Archive for August, 2008

Beer Review: Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat

Today a beer my friend Craig describes as “mysterious.”

Beer: Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat
Brewer: The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: ** (6.3 of 10)

Comments:  I first encountered Leinenkugel’s at Miller Field (ironically) in Milwaukee.  I enjoyed being able to have a decent beer for a reasonable price at a ballpark (reasonable being a relative thing).  Opening the bottle is the worst part of this beer because I am greeted with a sickly-sweet aroma.  The beer pours out a rich, cloudy amber. Luckily it doesn’t taste as sweet as it smells, it’s actually a bit bitter once it reaches the back of the tongue, but it’s still rather fruity.    Overall it is an okay but not great beer, but perhaps you’ll find some mystery in it.

Book Review: “The Juncto” by Neal Stephenson (Book 5 of the Baroque Cycle)

The Confusion (2004) by Neal Stephenson continues with Book 5 of The Baroque Cycle, “The Juncto.”  This book is all Eliza, with a good share of Bob Shaftoe, plus helpings of Daniel Waterhouse and Leibniz, sprinkled with the monarchy and aristocracy of late 17th-century Europe, both real and fiction.  At times the narrative of this book appears to be no more than a roundabout way of telling the history of banking, finance, numismatics, and cryptology.  Despite all this, “The Juncto” is much more lively, entertaining, and funny than it’s intertwined book “Bonanza.”  Of course, maybe if I read them together like I was supposed to I would not be making these comparisons.  And it would have made a whole lot more sense.

Next up: The System of the World.

The confusion / Neal Stephenson.
New York : Morrow, c2004.
815 p.: maps ; 25 cm.

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Hefeweizen

Today a beer from that local brewery down the street in Jamaica Plain, Sam Adams (albeit much of their beer is brewed out of state).

Beer: Samuel Adams Hefeweizen
Brewer: Boston Beer Company
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: ** (6.9 of 10)

Comments: Hefeweizen is one of my favorite beer styles, and this is an average Hefeweizen. It’s got the cloudy color, the wheaty taste (but not much of it), and leaves a bubbly glow in the mouth.  A good drink for a summer’s night.  The head is not as thick or long lasting as I’d expect for a hefeweizen.  Not bad, but there are German imports available in JP’s liqour stores too.

Lazy Blogger

Crikey! I just opened mine eyes, and lo! I have not updated this since long before Shakespeare wast a boy… You would not believe how terribly tardy the Victorian internet can be. Apologies to my regular readers! Even the little blue ones!.

I am lost in a sea of pseudo-olde-english with only your readership as life preserver, a ticking crocodile, just generally being asleep, dreaming and chancing to anyone unfortunate to cross my path, my day is filled with fluorescent light from the moment my children manage to unlock my bedroom door and use me as a jumping castle to 11pm at which point I fall asleep on the couch. I am looking at rectifying this. it will be fun fun fun till they take my TBird away.

I make a solemn vow I will write something that makes sense soon. Go with God, good friends. Cats if you don’t.

(via The Lazy Bloggers Post Generator)

Boston By Foot Tour of the Month: Ashmont Hill Sneak Preview!

I’m a big supporter and participant in Boston By Foot’s Tours of the Month.  Usually, I post photos and commentary after the tour.  This time I’m posting a sneak preview of a tour coming up next Sunday, August 31st at 2 pm:  Ashmont Hill.  If you come on the Red Line, make sure to exist Ashomnt station and walk to the right up Dorchester Avenue to get to Peabody Square with the big clock.  You may be lucky enough to see the man who winds it by hand!

The tour covers both a public square and a quiet, leafy neighborhood with gorgeous houses, none of which are substandard.  The architectural styes include Gothic Revival, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, Stick Style, Shingle Style, and Italianate.  Homes of architects, educators, and a prominent politician – John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald.

I’ll post more pictures next week, but here’s a taste of what you may see on Ashmont Hill.

Previously:

Favorite Albums by Year

There’s a meme I’ve seen on some other blogs about listing one’s favorite albums from each year of one’s life (example: Nicholas Carr’s Rough Type).  The rules are one album per year and the same artist/band cannot be repeated.  The rules make for some interesting choices.  For example, I found myself really scraping to find anything for the years of my infancy, while some other years like 1986, 1989, 1997 & 2003 each have a great number of my favorite all-time albums.  Similarly, a couple of times I didn’t list my favorite album by a particular band because it was up against stiff competition, but that band was able to represent another year with one of their weaker albums.

So, here we go.  Don’t laugh at my choices.

1973: Wattstax Soundtrack
1974: Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard
1975: Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
1976: St. Louis Jesuits, A Dwelling Place
1977: The Clash
1978: Elvis Costello-This Year’s Model
1979: The Specials
1980: The English Beat-I Just Can’t Stop It
1981: Dance Craze soundtrack
1982: Mission of Burma-VS
1983: Violent Femmes
1984: Prince & the Revolution-Purple Rain,
1985: Pogues-Rum, Sodomy & the Lash
1986: Peter Gabriel-So
1987: Tom Waits-Franks Wild Years
1988: Fishbone-Truth & Soul
1989: Pixies-Doolittle
1990: They Might Be Giants-Flood
1991: Yo-Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin-Hush
1992: Ali Farka Touré – The Source
1993: Bjork-Debut
1994: Weezer
1995: Moxy Früvous-Wood
1996: Velveteens-Viva
1997: YLT-I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
1998: Cry Cry Cry
1999: Vinal Avenue String Band – Live at the Tir na nOg
2000: Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer-Tanglewood Tree
2001: Kevin Hanson Trio-Bulls Eye
2002: Mekons-Oooh! (Out of Our Heads)
2003: The Weakerthans-Reconstruction Site
2004: Freezepop-Fancy Ultra Fresh
2005: Beck-Guero
2006: Camera Obscura-Lets Get Out of this Country
2007: New Pornographers-Challengers
2008: Vampire Weekend

1908 Night

I remember the summer of 1983, because that was the year when my mother, sister and I spent almost every Friday night at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, CT.  We went in the afternoon to swim in Lake Quassapaug, swim out to the float, and enjoy a picnic supper.  Once the sun started to set, it was 1908 night, Quassy’s celebration of their 75th anniversary by selling ride tickets, hot dogs, and sodas for a quarter each.

It was a fun summer, and every time I hear certain songs it takes me back to those nights.  Here’s a sampling of the music playing on the radio as we drove to and from Lake Quassapaug:

The Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue

The Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination

The Kinks – Come Dancing

Madness – Our House

Who says there was no good music in the Eighties? The rides at Quassy are less memorable as they were admittedly rather tame.  When we went back one time in 1984, the magic was gone.  Still, it’s a fun memory to think back on 25 years later.

Book Review: The Fabric of America by Andro Linklater

The Fabric of America: how our borders and boundaries shaped the country and forged our national identity (2007) by Andro Linklater is built on a thesis that the idea of the United States being defined by the frontier and rugged individualism – with Frederick Jackson Turner as a major proponent – is not true.  Instead of the frontier, Linklater believes that our nation is defined by our frontiers, the national boundaries fixed by government agencies.  Within these boundaries, Linklater contends instead of wanting less government, pioneers brought government with them in the form of surveying, land claims, squatters’ rights, and establishment of local governments.

Most of the book doesn’t really stick with the thesis but instead is a history of the United States’ borders.  A major portion of the book tells the story of Andrew Ellicot who surveyed the boundaries of Pennsylvania (picking up where Mason & Dixon left off), Washington, DC, and the boundary between the U.S. and Spanish Florida. There are lots of interesting historical facts about how the nation and states took their shape as well as the practice of surveying, of which Ellicot was an innovator.

The portions of the book from Ellicot’s death in 1820 to the present feel rushed and unfocused.   Linklater’s theory about how our nation’s boundaries defined us feel tacked on to the more interesting historical narrative.  Still, this was an interesting and quick historical read.

Book Review: A Pocketful of History by Jim Noles

A Pocketful of History: Four Hundred Years of America — One State Quarter at a Time (2008) by Jim Noles takes the State Quarter Program as a launching point for an engaging look at the 50 United States and the symbols chosen to represent them.  Often, Noles goes beyond simply telling the history of the image on the coins to delve deeper into the social and cultural history of the States.  For each quarter, Noles also discusses the other finalist for the quarter design, the process of approval, and circulation of each coin.  The only thing I could ask for is more illustrations of the people and things he discusses.

My favorites include:

  • revisiting my 4th grade social studies’ lesson of Connecticut’s Charter Oak (by far my favorite State Quarter).
  • the importance of the palmetto in fort construction in Revolutionary South Carolina
  • Rhode Island’s quarter inspires a history of yacht racing.
  • the “scandal” of Ohio depicting a living person by including an astronaut who must be John Glenn or Neil Armstrong.
  • Helen Keller’s Socialist ways make her an unlikely representative of Alabama as well as someone appearing on US currency.
  • Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds, where you can keep the diamonds you find (I didn’t know it existed).
  • exciting stories of storms on the Great Lakes make up for Michigan having the most boring quarter.
  • the Kansas quarter leads to the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, regiments of African American cavalrymen who fought in the Indian Wars of the West.
  • Colorado’s purple mountains majesty hid a CIA training camp for Tibetan subversives.
  • Wyoming’s pioneering history in Women’s Suffrage.

The quarters open a door to learning about the states, their great people, buildings and places, arts, and flora and fauna (and their conservation).  Like the State Quarters themselves, A Pocketful of History will have a broad appeal beyond numismatic buffs.  I think it especially will be a good tool for teachers and children.

Author Noles, James L.
Title A pocketful of history : four hundred years of America–one state quarter at a time / Jim Noles.
Publication Info. Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, c2008.
Description xxvi, 324 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.

Book Review: New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg

Following up on Ric Burns’ New York, I read New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (2007) edited by one of the stars of that series Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.

This collection of essays looks back with some nostalgia and some disgust at the City in the 70s, 80s, & 90s.  For most of the authors, New York once was full of crime, sex, and drugs, yet the rents were low and the City maintained its own character.  Today they sneer that interlopers have moved in, built luxury lofts, priced out everything that made New York unique and replaced it with typical American suburbia. Most of the essayists to some extent sink into insufferable self-importance which makes this book hard to read at times.

There’s a lot of hyperbole, but there’s truth mixed in.  And there’s still a lot to love about New York.  Each borough gets its own tribute, with the one on Staten Island being the most illuminating since I know little about that area.  There are also great stories on graffiti, civil rights, art, rock music, and ethnic foods.  If you love New York, this book is worth checking out.  If you hate New York, this book isn’t going to change your mind.

New York calling : from blackout to Bloomberg / edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.
Publication Info. London : Reaktion, 2007.
Description 368 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.

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