Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Beer and Music, Music and Beer, 2020 Edition

I miss my commute. Well no, not really. What I miss is that "me time," surrounded by people, yet alone. I miss living with an album, inhabiting it. A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory and Midnight Mauraders, Nas' Illmatic, and Quicksand's Manic Compression on the 1/9 train in high school. My commute junior year abroad in Japan, bumping Radiohead's OK Computer and REM's Up, perfect albums about displacement and the surreality of it all as I walked blocks that were at once instantly recognizable and quite literally foreign to me. For two months in 2000 I worked at Bell and Howell, on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, MI. The bus ride out of the small city and into the post-industrial, hollowed-out Midwest, which included walking across two exit ramps of Interstate 94, can't be separated from Godspeed You! Black Emperor's F♯ A♯ ∞.

I learned to love these albums through repeated plays on mass transit, or a 2-kilometer walk through Osaka, or a ferry from the north to the south island in New Zealand, in which a patch of fog in the Cook Straight suddenly had to be soundtracked by Mogwai. 

On Friday, March 13th, 2020 all that ended. That was the last day I had a commute. You always go to the show, yes? Well, on March 12th a friend and I bailed on a concert (Algiers and Hammered Hulls at the Black Cat) because of the pandemic. We still ask each other if we should have gone, now knowing it would have been a last hurrah. We made the correct choice.  

So much has been taken from us over the past nine months. People's health, people's livelihoods, people's lives. Hugging, dapping, hand-shakes. Great and small, people and customs, bars and restaurants and shops... they're gone. 

I mourn my commute not because of physically going from home to work, but because that was my time to discover and live with an album and make it mine, tying it to a place, whether that place is physical or mental. Now my commute is to go down a flight of stairs, becoming both a library worker and a hall monitor for the virtual schooling of two children. No more music, no more audiobooks, no more podcasts; it just doesn't work that way for me in 2020. 

The physical time I've gained back is not for nothing. More home-cooked meals, more time with immediate family and pets, and more time to--see below--drink beer. But damn, being able to turn up the volume and get into an album on the train,... I really miss that.

Would I fall in love with Helena Deland's debut album Someone New over the course of two weeks on the Yellow Line, my headphones accentuating the musical flourishes, the huskiness in her voice? Which part of the album would play as the train exited the tunnel after L'Enfant Station, transitioning to a bridge across the Potomac River? I don't know, and well, that sucks. I like it well enough on my laptop, often played while onions cook on the stove and two children discuss Legos, The Mandalorian, Fortnite, Overwatch, and Minecraft in the background. But it's not the same. None of this is. 

And so none of these albums are really mine. I've heard them and I enjoyed them. But they're shoes I bought, tried on, and wore a few times. They haven't yet adapted to my contours, nor mine to theirs. I really hope in 2021 we get to change that. 

Here goes. 

1) Fontaines D.C. - A Hero's Death: More mature lyrically, slower, darker, and more muscular than their excellent debut. The switch from punk-based rave ups to something closer to post-punk has treated them well.  

2) Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher: Baroque chamber pop, singer-songwriter fodder, and occasional alt-country and psych about... Dodgers fans beating up and killing Giants fans, and how Eric Clapton sucks. Anyway, it's really good.  

3) New War - Trouble in the Air: Melbourne commissioned this hometown band to perform and record on the largest pipe organ in the city. The result is minimalist and claustrophobic, appropriate soundtracking for a year of teleworking and doing without. 

4) Feminazgul - No Dawn For Men: Here are the tags for this album on Bandcamp: appalachian, metal, antifascist, atmospheric black metal, feminist. Interested? Bonus points: one of the band members works at a brewery. 

5) Dogleg - Melee: Post-hardcore/screamo that's maybe learned a thing or two from bands like Japandroids in that it's cathartic and fun to sing/scream along to. 

6) Osees - Protean Threat: John Dwyer released a lot of music this year. These 38 minutes of psych-punk are my favorite of the bunch. 

7) Nothing - The Great Dismal: Shoegaze with loud-quiet-loud dynamics, and the loud gets really loud. 

8) Stay Inside - Viewing: "What if Interpol, but post-hardcore?" It's kind of something like that. Taut, wiry, and insular, this is not the stuff is sing-alongs or fist pumps, but of quiet headbanging on a commute. Maybe one day.  

9) Gum Country - Somewhere: If Electropura-era Yo La Tengo got on the C-86 cassette it would sound something like this. 

10) Kvelertak - Splid: Touching on the past 40ish years of metal from the late '70s British new wave to '80s arenas to '90s metalcore to the present, singing in two languages, and just a joy to listen to. 

The best of the rest, or eight more albums I liked: 

Bartees Strange - Live Forever: Impressive genre-bending from across the indie-rock spectrum to RnB and rap. 

Brigid Dawson and the Mothers Network - Ballet of Apes: Slow psych, both breezy and languid, from this sometimes Osees collaborator. 

Fleet Foxes - Shore: Same as it ever was for this band. 

Kiwi Jr. - Football Money: Hits that same jangly, breezy spot as the most recent, woke, Parquet Courts album. 

No Joy - Motherhood: Things I heard in the first three songs of this album include dream pop, black metal, EDM, and slap bass. Somehow, all these in juxtaposition work. 

Porridge Radio - Every Bad.

Run the Jewels - RTJ4: Same as it ever was for this band. 

Touche Amore - Lament: I've long been aware of this band, but hadn't paid them much attention. I'm listening now. 

Best album ruined by a lead singer: Oranssi Pazuzu's Mestarin Kynsi, which sounds something like Acid Mothers Temple doing post-metal.

Singles, songs, whatever: Silverback - Klub Silberrucken; Bartees Strange - Mustang; The Weeknd - Blinding Lights; Algiers - We Can't Be Found; Protomartyr - Processed By the Boys.

In 2019 I kind of gave up on IPAs. I don't really know why, it just shook out that way. Well, they're back, including two stellar double IPAs, normally the bane of my existence. Go figure. Which style declined at IPAs' expense? Saison. I saw significantly fewer cans of that style around, which is a bummer. From March 13th to the end of the year I had three draft beers. Three! On the plus side, everyone put everything in cans, because they had to. Here's what stood out. 

Port City Brewing Company

In 2020 it was Port City's world, and we all just lived in it. My favorite beer? Pretty much any Port City lager in a can, but also in a bottle like their Helles and Weizenbock. Let's rank them: 

Rauch Marzen - Just a perfect, flawless beer. 

German Pils - Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal winner for a reason. 

Mexican-style Dark Lager

Helles (bottle)

Tmave Pivo - I saw a lot of this style around, which is great, and this one was the most "tmave" in terms of having a Saaz hop bite. 

Dopplebock - I've only had one of these, but it was very very good. I should get an Andechs' and go side-by-side. 


Weizenbock (bottle) - This was to be 2020's Colossal release, but in a very 2020 move, it just didn't didn't meet the brewery's standards, so they brewed it again later in the year. It's very good. 

Note: I didn't have the Export. Not sure how I missed that one. 

Elsewhere in locals (plus, uh, Delaware, because why not): 

Ardent Ales Schwartzbier

Black Narrows Brewing Company Salts - A gose with oysters makes a lot of sense, hence the name of the beer. Maybe "a creamy, briny, minerality with notes of lemon" isn't for you, but it really works here. 

Dewey Beer Co Surf Wax Double IPA

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, Utopia barrels edition - That this was ready to drink upon an August release was most impressive. 

Elder Pine Pilsner (little bit of oats and a lot of Loral hops) and Bien Veillen hoppy saison, which scratched all the right itches.

Ocelot Ebenezer IPA.

Right Proper Le Flaneur - Sherry barrel-aged "barleywine" that was our consensus pick for Boundary Stone's Battle of the Barrels.

Right Proper/Pizzeria Paradiso Friend Blend Sour Ale - Just a great balance between stone fruits and their acidity, Right Proper's house character, and foeder conditioning. 

Wheatland Spring Corn Crib American Lager - So good it spawned a hashtag. Also, I'm going to take a bow for writing this on February 3rd, "On the other hand, a lot of people are about to find out how good Wheatland Spring, Dynasty, Elder Pine, and Manor Hill can be, and we’re looking forward to chatting with a lot of familiar and friendly faces." 

Outside the DMV:

EOC Coolship Black Lager

Halfway Crooks Smoked Helles Lager

Other Half Small Riwaka Everything IPA

Rogue Coast Haste Wet-Hopped Double IPA

Schilling Alexandr (10) and Palmovka (12) Pilsners - And I hear a 13 plato amber beer is coming soon. 

2021, please treat us better. Thanks for reading, and be safe. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Beer and Music, Music and Beer, 2019 Edition

I wasn't too thrilled with doing a top ten list this year come September, but then something like "Oscar season, but for music!" happened and I feel pretty pretty good about what follows. I go back and forth on my top three, but here's the order as it stands now.

1. Somos - Prison on a Hill: Gorgeous antifa new wave.
2. Elbow - Giants of All Sizes: Aggressive, off-kilter guitars; synth gurgles; strings, 7/4 time signatures; and lyrics to match. “Empires crumble all the time / Pay it no mind / You just happened to witness mine.” Elbow shows no interest in playing it safe and their weirdest, yet most direct, album to date is also their best.
3. Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel: “Dublin in the rain is mine/A pregnant city with a Catholic mind.” The "go go Rimbaud" aesthetic suits these Irish punk rockers, coming through like Mark E. Smith at his most focused.

4. Danny Brown - uknowhatimsaying: Q-Tip isn't the obvious choice to produce this album, but this pairing really does work.
5. Ty Segall - : No guitars, no problem. Segall uses Japanese, Greek, and other stringed instruments to create his tightest psych-rock album yet.

6. Alcest - Spiritual Instinct: The band at their most dark and brooding. Someone needs to add "goth" to the blackgaze sub-genre.
7. DIIV - Deceiver: Heavier than previous efforts, and more economical at 10 songs and 45 minutes.
8. Beth Gibbons, Henryk Górecki, Krzysztof Penderecki - Symphony of Sorrowful Songs: Gibbons is the voice, Górecki the composer, and Penderecki conducts the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. I can't recall ever placing a purely classical work on a year-end list (shout out to Kronos Quartet!), but this is excellent.
9. Bon Iver - i,i: Justin Vernon's actual voice is quite nice, and here it's not hidden behind auto-tune, processors, and other effects. More, please.
10. Low Life - Downer Edn: It's post-punk, it's coldwave, it's goooooooood!

The best of the rest:

Courtney Barnett - MTV Unplugged Live in Melbourne: Did you know these were still a thing? Well they are, and Barnett's excellent rearrangements are worth a listen.
Kaatayra - No Ruidar da Mata que Mirra: Heterodox melodic black metal from Brazil, with asides into traditional and Portuguese-inflected instrumentation and arrangements. Very good.
Wand - Laughing Matter: There's a lot going on on this album and while I don't like all of it, I like most of it (and I admire all of it).
Thom Yorke - Anima: That I enjoyed this is perhaps the most pleasant musical surprise of 2019.

Cheers to: Sturgill Simpson (Sound & Fury), for keeping country weird; and Lankum (The Livinglong Day), for doing the same with Irish music; Hammered Hulls, for bringing back that harDCore sound.

Best album that I'll never listen to because it hurts too much: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Ghosteen.

Best use of pedal-free tremolo to recreate 1990-era My Bloody Valentine sound: Fleeting Joys - Speeding Away to Someday.

Singles: L'Eppee - Springfield 61; Vampire Weekend - Harmony Hall; Wand - Scarecrow; Schammasch - A Paradigm Of Beauty; Brutus - War; Danny Brown - Dirty Laundry; Weyes Blood - Movies; A.A. Williams - Control; Stormzy - Vossi Bop; Hammered Hulls - Written Words.

Now on to the beers. When I started doing these lists there were 1,500 breweries to choose from. Now there are about 8,000. I know I'm missing some stuff. It's going to keep happening. One thing that makes it easier: I've pretty much given up on double IPAs as a style. Hazy, East Coast, West Coast, it doesn't matter. The combinations of over-hopping and high-gravity just don't do it for me anymore. So it goes. The locals, in no particular order:

Guinness Milk Stout - A 5.something percent milk stout from the people who know a thing or two about stout. Here's a pastryboi you can session?
DC Brau Joint Resolution - The savviest brewery in DC pivoted from a Belgian-style golden ale to a year-round hazy IPA (and later added hard seltzer). Here's one you can drink two of.
Aslin Baby Shark - Here's another hazy IPA you can drink two of.
Black Narrows Wild About It - A lager brewed with corn, and then bretted for an extra dry finish. More please.
Commonwealth and Allagash Toji - These two collaborated on a foeder-aged saison, brewed with dates and yuzu. It was an excellent pre-Thanksgiving meal beer.
Port City German Pils and Tmave - One of these took a Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal. I'll add that 2019's Rauch Marzen was their best version yet.
Silver Branch Glass/Killer Castles - One of the really nice things about 2019 is how many new breweries hit the ground running. Right from the start Silver Branch was making very good beer. Killer is the unfiltered pils, Glass is the easier to find one. You can't go wrong.
Silver Branch Umlaut Love - Or you could drink the Kolsch-style ale.
Precarious Leicht - This also took gold at GABF and I just happened to be maybe 5 miles away from the brewery when the win was announced. I had never heard of them (Williamsburg, VA) before. This 3.9% lager is excellent.
Triple Crossing Pathway Pils - I tried to kill the keg of this at Brookland Pint.
Red Bear/DCBeer Ruby Lager - We did a few collaborations this year, and this one was my favorite. Really well balanced with a pillowy soft water profile.
Right Proper Scenicruiser - It's billed as a biere de garde, but there's grapes, and exotic hops, and it's fermented in a foeder. There's a lot going on here and all of it is good.
Union Schmoke - The second best beer name of the year (thanks, Crispocurrency!) and my favorite smoked beer. More on that over at DCBeer.com soon.

Image result for crispocurrency beer

Also, we podcasted about the year that was.


OEC Coolship Lager - Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores isn't known for stuff like this, but maybe they should be. Proof that they can stand on their own two without the B. United imports.
Anderson Valley Black Rice Ale - I'm not going to find Asahi Kuronama around, and if I do it won't be fresh. This beer takes me back to what I remember drinking so often in Japan (yes, one is an ale, the other a lager).
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, with Bitburger - These are reliably very good.
Casa Agria Stone Fruit in Harmony - It's a saison, it's a fruited sour. Excellent blending going on here.
Fernson Plains Beer - Late into SAVOR I visited this table and hung out drinking light lager for the rest of the night.
Switchback, Flynn on Fire series - This Vermont brewery brought three smoked beers to SAVOR, each helpfully labeled with a "smoke-o-meter." The saison was my favorite, but what a cool thing.

Cheers to 2020, may it be better.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The BeerBrarian's Guide to... ALA Annual in DC!

Since I live in DC, I thought an insider's perspective might be useful for the upcoming American Library Association Annual Conference, which meets at the Walter Washington Convention Center from Thursday, June 20th to Tuesday, June 25th.

A brief word about the guide:

With a few exceptions these are places I frequent, or at least have been in.

7th and 9th are the main commercial streets near the Convention Center, 5th and 6th are more residential (8th Street gets cut off by the Convention Center).

Blagden Alley, off of 9th, is pretty cool, and there will be a pop up market on Saturday the 23rd.

Coffee is important. I'd go with La Colombe and Buttercream, both on 9th Street. There's a Compass Coffee inside the Convention Center. That convenience wins out.
So is beer. I vote for Lost and Found, also on 9th.

If you don't mind walking, the Shaw and Penn Quarter neighborhoods, along with what's left of Chinatown, offer a bit more. The same is true of private developments like City Center DC and City Vista.

Go forth, enjoy, and say hi.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Actually it's about ethics in cataloging

Karen Snow, Associate Professor, School of Information Studies, Dominican University; and Elizabeth Shoemaker, Rare Book Cataloger, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, & Rare Book Library, Emory University are conducting a survey concerning the role ethics plays in cataloging library and archival materials.

"The purpose of this study is to explore cataloger perceptions of cataloging ethics, what they feel are the important ethical issues they face, and how they choose to address ethical issues in their work."
Please take the survey.

This was one of the top search results for "critical cat," so good job with metadata, GIPHY.

Here's how I answered some of their open-ended questions.

First, I define cataloging ethics as making library items and materials, either owned or leased, discoverable, findable, and searchable
1. Using language that promotes equity and inclusion
2. Taking the political economy of copyright and intellectual property into account by recognizing that ethical use and laws may be in conflict
3. Respecting the right of subalterns and historically marginalized groups' and peoples' right to privacy, as exemplified by Tara Robertson's work on zine cataloging.

Most of my cataloging work is of the copy- variety, so I rarely encounter ethical issues in the wild outside of adding keywords in the 650 fields to make items more discoverable. However, I've been tasked with acquiring and cataloging materials relating to grit and resilience, especially those that would promote these concepts. I also purchased materials that took a different approach and made sure that these were discoverable by people looking for the originally requested purchases.

Elsewhere, I've noted that some Library of Congress Subject Headings are contested sites, and used multiple terms in local records. Radical Cataloging may be of some use here as well.

How do you define and practice cataloging ethics?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


The last time I went to work was Friday, December 21st, 2018. I set up an out of office message, took a look around, and left. I still have some trail mix and chips on a shelf in my office. I wonder if they've gone stale, or if a library mouse is enjoying them and the solitude.

When the shutdown started, our living room furniture was set up just so. Since then it's been moved two more times. I think we're finally happy with it.

I do some quick calculations in my head about our food situation. We're fortunate that we can miss a month or two of paychecks and be okay, but just in case, better to buy in bulk now--hello, Costco--and supplement with Aldi or the "seconds" produce at the weekly farmers market. I update my resume and CV, just in case.

The second week of the shutdown my wife notices some water damage on our bedroom ceiling. We call a roofer. They spend maybe twenty minutes poking around, and two days later write us an estimate for $11,000. We laugh.

I also apply for unemployment in the second week. I figure I pay into this system, I may as well use it. At the end of the process the unemployment website gives me fifty-eight jobs to apply for that are either in a library or library-adjacent. I filter them by distance to my house, fifteen miles or less given Metro and the state of local roads, and an hourly rate of $20 and over. The updated search returns zero results.

I hear nothing for over a week, then get a letter in the mail, instructing me to use their website to file a weekly claim. There is no information on how to file a weekly claim on the website. I call instead. Due to the volume of callers, I'm asked to try again later.

I meet fellow furloughed friends for lunch downtown. The takeout traffic looks okay, but the dining room is empty, and a server confirms that business is down about seventy percent. Some of the staff are losing shifts.

Mr. 12 in particular thinks the shutdown deals are a hoot. We live within walking distance of an &pizza, a fast casual chain that cooks made-to-order pizzas in a high-speed oven. They're offering a free pizza with a federal or contractor ID card between 6 and 8pm every day, and bless them for it. On Friday, January 11th, the day of the first missed paycheck for federal workers, there's a line out the door at 7. I don't tell Mr. 12 that I could buy about eight pizzas at the hourly rate my contractor bills.

My aunt sends me $100 Trader Joe's gift card. We don't need it, but the thought, the kindness, matters so much more. When I go "public" on social media about filing for unemployment, I receive more kind messages, and some friends asking about the process, which they'll choose to go through.
People ask me how I'm holding up. I tell them that the laundry is done, the house is clean, the meals are home-cooked, I'm caught up on prestige tv, and the dogs are walked. But at about week three I start thinking about the $6,000 or so I've lost thus far. As a contractor, I'm almost certainly not getting that back. My anxiety spikes.

It spikes a second time when I think about going back to work. The emails I'll come back to, the feelings of being overwhelmed that other staff will almost certainly have and how I'll manage that, the accreditation committee that hasn't been tended to in almost a month, the missed deadlines. I bake cookies. I walk the dogs again.

If you'd like to help, and have the means, the following organizations do good work:
Bread for the City
Capital Are Food Bank
Greater DC Diaper Bank
So Others Might Eat

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Beer and Music, Music and Beer, 2018 Edition

Well, that was a year. 2018, with the never-ending news cycles, sapped much of my ability to concentrate. Pretty sure I'm not alone in that. To "celebrate," my top ten of 2018 is unranked, in alphabetical order.

Smash that play button and let's go.

Beach House - 7: Their biggest, most extroverted album.
Charles Bradley - Black Velvet: You come for the searing cover of Nirvana's "Stay Away," but you stay for his voice and the Daptones on his final record. Rest in peace.
Holy Fawn - Death Spells: Shoegaze with touches of black and doom metal. The sequel to Sigur Ros' Kveikur you didn't know you needed.
Kraus - Path: The shoegaze album of the year marries emo-style lyrics to breathtakingly loud guitar and pedal work.
Panopticon - The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness Parts I and II: A double album that's black metal and bluegrass, doom and Americana, with an ecological bent. And yet it works. Loud or quiet, it's beautiful.
Parquet Courts - Wide Awake: I didn't know they had it in them to make a political record, but it's here and it works.
Pusha T - Daytona: At 21 minutes I've got hardcore albums that are longer, but here are 7 bangers with no filler. Maybe burn it onto a CD-R with his highly entertaining diss track-slash-investigative journalism of Drake.
Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin: The Use Your Illusion of psych-garage-punk maybe could have benefited from being edited into a single album, but it's surprisingly funky and well-done.
Shopping - The Official Body: Gang of Four-style post-punk. Most impressive.
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt: Jason Pierce aging gracefully, making Brill Building-, Beatles-, and Brian Wilson-style pop and R&B. Some songs are warm, some are abrasive, all are exceptionally well-crafted.

The best of the rest:

Amen Dunes - Freedom: Damon McMahon sounds like early Mick Jagger on a few of these slow-burners. Most impressive.
Belle and Sebastian - How to Solve Our Human Problems: Nice to have them back, making perfect pop songs.
Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy: I've come to terms that the boom bap sound of my youth isn't coming back, and maybe, finally, that's a good thing. I wish that JID album hadn't come out so late in the year.
Des Demonas - s/t: The album came out in late 2017, but I didn't discover it until early 2018. US Girls seems to get the critical love as far as bands from DC go, but this political and polemical garage, surf, and punk band is well worth a listen.
Iceage - Beyondless: They've become one of the more interesting bands out there, and they're not even 30 yet. This album's more post- than punk and it works. The Jam for our times?
Jesus Piece - Only Self: The year's artiest hardcore album.
Lucy Dacus - Historian: This, plus the boygenuis EP.
Mitski - Be the Cowboy: I didn't get the hype before this one. Now I do. What a lyricist.
Nicholas Paschburg - Oceanic: My favorite ambient record of 2018.
Sleep - The Sciences: They're back, so pass the bong.
Thee Oh Sees - Smote Reverser: They sound more like Sleep now, so pass the bong.
Anna Von Hausswolf - Dead Magic: Something like a goth Kate Bush making doomy, funereal pop.

Singles: Tracey Thorn - Sister; Cardi B - Get Up 10; Shopping - The Hype; Snail Mail - Pristine; 1975 - Love It Cause We Made It.

Jeers: I wasn't into albums from a few bands I'm normally into. Sorry Courtney Barnett, Churches, and Deafheaven.


I thought DC Brau had comfortably entered their middle age, making beer that's "good enough." They killed it in 2018, releasing an excellent British-style barleywine in Sleep Standing Up; then made a hoppy rice lager, Tuk Tuk, that's very good, and that was just last winter. They followed it up with the Jameson-barrel aged Pet Your Cow milk stout this fall and then finally put their keller pils in tallboys. They had a really good year.

Some thoughts:
1) Our post-whalez scene continues, with Bourbon County and Canadian Breakfast Stout sitting on shelves, which is how it should be. Overall I saw a lot fewer lines in 2018, too.
2) There's more attention being paid to how breweries conduct their business, from dealing with intellectual property and trademarks, to racism and sexism, and wages. Keep shining a light and calling it out.
3) I don't know if this is good or not, but the DMV burbs are where it's at right now, maybe at the expense of some of the city's breweries. Sure, the quality in the city is there; see the DC Brau rave above. And Right Proper and Bluejacket are particularly locked in, but Port City's lager series continues to impress, as do Crooked Run's IPAs, and pretty much everything I had from Ocelot and Dynasty. And that's just Virginia.
3a) Then again, I saw a local brewery charge $65 for a bottle of stout at a pop-up event in the city. Not for a case of stout, but for one 500ml bottle. Do what you want with your money, but that's foolish.
3b) And I continue to be unimpressed with the most of the breweries in Montgomery and Frederick counties, especially those along MD-355 and I270/70.

The locals, in no particular order:

Port City Schwartzbier and Baltic Porter.
DC Brau Sleep Standing Up barrel-aged barleywine, Tuk Tuk rice lager, Jameson barrel-aged Pet Your Cow, and Keller pils.
3 Stars and Finback Low Riderz IPA: 3 Stars did a whole series of these and this was the most floral, and also the lowest ABV.
Ocelot Home IPA: a new hazy version.
Ardent Pils.
Rocket Frog Wallops Brown Ale, and, uh, Snark-Infested Waters Schwartzbier was pretty good, too.
Penn Druid Table Beer.
Dynasty and Lost Lagers 1858 Mild Ale and Dynasty Festbier, the most Teutonic of the locals. The hazy pale is also very good.
Right Proper White Bicycles aged in peach mead barrels from Charm City.
Black Narrows How Bout It American Lager.
Devils Backbone and Chuckanaut Dunkle.
Anxo Cidre Blanc in cans: Goldrush is bae.
Bluejacket For The Company in cans.
Mad Fox's Brut IPA was my favorite of the ones I've had. I know it's a divisive style, but I'd pay to drink this one.

The out-of-towners:

Suarez Palatine Pils and Round the Bend porter. I'm not sure if these were 2018 releases, but they showed up in DC this year, and I'd like to see more of them.
Fat Orange Cat White Stout.
Deschutes and Bells Schwartzbier collaboration, if you're noticing a trend.
Allagash Brett Pils and Brett IPA: So pretty much anything they do with Brettomyances is good.
The Bruery's Yount, a blend of Black Tuesday imperial stout and cabernet that somehow works. The perfect beer for Savor.

Want DCBeer's take on the year that was? Here ya go.

Here's hoping 2019 treats us better than 2018 did. Cheers.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The American Library Association: Neutrality, Civility, and What Comes Next

The American Library Association has not had a good run under the current presidential administration.

How We Got Here

First, in a since-rescinded press release from shortly after the 2016 election, the Association offered "its expertise and resources to the incoming administration," despite that administration containing racists, Islamophobes, and white nationalists like Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and Michael Flynn. And despite a president-elect that, as a candidate, bragged about sexually assaulting women, called Mexicans "rapists," and mocked a reporter with a physical disability. Offering the expertise of information professionals to this group of people was understandably not well received, and the press release was updated.

Second, ALA's Washington Office presented an award to Representative Darrel Issa (R-CA) for his introduction and sponsorship of the Research Works Act, which mandates that federally-funded research be open access, a worthy goal. However, Issa was, and is, opposed to net neutrality, opposes some internet privacy measures, and has voted to cut funding to libraries on many occasions. In addition, there is some controversy over whether or not the Washington Office received adequate feedback from the ALA Committee on Legislation or an appropriate subcommittee prior to awarding Issa and a congressional colleague.

Third, the Association allowed librarians at the Central Intelligence Agency to post content from the ALA's Instagram account. The CIA then recruited from a booth in the expo hall of the ALA's annual meeting. No doubt the CIA offers good paying government jobs, with excellent benefits, but that organization is, ahem, problematic at best and there was some understandable push-back to their presence.

Fourth, and also at ALA's annual meeting, the Council amended and added an Interpretation of Article VI of the Library Bill of Rights, which pertains to meeting rooms. One such change was the explicit naming of "hate groups," left undefined, and that libraries may not discriminate based on hate speech, which, per multiple Council-members and ALA office-holders, was not presented to the deliberative body. "The statement I read and commented on, all the way up until ALA Annual in late June, had no specific mention of hate speech or hate groups," wrote one.

Taken individually, one could, maybe, forgive the first three offenses. Taken as a whole, they are a damning indictment of the ALA. In the fourth, the ALA discursively treats hate groups and hate speech as co-equals to civic clubs and groups: "If a library allows charities, non-profits, and sports organizations to discuss their activities in library meeting rooms, then the library cannot exclude religious, social, civic, partisan political, or hate groups from discussing their activities in the same facilities." The existing case law seems to support the ALA's cautious interpretations, but this was true prior to any revisions to Article VI. As a result, the amendment appears to, on some level, tacitly advertise library spaces to hate groups, potentially drawing attention to library meeting rooms as welcoming. One expects to see the sentence quoted above used in a courtroom in the near future. By counsel for hate groups, not libraries and information professionals.

As was the case with the Issa award, amending Article VI points to a disconnect between those who work for ALA and the people information professionals elect to various divisions and groups within the organization. The Washington Office chose Issa for an award, seemingly without much oversight from elected representatives. Article VI was altered and multiple Council-members expressed surprise.

More importantly, drawing attention to hate groups will do nothing for diversifying librarianship. It is hard to imagine a member of an underrepresented and historically marginalized group wanting to join the information professions given these revisions. James LaRue, head of ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom, put the phrase "safe spaces" in quotes in response to criticism, but for some people this is literally a matter of safe space. Sure, libraries are afraid of being sued, but information professionals are afraid of being assaulted by white supremacists. No amount of wellness initiatives can make up for that, nor will pointing out, unhelpfully, as Carrie Wade notes, that free speech and free association are legally allowed.

The White, Neutral, Radical Centrism of ALA


It seems that few, if any, members of the ALA staff involved understand the paradox of tolerance. As a Jewish person in America, I understand my whiteness, and the privilege that comes with it, is very much contingent. White supremacists meeting in my neighborhood library make it much less likely for me to want to be there. I can stay, putting my physical and mental health at risk, or I can leave, ceding that space. There is no civil discourse to be had with such actors. That is not an option. I know many information professionals who have it much, much worse. Extremists can infiltrate library spaces, pushing out moderates. The both-sideism of the ALA here, under the guise of neutrality, is anything but. By tolerating the intolerable, they will put information professionals and patrons at risk with only potential legal liability as an excuse.

Further, the applications of "equal treatment" will be anything but. Power and social relations are asymmetric. Here is the head of OIF, prior to his accepting the position, siding with the powerful, for example.

That link leads to:
nextdraft.us2.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=ed102783e87fee61c1a534a9d&id=644f08388d&e=06ef6feea7 …
That a white man who heads OIF does not understand the power asymmetry at work here is sadly to be expected, but also gives me pause because of the office he holds. The University of Chicago's Dean of Students' words played well with donors, boards of trustees, and wealthy alumnae/i, but not with faculty or students. Whose speech, whose expression, was being suppressed here, and at whose expense? I am not convinced that he, or any of us, really, know how to accommodate hate speech while making people feel welcome and safe to speak, and one can also see this in the response from Martin Garnar, co-chair of ALA’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Implementation Working Group. That is the paradox of tolerance. There is a choice here. Neutrality is a myth, benign neglect and the status quo are choices. I was not convinced at the Midwinter meeting, and I'm not convinced now.

A Black Lives Matter group wanting to meet in peace in a library is not the same as a white supremacist group, given that this country is a white supremacist state. Power matters, intention much less so. "They fundamentally do not understand that the presence of white folks is inherently more dangerous to People of Color than the inverse due to the structures of oppression and discrimination built into our profession and society," per Wade.

Having white people in charge leads to organizations that take the concerns of people of color less seriously, because it, however defined, doesn't happen to white people. Dismissing critiques of ALA policies on social media is ignoring peoples' lived experiences (and LaRue should know, because he has been the target of trolls). Social media, a powerful organizing tool, is where people of color are more likely to be. They're not the ones writing and implementing these policies. There's a reason not as much criticism is taking place on ALA Connect.

What Do We Do? Exit, Voice, Loyalty

I don't know what's to be done with ALA. It's a truism that it's the American Library Association and not the American Library Staff Association. They are, by some accounts, a very effective lobbying organization. And yet they can't seem to get out of their own way lately.

If these four occurrences, plus more, I'm sure, make the ALA irredeemable in your eyes, I understand. I really do. And maybe so does ALA, having dipped below 60,000 members, and facing with declining conference attendance. These are not unrelated, just as these four incidents did not occur in a vacuum.

You're tired? I get that. Fight elsewhere if that's what you think is right. That's Exit.

I've seen both Council-members and ALA staff complain about social media push-back to ALA policies, resolutions, and press releases, especially since the most recent annual conference. Consider this Voice, and also consider using the ALA Position on Hate Groups in Libraries google doc as a way to express your opinions.

You could vote. Only twenty percent of ALA members bother to do this even though it's done online over the course of a few weeks, which is to say it's absurdly easy. Voting won't solve the disconnect between Council and ALA staff, but having conscientious people like Emily Drabinski, April Hathcock, and Jessica Schomberg represent you is a good thing. Given that we are information professionals, I find the low turnout in ALA elections to be especially dispiriting, and I encourage ALA members to vote for people of color in particular. People who look like me are far more likely to think as the OIF does, because we do not bear the brunt of "free speech" or library "neutrality." Consider voting for people who will not treat such policies as an intellectual exercise, but as tangible and corporeal, with real, material consequences for both library staff and patrons.


Anyway, given that an employer pays my dues, Voice is where you can find me for the foreseeable future.

But however the organization responds, the damage is done. OIF's revisions have no doubt already been Internet Archive'd, pdf'd, and Wayback Machine'd. We'll see those words in a courtroom, used against us.
As for loyalty, well... it hasn't gotten us much so far since November, 2016.