Sunday, September 28, 2014

Beer and football V — week three

The game: Raiders at Patriots
The beer: Belhaven Scottish Stout
The result: Win, 16–9; Saints win, 20–9
The commentary: Our first home game of the season is also the first primetime game of the season. What's that you say? It did not begin after How I Big Banged Your Theory? Well, it did at our house, after G. went to bed (and from bed) several times over. The challenge remains throughout the day to not skim or overhear the outcome but I've managed for three weeks now. Besides, it's nice to maintain a pleasant Sunday afternoon blowing bubbles, riding bikes and flying a kite in Nahant while the Patriots go three and out after a series of incomplete/ineffective passes against the league's worst run defense.

Also on delay: listening to all four of April's "The Jesus Lizard Week" interviews on the Kreative Kontrol podcast. That's Kreative with a K, Kontrol with a K. I mentioned the podcast on my playlist write-up earlier this year (see track thirty-three) (!) and referred to host Vish Khanna as a muckraker—he did not let me down this time either. My favorite part (and my own validation) came during the Duane Denison segment when, after being asked several questions about the band's sour relationship with Steve Albini, Denison made a great point about Albini's criticism of the band for signing with Capitol Records: "Why is it that he gets to take major-label money [as an 'engineer'] and we don't? Why does he get the moral high-ground?" He goes on to explain that the topic still makes him angry twenty years later and so is sick of talking about it, to which Vish replies "I appreciate that you're tired of addressing it, but…" and wonders if Down instigated the aforementioned tension. Denison admits no one was particularly happy with how that album turned out (in particular, the poor vocal mix… as if lyrics had been distinct up through Liar?). It certainly provides context to David Wm. Sims pretending to rip my Rapeman CD sleeve in half when I offered it during the band's autograph session at Tower Records on a 1994 promotional junket. (The goddamn full-sized Down poster signed by all four members has joined the realms of the nonexistent.)

And then? And then! "Yeah, I have to– Man, I do have things I gotta do. Um… how– I'm sorry, how much longer do we need to talk?" "How much longer do we need to talk?" Reading it back makes Denison sound like an asshole. I'm impressed he held his cool for so long. Vish fits in one more question about what David Yow referred to as 1996's "reenactment tour" and Denison, after a few seconds of processing what he'd just heard, interrupts with "Did you say 'reenactment'?" Without a doubt the highlight of all three MP3 hours. As a result, the new-ish Book is on my Christmas wish list, as is the Live document. It was filmed at the old Venus de Milo across from Fenway Park in 1994. I was at that fucking show.

Up next: An assassin's quick stopover in Memphis ensures that Bernard Pollard will be nowhere near Kansas City on Monday night. Also, Gamblor instructs me to take the Chargers over the Jaguars. Cheers!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beer and football V — week two

The game: Patriots at Vikings
The beer: Shipyard Summer Ale
The result: Win, 30–7
The commentary: Hector, Ivan and I are all forty this year. In April we traveled to Portland, Maine to celebrate Ivan's turn. (Mine was at the New England Brewfest in New Hampshire. Hector's will be at the Chili's across from the Burlington Mall.) Before the trip I compiled a list of twenty or so restaurants, seven breweries/distilleries and a few tourist traps like the International Cryptozoology Museum, all for an overnight stay. Yeah. We did well on the booze front, starting at Allagash on the way into town (a cool spot offering better beer than I was expecting, given their Belgian tendencies) and peaking at the wonderful Rising Tide (please and thank you). In between was old mainstay Shipyard with the informative video, the fun gift shop (complete with children's books for some reason) and the wonderful free samples. I don't know what it is about Shipyard—everything I sample at the brewery is amazing. Amazing! Then I try a new bomber, whether it's the Prelude Special Ale or the Smashed Pumpkin Ale, and I'm unimpressed. (Exceptions are the Double Old Thumper Ale—a.k.a. Matt Light—and the Blue Fin Stout, which I already knew I liked.) The Summer Ale falls in the same category. Maybe it's the thrill of having machinery pointed out to you during the brewery tour that makes it all taste better there. It's also free. I guess we'll have to go back.

I'm starting to think A&J King puts cocaine in their pastries. Queue the chorus: No nap for G./My daughter never sleeps/I guess we'll watch the game/I'll never take the blame. She joined me before halftime and almost became a Vikings fan. "Purple!" "Dad, where's the purple guys?" "Purple!" "These ones are purple and these are white." "The purple guys fell down." "Purple!" It only took a minute of insisting she's a Patriots fan for it to take.

The hometown victory means I survive another week in the knockout pool. Three people are out after picking the Buccaneers against the lowly Rams. I like the application of my Texans–Redskins philosophy but they forgot that the previous sentence should have read "…the lowly Buccaneers against the lowly Rams." I'm glad the rules prevent you from taking the same team to win more than once instead of lose because I'm… leaving?… the Vikings again this weekend. No way the Saints drop three straight to start the season.

The internet is crowding me out as media left and right criticize a league that enables domestic abusers. Blowhards, as we know, make the best parents. Very brave, too, of Anheuser-Busch to loudly proclaim their dissatisfaction "with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code" and then quietly hope it all goes away. I see through your Shock Top bullshit and I see through this.

Up next: The Raiders purchase the flashiest jetliner to fly across the country but get bogged down along the way when the pilot struggles to understand basic flight patterns. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Beer and football V: I chewed my fuckin’ arm off and made an escape

Week one
The game: Patriots at Dolphins
The beer: Notch Mule Corn Lager
The result: Loss, 33–20; Texans win, 17–6
The commentary: Pictured is the exact moment in time when the scales tipped in Miami's favor. (Well, about two hours after the fact—I was watching on a delay. Again. But still.) I did not pause when Mike Wallace caught the (essentially) game-tying touchdown with Revis all over him. I did not say "OK, G., let me rewind and pause it right… here! Since you're not napping why don't you put on your tutu and stare at the screen so I can take a picture. And do something ballet-ish."

Regular-season losses don't affect me like they used to. A game ends and then G. and I go back to tucking in all her stuffed animal friends with silk scarves and/or giggling while bonking them over their heads with her inflated butterfly. Even during the game, as it got uglier and uglier, depression wasn't an option. It took a minute to remind her that she actually enjoys football when she exclaimed "I don't like football, I like soccerball!" Then we settled in on the couch and I reminded her again of who her favorite players are. "They keep falling! Why are they falling?" Excellent question.

What I've come to dread the most following a loss is the backlash by media, "fans" and more media. The shouting ranges from "Belichick the coach is better than Belichick the GM!" (rational and accurate) to "Mankins wouldn't have let us get out-physicaled!" (maybe, but it's happened with him before; also, "out-physicaled" is accepted compound nonsense) to "James Develin should get the ball more!" (classic New England racism) to "Trade Brady and put in Garoppolo now!" (ludicrous from all angles, regardless of Brady's standing as an elite quarterback). It would be and has been an insufferable week to root for a team with such a rich history of losing. Oh wait!

Houston Texans: I am alive. It was hard to resist checking that score on my phone but I didn't want to risk seeing the home team's outcome. The goddamn crawl… individual statistics and fantasy breakdowns? Who gives a shit? (Though seeing RG3's thirteen completions for fifty-nine yards in the second quarter was encouraging and amusing. Four and a half yards per completion? Even Ryan Fitzpatrick had to feel bad for him.)

I also had my eye on Bills–Bears. Nine of nineteen people were knocked out of the pool and five of them have the godforsaken Bears to thank. Where were you assholes last year? Only one guy took New England—I hoped that, if nothing else, Jordan Devey brought more down with him. Rats. Another person picked the fucking Super Bowl-winning Seahawks against a Packers team that, on paper, had a chance to win. Congratulations, you no longer have the best team in the league to fall back on. After this week, I'll be unable to fall back on a team that made it to the last three AFC Championships—I trust that Belichick & Co. will make enough adjustments to keep from losing two in a row to start the season.

The Mule is the real deal. Likely the lightest colored beer I've had in years but as flavorful a lager as you'd expect from Notch. It was a pleasant surprise to find it in bomber form at Pamplemousse in Salem in a moment of needless panic following lunch—turns out I'd already been chilling a "week one" beer for a month or so. By six o'clock Sunday it will find a home in the plumbing under my house.

Up next: Smooth Jimmy Apollo ensures me the Patriots are his Lock of the Week against the Vikings. When you're right fifty-two percent of the time, you're wrong forty-eight percent of the time. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Beer and football V — training camp/the all-important third preseason game

The beer: Samuel Adams Summer Ale/Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
The commentary: G. and I relived last year's agenda and visited Foxborough the first Saturday of training camp, bringing along my father this time. It was more of the same: minimal football viewing, excessive scampering, one diaper change and a lot of fun. She even wore the same dress—sign us up for next year! We went to the Olive Garden for lunch afterward. I don't know why. The garlic bread was greasy but the Sam Summer did a good job washing it down. Traffic wasn't bad going home and she fell asleep on the 93 onramp. 2013 all over again—see you at the AFC Championship.

I remember nothing of the all-important third preseason game. I drank a ubiquitous Sierra Nevada because Deadspin recently called it "one of the finest pale ales in all the land." And lo! It's as safe and insulting a pick as Harpoon sending its IPA and UFO to this Summer's New England Brewfest (which I'm happy to say I attended as part of my fortieth birthday celebration). Because you can't get Harpoon IPA or UFO anywhere? I'll take a Dale's over their entire output.

Old age is a bastard so I found myself sitting on a park bench at lunch on Friday, skimming headlines before returning to work. For hopefully the last time in my life, as I become more aware of swearing out loud now that my daughter is old enough, I proclaimed "Holy shit!" upon reading that Logan Mankins had been traded. More shocking than Richard Seymour a few years ago but probably not as big a hit—I love the guy, but he's a guard. An "early second-rounder" guard. Ask me again after Olivier Vernon decapitates Brady on Sunday. (Jesus Christ, look at her!)

My baby is three years old. I fibbed to Boston Harbor Cruises and said she was two to save fifteen dollars because what kind of monster charges that much for a child? It was a magical holiday weekend of beaches (a personal sacrifice), a carousel, Tangled and the Burlington Mall. I also finished season two of The Wire. G. agrees that you don't want to mess with Omar.

Here we go with the knockout pool again, lifting twenty bucks from my wallet instead of ten. I'm leaning heavily toward the Texans over the Redskins because I would still take last year's Bengals over last year's Bears. All day. Give me that game opening weekend right now and I'll pick it again, fax that twenty over to the guy running things, get busted for counterfeiting and use my one phone call to make sure he still had me on the Bengals. My thought process last year was that the Bengals probably wouldn't amount to much (whoops) but the Bears really wouldn't amount to much, and you don't want to blow your week-one load on a team heavily favored to go far into the post-season—or, conversely, against a team expected to go nowhere. Half the people in the league picked the Bucs over the Jets because they bought the hype that the Jets would lose and keep losing, forgetting that the lowly Bucs were on the other sideline. At the end of the season (only then, says my man Fred Kirsch, can one fairly judge each team) the Jets won eight and the Bucs won four. In September I figured the Bengals could win nine (they won eleven) and the Bears could win seven (eight), and even if my long view was proven right I was wrong that day. A one-game difference based on an educated guess should have forced me to look elsewhere… but goddammit, I remain convinced the Bengals would have taken four of five contests last season!

This year, the Texans are set to be the rebound team of the year (right?) and might even earn a wild card in a weak division. They won two last year and I think they're good for eight or nine this year. The Redskins? "The Washington Football Squad"? Can they improve from three to… six? Five? Herein lies the genius of my imperfect plan: start with a sleeper instead of the Seahawks, Broncos or Pats so you have those teams to chose from later on. Herein lies the flaw: a sleeper is a sleeper.

Project Runway is back! And so is: Amanda? Whose idea was it to let viewers choose from her, Alexander and Krazy Ken? Just make Nina Garcia design something if you're looking for a gimmick. I sort of hate this cast. Char was cool but didn't shoot out of the gate the way I thought she would and I was sorry to see her go last week. Korina is a genuine no-talent asshole, even if she was right about Amanda being a fraud (though it was odd that we never actually heard her say it to Amanda's face on camera the way it was portrayed—such is the life of the reality show editor). Kini is pretty talented, works super fast at creating the same silhouette every week and, at thirty (!), is a walking advertisement for the perils of sun exposure. He should have won last week. Samantha has made as much of an impression with me as those Patriots fan-oriented mailbags that Mike Reiss posts and I ignore every week. Alexander goes to the same hair salon as the bully kid from King of the Hill. Angela flamed out like no other after demonstrating (during the casting special) that she "works quickly," which on Lifetimethenetworkforwomen translates to "single lapel" or "FRANTIC" depending on the usage. I'm rooting for Sandhya since everyone has it out for her for using colors that aren't black or gray.

I thirst! Last Spring, in anticipation of its forthcoming television adaptation, I read all four thousand pages of Stephen King's Under the Dome. It moved quickly and was a lot of fun, even if the ending was a little clumsy and rushed. (King's payoffs usually are—it's all about the journey with him, particularly in The Dark Tower when the final confrontation consisted of maybe two hundred words.) I liked it. The small-screen version? The small-screen version! Season one made some odd editorial choices like applying familiar names to different characters. Sure, don't use the crystal meth subplot so soon after Breaking Bad, but was Phil Bushey the only available name for a local disc jockey/sheriff/quick-healing gunshot victim? I continued to watch because it was supposed to be a single-season mini-series and I was curious about the reportedly rewritten ending. But then CBS picked it up for another season because they realized, I suppose, that there wasn't much actual dome talk for a show about a dome. (Also, it's a literal dome here, unlike in the book. Way to make people forget about The Simpsons Movie.) I swore off season two but, hey, King himself wrote the teleplay for the first episode. Give it another chance (equally bad). But then: The Onion. The satirical non-satirical AV Club's weekly reviews are enough to keep me watching. Here are the episode grades so far: B-, C-, C+, D, D, D, B-, C-, B, D-. Middle three again: D, D, D. One reader comment supports every viewer's excuse to keep watching: "It occurred to me today how I spend all of Monday looking forward to watching a show I despise." I'm better off re-reading the excerpt from the never-published/never-finished The Cannibals. I'll settle for The Green Mile. Someday, Trout Mask Replica. Someday.

Up next: The only thing worse than having to play in Miami the first week of September is having to play there eight times a year as a member of the Dolphins. Cheers!