Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How Does That Taste Tour of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

A trip to Cleveland is truly a visit to the worst goddamn place in the world. Founded by Dutch explorer Johann Clevelander in 1647 as a trading post for clogs, tulips and vowels, present day Cleveland is known for its lakeside promenades and beauty. All that is better then the truth which is that the only reason the town exists is to make residents of Buffalo or Gary, Indiana feel better about their lot in life. The lake actually caught on fire and people continue to live there.

A visit to Cleveland is not without its charms. The uniformly ugly and misshapen citizens of the town will make anyone feel better about themselves after a plastic surgery mishap or massive weight gain. Apparently the suburbs have some nice homes and shopping areas. Then there is LeBron James and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the two icons of the city and the only reasons to visit. So if you’re in town early for a 7 PM tip off and you can’t find any airplane glue and your crystal meth dealer is not available a visit to the Hall is a necessity.

Did I tell you that area around the Arena and the ballpark is a wasteland? Can’t you build a Quiznos or a Hot Dog Cart, Mayor McCheese?

Needing some sort of tourist attraction, the city used the excuse that the radio deejay who coined the term “Rock and Roll”, Alan Freed worked in Cleveland. Mr. Freed or “Moondog” moved to New York and eventually died a broken man after a payola scandal. This did not prevent the founders of the Hall from ignoring all common sense and building the hall in what was then know as “The Sadness Capital of North America” and “The Gateway To Erie, Pennsylvania.” A truckload of cash from the City must have convinced them as well.

Did I mention that the Drew Carey Show was set in Cleveland? That’s something.

The Hall of Fame is prominently featured on highway signs entering the city and is incredibly easy to find as it is only building built in the past 45 years that is not a stadium. We managed to find parking on the street right at the hall for a quarter an hour. One of the best things about downtowns in the rust belt is the ample and cheap parking available at the main attractions.

The building housing the hall was designed by I.M Pei. Along with being a Bart Simpson prank call to Moe on an early episode of “The Simpsons, Pei is best known for the pyramid addition to the Louvre. The Hall looks like a copy of the Louvre and the statement that Pei was trying to get across is how his vision can be destroyed by budget cuts. It is also surrounded by a football stadium and a skateboard park in Craptown USA instead of a palace in the most beautiful city in the world. As you enter the building it feels like the student centre of a third rate university or the food court of a small airport terminal. The only inkling that this might be a museum for Rock and Roll is the hanging Trabants from the ceiling. These were the East German cars U2 made famous during the Zoo TV tour. The entrance was also the only area pictures were allowed in the building.

Did I mention that I can take a picture of a billion dollar Van Gogh at the Met but Mick Jagger’s shoes from the Steel Wheels tour is off limits? Please don’t even think about taking a picture of Jim Morrison’s grade six report card.

After paying the $22 admission fee you are transported to a world where all music was produced between the years 1955 and 1977 from the Sun Studios in Memphis, to a punk club in London England. The Hall of Fame is meant to honour all music created for the youth culture after the mid 50’s. Unfortunately the exhibit for hip hop, the prevailing youth music for the past 20 years is basically a case for the adidas worn by Run DMC. It is allocated less exhibit space then the Allman Brothers Band. The only black artists celebrated the ones who were screwed by their white managers in the pre Rock and Roll era or anyone named Jimi Hendrix.

The main exhibit era is in the basement. Display cases are filled with artifacts from different eras including the early 60’s British Invasion and the San Francisco folk rock era. One room is filled with outfits from artists as diverse as David Bowie and U2. Some artists are famous enough to warrant their own display like the Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Group dispalys featuring gruesome drug deaths and plane crashes have not yet been created. Any American musician with at least one hit who died in a plane crash gets instantly inducted to the Hall.

Then there are the inexplicable choices like the Doors, another group which the hall deems more important then an entire genre of music. This group was relevant for barely five years is primarily remembered for Jim Morrison. Nicknamed the “Lizard King” for his lithe moves but a bloated blob of alcohol by the time of his death, Morrison became a free speech icon by displaying his dick onstage. A shitty rock version of a circus band fronted by a hippie Las Vegas lounge lizard, The Doors were a joke by 1970 but have remained in the public consciousness due to famous fanboys Francis Ford Coppola and Oliver Stone.

Did I mention the fact that the Doors blow and have more display space then hip hop or Motown?

The basement features the bulk of permanent exhibition while the other 6 floors feature attractions such as a recording studio, the member’s plaques, Rolling Stone magazine covers, a restaurant and the obligatory terrible gift shop. A small display features the history of Cleveland rock, which basically revolves around the song “Cleveland Rocks” The top 2 floors feature a rotating exhibit which at the time of our visit was filled with Bruce Springsteen memorabilia.

If you go into the Hall expecting an overpriced crapfest then you can’t be disappointed when that is what you get. I was actually expecting worse and was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t worse. If you are in Cleveland, have $20 and a couple of hours to spare there is absolutely nothing better to do in town. It’s like the Sbarro at the airport.

No review of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can be complete without noting that the annual induction ceremony takes place in New York City. The greatest indictment of the importance of the induction and the horror of the city is that you cannot convince the inductees to take a 45 minute plane ride to the city that houses the museum. Even the 25th anniversary was held at Madison Square Garden. There is talk that some ceremonies will be held in Cleveland but I’m not holding my breath.

I did enough of that in Stinktown, USA.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are You A Coffee Snob? The 5 Stages of Coffee Snobbery

Coffee snobbery is a fairly recent phenomenon. Starbucks has enabled a culture of coffee douchebags to populate the world and spread words like "fair trade" and "organic". Even so it surprised me to hear a statistic recently from the USDA that coffee consumption peaked in 1946. In those day people had the time to savour a cup of joe at breakfast, after dinner or with friends at home, diner or at a restaurant. Soldiers returning home from Italy had been fooled into thinking an Americano was an actual coffee and not a joke played on them. In today’s drive thru world we cart around our java in environmentally friendly paper cups to keep us awake and have the time to care if the coffee is fair trade. We may drink coffee but do we even enjoy it?

Like Maslow and self actualization, HDTT has created a hierarchy of coffee snobbery The progression on the hierarchy is gradual and at every step of the way you think you are better then everybody else on either side.

Stage 1 – Coffee is an afterthought. You will drink anything from instant to whatever brand is on sale at Walmart or a discount supermarket. Your coffeemaker was a gift, on sale or was left over by the previous tenant.

Stage 2 – You are a Tim Hortons loyalist. The thought of getting a double double anywhere else makes you cringe. You would never vote for a politician who would buy coffee from anywhere else because it would make an elitist. Try not to laugh when a former Harvard professor from London, England proves his down to earthiness by ordering a double double. Your coffeemaker brews Tim at home or another mid range national brand.

Stage 3 – You enjoy buying your coffee from a premium national or international chain of coffee shops. You prove your individuality by knowing the difference between sizes (a venti is a large) and being able to order espresso based drinks with inflated prices due to the addition of 5 cent flavour shots or 10 cent chocolate flakes. You think the average donut store coffee drinker has no taste or teeth. You did some research before buying a coffee maker, use a grinder sometimes and have a number of premium blends you purchase.

Stage 4 – As a hipster douchebag you only drink coffee from a local independent coffee shop. This shows you’re a free thinking liberal even though every shop of this type is exactly the same.
  • It’s located in a gentrifying neighbourhood because the rents are still cheap but the really scary minorities have moved out.
  • The table and chairs are from a used furniture store. It adds a touch of retro coolness while making loiterers uncomfortable after 20 minutes
  • A white barista with a liberal arts degree who wont serve you an espresso in a paper cup as it ruins the taste. Meanwhile the Italian cafĂ© in business for 50 years serves it up in a Styrofoam cup
  • Inconvenient hours since the owner knows that leaving the barista alone is his shop will lead to financial ruin as he will steal or give his unemployed friends free coffee. Plus the neighbourhoods scary minorities come out at night
  • Wi Fi for free loaders even though theres only one table
  • Horrible baked goods from the local gluten free bakery
  • A soundtrack powered by an Ipod filled with local indie bands, ironic pop, 30 year old new wave and a Tribe Called Quest. Every white hipster likes Tribe.
  • Terrible Art on the walls from local residents
  • The menu is written on a chalkboard. There are five items and the only thing that changes is the feature coffee. This week it's from Costa Freakin' Rica. Starbucks stole this to inform us that Barista Kelly loves a soy latte.
  • A flyer for yoga
  • Wardrobe by American Apparel
Stage 5 – The mysterious snob is rarely seen. He (and it is always a he as only a man could get this obsessed) is well to do and surrounds himself with the finest thing including a coffee maker which is not a machine but a work of art. A great bean that has been sacrificed to lesser brands makes him cry.

The coffee may be a lot better then it was in 1946, but something tell me that they enjoyed it a helluva lot more then we do now. Plus that hipster who wouldn't make me an espresso in a paper cup would have been killed at the hands of his own men.

Social Networking Boobery

At some point in the future I expect to receive a message in my facebook inbox asking me if I wear boxers or briefs. Unfortunately it won't be from a long lost friend or a porn bot but from the company itself and the will be for testicular cancer awareness.

There was a recent flurry of female friends switching their status to colours. It was obviously some sort of viral campaign and I quickly discovered that it was for breast cancer awareness. The colours represented the colour of the bras women across the world were wearing. Some questions I never asked were finally answered.

Raising awareness is fantastic for an apathetic world. By being aware of something you can feel like someone who has actually done something concrete about the problem. I have not donated any time, money or interest to an issue but I know it exists. I am aware therefore I am a good person.

Do something by doing absolutely nothing!

The only thing I became aware of is your bad fashion sense and how easy it is for facebook to start a viral campaign.

It doesnt help if every person in the world is aware of the issue that is being raised. Is it possible that there is a single person who uses a computer and has been able to sign up for a social networking site who doesnt know about both breasts, cancer and how they interact. I know that my awareness of breasts has been raised since I first logged on the net and that staring at a computer for such a long time has raised my chances of cancer.

What is likely is that this little gem of an idea was raised in some marketing meeting and that the stats will be used to show companies the power of facebook. So when I get the testicular cancer awareness message it will be sponsored by Fruit of the Loom.

Oh and it's boxers.