Friday, October 31, 2008

THE SARANAC SIX - DEFENDANT #3

Saranac Brown Ale, a Brown Ale by Matt Brewing Company

12 ounce bottle. One of six beers in the Saranac Sampler Adirondack Trail Mix six-pack. Drunk in Arlington, Virginia.

LABEL STATEMENT:
"This brown ale is brewed with American malt and hops, and traditional ale yeast. Look for a sweet, chocolaty taste, with balanced bitterness resulting in a full flavored but smoothly drinkable beer."

TWT'S STATEMENT:
Saranac Brown Ale pours reddish brown with an ivory head. It is clear and lightly carbonated. It smells of chocolate, yeast, grain. There are also hints of molasses and cranberry on the nose. The flavor is a mixture of nuttiness, faint dark chocolate, and grain.

VERDICT:
Would I drink it again? Sure. The only problem I have is the slight disparity between aroma and flavor. All in all, it was pretty good.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

THE SARANAC SIX - DEFENDANT #2

Saranac Pale Ale, a Pale Ale by Matt Brewing Company

12 ounce bottle. One of six beers in the Saranac Sampler Adirondack Trail Mix six-pack. Drunk in Arlington, Virginia.

LABEL STATEMENT:
"A beer that would make the English jealous. This true English pale ale is rich and fruity but finishes crisp. You'll love the copper amber color and medium body."

TWT'S STATEMENT:
Saranac Pale Ale pours clear orange and brilliant with a very light ivory head. The primary aromas are strong of both apple and orange. The primary flavors are bitter orange and light caramel, although much lighter than Saranac IPA. The body is medium. This is a fair pale ale, but why wouldn't I just drink Saranac IPA instead?

VERDICT:
Would I drink it again? Maybe. But if something else was present, perhaps not. And, seriously, why wouldn't I just have a Saranac IPA instead? It would be a better, bolder version of this pale ale.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

THE SARANAC SIX - DEFENDANT #1

Saranac India Pale Ale, an India Pale Ale by Matt Brewing Company

12 ounce bottle. One of six beers in the Saranac Sampler Adirondack Trail Mix six-pack. Drunk in Arlington, Virginia.

LABEL STATEMENT:
"A hop lover's delight. In the India Pale Ale tradition this brew is very hoppy in both aroma and flavor from the generous amounts of Cascade hops used in brewing. Look for a medium to full body and golden straw color."

TWT'S STATEMENT:
Saranac IPA pours clear orange and brilliant with a very light ivory head. The primary aromas are strong of both apple and orange. The primary flavors are bitter orange and light caramel. The body is medium. This is a good solid IPA.

VERDICT:
Would I drink it again? Sure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

AN EX-MAS FEAST

"Mama smiled at the glue and winked at me, pushing her tongue through the holes left by her missing teeth. She snapped the tin's top expertly, and the shack swelled with the smell of a shoemaker's stall. I watched her decant the kabire into my plastic "feeding bottle." It glowed warm and yellow in the dull light. Though she still appeared drunk from last night's party, her hands were so steady that her large tinsel Ex-mas bangles, a gift from a church Ex-mas party, did not even sway."
—page 7, Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan, from the short story "An Ex-mas Feast"

"Danny heard a groan from the next room. He frowned with annoyance. Another groan. He could not help listening. He walked across the room, the dropper in his hand, and inclined his ear to the wall. The groans were coming at regular intervals, a horrible inhuman sound pushed out from the stomach."

—page 29, Interzone by William S. Burroughs, from the short story "The Junky's Christmas"

I thought I had read the ultimate in dreary Christmas tales and that its place as such was secure. But the darkness and despair of Burroughs's holiday Manhattan is no match for that of Akpan's Christmastime Nairobi.

Yes, the Manhattan tale has thievery and drugs and poverty and the everpresent threat of murder. The Nairobi tale has all of that as well, and then adds in child prostitution and the squalor of a crowded shack in the slums of the city and the dysfunction and disintegration of a family—all of it experienced and navigated in attempts to survive each day.

Yes, Burroughs fills his brief tale with hopelessness, but it ends with a scene of concern for one worse off than one's self. It ends with a glimmer of hope and the protagonist rewarded with "the immaculate fix," one that requires no shot of heroin for its high. Akpan's short story ends with a family in disarray, frayed by the promises of a better life that may never come. It ends with shattered lives.

Neither of these tales would be as powerful if they were false "reports" of life on the streets of Manhattan and Nairobi. The truth, however, is in their details and what we know about these "places," these "times," these "conditions" from other accounts—newspapers, documentaries, primary sources. The sadness seeps through and infuses them. The sadness sinks deep into us. May God have mercy upon our souls.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

LIKE YOU'D UNDERSTAND, ANYWAY

"I've often wondered what kind of first impression I make. I assume that I initially evoke a measure of intrigue before people get to understand me and become repulsed."

—page 162, Like You'd Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard, from the short story "Eros 7"


You wouldn't. Understand, that is.

Wait. You probably would.

Whether he is writing about the first female cosmonaut in orbit, the chief executioner of the French Revolution/Terror, a member of the first South Central Austalian Expedition, the Greek tragedian Aeschylus as a child, or the chief engineer of the Department of Nuclear Energy in Russia when the Chernobyl reactor catches on fire and melts, he is writing about you. He slides you as the reader into the shoes of these characters with ease. You don't even realized it has happened until you recognize yourself in these lonely individuals.

Jim Shepard helps us to navigate the empty spaces in our own souls and the equally empty spaces between ourselves and those around us, including those we claim to be intimate with—lovers, spouses, children, parents, siblings, close friends. In those barren landscapes of the heart and soul, he makes us examine who we are.

Now that you have read these short stories, you understand.

Wait. Maybe you don't...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

McSWEENEY'S 28



Clockwise from upper left: (1) the upper layer of small book backs, a painting by Danica Novgorodoff; (2) the front covers of the upper layer books; (3) the lower layer of small book backs, another painting by Danica Novgorodoff; and (4) the front covers of the lower layer books.

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McSweeney's is one of the smartest independent publishers. They publish interesting fiction and nonfiction works in various formats—books in all shapes and sizes, a literary journal (McSweeney's Quarterly Concern), a literary magazine (The Believer), and a DVD magazine of short films (Wholphin). They have given voice to new authors, such as Deb Olin Unferth and Dave Eggers (who is the founder of McSweeney's); established authors in new formats, such as art critic Lawrence Wechsler and 90-year-old first-time novelist Millard Kaufman (who helped create Mr. Magoo and wrote many screenplays); and the marginalized, such as persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent FEMA debacle and illegal immigrants, who might not otherwise be given a format to speak.

In all of their various forays into contemporary literature, however, they have been very keen on the aesthetic elements of their books. They truly see these books and journals not only as literature, but as objects of beauty and admiration.

McSweeney's 28 is a perfect example of this.

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Each of the eight small books contains a modern fable. Each book is illustrated by an artist who has been paired with one of the eight authors. These brief tales surprise and fascinate and intrigue because they are succinct and true.

And if that were not enough, the back covers of four of the books form a painting, as do the back covers of the other four. These pictures are a visual fable in their own right, and also perhaps fables independent of one another.

The attention to detail of color and typography and bookend papers and binding and construction and theme and illustration and story combine to form a sum that is truly greater than its parts. The care given to each element makes the whole exponentially greater than the individual stories or paintings. Each piece is valuable in its own right, but even more so when considered with the others.

I could read and reread these books and examine their drawings and marvel at their beauty for hours. In fact, I have and will continue to do so.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

POSTMODERN NIGHTMARE


I have seen the postmodern nightmare in all of its hyperornamentation and disjointed juxtaposition. It is called the Westfield Shopping Center, formerly known as the Southcenter Mall. Three levels of floors are joined by columns and escalators and support beams and cables. Cutouts allow one to peer between levels, but each cutout is shaped differently from the others. Most are oddly shaped quadrilaterals. A couple look like distorted outlines of the state of Utah.

The food court has been decentralized and scattered on the second floor in open kiosks. Asian themed restaurant kiosks are somewhat gathered around a section of seating that has plants native to Asia and strange bamboo poles jutting this way and that out of the planter boxes. The rest seem to have no rhyme or reason for their location.

The hallways and main walkways are likewise askew. They widen and narrow with abandon. Sections of wall intrude into pathways, where the occasional pedestrian consumer is captured as though in the eddy of a river—flailing about, waiting for the swell of the crowd to pass or for an opening to appear.

It almost appears as if the new mall structure was dropped from above by some giant creature onto the old mall. And, that would make sense, except that the new sections of this shopping center have been purposefully jumbled. There are at least four different tile patterns on the floors, that run into one another at odd angles and curves, which would be fine except that the tile patterns don't work together. Light orange and green polished marble squares collide with rough hewn burgundy and gray granite rectangles.

It is just an unseemly architectural mess that is attempting to be hip and cool and new. Ultimately, however, it is overwhelming and fatiguing.


The worst piece, for me, though, has to be the Borders bookstore on the second floor. It was my first experience of what Borders is touting as one of their "concept" or "boutique" stores. It is a similar mess.

The store is difficult to navigate and feels cluttered. Aisles in a section run one direction and then aisles in a nearby section run in another direction. The fiction section runs alphabetically from right to left, which is counterintuitive and backwards, especially since each section of shelving runs correctly from left to right. It was therefore difficult to search for particular authors because I had to keep correcting where I thought I was going.

It is not only the floor that is cluttered. Clumps of signs hang together, ostensibly over the sections below them. But with the confused geography of the floor and the conjoined imagery and blended words of the signage it is a miracle that anyone can arrive at their destination.

And, like the fluctuating width of the walkways of the mall, there were many occasions during my short visit to the bookstore that I had to wait for others to pass so that I could continue to where I thought I needed to go, or vice versa. This was simply due to the fact that the natural flow of where people/consumers would go was sliced and diced and redirected, presumably in an attempt to drive us past items that we originally did not want to purchase, but do now, simply because we passed their glitter and glitz unwantingly thrust into our faces.

It also used to be that you could hop onto almost any computer terminal in the store and search for a particular book and author. With the "concept" or "boutique" Borders, that is finished. I went to one terminal to find that I could only search for audiobooks that I wished to download. Another was dedicated to music. I finally gave up and left.

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"For the first time in history, with the establishment of department stores, consumers begin to consider themselves a mass. (Earlier it was only scarcity which taught them that.) Hence, the circus-like and theatrical element of commerce is quite extraordinarily heightened."
—page 43 [A4, 1], The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin

Saturday, October 18, 2008

LUCKY'S HOT DOG DINER


Lucky's Hot Dog Diner of downtown Puyallup makes some of the best hot dogs I have ever had. They are authentic Chicago style hot dogs and they are extremely delicious. They are also reasonably priced.

Pictured above is a mozzarella bratwurst served Chicago style. It includes the mozzarella bratwurst (which I believe was supplied by Blue Max Meats of Puyallup), poppy seed bun, mustard, onions, neon green pickle relish, tomatoes, dill pickle spear, two sports peppers, and a dash of celery salt. The mozz brat has a slightly tough casing that pops perfectly when bitten, releasing a fresh blast of mozzarella cheese with each bite. Truly heavenly.

Lucky's Hot Dog Diner also serves hot dogs New York style with sauerkraut; Southern slaw dog style with chili, cheese, and coleslaw; and Coney Island style with mustard, onions, chili, and cheese. They even make mini hot dogs for the kids, which the child loves because they make a smiley face out of ketchup and the two hot dogs for the child.

They also serve old fashioned root beer floats and a couple types of Italian sausages, but the true reason to visit are for the 100% Vienna Beef natural casing hot dogs or the bratwursts.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

AUTUMNAL PALETTE



Glimpsed on wanderings through Puyallup.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

OKTOBERFEST at HOME

"21" Anniversary Doppelbock, a Doppelbock by Full Sail Brewing Company

What goes well with a living room full of guys who are eating beer bratwursts, sauerkraut, hard pretzels, and German pastries? "21" Anniversary Doppelbock, of course!

(Welcome to a peek into the festivities of the "at home Oktoberfest" of Troy's Work Table.)

22 ounce bottle. The pour delivers a beautiful rust-colored body, an ivory head, and thin sheets of lacing.

The main aroma is of lightly burnt brown sugar as it caramelizes. A faint pear aroma also makes a brief appearance, here and there. The flavors form a complex mix—buttery biscuit, lightly burnt brown sugar, peanuts or cashews, and raisins or dates.

This is a chewy brew, filling the mouth and throat with goodness. The complexity of the flavors start out sweet and dry ever so slightly as they finish.

Excellent.

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I intended to drink "21" in the above pictured stein. The stein was a gift from the father to the grandfather when Troy's Work Table was a wee infant. That means that the stein and I are essentially twins. We are both the same age and we both enjoy beer in our bellies.

However, I discovered a large crack that runs through the stein and decided that I would rather save the stein than kill my twin out of what would be sheer pleasure for me.

Needless to say, "21" worked well in a mug. I imagine it will do the same in the future.

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The "at home Oktoberfest" was a definite success, no matter how such things are measured. It will most likely happen again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

on THE TAPHANDLE


Powerhouse Oktoberfest, a Märzen/Oktoberfest by Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery

From the Powerhouse "beer menu":
Made with Pilzen, Vienna, and light crystal malt, then enhanced with a subtle Hallertau hopping. Finally fermented with a famous German lager yeast.

On tap. Oktoberfest arrives with a yellow-orange body and thin white head. It leaves behind almost no lacing. Carbonation is very soft.

It smells like other Märzens and Oktoberfests. The main aromas are caramel malts, buttery yeast, and light floral hops. The flavors are nutty, buttery, a faint cardboard and/or wood bark, and light spiciness.

Oktoberfest has a buttery texture on the tongue that is accompanied by a pretty good alcohol kick (due to its 7.5% ABV).

A good lager for a somewhat gray October night.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

SPOONER FARMS

The wife, the child, and I headed off to Spooner Farms to gather up our annual pumpkin cache for carving into jack-0-lanterns.


(1) A pumpkin of welcome.



Clockwise from upper left: (2) more pumpkins of welcome (Welcome / to / Spooner Farms); (3) beware the giant roaming "hay bale and PVC pipe" field spiders; (4) an enormous pile of eyeball gourds; (5) donkey and foal.


(6) A father and son firing the mini-pumpkin sling shot.


(7) Targets for the mini-pumpkin sling shot.


(8) "Hey kids, make sure your parents buy you a lot of pumpkins or I will come down from here and eat your brains!"

Thursday, October 09, 2008

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY...

"In the middle of a crazy and drunk life, you have to hang onto the good and sober moments tightly."
—page 216, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

"Gordy gave me this book by a Russian dude named Tolstoy, who wrote: 'Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.' Well, I hate to argue with a Russian genius, but Tolstoy didn't know Indians. And he didn't know that all Indian families are unhappy for the same exact reasons: the fricking booze."

—page 200, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Indian is categorized as teen fiction. That is a shame.

It isn't a shame that it is teen fiction, but that its categorization as such will mean that it is not read by very many adults. And, adults need to read this book. It is a powerful book because everyone has been in the shoes of the main character Junior. Okay, maybe not everyone has been a fourteen-year-old Spokane Indian growing up on the reservation. Okay, maybe not everyone was born with hydrocephaly. Okay, maybe not everyone leaves the reservation to attend the "white" high school across town because it will afford him or her with better opportunities of leaving the reservation for good.

But, everyone knows what it is like to struggle with their identity, especially as a teenager. Everyone knows what it it like to lose one's best friend for something you truly believe in. Everyone knows the pain and dysfunction and love that is encompassed by our families. Everyone knows that our parents are flawed, even though most of them are doing their best to raise us to adulthood and teach us the right way to live. Everyone knows the sweet taste of striking out on one's own, of the first flavors of independence. Everyone knows love.

This book is filled with those "everyone" moments, without being cliché with them. Junior's tale is true because it is honest. It is filled with death and loss and seeking and finding and love and joy and sorrow. It is a coming-of-age novel that speaks a universal story. There are bits of Junior in you and me. There are bits of you and me in Junior.

Monday, October 06, 2008

P22 PLAYING CARDS


Like crows, I like to collect shiny objects. I feather my nest and then line it with assorted baubles and trinkets and knickknacks. This means that I sometimes end up with small treasures in my possession.

One such "shiny object" that I have recently acquired is a deck of playing cards from P22 Type Foundry.

The deck of playing cards was part of a contest for designers to utilize typefaces from P22 and its subsidiary type foundries—International House of Fonts, Lanston Type Company, Rimmer Type Foundry, and the Sherwood Collection. The card design had to remain faithful to the fonts utilized as well as the historical rendering of particular cards—one-eyed Jack, suicide King, et cetera. The resultant cards are works of art in their own right, as well as an actual usable deck of playing cards.

I won't be playing poker or any other card games with mine. I just like to thumb through them and look at all the intricate details of the cards—serif fonts, sans serif fonts, ornaments, quotations, figures.

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The cards pictured above are ready to win chips and bragging rights for the player that lays them down in Tripoley.

The Eight of Spades is designed by James Grieshaber, using his Operina typeface from International House of Fonts.

The Nine of Spades is designed by Adam Bagerski, using the Albers typeface (designed by Richard Kegler) from P22 Type Foundry.

The Ten of Spades is designed by James Grieshaber, using his Numismatic typeface from International House of Fonts.

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You can preview all of the cards in the 2008 specimen playing card deck HERE.

You can preview all of the cards in the original 2004 specimen playing card deck HERE.

Friday, October 03, 2008

on THE TAPHANDLE

Amber Waves Ale, an Amber Ale by Capitol City Brewing

On tap. Half pint. Downtown District of Columbia location.

I really wanted to drink and eat at Capitol City Brewing when we visited Washington DC this summer. Our friends indulged us, recommending the downtown location over the Shirlington location in Virginia. We took their advice and six of us enjoyed beer and pub food in a great setting with excellent service.

Amber Waves arrived at the table with a nicely tanned body—somewhere between amber and copper-red. Her head was white. She was clear, had lively carbonation, and left behind excellent lacing.

Her perfume was of caramel and canned peaches. It was perhaps slightly too sweet, but enticing nonetheless.

She tasted wonderful. Caramel malts met apricot, pear, and grain. She started sweet, became slightly bitter, and sweetened again for a long finish.

I think I'm in love. Just don't tell the wife!