Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bottomshelf Beer Reviews: Big Hurt Beer

"I'll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a Popsicle."

I love drinking beer and watching baseball, and if you don’t I’m going to go ahead and call you un-American.  People that don’t like baseball are the same weirdos who say “you only need to watch the last five minutes of a basketball game” and “soccer players are tougher than football players because they don’t wear pads.”  I hate those people.  If I was President we’d burn those bastards like witches.  As a baseball loving patriot and cheap beer enthusiast I was happy to discover that one of my favorite players from my youth, Frank “the Big Hurt” Thomas, had created his own Big Hurt beer.
Frank Thomas frozen in carbonite

Regular readers of this blog and people that know me in real life are well aware of my fealty to the Chicago White Sox.  Some of my happiest memories and drunkest experiences  center around my favorite team.  I’ll never forget the riot at Illinois State University when the White Sox won the 2005 World Championship.  If you look close enough to the video on youtube you can spot a jean jacketed Danny O’D running through the crowd screaming like a moron.  As impressive as the riot was, the youtube recommended videos revealed that the ISU student body riots kind of regularly.  The most recent riot being a celebration of the death of Osama bin Laden.  An event I find absolutely shameful.  How can you celebrate the death of another human being?  Just kidding.  Killing terrorists is awesome.  
Yippie ki-yay motherfucker.

Big Hurt Pinball
World Series victories are also awesome, but I think teams are defined by their fanbase and their players.  Philadelphia fans routinely assault the fans of visiting teams and fucking throw batteries at people; not coincidentally their Quarterback Ron Mexico (AKA Michael Vick) knowingly gave a woman herpes.  For a decade and a half the White Sox were defined by Frank Thomas.  He retired with a .301 average, 521 homeruns, 2 AL MVPs, 2,468 hits, 4 Silver Slugger Awards, 1,704 RBIs, a pinball machine, a SNES video game, and a guest spot in NBA Jam.  That might not make much sense to you if you don’t follow baseball (or know what a pinball machine is) but he was really good.  Even if you understand baseball statistics, the stat line doesn’t tell the whole story.  It can’t.  A player like Frank Thomas, Walter Payton, or Michael Jordan has to be seen to be believed.  I'm just glad I was fortunate enough to be a kid in the southwest suburbs during Big Frank’s best years.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a goddamned clip of the Big Hurt popping dingers without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, and I refuse on general principle to link one of those seizure inducing cellphone videos of a television broadcast.  Here’s the intro to the SNES classic Big Hurt Baseball.  
It’s a curious move to say the least that a player as legendary as Frank Thomas would create a bottomshelf beer.  I don’t know what I’d do if I was a famous millionaire, I guess I’d still drink beer and watch Conan the Barbarian, but I’d wear a tuxedo(?).  In any case, I don’t know if I’d be trying to break into the well saturated bottomshelf beer market.  Typically when a rich famous person decides they want to take a break from eating caviar and screwing girls with perfect skin they devote their beer endorsing talents to one of the major brewers or their own line of craft beer, which makes sense: instead of competing with Miller Lite carve out your own niche market or just let the bastards pay you.  With that in mind, it’s seems like Frank Thomas said, “fuck all that, this shit is 7% alcohol.  Let’s get drunk.”
Jenny McCarthy is kind of a dummy, but she's also a Sox fan and without her this article would have a lot less babes than usual
 At this point most beer reviewers would write about Sox fans’ “blue collar” or “working class” background.  Personally I think the fictitious class divide between the North and Southside teams is kind of played out, so I’ll talk just talk a little bit about Big Hurt Beer.  It has kind of a mechanical fruity smell, kind of like what I imagine an actual clockwork orange would smell like.  But does the taste hurt? (Sorry folks, the pun was absolutely unavoidable.  I’m as ashamed as you are.)  You can taste all of the 7% alcohol, at least on the first sip.  By the second sip I thought it was alright.  It tasted kind of fruity at first, but that sensation also faded as I journeyed to the bottom of the can. The aftertaste was really strong, similar the feeling you get after you drink coffee, eat black licorice, or smoke a cigar.  That’s not to say it’s bad, quite the contrary in fact, and if you like strong flavors you might want to give Big Hurt Beer a try.  At 7% you might want to try it anyway.  It might not be as palatable as some beers, but at least it gets you drunk quicker.
That might not be the ringingest endorsement that I’ve ever given, but I left out the best part:  Big Hurt Beer is on tap at Comiskey Park (U.S. Cellular Field).  If you’re anything like me you sometimes have a tough time getting drunk by the 7th inning, and as one of the loudest fans in the ballpark the extra point and a half of alcohol BHB provides could be the difference between kind of letting the visiting center fielder know what you think about him and REALLY letting him know what you think of him, his haircut and his sister.  That’s what the pros call a game changer. Big Hurt Beer is Danny tested and Frank Thomas approved.   
Your hero getting ready for the big game

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Favorite Video Games: GTA Vice City (PS2) 2002

Personally I prefer the PS2

It’s unfortunate that most of the things people “like” about the 80’s are either ironic (sigh) or tinted by the rose colored glasses of youth.   My Little Pony, Saved by the Bell, Def Leppard, and Top Gun all sucked then and suck even worse now.  That list doesn’t even include things too lame to enjoy ironically like apartheid in South Africa or Anthony Michael Hall as a regular cast member on SNL.  All that being said, I enjoyed being a kid in the 1980’s. I didn’t have a whole lot of responsibilities, hell I didn’t even have to wipe my own ass for a few years there.  And all the stupid bullshit of the era is more than balanced out by awesome things like Naked Raygun, Robocop 2, Iron Maiden, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the ’85 Bears and Centipede.   
I don’t mean to sound like I’m knocking nostalgia either.  No matter how shitty things may have been in the past, they’re still comforting because your memories are part of you and your experiences make you who you are.  If it was up to me I would have been nailing cheerleaders and doing sick karate moves when I was 14 instead of playing SEGA, and bitching about how much I hated everyone in my Junior High.  In retrospect I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything, except maybe the ability to get all the pee out of my dick before I put it back in my pants.  How do people wear khakis?  Anyway, since we’re on the subject of nostalgia…

Vice City (PS2) 2002

I think nostalgia is a big part of Vice City’s appeal to most people.  Other than Weekend at Bernie’s, it’s hard to imagine a piece of media that evokes the feel of the 1980’s more than Vice City.  For the most part the game presents itself as a larger than life caricature of the era rather than a Wedding Singer style 80’s wankfest, or a Weeknd at Bernie’s style 80’s piece of shit.  The game is like a larger than life version of Scarface (1983) crossed with Miami Vice (1984.) In fact, the credits sequence for Miami Vice could almost be a credits sequence for Vice City except for the Jai Alai player.  For a show that tried to be hip and of the time, that guys seemed kind of out of place.  Almost 30 years later Jai Alai remains as popular as ever, which is to say not at all.  Also why do minorities like Scarface so much?
I know you're a gangster, but do you really need a Tony Montana toilet?

Vice City’s soundtrack is also great, and it evokes the mood of the era better than any photograph or Ken Burns documentary ever could.  While most 80’s musical retrospectives focus on one genre; bad music from the 80’s (e.g. Cyndi Lauper, Poison, Duran Duran, Thomas Dolby, The fucking Go-Go’s.)   The Vice City soundtrack has some crappy songs, but paints with a broader brush and uses old school hip-hop, new wave, heavy metal, and everything in between to paint a picture of the decade.  Many of the songs featured are little lesser known, probably in an effort to save money, but I think it serves the game well.  While artists like Madonna and Prince certainly defined music in the 80’s their careers continue on to this day and much of their respective catalogs are considered classic.  On the other hand, The Vice City soundtrack features Gold by Spandau Ballet.  Gold makes Frankie Goes to Hollywood look like Judas Priest.  That is to say the song is so wimpy and lame it could not possibly be a hit in any decade but the 1980’s.

Aside from the soundtrack, Vice City is my favorite entry in the GTA series because it improves on GTA3, without getting serious and “realistic” (tedious) like its sequels San Andreas and GTA4.  I’m not a total loser, so I don’t get a lot out of getting virtual drunk and playing darts with my imaginary girlfriend.  I don’t look to GTA to give me some sort of Maxim interview* style girlfriend fantasy.  I look to GTA to provide a consequence free environment to sell cocaine, wreck sports cars, murder hookers, and all the other things I’ll never do in real life.  On that level Vice City never disappoints.  I played the shit out of this game in college and I can’t think about it without getting all nostalgic for the brief time when I had nothing to do but drink beer and play video games to the wee hours of the night.
All the fun of maybe getting laid, except for the part where you get to ya' know...cum

Looking at the date I just realized this game came out 10 years ago.  I’m getting old.  I wonder if the 1980’s will seem as weird and distant to my kids as the 50’s seem to me.  I don’t know.  I just hope they port Vice City to a modern platform so they might be able to get at least a little taste of, if not the 80’s at least the early 2000’s.  It would be a shame if they have to learn about hooker murder from a stranger.
"Hurry up and grab the $60 before it disappears.  You didn't kill those women for nothing. Son"

*I hate how Maxim asks Jennifer Love Hewitt or whoever “What do you look for in a guy?” or “What’s your idea of a perfect date?”  No one reading that interview is ever going to fuck Jennifer Love Hewitt so who gives a fuck?  “OMG! She says she loves a guy with a good sense of humor! I’m buying a ticket to Hollywood!”  Ideally you could ask her about sexual positions or any bisexual experiences she may have had, but at least ask something relevant.  She’s not a Rhodes Scholar but you could ask her about some funny anecdotes from the set of I Know What You Did Last Summer, or some other movie she was in.  Does she still work?
JLH from April 2012's Maxim.  As far as I can remember she hasn't been in a movie for at least ten years