Ginology: A Beginning

By Michael W. Harris

In my ever-expanding quest to become more “sophisticated”—or maybe to give me an easier blogging topic that lends itself to shorter posts—I decided to start getting systematic about how I taste and appreciate gin. There are many ginand really any kind of alcohol you can think ofreviewers out there, and their palates are way more refined than mine, but you have to start somewhere, right?

While a spirit like whisk[e]y can be fully appreciated on its own, in my experience gin really is a drink that can take on different qualities and fully reveals itself in different cocktails and is rarely consumed solo. For this reason, I have decided that I am going to try the gin in three different forms—straight, in a gin and tonic, and in a pink gin—before rendering any verdict.

In my reviews, I will be providing notes for the nose, palate, and finish of the drink, but only the latter two for the cocktails. After all of this, I will then provide a very loose recommendation for the bottle: top, middle, or bottom shelf. Take these recommendations for whatever you think they are worth.

By my count, prior to starting this little side project, I have tried over thirty different types of gin, though I am certain I am forgetting some. I am going to try and go back and acquire most of those, though some of the Colorado gins will be a bit harder to get a hold of, but you should feel free to send me stuff and “donate” to my quest. To begin with, though, in order to give myself a baseline to work from, I am going to start out with reviews for three of my standard, go to gins: Tanqueray No. 10, Hendrick’s, and Beefeater.

I will start every review by giving an overview of the gin with notes as to ABV, distiller, and, most importantly, what botanicals are used, along with any interesting facts about the distilling process. For me, this will also help me solidify my gin knowledge, as of right now I know just enough to get myself confused when I think too much about it. From there I will give the tasting notes for each of three versions (though I might sometimes add a fourth variant on the pink gin that uses different bitters), and then finally my verdict and final thoughts.

So, let’s have some fun and learn about gin!

Recipes:

Straight: 2 oz. pour in a Glencairn whisky glass

Gin and Tonic: equal parts gin and tonic (3 oz.) with a lime twist, served in a chilled Collins glass (I know, I know, most people have it at a 2:3 ratio, or even 1:2, with more tonic than gin, but I like my G’nTs strong).

Pink Gin: 3 dashes angostura bitters (variant: peychaud’s bitters) with 2 oz. of gin served in a chilled rocks glass with the interior coated in bitters.

Well, that’s it for now. And remember:

It is a curious fact, and one to which no-one knows quite how much importance to attach, that something like 85 percent of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonyx, or gee-N’N-T’N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand variations on this phonetic theme.

The drinks themselves are not the same, and vary between the Sivolvian ‘chinanto/mnigs’ which is ordinary water served just above room temperature, and the Gagrakackan ‘tzjin-anthony-ks’ which kills cows at a hundred paces; and in fact the only one common factor between all of them, beyond the fact that their names sound the same, is that they were all invented and named before the worlds concerned made contact with any other worlds.

Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Where Do We Go From Here?

By Michael W. Harris

So I have been on a bit of a streak with the whole blogging thing. Starting in early January, I have been successfully posting once a week thanks to a back log of ideas in addition to writing two posts a week for two months—essentially writing and editing multiple posts simultaneously, though usually only posting one. Some of that was thanks to the emotional wall I had built and deciding to spend all my free time on the weekend writing, but it was also thanks to really having no other projects in front of me since I was out of library school. Continue reading “Where Do We Go From Here?”

…six months later

By Michael W. Harris

I have become quite adept at putting on a happy face. Like so many, when things get bad you rarely want to talk about it openly, especially to family and co-workers. Friends are a different matter, but being thousands of miles away from those nearest and dearest to me, and having only fleeting contact with them, I started lying to them as well about how rough things were during my first six months in Virginia. A difficulty that I barely hint at in my previous essay.

But, I think I turned a corner in early March and it is only with the benefit of hindsight that a few things have became clear to me. 1) I completely withdrew into myself soon after moving to Virginia. 2) In doing so I had created an emotional barrier around myself as a protection measure. And 3) both of these things combined were preventing me from both embracing my new job and area, and also from properly healing. Continue reading “…six months later”

William of Gin

By Michael W. Harris

In September of 2017 I accepted a job at the College of William & Mary and had just two weeks to uproot my entire life and move across the country. I had spent the past decade living in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and was now moving to the lower Chesapeake Bay and Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Virginia. I had been to Virginia only once before, during my elementary school field trip to Washington, D.C., and my only memory of the state is almost being left behind at Jamestown when I spent too long in the gift shop looking at books.

I was a nerd from a young age.

My life seems to be a pattern of sudden change. While some live in a state of constant flux, mine seems to have long periods of stability punctuated with moments of rupture. Though, in retrospect, this change was possibly telegraphed. I had become restless in Colorado, and the physical changes my body was undergoing—I had recently decided to get healthy and dropped a considerably amount of weight—mirrored a larger change in my personality as I was struggling to figure out the direction I wanted my life to go. I had made the leap from professor to librarian, and by the fall of 2017 I was in the final semester of my library degree. However, there was still no sign that the permanent temporary status of my job at the University of Colorado would ever change.

So it was, when I returned to Colorado after spending a month in Wyoming doing the requisite internship for my library degree, that I decided to hit the job market hard and truly begin my new career in earnest. Not long after that I was packing up my apartment, including an inordinate number of bottles of gin leftover from my 37th birthday party, and began the three-day drive to Virginia and the College of William & Mary. Continue reading “William of Gin”

Just Enjoy: Why I Have Tried to Stop Theorizing About My Favorite Media

By Michael W. Harris

Sad Matt Smith is Sad

It was around the time when Matt Smith was leaving the TARDIS in the epic three-part “The [blank] of the Doctor” episodes that I began to realize that it was sort of pointless to endlessly theorize. In those episodes, there were so many aspects and moving parts that Steven Moffat had to pay off, not to mention the longstanding issue of how many regenerations Time Lords had, plus the epic reveal of the “War Doctor,” that the creeping sensation of inevitable let down began to sink in. In the months in between “The Name…” and “The Day…” my friends and I had numerous conversations about what we thought was going on and where it was going to lead. For my own part, I injested classic episodes of Doctor Who in order to track down the sources of Whovian lore that Moffat was pulling on. And for all of the hints that he laid out in “The Name,” and for all of the awesome fan service found in “The Day,” the final installment, “The Time of the Doctor,” just sort of limped along and barely paid any of it off. A problem that was compounded by the Peter Capaldi era and its hints of some awesome meta story of how Capaldi had appeared in early parts of the Who franchise. And as I sat in the theatre watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it hit me: I need to relearn how to just enjoy my favorite media properties. This isn’t to say I will stop writing about and analyzing what has already come, not by a long shot. It means that I will try to stop speculating about what might come next. Continue reading “Just Enjoy: Why I Have Tried to Stop Theorizing About My Favorite Media”

On Blogs and Craft Beer: Modern Approaches to “Jobs”

By Michael W. Harris

How do we judge meaning and fulfillment in our lives? How do we judge success? Is it some measure of your personal life? Is it something to do with professional recognition? These are very personal metrics and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. For most it is probably a combination of feeling happy with both work and personal life, that precarious “work-life balance” which is a buzzword of so many HR emails.

A recent article in 1843 Magazine (published by The Economist) talks about the rise of the craft/artisanal industry and how much of it is being fueled by white-collar workers fleeing from office drone jobs. There is a lot to chew on in the article, but the trend seems to be the convergence of many factors in modern society: the rise of automation which is driving the rise of more boutique items that fit with a part of society’s growing preference for handmade, locally sourced, and sustainable goods; the desire to control your own labor and thus personal fulfillment in your work (the end result of a late-capitalist moving towards a post-capitalist economy); and a growing dissatisfaction with the economic opportunities available among the younger generation. Continue reading “On Blogs and Craft Beer: Modern Approaches to “Jobs””

Not The Films We Need, But the Films We Deserve: Safe vs. Daring Yet Flawed Films

By Michael W. Harris

I really wanted to love Pacific Rim. Like, unabashedly, giggling like a little kid at a silly joke, deliriously love it. And the trailers set me up for such a love! I mean, the plot was something that two eight-year-olds playing with their toys would dream up on a weekend: giant robots fighting giant monsters. It was a live action anime. It was every nerdy “what if” conversation you would have as an undergrad when you finally found “your people.” And that line from the trailer was perfectly hammy yet earnest: “WE ARE CANCELLING THE APOCALYPSE!”

So what happened? Why didn’t I have that complete rush of joy when I left the theatre? I liked it, sure. I even enjoyed it. But the giddiness I felt at the first trailer didn’t materialize. And the “apocalypse” speech fell flat. It was too short and didn’t earn its tag line, like “TODAY IS OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY!” did during the summer of 1996. And I think that is a good point of comparison, as I view both films similarly as to what I wanted: a fun, goofy, science fiction romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That is what Independence Day is and what I thought Pacific Rim was going to be. So where did PacRim go wrong where ID4 went right? Well, the latter went for broke with the goofy one-liners and tongue in cheek remarks, whereas the former played it too safe and didn’t lean into its silly, kids playing with toys premise. Continue reading “Not The Films We Need, But the Films We Deserve: Safe vs. Daring Yet Flawed Films”

Two Minutes of Perfection: The Beatles’ “For No One”

By Michael W. Harris

Back when I was teaching rock history at the University of Colorado, I used to end my lecture on the Beatles with the summation that they were the most influential band in rock history. Full stop. That every artists who was serious about writing and recording pop music, regardless of how they actually felt about the Beatles, would have to at least reckon with them and form an opinion. Love them or hate them, if you were to be a serious pop artist, you had to know the Beatles to either be influenced by them or to reject them.

However, before I ever taught that lecture, I also had to form my own opinion on the group. Sure, as any musician living in a post-Beatles world, and especially as one who grew up listening to rock of the ’60s thanks to my parents, I “knew” the Beatles. I knew the big hits from their early years, knew the weird tracks from the White Album (and would also tell you that it was actually called The Beatles when I wanted to be pretentious), and listened to Sgt. Pepper’s on a semi-regular basis. I absolutely adored Abbey Road and would sing the praises of the medley that took up side two, and was divided as to the legacy of Let It Be. But I did not truly know their entire catalog and was woefully understudied when it came to any of their pre-Sgt. Pepper’s albums. I “knew” the Beatles, but I didn’t really know the Beatles.

So, when I finally set about teaching my first semester of rock history and planned to spend a week’s worth of class time on the music of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, I faced the fact that I had to finally sit down and listen to their complete catalog. In doing so, I stumbled upon a two-minute-Mozartian-miniature of perfection. A simple, lilting, wonderfully lyric and floating tune from Revolver titled “For No One.” Continue reading “Two Minutes of Perfection: The Beatles’ “For No One””

On The Transmigration of My Soul

By Michael W. Harris

Fun fact, I have also lived in five area codes along with three time zones.

It is strange to me, when I think about too much, that I am one move away from living in all four continental US time zones. This strikes me as odd because I am, at my very core, a person who loathes to move. And even more so, when I was younger, I considered myself to be someone who was going to probably die not far from where they lived most of their life (i.e. – Kansas City, Missouri). Or at the very least, be within driving distance. So, when I stop and really consider that it has been over a decade since I last had a Missouri address, have now called three different states in three different time zones home, and, if I am being honest, feel a strong urge to eventually move to the fourth (preferably Washington or Oregon), it seems like there is a disconnect between who I am now and who I think I am…or at least who I used to be. Continue reading “On The Transmigration of My Soul”

The Everyday Carry -OR- The Makings of the Man Purse

I have been doing more airline travel in recent years and my desire to NOT pay bag fees has caused me to reevaluate my luggage and packing styles. This led me to utilize a large backpack style suitcase and shoulder bag which allows me to carry on all my necessary items, even for a 1 ½ weeklong trip to both New York and England last year. But that trip also coincided with a bout of on-going backpain (lessened by physical therapy in the months since), and my obsessive need to get my daily miles led to some rather severe bouts of pain as I walked for miles and miles through airport terminals in my quest to reach five-plus miles a day.

So it was that I reevaluated what I carry with me in my everyday bag to work and elsewhere. I took a long look at what I considered the essentials that I always need or would most likely need during an average workday. This is not a new concept as the internet is full of pages and videos devoted to the idea of “prepping” with survivalist and gearheads alike talking about what I was only vaguely aware of beforehand: the Everyday Carry, or EDC. Continue reading “The Everyday Carry -OR- The Makings of the Man Purse”