Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's mead

After far too long a delay (again) I finally got around to starting a new batch of mead this afternoon. I'd gotten 12 pounds of semi-local honey (from Pearsall) back in the spring, and was somewhat put out to discover it'd crystalized to a great extent in the interim. It was still good (quite tasty), and dissolved easily enough once I stirred it into a pot of hot (not boiling) water. But actually getting it out of the plastic jug took some doing--a combination of squeeze and repeat, plus adding hot water to the jug and swishing it around very aggressively.

I took the dissolved honey and added enough cool water to make five gallons of must. To this I stirred in two teaspoons of yeast nutrient, just over a teaspoon of tannin and four teaspoons of acid blend. I took a little taste, and darn if it wasn't pretty flavorful as-is. Then, once the must had reached room temperature, I pitched in a dose of Montrachet yeast, which I'd started earlier in a cup of grape juice and water. Looking over at my fermentation vessel as I type this, I see the airlock is already bubbling.

I used Montrachet once before, but can't quite recall what for. It's supposed to be a very good red wine yeast, that produces complex flavors in dry wines, and can tolerate high alcohol content. The Compleat Meadmaker recommends it for melomels (fruit mead) with a big mouthfeel, so that's what I'm going for here. After initial fermentation is complete, I'm going to rack the must out into a two-gallon batch in which I'm adding a quart of my dark muscadines I picked and froze earlier this summer. I'm looking forward to seeing how that turns out, because I've developed quite the taste for a good red muscadine wine. The remainder of the mead I'm putting back in the big fermenter and adding bunches of crushed apple and cider to make an apple-mead cyser. I expect I'll add some cinnamon sticks and maybe nutmeg at the time as well. But that's still a few months away. The important thing is, we've got a new batch bubbling away.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Streetlife Serenade

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lame Duck Christmas: A Holiday Fable

Merry Christmas, happy Hannukah and a festive Festivus to you all. In the spirit of the season, I've posted a brand-new, never-before seen piece of short fiction over at No Fear of the Future as a gift to all my loyal (and not-so-loyal) online readers. I hope you enjoy it.

Lame Duck Christmas


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Monday, December 22, 2008

Grades are posted

Well, the fall semester is over, commencement has come and gone and now, finally, grades have been posted. And this guy who hasn't engaged in any kind of formal schooling since the summer of 1992 pulled in a... wait for it... 4.0.
FALL, 2008 3615-TEXAS STATE
COURSE DESCRIPTION CREDIT INFORMATION GRADE POINT
CORE PFX NO. TITLE WI GPA HOURS HRS PASSED GD TOTAL AVG.

ARTF 1301 2-D DESIGN 3.00 3.00 A 12.00
ARTS 2361 INTRO TRAD PHOTO 3.00 3.00 A 12.00
MC 4312 PHOTOJOURNALISM 3.00 3.00 A 12.00
SEM TOTALS: 9.00 9.00 36.00 4.00

That's straight As across nine hours. A 4.0 grade point average, with my name attached to it. That's not something that has ever happened before, so yeah, I'm a little giddy. (Note, formatting is a little wonky, but I'm not losing any sleep over it. I got my 4.0 and that's all that matters!)

Now Playing: The Kinks Come Dancing

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone! It's time again for our annual holiday-themed video showcase (no, I'm not going to post the Kinks' "Father Christmas" again, but if you need a fix of that inspired holiday classic, you can find two versions here). Since I'm no Scrooge, I'm serving up two, count 'em, two Christmas classics today for your audio/visual enjoyment. First up, the one and only Jill Sobule (who I think it's well established that I like) with her singular version of "Merry Christmas From the Family" by the lovely and talented (and Aggie) Robert Earl Keene:



Next, since you've all been so good this year, we have the end-all, be-all version of "The 12 Days of Christmas," as performed by the legendary Bob & Doug Mackenzie. What's that, you say? There never was a video produced from that long ago album track despite its inherent genius and continual airplay on FM radio? Watch, and be amazed:



Remember, a beer in a tree always makes a classy holiday gift!

Now Playing: Donal Hinely Midwinter Carols

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Swingtown

Holy crap, what an excellent series. The Wife and I ordered it via Netflix as sort of a "tide us over" measure until the second season of "Tell Me You Love Me" became available on DVD (which it won't ever be, damn it. I just learned that despite HBO picking it up for a second season, the creator walked, unable to "find the right creative direction" for the show. So us viewers are left with dangling plot threads. Gee, thanks).

"Swingtown" is actually a much better show than "Tell Me You Love Me," or at least a more engaging show. There's a strong echo of Ang Lee's The Ice Storm here, only without the overwhelming pall of desperation and futility of that film. It's a lush, meticulous drama that moves along at a brisk clip. It oozes the 70s out of every frame, much more effectively than "That 70s Show" ever managed. Even the camera angles and color palette remind me of hourlongs from that decade, such as "Family." The characters are varied and engaging, and the plots aren't so much plots as events that unfold in the characters' lives.

We were hooked after 30 minutes, and both agree that it'd work better as an HBO series. So naturally it scored pitiful ratings and didn't even make it through the first season. Rats. But if a more upbeat version of The Ice Storm piques your interest, or a less-risque, faster-moving "Tell Me You Love Me," then "Swingtown" is highly recommended from this corner.

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New MEMORY!

Goodness, it's been almost six weeks since I last posted an installment of my online serial, Memory, over at No Fear of the Future. What can I say? End of semester projects and finals really worked me over and cut into my writing time. But I'm back, just in time for Christmas with chapter 29 of my ongoing saga:
Djserka looked back the way they’d come. “So those moironteau things have been sent by Rapteer? Dreadful.” Nictating membranes flicked over Djserka’s eyes. “I daresay that explains why His Imperial Majesty’s restricted Nexial access. Damn. I should’ve spat in Rapteer’s food when I had the chance.”

Parric shook his head. “Should be doing more than just spittings.” More alarms sounded from the chamber. “We must be leaving before they break through.”

“You think those beasts will get past the Imperial defenses?”

“Of coursing they will. This palace is operating on skeleton crewing, remember?”

“Well, staff, yes. But there’s a full Eternal Militia battalion permanently stationed in the palace.”

“Only one battalion?” said Parric in surprise. “That is buying us less time than I’m initially thinking.”

“You’ve got quite a negative demeanor, don’t you?”

Be sure an tell your friends and neighbors! There's lots of fantastic words just waiting there to be read!

Now Playing: Dr. Demento Show November 29-30, 1997

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lump of coal

Santa Claus paid an early visit to Casa de Blaschke last night to leave a lump of coal in my stocking. Despite my clear and repeated misgivings, the Jolly Old Elf left a kitten for the children. A kitten. An apple-brained Siamese at that. Our other cats (and I use the term "our" loosely, since they came with The Wife as a package deal) include a white Turkish Angora mix with the longest claws I've ever seen on a domestic cat and a paranoid disposition, a cranky 17-year-old Siamese mix who hocked up a hairball somewhere under the Christmas tree last night (I ain't going in to look for it) and another apple-brained Siamese that's been banished to the outdoors because of willful and repeated peeing under beds, clean laundry piles and my open suitcase prior to a week-long trip (which I didn't discover until I'd reached my destination. Let me tell you, that was a fun week away). Just to make sure I knew she hadn't forgotten me, that Siamese managed to slip into my car last week through a slightly open window and turn my car into a mobile outhouse.

As for the kitten, yeah, it's cute, but so's a baby wolverine. I've got three long gashes on my wrist from where it decided last night my hand was an impending peril to all creation, and must be destroyed.

I can only assume I've been very, very bad this year, and Santa decided to call me on it.

Now Playing: Dr. Demento Show December 9-10, 2000

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Today's video is "Bettie Page" by the Royal Crowns. It's a fan-made video, but wholly appropriate for the subject matter (except for some weird Halloween non-sequitur at the end). No other explanation is necessary.



Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Kinks.

Now Playing: Various Artists A Classic Cartoon Christmas

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We'll miss ya, Bettie

The passing of Bettie Page saddens me. Her saucy, naughty pinup romps and fetish work should, by all rights, be tawdry affairs that withered with age. But they weren't, and didn't. Against all odds, there's a sweet innocence to her sexuality in them--fat chance of finding that today. And she was an inspiration for David Stevens of Rocketeer fame. If she had no other accomplishment in her life, that would be enough for me.

My buddy Rick has a distinctive perspective on Ms. Page's passing, as his grandfather was Irving Klaw, the photographer who made her famous (yes, before Bunny Yeager came along). You can read his thoughts on his Geek Curmudgeon blog. There's also a memorial up on her website.

Now Playing: James Horner The Rocketeer Soundtrack

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

John Adams

I'd heard that the John Adams miniseries from HBO was pretty good. Heck, it won an Emmy after all. But goodness, I didn't expect it to be this degree of excellent. Laura Linney steals almost every scene she's in as John's wife, Abigail Adams. She is excellent. Paul Giamatti is great as John Adams, although I confess to seeing him as Paul Giamatti in most scenes simply because nobody else looks quite like Paul Giamatti. Tom Wilkinson is brilliant as Ben Franklin.

The first two episodes were wholly engrossing. They quite reminded me of that other great HBO series, Rome, except there wasn't any sex, scant nudity and a dearth of violence and gore. Other than that it was incredibly well written and produced. The third episode, where an ill-suited Adams is sent to France and clashes with Ben Franklin and insults pretty much everyone in Paris was less engaging. Adams was a boorish ass that made pretty much every stupid mistake he could... which it the point, I take it. Historically, his time in France wasn't a great success, but thematically, it's his separation from Abigail that is his undoing--she tempers his passions, and he is a bigger man due to her influence. That said, I'm ready for episode 4 to get back to Adams cutting a great swath through history and not falling on his face so much.

Highly recommended at any rate. One of the best colonial/Revolutionary War/early American dramas ever made.

Now Playing: Tangerine Dream The Private Music of Tangerine Dream

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Night Videos

It's been a while since I featured the Kinks here, so with rumors swirling (well, maybe not swirling, but at least percolating) I figure now's as good a time as any for one of my favorites from their Arista years, "Don't Forget to Dance." It's a mushy, sentimental song, and in the video, despite his slick Spiv persona, Ray reveals that he's mushy and sentimental at heart (but then Kinks fans have known that ever since Village Green Preservation Society...)



Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Refreshments.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wafflefest

Okay, so I'm back from the Christmas-themed Wafflefest held in downtown New Braunfels. And just like last year, there was not a waffle to be had. Instead of hot syrup and buttery goodness, everyone there was passing out cups of hot, spiced apple cider. Some of them were pretty good, mind you, but that's no substitute for a piping hot waffle. What's up with that?

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Love, Kilma

The lovely and talented John Klima, who had the singular good taste of purchasing my short story "A Plague of Banjos" for his excellent publication Electric Velocipede (more on that to come), has given yours truly an enthusiastic shout-out for my piece "The Whale Below" in the über-awesome pirate anthology, Fast Ships, Black Sails currently available at a bookstore near you:
The top two stories from the book, in my opinion, are the Garth Nix story, “Beyond the Sea Gate of the Scholar-Pirates of Sarsk√∂e,” a wild conglomeration of pirates, ancient technology, clockwork robots, general steampunkery, gods, and other whatnot with a dash of humor, and Jayme Lynn Blaschke’s “The Whale Below” (also a tale of steampunkishness, but with airships, whaling, gibbering beasts, and other good stuff). Both stories give a unique perspective on pirates as well as having a great deal of world-building that’s gone into them. As a reader, I appreciate when an author has put the effort into creating a world that I feel like I could step into and experience. Both writers have done this here.

Ah, such love is always welcome when you're an angsty, dithering writer with esteem issues. Which pretty much describes the lot of us, doesn't it? The rest of Klima's thoughtful review may be found over at Tor.com.

Now Playing: The Beach Boys Christmas with the Beach Boys

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Beast of a review

My new review of the DVD movie Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs is now live over at RevolutionSF. Gotta love satirical cartoons that manage to include both Shakespeare and porno allusions in the title.
The premise of the film is straighforward enough: There’s a rip in the universe, allowing a tentacled, extradimensional being -- Yivo -- to invade and possess the population of Earth, Puppet Masters-style. Yivo isn’t your garden-variety extra-galactic menace, however. Instead of death and destruction, he wants love and copulation -- and lots of it. Throw in Amy’s long-delayed marriage to long-suffering Kif, Fry’s whirlwind romance with polyandrous Colleen and Bender’s induction into a secret society of human-hating robots, and there’s more chaotic plot twists than even billion-tentacled Yivo can shake sticks at.

It's a funny continuation of the Futurama universe, although not without flaws. But I'm not going to outline them all here for you. That's what the review is for. Go read it!

Now Playing: The Vince Guaraldi Trio A Charlie Brown Christmas