Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rabbit Eye Movement

Speaking of R.E.M., here's their first national appearance - the David Letterman Show in 1983...


Soundtrack/Money Changes Everything

I'll admit to being someone that often plans out the soundtrack of my life as if I were scoring a movie. Not every day of course but often with travel or other changes of scene I carefully map out the music. So when I flew down to Atlanta last week and rented a car to drive up to Athens for work meetings, I quickly grabbed some tunes for the 1.5 hour drive from Hartsfield to UGa and back the next day.

If I'd had it available, the Atlanta Rhythm Section's "Doraville" would have been first up, but I don't think I have a copy. So as I pulled out of the rental car lot in the black (oh, so black) Chevy Malibu and jammed on the accelerator to jump onto I-85 North, it was Drivin n Cryin's "Scarred but Smarter" that came blasting out of the sound system. I went through that CD and most of "Whisper Tames the Lion" before switching over to Atlanta's The Brains (thanks again, Lex!). I thought the B-52s and REM would be a little obvious as I pulled into Athens but I went for REM's "Chronic Town" and "Murmur" anyway. Widespread Panic was playing the first of three nights in town when I got there - their first home dates in 5 or 6 years I believe - but I've never been a big jam-band fan.

You may never have heard of or heard the Brains (I saw them at least once in Charlotte with Lex - the Milestone I think) but you probably heard Cyndi Lauper do their "Money Changes Everything". Well, here's the Brains' Tom Gray sitting in with another longtime Atlanta band, the Swimming Pool Q's with "the hit":


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tony P's Guide to IPAs and Pale Ales

About 18 months or so ago (I'm too lazy to look it up), I made a ridiculous blog post about drinking more cheaply for awhile and sang (or at least chanted) the praises of Miller High-Life. That idea lasted all of about, oh, three weeks before dying a quick, well-deserved death. Since then, I've been primarily drinking Pale Ales and India Pale Ales, other than the occasional Stella Artois or Harp.

I've decided that it's time to branch out a bit (I'm drinking a Flying Dog Tire-Biter Golden Ale as I type) but before I do, here's my rundown of the best and the to-be-avoided Pales.

The best draft IPA I've found is (luckily for me) right here in Chapel Hill at Top of the Hill. It's got just the right combination of flavor and bitter - extremely drinkable. They also can it for you golfers out there.

Let me get the less than stellar ones out of the way first. I will avoid Tommyknockers Pick Axe Pale Ale (Colorado) and Goose Island's IPA (Chicago) - neither have much flavor to them and really, what's the point of that? I was oddly underwhelmed by the Kashmir IPA from Asheville's Highland Brewery, although I like their Gaelic Ale quite a bit. I'm also not a fan of the high-gravity Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, despite the stellar reviews.

There are a number of adequate IPAs and Pales that are perfectly acceptable if they're what's available or maybe if they're marked down at the Teeter. Redhook Long Hammer IPA and Harpoon IPA are readily available and always pretty good. The Cottonwood Endo IPA is a pretty decent local brew. Before I headed down to Athens on business last week, I tried some Terrapin Rye Squared Pale Ale (8.5% ABV) that was pretty darn good. And Colorado's Flying Dog Brewery (the one with the awesome Ralph Steadman labels) has the Snake Dog IPA and Doggie Style Pale Ale, both of which are very drinkable.

My favorite brews of the last year or so have been from Mendocino Brewing Company - the Blue Heron Pale Ale and the White Hawk Select IPA (7% ABV). A couple of weeks ago I stopped by the Good Beer Store (honestly, that's the name) and picked up Saranac's Imperial IPA - I'm not normally a fan of Saranac, but this was excellent brew (and pretty meaty at 8.5% ABV). Unlike some other big beer sellers, it's fair to say that Sierra Nevada and Bass Pale Ales are big sellers because they're always good (and Bass has one of the better websites for beer out there). Finally, one of my new favorites is the seasonal "hI.P.A." from Magic Hat - give it a try while it's still around.

Of course it's all a matter of taste - as much as anything this is to help remind me that I probably don't want to waste my money on Tommyknockers and some of the other less satisfactory brews. So don't get mad at me if you drop 8 bucks on a six-pack of Blue Heron and you don't like it. But Lord knows I've tried quite a few (these are just the ones that I've tried more than once and that I actually remember).

Now that I'm widening my scope, I'm open to suggestion for things to try. I'm not a fan of brown ales and I'm only iffy on porters but I'm willing to try anything. Stouts (and oatmeal stouts and milk stouts etc.) are good bets and if you've got a favorite lager or pilsner, let me know and I'll give it a tryout.



Sunday, April 29, 2007

The (New) Aristocrats

Driftglass comes up with the best telling of the joke yet.

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Feel a Draft?

So the new head of the US Army wants to accelerate the growth in the number of forces to 550K by 2010 instead of 2012. Besides the obvious method (don't get them killed off quite so fast), any ideas on how to do that short of a draft? I mentioned a couple of weeks ago a column from Charles Krapheimer suggesting that as the most powerful country in the world, there was no reason we couldn't fight in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea all at once. I have no idea where he thought we were going to get the troops to do it - I know of two choices: draft and mercenaries.

Historically, dependence on mercenary armies is a pretty dependable sign of the end of that nation. Either you're over-extending or you're fighting battles that have no public support (or at least not enough support to risk their own lives). Both are damn fine indications that the end is near. The reinstitution of a draft is not too far different. Conscription in the US has primarily occurred during all-encompassing conflicts like World War I and World War II - the Cold War-era continuation of the draft was an anomaly. Even if you continue to bring in new recruits, the continual increase in length of deployments and the clear mismanagement of the war is causing high numbers of West Point grads to leave as soon as their commitment is up and the loss of midlevel officers is going to make training and leading those recruits a bit difficult.

It's clear to me that it's way past time to get the hell out of Iraq and revamp our military forces so that they are prepared for when they're really needed in our defense. A military draft or higher dependence on Blackwater and other contractors are both ugly alternatives that we should not find acceptable.


Don't Run, Al

Thankfully the calls for the Gore-acle to start another run for the White House have quieted down, due I think to the realization that the Democrats actually have a number of candidates that they are comfortable with. While I'm firmly in the John Edwards camp, all is not lost if he does not win the nomination. Sure I want to hear more substantive stuff from Obama, but it's damned early yet. And no, I'll never forgive the pandering of the Hil-ster over the last few years, including most egregiously her co-sponsorship of an anti-flag burning amendment, but I think she'd be an able president (and don't you know it would be fun to stick it to the wingnuts with the Clintons back in the White House!). Neither the thought of Joe Biden or Bill Richardson as president would keep me from sleeping well at night. So while I have expected a Gore to be president since I was growing up in his father's district in middle Tennessee in the 60's and while I think he'd be a great president, we don't NEED him to run.

The Repuglicans on the other hand are still obviously looking for their guy. McCain, Romney and Guiliani are all horribly flawed as Republican candidates and the guys waiting in the wings are (yet another) actor and the former House speaker who closet is more full of skeletons than Imelda Marcos' was of shoes.

Sure Gore could run if he wanted to, but he's probably able to be more effective from the outside. So why should he put himself and his family through that again? And why should he give up the ability to say what he's really thinking?


Mushy Middle

It's really sad to see how far down the pants of John McCain and Joe Lieberman once-decent writer David Broder has reached. His column of a few days ago comparing Harry Reid to Alberto Gonzalez was not only stupid, it was incomprehensible. And in Friday's WaPo column, he once again strokes his boy McCain, who has been flipping and flopping around so hard the last few years that he's starting to make Mitt Romney look like a model of consistency.

Broder believes that there is this Neverland of the middle, where old white guys like the afore-mentioned McCain and Lieberman hold sway between the rantings of the moonbats on the left (where I'll include myself) and the ravings of the wingnuts on the right and he's convinced that's where most of the people in the US actually live. I say thee nay. I'm convinced that there is a relatively small percentage of people in the country that actually think about this stuff and they end up on one side or the other of the middle. That's not to say that they necessarily go way to one side or the other, but they do typically identify as either red or blue. (I do realize that there are some thinking folks that are "left" on some issues and "right" on others - socially libertarian and fiscally conservative, say - that may appear to inhabit the middle but only if you somehow "average" their positions. That's not particularly useful.) That middle, which Broder seems to think is big and full of the people that have real common sense, is in fact I'm convinced filled with people who basically don't give a shit or who are so easily swayed by the talking heads in the media that they flop to whatever the flavor of the day is. If it were otherwise - if Broder was right - I can't imagine why voter turnout would continually be so abysmal. Instead of this deliberate mass of folks that are waiting until the last minute to make up their minds because they're carefully weighing every word of every candidate, they mostly either don't give a rat's ass or they're too busy with their own little personal dramas to give it any thought until some soundbite grabs them along the way and they say "okay, that guy". I might disagree with the wingnuts (okay, there's no "might" about it) but by golly I admire their willingness to get out and vote. It's that mushy middle that I have no respect for, just I no longer have any respect for fantasy writer David Broder.