Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Month in review and of Things to Come

I'm posting a few days earlier as I'm anticipating taking a temporary leave of absence from my senses this long holiday weekend.

Not the most productive month, I'll admit; nor am I happy about it. I've already complained enough about The Count of Monte Cristo cramping my style, and now that I've learned how to handle it, I'm hoping for a better June: a return to regularity with reviews, and a new monthly feature (which will be awesome and perhaps unprecedented) in place of the rum reviews.

I wrote the first draft of my statement of purpose in hopes for Ph.D admissions. The deadlines aren't even in sight but I like to be ahead. It's way too long but I find it easier to edit when you have something on the page.

My near insolvency is yet again hindering my new book acquisitions. I used credit card rewards points to pick up Daniel Abraham's Leviathan Wept, because he is awesome. (Should you be unaware of his awesomeness read this.) I quite literary can't hardly wait for that to get here. Also I picked up The Dragon Book as edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. I read Wizards by the same editors last year and greatly enjoyed it and have similar high hopes for this original collection. Both of these books can be had for great prices right now. Wizards for five bucks at the Barnes and Noble bargain bin and The Dragon Book for the same price at Books-a-Million. If you like to read--even if you don't--I highly recommend both, one on the strength of the other. Speaking of dragons…

The homogenous landscape of speculative fiction book blogging seems to have collectively overlooked Wings of Fire from Nightshade Books in March. (Or perhaps I'm being premature? Due to that homogenous landscape I don't read many fantasy book blogs. Or perhaps the collection is completely unremarkable, which I doubt.) Rest assured, I'll be picking that up shortly. Briefly scrolling through Nightshade's catalogue is mind-blowing in how much awesome stuff the publish. (I must have those Kage Baker short story collections.) I could easily read exclusively from Nightshade and Taychon for a three to five years and be happy.

What's in store for June? Other than the previously mentioned new monthly feature, which I hope to kick off with Subterranean Press (Who needs the Six Sisters!?!) June doesn't hold anything new that I can foresee. I'll choke down three hundred more pages of The Count because I'm too stubborn to put it down, The Dispossessed by Ursalua le Guin, and the previously mentioned Abraham collection are up for reading. Also I hope to do one of my, "Not a commentaries" for Greg Keyes The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone.

As boring and inactive as May has been, I'm planning on creating work for myself in June.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This Book is Killing Me.

It's fun. I'm enjoying it; it is massive. At the beginning of the month I said I'd finish The Count of Monte Cristo... well that ain't happening. The Oxford press trade paper back edition comes in at 1082 pages and while I have nothing against substantial length, I don't feel like I'm making any progress reading this behemoth. Added to which, I'm not certain that this book is a novel.

It moves at a fast pace, has perhaps the most sympathetic hero ever, and plot with infinite layers; it only doesn't seem to end. I feel this book, as much as I'm enjoying it, has the power to kill my interest in reading if I were told to finish it before reading anything else.

Given its history as a serialized publication I think the abridgment given to most high-schoolers makes great sense. If I were reading a fifty page chunk in a magazine once every month, it would be a breeze and my anticipation would probably be really high. Given the full the work at once changes things a bit.

In short, I don't feel bad reading this in three-hundred page chunks. There is a certain something that stymies my interest that I haven't encountered in similarly huge books from this time period. However, I'm not gonna get into the writing as to not break my, 'don't talk about dead authors of the classics' rule.

I've recently finished The Briar King by Greg Keyes and started The King's Gold by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. They have proven a nice escape from the protracted monotony of The Count. I'm amending my reading regimen to 'August,' concerning completion of The Count. The break in reading The Count will mark a return to the enjoyment of picking up a book and finishing it in a reasonable amount of time.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Lament for the Oft Maligned Ignoble Art of Profanity

Strange as it may sound, I'm certain that I'm not the first to express the title sentiment. What happened? How did swearing in the English language fall to it's current state and how can it ever be made to recover? In today's English we have a fist full of 'swear' words with hundreds of variants; and that's it. Not only does this overuse of so precious few words limit us in our variety of speech, but the fact that no one digs down for that eternally creative human spirit that can achieve anything when it comes to swearing is really very sad.

Ever read Shōgun? Now there's some profanity; it gives new meaning to the phrase, 'swearing like a drunken sailor,' cause damn, those sailors can swear. (I just proved my point; 'damn' doesn't even register as a swear word to anyone.) I've been plowing through Aurturo Pérez-Reverte's Captain Alatriste series and he's so good at period cussing I had to pause the first few times I came across certain phrases. (e.g. 'S Blood! Short for Christ Blood!) Pérez-Reverte is hardly afraid of an f-bomb and when it's dropped, it hits hard. The effect is strengthened as no one word or phrase is overused as to become common place: less is more, by cutting back we can make our currently 'casual' swearing have the impact it should. It's a matter of how we swear in between f-bombs.

I'm just now getting around to the second season of The Boondocks, and there is some truly inspired material there, but it makes me sad to think this material is only used for comedic effect and will more than likely never find it's way into the argot of the equivalent of today's foul mouth sailors.

I'm taking a vow; a pledge for the rest of the year. I will wash my mouth out with soap should I allow myself fall back on the crutches of modern profanity in lieu of taking a second to think of something mildly original. I expect I'll over shoot my aims in the beginning as it will be new to me. The learning curve is steep, but the gains are greater still. I'm on a mission to expand the modern vernacular. Why would I burden myself with such an undertaking? Because if there is ever a time when words should mean something to speaker and all parties listening surely such a time is at it's peak when people feel the need for profanity.

Anyone else up to the challenge?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rum Reviews: The Fifth Installment

Welcome to the fifth entry in my continuing series where I will give you the skinny on the good, the wretched, and the divine concerning what you should be drinking: rum.

It was currency in the Caribbean in the old days, George Washington demanded it be served at his inauguration, Ernest Hemingway lived off a diet of rum and shark flesh during his stint in Cuba, and now I'm here to help you navigate the top, the bottom, and all shelves in between concerning one of the world's greatest treasures.

Nothing fruity here, no flavored spirits to hide terrible production, or inept craftsmanship, just the booze. Feel free to suggest what you will for future installments and liquor representatives are more than welcome to provide me with your product concerning tasting and review.


It comes in short chubby bottle that's hard to describe as anything but cute, and this bottle is enclosed in a leather pouch for no apparent reason. Odd packaging aside, this is tasty stuff. I'd call this one a man's rum. It's a rich, full-bodied 'old world' style rum. Heavy-ish, but that it's well made is unquestionable. It is a bit chaotic on the palette; there are some very unfocused flavors, but not to the point of being offensive.

It's sweet as hell…

Having said that, the upfront burn still makes this saccharine treat a mans drink. After a long hard day at work when you need something stronger than beer, the Anniversario is a great muscle relaxer.

Verdict: It's missing the final bit of refinement that would make it 'top shelf' but the price tag is also missing the top shelf extra $20. It really didn't mix particularly well, but if you play to it's strengths, is it great at what it does.

Appelton's Jamaican Rum Special

This one is in limbo: somewhere between the bargain and budget rums; I'll come up with new nomenclature shortly. It's all around good, but not a stand out in any one area. It is decidedly mixing rum (think Mai Tai). It's medium bodied, goes well with everything, adds a nice color, and is soft enough to not scare anyone away, but has enough bite to let you know your drinking liquor.

There are others in Appleton's portfolio that I want to try and this is obviously their cheap seat as far as entry is concerned. It's not bad, but hard to justify considering the price of what a few dollars more or less could offer.

Verdict: Decide ahead of time, what you're buying rum for. If it's a party and you're on a budget buy something a bit cheaper or a handle of something else at the same price. If you're buying rum to sit in the pantry for a while so you can relax with an occasional drink from time to time with friends, spend a few more dollars (unless your friends are cheap bastards…) I'll conclude with, while it seems like I'm saying 'avoid,' I'm not; it's good but there is too much competition in the market place for this one to standout.

Zafra Master Reserve

This is what scotch drinkers would drink if they weren't so high and mighty as to try something other than scotch. It's an out-of-nowhere effort that claims to have been aged a true twenty-one years. I didn't expect such a product from Panama. It's a new-age rum, one catering toward American palettes. It's just as well made as the Mount Gay extra old, but not rooted in the old world flavor, but something a bit lighter.

It's as full bodied as they come; and you may want to give those ice cubes in your glass a moment to disperse all the flavors before sipping as to get maximum enjoyment.

Verdict: It's not everyday sipping stuff; it is--possibly--the best bottle of high end rum you'll find.

You'll want to check out previous highlights if you missed them (January, February, March, April ) and while this may be a temporary end to the rum reviews feel free to use me as a reference should you have questions concerning rum: what you should be drinking.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guest Blog Post

Not content to inanely babble on only my owe blog; I'm taking the show on the road. Patrick of Stopming on Yeti is out doing the honeymoon thing and ask other put some content up for him. One of his ideas caught my idea and he was good enough to post what I had to say.

Aren't you curious? You should be. So, go here and read it.

I'm think of changing the name of my blog to Choking out Sasquatch...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In defense of Flavored Rum

I haven't, and will not, include flavored rums in my reviews, but my heart did soften in their favor this weekend: a perfect Mai Tai; well, who are we kidding it was more than one.

A jigger of Malibu, a jigger of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum, and a third jigger of whatever rum the house has on the rail. An equal quantity worth of homemade sour mix. (This is the key ingredient; store bought stuff taste gritty and terrible and only contributes heartburn to a drink.) Grenadine for color and flavor, its so heavy it sinks straight to the bottom, and a gently poured jigger of Meyer's Original Dark Rum on top.

It possessed all the colors of the rainbow and tasted fruitier still, but it was so expertly made and to the tune of only four dollars… hate all you want; I'll gladly drink another. This was an invention of an exceptionally good bartender and not the combination of exceptionally well made liquors.

Ever since Hangar One started infusing their vodka the right way, without sacrificing flavor, percentage volume alcohol or quality in an facet, I really have no time for flavored booze of any sort done to a lesser extent than the miracle workers at Saint George Distillery.

But damn, crappy flavored rum and all; that Mai Tai was tasty.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

No new acquisitions

So I went back to Atlanta Vintage Books yesterday hoping to trade in the last pile of craptastic books in my collection; it's a meager stack of eight. It's hard to describe what seventy-thousand books in one place that isn't a library look like. Apparently they had reached something close to maxium capacity and were not purchasing books at the present (or at least not my books).

I was disheartened for a moment and put my stack back in the car. Then I went back inside to browse. I skimmed the Easton Press bookcase looking for gems that arrived since my first visit or ones I had previously missed. I resisted the Proust and Flaubert and kept looking elsewhere until toward the back of the building I came across a stack of books about three feet tall that comprised of Easton Press, Heritage Edition, and Franklin Library books.

Yeah, there was an offering of books--on the floor--from the three best quality book manufactures in the world; on the floor. Once I was able to put that into context it was easy to understand why they didn't have need for my stash. Retail space in that part of town is too high for what I was offering. Even the literal space on the floor.