Friday, April 29, 2011

Beer in Ireland

I didn't leave my beer explorer hat at home when I traveled to Ireland so I figure it worth a post from that perspective.

It won't surprise anyone that Guinness is available just about everywhere in Ireland.  What you may not have known is that Bud is readily available too.  They call it "Bud, Ice Cold" and many places even have special taps that get all frosty.  I had no intention of trying it so I can't comment on its taste.    If a place didn't have Bud they probably had Carlsberg on tap.  You can also find people drinking bottles of Coors Light and lots of places had Stella.   I don't know if these beers are for the tourists or whether the natives drink them but I hadn't expected to see so much light lager. 

Smithwicks' Irish Red is nearly as prevalent as Guinness as was Bulmers (Magners' name in Ireland).  What I didn't see a lot of was Harp.  I meant to ask a local why that was but never did. 

New beers I got to try: O'Hara's Iris RedGalway Hooker Pale Ale and Porterhouse Brewing Hop Head and Oyster.  Good stuff all around.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thought on Ireland

I just returned home from a wonderful trip to Ireland.  It was my first visit and fulfilled a life long dream.  Even so I was unprepared for how much the country appealed to me.   It really got under my skin.   It was like it fit my DNA.  From the culture to the landscape it felt very homey.  I've heard other people express similar emotions after visiting their ancestral countries.  I wonder if there's something beyond the psychological involved?  Were my eyes really tuned by evolution to prefer the light and the colors of the landscape of that country?

Other thoughts:

The food is great.   The smoked Salmon is fantastic and the rustic brown breads hearty and delicious but even more so there's an pervasive attention to providing quality ingredients.  Even in humble pubs there were always nice greens provided with a meal.  I never saw the equivalent of the shitty Iceberg lettuce salad with hothouse tomatoes that we still see here.  I honestly never had a bad meal. 

Driving on the left side of the road is scarey as all get-go - till it's not.  The first 30 minute trip from the car rental place to our hotel was the by far the scariest time I've ever spent in a car.  I really wasn't sure we were going to make it.  How people can be allowed to just hop in a car and be expected to adapt seems absurdly dangerous.  They really should have some driving simulators or some other training tool available at the car rental place.

The place really is very green and nearly every house has either sheep or cows in their yard.   It seems like everyone outside of the major cities is involved in the production of food in some way or another.  You can see people towing tiny stainless steel milk vats behind their little cars - I assume to make a delivery to some larger processing plant.  It really makes me think my large lawn is a major waste of space.

Guinness really does taste better there.  If pressed I'd say it's just a tad creamier and a tad less bitter but the difference is so subtle I think it could all be in my head.     

I really can't wait to go back.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Just Watched: Black Swan

I've now seen every Aronofsky film with the exception of The Fountain.  I'm a big fan.  He makes challenging movies with intricate structure and fascinating character.  This is all true of Black Swan.  However,  it does not eclipse Requiem for a Dream as my favorite of his films.

I'm sure I would have liked Black Swan more if I'd seen it earlier in its release.  By the time I got around to watching it last night I'd seen and heard so much about it nothing was surprising. 

For all the psychological weirdness of the film I actually found the world of ballet weirder.   There's a scene in the movie where both Portman's and Kunis's characters are at a bar talking with a couple of guys and they reveal that they are ballet dancers and the men seem almost put off.  They realize they're not talking to normal people.  Ballerinas are different.  They're people's whose dedication to an art has made them anachronisms to much of society.

If you liked this film definitely see Requiem for a Dream.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Just Watched: Due Date

I watched this movie Saturday night.  Jayne and I were in the mood for some laughs.  Unfortunately, I don't recall disliking a film quite this much in a long time.  I found it mean spirited and boring.  It's filled with horrible humans doing awful things.  How Downey's character managed to find a women willing to marry and have his children is beyond me.  He's a complete fucking dick.   He actually spits in the face of the dog for no reason other than he doesn't like it.  Sure, I laughed at a few spots but overall it left me feeling like shit.  I wish I'd never seen it.  It's an anti-movie that makes me not want to watch more movies.  Negative stars.  Just horrible.

Just Watched: 127 Hours

I've been avoiding this movie for no other reason than I wanted to like it and was afraid I wouldn't.   I just couldn't quite imagine how the subject could be turned into a watchable movie without cheezing it up or being excruciatingly melodramatic.  Luckily this turned out to be a problem of lack of imagination on my part because the makers of this film did exactly that. 

If you don't recall, this is a film about  the true misadventure of Aron Ralston who had his arm trapped by a boulder while hiking in the Utah canyon lands.  Ultimately, Ralston needs to amputate his own arm in order to escape. 

This film was based on Ralston's own book on the event and evidently is very accurate in its depiction.  Part of what makes it so enjoyable is the way Ralston so logically attacks his predicament.  So often we watch stupid people doing stupid things but here we get to watch a intelligent guy trying reasonable things to free himself.  The director does a neat job of slowly revealing the strategies Ralston uses in his attempts to free himself so it feels as if you had the idea yourself.  This technique involves you in the process and helps you understand the final radical solution.

I ended up enjoying this movie a lot more than I thought I would. 

If you liked 127 Hours you may like these other films:  Das BootLifeboat or the Spencer Tracy film The Mountain

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism