Brown Shugga’

I had a Lagunitas Brown Shugga the other night, partly on the recommendation of my boss, Tim, and partly because it’s called Brown Shugga and why the hell would I *not* get a beer named that? Also, Lagunitas, for all their hair-on-fire-crazy-owner’s rants, make a pretty decent beer. Their IPA is really good.

Brown Shugga’s an interesting one. It’s “originally a failed attempt at our 1997 batch of Old GnarleyWine Ale”, which was a Barleywine style beer (high alcohol content, fruity, sweet, thick, and on the darker side). It came in a Lagunitas glass, not a typical pint or snifter, and was a deep caramel color, with a nice hop scent to it.

First sip was that it was appropriately named. It certainly was sweet, but not overpoweringly-so. It was also very smooth; I expected something this sweet to be a lot thicker, almost syrupy, but nope. The sweetness didn’t linger, either, not a lot of aftertaste, which is a good thing.

I liked it. I certainly wouldn’t make it a daily driver, but it would be a fantastic introduction to the barleywine style, I think. Check it out.

America The Police State (no, not really, but it’s a good-enough title)

On July 17th, 2014, Eric Garner died in an altercation with police in Staten Island, NY.

On August 19th, Michael Brown was shot and killed in an altercation with police in Ferguson, MI.

In the wake of these two events, there were protests in cities across the country. People engaged in “Die-in’s”, where they would lie down and pretend to be dead to protest police brutality. Members of the St. Louis Rams, as well as other NFL teams, all engaged in visible forms of solidarity towards the “I Can’t Breathe” messasge, made popular by YouTube videos of Eric Garner.

Then, the retaliations started. Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were executed by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who then took his own life, on December 20th. The next day, Officer Charles Kondek was killed at 3:00 AM in Tarpon Springs, FL. A third police officer in NY would have been shot in the face had the assailant’s .357 not been empty.

Look. I know I don’t get a lot of traffic here to this page, but for anyone who is reading this, let’s make this perfectly clear. It doesn’t matter that it’s fashionable right now to hate cops, even more so than in times past. It doesn’t even matter what my opinions of the police are. Whether you are a fan of police or not, there is absolutely, positively, no excuse for the actions of the two maniacs that just gunned down three police officers for no other reason than to – in Birnsley’s words – “put[ting] wings on a pig today”.

For every Michael R. Lewelling, there’s at least a dozen Casey Warrens. For every Sandusky Police Department there’s a hundred Sacramento Police Departments. I can go on and on with examples from both sides – that’s not the point. The point is that if you want the police to show up at your fucking door some day when you actually NEED them, then walking up to their cruiser and blasting off a few rounds might not be the way to get them to show up and give you a hand.

Oh, and officers? Sorry to call it like it is, but if you want people to stop shooting at you when you’re on the job, then maybe you should recognize that a few bad apples have, indeed, ruined it for the rest of you, and figure out how to fix your perception problem.

In the news recently …

In case you’ve been living under a rock, there’s been some interesting happenings over the past few days:

– Philae, the European Space Agency’s lander launched from the Rosetta Space Probe, safely landed on a comet, the first time this has been achieved;

– The G-20 Economic Conference is happening this weekend in Brisbane, Australia;

– Oil has dropped to under $80/barrel for the first time since 2010;

– a protoplanetary disk has been discovered around the star HL Tauri;

– Low levels of radiation from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster have been discovered off the waters of California.

Any one of these things should, by its own merits, be able to carry a headline (well, maybe not the protoplanetary disk one, but that’s still pretty cool). And I was really happy to see that they were news.

But not the top story. Oh, no. There’s no way these would be the top story.

Not when Kim Kardashian has gone full-frontal for Paper Magazine!!

Seriously? Seriously? Some of the most amazing things are happening – as we speak! They’re happening AS. WE. SPEAK! – and the lead-off story is that that useless talking bag of meat took off her clothes?

Who cares? Really – if anyone is reading this, who cares? And I’m not saying that in an exasperated tone, I am legitimately and some what angrily asking  – who cares about her? What makes her so famous? She was friends with Paris Hilton? Whoop-de-doo. She had an E! show with the rest of her litter? So what? What has she done, apart from be stepdaughter to Bruce Jenner (as an aside, Bruce, what in the blue hell happened to you, man?!?) and be married to Chris Humphries for 72 days, which is shorter than

– how long Sea Monkeys live (658 days)

– the amount of time the Macarena spent at number one (98 days)

– how long Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock were married (150 days, and if your marriage is shorter than theirs by half … damn)

– how long Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries were engaged (85 days).

So someone, please, tell me what the fuck this chick has done to give nearly everyone with a keyboard and a Twitter account heart palpatations because she showed off her funbags, because we all know that’s the first time anyone’s done that on the Internet. It’s not even the first time SHE’s gone nude! She had a sex tape released!! She posed for Playboy – so why, oh why, are we all in a tizzy because she got nude AGAIN? Can we just stop, just friggin’ stop, with the false-celebrity worship that she and her family have generated for themselves?

The only silver lining I can see out of giving this wretched specimen of humanity any more publicity is that maybe – just maybe – her posing nude again means she’s getting a bit desperate for more publicity, which would imply that her star is finally starting to fade. To me, that can’t come fast enough.

My Favorite Album

There comes a time, in almost every musician’s life, when he or she decides that they’re going to get serious about their craft, that they’re going to stop mucking about on their instrument and sit down and dedicate the serious time and effort into becoming the best musician they can be. It might be seeing someone perform, or it might be sitting down and talking to another musician, or jamming with a group and realizing that that’s something you really want to do for the rest of your life.

For me, it was hearing an album.

I remember it like it was yesterday; I was driving down 129 with my friend Jeff Turner, in his Ford Ranger, and he said to me, “Have you heard this new band, Dream something-or-other?” I hadn’t, and – as chance would have it – their single came on the radio. The song was Pull Me Under by Dream Theater, and we pulled into the 7-11 parking lot to actually listen to it. As soon as the song was over, I looked at Jeff and said, “Let’s go to Newbury Comics. I need that album.”

We both bought the tape that night, each of us, and as we drove to Dunkin’ Donuts – because that’s pretty much all we did, hang out at Dunkin’ Donuts – we listened to side one. When we got to Dunks, we flipped the tape and side two’s first track, Metropolis Part I – The Miracle And The Sleeper, came on.

I was blown away. I had never heard anything like this before, this absolute incredible musicianship; the playing was just out of this world, by a bunch of guys who were totally musician’s musicians. Jeff looked at me and said, “That’s the music I hear in my head,” and I knew exactly what he was talking about, because I heard it too.

That was 22 years ago. I listened to that album again tonight, after being frustrated with my lack of playing ability earlier in the day, and it brought me back. That album was the one that made me want to be serious about being a bass player; it was that album, more than anything else, that made me want to get up on a stage; it was that album that made me want to make the transition from being a guy who played bass to a musician. And it’s that album that makes me miss Jeff, who passed away fifteen years ago, more than anything else.

Dream Theater has been a huge part of my life since I first heard them. I have friends across the world – quite literally – that I’ve met through the band, not just on online message boards, but in person. I’ve made trips to NYC to see them twice, and have gone on vacations with people that I’ve met through them. And I ultimately owe it all to Jeff, for asking me one night when we were young fools if I’d ever heard of them before. I don’t know if he ever knew the gratitude I had for him for introducing me to the band that helped shape my life for the next two decades. I can only hope he does now.

And I hope he knows that every time I hear Pull Me Under, I think of him and smile.


Bad Beer

My wife Julia (you’ll hear that name a lot) and I went out to do some errands today, and when we got home, we treated ourselves to a Foolproof Raincloud Robust Porter. I’d bought a six-pack to bring a couple on my annual Guy’s Trip To Canada (more about that in a later post) and with today being a rainy shitshow of a day, I figured this’d be a nice beer to warm us up in this raw, crap weather.


When this came out of the can and into the glass, it was all foam. I mean, a craft beer glass that was 9″ high had 1″ of beer and the rest foam in it – and only half the can was poured in. I was very disappointed, since this is one of the better local beers I’ve got in my stable. I can only surmise that this was just a batch of badly-canned beer.

Bummer. Oh well – I’ll just have to get another six-pack to let them prove me wrong. 🙂