Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Things I AM Thankful For...2008 Edition



















I know it's trite and cliche but I grew up Catholic so I feel a sense of guilt if I don't acknowledge the things that are going well in my life.

Sooooo...

I'm thankful my car I had to buy is paid off

I'm thankful my job is secure in a tense economy.

I'm thankful I'm still able to come up with ideas for my Pipe Dreams comic strip.

I'm thankful I'm in more in touch with old friends.

I'm thankful I have made many new friends via my job.

I'm thankful Barack Obama won a solid victory in the 2008 election.

I'm thankful for the amusing cluelessness of Sara Palin

I'm thankful my hair is still intact and not very grey.

I'm thankful I survived the gas gouging of the summer and that the gas prices are low now.

I'm thankful both my parents are alive and well.

I'm thankful my nephew Sean is one fun kid.

I'm thankful of the possibility the Jets and Giants might face each other in the Super Bowl.

And I'm thankful in advance for all the comments I get from this blog entry.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Revisiting An Old Favorite.


I'm cheap, so cheap that I don't rent movies, I borrow them from the library. It's actually a pretty good idea because instead of being bombarded by a wide selection of recent mediocrity, I find some gems from the past, movies that I've never seen or movies that I had almost forgotten.

One of those films is 1990's Metropolitan by Whit Stillman. I never intended to see the movie when I first saw it at the Angelika theater. My date, Marie and I had wanted to see the movie "Vincent and Theo" but the times in the paper were incorrect and we didn't want to wait another hour to see it, so we saw "Metropolitan" instead.

We had no idea what the movie would be about, no idea of the plot, the actors or whether it was in English but Marie and I decided to give it a shot.

The movie takes place in New York City's upper east side. It's about a bunch of young Old Money Debs and Preps who meets up with a declared socialist from the (gasp) upper west side middle class and takes him under their wing to hang out with theim. The guy, Tom is reluctant, but finds himself enjoying the company of the social elites he's supposed to despise. They talk and talk and the movie ends. Not much to recommend is there?

Well, actually it's the dialogue that makes this film. It's like the early 30's screwball comedies with its rapid fire verbal delivery. The words are absurd but come out naturally from the various characters. They seem like people you wouldn't want to know, But you grow to like them even with their flaws. The main female Audrey is adorable, not as gifted with the gab but able to disarm the gentlemen who are more gifted.

The most noted actor in the film is Chris Eigeman who plays Nick Smith. Nick is the cynic of the group. He knows who he is and what value his life is. He and Tom strike up an interesting friendship. Nick is an admitted snob but it was he who took Tom into his social circle. Tom, on the other hand admires Nick's candor and Audrey's passionate defense of bad Jane Austen books. Audrey takes a liking to Tom but Tom holds a torch for another woman who doesn't really care about him.

The movie is a valentine of New York City during Christmas time. It's low budget but since Whit Stillman grew up in upper class surroundings, he was able to film in the apartments of the peers. His empathy helped in creating well rounded characters. You actually get to like and identify with these privileged youngsters.

I had not seen the movie in over a decade. I picked up new things to like in the movie. One was the actress Dylan Hundley whose looks and acting style is like Scarlett Johanson and there was a scene in the bar with an older guy, probably 40 who was letting the younger crowd know what life is like when you don't become the success you thought you were going to be. One thing he said that hit home was when he would say he dreaded running into his more successful comtemporaries, especially when they asked what he does for a living. I always dread that question when I'm out here in Jersey. It was easier to deny my failure out in Seattle AKA Slacker City.

Anyway the movie moved me again. It's a reminder of how my hopes and dreams have not come true and yet I'm glad it hasn't at least the 1990 version of me. If you love Woody Allen, I'd give this one a shot.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beer Run

Here's the thing.

I'm a fanatic of microbrews. Have been since I went to the west coast in 1991. I wasn't much of a beer drinker until I moved to Seattle. Sure I drank beer, Guinness was my beer of choice, but when I wanted to get drunk, I'd drink Jack Daniels or Southern comfort like a rock and roll cliche. If I wanted to enjoy my booze, I'd go to TGIFs or Houlihans and get a fruity drink.

When we went to Twin's Pub across the street from Sloane House USA I would join in on the pitchers and drink...ugh...Budweiser. When it was my turn to buy, I would get a pitcher of Guinness which no one would partake in, yay more beer for me.

I digress, In 1991 I moved to the West Coast, home of the phenomenon known as microbrewery since the mid 80's. Oh what a joy it was to partake in fine craft brews like Red Hook, Portland Ale, Hale's Ale, Grant's Ale, Sierra Nevada, Widmers, and Alaskan Ale amongst others.

Anyway, every time I visited the east coast I was disappointed at how far behind New York was for many years. The last ten years have been a vast improvement in quality suds for the beer snob that must exist in the NYC area. I mean we're snobs about everything else, why not beer?

So, I had the day off, money in my account, cheap gas and nothing better to do, so I decided to visit some New Jersey brew pubs I have read about in recent weeks.

I mapped out three in the Union, Essex counties area. I wanted to visit some I haven't been to. The three that I felt would be convenient were Trap Rock in Berkeley Heights, Egan and Sons in Montclair, and Gaslight Brewery in South Orange.

I started my trip at a quarter to twelve because I never drink before noon. I was pleased that I mapped out a smooth trip from my place to Berkeley Heights using the back roads. It probably ended up being the fastest way to get there. I went through some towns I did not know but was pleased to see.

I found the Trap Rock easily enough but was unsure if it was the right place. It's a restaurant that didn't look like a brew pub. When I found the right entrance I saw the telltale casks that revealed un premise brewing. I went in had a beer, saw the food menu and decided I was only a beer snob not a food snob. The amber beer I had was good but I asked about samples. they had a set of six including the one I had. I opted to have a stout and a pilsner sample option instead. good stuff the pilsner, the stout was more porter like and okay but not great. I left feeling good and head to Montclair because I made good enough time to visit all three of the pubs I wanted to see.

Egan and sons was just as funny to find. I got there a little too early. It didn't open until 3. It was in a nice part of Montclair not far from a place I was looking to move to back in June. I knew there was a Popeyes for me to enjoy lunch at. I went back to Egans to find that the main entrance was not where the street address said it would be. That's okay. I was put off by the fact there were umbrellas outside with a Guinness logo. Do they brew their own beer? Yup, There's the casks. Not only do they brew their own beer, they also have a selection of the best beers you can get in this world, a lot of Belgian imports and what not. They had four beers to sample. I enjoyed it to my hearts content, three of the four. The fourth I drank tasted like butter. Oh well, I had the ale I found to be the best tasting. Now, I'm buzzed. It was starting to get dark, which was good because I wanted to see the gaslights of of Glen Ridge in action. Not as dramatic as that of Vancouver BC, but cool nonetheless.

I found the Gaslight Brewery in the center of downtown South Orange. Right away I loved my surroundings. It's the best downtown I've seen in some time. The brewpub was similar in its selection of beers that weren't brewed on premises. However, they had 8 beers to sample and in two rounds I enjoyed the whole lot of them. All but one were enjoyable.

Now I was buzzed good, so good I bought some comic book collections of Love and Rockets.

A good day, that hasn't quite ended yet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Death Of The Experience


I am saddened to hear of the death of Mitch Mitchell. He was best known as the drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. They are now all dead and that's a drag. Hendrix valued his contributions so much that he was a part of Jimi's band with one exception, a side project The Band Of Gypsies.

Mitch Mitchell was British, a cross between Keith Moon and Ginger Baker in his drumming style. I loved watching him when I was a kid thinking I may one day become a drummer. He made drumming fun. Jimi died in 1970, Noel Redding in 2003. With Mitch Mitchell passing away, that means if there's a rock and roll heaven, the Experience now jams for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Anyway, this gives me the excuse to play some cool clips from the YouTube.
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First up is a clip from June of 1967 when Jimi Hendrix had an advance copy of Sgt. Pepper to play for an audience that had not gotten the Beatles album.


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Shortly afterward the Experience made their American debut at the Monterey Pop festival and blew every act away with their explosive set. The chemistry between Mitch Mitchell and Hendrix is palatable here.
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Mitch Mitchell didn't do much outside of his work for the Experience. One notable exception was when he participated in the Rolling Stones project "Rock and Roll Circus". John Lennon formed a one off band called "Dirty Mac" to perform the Beatles song from the White Album "Yer Blues". The group consisted of Lennon, Eric Clapton on guitar, Keith Richards on bass?! and Mitch Mitchell on drums. One can say that this was an improvement on the original.

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Woodstock was a highlight in Jimi Hendrix's career, particularly in his iconic performance of the Star Spangled Banner. He had a large band with him but only Mitch Mitchell accompanied him on this. That's respect.

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Towards the end of Jimi Hendrix's life he had already ditched Noel Redding but kept on Mitch Mitchell. This Isle of Wight concert footage was performed days before Hendrix died. Unfortunately for Mitchell, Hendrix death more or less ruined Mitchell's career for the rest of his life. He was screwed out of Experience's residuals and had a hard time getting as long term gig. His legacy lived on and he was able to capitalize on his former fame.

Sad to see him go.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Voted For McCain.....

...in the 2000 Republican primary. You see, Washington state had open primaries. That allows you to vote in whatever primary you chose. In 2000 the Democrats had Bill Bradley and Al Gore. I liked both, didn't see much of a difference between them but felt that if the Republicans were to win I didn't want it to be another Bush.

Funny, they weren't talking about Bush/Clinton fatigue back then.

Washington stopped the open primaries mainly because they feared the mischief of people from one party voting for the other party's worst candidate in hopes to sabotage the election.

Well, If I had done that I would have voted for Bush because clearly he was the worst Republican candidate. I want a chance to be somewhat comfortable if the other party wins. that didn't happen in 2000. The John McCain of 2008 is not that guy anymore. He once was a "Maverick", he was a thorn to the likes of Bush in the previous century. It was sad to see him stand up for Bush in this century, especially when the Bush policies clearly failed.

Anyway, I voted today. I noticed that I have voted in a different district each time I voted for president.

In 1988, I voted in my old elementary school in Flanders, New Jersey. I was one of the few registered Democrats voting that day and I unenthusiastically voted for Dukakis.

In 1992, I voted in a church in the U-District of Seattle. I proudly voted for Bill Clinton and was happy with the results.

In 1996 I voted in a church activity room in Federal Way, WA with a former girlfriend. It was late in the evening and I had already seen that Bill Clinton was winning big time so I voted for Ralph Nader as a protest against Clinton's wishy washyiness with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". I was happy he won, it was vindication for 1994.

In 2000, I was registered cross town an went to vote in another church. It was after work but I didn't look at the results until after I voted and stayed up til 3am to see no results. I voted Al Gore and was surprised by the fact he won the popular vote. I got fired the day he conceded the election. The fact that all my bosses and co-workers were big Bush supporters was only a coincidence.

In 2004 I was back living in Seattle in Queen Anne. I voted early with a relish. It was at a Senior citizen center up the block from me. I voted John Kerry and was confidant he was going to win big time.

Seriously.

...Anyway, I went to work, was close to the bar TV. My 5-Spot co-workers and I were watching the results, shocked at the fact that John Kerry lost.

Today I voted for Obama (duh) at a senior citizen center at the Atlantic Highlands Marina. In 2008 I will vote somewhere else. Will this kid ever settle down?

New Pipe Dreams Cartoon!!!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

RIP Studs


Legendary American writer Studs Terkel died the other day. He was 96 years old. He was a Chicago institution who was also a target of McCarthyism. He was the chronicler of the common man of America. He collected the oral history on various subjects from everyday Americans. He would collect them in very entertaining books through the years.

He had a long lasting radio show that aired coast to coast dealing with diverse subjects. His way of interviewing his guests made the show a hit. I loved his stuff, his views and his temperament. He represents a bygone era, and we lose yet another person who was brave enough to stand for his views and to take on the oppressors of this world.

You don't get many guys like that anymore.