Beat Of The City

A block over from my house, theres a big sign for these townhomes they're building where there once stood beautiful homes, and on the sign it says "Live To The Beat Of The City" as a selling point for said townhomes. And while I always lament the destruction of cool old houses, I must admit that all things considered, they're pretty cool townhomes. Three stories, roof decks, visually appealing....they're really not bad. What always stood out to me about them though, was the price.....each one is in the range of $300,000 which to you non-Texans doesnt seem that high, but bare with me. You see, these townhomes are literally a block away from a stretch of loud bars-which is a big part of why I live where I do, but I also rent-I can't fathom investing that much cash to buy a bad-ass townhome thats a block away from bars for 20-somethings, to say nothing of being two blocks from Ross Avenue. I write all that to say this, last night I had a bit of an encounter that made me chuckle at the idea of "living to the beat of the city."

It had been a long week, so I did a bit of a bar crawl (Barcadia, then Libertine, and then Capitol Pub) which resulted in not getting home 'til about 2:30am (thank you again Selene for the ride home!). So I get dropped off, light a cigarette and decide to sit on the stoop in front of my house for a bit before going inside. Sit there for a couple minutes enjoying the breeze, watching the drunks stumble back to their cars, listening to the police know, 2:30am on a friday night on Lower Greenville, when a short Asian guy (really looked like a boy, couldn't have been over 22) dressed almost like a Mormon (black pants, white shirt, black tie) walks up to me and asks if he can bum a cigarette. I say sure, hand him one, he lights it and stands there for a second before motioning for me to scoot over and asking if he can sit next to me.

Ok, so guy asking to bum a cigarette off a random stranger at 2:30am? Not that weird. Guy asking to sit next to you on a dark stoop? Now that, that is kind of weird.

So I tell him that I'd prefer to sit alone and just enjoy the evening, and wish him a good evening. He just stands there for a bit looking at me in an odd way (my guess is he was on X, he didnt smell or look drunk, but he didnt look sober), and then he reaches his hand out and tries to grab my crotch. I deftly manage to parry his advance with my arm (I had no idea drunk parrying was a skill I possessed), and then he just stands there for about ten seconds staring at me sitting there looking at him with some mix of surprise and disgust on my face. He then shouts, "I just wanted to feel it!" and quickly walks away down the street.

I walk inside unable to do anything but giggle at the situation, and then ponder to myself, is that what they mean by living "to the beat of the city?"