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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Oh hey, how's it going?  It recently came to my attention that at least one dude is still checking for updates here, and since he doesn't even have Facebook, I thought I'd better post something.  Things here are good, and a little different.  The baby's hobby used to be lying on the shag rug like a potato, whereas now it's crawling around and trying to stuff pieces of said rug into her mouth.  Also, she thinks I'm hilarious, which ... well, let's just say it's about time I got some appreciation.

Anyway, here's a bunch of random things from the last six months, in no particular order. I'm going to shamelessly steal from myself in several places, so if anything feels familiar, just try to pretend you don't have Facebook either.

1) It's an amazing thing to say, but the lamest thing in the new GQ actually isn't Lou Reed and Metallica looking all Weekend at Bernie's in the "Rock and Roll Wax Figures" photo spread.  It's the package about how -- brace yourself, lest your mind be blown -- Brooklyn is cool now!  Swear to God -- I read it in GQ so I believe it must be true.  Although, their map of Brooklyn didn't actually include my neighborhood.  But I think that's ok, since it just means that in another eight years they'll do a story called "The Five Artisanal Shoe Stores You Must Visit on Newkirk Avenue."

It's actually hard to say this any better than the one guy from Gawker did. (Should I say a Hail Mary or something for liking a post on Gawker?) I guess I'd just add, if a large percentage of places in your story about why a city is cool are places that I regularly go to and enjoy, then you have not found cool enough places. I say this not to toot any horns, but my first EVER story in a major media outlet (not including the Daily Progress) was in large part about how Brooklyn was "over" for cool people.  And I've got a grey beard and strong opinions about the pros and cons of various jogging strollers, so you know that was a while ago.

2) Lou Reed and Metallica, though -- oh my God, terrible.  Way to invalidate the entirety of your previous output, dudes.  An adolescent me spent a day in Giants Stadium watching Metallica and Guns and Roses on their tour together in 1992.  (Did I say adolescent?  I meant to say I was like four years old in 1992.  That's the ticket.)  Even at the time, I could have grudgingly predicted that GnR would someday make a record like Chinese Democracy.  But if you'd told me Metallica would make this, I wouldn't have believed you. Or, I might have.  It was one of the first times I ever drank beer, so I was impressionable.  But anyway, seriously, listen to how much this sucks.  Doesn't it make you wonder, a tiny bit in the back of your head, if the whole Velvet Underground thing was just a lucky accident?

3) If I seem like I'm having a ton of fun, it's because I just had a glass of Black Maple Hill bourbon, which is delicious.  Interestingly, though, nobody seems to know where it comes from.  The whiskey business is weird.

4) Ever read David Pogue's tech columns in the Times?  Seems like a sincere fellow, but it's like, they're just phones, man.  Relax.

5) Chinese Democracy, by the way, is actually not terrible.  Not the best thing Tommy Stinson ever played on by a long shot, but not terrible.  Now I've agreed with Gawker and Chuck Klosterman in the same post, so I must retire from writing and light myself on fire.

6) Here are some links that are sure to get me hits from Google:
Tony LaRussa sucks.
Joe Buck and Tim McCarver suck.
Guy on a Buffalo rules.
Guided By Voices rules.
I mean, obviously.
High on Fire ... enough said.
John Sterling sucks, but now I feel bad about saying that.
There's a Wocket in My Pocket rules.
And, related, the fact that there's a defunct Bay-area doom metal band called Noothgrush ... it also rules.

7) And what have I been working on, you ask?  Oh, this and that.  The most interesting stuff, I can't seem to find a home for, unfortunately.  It may end up here, and then all eight of you reading this can send me a check in the mail when you finish it.  (That's how freelancing works, right?)  But, in recent months, I thought this was pretty good.  This too.  Things are generally ok, though.  I haven't had to explain a medial post, at least professionally, in a while, and somehow I'm still able to purchase multicolored heirloom carrots for the baby.  So I must be doing something right.

I think that's all I've got right now, actually.  I know there were at least a half-dozen other ideas for posts that I had over the last couple of months, but I can't find the piece of paper I scribbled them on.  Maybe I'll find it and write them soon, or maybe I'll start a new list.  I'm fairly certain this is not the way blogging is supposed to work, so maybe I'll find a way to cut out some of the middle men and just write stuff as I think of it.

In closing, please enjoy this moment with Beavis and Butthead, who taught me everything I know.