Thursday, November 22, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Across the Universe

A few years ago, Steve and I were in New York to celebrate Halloween. While walking around the city, we stumbled upon a Vietnam protest march being filmed for a movie. We stood back and watched for a while until we were shooed away by a underpaid production assistant. Over the years, I always wondered what that movie was, and if I'd ever get to see it. Lo and behold, that movie was "Across the Universe", the Moulin Rouge-esque musical based on art, music, and love in the 60's, with a Beatles filled soundtrack and numerous cameos. I went to see it this past Saturday night, once again in the hotbed of cultural expression, Palmyra. The movie is about a young British guy, Jude, who goes to America to find his father, falls in with a drop out from an ivy league school, falls in love with his new friends sister, Lucy, and then moves to New York City. Jude and Lucy are in a whirlwind romance, until Lucy's brother, Max, is drafted for the Vietnam war. Lucy becomes highly political and becomes part of the revolution protesting the war, while Jude escapes into his art. This difference places a crowbar between them, and their love begins to falter.
This movie is a love story, however the backdrop and decade is integral. The movie paints a beautiful world on top of an ugly one, and shows love as well as pain. The issues of the time are not hidden or glossed over, and attention is paid to the equal rights struggle of blacks, Martin Luther King's death, and the nation's response to the Vietnam war.
Visually, this movie is stunning. The film is not only narrated using Beatles songs, but travels throughout the Beatles musical career with corresponding visual styles, at times carefree, and at other times trippy and experimental; an ultimate homage.
While this movie is placed in history and plays with nostalgia, it was still incredibly fresh. Having heard most of the songs previously, viewing them on screen in the context of this film, I found them to have a completely new perspective and energy. From Jude singing an exasperated version of "Revolution" to the appalled Lucy, to a young black boy singing "Let it be" while his family marched down the streets holding his casket after he died in a riot, to Max singing "Happiness is a Warm Gun" while rotting in a hospital bed after being wounded in battle, the songs became fresh and poignant. The choreography was equally as impressive with unconventional dance steps and movements, at times fluid and dream like, and at other times highly chaotic and intense.
Another instance of fresh nostalgia was the issue of the war. The opposition to Vietnam, I felt, paralleled the Iraq war, the only difference being that in the 60's people believed in a revolution and fought for it. Several intense riot scenes were shown in the film, and viewing them brought me to tears, not because of the violence, but because of the power people felt they had and were willing to assert. Watching the masses stand up to the government, even if they didn't succeed, was both inspiring and illuminating.
This movie was incredibly thoughtful and well executed. A perfect film.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hooray Beer! Part 2

Yesterday I toured the Troegs brewing facility in Harrisburg. I met Jena, Rachelle, Jake, Dee and Ed at Troegs, expecting us to make up the bulk of the tour group. Upon entering, we realized that not only were we not the only ones, but we were some of the last to arrive. There were approximately fifty beer aficionados and former frat boys waiting in line for 4 oz glasses of Mad Elf (which retails at almost $50 a case) and Troegenator. After puffing out my chest and throwing some well placed elbows, I made it to the front and sampled about two beers (adhering to the one-at-a-time rule) before the tour began. We filed through a door and stood in front of massive brewing tanks awaiting our tour guides knowledge. Troegs is a 10 year old company started by two brothers who love beer. They dreamed of owning and operating a brewery, so they worked from the bottom up, attending brewing schools across the US and doing grunt work in order to learn anything and everything they could about the business. The flavors are based solely on the taste buds of the two brothers and even has an expiration date that adheres to their tastes. They are so insistent upon the quality of their beer, that once an expiration date approaches, the distributors are instructed to pull the cases off the shelves and ship them back to Troegs. This thought gave me a moment of pause, forcing me to seriously contemplate escaping from the tour and Scooby-dooing around the facilities looking for a room filled with past due beers. Sigh. We toured the plant, seeing the numerous brewing tanks, and even the small tank that is used for experimental brews. We were able to taste an array of pre-beer hops, including ones that tasted nutty and others that tasted of chocolate, and smell post-brewing barley, which smelled faintly of hamster food soaked in cat pee. Mmm! The tour then proceeded to the bottling room, where we learned that Troegs chooses brown glass bottles to package their beer in in order to filter out ultra violet light. Ultra violet light is everywhere and is capable of skunking a beer in 90 seconds. Many beers are knowingly packaged in clear bottles, either with skunk as part of the flavor profile of the beer, or with specially manufactured clear bottles that can filter the rays just like brown glass. I also learned that this is the reason that traditional German beer steins are made of porcelain and have lids. The tour concluded in the tasting room we started in. We sampled some more of the beers, including the Dreamweaver Wheat and the Hop Back Amber Ale. Even though I recently toured the Appalachain Brewing Company this tour was very different and well worth the time spent.