Thursday, June 30, 2011


   noun /ˈlikˌspitl/
   lickspittles, plural

    1. A person who behaves obsequiously to those in power
How did I survive this long in the era of Fox News without having used this word before.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Under Utilized Albums

Over the years I've bought a lot of albums.  According to iTunes I have 536 albums and this doesn't count the music I've deleted nor the records, tapes and CDs that never made the move to digital.

Within this collection of albums there are a lot of memories.  I can still remember flipping through albums at the record store in the Village Street plaza in Marblehead, looking at the endless possibilities and wondering what to buy.  With a little luck and the help of a school friend who played in a band I made some good choices that have stood the test of time.

American Beauty, Physical Graffiti, Decade, Exodus.

I've also bought my share of stinkers.  I'm not immune to the fashion of the day.  I bought a Loverboy album once.  I had a couple of Fog Hat albums.  I've also bought music to impress girlfriends and I freely admit I've bought more than one album just because the artwork looked cool.

But this post wasn't inspired by albums that fit either of these extremes. 

Have you head of the band Camper Van Beethoven?  They were an alternative band from CA that released 5 album between 1985 and 1990.  I own them all.  I've listened to 4 of them repeatedly for years.  They're one of my enduring favorites. 

But then there's the outcast album, the oddly named II & III.  Before yesterday I don't think I even listened to it more than 5 times and I've owned it for close to 20 years.   I had no desire. 

Normally I force myself to listen to music I don't instantly appreciate.  I figure there's a hook buried somewhere that will reveal itself if I just give it some time.  But not with this album.  I dismissed it out of hand.  Not going to listen to it - not worth it.

Stupid me. 

I'm not going to tell you that it's now my favorite Camper Van album but it's good. I took me 20 years but I finally got it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Just watched: Falling Skies

Supposedly 'Falling Skies' is a new sci-fi series on TNT.  I say supposedly because I just watched it for 45 minutes and I saw nothing new at all.  It was one cliche leaped upon another with a dollop of trite military nostalgia added in for flavor.  Not a sprig of a fresh idea was to be found.  Barf.

The whole post-apocalypse suburb genre is tired - I'm looking at you Walking Dead.  Using empty suburban sets has become the modern TV equivalent of the substituting the California desert for an alien planet.  Both scream budget constraint.

And this being a Spielberg production it's all about the kids.  We gotta save the kids.  This is the sort of show that will add a cute robot in the second season - Biddi, biddi biddi.  No, wait that was another sci-fi hack job.  Forgive me, there's been so many they all run together.

I admit a few minutes of satisfaction as the various troops of surviving humans marched out to raid the same grocery stores in central MA that I shop at but I found the usage of the Civil War era naming conventions forced:  "The 4th Massachusetts is at your command, Sir!"  Really, you're all in Massachusetts.  Perhaps they can get Jeff Daniels to do an episode where he leads the 20th Maine down to support their flank on a hill they'll call Little Round Top. 

It's not like I have a lot of good shows competing for my time either.  The bar really isn't set very high.    I actually watched every episode of Stargate Universe and the whole first season of Warehouse 13.  No one thinks these were good shows but they at least had some novelty to their premises.  Even the ridiculous V gave me a few episodes of enjoyment before the suckage took over.

The same can't be said for Falling Skies.   I couldn't even finish the pilot before I removed the recording from the DVR schedule.  According to some news I read TNT is so high on the series they've already committed to a second season.  As my buddy Kudla says: I just don't get it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

White Birch Tavern Ale

After my American Craft Beer Fest experience that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, I set out to try more of White Birch's beers.  I found a nice selection at Colonial Spirits in Acton and picked up one bottle each of Wrīgian, Dubbel, Belgian Style Pale, Hop Session and Tavern Ale.

I drank them over a couple of weeks in that order.  I enjoyed each of them but none stood out till I tried the Tavern Ale.  I didn't think I was a fan of smoked beers but this brew has made me a convert.  I've tried a few German beers and some American smoked porters but hit the spot like this balanced brew.  The smoke was very noticeable but not overwhelming.  The malt sweetness nicely contrasted the smokiness.

The name makes it sound like a weak session brew but this bad-boy has a bit of backbone.  It's not kick-you-in-head heavy but at just 8.0 ABV there's a punch.

Unfortunately, Tavern Ale is not one of White Birch's regular brews so I don't know whether I'll ever find another bottle.  I hope I can.  Along with the Hooksett Ale it was my favorite of their beers I've tried.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When a Daredevil Dies

R.I.P. Ryan Dunn (Actor/Stuntman from Jackass, etc) but honestly I'm not surprised you're dead.  I'm more surprised that A. You lived as long as you did and B. More of your cohorts didn't precede you to the grave.

Don't take me wrong.  I like risk takers.  They are a fun group.  I wish I had more guts to do some of the crap they do.  I'm just not surprised when they die.

I can't even mourn that much for their friends and families.  A Daredevil seldom dies a tragic death.  It would have to be something really ironic for it to be tragic - like slipping on a banana peel.   A drunken, speeding car crash is not ironic.  On a scale of tragic deaths I'd say a Daredevil's (non ironic) falls somewhere between that of a Volunteer Soldier's and a Mercenary's.

People had to have seen this coming - at least as a distinct possibility  They were delusional if they didn't.   When a loved one is living the lifestyle of an adrenaline junky you better treat every day like it's their last because there's a good chance their end will arrive before yours.  Sure it's a bummer when they go but it's not shocking or tragic. It's a probable outcome of their lifestyle.

In this case I didn't know much about the guy but there are similar tales to be told about Mountaineers, Extreme Skiers, Rock Climbers and Base Jumpers.   None of my friends who do these things are at the big 'E' extreme end of these sports but they've all told me stories of friends who've pushed too hard in and paid the price or were too damn crazy for their own good.

It's like when I watched The Deadliest Catch.  It's not surprising that the lifestyle killed someone before the ocean actually did.  

This is going to sound weird but I actually admire the guy more now. This Dunn guy lived an interesting life.  I'm sure he would like some more of it in retrospect but in the end we are all just the sum of our choices.

Weird post for me.  Not sure were it came from.

Update: In reflection I guess I usually espouse similar opinions even if they are not always so explicitly stated.  The lyrics to the Hendrix song If 6 was 9 come to mind.
Nobody know what I'm talking about
I've got my own life to live
I'm the one that's gonna have to die
When it's time for me to die
So let me live my life the way I want to.

Yeah . . .
Sing on brother,
Play on brother . . .

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Dad

In honor of Father's Day I sat down too write a post about my father, John Francis Lyons, who died in 1997 at the age of 78.  I figured it would be easy since he had such a strong impact on me; but I find I'm struggling.  In my memories the things that made him such a awesome Dad stretch across the years into a web that defines the shape of my youth but is made of such fine thread I can't find any single anecdote or story that does the man justice.

I can tell you this.  

Everyone called him Jack.  I don't think I ever heard someone call him John, my mother included.

He was whip smart, a lot smarter than me.  He was a poor Cambridge kid who got a full boat  R.O.T.C. scholarship to M.I.T.  Graduated class of 41. He spent WWII in Panama defending the canal.  

Even at a young age he had white/gray hair piercing blue eyes.  Women always commented that he looked like Henry Fonda.

He loved to sail, hike and ski and dragged the family all over the place doing all those things.   I was skiing by age 3 and hiked Mt Washington at age 6.  He was a pretty darn good Tennis player too.  When I was a teenager and playing a lot he would almost always win our matches.  What he lacked in speed and agility he more than made up for in wiles.

As we all grew older he cherished family dinners.  He would keep us sitting around the table, way past meals end,  filling our wine glasses and telling stories.  All my siblings continue this tradition with their families.  As a group we don't see each other that often but whenever we do we always have a great time around the dinner table. 

He wasn't a perfect man (who among us can claim that honor?)  but he was a great Dad and I sure do miss him.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Just Watched: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

This movie surprised me.  I had heard it was good but that's faint praise.  This movie was awesome.  It's funny, beautiful and unlike any other stop motion film I've seen. 

I like animated films and they've certainly been enjoying a Renaissance lately, but I don't get as excited about them as a lot of my film buff friends.  I think Pixar does a nice job but I never like their films nearly as much as they do.  The one exception being Toy Story 3 which I loved (I've not seen Up yet but I have hopes for that too).

The films of Hatao Miyazaki are also quite popular but I've seen so many and they all kind of mush together in my head.  Recently I tried to watch Ponyo and though the animation is stunning I found it rather boring and didn't finish watching it.

So it was with this background that I sat down to watch Fantastic Mr. Fox.  I'm sure at some point previously I had heard it was directed by Wes Anderson but I didn't pick it up while watching it till the end credits.  In retrospect his fingerprints are all over this movie. 

Clooney does a great job bringing Mr Fox to life.  His voice is so recognizable It's a little weird at first but his cool Ocean's 1N style fits the character perfectly.  Much to my shame I never pegged the voices of Meryl Streep, Bill Murray or Willem Dafoe to their animated counterparts.  I didn't know they were in the cast but I still think I should have been able to pick them out.   I can claim Owen Wilson but that's an easy one.

So if you get a chance.  Check this film out.  It's great,

Monday, June 13, 2011

Some thoughts on Game of Thrones

I've been loving the HBO series Game of Thrones.  I'm bummed the season is almost over.  As a fan of the books I've been pleasantly surprised by the faithfulness of the adaptation.  Even though I know the overall story arc I'd forgotten enough of the details that I've been enjoying many fun moments of re-acquaintance as the story unfolds.  I'm going to be following the off season casting news of Stannis and Brienne of Tarth with great anticipation.

As for the greater story, while reading some of the online chatter regarding the series and the books I stumbled upon a theory regarding Jon Snow's birth that I'd never entertained before.   If you enjoy speculating consider this.  Jon Snow is the child of  Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen.  Ned never had an affair but instead was protecting his nephew from Robert Baratheon's wrath.  This means Lyanna probably loved Rhaegar and didn't want to marry Robert at all.   It makes perfect sense in so many ways.  My only shred of doubt stems from it being too perfect.  You can read a lot more on the theory here.

Since finishing Feast for Crows I've had a feeling Jon and Daenery going to hookup at some time.  I don't know if this makes it more or less likely - they're already family.   It's weird but the Targaryn's predilection for incestuous relationships leaves the door wide open.   I doubt these questions will be answered in 'A Dance with Dragons' but I still can't wait for July 12th.  I'm going to be paying attention to scenes with Jon and fire more often now. 

One final question for consideration.  Since we know Daenery is a Targaryen and we now believe Jon Snow is a Targaryen, is there a third Targaryen lurking out there?  Three dragons, three headed dragon sigil, dragons come in threes.  Food for thought.

Update: I found this theory regarding a possible third Targaryen.   I don't buy it as told in the essay but I agree with the comments.  According to the theory Tyrion is Jon's half brother.  They certainly had a connection during their brief meeting.  I wonder.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

American Craft Beer Fest 2011

I attended the 2011, Saturday evening session of the American Craft Beer Fest at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston last night.   My session wasn't sold out but it was the largest crown I've seen.  This may have been because I usually go on Friday nights.  We changed over because last year there were quite a few booths where the brewers didn't arrive in time to setup.  I hear that was an issue again this year for at least one brewer but perhaps the tradeoff of shorter lines is worth it.

I wasn't interested in standing in long lines to try beers I've already tasted from the major brewers so I spent my time among the lesser known and local companies.   I didn't keep notes so I'll just report on the brewers that had enough of an impact on me that I can remember their names.

White Birch Brewing.  These Hooksett, N.H. guys are quickly rising on my list of favorite N.E. brewers.  They brew very small batch interesting beers.  I had a bottle of their Hooksett Ale a couple of weeks ago and loved it and got try try a couple more at the Fest.

Cody Brewing.  This is another very small N.E. brewer.  The beers being poured at the Fest were noticeably improved over the ones I tried last year and the few pours I've had a local pubs since.  I like the styles of beers they're brewing and they're getting good at it.

Ithaca Beer Co.  I love their Flower Power IPA and had a chance to try their awesome 'E' at the show.

Gardner Ale House.  Their Face-Off Double IPA was damn tasty.

Others I enjoyed in no particular order: Bobcat Cafe & Brewery, Boulevard Brewing, Elements Brewing,  Offshore Ale Co, Surly Brewing,  Three Heads Brewing.
The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism