Deep in flavor. Deep in your mind.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cigar Reserve Cedar Spills - Product Review

I oft equate the full enjoyment of a cigar with none too shallow of a meditation. Many practitioners of meditation begin first with a statement of intent.

Too, I recognize and do revel in, the ritualistic aspect of the act of smoking. Be that ritual cradling yourself in your favorite smoking chair, music, accoutre mon, or surroundings.

It is all part of a transcendence from the mundane.
These Cigar Reserve Cedar Spills offer those two factors of intent and ritual, plus one more -- a certain boost to your stogie. I am told they are crafted from the finest quality Spanish Cedar, and who am I to argue? I failed woodshop. Mainly because I've never been able to suspend my own disbelief to the extent of taking machinery advices from an eight-fingered man.

Cigar Reserve, on the other five fingered hand, does indeed have the reputation of knowing their stuff.

I sit and declare my intent in the form of removing a personalized spill from its nifty packaging. A man can be made to feel like a VIP, even if fresh off a trip to the market in which his credit card was declined. I then engage in the age old ritual of fire. I light the spill on an early Saturday evening. I'll light the Sabbath candles soon. Ritual. Unnecessary steps because man cannot live by bread alone. I suppose this then becomes quite necessary, no?

In an homage to older than the current Old School craze, spills were once used before the invention of lighters and such -- to bring a smaller, more personal flame from a larger communal fire.

The smell of the burning cedar is quite lovely. For a moment I question it as akin to lighting from a scented candle. I quickly realize that cedar and cigars go back in time together even further and in more illustriously symbiotic ways than do bell bottoms and chicken grease.

The spill does truly add to the first good handful of pulls. It elevates my Casa de Garcia Red to a good fiver. Elevates? No... Enhances.

My lone remaining skepticism was already done away with by then, as I easily and nimbly toasted the foot of my House of Gary offering. It was not in the least, an unwieldy affair. The design here is, indeed, well planned and well executed by the Cigar Reserve folks. It actually, even on my slightly breezy porch -- felt more effective and more natural than my vulgar plastic Djeep.

I even enjoyed my custom engraved name burning down on the side of the spill. Let loose your ego, I told myself. Watch it burn away, and find nothing left but Truth, metaphysical reality. We are all one. The ego simply disguises this verisimilitude.

"Verisimilitude?" I respond to me. You're so clever, I say to myself. Sexy, too. I now say to you, dear reader: try yourself a pack of Cigar Reserve Cedar Spills.

Tell 'em Kap's ego sent ya.

+

Visit www.CigarReserve.com to place your order.

I am not a paid spokesperson.


The Three Stooges "Who Done It?" (1949)

Cast & Crew
Moe Howard
Larry Fine
Shemp Howard

Christine McIntyre as Goodrich's Niece
Ralph Dunn as Leader of the Phantom Gang
Charles Knight as Crandall 
Emil Sitka as Mr. John Goodrich
Duke York as Nikko
Dudley Dickerson as the Janitor

Directed by Edward Bernds
Story/Screenplay by Edward Bernds
Producer by Hugh McCollum
Cinematography by Ira H. Morgan
Edited by Henry DeMond

This film almost never came to be at all. Then it came to be. Then it came to be as a Three Stooges short par excellence. Please allow me to my briefest of possible explanations. 

The previous Stooge short was Half-wit's Holiday. Which too, was Curly's last stand. Edward Bernds, with the Stooge act in turmoil over their seriously and soitenly ill superstar -- already had this gem written. It was rushed into and through production as 1946's "Pardon My Terror" and had much the same supporting cast of Emil Sitka, Dudley Dickerson, and Christine McIntyre. It starred Gus Schilling (given Curly, Larry's lines) and Richard Lane (given Moe's Lines).

Welcome back to the Stooges mix, my spirit animal, Shemp. Interestingly enough this story would, in its 1955 remake, be Shemp's final flick before his untimely shuffling off to cosmic Buffalo.

For now, humsoever...
"Who Done It?"

We open to Mr. Goodrich (Emil Sitka) receiving newscaster's word of more grim news -- the Phantom Gang has once again struck. Worse yet, a note sent via brick-through-window, tells Goodrich he is next. The Fourth Stooge is at the top of his practiced frenetic game here as this all occurs, fumbling nervously a cigar.

"Where are those detectives? They promised to be here an hour ago."

The Alert Detective Agency of Moe, Larry, and Shemp were a bit 'tied up.' Then untied by a janitor (Dudley Dickerson) and we're off! (I'd have loved to see more Dickerson here.)

Moe: We gotta get going. What's yer watch say?
Shemp: It don't say nothin', ya gotta look at it.

Immediately, the slap-stick is crisp and we know, thanks to Shemp, so too will be the banter. Spoiler alert: Moe forbodes aptly, "The butler's (Charles Knight) always a suspect." Too, Nikko (Duke York) looks like a prototype of a Tim Burton character.

"The niece is nice." Hound dogs Shemp upon the intro of Mr. Goodrich's niece (Christine McIntyre). Her uncle has apparently disappeared!

Shemp is "Ready with the camera, comin' right up." What ensues is the delightful re-dawning of a naughtier brand of Stoogery which would become the trademark of the Shemp era. I've always been amused by the success of Shemp's comical droolings over dames -- given that it was Curly who, in real life, had a weakness for the fairer sex. On screen, however, it was not always visible in more than a somewhat boy-ish manner.

Upon the recommendation of the deceptive and conniving niece, the trio separates and after some Stooge-flavored wooing, Shemp is whisked away by the lovely lady. Whisked away to a remarkable scene of on-the-money poisoned cocktail drink swapping.

Although not before she warns Moe and Larry (who engage in some great dialog) not to "Go get themselves murdered."

Nevertheless, Shemp loses at the game of subterfuge "Oh, charming, charming -- but my favorite is that-a one." What happens next, upon his ingestion of the wrong adult beverage is an utmost of classics. A half-minute plus death scene that must be seen to not be believed. He spits, sputters, and prats, and all ingeniously so.

...and we've only begun. There must be a secret panel that helped the dame slip away...
Look here for Larry's "Yeah" in response to Moe's query of goofiness amongst the attacking pictures. No other Stooge can deliver a simple line with the complexities and timing that does the Stooge in the Middle. I know, I say that all the time, but it bears repeating, It bears repeating.

Just one incredibly sharp sequence after another, here.

Moe: We're in a tough spot, men
Larry: Yeah. It's gonna take brains to get us outta here.
Moe: That's why we're in a tough spot.

Then comes Nikko, back into the mix and at said mix's building crescendo. Away we go! A showdown, Stooge style. Done brilliantly. Larry accidentally whacks Moe upside his bowl cut, and there is a brief ode to their continuity and all the years they've been around one another. Then Shemp comes in to begin a cleaning up of house and louse with a fireplace shovel and a wry pushing of the fourth wall with a nod and a smirk.

Wait! Mr. Goodrich is dead? But somehow brought back to life by coming out of the closet a la the career of Ellen DeGeneres? We culminate in a darkened room with all aboard and all with alternating lit matches and this is a terribly, terribly wonderfully done short. Kudos to Bernds, indeed.

Shemp is last man standing among a slew of fallen humanity, and in an end befitting of a Shakespeare tragedy, does himself in with a shovel to his own flowing bangs.

"Who Done It?" is a triumph, at a time when the future of the Three Stooges could have veered off into a far lesser (if any) direction. Easily one of the team's best turns from wire-to-wire, and easily deserving of a 

Final Grade: A+

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Arturo Fuente Maduro Chateau Fuente - Cigar Review

The Cigar:
Arturo Fuente
Chateau Fuente
Maduro colored wrapper of Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder/Filler Dominican Republic
Robusto size

Pre-light: The cedar sleeve is enchanting, as is the green footer ribbon. I feel as though it is either over-dressed, or I undercooked. Lunch was, well... If I might, a word to Marie Callender's: please leave the charmingly delicious crappy stews to Dinty Moore. Your TV Dinner version was lacking in all the wrong places. (There are correct places to be lacking, yes.)

I curse at the difficulty level of green ribbon removing, and put aside the cedar sheath to stick in my little ziplock stick tote.

On the eyeballing it looks a bit ragged, to be honest. The band is crookedly affixed, veins run in every direction, and there is a blemish I didn't see (or I would not have purchased) well down by the head. 

To the sniffer, there is a creamy coffeeness, a sweetness not of sugar cane, but of heated milk. A light to medium toasty tobacco.

Light: A slight bugaboo upon lighting in the form of a cold spot that refused to become a hot one. There is damage to the wrapper on the side of the cold spot. On the other side of the stogie, the burn is faster. An uneven commencement.

The smoke of the first two pulls is light on the palate, with a slight finish of unsweetened cream that lays nicely enough on the tongue. The frothed milk of a Cappuccino? 

On the exhale, there are warm but mild coffee and cream notes. It flirts with something like red clay. Almost a note of honey. I love a mild smoke that calmly boasts complexities in matter of fact fashion.

1/3: We are into the first third and I feel as though I could not have picked a more perfect lunch partner. I pour a cup of tea. Mainly because I'm out of coffee grounds, but it proves a fortuitous Plan B. I slightly sweeten it, but leave the cream to the Fuente.

The smoke cloud is voluminous yet gentle. A clean cream aroma.

The ash packs tight and lilts to the faster side of the uneven burn, which I have corrected somewhat, though not fully.

I play with smoke rings that taste of very good diner coffee, regular (diner-speak for cream and sugar) with a calm backing of white bread toastiness. Someone's side order of two slices? Was that high-falutin Cappuccino really just sweet creamy butter? I do believe.

I flick the ash off at 2" plus, as it warns me with a gentlemanly heads up. The waitress stops to empty my ashtray, I slide a sugar packet toward her, and I tell her that she dropped her name tag. Her giggle is full of jiggle and I watch her sashay away like a pro as I embark on the

2/3: It's the easy continuation of a calm affair. While light, it does not beg for busy-ness, for my puttering. I sit on my porch and lament the downfall of the American Diner. With a pop and gurgle in my gut, I lament my Marie Callender.

The burn is problematic and not indicative of what I'd expect of a fiver. It bulges where it near refuses to burn. The overall burn is rapid and threatens the calm.

I call the waitress over for a slice of peanut butter pie.

The muted red clay leaves me to the creamy and now sweeter coffee. It's for the better, I feel. I'm surrounded by the sweet smoke of nostalgia. This cigar is uniquely American. Only The Fonz hitting the jukebox and a Chubby Checker tune coming to life, could do more.

I want to read an Archie Double Digest. That America. I smile into the 

3/3: The burn slows and evens at last. The flavors ease. The stick seems poised to go out like a lamb. Like a poodle. Like a poodle on a skirt. 

Even as the Maduro comes in a bit more, all is mild. I like this Madura. Brazen just enough to finish cleanly the creamy sweetness of vanilla. Brazen just enough to flirt back like any good waitress at any good diner. I play with the creaking of my red vinyl stool and gaze thoughtfully at the fake marble designs of the counter.

My fingers heat up and I ask for the check. She writes out her thank you after the total and to my happiness, does not sign it with a happy face. A real pro. With the gams to match. Yowzer!

Its final notes were of earthiness after a light rain dried by sunshine. A Sunday drive through the countryside in the Bel Air that brought me here.

Pairings: A slice or two of buttery toast, a weak and regular coffee of good quality, or lightly sweetened tea, a slice of sweet pie -- if your wallet and belt each abide.

Final grade: C+ (The best chew I've felt in a while, elevates it from a C. A more even burn would call for a B. This Fuente's assembly was shy of the typical Fuente's assembly.)

Congratulations, America


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Casa de Garcia Red - Cigar Review

I should perhaps apologize in advance for a review that might read more as an ode. It has been a long day. A long enough day to require a rare second cigar.

The first was a Baccarat 1871 Dolce Far Niente The Game that literally left so bad a taste in my mouth, I can see the need for a Yea or Nay posting wherein I will both recommend my favorites and warn of the likes of the aforememntioned Camacho endorsed blunder. Look for that a-comin' soon.

Nevertheless, Back to the here and now -- which is my porch and my comfortable slippers-like stick, Casa de Garcia. I have smoked many of these, so I'll have to both reluse myself from this piece and forge ahead, trying to note aloud what's been noted internally for some time.

The Cigar:
Casa de Garcia - Red (My favorite type of my favorite brand)
Connecticut Wrapper
Connecticut Broadleaf binder
Dominican Republic / Honduran filler
Churchill size

Prelight: Sweet notes tickle the ol' schnozolla. Creamy, vanilla. perhaps a backing of honey. The pack is light end of medium and sports a normal amount of veins. I remove the band that seems to say, "Look guy, it is what it is."

A cold draw echoes the sniff and this stick has nothing to hide. All its ingredients seem to know their roles and offer no hints at surprise, nor foolish attempts at swinging above their weight.

Light: The light is easy and welcoming. A summertime screendoor. Kitchen smells spilling out onto the porch...

The first few pulls are warm continuations of the cold draw. A sweetness caresses my palate and lingers nicely until I'm ready to draw once more.

1/3: The honey strengthens and begins to carry the other notes of light toasty tobacco. The stick is a speedy burner but not rushed -- workmanlike. This stogie knows what its like to punch a time clock.

The burn needs no nurturing and is mostly even. I opt to not fidget in search of perfection. The ash doesn't stay long and flakes off unexpectedly. The cat runs from its fall and I'm okay with the cat leaving me be to the

2/3: The warming continues, and a nasal exhale gives a mild nuttiness. Speaking of mild nuttiness, my wife joins me on the porch. "It spells pine-y." She says, "Like cedar." She clarifies. Then goes on to tell me about her day. I think. 

I like my stogies like I like my women: big, sweet, cheap, and mild. The mild is sometimes filtered into existence by my 'selective hearing.'

Now if you'll pardon me, I'll see you in the

3/3: Begins with another unexpected ashalanche. The coned cherry tells me I need to slow down, but also serves to remind me that you simply cannot oversmoke these beauts. I am being greedy in this return to an old favorite. A friend I have missed and hug too hard upon seeing once again.

Notes of cream and cedar are forefront. A lightly toasted flavor holds up the rears. A honey sinks deeply into my palate.

It's 11pm and my street quiets. My drunk neighbor takes in his retarded Jack Russell. I fire up some Northwest Public Radio and breathe. I am not miffed at the pickup truck of screeaming teens that yells by my house. I shift in my resin lawn chair to wake up my left butt-cheek.

A light black pepper serves to cleanse my palate. The radio alerts me of tonight's Scottish theme. I do not know what that means. It sounds nice enough. I listen...

I now know that Scottish music seems complicated, technically speaking. Technically speaking, this stogie is not. Both serve to pull me through another day -- with a harp playing in my ear and honey dancing on my palate, cleaned occasionally away by gentle spices.

I'm alone again on my porch. It's OK. So OK that ... that ... 

I'll let you go now, it's getting quite late.

Pairings: Sure. Lemonade springs to mind.

Final Grade: B+ (only because I would not have at all minded a buzz).

Baccarat 1871 Dolce Far Niente The Game - Cigar Review

I almost passed on this one, but snapped it up at the urging of the Briar Shoppe clerk. I can sadly no longer put my stamp of approval on a joint that charges up to 50% too much for their inventory. I have busted my cigar budget on no greater amount of stogies. Nuff.

Well, Nuff as it applies to the shoppe.

As applies to

The Cigar:
Baccarat
1871 Dolce Far Niente - The Game
Connecticut / Honduran wrapper
Mexico binder / Honduran filler
Toro size

*The internet reviews assure me a sweet ride.*

Pre-light: I smell Swisher Sweets. Ah, sweet cap, huh? Oy vey.

To the nose and to the cold pull, sweet tobacco is on display here...period. Visually there are veins, but not gratuitously so. To the feel, it is packed quite loosely, but evenly. The leaf is gruff to the feel.

On a cold pull, I'm greeted with subtler notes (wood / leather?) than I at first expected. I was also greeted with an inch-long stem jammed down the stogie's middle in length-wise fashion. Once that was removed, a far greater draw was offered. Oy vey.

Light: A simple enough light which is in keeping with its common recomendation of beginner cigar. There is a surprising bite here that while I don't find unpleasant per se, buckles my knees like a Sandy Koufax curveball if I were looking fstball. This subdues upon the second then third pull, but the finish from the first is still lingering on my palate, unpleasantly now.

My first hint of what might be considered sweetness comes as I exhale through my nose. Leather tries, wood tries, and the bite seems gone from all but my palate. I sip some water and continue to the

1/3: The draw is comfortable and the burn, even enough. The bitter backing returns and lingers with a strong finish that stays from pull to pull and, I'm guessing, beyond.

This is not the heavily sweetened stogie I was told it would be. Methinks the cap could have used another dip in the sugar water. 

The smoke is very mild with some vague complications such as the aforementioned possibly wood and possibly leather, being smothered by a bitterness that is not stregthening, but instead building up at every pull. Another layer of bitter, pull, another layer of bitter, none swept away ... so on and so forth.

It's less like a mature Swisher, and more like a immature Camacho. It is a Camacho, actually. Sorta. We won't get into the "Rolled at the same factory," unclear double-speak salespitch delineations. 

I fine tune its burn to eveness without mich struggle. The ash is at an inch and I sit. Now, we play the waiting game.

And the sipping water game.

I hate water.

Also, waiting.

The ash clumps off in a powdery not-clump and something like cumin is comin' as approaches the

2/3: I hesitate to call this black pepper. I am sorry I even mentioned cumin. I'd like to taste more tobacco. The finish has sweetened and shortened. I realize it's attempting coffee, perhaps. To aid it I brew some of the stuff, black. I'm hopinng this shows me the stick's sweet side.

It's a sad world when neither mall tobaconist nor internet reviewers can be trusted.

My bitter coffee ploy works, or this stogie takes a long time to warm, either way -- I get my somewhat sweetness from a couple of pulls. I also get an unexemplary black pepper note that tickles ye oldde schnoz.

The cloud around me sweetens. The stogie in my paws grows more pliable. Further almost sweet notes hit me not quite square. Glancing blows. That's how I'd describe the experience of smoking this Baccarat.

That and McDonald's coffee. From back before they made it "better."

3/3: My introduction to the final third of this near turd includes a crack in the wrapper, a re-light, and a slight maturing of the pepper spices. Too little, too late, also is how I feel about a sweet pull or two at the end. By this time, it's uncomfortably hot in my hands.

I am messaging a friend at this point in the cigar. We are conversing about stogies and life and I say about the Baccarat:
"It's...cheap. I love a cheap stogie. But only if it knows it.
This one seems to have had aspirations beyond its abilities. Bitter."
To thine ownself be true, indeed. Many a person has turned bitter on the same accord as this cigar.

Pairings: A couple of bucks change. Water. Coffee, however. A Camel Crush stolen from my wife.

Final Grade: D- (I can go on and on, listing better cigars at better prices -- and I will. For now, I'll simply recommend a Casa de Garcia Red.

Now finally, nuff.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Three Stooges in Three Loan Wolves (1946)


Cast & Crew:
Moe Howard
Larry Fine
Curly Howard
Beverly Warren as Molly
Harold "Tiny" Brauer as Butch McGee
Jackie Johnson as Eggbert
Joe Palma as Henchman no. 2
Wally Rose as Henchman no. 1

Directed by Jules White
Written by Felix Adler
Produced by Jules White
Cinematography by George Kelley
Film Editing by Edwin Bryant
Art Direction by Charles Clague
Music by John Leipold
Three Loan Wolves is an early prototype of Three Men and a Baby told via flashback sequence. The Stooges relate to their adopted son (horribly un-ably portrayed by Jackie Jackson) how it came to be that he has three fathers.

We begin our tale with the Stooges, owners of an inherited pawn shop "Here Today, Pawn Tomorrow," owing money to the Gashouse Protective Association. You know, gangsters. When the main mobster makes his first attempt at touching up their shop, the Stooges deal with him in their typical Stooge fashion. Actually, while the fashion is typical -- the outcome is less so, seeing as they are rather one-sidedly and quickly victorious. Too easy a win to get chuckles from -- surprise gives you the belly laughs. Relief, chuckles.

Larry's "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute," is in smart homage to Robert Goodloe Harper -- in this July 4th 1946 Stooges offering.

There is an interesting tact employed here in their initial altercation, wherein Moe "Shows ya some mayhem," in a bid to impress their bully with the tact of 'look what I'm doing to this fellow I like -- imagine what I'll do to you!'

With Curly getting the short-end of the eye-poke there, it's then his turn to impress the thug. A mannequin is his target, and we are immediately privy to his sad state of health. Sped up footage is used in place of a more honest stoogery, to cover up his slowed motions.

We actually see a harbinger to this, in the use of his ears made to wiggle "You ain't heard nothing yet ..." in lieu of more natural effect...

While these simple bits help to somewhat disguise his slow, hesitant movements, there is no disguising that his skin hangs loose from his bones and he's noticeably the least portly of the trio. Three Loan Wolves was filmed near the end of Curly Howard's career. The by then 42 year-old Super Stooge had already suffered a series of minor strokes leaving his performances of this sad era infamously unpredictable and just plain feh. Notable to this short, in particular, is Curly's often inability to maintain his falsetto voice.

Different directors had different ideas on how best to cover Curly's newly lacking Stoogery. Edward Bernds devised ways to cover Curly's illness:
It was an awful tough deal for a novice rookie director to have a Curly who wasn't himself. I had seen Curly at his greatest and his work in this film was far from great. The wallpaper scene was agony to direct because of the physical movements required to roll up the wallpaper and to react when it curled up in him. It just didn't work. As a fledgling director, my plans were based on doing everything in one nice neat shot. But when I saw the scenes were not playing, I had to improvise and use other angles to make it play. It was the wallpaper scene that we shot first, and during the first two hours of filming, I became aware that we had a problem with Curly.
Jules White, on the other (and easier) hand, the hand we see at play here, simply gave the majority of Curly's lines to Larry. This made Three Loan Wolves essentially a de facto Larry short, and while I'm a big fan of The Stooge in the Middle, that seldom plays well.
Things really (sorta kinda) kick off when Molly the Glamour Girl (Beverly Warren) plumb just leaves her sister's baby in the shop as her plan to sell a phony diamond unravels -- well -- shatters on the counter, and the Stooges wind up with their ward. This is what you get when you let Larry mind the shop.

"The kid walked in and asked for a match, I said I don't smoke."
Larry then attempts at coming further clean than not at all:
"The bag left me holding the babe!"

There's something about the way Larry delivers a line, that I positively adore. Out of all the Stooges his sense of timing in dialog is, in my opinion, unmatched. Perhaps this is due to his musical talents, of which there is some fun poked at in this short -- as he is shown in gags to be inept among the instruments. He, an accomplished violinist.

Hilarity ensues, but not overly so if truth be told -- as neither Moe, Larry, nor Curly have one iota of an inkling among them on how to take care for a baby. Moe of course goes straight to ballistic in response to the kid's crying, "Quiet, little baby, quiet. Or I'll break yer neck." and their first best attempt at soothing comes in the form of Curly giving the baby a revolver as a pacifier.

[Interesting to see Moe become Shemp momentarily, courtesy of a hairdo rearranged by an exploding beer bottle. Something to look for.]

As to the revolver pacifier, Curly assures Moe the gun isn't loaded but of course it is, and a shot is fired. The stray bullet makes a lamp crash down on Moe's head. *Expected Stoogery* Finally, the baby's mood, or hunger, is satiated when Curly makes an improvised bottle from a ceramic whisky jug and rubber glove. The physics of which greatly irk me.

Later, Mobster #1 shows up with some of his goons to get that money. In another not funny bout of mostly awkward fisticuffs, Curly again is the beneficiary of sped up filming and los trios manage to defeat the crooks somewhat less handily and to a chuckle.

"And that's how it was, son..." Moe tidies up the ending. An ending that sees the kid go off to find his mother, and Moe and Curly venting their frustrations on Larry. Such is parenthood. I suppose.
All told, there were many ways this could have been improved. The casting of a better actor to play the kid. Reeling in Ms. Warren's over the top kniving facial gestures. Better or less fight scenes. Ultimately, however, what best could have saved Three Loan Wolves, is to have a healthy Curly Howard. This, of course, was not an option and we see the return of Shemp a-comin'.

Of other note worthiness: Three Loan Wolves marks Harold "Bill" "Tiny" Brauer's first appearance with the Stooges. He and the great Fourth Stooge, Emil Sitka are the only supporting actors to work with all six Stooges. All told Brauer made less than a dozen appearances with the Stooges, as compared to Sitka's 40 some odd turns. However, Mr. Brauer deserves bragging rights here, indeed.

Final Grade: C-

Monday, June 22, 2015

Romeo y Julieta Medallas de oro 1875 Reserve - Cigar Review

The Cigar:
Romeo y Julieta
Medallas de oro 1875 Reserve
Habano, Nicaraguan wrapper
Nicaraguan binder
Honduran, Nicaraguan filler

Pre-light: The singular first thing I notice about this RyJ offering is not its surprising dryness of feel given its Habano wrapper. Nor is it that I expected a much headier bouquet than, well, almost none whatsoever. What I first notice, is its oddly flimsy band. Too, its look is somewhat gruff -- but also somehow refined.

I note also its top layer of cushion does eventually, quickly really, meet my fingering with resistance. Its pack is consistent all around.

I sniff it again. It's all vague hints that I'm unsure exist or are expectations given the ingredients at hand. Earth, leather, tobacco. All carried along on a note of unsweetened cream. All nice enough, except I do detect a slight tinny note.

On a cold pull, my expectations are all met. There is no further metallic dalliance. 

The light: is not stubborn, not problematic, but stiff. A brusque maitre d'. I feel a catch in my throat at the second inhale. On the third, I exhale through my nose and I won't be doing that again too soon. I am hit with a stiff black pepper. Still, there are nuances to be found, although no flights of fancy. There is a coffee bordering on espresso, a dark tobacco with no chocolate... perhaps yet, and a sweetness, not molasses, but inherently Nicaraguan.

1/3: The burn is slow but uneven, although to be fair, it is quite windy here on my porch. The ash appears flakier than I would have guessed, and it lilts toward the speedier side of the burn. A leather backing says hello.

I move to a more protected corner of my porch. 

This 1875 gives off a full smoke of whole wheat toast that wants to be admired on its own accord, not to conform to your tastes. It strikes me this stick is a curmudgeon, but it tells a story worth listening to, if not calmly enjoyed. Some things need heard no matter how they fall on our ears.

The burn does its will, and the ash clumps off at around an inch -- we remember again the wind.

I don't recall a windier stretch of time, in fact. The Romeo y Julieta, in fact, does not care what I recall. I know this cigar. Like other RyJ offerings, it is as old school and stiff as meticulously ironed underwear. It does not care for my use of the term old school. It would not tolerate the company of last night's Fuente Candela. I do not volunteer my Jewishness.

I sense a mellowing although that is most definitely the wrong word choice. I exhale via my nostrils once more and a cedar note nicely, warmly, protrudes.

2/3: I cross my legs and the cigar knocks them apart. Tells me to sit like a man and take up some damned space. I again cross my legs and it chokes me with tobacco TOBACCO and tells me a story (WWII) It is an old man of a previous generation, not of this era's Alan Aldas and Henry Winklers. 

I don't get green. I get attentive. I find my bearings in the heavy cream of a strong coffee note. 

During The Big One, American GIs wanted their familiar cup of joe. Italy had only its espresso. The Caffe Americano was born -- espresso with water added. This cigar was the soldier who requested less water than did his more timid platoon members.

The cedar becomes wood. The earthiness, leather. Above all else, there is a darkest of tobacco with a hint of dry sweetness. It all lays something like strongly subtle on my palate. A cigar's cigar, a full-bodied one. Not over-bearing, as long as you let it talk. Your part is to listen.

The draw is somewhat slow at first, then tests what you can handle. I fix the light -- it feels like I am helping an old man to his feet so that he might better kick my ass.

The wind calms. I want to listen to NPR, but do not want this stogie to tell me to turn that shit off. I sit transfixed instead, as it speaks its tobacco tales. Yarns of Japs and Krauts and broads. I imagine dark wood paneling all around me and a ballgame played low on a table top static-filled radio. From under a layer of dust, Feller and DiMaggio go to a full count.

3/3: Black pepper returns, but only through my nose and only so that I don't drift away. An inch or a little more of ash clumps heavy to the ground. He tells me that his wife used to tend to that. I pretend not to see a tear well up in his eye. I lay my head back to exhale and he tells me to sit up straight. It leans forward to tell me in a loud whisper that the Jamaican bitch the agency sends out keeps stealing from him.

I do as I'm told and watch my posture. Black pepper lays on the roof of my mouth. There is dark and heavy tobacco on my tongue and all around us. Bob Sheppard's smooth, precise baritone plays in my ear.

It finishes before I do. It's tired but still strong, yet above all, needs its rest. The wrapper becomes weary and over-heated. I tell it I'm tired, and I am. I leave shaking its heavy hand with strong albeit arthritic knuckles. It points me toward the door and tells me to hit the lights on the way out. 

I step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air. I feel like crying. I do not. Much.

Pairings: It needs nothing. It might be coaxed into Scotch, neat. 

Final Grade: I respectfully refuse, sir. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Arturo Fuente 8-5-8 Gran Reserva Chateau Candela - Cigar Review

"Green cigars are latter-day oddities, but they once were the preferred smokes of Americans, so popular in the United States that cigars with candela wrappers became known as American Market Selection. (Natural cigars, the ones that make up the vast majority of today's cigar market, were dubbed English Market Selection.) From about 1958 to the early 1970s, Americans smoked billions of cigars, and nearly all of them were as green as your front lawn after a May rain. The popular tint was not a function of the use of underage leaf, however. It resulted from a unique process by which the wrapper tobacco was being cured." 
- David Savona for Cigar Aficionado*

Prelight: a cold tug tastes of herbs (or is the color messing with my sensibilities?) The floral note is definite. The wrap is fragile and care must be taken in the removal of the band. The pack is firm with a just a bit more forgiveness than a Texan judge.

The Cigar
Arturo Fuente
Gran Reserva Chateau
Candela Wrapper
Dominican long filler
Churchill size

Light: it is windy on my porch. I have wooden matches. The experience is effortless. The experience is a salty one.

1/3: The burn is even, if not on the quick side. The ash is packed tight. Is that... cardamom? The wrap continues to be delicate and dry. It cracks rather -- very -- noticeably. Happily, this does not interfere with its near-perfect burn. This stogie requires a calm, not-at-work-hand. It achieves this not due to a full body, but to a decidedly delicate one. This cigar is a dandy. Well into the first third, it becomes a rather sweet one, at that. This smoke is as clean and smooth as a newborn's tuchus. It's finish is pristine, and its saltiness goes beyond that, it purifies.

Remember, it's windy here on my porch, and the ash remains intact and stick straight. Salt is the key note and it is followed none too closely, but closely enough, by sweet floral undertones with a perfect hint of cardamom.

2/3: The crack in the wrapper extends ahead of the burn and stretches down through to the final third. Ssshhhhhh...be as quiet as a souffle filled kitchen.

As this Fuente heats up, it mellows, but not to the point of boredom. All notes are still on board. The cardamom advances but does not threaten its supporting role. The crack has begun to affect the evenness of the burn, and a bulging appears around the fault line.

The finish is now sweet, but then carried off in nicely due time by saltiness. Fully warm, it remains comfy and clean.

The ash clumps off and lays on my porch almost un-bothered and almost two inches in length.

A mild enough smoke with which to saunter off with Ruby to a park bench, but I wouldn't dare risk this sensitive dandy's health. A second crack appears in the final third section, I shall smoke this again. I shall wear white gloves.

The buzz is pleasant. Still -- hold my calls. This cigar appreciates your utmost attention, of which it so deserves. The floral bits step up now, and I smile. Wickedly, for some reason. Perhaps due to an appreciation of my own strength in thus far protecting my fair Fuente maiden.

A maiden with balls. Salty balls, as a forest-smelling earthiness takes hold. A bite of sour peeks in like a sip of white wine.

(Remembering a Golden Girls episode, wherein Dorothy and the girls celebrate with Champagne. Rose points out the price tag, and it is far beyond their collective means. The ever-wise Sophia douses it with table salt and calls over the maitre d' in a huff...the meal is immediately comp'd.)

I'd pay extra, for this salt.

The second crack bulges like an excited transsexual. The jig is up! Please don't tell my Rabbi -- although my congregation is Reconstructionist, and chances are good that it is circumcised.

This is a very excited and exciting ride, albeit mellow and now slower burning...

3/3: I flick the ash off and a decent chew sets in. I pull my shoulders down away from my ears and slump into my chair. Sigh. The chew is delicate and firm. A cardamom sun begins to set in a sweet and salty sky.

There never was a taste of grass I was warned about, and steeled myself against. The two surprises are a saltiness I delighted in and a smoke given off that was quite...feminine.

A loosely fitting dress with a vague floral pattern. It covered a salt-of-the-earth body -- perhaps it ripped on its own accord, perhaps my Hyde subconsciously go the best of me? Either way, there were no complaints. Lest the fact I wish it had lasted longer.

As if it hears me, it suddenly needs re-lit. My hands are rough as I hold a fire to it, but I am no poet. I will say that I sat with it a long while, before relighting. Then welcomed back with some black pepper notes that neither one of us believe, which are quickly chased away by a heavier floral pull. It mellows back...

and all the way


down.

Final Grade: A-. Nuff. More? A, sans cracking, but even there, there was a sort of charm.

Pairings: I chose water, a rarity for me. Chamomile tea would be good, also. White wine would be too on-the-nose.


=


* http://www.cigaraficionado.com/webfeatures/show/id/Its-Not-Easy-Being-Green_8220


Epilogue:
This cigar felt like a torrid affair. I fumbled for my phone to text my wife, "I love you." I couldn't, at first, recall her name or number...

My Father La Antigued - Cigar Review

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
- from To A Mouse by Robert Burns

This stogie here is packed like a brick, I tells ya. Ahem. This Pepin Garcia offering by way of My Father sure puts the press in Box Pressed.

Veiny and a tad sloppy to be quite honest and, quite the nit-pick, for all its pressing. What confuses me most is an overwhelming pre-light feeling that I want more from its sniff. A cold pull tastes of black cherry and coffee, and bites at the tip of my tongue with black pepper indications. I keep pulling cold, searching 

The Cigar:
La Antiguedad by My Father
Habano Ecuador Rosado Oscuro wrapper
Nicaraguan binder/filler
Robusto
(Obtained at The Briar Shoppe)

My Djeep is still warm from lighting the Sabbath candles. I'm not certain whether it's the shabbos glow or the coffee and subtle cocoa tones of the cigar, but I'm craving Concord Grape Manischewitz, and I'm craving it something fierce.

I re-employ the Djeep and while this stick lends itself well to a bite off at its head, its foot is far less cooperative as it comes to The Light. There are no Bugaboos, per se, it just proves itself to be not a cigar for a beginner. Did I mention the footer ribbon? Wait.

Wait wait wait.
The band.
If the Titanic had a band this colorfully intricate, no one aboard would have noticed the rising waters.
If Nero's lyre had an accompaniment this sophisticated and complex, no Roman would have realized the flames.
There's the thing.
The First Third: a few pulls in and heavy coffee notes with hints of cocoa are pleasing my palate and explaining my Kosher grape cravings far less poetically than the Sabbath might have. The burn continues the mood of the light and needs no small amount of tending to -- albeit but not in an annoying fashion. More so as my rose garden needs my attention. Good news: the aphids have gone.

Further good news: this Nicaraguan blending is doing as it should. It is being dark and it is being sweet.
When I was a kid, my dad owned an almost two decades old Plymouth Duster. He took great pride in nursing it along as it overheated up into and through the Catskill Mountain Range of the Upstate New York Borscht Belt. Heater on, heater off, heater on, heater off - so on and so forth...

this cigar wants to make you feel that same flavor of great pride it would seem, and to lead you to believe my dad's two decade old Plymouth Duster, were in fact a late model Bimmer. Not Beamer. Not Beemer. Bimmer. This cigar, my apologies, wants you to take it to be a Bimmer. We shall see.

This is a smoke that begs for a well-appointed interior in the form of a comfortable chair and quiet surroundings. Soft (Ricardo Montalban said soft) Corinthian leather, perhaps. Also, time and attention put firmly aside.

The ash is flakier than the pleasantly greased wrapper would indicate, and the burn quicker than the dense packing would too indicate. Full-bodied, yet pleasant. Heavy notes of cocoa and coffee and earthiness. There are slight undertones of black pepper spices that serve to help the finish release very quickly and cleanly on my palate.

Both the Sabbath and this, my Sabbath Stick conspire to bring out the Jewish mother in me as I am tending tending tending to the stogie. I am hovering, helicopter-smoking, not manly cursing and kicking up a mountainside -- but fidgeting. Nursing it. Nurturing it. (S)mothering it. I step back and I realize I'm smiling from ear to ear -- and no mater what the heck I do, it simply will not burn evenly. I go back to work but ease up just a bit. Breathe...

It would be wonderful, "My son, the doctor!"

Breathe,

as the Second Third begins, the ash remains completely intact and I re-position myself to a more comfy spot on my porch. Only to realize I no longer care about the uneven burn to the extent that the lighter remains four feet away from me in my original position, and it might as well be the far side of the Moon.

Because I ain't going there to get it.

Watch, just watch -- how much I don't care.

I'm listening to my newly downloaded Northwest Public Radio app. I'm watching the sunset leave in its wake purple illuminations and streaks of orange.

I wouldn't say the black pepper spices are more prevalent, but simply that they are more necessary as palate cleansers. The stick is fully heated up now and the coffee and newly entered black cherry tastes heat up requiring more of said cleanser.

It's a finicky endeavor, this stick--but too, a more enjoyable one than I've had in recent memory. Each note seems placed precisely where it is needed. The black cherry sweetening the coffee and cocoa minglings, and the black pepper spices finishing the sweetness.

I find an old match book that affords me even more fiddlings...

As the second third nears completion, the black cherry becomes primary. A note of cedar creeps in. The whole thing mellows and suddenly The Three Stooges are Stooging on my Chromebook. The final third approaches like a mother does a cradle. Is that dad watching the stooges one room over? I like the vibes of this house, and think I’ll stay a while.

While wearing a frilly apron.
The pack loosens considerably. Cedar now prevails. Cream announces itself with muddling authority and muting of most other notes. This cream coats the mouth in a not wholly pleasant fashion. The uneven burn now seems to not want to burn at all. This final third...this final third...

I cannot relax in a warm bath. Did you know that about me? How could you have? I'm first now telling you. I have tried the whole scene -- crystals to candles to a brief affair with removable shower heads -- and I simply sit there, jittery. More and more jittery. Because nothing requires my attention, I've isolated myself from old muscle cars and this final third has become a warm bath

... my mother would dart here and there like a squirrel. Really never getting much done. An un-directed ball of neurotic energy. First, I gave up on an even burn. Second, the cream came and washed all else away...

(although I feel I could use a further cleaning from its remnants which linger heavy on my palate).

There is nothing more here. A marvelous stick come unraveled in a doldrum of feh. (My roses look parched, I note excitedly. Hopefully.)

All told, this My Father  phallic symbol  cigar offering has left me feeling more like my mother than I feel comfortable delving further into, outside of my therapist's couch. It also gives sad credence to Zino Davidoff's etiquette-based musings of letting the second half of a stogie simply burn away un-smoked.

What's this? It's stopped burning? At the second half--of the final third. I'm on it! We'll get Upstate, by gum, and I'll get us there.

Although it doesn't seem to want to light and when it half does, cream. Cream, cream, cream. I leave it and attack vigorously, a sink full of dishes. It seems far less laborious. I only briefly think of how brilliant the first two thirds were.

Maybe I'm just like my [sic] mother,

she's never satisfied.
(She's never satisfied.)

Final Grade: C+ (1-2/3 A, 3/3 D-)

Pairings: therapy or listening to the kosher wine craving at its onset. That, or animals striking curious poses. Perhaps a very sweet and heavily creamed black tea.

Epilogue:
Come morning, I will pocket the nub of this cigar, as I head off to Synagogue. I will attend services smelling like a man -- so Hashem knows I'm no faygelah.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cigar Review - Arturo Fuente Curly Head

"You could get a humidor and order your cigars online." - My wife

G-d bless her widdle heart.

I much prefer the human and familiar contact of a local tobacconist, over the cold hand of the internet and fanatically antisocial invention of the personal humidor. In fact, I feel as though I do have a humidor, my local cigar shop, and in my humidor are the nicest folk. We chat and recommend and ...

and then I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Where things are different and where mold threatens to grow on me if I sit too still. I feared I lived in what might be considered a "Cigar Desert." A very 'Green' desert, wherein cigars are for sale as an afterthought in one head shop after another.

That is, until I found The Briar Shoppe, in of all places, the mall. Actually, they've been there since '69, which is longer than I've been - well - been.

There I was, back in my humidor. Replete with a knowledgeable and helpful clerk, who handed me - quite literally - the keys to the castle. Fine, overwhelmingly figuratively...she handed me the key to the showcases so I could buzz around like an unimpeded kid in a candy store.

I left with a few fine selections, and will review them all in good time but I begin with

The Cigar
Arturo Fuente Curly Head (Natural) 
Cameroon Wrapper  
Dominican binder/filler
Lonsdale sized

I sniff a pre-light sniff of caramel butter notes with smooth leathery undertone - with my sniffer. A tug/taste yields a hint of a soft black pepper on the tongue, but an overall caramel butter sweetness prevails and finishes quite long. I'm intrigued so I keep pulling pre-light and note how a nuttiness chases away the bite of black pepper. Complex, this stogie. Thankfully not in an irritating all-blended-together sort of way. It's complexities appear delineated and mature.

I'm bothered by the lack of cigar band.

The pack is even and of moderate denseness. Some veins are apparent, and quite possibly a seam. All this strikes me, though, as workmanlike gruffness sensibilities, and not cheap-o-ness. I decide it's all quite charming. Although I'd never say that to its face.

I remain bothered by the lack of cigar band.

The light is an effortless affair and my first exhale is a through the schnoz one that is quite robust and creamy. A vague and not at all unsettling black pepper finishes quickly on my palate and leaves behind that long finishing caramel sweet softness. This stick seems to have teeth, but not a chip on its shoulder.

Actually, quite to the contrary, while this Fuente bargain offering is billed as mild to medium, I'd say mild more closely describes it. Mild, however, does not mean lack of complexities or body. Still like with all mild cigars, I want to take it for a stroll, Zino Davidoff's etiquette opining be gosh-darned. I leash up Ruby. Then unleash her and re-decide upon a seat on the porch. She heads back toward the coach inside, growling to protect her new rawhide.

The pull of this stogie is one of perfection; all be that a personal preference sort of thing. It's an easy draw, but doesn't flood your mouth or arrive at easy via flimsy manufacture. The ash piles up high and straight, and unlike the head shop down the block from me, there's not a flake in the house.

(It comes off in a single clump, complete with a gentlemanly heads up, as we approach the)

The Second Third and its continuing even burn, it marches on. This stogie is well built.

I re-leash Ruby as minutes later, we both again change our minds. If there's anything better than a walk in the park with man's best friend and a mild enough cigar to abide -- I'm sure it involves being naked, and it's mighty chilly out for a June evening. Plus, you know, that court order...

"Your honor, it was a Maduro wrapper, I pleaded."

The stogie mellows. I mellows. Suddenly:  looksie! A park bench. The perfect spot to enjoy the
Scenes from a park bench.
Final Third and the long finishing sweetness leaves as the last of the sun sets. Toast settles in. The medium comes out to play here in the final third. A nutty flavor continues closer to the forefront, but avoids the turning to of almond bitters that lesser samples fall prey to.

In short, this Curly Head is an excellent smoke throughout. It burns even and easily with flavors indicative of a higher priced cigar. Flavors which evolve and remain un-boring, yet don't surprise and unsettle. While I'm not thrilled with the Lonsdale size -- It might just be because I wanted a bit longer with this smoke. This is simply a tremendous everyday option if you have just a little deeper pocket than a two-buck-chuck dictates.

I am no longer bothered (much) by the lack of cigar band.

There is a right and a wrong way to do everything - even wrong - and even the 'wrong' here is done right. There is no band, but it's not done in such a way as to fool you into thinking it's a cost-cutting method, a la #59 Factory Throw-outs. Instead it remains in keeping with the plot of the stogie. That being a workmanlike simplicity with complexities hidden just beneath its surface -- visible to those who take time to look. This cigar is a car mechanic with a penchant for Opera. All the while okay with itself and its lot and with what it is, which is of course what it is,

And what it is it is quite lovely.

(Please don't tell it I said that.)

+

Pairings I'd recommend would be a dachshund, nearby enough park bench, lightly roasted coffee with cream and sugar (or sweet tea), and a sunset.

Final Grade: A

A Case Against Portions of "Zino Davidoff's Guide to Cigar Etiquette"

Zino Davidoff's Guide to Cigar Etiquette is an essay which was published in 1967 by the Swiss Tobacconist of no small renown and much due respect. I must, though, take exception to a couple of notes written therein, which I feel culminate in the hoity-toity end, to a pet peeve I personally harbor.

In Mr. Davidoff's guide, he states that a man must refrain from smoking while walking. Superficially, I nodded in agreement as I read this, being as I often equate the gentlemanly undertaking of a good (or good enough) stogie, to a meditation of no small sorts.

Then I looked deeper and was reminded of my own meditations in tobacco, and in general. I was also kindly reminded by my kind self, that there exists the idea of both walking meditations -- and of a hierarchy of manners.

Firstly, the walking meditation. What of a stroll with my thoughts and cigar and probably Ruby, my dachshund? What breech of etiquette, minus a stroll past an oxygen tank employing patient, occurs here? I personally tend to my roses and walk my aforementioned pooch, stogie in hand, all the while strictly following the obvious rules of etiquette such as watching the direction and audience of my smoke. I too, sit on my porch and enjoy myself. I do not overtly walk, I do not hike the nearest mountain, but I do not also overtly remove walking from the table. I feel here that this bit of Davidoff pleasantry is instead a form of entitled laziness.

The privileged hand mindlessly waving responsibilities on down the caste ladder...

What, after all, would occur in my other idea of the hierarchy of etiquette? A person of the fairer sex carrying a something I ought best to be carrying, or, me rushing to open a door for a lady. Shall I instead sit and watch said lady struggle with bag and/or door? Shall I expect someone else to see to assisting her, then thank them for their nice bit of freelance chivalry. Are they then in my employ? The fat cat purrs, maybe not before but they are meow.

Perhaps that was a bit much. Are you kitten me? I can hear you asking. I forge along bravely.

Placing the stick down in an ashtray to perform a duty, I feel, threatens to serve to trespass upon the recipient of your obligated duty. How much more effortless does it look to walk across a room to their aid with your meditation in hand -- than it does to risk the perceived annoyance of "I must now stop my meditation because of your bad timing [sigh]," placing down of your cigar, and schlepping for-or-even-five-lorn to the task at hand?

A far deeper breech of etiquette would be that, than simply holding a cigar while walking. How much more pleasant it is to seem to say: "I've given you so much thought, that I give my cigar momentarily none, and mindlessly lug it along." I mean, lying is not bad etiquette, per say.

Simply, the cigar needs not to be the center of your universe over all other requirements. More simply, don't be a jerk. Be aware. Differently, meditations should serve to anchor you to the world, not remove you from the world.
The second bit of the Zino Davidoff essay which falls flat on my sensibilities, is the bit about how one should smoke a cigar only halfway down. The rest, it is written, should meet its end by being allowed to burn itself down. This strikes me as the mad ramblings of a man who wants you to buy twice as much of his product than you might ought to.

Upon further inspection of this posit, I'd say it ties in with a sense of entitlement on showy display in my first point of sitting throughout your smoking session. This time the entitlement is perhaps even more vulgar because of the waste involved. There is the waste of the chain of skilled involvement that created your cigar --the grower to manufacturer, and all stops prior, during, and post. It's tantamount to sin.

'Nuff.
These two notes that we've delved into, lead us to the seemingly ambivalent ruling of Davidoff re: the noted indifference of leaving a cigar band either on, or taking said band off. Either goes? Then none go. Anarchy ensues. Anarchy!!!

In reality, hierarchy.

When I really want my dander raised, I leaf through pictures of cigar groups on social media. The pictures of quite costly and still banded cigars, replete with proof of mangled cutting and tragic lighting efforts. Dumb money. Privilege. Meow.

To have a Cohiba budget and a Swisher Sweets brain -- and to flaunt it proudly.

I regularly smoke only one cigar, the Fuente Curly Head, that comes sans band. I do this because it is germane to its plot. Bands are important to me. A hint of luxury, whether faux or real-aux. It, however, is for me. My personal reprieve or celebration.

I always disband pre-light. I care not to flaunt my poverty, or in the good times, flaunt my wealth. I'd hope you agree, and we Brothers of the Leaf strive toward all inclusive egalitarianism. Instead of striving toward douchery.
This is my pet peeve as is the misinformation of ---

INJURING A CIGAR BY REMOVING ITS BAND:
Unless you are a complete ham-fisted imbecile, this is not a true issue.

The band, you see, is not glued to the finely artisan crafted cigar -- it is glued to itself at its end (ideally). By a little dab of stickiness. Again, there is no way to accidentally damage your cigar if you are careful with it, and if you are not...you can break it accidentally at any time, ya ox, ya.

Don't blame the removal of the wrapper because you break keys when unlocking doors. Because you smash pens to smithereens when writing letters. Because all of your woodworking efforts yield toothpicks...

You beautiful barbarian, you.

I will address later, the correct cutting and lighting of a stogie.
[edit/addendum 6/7/17]
If excess glue doth invade unto the top-leaf, allow the cigar to heat up. It'll loosen.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

California Chrome v American Pharoah

Let us discuss the ins and outs of all it means to be moderately bred. Not moderately bread, that would be Wonder. Wonders never cease, however, as too does talk of California Chrome and now his full sister, Hope's Love, never friggin' cease. Let's further muddle up this post with mention that the dust has settled in regards to our Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah. You know what? Let's begin to unravel from there...

Horse Racing has not changed one bit of a single iota with its first Triple Crown King in 37 years. This is a very good thing. The keen accomplishment remains for the keen fans, only. Thankfully, the media never grabbed onto the American Pharoah story, thus it did not inundate the pony playing game with newly minted demanding half-hearted and ill educated fans. See: Boxing. Further see: Mayweather v Pacquiao.

Those type of fans still are securely glommed to the moderately bred California Chrome. Moderately bred -- so why should I then care for his full sister, Hope's Love? Answer: I shouldn't. CC came along at a time when the talent pool was low enough that diving into it would inevitably end in a wheelchair/feeding tube scenario. Imagine if he did win the Triple Crown! Our game would forever be lost.

(Meanwhile, that horse with a million fans has just recently been pulled from the Royal Ascot. Feh. His sister, though, this Hope's Love -- already has fans in the same manner as does Jeb Bush. They are of the hand-me-down and also vastly ill-informed variety.

Hope's Love is at the same time coming off a June 13th debut at Golden Gate Fields in which she broke awkwardly, was outrun early, and hesitated to run up the rail. In other words, her fans loved it, and can't wait to see her run in the Derby. Or the oaks. Or the Indy 500. Whichever fits best for this marvelous specimen. The Glue Factory Stakes, methinks. )

It's time now, we horse fans with a slightly deeper understanding of our Sport of Kings, give ourselves a pat on our collective back. It was truly great to see AP run the Belmont stretch. I felt my dad standing next to me, screaming at my TV. A brilliant point in time, tucked deep in our pockets as we travel on.

While others are stuck in the muck of a moderately bred horse and now, another. Perhaps an ill-fated PPV followed by the disgust of a taken rube, is in order.

Thankfully, they remain sealed off. Cauterized successfully, from the true lifeblood of the game.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

#59 Factory Throw-Outs (& etc.)

This is bound to be a winding and long-winded post covering three cigar topics including tutorial, review, and etiquette. You see, if I keep writing, I won't have to mow my lawn.

Now either hit the bricks in light of my kind advanced warning, or settle on in for a stay. Mind if I smoke? Good. Because I've already lit my Casa de Garcia oily, leathery Maduro offering, whilest doing a write-up of a far lesser...

Cigar:
#59 Factory Throw-Outs
Ecuadorian Sun Grown Wrapper
Dominican Filler/Binder

Here is Cigars International's sales pitch of these stogies:
"These Factory Throw-Outs are so darn tasty, you’ll be left scratching your head and wondering what makes them throw-outs anyway. Slight discoloration, sun spots, minor and miniscule [sic] blemishes....that’s it. The good part is that they are a fraction of their full-priced counterparts. Straight from J.C. Newman’s Florida factory, here you’ll find tasty treasures in a variety of sizes. Each is wrapped in an Ecuadorian sun grown wrapper and then filled Cuban-sandwich style with Dominican tobaccos. No bands, no labels, no boxes, no frills – just pure, unadulterated goodness that the money-minded should be stocking up on, and often."
I'll cut to the chase. These feel like a prank is being played on me. As if "We are here at [insert name of four-star restaurant], where we've secretly replaced the fine coffee they usually serve with Folgers Crystals This Novelty Cigar. Let's see if anyone can tell the difference!"

It all feels like they're laughing at me and not with me, as I smoke them. The polar opposite experience of Cuban Rounds. By this I mean, that I don't entirely buy the premise of the situation that supposedly gave birth to the cigar in my hand. Allow me to expound:

depending upon where you look for further info re: these smokes, differing information comes at you from all angles. All the while, Abraham Lincoln's wise words remain at play in your ears, "Don't trust everything you read on the internet." -- Arturo Fuente's name comes up. The aforementioned J.C. Newman, as well. All with disclaimers ... caveats ... Same fields, same factories. Never, "Same sticks." I smell a lawyer.

House Rejects:

The truth buried here among the tactical vagueness is that cigars do exist that are sold far below their projected cost, all because of minor-ish blemishes. As a matter of fact, all houses sell these. I'm not an investigative reporter, nor do I have any designs at being one. Bearing that in mind and if pressed, I'd recommend avoiding the grey area shadiness here in these Throw-Outs, and if you want to dabble in 'rejects,' look into Montecristo "C" Rejects, with bundles selling for about 40 bucks.

These are made by, as stated in their name, Montecristo. Save the mystery for a Kinky Friedman read. The Cs are what these claim to be, and come from perhaps the world's finest cigar manufacturer. Nuff.

However, here is my promised review:

Pre-light: is this a football? perhaps judging by shape, a hot dog? Or maybe it's an oddly shaped shoe. One of those trendy barefoot things. Any of these might smell like a cigar as much as this cigar smells like a cigar.

Most notably flawed is their wrapper.  It's not just a little blemished. It's atrocious. I kid you not, a leaf stabs through the cellophane. We're not talking just a cosmetic blemish or a misstep in the otherwise artisan assembly of a premium offering...it's falling to pieces like I do every time I watch the final episode of Golden Girls. Important to further note is the material itself appears sub par and ridiculously delicate and almost pre-crumbled. Thus lending me to further disbelieve their aforementioned premise of great stock with unfortunate blemish.

A pre-light draw leads me to believe this to, in fact, be a football...another now post cap bite-off pull is somewhat of a pleasant surprise, actually. I taste cigar more so than Esq. ...

The light is a bit of a hassle. But I am for my near Herculean effort gifted somewhat of another pleasant surprise, to the tune of cedar with a bite that while not my thing, I recognize to be of better quality than I previously had thought--black pepper. I let out an audible ooohhhh. Mainly because a bronzed and pony-tailed body in Lycra jogs past my porch. An exhale through the schnozzola hints at a deepening cedar.

First third: The draw is not an easy one. Just as I was just about to complement the ash and its tightness, if falls off in a clump, shy of the half inch mark. The bite of black pepper continues on but the Cedar has wilted. Said bite while not bitter, it is very noticeable. This cigar is turning quite daring, insofar as I feel it will soon be daring me to pull from it.

At the close of the first third, this cigar has evened out insofar as the bite mellowing. it's a very slow burning cigar. and really quite enjoyable if not utterly predictable of a cheap-o stogie. The smoke output is moderate and like the stick itself, enjoyable and simple.

Still, the way it smokes is somehow a tobacco smoking experience but not wholly a cigar smoking experience. I flick ash, pull hard and often, and taste tobacco sans decent stick complexities.

All told a very serviceable and clean yet ultimately un-charming stick void of character. As utilitarian as an Ikea bookshelf. I wonder if that explains the horrendous wrapper job. Maybe it was done with an Allen wrench - or simply wrenched by a fella named Allen, his first day working at the cigar factory.

I stop taking notes as the second third enters the final third and then fin.

The chew, just when I had hopes for a decent one, unravels (natch) and the cigar ends in exactly the fashion you'd expect at its legalese onset, without surprise. Similarly to an M. Night Shyamalan flick. The friggin' kid sees dead people. He as much as says it while looking right. at. Bruce.

Final Grade: Incomplete
(as in "This cigar left me undone." As in "How could you leave me so undone?)

Let's discuss, shall we, the topic of: 
Cigar Band Etiquette

As noted, these sticks come sans band.
"It's not my job to make you feel good about yourself." Says she.
"Yes, but it also isn't your job to make me feel bad about myself." Says he.

I get it. Furthermore, you get it. I'm broke and buying a (your) cheap stogie. Or I'm an eccentric millionaire, slumming. Either way--offer me your best shot at class. I'll gladly throw ya another part of a nickel for a band, faux class, or not. It's part of the cigar experience. The filigree of booze bottles, the ornate designs of playing card backs...show me something. Anything. It's poor etiquette to withhold this experience from a smoker. Poorer still to flaunt back at them their own shallow pockets even during an attempted respite from a world which beats world-beaters.

Don't even get me started on a lack of cigar box. Where would you have me stash my (un)valuables, kind sir?

Further cigar band etiquette.

This time in respect to the gentleman smoker. The band is for you to enjoy. The band is not for you to flaunt either your fleeting moment successes or failures. Remove it prior to lighting, whether it is a fifteen dollar Cohiba, or two dollar Las Ramblas. Thus our smoking sessions remain truly egalitarian. 

*

It strikes me now that the lawn mower is out of gas. Me too. Plus, I know of some chicken thighs that need fried.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Three Stooges "He Cooked His Goose" (1952)

"When the writing divides them, they lose their comic dynamic." Jon Solomon

"I'm not gonna steal your wife, I'm engaged to three beautiful girls." Larry assures Moe, and we must be watching one of those Shemp era adult shorts. What thoughts I have of you tonight, Benny Hill - as a scene finds Larry in the office of his Pet Store, smoking an enormous, and enormously phallic, cigar. His secretary enters, and he tells Miss Lapdale to take a letter - she assumes a business as usual bussiness-like position on his lap.

I'm not even in a supermarket, let alone California. I, like you now, are securely in the aforementioned Shemp's Era.

Lo, tho we might be in Shemp's era, there is no mistaking this is a Larry short. He takes center-stage for a rare glimpse at the top spot. Interestingly, Larry was the lead in the first ever Stooges short, "Woman Haters," prior to Moe's probably eminent emergence, and also in 1946's "Three Lone Wolves." If you're keeping track at home, Larry-in-the-lead works none-to-well as compared, at least, to boss Moe. The more natural lead, is the man in the lead.

Moe went so far as to in real life file Larry's taxes (and Curly's too). The Top being a stay-at-home-dad to the Bottom's bread earning. But I become overly personal here as the cheap-o stogie in my mouth loosens my fingers --

In fairness, I believe Larry's go at lead had less to do with this lesser Three Stooges offering than did the advancing age of the Stooges; coupled with a production value that sadly left much to be desired. We see tentative pratfalls here that editing does not lend aid too.

Crisp has left the building, and is half dead on the toilet - speaking in terms of physical comedy alone. Dialog-wise there are a few glimpses of gems, such as Moe's knock at clean-living, "I'll have a little bird seed if you don't mind," upon turning down philandering Larry's offers of a cigar, then drink. Don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do? Stuart Goddard, are you still awaiting this answer - it's been since '82. Apparently you become a bird. Or a faygala.

Still, that only covers the tip of what went mildly wrong here - age and/or editing. We'll file that all under technical difficulties. More importantly at off-putting issue, I feel, leads us back to our onset quote from keen-eyed Saturday Night Live writer, Jon Solomon. I'll begin with an echoing...

I've never been a fan of divisiveness amongst Stooges.

One last word on difficulties of a technical bent before I advance further: the tinkling of a glockenspiel associated with Larry's bright ideas, I found it sci-fi odd to the point of sci-fi unnerving. Perhaps that was its goal?

[Full digress]
Divisiveness in Stoogery

It simply but not so simply plays poorly with/and against the all important 'we the Stooges vs the Them' strangers in a strange land feel, which I've cited before here. Separate characters, per say, are not the issue here - competitiveness, however, is.

As Honest Abe ably put it, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Least of all a house that is built on exposing being on the wrong end of othering to comedic effect. Perhaps that is why this all hurts me so, my fellow others, othered me, by othering one another. Oy vey! Which of us will assimilate first, and buy a Subaru? Or shop at Whole Foods. Or crack middle management. Or not be a black enough first black Commander-in-Chief...

All told, while there have of course been better shorts, "He Cooked His Goose" is not without its charm. A rapscallion charm which comes by way of a certain circa 1952 naughtiness in both subject matter and gags. Perhaps, if I might be so bold as to offer yet another tangent:

this is where Shemp gets his bad rap. His slap-stick is not his claim to fame, his ugly mug and naughty dialog fill that spot. It's like aging fine wine in a boiler room, to the untrained eye. Just as Lenny Bruce is no longer bluest of blue. It all makes sense to me now.

As far as tangents go, that was mercifully abbrevia --

Final Grade: C+

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cigar Review - Hugo Cassar

Cigars have their own unique personalities. Some are wallflowers, and, while perfectly respectable in construction and palatable in practice -- we part ways and our brief affair of leaf, is simply left. 

Transversely, a personality that jives with my own in any number of growing and often surprising ways, can compensate some for lack of quality, and just keep me coming back again and again. Sometimes against my better judgement.

But I get ahead of myself. Please, allow me to introduce

The Cigar
Hugo Cassar
Sumatra Wrapper
Nicaraguan Blend Binder/Filler
Churchill
"They say she's a little retarded, but those titties ain't retarded!"
Dave Attell, "Skanks for the Memories"
Pre-light, my schnoz is surprised by a more clear delineation of spices and sweetness than I'd expect in a sick of this price, this price being a couple and a half bucks. There are veins and upon close inspection a seam, but nothing egregious. I draw through the cap, still pre-light and am surprised at the amount of action I get. Sharp sweetness prevails. The stick is packed evenly and moderately firm.

On the bite off, there is more of the same, but not actually a lot more. It seems to have already shown its hand. The spice goes to pepper and to my palate, but finishes almost immediately. The sweetness mutes a bit. I light to begin the first third

...and the light is an unholy mess. There are sparks and there are sputters. There is fire and there is brimstone. It all ends in an uneven burn at the onset. I feel as though I've parachuted to safety, but have not been on terra firma long enough for the adrenaline to have subsided.

The smoke now leaves that pepper on my palate in near spices. Sweetness goes to dwell at the back corners of my tongue. The stick burns hot in my hand, uneven, and peppery. I just need to stay on for eight seconds, I rest myself assured, and wait to see how it all plays out.

The smoke it gives off is wispy and not overly kind. A tad more like wet spicy incense than cigar smoke. Still, I bravely forge ahead. I am a trooper and

the burn now relaxes between pulls but still heats up like a fire as soon as I next pull. Active. It feels very active and lively and almost crisp on account of the pepper. The sweet stays in one place, the almost spice, another. Balance. Barbara De Angelis says that,
"Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away."
I flick the ash at 3/4" before it winds up in my lap. It flakes, doesn't clump. I'm pulling none too often but the hot ash cones out from the stogie as if I'm over smoking. It simply burns too darn hot. Also very unevenly and too fast to correct. I made it, I say aloud. As off in the distance, the plane meets the mountain in an inferno not unlike the one I stick into my smoke-hole and pull. I made it.

The pepper and the sweet continue to stay their respective grounds on my palate and tongue. (That classic sitcom bit where warring roommates draw a line down the apartment's center.) That counts for something. I begin to putter about, clear the yard of sticks and leaves, replace tools in their proper places, and lament the loudness of my drunken neighbor. I cannot believe Sears won't honor his warranty, it's criminal.

The smoke thickens and the bite does not increase nor mature to spices, but does threaten the back of my throat. I pour a cup of coffee, and embark upon

the second third sees some mellowing all around and a general dry tobacco/hay note. Some sticks take a long time to settle. I feel like I'm first now being introduced to the real cigar. As if it spent its first third impressing me at a party by tying cherry stems with its tongue and now, post party, we're headed to Sonic for shakes. Pinkies up.

Neither sweet nor packing bravado, it is simply what it is. And what it is seems to be a nice enough cheap-o smoke, although perhaps shy of a serviceable everyday a la Casa de Garcia's fine-ish offerings.

A crack forms but does not leak and a decent enough chew starts setting in. Ash gets flakier and I've begun to simply flick it off as I see fit, or rather in quite a willy-nilly fashion.

The wrap threatens to come a bit undone now as if it has loosened its blouse over our milkshake and has designs on luring me back to its place in the

final third. Nuttiness and all it entails, in each of its meanings, enters here. And then the flirtatious hint of unbuttoned button switches to off the shoulder brazen hussiness - as the vulgar striptease of a wrapper come undone...

I'm not really hating it.

I'm back at her studio apartment. There is no bed so much as there's a kind of pile of blankets on the floor, and the TV is on a milk crate and the dishes are dirty - stacked high in the sink.

The stogie looks now like Curly's did when Moe smacked it all into his mouth.

There is cigar stuff everywhere and there are clothes strewn everywhere and her cat won't look away so I do. I look away and notice a pair of men's work boots.

There's more I want to smoke, but it might all fall apart first. There is more of her I want to feel, but I wait for a key in the door. The races, they are on and the cat tells me its name is Buzz. Or maybe I just have a beauty of one. I knew all along - no matter what - the end would come quickly.

I promise myself never again, knowing I fib.

Final Grade: B- (but if my pals ask, she's a B+)



(She's probably really a C+)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Three Stooges - You Nazy Spy! (1940)

“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” - Mark Twain

Loosely, Special Interest Groups (SIG) operate as smaller communities within larger movements. When you hear someone refer to them thusly, it is often in anger or at least in disagreement to their agenda. Transversely, when people who are in agreement with whichever statement a SIG stands by, they do not use that term and instead cite it as a "Duh moment." In other and less wordy words, A SIG seems to then be what you disagree with, whereas a 'group' seems to be something you endorse. Never mind, they are the same damned thing in an objective view.

Propaganda plays the same way. One man's propaganda is another man's should-be mandatory information. What does this have to do with The Three Stooges? We commence.

You Nazy Spy! was the first American comedy film to satirize Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany. It beat, by nine months, Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, out of the starting gate. It also helped in the making of The Great Dictator in a not-so-subtle digs aimed at those trying to censor the Chaplin film.

The Hays Code of that time's Hollywood machine prohibited most political/satirical messages. It required that all peoples world-wide be depicted fairly - this sounds lovely - but it was in actuality used mainly to nurture the isolationist sentiment that was the bent of the public. A bent which well suited the establishment. Short films, like this however, were subject to far less attention than feature films.

Moe Howard, as "Moe Hailstone", thus becomes the first American actor to satirize or even portray Adolf Hitler in a film - Moe Horwitz, a Jew - this can make me smile all the live long. Not to mention, but I will, that it is a splendid portrayal. The opening disclaimer of "Any resemblance between the characters of this picture and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle," has the same feel then of Andy Kaufman's terrible impersonations building up to an ingenious channeling of Elvis.
"Quiet while I think," says the bowl cut leader of our gang, current wallpaper-er and future dictator of Moronika - as he witlessly yet brilliantly transforms into mon fuhrer. Curly hence becomes Field Marshall, and unto Larry is bestowed the title Minister of Propaganda. Moronika. Propaganda. Moronkia for Morons - a clever enough spin off of Germany for Germans - and a calling out to America, to be more than just simply America for Americans. After all, "Loyal Moronikans shouldn't read."

The Jewishness of the Stooges, notably overtly on display in this short maybe more than any other, adds a lot to this for me, not simply for those obvious reasons I'll steer clear of for the purpose of time and to avoid rampant reiterations - but even moreso because Yiddish is hilarious, and Moe, Larry, and Curly use it more in this short than in any other. The much used "beblach!" means "beans," by the by.

"We will now pause for station identification. This is NUTS."

It gives the sense of more than just rallying public opinion in favor of their vested interest - they too are speaking to our own kind, in our own language, and sharing in a very Jewish sense of humor. A rampant fear that like all other fear, is quelled by laughter. Precisely, this is should-be mandatory information, not at all propaganda. Furthermore, it is doled out via "Duh moments," not a special interest lobbier among them.

"The boy's from Syracuse," is a splendid little side gag. "And you shot me in the excitement, you fool," is very good, too. "Your minorities are creeping into our majorities, until you're making our majorities minorities." Is as truly laughably stupid then, as it is now.

Moe: We'll start a Blintzkrieg.
Curly: I just love blintzes especially with sour krieg.
(A reference to blintzes with sour cream.)

As to dialogue, there is the brilliant wordplay --
Larry: If I take Mickey Finlen, I better be rushin'.
Curly: Then quit stallin'.
(A reference to Finland, the Soviet Union, and Joseph Stalin.)

Both Moe Howard and Larry Fine cited You Nazty Spy! as their favorite Three Stooges short. While it isn't my personal favorite, I recognize its genius, and wouldn't argue with the two Stooge mainstays even if I didn't. Because, too, of the simple fact "There ain't no bones in ice cream."

In the end, the fuhrer get his, and I ain't lyin' when I say this short is a must, must see.