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'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. we 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.