Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We Emerge Victorious! RIAA Admits Defeat!

I remember it like it was yesterday, that magical Fall of '00 and the ensuing semester in Spring of '01. It was a glorious time to be a young music fan, especially one in college. You see, universities had yet to wise up to the perils of giving students an absurd amount of bandwidth with no checks, and the RIAA had yet to fully realize the impact a little program called Napster would have on how people would access their music in the 21st century. The not so shocking result was of course tens of thousands of students downloading thousands of songs (and thats just at UNT) bringing the university's servers to the slowest of all crawls as people downloaded everything they could think of. It also answers the question how the hell did Wesley Willis ever get famous?

I don't think I can overstate how many millions of .mp3s were being made and shared, and how hammered the servers were. A simple internet search during the middle of the day would take 15s just to load a webpage. Around that same time a simple and yet revolutionary game called Counter-strike was released (Winter of 2000) to make sure that several dozen students would never make it to class again, the problem is the lag was so bad internet play was impossible and we were relegated to playing on internal servers-something which turned out to be fun as you'd run into other players in the dorm cafeterias and shoot them the death stare for pwning you previously that day-it fostered this weird community on campus. But I digress, I'm burying the lead.

By the Fall of '01 most universities in America had either put bandwidth caps on students, or outright blocked Napster from their network to preserve their network integrity and because the RIAA had caught wind and was threatening to sue nearly every American university for allowing access to pirated music. This was the genesis of the music pirate vs. the RIAA feud that has been brewing ever since. Napster was eventually shut down (to later re-open as a pay site), but the damage had been done and Gnutella clients such as Limewire and Bearshare quickly filled the void. In fact, every time the RIAA would try to shut a service down the programmers would get smarter and figure out new ways to hide the IPs of the users or would base the servers out of strange 3rd world countries. To counter their efforts, the RIAA spent millions of dollars on fighting these programs and their users (instead of, you know, improving their music or reducing the price of the records people didn't want to buy), eventually settling on a way to track the IP address of users whom they would then sue.

And sue they did, estimates are that the RIAA has sued 35,000 people since 2003, settling for an absolutely batshit insane $3,500 per a song downloaded/shared. They've sued grandmothers, single moms, children, deceased people, and people who don't even own computers. You see, the way the RIAA tracked you wasn't an exact science, but more of a scattershot strategy-the result being thousands of innocent people being sued and forced to either pay the RIAA to go away (settle out of court) or pay even more money for attorneys to fight the RIAA (of which they would re-coup none of it). The RIAA had managed to find a way to use the American Justice System to strong-arm innocent people, all in a vain effort to stop something that was unstoppable and with the rational that they're losing millions of dollars (most of which they'd have never seen, college students weren't going to buy that Journey record or Wesley Willis record, we'd download it for free but we sure as shit weren't going to buy it instead of 4 beers and a shot at the bar.

So in the midst of these insane lawsuits, have sprung up new and more secure sharing programs. Hosted off-shore, these international sites were invite-only and acted as the largest free record store in the world. Oink was one of the best known until British officials finally shut it down last year (and that didn't stop anyone, we all just moved to new sites). The beauty of Oink was you had to share as much as you took, and if that ratio became too weighted (you were taking more than you were giving), then you'd be tossed from the site-and to get tossed from that site would be punishment, as it boasted literally just about every song off every record in the world (and if it wasnt there, you could request it and you'd get it) in variable qualities and available for free at the touch of a button. It was a music lover's paradise. If you're so inclined, you can read a fantastic essay about Oink and the music industry in general here. It's a great read.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that also having arrived (several year too late I might add, again because of the RIAA blocking them) were pay music sites such as iTunes-where you could plop down $0.99 for a song, and these sites have flourished. But battle lines had been drawn years before, and there were hundreds of thousands of us that thumbed our nose at the RIAA, vowing not to buy music again (unless it's local or independent) as a means to stop feeding the bear that was the RIAA music cartel. And last week, we scored our first victory.

Fri Dec 19, 2008, LOS ANGELES - The group representing the U.S. recording industry said Friday it has abandoned its policy of suing people for sharing songs protected by copyright and will work with Internet service providers to cut abusers' access if they ignore repeated warnings.

The beauty of the internet, is that it bring the power back to the people, and the people have spoken. And we will continue to speak until the RIAA burns to the ground and is lying in the grave it dug for itself. So pat yourselves on the back music fans, we all deserve it. Now we just need to get these people off their iTunes crack......

Shiner Cheer

If you're a fan of good beer (and who isn't?), then Winter is the season for you. I mean sure there are some nice Spring and Fall seasonal brews, and even a few decent summer ones (St. Arnold's Lawnmower comes to mind), but Winter is when breweries usually pull all the stops and make some great dark beers that confuse the palate and stretch the lines of what beer can be.

With the Spoetzl Brewery being one of my favorites on account of their still-amazing Shiner Bock (and their new series of yearly brews, capping next year on their 100th anniversary with Shiner 100), I couldn't wait to get a chance to try their Winter seasonal, Shiner Cheer.

A bit of a disclaimer first though. I can't say I'm real high on fruit in beer. I mean I love Pyramid Apricot on a nice warm day, and I'll occasionally throw a lime in a Mexican beer or an Orange slive in a Hefeweizen, but as a general rule I'd like my beer to be beer and not a beer/fruit juice hybrid. So I was a little unsure going in when I learned that it was an Ale brewed with peaches and pecans (though those are Texas staples, so it's not terribly surprising). It's been strangely tough to come by for the past few weeks, but I finally got some.

It's got an unusual ruby/brown color to it, but it pours nicely. The head comes out like it should, and in the end it looks like a beer should. Upon tasting, the first thing you will taste is that classic Shiner bitterness (I recognized it immediately from the Bock) caused by burning the malt. It's not a bad thing, in fact it's what makes the Shiner Bock what it is, but it's definately noticeable here and it lingers. The pecans are very understated, but after a couple seconds the peaches become blatantly obvious. It's strange, it takes a few seconds before the flavor of peach kicks in, and even when it does it's fairly understated-theres just enough peach to let you know that it's there. In fact, the peaches were much more evident on the nose, which I found surprising.

In the end though, I'd rate it a good beer-but not a great one. It doesn't have that heaviness that is generally associated with a Winter beer (to warm you) and that you'd expect. The peach flavor is nice, but overall the beer is generally unremarkable. A little malt bitterness, a little peach, and that's it-its honestly just a little too simple for me. I'm not sure that there's enough peach to satisfy those who like a sweeter beer, and I don't think those that like a heavy beer will be terribly moved by the peaches. I'd suggest that it's a good beer to try, and I'm glad that I did, but I couldn't see myself having it more than a couple times before the end of winter.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


For atleast a year, probably longer, friend Adrienne has been trying to convince me that I needed to join Twitter, that somehow plugging myself into yet another on-line social network was going to improve my life. With Myspace and Facebook though, it seemed rather unnecessary and I resisted it. I would be lying if I didn't admit that the trendiness of it contributed as well (like with everything Apple), but primarily it just didn't seem like something I needed. I've got enough on-line timesinks as it is.

It's come up occasionally since then, and I've continued to resist, that was until it came up during a Google Groups conversation in which Adrienne wrote;

I find it bizarre that so many of you guys are obsessed with thelatest innovations in
hardware and software, video and computer games,and mp3 players/peripherals/whatever, but think that social networkingtools are worthless.

Luke, obviously you DO care about what Mac's doing, and vice versa, orelse you wouldn't be writing on 412 at all! Explain to me how,functionally, this group is any
different than Twitter or Facebook,despite it being closed to a small network
of people (which you can dowith Twitter, FB, and anything else, you know). You post links andvideos here, so does everyone on FB and Twitter. You have discussionshere, same there. You tell people what you're up to here, same there.You make plans with your friends here, same there.

The only thing I can think of is that you're turned off by the trendy-factor of these sites, or that they're too time-consuming. Yet forall that stuff I listed in the first sentence, you're all about thelatest trend. And think about how much time you
waste on the Internet anyway.

BTW, this isn't aimed at Luke, just a rant in general.

So I decided fine, I'll sign up for it and use it for one month, and at the end of said month ponder if it had in fact had any sort of positive effect on my life, or rather it just added to the internet clutter already sufficiently packed full of Message Boards, Blogs, Myspace, Facebook, News, Op-Eds, Warhammer, Team Fortress 2, and everything else I spend time on-line reading or playing.

So yesterday I signed up. Handle is superfuzzbigmuf, so if you "tweet" as they say, then add me. If you don't, well then I will tell you in a month if its anything more than another pointless internet timesink.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year

A month after trying the Macallan Fine Oak and loving what I tasted, I decided to give the Balvenie Doublewood a try. Unlike the Macallan which was aged 10 years, the Balvenie was aged 12 years however much like the Macallan it is aged in two different oak casks, in this case a traditional oak whisky cask and an oak sherry cask. It's 43% alcohol (86 proof) and runs approximately $42.

I got it home, poured it in a nice open whisky glass, poured a little chilled water on top of it, swirled it around and then took my first sniff and then sip. Not terribly impressed. So I gave myself a few minutes to let the palate cleanse and did it again, still not very impressed.

Before I delve into why, let me issue a disclaimer; I don't particularly care for Sherry. I've had "good" Sherries before, and to me there just isn't such a thing-the nose is the only thing worse than the taste, it's just not a flavor I care for. It is because of this, that I think I was unimpressed with the Balvenie Doublewood, because the taste of the Sherry casks definitely came through heavy on the whisky. It had a little honey and a tiny bit of vanilla, but to me the notes of sherry overpowered everything else. The body on it was good although it wasn't extremely silky, although to be fair the bite on it wasn't terrible.

It wasn't a bad whisky, I mean it certainly beats the stuff you'd find in a plastic jug at your local liquor store, but I didn't find myself enjoying it anymore than say a blended like Johnnie Walker black (which would be less expensive) nor did I find it to be any more complex. There are better single malts and even blended whiskies out there for this price.

Macallan Fine Oak (10 year)

So a couple months ago I decided to start a bit of a new tradition (yes, thats an oxymoron) for myself of buying something rather expensive but something I've never tried before on the mid-month payday. Sort of a gift to myself, and the first bottle I decided to roll with was the Macallan 10 which was on sale for $29.99. I was fairly familiar with the Macallen 12, but had never tried the 10 and wanted to see how they stacked up against each other.

I must say that I was extremely happy with my purchase. As the name suggests, this Scotch is aged 10 years in oak barrels, in thise case actually three different barrels-European Oak Sherry Cask, American Oak Sherry Cask, and an American Oak Bourbon Cask. The result is an extremely silky Scotch, with a texture bordering on pure bliss. Not surprisingly oak is a major player in both the nose and the bouquet of this Scotch, but what was fairly surprising was the notes of honey and vanilla on it. Between the honey on the palate entry with the silky texture it is an extremely pleassant drink. Furthermore, the aging in Sherry casks allows for a taste that lingers nicely and doesn't have any bite (from the alcohol) until towards the end. It's pale straw in color, which is to be expected for a 10 year Scotch.

I would strongly recommend Macallan 10 Fine Oak to anyone that's a fan of good Scotch Whisky.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Happy Repeal Day!

Hey Happy Repeal Day everyone. It was 75 years ago on Dec. 5, 1933 that Prohibition ended and booze was merrily re-introduced to the American public. Strangely enough, it took all of hours to get the booze in...funny that, huh?

Had I been more forward thinking I would have totally had a kick-ass party for the event. Sadly, I am not. That said, have a tall one...or a glass of whisky...and give props to the forefathers that realized alcohol was actually more American than applie pie, and ignoring the ones that disagreed.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fall Television Redux

With sweeps behind us now and most fall television seasons having wrapped up and/or about to wrap up, I figured it was a good time to blog about the Fall '08 TV season. It didn't hurt either that I've been fighting my yearly sinus infection (later than usual this year) since Thanksgiving giving me plenty of time to lay in bed with my Tivo and catch up on House, Heroes, Law & Order, SVU, Family Guy, Fringe, and My Own Worst Enemy. I even tried to watch Chuck, but ya, it sucked. See? Being sick has atleast some upside.

The best new show of the season was most definately Sons of Anarchy on FX. It wrapped up last thursday with a 90 minute episode that was phenomenal. I realize I am hard-selling this show, but it's really that fucking good. Do yourself a favor and get the first season, as it's been picked up for two more seasons already and seems primed to be FX's replacement for the Shield. And I'm still kicking myself for not getting in on The Shield early. There's just something fascinating about the biker gang underworld, and this show totally delivers.

Speaking of biker gangs, I've been catching episodes here and there of Gangland on History. I'm not sure it's season pass worthy, but like Deadliest Catch is nice downtime filler. Being from Dallas I don't see gangs like the folks in NYC, LA, or Chicago do...so I find it to be pretty fascinating programming. Plus it ties in nicely with Sons of Anarchy and The Wire, which I started on Season 1 this week because Jenny won't stop hassling me about it being the greatest show ever made.

Fringe was also a nice breakout show for the Fall season. It's actually gotten progressively more interesting sicne the premier, like a show should but so many fail to do. I'm still not sure it's of the caliber of the X-Files, but it's pretty damn good. The plots can get a little far fetched, but the acting is superb. John Noble makes an excellent Walter, and Anne Tory (Agent Dunham) is strangely attractive and great for her role.

Heroes has come so close to jumping the shark (see photo at top) so many times this season, but keeps avoiding it. I'm not sure how much longer they can, as I'm really not sure how much of a future a show about people with superpowers can have, but they've managed to keep it atleast mildly entertaining as people are switching sides and doublecrossing each other every week. I watched the entire season in one night (that whole sick thing....) and I still couldn't figure out who was on who's side. I'm assuming that confusion is by design. I'm not going to try and sell you on it, were Heroes a stock I'd probably give it a sell rating, but we shall see.....I'm still watching.

Law & Order makes another attempt at replacing the great Detective Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) while also replacing Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin), this time going with Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto) and Kevin Bernard (Anthony Anderson). And like with most L&O pairings, it's improving with time. I'm not sure you can ever replace Briscoe and Green, but these two aren't bad. Having McCoy (Sam Waterston) as D.A. while new A.D.A Cutter (Linus Roache) goes rogue straight out of the old Jack McCoy playbook has been an interesting storyline. Meanwhile Law & Order: SVU is trudging along with more subplots involving Stabler's family. Not bad, but not great, it's still SVU.....a nice spin-off of the original classic but not on par with it. And certainly not as bad as Criminal Intent, where Vincent D'Onoffrio made me insane.

House is still awesome. I know some people don't like it, I even admit to it being extremely formulaeic, but Hugh Laurie is simply amazing as the character House, and I like the direction it's going with a potential House/Cuddy romance after the drama with Cut-throat Bitch and Wilson earlier in the season. I also think the writers are doing an excellent job of fleshing out the characters of 13, Taub, and Kumar, making them interesting in the dynamic between House, Cuddy, and Foreman. Thus far this has been the best season since the one with the cop harassing House, season 2 I think.

I watched the first could episodes of My Own Worst Enemy to see if Christian Slater had anything left in the bag. Upon episode three the show was not renewed so I didn't bother with the rest of them. Slater wasn't bad, but the premise was just too ridiculous and the scope too limited, also the cast around Slater was pretty mediocre. Likewise Worst Week was really funny, but completely unsustainable, even with Red from That '70s Show. It would be like making Meet The Parents into a TV series, it's just not feasible.

So there you go, my Fall TV Redux. Cheers!

On A Bit Of A Personal Note

While the exact date escapes me, somewhere around March or April of this past year (there's this weird couple month period that consisted of me drinking/working/pining over my now ex-girlfriend that makes it tough to pinpoint. Emphasis on the drinking.) I decided it was important for me to make some life changes. My lifestyle in college (or really, my entire time in Denton, TX.) had simply become too unhealthy and detrimental. So I went down the list of vices, and smoking and gambling simply weren't going to be subtracted. Nor was drinking, though moderation was a possibility. Ultimately, I decided that some level of moderation and diet change was what was necessary in my life to undo the oh, 100lbs I had put on since high school. I should own a stake in the Shiner brewery for the amount of Shiner Bock I consumed. Seriously....why isn't Shiner publicly traded? But I digress.

I say all that to say that since then my focus has been on losing weight and trying to improve my quality of life. I moved back to Dallas proper, changed to a package store route, started running/swimming, took up golf, etc.....a lot has changed in my life since I left Denton. But the proudest moment of my life since then occured this past Friday morning when I stepped on the scale and realize I had officially lost 50lbs since then. It's not an end, instead just a milestone. But that doesn't change the fact that 50lbs is a pretty big fucking number, and I'm pretty damn proud of myself. It's been a couple pants sizes (buying new clothes is a PITA), it's been re-wearing old t-shirts I'd long since out grown.

So ya, exploding high-five.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


It's strange how a holiday can morph over the years. I've always had a relatively small family, what with my mother's side living exclusively in Seattle or France and my father being an only child, as a kid it usually consisted of my parents, my brother, "Uncle" Bill (right side in photo), my Grandmother, Great Aunt, and dog Gizmo. Well my grandmother died of Alzheimers related causes back in the late '90s, Gizmo died on Halloween '05, and Aunt Chudy died this past July. And then of course my mother moved to Paris back in the early '00s. I don't say this to elicit pity, believe me it's the farthest thing from that, but instead as a way to compare Thanksgiving as a child as compared to now where its my dad, my brother, Bill, and my brother's new dog George.

The one constant though is, and hopefully always will be, Dallas Cowboys football (read my review at Cockfighting In Texas) and turkey. There's just something about a nice dinner of turkey (Greenberg smoked this year, and it was orgasmic), mashed potatoes, and having a Cowboys rout of Seattle (I gracefully waited until halftime to call and gloat to my Seattle relatives) that makes this one hell of a day. There are people that claim to hate Thanksgiving, and I just don't get them-despite everything changing, it's always one hell of a holiday.

Oh, right, forgot to go down the wines we had with dinner and after-you know since booze is a core tenet of this blog. Magenta NV Brut Champagne (which I of course loved, I love me some French bubbly), Chateau le Gay Gran Cru Bordeaux (was my request, was really craving a nice Bordeaux. And you can't beat a cork that says 'Le Gay.'), Panther Creek Pinot Noir (Shea vineyard AVA, was fantastic with dinner), and Kenneth Crawford Bluefin Vineyard Syrah (my least favorite, but I'm just not a Syrah fan). The Chateau Le Gay was my favorite, but I was really craving a nice Bordeaux-otherwise the two bottles of Panther Creek Pinot Noir were excellent, we had two different vineyard varietals, and both exceptional with the Shea being the more earthy of the two. I won't bother to mention the Magenta Champagne, because anyone that knows me knows I love most anything bubbly.

All that said, I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, gorging themselves sufficiently on wine and food. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Bailout In Context

While I've got a whiskey review and some Thanksgiving wine suggestions on the stove for when I get home from work today, thought I'd post this gem that arrived in my email box yesterday. I think it puts things in perspective nicely. Credit goes to Boing Boing;

In doing the research for the "Bailout Nation" book, I needed a way to put
the dollar amounts into proper historical perspective. If we add in the Citi
bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars. People have a hard
time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let's give this some context.

The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.
Crunching the inflation adjusted numbers, we find the bailout has cost more than
all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion

• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion

• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion

• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion

• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion

• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)

• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion

• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion

• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gunterama '08

Not the greatest picture, on account of the carnage having started, but it gets the point across-the first annual Gunterama Wine Tasting was held this past weekend. A blind taste test (numbered bags over the wines) paired with lots of good cheese, crackers, bread, and 12 fine wines. Hosted by the brothers Gunter and attended by an intentionally small group of 16 people, the wines tasted were;

1a. Ruffino Orvieto (the casual drinking wine)
1. Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio
2. Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay
3. Lost Angel Chardonnay
4. Lost Angel Muscat Caneli
5. Vertikal Mosel Riesling
6. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
7. Norma Jean Merlot
8. Kim Crawford Pinot Noir
9. Beringer Alluvium Red
10. Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon-California
11. Steelhead Zinfandel
12. Catena Malbec

The womenfolk overwhelmingly loved the Norma Jean Merlot and Lost Angel Muscat. The Vertikal Riesling was also well-liked. Beyond that it was the expected logjam of favorites based on taste-with Nick and I loving the Kim Crawford Pinot Noir and the Beringer Alluvium, Harold loving the CSJ Cab, Heather loving the CSJ chard, but the other women preferring the Lost Angel (un-oaked) Chard. The Kim Crawford Sauv Blanc wasn't terribly well recieved by non-smokers, but loved by them-and I firmly believe the tartness of a New Zealand SB is fantastic for a smoker with a pallet for wine.

The beauty of wine is that different tastes determine different impressions. I absolutely adore a good pinot noir or an oaky cab, but I hate an oaky chard.....Heather meanwhile loved the oaky chard but wasn't on board with the oaky cab. What was great about the event was how it highlighted the tastes of people. Emily Q was certainly the most astute of the non-Gunters there, picking out most varietals immediately, but at the same time loving the merlot. Again, it all comes down to taste, and it's why I love this business.

One of the highlights of the evening for me, was presenting an oaked Chard followed by an un-oaked Chard, and seeing the difference in reactions. With a segment preferring one and another the other, it gave me a fair amount of clarity as a person that just detests-but sells-oaked chardonnays.

We ran with a garlic summer sausage, baguette, water crackers, port salud, manchego, mild cheddar, an herb blended goat cheese, brie, and some cake as hors d'oeuvres......and it wasn't just delicious, but provided greast palate cleansers.

Point is this. While we had a good turnout, we also had a turnout wanting to learn more about and appreciate wines, and in the end enjoy it. It was a succesfal event, and I can't wait to do it again next year. Shout out if a wine tasting interests you, and cheers.

Michelob Winters Bourbon Cask Ale

This past summer when I was on vacation in Portland, OR and attending the Portland International Beer Festival I tasted what might be the greatest beer I've ever had-and that's not a joke. Now of course I didn't write down the name, thus making it impossible for me to find it again, but what was so amazing about this Stout was that it had been aged in Scotch barrels, and thus the taste of Scotch whisky melded so perfectly with this Stout to make it completely and totally worth the $9 a bottle MSRP. It was with that in mind that I decided to purchase Michelob's Winters Bourbon Cask Ale. For those unaware, Michelob is a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch, so I will admit that I tempered my hopes-but I do love the seasonal winter beers, and decided to give it a try.

It sat in my fridge for close to a week until this friday when T-bone and I each grabbed a bottle, poured it into a glass, and decided to see what it's made of. My impression? Not to great. While it may or may not actually be aged in Bourbon casks as the label claims, the taste of said casks is virtually non-existent in the beer. Furthermore, their decision to use Madagascar vanilla beans in the brewing process is a lot better in theory than in practice.

The beer had a reddish copper color, and a strong vanilla on the nose, maybe a little spice too. There wasn't much head on the pour either. Upon tasting it, one is overpowered by the vanilla, which truth be told doesn't taste terribly natural, but instead like vanilla extract. There are certainly notes of caramel malt and a tiny bit of oak, but the vanilla overpowers everything. Furthermore, the beer doesn't have a whole lot of body on it, seeming awfully light for a seasonal winter ale.

When I finished my glass, I looked over to T-bone and said, "Meh, it's not bad, but it's not something I'd probably buy again." and he agreed. While not a terribly good advertising tagline (Michelob: Meh, it's not bad, and you probably won't buy it again!), I do think it sums up the beer nicely. It's a nice attempt at making a quality seasonal ale, but it just fails to deliver.

A Programming Note

Just wanted to offer a quick programming note.

Effective immediately, the Booze Of The Week selections will be no more. This isn't to say that I will stop reviewing alcoholic beverages, as that's obviously a staple of this blog, but the truth of the matter is my drinking patterns have changed as I've gotten older and sought to lose weight (hey, i'm down 45lbs since March, so it's a good thing) and I just don't drink enough beer/wine to make it feasible.

So instead of a booze of the week, I will just write up reviews as I try new things or otherwise feel inclined to review things. I've got a beer review to post shortly, and a nice Scotch review for later this week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Godwin's Law

As I've spent most everyday of the last week (coincidentally, since election night, funny that-right?) engaged in discussions, debates, and downright nasty tantrums in the annals of the internet, I thought it proper to remind everyone of both Godwin's Law and the lesser known Dodds Corollary. For in hindsight, when Mike Godwin made this law in 1990 he truly ahead of his time. The law states;

"As a Usenet [or internet messageboard/email/myspace] discussion grows longer,
the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

So simple, and yet so, so true. But of course, it wasn't quite complete without the Dodds Corollary which states;

"When debating a particular subject, if a comparison or implied connection is
drawn between the opponent's argument and Hitler and the Nazi Party, the maker
of that statement is automatically discredited and the debate is automatically
lost by the person or group who referenced the connection to Hitler or the

So please people, when engaged in hopefully thought provoking debate over the socio-political issues of the day, heed this suggestion. Unless its a discussion of 1930's/1940's Europe or discussing an insanely comical video of Hitler rapping, please don't invoke the H-word.

That is all.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Beware XM Radio

When I bought my VW Passat, it came with a radio with a built in satellite radio reciever and a three month free trial subscription. I didn't think much of it at the time, but back then satellite radio was generating a fair amount of buzz-and I figured I could use something to listen to during commercials on The Ticket or when NPR was boring (whenever Ira Glass is on), so I called XM to give it a try.

And I really enjoyed it. The station Lucy offered a nice mix of '90s rock music, most early '90s-very little Nickelback and crap like that, Ethel offered a nice mix of modern rock tinged with new stuff (it's where I first heard Arctic Monkeys, The Shins, Silversun Pickups, and more), XMU offered a way to listen to college radio-something we've never really had here in Dallas, Squizz offered some decent metal when that was my mood, and Fungus the same thing with punk music. Fox Sports Radio was also a nice bonus, as during the holiday season I was working on Saturday and Sundays I could get sports updates. In short, for some $60 a year it was a nice buy. So I signed up for a one year subscription. Enjoyed it enough, but let it lapse. A few months later decided I wanted it back, so I signed up for another one year sub......that was 15 months ago.

So about 3 months ago the subscription lapsed. Around that same time they decided to "temporarily" take Fungus 53-their lone punk station-off the air and replace it with an all AC fucking DC station. Seriously, AC/DC. I'm sure trailer parks across America were high-fiving each other, but unless I'm at a strip club I've got absolutely zero interest in AC/DC (same goes for Buckcherry, in case you were curious). So I let my subscription lapse, knowing that if I ever wanted to renew it I could. And that's when it started.

For the last two months, I've literally recieved a call a day from XM. But not just a call, an automated call. "Dear , your XM subscription has lapsed, please call us (the gall of me asking them to call them!) please call us back at with account number . And of course, I ignored them. Fuck automated calls, if a company wants my business they can call me and talk to me at my convenience....I'm not taking time out of my day to call them and sit on hold. I'm the customer, and my money is not their god-given right.

After a month, I finally gave in and called them....I was polite but blunt, please stop calling me. CSR was very polite, took my info, and told me the calls would stop. They of course didn't. Less frequent, but they kept coming. So tonight, after the 70th some odd automated call and voicemail, I called them. Again, asked them to stop calling me and to my surprise, now they want $23 to stop calling me. Whaaaaaaaat?

I argue with the CSR for a bit-and she was quite rude I might add-before realizing she has no power, and asking for her supervisor. He gives me the same lines. I had to again, call them, to cancel my subscription. Nevermind that I expressly signed up for a one year subscription, no no, if I don't call them I have to pay them for the two months of service they "gave me" because they didn't turn off my service after that one year. You know, because if you walk into Kroger and buy a months worth of chicken, if you come back two months later you owe them for the month of chicken you didn't buy. Logical, right?

Again, I want to stress, this wasn't a repeating bill. I paid up front and in full for 1 year service. Period. I asked explicitly and was told, it is not repeating and if I wanted to re-new I would only then have to call them, as had happened the previous time I let a subscription lapse.

So why do I write all this? To let you, and hopefully everyone you know, that the folks at XM are crooks and to steer clear of them. If this is how a company treats a subscriber of almost two years, then that should tell you all that you need to know about the company. Fuck XM, I will pay them their $23, but I will make damn sure that everyone I know will listen, and that they lose more than $23 in subscriptions and bad press. The internet empowers consumers, and shit companies like XM need to be aware of that.

A New Record Store In Dallas

On the heels of CD World closing up shop leaving Good Records and Bill's as the last two independent record stores in a city of over over 1.2 million people and a metro area of 5.2 million people, I figured this was worth mentioning. Jeff Liles posted a bulleting about it earlier;

Against all forms of logic and economy, Bucks Burnett, former owner of Fourteen Records on Greenville Avenue in Dallas (1988-95) has opened a new music store in Dallas.

"It is what I am calling a micro store, a business within a business."

The store name is EAROTICA and it is located within Dallas' hippest resale shop, Dolly Python, on Haskell Avenue, one mile east of Central Expressway.

"I am starting small but we (Bucks and Gretchen Bell, Python owner) plan to grow it as quickly as possible into a more full fledged service. The starting inventory is somewhat small but well curated. So far the LP's are outselling the CD's, which I think is a good sign."

The official store debut and opening party will take place on Saturday, November 15th, from 6-10PM at Dolly Python. "There will be free beer and overpriced dead formats."

EAROTICA offers a selection of great titles, new and used, in all existing entertainment formats:

78 RPM
and others

"Too many record stores have closed the past few years, and music sales are down. Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly reject the death of music retail. Dallas needs more music stores, not less."

The store's official slogan:"For Those About To Shop, We Seduce You"
http://xivmedia. com

I drive by Dolly Python couple days a week, it's just a few blocks east of Central on Haskell, just past the Cityplace Target where you should totally stop in and by a bottle of wine. Even stopped in once, it's a pretty cool little store. That was of course before this, but I'm planning to stop in this week and see how it looks with this.

And probably to buy some vinyl too, even if my console turntable still doesn't work. Just thought I'd pass it along, if anyone wants to go to that grand opening let me know, I think I will.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Well Here We Are, Obama Is The President-Elect

It's finally over.

Some two years after the beginning of what has felt like the longest election cycle ever, some seven years and change after most of the country didn't vote for the last President and the issue was hanging chads and Katherine Harris, and a few months after the election cycle hit full tilt, the election is over.

Barack Obama is the President-Elect of the United States of America.

If you listen to the pundits today, they're going to prattle on about the fact that he's the first African-American (please god, let that term die) President of the United States (henceforth, POTUS) and how that's supposed to be some huge accomplishment. They're going to compare him to Jackie Robinson or Martin Luther The King and marginalize all three of them in the process. Is it notable that a black man is POTUS? Sure, but it's little more than a footnote to the story of Obama, the most important chapters of which will be written starting today. The story isn't, nor should it be, that Barack Obama is the first black president.....it's that Barack Obama is the next POTUS.

After eight years of at best a general malaise, the American electorate has finally woken up and chosen a new path for this nation. It took a hell of a lot to get them there, and in some ways the perfect storm politically speaking to make it happen, but it's happened. After eight years of fear-inspired politics blending the worst of the GOP (hawkish foreign policy, corporate welfare, erosion of civil liberties) with the worst of the Democratic Party (expanded spending, expanded government) the neo-conservative experiment has finally come to a loud and resounding end. That's the good news.

The bad news is the state that it has left the USA in. To say nothing of the impending budgetary disaster that is on the horizon when the baby boomers start attempting to claim social security and medicare, President Obama will also inherit a further bloated bureaucracy, record deficits, record national debt, two wars, an energy crisis, an economic crisis which already includes $700b in government bailouts, and an America that has lost it's respect and standing in much of the world. And you thought coaching the Clippers was a shitty job.

Before I continue though, I wanted to point out one little nugget from last night that I thought highlighted excellently the difference in direction. When George W. Bush won his first election, during the speech his mantra was "I've been given political capital tonight and Iintend to spend it." And his supporters cheered, and in the shadow of Bill Clinton-their mortal enemy-they rejoiced at the great age of conservatism he was going to usher in. Contrary to that, we had Barack Obama saying, "to those who didn't vote for me, I will listen to you and be your President too" and asking for America to unite and work together to solve our problems. The difference in tone is just night and day, and I think that tone highlights precisely why Barack Obama was able to effectively rout a candidate that many people have a great respect for, a candidate that a lot of moderate liberals actually really like and respect, myself included.

It would be unfair to not comment on McCain's fantastic concession speech, and to note that despite everything in the election style John McCain should be viewed as an American patriot, a statesman, and a very good man. Had he not spent this entire election with George W. Bush as an albatross around his neck, and had he not diverted from his message to that of Republican campaign advisors, I honestly believe he could have won this election. And regardless of that and everything that's been said, I still have enormous respect for John McCain and his speech last night highlighted exactly why that is.

So....here we are....now what?

Obviously Barack Obama is going to have to build a staff. My hope is that he does so with a true blindness to party affiliation or ideology, instead appointing people based on their ability, intelligence, and vision. I would love to see Colin Powell brought back into the fold and Condoleeza Rice offered a chance to maintain her office (and no, not because they're black). I understand that he must have a staff he can trust and rely on, but if at the end of building that staff it leans to the far left I believe we will have the first indication that all this talk of bi-partisanship was little more than just talk.

In the meantime, he will be briefed further on the issues and in January inaugurated. And it is on that day, that the clock starts. President Obama will have his mandate, given not only the Presidency but party control of congress. The barriers to the change he promised will be as small as they ever are in American politics. In my mind he will have one year from that day to get the wheels rolling on the change-train before the mandate he was given begins to fade and the politics of the mid-term elections begin to be felt. The economy, the war(s), taxes, and energy are the primary issues he's campaigned on, and if by the end of that year he hasn't made significant progress on atleast two of this issues I believe the whispers of failure will be felt. If after three years he hasn't nailed down two of those issues, then I worry that the change we were promised will be little but a bill of goods.

President Obama was given this mandate, his challenge is to affect the change he promised while taking firm control of his party and reaching across the aisle to the other. If he lets the far left wing of the Democratic Party-the Nancy Pelosi's of the world-gain too much power and influence, then he will fail. He must govern from the center out, not from the left of center to maintain the trust of the American electorate. There will be a lot of bitter Democrats wanting to "run up the score" on the GOP for the next two years and he must stem that tide.

And I believe four years from now, his success on those fronts is what will determine whether we just elected the second coming of John F. Kennedy, or the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Greatest Thing Since, Well, When Mtv Played Music

Someone over at Beyond The Veil had to just go and send me a link to this website, which just happens to be a free on-line platform in which you can browse and watch the entire Mtv music video catalog. If you go over there, please make sure you've got a few hours to kill....because it's taking my entire night at the moment.

Strangely enough 8 other people had watched the video of Mark Arm talking about grunge, and 9 other people had watched the video for Tripping Daisy's Blown Away. Also strange, it appears there was never a video for the Meat Puppet's Backwater, which I find hard to believe.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

If memory serves, the first time I went to the Oak Lawn Street Party (henceforth known as Street Party and occasionally known as the Gay Parade) was 1996, when I was 15. May have been a year later, but I know I was dating Alex and I was a young lad. I went in drag, though not sure why, and when I was cleaning out my childhood room just a few months ago I found the costume. Twelve years later I've probably been to a half dozen more of them, and every year it's a good time. I understand that people have issues (though I don't know why) with going to the "gay part of town" as though Oz style anal rape is a serious concern, but I learned long ago not to fight people on it and just accept it. People have their pre-conceived notions, and I'm not going to fight that.

That said, this year like most others, was a blast. Sure, there was the normal quotient of drag queens and men in little but a loin cloth and body glitter, but I've always been a firm believer in that we can all get along and when everyone is just having a good time the result is one hell of a party. Short of St. Patricks on Greenville Ave, this is probably the biggest street party of the year in Dallas. Great costumes, thousands of people, some bands, a fair amount of boozing....it's just fun. And for 8 of us, the cab fare from Lower Greenville was only $26, surprisingly low. I've got some photos which will eventually get uploaded to my myspace page, and some great memories.

Not to mention, I finally got a costume out of the headcrab hat. And many questions about what the fuck i was, along with many kudos from those who actually, you know, got it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

You Thought Your Break-Ups were Bad?

Just a funny story from some canadian website to end the week on a high;

Woman 'kills' ex-husband in online world

The Associated Press

A 43-year-old player in a virtual game world became so angry about her sudden divorce from her online husband that she logged on with his password and killed his digital persona, Japanese police said Thursday.

The woman, who has been jailed on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, used his ID and password to log onto the popular interactive game Maple Story to carry out the virtual murder in May, a police official in the northern city of Sapporo said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of department policy. "I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry," the official quoted her as telling investigators and admitting the allegations. The woman, a piano teacher, had not plotted any revenge in the real world, the official said.

She has not yet been formally charged. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison or a fine up to $5,000 US.

Best response I've heard? Atleast she didn't go digital Lorena Bobbitt and hack off his e-peen. What a strange world we live in.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Vinetta

While at the aforementioned wine tasting yesterday I tried quite a few fantastic wines. And I'd love to make Far Niente Cabernet or something of it's ilk the booze of the week, but the fact of the matter is none of us can afford to buy something like that for anything but the most special of occasions. Static and Wine supports alcohol consumption on a regular business, not the teetotaling consumption only on special holidays that some folks endorse. Moderation and safety are obviously key, but wine should be a part of people's lives. So as I stumbled upon one of the more underated and affordable wines I've had in a while, the little hamster started running on it's wheel in my head and I knew I had a lock for BotW. So without further adieu, Robert Mondavi Private Selection Vinetta is this week's selection for Booze Of The Week.

This is an extremely affordable (~$10 a bottle) wine that over delivers for it's price point, but first thing's first, what is a vinetta? Well the word Vinetta, while sometimes used as a name, is just a variant of Vincentia, the latin for vineyard. In this case though, vinetta is the name Robert Mondavi uses for it's bordeaux-style blend. It's a blend of 68% cabernet, 14% merlot, 11% petite verdot, 5% malbec, and the elusive 2% cab franc. Why they chose to call it vinetta is anyone's guess, but I will tell you it is quite lovely.

While a little fruitier than one would expect from an actual Bordeaux, I think it's a fair comparison. It's a well balanced wine that has a fair amount of staying power but not overly tannic or heavy. The nose is mostly oak and plum while the taste is cherries, cocoa, licorice, and a bit of smoke and/or oak.

It's available in both 1.5L and 750mL sizes, has a faux cork, and the fruit is from the Central and North Coast Appellations. I'd pair it with grilled meat (though it might be a little underwhelming for a big steak, think lamb or pork) or blue cheese.

It's one of those rare few bottles of wine that overdelivers on it's price point, then again that's true of most Robert Mondavi wines (if you can find a better Sauv Blanc than Woodbridge for $9 a 1.5L I'm all ears). I could easily see paying $14.99 for this and consider it quite the bargain at $10. So there you have it, you know the drill, drop me line if you've had it or if you find yourself grabbing a bottle this weekend. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More Fun Than Should Be Allowed In A Coat And Tie

I won't lie, there are most certainly some very nice perks to being a wine salesman. I mean sure, there are plenty of drawbacks-as there are with any sales position- but those of us in the business often pontificate on the fact that atleast we're not selling copy machines or cars. We're selling a product that's arguably not a necessity, but instead a luxury item and something that people enjoy. And best of all, no matter the economy or personal mood one truth always remains-people drink. Celebrating? Have a drink. Depressed? Have a drink. Unlike many luxury items, it takes a lot for people to turn their back on alcohol. That aside though, one of the greatest perks is being able to taste so many great bottles of wine.

Today was Glazer's 4th annual "Big Reds & Bubbles" tasting, and the second I've attended. Much like the yearly TPSA Convention (if you ever get a chance to go, do yourself a favor and do it) except without the spirits and beer, this is basically a giant room with 30 some odd wine suppliers showcasing their best of the best for customers (and salesman, hehe). Each one has a table with somewhere between 5 and 10 wines available to taste and they're more than willing to not only pour you some, but also educate you on the wines. It's a fantastic experience, and one I can't recommend enough to everyone if you ever get the chance (and if you're into wines and/or in the retail alcohol or restaurant business, lemme know and I will try to get you an invite next time).

Most people made the obligatory beeline for the Cristal when they got there (which I'd like to add is quite over-rated), but then like me found themselves preferring Roederer's L'Ermitage Cuvee which is quite possibly the best Champagne I've ever had, though the vintaged Moet and Veuve Clicquot offerings were also great as was Gloria Ferrer's vintage cuvee and the Cuvee Louise from Pommery. Most people that know me know that, like my father, I'm a sucker for the bubbles....we're a family of Champagne lovers. You put the bubbly in front of us and it doesn't last long.

Which isn't to say that the reds weren't also magnificent. I was a little disappointed that BV didn't showcase their Rutherford (Rutherford Dust is one of the more delicious, and curious, regional wine qualities), but the Dulcet, Tapestry, and Georges de Latour were mighty fine, especially sitting next to the Sterling 3 Palms Merlot, Sterling Reserve Cabernet, and Navarro Correas Ultima. On the whole I thought Diageo had one of the better tables. Other notables included the Far Niente Cabernet (still amazing), Allegrini's fantastic Palazzo Della Torre, each of St. Hallet's shirazes, the J. Lohr Cuvee Series, St. Clement's Orropas, and 75's Sauvignon Blanc (what can I say, I'm a sucker for a dry, slatey, grapefruit style Sauv Blanc).

In the end, it was a fantastic afternoon, I tasted some 60 wines-and I was even disciplined enough to pour and/or spit out a lot of really nice wines and pace myself. I'm almost shocked at my sobriety.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Political Sign Game

After my brother bought one last week, and subsequently had it stolen (no shock there), I decided today that it was finally time to get myself an Obama yard sign. Now I of course bought two ($5 a piece, fyi) knowing that the one in the yard would be vandalized and/or stolen, and put the second one on our balcony where a thief would have to be very James Bond to get it.

I say all that just to say this. Most people have no idea where to get a presidential yard sign. I actually had to do a little research myself to find it. So if you want an Obama, or any Democrat, yardsign, in Dallas you need to go to Parry Ave. just east of Exposition to find the Dems HQ and you can have your very own for $5. And while you're there, stop into Amsterdam Bar and grab a beer. Should you want a McCain, or other GOP yardsign, in Dallas you go to the GOP HQ on Greenville Ave. just north of Lovers. Both offices will also give you a list of places to early vote if you're into that sort of thing.

Me? I prefer voting on election day. And am voting against every incumbant and encourage you to do the same. Yes, that includes voting against Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson in the House, who drives me just up the wall.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Max Payne

So I went to go see Max Payne this weekend. On opening night at that, something I haven't done since a Lord Of The Rings or Star Wars movie, although it wasn't really by design-just a free night and finding someone willing to actually go with me what with the terrible reviews and all. Although I will admit I was fairly excited to see it, what with being a huge fan of the games and all. I absolutely loved both of the games, and outside of Half-Life, Half-Life 2, and arguably No One Lives Forever they were my favorite first person shooter (guess it was actually third person, but hey, it's a shooter). Great games, complete with a good story line (strangely enough, I remember there were rumors of a movie with the first one) and good game play. But the games aren't the point of this, the movie is.

The cinematography was amazing. Done in a very film noir style, the lighting, sets, and constant falling snow gave the movie a great vibe. It was actually quite loyal to the style of the game, and it gave the movie a great starting base. The problem is, I'm starting off this review by talking about the cinematography...and that's not a good sign.

I will be upfront, I'd give the movie a C, maybe a C+. And that's coming from someone that knew and loved the story going in, and really enjoyed the game. Much like Hitman (which I really did enjoy) I really, really wanted to love this movie. And while I'm not totally sold on Mark Wahlberg, or even Ludacris, I do find Olga Kurylenko to be amazingly hot (sadly, no nudes like in Hitman, and I feel like a teenager asking for boobies). The problem is this, the movie didn't know what it wanted to be. The first 20m or so were extremely slow, and throughout the rest of it they would introduce ancillary storylines that weren't at all crucial. Then on top of that, the tried to shove in the storyline from Max Payne 2 on top of the original, and the result was this garbled mess of strange tangents that weren't advancing the plot combined with unexplained parts of the story that, well, really kind of needed to be explained.

When the movie is over and you look over the storyline presented you see holes, but not glaring ones....it's a complete story. It's just that while you're watching it you feel as thought it's garbled and could have been done so much better. You see a few good action scenes, but also some really completely unbelievable ones. And in the end, it just felt incomplete. I think that's my best description, it seemed like a long and yet incomplete movie without any real drive or purpose.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Debate No. 3

First off, this was most certainly the best of the debates. It was the first time it actually felt like a debate, the first time the candidates actually challenged each other, and the best moderated of the three. Last time was a bit of a snoozer with the first being a feeling out process, so I felt this was a nice cap to it-though I would love to see a couple more.

What actually shocked me about this one was not the attacks, those were expected, but the uncertainty in victory. While the polls are still being run, I was surprised to find that when surveying people I knew afterwards, they tended to think the other won. The big Obamaphiles I know thought McCain had won it and were doom/gloom, meanwhile the McCainiacs I know thought Obama won it. Strange, really.

Me? I thought Obama won it handily. In fact, I thought while this might not have been his best performance (as Paul pointed out, he stumbled over his words quite a bit) as an orator he did the best job yet of refuting the McCain criticism and laying out plans. I thought the only clear victory for McCain was in the way he twisted Obama's vague syntax to make him appear more like a politician. Meanwhile, I thought he completely dropped the ball on the abortion question (don't kid yourself, pro-life crazies are a huge swing vote for the GOP), refused to get into specifics in most cases, and while he tried to play the Ayers card was rebuffed.

In the end though, I think it comes down to this. I don't make $250k a year, nor do you most likely....nor do most if not all of the people we know. When Obama says he's going to give us all a tax break, McCain responds with saying it will affect small business, and Obama then responds that it won't affect 98% of small businesses....well....how can he not win? And McCain sounded so muddled and pro big business in his responses, while CNN thought McCain won the first half hour I thought it sunk him. Then again, we shall see what the polls say, in the meantime my notes;

-Fucking John McCain blinks every other second. Is that a medical condition? Because it's driving me insane.

-A few minutes in starts the Joe the Plumber nonsense. Obama originall dodges it, then roundaboutly addresses it-thing is, the dude is buying a business....he's increasing his income. Since when do our taxes not go up when our income goes up?

-McCain then goes hardcore at painting Obama is a socialist. All the FNC conservatives are fist pumping and pelvic thrusting in their living rooms. The rest of America heard what Obama just said about, you know, lowering your taxes.

-This MacAllen 10yr old Scotch I bought for tonite is fucking orgasmic. Seriously. The honey on the palate is completely unexpected.

-McCain dodges the specifics of what he will cut, and while Obama did a partial dodge, McCain dodges it and then brings it back to energy.

-I can't recall a case where a candidate trashes his party's incumbent President like McCain has. Crazy to me how low the public support for Bush is, and how the candidates are distancing. Being associate with the President right now appears to be akin to being a pariah.

-McCain shows support for the Cowboys losing. I regret my vote for him in the 2000 primary.

-McCain states that Sarah Palin "understands that autism is on the rise." What the fuck does that even mean? Who doesn't understand that, and why does that make her qualified?

-Obama finally broaches the Ayers topic himself (previously he'd only mentioned ACORN). Obama does a great job refuting the Ayers connection, but a very poor job regarding ACORN, never addressing why money went to them. The former was a win Obama, the latter McCain.

-I understand amongst intellectuals, or atleast those involved in politics, the litmus test regarding SC judges is somewhat an issue. Thing is, to the majority of America I don't think they give two shits. McCain prattles on about litmus tests and experience instead of taking the clear victory amongst pro-lifers given to him. Mind you the pro-lifers are never going to support Obama, but their lack of support for McCain is alarming for him, and his bobbling of that question appalling. He needed to come out hardcore in support of pro-life SC judges, and he muddled it.

-McCain talks about "gold caddilac insurance plans" and then moves on to cosmetic surgery and.....transplants? Yes, he said transplants. I really fucking hope that was a mis-speak, because I'm not sure a heart transplant counts as luxury surgery.

-It's amazing how healthcare, education, and abortion have become ancillary issues. Money talks, and people are losing it.

-Over the past decade there's been this strange shift to where we think people are entitled to college education. Why is that? Obama mentions people graduating college with debt...and while I personally was blessed, I'm really not sure what the problem is. Why is it the governments job to help you get through college? They offer you education through high school, why is that being extended to college?

-I've never heard about this Troops To Teachers program, but it scares the hell out of me that McCain says a soldier can become a teacher without any training or certification. That sounds like a terrible idea.

-And finally, McCain tried to pull the heart strings of the American woman with his silly Sarah Palin understands special needs children thing. The woman has a six month old child with Downs, and yet she's now supposed to know "more than most" about special needs children? She's supposed to be an expert on Autism? That's as absurd as his claim that she's an expert on energy. A baby's a retard at 6mos old regardless of disease, if she thinks that's given her some special knowledge on special needs children then she's in for a rude awakening when the kid turns 2 or 5 or 15.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado

As it often does, this week's BotW selection found me versus me finding it. As there I was at El Guapo's in Denton, TX. trying to decide what to drink, not wanting the sugars of beer or wine, and opting instead to order Sauza Hornitos, my standard tequila, on the rocks when Big D the Bartender told me I wanted the Tradicional instead. I insisted no, I prefer the Hornitos, but he insisted as well-and being a friend of mine he can do that-and poured me the Tradicional instead. With three cubes and a wedge of lime which I didn't find myself needing. It was an exceptionally smooth, albeit unspectacular tequila, and on account of being in my belly and tasty is this week's selection for Booze Of The Week.

Before we go into the tequila itself though, a few tequila basics. Tequila is distilled from the Agave plant generally in the Tequila region of Mexico which is near Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. It is similar but not the same as Mezcal, another spirit which most folks know for the worm in the bottle. There are two types of tequila, mixtos and 100% Agave. Mixtos use up to 49% of other sugars in the fermentation process where as the latter is obviously 100% agave, with the best tequilas being 100% blue agave. As with other spirits, there's also an aging classification system with tequila. Blanco (or silver) tequila spends less than 2mos in oak barrels, oro (or gold) is blended with aged tequilas, and mixed with coloring and or sugars, reposado tequila is aged between 2mos and a year in oak barrels, and anejo is aged 1-3 years in oak barrels. Recently an extra anejo category was established for tequilas aged a minimum of 3 years in oak so ya, they've got that going for them.

Normally at this point I'd also go into the history of Jose Cuervo, but it's a really long and strange history. Suffice it to say that there have been several different Jose Cuervos, although José Antonio de Cuervo was the original in 1758 with a grant from Spain for the distillery, and that tequila was the drink of the masses and/or proletariat during most every war and uprising within Mexico. For such a weird beverage it has an equally weird history.

As for the subject here, Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado, it is obviously a reposado tequila-and beyond that a fantastic entry level high end tequila. On account of a shortage of Blue Agave a few years back tequila tends to be fairly expensive for anything but the most rotgut, and as a result of that and our familiarity with the Margarita, most people have little regard for high end tequila. This however qualifies as a higher end tequila, and at ~$25 a bottle isn't prohibitely priced. It's quite smooth, although you can definitely taste the alcohol, with a little bit of smoke and wood on the taste and a fairly long finish. It's very indicative of a reposado tequila, and a nice entry level selection for those not wanting to spend the money on a high end tequila which can easily run $50 a bottle.

The Delta Lodge

Mark Twain once said, "reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated." I'm not going to necessarily apply the line to the fate of the Delta Lodge, but after a year or more of hearing from folks that the Lodge was dead, I won't deny that it came to mind today during the organization's National Convention. But more on that in a bit.

Most people know that I spent my first semester of college at SMU in Dallas on account of having aspirations of a career as an attorney (I've since discvored that while I do enjoy the law, law school just wasn't for me). And while I did enjoy my time there, and really I did, about midway through that semester I realized that it just wasn't for me, and that the outrageous tuition was just that. Upon this realization, I made the decision to transfer to the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. and my fate was sealed. And while I enjoyed UNT more than SMU, and the cost was much less, after about a year there I had a fairly limited circle of friends, a failing relationship, and I felt the need to broaden my horizons, to improve my collegiate experience.

I'd considered the fraternities at SMU, and decided they just weren't for me. When I got to Denton I'd heard a great deal about the Delta Lodge, infamous for Fry St. Fair, their toga parties, and their persona as the twin brother of Delta Tau Chi of Animal House fame (which is fictional, for the record). I'd rushed the fraternity a couple of times, but backed out of pledging-the idea of joining a fraternity just didn't seem like a good one. In the fall of 2002 however, at the age of 20, I decided to take the plunge and go for it. I still remember vivdly the day I decided to do it, it was a brother's barbecue (note to those not familiar, Delta is a co-ed fraternity. and yes, that's weird) at the still infamous Fry House, but this was back when the abandoned (and haunted) hospital was across the street instead of the current overpriced apartments (also haunted). I also remember the way the people I know looked at my like I was on fire when I told them I was not only joining a fraternity, but joining the Delta Lodge. But I was stagnating, and it was something I had to do for myself, and so I did it-and after a series of strange events I won't bother recounting because if you lived in Denton in 2002 you probably remember, I became a member. But you see, that's not all I remember.

For while that place brought me a more than moderate amount of weight that could be attributed to excessive beer consumption, or my succubus of an ex-girlfriend, or a broken foot and road rash on account of getting hit by and thrown off of an automobile whilst wearing a bedsheet, at the same time it brought me so much more, and I was reminded of this as I sat there today. Of the confidence in myself I gained, of the maturation in me as a person, of the mastery of beer-die, of the first woman I ever really loved, of the lifetime's worth of great (albeit debaucherous) memories, and most importantly all of the good people and great friends I met. Like most any organization it had it's dead weight, but a few years removed from college I look back at the people I met, many still very good friends today, and I think little but fond thoughts. And even more impressive has been watching us all grow together, from terribly immature and melodramatic college students (you can't fathom the drama, believe me) into strangely drama-free and rational adults. It really does bring a smile to my face, and it also brings me back to where I started.

Considered dead in December of 2007 when the lone chapter was suspended and a buyer was sought for the monstrosity of a house at 1305 West Oak St. in Denton, TX, now a Campus Christian Center, it appears as thought the organization will survive. It seems quite clear that it won't be as a collegiate fraternity (not that the Lodge ever bore more than surface resemblance to a classic Greek fraternity anyway), but instead as a social organization in the vein of the IOOF or Water-Buffaloes. How that organization will be built and how it will function is a subject of debate at this point, but there are many of us to whom it is very dear collaborating on that, and in the end I wrote all that to say this;

If you're a member, and many of my readers are, do yourself a favor and get involved with this. It can be as simple as just registering at the new website or as in depth as getting your proverbial hands dirty and helping to craft a new organization out of the ashes of the old one. Much like with politics, if you don't get involved you forfeit your right to bitch. And to the outsiders whom have in the last year mocked the demise of the Lodge, let me just say that "reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated." Or atleast they might be.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Is there a better feeling in the world.....

....than getting to call the cable company and tell them you want to discontinue service.

Ok, maybe sex. Or free money. Or a good football game. Heroin's apparently pretty good too. Ok, there are a lot of better feelings.

Point is, it's such a liberating feeling to call the cable company and tell them to take a hike. Oh why did I want to disconnect my service, the "retention specialist" asks? Because you don't have NFL network. And your picture quality sucks. At which point he of course tells me that the NFL is greedy and they're trying to negotiate something and hey, I still get the other football games. At which point I of course respond that that's fantastic, but it's not the NFL network.....and you didn't even address the terrible picture quality. Oh, is there anything you can do to retain my service, you ask? I said sure, free HBO and Showtime. And then he grudgingly admits defeat.

Victory is mine. Soon the cable will be gone, replaced with sunny happy AT&T U-verse and it's more channels, faster internet, better picture quality, and a free DVR that will record four shows at once. Oh, and the NFL network. And just in time for Winter.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Presidential Debate No. 2

I'm intentionally avoiding the post-debate talking heads to provide myself better, and less influenced, perspective on the hour and a half of hot air I just witnessed. I don't know why I enjoyed Presidential debates (nevermind that they're not even a real debate), as when they end I always find myself in the same position-shaking my head at all the bullshit the candidates tried to spoonfeed us, and further shaking it at the thought that people really believe them. But I guess that's why they have debates on tuesdays (no football) and broadcast it on all networks to avoid actually entertaining programming....and in the end, I owe it to myself and this blog to patiently sit through the debate with an open mind, open eyes, and a wee bit of Cutty Sark, which may or may not have been on sale and made the debate much more palatable.

So ya, my analysis. I think if one went into this debate with no knowledge of the current political landscape and as a truly middle of the road candidate, one would give the nod to Senator John McCain in this one. I thought, while at times sounding a little too Washington (to some folks that's statesmanlike, its really relative), he overall seemed to have the better grasp of the issues, especially when it came to National Security and while he made jabs at Senator Obama, he resisted the temptation to go for the jugular which I think would have backfired. In fact, I was quite surprised by the lack of attacks within the debate, expecting quite the opposite. And I was utterly shocked that McCain didn't reiterate the talking point VPILF Palin had been pushing earlier this week of Obama's "association with terrorists" referring to William Ayers. Obama had many great moments, I just thought McCain had a few more and a better protrayal of himself.

Yes, I would give McCain the advantage and a slight victory in this debate. That said, going into this debate with knowledge of the current political landscape, I think he didn't do what he needed to do. I think it's close to impossible for a GOP Presidential candidate at the moment in light of the proverbial shit hitting the fan the past few weeks (and especially past couple days) with the financial markets to distance himself far enough from George W. Bush, and furthermore to build any sort of credibility when the GOP has held the Presidency for the last eight years and congress for most of them. McCain's task is gargantuan, and as such I thought he had to have an incredibly good performance tonite to try and stop the bleeding that the polls indicate is occuring. With a month to go Obama is starting to run away with it, which shouldn't be happening, but is on account of this economic mess. So McCain tonight needed not only an Obama fumble, but also to pick up the fumble and return it for a touchdown. Or he could have blocked a field goal and returned it for a TD....the analogy holds. Genius, right? Point being, Obama didn't turn over the football and McCain wasn't able to score some convincing points. And now, to my notes;

-To open the debate Brokaw says that the world has changed in the past 12 days. Could that favor Obama?

-10m into the debate both candidates still looked really uncomfortable and shaky in the debate. And there's something really odd about having them just pacing around during questions, or sitting in strangely tall chairs. I liked the questions, but the pacing was just weird.

-When confronted, both candidates refused to acknowledge the 300lb gorilla in the room, namely that the economy is going to get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. Really a little disappointing that they wouldn't admit what we all know. Hell, have you checked the Dow today?

-McCain wants to renegotiate home mortgages with the bailout plan? I know the plan allows for it, but it's a little surprising.....and a welcome change in policy-even if I still loathe the bailout. But if you're gonna do it, you might as well use it to bundle mortgages and use that buying power to renegotiate them.

-I'm not sure if the audience is in their formal attire, but if so, these are some of the worst dressed people ever. Mis-matching clothes everywhere, to say nothing of their terrible wording of their questions.

-McCain admits that Social Security benefits will have to be altered so as not to bankrupt this country. He may have ignored the other 300lb gorilla, but kudos to him for acknowleding this one.

-McCain refuses to prioritize issues (presumably to get back at Obama saying McCain couldn't do multiple things at once back when he suspended his campaign), Obama prioritizes them energy, healthcare, and then education. Strangely enough, to this point, McCain puts a lot more emphasis on energy while Obama put the emphasis on healthcare-which befuddled me.

-Obama compares his 10 year plan to energy independence to JFK's 10 year program to get to the moon. Nice move.

-I understand an am equally annoyed by the candidated running over and refusing to stay in the allotted time, but does Brokaw really have to be a broken record about it?

-Why is McCain so in love with Nuclear Power? I understand it as a component of energy policy, but he repeatedly cites it over wind or water or even solar. This isn't 1965.

-So Brokaw asks this great question about whether we need a Manhattan Project or a Silicone Valley like approach to the energy problem-a fantastic question-and McCain dodges it while Obama is never even asked the question. That was a great question.

-I don't get McCain repeatedly saying we need to drill for more oil now to "bridge the gap" on energy when just last week even VPILF Palin didn't refute that it would take 10 years to access to the oil we'd be drilling for. Even if the drilling did reduce prices, there's no way that would hold up-it's really a poor stopgap.

-At 9:10pm CST I switched over to CNN for a few minutes. They're running with that stupid tracker again this week, and again it's "Uncommitted Ohio Voters." I guess the Cleveland Browns fans need something to feel good about.

-Why the fuck are we talking about Pakistani territorial sovereignty? Seriously? That's important? With everything going on, we're going to discuss Pakistani territorial sovereignty? And the worst part was, it was a heated topic

-One thing about what Obama is saying, can you imagine if on 9/11/01 the American public had been told that in a debate on 10/07/08 we'd still be arguing about finding and killing Osama bin Laden? Over seven fucking years later, dude's still alive and well.

-At 9:25p we get the obligatory Israel question. Why the hell are we talking about Israel? Again, with all the issues, is that seriously concerning anyone right now?

-If you're John McCain's age, his wife is the American dream. Just saying.

-Did it strike anyone else strange that while McCain is just shaking hands and talking to people, the audience are all whipping out cameras after the debate to take pictures, both of and with, Obama? I didn't see any camera angles of that going on with McCain. The Obama effect is just so strange.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


In contrast to most saturdays, I decided this saturday to forego College Football for a few hours, along with work, working out, and Warhammer (but fear not, i squeezed them all in later) and to get a few friends together and go see a matinee. I'm not sure why, what with Burn After Reading also in theatres , Max Payne arriving in them next week, and having pre-screening passes to see W. next week, but we decided it would be a nice day for a $5 noon matinee and to roll with Appaloosa, I'll admit at my suggestion. In case you've missed it, here's the trailer.

It's a western based in New Mexico Territory in the 1880s. Starring Ed Burns (who also directed it), Aragorn (or Stryder....or I guess Viggo Mortensen, if you don't follow me here), and the fairly unattractive Renee Zellwegger who looks absolutely terrible in this movie. The trailer offers glimpses of a standard western movie reminiscent of Tombstone which is action packed, full of gun fights and injuns and cowboys...you know, a western.

Well, Appaloosa wasn't quite that. I mean it was in the West, and it had a few gunfights, and occasional action, but the film was built around the characters and the dialogue and not testosterone and violence. Not saying that's a bad thing, the characters were fairly deep and likeable (or hateable, if you will) and the dialogue was good for more than a few laughs, just that it is what it is. A fair amount of the 2 hour film is spent with dialogue between Virgil (Harris) and Everitt (Aragorn) in what amounts to a fairly strange friendship/partnership-and I will admit there are some great conversations, some ending almost Seinfeld-ian. It's just that I wasn't prepared for witty epithets and dialogue going into a Western-and the trailer didn't exactly prepare me for it.

For instance, here's the decscription of the film;

When two gunmen, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, arrive in Appaloosa they find a
small, dusty and lawless town suffering at the hands of renegade rancher Randall
Bragg. Bragg has not only taken supplies, horses, and women for his own, but
also has left the city marshal and a deputy for dead. In Bragg they find an
unusually wily adversary who raises the stakes by playing with emotions. It is
now up to Cole and Hitch to stand against the actions of the renegade rancher,
which have already taken their toll on the town.

And while all that's true, the bulk of the movie isn't spent on that. Without spoiling it, just let me say that while all of those things do happen, they're not the bulk of the film-instead it's dialogue and the dynamics of relationships (with Zellwegger's character looking remarkably familiar to me). Again, not bad....really, it wasn't a bad movie. Southwick liked it, compared it to the infamous Unforgiven, which is fairly high praise.

Me? I was lukewarm in the end. It was good, but not great. I'm glad I saw it, I did enjoy it, but it's not one of those movies you tell people that they absolutely must see it. If it were being graded, maybe a C+ or B-. I'd say it's a great home movie, not a great theater movie (though the sound on the shotgun firing was pretty cool, as strange as that sounds). It's a great movie for a bored night at home to grab off PPV, Tivo, or Blockbuster.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Originally I had something else in mind for this week's selection, but between yesterday evenings trip to happy hour at the Cock and Bull and the couple bottles that T-bone left in my fridge before he left this weekend, I'm calling an audible at the line and choosing Maredsous as this week's Booze Of The Week.

One disclaimer though, there are actually two different types of Maredsous. They're quite similar to each other, but one is generally draft only and is 8% alcohol whereas the bottled version is 10% alcohol. There's also a blonde that's 6% but I've never seen it, so I'm going to pretend it doesn't exist. The Maredsous 8, as the 8% version is called, is a dubble ale which is a designation simply that it is stronger than a pilsner but weaker than a triple, which is what the Maredsous 10 is.

Maredsous is often confused with Trappist (or Abbey) ales which are actually produced in a monk's abbey, as has been the tradition for hundreds of years. Chimay is a prime example of this, except that Maredsous is not actually produced at the Maredsous Abbey but is instead licensed to another company (although the Maredsous Abbey does produce Maredsous Cheese). It's also worth noting that the producer of Maredsous (Duvel Moortgat Brewery) are also the makers of Duvel, which was founded in 1871 (Maredsous only dates back to 1963).
But that's not what you care about, you want to know more about the beer itself (unless you've already had it). So I will tell you that it's pretty widely available at specialty stores and pub-style bars in the US before telling you that for such a high alcohol beer, it's amazingly smooth and sweet. There's a little more hop and spice on the Maredsous 10, but both of the beers share a characteristic of being dark beers that are not bitter on account of the burnt malt, but instead strangle sweet, and as a result one of those trap beers that's so good you don't realize how drunk out of your mind you're getting as you drink it-consider that a pint is the equivalent to almost two pints of your average American pilsner, and you know why this beer has produced so many drunken nights for so many folks.
It's also worth noting that Maredsous is bottle-conditioned, meaning that it's fermented in the bottle and can last several years if stored upright in a cool place, unlike most beers which spoil in a matter of months. It also means there will be a fair amount of yeast and sediment in the bottle, so be prepared.
But ultimately, the charm of this beer is that it's a dark beer that doesn't taste quite like a dark beer, but at the same time is a great cold weather beer that's chock full of alcohol. And while I envision this re-appearing as the BotW come December or January, its also this week's Booze Of The Week.

The VPILF vs. the Man With The Creepy Forehead

Well now, that was much more interesting than the first Presidential debate. I almost wish we could have another VP debate. I took notes last night as I watched it with Stacey and T-bone, but before I go down those I want to say that I think Biden won the debate handily. The media seems to be running with it was either a draw or a slight edge to Biden and conservatives are generally holding to it being a draw. In reality, I think Biden beat her pretty soundly. The problem is that people went into it with such low expectations for Palin that the fact that she didn't sounds simply retarded somehow makes this a draw. That's absurd. If you judge it based solely on the debate and without political persuasion or expectations going in, it's pretty clear that Biden won. Which isn't to say Biden was without questionable comments-as I will point out below-but instead that he simply sounded as though he had a much better grasp of the issues. Now, some of my observations;

-Biden starts talking about controversial issues he's been working on. What is the first thing he cites? Violence against women? How is that controversial, unless he's advocating more of it.

-The first, and it was weak, attack from Palin was regarding Biden's year in the senate, and how that made him an insider. In the same breath she then praises John McCain as a maverick, apparently unaware that he's also been in the senate for 20 years?

-Five minutes into the debate, Palins has said "darn right" three times. Thankfully she stops at three.

-At 8:09pm CST the GOP officially abandons the notion of personal responsibility as Palin blames the entire financial crisis on "predatory lenders" preying on the unsuspecting public. Please, that's ridiculous. On top of that, she then asks for more government oversight and more government involvement....it sounded like Bush.

-Biden hammers Palin about McCain's constant votes to de-regulate, she dodges the question. The moderator asks if she'd like to answer, she dodges the question. I mean flat out doesn't even reference it, instead falling back to energy.

-Ten minutes after askin for more government involvement, Palin says that, "government isn't the solution, but the problem" and promises less government. Um, which is it?

-Palin claims energy is her area of expertise and keeps coming back to it in spite of the questions. At this point in the debate, approximately 30m in, she sounds lost. She sounds as though she's reading from a set of rehearsed talking points in spite of anything Joe Biden says and in spite of the questions actually asked of her.

-Biden proposes not just adjusting the interest on bad home loans, but adjusting the principle. Um, what? So the bank is just going to give the customers money? This made absolutely no sense.

-Why does Biden keep numbering his answers? Stacey points it out and it after that it annoys me everytime he does it. Every answer was first this, second that.

-Palin brings it back to the 05 energy bill that Obama voted for four times. Is that all she's got? Because a 3 year old energy bill really doesn't sound like much, especially when Biden pressed her on it taking 10 years before we'd see a drop of the oil she's proposing drilling and she doesn't address that.

-I had to rewind it to be sure, but yes, Palin did in fact call him General Betrayus.....that's a pretty bad freudian slip.

-At 8:43pm Palin made her first succesful rebuttal of Biden and it was regarding Iraq. This was the point in the debate where she started to sound not just comfortable, but competent. If you watched the last half it was a draw, the thing is, if you watched the entirety of it she was beating soundly.

-At 9:05 I switched it from FNC to CNN which again was running their little meter at the bottom of the screen. And while I have no idea how they're measuring this weird little graph, I'm even more confused on why this week it was measuring "uncommitted Ohio Voters" which as Stacey pointed out is poorly worded....are these single voters? Bad in relationships? Or just undecided?

-At 9:14 Palin says that John McCain has tapped her. We all laugh. Especially since it was 20s after I commented how nice her ass and legs looked, and the third time T-bone made a really creepy comment about how he would have her.

-Why was there so much argument over the role of the VP and whether it's more executive or legislative? Besides it being a pretty clear issue, it was a really weird avenue for the debate to go down as they ended up arguing about Dick Cheney.