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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Scorsese Principle

America's contribution to the history of film is mostly on the commercial side. There are a few exceptions--Billy Wilder, John Ford, Orson Welles. One of these is surely a contemporary, Martin Scorsese, whose oeuvre will one day be considered among the world's finest. Among his credits are some landmark films that changed cinema (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Last Waltz, Raging Bull, Goodfellas) as well as some underappreicated masterpieces like Gangs of New York and Bringing out the Dead. Yet for none of these was he awarded Hollywood's supposed marker of artistic achievement, the Oscar. That he was finally awarded one for a minor picture is a testament only to the shame of the academy who had spurned him for three decades.

The point is, Scorsese's talent didn't require an Oscar for validation. That the Academy hadn't seen fit to award him one only reflected their own shameful, stunted sense of art.

I bring this up because tomorrow is the final day to vote in Charlie Papazian's online poll to recognized "Beer City USA" at next week's American Craft Beer Week. It is likely that the winner of the poll will be Asheville, NC, which currently leads Portland 39% to 34%. This is, of course, a function of a more robust effort at boosterism among the locals of that nascent beer community than anything like an objective survey of which town beer geeks think is the most beery. Some from Beervana are mounting a last minute get-out-the-vote campaign to push us over the top, and so maybe we'll win in the end.

I say don't worry about it. Let Asheville win the contest. It may be good for their brewing community to have a shot in the arm like that. Maybe more people will head down to their local pub and try a craft beer. In the end, a contest like this says a lot more about the people conducting it than who wins. Scorsese's films were landmark creations whether or not the Academy thought Kevin Costner's directing was superior. How many of you still rent Dances With Wolves?

A week or two ago, I was in the County Cork after work having a pint and a lentil burger. In that sun-suffused neighborhood pub, eleven tables were occupied and in the room, eight of the patrons were children under ten. They were accompanied by their parents, nearly all of whom were also having a pint, and by seven, seven-thirty, they had all departed, mostly by foot. Of the many ways in which to gauge what a "beer city" really is, I can think of no better marker. If you have local pubs where families go to dine and enjoy locally-made craft beer, you have deep penetration into the culture of the town. You have young parents who are beer fans and who are rearing their children to regard beer not as a vice, but a healthy, wholesome part of the diet and the pub as a healthy, happy place to see members of your community. The health and roots of such a beer community are robust and sturdy and will support the creation and consumption of local beer for decades to come.

In my admittedly not-to-extensive travels around the country, I've never seen anything like it. Show me a mom with a toddler on her hip and a stout in her hand and I'll show you Beer City USA. Better yet, I'll show you Beervana.


  1. I agree with your thoughts, Jeff...

    I couldn't help but twist this statement into something funny:

    "Show me a mom with a toddler on her hip and a stout in her hand and I'll show you Beer City USA."

    Make it a Budweiser and you just described about 5,000 trailer parks across the country! It would be hard to believe the difference between Trailer Trash and upstanding community is the beer in their hand.... ;-}

  2. Yeah, I know that will be the reaction of many people--child abuse! But hey, I'm a beer blogger. I think it's cool.

  3. This trend of Jeff and Doc agreeing is making me a subscriber to the Jeff is Doc Wort theory.

  4. "It would be hard to believe the difference between Trailer Trash and upstanding community is the beer in their hand..."

    Well then you've missed the point of the entire post! The beer is the difference! Just sayin...

  5. we're slightly ahead now...40% to 36%

  6. Multiple personality disorder is a serious problem..... Right Jeff?

    Right, Dr Wort!

    Who said that? ;-}

  7. I can think of two such places within walking distance of my house.

    Barclay's in Oakland:

    The Starry Plough in Berkeley:

    That's not to say I'm in The Beer City, USA, but the "mom with a toddler on her hip and a stout in her hand" phenomenon at those places is one of the things I love about living here.