Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bryan White – "Eugene You Genius" (1994)

Tell me, Eugene, I just gotta know
Can I go down and buy it
At the grocery store?

Pushing an eight-month-old baby around the neighborhood is thirsty work.

So after spending time recently with grandson number two, I was in the mood to drop by a bar with a good selection of craft beers on tap and a friendly bartender to serve me a pint.

Fortunately for me, the H Street Lounge in Washington, DC – which has a very impressive craft beer list – was just a few blocks from where I dropped off my grandson after our visit.

The H Street Whole Foods
Did I mention that the H Street Lounge is located inside a grocery store

That’s correct – it’s located inside a new Whole Foods store in Washington, DC.

*     *     *     *     *

I had never been in a grocery store that sold craft beer on tap for consumption on the premises.

The H Street Lounge had a number of local beers, starting at only $5 a pint, including beers from breweries in DC (Atlas’s “NSFW” imperial black IPA and DC Brau’s ESB), Virginia (Old Ox’s “Black Ox” rye porter and Hardywood’s “The Great Return” IPA), and Maryland (Jailbreak’s “Feed the Monkey” hefeweizen and RAR’s “Bottom Feeder” blonde ale.)

Some of the beers on tap
at the H Street Lounge
Its offerings also included number of beers that didn’t originate in the DMV – including some exotic, high-gravity (i.e., high alcohol) brews.

For example, there were three beers from the Captain Lawrence brewery in New York State – including the “Seeking Alpha” 12% triple IPA – and Unibroue’s “La Fin du Monde,” a Belgian-style tripel that’s brewed in Quebec.    

Even casual craft beer fans are familiar with Boulevard’s highly-regarded “Tank 7” farmhouse ale.  Instead of Tank 7, Whole Foods was pouring “Saison Brett,” a hard-to-find limited-release Tank 7 variant.

Another rare beer available by the pint at that Whole Foods was Firestone Walker’s “Bretta Weisse,” a Berliner weisse that’s aged for eight months in French oak tanks called foeders.  

This way to the H Street Lounge
The famous Tröegs “Mad Elf” ale – a holiday brew flavored with cherries and honey – sells out quickly every year.  But the H Street Bar was offering this 11% ABV ale at a very good price.

The piece de résistance of the bar’s draft beer list was the 2016 Goose Island “Bourbon County Stout,” a legendary 13.8% ABV imperial stout that’s aged in bourbon barrels for the better part of a year.  

*     *     *     *     *

You may think it’s odd to go to a grocery store for a draft beer.  

The Whole Foods that’s home to the H Street Lounge is as much a restaurant as it is a grocery store.

Like most Whole Foods stores, this one offered a dazzling array of pricey prepared foods that you could either take home or bring to the bar to have with your beer.  You’re not limited to a salad bar and some ready-to-eat soups and sandwiches – the Whole Foods also sells made-on-the-premises pizzas and sushi and ramen and bao buns and raclette and a whole lot more.

Smoked pork shoulder ramen
Nearly all the customers drinking craft beer in the H Street Lounge when I stopped by the other evening were also enjoying the store’s food offerings.  And the majority of those people had their kids with them.

*     *     *     *     *

We have plenty of Whole Foods stores in the Maryland suburbs of DC.  But none of them offer craft beers on tap.

That’s because the great state of Maryland – unlike DC and neighboring Virginia – forbids it.

The Great Seal of Maryland
In fact, Maryland forbids not only the sale and consumption of draft beer in a grocery store, but also the sale of six-packs of beer to take home.

I’m not going to bore you with a long rant about lobbyists and special-interest legislation and all that jazz.

Suffice it to say that we Marylanders can’t buy beer (or wine) in grocery stores, drug stores, warehouse club stores, or other chain stores thanks to our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad state legislature.

*     *     *     *     *

Maryland is home to a number of very good craft breweries.

The Whole Foods store in DC that is home to the H Street Lounge sells six-packs of beer from a number of those Maryland breweries – including Evolution, Jailbreak, Manor Hill, Monocacy, Oliver Brewing, and Union Craft.

Monocacy Brewing beers for sale
at the H Street Whole Foods
But once you cross the DC line and enter Maryland, you can’t buy those Maryland beers (or beers from anywhere else) at a Whole Foods store.  

Or, for that matter, at a Wegman’s or a Harris-Teeter or a Trader Joe’s or a CVS or a Walgreen’s or a Walmart or a Costco or a 7-Eleven.

That’s what I said – you can’t buy beer at a 7-Eleven in Maryland.  What exactly is the raison d’être of a 7-Eleven if you can’t buy beer there late on a Friday or Saturday night when the liquor stores are closed?

These Union Craft beers are also
available at the H Street Whole Foods
(Note: The statement that you can’t buy beer at a 7-Eleven is accurate in most, but not all Maryland counties.  Maryland’s alcohol laws vary significantly by county, which makes it almost impossible to make accurate generalizations about what is legal and what is not legal in Maryland.)

*     *     *     *     *

Millions of Marylanders live just a short drive from DC or Virginia, of course, which means it’s not all that hard for them to cross state lines and contribute to the economies of our neighboring states.

This popular DC liquor store is just
one block from the Maryland line
Have I ever crossed state lines to stock up on beer and wine – thereby depriving Maryland of the tax revenues it would have collected if I had done my shopping closer to home?  

I think I’ll plead the Fifth rather than answer that question.

*     *     *     *     *

Oklahoma native Bryan White was only 20 years when he released his eponymous debut album in 1994.

“Eugene You Genius,” the first single from that album, stalled at #48 on the Billboard “Hot Country Songs” chart, but two other singles from Bryan White made it all the way to #1, and the album eventually went platinum.

Two singles from his second album almost were #1 country hits, but his popularity waned over the next few years.

In 2012, White turned to Kickstarter to raise money to pay for a new album.  The $34,889 he received from contributors was enough to pay for only a six-song EP, Shine, which he released in 2014.  

Here’s “Eugene You Genius.”  It’s not the greatest song ever featured on 2 or 3 lines, but there are very few grocery store-themed songs out there.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Justin Timberlake (feat. Jay-Z) – "Suit & Tie" (2013)

And as long as I've got my suit and tie
I'ma leave it all on the floor tonight

Shinesty is an online clothing retailer that claims to be “the #1 online destination for attention-grabbing apparel.”  

The company, which freely acknowledges that it is “not J. Crew” (and how), guarantees to sell only  “clothing your mom would hate.” 

I promise that your wife will hate it, too.  (Most girlfriends, too.)

I recently received a copy of Shinesty’s Christmas catalog in the mail.  (I wonder what this post would have been about if I hadn’t gotten that catalog.  Do you wonder about that, too?) 

Here are photos of some of the suits and matching ties that you can find in the current Shinesty holiday collection for men:

For our Jewish friends, here’s the Shinesty “Rock Star of David” suit:

*     *     *     *     *

Shinesty doesn’t just sell tacky Christmas suits and ties.

It also offers “Pit Vipers” sunglasses.  (Slogan: “They want to sit on your face.”)

And then there’s the “Jeado” swim brief – a/k/a the “Daytona Dong Sarong,” a/k/a the “Ding-a-ling Sling,” a/k/a the “Miami Meat Tent,” a/k/a the “Portuguese Pud Purse.”  (Shinesty’s headquarters are located in Colorado, where recreational marijuana use is 100% legal.  That probably explains “Portuguese Pud Purse” and most of the rest of the copy in Shinesty’s catalog.)

The company also sells a lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking, bulge-enhancing boxer brief, which it calls the “Ball Hammock.”
The red-white-and-blue, bald eagle-themed “Ball Hammock” is perfect for us patriotic types:

But you Democrats may prefer your undies to feature a camel, horse, snow leopard, snake, zebra, lion, or golden retriever:

*     *     *     *     *

Here’s how MTV described its reality show about Shinesty, which aired this summer:

Mix 10 mediocrely-good-looking twenty-somethings with a major TV network, add some melodrama, and boom  you get reality TV.  This six-episode “docu-comedy” is not appropriate for all ages and features casual nudity, kidnappings, bikini waxes, irreverent clothing, countless weiner shaped food jokes, and a variety of other very strange incidents that actually do happen in the Shinesty office every week.

Here’s the trailer for the show:

*     *     *     *     *

Right now, Shinesty’s stuff is selling like gangbusters.  But I don’t see the company being successful in the long run.  

I have to think that its typical customer is someone who orders after getting drunk at a Christmas party, and who will have a terrible case of buyer’s remorse when the clothing he orders arrives and he tries it on.  

The company’s investors include the Winklevoss twins (who co-founded Facebook), and they’re a lot smarter than I am, but I just don’t see guys ordering a Christmas suit from Shinesty more than once.  

Of course, most of the guys who will get drunk at a Christmas party this year will get drunk at a Christmas party next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.  So maybe Shinesty will do better than I think.

*     *     *     *     *

“Suit & Tie” was the lead single from Justin Timberlake’s 2013 album, The 20/20 Experience.  It made it all the way to #3 on the Billboard “Hot 100.”

The music video for “Suit & Tie” was directed by David Fincher, the director of The Social Network, which starred Timberlake as Sean Parker, the man who co-founded Napster and who was the first president of Facebook.

Here’s “Suit & Tie,” which features Jay-Z:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kingsmen – "Jolly Green Giant" (1964)

He touched her once 
She slapped him silly

Hopefully the Jolly Green Giant learned his lesson and never, ever misbehaved again – unlike Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C. K., etc., etc.

*     *     *     *     *

The lyrics to “Jolly Green Giant” include references to a number of vegetables, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and artichoke hearts.

None of which my mother ever served at our family dinners when I was a kid.  

*     *     *     *     *

Our first course was usually a tossed salad with French dressing, cottage cheese with tomatoes, or canned pear halves covered with grated American cheese.  (I was not a fan of canned pear halves.)

Our main course consisted of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable.

The meat might be pan-fried chicken, meatloaf, or Salisbury steak – basically a glorified hamburger served without the bun or the American cheese or ketchup.

“Please pass the Salisbury steak!”
Every so often, my mother made creamed chipped beef, which was godawful.  We never had pork or lamb.

The starch was usually mashed potatoes – made from scratch.  On occasion we had potatoes in a different form – au gratin, or baked – or macaroni and cheese.  I don’t recall having rice or spaghetti.

The vegetable was often corn or green beans or peas or carrots – always canned, never frozen.  (I think frozen vegetables were a little pricey for my parents.)

Every so often we had canned diced beets.  GAG ME WITH A SPOON!  (I haven’t knowingly eaten a single bite of beets since leaving home for college.)

My father worked for a dairy, so I always drank milk with dinner.  (Also with breakfast and lunch.)    

Dessert was usually a dish of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup served just before bedtime.  (I remember using my spoon to squish the ice cream and chocolate into something approximating a very thick chocolate milk shake.)

*     *     *     *     *

As for breakfast, my mother usually made waffles on Sundays, using an enormous plug-in waffle iron.  

At some point in my childhood, Malt-O-Meal was my regular before-school breakfast.  I also ate my share of cold cereal – corn flakes, Cheerios, Rice Chex.

I don’t recall having eggs and bacon very often.  When my mother did make bacon, she cooked it super well done and crispy – I hated it that way.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was a kid – they lived only three blocks away, so I walked back and forth on an almost daily basis.  My grandmother made a truly bizarre breakfast called “syrup ’n’ bread,” which must have been invented during the Depression.  It consisted of two slices of white bread, each of which was cut up into nine little squares.  You then put a smear of margarine on each square and doused it with white Karo syrup.  

I always saved the middle square – the one with no crust – for last.

*     *     *     *     *

During the school year, of course, I got my lunch at school.  (I went to public schools, and had very few – if any – Catholic classmates, but we were always served fish sticks for lunch on Friday.) 

On weekends and during the summer, my lunch was often a bologna sandwich with a slice of American cheese on white bread.

We got unsliced five-pound loaves of American cheese from the dairy where my father worked.  I remember using a cheese slicer that had a roller and a thin, very taut wire to slice the cheese.  Later, the cheese came pre-sliced, but the slices weren’t individually wrapped.

Our cheese slicer was just like this one
The only thing I liked on my sandwiches were hamburger dill pickle slices – no mayo or mustard for me, thank you very much.  (My high school cafeteria put a ton of mustard on its bologna sandwiches – I scraped off as much as I could before eating it, but I could never get rid of all of it.)

My mother made great tuna salad sandwiches.  She would dice pickle slices and hard-boiled eggs and mix them with the tuna.  

Campbell’s chicken-noodle soup was also a staple.  Later I got into tomato soup.

*     *     *     *     *

The only Kingsmen record that most people remember is “Louie Louie.”

But “Jolly Green Giant” was almost as big a hit.  It made it all the way to #4 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in 1964.

The Minnesota Valley Canning Company started selling “Green Giant Great Big Tender Peas” in 1925, and introduced its Green Giant mascot a few years later.  

The “Jolly Green Giant” over the years
Originally, he was a scary, Incredible Hulk-like character who wore in a bearskin, but the company’s ad agency transformed him into a smiling and nonthreatening figure clad in leaves and added “Jolly” to his name.

In 1978, the citizens of Blue Earth, Minnesota installed a 55-foot statue of the Jolly Green Giant in their town.  (The original Green Giant canning plant was located about 70 miles north, in Le Sueur.)

When Advertising Age ranked the top ten advertising icons of the 20th century, the Jolly Green Giant was given the #3 spot – behind only the Marlboro Man and Ronald McDonald (and ahead of the Energizer Bunny, Aunt Jemima, Tony the Tiger, and the Michelin Man, among others).

Here’s “Jolly Green Giant”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Roxy Music – "All I Want Is You" (1974)

Somebody told me just the other day
That you're leaving me – we're through
Well, if you knew how it hurt me so
Then you'd change your mind, I’m sure

You’re wrong – that would not change her mind.  (You blew it, stupid.)

*     *     *     *     *

The fourth Roxy Music album, Country Life, was released in 1974, when I was a first-year law student.  I bought a copy at the “Coop” (the Harvard Cooperative Store) and proceeded to play it to death – especially “All I Want Is You” and the track that followed it, “Out of the Blue.”

I must have bought the album soon after it was released, because my copy has the original cover, which features two models (usually described as “scantily-clad,” which is accurate albeit a tad clichéd) who helped translate one verse of the song “Bitter-Sweet” into German:

The original cover was later replaced in the U.S., Spain, and there Netherlands with a more innocuous one:

The original album cover inspired dozens of parodies.  Here are just a few of them:

It was used on t-shirts and umbrellas:

*     *     *     *     *

The critics loved Country Life, which one reviewer said represented “the zenith of contemporary British art rock.”  

Robert Christgau described Roxy’s frontman and primary songwriter, Bryan Ferry, as an “oblique and ambitious” artist.  Ferry can be tiresome – his solo albums are too campy for my taste – but he’s rarely boring.

At heart, Ferry is a romantic  – or, at least, he plays one on Roxy Music’s records.  As he croons in today’s featured song, “L’amour, toujours l'amour.”

Here’s “All I Want Is You”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, November 10, 2017

System of a Down – "Lost in Hollywood" (2005)

They take you and make you,
They look at you in disgusting ways.
You should have never trusted Hollywood

The three Shubert brothers – Sam, Lee, and J.J. – moved from Syracuse to New York City at the turn of the 19th century.  “Driven by a seemingly unquenchable acquisitiveness,” writes Foster Hirsch in The Boys from Syracuse: The Shuberts’ Theatrical Empire, the brothers quickly became “the unchallenged rulers of Broadway.”  At the height of their power in the 1920s, they owned or controlled hundreds of theatres throughout the United States and were worth an estimated $400 million.

Lee Shubert is said to have been the man who invented the “casting couch.”  From The Boys from Syracuse:

Near his office, Lee had an elegantly furnished boudoir, reserved for leading ladies and promising ingenues, and a shabby, spartanly furnished room with a single couch where he met chorus girls and soubrettes.  

Lee Shubert in 1908
(What’s a “soubrette”?  I’m glad you asked.  From Wikipedia: “In theatre, a soubrette is a comedy character who is vain and girlish, mischievous, lighthearted, coquettish and gossipy – often a chambermaid or confidante of the ingenue, she often displays a flirtatious or even sexually aggressive nature.”  Lee Shubert seems to have believed that life imitated art.)

“Everybody knew about Mr. Lee’s five o’clock girls,” one Shubert employee told Hirsch. “On matinee days, one girl from the Shubert show downstairs would go up to Mr. Lee’s office, and there’d be one less chorus girl for the curtain call.”

*     *     *     *     *

Over time, the term “casting couch” became associated almost exclusively with Hollywood instead of Broadway.

A 1956 article about the casting couch
F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent the last few alcohol-drenched years of his life as a hack screenwriter in Hollywood, referred to the casting couch in The Last Tycoon, the novel he failed to finish before dying in 1941.

In that book, a young woman tells a struggling writer that she plans to meet with a powerful producer.  She imagines a scenario where someone comes into the producer’s office and interrupts their meeting.  “And you jump up quickly off the casting couch, smoothing your skirts,” the writer says.  (Like many writers, he’s something of a smart-ass.)

Theresa Russell and Robert
DeNiro in The Last Tycoon
Speaking of life imitating art . . . the producer of the 1976 movie version of The Last Tycoon tried to persuade 18-year-old Theresa Russell to lie down on his casting couch when she auditioned for the role of that young woman.

*     *     *     *     *

Movie producers may not have actual casting couches in their offices any more, but the term is still a very valid metaphor for what happens between powerful males and not-so-powerful females in Hollywood. 

While Harvey Weinstein allegedly misbehaved in his office, in his various homes and apartments, in restaurants, and even on a yacht, the most dangerous place to be around him if you were an attractive female seems to have been a hotel room.

His favorite hotel for engaging in monkey business seems to have been the $595-per-night Peninsula Beverly Hills. 

A room at the Peninsula Beverly Hills
Claire Forlani, Marisa Coughlan, Lina Esco, Dominique Huett, Jessica Barth, and Chelsea Skidmore have all claimed that Weinstein was guilty of groping them, exposing himself, or other inappropriate behavior at the Peninsula.  (The first of those reported incidents took place in the mid-1990s, and the most recent in 2013.)       

*     *     *     *     *

Some of you may recall that System of a Down’s “Lost in Hollywood” was one of the first ten songs ever featured on 2 or 3 lines – I first wrote about it way back in December 2009.

The members of System of a Down in 2005
“Lost in Hollywood” was written by SOAD guitarist and vocalist Daron Malakian, who says it was inspired by his memories of seeing the human flotsam and jetsam of Hollywood – like the teenaged runaways who came to L.A. seeking fame and fortune but ended up starring in porn movies or working as prostitutes – when he was a child living in an apartment about a mile from the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

Here’s “Lost in Hollywood,” a brilliant effort that Malakian says is the SOAD song that he’s most proud of:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Styx – "Cold War" (1983)

You're duty-free
You're tax-exempt
You party with the President

It’s been exactly one year since the most surprising election of my lifetime.  

Actually, it’s been exactly 52 weeks since that election – which is one day short of a year.  (“Close enough for government work,” as we used to say back when I worked for the government.)

*     *     *     *     *

Tout le Washington is still chewing over what happened in the last election.  Hand-wringing and finger-pointing about the failure of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign abound.  

The cover of Donna Brazile's new book
Former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile says in her new book (which went on sale today) that she considered replacing Clinton with former Vice President Joe Biden after Clinton came down with pneumonia because her campaign had taken on “the odor of failure.”  

(By the way, Brazile recommended that Clinton see an acupuncturist for her pneumonia.  The quality of her medical advice was on a par with her performance as party chairwoman.)

Over a hundred senior Clinton campaign officials have disavowed Brazile’s account the campaign, saying “We do not recognize the campaign she portrays in the book.”

Brazile and Clinton
Donna Brazile, you’ll never eat lunch in this town again!

*     *     *     *     *

The political controversy du jour this week in Your Nation’s Capital relates to the Republican tax reform plan.  Predictably, opponents of the proposal claim it benefits the rich at the expense of the middle class.

A recent rally against the proposed tax plan at a suburban elementary school in the Luxmanor neighborhood in Montgomery County, Maryland – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was the star attraction at the rally – offers a textbook example of the hypocrisy that always rears its ugly head when there's a proposal to reform the tax laws.  

The Washington Post story about the rally could have been headlined “Affluent suburbanites cheer Pelosi’s support of tax breaks for the wealthy.”   

“Congress, Congress, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree” also would have been an appropriate headline.

*     *     *     *     *

The folks at that rally got all riled up because they fear that Congress may get rid of the current federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes.

A typical middle-class Luxmanor home
The congressional district where the rally took place has a higher percentage of residents who claim the state and local tax deduction than any other district in the country.

There are two reasons for that.  First, the income and property tax rates in Maryland and Montgomery County are very high.  Second, the people who came to the rally have very high incomes and live in very pricey homes.  Put it all together and it means that they pay a lot in state and local taxes.

*     *     *     *     *

The name of the school where the rally took place – Luxmanor – gives you a pretty good idea of what the neighborhood is like.  The median household income there is $157,532, which is about three times the median income of U.S. households as a whole.  And the median home value in Luxmanor ($485,100) is almost three times the median home value for the country as a whole.

Welcome to middle-class Luxmanor!
That means that the typical Luxmanor household is at the 90th percentile when it comes to income – meaning that 90% of all households in the U.S. make less money than the average Luxmanorite.  

*     *     *     *     *

I’d bet you dollars to donuts that virtually everyone at that rally would describe themselves as plain ol’ middle-class folks, and deny that they are wealthy.

If Luxmanor is a middle-class neighborhood, I’m a monkey’s uncle.   You can’t tell me that you’re middle-class if you make more money than 90% of Americans.  

 *     *     *     *     *

Let me make my point a different way.

If you’re 70 years old, you’re older than 90% of the population.

Would you call a 70-year-old “middle-aged”?  I wouldn’t.  

Likewise, I wouldn’t say you’re a middle-income household if you make more money than 90% of all American households.

"Save the middle class"?
*     *     *     *     *

“Cold War” was track two on Styx’s 11th and final studio album, Kilroy Was Here, which was released in 1983.

Track one of that album was “Mr. Roboto,” which is a silly song.

Here’s “Cold War”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: