Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blender is the Night

by J.S. Holland

Last night I was at Ernesto's sippin' Blue Moon with my usual crew of East-end oddfellows. The lively bar-talk included such topics as Zachary Taylor, Zachary Taylor's daughter who married Jefferson Davis, Jefferson Davis' Inn, Pass-a-Grille, Valkyrie vs. Inglourious Basterds, and Steve Nunn avoiding the death penalty. Finally I wandered out into the night, and decided to confer with my friend Drew Estate under the starry skies. I slapped my shirt's breast pocket; it was empty. I'd forgotten to tuck a cigar into it when I left the house.

It wasn't that late, but it was late enough that Cox's was closed. I didn't feel like tootling all over the city looking for a noctural tobacconist, so I ducked into Walgreen's. I'm less picky about my cigars than my pipe tobacco - some of the drugstore junk I've discussed here, like Red Cap and Prince Albert and Middleton's Cherry, were so nasty I won't even smoke them. (You want them? Contact me, I'll give them to you. Only one briar bowl smoked from each.) But cigars? Eh. I'm easy. The only stogies I've really crushed out and walked away from are ones that are stale and taste cardboardy, and ones that were rolled so tightly it's like trying to smoke a roll of electrical tape.

Which brings us to last night's drunken drugstore selection: It's called Blender's Gold, and I got a 4-pack of 'em for a mere $9.99. Now, I firmly believe you get what you pay for, so I had every right to expect a $2.50 cigar to be a disaster, right? But me and the Blender had a real good time, and I daresay I'll invest in another pack of these after I exhaust my supply here. They're leathery, simple and no-nonsense, like something a boxer would smoke in 1921, or maybe like the boxer himself. Oscuro addicts would call these things unsmokeably mild; bland even. There's a disconcerting rubberiness to the texture, and there is a certain sensation at first that you're actually smoking cabbage or lambskin or something, but this passes quickly. The bulk of the cigar was fairly consistently tasty all the way through.

I know you'll probably never buy one, at least not in a 4-pack and at least not after I said "lambskin". C'mon over to the plantation and you can bum one of mine. You'll see. It ain't that bad. Check it, it really is gold. Especially for the price. As my bud Tom says:

This was an OK low to mid medium bodied cigar. Sure, it was one dimensional and this particular cigar had some burn issues, but as a whole they give you your $2.00 worth. It’s not like every one you smoke will have issues. If you are on a budget, I say give these a try.

I did, in fact, suffer the same burn issues he spoke of. Although I lit it precisely and evenly and it burned just fine for the first half, it began to get drastically sidegoggledy and falling apart in my hand by the end (as you can see in the photo.) Weird thing is, though, the ad copy on the packaging says "The rich maduro wrappers have been selected for consistency of taste and area found only in the best of the world's fine cigars." Maduro? Really? Uh.... guys, these wrappers are pale as Chai tea, what're you talkin' about Maduros?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


by J.S. Holland

Greetings once again, my friends. Close the giant creaking door behind you, pull up a cobwebbed chair, and make yourselves comfortable while I, the Crap-Keeper, fix a pot of spidermint tea and blow the dust off the cover of another entry in my deep, dark, labyinthine dregs of comicdom archive in my Vault of Unintended Horror.

I keep trying to find the most jaw-droppingly awful comic book from my files, to exemplify just how bad it can get out there in the hairy world of forgotten off-brand funny-books of a bygone age. Problem is, even when I'm certain I've hit upon the worst comic book in the world, I start feeling sorry for it as one would for the dumbest kid in school and then I start developing a working aesthetic for it against my will. I'm just too soft hearted for my own good.

Charlton's Hunk is one of those comics that you find yourself rooting for out of sympathy, like a special-needs little brother. As you turn the pages, you find parts of your brain lamenting that God ever allowed it to exist, and other parts of your brain respecting it for persisting in existing. These are comics that make you feel embarrassed for everybody involved - not only embarrassed yourself for even viewing it, but feeling pangs of the shame that the Charlton guys must have endured when their friends, lovers, and family members saw a copy of Hunk and leafed briefly through it before looking up with an expression that telegraphed, "You made this? This is what you do for a living?"

I don't even remember how this copy of Hunk #5 (May 1962) came into my possession. I probably lost a lot of I.Q. points and brain cells, including the ones meant to retain that information, on contact with it. Imagine a Flintstones kinda deal, with an anachronistically civilized caveman society, except that the focus is on two little Cro-magnon kids - Freckle-faced red-headed "Hunk" and his shaggy-haired best friend, er, what is his name? I don't remember and I already filed the comic back down in the JSH wine cellar and comics crypt. Oh well. Drink your tea.

Almost every page in this comic has at least one panel rendered completely in silhouette - a sure sign of a burned-out hack trying to finish entire issues of a comic in one sitting, racing a grueling schedule and facing a deadline.

I felt like I was tripping when I saw this panel:

The context of the story is that Hunk and his buddy have been implausibly nominated Chiefs of the fire department, and they're riding around on a dinosaur putting out fires - as you can see from the panel shown at the top of this post. But in the panel shown here, the artist just drew their floating body-less HEADS sitting atop the dinosaur! The hell? Is this some sort of deliberate motif, a heretofore unmined storytelling technique we're seeing here? Or was the artist just ripped on Rye and driven half demented by the sound of his screaming kids in his one-room coldwater flat in Milwaukee?

And yet, is it really that far removed from the works of modern-day scribblers like Ron Rege, Jr.? Is a man better off living today where one can make a comic like this that makes a big hit on the internet and in hipster galleries, or have we lost something by no longer living in an era where a brain-damaged comic like this got to be in supermarkets, drugstores, grocery stores and department stores all over, placed directly in the sticky grasp of virtually every kid in North America?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Touched by a Shark

by J.S. Holland

This time I gotta disagree strenuously with those super-snobs over at Beer Advocate. Their gang of self-styled brew experts dismiss Landshark Lager with C- and D ratings, mainly because it "lacks complexity". This is rather like an overbearing cheese "expert" saying that no one should ever eat swiss cheese because it's blander than Gorgonzola.

Beers are tools, essentially, and one must apply the proper tool for the proper job. I certainly wouldn't order Landshark at a five-star restaurant to accompany my Lobster Newburg (not that they'd even be carrying it anyhow), but hey, I wouldn't order a Coke either, and that doesn't mean that Landshark or Coke sucks. Landshark's place on the beer scale is the same as Corona's, Caguama, Miller High Life, or Dundee's Honey Brown - a simple, unpretentious gullet-washing cerveza with no aftertaste yet not as soulless as a "dry" beer. Perfect for outdoor activities, like hanging out on the beach, as the whole oceanic packaging makes obvious.

I enjoy the stuff immensely, especially with a lime slice and accompanying spicy foods and cigars. I can drink a whole 6 of these and not feel like I'm about to turn into a loaf of bread rising in the sun, which is more than I can say for a lot of chewy brews that the beer intelligentsia assure us are superior.

I guess you might have to be part Floridian to get it, and I confess this Kentucky Gentleman's got a lot of Florida on his shoes in recent years. I've enjoyed Landshark on many a sun-drenched day in my primary Gulf of Mexico stomping ground, which is pretty much everything between Clearwater and Sarasota, and all the islands and keys in the area. I especially love Pass-a-Grille, Perico Island, Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island, Siesta Key, and Lido Key, and a sip of the shark transports me back there, to those baby powder beaches and that nautical nightlife.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Over Cracker Barrel

by J.S. Holland

My pal Carla and I stuck our beaks into Cracker Barrel a couple days ago, and it was immediately evident that a lot has changed around the old roadside cornpone eathouse. Firstly, they had a bunch of their tack from the gift shop dragged out front for a sidewalk sale, with not one but two brown-aproned gals greeting you and urging you to stop and check out the amazing bargains before you go in. Seemed a little too hard-sell for the Barrel, thought I, but OK.

Then when we got inside, we encountered another greeter, who again pointed out that they have all kinds of exciting crap for sale in the gift shop. Okay, okay, crackers, I get it, I get it. Funny thing is, then when we got to the actual podium where you say "party of two" and they tell you there'll be a 20 minute wait, there was nobody there. Too many greeters and not enough cashiers!

Once we got our table and grub, I was saddened to see that the economic hard times has resulted in some severe cutbacks at the ol' C.B. and it ain't pretty. Their pancakes, once huge and clearly for-real with irregular crispy edges, are now the same lame perfectly-formed pre-made little flapjacks that they serve at Denny's, McDonald's, and Hell. Their sausage patties are now tiny pucks with about the same circumference as a can of Fancy Feast cat food. And the side order of french fries, formerly served copiously on a plate, was a bowl with about ten fries sticking out of it. I kid you not.

I didn't come here to gripe about all of this, however. No, what really appalled me is that Crackle Berra, supposedly the epitome of old-fashioned living and values, has jumped on the bandwagon of cyber-stalky technocracy with the rest of you data-packet-pushing chimps. According to this sign placed on all the tables, they're proudly announcing that they've finally caught up with the rest of the world and joined Facebook, like, big whoopty doo. Even more sad and embarrassing, they're actually requesting you to click "like" on them. The only thing more pathetic than having a "like" button in the first place, is to actually beg people to click it.

But it's not enough that they've gotten the figurative mark of the beast by getting all Facebooky with it; they actually have gleefully accepted the literal mark of the beast, the QR Code. I don't follow this nonsense myself, but apparently if you have a smartphone, you can actually use it as a bar-code reader, and these here QR Codes (which look like a Wordpress user avatar), once scanned, can do all sorts of useless, pointless things. (Example: Kylie Minogue's music video for her 2010 single, "All The Lovers", featured an on-screen QR Code which allowed you to point your iPhone at the TV and decode the word "LOVE". Big whoop.) Many companies now use them in billboards so that people can access websites, messages, and info on their phone simply by pointing it at the billboard, even while driving. In other words, more useless information and more ads that very dumb people and their very smart phones will happily embrace just because the technology that delivers it is the gadget novelty du jour.

When you point your smartphone at the QR Code on this Cracker Barrel sign, guess what it does? It takes you to their Facebook. Wow. Golly gee, grampa, that's really somethin'. All the kids are really gonna think you're hep now. Instead of spending cash on this purposeless gimmick, why don't you put that money back into the quality of the food?

Hank Williams played over the loudspeakers as I left the restaurant. Can you imagine going back in time and trying to explain all this bullshit to Hank? "I don't b'leeve I care for any of that, boys, if it's all the same with you I think I still prefer to just go ahead and die in the back of my Caddy. Thanks, though."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fix the Cable

by J.T. Dockery

"I said where'd you get your information from, huh?
You think that you can front when revelation comes?"
--Beastie Boys

"Man has sold his soul for time, language, tools, weapons, and dominance."--William S. Burroughs

"Together we shall save our planet. Or together we shall perish in its flames."--JFK

I'm not much of an activist. No sir, not built it for it, me. Which does not mean that I do not collect information and make decisions, which I in turn put into action, based upon my understanding of that information.

Human beings have not really devised a better form of transmitting information than marks on paper. Feel free to disagree with me. I don't argue points. But I'll discuss anything.

Symbols on paper which can be translated into the reader's mind act as a form of telepathy, just as recorded performance, be it film/video, spoken word, or music, act as a kind of time travel device. Until we conquer time travel or understand telepathy to an extent that humans can standardize its use for the average person (which, hey, is probably not necessarily that far off, if not, nefariously now (I'm talking for common, democratic usage)), marks on paper are the best gadget, insofar as it goes. All other gadgets, including the machine I make these facsimile "marks" on "paper" over the electric radio you're reading right now, appear to me as so much gadgetry, show business, and minstrelsy.

That leads me, cough, to the point of this transmission. Back to my own personal internal "activism," I have for quite a while now, based on too many facts, placed a ban on cable television "news" channels as an improper conduit through which to receive information. It rots the brain, jack, should be avoided at all costs, and I give you this advice like a brother (or sister).

Let's dispense of all tinkertoy arguments of "liberal" vs. "conservative." That either/or thinking is merely a shuck and jive and does not exist within any "news" corporation. Cable "news" channels exist to produce revenue through higher ratings and advertising which benefits the corporation of which backs them by manufacturing drama and entertainment under a mask of "information."

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for free market capitalism. It's just the synthetic network of corporate power style capitalism these cable "news" companies represent is not what I call capitalism. I learned in school that laissez-faire capitalism wasn't a good thing. I guess they don't teach that no more.

ALL of these cable "news" entities are selling me things I don't need, be it war or deodorant, and creating an environment of left vs. right which causes citizens to resent fellow citizens over goofy social issues which man has always debated and which keeps the citizenry with paranoid eyes fixed staring at each other and keeps them from turning those same peepers coldly towards its elected officials (outside of the parameters of soap opera drama) and the shadow government of corporations and industrial complexes which prop them up which get away with murder (for starters).

I fear the fix is in. That whatever was meant to be won or lost was lost long ago, and we just watch the residual maintenance of the status quo with this weird behavioral control and the regimentation of keeping on with the keeping on in a thought police state. But when one arrives at that conclusion, that's when one gets a taste of freedom, and one may just start making moves to split from the whole program. But speaking of a taste of freedom, turning off that idiot box, and at the very least those cable "news" programs, brother, it felt and feels mighty good. A lot of noise cut from my life. It made my teeth whiter, and gave me more confidence to win at business and at pleasure.

If you'd told me as a kid what we'd be using Star Trek technology for, I probably woulda walked off into the woods and never come back. That scenario may still not be entirely out of the question.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Booked Passage

by J.S. Holland

Only a couple of you kids have gotten the full report on this yet - and I'll be disclosing more in the days ahead - but soon I'm going to be on the road like Jack Kerouac, and on the road again like Willie Nelson. I'll chase my fortune round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Antares Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give it up, but ultimately, you're looking at a man who's bound for Interzone. Yes, Interzone, land of enchantment, where the beer in the canteloupe lay. Where Jerry Lee Lewis is waiting, at the end of the road.

I've never been to me, but I have been to Interzone a few times before, and lemme tell ya, friends, the food there is exquisite. Any kind of cuisine you're lookin' for, they have it there, provided you like it spicy and with spices of the like you ain't et yet. Why, I bet they even have monkey-picked tea and weasel-chewed coffee. And Petula Clark wasn't just frontin' when she said the lights are much brighter there.

Son, I've seen water towers that look like martians, palm trees that looked like mummies, mummies that looked like Colonels, women who talk like zithers, and zithers the size of vampires. I've drunk shamanic cocktails with hillbilly secret agents in Croatian blacksmith shops, waiting on the Robert E. Lee. I've danced the Hades Ballet with the ghost of Ruth Etting and had our pitcher taken in wallet sized glossies.

I've seen saloon fights fought entirely with guitars, cathouse curtains made of the hides of Johns who didn't pay up, Karaoke bars where all the songs are solely from planets nobody really believes exist, pig races with jockeys, bullfights held in bathrooms, and mind-over-matter billiards matches with entire nations as the stakes. Good times.

I'll send you a postcard. I'll also send you a copy of the report.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Man Behind the Mask

by J.S. Holland

"Man, Evil is real. It is out there. Evil has a face, a look of its own and nothing else looks like it. But for it to be truly terrifying, for evil to do its job it has to hide behind the mask. Evil has to function in society, it has to rub elbows with all the good folks and decent people, it has to been seen smiling all the time as it lurks and lives and breathes its fetid breath down our throats everyday. We live with the horror that at any moment, at any time, that mask will slip off the person next to us and we'll see the face of true evil, true horror."

- Tobe Hooper.

I say, chaps, this here Dollar Tree store is somethin' else, eh what? I was just in the one in Middletown, KY and scored this amazing hardcover edition of Dan Madigan's Mondo Lucha A Go Go for only a clam, a bone, a sawbuck, one American dollar. As a longtime devotee of the noble tradition of Mexico's masked Lucha Libre wrestlers, color me stoked. I researched my way into the genre backwards years ago, after discovering Kentucky's "Appalachian Voodoo" tradition which is definitely influenced by Mexican rasslers - especially Grillo the Clown.

Wrestling expert that he is, Madigan herein covers every conceivable aspect of the sport, from psychology to kitsch to genuine athletic prowess to humorous anecdotes galore. One that gave me a chuckle in particular: "Many times the referee counts at a very leisurely pace to get to twenty. I've been at a few matches where one Luchador was knocked out the ring and ref started counting to twenty. At six I got up, went to the bathroom, got some tacos, a beer, stopped to talk to a friend on the way back to my seat, and when I sat back down the ref was at eleven."

What exactly is my attraction to an obscure genre of Mexican wrestling dating back to the 19th century which rose to global prominence after it began to dovetail with the concept of the horror movie, and after fantasy and reality switched places in the looking glass and neither El Santo nor Rodolfo Guzman Huerta (as his mother knew him) could tell who was who anymore, and which was which?

Partially, it seems to go back to those same pre-Cambrian genetic memories that draw me towards Japanese rubber-suited robots and bug-lookin' cops. And on another level, I'm intrigued by these men who have sculpted themselves into something larger than life (or as Grillo once sang, "larger than big"). I'm reminded of one of my favorite flicks, Inglourious Basterds, where the Hillbilly leader of the Nazi-killing Basterds ("Aldo the Apache") and their evil arch-enemy Hans "Jew Hunter" Landa fight World War II by measuring it in part by their own celebrity. Both the good guy and the bad guy in the film are very interested in their legend and reputation, asking others, "Have you heard of me?" and "What have you heard?"

Lastly, the mystery that is Mexico itself has to figure into it all, obviously. This land packs a powerful mojo and when its ley lines intersect those of Kentucky, something magical happens. Something powerful. Something profound. Also absurd and silly looking. But who can say it isn't beautiful?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

J.T. Dockery Sells Out

by J.T. Dockery

Step right up, step right up. Well, friends, we heard that maybe you'd been spud crazy, that maybe you've been speaking in tongues and just don't know how to illustrate it. Well, friends, don't fret, cause we here at Doc HQ have just the deal to beat the heat and save a dime just in time before all time ends.

That's right. What you heard were not lies...for a limited moment in history, the here and that was then and this is now you can purchase both J.T. Dockery's underground art comix object, In Tongues Illustrated, and his collaboration with writer Nick Tosches (published by Institute 193, with an intro and a foreward by Richard Hell and Bob Levin, respectively), Spud Crazy. For the one low price, and we're not making this up: 30 American dollars.

And what say you there? You already purchased one of those tomes? Well, what the heck. Doc is gonna sell each individually for 20 and will toss in a modest original sketch to sweeten the deal. Ain't he nice?

What's that again? You already bought both tomes previously at full price? Well, friends, we can only say we sure do appreciate you supporting the cause to which we are all so dearly devoted. If ya feel short-changed, drop the man a line...I'm sure he'd lay some original art on ya for a decent price because he's a decent guy. Trust us on that point. Just email him.

Yes, fiends, Romans & cunt-ry men: we're talking about J.T. Dockery's summer of 2011 End Times sale.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The "Go to Hell" Defense

by J.S. Holland

I'm still stunned that there's been such a hue and cry over Rep. Anthony Weiner's "twittergate" incident, and now I'm flat out astonished that Mr. Weiner caved in so quickly and gave in to the Klingon Politics that whipped the hysterical villagers into calling for his resignation.

Weiner had a perfect opportunity to force a national dialogue about sexual freedom of expression onto a nation unwilling to confront it. And he totally blew it. He should have aggressively gone pit-bull on the TV talk shows, and asked his detractors, "Hey sicko, why are you obsessing over my penis, anyway?". Instead of being cowed down by the media hate machine calling him a pervert, he should turned the tables and even more loudly started calling his attackers the real perverts - which they most assuredly are. He should have stonewalled the whole investigation at every turn, dragged it out as long as possible (think Blagojevich's style) and made his enemies exhaust themselves with their absurd smear campaign.

Unfortunately, Weiner's enemies seem to include half the damn Kool-Aid drinkin' country, including his Benedict Arnold colleagues who have now outed themselves as fake Democrats and fake liberals. A real liberal would have fought to defend Rep. Weiner's right to be as foolish and undignified a rake as he likes, as long as he breaks no laws. Is his conduct morally repugnant? Well, why not leave that up to his constituency to determine next election day? Rep. Weiner's sex life is none of my business, and it sure as hell isn't any of yours. And the fact that part of it accidentally leaked out into the public arena makes it no more anyone else's business than before.

Just once, I would like to see someone in similar circumstances walk up to the podium on live national television and say, "Yeah, I did it. So what? I may even do it again, what's it to you? Go to Hell. Thank you and goodnight." If you think you're going in flames, at least go down with your head held high and your principles intact.

I defended Weiner all through this insane controversy, but now that he's resigned, I've changed my mind and I'm glad he's gone - anyone that spineless doesn't belong in Government. If he can't aggressively stand up for himself, why on Earth would anyone think him capable of standing up for his citizens?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Celebrity Numerology

by J.S. Holland

Okay, now this is creepy: I just found a "Celebrity Numerology" site that has a page about me, breaking down my personal numerology profile, astrological info, and biorhythm charts.

Even though I think it's all a buncha fried baloney, I have to say some of their observations about me are fascinating. Check out their "Soul Urge" page about me:

Jeffrey Scott Holland wants success in its fullest meaning - wealth, power, and material comforts. He has an enormous ambition. Jeffrey dreams of big projects, great undertakings, and rewards.

Holland is a visionary. He sees the horizon and the promise. In general, Jeffrey Scott Holland also sees the methods necessary to fulfill that promise. But he is not especially good with details; Jeffrey needs others to help him deal with the smaller parts of the picture. His challenge is to make full use of the full spectrum of his abilities, as indicated by his other core numbers. In the same way, Holland must bring forth the best from others and orchestrate their talents toward the realization of his vision. In short, Jeffrey Scott Holland must lead by example, demonstrating the standard for commitment, determination, and excellence.

Pretty wacky, eh? Wait, it gets wackier. This is from their numerological personality profile of me:

He is hard to get to know, and is often withdrawn. It is common for people to see Jeffrey Scott Holland's focus turn inside of himself in the middle of a conversation. Jeffrey has the makings of an intellectual and an aristocrat but he has to guard against arrogance and an attitude of "I have got it all figured out". There have been periods in Jeffrey Scott Holland's life when he had little concern for his clothing or fashion, while at other times he is very aware of his clothing and uses it to make a specific impression. Jeffrey appears dignified no matter how he dresses, but a well groomed seven with a touch of dash definitely has an advantage. Holland's confidence increases when he knows he is well dressed.

Jeffrey Scott Holland is recognized as spiritual and religious, with his very own ideas regarding the purpose of life and the Creator. He is an inspired speaker, but only when discussing subjects that really interest him. Otherwise, Jeffrey is not one for chatter. His love of knowledge and wisdom shows.

Wow, that's actually hitting a little too close to home. In fact, I had some trepidation about next clicking their "Destiny" page about me. Turns out I'm an "11", which it says here is "the most highly charged destiny number" of them all (say it like Jim Morrison):

Jeffrey Scott Holland has always sensed that he is different, but it was an indefinable feeling. Jeffrey is enormously sensitive and aware, especially as a child. This made Holland vulnerable to all conflicts and painful situations. For most of his upbringing, however, Jeffrey Scott Holland did not realize that other people did not possess the same sensitivity, nor did they see the same things he was seeing.

Holland compensated for his sense of separation in childhood by creating an elaborate fantasy world. He daydreamed more than other children. He had a lively imagination and even in adulthood has a hard time separating reality from fantasy.

Jeffrey Scott Holland's challenge is to bring forth his primitive, earthy strength. He needs to be grounded in order to deal with his lightning bolts. The more Jeffrey is able to call upon his inherent human strength, the greater his capacity to take advantage of his extremely sensitive awareness. Once this is accomplished, Holland's antagonist becomes his benefactor.

Jeffrey is highly emotional and dependent upon relationships. Emotionally, he goes up and down with the fortunes of his love life.

He is idealistic, impractical, and at times disorderly. Holland is often unrealistic in his expectations.

His reasons for doing things are usually born of a mixture of logic, emotion, and intuition, which can rarely be explained satisfactorily to his more rational associates.

I don't know whether to be insulted because the unflattering parts are absolutely spot-on, or to be pleased about the hyper-mystical stroking it's giving me at the same time. I think I'm just gonna try to forget about the whole thing and go lay down and listen to The Monkees some more.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ruby Redbird Rules the Roost

by J.S. Holland

Damn. Tough day at the office. I almost never say that, so when I do, you know, it was some fresh hell indeed.

Last night I, uh, overindulged somewhat with the Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka (It seemed so heavenly yesterday, but today, the day after, even typing its name makes me shudder.) But it was fun while it lasted, and much revelry was had as my compatriots and I really "tied a yellow ribbon round the Festivus tree with Jackie Gleason", as the well-worn adage goes.

Problem is, too much alcohol actually gives me a blood-sugar-bounce energy boost rather than a sick, hung over, sleep late the next day kinda thing. So I popped awake at 4:30am feeling ready to rock and roll. I should have fought the insomnia off (mind over matter, dontcha know) and rolled over back to sleep, because I crashed early today. The rainy gloomy morning weather didn't help, and neither did my car's driver-side door suddenly refusing to close - which means ALL DAY TODAY I've had to drive around holding onto the door with one hand to keep it from swinging out and smashing into stuff. Add to this a whole host of communication cock-ups that have been pluckin' on my last nerve string all day. It's the usual bit with Flakes and the realization that we're facing a dying nation like in the movie Idiocracy: people not saying what they mean, people not meaning what they say, people filing reports with non-sequitur information I didn't ask for, people just plain not understanding what I'm saying when I'm speaking the plainest English I am capable of mustering. Lay off the NutraBook and FaceSweet, y'all.

So when I finally trudge home to recline on the ol' JSH plantation, it's nice to have three bottles of Shiner Ruby Redbird waiting on me in the ol' JSH icebox. It's a new taste treat I've discovered this week, grabbed primarily on a whim. It's a limited edition seasonal beer brewed with grapefruit and ginger. Don't let that put you off - it's very subtle, and if I hadn't uttered the words "grapefruit and ginger" I think you'd dig it and just marvel at the notes that you can't quite put your finger on.

"The Perfect Summer Beer" is Ruby Redbird's tagline, and it ain't lyin'. I'm enjoying lounging around in the grass right now as I make some noise with the keys and touchpad (We have all kinds of crazy insectoid wildlife out here, from soldier beetles to weird bat-moths to dirty ladybugs, but fortunately one thing we don't have is chiggers.)

And now I'm going to finish my third one and head to the studio out back and throw some paint at some canvases. Maybe I can get something of value created before this day's a total dud. With the power of the Redbird coursing through my veins, I feel confident good things are about to happen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Crack the Whip

by J.S. Holland

It's just one of those days where I feel like sitting around watching Luis Bunuel movies and drinking whipped cream flavored vodka. Just is.

I don't normally go in for the "flavored vodka" routine. All those multiplicities of variety that Absolut offers, for example, leaves me cold. But Absolut is pricey, and I got this Pinnacle on sale; I expected very little of Pinnacle and so was pleasantly surprised when I found it perfectly palatable as is, and not as a mere mixer. I've been sipping shots of it all day strictly on its own merits. I know should probably cook up some sort of crazy Ohio Riverwater Fizz-like concoction with it for my cocktail blog, but for now I'm content drinking it straight, no junk in it.

Pinnacle comes from the fine folks at White Rock Distilleries, who also brought the world exciting products like Sweet Carolina (a southern sweet tea flavored vodka) and Cherry Jack rum. Pinnacle's actually a relatively high-end item, quadruple distilled from French wheat from the Brie region and French spring water. á votre santé!

But now, the JSH Plantation Bunuel Film Festival is over, and it's time to set about watching The Ninth Configuration over and over for the remains of the night. I bid you adieu, my lovelies, and remember: if you're out tonight, on your bike, wear white. Evening, all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Do It Now

by J.S. Holland

It's been over 20 years since mine eyes have beheld that old RE:Search "Industrial Culture" book, but a bit from its Boyd Rice interview has stuck in my craw ever since. I'm paraphrasing from memory here, of course, but he said in a nutshell that his basic philosophy was "Do it now". "Write a song, propose to a girl, whatever - do it NOW."

Many philosophers have expressed similar sentiments over the years, of course, including myself. But the old "Law of Attraction" positive-thinking bit has been proven scientifically, to my satisfaction at least, of being valid. Not that any thinkers of new thoughts ever cared about getting Big Science's validation, anyhoo.

This is not to be interpreted as a call for impulsive, thoughtless, reckless lunacy, of course; but if after giving any particular matter due thought, you still find yourself frozen in indecision and immobility, then get off the pot and pick a di-rection. And if there's no time to think, then just ACT. Don't drive yourself bonkers with this "Lady or the Tiger" junk, either door you pick you're gonna die in the end anyway. Yes you are.

(And if you keep yourself sharp and aware, chances are you won't be in any indecision in the first place - you'll immediately respond as if by reflexes with the best course of action. Don't think you're quite that sharp? Well, get sharp, Bucko. 'Cause later is now.)

You might tell yourself that you're living on Creeps Time like them Victorian Squares fellers; that you really are gonna do all the things you said you were gonna do someday. But Creeps Time isn't some high-falutin' quantum excuse to do nothing - it's the temporal indulgence of talking something to death that may not actually come to fruition for another decade. (Call it "pre-promotion.") With it comes the implication that while you're doing that, you're also doing stuff RIGHT NOW that you were talking about a decade AGO. Unfortunately, for most people "Someday" is, like my good friend and billiards partner Roy Miller says, "just a code word for Never."

Right now I sense there's someone reading this who wants to do something big, something great. Maybe it's running for office. Maybe it's opening a taco stand in Irvine. Maybe it's writing a blog that blows the whistle on the peanut butter conspiracy. Maybe it's just finding the rock of your dreams to crawl under in Utah and set up housekeeping. Don't just sit there like a knob, do it NOW before the whole house of cards collapses. Because doing nothing is the worst possible thing you could do.

Make a decision, Jack. I've already made my decision. I'm here to help others make theirs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

by J.S. Holland

"You've been looking at your life through a mirror
It's time you started seeing things a little bit clearer.
I got some things I'm trying to show you,
But you fade away, how can I get to know you?"

"I'm better off alone."

"I'd like to thank all you good people for coming to my aid."

"My, my, the clock in the sky is pounding away."

"I've led a thousand lives, it seems
There's been a lot of broken dreams;
I've never made this kind of vow
That was then, this is now."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Two-Way Communication

by J.S. Holland

People are scared to talk on the phone these days. I know this because I'm always learning too late of important time-sensitive messages and changes of plans from people who invariably say, "Well, I did email you about it. I hate talking on the phone."

Guess what, my Smartphone-spoiled chums? I don't live on the internet. I check my email every day, but if I'm supposed to meet you at Firpo's Pizza at 6 and you crap out at 5:30, you have to call me. Or even text me, for Pete's sake. I welcome text messages, for those of you afraid to speak to a live human.

I find that some of my most Facebook-addicted acquaintances are among the most glaring examples of people who practice telephone avoidance. Coincidence? I think not. People really are starting to prefer Facebook to actual interaction, even of the telephone sort. That frightens me.

And the really crazy part is, they'll sign away all rights to privacy on Facebook and the rest of the spy-laden internet, but they keep their phone number protected as if it's some sort of state secret. Someone I know actually said once on Twitter, "I don't want to give my phone number out here, it's too dangerous." Dangerous how? Werewolves hiding in the bushes? My phone number is 502.649.3378 and I don't care who knows it. Find me.

(Synchronicity dept.: as I type these words, Wendy Torrance on the TV just said "Our telephones don't seem to be doing so well.")

Awhile back I was monitoring a thread about a breaking news story on an internet message board. The crux of the discussion was over whether a certain business location was open on Sundays. Most went for pages on the thread shrugging their shoulders going, "gosh, if only we had a way to find out." Then a slightly smarter breed of geek said "Dude, you're on the internet. Use a search engine, dumbass." This resulted in conflicting data, however, and several pages more of the thread were taken up with bitter squabbles over how some web pages listed the business as being open on Sundays while others said it was not.

I settled the argument and chimed in to the discussion that I'd ascertained the place was in fact open. They demanded to know how. "Simple," I said, "I picked up the damn phone and called them."

"Oh. Ha ha. Cool."

It literally had not occurred to anyone to do that.

Wake up, people. You hold in your hand a tiny device that is capable of contacting almost anyone in the United States without long-distance charges (assuming you have a sensible flat-fee full-coverage calling plan, as I do) via a space satellite network. USE IT!

(The inevitable "having said that": I'm actually going to be ditching my land line (pictured above) very soon and will be working toward jettisoning my cellphone (pictured at top) in the next year or so. You wanna get ahold of me then, you'll have to call my secretary or personal assistant. I'll be on the high seas, gone fishin'.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cumberland's Wonderland

by J.S. Holland

My newest favorite restaurant in L-ville is one of my oldest favorites all over again. When I first transferred to this burg back in 2004, Cumberland Brews in the heart of Highlands hipsterdom was one of the first places I regularly made the scene. But with all the eatin' and drankin' that's come and gone down the pike since then, my old buddy Cumberland kinda got lost in the shuffle play; soon I became obsessively enamored of O'Shea's Irish Pub, then Spinelli's, then The Patron, then Mojito Tapas, then Seviche, then Havana Rumba, and Ernesto's and The Blind Pig, and well, a man can only support so many fine eat-houses on the salary of an artist/writer/ne'er-do-well.

Now all things old are new again, and I'm back in the saddle again at Cumberland Brews, picking up on some nice things I've missed. One of my recent fixations this year has been on fermentation, though you haven't heard me speak much of it - a project to home-ferment my own Mead, medieval-style, in a mason jar in my kitchen resulted in a rather foul-tasting substance. So, I may just content myself to sup the miraculous Mead offered here at CB's - it's 4.50 for a dinky half pint as opposed to a pint, and Happy Hour does not apply to it. So why get it? Because it's 670% awesome, and fermented from local honey. (Also, it's 7.0 ABV, as opposed to most CB offerings which are 5-ish.)

Oh yeah, I hear they serve food here too. My bison burger was good.

Now back to the booze: then I switched to their Belgian style Moonbow Wit, which had an extremely powerfully hoppy yet non-bitter whang to it. How did they do that? It's amazing. To say that it's like drinking Jasmine tea or flower-oil will put you off and give you the wrong impression, but remember, hops are flowers, and I found this to be the first super-hoppy brew I've ever quaffed that matches perfectly the delicate and mysterious Austrian nose-feel of Stammheimer Hopfenschnupf, that sniffy delight that's defined my decade even though I only discovered it four years ago.

(And permit me to strike a caddish tone for just a sentence, but it must be said, gentlemen, that the ladies serving the burgers and brewskis are each more beautiful than the other.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Havana Affair

by J.S. Holland

I didn't go into Macy's intending to walk out with an $80 bottle of cologne, but sometimes fate arranges these things. I was on a quest for a Stetson hat that came up fruitless, actually. But on my meandering way wandering out I stopped at the cologne counter to see if they had any Fahrenheit 32 (Henri Bendel aside, my scent of choice). I got hornswoggled into trying a buncha new stuff by a smooth-talkin' gal who was actually not in the employ of Macy's but travels from venue to venue setting up as a guest vendor, hyping various specialty lines of product.

I was actually getting sucked in to her sales pitch (no one can sell men's products to a man better than a woman) on a couple of different products like Burberry and Thierry Mugler A*Men, when she just happened to mention that she was also workin' a new ultra-limited edition A*Men line that smelled like cigars. Yes, cigars.

I was sold on it before she even sprayed the tester-bottle onto the paper card.

A*Men Havane, it's called, and it's part of this once-a-year series of small-batch smellums they put out for men (coffee and malt have been past themes). I can see why they do 'em in limited fancy runs - most people either avoid the smell of tobacco, or they smell like tobacco already. But this cologne has a musky vanilla undercurrent that the rich tobacco-leaf scent lays stretched out on, like a nubile Goth girl sprawled across a gravestone in some hipster photographer's portfolio. That is to say, I like it.

I confess I initially doubted the saleslady's forthrightness about the exclusity of the stuff, and ran down to Sephora real quick to see if they offered it cheaper and in a smaller bottle. Asked two different people there and neither had even heard of the stuff. So I immediately shlepped back to Macy's and plunked down the card. Sold American. Er, Cuban.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Closing Walls and Ticking Clocks

by J.S. Holland

Sitting here sipping iced tea, enjoying my pipe on the veranda, and listening to Coldplay's "Clocks", I am reminded once again that sometimes things happen for a reason.

The other day, after having left a certain store that will not be named, in a shopping mall that will - Oxmoor - I sat on a bench to relax and watch the fountain for a bit. But soon I became aware that some chubby employee from said store had followed me, and was standing watching me with his cellphone extended. Either the man has a very peculiar way of texting, or he was taking my photograph. The hell?! But why? Did he think I was a shoplifter? Did he think I was an enemy agent working for Interzone, Inc. trying to steal the MacGuffin? Or maybe he just thought I was cute.

I stood up and made eye contact with him as I walked towards him and he got this panicked "uh oh, I'm busted" look on his face. Instead of confronting him, I decided to walk past him down another mall corridor. But I checked out the glass store reflections in my peripheral vision, and I'll be damned if spyboy wasn't still following me! So I ducked into the Oxmoor Smoke Shoppe, which is always a good idea anyway, even if one isn't being shadowed by some creepy geek in a blue shirt. Again with the peripheral vision, I saw fatboy pause outside the store, momentarily indecisive about what to do now. He continued walking on, and I turned my attention to Mr. Tucker's impressive array of apothecary jars filled with high-end high-octane fancy tobacco blends.

I lifted several lids and sniffed the heady delights of real pipeshag worthy of sailors of the seven seas, from the Gulf of Mexico to Aldebaran. I felt a genuine flash of past-life memory standing there, whiffs of the ocean, blood, unpasteurized milk, bay rum, ambergris, gunpowder, and some pilgrim guy who smelled like a goat. I don't mean that this is what the tobacco actually smelled like; I'm just sayin'.

I chose a blend called "Holy Smoke", so named because the formula was created for the shop many years ago by a religious gentleman from the local Seminary. It contains four different kinds of Virginia, just a little burley, and a little Cavendish. And, I reckon, some special kind of casing whose flavor cannot be adequately described in three dimensional communication. Ask a Monk.

By the time I've typed this far into the blog entry, I'm now listening to Men Without Hats sing "Lose my Way" which is rather appropriate because lost is a good place to be right now and a good place to be going; either lost in the stars like Kurt Weill or lost like LOST. And, of course, lost in the earthy delights of the Holy Smoke.

Holy Smoke is moist and coarsely cut, and somehow manages to be powerfully aromatic without being nauseting. Its room note is virtually identical to what you get when you sniff the bag, which came as a nice surprise. Its grey porous sweetness (that's my synesthesia kicking in) also has a salty, briny component that really snaps me to attention and makes me pause and go ".....oh!" like someone having a satori. Which, in fact, I am.

It set me back six-something for a hefty 2 oz. bag (I think he actually loaded me up with a lot more than that), and I love it so much that I could see cellaring the stuff by the jarful myself. I also plan on packing it along in great quantities when I pack up the plantation and go on the road later this summer, hopefully two steps ahead of all stalkers. But hey, what the heck; everything that's supposed to happen sooner or later does.

"If you smell the smoke, you don't need to be told what you've got to do..." - Devo, "Here To Go".

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back to the Basics

by J.T. Dockery

It's been a while, so let me reacquaint you with my boxing/cigar smoking style. Luckily for me, this Transylvanian abroad, found a couple, Emily Sauter and Ryland Ianelli, who (along with Ryland's roomie, Bryan Stone), had me over at their place here in White River Junction, Vermont to watch the rematch between Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal (they had it downloaded and saved).

What a fight to get back in the boxing groove, sports fans. Pascal had somewhat controversially won by decision their first go, and Hopkins, at age 46, was back to prove himself (and take the record away from Foreman for the oldest title winning champ).

Usually when folks ask me who I am pulling for in a boxing match, my response is, "whoever fights the best fight." There is a chink in my scientifically neutral perspective, and that usually comes into play with older fighters. I can't help but feel sentimental if it's a boxer's last shot at glory. I always figure the younger guys can come back from a defeat. There was no way to spectate this fight, for me, without wanting to cheer on Hopkins.

Despite seeming to lag early on, he came back, dominated the fight, and from a panel of judges they seemed to have searched world over for neutrality due to the aforementioned controversy, he took back the title from Pascal. Exciting fight, maybe even in my top ten, at least top twenty, that have happened in my viewing lifetime.

We drank Narragansset lager; it's the "official beer of the clam," dontcha know (learning the ins and outs of regional northeastern beers, stay tuned for more on that later), and smoked Don Tomas cigars. It was a good Sunday.