Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sadness is Beautiful

Melancholy. Uplifting. Romantic. Diverse. Captivating. Sexy. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, the new album by Neko Case, falls into all these categories, plus a couple more. She is a master of blending multiple sounds, the end result congering up images of desolation and redemption, struggles and victories. Her songs draw the listener in, convincing them to understand, leaving them no chance of deserting the tales Ms. Case places at the whim of her loom. And making all who listen want to dance.

Fox Confessor maintains the emotion of and builds on her past albums, all of which should belong in your CD collection. Her story-telling through gospel-infused folk and country make the lore of murders and lost loves are engrossing and beautiful. From "Lion's Jaws":

The night I fell into the lion’s jaws
To my regret
And your delight
Those teeth themselves could not divine
Nor their pressure estimate
The haze I wish to never break

I keep thinking my repeated listens of the album will make me grow weary, causing me to file the CD with past musical infatuations. But like all of her albums, they remain assuredly committed and consistently available.

Neko Case kicks off her 2006 spring tour on March 29 at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Another Friday, another St. Patty's Day

Another much-needed weekend is upon me, and how fitting that it starts with some light socializing this evening. What will you be drinking? Take my poll located at the end of this earlier post. I've loaded up (I'll be loaded up?) on Beamish and Guinness. If you're in St. Paul tonight and looking for somewhere to celebrate St. Patty's Day, swing by 555 Selby Avenue, the legendary St. Paul location of many democratic fundraisers, holiday parties and general merriment. They'll likely have some crappy beer on tap, but also a selection of fine stouts and other appropriate drinks.

My effort to bike to work year round came to a halt once the legislative session started and I needed to wear a suit everyday. Bringing my entire wardrobe to the Capitol seemed unrealistic. However, the two feet of snow the Twin Cities got this week proved too tempting to me, and I took the opportunity of a slow(er) Friday to bust out my bike. Locking my bike to the rack was a bit of a challenge.

It is indeed my intentions to get some new CD reviews up for you this weekend, especially of Neko Case's new album, which exceeded my already-high expectations. Also, some specific beer reviews are in order, but I wanted to wait to see what this evening brought. Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Selling out for your information

So the results of the last poll are in, with a whopping 20 votes! Pale ales and ESBs tied for first, so it's comforting to know my readers share my tastes. If you didn't vote there's still time; just scroll down and look to your right. You may have mistaken it for an ad, but there are none of those here. Although I'm not opposed to it. Need a beer reviewed or a political opinion touted? I'll take your cash.

St. Patrick's Day is coming up this Friday (love it when these, er, social holidays are on weekends). In honor of Patrick, I'd be interested to know what you'll be filling your stomach and easing your sorrows with. Take My Poll

Love and Trust

Please give up your most beloved thing in the world for five hours a week to someone who you don't really know. Would you make sure they had experience and professional training necessary to handle this item? Should they receive continual education so they can learn about the latest research and materials about caring for this substance, this safekeep which you have personally invested most of your time and love into ensuring has the best environment in which to exist?

Dylan, our oldest son, started pre-school this past week. He's been ready for some time (one of the first words he spelled--no joke--was school), gobbling up Susan Boyton books and Petit Ours Brun. I suppose every parent thinks their kids are the smartest, but ours are. Seriously. So while it's just a few hours once a week, he's yearning to learn. It's exciting and scary, but I do trust his provider. They have a great reputation for providing high quality learning opportunities for our youngins. After his first day he came home with worksheets showing he was able to color the set of objects which had seven. Like I said, exciting and scary. He's three and a half.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Full Service Bar

In addition to the engrossing and insightful commentary at Capitol Brew-haha, I also try to keep your interest piqued with reviews of various CDs making their way through my stereo, and enjoyable polls about beer and politics because I care what you think and what you're drinking. These features are available to your left.

You may have noticed this little icon:

But probably not because only a few readers have scrolled down that far to take the poll. It links to a statistics page, and in the interest of disclosure you should know I'm watching you. Actually I just think its cool to know how many people are stumbling upon my ramblings, and more interestingly, where they are coming from. This, and much much more, is information that every website receives from your computer server each time it visits a site. Most sites collect this information privately, but that's not my style. It's pretty interesting stuff, and I just think you should know that I know. And now you know too.

And now I feel better.

Neko Case's new album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood comes out tomorrow. If you don't know Neko, then you need to. Think Patsy Cline meets David Lynch (if you love David Lynch you should check out this page). While able to belt out the best renditions of Loretta Lynn, Emmy Lou Harris and traditional gospel songs, her originals will send shivers down your spine. She has not a bad album (although The Virginian is a little rough around the edges), and her new one is one of my most anticipated in a long time. You're also in luck, as she'll be at First Avenue on March 29. A review of the album and show will be forthcoming.

Finally, another plug for precinct caucuses, if you live in Minnesota. Tomorrow night. Locations for DFL caucuses can be found here.

Gettin Surly at the Pig

After much anticipation, I finally tried my first Surly Brew at the Muddy Pig in St. Paul (who still haven't updated their website in almost a year....grrr). The Bender is a brown ale with some serious hop overtones--but not too much to make you miss the fact that it's a brown. Surly describes it as "an amalgamation of styles: brown/porter/apa," although I can't say I noticed the porter influence. The knowledgable staff at the Pig told me it's selling like crazy, and this is no surprise; Surly is doing a great job marketing the stuff, with coasters and glasses already in the bars, and a distinct tap handle (check out the pics of the handles here and learn a bit about them!).

On tap it had a great head and a sweet nose, and a very complex palate on the tongue. The closest thing I can compare it to is Bell's Best Brown, which is, um, one of the best browns around. Of course, Bender does stand out on its own. It's a great beer, and hopefully they'll move to bottles pretty soon. I'm looking forward to trying the Furious more than ever.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Befriend a Republican. And then drink a beer.

Oh what a week. The 2006 Legislative Session in Minnesota (thanks to the Minnesota Historical Society for the pic at left) got off to a productive start on Wednesday, with important issues like prohibiting gay marriage, bashing immigrants and eliminating eminent domain. Eminent domain, what's that you say? It's the right of cities to seize private property, usually property that's blighted, but also to make way for things like sewers, roads and other economic development projects a city deems necessary, like a mall.

Why is this oh-so-sexy issue receiving as much coverage as gays (not) getting married and immigrants (not) stealing your job? Well, the Supreme Court ruled a few months back that local cities can use eminent domain to take property from one private entity and give it to another private entity if it's in the public interest. So developers and citizens came together to prevent this from happening. (Maybe you've seen the billboards popping up around town, paid for by Minnesotans for Eminent Domain Reform?) The thing is, it simply doesn't happen that often, and cities, believe it or not, sometimes do need to use it. Do you like crack houses? Adandoned store fronts? Do you need a new sewer line installed?

Actually, I probably couldn't defend it much past that. I got pretty bored reading about it--but it's sure to take up a lot of time this session because a lot of people are going to get screwed, and an equal number are going to make a couple bucks, no matter what happens. A great organization working on eminent domain is the League of Minnesota Cities. They're reasonably opposed to knee-jerk reactions and legislation that may come your way as a result of the court ruling.

What gets me most riled up about the arrival of the 2006 session--and it's really an extension of politics in recent years--is the ability of republicans to create outrage that didn't exist before. How many straight people do you think spent much time thinking about how gay people's relationships threatened their marriages before all these amendments started showing up? Or spent time complaining that immigrants--illegal or not, they're all the same right?--were taking our jobs and commiting crimes, before the prez decided we needed to crack down on them? If republicans spent this kind of energy on real problems and less on winning elections, just think what kind of society we could live in.

Maybe I'm just mad or jealous that they do such a good job of framing the debate and coordinating their message, from our commander in chief down to your city councilmember, year to year and election to election.

A good friend of mine has a crazy idea: start communicating with the right wing, compassionately, with a willingness to listen. He challenged me to befriend one republican and start a constructive dialogue about how we could build a movement about restorative justice and political forgiveness. I say great, but will they bring the same sort of willingness to listen? You never know until you try.

And until then there are elections to win. Which means, in Minnesota, precinct caucuses are coming up. Next Tuesday folks. In your neighborhood. Visit to find out how to get involved (if you're a democrat). (If not, then I'll leave it up to you to find info about the party of your choice. Don't want to make it too easy for all ya Libertarians out there.) Every seat is up this fall, and we have good candidates to endorse. Do it.

And until then, there are good beers to drink. Like HopDevil IPA from Victory Brewing. Great beer, hoppy like you like it. Victory also offers tons of their beers in 22oz bombers, and they're all solid beers. I usually don't drink it, because its a little on the expensive side, and there are other equally good beers for cheaper (and I am cheap so...), but it was on sale for $6.99 at my local liquor store (Big Top, y'all).

I also tried De Dolle Ara Bier (on clearance no less!), a unigue Belgium beer from De Dolle Brouwers. What a crazy beer! It had a weird hop infiused musty smell to it, but the taste was anything but. Honey and sweet apples filled my mouth, and left me smacking my lips after each sip. I brewed an ESB once using about a half cup of honey (added at the beginning of the boil if you really must know), and the Ara Bier had some of the same qualities brought out by the honey. I was really impressed.

So the week in winding down, and for the first time in awhile, I'm thankful for the weekend (it's been really slow at work for the past several weeks). In honor of the legislative session, and all the wonderful things that are likely to occur in the next couple months, pick up a new beer you've never had. And take my poll. And see what I'm listening to. Ah, the things to do at Capitol Brew-haha.