There’s no Beer like Andechs Beer

I consider myself unbelievably lucky that four years ago, while touring Europe before a term abroad in Rome, my German aunt and uncle brought me (and Natalee!) to Andechs, a brewery and monastery located about 45 minutes from Munich.  On top of that, I got to visit again, two years later.

Reading this Atlantic Food piece about Andechs is sort of tortuous, because I’m not sure when I’ll be able to make it back there, but it’s also make me feel humble and happy that I’ve been able to experience Andechs twice.



Why Obstructionism is, Unfortunately, a Fine Political Strategy

A friend of James Fallows makes a spectacular point, one that should be repeated by liberals as often as possible:

“How can the MSM (what’s left of it) not “get” that disappointment in Obama over “lack of change” is precisely the object of the GOP in blocking change?  Does no one remember Newt Gingrich and the GOP strategy from 1992 to 1994, which actually worked?  How can the GOP steal second and third in one play AGAIN and not get nailed this time?  I want to scream.  In any sensible society, instead of disappointment in Obama there would be intense anger at the GOP, and they’d be forced to knock it off.”

Watching the Ed Show on MSNBC last night made me want to pull my hair out.  Ed and Roy Sekoff (HuffPo editor), both of whom I generally agree with, were going on and on about Obama’s broken promises.  I’m willing to admit that Obama has been less forceful in pushing some of the issues I care a lot about (notably the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell), and I believe it’s extremely important that we have folks like Ed Schultz and the Arianna Huffington-editorial express out there continuing to press the administration further left.

But you simply cannot discuss what Obama has “failed to accomplish,” without understanding how much that failure has been dependent on the ability of congressional Republicans to stall small parts of the Democratic agenda.  Those small stalls add up — to something far larger.  Obama promised a more efficient, better run bureaucracy than Bush. Hard to accomplish that when Senate Republicans put anonymous holds on administration appointees for bogus reasons.  Obama promised healthcare reform by the August recess.  Republicans kept promising they would work with Democrats to create a bipartisan bill.  No dice.  The bill gets postponed.   Obama promises a crazy good climate change bill.  Some Republicans in the Senate hop on and promise to vote for it, thus assuring it will clear the 60 votes necessary for cloture, but only if it’s substantially weakened. Republicans, in general, say no to everything Obama wants, pulling a few centrist Dems along with them, undermining any and every policy initiative at the risk of looking like naysayers.

There are many, many more examples.  The Senate is primed to stymie change, to let the minority make the best of the majority they must work with.  That in and of itself is bad enough.  But when the members of the minority are hell-bent on doing everything they can to not work with the majority, indeed to take down all of its policy proposals, it’s kind of hard to look as if you’re fulfilling any of the presidential campaign promises you made.  And it’s easy for the Republicans to run two years later on a platform of “Obama didn’t do anything,” aided by the media’s continued assertions that he failed to come through on any of this big ticket items.

If it were simply a matter of Obama and Democrats in Congress having the willpower, we would all be living in a larger version of Norway.  But we’ve got the GOP wielding a ridiculous degree of structural power, assisted all the way there by very-centrist Democrats and the so-called liberal media.

A Stab at Social Commentary

Leon Wieseltier does not rank as a must read for me.  I suppose it’s because he helped push Andrew Sullivan out at the New Republic, and I imagine that he has some of the Marty Peretz Jewish neo-con hawkish qualities that I totally disagree with.  But this little takedown of New York Times Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati is so good I had to share.

Marzorati blogged the following about the essence and ideology of the NYTM:

Call it Urban Modern. That is, I think it reflects not a left-or-right POLITICAL ideology but a geographical one, the mentality of the place [sic] it is created: 21st Century Manhattan. So: the Magazine reflects a place where women have professional ambition, where immigrants are welcome, and where gays and lesbians can be themselves (if not marry, yet). The Magazine also reflects a place where being rich is not a bad thing, where fashion is not a sign of superficiality, and where individualism is embraced. Here, arguing is not bad manners. Here, a chief way of loving your hometown is criticizing it: For, say, not doing enough for those (children, the poor, the homeless) who are most vulnerable. Here, art is never spoken of in moral terms, and most aspects of everyday life–food and drink and bathroom fixtures–are mostly spoken of in aesthetic terms. And here, as E.B. White famously wrote, it tends to be those who come from elsewhere full of longing who make the place what it is. More generally, we reflect a place where change is not a threat, where doubt and complexity are more TRUE than certainty, and where most everything non-criminal is tolerated–except a bad haircut.

Weiseltier does a fine job of calling out all of the idiocy in that description.  There’s no ideology there, no real call to disagree and fight back against the world.  Just this happy-go-lucky idea of 21st century Manhattan, bathed in ethereal light.  I won’t repeat all of those apt criticisms; read them for yourself.

What struck about Marzorati’s concept was how very, very boring it is.  Listen, I have no problem with Manhattan per se.  I’ve got loads of friends and family who grew up there or are living their currently.  I’m grateful for having spent so much time there, eating a wonderful restaurants, seeing shows, enjoying the landscape, etc.  But I would never, in a million years, want to spend a lifetime in New York City.  And that is said knowing full well that my intellectual brethren live there, at least more than they live in rural Ohio.  I would be thrilled to eat lox, great Italian, and Chinese everyday for the rest of my life — I would be even more thrilled to know that I never had to deal with another ignorant, redneck, right-wing conservative again.

But I wouldn’t do it, even for those benefits.  Because New York is insufferable.  It’s full of people who feel compelled to say things like this:

where women have professional ambition, where immigrants are welcome, and where gays and lesbians can be themselves (if not marry, yet). The Magazine also reflects a place where being rich is not a bad thing, where fashion is not a sign of superficiality, and where individualism is embraced. Here, arguing is not bad manners. Here, a chief way of loving your hometown is criticizing it…

Oh please.  As if Manhattan is the only place in the world where women have professional ambition and gays and lesbians can be themselves.  Is being rich a bad thing elsewhere (or, as Wiestelier pointed out, is being poor a bad thing in New York City)?  Everywhere but New York City?

The tone is so irritatingly cliche I could kill myself.  You are so unique, New Yorkers! You charming folks who understand fashion and wealth and individualism — even while being boiled down to little more than a collective mass of folks who understand fashion, wealth and individualism.  It sure is a good thing you have the NYTM to read every Sunday, speaking to your sensibilities and needs.

I get that Marzorati was being tongue-in-cheek.  His final line about New Yorkers tolerating everything but a bad haircut proves it.  But he nonetheless manages to encapsulate everything I disdain about the New York attitude, right down to that holier-than-thou mindset.  Maybe it’s the new-Midwesterner in me.  I don’t know.  But I was glad to see a little comeuppance thrown his way.

Those Were Not the Days

Ugh.  Makes me sick to think that conservatives forget (willingly, or not) about how gross the Bush-adoration was back in the day.

Remember those awful George W. Bush — Still the President! stickers that popped up right after his re-election?  As if he was, not the president of the United States, but someone who had twice won American Idol?

They were updates on this, equally irritating, bumper sticker.

What’s even more horrible is thinking about how soon after November 2004 people started to regret voting for him again.  And you’d be sitting there asking what had changed, and they simply could not tell you.  Of course there was Katrina and Social Security and all of that — but people really were blind to their own blindness.  That I knew what they didn’t, as a high schooler, is sometimes beyond belief.  God help us if the Bush Personality Cult ever swells back to Reagan level — we’ll be batting off attempts to get his face on Mt. Rushmore.

Together Again

I am hardly qualified to say much about Ted Kennedy.  It should suffice to write that Dave are the political spirits that we are thanks, in no small part, to being inspired by what the Kennedy’s stood for.  There’s been a lot of tearing up around the house this week, but this, from a story in the Independent about Ted’s last days, just really did me in:

“This is someone who had a fierce determination to live, but who was not afraid to die,” Bill Delahunt, a Democrat Congressman elected from the Hyannis district, told The New York Times. “And he was not afraid to have a lot of laughs until he got there.”

Once there, Mr Delahunt said, Mr Kennedy was looking forward to being reunited with the slain brothers to tell them: “I did it; I carried the torch. I carried it all the way.” As he did.

Emphasis mine. I’m not one prone to thinking about heaven.  I barely believe in god.  But it makes a lovely image, Ted Kennedy greeting his three brothers, after all these years — telling them that, even though they couldn’t do it, he did.  For them.  And for us.  Just the thought brings tears to my eyes.

SPF (Sun Protection Fearmongering)

Here’s a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: what sort of deal do fashion and beauty magazine have with the sunscreen and/or dermatology industry that drives them to fanatically hawk SPF 50 products and angrily bemoan the effects of the sun?

On a trip to the beach a few weeks ago I ended up reading more issues of In Style than I really care to admit, which not only rotted my brain and made me feel bad about my body, but also brought this issue of sun damage to center stage.  I don’t often read fashion and beauty magazines, so the recurring “sun is so bad for you” meme mildly surprised me.  Of course I recognize, like most folks do, that spending ungodly hours in the sun is going to have an adverse effect on your skin over the years, but the degree to which that’s reinforced, at least on In Style’s pages, is surprising.

I’m not kidding when I say (and you may know what Im talking about) that In Style is dripping with enthusiasm for self-tanners and disdain for real tans.  Whether in ads or articles, the magazine makes no bones about how you should not be getting a drop of sun exposure.  They quote dermatologists, make fun of “real tans,” suggest self-tanners of all kinds — even their interviews with celebrities are sun-kosher.

I recall a quick Q&A with Kate Winslet, in which she mentioned that she had recently gone on vacation with her husband and children and had managed to get a little bit of a tan: “with SPF 30 – of course!.” Winslet may very well have said/e-mailed that quote.  But given the obscene amount of sun protection evident across In Style, I found it sort of dubious.

As I began to feel conditioned to abhor all sun exposure, in a separate interview, Queen Latifah mentioned an SPF 15 body oil that’s a must-have part of her beauty routine.  I almost jumped out of my chaise lounge to call foul.  The editors at In Style must have been freaking out that someone would — horrors — recommend a body oil that was less than sun protection body armor.

All of this made me think about a conversation I had with a friend last summer about sun damage.  Keep in mind that this is a friend from college, with whom I used to go to tanning beds (something I don’t do anymore, and haven’t done since college; I’m not sure about her, but I’m pretty confident she has similarly stopped going to the fake-and-bake).

A short time before I saw this friend, I had read online an abstract for a study that questioned the degree to which people today are slathering themselves in sunscreen and avoiding direct sunlight.  The study found that, as a result, we were sorely lacking in collective vitamin D.  The researchers suggested anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes in the sun without protection, depending on your skin tone, and warned that for those who live above Atlanta, such exposure would only do you any good during the late spring and early summer.  Before April, UVA/UVB rays can’t penetrate the atmosphere.

I took this study as good news.  While I wear a lotion with SPF 15 on my face everyday, I was glad to know that the sun — the lifeblood of our planet, for goodness sake! — had some benefits to bestow upon us.  That sun exposure, in moderation, is good for us, was very good news.  And quite sensible.

Somehow or another this subject came up with my friend.  She quickly chastened me: “Cosmo says that you can get vitamin D from sources other than the sun!”

Cosmo, of all places! A fashion and beauty magazine.  But it fits so well into the In Style theme I picked up while on vacation.  Somewhere along the line fashion magazines became part of the anti-sun sqaud.  I have to wonder what sort of kickbacks they get for that arrangement.  It just seems too crazy that my friend believed what she read in Cosmo, more than what I told her came from a scientific study.  That, en masse, fashion and beauty magazine decided that sun exposure was way to harmful, even in natural doses — even to the point of denying recent research on the topic (this year, again, I read an article pointing to the same benefits of vitamin D, and warning that children are at risk for deficiency if they are covered in sunscreen all the time and playing indoors so much).

It’s probably little more than my own irritation at the sun-scare crowd.  But there are some weird coincidences there.  I’ll continue to be mindful of my sun-exposure, where my SPF face lotion, and sunscreen as necessary when I’m laying outside.  But I’m not going to become a crazy person about it.

The Game is Up, Baby Carrot!

My childhood is officially over.  (A little late?)  An old episode of Unwrapped has revealed that baby carrots are actually just regular carrots, peeled, and cut in the baby-style. I suppose it’s obvious, in retrospect.  I hadn’t really thought about it before.

Those baby carrots are great.

Bonus reveal: baby carrots weren’t invented until 1989.  I guess their role in my childhood was pretty well-timed.