Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The McBone Beer Journal; Back Road Brewery Specialty Ale

The microbrew movement is what transformed the United States from an intergalactic laughingstock to a world-class producer of fine lagers, ales, stouts and porters, but that don't mean that all microbrews are good.  No sir, a small batch brewery gets no free pass from McBone just because we prefer independent businesses operating on a tiny profit margin to huge bloodsucking corporations.  Who is more worthy of our business, an intrepid hippie with a genuine passion for beer or a faceless, soulless factory that churns out mediocrity or worse in twelve ounce bottles? The former, we argue.

Yeah, I know I was singing the praises of Pabst Blue Ribbon in my last McBBJ post, but I have only so much patience for run of the mill malted beverages.  Yes, I believe that macro and microbrews can coexist in peace, but if given the choice, I'll go with the small market team any day.

I had never heard of the Back Road Brewery, located in LaPorte, Indiana, prior to visiting a local purveyor of ales, wines and spirits, where I spotted a humble looking six pack wedged between the more ostentatious packaging of other brewers.  More than anything I was drawn to the austerity of the plain green label and the modest promise written thereupon: Our ale is only made with malted barley, fresh hops, yeast and water.  No preservatives or chemicals are used.  Since it is not pasteurized, it must be refrigerated or stored in a cool location.  These are admirable claims, and I coughed up eight dollars with little resistance.

Like I said though, just being a microbrew is of limited merit, just like being an indie movie is no guarantee of quality.  The proof, as the proverb so wisely puts it, is in the pudding.  Does this beer live up to its premise?  Almost.  Sort of.  Not really.  Specialty Ale pours clear but not crystal clear (this is not a knock) and has a nice honey color and the slightest fizz of a head.  It's not easy nosing a beer that is icy cold and doesn't want to let go of aromas, but this one has some noteworthy characters of honey and toasted oat that waft into my nasal passages.  As I drink, swish and swallow, I am moved to utter the following assessment: meh.

What else can I say?  Neither sip nor swig nor subsequent bottles yield anything more than a mild maltiness that quickly dissipates into a brisk, brief aftertaste that has just a slight metallic edge.  I can't condemn Specialty Ale as bland, nor is it the taste sensation that I was hoping dwelt behind the green label, which I might add is curiously absent from the website.  I will happily try their other varieties, but I confess to being a bit let down by this retiring and unremarkable ale.  I get the 'less is more' philosophy of the packaging.  That doesn't apply inside the bottle.

Official rating: 2.5 McBones.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Epitaph

As a one-time Webelos, I know the value of being prepared.  As a Webelos whose scoutmaster bailed out two months after I signed up, I also know that things can end suddenly.  That's why I thought it a good idea to write my epitaph now.  I've been sort of sketching this thing out in my head for the past twenty years. Why not commit it to paper--as it were--right here at McBone?

Beneath this cold slab of stone lies

 Nathaniel William Bowler

 Aged 119 years

Beloved husband and father, celebrated writer, wine connoisseur, international master spy, bloodthirsty space pirate, discoverer and sovereign King of Planet X, ardent recycler, Olympic gold medal winner in Taekwondo, Rolling Stone contributing columnist, father of modern Bowlerism. Loved by children and friend to animals, he defeated Morduulon the Repulsive in single combat in 2033, saving 13 billion human lives, Mars, Saturn and most of Jupiter.

Died in the bosom of his family, choking on a cocktail onion.

"Whosoever eateth mayonnaise deserveth not to live."

Well, that's it in a nutshell--short and to the point.  I know I'm fudging the facts a bit, but after all, what's a little hyperbole among friends?


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Olivia Hussey

While we at McBone aren't really into the objectification of women, sometimes we just can't help ourselves.  I saw the horror classic Black Christmas the other day, and now I'm just going to lay it all on the line.  With apologies to Audrey Hepburn*, the title of Most Beautiful Actress of All Time has got to go to Zeffirelli's Juliet:

Olivia Hussey.  I defy you to find a more beautiful actress.


*For my egregious betrayal of Audrey Hepburn, my wife has labeled me a fairweather fan and is no longer speaking to me.

Healthcare Reform; McBone Wants to Know

When Alex and I were living in that socialized Heart of Darkness (and cheese and wine) known as France, I couldn't help but notice a few differences between French and American health care.  The thing that really stuck out was how, well, free it is in France.  After Alex was hospitalized for 6 days, diagnosed with asthma and prescribed a whole pharmacy worth of medicine, the bill added up to something like five Euro ($7.37 USD).  All the rest of it was on the state's tab.  There we were, two foreigners working in the public school system, and we were entitled to health care that many consider the best in the galaxy, all for the price of a couple croissants.

Now here's where the conservative will raise a finger in objection: It's not free!  Do you know how much people in Europe pay in taxes?

Yes, and I answer: so what?  We paid taxes when we lived there.  We were happy to.  And now I want to know: what the hell is this big objection to paying taxes anyway?  Because it seems like every argument made by a conservative about any issue nowadays is all about not wanting to pay taxes.  Well, almost any issue, because then again, I don't remember hearing too much bitching about the tax money it would cost to obliterate two Middle Eastern countries and tens of thousands of Middle Eastern lives.  So, what gives?  Billions to take lives is OK, but billions to save lives isn't?  That is something I'll never understand.

Really, I don't have anything very eloquent or sophisticated to say about all this, but I will throw out a few gut reactions.  People want to know whether the health care reform is going to come out of their paychecks.  Uh, yeah.  But then doesn't the money we fork over to insurance companies to usually not pay for our medical expenses come out of our paychecks?  Just like Alex's $60 monthly asthma medication that our insurance doesn't cover comes out of our paycheck?  What the fuck is the difference?  Oh yeah.  The government can't be trusted with our money.

But seriously, let's talk taxes for a second longer.  I want to know what's wrong with chipping in to make the country a better place to live?  To improve schools?  To maintain infrastructure.  To assure that everyone has basic medical coverage?  We've seen what privatization and deregulation did for us.  It's bad policy, because too many corporate executives are greedy, ravening fuckheads.

Anyhow, here's three things I noticed during two years abroad:

1) The public schools in France are good, and get this: school lunches are nutritious.  Not a tater tot to be found.

2) The roads in France are impeccable.  During one two-week period when we had a car I couldn't help marveling at how smooth and well maintained the highway system was.  In contrast, the relatively short stretch of I-77 that connects Cleveland to Akron has been like a demilitarized zone since the days when Cleveland last won a major championship.

3) The healthcare system put ours to absolute and utter shame.

Well, I have no confidence that this healthcare bill is going to amount to anything, even if it does pass, but I would like to know where the McBoners stand.  So please take a moment to answer the poll question to your right.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Few Little-Known Facts About Satan

Mad scientists, Dracula, Dr. Octopus, Hitler, the Boogeyman--add them up and you don't even get a fraction of one percent of the total evil that is Satan.  The scariest part?  He's everywhere--lurking in the shadows, behind a tree, upstairs, downstairs; he's right there with you now, at your dinner table, swimming in your vichyssoise.  Try though you might, you cannot hide, and he so wants you to do bad things.  Can you hear him whispering in your ear? He's telling you to sleep with the neighbor's wife, to have a third piece of cheesecake, to join Al-Qaeda.  You know it's wrong, and yet, and yet...

To be fair though, there's more to Satan than unrelenting malevolence.  Keep reading; you might have more in common with Satan than you think! 

Alternate names: Anyone who owns a status as iconic as Satan's is bound to have a lot of nicknames.  Here are just a few: Lucifer, the Devil, the Antichrist, Lefty, Moloch, the King of Lies, Tom Tomatosauce, the Lord of the Flies, Papa Legba, Old Scratch, Beelzebub, Belial, Baphomet, Big Red, Bud Selig.

Recent Tweet: kanye n taylor @ the vmas...lmfao!!!

Mayonnaise: Verily, the rivers of hell flow not with lava or boiling sulfurous water, but with mayonnaise.  Though some might think that a spicy mustard would be the preferred condiment in the abyss, Satan is in fact a mayonnaise lover who will use mayo in anything from his morning Raisin Bran to a root beer float.

Favorite Beatle: Paul

Favorite comic strip: The Middletons

Favorite emotion: Despair

Music: The connection that Satan has with music is well documented.  One common misconception is that the Dark Lord is a lover of Delta blues.  On the contrary!  After a long day of collecting souls, Satan is much more likely to sit back in his den with a sloe gin fizz and the mellow sound of James Taylor.  Other favorites include: Barbara Streisand, Michael Bolton, Richard Marx, Seal and REO Speedwagon. However for Satan, nothing can top this unforgettable hit, which runs on a continuous loop on Hell's public address system.

Favorite book: Tuesdays with Morrie

Hangouts: Want to make a deal with the Devil?  Satan can always be found lurking near the crossroads.  Still can't find him?  Check the Sbarro.

Favorite movie: The Bridges of Madison County

Favorite flavor of ice cream: Butterscotch

Celebrity crush: Barbara Hershey

Personal advisor: Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Pet peeve: Dr. Laura's hair in the drain

People he loves to hate: God, Mother Theresa, Chelsea Clinton

Jesus: Though they are arch rivals for your everlasting soul, Satan and Jesus share a mutual love for the Red Wings hockey, mah jong and labradoodle puppies.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Celebrity Crush

One of the McBoners recently wrote a post about a her celebrity crush, Zachary Quinto.  Nice choice, and it reminds me of how Alex and I often talk about who our "free pass" would be.  You know, that one person who, if you ever met them, you wouldn't be responsible for your actions.

Well, I've thought long and hard about this, but for me, there's really no one who can measure up to Mark Holton.

I first noticed Mark Holton as the jumpsuit wearing antagonist, Francis, in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.  Doughy, plump and pink, I couldn't--and still can't--take my eyes off him.  My dreams are haunted by a topless Halton wrestling with Pee-wee in a giant bathtub.

I spotted him again as the dumpy high school basketball player named Chubby in Teen Wolf.  Sweating profusely as he labors up and down the court, I marvel at Halton's total lack of athleticism and yet towering sex appeal.  It's characters like Chubby that make me glad that political correctness has not yet been extended to include the overweight.  Just look at that "Beavers" uniform.  Tight in all the right places.  And can we please talk about how convincing he is as a high schooler here?  Not at all!  Does it matter?  Not at all!  I can only hope that there is a big comeback in store for him in the Pee-wee's Playhouse movie that is slated for release in 2011.

Mark Holton.  Remove the l, the second o and the n from his last name and that's how you spell my celebrity crush.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alexandra Hidalgo: Filmmaker

Breasts.  What can I say about them?  As an almost completely* heterosexual male, I like them.  I like them a lot.  And if they're large, I'm not going to complain.

Except when it comes to the fake variety.

I've always had a problem with breast implants.  I guess I just find it slightly problematic that fake breasts require a woman to cut open her body and insert permanent, goo-filled bags into her chest.  Call me old fashioned, but to me there's something inherently wrong with that.  And it makes me wonder: what has driven us to this point?  As men, are we so petty and pathetic that we measure a woman's worth by cup size?  Are women finding it more and more necessary to have a top-notch set of knockers to get ahead in the world?  Has our society become so decadent that, while women are shelling out thousands of dollars on gratuitous surgeries, politicians are squabbling over whether a wide swath of the population is entitled to basic health care?  And then there's the question that's been on everyone's mind lately: what the hell is up with the per-capita plastic surgery capital of the universe**, Venezuela?

My wife, the future preeminent filmmaker, Alexandra Hidalgo, addresses these questions in her first documentary, Perfect; A Conversation with the Venezuelan Middle Class About Female Beauty and Breast Implants, premiering October 2nd at 8 PM in Krannert Auditorium at Purdue University.  You can watch the trailer right here!

I've always suspected that my wife was awesome, but I admit to being a little startled at the high quality of this work considering this is her first foray into film.  Perhaps her most deft touch is the way she removes herself from the "conversation." We know that she's asked the questions, but she lets her subjects do all the talking.  What they say is profound and provocative, and never once does the filmmaker come off as judgmental.  She merely wants to understand the phenomenon of breast implants in her home country.  Who better to explain it than the women and men who live there?  Some of them have gone under the knife, some haven't, but all of them have something fascinating to say about beauty and the lengths women are willing to go to attain it.

Interested in watching the full-length film?  You have three options!

1) Come to the premiere!

2) Offer up rum to the silicon gods***

3) Contact Alex.


*97.2% hetero
**McBone certified
***Results may vary

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Business As Usual in Browns Town

I will say this for the Browns and their first game of the 2009-10 season: they played a pretty darned good half of football.  Crisp tackling, effective running game, great pass rush, a nifty 65 yard touchdown punt return by Josh Cribbs--it all added up to a pleasantly surprising 13-10 halftime lead against the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings.

Then the Browns started playing some real Browns football.  At one point during the broadcast, commentator Brian Billick spoke reverentially about all the tradition and glory of Cleveland football.  The camera zoomed in on the hallowed names of yesteryear--Otto Graham, Jim Brown, Paul Warfield--as Billick waxed poetic on what being a Cleveland Brown is all about.  If he meant sloppy defense, penalties, inept offense and zero hope for the poor schmucks who paid their way into Cleveland Browns Stadium, he was right on.

Because when the offense was called for four false start penalties in the second half, they were playing Browns football.

When helpless and hopeless looking QB Brady Quinn threw a HORRIBLE interception on a misread pattern by Braylon Edwards that led to a Vikings touchdown, he was playing Browns football.

When Quinn fumbled trying to roll left and make an impossible throw downfield, he was playing Browns football.

When the defense let Adrian Peterson run for 800 yards in the second half, they were playing Browns football.

When new coach Mangini totally forgot about Jamal Lewis and the 60 yards he had on 11 carries in the first half, it was clear that he had already learned how to play Browns football.

And when the whole thing basically imploded and turned into a field day for the visiting team, that was just good old fashioned Cleveland Browns football. 

Because guess what, Billick?  The Browns have been perpetual losers since 1999.  That tradition you're talking about?  That belonged to YOUR old team.  Remember?  That team you coached in Baltimore that won a title?

I thought you might.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hey Martin Scorsese! When and Why Exactly Did Leonardo DiCaprio Become Your Muse?

Hey, Martin Scorsese!  Do you remember when you used to make great movies?  I mean really great movies that were changing the course of cinema?  You know the ones I mean, the awesome ones from the 70s like Taxi Driver, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Raging Bull.  The ones that should have won you some Oscars if the Oscars weren't so goddam worthless.  Oh hey, you did some good work in the 80s, too, don't forget.  The surreal After Hours, The Color of Money and The Last Temptation of Christ--seems like you were getting adventurous in the crazy 80s, when everyone else sort of lost their heads.  You did come up with that Michael Jackson Bad video, but we'll give you a pass on that one.  The 90s was kind of a renaissance that saw you churning out masterpieces like Casino, Goodfellas and Cape Fear.  Basically, you owned the 90s, even if the Academy took no notice. 

And then?

Then came the new millennium, and you've got some explaining to do.  Can you please tell us, your fans, what exactly is going on? Why why why in the world does Leonardo DiCaprio have to be in every single one of your movies now?  And he's not just in them; he's basically been the main man in all of them.  I can't fault your ambition with most of these flicks.  Gangs of New York?  Shit, that may have been your magnum opus if not for one little flaw--it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, every bit as bland as Daniel Day Lewis is terrifying.  The Aviator?  Damned good movie except for, yup, Leonardo DiCaprio.  Then there's the movie you finally struck Oscar gold with, The Departed.  That's you doing what you do best--the gangster film, and it's a pretty awesome movie.  Nice job, teaming up with Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg absolutely steals every scene he's in.  I only have one tiny, itsy bitsy gripe with this picture.  Can you guess what it is?  I bet you can.

Let me take pause for a moment to say that I really have nothing against Leo.  Maybe its just you who brings out the stiff, serious, unsmiling, pre-programmed and predictable actor-bot in him.  I don't even condemn the guy for Titanic, as some do, and I hate Titanic.  No, I don't condemn him for starring in (and sucking in) the biggest most bloated film of all time.  I'll even go ahead and say I like Leo sometimes, but then we're talking the doped up, drugged out Basketball Diaries Leo.  There's some talent there, no doubt, though it seems to be buried where only Gilbert Grape can find it.

Seriously now, though; is Leo really to be your leading man for a whole decade?  I guess so, because the upcoming Shutter Island, which looks terrific and creepy in previews by the way, stars none other than your best buddy.  Remember when Robert DeNiro was your guy?  Now that I get, and, boy, those were the times.

Mr Scorsese...Martin, I have nothing but respect for you.  You could have retired in the seventies and lived out your days on the glory of what you had already achieved.  You've also made films about the Band and Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, and for that we salute you.  No, your place in cinematic history is not in question.  You even found time along the way to marry one of the most beautiful women ever to walk the face of the planet. are pushing 70.  I know there's gas left in the tank, but let's be realistic--the clock is ticking. Please, do us all a favor and hire a new guy.  I know DeNiro's too busy hanging around with the Fockers these days, but surely someone else out there is up the the challenge of a Scorsese movie, someone who, like you, is so much better than mediocre.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Come to Think of it, THIS Should Be the Indians Lineup Next Year

You know what? Screw it. I'm having second thoughts about this baseball thing. The Tribe has its formula, which is to trade high priced veterans for promising minor leaguers, mix in a few wily veterans and build up a strong bullpen. It almost worked in 2007, but most of the time it's been a total flop. So I take back my last post about what the lineup should be next year. Let's scrap the whole thing and bring in a bunch of ringers to do the job. The best thing is, this group could be had at a fraction of the price.

1) CF Barney Fife
Don't let the narrow shoulders fool you, Deputy Fife can flat out play. A hard-nosed five-tool player with power to all fields, Fife prides himself on his encyclopedic knowledge of the MLB rulebook. Those bug eyes were made for hawking line drives to center.

2) SS Mr. Sniffles
The beloved Nixon dog is a savage competitor who will not hesitate to maul opposing players who dare to round second base.

3) LF Long John Silver
Though hobbled by a pegleg (which doubles as a bat), Silver is a more than adequate outfielder when not swilling rum or obsessively digging holes in the outfield grass.

4) 3B Pam the Javelina
With her smoker's hack and acerbic wit, the perennial Falling Rock Babe of the Month will keep the team grounded in soul-crushing reality.

5) DH Keith Richards
In baseball's Chemical Age, the Rolling Stones axeman always has a supply of clean syringes loaded with anabolic steroids, human growth hormones and heroin.

6) C The Boy in the Plastic Bubble - Though limited to a tiny plastic cocoon and highly susceptible to germs, the Boy in the Plastic Bubble is a brave and heartbreaking backstop.  Yes, I know I am going to hell.

7) RF Johnny Dickshot
The only actual baseball player on the team, Dickshot has single greatest name in baseball history.  The rights to his nickname, Ugly, could possibly be a bone of contention between him and teammate Keith Richards.

8) 1B The Sheffield Lake Girl
The former McBone vice presidential nominee is a Cleveland native who has captured the imagination of a city.  Her long legs and short shorts will no doubt draw legions of slobbering men through the turnstiles

9) 2B Sacagawea
When Sacagawea proudly doffs her Chief Wahoo cap for the first time, it will finally silence the endless liberal whining that each summer tries to darken the skies over Jacob's Field.

UT Man-E-Faces

The most versatile player on the team, Man-E-Faces can change from man to robot to monster quicker than you can say Jack(ie) Robinson.  He's also nifty with a glove, bat and photon blaster.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

In Heaven, Washington and Lincoln are Gay Lovers

Though few know it, and even fewer will accept it, former presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are gay lovers in heaven, as this portrait clearly demonstrates.

Notice the starry eyes of Washington as he cradles Lincoln in a tender embrace. And Lincoln, with anticipation written into the lines of his craggy, bearded face, submits to Washington while gazing into the celestial expanse. The expert rendering by the artist shows that the words presidential and totally gay are no longer mutually exclusive, at least not in the promised land. The loofah in the right hand of Washington suggests an impending bubble bath. In the background, the angelic, lesbian forms of Martha Washington and Mary Todd Lincoln look on approvingly.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Positively One of the Top Ten Honors of My Life

Some avid McBoners may remember when, back in dying, gasping, twitching last days of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice regime, I threw McBone's weight behind the Mike Gravel presidential campaign. Well, I'm not sure if our support hurt or helped Senator Gravel's chances, but it looks like word got out after all.

While I can't take credit for coining the "Give 'em hell, Mike Gravel" slogan, I am proud that the Las Vegas Review Journal not only quoted us, but spread our anti-mayonnaise agenda to thousands of readers.

And why did I support Mike Gravel in the first place, you wonder? Trust me it's not because I'm daft. I supported Gravel because, after 8 years of undiluted evil in the White House, I was ready for someone who was unequivocal about:

Ending the war in Iraq

Fighting climate change

Supporting gay marriage

Giving the people a say when it comes to legislation

Getting minorities out of prisons and into the workforce

Hey, Mike Gravel, if you ever run for president again, I will support you. You have my vote, sir, and my undying respect. Keep on givin' 'em hell, Mike Gravel!