Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Mind and Musings of...Mead?

A lot of people these days have become "experts" in beers and whiskeys, expounding to no end using all kinds of jargon that elevates drinking alcohol to a different level. If you ask me, it's just an excuse for people to make themselves feel more important. The theory goes, if you can give a narrow subject enough impenetrable nomenclature, then it separates the conversation from those who aren't familiar with the special vocabulary. It's selective and unnecessarily elitist.

In that spirit, I decided to try something new, an alcohol that I've never had before, and try to explain the experience to my readers without any knowledge of the special words reserved for discussing these things. My drink of choice: mead.

Yes, mead. Fermented honey water, the favourite of vikings and fantasy novels for many years. In fact, according to Wikipedia, fermenting honey has its roots back to 9000 BC, so it certainly has been around a while. I like water, I like honey, so what's not to like?

I admit that I chose the neatest bottle when I went to the store, something that evoked meadhouses from fantasy novels I've read. I chose Intermiel Médiéval Réserve, a local product made about an hour's drive northwest of where I am currently writing this post. In fact, it even won a gold medal at the 2012 Coupe des nations Québec. Two workers at the SAQ independently told me that this was a pretty good one, but very sweet when compared to other meads. They even said it's a good way to sweeten (and spike, I suppose) coffee. I like sweet, so I bought it.

This particular mead is 16% alcohol, so forget those images of medieval knights swigging copious amounts of golden mead by the steinful. If they did, then damn, they're some kind of heavyweights, they are. Instead, I saw that people online said to try it out of a brandy glass so I picked some up (thanks, Dollarama!) and away we go. 

The brandy glass really does concentrate the smell at the narrowing top and boy does it smell like honey. I really didn't think the odour would be that apparent but it is. The colour is a deep amber, like mahogany or something. The all-important first taste...was unexpected. Pretty potent stuff. After that first sip, I wasn't sure if I'd like it enough to keep going. But keep going I did. In fact, the more I drank and longer I kept it in my mouth, the tastier it became. As advertised, it's alcoholic honey booze. Yummy. They were right about the sweetness, though. Obviously, I have no other meads to compare it to, but on an absolute scale, it's pretty damned sweet. Good thing I like sugary stuff but if you don't have the sweet tooth I do, you might want to give a milder kind a go.

So that's it for my first impressions of mead. The main thing to take away is this: Did I momentarily feel like a viking? Yes, yes I did, and that's worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

It's that time of year again!

It's hockey season again and the most exciting part of the year is already done for me: drafting a fantasy team! Every year, I look forward to getting together with the guys at the Card Palace and drafting our teams. Here's my team this year, as of opening day. If I remember, I hope to come back at the end of the season and see how it all shook out. What do you think of my team? Let me know in the comments (I had second pick overall).
  1. Stamkos (F - TB)
  2. Backstrom (F - WAS)
  3. Quick (G - LA)
  4. Duchene (F - COL)
  5. Johnson (D - CLB)
  6. Stastny (F - COL)
  7. Kindl (D - DET)
  8. McDonagh (D - NYR)
  9. Galchenyuk (F - MON)
  10. Burrows (F - VAN)
  11. Purcell (F - TB)
  12. Seidenberg (D - BOS)
  13. Stalberg (F - NAS)
  14. Brouwer (F - WAS)
  15. Selanne (F - ANA)
I feel my D is pretty weak but I'm hoping my forwards and goalie will compensate. Let the puck drop!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

People still read books, right?

I have been pretty remiss in my posting duties on this blog in recent times but I hope that will change in the coming months. Why, you may ask...or maybe not, I don't know. But I'll tell you anyway. Well, it's because I signed a contract with Champagne Book Group's BURST label (scifi and fantasy) to publish my debut novel, "The Predicates of Fate".

Yes, that's right! After many years of toil, I'm finally on the path to get my first book out the door. Just yesterday, I received my initial, pre-editor package. I need to help them come up with blurbs, cover art, etc. The target date for publication is April 2014. It's all very exciting.

So I hope anyone reading this keeps up with my progress and buys the books when it comes out. Watch this space as news develops and to get word on where and how to get the book.

I've already started preliminary work on my next story, which is kind of a genre crossover. It has elements of fantasy, scifi...I'm not quite sure how to define it. Tentative title: "Prometheus From the Sky". (I'm going for a very Star Trek:TOS-sounding vibe with the title.) I'm excited about this project, too!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Arrested Development, season 4

I know that all my fans are waiting with bated breath to hear what I think of the resurrected Arrested Development. Having finished the season yesterday, I have a few thoughts.

First, some background. I was a day 1 fan of the show. I remember catching the first episode when it aired, way back on Sunday, November 2, 2003, and I was hooked ever since. I couldn't tell people to watch the show fast enough but my influence obviously isn't as widespread as I would have liked, and thus the show was cancelled. For years, whenever some terrible TV series would get crazy ratings, I'd always say my go-to line, "and yet they cancelled Arrested Development". The worst part about Netflix reviving the series is that they've taken this line away from me.

A new start for the series on Netflix

But now, 7 years later, it's a new start for the show, due to the fan base growing since it was axed, discovering the show on DVD and especially Netflix. So was it worth the wait? It depends. I find that this season, more than any of the others, requires repeat viewings, and I'll tell you why. More than ever, this season is serialized, heavily so. In fact, the entire season takes place during a handful of events, and we see them played out, out of order, from the points of view of all the different characters. It's apparent that the actors' availabilities resulted in this structure so if you're waiting for everyone to interact with each other, you'll be disappointed at how infrequently this occurs. If you're a Buster fan, prepare to be sad. I found that Buster had the least screen time. Is he the busiest of the actors? I don't know but it's a shame because his episode near the end of the run was pretty funny. But as I wrote, after finishing the series, if you were to go back and watch earlier episodes of the season, more pieces would fall into place, strengthening many of the moments from early episodes, when the viewer would be confused as to what's happening in an initial viewing.

That's the case with this season: the funniest episodes are in the last half, and that's due to the structure I mentioned above: seeing the same scenarios play out from multiple points of view. After watching the series once, I found myself more confused than anything for the first few stories. It's constantly jumping around in time and is far more focused on laying the groundwork in terms of story than in telling jokes, so don't expect to laugh out loud at first. I would say the first strong episode is the first one that focuses on Tobias and then the first one that focuses on Gob. The least funny are George Sr. and Lindsay, if you can even recognize her reconstructed face. Gradually, as you progress and get an idea of the timeline of events, I became more familiar with the situations and the jokes strengthened.

At least she seems to have a sense of humour about it, judging by all the plastic surgery jokes they make at her expense in the series
Sometimes, you'll have one character come into a scene and say some non sequitur or do something baffling that isn't funny and you're left wondering what happened only to watch an episode in the back half to see the situation for their point of view and finally get the joke. I found it a bit frustrating for the show to not tell a straightforward story in any given episode, but once it got going around the halfway mark, it definitely had its moments and justified its continued existence. Here's hoping for a fifth season where the actors' might be more available so that the writers could tell their stories in a more traditional, linear manner.

-The back half of the season is up to par
-Gob, George Michael, Tobias still very funny
-Return of your favourite guest characters from the series
-Lots of callbacks to old recurring gags, and some new recurring gags as well
-In-jokes about Imagine Entertainment were good if you got them

-The episodes are way too long (over 30 minutes each), resulting in a feeling of dragging and filler content
-Lindsay, George Sr. episodes lacking
-Weak first half of the season
-Not much weight to the season finale
-Not enough Buster
-Not enough of the ensemble together