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Top 10 Life Events of 2011

Honorable Mention: The Fremont Diner.

In Sonoma, CA on Highway 37, this little shabby-chic diner bbq’s the shit out of a pig, pickles their onions with juniper berries, and strolls into their backyard garden to pick strawberries (to order) for their strawberry milkshakes.

Fremont

10. Finishing my Second Album

I finished my second album, Fugue.  I thought it was pretty good. Click to download for free.

Fugue

9. Booker’s “Fracture”

One of my best friends and I got this hard-to-find bottle at the Hotel Cheval in Paso Robles. Due to a stock-keeping error, we got it at less than half MSRP. 96pt (WS) Syrah that may have been the best wine I’ve ever had.

Fracture

8. My Four Day Drive to California.

Gallons of Iced Coffees from Starbucks. Two Haruki Murakami audiobooks. 2,250 miles of American plains, mountains, casinos, and roadside attractions.

Me

7. Bon Iver’s Bon Iver.

That’s how much I liked this album.

Bon Iver

6. Seeing Portishead live.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a band that has held a long tenure in my “favorite bands of all time” catalog. Live at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, CA.

7. Traveling to China.

Baiju, hutongs, Sino-American relations, and MBA war buddies in our last hurrah. The drunkest I’ve ever been, followed by the sickest I’ve ever been, followed by me landing a sixteen hour flight from Beijing to Seattle in the lavatory.

4. Getting my MBA.

Dude. That was hard. It made me more prepared than ever to kick ass at life.

3. Getting a job in San Francisco.

Included in this is “getting out of Indianapolis.”  Indianapolis, all due respect, was sucking the life out of me.  And San Francisco has the most potent business community in the country, one of the best food scenes in the world, and one of the most vibrant communities ever.  It was the most logical place for me to start Life 2.0. My new job, my new boss and coworkers, and the deep connections I’ve already made are everything I was looking for. It’s rare that things work out as well as they have.  (And I probably couldn’t have done it without #3.)

2. Moving to Oakland.

When I relocated to the bay, I had no idea I would end up living in Oakland. Ironically, my first day in the bay, I spent in Oakland, in the very place I now live.  It’s gritty but insatiably friendly.  It’s up-and-coming but not overplayed. It’s celebratory in its diversity.  It has Cafe Van Kleef, which is literally the greatest bar I have ever been to. It’s got balls.  I was meant to be here.

1. Proposing to Annie.

Annie and I have been together for 2 years.  Speaking of balls, she has them in spades. She warmed the frozen metal heart of my sadistic shih-tzu, fell in love with a wreck of a guy, and picked up her whole life to move to the San Francisco Bay because I ‘felt’ it was the place I had to be.  She’s amazing and she is responsible the deepest, most side-splitting laughs I’ve ever had.

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My Top 30 Tweets of 2011 According to EnthusiastOfAll.com

I don’t know how (or why) he did it, but the list-master himself (and my sensei of ordination) compiled and ranked my 30 top Tweets of 2011.

Dude needs his own Twitter handle.  Go visit him at EnthusiastOfAll

Follow me @JustinKeller

Top 30 Tweets of 2011

#30: “Anytime I go more than 30 minutes without getting an email/ text message/ phone call I get really worried that everyone in the world is dead.”

#29: “For a white guy, I have an awful lot of purple in my wardrobe.”

#28: “I just fell in a river. All of my electronics are okay but, yeah, that just happened. (Minutes later) In related news, I’m finding pieces of wood in places one would not expect to find pieces of wood.”

#27: “I am creeped out by the Wikipedia personal appeal photos. Every. Single. One.”

#26: “I’ve never asked this for fear of sounding dumb, but how, exactly, does paper beat rock?”

#25: “Top 3 things I want to eat in China: 1) Scorpion, 2) Peking Duck (in Peking), 3) Panda.”

#24: “I just sneezed so hard that I traveled into the future by two seconds.”

#23: “I refuse to say ‘mahi’ twice.”

#22: “Bingo is a really good way to commit a genocide of minutes.”

#21: “As awesome as the new IPad is, it still doesn’t have a vagina.”

#20: “I’ve finally decided my personal philosophy is optimistic cynicism. Which I don’t like but at least it’s something.”

#19: “Dear people who are allergic to gluten: stop ruining it for the rest of us. (Minutes later) You don’t hear deaf people telling everyone else to stop listening to music.”

#18: “Two of my grandparents are dead, so that makes me 50% ghost.”

#17: “I just do not understand the appeal of televised singing competitions. It’s the exact same way I feel about NASCAR.”

#16: “I’m no Gumbel, but I think if Butler wants to win this game they’re going to have to make the ball go through that hoop thing more.”

#15: “I’m starting a job search website for people with face tatoos called LOLJK.com.”

#14: “I sat next to two republicans on my way in this morning. Or, as I call them ‘San Francisco Leprechauns.’ ”

#13: “I disagree with police breaking up peaceful protests but I don’t disagree with police firing tear gas at hippies, so it’s kind of a wash.”

#12: Crocs stock down 40% after poor third quarter performance and also because “duh.”

#11: “One-horse open sleigh: less fun than advertised.”

#10: “Just so you don’t have to, I just listened to the new Kim Kardashian single and it’s as awful as she is inexplicably famous.”

#9: “BEST. RAPTURE. EVER.”

#8: “Fun fact: if you say the words ‘my cocaine” you’re also saying ‘Michael Caine’ in his voice.”

#7: “I wish when he doesn’t ‘feel like doing anything’, Bruno Mars would include ‘making music’ in things he doesn’t want to do.”

#6: “I will not have phone or email for the next 24 hours. If you need to reach me I suggest carrier pigeon.”

#5: “Hand dryers are great if you want your hands a little less wet, but still pretty wet.”

#4: “Rick Perry saying he’ll end Obama’s war on Religion is like me saying I’ll end Obama’s war on pancakes.”

#3: “All I hear about Herman Cain is “sex” and “pizza” and I’m like, what’s the problem?”

#2: “The amount you care about any Kardashian is inversely proportionate to how much you progress humanity.”

#1: “I’m heading to Paso Robles this evening. What am I doing there? Who knows- anything is PASOble! See what I did there? I am precious.


Pulled Pork Sandwich | Fuck Yeah

I started making this sandwich at 5:00am today.

I started by lightly toasting the following and putting them into a coffee grinder (that I use for spices):

  • Cumin Seed
  • Fennel Seed
  • Whole Black Peppercorns

After that I transferred the resulting powder into a food processor where I added a shallot, two fat cloves of garlic, a small hill of sea salt, and… wait for it… a bosc pear.  If you get the proportions right you end up with a thick paste, and if the pear is ripe enough it’s sticky enough to hang on to the shoulder while cooking and caramelizes nicely.

Then I took a big pork shoulder cut from Prather Ranch Meat Co. that I picked up in the Ferry Building and rubbed the paste all over it and let them hand out together in a mixing bowl for a while.  Merrrnatin‘.

While those two were doin’ their thing, I got out my mandolin and sliced the shit out of some vegetables.  Fennel, a red onion, and fresh cayenne peppers.  Did you know that fresh, whole cayenne peppers were actually a thing?  Because I didn’t, but when I saw them I grabbed a bunch.  Fresh ones are actually rather sweet and they’ve still got a decent amount of kick, but less than, say, a jalapeño.  (Side note, check out my proper usage of the Mexican N-hat).   Anyways, I got those things sliced up and ready to be pickled.  Rather than use straight white or cider vinegar, though, I got a little crazy.  I took some (just a few splashes) of white balsamic and a few quite healthy splashes of a very crisp Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc.  Mixed them all together with some salt and let them chill.

The next morning, at 5:00am I threw the pork on the top rack of a very low grill (<200˚) with a grilling tray full of water, orange halves, and some mesquite wood chips.  Just ‘cuz.  Then I went and picked Cabernet grapes in a vineyard in Glen Ellen, for fun.  It was kind of a migrant worker fantasy camp thing, where you do all the manual labor, but you also drink wine and eat muffins while you do it.  I was pretty sticky by the end of that, and pretty hungry for a fuckin’ pulled pork sandwich!  YEAH!

I rushed home and pulled my butt off the grill.  I could hear it as I walked up to the grill; the fat had begin to sweat and was infrequently dripping down, causing a brief sizzle.  Awesometimeporkparty.

I pulled it off of the grill, and it was definitely no where near tender enough to pull.  OH NO!  I’m so hungry and I need pork!  So I improvised and braised it for another hour in some port.  60 minutes later, this thing was ready to party.  I toasted an Acme bun, brushed with some olive oil.  Loaded it up with the pulled pork, topped it with a few slices of smoked mozzarella, and a little fresh dill-mayonnaise and I ate the fuck out of that thing.  And it was, literally, one of the best tasting things I’ve ever had.


Beijing | Punk Rock and Microbrews

The below is my final report written for my MBA at Purdue University.  After spending three weeks in China, traipsing through digital streets of Shanghai, down alleys in Xi’an, filled with dust blowing in from the Gobi, and the labyrinthine hutongs of Beijing with my MBA cohorts, we were assigned a paper.  A simple write-up of our experience.  I was able to turn my last night in Beijing into my entire paper, which worked very well with my schedule.  The paper, of course, omits a lot of the colorful details of the night that would be considered, erm,  unscholarly.

Production facilities in Pudong, Shanghai, negotiating with invasively pushy knock-off vendors; the terra cotta soldiers in Xi’an, the Great Wall of China… my educational experience in China was so swift and vivid that these were the punctuation marks that act as the caesura in my memories of the trip.  However, what I consider to be my most valuable memory didn’t happen until the very last night of our trip when a friend of mine from the States took me out to show me “his” Beijing.  Perhaps it is because what he showed me existed in such stark contrast to the China I’d been visiting for two weeks prior that made that night so special.  Perhaps it was because we’d had one too many shots of the pungent, Chinese vodka, baijiu, that made it seem surreal.  Or maybe it was just that being able to explore unfettered by a flock of my beloved MBA cohorts that allowed me to easily squeeze into the nooks and crannies of Beijing.  Regardless, what I found was a slice of China that was keenly aware of both itself and the rest of the world, bursting with capitalism, and showed a staggering amount of Western progress stemming from thousands of years of history.

My friend, Tom, from my undergraduate years at Indiana University had been living in China for three years as a government liaison for a Dutch renewable energy company trying to supply Western China with wind turbines.  After returning from the Great Wall of China my classmates were all weary with exhaustion from our hike, but I felt unusually energized.  I called my buddy Tom looking forward to gallivanting around with a clever “big-nose” who knew the Dongcheng neighborhood of central Beijing like the back of his hand.

For the sake of ease, he told me to have a taxi take me to Worker’s Stadium.  I met him at the gates outside of this soccer stadium, and he led me around its outside wall to, of all places, a hot dog shop.

I looked around confused; there was one person working, three wrinkled hotdogs rotating on metal bars, and no patrons, save us.  Following his cue, I followed Tom down some dimly lit stairs into the men’s bathroom.  “Do you have to use the bathroom or anything?” he asked.  When I declined, he proceeded to find a specific brick on the bathroom wall, pressed it, and the whole wall slid to the side, revealing a gorgeously appointed speakeasy hidden inside the guts of Worker’s Stadium, serving exquisite gin cocktails with cucumber- their specialty.  His description of his job, the economics of providing inland China with cheap energy, and greasing the palms of Chinese officials, the dynamism of energy production in what is now the world’s number one consumer of oil and electricity, amidst such refined surroundings made the second guess where I was for a moment.

After our time at this clandestine bar, we went back to Tom’s neighborhood, navigating the hanjing’s, the tangled series of back alleys, in China for some street food.  After eating skewers of (I think) beef, covered in mint and MSG, cooked over open coals that were bellowed by the vendor’s trusty hair dryer, I found myself in a Melrose-esque pedestrian street, vibrant and bustling with shops and bars.  “This is my Chinese friend Jeff’s T-shirt shop,” Tom said, pointing to a shop that could have easily been found on a boardwalk.  “He started it with 10,000 RMB and now he owns several of the apartments in my building.”  Inside the shop were T-shirts featuring intentionally bad English, a tongue-in-cheek nod to missed translations from Chinese to English.  T-shirts making fun of Chairman Mao’s revered quotations.  T-shirts showing President Obama in traditional 50’s Chinese communist garb that said, “Obamao” underneath.  Shirts and paraphernalia that were, according to Tom, forced to be hidden by Chinese authorities when Obama made his last visit.

Furthering the whimsical influence of the Chairman, Tom took me to a live punk-rock venue called “Mao Livehouse.”  Inside, behind two steel doors, was a live punk rock band with superb sound quality and a phenomenal light show.  This band was not good by Chinese standards, they were good by anyone’s standards.  Standing along a mix of about 100 expats and locals, this band had a very Western, and very progressive sound.  Shocked that a Chinese band had such a contemporary, even innovative, sound, I had to know more.  I approached the band’s manager after the show.  She was from the University of Michigan, American born with Grandparents that still lived in China. She moved to Beijing to be a support beam in Beijing’s burgeoning rock and roll scene, which is apparently much bigger than an outsider would think.

Tom then took me to Great Leap Brewery – Beijing’s first ever microbrewery.  Its owner, a guy named Steve, was a former IT professional from Cleveland who grew bored of the corporate drag in Beijing after three years.  Steve missed the taste of a decent India Pale Ale but loved his home in Beijing.  He had never brewed beer before once in his life.  With an easy-to-get, low-interest loan, he bought a beautiful corner lot in a back-alley and started brewing beer… good beer!  I asked him what alcohol regulations were like in Beijing, what was his overhead, where did he source his inputs- all the questions a MBA-to-be would want to know.  He said that the regulatory process was limited to signing a single piece of paper. That once a month when the Chinese power representative would stop by he would say, “I used about 250RMB of electricity this month,” hand him the cash, and that was it for utilities.  That he was proud to source all of his hops and barley from Chinese farms outside of the city.  “It’s like the wild west out here,” said Steve, “you can be an entrepreneur in a wide-open landscape, without capital, without experience, and you can be extremely successful.”

Streets of Xi'an

Two of the biggest questions any business student would have are, first; How China’s giant, infant economy will evolve, blurring the lines between communism and capitalism, and second; is their economy growing too quickly and hotly?  How will government constraints respond to yet unseen business transactions.  What I saw over the course of my trip was that multinational companies are hastening China’s Westernism in a macroeconomic sense.  China’s top-down response, while risky, has resulted in awe-inspiring results.  At the same time, the top-down consensus that seems to pervade Chinese business discussions always seemed worrisome to me.  I reckoned that, long-term, playing by one person’s rules impedes the game as unfairness arises.  That fact juxtaposed with China’s scale made it seem like all balls were in their court.

What I saw on my last night in Beijing, however, showed me the cultural evolution that’s appearing in response to Western-style capitalism.  More than making a few Yuan, these entrepreneurs are doing something really important for the Chinese people, in my opinion.  An ability to be whimsical, creative, even occasionally irreverent as seen in the “Obamao” parodies in the T-shirt shop or the punk band at Mao Livehouse.  Introducing microbrewed imperial stouts to Beijing, making superior beers than Yanjing and Tsingtao and doing it with exclusively Chinese inputs.  This bottom-up growth was the insight into Chinese commerce I was missing.

It’s this latter form of business that hinted at an answer to my second question; whether or not China’s economy would bubble.  It was said during class one day, that China’s is, “the biggest economic experiment in history.”   The government’s top-heavy capitalization, development policies, and multinational business practices are all economically amorphous and could have any number of outcomes, both positive and negative.  However, I hope that the small business perspective I saw first-hand will spread, becoming increasingly easy to infect young entrepreneurs as a few Chinese factory workers here and there realize they want to be running the line, not a cog in it.  It was a fun, hidden corner of China that felt as unique as it did home-like.  It gave me great expectations for the future of China.


Charlotte Young | An Artist’s Statement


Lykke Li | Sadness is a Blessing

Lykke Li – Sadness is a Blessing (Director Tarik Saleh) from Lykke Li on Vimeo.

Hey look!  It’s that guy from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo!

This song is great and it seems like Lykke Li is able to consistently put out pop tunes in a Swedish cabaret vein.  However, it’s the first 90 seconds of this video that I really dig.  So slow and tense.  Have mercy!


Bear Like Mouse | Heartbeats (Feat. Lindsay Manfredi from Neon Love Life)

I did a cover of Heartbeats by The Knife (and then again by Jose Gonzales) about a year ago and just sat on it forever because I can’t sing this song.  “But you know who can,” I said to myself, “is the gorgeous and unflappable miss Lindsay Manfredi.  She would rock this AND I know she loves The Knife.”  So one night Lindsay and myself went into Queensize Studios with a big bottle of bourbon and rocked.  Listen for frequent Bear Like Mouse collaborator, Ben Sutton, and myself screaming at the end of the track.

You absolutely MUST check out Lindsay’s band, Neon Love Life.  They channel Kathleen Hannah and dump her in a boiling pot of high octane rock with a little punk sprinkled in the mix.  All those girls rock my socks and I’m so psyched to see them gaining so much success.

This track still desperately needs mastered.  IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW WANTS TO DO THIS, I WILL PAY YOU IN CUPCAKES.