prologue < /life_out_of_joint> {part one}

Note: This is the first part of what will become my “hauntology project” series. You can find all posts in this series using the category “hauntology.”

Dusk, a perfect example of a liminal space: not yet night, but no longer day. This photo comes from back in Boulder, CO.

There is a word that I encountered during my graduate studies that I quickly latched onto as one of my favorite words: liminal. Not only did I love the sound of it (limm-ma-null), but I also loved what it meant: the in-between state, intermediate phase, being in transition. Liminality is what I feel like my entire life has been, constantly caught between two things: I am a cusp baby by way of astrological signs (Leo-Virgo), I am in that weird middle ground between Gen X and the Millennials, and for the better part of 5 years, from 2013 until 2018, I was in a constant liminal state of temporary work between finishing my PhD and landing a tenure track position at the University of Memphis.

I have lived most of my life in a constant state of feeling adrift; not unlike Gustav Mahler’s famous sentiment of being “thrice homeless.” Continue reading “prologue < /life_out_of_joint> {part one}”

Looking Forward, Looking Back: The Past and Future of The Temp Track

By Michael W. Harris

Pen, paper, and coffee…the beginnings of so many posts this past year.

It has been a year. While I did not go into 2018 planning on doing one post a week, that is how it ended up. It just sort of started, kept going, snowballed, and before you knew it I had a pattern established, and I am loathe to break patterns. And looking back, I am really glad I did it. It was part therapy during what was one of the most difficult periods in my life, part exercise in finding a good writing process as I try to integrate my love for the craft of the written word into my life, and part needing an outlet for some of the smaller scale projects that I want to pursue.

However, more than anything else, I just wanted to write more. I have always loved writing, and it is a big reason why I decided to do a PhD and not a DMA all those year ago. When I thought about which I would rather do, practice bassoon for eight hours a day or read and write for 8 hours a day…the decision was easy to make. And now, with (hopefully) my last degree a year behind me, another year of tumult and upheaval over, and job stability ahead, it is time to think about what the future of The Temp Track looks like.

After a year filled with gin reviews, musing on stationery, some rather personal essays that made some people worry about my mental and physical health (and I share those concerns…hence writing as therapy), and other random musing on life, the universe, and everything, what does 2019 look like?

Let’s first look back before we look forward, shall we? Continue reading “Looking Forward, Looking Back: The Past and Future of The Temp Track”

A Year in the Fountain Pen and Stationery Game: AKA My Top 5 (Personal) Pens of 2018

By Michael W. Harris

It is still (just barely) 2018, and I figured I would try and squeeze in one more post this year before my “state of the blog”/“year that was and is to come” post this coming Saturday. But the only reason I decided to do this post was that in thinking over the past year and the activation of my latent/dormant stationery bug gene, I began to muse on what would be my Top 5 pens that I have acquired over this first year diving into the hobby. What are the pens that I want to keep inked all the time if I could? What if I had to severely curtail my collection because of “reasons,” what would be the ones that I kept?

Platinum Higo Zogan: if its good enough for the G7 and Barack Obama, it is good enough for me.

I will say that there were some relatively easy choices for what to include, while others I had to think about. I have bought (and sold) a number of pens this year, and I love all the ones I have kept, but I haven’t spent a lot of time with some of them so they are harder to judge. For example, my Platinum Higo Zogan is a beautiful pen, and one that I bought as my present to myself for landing the Memphis job. However, it is not on this list as, for as much as I love the design, nib, and the way it feels in my hand, I still sense that I am getting to know it. Plus, I have found that the Platinum fine nibs as not my favorite, and I would to swap it for a medium or broad at some point, or maybe a Platinum specialty nib (like their music nib). Seriously Platinum (and Sailor), start making loose nibs easily available!

What I am trying to say is that my criteria here is rather loose and instinctual. What do I actively reach for when I am inking up new pens? What do I have to force myself not to use in order to keep other pens in my rotation? Continue reading “A Year in the Fountain Pen and Stationery Game: AKA My Top 5 (Personal) Pens of 2018”

Ginology 15: Caorunn Small Batch Scottish Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: Dry Gin
ABV: 41.8% ABV
Base: Grant Neutral Spirit
Botanicals: Juniper, rowan berries, blackthorn, hawthorn, watermint, bramble, sweet cicely, rose, apple, bilberry, elderberry
Distilling Notes: Caorunn is distilled in Speyside in the Scottish Highland, a region more known for their single malt Scotch distilling.

My bottle of Caorunn gin had quite the journey to being opened. Originally purchased for my 37th birthday party in 2017, it went unused that night and eventually made the cross-country trek to Virginia two months later. It remained unopened there and the longer it remained sealed, the more I wanted to save it for a “special” occasion. Thus, it then made the trip all the way to Tennessee with me until I finally reached for it now, at the end of 2018.

Why did I wait so long? I am not sure. At some point it almost became a challenge to see how long I could postpone drinking it. Not to mention I had already tried the gin back in 2017 when I bought a small bottle of it while in England. That bottle also had an interesting journey as I brought it back with me in my carry-on luggage, through security in Manchester and Boston, through customs, before finally drinking it back in Boulder.

It seems like no matter what, my bottles of Caorunn always have to travel great distances with me before I open them. Continue reading “Ginology 15: Caorunn Small Batch Scottish Gin”

Ginology 14: Nikka Coffey Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: Dry Gin
ABV: 47%
Base: Grant Neutral Spirit
Botanicals: Four Japanese citruses (Yuzu, Kabosu, Amanatsu and Shequasar), apples, green Japanese Sansho pepper, along with juniper, angelica, coriander seeds, lemon, and orange peels.
Distilling Notes: Nikka uses a “coffey still” in the production of their spirits.

I had been wanting to try a Japanese gin for a long time, but their distribution isn’t all that wide in the States. I finally found a bottle of Nikka Coffey Gin while in New York this past May for the annual Music and the Moving Image conference and, thanks to taking the train to New York from Williamsburg, VA, I was able to transport a bottle with me that subsequently made the move to Tennessee in August.

Either in conjunction with or because of the current revival of Japanese whisky that is causing shortages worldwide, several distilleries are ramping up production of spirts that do not require lengthy cask times to age, a practice more common to start-up distillers. While this is bad news for the lovers of brown spirits, gin lovers like myself I are stoked for new gins to explore. Continue reading “Ginology 14: Nikka Coffey Gin”

Ginology 13: A. Smith Bowman’s Sunset Hills Pioneer Spirit Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: Dry Gin
ABV: 40%
Botanicals: Juniper and “other botanicals”
Base: Grant Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: Small batch, but no other information.

I first discovered the Bowman Distillery during my ten months living in Virginia through their whiskies. During a visit by a friend, we explored one of their offerings, which he was quite taken by, so when I saw that they made a gin, I snatched up the bottle from the local Virginia ABC store. It has taken me quite a while to get around to reviewing the bottle, but it was a moment I was genuinely looking forward to…

In stark contrast to last week’s 57% ABV “navy strength” gin, Sunset Hills is a downright water-like 40%. In addition to that relatively weak alcohol content, I also had a hard time finding any solid information on the botanicals and distilling process for the gin, so I did not have a lot to go on when hunting for flavors besides the vague information of “other botanicals” listed on the bottle.

Still, I feel confident in my final assessment of Sunset Hills Pioneer Spirit Gin by the A. Smith Bowman distillery, so let’s get to it. Continue reading “Ginology 13: A. Smith Bowman’s Sunset Hills Pioneer Spirit Gin”

Ginology 12: Hayman’s Royal Dock at Deptford Navy Strength Gin

By Michael W. Harris

Basic Info
Type: Naval Dry
ABV: 57%
Botanicals: Angelica, Cassia, Cinnamon, Coriander, Juniper, Lemon, Licorice, Nutmeg, Orange, Orris Root
Base: Grant Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: Bottled at so-called “navy strength,” much higher proof.

Navy strength gin is something of an odd duck. Clocking in at well over 50% ABV, sometimes as high as 57% (as in the gin at hand), it is much stronger than your typical gin. The legend is that it has such a high ABV because it needed to not prevent the use of a ship’s gunpowder should it become soaked in the clear spirit.

Whether this is true or not is not something I did research on. However, what I will say is that Hayman’s Royal Dock at Deptford Navy Strength Gin (could you have a longer name?) has booze to spare, and your mileage with the spirit will vary with how you use it and in what cocktails. There is a lot of flavor in the gin well beyond the alcohol, though, that is well worth exploring. Continue reading “Ginology 12: Hayman’s Royal Dock at Deptford Navy Strength Gin”

Finding Happiness in the Dark: The Aesthetics and Beauty of Stationery

By Michael W. Harris

Pen, paper, and coffee…what more do you need?

I was a late user of Instagram, and it was only when I had found myself largely abandoning Facebook that I decided to dive into the photo-only world of the platform. I needed something beautiful and happy in my life. I needed something to bring me joy amidst the dumpster fire of the rest of the world.

I needed a purely joyful aesthetic experience.

I know that I am not the first to discuss the purely visual aspect of Instagram as it compares to the text forward medium/misery-pit of Facebook and/or Twitter. However, I have never considered myself a person to be driven the visual or even the beautiful. Yes, I appreciate beautiful artwork, a well-designed building, and so on, but to be so fully drawn into a purely visual aesthetic experience like Instagram was something I never considered to be “for me.” Continue reading “Finding Happiness in the Dark: The Aesthetics and Beauty of Stationery”

Dreaming of a Future: RADWIMPS’ “Weekly Shonen Jump”

By Michael W. Harris

RADWIMPS is a Japanese band I first became familiar with via their music for Makoto Shinkai’s beautiful anime film Your Name, and whose music I will forever associate with my final months in Virginia—a time of my life that will forever stir up complex and uncertain emotions. And while the exact memories and images of places accumulated in my ten months at the College of William & Mary have already begun to fade as I settle into my new life in Memphis, the music of RADWIMPS will always yank me back to the sidewalks and streets of Williamsburg, VA.

The music of the group is a mélange of styles, ranging from hip-hop to rock, but the majority of their music would fall into what I would squarely call pop. And catchy, sensible pop at that. So it was that shortly after falling into the world of Shinkai and Your Name, I quickly downloaded all the albums and EPs that I could and put them on repeat. Which is to say that I had listened to most of their catalog prior to moving to Memphis, and which is why I find it curious that it was not until after I had moved that I had the experience of being stopped in my tracks by the song “Weekly Shonen Jump.” Continue reading “Dreaming of a Future: RADWIMPS’ “Weekly Shonen Jump””

It’s Got to be the Goin’: The Journey of (Self) Annihilation

By Michael W. Harris

N.B. – This is part three of a series on Alex Garland’s films, if you have not already, you should probably read Part I on Sunshine and Part II on Ex Machina before diving in.

Almost any film (or narrative story) is about “the journey.” It is what gives a character their arc and shows their growth. Sometimes there is a very literal metaphor of this arc with a character climbing a mountain or driving across the country with a friend or their father’s ashes…or Einstein’s brain. Regardless, something they all have in common, though, is that the journey is the means by which the character grows. This is the essence of “The Hero’s Journey” and the well-trodden Joseph Campbell Hero With a Thousand Faces and what not.

But what about a film that is not about the hero’s journey and how it changes them? What about a film in which the journey itself is the point? A journey that, while somehow revelatory of the character and either their motivations for the journey or society as a whole, rather than changing them or causing them to grow as a person, instead ends up either not affecting them or, if anything, leaving them worse off for making the trip.

These kinds of films are about how what is being journeyed through reflects or, in the case of Annihilation, refracts back on the person or society. Continue reading “It’s Got to be the Goin’: The Journey of (Self) Annihilation”