The Middle Children of Technology: Living [Digital/Analog] in a/n [Analog/Digital] World

By Michael W. Harris

Nostalgia Bomb for my generation. [image found on web, not mine]
I always love seeing the looks I get when I tell people that I have schoolwork COMPUTER files dating back to sixth grade. Now, for some that would not be that remarkable, but for me, sixth grade was 1992-93. The first web browser only went public in 1991. The first version of Windows was released in 1985. And the ubiquitous Apple IIe that was the first computer in my elementary school lab was released in 1983.

These files of mine are not things I created at school, though. They are Word and Excel documents I made at home for school projects. Papers, reports, etc. The odd personal or Boy Scouts project files are also included, but most are school reports. More importantly, though, is that they are still saved and with a little work could be made accessible again (currently the file formats are no longer readable with the newest versions of Office, but there are ways of migrating them). And this is not theoretical. The files are not stored on obsolete media. Yes, they were first saved on 3 ½ inch floppies, but from there they were first migrated en masse to a 100MB (mega…not giga) Zip Disk in 1999 and from there ported to a 128MB jump drive in the early 2000s. And today these files live both on my 200GB microSD card that is my main data archive, with a back-up stored on a 5TB external hard drive (these drives are named “The Library” and “The Matrix of Gallifrey” respectively). Continue reading “The Middle Children of Technology: Living [Digital/Analog] in a/n [Analog/Digital] World”

Of Pens and Gins: My Analog Revival

By Michael W. Harris

I love technology. Let me get that out of the way and established. I can build you a computer, install the OS, and get it on-line and running in just a few days. Need a home theatre system installed but don’t know a coax from HDMI? I can help you with that. Want multiple game consoles running into a single receiver with the ability to record to a PC for streaming your sick [Insert Current Popular Battle Royale Game Here] rounds? I can even get that sorted for you.

This is all to say that I am unafraid and embrace the tech…despite the fact that my most recent game consoles are the PlayStation 2 and the NES and SNES Classics. I have also ditched the home built PCs for a Surface, and my home theatre setup is now a lowly 2.1 system (when I used to have a full 7.1) with a regular TV instead of a projector. And in a sign of what is to come, that system still has a CD player and turntable hooked up.

In many ways, as the technology has gotten easier and less complex to use and install, I have scaled back my own setups—though multiple moves in just three years after living in the same place for seven also has a way of forcing one to scale back. But, in that same time, I have also been drawn to two decidedly older and analog hobbies, or maybe fascinations is a better term: pens (or stationary products in general and fountain pens more precisely) and gins.

I have already talked about the latter at some length, so I will largely set gin aside for now. So instead, let’s talk about the former: pens and paper. Continue reading “Of Pens and Gins: My Analog Revival”

Food So Good It’ll Blow More Than Just Your Socks Off: Shokugeki no Soma

By Michael W. Harris

Yep, this is a show I legit love!

Shokugeki no Soma, aka Food Wars!, is a strange anime. It is a show with its central focus on the world of a gourmet cooking academy in Japan, albeit one with a large, sprawling campus, a huge student base, though also is a school rigorous enough that students are routinely culled in intense examinations and trials. It is categorized as a: comedy anime, a slice of life show (it is essentially a high school series after all), a competition/battle anime (most of its story arcs revolve around the titular “Food War” battles), and also an ecchi series (or semi-erotic/sexy anime, in this case the clothes of various characters are routinely blown off as a way of demonstrating just how intense and flavorful the food is). As with any ecchi series, yes, many of the women are drawn without regard to realistic body proportions, but dammit if the show isn’t a hell of a lot of fun and also funny. And the actual food wars, or shokugeki, are absolutely thrilling and really make me want to do more cooking, or at the very least experiment more in the kitchen.

And it is the food wars that I want to to talk about a bit more here, or one in particular that occurred in the first half of season 3: Yukihira Soma (our main character) vs. Eizan Etsuya (a member of the school’s Elite Ten council of students).

For any of this to make sense, though, I should probably explain a few things first. Continue reading “Food So Good It’ll Blow More Than Just Your Socks Off: Shokugeki no Soma”

Ginology 6: Dogfish Head Compelling Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: Dry Gin
ABV: 44%
Botanicals: Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, Black Peppercorn, Lemon Peel, Green Cardamom, Hibiscus, Orris Root, Orange Peel, Lime Peel, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Cinnamon
Base: Grain Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: The base is Dogfish Head’s Analog Vodka, which is made from “2-row barley.”

I should start this review off with an apology: most people will not be able to try out this gin and for that, I am sorry because it is truly an experience worth having. As of this writing, Dogfish Head’s Compelling Gin is only available for purchase in Delaware, Maryland, DC, and Virginia. I hope that they will eventually expand nationwide, much like their beer, but for right now, those are the breaks.

There are many interesting things going on to make this a “compelling” gin. First is that Dogfish Head uses their own vodka as the base spirit, which is then infused with their botanical mixture. This simple fact makes me wonder how much of the gin’s unique taste is from the botanicals and how much is in the vodka to begin with. Second is the use of citrus peels, Kaffir Lime leaves (which I had not encountered before), and black pepper. None of these are particularly out there, but this precise mixture seems quite different. In the end, though, while I am not sure that “compelling” is the right appellation for this gin, it certainly is interesting. Let’s dive in. Continue reading “Ginology 6: Dogfish Head Compelling Gin”

Ginology 5: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: “Schwarzwald” Dry Gin
ABV: 47%
Botanicals: “47 handpicked ingredients,” which include local cranberries, juniper, citrus, etc. See a complete list on their website in the “Encyclopedia Botanica” section.
Base: Molasses
Distilling Notes: Gin matures in earthenware containers.

Monkey 47’s Schwarzwald Dry Gin is not available in my local Virginia ABC stores, however, after a friend recommended the spirit to me, I happened upon it at a DC liquor store while hunting for a bottle of Cadenhead Old Raj (more on that in a later post). I only picked up a 375ml bottle, though, as it is a rather expensive gin (around $40 for just that small bottle). Unfortunately, for this post at least, I had already drank around half of the bottle prior to beginning this review series.

This is to say that this review will be slightly truncated for now as I ran out of gin before finishing the full three tasting cycle. However, I feel like I got enough of a taste of Monkey 47 (so-called for its 47 botanical mixture), to make a general recommendation.

Before we get to that, though, I want to mention that Monkey 47 has an interesting “history” on its webpage that is worth reading. As with most of these, who knows how much is myth and how much is real, but it is always fun to check out.

Enough preamble, on to the review! Continue reading “Ginology 5: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin”

Leaving The Matrix Behind – AKA Taking the Red Pill

By Michael W. Harris

In 1999 the Wachowskis burst into the cultural zeitgeist with the anime inspired The Matrix—a “heady, post-modern, what is real, how do we know we are alive or just simulations, bullet time fight, genre defying, how the hell did two relative unknowns do THAT” kind of film.

It was kind of popular.

They followed that up with two sequels that doubled down on the philosophy, fight choreography, and green tint aesthetic, yet also failed to connect with audiences in the same way, though still made truckloads of money for Warner Bros. The Wachowskis have yet to have a true hit film since then, but have directed, written, and produced a string of films (and TV) that while all finding a small, niche audience, have failed to match that earlier success for some reason. In this post want to look at a mighty handful of these and hopefully make the case for at least some of them finding a broader audience.

Note: I am leaving Cloud Atlas out for right now as I will be taking a deeper dive into it as part of my hauntology series, however know that I believe Cloud Atlas to be worth your time.

So with all of that out of the way, let us plug back into the world of the Wachowskis, with all of their philosophy, wire-fu fights, and stylization within an inch of their life production design. Continue reading “Leaving The Matrix Behind – AKA Taking the Red Pill”

Ginology 4: Hendrick’s Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: “Scottish” Gin (Dry Gin)
ABV: 44%
Botanicals: Juniper, coriander seeds, angelica root, orris root, orange peel, lemon peel, cabeb berries, caraway seeds, elderflower, yarrow, chamomile
Distilling Notes: Blended from the distillation of two separate stills, one in which botanicals are steeped in the spirit for 24 hours before still is turned on. In the other still, botanicals are added at the top as spirit evaporates. Once these are blended together, essence of rose petal and cucumber are added.

As I write this I am on a train from Williamsburg to New York for Music and the Moving Image 2018 and it is perhaps fitting that I passed through Washington, DC, on my way there as the person who first introduced me to Hendrick’s now lives in the nation’s capital. Hendrick’s was, in many ways, the final stage of my beginning gin experience, which is why it is the last selection in my opening triumvirate of gin reviews. We have gone from a platonic gin, Beefeater, through a classic, Tanqueray No. 10 (which was not my go to Tanqueray back in the day, but it is now when I want a bottle of it), until finally landing on Hendrick’s. While Hendrick’s is known for being an odd duck gin due to its double distilling process and the addition of rose and cucumber, it is still a gin first and foremost…and a damn fine one at that, in my humble opinion.

I have a feeling this might be a short post since Hendrick’s is one of those divisive gins. People either like it or they don’t. But if you have never tried it, maybe my review can convince you to at least give it a taste. Continue reading “Ginology 4: Hendrick’s Gin”

Ginology 3: DoG Street Pub Selection and Cocktails Reviews

By Michael W. Harris

Note: For those readers who are not residents of Williamsburg, VA (not to be confused with the neighborhood in Brooklyn), DoG Street is the nickname for “Duke of Gloucester Street”—the main street that Colonial Williamsburg is situated on which runs between the edge of the William & Mary campus and the Virginia Colonial Capital Building. Therefore, when someone here says “DoG Street,” this is what they are talking about. It is not to be confused, though, with “Dogtown,” a nickname for Gloucester, MA, about which Harry Chapin sang. But this “note” has really strayed far afield…on with the review!

Exterior of DoG Street on Merhchant’s Square, Williamsburg, VA

I went to DoG Street Pub on a recent Wednesday after work to have drinks with a co-worker and in the process introduce him to the world of gin and tonics. As a sub-mission, I was also trying to find a new decent bar that might start to fill the No Name shaped hole in my heart that leaving Boulder has left. DoG Street is a bit too much restaurant to be a nice bar to hang out at with friends, but I am happy to report that they have a good selection of gin! All the standards, a few locals, plus some that I wasn’t familiar with at all. Unfortunately, for this report, I had to drive home afterwards and was unable to sample “ALL THE GINS!”

But enough preamble, on with the review, which will consist of three parts: an overview of the gin selection followed by two brief cocktail reviews. Continue reading “Ginology 3: DoG Street Pub Selection and Cocktails Reviews”

The Struggle Is Real: Meditations Upon Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”

By Michael W. Harris

Jackson Brown is one of those artists who has the tendency to drift in and out of my playlists without much thought. His songs will simmer in the background for weeks or months before exploding to dominate my listening for a solid month. His easy acoustic melodies and plaintive voice paired with an equally longing piano is the perfect companion to certain moods.

In many ways, it is a perfect fit for feeling of mono no aware that I wrote about almost two years ago. There is a wistful sadness to many of his songs, especially the ones I gravitate towards, that captures the peaceful resignation to the inevitable passing of all things. Not a rage against the dying of the light, but an acceptance, nigh an embrace of it, that is at the heart of mono no aware and much of Japanese thought.

For me, nothing captures this feeling in the work of Browne more so than a pair of couplets in his 1976 song “The Pretender,” off the album of the same name:

“Out into the cool of the evening strolls the Pretender,
He knows all his hopes and dreams begin an end there.”

And:

“Are you there? Say a prayer for the Pretender.
Who started out so young and strong only to surrender.”

The resignation found in these lines, the walking into the night, knowing that it holds all of his ends and beginnings in equal measure, the giving into the forces that would beat him down into submission and compliance…it is a deep, cynical view of the world, jaded even, that is the darker tinge of mono no aware. It is not the peaceful acceptance of the Japanese mold, but a more Western resignation. Not full of rage, but contains a simmering resentment none-the-less. But it also does not detract from the other wistful qualities of the song.

So, if these lines are about a submission to something, it begs the question: a submission to what? Continue reading “The Struggle Is Real: Meditations Upon Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender””

Ginology 2: Tanqueray No. 10

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: London Dry
ABV: 47.3%
Base: 100% grain neutral spirit
Botanicals: juniper, juniper, coriander, angelica, licorice, white grapefruit, lime, orange, chamomile flowers
Unique Processes: Uses the smaller “No. 10” still that was used for experiments, and is thus made in smaller batches. Also, it uses the whole citrus fruits rather than dried peels.

Choosing Tanqueray No. 10 for one of my initial reviews might have been a bit of an odd choice since it is the more “exclusive” or “step-up” of Tanqueray’s gins. Most people consider the basic, traditional Tanqueray to be among the world’s perfect gins, especially with how it seems to keep its botanicals to just the basics, whereas No. 10 throws in entire citrus fruits.

But while standard Tanqueray was my go to gin once I discovered the wonder that is the g’nt, I have since ventured outside its safe and comfortable flavor profile—though I am enjoying just such a throwback Tanqueray and Tonic as I write this. Though if I am honest, my favorite bottle of Tanqueray was probably their limited edition Bloomsbury variant. Sadly, it was exactly that, a limited edition that is no longer produced. But on to the gin at hand… Continue reading “Ginology 2: Tanqueray No. 10”