Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

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30 posts categorized "Opinion"

April 20, 2012

Grazing: 'Sup, Montcalm La Crescent?

Montcalm_lacrescentAs the weather tries on spring for size, white wine is appearing in my glass more often than red. Specifically, that racy little white grape that's helping to put Vermont wines on the map.

A few weeks ago at the Woodstock Farmers Market, I saw a bottle of La Crescent I hadn't tried before, from Montcalm Vineyards in Benson. I don't know where I've been, as many others have been sipping on this while I've imbibed beloved versions from Lincoln Peak and Shelburne Vineyard. At $14.99, it's comparable in price, so I took home one of the tall, slender bottles.

Once I realized the man behind it is Ray Knutsen, the bottle gained some backstory. Knutsen is an elder of the Vermont wine scene, planting the first vines at his Champlain Valley Vineyards in 1978 when cold-hardy La Crescent was just a glimmer in some oenologist's eye.

I didn't wait for a spicy dish to pop open his La Crescent — the only excuse it took was a sunny weekend afternoon, and a friend to join me. This wine was juicy and alive. Pale gold in the glass, it has intense and heady aromas, reminiscent of lying underneath blooming honeysuckle bushes and apple trees.

On the first sip, all of that flowery promise turned to summer fruit, with off-dry, juicy waves of ripe peaches, pineapples and melons floating on that floral undercurrent, and a crisp acidity keeping the entire thing lively. At a lowish 10.5 percent alcohol, it could be called a sessionable wine, if such a term existed. (Thanks to the beer drinkers for that.)

The wine's sweetness marks it as an able escort to Pla Goong from Tiny Thai or any other spicy fish or poultry dish — it's a fine subsitute for Riesling. Me, I just drink it on its own.

 

April 08, 2012

America's Most Popular Artist Heads to Heaven

SOTA-kinkadeAmerica's most popular — and richest — artist died in California on Friday at age 54. But unless you're an aficionado of kitsch, you may not have been familiar with Thomas Kinkade. He made many, many millions by painting pictures that deftly catered to mass tastes but caused outbreaks of aesthetic hives in those who look to art for something more than syrupy sweetness, corny theatrics and unnatural scenes of rural bliss.

The Middlebury College Museum of Art presented a sampling of Kinkade's work in 2009, with curators proceeding from the premise that his popularity warranted thoughtful appraisal. The nonjudgmental approach did help illuminate the reasons why the self-styled "painter of light" was so successful in market terms. But Kinkade, who actually functioned more as a corporation than as an individual creator, was a terrible painter in the ways that matter most. The organizers of the Middlebury show surely knew that, and their unwillingness to say it seemed disingenuous.

Image courtesy of Middlebury College Museum of Art for Seven Days' review of "Making Sense of Thomas Kinkade."

 

April 02, 2012

Mike Daisey Returns to the Stage in Burlington

Daisey4An anecdote in "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," the monologue about Apple by Mike Daisey, took on a new resonance on Saturday night. It's the part in which Daisey is in China, planning out his visit to a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen where electronics are built for Apple and other electronics companies. Daisey tells his translator that he's not a businessman — he just plans to pose as one to get into the factory. The translator, Cathy, asks him if he's going to lie. Daisey reples, "Yes, Cathy. I'm going to lie to lots of people."

When Daisey spoke that line at the Flynn Center during his performance, it seemed to hang in the air a little. Not as long as the painfully drawn-out pauses when Ira Glass was eviscerating him on "This American Life," but long enough to let it sink in. I heard a couple audience members chuckle under their breath.

Saturday night marked Daisey's second "Agony and Ecstasy" performance since "This American Life" busted him for inventing and embellishing some details about his trip to Apple's Chinese factories in his ostensibly nonfiction monologue. It was his first in a couple of weeks, since the scandal began to cool down and Daisey had a chance to rethink and rework parts of the monologue.

Sure enough, there were some differences: The guards at the factory gates didn't have guns. Daisey didn't meet a 12-year-old worker. He did not claim that someone saw his iPad turn on and called it "a kind of magic." Daisey did still say that his taxicab came to a stop at a highway exit that ended in midair.

Somewhat surprisingly, Daisey did not address the controversy directly in his monologue. It wasn't until after the show, during a Q&A with Flynn Center executive director John Killacky and UVM Lane Series director Natalie Neuert, that the scandal actually came up — and even then, no one simply said, "Mike got in trouble a few weeks back because he said untrue things on 'This American Life' and Ira Glass really didn't take kindly to it."

Continue reading "Mike Daisey Returns to the Stage in Burlington" »

December 06, 2011

Alice Eats: Redstone Unlimited Dining

IMG_3305438 South Prospect Street, Burlington, 656-4664

This week, my feature in Seven Days focuses on Vermont Kosher, the new kitchen that provides food for observant Jewish students around the University of Vermont. Sunday through Thursday, students and community members alike can grab a Middle Eastern-style kosher meal at Redstone Unlimited Dining. I was so impressed with chef Rachel Jacob's food, I wanted to see what else was available at the newly renovated cafeteria, formerly Simpson Dining Hall.

For an old fart like me, the LEED-certified space seemed impressively techie at first. Nonstudent diners enter and pay $10.35 at the door. From there, they head to the FÖD (Food on Demand) ordering system, a line of touch-screen computers at which diners choose what they'd like to eat. They can then elect to be sent a text message when the food is ready, or just keep tabs of their order number on one of the dining hall's TV screens.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Redstone Unlimited Dining" »

December 02, 2011

Burlington Decoded: Stereogum Dishes On 802 Music

Burlington's music scene got some national love today when online tastemaker Stereogum included the 802 in its "Area Codes" feature, an ongoing series profiling various lesser known music scenes around the country. The piece has some nice quotes about the Queen City from local music mavens Alex Crothers of Higher Ground and Nick Mavodones from Angioplasty Media. (Mavodones also works at HG, BTW.)

Although the 802 area code encompasses the entirety of the state, the Stereogum piece is particularly Burlington-centric. Aside from passing mentions of Brattleboro and Bennington, music made outside of the state's biggest little city is pretty much ignored. That's somewhat understandable, especially considering it's a short piece coming from a writer with an outside perspective. Some small acknowledgement of the great tunes coming down from the mountains woulda been nice. But that's a minor quibble. 

The piece does a admirable job of dispelling the myth that Burlington is still a jam band haven. (It ain't. And if you think it is, you should try getting out more often since 2001.) Mavodones in particular notes the city's burgeoning indie, experimental and hip-hop scenes. And the inclusion of some videos from the likes of indie space rockers Parmaga, Death's punk progeny Rough Francis and indie folk sweetheart Maryse Smith, as well as links to download tunes from Villanelles, the Vacant Lots and Lawrence Welks and Our Bear to Cross, among others, is some cool exposure. But to really capture BTV music — an admittedly tall order in a scant 500 words — it might have been wise for Stereogum to cast its gaze a little wider than the Angio/NNA Tapes crew and their associated acts. Not that those bands and labels don't deserve the love — they certainly do. But the piece feels a little clique-y and narrow in focus. Still, it's always nice to see the spotlight shone on our humble little corner of the world.

Here's a link to the entire story. And here's a new video from a great non-Burlington Vermont band, Wooden Dinosaur

 

November 25, 2011

Movies You Missed 14: The Family Tree

Family-treeThis week in movies you missed: Just for Thanksgiving, a family dramedy that tried to be American Beauty and fell on its face.

What You Missed

The Burnetts are one of those adorably dysfunctional families you only see in the movies. Mom (Hope Davis) is a control freak who organizes charity functions when she isn't having secret role-playing sex with neighbor Chi McBride.

Dad (Dermot Mulroney) barely seems to notice anything besides the rack on a secretary in his office (Christina Hendricks, playing her "Mad Men" role without any of the interesting parts, or really anything to do besides standing around showing off her physical endowments). Teenage son Eric (Max Thieriot) has teamed up with a group of religious zealots and is really into shooting guns, much to his parents' dismay. Teen daughter Kelly (Britt Robertson) wears too much eyeliner and has random hookups.

Then, in the time-honored way of movie contrivances, Mom gets bumped on the head and returns home an amnesiac.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 14: The Family Tree" »

September 15, 2011

Tales From a Reluctant Phishhead

20110914203639 You know what, dudes? It's pretty wild that my 914th Phish show just happened to fall on September 14. Crazy, right? And practically in in my back yard, no less!

OK, I'm lying. The band's flood-relief benefit extravaganza at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex last night was, in fact, my first time. I know, I know. Having grown up in Vermont during the supposed peak of the band's powers, it's kind of amazing that I never chanced in to a show at some point along the way. What can I say? I've never been much of a fan. And as an aside, most other VT stereotypes have never really fit me, either. I don't ski or snowboard, I don't smoke weed, I've never owned a Subaru and I prefer Gifford's to Ben & Jerry's. But I digress.

As the music editor for Seven Days, I've gone on record on numerous occasions as someone who doesn't care for the the band's music. I've taken generally good humored shots at them in my column. I once begged them to turn the entire city of Burlington into a gigantic festival because we needed the cash influx. In fact, declaring my distaste for seaphood was the first line ("I don't like Phish") of one of my first 7D CD reviews, Page McConnell's 2007 self-titled solo album. And that was before I was even a full-time staffer here at Vermont's Independent Voice. So, yes, Phish and I have a bit of a checkered past. And so it was with some trepidation that I went to last night's festivities.

Well, guess what? It was a lot of fun.

Continue reading "Tales From a Reluctant Phishhead" »

September 13, 2011

Blog Post "Phail"

On September 12, I wrote a blog post titled "Here For Phish? How About You Lend a Phreaking Hand?" In retrospect, I realize that it was ill-timed and ill-conceived. A number of readers felt the post impugned the good work already being done by flood volunteers, took for granted Phish's contribution to the relief efforts, and was offensive to a legion of music fans.

This was not my intent. I simply meant to draw attention to a need facing our state in the wake of a natural disaster and, at the same time, poke a little fun at the caricature of the Phish fan that has formed over the years. And, yes, I realize there is more than one kind of Phish fan. 

I, like my fellow Vermonters, appreciate the work that is being done around the state to help get people back on their feet after Tropical Storm Irene. Phish is being incredibly generous by donating their time and talent. The money that is raised from their benefit show on September 14 will go a long way toward helping the state heal. I didn't intend to minimize their contribution, or those of concertgoers from in and out of state.  

Judging from the negative reactions to the blog post, I clearly didn't achieve what I set out to with the piece: to entertain and inform. As some have already pointed out, this piece was a "phail." I acknowledge that, and I'm sorry.

Editors' note: Opinions expressed on our staff blog do not necessarily reflect the views of editors or staff at Seven Days. Many of us are longtime Phish fans, and all of us appreciate what the band, and its fans, are doing for our state.

September 12, 2011

Here For Phish? How About You Lend a Phreaking Hand?

IMG_6183 Last Tuesday, Vermont's phavorite jam band, Phish, announced that they would play a special benefit concert for victims of Tropical Storm Irene. Unsurprisingly, the quartet's announcement created tremors of excitement around Vermont and across the whole of Phish phandom. No sooner had word gotten out about the phoursome's show then dedicated Phish phollowers the country over grabbed some hula hoops, a couple djembe drums, a few pallets of Cheetos and their best water bongs, hopped in their vanagons and hightailed it to Vermont. 

They came phrom all over — New Jersey, Connecticut, New Jersey, Colorado, New Jersey — in the hope of nabbing one of the hottest tickets in town. The devoted called in sick to work so they could camp out on the sidewalk, despite the fact that the FlynnCenter box office asked them not to queue until Saturday when the tickets went on sale. When the box office opened at 10 a.m., the weary waiters rubbed the weed smoke phrom their eyes, threw off their drug rugs and stepped up to take their place in history — the show, after all, will be Phish's phirst in its home state since 2004's epic concert in Coventry, a big, sloppy mess if ever there was one.

By late Saturday, the show's 10,000 tickets were sold out. All the die-hards walked away from the box office with a $75 ticket in hand (all the proceeds go to the band's Waterwheel Foundation and the Vermont Community Foundation, which will dole out the money to appropriate phlood relief efforts). But here's what I want to know — what are all the out-of-state phans doing until Wednesday's show at the Champlain Valley Exposition, besides making daisy chains, crafting hemp dog leashes, swapping bootlegs and hosting sing-alongs in City Hall Park? Here's what they should be doing — volunteering.

Continue reading "Here For Phish? How About You Lend a Phreaking Hand?" »

June 30, 2011

Burlington Free Press Wages a Battle — for Documents and Headlines


Bilde-1It's hard to not cast a cynical eye on the tsunami of ink the Burlington Free Press has unleashed in trying to obtain police and university documents related to the case of the Essex couple who went missing on June 8. On the one hand, as a fellow journalist, I can sympathize with reporters' and editors' ire over being repeatedly shut down in their public records requests. On the other hand, the daily drumbeat playing out on the front pages of the Free Press seems like little more than a way of generating headlines in a criminal investigation that, for now, is mostly unfolding behind closed doors.

Ever since the June 8 disappearance of William and Lorraine Currier of Essex (pictured) the Free Press has run at least seven stories about the legal wrangling over the paper's denied records requests for search warrants, police affidavits and UVM emails belonging to William Currier, an animal-care technician employed by a university subcontractor. Both the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office and UVM officials have repeatedly denied those requests.

Based on the number of Free Press writers who have penned stories on this subject (four), as well as the urgent tone of their headlines — "Ruling pending on release of Currier case search warrant" (June 23); "Warrants, emails challenged in Currier case" (June 23); "Prosecutor challenges judge's ruling to release warrants to media in case of missing Essex couple (June 25); "Supreme Court keeps Essex search documents secret" (June 27); "Court rules to temporarily seal warrants in case of missing Essex couple," (June 28);  "Judge: Prosecutor's case for sealing search warrants in missing couple case weak" (June 30) — one could led to believe that Vermont's courthouses are under siege by an army of Gannett lawyers filing repeated motions and memoranda in the name of the Fourth Estate.

Continue reading "Burlington Free Press Wages a Battle — for Documents and Headlines" »

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