Commercialism has won yet again. Hundreds of years of knowledge, tradition and craftsmanship has been replaced by economic sensibility. Originality, uniqueness and integrity have been pushed aside by bean counters and their bottom lines. They are all betting that YOU can’t tell the difference, and are laughing all the way to the bank.
Sadly, they are right. You probably can’t even tell the difference. Perhaps you are not even worthy to read further. Perhaps you should go drink a Rickard’s Red or some other mediocre beer and forget you even heard of open fermentation. Cut your losses while you’re ahead. Ignorance is bliss. Click the home button on your browser now. I am not kidding, do it now.
You still here? Great. Fasten your set belt and lets talk about the nuances of open fermentation. No other word can strike fear and awe at the same time in the heart of a brew master. Search the web and you will not read anywhere about its endangerment in any of the headlines. It is a silent battle seemingly without opposition. Or so they thought…
First, let us get some of the tech details out of the way. In the brewing process, traditional open fermentation takes place in relatively shallow vessels which naturally encourage the yeast to fall to the bottom at just the right time. The fermenting wort (pronounced wert, don’t ask me why) or beer is not under any head pressure as the yeast faithfully does its work, which allows the resulting carbon dioxide and other non-quantifiable agents to freely and happily dissipate into the surrounding environment. This delicate process preserves the full flavors and complexity of the beer and lends a softness or silkiness to the mouth feel and overall flavor profile. In the modern tall brewing vessel (called conical fermenters) preferred by accountants and business advisers (as they take up less floor space) are many times taller. Thus, the carbon dioxide developed during fermentation rises in greater distances, in effect purging the flavors as it goes up and out. In addition the yeast is very slow to drop which alters the flavor profile. Ok, enough with the tech talk.
Why should you care about all of this? Great beer. Don’t like beer, OK, fine, nobody is perfect, but it still involves you. Please read on. It is about integrity, nuance, originality and the quality of life. It’s about the little things. You know, the things that at the end of a day make a difference. It’s about not letting commercialism continue it rampant destruction with total disregard to tradition and craftsmanship. Take heart, not all is lost, for the battle is not over yet.
It is of great interest that the famous British Bass brewery whom not too long ago replaced their traditional open fermenters with the new shiny closed conical ones, (and thus became the infamous Bass brewery) now seems to be suffering remorse. They are now attempting to preserve the open fermenters that produce the wonderfully soft, delicate and malty Czech Staropramen lager. A true lager at its finest. The other more famous Czeh brewery Budvar began replacing its open fermenters with stainless steel, but happily stopped. Another victory. Sadly the once great Pilsner Urquell has abandoned completely its famous wooden fermenters and reduced its yeast from five strains to two. I know, I know, oh the horror of it all! The much revered beer and scotch expert (at least by me anyway) Michael Jackson sadly reports on his Beer Hunter web site that, it has lost some of its complexity and its malty fullness of flavour.
Some adventurous American micro- breweries and brewpubs are now taking up the cause by embracing open fermentation. These beers are notably more complex and intriguing than their new fan dangled conical fermenter brewed counter parts. (I have always wanted to use fan dangled in a sentence.) You too can join the cause, How?
Try spicing up drab and mundane conversation about HD TV with random references to open fermentation accompanied with an increased heart rate and a glazed look in your eyes. When someone expresses concern about the environment, you may kindly add: “Perhaps you should be just as concerned with the extinction of open fermentation.” Or, “Excuse me, where were you when Bass killed open fermentation?” We could make up bumper stickers that say: “Friends don’t let friends play with conical fermenters.” Ok, may by we need to work on that last one, but you get the picture. Hey maybe we could get the esteemed filmmaker Michael Moore to make a heart-wrenching documentary about the subject. I am sure we can find a brewer in Cuba that practices open fermentation. I could even shed a few tears for the camera while nursing my 100% open fermented home brewed euphoric Imperial India Pale Ale.
Plus, just think of how you can become an instant beer snob and impress your friends by asking the brew master or server at your local brewpub if they practice open fermentation. Stay original… drink original beer.
Few things in life can be so rejuvenating as when one throws all common sense aside and surrenders to natures way of cleansing and starting fresh. (Ok, before this gets any sappier and starts to sound like Readers Digest babble, we will get to the (a) point.) You see there is a connection between walks in the rain and great music.
We stumbled upon this revelation in the romantic old section of Quebec City. That trip was special for two reasons. The first being one of the several times we enjoyed a walk in the rain, while the second being the first time we heard the sonic canvas of Lhasa. Her luscious and moody first album, La Llorona. Can you see the connection forming?
You see just as all voluntary walks in the rain are unforgettable experiences, permanently etched in your brain, the same is true with all great musical discoveries. We all have these memories as if they were yesterday. We remember not only when and where we were, but also how we felt at that moment.
Is this not a wonderfully subjective way to determine what is great music. If you can remember clearly the day when you first heard it, then for you it must be great music. Forget all the top ten lists and music reviews that are as numerous as drops of rain, and trust your own musical experiences.
Great music and walks in the rain do not follow common sense. Both should be personally experienced and passionately romanticized.
So if your last great musical encounter was long ago, then isn’t time to have another? Perhaps its also time you went for a walk in the rain, preferably with someone you love. Stay original… it’s more romantic that way.
Trends. Fashion trends, music trends, movie trends, art trends, car trends… etcetera, etcetera. Are they so bad? Are they really evil? Yes, in fact they are. They are like theme parks. They seem fun and innocent for a while, until you get home and wonder what on earth motivated you to pay $7 for a soggy hotdog, and $4 for a watery coke. (That is way more scary then the scariest ride.)
Trend followers are like thrill seekers. There are never satisfied. Just like the theme park rides, they all start and end, and then go around, again and again. Trends come and go, unlike good taste. Trends are have nothing to do with what is new and original, its just about going around and around. That is until you have enough, get sick and then get off.
Trends are bad for true innovation and creativity. It is all about buying and selling, strap people in and keep that roller coaster moving faster and faster. While you are upside down on the new roller coaster trend, your money is falling out of our pockets.
Do you think real innovators like Tom Waits read People magazine or pay attention to music, movie and book charts?
Isn’t it time already to just get off the roller coaster before we all get sick? Stay original… it may even become trendy.
While no one was looking, under the cover of darkness, the magnificent Italian hand built La Marzocco machines were replaced one by one with fully automatic computerized press-a-button versions. (This took place in thousands of Starbucks across the land.) This is the day when the romance and theater of Starbucks died.
This disturbing trend is taking place on many levels of society.
Many argue that removing the human (error) factor makes for a more consist product and increased customer satisfaction. But really, truth be told, it is because of training costs, speed of service and efficiency. Not bad things in themselves from a overly worked Barristas point of view. (The solution for a busy store is to have two to four machines and double the staff, like they do in Buenos Aries. Really, they do.)
However they are ignoring the romantic factor. Where is the romance and theater of pushing a button? Where is the skill and passion of the Barrista?
For a quick lesson in romance, look to the humble Volturno. One of the things that the Italians brought with them to Argentina was this little stove stop espresso maker. (Made internationally famous by Bialleti.) While not true espresso and I am not comparing it to espresso, it deserves a place in every coffee lovers arsenal.
We brought ours back from Buenos Aires, a national brand called Volturno. Although it mostly gets it use when we travel, there are still many a days when we when we opt for the intense room filling aroma and the seductive whisper it makes to tell you when its ready. Where Bialetti has compromised to appease the North-American hordes by making a stainless version, the humble Volturno still uses the time honored and tested traditional aluminum which gets better with age.
Simply follow a few simple rules handed down from the old Italian bubbas. First, you need to condition the pot before use by brewing a pot with just water, then a second time with coffee that you leave sit overnight. The second rule is to never wash the inside with soap, just rinse with hot water and air dry. This way you do not want to disturb the coating left by the oils in the coffee. The third rule is to pile the slightly coarser than espresso grind coffee in a mound with the peak passing the top of the filter basket. This way the coffee will be compressed to just the right amount for optimum extraction.
While these basic rules seem to defy normal coffee logic, in the Volturno they unexplainable work. Enter the romance factor. While producing good coffee is based on scientific principals, fully automatic press a button espresso machines can never compute nor replicate the romance (human) factor.
Those old Italian bubbas know best. Please leave button pushing to accountants and Starbuck Barristas. Stay original… it’s only human.
Mark Sandman wrote: “I am like a mirror, I am nothing till you look at me.” Words for deep thought at 2 a.m. when you can’t sleep.
Lets apply this to art. Does art have value if it is never appreciated? I suppose that is why we have museums of art. Art is also one the few things that can achieve the priceless status. However if a priceless painting is locked away behind 6 inches of steel and never to be seen, can we say still say it has value? Sure it has monetary value but art is not about money. If no one can ever see it or appreciate it, then what value does it have? Yes, it seems that Mark makes a valid point.
Most things inherently human are interactive in nature. They must be seen or heard in order for their value to become more apparent. (That is also why in the end, artists reluctantly part with their precious art. That and of course not wanting to be a literal starving artist.) The artist is only part of the equation. The audience is another. Both are needed for art to have value.
Original art is also like a mirror in one other aspect. Each time you peer into a mirror, you see something new and unique. You will never see the same image twice. That is why original art is so special. You own something unique. (Which is becoming increasingly rare in this world of artificial clones and cheap knock-offs.) More than 6.5 billion people cannot have what you have. Each piece is unique. Even more so with original oil paintings, as with time they also interact with the environment (light, humidity, temperature, dirt etc.) creating subtle and hopefully positive changes. There are almost countless variables in this graceful aging process.
That is why art really is priceless and one of the greatest values in our modern society. So the next time you peer into the mirror, take a moment to think about individuality, interactivity, originality and art. Stay original… its priceless.
“If one was too wise, one would never had left England,” replied Miss Honeychurch when questioned on if it was wise for a single female tourist to walk the streets of Florence alone.
This is a quote from E.M. Forester’s classic novel, on which the wonderfully romantic film, A Room with a View, is based.
The lesson of course is that one must be brave in order to discover. We need to take chances in order to experience new things, expand and broaden our tastes. It’s far too easy to settle for what is comfortable.
In order to expand your musical horizons, why not listen to listener supported and funded radio like CKUA (which fuels our studio). You can listen though local frequencies, through satellite, or through the web. Or search for your local alternative. Stations like CKUA introduce you to a whole new world of music waiting to be discovered.
Be sure to also check out Pandora where you enter in a band you like, and it will stream Internet radio stations that feature similar music. It’s interactive, so you can fine tune it and find such what you like.
Support community projects like Art Walks, Shakespeare in the park, Jazz and Folk festivals. Every city has free, or donation supported ways to enjoy the arts. A recent revival is outdoor Cinemas which play classic or independent films. All you do is bring a lawn chair or a blanket and a small donation.
Miss Honeychurch is telling us is to be brave, get out the rut, rent less movies, listen to less commercial radio, kill your TV (or at least sentence it to more solitary confinement), go for walks, try new Cafes, discover something new. Never pass by art without taking the time to appreciate it. Even if its not your taste, you can still appreciate it for it’s contribution to culture.
Be brave, don’t settle, discover. The little things make the difference. Stay original… discover.
Bob Geldof wrote in the song Room 19: “When I woke up I was freezing… I was stuck up on a shelf with the other guys in room 19. Tchaikovsky played the music, Pasternak wrote the poetry, Lenin never shut up talking, and every talk became a speech.”
The idea that all the brains of these great Russian thinkers and artists preserved in glass jars and on a shelf in room 19 waiting to be studied is an interesting one. It begets the question: What makes great thinkers, leaders and artists? Does it really have to do with the brain and intellect? Do these people really have superior brains? Perhaps it has less to do with the brain and more to do with the heart. (Although this view could be simply be a result of our diminished brainpower. But please read on…
From the earliest of man’s history, the heart has being used in a figurative sense referring to the inner man. “Among the Semites . . . all that was peculiar to man, in the category of feelings as well as intellect and will, was attributed to the heart. It is the sum total of the interior man as opposed to the flesh, which is the exterior and tangible man.”The Metaphorical Use of the Names of Parts of the Body in Hebrew and in Akkadian, by E. Dhorme, Paris, 1963, pp. 113, 114, 128 (in French).
For example, history tells us that Napoleon Bonaparte once ordered his own army to stand still while he rode ahead to face the opposing army of 6,000. He dismounted and walked up to the barrier of men and their guns. Their commander ordered them to fire, but in awe of the man standing before them, not one shot was fired. There is no question that Napoleon Bonaparte was a bold and courageous man, and whether for the good or bad he changed the course of human history.
Was he great because of his superior brainpower and intellect? No one can say for sure, but at least in this one instant we can say that what he did was just plain stupid. One single shot could have ended his return to power in France. We can say with great certainty however that he had heart. He had a purpose that he believed in with all of his heart. (To bring the Holy Roman Empire to it’s end. Which in fact did happen in 1806. Just in case you care.)
If we were to extend this investigation to other great men and women of history, we would most likely find that all the great thinkers and artists of all time, from Da Vinci, Einstein and Stephen Hawking (well at least he had the moral integrity to admit he was wrong), to Mozart, Liszt (there is a only a handful of people in the world that can play his original pieces, and yet he loved the subtle music of his friend Chopin) and Chopin, to Renoir, Monet, and Rembrandt, all had the same thing in common, they all had heart. (Some were probably a little loopy as well, that always helps.) They had a purpose that went far beyond intellect. Something so intangible as this can only be attributed to the heart. The sum total of the interior man. Stay original… have heart.
If you are what you eat, then is it such a stretch to say that you are what you buy?
You can be sure I am not the first to make this connection. As you read this article, the marketing gurus are busily working, analyzing your purchases, movements, clicks and downloads. Armed with highly advanced computer algorithms they are trying to compute what you will buy next. The next time you look at your credit card statement, you should consider the question before others do: what do your purchases say about you?
Please let me share with you a defining moment in our purchasing history.
In the wonderfully original Soho district of Buenos Aires, we stumbled on a small independently owned store that makes and sells porcelain dishes. We fell in love with a set of espresso cups and plates that we have never seen anywhere else. Simple, functional and artistic, yet also handcrafted and reasonable in price. The owner herself helped us in our decision. To this day, we have a sense of pride drinking from our beautiful handcrafted cups.
We now think twice about every purchase we make. It must be original and if possible, handcrafted. We strive to think global but buy local. Choosing local craftsmen and artisans. However, be forewarned, the marketing experts are getting more clever (or more devious) and will not give up their empire so easily.
We consumers (yes, an awful term which shows how big merchants view us, big mouths wide open, ready to gobble up their mass produced knock-offs) are bombarded with original-looking, not so cheap, imitation, products. But, when you look at where it is made – or better yet, how it is made – it is just more expensive junk.
Don’t we all have enough cheap (actually we don’t anymore, can you say: minimalist), artificial, and only skin deep good-looking stuff? Just say no. No one will say it for you. Enough is enough. Buy original. Choose craftsmanship, quality and style. True its costs a little more, takes a little more effort and time (time is only money for the people who are taking your money), but in the end, it tells something about who we are. Every purchase shapes and defines us. It contributes or takes away from the quality of our life. Remain a mystery to the marketing gurus. confuse their complex computer algorithms and throw a wrench (preferably one made in China) in their multi-billion dollar alliances. Stay original… be you.
Some self-proclaimed business guru once said if you are successful, it is time to change. The idea of course is that you have to be permanently dissatisfied in order to get better. Sounds good, right?
Or does it?
The example he gave was Toyota and something about their rising sun or sun rising or whatever. (These business gurus should leave poetry to poets. What is a business guru anyway? Sounds like something you might need antibiotics for.) Anyways, I guess this is the Toyota corporate motto, mission statement or something you hang on the wall in any case.
Hmm, this all sounds really good, for making billions of dollars of profit that is. But is this good real world advice? Is not permanent dissatisfaction why some people take their own lives? If California gets wind of this, I can hear all the therapists saying, “your far too successful Ken, it is time to do away with yourself.” Really, is that the way YOU want to live your life? In a state of constant dissatisfaction?
Reliability is a worthy goal. Please don’t get me wrong. However, the automobiles that we have loved the most (and yes at times hated, which is true in all things of passion) were never by any means reliable. But what they lacked in reliability they more then made up for in personality.
My wife still speaks fondly of driving through the hazardous winter roads of British Columbia in her 6 volt 1956 VW oval, and I often recall the adventures in my old VW bus like it was a scene out of Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant.
In South America we were the proud owners of a 1977 Gurgel X-12 Jeep. A wonderful companion who needed to be cared for and listened to. Her peculiarities were not engineering faults, but rather part of her robust character, her way of communicating with the owner. Now computers do all that. Pretty soon we will all be like the Borg. (I added that just in case any Trekkies CAN read and come across this article.) I don’t want to drive a computer and I don’t want to be isolated from the road, and frankly I don’t want reliability if it sacrifices personality just for the sake of billion dollar profits.
Think of the hand built cars of long ago that were made of steal, wood and leather. Cars that actually had something in common with workmanship instead of Rubbermaid. They were works of art. Being permanently dissatisfied is taking us down the wrong road. Being permanently dissatisfied with their fat profits fuels the current trend of big car makers merging into even bigger car makers. When will it end? Hopefully their own permanent dissatisfaction will cause them to self-destruct and do away with themselves. For once, I would like to see a corporate motto that says: Don’t change, stay original… be happy.
Substance. There is a serious lack of it in modern day popular culture. The commercial powers that be, have almost banished artistic integrity from our vocabulary. Wonder bread art rules. It feeds the mouths of the majority but sadly it lacks substance.
The over commercialization of mainstream media, music, film and literature is ruining the artistic appetites of each new generation with fluffy white bread, that has little if any real artistic value. When Mark Eitzel faced the accusation that many people find the songs of American Music Club depressing, he responded by saying that he finds the likes of (we are too nice to say who it is, but just insert the current talent-less propaganda poster girl or boy here) depressing. We agree.
That is why the role that original art plays is more and more valuable in modern society. Artistic integrity IS still alive. It is just that we need to look a little harder and a little deeper to find it. But when we do find it, whether in the form of an inspiring independent film, some brilliant and virtually unknown musical group, or in some obscure author, it is so worth it.
Take for example espresso. (You did not see that one coming, did you?) If you have a decent espresso machine, please don’t settle for the convenience of mass marketed espresso. Rather seek out a good artisan espresso that has substance. We are very passionate about Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso Blend which fuels our studio. If you live in Canada you can have it shipped direct to your door from Caffe Tech based in Edmonton. Better yet, if you are in Edmonton drop by and visit their Italian inspired Cafe.
When we make little choices based on substance instead of advertising, we find nourishment and preserve artistic creativity and integrity. Stay original… choose substance.
First, Apple’s Get a Mac ads were voted among the best ads for 2006 according to The Wall Street Journal, and then Steve Jobs stole the show from CES (Consumer Electronic Show) with the iphone and Apple TV, holding in his hand the future of electronic convergence while Bill Gates just stood there at CES talking about it. Now micro-softies are really getting nervous and defensive (or at least more nervous and defensive than usual).
What they really need to do is relax, stop fighting (why can’t we just all get along?) and read the Stanford commencement speech given by Steve Jobs (highly recommended reading). It explains why Apple is always on the cutting edge of industrial, artistic (this is an art blog, so I had to find some way to get art in here… I even resorted to getting Eva to quickly paint this great Apple still life just for this blog! Now, don’t ever say that we did nothing for you.) and technological design. Once Bill Gates (before the messiah complex hit and he decided to resign as CEO of Microsoft and save the world) was posed with the question, what is your vision? He replied: “to see a personal computer on the desktop of every home.” Good one Mr. Bill, but hardly what one would say is visionary (it was kind of obvious that would happen).
Apple, on the other hand, seems to have no such simplistic vision. They innovate instead of follow. They reinvented the mp3 and now the smart phone. Their products are far more than technology, they become part of our lives, they even become our friends. (Yes, even minimalists need some kind of friendship.) They say that it was Steve Jobs who insisted that the Mac Plus have no fan as the noise took away from the beautiful design and user experience. (Turned out to be a lesson in form follows function as the solder joints would fracture. Of course, hard core minimalists were few and far between back then… come to think of it, we actually still are… I guess that makes us kind of minimal… you don’t have to read anything that appears in parenthesis by the way.) Of course they have had their other failures (the bright colored clamshell notebook with a handle was kind of embarrassing), but when something comes together, wow, it really comes together. Just like great art. (I know, I know, another very weak link to art… did I mention Eva’s great Apple still life… my goal in life is to write a whole article in parenthesis. That would make Penn Jillette proud.)
Of course the micro-softy masses always rely on the same old argument that if Macs are so good, then why do they have such a small market share. (Love that one, because then you have them right where you want them.) Based on that same logic, they should all be driving Honda Civics. Porsche has a very small market share. I guess then it is a failure as well. (Don’t get me wrong. Honda makes respectable cars that sell very well, but no one compares them to Porsches.) Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both very rich men. Both companies are doing very well. Which one is bigger, richer, or sells more, is of no consequence. (At least to us peons who get excited about finding 25 cents on the street.) One has a rather simplistic vision that has already being accomplished and doesn’t seem to know what’s next (except of course to continue copying, ‘borrowing’ or buying other people’s ideas), while the other, continues to innovate.
Why are micro-softies so defensive? Relax amigo, we don’t really care if you choose to use inferior software on ugly hardware. No one is twisting your arm and forcing you to change. We are happy to keep quietly driving our Porsches and when we pass you by in your Honda, we will even give you a friendly smile. You see, we CAN all just get along. Stay original… Porsches are.
Andy Warhol reportedly once said: “It hurts when you go to school too long.” Now, obviously, if you are a heart surgeon or nuclear engineer, you may want to take Andy’s comment with a grain of salt. The point stands however that too much school becomes counter productive and can hurt or even crush creativity.
Take for example Steve Jobs, a college drop out who after touring India started the remarkably creative Apple Computers (think iPod), Pixar (think Toy Story), NeXT Computers (think cool black cubes for people who have way too much money), and who knows what is next. Now, where you ask, did a college drop out get the money needed to start a computing company? His partner (Steve Wosniak) sold his VW Bus (think hippy) and they used the money to build the first Apple computer (housed in a wooden apple box) in the garage of Jobs.
The current North American educational system (think boring) based on the British model of the omnipotent Professor babbling while an overcrowded classroom of peons try to figure out whats going to be on the final, stunts thinking and creativity. (Granted, this is a huge sweeping generalization, but hey this an art blog and artists are free to make sweeping brush-stroke like generalizations.)
So, kids, the point of this little exercise is: study a little, think allot, get an iPod and be free. If a couple of hippies could do it, then so can you. Stay original… be free.
Terroir (no, not terror, try to stop thinking about terrorism for at least a day) is a term used in wine that explains how wine speaks of the earth is comes from. What a wonderful and romantic way travel to the earth. The next time you visit your favorite wine market, pick up a bottle of an Argentine Malbec and travel to the Mendoza region of Argentina. The picture below is a traditional Argentine wine decanter that is still used in many homes and Parrillas (Grills). (More on our favorite Parrillas in Buenos Aires in a future blog.)
Somehow, the wine tasted better served from the friendly and humble Penguin. A perfect companion to the grilled Provelleta. (Cheese aged for a minimum of 30 days, grilled to perfection and topped with olive oil, oregano and chimichurri) Each Parrillero (Grill Master) has his own style based on a custom mix of tradition, skill and intuition. Was the house wine as good as last week? Or is the Provelleta better today? There too many variables to even contemplate. It is all part of the experience that can never be duplicated or replicated the same way twice.
Terroir helps us to remember that while consistency is good to a reasonable degree, if abused, it can choke out and kill originality. Good wine, like good food should never be consistent. It is not natural. Huge restaurant chains (think McDonalds) are successful for their consistency not necessarily because the food is of high quality. They can never replace the romance of the cozy local Parrilla or some other little gem that you have discovered where you live.
There in the Parrilla, accompanied by the penguin, one remembers that good wine like other good things in life (do we even need to even mention original art?) has little to do with the label on the bottle, marketing dollars, or snobbery. It has to do with terroir. It is nature way of putting balance back to life. No matter how large or how sophisticated a winery is; it is the earth that has the final say. It is natures way of making sure that we all stay original.
So the next time you pop the cork out of a bottle of wine, or seek out a place to dine (hey that rhymes), remember Terroir, the humble Penguin and the Parrilla. (Wow, now that would be a great Batman movie.) Stay original… it is beautifully inconsistent.
For a long time we have had the suspicion that there is a link between India Pale Ale and artistic creativity. Before you think we are a little loopy, let’s first look at a brief history of this fine beverage.
The British troops who were sent to India more then a century ago, brought with them of course a good supply of their finest ale. However, due to the long voyage and relenting heat, sadly the ale had spoiled before it reached shore. So what did they do? Since hops are a natural preservative, they added double the amount of hops, and made a stronger ale (higher gravity, more alcohol) to survive the journey. Many months of aging in oak wooden casks made for an exceptional new style of robust ale.
A century later, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, namely Seattle and Portland, this fine ale was re-invented, trading the classic British hops with the more assertive and bold American hops such as the citrus Cascade, and the grapefruity Chinook to create a hop lover’s dream. When we first traveled to Seattle in the early nineties we fell in love with IPAs. Each small brewery and brew pub set out to undue the other in who would create the most hoppiest and complex IPAs. One of the best at the time was the cask-conditioned Pike Place Brewery (now The Pike Brewery) India Pale Ale.
Interestingly we began to notice that good conversation accompanied a good IPA. The more hoppy the IPA the more creative and artistically inspired we felt. (Yes, even more so then espresso.) It seemed that an IPA always seemed to be surrounded by creative and passionate people. Could this be just a coincidence, or was something less obvious at work here? Is it simply due to the fact that the IPA is usually the brew masters most creative and passionate beer that he produces, and so this in turn attracts an equally passionate creative patron. Or is it the fact that no other beer causes such an extreme reaction in its tasters, ranging from hate to euphoria. Or could it possibly be the lupilin effect?
Lupilin is one of the principal ingredients of hops, and the vine itself is a distant relative of the cannabis plant. It is of no surprise then that lupilin has a mild sedative-like effect on the central nervous system, and is often used us a natural remedy for sleep disorders. Reportedly one interesting side effect is that it increases vivid dream activity. Could lupilin be responsible for the hordes of passionate hopheads that seek ever-higher levels of hops in their IPAs? Is that perhaps why the conversations around a pint of IPA more often then not burst with creativity? That is for you to decide.
Stay original… be creative.
Mature waiters in white tuxedos, gleaming brass machines and professional baristas pouring double espressos in handmade white porcelain cups. It is a time to reflect, take stock of the day and enjoy the moment. This is the daily ritual for the people of Buenos Aires.
No line-ups at the counter, no 16-year-old servers and no fully automatic espresso machines that produce the same mediocre espresso time after time. In this bustling city of 17 million you will find no giant 20oz cups to go filled with way too much milk for a grown person, to cover up the poorly chosen, poorly brewed bitter espresso.
When did what we refer to as a coffee break, cease to become a break? When did going for a coffee cease to become an experience? When did a waiter cease to become a dignified profession where one could support a family?
One of our favorite espresso experiences in Buenos Aires is at the Cafe Martinez. They roast their own coffee, and offer several varieties and degrees of roast. You choose the variety and the roast that you want your espresso to be pulled from. They have experienced well-trained baristas who take pride in their work. You receive a small glass of mineral water and a hand crafted chocolate with every espresso. Playing in the background is either classic tango or neo tango fusion such as the Gotan Project or the Bajo Fondo Tango Club.
Another great coffee experiences can be found in Quebec City, Canada. In a dark and romantic cafe in the heart of the old city, you have the option to choose the variety, then one of four methods of preparation: espresso, filtered drip, French press, or an Italian stove stop that brews right at your table over a small flame, the perfect choice for a romantic rendezvous. Over time you become intimately acquainted with all the subtleties of one variety through the different brewing processes.
It is no longer just coffee, it is an experience, and each experience is unique and original. We invite you to think about your memorable coffee experiences, and more importantly WHEN will be your next.
Stay original… enjoy the moment.
One of the first things you notice in the charming old neighborhoods of Buenos Aires (such as the antique and tango district of San Telmo) is that even the doors are unique, each one having a personality of its own. Many of these doors have inspired paintings here at the Underground Art Project such as the one here. They are truly beautiful works of art.
To this day, the art of fileteadores (artists who practice the art of folk art) is alive and strong in B.A. It gives you a sense of comfort and general well being to see doors still viewed as something inviting, welcoming and full of artistic expression. When did doors lose their soul? When did they become something negative? When did they become solely a means to shut out and lock out, instead of to welcome in?
We propose that the door is a social commentary as accurate as any other. We trusting Canadians rarely lock our doors. Perhaps this embodies the spirit of the painted doors of old San Telmo, but sadly this is changing with the passing of time and is being reflected in our societies, communities and yes, in the families that live behind the doors. Sadly in our modern world of apartments, condos, controlling developers, and city by-laws, most people have little choice over what their door says about them or what they want them to say to others. Have we not lost a little part of our artistic expression, which contributes to the quality of life? But if we did have the choice, if YOU had the choice, what would your door say about you?
Stay original… express yourself.
The other day someone asked Eva (the greater half of the Underground Art Project) where she gets the inspiration to keep painting. My thoughts immediately turned to the often repeated remark attributed to Brian Eno, that while the Velvet Underground’s first album in 1967 sold only a few thousand copies, every person who bought it formed a band and made more music.
That is the great thing about art. It fuels itself. That is why art in all its forms continue to evolve. Take tango music for example. It all began in Buenos Aires with Carlos Gardel in the 30′s. Now more than 70 years later we see new artists still redefining tango. There is neo tango like the electronic beats of the Gotan Project and the Bajo Fondo Tango Club. Then there is the tango fusion of Tango Crash who fuse neo tango with experimental jazz and Otros Aires who mix tango with the milonga of Barcelona.
The question of course is, who inspired the likes of Carlos Gardel or the VU? I do not know, but of this we can be certain, it was art in some form. Art fuels art. Whether you listen to great music, read a captivating book, fall in love with a beautiful oil painting, savor a perfect shot of espresso (yes, it is art, why you even have latte art, but that is for a future blog), or get lost in the complex aromas and flavors of a hand-crafted, hand-pulled cask-conditioned India pale ale, you are fueling your artistic creativity. All forms of art converge into inspiration, motivating us, fueling us to produce more art.
The music we play in our studio affects the way we paint that particular day, what we write about or how much kerning I want to apply to my favorite font. Art inspires us all to be artists in some way. Artists will continue to redefine and reinvent their art and other people’s art. That is why art has, is, and will always stay original. Stay original… fuel up.
What is art? How do you define it? These are difficult questions to answer and probably better left unanswered. Of course you know we are not going to let that stop us. Right? So, here is our take and hopefully it will get you thinking about YOUR OWN answers.
Andy Warhol showed us that art was inseparable from style. As Lou Reed and John Cale pointed out in the song, Style It Takes from the album, Songs For Drella (a good-by to Andy) where the average person saw simply a Brillo box, Andy saw art. Warhol had the style it took to dictate what art was (and is to this day). I heard once that Steve Jobs (Apple) had a BMW motorcycle in his living room as a piece of art.
Only now do I make the connection to an interesting acquaintance from my younger days. He was restoring an old 50′s American classic for the sole purpose of taking a road trip to California. From our brief conversation I remember so clearly how he was also looking for a unique piece of art to put in his old apartment in the Mission district. One carefully chosen piece of art, he said with real conviction, would be all that was needed to transform the mundane into something inspiring. Those seemingly inconsequential words briefly made in passing have not only stayed with me but have also inspired me down to this day.
It seems that Andy Warhol, Steve Jobs, and that (now very consequential) person from my youth, all followed the same creed; that style dictates art. In vain we keep trying to group and classify art of every sort into different styles, yet these styles continue expanding and defying such grouping. Why? Because there is always another artist who has the style it takes to dictate what is art or what art is. The avant-garde impressionists of more then a hundred years ago defined their own style just as Warhol defined pop art in the 60′s and 70′s.
Who are redesigning art today? Well, that is an easy question. Those who have the style it takes. For style + art = originality. In that case, the real question is not HOW do you define art, but rather how do YOU define art? Stay original… have the style it takes.
Something is terribly wrong. Are we the only ones that can see it? Are we the only ones who care? Is anyone going to do something? Let us explain.
When we came back to Canada after a several year hiatus in South America, we made a brief visit to our favorite brew pub with a couple of friends. To our horror, one of them, ordered a low carb beer. What? Was what we were hearing true? Has North American culture gone mad? Perhaps it was still the jet lag? Perhaps our ears still needed to adjust from Spanish back to English? But no, sadly, it was very true. The low fat, low carb propaganda bullet had struck again.
Well, you can imagine our embarrassment, but what could we do? After all, they were our friends. Then we started to realize that were in fact surrounded by infected people. People who were trading their India pale ales and Stouts for low carb beers, and right there on the table in front of us was even a low fat, low carb menu.
In the grocery stores we noticed how real food, (yes, food as nature intended, sorry kids but pizza pops are not real food), had been replaced by food PRODUCTS, many of which came with government approval labels, trying to convince us how healthy they are. Hmm… Funny there were no such labels to be found on the few natural and real foods that we found left in the store, the fruits and vegetables. Something is terribly wrong. Are we the only ones that can see it? Are we the only ones who care? Is anyone going to do something?
Yes, we are going to do something and we want you to join us. It is about time we fight back, stand up for real food, real beer, and good health. But first, we need a motto, so here it is folks, are you ready, brace yourselves it’s going to be a good one: “full fat, full flavor, full health.” There you have it. Catchy isn’t it? You see, what we are going do is to eat REAL food with all the fat and all the flavor, but just eat LESS. (Insert our usual minimalist ranting here…) Self-control is the answer, not all the fat free chocolate cake you can eat.
And while were on the subject, sorry people, but you CAN taste the difference, low fat Fettuccini Alfredo does not taste the same, people just agree with you, because you have so little body fat, they are afraid to rattle your cage. Well, there you have it, that’s our solution to the problem. Repeat after us: full fat, fall flavor, full health. Now don’t you feel better already? Stay original… it’s only natural.
Wow, for minimalists we sure make a lot of noise. Search the web and you find all kinds of minimalists spouting off about the virtues of “less is more” and how “form follows function.” Why even big corporations are putting out minimalist adds in the big glossy rags.
So why, do you ask, do we need another blog on the subject? Because, we minimalists have nothing left in our houses and have driven off all our friends, so we have nothing else to do but extol the virtues of minimalism. No really, the real reason is because of something profound that happened to us recently.
We were talking to some twenty-something year old friends about minimalist music, art and design. (Actually that’s not really true, we were talking about something completely different, but we always look for ways to change the theme of any conversation to minimalist design.) Then I mentioned something about Andy Warhol. Well, when we saw the blank look of confusion on their faces, we realized that these poor under privileged girls had no idea of whom we were talking about. It was even worse then we initially thought.
We mentioned other names to see if any brain synapses were connecting: The Velvet Underground… nothing, American Music Club… zip, The Feelies… nope, Mies Van Der Rohe, Jennifer Sterling… oh my, this is bad, the Latin Playboys… nada. What do they teach in schools these days? Ok, we could see that we had our work cut out for us. So, how do you go about helping a couple of young impressionable minds to appreciate the virtues of minimalist design?
Hand bags. Yes, you read correctly, handbags and other women’s accessories. You see, I recently stumbled upon the website of designer Marc Jacobs, which is a beautiful presentation of minimalist web design, OK granted, too much Flash (no, not the glittery kind, go ask a computer nerd then come back…) but oh so very clean. (Also, not very functional, but who cares, he’s rich and famous.) We just happened to be at a coffee house in Paraguay called Havanna who have Wi-fi and even a couple Apple Macs (Hmm… do we see a connection forming here..) for customer use. As soon as I brought up the Marc Jacobs website, I could see the blank looks disappear followed by instant recognition, and a lot of shouting: “I love Marc Jacobs, they make such cool hand bags.” Mission accomplished.
The moral of the story is the following: minimalism is best appreciated through the simple things in life. Are not the simplest words the most meaningful and powerful: love, home, family, friends, and iPod. (Just kidding.) The point is: everyone is minimalist at heart; they just don’t know it yet. Perhaps there is too much clutter in their lives for them to see it. You see, that’s why we minimalists have to make so much noise. Stay original… be minimal.
They call it limited edition posters, err… I mean prints. It’s bad for the art world. It has less to do with art and more to do with rampant commercialism. The frame is usually worth more than the print. But the artist has signed it you say. Sure if the artist becomes world famous and dies some horrible death, it may well have some value, but it is not and never will be original art.
Remember when people were buying all those limited edition wildlife prints, because it was a “good investment.” Hmmm, when did limited edition prints or any art for that matter surface on the New York Stock Exchange? (Maybe that will be the next trick of publishers after they learn to pronounce giclee properly. More on gilcees in the future…) It was however allot of fun listening to people justifying why they paid $1000 for a poster, explaining how it is not really a poster, it’s a “limited edition” copy. Maybe a few prints have increased in value, but most have not, and others are garage sale and flee market specials.
However, all of this is besides the point. Art by nature is original. There is a fine line between selling art (which is good for you and the artist) and commercializing art. (Which is bad for you and the artist.) Please buy art because you like, or rather, because you love it, you can’t stop thinking about it and you can’t get it out of your head.
If you can’t afford original art, then go to Ikea and buy a nice cheery poster print and put it on your wall (no really we mean it!), and if you feel the need, then sure, go ahead and take out the magic marker and sign your name away. Hey why stop there, why not number it 314 of 10,000. And remember, don’t call it a poster, call it a “print”.
Stay original… buy original.
Mark Eitzel from the venerable American Music Club (whose CD jackets by the way contain brilliant art and who many believe is one of the best songwriters of all time) once said he writes “pretentious little songs of quiet self-loathing.” If only all artists could be as honest about their work.
You may have noticed that the underground art project does not have an artist statement. It is not because we could not think of some lofty, pretentious things to say about nothing, or babble about some metaphysical junk, but rather because we feel the whole idea of an artist statement is, well, to be honest, is just down right SILLY. Do you really care what some artist has to say about what his work is about or what it SHOULD be about? Can you not tell these things from simply viewing his work? Why is art so pretentious? Why are artists so pretentious?
Art is completely subjective (unless of course you are an art dealer, then in that case ‘subjective’ is a bad word) and is one of the purest forms of expression that eliminates the need for explanations or commentaries. If you like a painting then that’s great, if you don’t then that’s great to. If you can’t decide, then that’s not great, and you should be forced to read endless artists statements until you have an opinion.
If for any other reason you really want to read some poor misguided artist’s pretentious words, the art galleries and the web are full of them (knock yourself out), we however would much rather you listen to Mark Eitzel’s pretentious little songs of quiet self-loathing. After which, you might even be inspired to pick up the brush and start painting.
Stay original… not pretentious.