Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poetry day. And a bad day for baseball in Minnesota

Today is the capstone of poetry month -- it's national read-a-poem day! I have a Brautigan classic that you might enjoy. Today is also a double-header for the Twins, who are losing again to Tampa Bay. Curse you, Johnny Damon!

It's cold and damp and not quite unfit for baseball. Baudelaire would not have cared.

A Baseball Game
(part 7 of Galilee hitchhiker)

Baudelaire went
to a baseball game
and bought a hot dog
and lit up a pipe
of opium.
The New York Yankees
were playing
the Detroit Tigers.
In the fourth inning
an angel committed
suicide by jumping
off a low cloud.
The angel landed
on second base,
causing the
whole infield
to crack like
a huge mirror.
The game was
called on
account of

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Schell's: Good Beer, eh?

Twenty-five years ago, I helped a friend remodel a house in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis. It was August. Hot and muggy. My pay: some cold Schell's Deer Brand beer and some very good home-cooked food. He was a better cook than carpenter.

The friend later opened a restaurant which did pretty well. I was a silent partner (except for that one weekend cooking pizza). We both made a little money off that place.

I still like Schell's beer. I especially like the fact that the little brewery in New Ulm, MN has expanded its line to include several craft beers - ales and stouts and the like. Last year was the 150th anniversary of the brewery's founding and of course they produced a commemorative beer. Actually, they produced five different limited editions, then had customers vote on which one should be the official sesquicentennial beer. The Hopfenmaltz won. I had some tonight and I concur.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

This is not a review

Joe Posnanski writes for Sports Illustrated, and I have never much liked Sports Illustrated. Posanaski also wrote "The Machine," a book about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. I remember that team: Rose, Bench, Griffey (Sr.), Davey Concepcion, Tony Perez, George Foster, and Little Joe Morgan. Wow. A fun team to watch. But the book was kind of boring. I think some killjoy editor got a little heavy-handed. Posnanski's earlier book, "The Soul of Baseball," is much better.

Posanaski also writes a blog that is just about the best thing going on the Internet. I count myself among his faithful readers. His writing is the prime attraction, of course, and it helps to like baseball, but what's also remarkable is the comment section.

Most comments on most blogs and Internet news sites are ridiculous. They're mean, stupid, pointless, not worth reading. But Posnanski's commenters are by and large clever, smart, polite, funny, insightful, reasonable. How come?

Well, the comments are moderated, for one thing. And many (but not all) commenters aren't anonymous, which raises the level of civility. But I think it's mostly because Mr. Posnanski sets a good example. He's not a blowhard. He's modest about his own knowledge and skill. His biases are clear but he is always willing to acknowledge -- even empathise with -- other points of view.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Today's Review: Maurene Brockway pottery

It must have been about 1984. My lovely wife and I were at the annual summer art show at St. Kate's (we rarely missed it when we lived in Minneapolis). I bought a mug from Maurene Brockway. It is still, over 25 years later, my favorite coffee mug. A few years later, we bought a table setting from her. It was featured in a show at the Scandinavian Design Center, then in the warehouse district. We bought what they had at the show, then supplemented it by visiting her studio and choosing a few more pieces. She was very gracious. We still use those dishes, mostly on special occasions to show off for guests, but sometimes just because we want to. They are beautiful and functional.

Maurene still teaches at the Edina Art Center. I should probably tell her how much we've enjoyed her work all these years.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: Shiner Kosmos Reserve + Early Brautigan

The good folks at the Spoetzl brewery describe this as a dark lager with some extra hops. That it is. Shiner Bock is one of my favorites, and I aim to try all the Shiner variations. I first encountered Shiner back in the 70's when traveling to Texas periodically for work. We went to Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Hunstville. Never made it to Austin or San Antonio or Galveston or Corpus Christi. Shiner was, I'm pretty sure, a regional beer. I, for one, am glad it has gone national.

Kosmos Reserve is named for Kosmos Spoetzl, founder of the brewery in Shiner, TX. I'm partial to dark, hoppy beers, so this one's right in my wheelhouse. Nicht schlecht, Herr Spoetzl!

Here's one of Brautigan's earliest published poems:

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth's Beer Bottles

When we were children after the war
we lived for a year in a house next
to a large highway. There were many
sawmills and log ponds on the other side
of the highway. The sound of the saws could
be heard most of the time and when there
was darkness trash burners glowed red
against the sky. We did not have a father
and our mother had to work very hard.
My sister and I got our spending money
by gathering beer bottles that had been
thrown along the highway or left around
the sawmills. At first we carried the
bottles in gunny sacks and cardboard boxes
but later we found an old baby buggy
and we used that to carry our bottles in.
We took the bottles to a grocery store
and were paid a penny for small beer bottles
and two cents for large ones. On almost
any day we could be seen pushing our baby
buggy along the highway looking
for beer bottles.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Today's Review: Ryan Adams

Last winter, my oldest son Michael put a bunch of Ryan Adams songs on a CD, handed it to me, and said "I think you might like this." I guess he figured -- correctly -- that I like all kinds of music (except 'smooth' jazz, most hip-hop, and most country music recorded in the last decade) so I would probably like Ryan Adams. Somehow, that CD got buried among the drifts and piles of junk that cover my bedside table. I finally unearthed it last week.

Sorry, Michael. It's not that I dislike the songs. Most are perfectly serviceable pop tunes, but nothing grabbed me except "Happy Birthday," which I like very much. The slightly dissonant chord struck on the downbeat of alternate measures is cool. It perfectly reflects how I think the poor guy feels.

If I can figure out how to embed the Grooveshark widget, you will be able to click and listen right here! That is what the Internet is for.

OK. The widget thing isn't working, so here's a link to Grooveshark and the Ryan Adams birthday song. Great tune, kinda odd lyrics.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Today's Review: Twins v Royals

Last night, the Twins were very fortunate to get a win in the tenth inning. They squandered many chances to score and handed the Royals a few extra at-bats. The Twins bullpen, subject of much preseason hand-wringing, performed well. The Twins hitters weren't especially good with runners in scoring position, and the runners weren't especially good at running. Highlights: Cuddyer 4 for 4 plus a walk; Dusty Hughes' spectacular catch of a looping liner; Danny V's single that mercifully ended the game. I was able to enjoy the nice weather at Target Field, which really is an outstanding baseball venue.

This afternoon, the Twins couldn't get anybody out. Getting opposing batters out is one of the things a baseball team is supposed to do. It contributes to winning. Francisco the Enigma Liriano, I'm lookin' at you.

This was a rare two-game series. It is the first series the Twins haven't lost this year.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today's Review: Avenue Q at the Mixed Blood

If I could use thumbs without infringing on a copyright, I would put one up and one down. Three out of five stars. The sound of one hand clapping. I liked the show, had lots of good laughs. Clever staging. Some cool puppetry. Some outstanding vocal performances. But...

Many critics have used the "Rent meets Sesame Street" line to describe Avenue Q. That works. The Mixed Blood production is very solid (except for a few sound glitches that night and one singer not quite up to par). I got the feeling that I'm supposed to like the show because it deals (after a fashion) with race and sexual preference and celebrity and poverty. But...

It just felt kind of shallow, which is probably not fair because I don't think the show's creators intended anything like Weight or Depth or Significance. It was fun, and I guess fun is just fine.

Favorite character: The Bad Idea Bears, played with great frivolity. Least favorite: The Gary Coleman building superintendent. Did not get the point of that at all.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Today's Review: Ranchero not worth the trip this time

The Ranchero Supper Club is an institution in Webster, MN; by which I mean that it's been there forever. Webster is a very small town on the border between Rice and Scott counties, southwest of the Twin Cities. There isn't much in Webster except the Ranchero. I'd guess you could easily fit half the population of Webster into the Ranchero. People come, as they say, from miles around.

We've been there a few times and enjoyed it. Tried it again last Friday evening. The place celebrates its German heritage* by serving German beers and a few German dishes like schnitzel and kraut. The dining room is decorated with elaborate Bavarian steins.

My advice: stick with the beer. I had the Paulaner Oktoberfest** and it was excellent. The food, however, was ordinary. Dull. Uninspired. And overpriced.

* How did a German restaurant come to be called The Ranchero?
** Oh, and about that beer: The waitress asked if I wanted the full litre or half. I said full. She said litre, but I thought pint. There is a difference, my friends, between a pint and a litre.
Standard bottle o' beer = 12 oz
Pint = 16 oz
Litre = 33.814 oz

So a litre is 2.82 bottles of beer. Now, I do like beer, but it is exceedingly rare for me to consume three bottles in an evening, much less in the course of one meal. I really only wanted a pint. Really.

But, as it turned out, the meal I had was so bad that I viewed the extra beer*** as my just dessert.

*** I wasn't driving.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Review A Day

Resolutions, for me, are usually not a good idea. But I'm making one anyway: Publish at least one review every day.

The subject might be beer, movies, food, books, a Twins game or Twins player or Twins front office move or Twins field manager move, a web site, or another person's review of any of these things. I need the writing practice and feel like expressing opinions. Ready or not.

(Note: Guy in photo is not me, just one inspiration.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Readers' Guide

Why some things appear on this blog --

Milburn Wagon Works: My paternal grandmother was a Milburn and her uncle founded the Milburn Wagon Works in Mishawaka, IN (later moved to Toledo, OH). The company produced an electric car -- the Milburn Light Electric -- that cost $1,685.00 in 1917.

Brautigania: I enjoy Brautigan's writing. But then, I enjoy so many other things -- Seinfeld re-runs, Coen brothers movies, beer, baseball, sleep -- how come Brautigan is more prominent on this blog than all those other things? Well, hell, I don't know. Stop bugging me about it.

Posnanski: Been following his blog from the beginning. I was worried that, once he started writing for Sports Illustrated, his prose would suffer -- like Totino's Pizza became so boring after the brand that started life in a tiny Nordeast joint was bought by Pillsbury. But Posnanski's blog is still amazing and still free.

Poetry: It's like food. Here's one from Bill Holm's collection "The Chain Letter of the Soul."

The Decline of the Colorado

At Yuma, a retired accountant with prostate trouble
could piss across the Colorado.
"Used to be in the canyon business,"
the river whispers, squishing
along between cottonwoods,
"before I moved to California
to grow organic lettuce."

What does a man say to a river
that couldn't flood a ballpark after
a hundred thunderstorms?
Old geezer, it doesn't help --
my weeping for you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Second Wind

My dad used to have this saying about a bad penny (no, not the Tigers pitcher). Like that penny, I have turned up again on this blog. The reason: Time. With retirement imminent, I will have more of it to devote to this nonchalance, this trifle.

Spring is a time of renewal (except, so far, for the Twins offense), so come along as we explore the mundane, the prosaic, the weird. And maybe the rest of the equatorial countries! How grand.