Friday, October 31, 2014

Beer and football V — weeks five, six, seven and eight

Week five
The game: Bengals at Patriots
The beer: Left Hand Oktoberfest Märzen Lager
The result: Win, 43–17; Packers win, 42–10
The commentary: Football season aligns a little too well with birthday season. The only defense is hoping a majority of preschooler parents are devoted fans. As in, I would never schedule a non-emergency event if it were opposite a Patriots game. Queue up "Cat's in the Cradle" if you'd like but there are so many hours in a week—thousands, if my math is right—that it's easy enough to avoid a single three-hour window. I'm not alone: two Sunday children's birthday parties so far, zero conflicts. September 29? Pats were on Monday Night Football. October 5? Sunday Night Football. It's important for a parent to maintain his identity. Hers too. Right.

Here we were, likely the last beautiful weekend day of the year, eating in a park and watching a bunch of three- and four-year-olds beat the shit out of a Spider-Man piñata. All except for my angel, who literally handed me the bat and gave Spidey a hug instead. She is beautiful. That night, the Cincinnati Bengals paid dearly for trying to ruin a Misfits concert last year. Plus that whole Bears thing. Following the unpleasantness in Kansas City it was good to have the 2007 Patriots back. We do not live in Jacksonville. We do not live in Oakland. Football is fun again. (For at least a week.)

Week six
The game: Patriots at Bills
The beer: Pretty Things Meadowlark India Pale Ale
The result: Win, 37–22; Cardinals win, 30–20
The commentary: Over the weekend we visited a farm in Amesbury to buy cider doughnuts, find a pumpkin for the front porch and make a bee line to the exit with a screaming three-year-old in my arms. We accomplished one of these. In there somewhere, G. played on a pretty cool wooden train that A. eventually noticed had a giant rusty nail sticking out of it. Our exit was so sudden that we didn't have time to tell anyone about it, so A. called from the car. The proprietors, apparently, could not have been less interested. Score one for tetanus.

I'm all set with Pretty Things. Not the Biffy®-winning band—"city liiife was too heh-vehhh"—but rather the local brewer. St. Botolph's Ale? Absolutely, and keep them coming. Hedgerow Bitter? If I want to mix it up. Jack d'Or Saison? Meadowlark IPA? Keep walking. The labels are beautiful, I'll give them that. Otherwise they're a little too precious for me, a little too Somerville-twenty-something. A good friend of mine is an acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Things so I'll leave it to him to recommend anything new going forward. For now I'll throw my support to Berkshire, Newburyport and Notch.

Down goes Mayo! Down goes Mayo! Oh hi, new Bills owner Terry Pegula. One of the cogs of our defense has twenty-five members of the team's medical staff standing around him looking sad but let's keep talking to Pegula about what an "exclusive privilege" it is to be rich enough to own a professional football team. I'm not as bothered as Chad Finn (literally the only Globe columnist worth reading, and occasionally at that) by Fox squeezing commercials in wherever they fit. It's the nature of the beast, and the alternative is to pay the NFL as games become "premium content." Like the Globe online! Just get yourself another beer, Chad. However, I'd like to know which one of the dozens of people behind the broadcast had the veto power to proclaim "No! Keep Terry in the booth! This is my ticket to the BBC." It was a perfect combination of strange, awkward and stultifying. Kudos to Chad for the personal attack of "wearing a No. 1 Bills jersey roughly 3½ sizes too large" as well. See you on the unemployment line, Chad, when the Globe goes under. Anachronism is not an exclusive privilege.

Week seven
The game: Jets at Patriots
The beer: Stone Rick and Robbie's Spröcketbier Black Rye Kölsch-Style Ale
The result: Win, 27–25; Ravens win, 29–7
The commentary: I present the longest beer name of the season. I struggle with how to list the beers I drink, dropping "Brewery," "Brewing Company," etc. from the name, so "Berkshire Brewing Company Coffehouse Porter" becomes "Berkshire Coffehouse Porter." Clean, right? Tidy. I hope I'm not going too fast for you.

But what to do with the Stone Spotlight Series offering "Rick and Robbie's Spröcketbier Black Rye Kölsch-Style Ale"? Mouthful City! Should it instead read "Stone Spotlight Series: Rick and Robbie's Spröcketbier Black Rye Kölsch-Style Ale"? "Rick and Robbie's Spröcketbier Black Rye Kölsch-Style Ale (Stone Spotlight Series)"? Is there a series number to add? Is Stone distancing themselves from the product and should I remove their name altogether? Do "Rick and Robbie" make other beers, with or without Stone's branding? These are the problems I create for myself. After all this the beer was just OK. Drag.

Here are the results of Pats–Jets during Rex Ryan's tenure, which is sure to end before January even though he's a good (defensive) coach saddled with a horrible general manager: 9–16, 31–14, 14–28, 45–3, 21–28, 30–21, 37–16, 29–26, 49–19, 13–10, 27–30, 27–25. Eight wins for the good guys and four for the bad, with a season's first meeting leaning toward a nail-biter or a straight-up loss and the second toward a blowout win. This year the Jets are a one-win team and Geno Turnover is leading the offense while Tom Brady and the offense are finally showing signs of life. Put me down for a two-touchdown win that's not as close as it looks. But wait! It never, ever plays out the way it's supposed to against the fucking Jets. Look at those scores: plus seventeen, minus fourteen, plus forty-two, minus seven… through to plus two this week—see you a few days before Christmas for more furious madness. Holy shit.

We spent a lot of the day Saturday at the Rockport Harborfest eating hot dogs, climbing trees and getting Hello Kitty painted on our arms. The weather was iffy and a brief shower produced a double rainbow that stuck around for a half hour or so. T-Wharf featured a decent Beatles cover band and a delicious seafood chowder alongside food trucks and a booth serving Pretty Things beer. The offerings? Meadowlark and Jack d'Or, of course. What in the worldwide fuck. On the way back to the car we couldn't pull G. away from a pink-bow-wearing lobster and her pals Gumby and Pokey. She just kept hugging and dancing with the lot of them. Ten minutes later she was passed out in her car seat. Exactly as planned.

Week eight
The game: Bears at Patriots
The beer: Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale
The result: Win, 51–23; Broncos win, 35–21; Sean, 4–0–0-0
The commentary: The first four weeks of the season I was blogging like it's 2005. Nine posts that August? Eight in September? All that before the whole beer-and-football thing, before marriage, before fatherhood… and before I'd erased a bunch of crappy quick sizzle that would have inflated those figures. (My first playlist—since designated Volume 0 on yonder sidebar—is cute though.) October 2014? We've returned to the land of last season and thirteen total posts across nineteen weeks of football. Blogging is a dead medium but it's my dead medium and I am accountable. In retrospect, the Pink Floyd playlist took a lot out of me—that temple of light is actually pretty dark.

Something I have been better at is watching complete games. I'm no longer fast-forwarding between plays and it takes me the full three hours to get through it all, even if I don't start watching until it's long over, as I've done for four of eight games so far (including this). How else to absorb all of Trent Green's, Jon Gruden's and Phil Simms's precious insights? You score-watchers don't know what you're missing! Once again the Bears are a disappointment (where were you assholes last year?) and once again a Brooklyn beer doesn't live up to the hype. Odd how hidden that logo is though. Until now I never even knew the Post Road was theirs.

Kiwi Sean sort of came out of nowhere to win Project Runway XIII. He underwhelmed until episode five with the blue fringe dress that defined his efforts the rest of the season. It was fantastic and photographed even better, though I remember liking someone else's better (Sandhya's, I think). He went on to win three out of four (sounds familiar!) before two of the subsequent three found him in the bottom. He wowed in the rain challenge but I thought the dress itself was pretty plain, except where it wasn't (that frill!). The watercolor effect was super clever and the most creative idea to come out of the show since Mondo was robbed all those years ago but I think surprise and risk won it for him rather than design and execution. Imagine if it hadn't worked—snooze. Instead, smear your daughter's crayons on an old parchment-colored shower curtain and make Nina Garcia blush. Create real art like Kini did from a predictable umbrella inspiration and take the silver.

All season long I was convinced Kini would win and I blame the editors. He was so goddamn confident throughout and worked crazy fast, how could he not get to choose between thirty looks for Fashion Week? I forgot that efficiency doesn't equate quality, as many sleepless nights and subpar results from my Mass Art days had demonstrated. Five weeks proved more challenging than five hours (he won three challenges, was in the top for three more and in the bottom only once, compared to four bottoms—har! har!—for Sean) and he couldn't even finish in the top two. Maybe he choked. I'm just glad Edie Brickell didn't win.

Good podcast talk a few weeks ago. That's Kreative with a K, Kontrol with a K. This week on Jekyll & Hyde (actually from March of last year) was an interview with Justin Trosper of Unwound, one of my favorite bands from 1994 to the present. (It's the most recent episode available so I suppose they've gone kaput. Drag.) The format was interesting in that they interspersed full songs from Unwound (and Survival Knife) throughout the interview, so when discussing the early days of the band they would cut away (in postproduction) to, like, "You Bite My Tongue." It was a little choppy and I wish they'd kept the flow of the discussion intact—the interview itself was maybe fifteen minutes long—but it did provide a good opportunity for the host (Jekyll? Hyde?) to admit that Challenge for a Civilized Society is his favorite Unwound album before shifting to its five-minute instrumental "Sonata for Loudspeakers." I like the song but it's not exactly an "I must hear more of this band!" chartbuster, especially when you follow it with five more Civilized minutes of "Lifetime Achievement Award." The answer, though I favored New Plastic Ideas and "Usual Dosage" for a long time, is Repetition's "Go to Dallas and Take a Left" and then "For Your Entertainment." That bass!

That bass player! The one segment of the interview where I could have used some Vish Khanna muckraking was when Justin was asked, in light of contemporaries reuniting, if Unwound would ever get back together. His response? "The fact of the matter is we just can't [reunite] because… um… Vern, the bass player, is… really just not functional to play in a band with. You know, we're good friends and we're in touch and stuff, but until some life changes happen, it won't be happening." Um… Jekyll? Hyde? Follow up that shit! Hyde?? Nothing! Here's "Lucky Acid." Remember the disastrous Middle East show? We're all standing there like assholes waiting for order to be restored. Standing there, drinking fucking Bass Ale or some shit, for a long time. Finally they square it away, having found which plug some hipster kicked out of the wall, and the band is ready, the crowd is ready, the equipment is ready (so we thought). Justin is ready! Sara is ready! Vern is rea–

Hold on. Vern remembers the Nirvana episode of Unplugged, with Kurt Cobain wearing that green cardigan, Kurt Cobain overtaken by Stardom, Kurt Cobain so deliberately scratching his chin with the side of his finger while singing the last lines of "All Apologies." Christ, I even remember it without having to go to YouTube. Soak it in, Kurt Cobain. America is watching. You are the show. Hey Vern: Cambridge is watching. Cambridge is watching you. You're not just going to launch into "Kantina," are you? Cambridge is watching. Soak it in. You are the show. Stardom. Stardom craves. Stardom craves… a cigarette. Cambridge will wait for you to light a cigarette. Do this for ten seconds. Milk the moment. Cambridge is watching and it is waiting. Cambridge is waiting all night and will continue to do so. Cambridge does not wish it stayed home to watch Friends. Cambridge would not rather be at the Bow and Arrow. Cambridge is waiting for you, Vern. Will you play? It is all for you, Vern. Play.

Here we are. I took my daughter trick-or-treating a few hours ago. Vern trolls Vegas in need of "life changes." Good podcast talk.

Up next: Brady–Manning XVI. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beer and football V — week four

The game: Patriots at Chiefs
The beer: Clown Shoes Pecan Pie Porter
The result: Loss, 41–14; Chargers win, 33–14
The commentary: "No pictures of my little girl will accompany losses, especially losses as ugly and perplexing as this." Almost. Here's an outtake from week one, basically summing up the game.

The porter was delicious and might prove to be the best beer of the season. I sampled it at a recent Clown Shoes tasting up the road and meant to ask the sales rep if the company had run out of ethnic stereotypes to exploit. They've now moved on to fantasy origin stories about "Genghis Pecan" repelling violent turkey revolts because nothing counterbalances overt race-baiting like heavy-beer mania.

Speaking of furious madness, now's as good a time as any—since I'm not emotionally prepared to write about the state of my football team—to present a homemade compilation of a few Pink Floyd bootlegs recordings of indeterminate origin I've… acquired… in our digital era. All are live cuts and span the meaty post-Syd/pre-stardom era from September 1969 through September 1971. The transitions aren't graceful—are Dobson and Thompkins seriously inactive simply because they can't cover kicks?—but I favor the pacing, like James Earl Jones reading "The Night Before Christmas" while tumbling down the stairs: "The prancing and pawing of each little oof!" Clown Shoes's gleeful prejudice and I present: Pass the Tequila, Manuel.

1. Astronomy Domine
2. Fat Old Sun
3. Atom Heart Mother

"Good morning." The first three tracks are lifted as-is from Smoking Blues, recorded in Montreux, Switzerland in November 1970. Surely the best version of "Astronomy Domine" I've heard. "Fat Old Sun" is striking and lovely as heartthrob David Gilmour giggles halfway through—if "Money" is Pink Floyd's "Brown Sugar" then "Fat Old Sun" is their "Sway." "Atom Heart Mother" is stripped down from its overindulgent studio source (with "brass and chorus") and vastly improved as a result.

4. Grantchester Meadows (a.k.a. "Daybreak")
Roger Waters's solo piece from Ummagumma is retitled "Daybreak" to open The Man and the Journey, a two-part conceptual touring suite featuring four grown men drinking tea onstage. This version, along with tracks 8, 9, 12, 13 and 14, were recorded in Amsterdam, Netherlands in September 1969. Is it "Netherlands" or "the Netherlands"? Is a "the" derogatory like with Ukraine? These are the problems I create for myself.

5. Green Is the Colour
Electric Factory 1970. Great name for a Philadelphia club. "We'll head to the Electric Factory after Hextall gets ejected." "The fucking Mummers mean we gotta detour past the Electric Factory." "I can't believe those Electric Factory pricks cut the power in the middle of Bardo Pond's third encore."

6. Careful With That Axe, Eugene
All back to Montreux! Recorded almost a year after the Smoking Blues set. This was retitled "Beset by Creatures of the Deep" when played as part of The Journey. I wish more things were titled "Beset by Creatures of the Deep." "Helen Hunt and Sidney Poitier are… Beset by Creatures of the Deep."

7. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
"The second stall in the Electric Factory's ladies' room is out of toilet paper."

8. The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (a.k.a. "Doing It")
9. Cymbaline (a.k.a. "Nightmare")

Skipping over "Work," "Teatime" and "Afternoon"/"Biding My Time," we observe our Man taking his lady friend to bed, having some efficient four-minute English sex and (bypassing "Sleep"/"Quicksilver") suffering from night terrors about special teamer Matthew Slater being the Patriots' MVP for the second week in a row. The alarm clock bleeds beautifully into…

10. Echoes
"Ping!" Get comfortable for the next twenty-four minutes. This Meddle standout comes from the '71 Montreux show and it's the most poorly recorded one of the bunch. Drag. If I could travel back in time, save Jim Morrison's beard and follow Pink Floyd around Europe to hear one song it would definitely "Echoes." "Quiet, Jim Morrison's beard. I love this middle section."

11. Interstellar Overdrive
A subdued, experimental and nearly nineteen-minute "Overdrive" was all they could talk about for years at the Electric Factory. "Pink Floyd were super trippy at the Electric Factory." "The Electric Factory hand stamp gave me the HIV."

12. Pow R. Toc H. (a.k.a. "The Pink Jungle")
13. The Labyrinths of Auximenes
14. Behold the Temple of Light

"The Pink Jungle" is a good interpretation of the first album's filler track (I like the song but it's as filler as they come), though not as good as the thirty-second segment recorded in 1967 for BBC Look of the Week and featured during the band's Behind the Music as it cuts to commercial. I love that thirty seconds—if you think Peter Jackson wasn't taking an occasional break from C Average to listen to Roger Waters's proto-Nazgûl screeching then I still don't know what to tell you. Wikipedia says "The Labyrinths of Auximenes" incorporates parts of "Let There Be More Light" and "A Saucerful of Secrets" but I don't hear it. "Behold the Temple of Light" seems to be otherwise unreleased. This Amsterdam threesome (Amsterdam Threesome now playing in back-alley theaters across the country) is followed by "The End of the Beginning," which is actually the "Celestial Voices" portion of "A Saucerful of Secrets" and formally closes The Journey. But…

15. A Saucerful of Secrets
This Electric Factory version ("Seriously, the HIV!") is superior to The Journey's and includes all four parts: "Something Else," "Syncopated Pandemonium," "Storm Signal"and "Celestial Voices." It's as strong a performance as the one recorded in '69 and released on Ummagumma's live disc. A never-realized fifth section was entitled "Thrice Against the Vikings" and I hope to hear it tomorrow night.

16. More Blues
"Ze Pank Floyt!" We close with nine minutes of "More Blues," returning us to Smoking Blues and ending three hours of curious excess. Much better, truly, than the three hours of entropy witnessed in Kansas City the other night. I am here to help.

Up next: The Misfits are not walking through that door. Cheers!