All posts by bustatimbo

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” –Ernest Hemingway How many can claim that their understanding of the word “Apocalypse” spurred from—no, not the Bible—a 3,000 year old super villain left over from ancient Egyptian times that exists in only the Marvel Universe? How about their first taste of Greek Mythology coming from a straight-laced leader of the X-Men: Cyclops? All writers for this site, put down your hands. My love for literature started when I was sitting on my front porch when I was six-ish years old. A lanky, ugly, and unfoundedly pompous young gentleman named Brian Kronner crashed his bike in my front lawn because he was trying to carry too many action figures. From this introduction, I began reading comic books voraciously. I loved the ideas, and the words that got me there. Brian opened doors for me through this clumsiness, a trait he never quite got over. It was only a matter of time until that appetite for ideas took me to new areas like Mark Twain, Billy Shakespeare, and Ernest Hemingway. That’s where I’m coming from.

The Great American Beer Festival – A GB Report

Saturday, October 12 2013: With over 4,000 beers to choose from, the first emotion that struck me walking into the Great American Beer Festival was awe. From Thursday, October 10 through Sunday, October 13, Downtown Denver, Colorado was inundated with eager hop heads, and mellowed malt devotees. Nearly encircling the Colorado Convention Center, the crowd munched on their pretzel necklaces (though I did see bagels, candy bars, and even a baguette on one) with fervor once reserved for children on Christmas Eve. They were there for the world beverage: Beer!

Here are the highlights of the ales that I really enjoyed, those that I didn’t, and those that confused my senses and sensibilities:

The Good

Wasatch Brew Pub and Brewery: Pumpkin Ale, Park City, Utah

Style: Pumpkin/Yam Beer

4% ABV

Why: It tasted like a great pumpkin pie, but without the over spiced syrupy taste that tends to be included. It was crisp and light, but straight pumpkin.

Fate Brewing Company: Watermelon Kolsch, Boulder, Colorado

Style: Fruit/Kolsch

5% ABV

Why: Man I wish I would have had this on a hot summer day! Since Kolsch is so light it simply steps out-of-the-way of the pure sweet watermelon.

Boom Island Brewing Company: Brimstone Tripel, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Style: Belgian Tripel

9.5% ABV

Why: According to the brewery representative who poured my ale, and also may have been founder and brewer Kevin Welch, Tripels shouldn’t be sweet, rather, clean and crisp. This brew certainly was that. I couldn’t even tell the alcohol content, which makes this dangerous, but stylistically pure. I often avoid the heavy Belgians because of the overwhelming power and combination of tastes, but this one hit a clean note.

Right Brain Brewing Company: Naughty Girl Stout, Traverse City, Michigan

Style: American Stout

5.8% ABV

Why: Great take on what has turned in to a staple of American imbibery. While I wished for a little more mint on the end, the nose was full of chocolate and coffee. I would like this with a fresh chocolate cake, preferably with this stout cooked into the batter.

Darwin’s on Fourth: Charapa, Sarasota, Florida

Style: Spiced Porter

7% ABV

Why: According to the display, this beer is brewed with “Amazon Cacao, Annatto, Florida Orange Blossom Honey, and Aji Charapita Peppers,” which combined to form the most interesting ale of the night for me. It started with a sweet citrus and coffee nose and front, and then hit the middle of the tongue with the pleasant porter froth. Finally, the piece de resistance, the warmth of the pepper at the end: enough to grab attention, but not leaving you breathing heavy.

The Bad

This is a short list, as I really avoided most beers that would be less than stellar, but here goes:

Big Hurt Brewery: Big Hurt Beer, Monterey, California

Style: Malt Liquor

7% ABV

Why: Even though I got a photo with owner and former MLB slugger Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas, this truly was not anything I would buy. I’d rather get Mickey’s or Red Dog. I will add though, this was my favorite conversation with a representative all night. When I asked Mr. Thomas why he started making beer after baseball, he responded with, “Why? Beer and baseball go together!” For that, I would buy one cup at the ballpark. Then no more.

great american beer festival 6

Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company: Kentucky Kolsch, Lexington, Kentucky

Style: Bourbon-Barrel Kolsch

4% ABV

Why: This take on the Euro-classic was simply a poor combination of flavors. The LBDC makes some really great stuff, but this isn’t it.

The Strange

These aren’t necessarily nasty, maybe mediocre, possible positive. Try them and tell me what I think:

Boston Brewing Company: Utopias (2013), Boston, Massachusetts

Style: American Strong Ale

29% ABV

Why: This hurt to drink. When the reps started pouring this, all of the aficionados came a running. They were looking to the beer gods and praising their glories. I don’t get it. I’ll probably get yelled at by the holier-than-thou beer geeks, but this I just can’t palate the punch, especially when it cost 190 dollars for last year’s batch. Seriously.

Empire Brewing Company: Golden Dragon, Syracuse, New York

Style: Belgian Style Gold Ale

7.7% ABV

Why: This would make a great base to cooking Asian food. With Organic Thai Basil grown locally, this beer grabbed my attention right quick. I don’t know if I would enjoy a full pint, but the taster was striking.

Medal Winners

If you were interested in other opinions than mine, try these two links, which will explain the big winners of the 2013 GABF.

– Great American Beer Festival: Winners

– Brewer’s Association

The Experience

With all this in mind, here are some photos of my experience at this year’s GABF. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

The Great American Beer Festival Is The Place To Be

That’s right ladies and gents; yours truly will be attending the Academy Awards of beer gatherings. While is this my fourth time going to the GABF, it is my first time wit a press pass, which will include hobnobbing with the likes of Jim Cook, founder of Sam Adams Brewing Company, and a special “press only” bus tour of some of the finest breweries of the greater Denver area. Oh, I’m fancy.

Gloating aside, I’m truly excited at the opportunity to get in the doors early, and maybe even have a “press only” bathroom, as opposed to the overused port-o-johns that turn hellish within the first two hours. Come on Saturday!

great american beer festival crowd shot

If you’ve no knowledge of this Mecca of all that is beer, it is a three day festival at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. I’ll have my choice of taste-testing two ounce samples of 3,000+ brews, including everything from the big boys (Bud, Miller, Coors, etc.) to the sincere crafts (Bell’s, O’Dell’s, etc.). I already have my GABF app on my phone ready to guide me. I have passes to the Saturday night session, which in the past has translated to “super-drunk, oh crap the vendors are running out of beer. Drink faster!”

Click here for more information on the GABF:

Here are a few of the highlights of the experience:

  • Booing every time someone drops their two ounce plastic memorable cup.
  • Hitting random cups out of people’s hands to get everyone to boo them.
  • Trying the 3,000 beers (I will lose count, but I will start out trying)
  • Strange drunkards wearing stranger costumes
  • Hopefully seeing Frank Thomas again! (“The Big Hurt” beer…better than Kid Rock’s)
  • A line of port-o-johns a half mile long
  • Free swag from breweries (I love my PBR t-shirt)
  • Tasting some of the most inventive beers in the world
  • Tasting some of the strongest, strangest, nastiest, or all of the above
  • Trying to get my 50 beers from 50 states badge
  • Not driving home (thank you wife)
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

So early next week (because Sunday likely will not be productive for me) be looking for my personal narrative on the chaos, the debauchery, the sophomoric attempt to validate inebriation: The Great American Beer Festival. By the way, the GABF is on the list of “1000 places to see before you die.” I’m just saying.






A Votre Sante

P.S. Even if you can’t make it to the GABF, download the app. If you want to try the best of the best, look for the medal winners after the festival. Most will be fantastic.

Album Review: Hot Fiction “Apply Within”

The Before:

Two-man bands have been a staple to the post-alternative rock scene for the last ten or so years. I tend to make assumptions about the sound: blues-inspired grungy riff-rock. The names The White Stripes and The Black Keys certainly come to mind. I appreciate the straight-forward style and deceiving simplicity of much that this genre (is it fair to call it so?) has offered.

Much in the vein of the aforementioned bands, British band Hot Fiction, brings forth their sophomore effort, Apply Within, out October 18th. The band describes it as a “soulful awakening”, though I’m not sure if that “awakening” is meant for the band or the listener. Regardless of the intent, they better make their points quick, as the album clocks in under the 40 minute mark.

The band is comprised of drummer/vocalist Andy Yeoh and guitarist/vocalist Simon Miller.

The After:

The band has a comfortable feel. It certainly fulfills my expectation of blues-inspired grungy riff-rock. However it does consistently feel fresh mainly due to the tunes’ strong melodies (see Harder Than Before) and percussion work that has that pleasant clarity and subtlety of not being canned. The guitar work is appropriate for the genre (are we still good with this?) of two-man riff-rock, and doesn’t rely too heavily on effects to draw in the listener, which is something that I have found to be draining on my ear juice.

Yeoh’s voice is strange at times (Gotta Go); pulling in and out of pitchy, frail to bold, and even 1960s white soul to Nick Drake circa Northern Sky (see Broken In a Good Way). And while I’m trying to figure out and adjust, the vocals blend with Miller’s guitar work that has many of the same qualities.

Ultimately, what kept me interested in the songs was the constant push and pull between the simplicity and dissonance of the melodies (see Sweet Goodbye). There is a fluidity to this album, even though the separate tunes hearken to different influences, conscious or not, such as the afore mentioned Nick Drake in Broken In a Good Way, a less orchestrated and instrumented The Band in You’re Not Alone, and even a streamlined Blood Sweat and Tears on No Soul.

As a side note, this is the point where I am conflicted over the possibilities of more instrumentation verses the uncomplicated nature of two-man groups like Hot Fiction. On one hand you have such potential to show range and counter-melody, but on the other you have the ability to become highly cohesive and streamlined in approach and purpose.

Regardless of my ramblings, Hot Fiction has put together an album in “Apply Within” that grooves, moves, and flows. This is a band that I could see developing further from influenced to influential as they explore their sound and push away from the precedents.

I give this album 3.5 g-bears.

Hot Fiction’s YouTube Channel

Craptastic Review: Riki-Oh (The Story of Ricky)

“It’s Evil Dead 2, Braindead, and the Matrix…times ten, turned up to eleven!” (DVD tagline)

After watching the first half of the Chinese film Riki-Oh, I contemplated not being able to appropriately label a review of the film as “craptastic”. Also, I contemplated not being able to hold my bowels. I found myself through the duration incredulously gasping “Holy shit!” and thus, could not decide if it was a fair that such a strong visceral reaction could warrant a review that would fit into the same category as those of Grizzly Park, DIEner, and Mega Piranha. However, after the title character Ricky (Riki) punched through yet another face as if it were made of wedding cake, I realized that this film was a redefinition of ‘craptastic’: loose plot, campy acting, and grotesque physical effects combine to deliver a highly entertaining romp through a futuristic 2001 (remember, the film is from 1991) Chinese prison.

The plot revolves around Ricky (Fan Siu-wong), sentenced to who-cares how many years for murdering the crap out of a guy who gave Ricky’s girlfriend the drugs that eventually led to her suicide. While rushing at said murdered guy, Ricky takes five bullets in the chest. No big deal. Did I mention that Ricky has super human abilities? No? Well let me explain…

Ricky is a bad mother. Through the movie, he routinely calls on supernatural forces that are never explained besides some references to the devil inside him. This results in punching through body parts, reattaching, then using, severed arteries, and, well, I don’t want to give up too much. Depending on the cut you can find (I found it on Netflix instant stream), the movie is rated NC-17 or R. Netflix has the R version, which obviously means I missed out on more ridiculous gore. ‘Tis a shame. ‘Tis indeed.

The plot continues as Ricky realizes the injustices of the prison he occupies, and he sets out to make changes to the order and mistreatment to his fellow, weak, inmates. (Side note: except for Ricky and the antagonists—the Gang of Four and the Assistant Warden—every other character would be someone’s girlfriend in the US prison system) The result is an explosion of outlandish fight scenes and visual effects that have surpassed the film in fame. At points the make-up and transformations made me directly think of 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China. You know the guy that puffs up and explodes? Yep. Delightful.

For those of you old enough to remember someone other than Jon Stewart as the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, you may remember that Craig Kilborn’s version of the show routinely used a head smashing scene from the movie, seen here:

If that isn’t enough to motivate you, try this stellar use of dialogue:

After Ricky disembowels an enemy, the same guy uses his intestines to strangle Ricky (no, disembowelment is not enough to kill him silly) and the assistant warden cheerily yells, “You’ve got a lot of guts, Oscar!”  I hope that was just poor translation.

Anyway, I give this Craptastic movie a three out of five g-bears.

The Hunger Games: The Influences…

With the approaching release of The Hunger Games (March 23rd), I thought it would be a good time to gain (or regain) some perspective on the possible influences on the plot of the much acclaimed book series.  Now, when I first thought of writing on this topic, I took the stance that the book series, written by Susanne Collins, was simply a bastardization of some quality pieces of art and entertainment (not always at the same time). After sharing some of those thoughts with my 7th grade students – Collins target audience – I have realized that many fans of the series are blindly convinced of its originality, as well as the authenticity of the themes and plot of the books. However, they are just as blindly willing to watch or read the various films and novels that have shaped their being.

Before going any further, I know many of you will automatically think, “Nothing is original anymore!” If you want to have that argument, view the profound “Everything Is a Remix” blog. My point here is not to say that unoriginality is terrible, but rather point out possible influences on the forthcoming movie which I think are more interesting and poignant than the young adult novels.

Theseus and the Minotaur

One of the greatest places to find stories to reinvent is from Greek and Roman Mythology. The premise of the hero Theseus running around the Labyrinth contending with a Minotaur as punishment for the wrong-doings of Athens is intriguing. In a Q and A with publisher Scholastic, Collins admitted that the basic premise of a government that sends youths into a battleground as punishment for the past came from the brutal Greek Myth.

This is a pretty clear modernization of that basic premise.

The Running Man (1987)

The next step in forming The Hunger Games is obvious: include the Governator. The basic plot of The Running Man is that a wrongly accused man is set for public execution on television. This is not simply flick of the switch type execution. Rather, the execution is a commercially driven television game show, in which viewers are rewarded with entertainment, and not necessarily justice. The movie is like many Arnie flicks: lots of campy action, one liners, and guilty pleasures. However, the premise is disturbing, and the idea that people gain entertainment from others’ pain and suffering is appalling, if not true to modern times, i.e. Survivor, Mixed Martial Arts, and any “reality” dating, singing, or makeover show.

The connection to Collins’ series is clear: the people in the Capital city of Panem are completely desensitized to the violence of ‘the Hunger Games’, and find the brutal destruction and death to be the greatest form of entertainment.

Battle Royale (2000)

In the near future, 42 students are forced by Japanese legislation to compete in Battle Royale, an all-out three day massacre in which all students are given a random weapon, some meager supplies, and are told that only one student can come out alive.

Sound familiar?

If you haven’t seen Battle Royale, you really shouldn’t be allowed to see The Hunger Games, which will seem like a Disney story in comparison. The violence is disturbing, and the reactions of the students are likely very accurate as to how the masses would act in such a situation. Battle Royale comes across more on the psychological mutilation that occurs within people, and the inhumanity that a government requires to keep control.

Besides these main three, there are many other allusions one could infer from the Hunger Games. These connections are slightly vaguer, and may apply to the second and third books in the series, so my logic may not hold…

Star Wars

Youth becomes the face of rebellion. Youth’s mentor is a has-been, and doesn’t inform youth of all that he knows. Like the fact that his father IS Darth Vader!


Love triangle. Which one of the flawless mates will she choose? Bah.

With the success of the publishing of Twilight in 2005, it is not surprising that Collins (who published in 2008) chose the love triangle angle instead of a Romeo and Juliet type.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The struggles of youths faced with the politics of ‘survival of the fittest’.

Regardless of whether you are a fan of The Hunger Games or not, you’ve got to appreciate many of the themes explored through it and its predecessors. Despite my perpetual pessimism with popular culture, and my want for originality in art and entertainment, I can take solace in how Collins responded to the question: “What do you hope your readers will come away with…?”

Collins: “Questions about how elements of the book might be relevant in their own lives. And, if they’re disturbing, what they might do about them.”