28 December 2010

Tron: Legacy

Here's hoping everyone had a nice winter solstice, whatever that entails for you and your family.

The season has been busy for me, but I did have the chance to see Tron: Legacy today and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I read a lot of reviews that were middling to unfavorable, most remarking on the visuals but lamenting the "lack of story."

Truth be told, yes, the visuals were stunning, but what I found more impressive was simply the imagination.  At its heart, the original Tron was, to my mind at least, epitomized by the idea of a bunch of people sitting around, asking each other, "Hey wouldn't it be cool if..."  This is what Tron: Legacy captures perfectly.  Was the story brilliant?  No, but it was not bad, far from it, and it had some nice moments in there.  But what was truly astounding was the scope of the film, the locales they created, the sets and costumes, the world they brought to life.  I think sometimes critics forget that it's okay for a movie to be about whimsy and fun, and Tron: Legacy delivered it in droves.  I will be going back to see it again!

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Books: Finished The Hobbit, working on The Lord of the Rings.  We've just left the Midgewater Marshes.  Going a bit slower than usual, with so much else going on, but still enjoying the read nonetheless.

Bottles: Nothing of note, just Alamos Malbec as table wine with the last few meals.

Writing: Finished the novella and taking a breather before I start revision.  Will also be returning to my short story I think.

Guitar: Working on "Astronomy Domine" and continuing study of harmony.  Also got a slide guitar for Christmas, and working on the solo from "High Hopes."

18 December 2010

The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion, written by JRR Tolkien and compiled by his son Christopher, tells the tale of the First Age of Middle Earth, setting down the history which is referenced in The Lord of the Rings.  Though at times it reads a bit dry, almost like the Bible, it has some moments of absolute delight.  It reads like an anthology, telling individual tales that are woven together to create the tapestry of the First Age.  Among my favorite reads are "Of Beren and Luthien" and "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin."  Though in no way essential reading for someone to enjoy The Lord of the Rings, the richness that Tolkien imparted to his world shines through in The Silmarillion.  While I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings every year starting in December, I also read The Silmarillion every other year (alternately with either Unfinished Tales or The Tale of the Children of Hurin).

As much as I love both Harry Potter and The Wheel of Time, it is The Lord of the Rings that I can most easily be absorbed by, year after year.

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Books: About halfway though The Hobbit.

Bottles: Nothing lately.

Writing: 2800 words on the novella, finished Chapter 4 and started on the Epilogue.  I can taste it!  I might finish it tonight.

Guitar: Working on learning about Contrapuntal Harmony, using "Ode to Joy" as an example.

16 December 2010

Dashe Zinfandel 2007 Dry Creek Valley

I am a huge fan of Dashe Late Harvest Zinfandel 2007, and when I saw their regular Zinfandel I was curious. I enjoyed it at a friend’s house with a homecooked meal.

The wine is opaque, ruby colored, with a heady, earthy bouquet that had hints of oak and smoke.

It had a warm, soft fruit that felt rich and tannic on the tongue. The acidity held the wine together, and a slight sweet note on the back of the tongue helped balance the strong alcohol content (14.5%).

The aforementioned homecooked meal was spaghetti with tomato sauce and Italian sausage. While tomato-based dishes are often hard to match with wine, the Dashe Zinfandel did surprisingly well, as it did not become bitter but more or less stayed the same. With the fennel-heavy sausage, the wine truly shone, standing up to the spice and enhancing the meatiness.

We also enjoyed some cheese with the wine. With brie cheese (covered in raspberry jalapeno compote), it helped cleanse the palate from the creamy brie, and reflected the fruit in the raspberry jalapeno compote. With the bucherolle (a variant of bucheron), the wine turned a bit bitter, but not overwhelmingly so.

Dashe continues to impress me, and it is probably one of my preferred Sonoma wineries. The Zinfandel went for about $25 at a mid-range liquor store, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

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Books: Reading The Hobbit.

Bottles: Nothing lately.

Writing: 250 words on novella, but will hopefully write a bit more tonight.

Guitar: Finally get to do some tomorrow! Can't wait!

15 December 2010

Chateau Ste Michelle Harvest Select Riesling 2009 Columbia Valley

A pale, flax-colored Riesling, with scents of citrus and stone fruits. I generally find Washington Rieslings to be more delicate than their German counterparts, and I was not surprised with the Chateau Ste Michelle. The fruit was light and delicate, with a slight acidity which balanced a mild sweetness. It had a quick and gentle finish, cleansing the palate on the way out.

An enjoyable Riesling, and very budget-friendly at around $9 a bottle, available at most grocery stores. It did not express any real complexity or terrior, but it as eminently drinkable.

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Books: Reading The Hobbit.

Bottles: Drank some Blue Nun 2007 Eiswein.

Writing: 1350 words on novella.

Guitar: None today.

14 December 2010

Caligiore Bonarda 2009


A ruby colored, medium bodied wine from the Mendoza region of Argentina, Bonarda had a bouquet of cherries and young oak.  I was unfamiliar with the wine, and could not find any information on what grapes it was grown with, but I suspect a blend consisting at least partly of Malbec, the local grape of Argentina.
It had potent fruit, but too much acidity, especially on the finish when it turned bitter.  It did not seem to express any of the terroir I enjoy from better Argentinian wines.  Overall, it was not a great wine, but not a bad one either.  Very inexpensive and okay as a table wine.  It was a gift given to me, bought at a grocery store.

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Books: Finished The Silmarillion, which was quite enjoyable.  Started The Hobbit.

Bottles: Drinking Alamos Malbec 2007.  Tonight had two wines with dinner.  Too tired to write them down now.

Writing: Wrote 250 words on the novella.  Getting to some heavy stuff.

Guitar: No chance to practice.  Worked 16 hours today.  Going to bed.

06 December 2010

Domaine Pichot Vouvray 2007

I previously wrote about Domaine Pichot's 2008 Vouvray.  I also had a bottle of 2007, which I enjoyed at the late Thanksgiving dinner with my friends, served alongside Domaine Lafond's Lirac 2007.

The 2007 was much like the 2008, so I won't go into great detail about it.  I will, however, say that it was more fruity and tart, as well as sweeter on the finish, and I think I liked it slightly better than the 2008.

I did not drink it with dinner, as it was a popular choice and I did not wish to deprive others from having a glass, but when there was some left after dinner, I availed my chance of trying it with the cheese platter.  Here are my impressions:

Walnut Gouda: Very nice combination, the wine cut through the strong cheese and refreshed the palate.
Petit Basque: Again good, it complemented the cheese, presenting both wine and cheese in their best light.
Garlic & Herb Le Roule: No interaction.
Cranberry Le Roule: No interaction.
Bucheron: The wine mellowed the potent cheese pleasantly.
Humboldt Fog: An okay combination, the cheese brought out a bit more sweetness in the wine.  Not as nice a combination as the Walnut Gouda, the Petit Basque, or the Bucheron.

Domain Pichot's Vouvray, both 2007 and 2008, remains one of my favorite wines, and it has proven to be an exceptional wine for matching with cheeses.  While I enjoy the 2007 more than the 2008, the 2008 is still enjoyable, and I look forward to seeing what the next vintage will bring.

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Books: The Silmarillion proceeds apace.

Bottles: Nothing new yet.

Writing: 900 words on the novella today.  Feeling back in the swing of it.

Guitar: Practiced soloing today, did some "Time" and "Comfortably Numb."

05 December 2010

Meyer Family Port(o)

A Port-style wine, or Porto (true Port only comes from Portugal), Meyer Family's is made from Zinfandel grown in California.

Deep crimson in color, it has a strong honey and brandy bouquet, with a heavy body.

In true California style, the fruit hits the tongue first, quickly warming across the palate, and slowly introducing tastes of honey and brandy.  The finish lingers pleasantly on the brandy note.

I enjoyed Meyer Family Port at a late Thanksgiving dinner with my friends, where it was served with the dessert course as well as the remains of the cheese platter.  Dessert was an apple crumble, with which it offered no interaction.  The cheeses had varied interactions:

Petit Basque: The Port totally overpowered this otherwise pungent, nutty cheese.
Walnut Gouda: It stood up to the Port but did not reveal anything surprising.
Bucheron: Here the Port shone, balancing nicely against the potent cheese.
Humboldt Fog: Again, the Port did nicely, smoothing out the cheese's harsher notes.
Cranberry Le Roule - Here, the cheese brought out even more sweetness from the wine, and the cranberries in the cheese mirrored the fruit well.
Garlic & Herb Le Roule - The Garlic & Herb didn't do so well, offering no interaction of note.



All in all, Meyer Family Port was an enjoyable bottle, reasonably priced ($20, 375mL).  I got mine at The Wine Cellar and haven't seen it since, but haven't been looking too hard either, since I don't drink Port very often.


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Books: Still reading The Silmarillion.


Bottles: Nothing new.


Writing: Wasn't able to do any.


Guitar: Helped my friend learn how to string his guitar.  He plays an Ibanez RG and it has a double-locking tuning system, quite different from my Stratocaster's, but we worked it out in the end.  His tremolo bridge needed adjusting due to the different string gauge he ended up with.  He seems happy with it.

04 December 2010

Stuff

Stuff, by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee, was a fascinating read about hoarders.  Drs. Frost and Steketee have spent the last several years studying the phenomenon of hoarding among the American populace, and this book summarizes their research for the average reader.

The book offers stories of numerous hoarders, using them to exemplify different motivations and types of hoarding, as well as explaining different ways that are used to try to treat hoarding.  They also explore the psychology of those who hoard and seek to find commonality amongst sufferers.

It was a particularly fascinating read to me, as I was able to pick out traits of both myself and others I know in the reading.  One of the hallmarks of a hoarder is a certain distractibility when making attempts to sort things: they will look at one thing, start to remember something about it, or tell a story about it, which will then lead them to another thing, and another, and before you know it, they have spent the day talking about their possessions instead of sorting them.  I've noticed this tendency in myself from time to time, especially on the several occasions I've helped my grandma move house: every time I pack away an interesting item, I stop and ask about it, or show it to someone.

Another hallmark is an indecisiveness, an inability to accurately evaluate the usefulness of an item.  Couple this with an identification of the items as a part of oneself, and it makes getting rid of things extremely hard.

At times, the book was heartbreaking, when you would see how the problem - which is as hard to control as any other mental illness - has altered or destroyed people's lives.  There are numerous stories of spouses leaving hoarders, of family becoming estranged.  And yet, there was hope, as Drs. Frost and Steketee did list several cases where therapy was helpful to people - but only if they were willing to be helped, to make the effort to change.

Stuff truly did change the way I think about stuff, and it was an immensely enriching read.  I think I will read it again in the near future.

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Books: Finished Stuff, started my annual Lord of the Rings month with The Silmarillion.

Bottles: None since the last.

Guitar: Working on "Hey You," various scales, and the new classical piece.

Writing: Wrote a little bit, only about two paragraphs, but at least I am easing my way back into the story.  I'm at a tricky point right now: I can tell which way the story wants to go but am having trouble committing it to the page.

01 December 2010

Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Lirac 2007

This wine, made from primarily Grenache grapes grown in the Lirac region of the Rhone valley, features a deep garnet color and an earthy bouquet.  The fruit and earthiness in the taste hit the palate more or less simultaneously, coating the tongue in its soft mouthfeel.  It had a warm, ripe taste, with soft tannins and mild acidity.

I drank the Domaine Lafond Lirac at a Thanksgiving dinner with my friends, where we enjoyed turkey, mashed potatoes, apple dressing, as well as a cheese platter.

It did not offer any reaction with the turkey, but it did react favorably with the mashed potatoes, expressing a creamy note I had not expected.  However, it fared poorly with the apple dressing, becoming too bitter.

The cheese platter consisted of 6 cheeses:

Humboldt Fog - A goats' milk cheese from California, with a layer of edible ash running through the center.  The Lirac paired well with the cheese, smoothly cleansing the palate from the sharp taste of the cheese.

Petit Basque - A mildly flavored, dense sheep's milk cheese from France.  It enhanced the fruit of the wine, while at the same time the wine enhanced the nuttiness of the cheese.  Another favorable combination.

Walnut Gouda - An aged Gouda, probably from Holland (though I lost the label), with walnuts implanted in it.  It offered no reaction of note with the wine.

Bucheron - Goat's milk cheese from the Rhone valley, France.  It is creamy on the outside and crumbly on the inside, with a potent floral taste.  It totally overpowered the Lirac; I think it would go much better with a Vouvray or a Riesling, something with a lot of acidity that can cut through the potentcy.

Cranberry Le Roule - A soft cow's milk cheese from France, flattened and then rolled with dried cranberries so that it forms a spiral.  It has a soft, mild flavor, with sweetness from the cranberries.  It did not offer any interaction of note with the wine.

Garlic & Herb Le Roule - Same as above but with garlic and herbs rather than cranberries.  It too offered little reaction with the wine.

Overall, the Domaine Lafond Lirac was an okay bottle, but not a great one.  I acquired it some time ago, and my tastes have evolved since then.  I have enjoyed better Rhone wines since first tasting Domaine Lafond's Lirac, and so returning to it was a step backward.  Still, it was an interesting drink, and I had fun testing its interaction with the menu.

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Books:Nearly done with Stuff, then it's time to start my annual Lord of the Rings reading.

Bottles: Caligiore Bonarda Reserve 2009 with dinner tonight.  It's a new wine for me, okay but not as enjoyable as others.  Expect a review in the near future.

Writing: No, I simply have to start doing it again.  I wasn't able to go out and write today.  I don't know what's wrong with me that I allow myself to be distracted.  Nonetheless, I'm tired and probably won't do any before I go to bed either.  I need to try to start doing it in the mornings, maybe.

Guitar: Did practice "Hey You," scales, and a new classical piece.