Thursday, October 1, 2015


The London Mob is a scary thing, for its sympathizers as much as its opponents.  And last week there was an “anti-gentrification demonstration” in Shoreditch protesting about the increasing hipsterism and expense of the neighborhood.  Pigs’ heads and flaming torches were carried, apparently. 

A great deal of publicity has come the way of one of the targets, an establishment called the Cereal Killer Café, where hipsters (or idiots), can pay a few quid for a bowl of cereal served up by a couple of annoying blokes with beards.

Painted was thrown at the shop and the word “Scum” was written, backwards it appears, on the window.  In the history of rioting this is rather tame stuff, but no less stupid and misdirected for that.  These Cereal Killer boys should be mocked certainly, they should be treated with pity and contempt, but I’m not sure they really count as scum or as a meaningful target for class warfare.

Say what you like about scum of the Bellingdon Club, they don’t go down the East End and wreck eel and pie shops.  Hold on to that thought.

Now, every week I go into my local supermarket and look at the fancy beers.  There seem to be ever more of them, a sign of burgeoning hipsterism for sure. And of course the fanciness is often largely in the label, like this one:

As a man who loves a good labyrinth, I’m obviously tempted to buy a bottle or two, but then I look at the price, which is currently about $14, and think better of it..  When a bottle of beer costs more than an acceptable bottle of wine then something is a bit Koyannisqatis (“life out of balance”), as the Hopi would say.  So I settled for this, bottle of Payback Porter.

It was, as we say, “affordable” and to be honest I actually misread the name.  I thought it said Playback, and was therefore a reference to the Raymond Chandler novel of that title.  The beer of course is “noir” and many a noir book jacket would make a perfectly good beer label, if you ask me.

And then a few days later I went to the rather fancy Ray’s and Stark Bar, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and ordered a bottle of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (that’s “Russian” as in brewed in Oregon) – again extremely noir, though in a different way.

The Old Rasputin cost $8 which I suppose is what you’d expect to pay in a fancy bar, and they did deliver some free potato chips (that's crisps for my English readers) which were pretty good.

And there on the counter of Ray’s and Stark Bar was the notorious 45 page “water menu” – it's the blue thing on the right of the picture above, a text for our times to be sure, like a wine list but for water – giving details of origins, mineral contents and what not – and also of course the prices. Let me quote, not quite at random, “Berg Water is a glacial water from western Greenland. As massive icebergs break off 15,000 year old glaciers, they are harvested and melted under strict purity guidelines to preserve the water’s natural qualities. The result is a water virtually untouched by man and with little to no trace of minerals.” 

I’m not sure about the environmental correctness of “harvesting” glaciers, but it’s not a moral dilemma that’s likely to affect me, since a three quarters of a liter bottle of Berg costs $20. If you accept my premise that a bottle of beer shouldn’t cost more than a bottle of wine, how you gonna feel when a bottle of water costs more than a bottle of vodka?
         This water menu has been much mocked, and rightly so, and is of course madly annoying as is its begetter, “water sommelier” Martin Riese. 

And I admit that a part of me did feel like rioting about it, and maybe daubing the word “Scum” somewhere about the premises, but I didn’t, I am a civilized man.  I also think the LACMA has some very serious and enthusiastic security men who’d just love to step in and beat up somebody like me.  They probably think I’m hipster scum.


  1. I have an odd defense mechanism against nonsense such as the Water Bar. There are vast, awful swathes of the pop culture landscape that I simply categorize as "Failed Performance Art." There are so many things that a rational person would assume was designed as a performance art piece, but that the commentary or irony has been lost on the general population and the provocateurs responsible aren't going to turn down a serious pay day.

    "Water Sommelier" sounds like and should be an interactive performance piece staged in some small black box theater where participants are given 5 or 6 unmarked cups of the exact same tap water, while the sommelier guides them through the alleged unique attributes of each one, getting the audience to buy in through storytelling and performance; a culinary flea circus of sorts.

    Sadly, this is not the case.