16 December 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey


I have been fond of Tina Fey since I first saw her as the new co-anchor of Weekend Update on SNL.   I followed her to 30 Rock with great pleasure, and when I read that she had written a book I eagerly awaited it.
Bossypants is one of the funniest reads I have had in a long time, as well as one of the breeziest - I made my way through it in only two days without ever feeling like I was spending an inordinate amount of time reading.
While at first glance it appears to style itself as a book about work - about being the boss - it was instead more like a trip inside Tina Fey's brain, in which I as a reader got to glimpse her wit and humor unfiltered.
A loosely arranged collection of musings, rants, and reminiscences, at times the book felt almost as if you were just having a conversation with Tina - or would it be Mrs. Fey? While there were chapters about "being a boss" and "being a working mom" - the more interesting chapters, to me, were those in which the author simply reflected on life. I especially enjoyed her recollections of her parents,most notably her accounts of people meeting her father, Don Fey.
Bossypants was, at its heart, an extremely fun read, and it made a nice breather after some of the heavier stuff I’ve been reading for research.

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Books: Still on Lord of the Rings.

Bottles: Nothing new.

Writing: Nothing new.  Still taking a break and letting people read ITSS for feedback.

Guitar: "Learn to Fly," oblique bends, "Coming Back to Life."

14 December 2011

Chateau Trois Moulins 2006 Haut-Medoc

I drank Chateau Trois Moulins 2006 in a restaurant in Louisville called Z-Fusion, along with a dinner of purple gnocchi with arugula.  While it was not, perhaps, the best of pairings, I am always excited to get to explore French wines.  I tend to order them at restaurants more often than I buy them in stores, especially a finer restaurant, as I trust the restaurant to find something that will be good.
It was a deep garnet color, with a heady nose of oak and spice.  Like most Bordeaux wines I have experienced, it was a sumptuous wine, with great complexity of both smell and flavor.  It had supple fruits which gave way to a punch of acidity; as it transformed on my tongue, it again revealed plenty of oak, herbs, and spice.

I truly need to explore France more; I find I lack the necessary breadth of experience to offer any truly meaningful comparisons.  I look forward to the chance to do so!

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Books: Reading The Lord of the Rings, as I do each December.

Bottles: Had some Alamos 2010 Malbec recently.  I think I’m ready to find a new table wine.

Guitar: Working on a oblique bending exercise, and started on “Learn to Fly.”  I think next week I might also start on “A Pocketful of Stones,” from David Gilmour’s On an Island.  We’ll see.

Writing: Actually, pondering a short story that would take place within the Lovecraft mythos, albeit in modern times.  And on February 1 I will be launching into the third draft of Into the Shining Sun, as well as beginning the long process of trying to secure an agent.  Wow!

08 December 2011

The Colour Out of Space


The Colour Out of Space by HP Lovecraft
The second short story in my Lovecraft collection was The Colour Out of Space. It tells the story of a meteor that crashes in the Blasted Heath outside of Arkham, Massachusetts, releasing a non-corporeal entity that can only be described as "a colour" into the farm of the Gardner family.  The story is told in the first person by a character interviewing Ammi Pierce who witnessed the events which occurred.
 Stylistic similarities to The Call of Cthulhu were immediately apparent: New England setting, first person narration, cosmic entity beyond the scope of human understanding.  What I found most compelling about Colour was, perhaps, the inexplicability of the creature: that those who saw it were incapable of processing its appearance. The descent into madness of those who were exposed to it, and the blind denials of the townsfolk and the scientific community, were realistically portrayed, frustrating though the latter were.
As a tale of terror I think perhaps Colour was slightly more successful in generating the necessary anxiety in the reader; on the other hand, the sense of grim foreboding and the fascinating depiction of R'lyeh made Call the more enduring in memory.
Both were enjoyable and I look forward to exploring Lovecraft's work further.  Meanwhile I shall enjoy playing in the world he created - my friends and I have become devotees of the Arkham Horror board game and play it frequently.

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Books: Still finishing On Grief and Grieving for ITSS.

Bottles: Nothing much new.

Writing: Finished(!) the second draft of Into the Shining Sun.  Will take a break from it for a while and take a look at it again in the New Year.  Meanwhile had thoughts of a short story that could be fun to work on in the interim, featuring some elements of Lovecraft's mythos.

Guitar: "Coming Back to Life," "Study in A," and a new oblique bending study which is proving quite exciting!

05 December 2011

Vietti Barbere d'Asti 2009 Tre Vigne


I enjoyed the Vietti Barbera d’Asti 2009 in the same meal as the Lagaria Pinot Grigio Delle Venezia 2010, at Tannin Wine Bar in Kansas City.  This one I shared as a bottle with several friends, and we all enjoyed it.  I’ve been trying to explore the wines of Piedmont lately, so the chance to enjoy this well-priced bottle was too good to pass up.
The wine was a dark, inky ruby color.  It displayed a heady nose of oak and spice, a potent smell I’ve come to associate with most Italian wines.  My vocabulary does not seem to be developed enough to explain the differences I felt between its nose and that of, say, a French or Californian red.
The wine was youthful without being overwhelming, full of dark fruits.  Truth be told I was expecting something far more tannic, but it felt relatively balanced, with a lingering dryness on the finish.  It was enjoyable with the risotto, though it came too late to have with the cheese.  Still, it held up well to the risotto, and would have been pleasant on its own as well, I think.


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Books: Reading On Grief and Grieving for research for Into the Shining Sun.
Bottles: Just Alamos Malbec lately.
Writing: Finished Chapter Twenty!  Woo!  Only two chapters and an epilogue left to go.  I plan to finish it tomorrow, then make a few tweaks before calling it a draft.  Also been ruminating on a short story idea that might take place in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, in a roundabout way.
Guitar: Sadly haven’t played as much as I wanted this week since some work came up with unusual hours.  Also dedicated a lot of potential practicing time to writing.

01 December 2011

Lagaria Pinot Grigio Delle Venezia 2010


I had the chance to try a glass of Lagaria Pinot Grigio Delle Venezia 2010 at Tannin Wine Bar in Kansas City where I had lunch a while back.  I was having risotto for lunch and decided to test out a pair of Italian wines.

The Pinot Grigio was a pale straw color, with a nose of sweet fruits, especially apricot.  I don't usually seek out Pinot Grigio, but this one was enticing.  On the tongue, it had a mellow, round acidity, with jammy flavors and a finish that again exhibited the flavor of apricot.

I had a 2-ounce pour to taste, so there was not much chance for experimentation, though I did have it with  some of the cheese from our cheese plate.  I don't recall any major interactions, but it did handle the creaminess of the cheese well.

It was a fun wine, but ultimately not one I will especially seek out again.

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Books: Catching up on magazines right now.  I'm focusing on those and on finishing my second draft of ITSS before I start on my annual Lord of the Rings read.

Bottles: Had a bottle of 2007 Ramey Claret over Thanksgiving which was, as expected, phenomenal.

Writing: On Chapter 17 of ITSS.  Trying to get back into the habit of doing a chapter a day after falling out of it over the course of my trips.

Guitar: Working on "Coming Back to Life" and looking at "Learn to Fly" as well as Carcassi's Study in A.

21 November 2011

The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft


I’ve recently become enamored of a board game called Arkham Horror, which is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos.”  As such I took it upon myself to learn more about it, and as a starting point I picked Lovecraft’s seminal short story, The Call of Cthulhu.
It was actually a rather creepy read, which I thought was admirable on Lovecraft’s part, because he barely ever actually shows anything.  Instead, he manages to imbue the entire story with a sense of impending dread, culminating in an exceptionally brief account of an encounter with the titular character, told twice-removed: the narrator relates the account he heard from the sailor who actually made it to R’lyeh and saw Cthulhu.
In my research on Lovecraft it mentioned several things that became hallmarks of Lovecraft’s stories, and Call definitely managed to hit those notes: a New England setting (though not, in this case, the fictional town of Arkham); the notion of “cosmic indifference,” that the greatest forces in the cosmos are simply indifferent, perhaps even unaware, of humanity; and a rational, scientific approach, which excluded religion.
Having finished Call, I have started on The Colour Out of Space, and am enjoying that as well.
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Books: Actually, finished Colour as well, and read Bossypants.  Catching up on magazines now as well as reading some books for research for ITSS.

Bottles: Not since I got back from Louisville, but there are several bottles I have to post reviews for.

Guitar: Working on "My Hero" and "Coming Back to Life" right now.

Writing: Well, it's slow going as I've hit a spot that needs some restructuring, but once I get back to the meat I think I'll pick up again.

12 November 2011

A First-Rate Madness - Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi


I saw a brief blurb about A First Rate Madness in an issue of Scientific American a few months back, and I have to say the very idea of it fascinated me.  As someone who’s struggled through depression myself, I was especially interested in what the book had to say about how the experiences of depression can sometimes turn into strengths.  Though it took me a while to realize it at the time, that definitely mirrored my own experiences.
Ghaemi focuses his thesis on the idea that in times of crisis, leaders who suffer or suffered from mental illness have traits that make them more prepared to face the challenges the world is presenting, while leaders without mental illness tend to do well in stable times.  He posits that mental illness - and he focuses on depression and bipolar disorder in particular, as well as the personality subsets that go with them - gives those who suffer from them four advantages in crisis leadership: realism, creativity, empathy, and resilience.
He presents “psychological histories” of several prominent leaders: Churchill, FDR, JFK, William T Sherman, Ted Turner, Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to illustrate how their own mental illness gave them tools which became useful in their struggles: Churchill’s depression led to realism about the Nazi threat; FDR’s creativity helped him constantly try new things to solve the problems of the Great Depression; JFK’s resilience, in the face of lifelong illness as well as a daunting first year in office, was a major factor in the peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis; Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. both centered their non-violent movements around the very notion of empathy.
Ghaemi is quick to point out the shortcomings of attempting such research, but he nonetheless presents a rubric that seemed, to me at least, reasonable enough: examining the historical figures’ symptoms, family history, course of treatment (where applicable) and...something else which escapes me at the moment.  Nor does he make the case that mentally healthy leaders - which he terms homoclite, as they express the “norm mental state” - are necessarily bad in a crisis.  He simply examines the links that history has provided.
I found the read thoroughly engaging, as I so often find history reads, and I found myself buried in wikipedia for quite a while afterward, wikisurfing from topic to topic on the events covered in the book.

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Books: Read The Call of Cthulhu and currently reading The Colour Out of Space.

Bottles: Drank a bunch of Dashe Late Harvest Zinfandel last night as well as a bottle of Ramey Cabernet 2007 and a bottle of Layer Cake Primitivo 2008.  All very enjoyable.

Writing: Working on chapter 14.  I'm having a hard time getting back into Adam's frame of mind.

Guitar: Nope, guitar is in KC.  But on a related note, I have the Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here Immersion Box Sets waiting for me when I get home!

11 November 2011

The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


My journey into the canon of Sherlock Holmes continued with The Sign of the Four, the second Holmes novel.  I was immediately struck by the opening scene, in which Sherlock Holmes is doing intravenous cocaine because he is bored.  It was a rather stark reminder of the attitudes, both social and medical, of that time period.
Equally striking (and darkly amusing) was the overt racism displayed throughout as well.  I suppose this was present in the prior novel, as well, but it was especially evident in The Sign of the Four, which dealt so particularly with India.  Indeed, one of the Indian revolts is depicted in the novel and is the origin of the entire plot, as misbegotten treasure acquired during the revolt leads to a series of betrayals and murders.  Throughout, characters use epithets and descriptions that are hilariously racist, and yet they do so without batting an eye.  It makes me wonder what sorts of things we do today that will one day be viewed as bigoted.
On the whole, I thought the mystery behind The Sign of the Four was slightly less compelling than the one in A Study in Scarlet; somehow, it felt almost predictable, in a way that Scarlet wasn’t.  Stolen treasure, escaping prison, a crazed caricature of Pacific Island aboriginal, all these things seemed almost inevitable, whereas A Study in Scarlet’s tale was perhaps more sympathetic and more unique.  “The cab-driver did it!” is somehow more exciting than “The wooden-legged escaped convict did it!”
Still, Sign was terrific.  I’m moving on to other things for a while but anxiously look forward to returning to Holmes in the near future.

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Books: Reading The Call of Cthulhu right now.

Bottles: Had a fairly good bottle of Bordeaux at a restaurant recently and will post notes on it sooner or later...

Writing: Diving in to Chapter 14.

Guitar: Not really...the guitar is in another city.

08 November 2011

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Though I have seen several adaptations and interpretations of the Sherlock Holmes character - foremost among them Data’s portrayal in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Robert Downey Jr’s in the recent motion picture, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s in BBC’s Sherlock, reading A Study in Scarlet was in fact my first venture into the Holmes literary canon.
It was very strange, seeing how the case would meet my expectations and how it would defy them.  The very first episode of the BBC Sherlock was loosely based on this story, but it was different enough that it was quite fresh.  As Doyle’s introduction to the character, Study also felt very fresh and uncertain with itself at times, but this in fact worked to its advantage: since it was told from the perspective of Dr. John Watson, this then felt like we were finding out footing along with him.
Perhaps most surprising to me, all in all, was the use of Mormonism as the crux of the plot.  I had scarcely expected a 19th Century English writer to involve them; it seemed to me that only Americans ever wrote about Mormons.  Obviously this is not the case, but I have so rarely encountered references to them outside of American literature that it was almost jarring.  Either way, though, it was a delightful twist.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Study in Scarlet and have already started in on The Sign of the Four.

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Books: Been on vacation and reading magazines since they are easier to transport.

Bottles: A few new things.  Will write about them soon.

Writing: Didn't take my computer with me to Mexico but looking forward to getting back to Into the Shining Sun.

Guitar: No way I could take my guitar with me.

01 November 2011

Stoneboat Vineyards 2008 Pinotage


Stoneboat Vineyards 2008 Pinotage
Okanagan Black Sage Bench
As a disclaimer, I must confess to having avoided Pinotage after my friend and wine-mentor Bruce told me the story of the bottle of South African Pinotage he sampled which tasted as if it had been aged in an old tire instead of a barrel.  However, I do enjoy trying new and unique wines, and BC Pinotage was an experience I wasn’t likely to get anywhere in the US, so I tried it.
It was a dark plum color which belied the light body.  It had a cherry and candy nose, and surprising tartness.
It had a light fruity taste, which turned towards bitter midway through.  Mellow tannins gave way to a gently acidic finish.

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Books: Catching up on magazines right now.

Bottles: Had a good pair at Tannin Wine Bar, and also tried the latest vintage of Orin Swift's "The Prisoner."

Writing: Nearly finished with Chapter 13.

Guitar: Working on song-writing right now.

23 October 2011

Laughing Stock Vineyards Blind Trust 2009

Laughing Stock’s Blind Trust was my first experience with Okanagan Valley, BC red wine.  A Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec, it could not help drawing comparisons with similar wines I’ve had from Napa or France.

It was a dark crimson color, with medium body and a very meaty, smoky, oaky nose.  On the mouth it provided cool fruits and powerful acidity.  The tannins were strong, bordering on harsh, but this was not surprising given the youth of the wine.  I suspect a few more years would have mellowed it considerably.  The finish had a lingering taste of licorice.

I enjoyed the wine with appetizers at Bistrot Bistro, a French bistro in Vancouver.  With the shallot compote and prosciutto it brought out sweeter fruits in the wine and more saltiness in the meat.  A similar interaction occurred with the Caramelized Onion-Maplewood Smoked Bacon-Gruyere Tart.

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Books: Just finished A First Rate Madness.  Have some books on grief and grieving as research for Into the Shining Sun

Bottles: Nothing of note lately.  Hope to remedy that soon.

Guitar: Working on new pentatonic studies as well as "My Hero."

Writing: Into Chapter Eleven-and-a-Half right now.  Closing in Shawn's death from Adam's point of view.  Hopefully I am getting some good stuff.  It's hard to tell right now.

17 October 2011

Nemea Boutari 2007


I encountered the 2007 Nemea Boutari at Stepho’s, an exceptional Greek restaurant in downtown Vancouver.  I had never encountered the wine before - in fact, I had never had the chance to sample any Greek wines before - and was excited for the chance.
A light ruby color with an airy body, it had unique herbal aromas on the nose.  I have a hard time describing exactly what it was like; they were aromas I had never encountered before in a wine and I had a hard time placing them.  In retrospect I want to say it smelled like bay or pine.
The first effect once I took a sip was the racy acidity on my tongue, slowly developing into mellow, slightly bitter fruits.  It was very lightly tannic.  The finish was another hit of those herbal notes displayed in the nose.
It was made from the Agiorgitiko grape, which I have never had before.  I found it to be very similar to Blaufränkisch.
My meal consisted of fried cheese balls (which the wine accompanied quite well, cutting through the fattiness of the cheese); an egg-lemon soup, made with orzo and chicken (which the wine did not accompany well); and chicken souvlaki (which the wine did not really interact with).  All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable bottle and a very memorable meal.

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Books: Finished The Sign of the Four, starting A First Rate Madness.

Bottles: Nothing lately.

Writing: More than half done on the rewrite.  Recently reread the second half to get back into the mindset of writing for Adam.  I feel good about it.

Guitar: Practicing some new 4- and 5-note exercises on the Pentatonic scale, also "My Hero" by Foo Fighters, and trying to get back into "Hey You" and "Young Lust."  Hoping to start on the third solo of "Coming Back to Life" soon.  Maybe also more on songwriting.

06 October 2011

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain


I am pretty sure I’ve read Tom Sawyer before, but since it’s been so long it was like reading it fresh.  It took me a little while to get into it - the setting and the language are both so remote that it took a while for me to identify with the world.  That said, once I got there, I understood it perfectly.
Twain did a wonderful job in relating with utter perfection the mercurial tendencies of the young.  Tom switches gears at the drop of a hat; gets distracted, excited, and depressed in the blink of an eye.  I also particularly appreciated the passages Twain devoted to Tom wondering how people would feel if he ran away, or died - how his Aunt would cry, how the town would miss him so.  Who hasn’t had thoughts like that when they were a child?  Twain captured that though process so well.
The narrative was quite enjoyable, once I managed to sort of assimilate myself into the world Twain presents.  Imagining going on a picnic by a cave, or chasing a criminal through the streets of a small town, took no small stretch of imagination, but it was quite satisfying once I got there.
I can see why this book is considered such a classic, and why it has succeeded in enthralling both children and adults.  I found it brought me closer to my own inner child in a way that I haven’t felt for a long time.

And for those who are concerned: yes, I know that Mark Twain is the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

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Books: Finished Tom Sawyer and A Study in Scarlet.

Bottles: Nemea Boutari 2007, Laughing Stock Blind Trust 2009, Stoneboat Vineyards Pinotage 2008.  The first at Stepho's (Greek food), the latter two at Bistrot Bistro (French).

Writing: Finished the first half of the rewrite of Into the Shining Sun.  The word count of the first half doubled.  I hope the second half doesn't increase quite so much, but I would like it to equal or exceed the first half in length.

Guitar: Nothing doing without an instrument to work on.

26 September 2011

Stephen King’s The Shining


I’ve been slowly examining the works of Stephen King, after enjoying The Dark Tower so thoroughly.  I’ve already read Carrie and Salem’s Lot, so I seem to be going in chronological order.
I had seen Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation a few years ago, and so I suppose I went into the reading constantly fighting certain expectations.  There were innumerable differences between the film and the novel, however, and that actually proved to my advantage, as I was able to be surprised at the reading.
In the version I read, King gave an introduction where he talks about the choice he had to make in writing, whether to delve into the character of Jack Torrence and explore his own complicated inner demons: an alcoholic, abusive father; his own alcoholism; and his own authority issues.  King said he felt it made the novel stronger, and I have to agree wholeheartedly with him.  In fact, it is this delving into Jack that makes the novel so different from what I expected, having seen the film.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the novel, however, was the character of Danny, and how well King seemed to capture the internal world of a five-year-old psychic.  The way he approached the world, how he could switch so quickly, so mercurially between emotions, perfectly captured what little I remember of being that age.  I enjoyed how, when Danny would encounter concepts he didn’t yet understand but nonetheless knew because of his Shine, King would capitalize them.  (Example: Danny was reading his father’s thoughts, who thought Wendy and Danny might be sad or lonely but would be okay in the LONGRUN.)  This seemed an excellent way of capturing that confusion of childhood: knowing but not yet understanding.
Wendy was also far more interesting in the novel than in the film, which surprised me as well: She had barely made any impression on me in the film - I couldn’t even remember who played her until I looked it up.  Wendy in the novel was much more realized, and strangely I always pictured her as Toni Collette.  Who was, incidentally, not in the movie.  Shelley Duvall was...and I have to say I found her incredibly annoying in the film.  According to many sources, so did Kubrick, so there we go.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to me, though, was the difference in the endings, which I think points to a fundamental difference between King and Kubrick.  I’m a big fan of both, and I accept their differences.  So as I consider the relationship between The Shining in prose and in film, when I ask myself if it was adapted well, I have to say “No.”  But The Shining was still a great film, and it definitely stands the test of time.  It simply can’t be related to the novel - they are two totally different entities.  And I think that’s okay.
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Books: Reading Tom Sawyer.  I have a small collection of the classics that I need to read on my iPad while I am out of town.

Bottles: Nothing lately...hoping to visit the wine bar when I get back, or maybe one in Vancouver.  Apparently there's one in Yaletown.

Writing: Nearly killed Shawn again in Into the Shining Sun.  I always feel so guilty every time I do it.  And sadly I know this won't be the last time, either.

Guitar: Didn't start any new projects since I'll be gone, but hopefully I'll have access to my cousin's acoustic again and can brush up on some songs like "Mother" and "Goodbye Blue Sky."  I brought my The Wall songbook just in case.

22 September 2011

The Genius Factory by David Plotz

The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank was my most recent read, and I found it simultaneously fascinating, grotesque, poignant, and comical.  Though it sounds like a fiction book, it is in fact non-fiction, and author Plotz frequently refers to how the entire concept of the “Repository for Germinal Choice” - the Nobel Prize Sperm bank, in other words - sounds like something out of science fiction.

The book tracked Plotz’s journey through researching the history of the bank, tracking down employees, donors, mothers who used the bank, and children born through the bank.  Perhaps the two most compelling sub-plots in the book were the story of Donor White, who had fathered numerous children and was overjoyed by the fact and hoped to reconnect with them, in particular a girl named Joy; and the story of Tom, who found out he was a Nobel Sperm Bank baby and began searching for both his donor and any half-siblings he might have had.

I was impressed how even-handedly Plotz approached the entire subject; he even recounts how he went through the preliminary stages of donating sperm himself (the application and test donation, as it were) just so that he could empathize with and understand the donors he was interviewing and the process as a whole.  While some of the people in the novel might have been easy to characterize as crazy, racist, or worse, Plotz fleshed them out as fully-formed human beings, with virtues and foibles both.

It was a strange read, and an enjoyable one.  I do not think I have ever read a book quite like it, but I got a lot out of it, and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a fascinating read.

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Books: Just finished The Shining.

Bottles: Just been drinking Alamos Malbec lately.

Writing: Well, nearing the halfway-ish point in the rewrite.  That part I've rewritten so far has doubled in length.  I wonder if the trend will continue for the entire novella.  It might bump it up to novel status which wouldn't be a bad thing, as long as it's not all crap.

Guitar: Started on "Times Like These."  Also working on "Hey You" and "Young Lust" still.

14 September 2011

Franciscan Estate 2007 Napa Valley


This Cabernet from Napa Valley’s delectable 2007 vintage did not disappoint.  It was ruby colored, full bodied, with an intensely oaky nose.
Upon drinking, it revealed several flavor layers: the inky berries, hints of pepper and spice, sharp oak, and that indefinable taste that I have come to associate with Napa wines.  It was one of the driest wines I have had from Napa, and the dryness lingered on in a mouth-puckering finish.
This wine was enjoyed immediately after the Orin Swift The Prisoner 2009, and on the whole I think The Prisoner was more enjoyable by itself, though I suspect the Franciscan Estate would go excellently with a meaty meal.

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Books: About to start in on The Shining.

Bottles: Tried a glass of Napa Cellars' Sauvignon Blanc, but didn't really take any notes.  Got a little too drunk a little too fast; I think it was either stronger than I expected or I drank it too fast.  Also I was having it with dinner and my stomach was pretty empty when I started.

Guitar: Started on "Times Like These" by Foo Fighters.  Still working on "Hey You" and "Young Lust;" the latter is proving troublesome in some spots, due to the tabs not making what the recording sounds like.  The former is just difficult to make the chord changes fast enough all while arpeggiating the chords.

Writing: Well, five chapters and 14,000 words in to the second draft now.  At this point in the first draft it was only 9,000 words long.  I'm actually kind of pleased that I've been expanding it as I go, finding new things.  The hard part will be paring it back down again, removing things that are useless.  It is hard to kill your babies.


08 September 2011

Orin Swift The Prisoner 2009


I’ve been a fan of Orin Swift ever since sampling his 2007 Papillon Bordeaux blend, and The Prisoner 2009 was not a disappointment.  A primarily Zinfandel blend, it was young and vivacious, but not overwhelmingly so, and it mellowed quickly in the glass.
It was a deep plum color, with a spicy nose that displayed surprising meaty notes.  I think I also smelled hints of rhubarb, a first for me!
It was fruit, medium bodied, with soft round berry flavors and a smooth feel on the tongue.  The finish was quick and clean, without being terribly drying.
I enjoyed the wine with friends, sitting outside the hotel in Avon, Colorado, enjoying the night air.  It went over well with everyone.  We purchased it at a store for about $30, and I don’t expect it to be hard to find again.

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Books: Just finished The Genius Factory, and about to start in on The Shining.

Bottles: Tried out Trader Joe's Zinfandel but didn't have a chance to take notes.  I do have a second bottle.  So far it's been an imminently drinkable table wine.

Writing: Into chapter 2, proceeding apace.

Guitar: "Young Lust" and also "Hey You" - one leads and fills, the other rhythm parts.  I also play "Coming Back to Life" most days and am pretty close to keeping up with the recording, which makes he happy.  Soon I will have to make a start on the third solo, which I have so far avoided.

02 September 2011

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary is a collection of short stories about anthropomorphic animals.  It was a highly amusing read, rather on the short side, but this made it all the more enjoyable - I was able to fly through the stories, chuckling at both them and at the illustrations within the book.

Each story told, in essence, a story about people - sometimes eccentric people, and sometimes people that you feel like you know.  Classic archetypes, as it were, or perhaps just universally annoying characters.  However, Sedaris has replaced the people in the story with animals - sometimes with an animal that reinforces the nature of the character, but just as often with one that has no bearing, really.  Sometimes he even seems to play against type in choosing the animal.

Reading this book I was struck by the wit and playfulness of Sedaris’s prose, and I have added a few more of his books to my “to read” list.  I will hopefully have more to share soon.

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Books: The above.  Working on The Genius Factory still.

Bottles: Nothing new lately.

Writing: Finished a new first chapter.  I like it for the most part, but it'll still need tweaking.

Guitar: Working on "Young Lust" and also "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2."

31 August 2011

Chateau Roumieu-Lacoste 2006 Sauternes


The third wine I enjoyed at Grouse Mountain Grill was Chateau Roumieu-Lacoste 2006 Sauternes, a half-bottle I chose to enjoy with our dessert course.  This was my first foray into Sauternes, and it did not disappoint.
The wine was a rich honey color, like liquid gold almost, with an intensely syrupy nose.  I found the taste to be incredibly like eating the best French toast with maple syrup, though there was a spicy backdrop to it.  The finish lasted on a honey note for a long, long time - so much so that the other diners commented on it as well!
Our table enjoyed it with several different desserts - apple bread pudding, flourless chocolate cake, bay-leaf ice cream...it matched well with all of them.  It was a great way to cap off the night.

---

Books: Reading The Genius Factory by David Plotz.  Finished Squirrel Seeking Chipmunk.

Bottles: Not lately.

Writing: Beginning on second draft!

Guitar: Revisiting "Young Lust."

27 August 2011

La Cana 2009 Albarino


Grouse Mountain Grill holds a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence, and I availed myself of several bottles when I dined there.  One was the previously posted Saxum 2008 James Berry Vineyard, which was in fact the second of the three wines; the first was La Cana 2009 Albarino.
Pale golden in color, it displayed a nose of honey, floral, grapefruit, and a slight mineral, almost metallic, tang to it.  It had a tingly acidity and a light body.  Flavor-wise, citrus dominated, with grapefruit as well as lemon peel showing up.  That lemon peel note lingered on the finish.
Albarino is one of my go-to whites when serving a crowd - I have yet to find anyone that didn’t like it.  It is impeccably balanced across all dimensions and lends itself well to both new wine drinkers and old ones alike.
I enjoyed the bottle with the bread course and a spring greens salad, which had fried goat cheese beignets in it.  It was truly an amazing combination, bringing out the savory sweetness of the goat cheese, cleansing the palate while at the same time insisting there was more to come.

---

Books: Nearing the end of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.

Bottles: Nothing since returning from Colorado.

Writing: Have a meeting tomorrow to discuss my first draft of Into the Shining Sun with friends.  Starting on second draft on Monday.

Guitar: Just got back yesterday night, so plenty of time to practice in the coming week.

25 August 2011

Saxum James Berry Vineyard 2008

At Grouse Mountain Grill in Avon, Colorado, I happened to have the chance to drink a bottle of Saxum James Berry Vineyard 2008, a Paso Robles Rhone blend that had been at the top of my list of wines to try. Saxum wines are very hard to come by - most of their sales are out-the-door, and someone has to die to even get on the waiting list!

The bottle.

Wine Director Bill Minett managed to source two bottles of the 2008 vintage for the restaurant.  I don't know when the first bottle was consumed, but I got the second.  About 45 minutes after I ordered the bottle, another table came in and ordered the same, and was informed by our waiter that we had already had the last bottle.

The wine was aerated and decanted for us, as the 2008 was still quite young.  I wish I could have enjoyed it cellared, but as Mr. Minett himself said, everyone was drinking them young because they are so hard to get hold of!

Watching the decanting I was able to take in the intense ruby color of the wine, but the true experience began once the wine was poured.

The last sip.
It had a heady aroma, oaky and fruity, and truly quite intense.  And oh, the taste!  Even after aeration it was still youthful and vibrant, but this did not detract from the wine, it gave it life.  It had strong berry flavors, beautiful, smooth tannins, and a clean, clear finish.

The wine was super-assertive, easily overpowering the tenderloin I enjoyed it with, but I don't care - it was heaven!  That said, I happened to taste my friend's duck sausage with the wine, and it actually was a  very good pairing.

Drinking this bottle was a dream come true.  My thanks to Mr. Minett who was patient with us and posed for the photos we took of the bottle and the experience.  He seemed to enjoy getting to share the experience with us.  To my great shame I forgot to offer him a taste as well, I was too overwhelmed with the experience.  I shall be sending him a thank you card though.  It was a truly incredible experience.

---

Books: Rereading The Hunger Games, trying to glean what I can from the books about how to successfully portray the future I am trying to depict.

Bottles: Five in the course of two days here in Colorado!  The above, of course, as well as La Cana 2009 Albarino, Chateau Roumieu-Lacoste 2006 Sauternes, Orin Swift The Prisoner 2009, and Franciscan Estate 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Writing: Taking copious notes on Into the Shining Sun, seeing where I want it to go.  Also need to make a map of the house to make sure I am consistent with sunlight!

Guitar: Being that the guitar is in Kansas City, I have not had much chance to play lately.

19 August 2011

David Plotz's Good Book

My latest read was David Plotz's Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible.  I had been intrigued by the book after hearing of it while incidentally undertaking my own reading of the King James Bible from cover to cover, although David Plotz only reads the Old Testament, and a different translation.

I became interested in reading the King James Bible because it's so often cited as one of the two pillars of western literature, along with Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey.  Plotz, on the other hand, chose to do it to examine the roots of his culture and faith, though the latter was, by his own admission, lackluster.

Being an atheist but having Jewish friends, I enjoyed reading about how the Bible intersected with his faith and culture, and I felt a better understanding not only of Plotz but of my own friends.  He often talked about the "messy Bible" - that what is written, what is really on the page, is so much more complicated than the versions that we remember from popular culture or even from Sunday school.  Characters Plotz once thought of as heroes suddenly had far darker undertones.

Reading the Old Testament, Plotz felt, much as I did, that the God depicted in it was, far from being a reverential figure, a rather awful one.  I think Stewie Griffin best summed up God when he said "I love God, he's so deliciously evil!"  That God is far more often vindictive and cruel, and even genocidal, than he is kind or merciful.

Plotz also remarked a great deal on how much of our literary and linguistic heritage comes from the Bible, frequently mentioning both his own translation as well as the King James one.

All in all, I enjoyed Good Book, but I find it hard to write very much about it.  So much of it felt so in sync with my own thoughts after reading the Bible, I find it hard to differentiate between my reaction to the Bible and my reaction to Plotz reading the Bible.

It was a good read, and I look forward to reading the other book I got from him, which is The Genius Factory, but I won't be reading that quite yet.

---

Books: Finished Good Book.  Up next is Squirrels Seeking Chipmunk.

Bottles: Nothing new lately, but hopefully I will have some new experiences when I go to Vail, Colorado.

Writing: I've been very intent on Into the Shining Sun.  I finished the first draft and have been rereading it before starting in on revisions after talking with my writing group about it on 28 August.

Guitar: I have sadly been practicing less than I should, since Into the Shining Sun has consumed so much of my creative energy lately.  That said, still working on "Pigs," also revisiting several songs from The Wall.

06 August 2011

Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy

Well, it's been quite a while since I felt I had anything to report.  I had about a month's worth of periodicals to catch up on and haven't really had much new wine to report on either.  I read TS Eliot's The Wasteland, but I can't say it had much of an impact on me.  Poetry has never been my strong suit, although I have enjoyed several of Tennyson's works.

Anyway, after having my curiosity piqued by an article in Entertainment Weekly, I ended up checking out The Hunger Games from the library.  I confess I had moderate to somewhat-low expectations of the book, given its numerous comparisons to Twilight, but the article described the book taking place in a sociopolitical landscape that sounded fascinating, and it seemed the book examined a wide range of issues, from political oppression to reality television.

I am happy to say that I was very wrong in thinking little of the book, and its two sequels, as they all three blew me away.  After reading the first, I was able to wait about a day for the library to get the next one in, before giving in and buying the ebook version from the Kindle store (although I admittedly read it on the Kindle app for my iPad - full disclosure).  The books were rich in detail, creating a fully realized world, memorable characters, a complicated (but not convoluted) plot, and, most important of all, real, relatable human emotion.

First off, the world.  Well, I was immediately struck by how Suzanne Collins extrapolated the United States (and North America at large) into the future, imagining a decline for its civilization no different from that of the Roman Empire, something alluded to both directly - she got the name for the new nation, Panem, from the Latin "panem et circenses" or "bread and circuses," [which also happens to be a name of an episode of Star Trek for those of you keeping count] - and indirectly, as she draws names for the characters from the decadent Capitol from Roman myth and history - brothers Castor and Pollux, Gamemaster Seneca Crane (Seneca being a Roman playwright of no small repute), Cinna the stylist (poet Cinna was murdered for having the same name as another Cinna, who took part in the assassination of Ceasar - at least, according to some sources, but perhaps made most famous by Shakespeare), the list goes on and on.  I apologize, by the way, for the parentheticals.  It has been a long while since I've been so affected and excited by a book, so I am rambling.

Beyond the Roman allusions, there is also a large influence of the modern world on the books, most notable perhaps in the idea of the Hunger Games, a game in which 24 children are pitted to the death as the ultimate form of reality television.  Some of the most vivid imagery comes from the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen's, experiences in said Games.

Speaking of characters, Katniss was a compelling protagonist, both empathetic and sympathetic - though for me, as a man, I occasionally found her misinterpretation of the various male characters' psychologies to be frustrating.  Well, all the more likely it's an accurate portrayal of a woman's viewpoint, I suppose.  The first-person perspective, used entirely throughout, was very successful to me, and I never once wanted a wider viewpoint - Collins was excellent at creating plausible, and often compelling, reasons for Katniss to know things she couldn't have witnessed, and we very rarely hear a character recap "what happened to me" - though on the few occasions we do, she manages to make it a scene of power rather than an infodump.

I would be remiss in talking about the characters without talking about the two male characters vying for Katniss's affections, Peeta and Gale.  Both were fully realized, similar in some ways and opposite in other ways, and I could understand Katniss's affection for both.  Perhaps adult readers like myself can understand far better than Katniss could herself.  Despite what could be construed as "teen romance," Collins in fact depicts very real, universal problems of love, culminating in a validation of what I consider the most important part of love - that the one you love should always bring out the best in you.  Collins lets Katniss learn the lesson herself, the same way everyone has to: the hard way.  It was here that I found the comparisons to Twilight most dubious, for I found this to be the opposite of the philosophy espoused in Twilight, where, it seemed to me at least, that the main character's love brought out only the most selfish impulses in her.  Then again, The Hunger Games truly starts when Katniss steps up to play in the games in order to spare her own younger sister, so perhaps it's inevitable that anyone else seems selfish by comparison...but I don't think it's just me that found Twilight rather lacking in insight.

The Hunger Games were the first books I've read since The Wheel of Time that made me feel something, deeply and truly, and that is what makes books worth reading to me.  I hope others will find them so as well.  I also hope that the film adaptation manages to retain Collins' vision, because I believe it is her unique voice and insight into the world that make the books ring so true.

---

Books: Was totally absorbed by The Hunger Games, and caught off my guard, as it were, by them.  I thoroughly enjoyed them.  I've got a few things coming from the library soon, as well as Tom Sawyer started on my iPad.

Bottles: Picked up some old favorites lately, like Chappellet Signature 2008, but nothing new yet.  I go to Colorado in two weeks, and will hopefully get to experience something new there.

Guitar: Working on "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" - parenthetical not mine.  Also looking at Pachelbel's Canon in D.

Writing: As of this, 93% complete with the first draft of the prose version of Into the Shining Sun.  I have some ideas already of where I want the second draft to go; I can't decide if I want to immediately dive in to the second draft or let this one ferment a little, and let my friends read it.  It's been a long time since I had something to share.

07 July 2011

K Syrah Pheasant Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2008


K Syrah, which is, by the way, a great pun, is one of my new favorite bottlings, and the first Washington wine I have been truly excited about.  The particular one I had was from the Wahluke Slope, but K makes several bottlings of Syrah.
The wine was a garnet color, with a medium-heavy body and a slightly minty nose.  The dark fruits were balanced against the oak, and laced with complex herbal and mineral flavors - truly, one of the most complex wines I’ve had the pleasure to drink!  It was exceptionally smooth - I shared the bottle with 5 others, and every single one of them, independently of the others, commented first on how amazingly smooth it was - but I have to say it would have been better if I hadn’t broken the cork in it.  Operator error, alas.  Anyway, the finish lingered on a sweet cherry note.
My colleagues and I shared the bottle to celebrate the end of a tough week’s work in San Diego, and it was a true crowd pleasure.  I found the bottle at a wine store in the Gaslamp in San Diego, but I’ve found it in Kansas City before as well, for about $40 a bottle.  I will be stocking the cellar with as many as I can find!


---


Books: Making a slow start on Tom Sawyer.


Bottles: Nothing new recently.


Writing: Same old...working on the prose version of Into the Shining Sun.

Guitar: "In the Flesh(?)" and "The Thin Ice."  Might be taking a look at "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" next week.  Yea.

30 June 2011

Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva 2006


I enjoyed Tenuta di Nozzole’s Chianti with some friends after work one day while in San Diego for an event; we’d had a long morning and had a break in the afternoon, so sat on the stage enjoying Chianti and crackers with fig jam.  It was great.
The wine was deep crimson, with a nose that seemed to blend black pepper with jammy fruit.
It was a heavy, full-bodied wine, powerfully tannic, with lots of earthy tastes and the fruit hovering just behind it.  It was very dry, but the finish had hints of vanilla lurking underneath the oak, leaving almost a sweet aftertaste.

---

Books: Nothing right now.

Bottles: Had a taste of a British Columbia Pinot Gris from the Okanagan while in Vancouver; it was very interesting, very young and acidic, but good.  I have yet to see any BC wine in any wine store in the US so I don't expect I will have much chance to experiment in the States.


Writing: Still plodding along on Into the Shining Sun.


Guitar: Got to piddle around on an acoustic, playing "Mother," revisiting "Is There Anybody Out There?"

27 June 2011

Justin Winery 2007 Isosceles Paso Robles


An unusual blend from Paso Robles, which is usually known for its Rhone blends, Isosceles was composed of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Merlot - a Bordeaux blend if there ever was one!  It was an amazing wine, however.  Deep ruby in color, medium bodied with a potent nose of oak and sour cherries.  On the tongue, the wine was surprisingly cooling - almost like mint leaves, though it had no taste of mint - instead showing dry, oaky flavors against a crisp acidity.

I enjoyed the bottle with some friends over a cheese platter at Lou & Mickey’s at the Gaslamp in San Diego.  The restaurant didn’t really order a cheese platter but when my friend asked, the chef was able to put something together for us - gouda, cheddar, swiss, and, most delicious, a pesto-covered parmesan, which I will be recreating myself in the near future.  It was an enjoyable bottle and an enjoyable afternoon.


---


Books: Finished TS Eliot's The Wasteland, but that's a poem not a book...
Bottles: Nothing new right now.
Writing: Still plodding along on novella.  Going is a bit slower right now but hopefully it will pick back up again.
Guitar: Away from my electric, but found an acoustic to play, so I'm revisiting "Is There Anybody Out There?" as well as "Wish You Were Here" and "Wot's the Deal?"

21 June 2011

Edward Sellers Le Thief Paso Robles 2007


Edward Sellers Le Thief Paso Robles 2007

A Rhone-style blend made of 60% Syrah, 25% Mourvedre, and 15% Grenache, Le Thief was an excellent bottle.  The wine was a deep plum color, with a surprisingly gentle nose that revealed scents of slate and raisin.  It expressed strong berry flavors and had a surprisingly light and airy mouthfeel, though it was by no means lacking in power.  It finished with a smooth and crisp finish.


I drank the wine at a restaurant in San Diego called Searsucker, which featured tapas as well as contemporary Californian cuisine.  I had baked brie, baked boucheron, duck-fat fries, steak, mashed potatoes, asparagus, three different salads, and perhaps more that I can't remember.  The wine was quite drinkable with all, but it was truly exceptional with the steak.

---


Books: Not reading anything new right now; I’m on vacation and just rereading some Wheel of Time on my iPad.
Bottles: The above, also K Syrah 2008 Wahluke Slope, Tenuta Di Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva 2006, and Justin Winery Isosceles 2007 Paso Robles.
Writing: Working steadily on the novella of the screenplay.
Guitar: Started on some new stuff before I left for Vancouver...I have forgotten most of it but I will get to practice when I get home.

07 June 2011

E Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005


E Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005
Aromatic and earthy, E. Guigal’s 2005 offering from Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone was exceptional.  It was aromatic, earthy, with strong, spicy oak in the nose along with hints of plum.
It had a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel for a Rhone blend, and the taste was a balanced combination of oak, mild fruits, and powerful tannins.  It ended with a crisp, spicy finish.
I got it for $88 at the restaurant, so it can probably be found for $40-60 at a store.

---


Books: Taking a break from books right now to catch up on periodicals.  I've been kind of addicted to my Scientific American subscription.


Bottles: Bought some bottles of Ramey Claret and K Syrah yesterday.  Looking forward to drinking them.


Writing: Work proceeds apace on the adaptation of my screenplay.  I find myself writing a new scene to fill in a gap that the adaptation has made.

Guitar: "Mother," "In the Flesh?" and "The Thin Ice."

22 May 2011

Martin Codax Rias Baixas Albarino 2008

Martin Codax Rias Baixas Albarino 2008

A pale honey color, with a strong citrus nose (it brought to my mind the scent of orange peel), it was probably the best Albarino I have had yet. For those who have not experienced Albarino yet, it comes from a small region in northwest Spain.

The flavor was mild and gentle; it reminded me of the sea breeze, if that makes any sense. It featured strong citrusy flavors and hints of honey, along with a gentle acidity that melted into a lingering sweet finish.

I enjoyed the wine at Lou and Mickey’s at the Gaslamp in San Diego, with a pan-seared salmon, which it paired well with, and was imminently drinkable by itself as a pre-dinner wine. It proved very popular with the crowd and paired well with one of my friends’ shrimp dishes.

Super affordable - $30 at a restaurant, probably about $10-15 at a store.

---

Books: Catching up on reading some magazines right now. Finished The Martian Chronicles.  Still need to write posts about it and Dr. Moreau.

Bottles: Had a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc...can't remember the name of it right now.

Writing: Work continues apace on the prose version of Into the Shining Sun.

Guitar: "Mother."

16 May 2011

Domaine du Vieux Telegraphé La Crau 2006


When The Wine Cellar, my favorite wine store in Kansas City, closed, I asked the owners what one bottle I should make sure to leave the store with, and they pointed me to Domaine du Vieux Telegraphé’s La Crau.  Boy, were they spot on!
Made from a classic Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, the La Crau was a deep garnet color.  It had a deep, loamy nose, accented with potent oak, and a great sense of weight to it.
Upon first taste, the fruit hit my palate right away, dark fruit flavors like blackberry and currant.  It unfolded slowly, eventually revealing oaky flavors and a lingering finish.
I enjoyed the bottle with friends over a dinner of filet with Greek seasoning, which it paired amazingly with, revealing surprising sweetness and suppleness in the wine.
One warning, though, if you ever do find yourself with a bottle...it had surprisingly high alcohol content (16.5%?  Can’t remember), which succeeded in knocking me on my ass quite suddenly and without warning.  As always, drink responsibly.
It cost $80 and won’t be easy to find again, but it was worth it for a special occasion.

I also happened to enjoy some cheeses that night, though they were done by the time the wine came out.  Saint Angel, a French soft-ripened triple-cream cheese from the Loire Valley, is made from cow’s milk and bills itself as “non-traditional.”  I don’t know what exactly that means, but it was quite good, similar to brie but different in a way I have a hard time quantifying.  We also had some P’tit Basque (good as always) and some Dutch double-cream gouda.  Both were thoroughly enjoyable.


---

Books: Finished The Isle of Doctor Moreau.  Working on The Martian Chronicles.

Bottles: Martin Codax Rias Baixas Albarino 2008 and E Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005 at dinner at Lou & Mickey's in San Diego.

Guitar: Started on "Mother."

Writing: Written quite a bit on adapting my screenplay into a novella.  About 40% done now, I think.

25 April 2011

The Time Machine

I recently finished reading HG Wells's The Time Machine.  It was the first book in a collection of seven science fiction novels by HG Wells; other books in it include The Island of Dr. Moreau and The War of the Worlds.

The Time Machine totally defied my expectation; instead of a tale of futuristic adventure, the inventor of the time machine instead journeys to the future to discover a rather dismal view of humanity's heading, encountering the Eloi - beatific, childlike, and rather dim human descendants - and later, Morlocks, who steal the traveller's device.

The traveller discovers that the Morlocks are also descendants of humanity, descended (he supposes) from the lower classes that had to work for their living, having evolved to live underground, while the privileged upper class evolved into the Eloi - breeding any intellect and drive right out of them.

The social commentary of the novel took me by surprise, I must say, especially coming as it did from a 19th Century Englishman, though further research into Wells reveals that it is in fact quite consistent with his character.

I was impressed with his choice to keep the story set squarely on Earth, with no hint of the stars behind; and I was especially fascinated with his tale of the sun turning into a red giant as witnessed Earthside.

All in all, The Time Machine was a great read, and I look forward to delving further into Wells's work.  Up next: The Island of Dr. Moreau.

---

Books: Finished The Time Machine, on to The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Bottles: Nothing lately.  Opening my best bottle on Saturday, probably - Domaine de la Vieux Telegraphe La Crau 2006.

Writing: Not too much...

Guitar: Working on "Goodbye Blue Sky."

20 April 2011

John Duval Wines “Entity” Barossa Valley Shiraz 2005


John Duval Wines “Entity” Barossa Valley Shiraz 2005

I celebrated my birthday recently and opened up a bottle I had been saving for a special occasion - John Duval Wines “Entity” 2005.  I don’t have much experience with Australian wine, but I sampled some at a tasting in November of 2009 and got the bottle then, and I’ve been saving it since.


The wine was deep crimson in color, almost blood-colored (but not unpleasantly so).  It had a pronounced, earthy nose.


It tasted of subtle fruits against strong, structured tannins.  A strong potent finish lingered with a bright acidity on the palate.


I had the wine with empanadas - beef, raisin, and onion ones, to be exact.  I can’t say it had any noticeable interaction, but I also can’t say I was expecting one.  Either way, it was an enjoyable bottle and a fun foray into Australian wine.


---


Books: Reading The Time Machine.  I think it’s nearly done.


Bottles: Been drinking Alamos Malbec 2009 with dinner lately; been working a lot and dinner hasn’t 
been much special.


Guitar: Just started on “Goodbye Blue Sky” which is very exciting for me.


Writing: Hoping to do some this week at work, during my downtime.  I write better when out of the house.

18 April 2011

The Mote in God's Eye

At some point in the (perhaps distant) past, I made a note to myself to read The Mote in God's Eye.  I'm not sure where the note came from or what spurred it, but now, an indeterminate amount of time since, I've finally read it.

Mote is perhaps some of the "hardest" sci-fi I've ever read; not hard in the sense of difficult, but hard as opposed to soft: hard sci-fi representing science that is more "real" and more in line with what we can achieve today and might achieve in the future, adhering to laws of physics as we know them, etc; while soft sci-fi takes more liberties with sciences, imagines new discoveries far beyond what we are capable of today, and imagines that there is perhaps more to physics than we realize right now.

Mote tells the story of the first contact between the human race (under a government called the Second Empire of Man, which spans countles solar systems) and an alien race that becomes known as the "Moties," for they come from the "Mote" - a yellow star that occludes a red giant star (from the humans' point of view) in the Coalsack nebula, which is sometimes called the face of god with the red star as his eye - thus the title.  The Motie race is extremely different from the human race, genetically, culturally, and psychologically, and the novel details both the human and Motie perspectives on the meeting.

With only two notable exceptions, the science of the book is all real - ships use either acceleration or rotation to generate gravity for their inhabitants, with much of interstellar travel under either free-fall or extreme-g conditions, ships are designed in a logical, naval manner, etc.  The two exceptions are the Alderson Drive - a form of FTL drive that finds "Alderson Points" that connect distant systems, more or less using wormholes to instantaneously traverse long distances - and the Langston field, an energy field that absorbs all energy that impacts (though it does have limits).

The novel was a little slow starting, but it had compelling enough characters that I was kept interested, and the pace did eventually pick up quite enjoyably.  The cast was varied - Navy officers of all social classes, civilian scientists, a merchant suspected of treason, and of course the Moties, who were brought to life with their own personalities, wants, and fears, alien though they seemed at times.

Apparently Mote is only one novel in a series of future-history books by Jerry Pournelle, and one of several co-written by Larry Niven (of Ringworld fame).  There is apparently another novel dealing with human-Motie relations, The Gripping Hand, and I think I would like to read it some day, but it will be a while.

---

Books: Started on seven science fiction novels of HG Wells; up first is The Time Machine.

Bottles: Had a glass of Domaine Brocard “Sur Kimmeridgien” white Burgundy with lunch; it was enjoyable, more fruity and less buttery than I was expecting, and a bit sweet.  Unfortunately I had no way to make tasting notes with me, so these fleeting impressions will have to do for now.

Writing: No...

Guitar: Still "Best of You" and "Everlong."

15 April 2011

Chappellet Signature 2008 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Chappellet is one of my favorite Napa wineries, and its 2008 Signature Cabernet was superb.

Ruby colored, it offered powerful oak aromas with a hint of fruit. It was full-bodied, with tastes of ripe fruits, smooth tannins, and a robust dryness that made me feel it could stand up to pretty much anything. It had a delightfully lingering finish.

I enjoyed the bottle with a friend, and we shared an appetizer of Parmesan Thyme Crispy Flatbread. It revealed amazing (and surprising!) notes of fruit and lemon drop on the back of my tongue, a truly remarkable pairing and one I will endeavor to repeat.

For my main course I had cedar-plank salmon with asparagus, sweet carrots, and crispy red potatoes; the wine was good with the salmon but not great, standing up to the cedar flavors, but gaining an unfortunate bitterness from the fish.

The meal and wine were consumed at Seasons 52 in Orlando, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. If I’m back in Orlando again, I will definitely return!

Incidentally, I also had dessert, but had finished the wine by that point. Dessert was small bites (served in shot glasses): one of Meyer Lemon Cake and one of Key Lime Pie.  Both were amazing.

Chappellet Signature retails for about $40-45 and I found my bottles at some of the better wine stores.

---

Books: Reading The Mote in God's Eye, which is finally getting exciting.

Bottles: Drank a bottle of Australian Shiraz recently, can't remember the name off the top of my head, but it was pretty good.  Not a big fan of the Australian style - yet - but I hope to do more exploration and find ones I really like.

Writing: Still being lazy, but have had some thoughts lately...

Guitar: Just got some new song books.  Also started on "Best of You."

12 April 2011

Masi Bonacosta Valpolicella


I enjoyed a glass of Masi Bonacosta Vapolicella with dinner at Magianno’s Italian restaurant in Orlando, Florida.  I didn’t get a chance to see the bottle so I’m not sure what year it was, but it was an enjoyable glass.

A deep garnet color, the wine displayed a heady nose with potent woodsy aromas.  Upon tasting, it revealed ripe sour fruits with a bit of pucker, a strong acidity opposed with mild tannins, and a hint of licorice on the finish.  It was an interesting style of wine, and I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced anything similar before.
I enjoyed it with chicken saltimboca; I was pleasantly surprised how the wine brought to life the meatiness of the dish and expressed itself beautifully against the caramelized onions.
All in all, an enjoyable glass, but definitely not at the top of the list.  I will, however, keep my eye peeled for more wines from Valpolicella in the future.

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Books: Finished Deathbird Stories.  Not sure if I can blog about it, it was pretty trippy.  Reading The Mote in God's Eye.

Bottles: The above, plus a Chappellet Signature 2008.

Writing: Been kind of lazy.  Have to be more proactive!

Guitar: Working on "Everlong" and "Best of You" from Foo Fighters, plus "Brain Damage."

28 March 2011

Chateau Lamothe de Haux Bordeaux-Blanc

Chateau Lamothe de Haux, a Grand Vin de Bordeaux, is made from 40% SauvignonBlanc, 40% Semillon, and 20% Muscadelle.  It was my first experience with a white wine from Bordeaux, but hopefully not my last.  I found it on special at The Cellar Rat in Downtown KC where it was on sale, and I got it for less than $20; while it probably doesn't aspire to the heights that first-growths reach, it was not a bad first foray into this category.

The wine was a bright golden color, with scents of apple cider and orange blossoms in the bouquet.  It had a potent acidity (which was, sadly, magnified by my accidentally leaving it in the refrigerator too long), but it did gradually mellow on the palate as it was warmed by my tongue.  It slowly evolved into soft fruit flavors, as well as a slight minerality, before revealing a slight sweetness.  The finish lingered on a clean, crisp note.

All in all, not my favorite wine; I will try it again when it's not over-chilled, but so far, I find it lacks the finesse of white Burgundy and the sweetness of Vouvray.

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Books: Still on Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison.

Bottles: The above.  My birthday is soon and I have several special bottles waiting...

Guitar: Working on "Fat Old Sun" and "Everlong."

Writing: Working on Part 3, which I will finish before going back and doing a rewrite of the whole thing.

10 March 2011

Night

I recently read Elie Wiesel's Night, his account of surviving interment at Auschwitz in 1944.  It was a haunting book, brutally honest, and a heart-wrenching telling of some of the most horrifying experiences imaginable.

The story started off with Elie and his family living in Hungary, being moved first to a Jewish ghetto and then taken to Auschwitz, separated from his mother and sisters and going with his father to the men's camp.  He tells of the death of his god, how the atrocities he witnessed destroyed his faith, and also how ashamed he was as he began to resent having to care for his increasingly helpless father - so much so that, when his father lay dying and calls for his son, Elie can't go to him.

It was a hard read, at times, and forces sincere reflection on one's own morals, and it makes me wonder how I would have faced the test that he went through.

I guess that's all I have to say on it for now.  It is still very near to my mind and hard to process.  I can read about it, but the things it depicts are so far from my reality, my imagination can never do it justice.

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Books: Reading Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison.

Bottles: Nothing lately, though something soon...

Guitar: "Fat Old Sun," Sors' Study in B Minor.

Writing: Haven't written much this last week, work has been crazy.  Read my friend's second draft of her novel, which is awesome (I am jealous of how great it is - no lie).

07 March 2011

Deneza Torrontes 2006

Torrontes is the signature white grape of Argentina, and I got to enjoy a bottle of Deneza's Torrontes from the Salta region on Superbowl Sunday (yes, I know, some time ago - I had rather too much to drink and left my wine book at my friend's house, and it took a while to retrieve it).

The wine was golden in color, with scents of dried fruit as well as grapefruit, a vibrant citrusy bouquet.  When I tasted it, I was surprised by the taste of granny smith apples, along with other tart fruit.  It had a bit of acid but mellowed on my tongue.  It was kind of medium-bodied, I suppose; I have a hard time remembering this far out.

It was very refreshing, with a clean finish, and very enjoyable by itself - though there were snacks at the Superbowl party, they weren't exactly meant for pairing with wine.  I'm just not sure that there is any wine that goes well with taquitos.

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Books: Just finished Night by Elie Wiesel, which was quite good and rather haunting.  Up next is Harlan Ellison's Deathbird Stories, though I am still making my way through the last two months of Wine Spectator as well.

Bottles: Nothing of note lately.  But I did buy half a dozen bottles last week - K Syrah, two more bottles of Ramey Claret, another bottle of Chappellet 2008, and two bottles of some sort of Bordeaux Blanc to try out (and because 6 bottles get a 5% discount).  I will report on what gets drunk - something is going to happen soon.

Guitar: Started on "Fat Old Sun", which is very fun to play.  "Sorrow" proved troublesome because it's rather hard to identify the individual guitar parts.

Writing: Started on the third draft of my novella, and been doing some research for it as well; read the pertinent parts of a dissertation recently and got some great ideas on how to deal with the psychological effects of torture.  I could use another resource or two I think, and I eventually need to find a book that has old World War I memos or briefings or what have you.

28 February 2011

Domaine Pichot Vouvray 2008 - Update

Just an update for all those interested, Domaine Pichot's Vouvray 2008 made Wine Spectator's 2010 Top 100 Wines of the Year list, coming in at #76; for a $16 bottle, that's pretty impressive!  Get it while you can!

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Books: About to start on Night by Elie Wiesel.

Bottles: Nothing lately...

Writing: Started on third draft of novella.

Guitar: "Sorrow" is the main project; probably starting "Fat Old Sun" soon.

16 February 2011

2006 Ramey Claret (Napa)

I think I've found a new favorite wine EVER.  Ramey's 2006 Claret, a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec (surprising, I know!), 4% Merlot, 3% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot, was a revelation to me.

A deep, dark ruby color, it had an exquisite bouquet of blackberry and honey scents.  Upon tasting, it was heaven!  An explosion of ripe and vibrant fruits hit my palate, with strong flavors of cherry and blackberry.  A smooth, clean finish followed, with notes of honey and vanilla lingering.  The acidity and tannins were in perfect harmony, giving the wine structure while letting the fruit shine.

It was high in alcohol - 15% - and had a slightly warming effect, which reminded me of Port.  This is easily one of the best bottles I have ever drank and I hope I can find more.

I drank the wine with a special dinner in which I served grilled salmon and a potato dauphinoise.  The salmon was not the best choice - the wine tended to enhance the fishiness - but I'd had beef the night before and the salmon looked good at the store.  But I was determined to enjoy the Ramey Claret that night!  It wasn't a bad pairing, but it wasn't great.  Hopefully I will find something super enjoyable next time.  It did pair nicely with the dauphinoise, though, the fruit and acidity cutting through the creaminess and cheese of the potatoes.

Ramey Claret 2006 is a great value - I got mine for a little over $30 - and it was divine.  It is easily the most delicious wine I've had at that price point, and maybe just one of the most delicious I have had EVER.  I got it from The Cellar Rat in downtown KC and hope they have more when I go back.

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Books: Still catching up on Wine Spectator.

Bottles: The above Ramey Claret 2006.

Writing: Had a major revelation about the novella.  I'm feeling very stoked.

Guitar: "Sheep," "Sorrow," "Study in A."  I just noticed all my projects begin with S.