The new art

This past weekend, as I’ve mentioned, I headed down to Milwaukee with my son. The reason I went down there though was to get some new tattoos. My artist moved down there a couple years ago, and so the only time I can get art from him is when he’s doing a guest spot in town.

I had originally intended to get a new tattoo when my artist was going to be at the Minneapolis Tattoo Convention. However, I got sick that week and decided that having the flu in a room full of people with open wounds wasn’t a great idea. So I decided that instead of waiting for him to come back, I would head down to where he is, as a fun weekend trip. My wife was out of town last weekend as well, for work, so it ended up being perfect timing.

IMG_2280.jpgI decided that since I was traveling all that way that I should get two pieces instead of just one. We began the day with the first piece that I was intending to get at the convention, a nice Green Lantern symbol on my right, inner, forearm. It came out really good, and I loved that we decided to put a background on it. We debated it back and forth, but I’m liking where it turned out.

IMG_2281.jpgThe second piece I got was something I’ve been wanting for a long time, a tribute to Minnesota. My artist and I worked together on some ideas, and what he came up with was absolutely brilliant. It captures much of what makes Minnesota unique with it’s three distinct biomes. We’ve got a bison, and wind farm, in the southwest, all the way up to the lake in northeast. In between are different pine cones and leaves that make up the Minnesota landscape. The background is a rust red, to denote the mining industry that has shaped our state, especially in the northeast.

I’m incredibly happy with how these turned out, and it has given me ideas for some other pieces in the future.

Olympic “sports”?

On my Facebook feed I recently made a comment that I make every time the Winter Olympics come around; “How is ice dancing an Olympic sport?” Many people piped up about other sports such as synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics that also would fall into this category. Needless to say it provoked some discussion, and so I wanted to spend a bit more time in a long-form venue to explain what I meant by my comment.

To start, I want to be very clear that I am in no way diminishing the physical capability of these competitors. People who participate in these competitions are incredibly talented, and they work just as hard as any other athlete in any other sport at the top of their capabilities. I have a niece who is involved in dance, and I’m always seeing posts from my sister about the toll it takes on her body to be at the top of her game for competitions. I’m not physically capable of doing what these people do, and I never will be. They work very hard to achieve success.

My issue is with the definition of these events as “sport”. When I think of the Olympics I think of sport played at it’s highest level. These people are the fastest, strongest, most agile people on the face of the planet, and they have dedicated their lives to being the best that they can be. Every four years we put them in a contest to see who is truly the best in the world. We determine who is best through many different means, but in almost all cases, the defining factors are objective measurements of success.

For speed sports, the amount of time it takes to finish is the objective measurement. For sports of strength and agility there are measurable factors that determine if something was done successfully. Did the person lift the most weight? Did they complete the agility exercise completely? These objective factors are measurable, and they create the basis on which we can determine who is “the best”.

There are some events in the Olympics that contain a subset of subjective measures. Sports like snowboarding have a certain component of subjectivity, however, I feel that they still tilt towards the objective end of the spectrum. If someone is performing a complex snowboarding trick, they either complete the trick or they fail. The performance of a specific maneuver is the focal point of their attempt. The addition of any artistry or style simply pads their score, but their base completion of a task is still the most important factor.

Some events tread very close to this line between objectivity and subjectivity, and there could certainly be arguments made for some events that they are too subjective. But when you look at events like synchronized swimming, ice dancing, and rhythmic gymnastics, the bulk of what they are judged on is style. If you can’t make it look good, it doesn’t matter if you complete an element or not. The overarching goal is to impress the judges, and hope that they “liked” your performance better than the next competitor.

This subjectivity is why I don’t enjoy these events as a part of the Olympics. I 100% believe that these competitors in these events are amazing, incredible, athletes. They do amazing things that most us could never do. However, the structure of the event itself does not lend itself a competition where someone can be objectively crowned as “the best in the world”, which is, for me, what the Olympics are all about. These events are all visually enjoyable, but yet they feel out of place in a world where winners and losers can come down to thousands of a second, and the analysis of high speed photos to determine who got the tiny little edge across the line.

That’s my thinking today, and maybe that will change in the future. I firmly believe that there’s a place for these subjective events in the world, which are amazing and beautiful. I simply don’t think that place is in the Olympics.

Milwaukee Breweries: MobCraft and Urban Harvest

The second stop on my Milwaukee brewery tour took us to MobCraft and Urban Harvest. I had just spent hours in the tattoo chair, so I was ready for something better than mediocre.

We arrived at MobCraft first, and found the place hopping. There were tons of people there, and it was a bit loud, but the space was welcoming and open. There were a foosball table off to one side, which had an excited set of people going crazy, as well as one of those sword fighting setups that beep when you strike the other person. Because it was so crowded we took a seat at the bar and I looked over the huge menu.

MobCraft has a lot of beers that are suggested by members of their community, and so they change things up quite a lot. They have a whole system of voting for which beers to make, and then that beer is available for a limited time. I ordered up a flight of things that sounded interesting, and then started sampling.

For the second time in two days I was blown away by the amazing quality that a small brewery can put out. Every beer I tried was beautifully balanced and flavorful. Three of my four beers were darker beers, and the complexity of roasts were on full display. I was doling out 4 starts for almost every beer. I also tried one of their sour beers and found it to be really good; not too tart, but not too sweet.

I enjoyed their beer so much I ordered up a four pack of cans to bring home. I was confident enough in what I had tasted that 3 our of 4 of the cans I brought home were not beers I had tried. I’ve gotten through a couple of them since I’ve returned and I’m just amazed at how good their beer is. This is another one to put on your list of places to hit for really good beer in the MKE area.

IMG_2284.jpgOur second stop was a quick visit to Urban Harvest. They’re located in a very old building in an old downtown area in the Walker’s Point area. The vibe in the building reminded me of old Stillwater, MN. I selected a couple of beers to sample and took a seat. Many of their beers were very strong, and so I actually only took a couple of small sips. However, everything was nicely done, though not quite to the level of blowing me away. It was solid, competent beer, in a great environment.

It appears that they also have a small theater attached that does music and comedy shows. At one point the taproom got very crowded as the show let out, and everyone streamed back in. Overall, another good find for a place to check out if you’re in the area.

I’m pleased to report that Milwaukee has some good beer going on, and I was happy to get to experience it. There’s still a lot more places I’d like to hit if I’m in town there again. As with Minnesota, the craft beer scene is growing, and there’s a lot of opportunity for really great flavors wherever you go.

Milwaukee Breweries: Enlightened and Eagle Park

On my trip to Milwaukee this weekend I made sure to spend some time visiting the local breweries. On Friday my son and I headed over to a couple breweries that were in the same building, Enlightened and Eagle Park.

We arrived at Eagle Park, which has a nice entrance off the main drag, with a big garage door that I would assume makes for a really nice summer hang-out spot. I ordered up a flight of 4 beers and opened up Untappd to start logging my thoughts. First though, I should mention that the interior space at Enlightened is really cool. It’s an old loading dock, and so their brewing equipment is elevated above ground level, which makes it look like it’s on display. The overall vibe was really industrial and cool.

However, I found the beer to be mediocre. A problem that I’m discovering in many small breweries lately is the lack of balance. Hop and malt character needs to work together, not against each other. In the case of Enlightened, I found many of their beers were dank when it came to bitterness. Earthy and dank for a hop character isn’t a bad thing, but you need to match it with a malt bill that balances it out. Personally, I like a little bit more caramel and sweetness in my malt backbone if you’re going to do earthy hops.

I didn’t find any of their beers undrinkable, but I just wasn’t that impressed. Probably the best in the batch for me was the Rye, which had a nice tartness to it. However, I really wish new breweries would spend more time on recipe development before launching and thinking that they can just shove anything to market. If you’re the only game in town that’s one thing, but this is Milwaukee, and all we had to do was head upstairs for a totally different experience.

IMG_2266.jpgEagle Park Brewing is on the second floor of the same warehouse building as Enlightened, and you even have to get buzzed in by a call box to enter. Once you find your way up, you’re greeted with a quaint little taproom that is decorated simply with a lot of music posters. It’s obvious that they enjoy music quite a lot at Eagle Park.

For as mediocre as Enlightened was, Eagle Park was a breath of fresh air. Everything I had there was really, really good. In particular I LOVED their Peach Milkshake beer. It was fruity and creamy, without being too chemically tasting. Perhaps it was my joy at finding decent beer, but I gave that one 5 stars. I was also very impressed by their Set List IPA. It was a truly balanced IPA, which seems to be a rarity these days. The hop character matched the malt body, and made for a really nice and drinkable beer.

I enjoyed their beers so much that I picked up one of their ‘make-your-own-4-packs’ to bring home. I’m saving some of them to share with friends, but the Peach Milkshake might not make it that long. I’m very excited with what I tried at Eagle Park, and I’m excited to see them grow. I was told that they’re actually moving to a bigger space soon, and it’s a well deserved upgrade. If you’re in the area, I would highly recommend checking them out.

Next up, another couple of places that help restore my faith in brewing.

Another post about something beautiful

Once again our world is ripped apart by the news of yet another school shooting. We’re back into the same pattern of talking about making change, but never seeing anything different. There’s really not much to say, so once again I’m going to use this space to share something beautiful.

When we were in Vegas this past January we visited Valley of Fire State Park. It’s a really cool place with amazing scenery. While I was standing out in the desert I decided to try some panoramas. The one below came out so well that I got it printed and mounted at Artmill.com (which does an amazing job). It’s now hanging above my TV as a reminder of a beautiful place in a turbulent world.

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