Sunday, October 19, 2014

American Books One Might Want to Get to Before Others

I have a new friend from England, C. C admits to being woefully underread when it comes to "American Classics."

C wanted a list of American books I thought were worth reading, so I made one. I stuck to ten novels. Here's my list:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee wrote one of those books you can never unread. It's simply the truest American story ever told.
  • The crying of Lot 49: Thomas Pynchon's shortest novel isn't his best, but it's the best to get to know this writer and see if you want to try out heftier tomes like Gravity's Rainbow and V., which is my personal favorite.
  • On the Road: Kerouac beats Thompson when it comes to writing about the American Dream. I think I've read everything by Kerouac, and I like Lonesome Traveler more than On the Road, but you have to start at the beginning.
  • Lolita: Nabokov wrote possibly the best novel of the 20th century, called himself an American novelist, and the book takes place in the US, so don't try to tell me this doesn't count. If you can read, you have to read this.
  • The Sun Also Rises: Fucking Hemingway had to write this one first. I think it's his best book, and I think the way the Lost Generation felt might be the way this one does in a lot of ways. Anyway, I think it's timeless.
  • Sea Wolf: Jack London wrote the greatest sea adventure ever written, according to Carl Sandburg. How he's more famous for his dog books, I'll never understand. Anyway, this book is about a poet trapped on a ship with Nietzsche, and supposedly the captain is based on a real guy who used to go to one of my favorite bars on the planet: Heinhold's First and Last Chance Saloon.
  • Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer: You have to read one or both. It's mandatory. Race, youth, class, yeah, Mark Twain had it all.
  • The Catcher in the Rye: They make people read this one too young. Then they bury you with criticism about it. I think I've read this book four times. Each time, I get something different and hate my teachers more. 
  • Moby Dick: Melville's better book might be White Jacket, some people say, but I never read White Jacket more than once. Moby Dick is possibly the greatest novel ever written and is experimental by even today's standards. If you say it's slow, watch a YouTube video instead. Yes, when I read this the first time as a young man, I struggled through some of it, but argh, thank god I did. 
  • A Movable Feast: I feel a little guilty putting Papa on here twice. I'm not really a Hemingway freak, but this book has so much going for it. Wonder what it was like in Paris after the war? Read this. Gertrude Stein is in it. I love this book.

On a personal note:

  • Legend of Greystoke: When it comes to prolific sci-fi writers, Edgar Rice Burroughs is, in my opinion, the best. I know, Lovecraft. Yeah, Lovecraft is wonderful, and everyone should read at least the Mountains of Madness, but I had to cut him because Edgar Rice Burroughs is just a better writer in the end.

Canadian Honorable Mentions:

  • Yann Martel: Life of Pi and Virgil and Beatrice.
  • Douglas Coupland: Microserfs, Girlfriend in a Coma, Life after God, Generation X
  • Margaret Attwood: Handmaid's Tale

White guys I wanted to put on this list but didn't make it:

  • Truman Capote
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • William Faulkner
  • Thomas Wolfe
  • Henry Miller
  • Others already mentioned and even more I don't want to.

Women I should have put on this list:

  • Zora Neal Hurston
  • Toni Morrison
  • Kate Chopin

Black guys I should have put on this list:

  • Chester Himes
  • Ralph Ellison
  • Richard Wright
  • Ishmael Reed
  • Amiri Baraka
Anyway, that's my list. The last thing is, I think Howl should be mandatory American reading. It's a book of poetry, but I didn't want to leave this post without explicitly mentioning HOWL by Alan Ginsberg. I'll have to find C. a copy somewhere. 

Rilke, W.H. Auden, and Pynchon

I've loved the three aforementioned writers for all of my adult life.

  • Pynchon wrote V., which I think is one of the great novels of the twentieth century, and it was his FIRST!
  • W.H. Auden and his wrecked face is the poster boy for poetry and poets. . . maybe he shares the poster with Jack Spicer?
  • Rilke, who doesn't love Rilke? The angels and all of that in the Duino Elegies? C'mon. I read a good bit of it all in German years ago, and I just love Rilke.
But I never made the connection between them. I didn't know Auden and Pynchon were both totally into Rilke.

Today I was writing, working on my next book of poems, The Chris Hemsworth Sonnets, which I hope to have finished before they kill off Thor in the movies. And I was stuck on Rilke. I had Rilke on the brain. Jeder Engel ist Schrecklich! Was the newest poetical Ohrwurm. I decided to Google around and ended up at the bottom of a Wikipedia page and boom.

And things, loose strands of wire, broken synapses, copper sparking in the ether, all sprang to life in my tiny little head.

Also today, I was watching the latest episode of Dr. Who and an ad came on about a movie the BBC has done about Dylan Thomas. I'll be watching that. 

Rilke, Thomas, Roethke? Yeah, for some reason, this all reminded me of this short poem »

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Boulevardier

I met a delightful person today who claimed to love bourbon. Favorite bourbon? Bulleit Rye. "How do you like it?" "In a shot glass next to my beer or in a Boulevardier."

I adored this answer partly because it sounded honest and true, and partly because I had not heard of anyone drinking a Boulevardier in ages. It's one of those Negroni bastards you unfortunately don't see around very often, but it's a delicious cocktail and one worth exploring. Also, documented references to this drink predate the Negroni, which I find mildly interesting.

Here's a history of the drink »
Here's a recipe »
Here's a very slightly different recipe »

I have had it in a cocktail glass, but I prefer brown spirits in a rocks/old-fashioned glass for purely aesthetic reasons.

So, this person and I are going to get dressed up in the middle of the night, go to a whiskey bar, and order Boulevardiers. I'll take pictures.

Also, there's some controversy regarding Campari. So here's a link to that if you care about controversy. My personal take is I'd rather eat as few bug butts as possible. I mean, there's an acceptable amount of insect parts in everything we eat, but yeah, I prefer not to jump in and eat them on purpose. I don't see it as a betrayal that a company might change its recipe ever so slightly every hundred or so years either. Times, tastes, and what's acceptable to stick in one's mouth change, people.

Obligatory literary rye reference.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Liquid Nitrogen and Centrifuges

Liquid nitrogen is a toy I'd love to play with. I remember thinking it could freeze a person instantly like Sylvester Stalone and Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man. Now I want to chill glasses with it and make weird caviar things.

Maybe it's my love of science, maybe it's my love of good show, but I really want to have a go with it. What excitement people demonstrate when they see the explosion of gas or get super-cooled strawberries in their mouths and breath cold white smoke out their noses like dragons! And it happens to be useful.

I also want a centrifuge. I want to separate the solids out of juices and carbonate them in bottles. Once at Billy Sunday in Chicago I had a Fernet and Cola in a bottle that was made that way. I don't know if they used a centrifuge, but it was a perfect drink, and I think doing Gin and Tonics that way could be incredible. Also, punches might be interesting to serve in house bottles. ARGH! the possibilities are limitless.

If I get to manage a cocktail bar soon, or if I start my own speak easy up again, I'm going to get a centrifuge at the very least. I'd love to get a freezer cold enough for liquid nitro, but that might have to wait. They're a little expensive.

But the future of mixology is now!

Some of it's so old it's new again. Dave Arnold is also using hot pokers to burn up some hot cocktails the way they did in the olden days at his bar, Booker and Dax. I love this guy and what he's doing.

Here's a link to an article about some of the cooler cocktail bars I like out there »

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Dirty Martini

I've always enjoyed a Dirty Martini. It's one of my all-time favorite drinks. I fill a shaker with ice, pour in gin (usually Tanqueray), dash in just a bit of dry vermouth, and I give it a good dash of olive brine. I swirl the shaker, a compromise I settled on during a shaken-or-stirred discussion long ago. Then, I strain it in the art-deco ornament that is the towering, unwieldy cocktail glass. I throw two olives straight in, so they rest at the bottom.

Why dirty?
First, the saltiness is a reminder that this is an adult activity. This is not a saccharine sticky dessert. This is not a stash of candy to lure the unsuspecting tween. This is a true testament to alcohol and maturity. But that's not all. The olive juice can ruin the drink if you're not careful. A bartender can screw the whole pooch if he or she adds too much or too little. It's a challenge. Plus, you've got to have decent olives. No one wants nasty old stale olives.

But if you're making it yourself at home, what could be easier? Make it to your own taste and enjoy. If you're at a party, everyone will make it differently, which is kind of fun.

And there's something classy about this silver fox. It's one of the oldest cocktails, and all kinds of celebrities have uttered all sorts of wonderful quotes about it. If you like the Dirty Martini, you're in good company.

Here's a good short article I found about it »

Anyway, I've been drinking a lot of them lately.

It might be because I'm currently out of Fernet and the liquor store is sold out for now.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Paradise Falls

Every town you pass
was once a cute place
when the leaves were green,
and the mills and factories,
the hood ornaments of industry,
where men and women paired off
to pass up opportunities
in profit palaces,
where monied people
leave full purses
on your doorstep for smiling
like rainbows on Sundays,
to settle in a cute town,
raise families,
status symbols,
run lines of razorwire
round the perimeters,
kill possums with passion,
catch fish with sons,
hang balls on boughs come Christmas,
eat well at dinner parties,
wake up worrying about nothing,
to work.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


I worked at Club 33 at Disneyland when I was in my more formative years. I think it's where I caught the food and beverage bug, and it's certainly where I got into fine wine and beer and cocktails.

It looks like Disney is at it again with 1901. Only Club 33 members will be able to get in there, which makes it one of those things I'll have to finagle for seeing as how all my connection at Disney have pretty much dried up. It looks like something I just have to experience though. I mean, look at it.

It looks like it's been up and running for a while, so I have to start sneaking in my desire to see it into conversations with corporate types who might have an in.

Here's a link to the Disney blog about it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


A friend convinced me Sketchup is an important life skill.

I made this table in an early tutorial.
Just a roof tutorial I messed with for practice.
You know that big Apple fest where Steve Jobs used to give his keynotes? I was there when Jobs introduced the Apple TV. That was the first time I saw Sketchup. Google was there showing off all its cool new stuff. My friend Justin and I imagined a world where Google Earth would be tied to it and you could walk into any building in the world virtually because every building had been modeled in Sketchup. Well, it's hooked up with Google Earth now, and that's cool, but you still can't walk into every building in the world. How cool will that be though?

I got to mess around a little with Sketchup and was probably one of the first people to download it, but I put it on the back burner for a long time because I just feel more at home in Adobe.  I'd used other 3D software before and had a bad taste in my mouth (I used to sleep at my office waiting for things to render).

But things change and I thought I'd take another crack at it, and I love it. I'm devouring tutorials. I hope to recreate breweries in Sketchup and animate virtual tours about the brewing process. Brewing always has the same components from brewery to brewery, but they're all set up differently, and the way the liquid travels through physical space is really interesting to me. Brewers tell me all the time that if they had set up their breweries, they'd have done it differently. Wouldn't it be cool to check out what brewers are doing all over the world? There could be a whole new world of virtual collaborations that use Sketchup models. And fans of your beer could go in and take tours imagining they're there. And when they expand their operations, they could virtually create additions and reorganize their space. and, and, and,

And I'm still just a Sketchup n00b, but I hope to be making a model of my apartment soon, so I can make better use of my space. There's a lot of clutter at my place right now, and there's gotta be a better way.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Starr Hill Logo Rework

Sometimes it's fun to take a logo and redesign it in such a way that takes the branding in a completely new direction. I spend a lot of time thinking about brewery logos and branding, and I started thinking about Starr Hill's logo. It's a giant star that looks like a sheriff's badge from the wild west. I like it. It's simple, bold, immediately recognizable. I'm not trying to "improve" anything (just as a disclaimer). I'm a fan who wants to reimagine the corporate identity of one of my favorite breweries.

Anyway, here's what I was thinking: Blue Ridge, nighttime music festivals, soothing, modern, and military.
The star always looks a bit military to me. I used a camouflage swatch set to come up with the color motif. I want more than one star to give us the idea of a good night and even a little magic (think a sorcerer's cap). I kept all caps on the logo for strength, but I used Helvetica to make it simply modern. I think it's a good contrast with the rounded corners of the bounding box. It makes the beer look accessible and easy. It's also fine when it goes black and white with a little help.

I worked the golden mean a bit more than I usually do on this one. Also, I wanted it to be reminiscent of patriotism. . . I'm kind of dancing with the military thing a bit.

Just to restate: I am not criticizing Starr Hill's logo in ANY WAY. Think of this like you would Twilight fan fiction. I'm just a fan having fun with design.

Friday, August 1, 2014

On a Steel Horse I Ride

I designed this Tshirt. If fifty people reserve it, it will be printed, and the people who reserved will get one of these limited edition pieces of art. I wish you'd get one. It would make me happy. It's an outlaw cowboy motif with a skull and pistols. I've been asked about this one a lot, so I decided to stick it on a shirt and see if anyone wanted it.

Click here!!!

I'm enjoying making these tees. I think I'll make a few more.
Thanks for the support.