Monday, September 12

Pumped for Pipeworks

For those of you Chicago-based craft beer nerds who have yet to hear, Chicago Pipeworks Brewing Co. found themselves a home much earlier this year.  Not news, PK.  Right you are, self.  So what is so extra awesome about Pipeworks new brew house?

It's not even a full block from my apartment.

Having a talented group of craft brewing pros nearby to any domicile should cause endless excitement on its own merits.  But Pipeworks has me especially pumped up especially because of its storefront concept.  They are shying away from producing beers on a larger scale, even on the scale of citywide distribution (something Half Acre is often criticized for not QUITE achieving), in favor of a very localized business model.

As they noted in the Chicago Tribune, their brew house will feature an ever-changing rotation of craft brews (though some form of IPA and Berliner Weiss will always be available [which has the IPA-freak in me decidedly tickled]), promising something for your growler at any given moment that you've probably never had.  The craft beer geekiness of these Pipeworks guys is apparent the very minute you visit their website and check out their Kickstarter campaign video (which was a success).  They loves themselves some brewin' and I loves myself some tastin' so I'm thinking this neighborly relationship will pan out pretty well.

These lads also have some successful collaborations with local breweries around the city like Half Acre and De Struise.  My growler and I are already thirsty.

Can't forget about Piece, just down the street. What's a neighbor to choose?

Any favorite craft brewers in the area you guys dig?


Thursday, September 8

A Call for Comedy Studies

Recently, I was talking with my buddy OJ about the problems of comedy when talking about matters of Cultural Studies and Media Studies.  A lot of times, when people do their analyses of particular shows, movies, videogames, what have you, the role comedy plays in that analysis is nonexistent, even if the text in question is comedic.  You can do in-depth gender and racial studies of popular sitcoms like Friends or Arrested Development, but since these shows have an aspect to their design that's intended to make the audience laugh, why should that be neglected just to get a broader point across?

I got kids all over town.
This has always been something that's bothered me.  I come from a comedic background -- I used to do improv comedy and have always been a huge admirer of the sharpest comedic talents out there, either on television, doing stand-up, on the improv stage, or otherwise.  For me, the comedic value of something is oftentimes the most complex in its meaning, as it's a direct result from the cultural zeitgeist, funneled through individual (and broader) perception.  It gets at the toughest parts of a text's meaning -- which, frankly, is part of the reason I hold it in such esteem.  The age old adage that there's "truth in comedy" comes from a very real place.  If the point of any media text is to illicit some sense of humanity or human-ness, then oftentimes it's comedy that does this most accurately.

But you don't really see this kind of thing discussed in academia very much, or even the popular media for that matter.  The value of comedy and its inherent (and ever-changing) structures are pretty much always just accepted as "understood."  Either you get it or you don't, and I'm not just talking about "the joke."  There is very little discussion, other than people debating what comedian is better and why or what show is funnier and how they go about their comedy, on the matter of comedy's role in the way we approach, digest, and comprehend our media and its meanings.

So I was super pumped to see that a very smart friend of mine, AJ Aronstein, wrote this piece about the state of comedy immediately following 9/11 (smartly released in the media flurry surrounding the 10 year anniversary).  It's an excellent article and I highly recommend you check it out.  Go ahead.  I'm not going anywhere.

Not to be confused with The Crying Game

See?  Very well said, AJ.

What I love most about this article is its clear linkage between the state of comedy as a whole and a crucial historical moment in which everything American's culturally felt, understood, and knew was dramatically changed faster than a natural evolutionary rate would otherwise allow.  It's become somewhat trite, perhaps, to go on and say that "9/11 changed everything," but at the risk of bombast, it's kind of true, and AJ takes that case to comedy.

Here is a shining example of what it would look like to thoughtfully engage in the role of comedy on the level of culture and media.  There has been plenty of work done on SNL and its cultural significance, but AJ is more interested in what their comedy means in a broader sense through specific example (and the conclusions he draws from that Giuliani moment are excellently stated).

I don't mean this post to be a praise session for AJ's writing -- which is very good -- but I wanted to get this point across so that people can truly talk about it.  I want this to be a call for Comedy Studies (a fancier name would be nice but probably overlook the point).  There needs to be serious work done examining the role of comedy in culture on all levels, from the broadest peak to the most specific instance, to get at the way it changes our media's meanings.

This shit is HILARIOUS

If a character in a film crack's a black joke, sure we can use that as an excellent entry point into a broader discussion of race relations, but what do we make of the comedian's intent?  Where does the joke stop and the analysis begin?  It is my belief that they are too intertwined to separate and so we need to just as thoughtfully consider the shape of the joke as well as its latent meanings.  Cultural Studies would argue this point on the basis that the meaning of the author isn't necessarily the meanings derived by the media receiver -- and that's totally valid.  But I see this as a reason to look even deeper into the comedic complexities of an issue because it often is so intensely personal.

It's not as though comedy is the same for every person (obviously, because as far as I'm concerned, Larry the Cable Guy should have been lynched years ago for being the unfunniest man alive), but that doesn't mean there aren't connecting factors that are worthy of examination.  And as AJ does a good job portraying, the implications of comedy can be hard to deny when examined across a breadth of examples and media.  This mode of comedic analysis is worthwhile, dammit, and I hope that we can begin considering it as such.