Monday, July 6, 2009

Well Hello

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Suny Day Real Estate reuniting, touring

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

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

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

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

In short, I'm beyond ecstatic right now.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mighty Arrow Pale Ale by New Belgium Brewing Co.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Va de Vi Sparkling Wine

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

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

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

Fun, right?

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

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

Monday, May 25, 2009


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

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

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

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

Monday, May 11, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Live To The Beat Of The City

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How Not To End A Relationship.

As y'all well know, it is my preference to avoid blogging about "personal things" on here, not just because I don't expect you to actually care, but also because well-they're personal for a reason. I love the internet, but I also appreciate not spreading my life to (potentially) the world at large. That said, after speaking with a good friend earlier on the golf course after work and telling him the story, he suggested to me that it was just fucked up enough to be worth telling-and so, here I am to tell it. Know that it is 100% accurate and true, becuase that's how I roll-those who know me know that truth is something important to me, and how hypocritical of me would it be to clammor for it only to spread untruths? That said, enjoy, let's begin with a little backstory.

Amanda (you'll also see her referred to Panda once, her name of choice not a pet name of mine) and I have known each other for some 10 years. In my mis-spent youth working with bands and going to clubs, we made each others acquaintance on account of liking many similar bands and developed a friendship. Later, when I created Buzz-Oven with Aden Holt and Tony Edwards she was among the first people I contacted to get on-board. We both liked a lot of bands, both had a passion for music, and knew each other. Over the years we'd see each other at shows, maybe exchange a few messages over myspace/facebook about local music-it was never a terribly strong friendship, but we were frieds. She lived in Ft. Worth, I lived in Denton and then Dallas...the logistics were just never quite there.

Then this past February, we made plans to go see Trail Of The Dead at the Granada, which she'd end up backing out of but next time she was in town I met her up at Vickery Bar for drinks and we hit it off as though I was still 19 and her 21-like we did in our youth. One night of good conversation made it clear there was something there, and so over the next couple weeks we started texting each other and making plans with each other and before you know it, we're dating. We'd both had crushes on each other in our youth, but circumstances made that impossible then-but now, hey, everything was lined up. And things were good.

We started to meet each others friends, she asks me to meet her family, we make plans for some small summer trips, we see each other 2-3 times a week (we lived 50mi apart and had jobs, so any more was tough) know, the things a couple does. As Sunny Day Real Estate would put it, the days were golden [as an aside, i've got stop associating exes with SDRE songs, its really ruining the band for me]. I don't feel that I'm at all exaggerating when I say that it was a very fine foundation for a fledgeling relationship, and that as we're both making plans for the future that we both also thought it had a future. We get about 6-7 weeks in, and then it all changes.

On a tuesday she starts to get a little distant, on wednesday she grows extremely so (normally we went out on wednesdays, but this particular week I had some pressing stuff for work and couldn't make it) and starts talking to me about this "great conversation" she had that night with her friends. Next day comes the call, which isn't to say I wasn't expecting it, but it came;
Matt, I just don't see a future here, and I don't see a reason to keep this
going on if that's the case.
A little unexpected, but fine. I ask her why, she says that's just how she feels. It's a fairly young relationship and while I lamented it's loss (and to be fair, sent two fairly drunken text messages about it the next night-though nothing shocking), it was what it was. Next day called to inquire further, she was vague and just said she didnt see a future again-and again, while I think that's slightly shitty, it is what it is and she wouldn't be the first girl to end a relationship with a vague excuse. We're both adults here, it happens. A week later I drop her a text asking if she still felt that way, phrased just like that, and get no response. A few nights later we're both at the Slow Roosevelt reunion show (she worked merch for them, I was just a fan). I wave and smile, she does the same-wham, bam, done...that's that. It's over [and I'm ok with that].

Or so I thought.....

Cue last night. I'd just finished watching RocknRolla with the room-mate [pretty damn good by the way], setting up a post-work tee-time with The Doss for today [I of course played like hell], and was dicking around on teh intertubed with the Rangers game in the background when I get this from Amanda. Know that we hadn't actually spoken/texted in two weeks, and that we'd been done for three.

10:09 So here's the reason
[picture from above is attached]

It's her mugging down with a dude. Ok, well that's out of nowhere and kind of shitty, but again-c'est la vie-it is what it is. And the following is the transcript of the night.

(Amanda) 10:09 So here's the reason

(me)10:13 Wow Amanda, that's a really shitty way to tell me. And I really thought we were better friends than that. Why couldn't you just tell me?

(me) 10:14 I am totally cool with it not working out, and still really want to be friends with you, really I do...but that's a pretty shitty thing to do and you know it.

(Amanda) 10:15 thats whar you get for thinking frenchy [spelling errors are as they were]

(me) 10:15 and does that mean I need to get an STD test? Or did you atleast not overlap us, plz be honest

(me) 10:16 fucking Keith [the husband of a friend] that's not cool man, that's really a dick thing to do to a man.

(Amanda) 10:18 No need for an STD test she's classier than that [oh the irony...]

(me) 10:19 that's really fucked up man, what did I ever do to you or her?

[at this point, I think it's Keith sending me the messages, the syntax matched conversations. As far as I know it, in fact, was not Keith]

(Amanda) 10:26 Uh so not Panda [Amanda] here but why single Keith out...fucking girl!

(me) 10:27 because Carina [Keith's wife] Keith called me frenchy and this is a really fucked up thing y'all are doing.

(Amanda) Dude this is make out cheat on you guy....why are you such a pussy ass fagget ass bitch. Get over it frenchey. i'm better than you get over it. man up dude.

[At this point I call her phone, and this guy answers. He feels the need to tell me that I need a haircut [quite true] and is otherwise just an insulting asshole-not terribly shocking. Oh, and that he started sleeping with her two weeks into our relationship.

(me) 10:34 Ya you are. Good luck with everything man.

(Amanda) 10:36 I'm john mother fucking abbs bitch

(me) 10:37 Well congratu-fucking-lations douchewad. [I wish i'd typed asshat.....]

[At this point Keith calls me from her phone, claiming that she's wasted [oh ok, then it's all good...] and that he's had to chase her outside to get her phone. I asked him why I deserved this bullshit he said I didn't.]

(Amanda) dude, his "toungue" his longer than yours. get over it already.

(me) 10:53 Again, good luck with it all man.

(Amanda) 10:56 So far, from what i'm told im having way better luck than you frenchy. [really, am i supposed to be insulted by being called French when I am?]

(me) 10:58 Well then congratulations man, keep it up and make her happy. She's a cool chick and deserves it.

(Amanda) 11:00 you have no idea how cool she is and what shes really capable of dude.

(me) 11:02 I think I do, but I hope you maximize that and make her super happy. Because while you're a cocksucking asshole, I do hope she finds what she wants.

(Amanda) 11:09 Dude after 5 times you couldnt make ger "happy". seriously you have no fucking idea how to make her happy or whay shes capable of. get over yourself you litgle dicked fagget ass sperm burping cum guzzlling ass fucking fagget.

(me) 11:11 I'm quite over myself, and again wish you good luck.

(Amanda) 11:13 Good for you. I don't need luck i've got skill.

(me) 11:14 Well then kudos to you for that. That should do the trick.

(Amanda) 11:24 Dude I heard about all the pussy ass text and the way you bitched out at the concert and the fact that you were too girly to make her happy. just fucking man up and get ovet it.

(me) 11:25 You already said that.

At which point I, you know, went to bed....having a job and all, especially one that makes tuesdays a bitch. It was better to let this die for the night and call her in the morning. Of course, this morning when I called her, she didn't pick up [any reasonable person would have far too much shame to do so....]. Text her saying that after that bullshit I atleast deserved an explanation and got nothing, then got de-friended on facebook [oh QQ (thats sarcastic crying for you non-gamers), I'm so sad! such pain!]. It's so passive-aggressive, and yet expected.

But before I close out this story-this lesson on how not to be the biggest cunt you can possibly be to a person you broke up with a few weeks after the fact, please let me point out a few things, most notably that;
1) This was done three weeks after the fact, and two weeks after last talking to her.
2) This was done via obviously drunken text message, by a douche, from her phone.
3) Keith and I never got along that well, and I feel slightly vindicated by even his admission that this was bullshit.
4) Everything written above is exactly as was, and is the truth.
5) Who the fuck breaks up with someone-in an amicable way-and then wants to rub it in three weeks later? And why?
6) Who the hell calls someone what he called me, and then refers to sex in euphemisms?

At this point all I can really do is laugh at the situation, but I wanted to share. Hopefully someone, somewhere, takes something from this. Cheers and Go Mavs!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Soooo....its been almost a month.

I know, I know, this isn't the first time I've taken a bit of an extended absence, and while the number of readers seems to have trickled down to a few dozen over the past month, I want to re-assure you, dear reader, that I am in fact back. Sometimes real life gets in the way, and you end up with this backlog of things you want to write about in the back of your head and just never quite get to them. I know it's a lame excuse, so please allow to give some idea as to what the details are of my most recent absence;

First off, I wrote a guest entry over at The Blend and have been slowly piecing together some research for a second one that turned out to be far more time intensive (and fact based) than the previous entry. Then there's work, which has been particularly brutal as a recession/depression economy doesn't mean numbers no longer have to be hit (and let me be honest, people are most certainly trading down in their wine purchases), a short lived relationship (there are no hard feelings, its over and I still consider her a friend-it just didn't work out, which is a shame), a clearing of the Tivo (there's absolutely nothing left on it, huzzah!), a couple books read (reviews will come...), a couple good shows, and of course-the old standby, a fair amount of Team Fortress 2 when I can shoehorn an hour in. Are these excuses lame? You betcha, but they are what they are.

So here is my promise to you. You will get atleast one post a week for the foreseeable future, with plans for 3 a week. I don't think thats too much to ask, and I think it's something I can do. I've got a lot to write about, and I intend to do just that. So know simply that more is coming, and that I value your reading of this blog and the emails/comments I recieve. Y'all rock, cheers!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

There's a certain irony to it. On the eve in which the City of Dallas, in it's infinite [lack of] wisdom decided that it was so flush with money that driving tax dollars to the suburbs and closing businesses via a smoking ban (or saddling them with the cost of building a patio) was, you know, a great idea.....nearly a dozen wildfires range throughout North Texas leaving the city in an orange choking haze. Truth be told, that picture doesn't do it justice.

But hey, cheer up Dallas, when you wake up tomorrow morning the black phlegm you're hacking up won't be from someone else's cigarettes (you know, assuming it ever was)-instead it'll be some combination of wildfires, cement plants, and auto exhaust.

Feel healthier yet?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The End Of An ERa

Like that title? Brilliant, aren't I? What a play on words. That said, please indulge I feel the need to write a little about the series finale of ER. Yes, that ER.

ER debuted in September of 1994, and just to put things in perspective that was just a few months after Kurt Cobain killed himself (which oddly enough, is 15 years today)....the show has been on for-freaking-ever. Part of the original NBC "must-see TV" lineup along with Seinfeld, it's a program for which I've got great fondness, as I watched it throughout my youth. It was intended to be a realistic medical drama (albeit, with a little soap opera style drama thrown in) which focused on the characters and not the medical cases (like, say, House) and I'd suggest that it delivered....a bold proclamation for a show that lasted 15

What seperated ER from the pack though, was the way in which it was filmed. Filmed in a somewhat grainy form with a herky-jerky (yes that's a technical term) camera method that continually followed the action instead of existing with a focal point or three in the room. The camera was always moving, and the action always following with it-proving the point that an ER is a chaotic place-and making the cases (almost) as exciting as, say, the opening scene of 'Saving Private Ryan.' I said almost.

I watched ER live for the first half dozen or so seasons before hitting the meat of High School and then College, a time in my life in which I didn't watch that much TV, especially live TV. As such, I fell off the show's bandwagon always enjoying the odd episode I'd catch but not being up to date. That all changed though when I got a Tivo, and then totally changed when I graduated college and had 4mos unemployed to do nothing but drink beer, play video games, and watch TV (and good god, that was a good 4mos). You see, TNT ran ER re-runs twice a day and in chronological order, allowing an unemployed man with a Tivo little choice but to watch them.....all. And watch them all I did, to the point that I started at the pilot episode and caught alllllll the way up, and have since made it a point to record and watch every episode. And so on thursday, I finally watched the final episode of ER.....having watched every episode previous.

Ending a series is a difficult task. Seinfeld-a show I love-failed miserably at it. Most shows do, as tying up all the loose ends whilst simultaneously trying to give viewers their proverbial last hit off the crack pipe is a difficult thing. In much the same way we think three more Star Wars movies is a good idea, we as television consuming human beings never wants a program to end-no matter how tired it has become. ER had played through every concievable dramatic twist multiple times over the years, and likewise had churned through more characters than you can shake a stick at-a fact I was reminded of as I watched the ER series retrospective which aired previous to the final episode.

Dr. Ross, Dr. Greene, Nurse Hathaway, Dr. Carter, Dr. Benton, Dr. Lewis....that's how it started, more or less. By my count, we've had another 20+ doctors (30+ if you include nurses and staff) enter and exit the show in various ways since 1994. Don't believe me? Off the top of my head I've got Dr. Boulet, Dr. Weaver, Dr. Weaver, Jerry, Frank, Dr. Corday, Dr. Kovac, Lucy, Dr. Del Amico, Dr. Malucci, Dr. Chen, Nurse Lockhart, Dr. Pratt, Dr. Rasgotra, Dr. Gallant, Dr. Barnett, Nurse Taggart, Dr. Morris, Dr. Gates (Uncle Jessie), Dr. Brenner, Dr. Banfield and I'm pretty sure I'm missing a few, to say nothing of the ancillary characters (all four dozen of them).

What started as a medical drama that was apparently rejectd by multiple networks upon it's inception before being given a chance, morphed into a piece of TV cultural Americana, as more actors than you can shake a stick at have filled cameo roles on the show and the characters have gained a place in our TV hearts. Before TV would touch the AIDS/Civil War epidemics in Africa, ER was there with Dr. Carter doing two seasons of mission work with Doctors Without Borders. Likewise they had Dr. Benton's deaf child, Dr. Boulet's life with HIV, Dr. Romano's well known arm lost to a helicopter....I know this all sounds really crazy and soap opera-y......but it was good TV, and while sometimes preachy, it brought issues to the forefront that other programs didnt want to touch.

I was ready for it to end, really I was.....I think I'd made peace with it's incoming finale when Dr. Pratt died-the latest in a long list of characters I'd come around on only to see them meet their maker. But that doesn't mean the quality of the show was lost on me, and the cameos over the past season to sew up the loose ends did little but re-affirm for me the quality of the program. When the last episode faded to black, I felt as though my commitment to the program had been rewarded. I'm sad to see it go, but it was a great run.

And for the record, Dr. Greene was my favorite character.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Why I Keep Coming Back.

I'm not sure what my first memory is. When it comes to chronologically ordering events in my life, especially those of my early life, I'm fairly bad at it. Ask me how a local sports team did in 1996-or even 1986-and odds are I can tell you, but ask me what year I first kissed a girl....and well, I remember who and where, but I'd have to do some heavy mental math to figure out what year it was. It's just the way my brain is wired, for better or worse. That said, there may very well be earlier memories for me....but among my first memories was my mother taking me to a local rec center to meet a few members of the Texas Rangers. Somewhere at my Dad's house theres still both a framed picture of the 1988 Texas Rangers as well as a Tony the Tiger baseball (redeemed, no doubt, from many a bowl of Frosted Flakes), each with three signatures on it....those of Chad Kreuter, Scott Fletcher, and Jeff Kunkel.

Now obviously somewhere previous to that I was wired to love Rangers baseball (why else would I have wanted to go meet them? or have been so excited by it?), but I remember that picture and that signed baseball....and how they were my most precious possessions for many years of my life. I didn't care that Chad Kreuter, Scott Fletcher, and Jeff Kunkel were spares...they were baseball players, and Rangers at that, and thus worth of idol status to me. And buried next to that 1988 Texas Rangers team photograph, I'm sure sits a 1989 one....a picture I remember spending hours looking at as a child. For in my mind, that 1989 team was a magical was the team that would shape so much of my youth, and who's players I can still recite like gospel.

John Barfield (his name had barf in it!), Kevin Brown, Charlie Hough, Jamie Moyer (still playing), Kenny Rogers (still playing), Bobby Witt, Nolan Ryan (like everyone else, my childhood hero), Jim Sundberg, Geno Petralli, Steve Buechele (boooooooooooo.....), Julio Franco, Rafael Palmeiro, Dean Palmer, Juan Gonzalez, Cecil Espy, Ruben Sierra, Pete Incaviglia, Sammy Sosa (who wouldnt actually be relevant for another decade), Harold Baines, Buddy Bell. Those are the names of my youth, and to this day those names take me back in time to my childhood.

And it is with those names and that childish glee, that I find myself with less than a week until baseball season starts getting giddy at the fact that its almost here. Nevermind that the Rangers have been good, well, never or that we all know that this will be just another in the lifelong series of disappointing seasons. They will be bad, and by May 1 I'm sure I will be frustrated, and yet every night there I'll be....tuned in to another lousy game in a lousy season of lousy Rangers baseball, it's the ultimate lifelong 5 car pileup on the freeway you just can't seem to take your eyes off of.

The spirits of those players and the childhood memories, every year about this time, they come flooding back. And I find myself sucked back in.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Trip To Beaumont, TX.

It all started as a bit of a joke. A friend and I are sitting at beautiful Lucky Lou's in Denton, TX. six or nine months ago, as we had so many other nights. He had recently gotten his MBA from North Texas (hey, an MBA is an MBA, right?) and couldn't find a job outside of meager debt collection, which he'd been doing through graduate school. The job market just wasn't there, and he was rightfully frustrated by it. So we're sitting there, and the conversation goes a little something like this;

Friend: So I got a job offer finally, i mean it kind of sucks, but the
money's good...

Me: Oh? What is it?

F: It's for Conn's. Executive in training. Good money, thing, I'd have to move to Beaumont.....

Me: Where the fuck is Beaumont?

F: Outside Houston. It sucks, but I'd only have to do it for a year and
then I could move somewhere else.

M: That sucks man, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Just get a strippers n' blow fund started.

F: Huh?

M: Dude, you're going to be a well paid executive in Beaumont freaking Texas. What else are you going to spend your money on?

F: Point taken.

M: Tell you what, you get that started, and I'll drive down there and
visit, help you spend it.

And thus was the birth of the Strippers n' Blow jar [note: blow is just a euphemism for excess, there was no actual cocaine consumed]. Friend moved down to Beaumont in early December and has been there ever since saving money and only getting one weekend a month off. A few weeks ago he calls me, says he has a weekend off in March and the jar is getting full, and I should come down there. Meanwhile I'd just gotten a new car (who doesn't want to break in a new car with a road trip), so I decide what the hell-sure man, see you in a few weeks.

So friday afternoon I head down there. I'm expecting a 6-7 hour drive (truth is it was just 5 and some change), and honestly it was a fairly scenic drive. Bluebonnets everywhere, not a lot of traffic until Houston, it's really not a bad drive at all. Before I continue, let me make one small confession. I don't think I've been south of the Trinity River (i guess Arlington technically is, but you get the idea) since a river trip to Austin with my then girlfriend some 4-5 years ago. In fact, if you take Austin/San Antonio out of the equation, I'm not sure I've been south of the Trinity River since I was a child. My only memories were of obscene humidity and oppressive heat, and that combined with no actual reason to go south of the Trinity other than Austin (Shreveport is East, everything else worth going to is North), has kept me where I've been.

Truth is, Central and even Southeast Texas wasn't that bad. I mean sure, Houston is still an homage to strange smells, humidity, and urban sprawl of the highest order, but the changes in the geography from prairie to pseudo-hill country to forests to the coast is a pretty cool thing to see. Each town individually may be fairly forgettable, but as a composite there's something unique about rural Texas-sure the giant statue of Sam Houston is excessive, as is the World Capitol of Jerky, but part of me wishes I'd had a little more time and stopped in these small towns to absorb that rural Texas I've never really known. Sure they're a little over-religious for my tastes (there must've been dozens of pro-life billboards I saw during the trip) and ya, they might embrace the white trash ethos more than one would think healthy, but at the same time from the pseudo-cosmopolitan confines of Dallas it's almost like going to another country, it's a culture entirely foreign to me. I used to make occasional jaunt to Stephenville (damnit, I guess that's south of the Trinity too) with an ex-girlfriend to visit her family, and while that was an experience, many of the towns between Dallas and Houston make Stephenville look like a hotbed of culture.

Anyway, friday night I finally get down there...have a fairly skunky Dos Equis, and we head to this place called Madisons [side note, the name Madison seems to be a theme in SETEX, and I'm curious why that is] which had some awesome crab nachos (much better than they sound) and a Golden Tee machine before we headed over to the Vortex, the local Rockabilly/Punk Club. Cheap drinks, fairly cool scene (still can't figure out why they had a ping pong table though....), but a music venue you couldn't smoke in....something so absurdly foreign to me. It took me 45m to figure out why the place smelled like ass, until I lit a cigarette and was told I had to go outside...then it all made sense. And so from there to a pool hall, the lone bar in the city in which you could smoke. Capped the night off with whisky and 'Army of Darkness'. Good times.

Friend's couch sucks, i mean this thing was terrible, so I woke up slightly hungover, tired, and wanting waffles Saturday morning, so I loudly wake his ass up and we hit the IHOP before deciding to find a beach. There are three things I wanted out of this trip; a beach, seafood, and strippers. Beer is a given. We follow the not terribly informative signs until we finally end up in some place called High Island that has a beach. And by beach I mean sandy area with lots of rocks, shells, and jellyfish...but it had sand, and the water was nice enough. Had a few beers, managed to break my toe on a rock, and on the way back realize we'd both gotten way too much sun to muster the energy to head to Lake Charles and their casinos (I was jonesing for that damned Top Gun slot machine that's my bane), settling instead for a Hooters (where we were asked if we were gay....not that there's anything wrong with that....) with not one, but two pregnant Hooters girls, and then booting/rallying and watching 'Coming To America' whilst re-hydrating.

And then its back out, for a bar or two and then strip club. Let me just say this, the first place we drove by was a place called Tonga. It was a fabricated metal shed with a simple neon sign saying Tonga. That's it. It's a BYOB strip club, and from asking the townsfolk, its the worst place on earth. This would be a much better entry if I'd been but I must be honest, I said heeeeeelllllll no. So we went to the "upscale" one, the Gold Club. And I will admit, it really wasn't a bad place. Actually looked like a real club, good lucking women, bad '80s cock rock sound track, and while you had to go to a patio to smoke, I fought through it. I was really hoping to write about how terrible the strip clubs were in Beaumont, and had I gone to Tonga I probably could have, but the Gold Club....not so bad. We had a good time-boozed it up, cabbed it home, and had a nice Cracker Barrel breakfast before I started the long drive back to Big D. All in all, Beaumont's really not that bad a town. So that's my story.

But of course, thats not all. I decided to use twitter for this entire trip. As mentioned in this entry, I've been struggling for any actual use for the cultural phenomenon that has become, twitter (my username is /superfuzzbigmuf). And other than NFL news updates and local news updates, I've yet to really find one that the rest of teh intertubes can't give me. So I thought I'd twitter my trip. It probably adds nothing, but was worth a try, so in is my trip to Beaumont in snippets of 140 words or less. Cheers;

corsicana. turkey jerky and spree. and peed. from mobile web

lost ticket signal. listening to the rentals. from mobile web

kind of wish i was hungry so i could see if texas burger is any good. from mobile web

centerville, tx. how could i not stop at a place calling itself jerky
capital of the world? from mobile web

honestly thought the prison in Huntsville would be larger. from mobile web

wow, black guy riding a horse next to highway outside New Waverly, TX from mobile web

why does Houston need warning signs about potential ice on bridges? from mobile web

wow, the trinity river actually looks like a river down here. from mobile web

theres something cool about listening to patsy cline driving through rural
texas. from mobile web

in beaumont, first beer of many in hand. from mobile web

crab meat nachos = awesome from mobile web

better than ezra! why did i exclamate that? from mobile web

jameson and shiner at a rockabilly dive bar. good times. from mobile web

beaumont, tx: epicenter of cosmopolitan living? from mobile web

my name is ash, and i am a slave. from mobile web

awake. not regretting army of darkness. want waffles. from mobile web

port of beaumont kind of reminds me of season 2 of the wire. from mobile web

riding dirty in Beaumont jamming to lisa loeb. now *thats* gay. from mobile web

mission accomplished. i have now peed in the gulf of mexico. from mobile web

had a 40z of Bud Ice on beach. Poured last of it to my dead homies. .4 PM Mar 21st from mobile web

there are not one, but two, pregnant hooters girls at the Beaumont Hooters.
Stay classy. from mobile web

beaumont strip club? amazingly not that bad. saw much worse in arlington. from mobile web

so ya, broke my toe earlier at the beach. i just havent been able to feel
it. nice and swollen now. from mobile web

isnt breaking any news here, but 'Stepbrothers' was pretty damn funny. from mobile web

lol, walker texas lawyer billboard. from mobile web

Aaaaaaaaand, fin.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Great Analogy

It seems that the discussion is continuing regarding the Stewart vs. Cramer feud from last week, a feud that began with Jon Stewart calling out Rick Santelli's rant (which not surprisingly, was championed by the far right) in which he called out home-owners for taking bad mortgages and neglects to blame the banks and brokers that provided the bad loans. As I'm sure you know by now, Cramer fights back and a feud broke out between the two men which culminated with Cramer coming on Stewart's "The Daily Show" last thursday, which if you haven't seen is available here unedited, which is important since the actual broadcast of the appearance was pretty heavily edited.

Now let me preface this by saying that I enjoy the work of both men. I find Jim Cramer to be quite entertaining on Mad Money, and I find that you don't need a degree from the London School of Economics to follow his logic, its an investment show for the every-man and I enjoy it. Likewise, I think Jon Stewart is simply brilliant and his comedic analysis of the day's news is strangely better than anything CNN, FNC, or even CNBC are pumping out in my humble opinion. I like the work of both men, and don't have a dog in this fight.

But it was quite obvious from the get-go that Stewart was going to win this battle, as Cramer looked oddly sheepish at times, and the pundits almost universally agree that the "victor" was Jon Stewart. And while this is all well and good, I think it overshadows the message of what Stewart was actually trying to get at, mainly that CNBC should feel some responsibility to actually investigate what has been going on and instead of cheerleading the boom market, maybe look for the signs that things are about to go south and warn people.

I think it's an interesting discussion. CNBC is a privately owned cable television network, so what is their obligation to the public? It can't be any more or less than that of Comedy Central, which brings us public services such as "A Roast To Larry The Cable Guy" and monthly airings of PCU. And while I believe that The Daily Show is in fact a public service, Comedy Central doesn't air it for that reason-they air it because it makes them money. Likewise for CNBC and 'Mad Money.' Now is it dishonest the way they position and advertise Mad Money? I think it is, but this reminds me of the Jon Stewart vs. Tucker Carlson blow up from 2004 in which Stewart criticizes the program 'Crossfire' for encouraging partisan hackery (true) and the media at large for throwing softball questions at politicians (also true) but when confronted with his doing the same hides behind the fact that he does a comedy show, which is true, but you can't question what CNN/FNC do when you do the same thing....its likewise disingenuous. While it may be a comedy show, Stewart and The Daily Show have emerged as an important part of the public sphere, as assinine as that sounds.

Which leads us to the analogy I led off with. I earlier heard Bob Sturm make the analogy that this is akin to the baseball writers neglecting to report that the players were doing steroids, despite how obvious it was to them, and then when it finally does come out turning around and blaming everyone but themselves. I think the analogy is dead on.

A writer is either employed by the club (especially here in the .com era) or relies heavily on the club or MLB at large to provide them access to the players, to the locker room, and to the ballpark. If a writer gets blackballed and can't get a player interview or worse-can't go to the games-then that writer will quickly find himself unemployed. Thus despite how obvious it was the writers, especially being in the clubhouse, that steroids were running rampant in baseball for the latter half of the '80s, the entirety of the '90s, and the first part of the '00s the writers remained mum until it became such a story that they didn't have to fear for their jobs (remember how Jose Canseco was ostracized for telling the truth?). Likewise with "the media" you've got writers/anchors/talking heads employed by huge conglomerates with their financial fingers in all sorts of pies, and those companies would most likely frown on someone reporting that this entire bull market was little but a house of cards. So until the shit hit the proverbial fan and the reporters had no choice but to report on it, everyone remained mum and cheerled the unprecedented economic boom which would surely never bust. And it is for this reason, that I find myself siding with Stewart.

I don't believe that CNBC has an "obligation" be the watchdog the Federal regulators failed so badly at being, but I do think people should walk away from this economic disaster and know that CNBC-and the media at large-played a very large role in turning a blind eye to the underbelly of the economic house of cards, and remember that. I love Jim Cramer, but if you're putting all your financial eggs in the basket of a guy that throws plastic toys at the screen, hits sound effects, and considers himself the president of "Cramerica" then perhaps you deserve what you're getting. Mad Money is a great starting point, no doubt, but its just that and should be followed with due diligence.

I refuse to believe that with the sheer number of "economic experts" in this country, from the cast of CNBC down to your broker, that no one saw this coming. People did and were refused a platform to get the message out (it wouldve most likely fallen on deaf ears anyway, to be fair), and those whom could have actually been heard (and taken seriously) just got too caught up in the boom market to address reality. It was inevitable, in retrospect, but that doesn't mean that we can't learn lessons from it-and actually try to remember them when the next bull market occurs.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama Addresses Congress, the Nation

So tonite we got our first chance to listen to President Obama address the nation as, well, President. Here are my thoughts;

1) Still refreshing to hear a President not stumble over his own words. I know this doesn't mean a lot to some of you, but to me it was glorious. No longer do I have to be embarassed.

2) It appears he has taken a cue from his critics and decided to be more positive towards the situation. Not overly so, he's still embracing the reality of the situation, but atleast putting a nicer spin on it. I'm not sure I like that-I really liked his blunt honesty approach, even if there is anecdotal evidence that it was weighing on investor confidence to not have him shouting roses and sunshine.

3) Nancy Pelosi was a thrashing tonite. Someone might want to tell her she's on camera.

4) I came out of it convinced that something needs to be done, but still not convinced that the "stimulus" package passed was the answer. I just don't believe it will do what he says, and that it was a Democratic version of looking out for their buddies. (see: Bush, George W.)

5) I get it, healthcare is a major drain. And I agree, but what are you going to do? I like that it's his next priority, but I really worry about what his solution will be.

6) Joe Lieberman just looked creepy.

7) Loved the faux applause and very grudging standing ovation for Ted Kennedy. It was just seething with disdain.

8) Education? I get fixing the economy, I get addressing healthcare (as the baby boomers are about to start retiring en masse), but education? Forget for a second how fucked it is, and forget that its more of a local issue than a national one. Education seems like a reach considering all the other bullshit.

9) Still loving the promise to halve the deficit by end of his first term. Likewised loved the proclamation that torture by the US is done.

10) Overall impression: he has a grasp on the magnamity if the situation, is willing to be honest and discuss it, and has a (admittedly vague) plan to tackle it. I'm not sure that I agree with him, I've got serious doubts, but it's atleast somewhat refreshing to have the President actually admit to the problems at hand and propose something.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Woman With 14 Kids

As the news breaks today that the firm representing this woman, Nadya Suleman, the one in the news recently for giving birth to octuplets, is abandoning her as a client on account of the death threats both the client and the firm are recieving, I thought it a good time to write a little bit about this incendiary issue. Truth be told, I'm a little surprised its become incendiary as it has because normally people distance from saying anything remotely bad when it comes to babies. Then again, this story has so many angles it really shouldn't be surprising. In short, the story goes like this:

Single and unemployed mother of six children decides that she wants to have more children. She had used IVF to conceive of children in the past and decides to use it again (still can't figure out how an unemployed single mother of six can afford that, but I digress). In the past they'd implanted six embryos and the result was one child, this time the doctor implants eight embryos. Except this time all eight embryos turn into baby humans, and voila-9mos later this woman is now the proud parent of 14 children, still unemployed, and thus the cost of raising these children will be the responsibility of the State of California in addition to whatever money she can get from private or religious institutions. So this story is basically the perfect storm of controversy. And I thought it might be fun to go down each one of those avenues of controversy.

First and foremost, you have the IVF debate. Once an expensive and rarely used tool to help parents unable to conceive naturally to have children, it has since become fairly commonplace and well accepted by society. The problem though, is that it's fairly un-predictable and doctors continue to push the envelope by using "controversial methods" which increase the success rate, except that they sometimes increase the success rate into twins or, in this case, octuplets. Then you've got the unused embryos which are eventually destroyed (much to the chagrin of the anti-abortion folks). IVF is the poster-boy for how far are we, as a society, comfortable with science going, and with the debate of just because we can do something, does that mean we should? Adding another layer to that debate, in this case, is that this women would never be approved to adopt a child, but it's somehow perfectly acceptable for her to go see a doctor and have more children artificially implanted in her.

Then you've got the people upset because these children are now financially the responsibility of the State of California. The fact that this woman, who already has the state on the hook for six children, can then go out and have more not naturally-but artificially-and as soon as they leave the womb she now gets a bigger check from the state every month to feed, clothe, and house them and the state is also saddled with eight more children is has to educate (albeit poorly, most likely) from ages 6 to 18.

And finally, you've got the practical question of how does a single mother create a nurturing and loving environment in which to actually raise 14 children and give them any chance in hell?
Its a really tricky subject, one that not only stokes the flames of people's opinions on issues that are important to them, but also because is there any reasonable action that can be taken to prevent this in the future?

I've always found it odd that in this country where you need 16 permits to sell alcohol, a permit to drive a car, a permit to work on your house-basically a permit to do practically anything, there is absolutely no restrictions on having a child, or six, or sixteen. Of all the supposed freedoms and "unalienable rights" that American government is supposed to grant us, its odd to me that procreation is the lone one that remains unmolested. I mean it makes sense, no one likes the idea of the government telling what you can do with your body (i mean, except anti-abortion people), or telling you that you can't have children when your creator endowed you with the abiity to do so (except for in the cases that you can't, hence IVF). There would be riots in the streets if the government actually tried to restrict procreation, and as such, despite the sheer impracticality of allowing people to procreate at will, we continue to do so.

And not only do we allow it, the government actually subsidizes it. If you're poor (enough), the government will actually mail you a check, and that check gets bigger for every child you have. And while it's a tired cliche often employed by conservatives that this country is just packed with people exploiting the system and popping out babies to pay for their crack habit (there's no doubt its happening, but not nearly as systemically as the Limbaugh's of the world would like you to believe), the fact of the matter is the potential for doing so is there-and that time and time again the American people will side with the State because, after all, it's not these kids fault that their parent(s) is batshit insane/a piece of shit/an addict and thus its not "fair" to blame the kids for their parent(s) irresponsibility in bringing them into this world despite having no means by which to support themselves, let alone their children.

It's really a thorny issue. No one likes the spectre of the State regulating procreation (a la China), but at the same time it's really hard not to be appalled when something like this happens. No one wants to see these innocent children suffer on account of their parents, but how do you balance that with a system that encourages deadbeats to procreate so they can suck at the government teet? And I'm really not sure there is an answer besides what we do now, but I'll be damned if it isn't a really shitty answer.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Wire: Season 2

If you are a fan of film of any kind, be it film (like those people who have an illogical disdain for television but enjoy movies), or myself (list of movies I need to see is lengthy, but am a tv snob), I still can't recommend enough giving The Wire a shot (and I'd be happy loan it to you) and the TV hating people I know (including vegan neighbor who has the tiniest color tv known to man) will back me up here. It's engaging, it's enthralling, it's got compelling characters and compelling storylines that reach into the deepest reaches of our shame and our guilt and brings them alive. The humanity and the realization that this is the world is what makes the show all the more compelling, and being 2/5 of the way through I'm fairly confident that I've found a winner, especially considering the dozen emails I got after singing its praises last.

Ok, so here's the deal:




Alright, I'm not going to spoil everything, but with a program as intricate as this I feel it to by neigh impossible to discuss without giving away something. That said, I was asked to update when I finished season two, and while I'm a little late (i've actually finished season 3 too, but i will write about that tomorrow)

It was good. Was it as good as season one? No, but being from a non-union and non-port city (Dallas) I do think a lack of being able to relate was a factor, as was having a bevy of classic Northeastern US jack-ass characters, which again aren't entirely relateable as a Texan. We have our share of Ziggy's down here, but it's not quite what it's like in the Northeast, and he was an instant turn-off as a character to me.

Much like season one, I thought season two started off a little slow and it took me three or four episodes to really start to get a grasp on the characters. With the "good guys" (i use that term loosely) spread amongst several deparments of BPD, a new cast of characters in the stevedores, Deangelo and Avon in prison, and the introduction of The Greek and his crew-it just took me a while to wrap my head around who everyone is. That said, once I did the season was greatness.
Using the harbor as ground-zero for the season turns out to be a great idea, as there is actually enough that goes on at the harbor to make it almost as interesting as west baltimore had been in season one. I really didn't think there would be, but between the insane drunken-ness, the smuggling of women and drugs, and the politics of it all paired with their desperation as a dying union, there proved to be plenty of good storylines coming out of the harbor, and more than enough to make a compelling season when paired with Stringer taking over Avon's crew, Stringer's taking up with Deangelo's girl, and finally Deangelos death-to saying nothing of Omar and Brother Mozone.
I didn't like it as much as Season One, but at the end I was definately ready to jump right into Season 3. I'm not sure how people were able to take the suspense of waiting weeks/months between episodes, because there've been a couple 3 hour stretches of The Wire for me as I get enthralled by the storylines.

Wow, has it already been a week?

I can't believe it's already been a week, and I've got serious backlog of blogging that needs to get done, not the least of which are a couple guest columns I've been asked to do over at The Blend, which I've been working on (albeit slowly) for the past week. To say nothing of the two seasons of The Wire I've churned through (hence the lack of blogging, hehe) over the past few weeks, a sake review, and some sports stuff over at Cockfighting In Texas with this A-Rod stuff.

Point being, I'm not dead, and I've got some writing on the stove, I just need to finish it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowl interrupted

In some weird cosmic twist, it seems that once again the broadcast of the Super Bowl has become ground zero for broadcasters and what they're responsible for. We all of course remember the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" from back in 2004, and this time its porn being broadcast during the game.

As the story goes, Comcast subscribers in the Tucson, AZ area were watching Larry Fitzgerald part the seas on an amazing catch and run when the signal becomes interrupted and then replaced with a porn star shaking his thang for 30 seconds before the the station returns to the game. You can view the video here (without a it being blurred out) or here if you prefer not looking at a giant penis-either way it's most certainly NSFW.

Comcast is claiming that it was a "malicious attack" on their signal, you can read their release here, to which I wonder if I were going to commit what I'm sure is a federal crime, I'd most certainly have chosen a better porn clip. That said, how how uncomfortable that must be-can you imagine sitting next to your grandmother or child and that popping on during the Super Bowl? It's awesomely hilarious.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The End Of An Error: The Inauguration

I've been fairly vocal of my support for Barack Obama. It's not that I was necessarily thrilled with his policy proposals, or even enamored by the empty rhetoric that simply "change" represented, but instead I weighed the two candidates for the Presidency and went with the one that I thought offered the best chance for positive change and necessary action to drudge this country out of the stagnant quagmire in which it has fallen. I firmly believe that the last eight years have been a disaster, or more pointedly the final stages of the disaster-they have been the medical examiner finally removing the bodies from the scene of a horrific traffic accident. Never has the label 'lame duck' been more adequate than over the past year of the Bush administration, a year which has seen panic and inaction (or worse, mis-action) as the President realized that the American public had no faith in him, did not support him, and ultimately wanted to finally forget that he was even President. Short of the estimated 10 million lives he saved in Africa (kudos to Gavi for the link), I'm really not sure in a historical sense that there are any contributions George W. Bush made to this country that will differentiate him from the Herbert Hoovers of the American Presidency. But history will be the judge, and generally it is a very fair one-and I am happy to leave it at that.

That said, one thing that is clear, is that his term has finally ended. It's been a tumultuous eight years from the beginning, what with the 'Hail To The Thief' quasi-scandal that marked its beginning and bookended by an economic collapse not seen in decades, with a large terrorist attack, a couple wars, and all manner of political cause in between. It really has been a wild eight years, and while I'm not terribly fond of the idea of the current Democratic Party taking power, that has become the only solution. I'm nervous at the idea of a party that disrespects property and personal rights (see: smoking bans), favors nationalizing healthcare (is there a problem? sure, but is nationalization the solution?), restricting gun rights (and i dont even own one), expanding government and nationalizing industry (I know Bush started it, but its not a place I want to be) and mandating public service (a noble idea, but unconstitutional) having carte blanche to run ths United States of America. That said, I threw my support behind the party believing-however naively-that Barack Obama would deliver on his message of a united America, of a bi-partisan approach, on a practical approach that poached what needed to be and worked sensibly, and one that would finally make the decision on what the fuck this country is going to do in a few years when people my parents' age start retiring and wanting SS and Medicare money that just isn't there, to say nothing of flaunting the abuse of civil liberties that has been ongoing.

That said, I find myself cautiously-very cautiously-that President Obama might just actually mean what he says. If Star Wars has taught us anything, it's that power corrupts and if the history of American politics has taught us anything, its that politicians lie, cheat, and steal whilst looking out for number one. The odds are overwhelming that four years from now, we will see the same inaction, lies, and corruption that have been the trademark of the American Presidency since Dwight D. Eisenhower. That said, theres just something about the man....about his apparent honesty, his foresight, and his oratory skills that screams to me that he is the man that this country has been waiting for. Will we be duped again? We shall see, and we shall see in short order....President Obama has a lot on his plate, and the will of the American people is fickle and the patience of politicians seeking re-election even shorter. If strides aren't taken in one year-and yes I know that seems like an insanely short window, but a year from now house representatives will be looking at re-election-then this could end up a failure. Is it shitty? You betcha, but it's the reality.

And it was with that reality, that I decided to go down to Victory Park earlier today, arranging my day to be in Downtown Dallas during the speech and taking an early lunch, to watch the Obama speech. Considering it has become Dallas' defacto version of Times Square I figured there would be people down there, and upon arriving wasn't disappointed as an estimated 800 people were in the plaza to watch Obama take the oath and then give his speech. Huge turnout? No, but this is Dallas, I will take what I can-and am happy to say that the mood was electric down there. Enthusiastic, loud, and happy would be my adjectives with a fair number of Obama signs/shirts and no shortage of applause, as South Dallas came North and East Dallas came West (North Dallas meanwhile is still afraid of black people, and West Dallas is all warehouses) in a very cool experience as we all shared our common heritage as Americans, and shared our hopes that this country has finally taken a turn for the better. And so, at the end of the night and having heard Obama's speech a good three times now in full, I find myself very cautiously optimistic as the Bush administration has finally ended and now we get to, you know, fixing the damage it's left in it's wake.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shiner 100

Back in September of last year I reviewed Shiner '99, the Spoetzl Brewery's final anniversary offering before the Shiner 100 was going to pop up in 2009. Well the day the calender turned it seems, Shiner had their trucks shipping the 100 all over the state and last week I finally had a chance to try Shiner 100 for myself.

But before I get to the 100, let's review what they've done to get us here. Shiner '96 was the first anniversary beer and it was a Marzen style ale. '97 was a Bohemian Black (now marketed as Shiner Black), '98 a a Bavarian Style Amber, and as mentioned above '99 was a Helles lager. So while all have been done in an "old-world style," they've been fairly good about changing things up and brewing different styles-and honestly I've been excited to try each new one, even if they tended to be very different from an actual European equivalent of their namesake styles.

Shiner 100 follows in that legacy in most every way. It bills itself as a starkbier which means it should be strong, though it's really not that strong at 6.7% ABV (atleast compared to the 8% or 10% you will find in Maredsous) and while Shiner hasn't released a whole lot else about the style, I'm guessing it's supposed to be akin to a dopplebock, which is to say just a stronger and darker version of a bock beer-which is a good thing since bock is what Shiner does best.

Poured into a glass it has very little head (as do most Shiner brews), a nice copper/ruby/tawny color with tan head, and it laces nicely as you drink it down. The nose is fairly unpronounced smelling what I can best describe as, well, like Shiner bock-maybe a little sweeter. On the taste, it has that tinge of metallic tasting hops that is vintage Shiner bock, but otherwise very understated hops. It's primary flavor is fairly dark roasted malt, but its an extremely complex malt showcasing both sweetness and bitterness which then plays off the alcohol which is evident. It's a little more effervescent than I'd like for the style, but in the end I find myself extremely impressed. As the anniversary beer they've been building up to over the past few years, I think Shiner 100 delivers and is the best of the lot. In many ways, I drink it thinking it's just a better version of Shiner Bock-it tastes very similar but has a better mouth feel, more complex flavors, and a little more alcohol. In short, if you like Shiner Bock I'd be willing to wager you should also really like Shiner 100.

B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Vineyard Cabernet (2005)

I think this is probably the fourth or fifth time that I've had a wine from B.R. Cohn, to the best of my memory each of them have been cabs, and I've come away from them fairly unimpressed. It's not that they were bad wines, quality wise they were very nice, its just that they were fairly unspectacular, fairly simple. They tasted like a California Cab normally does, and my thought process was if I wanted an unspectacular California Cab, I would be just as well off grabbing a bottle of Clos du Bois or J. Lohr and save myself the money.

This bottle however changed that opinion. I recieved it as a gift a few months back and this past weekend decided to open it up to go with a steak, and I was extremely pleased. Best I can tell it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, was aged 24 months in new French Oak, and the AVA is Sonoma County (but Olive Hill Estate Vineyard subset). The primary flavors on it were cherry with a little bit of plum and black currant and this was countered perfectly with a fair amount of oak and a softened tannin. The flavors were very concentrated and explosive and the finish was excellent. Not an oaky Cab, but instead an extremely balanced and well rounded one where each of the flavor components complements the other nicely-and complemented the steak extraordinarily. Now to be fair it's a $50 bottle of wine, so it damn well better be good, but at the end of the bottle I found myself quite pleased with it.

I'm not sure who in this economy has $50 lying around for a bottle of wine (which isn't to say I'm not hoping there are lots those people in Dallas), but if you do I'd have no problem at all recommending the B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Cab.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Slow Painful Death Of The Newspaper

It's no secret that the newspaper, atleast the newspaper as we know it, is dying. That much has been quite clear for a few years now, and the point was brought home last April when it was announced that American newspaper circulation fell 3.5% down to it's lowest level since 1946, despite the American population having essentially doubled over that same period-thus selling the same number of newspapers as 1946? Well, that's not a good thing buddy.

The reasons presented for this decline are myriad. Most people blame the internet (and by proxy our Blackberry's and iPhones) for providing instant access to news that is constantly updated and free. And while reading your phone in the restroom or during lunch isn't quite as appealing as a newspaper, it's something we're becoming accustomed too. Other people blame it on the rise of cable news networks and niche sports networks. After all, if you read the paper primarily for news-wouldn't CNN or FNC give you better information? And if you read it for sports, wouldn't the NFL Network, FSN, or even ESPN give you better information? (i hesitated to include ESPN there, as their product is so freaking bad, but I figured I had to). Others blame it on the quality of the newspapers, especially in places (such as Dallas) where there is but one newspaper holding a monopoly. I'm sure the actual reason for the decline is some blending of those, the rise of the blogosphere, and the general dumbing down of the American populace, but the why isn't as important as the simple fact that the newspaper as we know it is a dying industry.

Today we get word of the next step in the dying process, as the Dallas Morning News reports that they will now be sharing content with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a trend I'd expect to be picked up by other newspapers across the country where its possible. Beginning Feb 1, the DMN will have the beat for the Dallas Stars and the Dallas Mavericks whereas the FWST will have the beat for the Texas Rangers-and the two papers will share their beat writers and their articles (both papers will maintain separate coverage of the Dallas Cowboys, only because they're what people actually care about in Dallas). They will also share their coverage of college sports and some individual sporting events. The decision was of course made to cut costs for the papers in the face of shrinking revenue.

You might ask, well why is this that big a deal? I mean it's just sports, right? Well first off, most of the "news" in a newspaper isn't produced by the newspaper itself, but instead taken off the AP or another wire. Outside of local news, columnists, and articles of interest-sports is the bulk of the original material a newspaper produces. So to be slashing that, well that's a pretty big deal. I'd also present to you that sports and business are the two biggest reasons the average consumer picks up a newspaper. While that bombing in Gaza or those potholes down the street might interest you, they I believe generally interest you less than your stock portfolio, the general economy, or what your sports team of choice did yesterday. So again, this is a pretty big deal.

In equally grim news on the newspaper front, it's also been announced that the Seattle Post Intelligencer has been put up for sale and will close unless a buyer is found (unlikely). Likewise Colorado's oldest newspaper, The Rockie Mountain News, has also been put up for sale and will likely close as well.

I'm quite the hypocrite on this subject. I love the newspaper and am sad at the prospect of losing them, but then like most people I rarely buy them. Sure if I grab a bagel for breakfast or am having a long lunch I will get one, but generally I too get the bulk of my news online. And of course while doing this, I don't click on any of the ads that would generate revenue for the newspaper (as little as it is), because let's face it-who actually clicks on banner ads? Furthermore, if I am looking for local news I will head over to Unfair Park (where much more honest journalism exists than you'll ever find in the DMN) and while I may read the local sports beat writers, their articles generally reak of knee-jerk reactions and are usually overtly simplistic, with much better sports discussion found elsewhere online. If it's business I'm after, I flip on the TV. The point is, I think I love the nostalgia of the newspaper-the memories of reading it as a child over a bowl of Cheerios or reading the Sunday edition-far more than I actually love the newspaper as it currently exists. I find myself thinking I like it far more than I actually do, and while I will miss the occasional good article my local newspaper gives me that I can't get elsewhere (and they are rare.....), I can't say that I'd miss it enough to actually subscribe or buy more than maybe a paper a week.

Change can be scary by definition, but I just don't see any other way. It's simply an outdated industry, as sad as that sounds.