by Jeff Allison
I kinda used up all of my recent brewery trip stories in the last installment, so how 'bout a roundup of seasonal beers in the second best time of the year for seasonals!
Oktoberfest beers traditionally celebrate the end of harvest and those crazy Krauts would crack open the last of the brew they brewed back in March (before refidgeration brewers couldn't brew during summer months because the yeast couldn't do their jobs; the same reason Bourbon Whiskey isn't brewed in Kentucky over the summer). They called it Marzen (German for March), and it had more color and alchohol than their normal beer.
Background (almost) over, this brings us to The Kaiser, a Imperial Oktoberfest. The color is perfect for this beer, light brown, and the higher ABV (Alcholol By Volume) doesn't affect the taste. As opposed to virtually all good micros, it's a lager and doesn't show hops when they aren't needed. A very nice chill out beer!
Founders naturally also has some great beers out for the season. Harvest Ale (brewed with wet hops-meaning very fresh) is a beer I hadn't had until tonight. Super hoppy, but in a somehow different way. Tastes somehow juicier. Much better is their Breakfast Stout. It's quite hoppy for a stout, totally opaque... Can't wait for the CBS (Breakfast Stout cellared in maple syrup barrels).
There are roughly 5,000 great beers I wish I had time to write about (Hacker-Pshorr Oktoberfest, Great Lakes, the best domestic Oktoberfest I've had, Hofbrau...) but time is short and it's time for a nice glass of port. Well, maybe a porter.
Beers, steers, and queers,
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
A D Jameson is the author of two books: the prose collection Amazing Adult Fantasy (Mutable Sound, 2011), in which he tries to come to terms with having been raised on '80s pop culture, and the novel Giant Slugs (Lawrence and Gibson, 2011), an absurdist retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh. He has taught classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lake Forest College, DePaul University, Facets Multimedia, and StoryStudio Chicago. He is also the nonfiction/reviews editor of the online journal Requited. He recently became a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In his spare time, he contributes to the group blogs Big Other and HTMLGIANT.
Jackson had never intended to vex Sheila so, but since he was a loathsome little skunk, he couldn’t right help it.
Or so Sheila explained to Margaret last Thursday morning, over coffee.
“That man has no more control over his mouth than he does his erections,” she detailed further.
A bad night’s sleep brought on by a botched attempt at phone sex had turned her bitter—but not before imparting a host of delicious insights.
Margaret swirled the remains of her lukewarm latte, refrained from reminding her best friend that she’d warned her away from Jackson from the start.
Which was generous of her. Margaret was suffering, too. A chance encounter with a pair of identical twins aboard the Amtrak back to Chicago had left her…distracted.
“He said he was no longer sure how much love existed between us,” Sheila explicated, crisply. She popped the last bit of her maple-pecan scone into her mouth, the heavily icinged end that she’d been saving.
Margaret nodded. The two young gentlemen, Marty and Alex, authors, poets, outgoing, attentive, had collectively slipped behind her long-cultivated air of indifference.
The whole world existing simply to bore her, being the impression that she had years ago perfected. Her full lips were set, her pretty mouth drawn tight and narrow. Her watery doe-like eyes she kept restrained, bemused, unwilling to invest.
The whole world unworthy of her interest, having long since gone to shit, limping along now in a disheveled state of erosion. Modern life progressively worser by the hour.
“Consider train travel,” she implored the twins matter-of-factly, “which was once as exotic, as romantic…” She trailed off. As what? As sipping white wine under starlight?
She shut her mouth, set her jaw. Her weekly commute to Champaign and back was not in any sense romantic. It was a chore.
The trip always took far longer than it should, the train repeatedly stopping, mysteriously, at times even rolling backward. Compartments were crowded, suffused with smells of sweat, the toilet. The leather seats were cheap and stained and thin and cracking.
The two smiling boys had taken turns taking pleasure in dismantling her façade. “Why hold so much disdain for life?” they asked her.
“This world does not impress me,” Margaret finally admitted (although only after hours of valiant struggle).
The train continued its lurching wobble through darkened cornfields, yielding to every passing freighter.
“You’re wrong about that,” one of the brothers (Marty? Alex?) quietly told her.
But Margaret was wrong about so many other things as well.
The Merrie Mutants
Marvin secreted a powerful mucus, corrosive, astringent, continuous.
Sheila’s nasal cavities emitted a high-pitched, whinnying blast. She could control that pitch.
Raymond produced deadly pheromones. And even deadlier hormones.
Thomas’s heart, regardless of whatever damages it suffered, healed at a rate five times faster than was normal.
Margaret had supersensitive hearing, and supersensitive emotions.
Eugene was uncommonly precocious.
Genevieve’s body transmogrified every night, shedding parts, adding parts, rendering her unrecognizable come morning.
Everybody could read Nathaniel’s thoughts.
Peter could disappear at a moment’s notice.
Jack was nigh-invulnerable to harm. Nothing that Sheila could do, for instance, at any rate, could ever hurt him.
James had a photographic memory for insults, and a near-photographic memory for perceived slights.
Jennifer had a high tolerance not just for drinks, but for dirt, noise, nonsense, younger men.
Wendy could cry and cry and cry and cry and cry.
No force on earth could separate Wallace from his chair.
Aloysius didn’t know the meaning of the word no—not to mention the meanings of dozens of other words, and gestures, and phrases.
Sondra enjoyed a double life that she never revealed to anyone else—not even to her boyfriend, Stephen, who led his own double life.
Henry and Margaret started off as the best of friends, before they became the bitterest enemies, right before they became best friends again, before they became bitter enemies again.
Rebecca died, was murdered most violently by Valentino, her still-beating heart torn out of her chest and stomped on. But then she came back to life; she was back at work on Monday.
Sheila was thought dead by everyone else for many months; nobody saw her, at any rate, at any of the old haunts. But then she came back; she’d just been visiting some friends in Manitoba.
Lawrence wandered the streets at night, every night, seeking action.
Bernadette showed up one afternoon dressed in a completely different outfit.
Reginald trained for years in the martial arts after his parents were talked into paying for years of lessons.
Anthony liked when folks gave in and called him “(the) Tone.”
Louis was “The Man.”
Marvin was “The Rascal.”
Sheila was “That Bitch,” or “That Total Fucking Bitch.”
Genevieve had been known to all since high school as “The Marmot.”
Every few months, one or more of them had the idea that they should all live together in one house—a mansion, perhaps, a dignified brownstone in the East Village—or maybe a sprawling estate out of town, in upstate New York, or in rural Connecticut, a country manor set back amidst horse farms and poplars and chestnuts, forty-six labyrinthine rooms replete with an elderly butler, or maybe a robot, as well as a well-equipped gymnasium, not to mention a high-tech, state-of-the-art communications center—a haven and school where they could set aside their petty feuds and quarrels, pool their individual talents, finally work together as allies.
For the most part, however, theirs were, month in and month out, solo adventures.
Posted by JD Adamski at 11:03 PM
Thursday, September 22, 2011
by Ilana Shabanov
I’ve had a life-long love-affair with Asian food. It might be due in part to being Jewish. As a people, we seem to have a strong predisposition. To borrow from Jo in Little Women - Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Chinese food. It’s true. But I am not bound to Chinese food alone, but rather all of the cuisines that Asia has to offer. I’m what one might call a Noodle Slut. There, I’ve said it. Whew.
It’s an ongoing joke in our house that when the crippling question of what to get for dinner arises, I will always offer up Thai or Japanese. My husband has simply stopped asking because he knows the answer and can’t take it anymore. As two trained cooks (he is still a working chef, I am very much not), going out to eat can become a harrowing process, that if we’re not careful, can end in sandwiches. Jimmy John’s is a sad excuse for Nabe Yaki Udon.
In support of my Noodle Sluthood, I have been in search of the perfect bowl of ramen. Countless crunchy packages of good old Maruchan left an unfulfilled fire in my belly. Don’t start none, won’t be none, Maruchan, what can I say. There are plenty of more traditional Japanese restaurants in Chicago, serving perfectly lovely udon and ramen, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied. I wanted....more. Something had to give, and that something came in the form of Chizakaya.
“We’re going here. You will like it. This is happening.” I informed the husband of this a few Saturdays ago when I found Chizakaya on my silly phone app, Foodspotting. It was about 80 degrees outside and I was in no way deterred from shoving my face in a piping hot bowl of soup.
Chizakaya is kind of modern rendering of a traditional izakaya, which is a Japanese bar and grill if you will, that specializes in simple but delicious working-class food and lots of beer and sake. It’s everything that is right in the world under one roof - skewers of funky bits of meat and brimming bowls of kitchen-sink style ramen. Chizakaya is one of the only of it’s kind in Chicago right now, other attempts failing almost out of the gate. The chef/owner Harold Jurado comes from a pedigreed background that includes Japonais and is supported by a kitchen staff that has worked at the likes of Guy Savoy and L20. Yowzers.
The menu is a well-considered collection of small to somewhat larger plates which are perfect for sharing, which is what we did. And how. Hamachi with silky bone marrow and ume boshi (pickled plums) was kind of magical, as well as the congee with crab and corn. However, the one that made me swoon was the Okonomi-yaki - a savory pancake studded with bacon, squid, shrimp and ginger and drizzled with spicy and sweet sauces and smokey bonito flakes. This was amazing perfectly sober, but I could absolutely understand how this would be the perfect remedy to a stunning case of the drunks. I would like to hire the person responsible for making these on retainer.
So, ramen - they have that, about five variations that change slightly with the season. In my visits to Chizakaya, I’ve tried three different kinds. My first was the house ramen which has braised pork belly, homemade fish balls (hee hee) and a slow-poached egg ($12). The broth is super-rich and the whole deal is very autumnal and earthy. It is solidly tasty, if not a bit murky. The husband got the seafood curry ramen ($15) with scallops, huge head-on prawns and fingerling potatoes. He won that round, hands down. It was spicy and savory and briney, just as it should be. What really surprised me was upon a second trip, I went with the chicken ramen ($12), which seemed initially like a total novice thing to do. I was so wrong. The broth was spot- on, unbelievably chickeny with a salty edge, with braised/confit chicken thigh meat, handmade chicken dumplings, a soft boiled egg and sweet corn. There was something wonderfully familiar about it. When I reheated the rest the next day for lunch, I squealed with glee to find the soup had set into a chicken soup jello. Their broths are so gelatinous and rich the husband and I sat jiggling our chilled leftovers in food-geek awe. Stock like that takes time and patience. Little things like that are the stuff of inspiration.
What they are doing at Chizakaya is a labor of love. There is no sushi to be found there, no miso soup or seaweed salad, but there is undoubtedly tradition rooted in each plate. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there is an audience for something a little less familiar, because it would be a shame if they didn’t weather the storm. With the temperature cooling down, it is prime ramen season, and seriously, my noodle addiction isn’t going to serve itself.
Posted by JD Adamski at 8:44 AM
Monday, September 19, 2011
Naomi Buck Palagi is a graduate of Oberlin College, currently working on a Masters of Liberal Studies at Indiana University Northwest, a full-time secretary, a wife, and a mother of two. She has been published in journals such as Spoon River Review, Blue Fifth Review, Moria, and Wicked Alice. She has two chapbooks, Silver Roof Tantrum, from Dancing Girl Press, and Darkness in the Tent, forthcoming through the Dusie Kollective #5
VI. the red blanket at one a.m.
I am an ant. our
house is one of a thousand houses rats’ warren
of twisted gut-paved streets and stop signs, yield signs, I can’t
as an ant
even fathom how to get the hell out of here
Lady Life/ Death/ Life I am Persephone down in the earth it is a time
to eat, to prepare, to fumble in the dark
I am not an ant.
is not on the table and spiral focus on the red blanket to dizziness is actually
of many options
like the one in which
I am not an ant but
I am not an ant.
I am lying on my bed like I did as a teenager and time
has slowed, to the motion of each
task completed, each rising of the sun,
rising of the moon, each gust of wind touching my never-hit face, my
walk-tall torso, my have-danced legs, it has slowed
to the satisfaction of a day and a foot
upon the path and the layers
upon layers of dirt, good dirt, earth dirt
which I have tasted
to my satisfaction and upon my back,
a pack, with a child, and at my side my hearts,
carried in these live bodies,
and time has slowed
to the amounting of a life.
paddledy-wack! mo disna palindrome!
ten thousand soldiers strong – alliday
piranha no ni nay
there is oil!
there is oil!
no more are the rich to toil, there is oil!
(auld lang wage)
bandana ban-dan-na ban-dan-na ban-dan-a dan-a
defeat the weak and eat the meek we never give a
do re mi do fascist di do re no more can we stand
fa la la la la, la la la la
deck the hills the cotton mills the hardened wills
they get their thrills untils we
disna palindrome for soldier/ stranger/ danger/
no more to lie here dead
Posted by JD Adamski at 10:01 AM
Monday, September 12, 2011
Lotte Anker sax, Gerald Cleaver drums, Craig Taborn piano. Eerie, percussive, highly hypnotic. Cleaver, a native of Detroit, laid down various textures, ranging from tribal thumps to thunderclaps to a kitten’s claws inspecting a cymbal’s ridges—plus one nasty solo. Craig Taborn, the most critically acclaimed member of the trio, danced in the penumbra, displayed his admirable talent with dissonant chords and frenetic bursts without giving in to indulgent cacophony. His performance was alive but always deferent of the others' toes. While the Danish Ms. Anker, switching from tenor to alto to soprano sax, occasionally chirped and clipped and clacked, as is the wont of horn players of that discipline, but only to accent rich lines that floated through and above the products of the flanking sticks and hammers. All of which coalesced into a rich ether that dissolved two hours (two sets) into a late-night, outer-rather-than-other-worldly blur.
Posted by JD Adamski at 11:53 AM
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
by Jeff Allison
Heidely hey everyone!
So, just got back from a beer vacation in Michigan. Spent a day in Kalamazoo visiting the currently being remodeled Bell's Brewery and then another revisiting New Holland Brewery.
The Bell's tour was one of the best brewery tours I've been on (in spite of the fact they didn't give you samples, but whatever—I still scored free matches and balloons!). During the renovation they're not offering tours at the main brewery (though they still have them at their original one by the brewpub), but I used my "industry" connections to open doors, roll carpets (more or less). I guess once the remodeling is competed they'll have public tours, and by that point the brewery will be roughly the size of the Leiny brewery in Chippewa Falls—that is say, it's so massive that when driving up to it I didn't think it was a brewery!
My tour guide knew so much about the specifics of brewing beer that I felt like a friggin' idiot (he's ex-Goose Island, like the head of sales at Founders Brewery, Michael Bell). As for the brewery, well... first off, I've never seen a robot moving kegs before. The brewery, including the bottling line, runs 24/7 and is pretty much totally automated. This is obviously a big bone of contention in Michigan, but our guide stressed Bell's never lays people off and the bigger their volume the more people they hire.
For me, Bell's over the years is one of those breweries I've always taken for granted. They make solid and usually great beer (I mean, really, when was the last time you had a bad beer from them), it's easy to find in a pinch, and they don't really do the super-limited batches that drive beer geeks crazy (Hop Slam and Black Note being the exceptions). Also, to the best of my knowledge they are the first microbrewery east of the Mississippi, yet they've all the while stuck to their guns, their standards. Who else would pull out of the Chicago just so they wouldn't be stuck with a shady distributor (cough, cough... Miller) and then two years later come back into the market stronger than ever?
After the tour, I stopped off at the Eccentric Cafe in downtown Kalamazoo, and it's a pretty solid brewpub. Of the handful of great exclusives available there, the Wild One impressed me most. Brewed with wild yeast and stored in oak barrels, it alone was worth the trek north. Also tried the Oracle, their version of a California double IPA (think Green Flash, which is pretty good if you really like hops) and Quinannan Falls Lager, a great hoppy lager (you read that right). I was also pleased to find they had the Rye Stout available at the bar (now if they'd only start re-doing their weisse line...). The food was also quite good, and the flights of beer came on wood plates shaped like Michigan, so I got the lower part and my friend got the U.P.
Next we hit up the New Holland Brewery, and the folks there were nice enough to comp the tour with only a day's notice and gave us beers during it, to boot (including Dragon's Milk!). Like pretty much all micro's right now, they too are expanding. Also, there was a homebrewer's expo going on outside, so it was pretty loud. The two tour guides weren't as knowledgeable as the guy from Bell's, but were certainly friendly. And standing in a massive room filled with stacks of bourbon barrels aging Dragon's Milk is pretty friggin' cool! And though Bell's and Three Floyds also make bourbon barrel-aged beers, neither does it on the scale of New Holland with the DM. As for the brewpub in downtown Holland, the food's great and has some great exclusives, such as their own brewer for brewpub beers. The Swimming Lizard, a Belgian-style brewed with cherries, and the Wonky Eye, Belgian-style quad ale, really stood out. As did the Charkoota Rye Double Bock (the bock I was searching for years now, it seems), which is also available in bottles!
And as if all this wasn't cool enough, I found a great place in Holland to buy beer—Butch's, a strange half hoity-toity restaurant, half specialty liquor store. The food smelled decent enough, but one look at their beer cooler—Dark Horse Sapient Trip, Founders Breakfast Stout, Bell's Batch 10,000, the complete Short's Line (their rye is really good, but avoid the pie beers at all costs), the full line of Brewery Vivant, as well as a bunch of non-Michigan beers that can't be found for love or money in Illinois, such as Great Divide Espresso Stout and Stone Double Bastard—and I knew I was in a good place. Needless to say, I dumped a bunch of money and left happy (despite paying Michigan prices <grumble>).
Well, that's it for this installment, as I've come to the end of my bottle of Sapient Trip and now it's time to order a pizza, say good night, and return to the question I've wrestled with most of the day (without submitting to the all-knowing wisdom of Mr. Internet): What the heck was the name of the Russian thug in Rocky 4?
Posted by Impetigo at 6:14 PM
Who fired? Who didn’t? Whose gun misfired? Does that make them innocent, or still damned by their intent? Are the rules truly different in war, the punishments? During the conflict, when all of hell rages around you, inside you, is survival all that matters? Kenzo Okuzaki wants the answers to these and many, many more questions—and nothing is going to stop him, except maybe his own madness.
The film is the documentary The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On/Yuki Yukite Shingun. The director: Kazuo Hara, a man whose previous work (Extreme Private Eros, Goodbye CP) shows no restraint, no boundaries, and many have claimed, no ethics. Not only does Mr. Hara allow those on the utmost fringes of society to tell their tales, he watches them as they writhe and bleed and destroy themselves without hindrance. Films not for the faint of heart.
Naked Army, which many consider to be Hara’s magnum opus, however, though as gritty and verité as his previous works, does not force us to ask ourselves if what we are viewing is in fact pornography, in the truest sense of the word, if we are participating in a crime. Yes, ghastly and tragic things lie beneath the film’s many veneers, but watching them become exposed, or wishing them so by the earnest, brazen, crass, violent, sociopathic Mr. Okuzaki, does not make us bad people—voyeurs, yes, but not fiends. The world was made to be watched, to be recorded. This is all the solace we’ll ever get from our travails: That others also move beside us just as gracelessly as we often do—even those with notions far nobler than the rest of ours tend to be. But in addition to being sad and shocking, the film is at times genuinely hilarious. Granted, in an uncomfortable mode that Larry David only wishes he could duplicate. Or perhaps not.
The film, released in 1987, follows the exploits of Mr. Okuzaki, who was a soldier during the Pacific War, stationed in New Guinea towards its end. Things, to say the least, were not going well for the Japanese by that time. But more on that in a moment.
After the war, Okuzaki, an anti-emperor zealot, served a total of thirteen years in prison for, amongst many other forms of disobedience and crime, firing shots at the emperor himself; distributing salacious material depicting the emperor—whom Okuzaki blames for numerous horrors, including all of those in the Pacific—in compromised situations; and murdering a real estate agent. He believes by serving his time for the murder, he has paid his debt to the divine for the lives he’d also taken during the war—and it’s now time for others to do the same.
The thrust of the film is Okuzaki’s search for the truth regarding the fates of two others in his regiment, both sentenced to death by their commanders and executed by firing squad—several days after the war had ended. In a harrowing game of round-robin, Okuzaki—sometimes accompanied by the two men’s siblings, later by those pretending to be them when his tactics become too much for the surviving kin—visits members of the deceased men’s platoon, now bent and exhausted from a lifetime of trying to forget.
What follows is a lot of politeness, Old-World Japan in its most explicit and, to Westerners at least, contradictory form, as many deep bows, apologies, and gifts precede Okuzaki’s dryly mentioning that his interlocutor is a murdering sonofabitch and deserves God’s full wrath; or if the person is currently in a hospital, convalescing after an operation, Mr. Okuzaki will simply say, “This is what you deserve.”
More bowing. Okuzaki, once again, will speak about himself in the third-person, list his crimes, the time he’s served, that he dared take a shot at the Emperor of Japan, even if it’s totally irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Then the interviewee will mention something about how hard life in war is/was, that’s it’s best forgotten. Okuzaki again calls the guy a demon, a scourge upon the earth, and then thanks his host’s wife for some tea she’s just handed him.
Sometimes the interviewees don’t want to talk about the past, at least not with this nut, or say they’re too ill and tired to recall the particulars. Their dotage, despite what the film has thus far made us believe them accomplices to, can’t help but soften the viewer’s heart some. While Okuzaki, in turn, attacks… physically. Punches start flying, knees bleed, stitches pop. It’s sad, surreal, pathetic, and often… well, funny (at least I’ve heard people giggle while watching these scenes: sometimes the body just needs to react). All the while, standing docilely to the side, Japanese women and younger men suggest, “No violence.”
Afterward Okuzaki often calmly calls the police himself, who don’t arrest him but instead allow him to accompany his victim to the hospital, so as to continue the interrogation. (One wonders how much the camera’s presence further queered these bizarre circumstances and interactions. Though for those of you with already an overwhelming urge to smack the tyrannical Mr. Okuzaki in the face, there is a scene where he becomes outnumbered and then chastises the cameraman, presumably Hara, for not coming to his defense.)
Now, here’s the catch: as unacceptable (and hypocritical) as Okuzaki’s violence and other dishonest methods are, they, God help us, get results. As on the next round of visits, the platoon members’ stories change. What was an execution for desertion carried out a few days after the war’s end because communication was down is now something far more sinister. Terms like “destitute,” “starvation,” and “pork (black and white, that is, native and non-native)” begin to become universally used by each separately interviewed man, as each continues to change his tale and shift the blame onto others.
But these shocking revelations seem to almost go through Okuzaki, as he continues to demand more from the men—recollections of incidental conversations, religious stances, useless gory details, redundant confessions and tears—and when they fail to satisfy him, again he attacks. He’s like an archeologist who, upon finding his long sought talisman, chucks it to the side and continues to dig deeper—disgusted with the ancient trinket for letting itself be found and sure that something juicier lies beneath.
It’s at this point that we realize the truth about Okuzaki: Nothing will ever satisfy the man. All he has is his need to pursue, to search out the most gruesome artifacts of a fading war. It’s as if he’s still upset for having been an outsider all those years ago, jealous that the murderous captains and sergeants didn’t include him in their unholy machinations; and now he has taken up the most sacred of banner-dressed spears and plans to run it through the whole lot and parade their sins and offal to the world.
A man wrapped in explosives. A kid in a trench coat with a double-pump. Here stands yet another causality and symptom of a society that fetishizes hierarchy and war. As the film’s epilogue clearly illustrates.
And we, the audience, shown all this evidence, though with little proved “definitively,” stretch while the credits role and, like Okuzaki, say, “It’s all very interesting, but I’m not sure I buy it. What else have you got?”
Posted by JD Adamski at 11:54 AM