Waking Light

Beck released a new album. The outro is poignant. Beautiful. Only in collapse, release, failure, acceptance, darkness, light can we find the morning. Only then can we mourn that the morning is a cleaving, is fresh. Night is filled with hope. Morning is filled with truth. Those forces are not diametrically opposed, but they often require reconciliation. Reconciliation, reflection, is not a bad thing. But it is an is. It exists. As such it is rough, it is hard. It has edges. From the edges, we can glean our truths.

Are Bears Still Catholic?

I once read somewhere that “Reality has a conservative bias.” I cannot find the source for that, though this article from the Onion nicely summarizes that point, so we shall go with that. The thought is that no matter how noble our intentions, no matter how grand our schemes, the reality of our lizard brains always wins the battle with our noble impulses. This is of particular concern for conservatives as we are constantly painted as uncaring or, worse, outright malicious when we oppose Leviathan’s latest plan to help the least amongst us. Vote against the farm bill, oh Snap!, you want people to starve.

In actuality, this is an unmitigated truth. History moves in straight lines, there is always only one answer, and conservatives always, unflinchingly, unrepentantly want to stand athwart those clean lines and hopefully kill some innocents in the process. It’s who we are, man.

Well, maybe not. See, Bush was not that conservative. He was conservative in a general sense. And despite the previous hyperlink, Obama is definitely a liberal, he just does not always behave in liberal ways. But look at the records and the signature achievements and you will find that for both presidencies, the tilt is to the left. Ethanol, Medicare Part D, Obamacare, perpetual war and nation building are straight out of the Woodrow Wilson playbook.

You may be good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, well liked enough, but you are not good enough or smart enough to shape the world, to rebuild it with a thousand graphs, spreadsheets and really, really smart monkeys with supercomputers. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying!

Conservatives, alas, often break from seeking to kill and injure innocents and attempt to try just that. Mitt Romney did not sell himself so much as an antithesis to Leviathan, but as a better captain. He promised a PowerPoint presentation and monkey team that could right the technocratic ship and keep it moving apace. History moves in clean lines, natch, so it makes little sense to deviate from the route. Better to just have a staid captain and a good lookout to make sure we don’t smash into any rocks.

Though 2016 is years away, it is but a few years. Early polls and conventional wisdom are garbage, but they can help solidify the direction even if they do not correctly predict the destination. Ergo, now is the time to make drastic change, to admit that modern conservatism as a voice is failing, flailing. Fortunately, there is an example from which conservatives, and conservative Republicans, can learn – Pope Francis.

He is a dramatic departure from the Catholic Church, after all. And he tends to win the media wars. When you squint hard and look just right, he’s not even Catholic.

No, really. Francis has convinced many that the pope is no longer Catholic. (Hint: the Pope is still Catholic. I mean he is really Catholic and not all that different from Benedict.) Except for his tone. He is able to sell traditional Catholicism in a way that does not cause people to immediately tune him out. The reason for this is that Francis, in word and deed, is vulnerable. He is not boxed in by the need to project strength. He abjures the pomp and circumstance, reiterates canon law, and walks amongst the people.

So while Francis is a pretty standard Catholic, when he talks about his vision for the future it is in it and of it, it is inclusive. He doesn’t have to focus on restating the canon; it is the church’s bias. Similarly, conservatives do not need to forcefully argue about reality; it already has a conservative bias. And that is where conservatives have gone way, way, way off the rails.

Other than the current inexplicable push for immigration reform, Republicans are currently defined more by what they are against than what they are for. This is not a terrible electoral strategy. In 2008, the Democrats proved that being agin it is a recipe for success and voters generally know what Republicans stand for – lower taxes, fewer regulations, individual liberty (with caveats), and so forth. What Republicans are terrible at is explaining why they support those things, at explaining how regulatory capture and an insane tax code hinder us from realizing our potential.

Let’s assume, though, that in the current climate being an opposition party that can avoid saying stupid things – often a tall order for Republicans – can ride being against things into electoral success in 2014 and 2016. Then what?

It’s all well and good, for most Republicans, to stress “transformational values” like “faith, family, community, and work,” which don’t demand too much conceptual transformation on the right. Go deeper, however, into the substrate of how these things serve as sites of transformation, and we’ll begin to see the cultural significance of resilience, forgiveness, self-negation, courage, and a sense of liberation from the kind of personal baggage that weighs us down almost as if it were fated. The key to a cultural reconsideration of work is to view surprisingly transfiguring or transformational experiences — secular, religious, or ambiguous — as themselves of “value,” both personal and economic.

This is important. We as a culture have become focused on transactions rather than transformations. Everything is a mouse click away – shoes, groceries, higher education, relationships. The latter two potentially transformative events have been placed on the same plane as the former two transactional events and politicians are all too eager to cater to those whims. And for Republicans, moving from transaction to transformation is, well, a little new age-y. But it doesn’t have to be. Back to Francis:

If Francis is a radical, it is like this: By speaking the language of the common person in the year 2013, in his awareness of the inspirational power of grand, symbolic gestures, through his call for everyday Catholics to embrace the simple, radical mandates of their baptism, Francis is awakening a world that was becoming dead to Christianity. If he’s breaking new ground, it’s because he’s discovered an effective way to call people to Christ.

Quoting Pope Benedict, Francis declares that “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” That person is God.

Now, politics is not redemption and you should be just as wary of anyone preaching collective salvation as you are of anyone preaching collective damnation. Similarly, a return to conservatism is not a return to the radical mandates of our baptism. In other words, I am not suggesting a conservative rendition of “Let’s Immenentize the Eschaton.

But conservatives must nonetheless embrace the power of individual transformation and embrace that our strength as a nation arises not from chartable statistics but that chartable statistics arise from our less-tangible strengths – individuality, community, the freedom of pursuit, the ability to fail. That is what makes us conservatives, not our feelings about marginal tax rates or SNAP. Our feelings about marginal tax rates and SNAP arise from the fact that we want our neighbors to be free to exist and achieve transformation. Sometimes it will be messy, sometimes it will be glorious, and other times it will be incremental. Nonetheless, government cannot direct those transformations via the freedom to not work, crimethink, or Diana Moon Glampers.

And conservatives have to be willing to expose their vulnerable underbellies to the velociraptor claws of all their foes and detractors and stand up for conservatism as a way of being, of transformation.

So, unicorns, right? That’s really what all the words leading up to this paragraph are about. Pope Francis was a Macguffin that allowed me to circle back and unequivocally state what conservatives need is some amorphous hope and change, our own telegenic biography.

No, this really is about Francis. Whereas Obama ran as a vessel into which the electorate could pour their biases, Francis really is Catholic. He is not turning the church in a mushy direction. He is not abandoning canon law. He is instead willing to get down and dirty and be with the people, not a theocrat who is above them. He is willing to be excoriated for his principles and beliefs. Such firmness exposes him, leaves him open to criticism, but it also allows people to go on a journey with him rather than at his discretion. For conservatives to regain that lost magic, we need our own Francis. We need a principled true believer who can articulate what we believe and why. We need someone who can get down and dirty with the people instead of ruling from afar. We need a candidate who is willing to fail to unite us around a shared journey rather than one who is afraid to run on how our lives, our communities and our pursuit of happiness are intertwined. We need a candidate of the weeds, an individual who is not afraid of those he seeks to lead. We need a candidate with the fortitude to be eviscerated. We need a candidate who isn’t afraid of his or our own humanity, of our shared hopes and fears, of being vulnerable enough to be human. Reality will take care of the rest.

The Tattooed Footie Pajama Set

Hipsters really need to get over their early life crises.

Mr. McNeil is one half of the lauded street-art duo Faile, known for its explosive swirls of graffiti art, wheat-paste sloganeering and punk rock. He wears his hair in a top bun and bears tattoos with his sons’ names, Denim and Bowie, on his forearms. His wife, Nicole Miziolek, is an acupuncturist.

“We were the we’ll-never-leave-Brooklyn types,” said Ms. Miziolek, 36.

But faced with overpaying for a Brooklyn home that would barely contain a life with two young sons, they decided to look northward. “When we checked towns out,” Ms. Miziolek recalled, “I saw some moms out in Hastings with their kids with tattoos. A little glimmer of Williamsburg!”

First, I don’t think the tattooed footie pajama set has started tattooing their children. Yet. Second, what is it with the Peter Pan syndrome? The focus is always on “man up,” and we all know that 40 year old who is doing it wrong, but the girls are just as bad. It’s just like that TV show “Downton Abbey.” Except in real life, everyone is like a character from “Girls,” only two- or occasionally three-dimensional, and they sip fair trade organic bourbon and soy milk while reclining in said footie pajamas and refusing to admit why they like “Downton Abbey.” In other words, same as it ever was, only with different accoutrements.

Young families have been moving to the suburbs for as long as there have been young families and suburbs. That many of the young families moving to New York suburbs should be Brooklynites, and that many of them should fancy themselves “creative types” and that they, like their parents and grandparents before them, should believe themselves capable of bringing their superior sensibilities to the land of compromises and comfort should come as no surprise. See:Revolutionary Road.

And yet, the New York Times has seen fit to print yet another style section feature on thesuburban exodus of Brooklynites called, what else, “Creating Hipsturbia.”

What seems to be entirely lost on these suburban pioneers (and The Times) is that despite their tattoos and their gluten-free baked goods and their farm-to-table restaurants, they are following in the exact same footsteps as their forebearers. The creative types who have long condescended to settle in the small towns of the Hudson River Valley have always carried their tastes with them, along with the notion that they may be in the suburbs, but they are not of the suburbs.

I didn’t think hipsters were generally religious, but apparently I was wrong. I should have guessed given the dogmatism shrouded in irony.

Indeed, the Brooklyn aesthetic is so ubiquitous and slavishly adhered to that it displays all the suburban hallmarks that we love to deride. The conformity, the dull sameness, the utter lack of imagination. In his excellent 2005 essay I hate Brooklyn Jonathan Van Meter quotes one of his friends on Williamsburg: “It’s not that I don’t like the culturati hipsters, but the last time I was in an environment where people only wanted to be with people exactly like themselves was in a fucking mall in Minnesota, which is why I left there twenty years ago.”

Like is attracted to like? That’s unpossible!

Indeed, the sturdy, retro, all-American character of the river towns fits well with the whole Filson/Woolrich heritage-brand aesthetic. People who set their cultural compass to the Brooklyn Flea appreciate the authenticity.

“Hastings-on-Hudson is a village, in a Wittgensteinian sort of way,” Mr. Wallach said. He added, “We are constantly hearing about the slow-food movement, the slow-learning movement and the slow-everything-else. So why not just go avant-garde into a slow-village movement?”

Is slow-village ironic or just painfully unaware? What about this:

Marie Labropolous recently moved from a one-bedroom rental in Brooklyn to a four-bedroom 1970s split-level in Hartsdale, about 10 minutes from her shop in Dobbs Ferry. She and her husband, Simeon Papacostas, now have space for a music studio in their basement, where they enjoy regular “pajama jams,” she said.

Footie pajamas, natch.

Honestly, I’d rather live amongst hipsters than some other subgroups, though I can do without the preening moralizing and facial hair can never be ironic – it’s just facial hair. What really strikes me is the closeness Hipsturbia shares to the rise of energy drinks.

Bear with me, I’m rolling.

The Millennials are afraid of growing up. They express it differently – some with tattoos and cultivated tastes and some with business casual and “coffee tastes yucky” uncultivated tastes – but they cling to youth as though adulthood equals death. It’s a bizarre thing, especially given the fact that they continue to age and seemingly remain alive. They may attribute it to the industrially faded Black Keys t-shirt or the Chuck Taylor’s, as though styles for the young are the fountain of youth, but the simple fact is that demography is destiny.

Embrace that shit. Buy a minivan and call it a minivan, not a swagger wagon. Get a haircut and a pair of loafers. Spend your weekend building a swing set instead of an urban rooftop worm farm. Learn to drink coffee instead of frappuccinos. Get drunk on wine instead of tequila shots. Look forward to senility and ample opportunities to mock the next generation, even as they remind you of yourself.

It’s the circle of life.

Can I Borrow Your Towel?

My go-to bourbon is Buffalo Trace. It’s regularly on sale, it’s bourbon, it’s good. In fact, according to the tag that hangs from the neck of every bottle, some guy says it’s one of the best bourbons available. Here’s how Buffalo Trace describes the flavor of Buffalo Trace:

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey bears a complex aroma of vanilla, mint, and molasses. Its taste is pleasantly sweet and contains notes of brown sugar and spice that give way to oak and leather. The long and dry finish has significant depth. When enjoyed with water, flavors of toffee, dark fruit and anise are revealed.

Here’s how I describe it: Buffalo Trace bears a complex aroma of bourbon, whiskey, and alcohol. Its taste is pleasantly bourbony and smooth. It has notes of both bourbon and whiskey which give way to each. It has a long pleasant bourbony finish and does not die on the back of the tongue. The burn is sufficient for a whiskey without being overpowering. I enjoy it with a few drops of water.

Have I mentioned that no one is ever going to pay me to do reviews?

Random Wine Person, “What do you think about that wine?” Me, “It’s good. It has some fruit to it but it isn’t overly sweet. Dry, not too tannic.” RWP, “Do you notice the notes elderberry and anise?” Me, “You’re just making stuff up. Do you really eat so much elderberry that it’s a flavor that routinely comes to mind?”

The other benefit of Buffalo Trace is that it pairs wonderfully with classic films from the Golden Age of cinema.

Gettin’ Noggy

This blog is housed at “Whiskey Chronicles.” I am adept at cocktails, so I’ve been toying with the idea of sharing some recipes. But you all know I only drink on Fridays and Saturdays. (Stop laughing!) (Okay, you got me. I only drink on days with the letter ‘d’ in them, though.) But this recipe for an eggnog spike, donated by a friend, needs time to sit so I’m offering it to you now. It won’t technically be ready by Christmas, but it’ll be close enough. It’s also tasty in coffee.

John’s Eggnog Spike:

2 cups bourbon
1 cup brandy
1 cup dark rum
1 whole nutmeg crushed into 4-5 pieces
1 whole cinnamon stick
7 whole cloves
1 whole vanilla bean

“Put all the booze together. Cut the vanilla bean open, scrape out the insides, put the vanilla paste and the husk into the bottle, add all the other ingredients and store in a cool dark place for at least a week. Three months works good too.”

The Mojito is Not Fixed

Here at the Whiskey Chronicles, we, the royal variety, are all about the importance of culture, epicurean pursuits, and deliciousness. Though we are not and have never been a bartender, we do know our way around a shaker. So we shall offer you, gentle readers, a drink recipe that will not only refresh, it will also inebriate.

My father fell in love with this cocktail in Brooklyn – the Peruvian Mojito. The recipe will incense some purists. Our take will infuriate those incensed purists. Trust us. We know what we’re doing. If you want the standard recipe, go to your favorite search engine and find the standard. Here at the Chronicles, we’re all about individual expression.

Peruvian Mojito – Traditional:

1. Using a mortar and pestle, grind a handful of fresh mint leaves and approximately 1/2 tablespoon of sugar into a fine powder.
2. Add 3 jiggers of 1/2 rum, 1/2 triple sec
3. Using a citrus press, squeeze the juice of one Key lime into the pestle
4. Pour into a glass with ice
5. Add a splash of Real Lime
6. Top with Club Soda and enjoy

The above version is quite tasty, but we are not purists and we got married in Jamaica. As a result, our taste for Appleton runs deep. Moreover, we are averse to using anything labeled “Real” when we have a grocery store and citrus press at our disposal.

Peruvian Mojito – the Get Off My Lawn version:

1. Using a mortar and pestle, grind a large handful of fresh mint leaves and approximately 1/2 tablespoon of sugar into a fine powder.
2. Add 2 jiggers of Appleton dark rum
3. Add not quite 1 jigger of Cointreau
4. Using a citrus press, squeeze the juice of 3 Key Limes into the pestle
5. Pour into a glass with ice
6. Top with Club Soda

Yes, a traditional mojito does not have Club Soda. Yes, a traditional mojito uses regular, as opposed to Key, limes. No, mojitos do not normally include orange liqueur. As mentioned earlier, we’re offering our own take on the recipe.

The pictures below show the process. Notice that the mid and end result looks similar to something a person who smells bad and doesn’t eat meat would offer you as a healthy pick-me-up. Eh, you’re at home. In this instance, it’s not about the sizzle, or appearance, but the end result. The end result is delicious.

Don’t let the green goblin appearance fool you. This drink is a bit of delicious. Dark rum, though nontraditional, is always acceptable.. (Not a fan of lime or Club Soda? Skip those and make a Rum Julep!) The end result may look like this, but your palette will be oh so pleased.

mojito

Graces and Gentlemen

“In truth, politeness is artificial good humor, it covers the natural want of it, and ends by rendering habitual a substitute nearly equivalent to the real virtue.” – Thomas Jefferson

I’ve got a secret to admit. I, like Jefferson, am a big fan of old fashioned good manners. Yes sirs, no ma’ams, pleases, and thank you’s. Pardon me, may I, much obliged, and may I be excused. Such small niceties are the lace on a nightgown, the point after touchdown, that little extra spice that makes existence extra nice.

More and more, the trendsetters, the “I do what I feel! You can’t judge me!” types, revel in their lack of gentility. They are proud of their ignorance regarding basic dinner party silverware rules. (Start with the outermost utensils and work inward with each successive course.)  They know how to back that thing up, but are wholly incapable of dancing a simple box step. They are often held as exemplars because of their money, as paragons of class because they spend on the finer things. They are not classy, they are déclassé.

Alas, arguments against decorum are not limited to the proles. I have heard claims that the simple door open is a sign of weakness. When I first heard such claims, I was lukewarm in my opposition. Now, I’m firmly opposed to focusing on such trivialities. If your status as a leader is so tenuous as to be affected by opening doors, your status is not actually tenuous, it is cemented. You are not a leader.

If you are not a leader, and you do seek to be one, then there are worse paths to take than basic courtesy, including door opening. As basic etiquette has fallen by the wayside, having a bit of old school class differentiates you from those around you. It’s free, it’s timeless, it’s masculine. Knowing which champagne complements the amuse-bouche, knowing which single malt will best match your after dinner cigar, and buffering everything in between with a command of decorum will not cause anyone to doubt your status. It is a show of leadership and, as long as you execute it confidently, will be treated as such.

So get over concerns about being perceived as a doormat or wondering what the Situation would do in your situation and act like an adult who did not just crawl out from under a rock.

For the doubters, think of it this way. You are walking into a building. A few seconds behind are a man and a cute girl. They are not together; they are just on the same schedule. You ignore both and walk into the building. You go about your day. Nothing lost, nothing gained.

Now, get into your wayback machine, head back outside, and hold the door open for both. You engage both in a bit of conversation and you get to check out the cute girl’s booty. You just enjoyed two of the finer things in life – conversation and ass. Nothing lost, something gained.

So risk opening a door, you may be surprised as to the opportunities that open in front of you as a result. If nothing else, you get to check out the tailfeather of that chickadee who works on the second floor.