Saturday, October 29, 2011

Another post: Raekwon, whiskey, photos and terrible famous writing

I am liking these Norm MacDonald-as-Larry King random-thoughts posts.  At the risk of getting a reputation as some kind of a complainer (ha ha), here's more:

1) I found another terrible thing in GQ. In that music issue where they fawned over Lou Reed and Metallica, they found space for a little featurette about Raekwon, on the table of contents page.  He's never been my favorite Wu-Tang member but it was cool to see him in there, sporting hipster eyeglasses. The text, though, claims that these days, he's "making the only Wu-branded solo joints that matter."  Even leaving aside the labored, Thomas Wolfian faux street lingo, that is a pretty ridiculous statement.  Big Ghost is like, "Excuse me?"

2) I actually like GQ a lot -- they've got me dressing a lot better! -- and they run really good stories all the time. They also profile the shirtless guy from the GI Joe movie like once every eight months, but that's neither here nor there.  I would be happy to write for them, though they have not yet asked.

3) This is really not even worth getting into, but what the hell.  My local wine store, which recently started carrying liquor, is having regular whiskey tastings, which is great.  The downside is that they don't seem to actually know much about whiskey, so the stuff they're pouring is kind of out of left field.  This week's tasting involved an un-aged rye, which is pretty unusual, and which I wanted to try for the novelty value.  Un-aged whiskey is clear, because whiskey gets its color, among other things, from being aged in wood barrels.  Or, this is how the store's promotional people describe the situation:
Good whiskey gets its color from the barrel it is aged in, and great whiskey gets its character from the grain that is used to make it. ...  The decades of barrel aging that many whiskey makers tout on their labels often only serves give spirits their color and to mellow out them out for the unadventurous palates who are afraid of whiskey with a little bit of gumption
That is basically the stupidest thing I've read all week, or at least since I read that thing about Raekwon. Just FYI, people have been aging whiskey in wood barrels for, give or take, hundreds of years. But some hipster comes along and decides not to, and all of a sudden all these long-deceased Scotsmen are a bunch of pantywaists.  Sure.  Literally all of the best whiskeys in the world, of varying styles and nationalities, are aged for years.  But now this place that's been selling the stuff for a month is going to free us all from the Matrix, and boy, are we going to feel silly.

No.  I skipped this thing because it was snowing out, and instead my unadventurous palate is going to enjoy a glass of something that's dumbed-down just the way I'm silly enough to like it.
4) There are some cool things on the Times' Lens blog.  I guess some of them have been there forever, but I don't usually read it, so they're new to me.  One is a piece by photographer Damon Winter, who won some kind of award for a photo essay he shot on an iPhone, with Hipstamatic.  This apparently started a whole controversy, and his eloquent defense of the techniques and equipment he used, is here, along with the original, really good, pictures.

Also, here's a post with some old pictures from New York City's subway system, from one of the late 70s/early 80s, one of the low points in the city's history. I don't think it'll let me link to individual images -- and anyway, they're all good -- but the use of text in numbers 12 and 13 are especially cool.

5) I realized just now, in referring to Thomas Wolfe, that I never wrote a post I meant to write a long time ago. It's about Wolfe's famous story, "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn." Now, if you're like I was a few months ago, you've probably heard the title of the story a bunch of times -- it's a great title -- but not necessarily read the piece.  It's one of those things that has entered the vernacular in a fragmentary way, so people refer to it all the time without always knowing what they're referring to.  Well, circumstances required me to look it up for a thing I was writing a while ago, and ... it's terrible!  It might actually be one of the worst things I've ever read, and is certainly the worst famous piece of writing I can think of.

Go ahead and check it out, and see if you can get through more than a few lines.  But beyond its nonexistent readability, the thing just leaves a seriously bad taste.  Near as I can tell, the moral seems to be: "Ha Ha, people in Brooklyn talk funny! Look at what baboons they are!"  It is probably something less than a coincidence that this was originally published in the New Yorker, which continues to have a complicated relationship with the borough.  (Please don't take the link in the previous sentence as any kind of endorsement of Marty Markowitz.) And written by a southerner.  But, my God.  Is there any possible reading of this story in which it isn't, basically, minstrelsy?

I don't have a Brooklyn accent -- mine is more generic-suburban-nerd -- but my grandparents did and my parents do to a lesser extent.  I'm trying to figure out how this story isn't basically ridiculing them, and nothing more.  I am drawing a blank.  Good title, though.

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