Beer and Pavement

CITIZENFOUR

Posted in Film, Review by SM on October 22, 2014
Syna So Pro busks before the first Midwest screening of 'Citizenfour'.

Syna So Pro busks before the first Midwest screening of ‘Citizenfour’.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly express how much True/False means to us in terms of providing that one yearly jolt of intellectualism, creativity, and life we need at the end of every winter. Really, it’s not just that. This is a hard place in which to live. True/False makes it bearable for one long weekend every year.

However, this past year brought us the birth of our son, Theo. He’s our True/False baby, born on March 1st. The doc fest didn’t happen for us. Sure, it went on, but it didn’t happen for us. Of course, we could have gone to the Boone Dawdle for the first time, but the film this year didn’t interest us enough to bike 20 miles in the heat. Maybe next year?

So, we are long overdue for our True/False fix, to put it lightly.

That fix was supplied in the form of Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour, the documentation of Edward Snowden’s coming out as an NSA whistleblower. This was an intense way to get back into the True/False groove as the fest put together a one-time (well two times, actually) screening of the highly anticipated film.

Poitras is a bit of a legend in T/F lore. She won the fest’s True Vision award in 2010 given to “a filmmaker (or filmmaking team) whose work shows a dedication to the creative advancement of the art of nonfiction filmmaking.” Her arguably most popular film at the fest was The Oath in which Poitras hangs out with a cab driver who was once Osam bin Laden’s bodyguard. The cab driver’s life is contrasted with his brother-in-law’s who finds himself detained in Guantanamo Bay. It’s even more intense than it sounds. Poitras also made a film about gentrification in my old home of Columbus, OH. It’s very different from her recent works, but totally a good watch, especially if you keep in-mind that this was her first film.

Citizenfour was not exactly what I expected. I honestly did not read up on it except to realize that it was about Edward Snowden in some way. Like many documentaries, I assumed it was a collection of interviews and pieces of a puzzle put together in order to recreate the events leading up to Snowden’s whistleblowing, making us all acutely aware as to how our government invades our privacy on the daily. I also caught that this was the third in a trilogy including The Oath and 2006’s My Country, My Country. However, what I was not prepared for was the amount of access Poitras had in documenting Snowden’s story.

Usually when a documentary covers a story, it comes in after the fact. There are interviews with people about what they remember. There’s archival footage or recreations. Rarely is a documentary documenting major, historical events in real time. Citizenfour does this, however. Poitras is there, in the room when Snowden is spilling the beans on how the NSA basically watches and listens to every electronic transmission we make. She follows as Snowden’s identity is revealed and he has to make a mad dash for a friendly embassy and eventually Russia. Poitras is only physically in the room with Snowden while he stays in a Hong Kong hotel for interviews with Glenn Greenwald over the course of a week+. Then, as the chase is on, she documents the fallout for various players in the game to uncover how our government watches and collects data on our every move. She communicates now and again with Snowden until she finally provides evidence of his new life in Russia.

What’s interesting is how intimate Poitras is able to get with Snowden without being intrusive. The privacy of his moment is completely documented by Poitras’ camera. It would be ironic had Snowden not asked her to be there, but he did ask her. The difference between Poitras and the NSA is that Poitras was asked to be there and to document the whole thing.

The story which evolves is really quite breathtaking. No narrative is forced. All the drama is real and that might be the scariest part. Poitras typically crafts narrative with a heavy hand. This isn’t a knock. She’s good at telling stories. With Citizenfour, you get the sense that she lets this story tell itself. She’s just there to make sure it gets to an audience.

If Citizenfour screens in your town, go see it. Several of Poitras’ films end up on PBS. So, you might be able to see it there. And don’t just watch it to get informed about the NSA. Sure, there’s that part, but it pales in comparison to the story told. Watch it for the story and do your research on the NSA.

Now I feel like I’m on some sort of list.

Why Liberals Never Win

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Mikkeller by SM on August 10, 2012

This went down.

One craft brewer beating up on a handful of niche craft brewers who in-turn beat back on the first craft brewer. Aren’t they all supposed to be on the same team?

It’s silly, really. Craft brewers own 5-10% of the beer market in the US. Why bash each other because one segment goes about their business differently than you? Wy not focus all your effort on the big boys?

For all their faults, this is something BrewDog does, but they are a minority. The Scottish craft brewers are in it just to take on the big boys. They feel no need to attack their own. Instead, they promote kindred spirits, even collaborating from time to time. When it comes to taking on a common enemy, craft brewers either turn on each other or turn a blind eye toward their macro adversaries.

In music, the same doesn’t typically happen. Although, sometimes, there are beefs, particularly if Wayne Coyne is involved. Still, indie rockers generally leave each other alone. It’s the fans and bloggers that like to tear down their own. Debates over how indie a band is or isn’t or whether or not a band is indie enough dominate conversation. Instead of celebrating indie rock, we make it a pissing contest where those who piss the shortest distance win.

This is why liberals never win.

The more thoughtful, critical side of the political spectrum constantly beats itself up over nuance, subtlety, and semantics. Liberals do more harm to one another than conservatives who tend to toe the party line. Liberals are constantly redefining what being liberal means while conservatives are set up to just do things as they’ve always been done.

Of course, there are exceptions. There always are. However, time and time again, I find the internal battles among liberals, the craft beer community, and indie rock to be frustrating. I mean, I love and identify with these communities because of their critical, reflective natures, but sometimes they do more harm than good.

Thoughts? Am I overreacting? Does this happen on the same levels among conservatives, macro brewers, or major labels? Discuss.

*Then, there’s this. Really? Who cares?

Tagged with: , ,

Occupied

Posted in Activism, Intersections by SM on October 21, 2011

So, I was having trouble coming up with something to write. It seems that I’ve been wrapped up in all the #OccupyWallStreet drama. To satisfy this occupation of my attention, I could go to our own Occupy COMO demonstration, but I figured I’d blog about it instead. (It takes all kinds to make a social movement successful.)

What does a blog about some guys hobbies have to say about the Occupy series of protests? Plenty. So, I’ll keep it brief.

You see, craft breweries and indie labels are occupying their industries in much the same way those protesters in NYC are doing. They’ve held a spot in their respective industries that their corporate overlords don’t like. It makes corporations nervous to see the little guys one-up them. Craft breweries and indie labels represent a portion of their market they can’t have. They represent defiance. Corporations don’t handle defiance very well.

The reason these breweries and labels can take on corporate behemoths is because what they do comes from people. Despite what some might suggest, corporations are not people. What they do is for profit, to crush the competition, and to dominate their sector. And it’s okay not to see corporations as people. They don’t see us that way. We’re just numbers, demographics, and consumers. Craft brewing is about the people. Most breweries started with a guy or gal brewing some beer in a garage. Similarly, indie labels started with people wanting to get their music out into the world. Both have goals of making the world better, more enjoyable through their craft. Sure, a profit that allows them some financial security and the ability to take care of their people is part of it, but profit doesn’t come before quality for these entities.

Craft breweries are taking back the beer market, a market that used to belong to the people and not faceless corporations. There used to be breweries in every city. Then, Prohibition happened. Some breweries closed; others diversified. Eventually, a few larger breweries bought up all the local breweries. Eventually, beer went corporate. Then, certain developments happened. Jimmy Carter helped make it legal for folks to brew at home. A few folks traveled through Europe, discovering that beer could vary in flavor, appearance, and style. In the midst of all this, Fritz Maytag was making some things happen with the old Steam Beer Brewing Company. Three decades later, craft beer is slowly taking back beer for the people.

Indie rock has had a similar timeline and method. Punk rock showed kids they could make something people wanted to hear. Networks and labels popped up throughout the 80’s, making it possible for these self-taught, self-promoted, and self-recorded artists to make a go at a career. This movement gave independent artists scaffolding for gaining the solid foothold in the industry, again, returning a share of the market to the people.

Like the Occupy movement, craft beer and indie rock have taken a long and arduous path in taking on large corporations. The occupiers in New York and elsewhere are just getting started. Their fight is a noble one, but they are not alone. People all over this country are taking back some control from corporations. Whether that be in the form of establishing their own place in a corporate-dominated market or just a fight for an economic and political system that actually works for the people, we are all occupying space that corporations can’t have back.

Now, I recognize that this is just a post about beer and music. The actual occupiers are doing important work. And there’s no better talking head on the internet than Jay Smooth to put things into perspective…

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: , ,