Beer and Pavement

Gentleman Dabbler

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto by SM on July 25, 2011

In the August Spin[1], Stephen Malkmus shows off his living room. At some point, he describes his record collection…

I have all kinds of weird records that I could talk about – not as many as deep collectors, but as a gentleman dabbler, I have some stuff.

The part of that quote that caught my attention was the term “gentleman dabbler,” a term that seems to refer to someone who is experienced and knowledgeable on a particular topic but not as much as the “experts” of said topic. A gentleman dabbler has a nice collection with some unique pieces. His knowledge is vast enough to know what’s good and what isn’t, but it – like his collection is not comprehensive.

Take Malk’s record collection. It would be hard to believe that someone who has been in the business as long as Stephen Malkmus has doesn’t know a thing or two about records. However, he openly admits that he’s no completest record snob. Unlike Thurston Moore[2], Malk can openly admit that he doesn’t own every record.

It is tough to admit that one doesn’t own every essential record or hasn’t tried every beer when others look toward someone for blanket consciousness. Let’s imagine that someone publishes a blog on a subject…or two. Should he be required to know everything about those subjects? I don’t think so. It’s not possible.

The gentleman dabbler allows for holes in knowledge base or collections. These holes allow for learning and discussion. I feel as though I am a gentleman dabbler. No one comes to this blog for research purposes or expertise[3]. They come here for entertainment and discussion. If you want expertise, you’ll look elsewhere.

That said, I struggle to fit into the beer blogosphere. Anyone can write a music blog. We give our opinions with varying degrees of knowledge. On beer blogs, a certain amount of expertise is expected. This is troubling as I get a lot more attention for my beer posts than I do for music. Luckily, most people have been kind.

So, keep in mind that this blog is for the gentleman dabbler. I dabble in indie rock. I dabble in craft beer and home brewing. This is not a place for expertise. This is a place for discussion and entertainment. Thanks for dabbling with me. There’s more to come…

Notes:
1Yes, I read an issue of Spin. I had to fly this past weekend and left my book at home. This was the best choice on the airport magazine rack. Spin is my generation’s Rolling Stone. That should tell you all you need to know.
2The scope of Moore’s collection is legendary. He only keeps a small portion in his apartment, but there is a storage space somewhere that would be every indie geek’s wet dream.
2Well, except for poorly written SPAMbot messages I get from time to time. Something like: “I so hapy I find you blog. It will help with a reserch project I must compete. Keep up the good wok!”

Obsession

Posted in Intersections, Life, Manifesto by SM on July 18, 2011

I am currently hooked on the show Dexter. I don’t watch a ton of TV and tend to wait for things to come out on DVD or some “free” service online just to see if it has staying power. For those who are not familiar, Dexter is a forensic investigator who specializes in blood splatters by day and a serial killer who only kills proven murders by night. He is consumed with a need to kill and a need to seek justice.

There are also two books in my rotation at the moment. John Sellers’ excellent memoir about his dad’s fixation with snakes lies half-read on my iPhone. Also, I am reading a novel by famed rock manifesto poster Camden Joy called The Last Rock Star Book: Or Liz Phair, a Rant. In Joy’s “fictionalized” piece, his research of a certain nineties indie starlet begins to get crossed with his infatuation with loves and dirty deeds in his past.

What all these pieces have in common is obsession. Dexter obsesses over every kill. Sellers’ dad obsessed over a particular variety of snake found in a Michigan swamp to the detriment of his marriage and relationship with his kids. In Joy’s book, the narrator, also named Camden Joy, begins to blur his obsessions with his current assignment to hunt down Liz Phair, all the while, he writes what has to be the longest record review in history. I mean, it’s an entire book.

Obsession takes over our lives. It does mine. Take the subjects of this blog. I have two obsessions that never seem to leave me alone. All I can think of is which record is coming in the mail this week or how we’ll work out babysitting for tonight’s Fleet Foxes show. The beer obsession is trickier in that it comes off as if I’m an alcoholic. I will admit to having one or two beers too many, but this stems more from wanting to try more beers, not to get drunk. My cellar is nearly busting at the seams and I’m having to make room for more homebrew as well as “shipments” from out of state. My bank account has taken a hit from both, but it may be my attention that takes the biggest hit.

Saturday was not one of my finest moments in beer drinking. It was near 100 degrees and I attended a picnic with my beer club. A few high ABV sips later, I was not in great shape and all due to my obsession to try as many rare beers as possible. The episode made me rethink some of my beer consumption (along with my declining health) and I wondered if I could give up such an obsession. The same would go for the records and the concerts or even this blog.

Luckily, these are just obsessions and not addictions. We obsess over things we enjoy or things that motivate us, but we don’t die from wanting them. If I quit any of my obsessions, I’ll be alright. There was a time I never thought I’d quit buying baseball cards, but I survived that too.

So, the obsession with indie rock and craft beer rages on. These are tough things to give up. And now that I can’t stop watching Dexter or have two books I’m enjoying, you can just add it to the list.

Tagged with: , ,

A Connoisseur

Posted in Intersections, Life, Manifesto by SM on July 1, 2011

Admittedly, I sometimes get too wrapped up in my little niche. I love craft beer, a category that holds down about 5-10% of the market, depending on who you ask. I also love indie rock, a label placed on independent music that includes some non-corporately-sponsored acts but not all and is generally guitar-centric music that appeals to a small subset of music fans. These are two unique interests that I write about in this blog. What’s even more specialized is the fact that I write about the merits of only these two things.

I don’t know if this makes me a connoisseur or not. Maybe I’m just a blowhard with a blog who likes craft beer and indie rock. I pretend to know a lot because…well, I do know a lot about these two things. Not as much as some, but more than most. I guess this makes me a connoisseur as described in the comic above.

There could be more to say about many other things. In fact, I’ve often considered topics for this blog that don’t fit into either interest, but I tend to shy away from those. I’d rather write about what I write about. Still, what if I’m missing out on something else, something better?

Is craft beer really all that I’ve made it out to be? It has the uncanny ability to pair with any kind of food. There are beers perfect for every occasion. You can drink a beer with more or less alcohol, bitterness, sweetness, tartness, and some other -ness’s I’m forgetting.

What about indie rock? Is “indie rock” even a thing? It’s really a silly category of music if you get right down to it. Still, that’s what I write about.

Then, I think about the idea that anyone else could write a blog about whatever the hell they want to write about. This here blog is about indie rock and craft beer. That’s what I like. That’s what I write about.

Sorry for the filler, but I really just wanted to post the comic above and see what ideas it stirs in you all.

Tagged with:

On Pissing Contests

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto by SM on April 29, 2011

Pubic Domain

A good friend of mine got me to thinking about a key aspect of these obsessions I have with craft beer and indie rock: the pissing contest. I’ve addressed the pissing contest before in regards to the boys club craft beer has become, but the issue needs further development. You see, we were having a back and forth over my developing list of beliefs. One particular belief needs a condition. Here’s what I wrote:

Beer and music is something about which we can talk. Craft beer and indie rock are the best for discussion. The hours I have spent discussing the value of that man snoring in the background of a Guided by Voices song or the times at a bar I’ve spent identifying flavors in a beer are some of the best memories I own (aside from those involving my partner and daughter, of course). Obviously, I really believe in this or I wouldn’t dedicate an entire blog to the topics and where they intersect.

And when we talk about beer and music, we are mindful of the moment. We don’t mindlessly consume. Instead, we consider possibilities and different perspectives. We find meaning in these things that on the outside seem so unimportant, but a deeper look reveals lessons for life.

This belief as well as all of the beliefs on my list will be fleshed out. However, I feel there’s a point at which time the discussion[1] of craft beer and indie rock break down. It happens when a good conversation suddenly turns into a pissing contest. Some conversations are nothing but pissing contests, but no matter when the pissing begins, the contest ruins great conversation.

For the purposes of this blog and the list of beliefs I eluded to earlier, a pissing contest is the moment in any conversation where a participant interjects with something better, not really adding to the discussion. Whether it be competitiveness, jealousy, or overcompensation for something else, the pissing contest is just a way for one person to one-up the other[2]. The contest moves the discussion away from the moment and devolves into a list of accomplishments or conquests. The moment is lost forever and the discussion might as well be over.

I can demonstrate a pissing contest in the two arenas on which this blog focuses. First, imagine two dudes sitting at the bar, enjoy a beer together.

Dude 1 – Wow, this beer is really boozy
Dude 2 – Yeah, what did they say the ABV was?
Dude 1 – Like 9 or 10 percent, I think.
Dude 2 – That’s nothing. I had a Double Bastard the other day that was like 11%.
Dude 1 – Have you ever had 120 minute? I have. That thing is like 18, 19, 21%.
Dude 2 – I have and in fact I have like two oh-8’s in my cellar right now.
Dude 1 – Well, have you ever had a Sink the Bismarck?  That beer will grow hair on your teeth.

And…scene.

In this example, the beer discussion really didn’t go very far as each dude one-upped the other with his beer conquests. There’s no discussion whether the booziness of the beer at hand affects their enjoyment or not. There’s no sharing a comparison of the beers they’ve had in the past. When one dude mentions a rare beer he has, there’s no offer to share. This is a pretty superficial, pretty boring conversation. The dudes’ girlfriends[3] are bored to death at this point and wondering when they can go out and have some real fun.

Now, for an example at a rock club, the night of a highly anticipated show.

Dude 1 – So, do you think they’ll play “Wake Up?”
Dude 2 – I doubt it. Pitchfork says that they’re mostly playing new stuff.
Dude 1 – Did you see them when they played at Mojo’s? It was awesome.
Dude 2 – No! For like the four-millionth time, I didn’t see them at Mojo’s[4].
Dude 1 – They did that thing where they leave the stage and play for the back of the venue.
Dude 2 – Yes, I’ve seen that a million times on  line.
Dude 1 – It was awesome in person.
Dude 2 – Well, I saw them in Canada once. It was more authentic as their witty banter was all in French. I had to ask this cute French Canadian girl to translate. She did and we made out later. 

In this example, the pissing contest spirals out of control until one dude obviously starts lying, even inventing a sexual encounter[5] in order to provide the final point that will make him cooler than the other dude.

In both pissing contests, the moment is lost and discussion ceases to be meaningful, if it ever even really started. Pissing contests strip the enjoyment from craft beer and indie rock, much less anything else[6]. Neither conversation produced anything more than feelings of jealousy and inadequacy in the participants. I imagine it was even worse for those who were present as their opinions or enjoyment of the moment were not a priority.

Despite my earlier rants on this subject, the pissing contest does not limit itself to one gender or class. Women partake in pissing contests as much as men[7]. The biggest difference is that men and boys are often overcompensating for a certain inadequacy[8]. Women and girls are just tired of being left out by the boys. I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but my point is that pissing contests are equal-opportunity practices for all sexes.

Class is an interesting factor. Often, out pissing the other is competition of wealth and privilege. “I can afford that fancy beer that you can’t” or “I attended more rock shows and bought more records than you did” arguments escalate the pissing contest to an arms race of whose daddy makes more money. At some point, things are reversed and the word “elitist” is tossed around. This is where the opposite happens and one celebrates PBR binges and free rock shows in basements as kryptonite to the other’s elitist pursuits[9].

A key component of hipster hatred[10] comes from the pissing contest. A hipster can never be beat as they piss cool. No matter what one brings to the PC, a hipster is one step ahead of the rest of us in knowing what’s cool. And half the time they simply make it up. Trends happen that way, but it’s impossible to keep up. Some give me a hard time for banging on hipsters all the time, but the eternal hipster pissing contest makes them pretty unbearable. The hipster pissing contest is one of perceived coolness. Quantity nor quality is considered in a hipster pissing contest. It’s all about cool, but I digress.

I too succumb to the traps of the pissing contest[11]. It used to be a common occurrence whenever I engaged a conversation about music. Someone would tell me they loved Pavement. I’d respond that I saw their last North American show[12]. Someone might mention they like Sonic Youth. I’ll respond that I once met Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo[13]. Sometimes the pissing contest never happened if the other person was not into one-upping me, but it often did as this is what indie geeks do. “I saw them when…” and “I have [seminal LP, EP, or 7″]” conversations are just part of the culture[14].

Talking beer was once a pissing contest when we used to discuss who could drink the most without passing out[15]. That was eventually seen as the sophomoric, hyper-masculine waste of time it was[16]. Then, I met the beer equivalent of the indie geek: the craft beer geek. And the pissing contests commenced. We had this barrel-aged and that 100 IBU and that 18% ABV… It’s this constant arms race to see who can consume what first or the most. I’ve joined the contest with my own escalating cellar and bar bills. Sometimes, the enjoyment of a beer is lost when all I can think about is what I’ll have next.

The biggest problem is that we’re all so concerned with writing our names in the snow first instead of enjoying the moment[17]. We’re missing out when we focus so much on pissing contests. We can’t enjoy a beer and talk about what makes it great when our time is spent talking about all the beers that are better. There’s no way to enjoy a rock show when all we can do is brag that the band was better on the last tour. Pissing contests suck the enjoyment out of life!

The pissing contest is the adult equivalent of the childhood argument “I know you are, but what am I?” Nothing new is offered. There are no details that might provide enlightenment. It’s just another way to make yourself feel better, but it could end with you feeling worse. It’s a waste of time and does not advance humanity in any way.

So, the pissing contest is not welcome in the Coalition[18]. How can we advance our enjoyment of beer and music if we’re always trying to outdo each other?

So, when I return to my ten beliefs, let it be known that talking about craft beer and indie rock is not meant to be a pissing contest. It’s meant to be a moment with friends, enjoying life as it happens.

Notes:
1Here, the discussion, talk, or conversation really means this blog and the accompanying comments and backlinks, but it also includes the more traditional, face-to-face discussions we have every day.
2You may now start to imagine streams of urine arching into the air, each one higher than the last until we all run out of urine.
3I recognize that this is a stretch. Typically, guys who do a lot of this don’t have girlfriends. They might be married as their spouses are stuck with them, but they rarely have girlfriends. Winning a pissing contest never won me a girlfriend. I put it on hold for a while. Now, she’s stuck with me.
4I didn’t see Arcade Fire at Mojo’s and I’m still pissed every time someone brings it up.
5Sex and sexual partners are a pissing contest unto themselves. I won’t go into details as this type of PC devolves rather quickly into something so crass I’d have to change this blog to NSFW.
6Again, keep in mind that I use beer and music as a vehicle to explore many issues. These ideas have other practical, universal applications.
7Now, you should giggle at the difficulty in which a woman or girl would have in participating in an actual pissing contest. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s not going to be easy.
8It’s the size of their penises. They’re worried their penises are too small, so they have to make themselves seem bigger in some way.
9Interesting how many politicians resort to the pissing contest where they try to prove how rough a life they’ve had while their opponent has had everything handed to them.
10Let’s be clear about this in a way that I’ve never been before. When I refer to “hipsters,” I am not talking about those people who are perceived to be hipster due to their attire, music, or some other thing with which Carles has an issue. The perceived hipster is not the problem. In fact, these are often the most interesting and creative people you’ll meet. “Hipster” as a derogatory term refers to a prick who only cares about being cooler than you. One cannot determine this sort of hipster without getting to know them. Assholes who just want to get laid and are willing to out-cool you at every step just to make that happen are actual hipsters, very different from the perceived hipster.
11This admission is just to show you that I recognize my own hypocrisy and how this blog often just turns into my own HTML of a pissing contest. It’s part of the human condition to prove that you’re better than everyone else. However, my point is that if we succumb to the PC, the coalition will never be built.
12I did. And I’m talking about their first last North American show in ’99. (See footnote above.)
13It’s not as cool as it sounds. I froze and couldn’t think of a damn thing to say.
14Boy, that makes indie rock sound pretty lame. It’s not really that bad, but it’s something I’ve come to expect when we talk indie.
15The worst was this dude named TJ. He would go on and on about how he finished seven…teen beers the other night. The guy actually worked on raising his tolerance by getting drunk nearly every night. He could put them away, but at what cost?
16Actually, someone finally realized how much cheaper it was to be a light-weight. Instead of drinking a six-pack in a night, you could split a sixer with a buddy and be happy.
17Now, imagine women doing this. Again, not impossible, but possibly funnier than watching dudes doing it. Just saying.
18In all truthfulness, it will still happen, but we can try out best to stay conscious and in the moment.

Tagged with:

Revised – Ten Things I Believe…

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto by SM on April 15, 2011

As part of my manifesto, here are ten core beliefs I hold in regards to building coalitions of international standing through the consumption of craft and homebrewed beer and records, lots and lots of records. These beliefs are opinions I have as to the eternal connection between beer and indie rock. Bookmark this page and adopt these beliefs as your ten commandments. Or wait for successive drafts that should eventually not look so rough…

10. Craft beer and indie rock appreciate each other, but it ends there. This has to change. Beer nerds appreciate indie rock and may very well own some indie CD’s or attend an indie rock show now and again. Likewise, indie geeks splurge and order a good beer instead of opting for some PBR. Instead, what these two groups should be doing is embracing the interests of the other. Craft beer and indie rock are the equivalents of their respective industries. They are the small operations that keep DIY, locally-produced, and craft alive. That and both are meant for discerning tastes and not the mainstream. It seems craft beer and indie rock are a match made in heaven. I will always remember that the Pavement bio included a rider from one of their tours. In the rider, among many other typical requests, Pavement asked for a sixer or two of a local microbrew. This proves Pavement’s appreciation of craft beer and thus my blog is pertinent.

9. Even if you didn’t do it yourself, DIY is always the best way to go. Most craft brewers started out as homebrewers. Most indie rockers taught themselves how to play, record, or promote themselves. Both have created consumables we love in their garages and bedrooms. I try to do what I can for myself, but the next best thing are those who practice a DIY ethic or started out that way. Craft beer and indie rock are two of the most sustainable industries we have and they’re home-grown. They control growth to insure there’s enough profit for everyone to live on while keeping their standards of quality high.

8. Beer and music are meant to be paired. What pairs better with a layered, complex, thought-provoking record than a layered, complex, thought-provoking social lubricant? Beer and good music have the power to make us dance and should be practiced together.

7. On the internet, beer and music sites are only outnumbered by porn, politics, and cats. Seriously. My Google Reader is loaded with over 100 feeds from the blogs about music or beer. There’s actually more beer blogs than music. I get tired of reading critics masturbate over music and beer blogs just give more useful information in the form of beer releases and reviews. Either way, the internet is primarily loaded with dude material and nothing’s more dude than beer and indie rock.

6. Beer and Pavement are healthy obsessions with many good lessons to teach us. Craft beer teaches us that the American dream is still alive. Pavement taught us that it’s best to do your best work, call it quits, and then get back together for one more go before calling it quits again. Plus, these obsessions help one enjoy life to its fullest without losing perspective. I’ve gone to many lengths to obtain craft beer and to see Pavement play live, but in the end, it really comes down to the enjoyment of the moment. I smiled watching Pavement reunite last summer. Similarly, I can enjoy every sniff and taste of a great DIPA.

5. Labels are like breweries. Bands are individual beers. Genres are the same as beer styles. There is a taxonomy for both that align rather nicely. There is nothing I enjoy more than waiting for the next batch of Maharaja or the latest record by the Walkmen. Each release reveals something new about an old favorite. These taxonomies make it easy to place labels, breweries, genres, styles, bands, and beers in context. I like taxonomies, especially those that parallel one another.

4. Bigger is better, but not when corporations are involved. When brewers and bands push the limits, the result is almost always better. Now, “better” might not mean that the beer actually tastes better than more conventional brews. It might not mean that a record sounds better than a band’s last effort. What “better” means in this instance is that the results are discussion-worthy. A beer or record that is big is full of ingredients and is produced under unique circumstances. Sam Calagione chews on corn and spits into the beer. The Walkmen spend a weekend recreating Harry Nilsson and John Lennon’s Pussycats. These are some big, ambitious projects that either turn out good or at the very least interesting. The only time that such ambition to do things bigger in either music or beer is when a corporation is involved. Creativity is thrown out in favor of efficiency. Bigger also means quite literally that they produce more crap in a shorter amount of time. Bigger does not always translate that way for indie labels and craft breweries.

Part of this point is to separate the craft and independent industries from the corporate ones, especially those in beer and music. The corporate versions of both are the enemy. I recognize that corporations can play a part in the areas of capitol and distribution, but when it comes to quality, the enjoyment of the consumer loses out to profits. When craft brewers or indie bands get grandiose ideas, the results are meant to please or challenge their fans. When corporations get such ideas, the focus is solely on profits.

I don’t mean to knock all corporate examples. I think examples like Built To Spill or Sonic Youth making corporate money work for them are excellent models for a brewery like Goose Island. The trouble is that corporate beer buying up craft brewers is in its infancy. The only examples (Rolling Rock,Leinenkugel, Redhook, etc.) have failed miserably. They’re the Replacements of craft beer. There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of corporate assets. The trouble arises when independence is given up for unsustainable profit.

3. Friendships are based on or can be destroyed through beer and music. This isn’t usually an intense relationship based on personal preference, but acquaintances evolve into strong friendships over a shared admiration of a fine imperial stout or on a roadtrip to see a band for the first time. Conversely, friendships fade when you choose the saison and your buddy chooses the Bud Lime or when you want to listen to some Neutral Milk Hotel and he wants Limp Bizkit. These preferences do not make or break friendships completely, but they come close.

2. Beer and music are at their best when it’s all about the craft. Regardless of your taste, we can all appreciate a well-crafted product. We might not always go for craft, but we can see the value in it. Some of us are willing to pay for that craft when it’s in the form of beer. Where indie rock is concerned, we’re willing to search it out. Interestingly, the cheapest and easiest to find beers and music are not often high on craftsmanship.

1. Beer and music is something about which we can talk. Craft beer and indie rock are the best for discussion. The hours I have spent discussing the value of that man snoring in the background of a Guided by Voices song or the times at a bar I’ve spent identifying flavors in a beer are some of the best memories I own (aside from those involving my partner and daughter, of course). Obviously, I really believe in this or I wouldn’t dedicate an entire blog to the topics and where they intersect.

And when we talk about beer and music, we are mindful of the moment. We don’t mindlessly consume. Instead, we consider possibilities and different perspectives. We find meaning in these things that on the outside seem so unimportant, but a deeper look reveals lessons for life.

Those are ten things I believe about beer and music. Is there anything I should add? What would your list look like for these topics or two subjects of your choosing? As always, leave a comment or link back from your own blog. When I wrote this version, I was waiting to see what Pizza had to say, but he did not post anything as of Tuesday. I’ll update a response if it posts between then and now.

I plan to revise and repost. So, this will develop into multiple posts, stemming from this original framework. Let me see if I can address your questions, more for the revision process than to satisfy your curiosity. Feel free to respond further.

Tagged with:

10 Things I Believe About Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto by SM on April 6, 2011

This is a first draft, meaning that I haven’t had time to clean up some wording, include specific examples, or throw in a bunch of useless footnotes. I just didn’t have time to give this the proper treatment and still insure a post for Wednesday. However, all is not lost. Look over my list and tell me where I need to beef it up with examples and footnotes. Tell me where there are holes in my beliefs, or at least the way in which I’m expressing said beliefs. Also, any suggestions for an image would be appreciated. I have an idea to do something with the Ten Commandments, but I haven’t found the right image to doctor.

As part of my manifesto, here are ten core beliefs I hold in regards to building coalitions of international standing through the consumption of craft and homebrewed beer and records, lots and lots of records. These beliefs are opinions I have as to the eternal connection between beer and indie rock. Bookmark this page and adopt these beliefs as your ten commandments.

10. Craft beer and indie rock appreciate each other, but it ends there. This has to change. Beer nerds appreciate indie rock and may very well own some indie CD’s or attend an indie rock show now and again. Likewise, indie geeks splurge and order a good beer instead of opting for some PBR. Instead, what these two groups should be doing is embracing the interests of the other. Craft beer and indie rock are the equivalents of their respective industries. They are the small operations that keep DIY, locally-produced, and craft alive. That and both are meant for discerning tastes and not the mainstream. It seems craft beer and indie rock are a match made in heaven.

9. Even if you didn’t do it yourself, DIY is always the best way to go. Most craft brewers started out as homebrewers. Most indie rockers taught themselves how to play, record, or promote themselves. Both have created consumables we love in their garages and bedrooms. I try to do what I can for myself, but the next best thing are those who practice a DIY ethic or started out that way.

8. Beer and music are meant to be paired. What pairs better with a layered, complex, thought-provoking record than a layered, complex, thought-provoking social lubricant? Beer and good music have the power to make us dance and should be practiced together.

7. On the internet, beer and music sites are only outnumbered by porn, politics, and cats. Seriously. My Google Reader is loaded with over 100 feeds from the blogs about music or beer. There’s actually more beer blogs than music. I get tired of reading critics masturbate over music and beer blogs just give more useful information in the form of beer releases and reviews. Either way, the internet is primarily loaded with dude material and nothing’s more dude than beer and indie rock.

6. Beer and Pavement are healthy obsessions with many good lessons to teach us. Craft beer teaches us that the American dream is still alive. Pavement taught us that it’s best to do your best work, call it quits, and then get back together for one more go before calling it quits again. Plus, these obsessions help one enjoy life to its fullest without losing perspective. I’ve gone to many lengths to obtain craft beer and to see Pavement play live, but in the end, it really comes down to the enjoyment of the moment. I smiled watching Pavement reunite last summer. Similarly, I can enjoy every sniff and taste of a great DIPA.

5. Labels are like breweries. Bands are individual beers. Genres are the same as beer styles. There is a taxonomy for both that align rather nicely. There is nothing I enjoy more than waiting for the next batch of Maharaja or the latest record by the Walkmen. Each release reveals something new about an old favorite. These taxonomies make it easy to place labels, breweries, genres, styles, bands, and beers in context. I like taxonomies, especially those that parallel one another.

4. Bigger is better, but not when corporations are involved. When brewers and bands push the limits, the result is almost always better. Now, “better” might not mean that the beer actually tastes better than more conventional brews. It might not mean that a record sounds better than a band’s last effort. What “better” means in this instance is that the results are discussion-worthy. A beer or record that is big is full of ingredients and is produced under unique circumstances. Sam Calagione chews on corn and spits into the beer. The Walkmen spend a weekend recreating Harry Nilsson and John Lennon’s Pussycats. These are some big, ambitious projects that either turn out good or at the very least interesting. The only time that such ambition to do things bigger in either music or beer is when a corporation is involved. Creativity is thrown out in favor of efficiency. Bigger also means quite literally that they produce more crap in a shorter amount of time. Bigger does not always translate that way for indie labels and craft breweries.

3. Friendships are based on or can be destroyed through beer and music. This isn’t usually an intense relationship based on personal preference, but acquaintances evolve into strong friendships over a shared admiration of a fine imperial stout or on a roadtrip to see a band for the first time. Conversely, friendships fade when you choose the saison and your buddy chooses the Bud Lime or when you want to listen to some Neutral Milk Hotel and he wants Limp Bizkit. These preferences do not make or break friendships completely, but they come close.

2. Beer and music are at their best when it’s all about the craft. Regardless of your taste, we can all appreciate a well-crafted product. We might not always go for craft, but we can see the value in it. Some of us are willing to pay for that craft when it’s in the form of beer. Where indie rock is concerned, we’re willing to search it out. Interestingly, the cheapest and easiest to find beers and music are not often high on craftsmanship.

1. Beer and music is something about which we can talk. Craft beer and indie rock are the best for discussion. The hours I have spent discussing the value of that man snoring in the background of a Guided by Voices song or the times at a bar I’ve spent identifying flavors in a beer are some of the best memories I own (aside from those involving my partner and daughter, of course). Obviously, I really believe in this or I wouldn’t dedicate an entire blog to the topics and where they intersect.

Those are ten things I believe about beer and music. Is there anything I should add? What would your list look like for these topics or two subjects of your choosing? As always, leave a comment or link back from your own blog.

Notes:

Tagged with:

Opinions are like…

Posted in Manifesto by SM on February 16, 2011

…blogs. Everyone has one. Right?

The thing I love about music is that two people of basically the same intellect and even similar tastes can have completely different opinions about a band or album. I suppose that goes for any kind of art or media, but people don’t talk about paintings or sitcoms the way they talk about music. It can get heated, almost to the point of exchanged blows, but we can somehow forget everything once a song comes on we agree upon.

The other day, someone posted somewhere that Radiohead was set to release an album. Since I haven’t enjoyed much of anything Radiohead’s produced in the last decade, my reaction was “meh.” So, I posted the provocative question: Is Radiohead still relevant? Some said no; others said yes. But a few others got sort of pissed about it. The funny thing is that I see eye-to-eye with a lot of people on either side of this Radiohead split.

You’d think that the polarization of Radiohead would mean that we don’t agree on any kind of music and hate each other’s guts. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. There’s something that can be said about a thing like music that can simultaneously divide and bring together. I think it’s why I like to talk music more than almost anything else.

Honestly, I don’t really care if people feel the same way about Radiohead as I do. They apparently are relevant as many people still go apeshit with every new release. Just because they’re not relevant to me doesn’t mean they’re not relevant at all.

To further my point, in case you hadn’t heard, Arcade Fire won the Grammy for album of the year. This is being seen in several ways. First, there are the opinions I’ll ignore. Those are the ones who dismiss The Suburbs because they have no idea what it is and the others who actually think Eminem was robbed. The other two camps see things a bit differently. Some are proclaiming this to be indie rock’s big breakthrough, while others see it as proof of The Suburbs inherent faults.

For those who celebrate this achievement, they realize that Arcade Fire is doing things no other indie has ever done. They are competing with the big boys of rock music from not-exactly-rock-mecca of Montreal and the tiny indie label Merge. Granted, Merge has been around for a while, but it’s not a huge label that has loads of money. They have a unique deal with artists that allows the artists more say and more pay. No major would operate the way Merge does. Of course, no major label puts out as much good music as Merge does. Funny thing is, Merge’s decidedly artist-centric approach has helped them outlast many majors. The Suburbs are the culmination of that work and all of indie rock should relish in the achievement.

My brother said something about how he never thought he’d see anything like that in his lifetime. The Grammys are shill for the industry or at least its corporate overlords. So, it’s unthinkable that a band on an indie could ever win one a Grammy, and not just any Grammy, Arcade Fire won album of the year. That’s the Grammy.

However, some would point to the fact that the Grammys themselves haven’t been relevant for…well…ever. Grammys have generally missed the mark every time. Even this Arcade Fire album is not the band’s best. Had the Grammys really been cutting edge, they would have given best album to Arcade Fire for Funeral. The Grammy foundation or committee or whatever they are really don’t understand much of the music they honor. So, is it really a big deal that Arcade Fire won?

Well, of course it is a big deal. It’s just not a big deal to everyone.

I remember when Beck beat out Springsteen and Sting for best male performance for his now-classic Odelay. Although Beck wasn’t on an indie (at least not for this release), it was an amazing upset to unseat two of the biggest names in music. It was a moment when alternative music (indie rock with loads of cash) was the equivalent of the typical corporate junk that dominated the Grammys year after year, category after category. Maybe you liked One Foot in the Grave better, but Odelay winning that award was a big deal for non-mainstream music.

The point is that Radiohead and Arcade Fire are worthy bands. They’re both relevant. It’s cool that I write about Pavement or Archers of Loaf so much. We think about and care for the music and that’s what matters. Granted, I’m biased toward a certain kind of music, but I’ll listen if you want to talk about why you love Lady GaGa or Phish or whatever. I can appreciate your fondness for a band or musician. I just might not agree and there’s room for that in this space.

Sorry, I’m rambling away from the message.

What I know that we can all agree upon is that music is one of those things in life we can all agree to disagree. And that’s great. Maybe you never grew out of Radiohead. Don’t worry. I never grew out of Pavement. I loved The Suburbs. You haven’t like anything they’ve done since Funeral. All of that is cool. There are as many ways to look at music as there are people or at least blogs.

(Speaking of obsessing over a band no one really likes, my series on the Archers of Loaf oeuvre will continue Friday.)

Tagged with: , ,

What does it mean to build international coalitions through beer and Pavement?

Posted in Manifesto by SM on January 14, 2011

I am fully prepared to concede that this post does not make much sense, but in keeping with my goal of writing a Monday/Wednesday/Friday post, this is what you get. Also, I’m not sure I hyperlinked the right sites with the right words and phrases. For this, I apologize. As always, leave a comment, pour a beer, put on a record. We’ll talk. No big whoop.

I don’t know that this is my manifesto[1], but I’ve experienced some tense moments lately. These moments were discussions or debates that grew heated, usually on Facebook discussion threads, sometimes on cable news networks[2]. Some I participated in; most I watched from afar. All could have used some beer and Pavement to lighten the mood.

Take last weekend’s terrible tragedy in Arizona. Many of the mentioned conflicts took place over this event. In an environment of borderline hate-speech and violent rhetoric, one dude who was already off his rocker, Jared Loughner, couldn’t tune it all out and had to take action. What he took were lives and judging by his mug shot, he was pretty cool with that. This guy was plenty deranged, but the political rhetoric of the times helped fuel his crazy to the tune of six dead and another twelve injured[3]. You probably know what happened, so I’ll stop with the details.

And swirling all around this terrible moment is a debate over the role violent rhetoric plays. Some, mostly those on the right, think the vitriol spewed from politicians and pundits mouths has little to do with a kook pulling a gun on a crowd. Others, mostly on the left, are calling for an end to the violence – verbal and actual. Folks are taking sides, drawing lines. The partisanship is about to get worse, not better.

Of course, what we have is a failure to communicate. I won’t mince words. The right is wrong. The left is histrionic, spineless, and just not as good at violent rhetoric as the right. The facts are that the political right is fully to blame for the nastiness in politics reaching violent heights never thought possible. It’s their supporters (mostly Tea Baggers) who eat this shit up and spread it like wildfire. Sorry, but that’s what’s going down. And those on the left will make this same argument for a moment, realize no one’s listening or that being critical may cost them votes, and let it slide[4].

So, the debate ends with a lot of angry folk. Conservatives somehow feel victimized and liberals feel powerless while independents hate both sides even more. We’ll be worse off than we were before. We can’t talk to each other. We can’t be civil toward one another. We no longer relate.

Conversely, there are moments when we find some commonality and seriously talk without pretense or bias. Take Wednesday here at Building Coalitions. The coalition exploded. I’m talking over 2000 page views, nearly ten times my highest total for an entire week happened in one day! I wrote about the struggles of growing older and losing touch with the music scene. A pretty simple concept, really. The post somehow made it onto WordPress’s Freshly Pressed feature and things rolled from there[5].

Many, many people joined the coalition that day. People gave advice, shared their own experiences, and simply participated. No one was nasty. No one was condescending. It was one of those moments where it actually felt cool to be human, nice to be connected to so many intelligent people.

What I do here is talk. It’s not out loud, but it’s published and here for your viewing pleasure. I’m open to comments and, like I said, we keep it civil[6]. Of course, we mostly talk about beer and music, but what do we all talk about on a daily basis? Jared Loughner? Sarah Palin and her crosshairs? Nope. We talk about the things that interest us, the things that make life enjoyable.

This blog is about commonality. Sure, not everyone is into craft beer or indie rock, but this blog isn’t for everyone. I once blogged about things that appealed to a wider audience and sometimes it blew up in my face[7]. So, I started this blog to focus on things I like to talk about (beer and Pavement). I even tend to take a little more time, put a little more thought with each post.

What does this have to do with the Arizona tragedy?

The point is that we need to fix how we talk to each other. Maybe instead of talking at each other with hurtful rhetoric, we can begin to listen to each other and find those commonalities. I prefer to center all of the conversations in this blog around beer and music. We all enjoy a good beer now and again and everybody loves music. This practice in talking civilly to each other is just a start to an improved world view.

As far as the rhetoric of the times, none of us likes violence. Some politicians love to use its imagery in order to win votes, but none of them (at least I hope) really wants harm to come to their opponents. That’s a commonality from which to begin. I don’t want you nor I nor any of our loved ones to be hurt. So, let’s talk about that.

That’s what Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement is all about. We’re building a coalition around the things that make us alike, not taking aim at the things that make us different. And even if we have different takes on those commonalities, there’s space for debate and comparison. Understanding different perspectives on commonalities helps us develop our own ideals.

Maybe this is a stretch[8]. Maybe I’m a dreamer[9]. Maybe a stupid blog has no influence. I don’t know. I just want folks to stop by, read what I have to say, leave a comment, and know that we can talk to one another differently than our leaders do.

As always, tell me what you think below and dissect my footnotes[10].

Notes:
1Although, the category for this post would suggest otherwise.
2Which I don’t watch. Thankfully, Jon Sterwart, NPR, New York Times, and Facebook give me all the “cable news” I need. What I mean is that half the stories are about what’s being said on cable news. Who needs to watch cable news when they make all the new for other outlets to report?
3I get the argument that this guy was crazy and no matter what politicians said, that had no bearing on the outcome. Still, the violent rhetoric has been building to a fever pitch. Use such images and words to describe what you and your supporters are going to do to opponents has consequences. Sure, free speech protects one’s right to say whatever, but shouldn’t our political leaders be held to a higher standard and not stoop to violent rhetoric? Why not win elections based on ideas? Where has that political system gone? Did it ever exist?
4If you can’t tell, I don’t like either party.
5At some point, I had to give up responding to the comments. I was barely even reading them before approving new comments. It got a little crazy, but I’m thankful for all the nice things people said, the “likes” I received, and members of the coalition who subscribed to my feed. Now, hopefully this post doesn’t scare them away.
6This is precisely why I moderate comments. Of course, someone could leave a nice comment once and then slip through a rude one, but I’m willing to take that risk. I feel like if you join the coalition, it’s hard to be an asshole. You want to participate not denigrate.
7Never write a blog that criticizes a beloved college town. It’s no fun. People get all heated about legitimate critiques and miss the point.
8No maybe about it, but after about a year of posts, I figured this blog needed a purpose and direction. Honestly, I didn’t know how to articulate it in the beginning and now it seems clearer.
9But I’m not the only one.
10Yes, the footnotes are a package deal. Sometimes, I don’t have time for them, but here they are.

Tagged with: , ,

2010 in review

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto by SM on January 5, 2011

WordPress basically wrote the post below. I’ll supplement and interject with my thoughts throughout…

The stats helper monkeys[1] at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow. Apparently, slightly more than a post a week is considered “wow” by WordPress standards. I don’t know that I’d say the health is wow, but it is promising. I actually feel better about this blog’s potential than the last even though it had probably three times the traffic. Of course, I published three times as often and often criticized the town in which I live which didn’t jive with the locals.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 7,600 times in 2010. That’s about 18 full 747s. This actually doesn’t seem that impressive to me, especially when one considers that most of those view are by the same ten people.

In 2010, there were 64 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 96 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 48mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week. Is it me or does that first sentence come off as condescending? Also, the pictures stat is irrelevant as my pictures are either stolen or are shitty iPhone pics.

The busiest day of the year was December 3rd with 153 views. The most popular post that day was The Ten Best Albums of 2010. This just encourages me to post more top-whatever lists of music. I guess you crave my opinion quantified in a top-10 list.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, in-misery.blogspot.com, grou.ps, hungryhorde.blogspot.com, and twitter.com. This is interesting as my second-greatest referrer is my old blog. It sort of explains my fond memories of that blog and its readership[2].

Some visitors came searching, mostly for emo is dead, screaming girls, diy bed, lebron james beard, and vampire weekend contra. According to these search terms, I should be writing more about emo or dead genres, screaming girls, LeBron’s “beard,” and either an album that came out a year ago or the most blogable of the buzz bands.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Ten Best Albums of 2010 December 2010
17 comments

2

Emo is dead. January 2010
7 comments

3

Men and Beer November 2010
6 comments

4

Pavement and Girls July 2010
2 comments

5

Why? January 2010
1 comment

This aligns with the stats above. My readers love or I get the most traffic from top-10 lists, emo, beer, and Pavement. The “Why?” piece is simply my page explaining the purpose of the blog. It’s in terrible need of revision.

In the comments, tell me what you get from these stats. Should I write more about how dead emo is 5-10 years after it had already been declared dead the first time? Is this bog really wow or is there a better word to describe its health? What post from the past year stirred you to join my coalition?

Also in the comments, feel free to write a new description for my Why?/About page.

Notes:
1Not actual monkeys.
2Facebook and Twitter are just tools I use to garner some traffic. I use FB more, so it ranks higher. The Ravenous Horde link is interesting as Tina never updates her blog anymore. The other reference point is just my beer club. No doubt those guys are disappointed every time I post something on music.

Tagged with: , ,

Dudes with Beards

Posted in Intersections, Life, Manifesto by SM on December 24, 2010

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought[1]. What connects dudes with beards? Why grow hair on your face?

One interesting insight from the comments under my original beard post was this:

We were out at a beer event the other night and a non-beer friend remarked on the correlation of beards on beer people. It’s pretty strange, but I’ve noticed it before as well.

[the beard] brings all the girls to the yard.

While I’m not sure the beard actually “brings all the girls to the yard” in the same manner as my milkshake[2], it is interesting that so many bearded faces are those of beer folk. I mean, the examples are endless, just look below…

[3]

[4]

And, since I focus this blog on indie rock as well, the beards in that scene are just as prevalent…

And there are guys who are just funny/bad-ass who sport beards…

So, what connects all these men? Is it sheer animal magnetism? Is it a shortage of razors? Are they putting extra testosterone in our Wheeties?

Honestly, I think we just like how it looks, makes us feel. Imperfections are easily covered. Our faces never grow cold while out wassailing. WE DON’T HAVE TO SHAVE.

In the end, does it really matter[5]?

Apparently, it does. This is now my second post on the subject[6]. Nearly everyone I run into comments on the beard. They either like it or they don’t. And for whatever reason, they feel the need to share their opinions on my facial hair. It’s as if I’m pregnant and everyone’s commenting on how large I’ve grown while they rub my belly and eyeball that bottle of whiskey and carton of cigarettes in my shopping cart.

The funny thing is that I’ll probably shave the thing off at some point mostly out of boredom. Every time I’ve shaved a beard in the past, it’s primarily to do with boredom. I’ll be done with it eventually.

But for now, it seems to be a hot-button topic here at Building Coalitions. What are your thoughts on beards? What’s the connection between beards? Why does a “beard” also refer to a partner of the opposite sex whose only purpose is to make you seem straight?

As always, comment below and provide me content.

Notes:
1Not really, but I couldn’t sleep and wanted to blog about something.
2My partner does not like it, but she’s tolerating it. For now. My kid loves it, but I may grow tired of her ever-improving grip.
3Yes, the Dude appears to be humping a Sam Adams’ Infinium. I plan to drink and review my own bottle sans fornication.
4Whiskey-drinking bro.
5No.
6And most likely last. At two posts, this is already overkill.

Tagged with: