Monday, January 25, 2010

Stone Imperial Russian Stout

It's been a loooong time since I reviewed a beer but I was in the mood for something incredible this past Sunday and I can't let the experience be forgotten.

It was a cool, crisp Sunday afternoon and the late game was in full swing. I knew the Saints-Vikings game would live up to my expectations so I decided to grab a beverage for the game that I knew would also live up to my lofty expectations. Like the outcome of the game, the Stone Imperial Russian Stout did not disappoint! Since I was in the mood for something strong, I poured this beer into a tall pint glass for my enjoyment. From the moment I opened the beer I knew I was in for a treat because the smell quickly filled the room. There's a strong coffee flavor upfront followed by dried fruit, roasted malts and alcohol. The beer poured an almost jet-black color that slowly gave way to a dark brown, mahogany head. There was no late penetrating this beer. It poured as dark as oil as you can see from the picture. The color of the head made it one of the finest I've seen. I was itching to jump right into this beer by the time I was done filling my glass. Upon first taste, this beer did not let me down as there was a harmony of flavors with no one dominating over the other. The roasted malt is the first thing that I noticed followed by chocolate and coffee. These last two flavors stick with you in between sips so that your mouth is never "flavor-free" throughout the experience. Of course, being that this beer has a 10.5% alcohol content, the alcohol flavor also made its presence felt. For a beer this strong, it is surprisingly smooth. It has a nice thick mouthfeel with not too much carbonation going on. Absolutely perfect for the style. As I started to drain my glass, the individual flavors started to blend together more freely creating a delicious experience. Beware if you ever find yourself with one of these in your hand because the alcohol will smack you in the face rather than sneak up on you as with most other beers. I was not even halfway done with it when I was already feeling the alcohol. Football, friends, and food all combined to make this an excellent brew and one that fit the occasion perfectly. I would be hard-pressed to choose a better beer on a cold winter day. Defintely grab this one if you have a chance.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top movies of 2009

I didn’t get to watch as many movies in 2009 as I have in prior years due to other things taking up my time but here is my list for the top 10 movies of the year. Because movies didn’t affect me the same way music did this year, the explanations will be more brief (for the most part). A couple of the movies were released late in 2008 but since I didn’t see them until this year I included them on my list. Plus as I stated in my top music list, it’s my list and I can put whatever I want on it!

10. Tyson – Trying to find a movie to put in this spot was tough because nothing immediately sprang to mind. I chose this movie because when I saw it, I changed my view about Tyson completely. Whereas before I thought of him as a brute, cold-hearted boxer who made too many mistakes, the movie left me feeling sorry for him. The way it portrays Tyson as someone who’s trusted too many people and been burned too many times for it is sure to change some opinions too.

9. Zombieland – Just as in my music list, zombies have found their way onto this list too. Is there anything in the world cooler than finding awesome new ways to kill zombies? Zombies are one of the greatest things ever invented because you can kill one with zero guilt (unless the zombie happens to be someone close to you that was converted). This movie explores that and more in a comedy about the zombie apocalypse. I’d like to say that Woody Harrelson plays a great part in this movie but the star of the show goes to the celebrity cameo midway through. I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen the movie but check it out and you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about.

8. Inglorious Basterds – I’ve always enjoyed Quentin Tarantino movies and westerns. When I heard that he was making a WWII flick with a spaghetti-western flair, I knew I had to see it. Throw in Brad Pitt with a southern accent and I was hooked. I saw this film on opening day and it was a blast. The character development is impressive and the dialogue that Tarantino is known for in his movies is clearly present. I like everything about this movie from the soundtrack to the over-the-top violence (especially in the final scene).

7. Up – My 2nd annual list and Pixar finds itself on here once again. Pixar has captured the art of making you feel for little animated creations. Although not on the level of last year’s Wall-E, this movie still pulls at your heart strings. And even though I thought it was par for the course for Pixar, it’s still heads and shoulders above most animated movies out there. I thought the movie peaked too early and everything that came after just wasn’t as satisfying to me as they tried to make it. Still a good movie and Pixar once again scores with a hit.

6. Avatar – Without a doubt, this is the best-looking movie I’ve ever seen. You know something special is happening when the special effects and 3-D integration don’t stand out because they feel so natural. This movie does a good job of immersing you in the Avatar world and you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t watch it in 3-D while you still have a chance. The story is good but it doesn’t particularly stand out in any way. It probably wouldn’t make my list if it weren’t for the gorgeous special effects, which says a lot of how beautiful this movie is.

5. The Wrestler – Another movie that was released late in 2008, I didn’t get to watch it until earlier this year. It’s a heart wrenching story that I really enjoyed. It brought back memories of the days when I watched wrestling. Even the circumstances that I watched the movie under were somewhat depressing as you can see in my full movie review here (with a bonus beer review!).

4. Watchmen – As a long time fan of the graphic novel, I was a bit skeptical when I heard that it was being translated to film. That reservation was quickly put to rest when I saw the first trailer for the movie. I still remember it clearly as it accompanied last year’s movie of the year: The Dark Knight. While not an entirely faithful adaptation of the graphic novel, this movie stands well on its own and, like many books that are brought to film, I think you might be let down if you’ve read the graphic novel first. That still doesn’t take away from the coolness of this movie. As a nerd, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include one comic book movie on my list.

3. District 9 – I was late to the District 9 party as I barely saw this movie on Christmas Eve and I immediately regretted not seeing it in theaters because this is a remarkable movie. With a premise unlike anything I’ve seen, it’s an alien movie that touches on several topics that extend beyond of sci-fi films. The growth and character development of the protagonist is top-notch and the filmmakers even managed to make you feel sympathy for the insect-looking aliens. A really solid movie.

2. The Hangover – Hands down the funniest movie I’ve seen all year. This movie hits home if you’ve ever had one of those nights where you’re sure some crazy shit went down but you can’t remember exactly what happened because of too much alcohol. This movie makes you want to go to Vegas with your friends and takeover. It’s something I’m glad will be happening in the coming months. Also, I believe Mike Tyson is the only actor to make another appearance in my list so kudos to him!

1. Slumdog Millionaire – Technically released in late 2008, this film didn’t get a widespread release until early 2009 so it makes my list because that is when I saw it. I won’t say much about the move here because I wrote a review on it when I first saw it that you can read here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Top 10 Songs of 2009

Top 10 songs of 2009

2009 was the year that I “discovered” music. I’ve always been a fan of good music. I bought an Ipod a couple years back so that I could listen exclusively to music I liked without the filler you find on the radio. Classic rock was, and still is, my music genre of choice and when the only good radio station in town went off the air, I listened almost exclusively to my Ipod because the popular music that I heard everywhere else didn’t work for me. Because of this, my music library grew stagnant over time and I lacked the motivation to discover anything new, mainly because I didn’t know where to start. Little did I know that this year would turn out to be one of discovery for me on so many different levels. Musically, that was helped along most by Mark. He introduced me to a world of music I had never been exposed to before. I am in debt to him for this. Below is a list of my top ten songs of 2009 along with a brief explanation on why I enjoyed the song so much. Not everything on the list may have been released in 2009 but it is fairly recent and was new to me this year. Besides, it’s my list and I can put whatever I want on it. Enjoy!

10. Unparallel Rabbits – Gavin Castleton. I’ll start this list much like my year began, on a down note. This is a great song and is unique among the other songs on this list in that it is a pretty depressing song and tough for me to listen to even now. Let me give you a little bit of background: Gavin Castleton’s Home album was written after he broke up with his girlfriend of 6 years and details every step in their relationship from falling in love to falling out of love. The album starts out as a solid pop album that wouldn’t normally stand out from other god stuff out there but the second half of the album is what really makes this a stellar release because his everyday life takes a turn for the worst when his relationship problems become personified as zombies. The story then becomes a survival story as him and his girl continually run from the zombie invasion, with no place to settle down. It’s at this point that the album becomes very symbolic and the metaphors he uses are top notch. This song is the point in the story where his girlfriend leaves him for good. The reason this song makes the list is because I was stunned the first time I heard it because of how it was the exact same situation I went through. Some of the exchanges in this song actually happened between me and my ex almost word for word. I’m moved even now when I listen to it and feel incomplete if I listen to this song and don’t finish the album. Of course this song wouldn’t be as great as it is without getting to the ending of his story which is a song you’ll find later in this list.

Memorable lyric – There is no greater pain than the misaligned break./The varied healing tempos of the giver and the take./ When you can’t syncopate your process with the one who leaves./You focus less on your direction and more on your speed./ I see blood and gore/And love turned war./You wanna see for yourself./Baby, what for? What for?

9. Country – Empire of the Sun. Now we get to the fun stuff. The following songs on the list all remind me of the time of my life I had this year. It was tough choosing a song from Empire of the Sun’s album to put in this spot because all their songs are great. That’s evidence of how incredible their album is. Nearly every song on there is fantastic but I’m grooving to this one the most at the moment so it’s the one that makes my list. The only song on the list without lyrics, listening to it relaxes me and reminds me of taking a drive through the country. Hearing to this song on my solo drive back from Austin this year while I took in breathtaking view after view was a peaceful and tranquil memory.

8. 1901 – Phoenix. Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart album starts with a string of infectious songs and it was difficult to choose which one to place on my list. I decided to go with this one because it’s just a great, fun song to listen to. Phoenix has become one of my go-to bands when I’m in a good mood. I listen to this song and my love for life gets magnified.

7. Sunshine – Atmosphere. Who hasn’t woken up hungover and feeling like shit the day after an awesome party? This song takes that feeling and turns it into something wonderful. It radiates good vibes and takes that feeling and turns it into something wonderful. From the moment you hear that beat, you’ll be nodding your head as Atmosphere takes you through a perfect day. Great song to bump while you’re driving on a weekend morning/afternoon after a terrific night.

Memorable lyric –Everyday that gets to pass is a success/And every woman looks better in a sun dress./The sunshine's an excuse to shoot hoops, get juice/Show improve their moves and let loose.

6. Girlfriend – Phoenix. Another fun song from Phoenix. I can’t put my reason for liking this song so much into words but I just really enjoy it. It’s very catchy and will stay stuck in your head for awhile after you listen to it.

Memorable lyric – Well, you’re far from home,/I’m with you now/I’m lonely/I’m loneliness too./Boy the miracles still give fortune tears.

5. The Reeling – Passion Pit. When I looked at my completed list, I was surprised to see this song this far down. That can only mean that this year was an amazing year for music to me. This is another song that lifts your spirits. I hear it and it just makes me smile and I start bob my head to the beat. It is well composed with really awesome lyrics. The words to the song also tell the story of my transition this year.

Memorable lyric – Look at me, oh look at me/Is this the way I’ve always been?/Oh no, oh no.

4. Electric Feel – MGMT. This is the band triggered the change for me to expand my musical horizons. After listening to a couple of their songs, I fell in love with the carefree and rebellious attitude they promoted. My whole philosophy of living and loving life was derived from this album. This song was playing in the background the night Summer of Paul started. It was during an epic swimming party that produced too many unforgettable memories to count: intense b-ball playing between T and N, swimming in calzones, swimming without calzones, balancing a sucia in the water like a basketball on a finger, roof jumping, dark pool matter, and toilet paper mummy. It was one of the top nights of my life and is still frequently talked about. You could’ve made a music video of that night to this song.

Memorable lyric – Saw her in the Amazon/With voltage running through her skin./Standing there with nothing on/She’s gonna teach me how to swim.

3. Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun. While other songs on this list helped me get to the point where I opened my mind and started to enjoy life, I came across this one in the prime of the Summer of Paul. I loved this song the first time I heard it and it’s not hard to see why. The lyrics of this song pretty much sum up the idea behind the Summer of Paul, much like Passion Pit’s “The Reeling.” As Mark and Nick said several times when they first heard this song, they wish it lasted longer. And when you boil it down, there really is no better compliment to give to a song than to say you don’t want it to end. This is another song where words can’t describe how much I like it so just give it a listen and you’ll see why.

Memorable lyric – We are always running for the thrill of it, thrill of it./Always pushing up the hill searching for the thrill of it./On and on and on we are calling out and out again/Never looking down I'm just in awe of what's in front of me.

2. Time to Pretend – MGMT. While “Electric Feel” by MGMT was playing the night the Summer of Paul kicked off, this is the song that set the stage for it and got me in the right frame of mind to change the way I’d been doing things my whole life. It’s not a very complicated song lyrically but the idea behind it is what had a huge effect on me. This is a song that you will be humming all day after just a couple of listens. Besides the song at number 1, I haven’t encountered a song that triggered such a big change in my view of the world.

Memorable lyric – This is our decision, to live fast and die young./We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun!

1. The Human Torch – Gavin Castleton. We’ll end the list with the same album and artist as we started it. As I stated before, I started 2009 in fairly bad shape. Still reeling from my recent breakup and failed attempts at reconciling, I was struggling to get life back into focus and I couldn’t have come across this album at a better time. While incredible on its own, this song works best when listened to with the whole album, especially the 4 songs preceding it beginning with “Unparallel Rabbits”. The reason is that you see him losing his grip on his life to that point. He regresses into a bad mental state as his life comes crashing down around him only to finally redeem himself after getting another chance to finish his story the right way. I’ve never listened to anything so personal to me in my life before this. I felt as if I was singing the songs myself. Gavin wrote this album as a way to cope and move on from the pain of his own breakup and this song details his victory over the struggles he went through. The song details how he rediscovered his passion in life and his passion for life. The same thing happened to me. This was my “gentle, perfect soundtrack” that made everything start to make sense. I realized that I needed to focus on the good aspects in my life and when I started looking, I found plenty. This album helped my feet get a grip on the floor and start to move in the right direction again. Definitely check it out. You can stream it for free on Gavin Castleton’s website here.

Memorable lyric – I was about to turn to something drastic/when I found my backroom music./With a gentle perfect soundtrack/everything starts to make sense.

Honorable mention: The Consensual Spot - Mr. Nicotron, Jazzhole–Free the Robots, Burial–Miike Snow, Sleepyhead–Passion Pit

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Summer of Paul

Been awhile since I posted on here but thought I'd post a quick summary of the things that made Summer of Paul one to remember (in no particular order):

Friends, family, beer, music, swimming, sucias, semi skinny-dipping, Twitter, rain, Music Under the Stars, birthdays, boulder throwing, basketball, shrooms, Mexican quarters, Ayla, discada, MGMT, hookah, roof, primo, brewing, running, hot skirt girl, LAN party, truck, camping, pipe (tobacco & other), fishing, call girl, Nickasaurus Rape, nude racing, Vegas, circle of death, Plaza Theater, scalping, toilet paper mummy, Castleton, Ice Hockey, milf, dark matter pool, wingman, Smash Bros, lightning, kickball, books, UFCs, lady friends, graduations, man dates, wet phone, wine festival, knees, tobacco, egging, Nick’s vagina, new job, splashback, karaoke, trespassing, Charizard, dog fighting, Star Wars, voyeur, Chico’s Tacos, reunion, fantasy football, fajitas, Pale Ale-a, bat, discovery, life, love, freedom

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Things To Do Before I Die 5

1. Skydive. Cliche I know but that doesn't mean I don't want to do it. This one is looking more real than ever.

2. Take a coast to coast road trip. Even better would be a coast to coast brewery tour, stopping and taking tours of each one along the way.

3. Write a book.

4. Go to a Super Bowl.

5. Go to a UFC event. This one has slipped through my fingers twice already!

Monday, May 25, 2009

MMA Thoughts

I was very satisfied with this UFC fight this past weekend. In case you don't know, I started watching UFC since UFC 2. It captivated me then so I've been following the sport pretty much from the beginning. Now that we are nearing UFC 100, I thought I would lay out my thoughts on some of the things going on in the world of MMA, past and present. The sport has changed much from what started as a tournament to determine which martial arts style was the best. It sounded awesome on paper and certainly delivered. It was a much different game back when there were no weight classes and the only rules were no biting and no eye gouging. I remember watching fights where hair pulling and groin strikes were big factors. However, it was that brutality that nearly caused it to go under while still in its infancy with many states banning what was termed "human cock-fighting." Out of that brutality emerged a little Brazilian beating guys much bigger than him to show the world a new method of fighting - Jiu Jitsu. Back when styles defined fights, jiu jitsu was king. He took the UFC by storm then and influenced how all future fighters trained. Fighters now are nothing like they were back in the early days as you need to have a complete game if you even hope to survive (at times I wish the sport would go back to its early days of pitting style vs. style with Machida's victory showing that different styles can be effective, but more on that later). With the organization nearly going under, a new group came in to purchase it and help it rise from near death by giving it legitimacy as a sport, much like boxing. The group was Zuffa and it was led by Dana White who is still the face of the organization today. They did much good in transitioning it to be viewed as more of a sport rather than just a no holds barred fight. They eventually helped the sport become a part of the mainstream, although it has come at a cost which I will also get to later.

At the same time, another organization was getting big on the other side of the world - Pride Fighting Championships. In my opinion, this organization had much better fighters than what was in the UFC at the time and I have many memories of staying up until 3 in the morning to catch them live on PPV. One of the big debates back in the day was which organization had the better fighters and you can just imagine my joy when word came out that the UFC had purchased Pride. It was supposed to be a merging of the two largest MMA organizations that would help to settle the argument about who had the best fighters in the world. Unfortunately, things didn't work out this way and rather than keeping Pride as a separate entity in Japan and holding occasional "unification" matches, they completely shut down the Pride name. Imagine the buzz that could be created in having two of the best fighters from opposite sides of the world come together for a "superfight." So while some great fighters certainly did come over, there were other instances where Dana White screwed up what was to be the beginning of a trend. The perfect example being that who I consider to be the best fighter on the face of the planet, Fedor Emelianenko, is still fighting outside the octagon.

All of which brings me to the current state of MMA. With Machida winning the Light Heavyweight belt, it feels like things are finally starting to get back to normal in the UFC, with the exception of the heavyweight division. Each of the current division champs with the exception of Lesnar (Penn, St. Pierre, Silva, Machida) are spectacular, well-rounded fighters that have the skills to stay on top for a long time. There is something about them that puts them a notch above everyone else. I'm not saying that they can't be beat or that there aren't other spectacular fighters out there but these guys just have that something that makes their fights special. Fighting in the heavyweight division is much more difficult because of the possibility of larger weight differences between fighters than the other divisions. I mean look at the size difference in the upcoming Mir and Lesnar fight. Also, the greatest fighter on the the planet (and maybe in the history of MMA), who happens to reside in the heavyweight division is not even in the UFC so take that championship position with a grain of salt. The reason for this is Dana White.

Simply put, I don't believe White deserves to be the face of that organization anymore. While the good he has done for the sport is immense, I feel he is hurting the sport now more than helping it. Let me just list a few of the things I dislike about what he's doing. The first is the fact he manages some of the fighters. Imagine David Stern or Roger Goodell managing some of the stars of their respective sports. Kind of hard to imagine it wouldn't create a conflict of interest right? This conflict of interest has reared its ugly head more than once and not just with fighters he manages but with those he has more at stake in as well. The way he pretty pushed Liddell into retirement when Liddell hadn't said anything about what he was going to do was wacky. More upsetting is that some of the fighters get preferential treatment and are placed on the fast track to title shots. I'm speaking of some of The Ultimate Fighter show winners. Griffin got his title shot by beating an injured and ineffective Shogun Rua then won the title on a decision I believe should've gone the other way. However that is not as bad as Evan's path to the belt. He fought an aging Tito Ortiz to a draw in what should have been a fight he dominated as he had too many opportunities but didn't take advantage and wasn't aggressive. He then beat Michael Bisping, another TUF winner who was undefeated at the time but I believed to be overrated due to him being fed weaker opponents to grow the fan base overseas. His next win came against a Liddell who we all know to be on the downside of a brilliant career. His championship fight with Griffin was a solid fight but I don't think it was between fighters that have championship caliber skills now. As proof that these guys were in a little deeper than they deserved, neither has defended their title. As I said before, I believe that will change now that Machida. These are just two glaring examples of the favor White gives to certain fighters. Another thing that gets to me is the fights the put on cards. Go back and look at some of the Pride Fighting cards and you'll see superstars fighting each other on almost every card. The best were always fighting the best and a loss didn't drop them from the top due to them being beat by the best. It seems that losses in the UFC have a much bigger effect and a fighter coming off a loss is seen as having to work his way up the ladder again. Then they are fed cookie-cutter fighters which make for un-exciting fights. The last thing I'll speak about regarding White is his actual demeanor and language when he speaks to the press. This guy uses the F-bomb every other word, he's not a good representative for someone trying to build more mainstream support for the support. Once more, imagine David Stern or Roger Goodell holding press conferences where they drop the F-bomb a dozen times. That would knock their credibility and professionalism.

The last thing I want to point out is the state of the actual fighters in the UFC. As I said in my first paragraph, I'd love to see different styles come out and try their hand at succeeding. Look at what has happened for Machida. This is a guy with a karate background that brought that mindset into the UFC and it led him to the championship. I used the term "cookie-cutter" fighters earlier because I believe that's what the majority of fighters nowadays have become. They're a product of these schools that just pump out fighters who have are at everything and well-rounded but aren't amazing in any particular aspect. They exchange blows when they're standing and ground and pound when the fight goes to the floor. They know the same basic submissions that are only exercised when there's a glaring opening such as a rear-naked choke or arm bar. Don't get me wrong, I still love the fights but I'd like to see someone different come out once in awhile. I was excited a few years back when Karo Parisyan debuted because I thought "Here's this guy with a Judo background that kicks ass!" He had some really nice throws that transitioned into some sweet submission attempts. However, he didn't train like he should have and also began to fight like other fighters do and look where he is now. Most fighters also don't train like they're supposed to. It appears that sometimes their sudden fame puts them in a place where they're partying all the time and don't train as hard as they did to get to the top. Rampage is the perfect example of this. He won the LH championship and didn't work as hard. As a result, he spent his training for the Griffin fight trying to make weight rather than working on his fighting. We all know what happened there... One thing I didn't mention in the Dana White section that I'll mention now is actual The Ultimate Fighter program. Each season they get two top fighters to coach the teams and then usually pit them against each other after the season is over. Well what do you think has happened to the top fighters who participated in it? They lost to the underdog coach. Why? Because they spent their time in front of the cameras trainging other fighters rather than focusing on their training. Randy Couture, Quinton Jackson, and Antonio Nogueira have all fallen into this trap where they were favored coming into their match against their rival coach and ended up losing. Of the 5 times where the coaches of the season have fought after, the underdog has won 3 of them. The ones who were victorious were Penn vs. Pulver and Ortiz vs. Shamrock - lopsided matches to begin with. This is just my observation. You can draw your own conclusion based on this. Fighters need to stick with their training and avoid all distractions! They're fighters first. This is another reason I believe Machida can stay on top for awhile. I'm sure he was offered the chance to coach the new season of TUF but refused knowing it would interfere with his own training. I love this guy more and more! And if you don't think he's hardcore, check this: Machida interview. Well I guess that pretty sums it up for now. I went off a bit but feel free to leave comments on your opinions as well.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Things To Do Before I Die 4: The WTF! Edition

1. Break a bone in my body

2. Lose a fight

3. Get arrested

4. Jump into frezing cold water, aka the Polar Bear Club

5. Quit a job in spectacular fashion. I'm talking epic "Scarface" restaurant type scene where I just go off