Rose’s Italiano Certificato di Nascita

Rose’s Italiano Certificato di Nascita

It’s a pretty big day for the Italian Dual Citizenship process. I just received Rose’s birth certificate from Ficarra, Messina, Italy. It’s a little troubling that I haven’t received Sam’s certificate as I sent it first. (And actually, sent a second request for mom). I believe I need some additional help tracking this request down so I’m going to try to find a Skyper or other Italian speaker for some additional help.

Anyway, here is the very un-exciting-looking birth certificate.

The Headkeeper’s Abita Tasting

The Headkeeper’s Abita Tasting

A friend invited me to The Headkeeper, one of my favorite Greensburg bars (not that there is a plethora).

They had an Abita beer tasting event, and I got to sample Abita Turbodog, Abita Bock and Abita Purple Haze. I thought I’d share some of my findings.

Abita Turbodog (ABV 5.6%, IBU 28, Color 60) is a dark brown ale with Willamette hops as well as pale, crystal and chocolate malts. I found the Turbodog to have a thick, rich body with some chocolate and toffee flavor notes. It’s strong but flavorful, making this a great after-dinner beer.

Abita Bock (ABV 6.5%, IBU 25, Color 13) is one of Abita’s seasonal brews, brewed with Perle hops and pale and caramel malts. It’s malty flavor and higher alcohol content makes it a tremendous happy-hour beer, good with bold foods such as Cajun or Mexican.

Abita Purple Haze (ABV 4.2%, IBU 13, Color 08) is an American style wheat beer “with raspberry puree added after filtration” according to their website. It’s true that there were fruity notes on the palette, but the low IBU, alcohol content and color makes Purple Haze very reminiscent of a generic light beer and will probably leave experienced beer drinkers wanting more.

Headkeeper’s is a Tapas bar, with an amazing menu. Though last night, I had the Bistro Lemon Pepper Shrimp with Lemons, Scallions and Fresh Herbs and was immensley disappointed to find that the $11 dollar dish meal had only 6 shrimp in it. A recommended alternative that my friends Zack and Sean got was their Flash fried Calamari tossed in Sweet Chili Sauce served with Asian Cucumber Slaw, which ended up being a giant bowl of delicious calamari for only $10 bucks. Clearly a better deal.

Their next beer tasting event is Thursday, February 25th from 6-8pm and features beer from the Erie Brewing Company.

Some shots of the evening:

Paris Panorama

A panorama I made while in Paris. This was shot from the top of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, and is the result of stitching 32 photographs. This required me to do very complicated color and exposure correction, lots of touch-up in the sky, and hours of aligning. Hope you like it!

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A Brief Analysis of 2010 Snowmageddon

Good: 24 inches of snow on a Friday night + a case of Magic Hat = awesome attempt at sledding.
Bad: After breaking off pieces of my Kiddie Cart and destroying some large pieces of Tupperware, we discovered there is absolutely nothing in my house that constitutes a sled.
Ugly: When the snow finally melts, there’s going to be a graveyard of failed sled parts in my back yard.

Good: If it’s going to be cold, at least the snow makes everything look like a beautiful ski resort.
Bad: Ski resorts don’t have to declare states-of-emergency like we do.
Ugly: Seeing a National Guard Humvee in my little Penn Township is like a bad zombie movie instead.

Good: All of this snow shoveling is making my back muscles revert to their rippling rowing-crew days.
Bad: When the plows go by my house (infrequently), they keep catapulting snow back in my driveway.
Ugly: I feel like Sisyphus. (Hint: This not an STD)

Good: I’ve gotten awesome at emergency-brake slides.
Bad: The Toyota is begging for mercy by showing me a Check Engine light.
Ugly: The Fast and The Furious 7 – Trafford Drift.

Good: Elliott let me go home 2 hours early on Wednesday to avoid Blizzard Part Deux.
Bad: I spent 2 hours trying to get to work that day.
Ugly: I spend the first half-hour stuck in my driveway.

Good: Lumen loves to play in the snow.
Bad:  He’s also too short to walk in the snow, making it hard to do his business.
Ugly: Lumen has learned to poop off the back deck.

The Finer Things: Root Liqueur

The Finer Things: Root Liqueur

I discovered a very tasty liqueur that you don’t see on PA Spirit store shelves very often: Root.

Root is from the makers of Hendrick’s Gin (another personal favorite of mine), and is surely one of the most unique things I’ve tasted.

According to their company lore, Root is a remake of the “Root Tea” of the 1700’s, an herbal remedy made with sassafras roots, sarsaparilla, birch bark, among may other things. The native America’s taught the recipe to colonial setters, but over time, we refined it’s complexity and potency. During the 19th century temperance movement (Wikipedia here),  a Philadelphia pharmacist removed the alcohol from Root Tea and rechristened it (ironically) Root Beer.

When I tasted Root, I could tell there was a certain ‘Root Beer’ influence, but this is NOT Root Beer flavored vodka, nor a stifling sweet liqueur. I’d almost put this drink in the Scotch family for its highly complex flavor, mixibility and strength, but as with many things I prefer, it’s utterly unclassifiable.

It is distilled from sugar cane grown in the US, and it’s completely organic. It has a very unique flavor, clean on the palate with strong notes of birch, spices, citrus and vanilla to compliment the anise-like flavor that characterizes root beer. Because of its smoothness and aromatic qualities, it would be delightful either by itself on the rocks, or mixed with Coca Cola, and perhaps with a fine cigar or pipe tobacco.

Bought my 750ml bottle for $32.99 at the Murrysville State store, may be cheaper in other states or online. Check it our yourself!

Winter Storm 2010

also cited as… The Storm of the Century by overly dramatic news anchors…

I haven’t seen this much snow on the ground since the “great blizzard of 1993”. I am snowed in today, so I thought you’d appreciate pictures of the snow-carnage.

Grammys and Music Post-Mortem

“I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It’s the music business celebrating itself.”
– Maynard James Keenan

Had the Grammy’s been the competition of talent and creativity that they are often cited as, it would have been infeasible for Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” to win Song of the Year in the 2010 Grammy Awards. And yet again, completely congruent with Beyonce’s predecessors, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has overlooked the brilliant, the creative and the talented in favor of awarding the inane.

As an amateur writer, I find it hard to simply overlook the abyss that is our cultural wasteland, and yet constantly fight an internal battle between the choices of outright activism and simply giving up – citing how we, as a generation, are a ‘lost cause’. It is not as if you could simply encourage an average Lady GaGa fan to reconsider their valuation of music just by reading this commentary – this statement seems to apply even assuming the average Lady GaGa fan can read to begin with. An effort to try to wake up a Generation Y drone, comatose in their consumerism, is more difficult than raising the dead.

The music celebrated in the Grammys is brilliant only in it’s formulaic approach to appealing to the masses. Several basic elemental themes have a proven track record to drive sales, surprising in their specificity.

Most, if not all, songs that reach the top 5 of the Billboard Pop charts include a chorus with no more than 5 notes – a successful avenue to become easy to memorize. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that recording engineers and producers intentionally choose melodies with simple and short, repeating phrases in order to trigger a phonological loop (or “articulatory loop”), the phenomenon that causes a song to “get stuck in your head.”

Beyonce’s Single Ladies, is a perfect example: “If you like it then you should of put a ring on it” – In musical notes of a scale, this melody is : 5555-4444-333-22. 4 notes, repeated 4 times in the first chorus alone. 4 notes that are repeated a whopping 24 times in the song. 4 notes that drive a pick-axe in to your consciousness.

We see many lyrical themes that are prevalent in pop music, but they are all conceptually fairly simple – they don’t require much thinking. Critics cited the source of “Single Ladies” popularity as the theme of female empowerment, but lyrically, the song is weakly written, asserting that if you wanted to continue to associate with me, than it would have been in your best interest to offer your hand in marriage because now the opportunity has passed, or more simply put, if you liked it than you should of put a ring on it.

The songs real lyrical appeal is its simplicity. It doesn’t dive in to the complex emotions of a break up, the delicate issues of seeing someone new, or a statement on the time-sensitivity of proposing. It’s simply a short-winded account of a night at a club when the singer dances with somebody new at the club, a theme echoed by the ghosts of pop music’s past (Usher: “She saying come get me, come get me, So I got up and followed her to the floor, she said baby lets go.“, Rihanna: “But now we’re rocking on the dance floor, actin’ naughty,Your hands around my waist, Just let the music play” etc.)

Simple, boring, mindless.

But the real commentary here isn’t about the generation of music, but rather the consumption. After all, record companies have built themselves a profitable model, what freemarketer could knock that?

No, the real depressing statistic is that this music sells. The Generation Y, the people that made American Idol a success, MTV reality shows commercially viable, and who bought and bought and bought the products of Beyonce and her cohorts.

They eat it, they want to live it. And I’d really like to know why.

Is it the internet allowing us to use our brains less? Are there subliminal messages in music? Is reality TV created by George Bush to rot your brain? (Insert favorite conspiracy theory here…)

No, I think it is simply power in numbers, a dissolution of more and more rebellious generations of adolescents. For every generation of adults, the next generation of adolescents try to display their superiority and irreverence by participating in activities deemed risque and ill-advised – usually turning to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, as they say. This cycle has worked its way through our mothers and fathers, and has made it to us. When the next generation has made it to the cultural stage, I fear for the worst.

For some reason, I still hoped that the Grammys would cling to some semblance of respect for the creative and complex. Not too many decades ago, we sang things like:

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold

But we have come a long way to:

If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it, if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it…

So please, reader, go explore some other music that you don’t hear in the Top 40. Go to little underground shows, troll the intertubes for something unique, or God forbid, write your own music. Please retain and cling on the remaining fragments of the cultural appreciation for talent, don’t let it die on the side of the road like the remnants of 80’s hair metal.

Oh, and warning, you may be one of them. If you can hear If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it in your head, it may be to late to save you.