Avery's SalvationAvery Brewing Company out of Boulder, Colorado brought a lavish selection of beerwares to the Blind Tiger Ale House last night, and there was much rejoicing. Outside there was glowering, there was thunder, there was drenching rain and an etched lightning sky; inside there was all that and more, in liquid form.

My first brush with Avery beer was at a Blind Tiger barleywine tasting a few months back (it may have been a general strong beer tasting rather than just barleywines – sometimes it’s tricky remember the details of beer events). Their brews were among the high points of that go-round, and I was happy to taste more. And, as it turned out, more and more.

We took a break to zip across the street for dinner and a slice of the bi-weekly songwriters’ circle in the upstairs space at the lauded lesbian joint Rubyfruit Bar and Grill, where guitarslinger Natalia Zukerman was playing as promised and star-in-the-making Jennifer Marks, who starts her West Coast tour this evening, was not (you should be listening to Jennifer Marks. No, really, stop it, you should. She’s all that and more). Natalia is a formidable musician whose twisty songs take their tastes from jazz more than pop, and I like catching her when I can. Her mini-set was feline, complete with claws and sure sharp teeth.

Back at the Blind Tiger we’re telling awful jokes, including the new one about the Ever-Interrupting Cow, which cracks me up at every opportunity. But you can’t go up against a bartender in joke-telling, and Dermot’s got five for every one of mine. There are tulip glasses and half-size tasters jovially set here and there, and the best of the batch by acclaim (i.e., the ones I liked most) are Hog Heaven, a gorgeously-balanced barleywine (ABV 9.2%) garnished, on the bottle at least, with winged pigs, and The Reverend, a Belgian-style quadrupel (ABV 10.0%), which tickles with candi sugar and a bevy of fruity notes. Salvation, a Belgian strong golden ale (ABV 9.0%), and Old Jubilation, an English strong ale (ABV 8.0%), follow close on behind, and I haven’t got the palate left to even begin the hop assault of their anniversary Double IPA, Eleven (ABV 9.0%, and the brewery promises that “Describing this double IPA as ‘aggressively hopped’ is an understatement”). Pierre is quite partial to the mighty Russian imperial stout seasonal Czar (ABV 12.2%), which ultimately gets all feudal on him as the night wears on.

Overall an evening of splendid brewing: Avery’s beers are vital and winningly overdone, stomping where many might walk a finer line. Just like I like it.

On the train back to Brooklyn a deranged but clean man is orating, making a mashup of knee-jerk urban liberal mush and paranoid ramblings. He’s trying hard to convince us about something that involves soldiers in Iraq, teachers in schools, and fathers in homes. Neither we nor he can make out just what the point of it is. His voice is beautiful, resonant and deep and utterly lacking the sort of cultured tones you expect to hear in such a voice. As the doors open at Franklin Street, he calls out with clarity and commitment. “Two words,” he says. “I got two words to tell you what we need: neighborhood.”

Posted in About Last Night |

Things That Go “Beep” in the Afternoon

I moved to Dallas after college and after a stay in London for drama training. I lasted only about a year in the Texas wasteland hardpan, living on the fringes of Southern Methodist University, and that in many ways.

A couple of short-term jobs kept me in shoes, ribs, and monster-movie videos down there, and one of the least tasteful was as a temp “information processor” at Mobil Oil. Mobil had PROFS (Professional Office Systems) installed in its central hubs: this was a drab proprietary non-graphical network system that provided database and email connections to central automated Mobil offices, or would have done if people had known how to use it. We’re talking in B.I.A. years here (Before Internet Access). For some reason our system only liked to talk to New Jersey, and it had a hard time communicating even up or down a floor or two.

PROFS was very good for sending jokes to other users, which got me in no end of trouble (remember that Dallas is in the southern That’s-Not-Funny Born-Again Belt, and if this offends you then either you’ve never lived in Dallas or you live there now). Like most other systems of its time, it was not much good for very much else. I was the only one in my information processing center who could use PROFS except for Carla, who worked a floor below but mostly hung out with us, so the Mobil nabobs swiftly decided that training was in order and sent Carla and me off for introductory classes.

Linus & Carla: But we already know how to use PROFS.
Sue the Ignorant Supervisor: Yes, but I don’t.
Linus & Carla: Boggle.

I’m not going to get into the Morning Problem here, but let’s just note that PROFS training began an hour before regular work, and it lasted for three entire days. So right off I was marked down to be docked pay each day, even though as a temp I was only paid for the hours I was present. Go figure.

The introductory class had excellent donuts, and was more or less designed to take people who could make it as far as J-K-L in the alphabet and show them how to break a work station. Carla and I decided that this counted as vacation, except without the bathing suits, and we set down to amuse ourselves.

Class was run by the sorrowful Mr. Bordellon, and I would change his name to protect the truly innocent – he didn’t deserve a moment of us – but I can’t, and this is why. Our student accounts – Guest101, Guest102, Guest103 and so forth – suggested that names in PROFS were limited to 8 letters, which is how it used to be in the B.I.A. years. Sure enough, poor Mr. Bordellon had been slapped by life in the Computer Age. Leaving 8 characters for the name, trunc(Bordellon) = Bordello.

Linus, waving hand: Excuse me, Mr. Bordello?
Mr. Bordellon: No, it’s Bordellon. BordelLON.
Linus: I’m sorry. Mr. BordelLO, how many letters can there be in an account name?

By Day Three, Mr. Bordello was near collapse. Carla and I were seminar folk heroes, Bonnie and Clyde to the information processors, running goggle-eyed and giddy on bottomless coffee and infinite donuts. The whole class was sending notes back and forth using the instant-message-like Page feature, which Mobil cleverly omitted from the curriculum but not from the documentation (and Clyde unearthed it, yep). With Page, the CPU beeps when you get a message. Lots of things make it go beep, so we hadn’t been busted yet. But Mr. B. had noticed. Beep (pause) Beep. He’d spin around, we’d look innocent. What beeping?

I had been sending Mr. Bordello mail (beep) from an unused Guest account I’d found, kitted out with a funny fake profile; every time a message came in he was disconcerted and concerned. On the last day, which consisted of Advanced Just Like Yesterday, he projected his monitor up on a large screen in front of the class to show us how to do something. Sensing fun to be had, I sent a brief group Page message to Mr. B. plus the whole rest of the class. Logged out of my fake account, logged back into my class account. And after a minute or so – it had to go all the way to Jersey and then find its way back – every machine in the room beeped, one after the next, in no clear pattern. Beep, beep, beep, beepbeep, beep, beepbeepbeep, beep.

Mr. Bordello, who never asked for any of this, stopped and turned to face us. His own computer beeped. He looked down at the screen, and we looked up at the image of the screen. The message said:


Pass the donuts. And I’ll take a jeroboam of coffee. Hey, can I have that one all dripping with chocolate icing?

Best Rank Ever Pulled in Texas: We’re chatting at a Dallas bar. The other gentleman takes exception to some of my views, or perhaps he’s rankled that I sound like I’ve read a book or two in my day. His face flushes red and he shifts around in his chair, dying to waggle a finger in my face.

“I don’t know about you,” he blusters, “but I went to S.M.U., which we call ‘the Harvard of the South.’ ”

“Really,” I reply. “Well, I went to the Harvard of the North, which we just call ‘Harvard.’ ”

Dallas was not my kind of place.

Posted in General Musings |

Oblique and Obliquer

hexagram 41

The Oracle of the Hexagram

Sun (Decrease)

A marsh at the foot of the mountain.
The man restrains his anger
and represses his desires.

Very auspicious.
No mistakes.
You may take any action you wish.
Keep to your course.
What is your course?
Sacrifice two baskets of grain,
even if that is all you have.

The question? Doesn’t much matter when the answer is that delightful. The response was perfectly appropriate, though. For your very own reading, think about a question or dilemma and then visit the I-Ching Oracle at Walking Dead Network. And don’t miss the hilarious Euphemism Generator while you’re there:

  • One thing I could never figure out was how he kept his shoes on while ironing the brass woodchuck.
  • She checked the coast was clear before tainting the groovy yam.
  • Like most guys his age, he wasn’t above nibbling at the screaming christmas tree.

What can I say. It’s Tuesday, it’s raining, there’s a marsh at the foot of the mountain. If you’re looking for inspiration, Ethan Lipton plays tonight at Joe’s Pub in New York, opening for Eleni Mandell, and it should be a spectacular show; come join us.

Posted in General Musings |

Unjust Desserts

Last summer we had a fat roll of bellyaching to bellyache through, with rain nearly every weekend and some of the weekdays to boot. Keep in mind, of course, that we Noo Yawkers do fondly love a good bellyachin’, so that’s not as bad as it might sound. It keeps us feeling all scrappy and put upon, which can pass for happiness in these parts.

It’s mid-July now, and I must say: splendid sunny balmy times are the lazy thrust of of Summer ’04. Thrust? Did I say “thrust”? That’s too much work; rather say we amble into the promising evenings, with a smear of SPF to show for the days. Assuming the looming Republicans keep themselves to a dull noisome roar – like that could ever happen – this will be a Summer of Peace. Can the Summer of Love be far behind? Ooo, I hope not.

What with dinner before and a late round of burlesque as bread, Jess of Blind Cavefish and I only had time to sandwich in one quick drink at Friday’s Blogger Party to celebrate the Death of Paul (who isn’t dead, so it’s not a solemn occasion. Just one of those things). Stuck in the middle of the Busy Night it got short shrift in both directions. Rats. But read all about it from Daniella and Stephanie (both of whom post pictures), or via Fish and Donkey, who must, I gather, be Guardians of the Beam. Can you pick out our Peppery Cavefish photo in Stephanie’s blogger gallery?

Back downtown, the ever-sultry Miss Delirium Tremens launched her new weekly Hot Box burlesque series with aplomb. Later, both Maudite and Piraat were on tap at d.b.a., so the night lingered long. And longer. And longer. Ow.

The Corporation, devilish and angelic. Orange you glad I didn't say Banana?And that was just Friday. Saturday night Girl and I went off to see The Corporation, which was mightily sold out. Thunderously, one might say. Not ones to be daunted, we ended up in an adjacent house for The Five Obstructions, a delightfully difficult documentary that pits the provocative (not to say assholish) needling of Danish director Lars von Trier against the stately big-dog dignified resilience of fellow filmmaker Jørgen Leth. In his role as Iago (more or less), von Trier, a nitpicky needler and an advocate of precise artistic hurdles, asks Leth to remake his 1967 13-minute short The Perfect Human (Det perfekte menneske) five different times under five separate sets of obstructions – in half-second cuts, set in terrible locations, as a cartoon, etc. – to slice away artifice and force him to confront his unvarnished nature as an artist. To strip the bride bare, as it were. Each time Leth produces shorts that turn their obstructions into strengths and stand noble instead of damaged, which both frustrates and satisfies von Trier’s obsessive conditions. In the end, Leth is more. The movie is fascinating, and Girl was rapt, which made me very happy – not for everyone, such pursuits, not for everyone at all.

We are now issuing obstructions to each other by text message, naturally.

And yesterday, ah yesterday. Another in a tide of three-hour sails on the Good Ship Ventura after brunch in the Village and a long hot walk down the margins of the river; then we stumbled about the Village as dark fell, ending up over tasty sea bass with galangal in an outdoor garden (a.k.a. an airshaft with tables) where they tried to charge us for dessert we didn’t have. It may be midsummer, it may be July, it may be giddy and it may be sultry, but it’s still New York.

I’ll have a second glass of July, an’ it please ya.

Posted in About Last Night |

Lord of the Ringo

The perfect birthday: yesterday Ringo Starr turned 64. Presumably he got birthday greetings and a bottle of wine.

The Beatles were already (a) pretty much adults and (b) broken up by the time I noticed them with any gravity, but I was close enough to know that no one ever anticipated actually being 64. It was just rhetoric, you know? And it rhymed. It’s like stunts on TV – you’re not supposed to try it at home. Ah, time is a mocker, all right. Thanks to Mike from Randomness Personified for pointing this out.

Since I missed Ringo’s birthday and we already established that I suck at remembering anniversaries, here’s another milestone that recently zipped by on time’s highway: this past Monday marked two years of smobriety for me. By which I mean that on July 5, 2002 I put down the damn cigarettes after 19 years of thrashing through a pack or so day. According to my SilkQuit smober meter – free, and recommended – here are my current stats:

I’ve been quit for two years, three days, 2 hours, 2 minutes and 35 seconds.
14681 cigarettes not smoked, saving $5,505.64.
Life saved: 7 weeks, 1 day, 23 hours, 25 minutes.

(We’re not sure, but we think the “life saved” bit is a measure of the time I would have spent in the actual act of smoking. Though most of that time would also have been productively directed to drinking beer – two hands, two vices, that’s how we’re made.)

Posted in General Musings |

The Music of Chance

How you know it’s been a Long Day: down the hall in the calendar department, Mandy’s phone just began playing music. It didn’t ask anyone, it just started to keen out loud through the speaker. It’s crooning elevator music, perk-up-the-end-is-in-sight no-songs in slick synth, with lots of modulations. You can still call the phone and it behaves fine while you’re on it, but when you hang up it starts to sing again.

I had a homeless guy in my neighborhood who was kind of like that once. Unfortunately our new homeless guy is flat-out insane, complete with the crazy-person hat, earflaps akimbo, and he smells awful.

Telephone Update: If your Norstar phone out there in Pepperland is playing on-hold music out loud, just press Feature, #, 86, and it will turn off the tunes. This does not entirely address just who thought it would be a good idea to make a phone that would sing at all, but it’s probably too late to find him now. “Hey, you know what would be cool? Let’s make a phone that plays cheery songs at the end of the day!” (Several days pass) “Bob, about that phone idea you had last week. Come up and see me in the office. Bring your personal items with you.”

Posted in General Musings |

Spam, Spam, Bacon, Spam and Eggs

In an effort to cut down on spamming while keeping comment posts as straightforward as possible, we have enacted a “copy this code” scheme that will cut down on automated spammers.

It’s not a perfect solution, as it requires a graphical browser and thus effectively shuts out anyone using plain-text, Braille, or text-to-speech browsers, but it’s either that or requiring either registration or moderation.

Please let us know if you encounter a problem.

Posted in General Musings |

Go 4th and Sunbathe

A beautiful day here in New York City, among a cascade of beautiful days. We’re not used to kind treatment at the hands of the season. At this rate, I’m never going to clean my apartment.

Yesterday I baked aboard the Good Ship Ventura for a glorious few hours on the harbor (same again tomorrow, please), and after a sunstroke nap – you know a nap is a good one when the pillow wakes up damp – foraged off to Park Slope and met Pierre at Barbès for a madcap dip into the music of River Alexander and his zany crew of Mad Jazz Hatters. Six guys, two guitars, one clarinet, a few old-style harmonicas, a harness-mounted kazoo, a washtub bass, and David Langlois at the helm of a thimble-operated percussion set (washboard, dishpan, and other clangity things). Imagine a cross between Hoagy Carmichael and the alien bar-band from Star Wars doing hippety American classics, and you won’t be too far off.

Today is Independence Day. I will celebrate, I think, with a screening of Fahrenheit 9/11, wherein we will separate the hawks from the handsaws. And then there will be fireworks.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Read the rest here. How lucky we are that we once had such liberal, thoughtful, challenging and decent founders.

Posted in General Musings |

His Own Brando, 1924-2004

Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire, 1951 Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris, 1972 Marlon Brando in The Godfather, 1972

Goodbye, Marlon Brando. You were one of the strongest and one of the weirdest, and maybe that’s what it’s all about.

Posted in General Musings |

Women Need Alcohol

The BBC reports that, according to a new study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, alcohol helps women fight off osteoporosis. “The moderate drinkers – who drank an average of eight alcohol units a week – had significantly denser bones than those who consumed very little.

So, how about a date at Spuyten Duyvil?

Posted in General Musings |