Books and Brew

Thebeerchaser’s home office and library  –  See narrative below

I have written about books devoted to beer and brewing in prior posts.  Examples include Jeff Alworth’s, The Beer Bible which Goodreads states, “….is the ultimate reader-and drinker-friendly guide to all the world’s beers.” 

Another volume I’ve mentioned and purchased from the Mount Angel Abbey Book StoreDrinking with the Saints – The Sinners’ Guide to a Holy Happy Hour is also a great reference “and a concoction that both sinner and saints will savor.” 

It’s a great collection of cocktails, toasts and anecdotes based on the Holy Days and saints.  For example: “As our Episcopal brethren like to say, ‘Where two or three are gathered in His name, there is a fifth.'”

And then there’s my friend, Dr, Eric Hall, who teaches theology and philosophy at Carrol College.  In his book, The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to God.  Eric integrates academia and spirituality with wit and wisdom.  For example:

“Then again, some mystics describe the deep sorrow of seeing their true self within a context of divine luminosity.  Again, this idea makes sense as it’s kind of like seeing what a bar floor looks like when the lights come up: you didn’t know how many dirty old pork rinds were either on the ground or in your soul prior to the divine unveiling.”

The Rose City Book Pub

The spark for the topic of this blog post emanated from the grand opening of The Rose City Book Pub on November 3rd. This new pub is located in the former NE Portland space of County Cork (see Beerchaser review in June 2012)  While I am sorry to see any bar bite the dust, it’s good news that a new watering hole filled the vacuum.

Reveling (rather than reading) at County Cork in 2012 with the Schwabe Williamson Environment Group

Portland Eater describes the new venture as “a bookstore-meets-bar-meets restaurant with beer, wine and comfy cafe-style menu..”

I’m just not sure if I am comfortable with a pub where regulars are sitting in comfy nooks in easy chairs rather than telling stories at the bar while raising mugs.  That said, I will make a trip and let you know what I think and I wish owner, Elise Schumock well.

However, the concept pervaded my consciousness with some other thoughts on books – including pondering my own reading habits after a visit to Powells City of Books – a Portland treasure which houses about one million books.

What I Should Read Versus What I Do Read 

While wondering through Powell’s, I saw some books on display with notations of “Staff Picks.”   These are works of both fiction and non-fiction that Powell’s staffers are evidently reading and have favorable reactions – they print a short synopsis on a note card by the tome so you can see why it is recommended.

Staff Picks at Powells

But I was struck by how cerebral and refined the majority of the books on these shelves  appeared to me – two in particular that made me think a little bit more:

Where the Crawdads Sing  by Delia Owens.   Now this novel did get five stars on Amazon but the staff account was “This story is a beautiful and mesmerizing coming-of-age saga featuring Kya – aka Marsh Girl.  Part mystery, part love story, this book will haunt me!” 

It was also a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Selection and Reese, who after all, went to Harvard Law in one of her movies, went so far as to say, “I can’t even express how much I love this book! I didn’t want this story to end!”   (Perhaps she was reading it while she was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail…) 

The New York Times describes it asPainfully Beautiful,” (emphasis supplied) which makes me wonder if it was one of those books where you’re half way through and hate it, but refuse to lose the investment of time by abandoning it.  You slog through it with discomfort and end up being glad you finished it afterwards.

Now the book above is a murder mystery and perhaps a good story, but The Vegetarian by Han Kang elicited this excerpted comment by the reviewer:  “Somewhere between the crossroads of obsession and mental illness, lust and betrayal, the Vegetarian exists.”

This novella, which was critically acclaimed internationally, takes place in South Korea and scored 3.6 out of 5.0 stars by Goodreads.   Their synopsis, in part, states, “In a country were societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more ‘plant-like’ existence is a shocking act of subversion.”

Potentially subversive??

Well anyway, it made me wonder what books are really on the bed stands of these reviewers.   Do they really devour these for enjoyment or is it just part of the job?

It’s the same concept when magazines ask celebrities what novel they are reading.  The answer is usually one by Dostoevsky, Jane Austen or F. Scott Fitzgerald or a four-hundred page non-fiction book on dialectical materialism rather than a thriller by Danielle Steele or James Patterson.

And then I remembered hearing about Oprah’s Book Club.  Maybe it differs from Reese’s in that those who indicate they like her selections get a free car.  Since I was reflecting, I then wondered why I had never heard any famous males who have national book clubs.

Buffet’s Book Club?

Although according to a New York Times article “Men Have Book Clubs Too,” why don’t famous guys like Warren Buffet, Tony Bennett or UCLA Coach Chip Kelly have national book clubs with recommended selections?  Maybe Chip’s would feature The Carnivore…..

 

The Annals of America – A compendium on the great story of America

So I started feeling guilty looking at my own library.  After having my own office on our dining room table for most of my career, in retirement I now have a wonderful library/office. Some of the collections are those my parents gave us in school.

These include the 54-volume “Great Books of the Western World” (1952) and the eighteen-volume Annals of America, both published by the Encyclopedia Britannica.  There’s a bunch of others that I enthusiastically accumulated over the years with the idea that I would read them when I had more leisure time.

Churchill – “Their Finest Hour” is still waiting to be read…

But I noted that although my intent has been to read Churchill’s six-volume The Second World War, all of the sixteen volumes in my set of “The Nobel Prize Library” and about 35 books on the Civil War and World War II, they sit largely untouched on the shelves.

I shouldn’t leave out the twelve of forty-one volumes in the Time/Life Collection of World War II, I bought at a used bookstore in Lincoln City a few year ago.  

Twelve of the forty-one in this great collection

Although I have read some great non-fiction books in the last two years (see below) my most recent reads (which I have really enjoyed) are the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, a slew of John Sandford paperbacks (which prey on you…) and almost all of the wonderful mysteries by Phillip Margolin.

Should my book time be devoted to more cerebral works?

Interesting, albeit tragic times in American history

But rationality prevailed and I realize that one of the reasons I have not read more highbrow volumes is because I have spent gads of time in the last seven years visiting about 250 bars, pubs and breweries (about half in Portland the rest throughout Oregon, the US and Europe) and then writing 200+ posts on Thebeerchaser.com – each averaging about 2,200 words.   I love this idiosyncratic hobby!

Joe R. Lansdale – unique dialogue and compelling.

And it can be asserted that what some would describe as escapist-trash fiction is really enjoyable.  If you look beyond the mainstream authors such as Sanford, Child, Ignatius, Turow and the aforementioned Phillip Margolin, you can find some treasures.

I’ve discovered some lesser known scribes such as Joe R. Lansdale, who has written forty-five novels.  (The one below is the first one I’ve read – I liked the cover art when I saw it in the Library).

I recently read Bad Chili, a “tongue-in-cheek” murder mystery in Texas.   The action is innovative e.g. an early encounter with a “vicious, angry, bloodthirsty, rabid squirrel.”  Lansdale’s dialogue is unique and  rich with quotes such as this one from Jim Bob Luke, a primary character:

“Life’s like a bowl of chili in a strange café.  Sometimes it’s pretty tasty and spicy.  Other times, it tastes like shit.”

A novel of suspense (and spice….)

Or the following from protagonist, Hap Collins, a working-man, turned private detective:

“His mother, a harried woman in lace-up shoes designed by the Inquisition, a long black dress, and a Pentecostal hairdo – which was a mound of brown hair tied up in a bun that looked as if it had been baked into place to contain an alien life form – was pretending to be asleep.”

I should also state that I have read some very good historical works in the last two years – among them Ike’s Spies  and the Path Between the Seas – The Creation of the Panama Canal, both by Stephen Ambrose

Add to that River of Doubt (Teddy Roosevelt’s exploration of the Amazon River) and Destiny of the Republic – A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President (about the assassination of President James Garfield) both by Candice Millard.  All read like novels.

And I’m half way through an insightful and thought provoking work by David Brooks entitled The Road to Character – a timely topic these days….. I would heartily recommend all of the above – just do 25 pages in one of these non-fiction works and then 100 in a Jack Reacher tale before you fall asleep.

Odysseus – his exploits make Jack Reachers look tame!

I’ll keep devouring the paperback spy adventure or murder mystery without guilt and just enjoy looking at the volumes while I’m in my office with the thought that I will at some point read another Nobel Prize author besides Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea) read last year.

Oh, and I forgot that I studied a Great Book selection – Homer’s The Odyssey with my youngest daughter when it was a selection she studied in her senior year at high school.  (I guess that was about ten years ago come to think of it…)

A Story about the Northwest’s Lawyer Novelist

Speaking of Phillip Margolin, let me introduce you to another long-time Portland lawyer.  Mike Greene is a Stanford Law graduate and practiced law in Portland for many years.   He is now basically retired although he still serves in an “Of Counsel” capacity to a small law firm.

Portland Lawyer and sometime Sr. Deputy District Attorney, Mike Greene

Since I worked at the Oregon State Bar and in Portland’s second largest law firm for a combined total of over thirty years, I know and have a lot of attorney friends.  Mike is one of my favorites.

After graduating from Stanford, he was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in 1972, and became a highly respected trial lawyer – Oregon Super Lawyer six times – among other peer review honors. Like many of the counselors I know he has also devoted a considerable time to civic and professional endeavors.

Mike’s resume of these goes beyond most and he has been involved in American Diabetes Association work since 1982 and was Chair of the National Board of Directors from 1994 to 1995.  He also created a legal advocacy program to fight discrimination on behalf of people with diabetes.

Recently I read one of Phillip Margolin’s earlier novels that I had inadvertently skipped, since I have read and enjoyed almost all of his twenty-three books, all of which have been in the New York Times best-seller list.   In Fugitive, one of the primary characters is a senior deputy district attorney, named Mike Greene – the boyfriend of protagonist, Amanda Jaffe, a criminal defense lawyer.

I thought that I remembered this character from a few of the other Margolin mysteries.   Now the Portland Bar is a “small community” and Mike is about the same vintage as Phillip Margolin.   So I e-mailed Mike and wrote:

“I know that a number of novelists name characters after friends and/or colleagues and this seemed to be more than a coincidence.”

Mike responded:

”Phil has been a friend for decades. I purchased at a Diabetes Auction, the privilege of Phil using my name.  He liked the name and character he created to use the name.  I am now in five of his books.  What a purchase?  A piece of immortality?  It’s fun.  I have been asked about this by many people over the years.” 

Portland Lawyer and Author, Phillip Margolin

Mike and I go to the same church and last Sunday when we chatted, he agreed to send me the names of the novels in which Mike Greene makes his appearance.  He added that the topic has helped break-the–ice in some tense legal negotiations over the years.

I told him that I assumed the Oregon State Bar could not prosecute him for any disciplinary issues that might arise from his conduct in the novels.

If you are reading any of the following Margolin novels, look for Mike Greene:  Wild Justice (2000), Ties that Bind (2003), Proof Positive (2006), Fugitive (2009) and Violent Crimes (2016).

As an aside, besides his writing career – he began writing full-time in 1996 – Phillip Margolin had a distinguished legal career as well.  After graduating from NYU School of Law in 1970, he started by clerking for the Chief Judge of the Oregon the Court of Appeals.   As an appellate lawyer, he has appeared in the US Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals and both the Oregon Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

Frequent speaker

As a trial lawyer, he represented about thirty people charged with homicide, including several who faced the death penalty.  His service to others began with a two-year stint in the Peace Corps after college graduation and he taught junior high in the South Bronx during his last two years of law school.

He was Chair of the Board for Chess for Success from 1996 to 2009, a non-profit that uses chess to teach elementary and middle school children in Title I schools study skills.   He was also on the Board of Literary Arts, which sponsors the Oregon Book Awards from 2007 to 2013.

I regret that I never got to see either Mike Greene or Phillip Margolin in the courtroom!

Farewell Tom

Tom Dulcich

Another notable Portland lawyer was Tom Dulcich, who I knew from working with him for twenty-five years at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt.  Tom passed away in July at the age of 65 from a rare form of cancer.

The Astoria native besides being a wonderful human being was the consummate lawyer.   He was a Phi Beta Kappa grad at the U of O and one of two Rhodes Scholar finalists in 1976.  He attended one of the nation’s leading law schools – the University of Chicago and started his 38-year career as a Schwabe trial lawyer soon afterwards.

He was a fellow in the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers, served on the Schwabe Board of Directors and as a member and Chair of the Board of the Columbia Maritime Museum.   He was a man of faith and family.

Justice Scalia – Fishing partner…..

One of his passions was fishing and he took pride in operating the family’s gillnet boat.  In fact, a number of years ago, when the late Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia was in Oregon for a speech, he asked Tom to be his guide in a successful fishing trip on the Columbia River.

“Dry Humor”

Earlier in the post, I mentioned some good brew-related books and I remembered one other mentioned in the The Week magazine.  The Wet and the Dry: a Drinker’s Journey relates a pub crawl, of sorts, that author, Lawrence Osborne, took through the Middle East and Southern Asia.

Now I have read (and used as a resource) some similar books including Colorado – A Liquid History & Tavern Guide to the Highest State by Dr. Thomas J. Noel, a professor at the University of Colorado, who visited every bar in Colorado for a doctoral thesis.

And don’t forget Joan Melcher, who essentially made the same journey (50 watering holes) in Montana as documented in Montana Watering Holes – The Big Sky’s Best Bars

It seems a little unusual to undertake this type of study in some countries where alcohol is illegal, but as the reviewer states, “If you are looking for ‘an entertaining romp through half the bars in the Middle East” The Wet and the Dry will not disappoint.”

Cheers!

Beerchaser Miscellany – College Bars and College Professors……

   Best College Bars

Number 19 on the Top 25 College Bars

Number 19 on the Top 25 College Bars

Last falI, I posted some pictures and information from our trip to Colorado.  One of the bars we visited was The Sink – an historic dive bar (Thebeerchaser Does Colorado – Part II) in Boulder, near the campus of the University of Colorado.

It was recently selected as one of the “Top 25 College Bars in America.”  Some under-achieving college student may have toured the country developing this list for The Daily Meal, but The Sink, a ninety-three year old watering hole for CU students should clearly be on this list.

The Sink interior

The Sink interior

As described by Dr.Thomas Noel in his book, A Liquid History & Tavern Guide to the Highest State:

“During the 1960’s and 1970’s when I was at CU, students sat around here in puddles of beer, smoked pot, and watched Batman and Star Trek…..Mobs of students consumed oceans of beer by the quart. 

After a 1995 restoration, the reincarnated Sink still lives in this two-story house with a tacked-on storefront. Among gobs of graffiti, the place’s crowning achievement is a re-creation of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Man, with God holding down a Sinkburger to Sink Rats in the “Sink-stine Chapel.”

 You Probably Don’t Want to Take a Class or Have a Beer with This Guy!

And while we are on the subject of higher education, it is fitting to revisit another topic addressed briefly in this blog in May 2013, in an excerpt entitled, Emotional Disequilibrium, Rotating Metaphors and ‘On Bullshit.’”  I took exception to what I viewed as extremely pretentious behavior by one, Dr. David Shields, an author and literature professor at the University of Washington.

The Quad at the University of Washington - a great institution of learning

The Quad at the University of Washington – a great institution of learning

Now UW is a great institution – one of the finest on the West Coast (both my oldest daughter and son-in-law are alums….), but a quote from an interview in which the good professor was quoted astounded me:

 “What I am good at, I think, I hope, is meditating with rigor and candor on my emotional disequilibrium and trying to rotate that out as metaphor so it comes to feel, God forbid, somewhat universal and it makes the reader feel as Phillip Lopate says, ‘less freakish and more human.’”   (For the unwashed, Phillip Lopate is a writer, media critic and professor of English at Hofstra University.)

Here’s a more recent Shields quote:

“So many of these formal gestures seem to me a way to get beyond self. I marry the self, through braided collage gestures, to the cultural warp and woof. That seems to me one of collage’s blessings, its potential for multiplicity of investigative modes…..”

Dr. Shields is no slouch – he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown and has written fifteen books – one of which made the New York Times best-seller list and has received numerous writing awards.  But I would suggest that the good professor’s humility quotient needs to increase.  He appears to validate the premise put forth by one scholar – possibly a classic Greek philosopher:  “A damned fool with a Ph.D., is still a damned fool!”

To validate my visceral reaction, I checked out some of the student reviews of their esteemed lecturer.  For example, one student wrote:  “I never got the impression that he actually wanted to be there, or had any interest in helping students improve, and certainly didn’t seem to want to actually read any student writing. He only wants you to listen in awe while he muses about why fiction is so useless. He thinks everything he has to say about writing is gospel and it gets old fast.”

On Bullshit - A Wonderful Book by another Academician from Princeton

On Bullshit – A Wonderful Book by another Academician from Princeton

A quote from Princeton Emeritus Professor Dr. Harry Frankfurt, author of the brilliant book, On Bullshit, who I named as January 2012 Beerchaser-of-the-Month, seems appropriate to describe the above statements by Dr. Shields:

When we characterize talk as hot air, we mean that what comes out of the speaker’s mouth is only that. It is mere vapor.  His speech is empty, without substance or content.  His use of language accordingly does not contribute to the purpose it purports to serve.”   

Dr. Frankfurt - an educator who could filter the hot air

Dr. Frankfurt – an educator and author who could filter the hot air

 

———

This is not to suggest that I have a problem with academicians.  I have had some wonderful professors both at Oregon State and at Portland State.  I even singled out my graduate school Public Finance professor at PSU – Dr. John Walker, as the Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in June 2012, for his dry wit and pithy statements.  I learned a bunch in his class and loved going to his lectures for such gems as:

“It’s much more economically efficient to bury people vertically rather than horizontally.”

Dr. John Walker - An economist with a sense of humor and common sense

Dr. John Walker – An economist with a sense of humor and common sense

“It is my opinion that we could lower the defense budget to zero and the Russians would not attack….However the Mexicans would.”

Under the Oregon fraternal organization statutes, something has to be given to charity each year to be exempt from property taxes.  The law doesn’t say how much — all  you have to do is give $1 to any deserving midget once per year.  When the Department of Revenue conducts an audit and asks what your charity is, the organization simply replies, ‘Marvin.’”

Dr. Melody Rose - President of Marylhurst University and former Oregon Chancellor of Higher Education

Dr. Melody Rose – President of Marylhurst University and former Oregon Chancellor of Higher Education

Two Ph.D.’s – both the current and a former President of Marylhurst UniversityDr. Melody Rose and Dr. Nancy Wilgenbusch – with whom I have raised a mug and martini, respectively – on multiple occasions are shining examples.  They are leaders who have not only risen in the academic world, but are educators who convey their wisdom clearly and articulately – even in casual conversations over a beer or cocktail.

Dr. Nancy Wilgenbusch - President Emeritus of Marylhurst U and sought after corporate board member

Dr. Nancy Wilgenbusch – President Emeritus of Marylhurst U and sought after corporate board member

Back to Dr. Shields – well, his ostentatious style appears to continue – at least as opined by one 1/27/15 review in The Stranger – a weekly Seattle newspaper, who takes issue with Dr. Shields’ latest book I Think You are Totally Wrong. as evidenced in the following excerpt from his scathing review:

“…A handful will swoon over his genius, but more likely you’ll hear a rant about his endless lectures, which my many accounts are packed with self-promotion, name dropping and smug proclamations.”

“The most unbelievable aspect of (this new book) is that everyone involved in its publication somehow thought it was worthy of publication.”

“Shields and (his co-author) simply talk for a little over 250 pages.  One man is the closest thing to a celebrity you’ll find in academic circles; the other is a failed writer……….(The book) serves as a blooper reel of 21st century literature failings, with its elevation of two privileged white dudes talking about beer and pop culture, its mistaken belief that a postmodern acceptance of your own flaws somehow serves as absolution for them.”         

Students are good at measuring this factor....

Students are good at measuring this factor….

Perhaps an apology should be forthcoming for my rant, and it may be an overreaction, but there are shining examples of university faculty who are both brilliant teachers and good writers – who have a sense of humor and a refreshing perspective that motivates students.

University of Portland's Portland Magazine

Portland Magazine

If you want an example, just read Portland, the award-winning quarterly magazine of the University of Portland edited by Portland author, Brian Doyle Contrast David Shield’s writing with a brief excerpt from a wonderful essay entitled, “What is Quantum Mechanics?” by Dr. Max Schlosshauer, professor of physics at UP:

“Quantum mechanics also made me a humble scientist, because it tells me that while nature may at some point be fully describable, nature will never be fully knowable

But quantum mechanics is also emporwering for it tells us that our interaction with the world – our choice of which door to open, which question to ask – brings forth genuinely new events that were in no way determined by anything that has gone before.  And thus every one of our actions helps write nature’s eternally unfinished story.” 

Scientist (and writer) Dr. Max Schlosshauer

Scientist (and writer) Dr. Max Schlosshauer

This is the kind of guy with whom you want to have a draft PBR at the Twilight Room near the UP campus or, heaven forbid (for a political science major) even audit one of his courses!

A toast to Quantum Mechanics from a Beaver

A toast to Quantum Mechanics from a Beaver

 

 

 

 

 

And perhaps if Dr. David Shields is tired of teaching, he should focus on just being an author and attending book signings.   There are evidently many individuals more intelligent and cultured than Thebeerchaser who love his writing, but Abe Lincoln’s quote summarizes this reader’s opinion:

“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.”