I’ve been struggling the last couple of months with writing; I just can’t find the focus and creativity to articulate my thoughts. I get bursts of ideas and they seem to fizzle in my mind rather than provoke a train of thought. And now I’m doing the most cliche thing,in that I’m writing about not being able to write. Perhaps it’s more interesting to write about how I think I can solve the problem, and that’s finding a muse.
Repetition is the death of creativity. When you repeat the same tasks day after day, travel the same routes, eat the same foods, have the same discussions about the same topics, it’s easy to get into a rut. Where does creativity come from? It’s a question that perhaps will never be answered sufficiently. There is a mystery in the art of creation that I’m not sure will ever go away; part of the allure of art is that it’s seemingly formed out of nothing. It’s that magical feeling you felt when you first saw your favorite movie, or heard your favorite song. I once heard someone write that if they could be given one wish, it’d be to see their favorite movie again for the first time. No matter how much you love something, that first experience with something new is unique. This is what drives romantic comedies. The power of love at first sight, and first kisses, are powerful and captivating emotions. So where does that magic come from, and when you’re struggling to find any, what do you do?
Certainly, you write about not being able to write. I’d wager 99%, or more, of blogs that touch on anything of a personal nature have a post somewhere that laments the author’s struggles with the creative process. I’ve been thinking I need to get outside of the house to write, to get away from the same walls and the same desk I do everything else at. Clear my head of all the clutter and daily tasks that invite themselves into my brain when I’m in the familiar surroundings and focus on what I want to be doing. One day I hope to have a dedicated area, and computer, for writing. No bills waiting to be paid, or amazon.com gifts waiting to be cashed. In the meantime, on my way to and from the kitchen to refill my coffee cup today I remember I needed to add eggs to the grocery list, put some groceries away that were sitting on the table, checked to see if any of the plants needed watering, and noted that I needed to clean the litter box. By the time I returned to my computer, my train of thought had gone off in a billion different directions, which caused me to think to check Facebook and Twitter rather than returning directly to the post I was writing.
I find outside stimulates me more, but as much as I enjoy cold weather it’s not comfortable to sit outside in it for the period of time needed to write anything useful. So this week I’m going to take the netbook out to a Starbucks or a food court and try to focus on writing without distraction. It’s not my usual computer so perhaps I can avoid checking Twitter and other time-wasting activities and concentrate. Perhaps the flow of strangers and activity around me will break me from my rut and provoke that creative spark. Hopefully it’ll put me in the path of new experiences and new thoughts that will then flow out of my brain and into cohesive sentences. Wish me luck!
You see those silly stickers, the white ovals with the black writing, all over the place. There is a marathon one, simply saying 26.2. I mocked up this 25.6 one, which is a common size for a bottle of beer. It is also the amount of ounces in a fifth, or fifth of a gallon. This was a common size for liquor in the United States, until regulations changed it over to metric fifths; 750 milliliter bottles, which are 7 ml smaller.
Beer is not subject to the same sort of regulations as distilled alcohol, which is perhaps why breweries occasionally make fifths of beer. Between this and pints, beer has retained much of the English system of measurement. One day the world will be fully metric and my proposed 25.6 sticker will be a quaint bit of nostalgia.
Without any spoilers..
It’s been years in the making, but the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (With much help from Brandon Sanderson) finally came to an end this month with the final book, A Memory Of Light. I enjoyed the book a lot, and initially read it slowly letting my mind process and enjoy it. However, once I got to the Last Battle and the final conclusions we’d all been waiting for for decades, I couldn’t put it down and read the final 300 or so pages at once, until 1:30 in the morning. Luckily there is a lot of action and plot development in this book, something that’s not as present in other books of the series.
This actually has the effect of making the book feel rushed. Robert Jordan created such an expansive world that he kept taking us down new branches of story, to the point that it was difficult to see the end coming. Certainly this make people disgruntled, even though I often wish my favorite books didn’t have to end. It’s often about the journey more than the destination. So when Robert Jordan died, despite promising he would get to the point, it took Sanderson three books to wrap it up, and he probably needed more. There were a lot of interesting story lines that I felt could’ve been expanded on, but perhaps I’m just used to it taking multiple books for things to play out.
I’d love to see more from Sanderson, or even another author, in this world. There are plenty of untold stories along the way like a prequel based on Tam’s journey, and there are plenty of adventures that could be expected to take place after. Even knowing what’s coming, a couple of books on the world leading up to the sealing of the Dark One in his prison and the Breaking of the world could be a good read. I know Brandon Sanderson is not Robert Jordan, but I think he did an admiral job with the three final books. It’s a tricky thing to do, but I arrived at the end of the book satisfied with it. There were sad moments and triumphant ones, expected conclusions and some interesting twists. (At least if you hadn’t endlessly nitpicked every sentence of the previous 13 books already) Ultimately, I felt it a believable ending even if it’s not exactly how I would’ve expected it to go.
Without revealing anything, I felt the ending/epilogue was a little short. The book tries to touch on each and every character in some way, but there is a lot left unresolved and it feels like there was a little too much lingering on one or two secondary/minor characters than others. I understand the idea of wanting to leave the world very open ended, I just felt like there was a thread or two that needed to be tended to.
Overall, it was bittersweet to see the series finally come to an end. I enjoyed it immensely, even the meandering books in the middle. Thank you Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and now bring on the next epic fantasy series! I welcome suggestions on what to read next. I’m up to date on the Dresden Files, and The Song of Ice and Fire. Who’s the next Robert Jordan?
I had the chance to get out to Astoria to visit Singlecut Beersmiths this weekend and check out the beer. I was not disappointed. I don’t have to tell you how craft beer has taken off over the last decade or so, and like so many other tidal waves of change, it washes up a lot of muck along with the gems. We’ve all tasted those craft beers that are merely “Not Bud” or simply ordinary, so when a new brewery opens up it’s not uncommon to meet it with a little skepticism and wait to see if they’re going to do more than create pale imitations of the popular craft beers already in the market. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with Singlecut.
The beersmiths put care and effort into crafting these delicious beers, and it shows. They had four on tap when I got there, and they’ve got two IPAs coming very soon. Forward to back is the 19-33 Lagrrr!, the Jån Olympic White Lagrrr!, the John Michael Dark Lyric Lagrrr!, and the Dean Pacific Northwest Mahogany Ale. The 19-33 was a crisp Czech-style pilsner, enjoyable although basic. The Jån is described as a uniquely hued and flavored Lagrrr! and you can see it’s opaque like a hefeweizen. Their blog says it’s brewed with Matzoh Meal. It was delicious, and the one my three companions enjoyed the most. It’s still a lager and enjoys all the qualities of a lager, but with a richness and flavor akin to a wheat beer. Next up is the Dark Lyric, which was my favorite. I’ve been on a black lager and black IPA kick for a while though, so perhaps that swayed my vote. Dark Lyric did not disappoint, providing a moderately hoppy beer with a gentle roastiness to it. Lastly, for now, was the Dean Pacific NW Mahogany Ale. This one was extremely hoppy, perhaps too much for the style, but I like hops and don’t care about defined styles so I’m not complaining. The bitterness masks some of the other flavor you’d expect so it trended more towards an amber than a brown, but the Pacific Northwest is known for hops so it’s not unexpected.
We visited at four on a Saturday and the place was pretty crowded. It was a neat little place that seems to be drawing a lot of interest. They had barrels stacked in the fermentation, and I’m told they were a Bock being aged in rum barrels, so I’m excited to try that in the future. They framed some of the bags of malt they used in the beer and hung them on the walls, which was a neat idea. The record player and records for music was a nice touch as well, and fitting with the music theme. I appreciate the quirky descriptions of their beers (check the list on the website) but could’ve used some more basic tasting notes, beyond just IBU and ABV, both on the website and at the tasting room. I overheard some talk about a homebrew club on weekends and noticed one of the guys behind the bar with a Brewstoria shirt (who is also the foursquare mayor), and although I’m not going to go over the bridge for such a thing, it’s a good idea.
All in all I enjoyed my visit to Singlecut and recommend checking it out. Particularly if you’re a Queens native looking to support local businesses. (especially if you’re say, a professional baseball team?)
Yesterday I went to Taphouse Grille in Wayne, NJ for their second anniversary rare beer event. Great beer list.
Obviously my first problem was trying to figure out what not to order. One person by himself, who has to drive home after, can only have so many special beers on a Wednesday evening. Some of them I’d had already, like Ithaca Excelsior! fourteen and Flying Fish Exit 4. Both of those are breweries I love and pay close attention to. Next I ruled out the barleywines, even though some sounded good, because I generally don’t care for the style.
I went with the hyper-local beer, which must have been added after that list I linked; Cricket Hill Smoked Rye, small batch. Cricket Hill is brewed in Fairfield, NJ which is only a stone’s throw from the Taphouse. I like rye beers, and I like smoked beers, so this seemed a great choice. It didn’t blow me away or anything, but I did enjoy it immensely and it got better with each sip. It had a nice amount of smokiness, and almost a wet mossy maltiness to it.
I agonized over my second choice, and ultimately went with something I knew wouldn’t be made again: Firestone Walker XVI. This is almost the opposite of local, since it’s brewed in California, but I do have a friend from that area and I visited one of the restaurants when I was out there for a wedding. They make good beer, and the anniversary ale was no exception. I was happy of my choice, getting to taste a truly special beer. It was served in a 10oz snifter glass and even that may have been a tad much. XVI is a beer that was aged in 226 oak barrels and was a blend of eight different beers. To say the taste was complex is an understatement, and the brewery’s description of the beer is pages long! There were so many nuances to it that it was like sipping a rich expensive bourbon. Each sip is a new discovery of flavor, and it packs a rich bourbony punch. That you can get this experience at a fraction of the cost in beer is part of what’s so wonderful about beer. This was the best blended beer I’ve ever had and has me wondering if I can still find a bottle of it locally somewhere.
Near misses: I trust Founders to make good beer, so I was intrigued by Double Trouble. Epic’s Smoked and Oaked looked good, but one smoked beer is enough. The Terrapin Reunion Ale ’12 with cocoa nibs, vanilla, and cinnamon sounded great, and if I see it again it’s going to be my first choice.
Weight loss is a popular resolution this time of year, and it’s a good one too. Being healthier in general is always a good goal, no matter what prompts the decision to lose some weight and eat healthier. This does not mean you have to give up beer.
Clearly having routine happy hours at the bar and drinking many beers in a day is not conducive to losing weight, but having a beer with dinner or on it’s own is not a deal-breaker. There are a variety of health benefits of drinking beer, but even just looking at it from a calorie standpoint, beer is not the enemy.
While the more alcohol in the beer the more calories it’s likely to have, the average craft beer probably has between 150 and 250 calories. In a diet where you’re eating healthier and working out to burn more calories, one beer a few times a week is not going to tip the scales against you. Being able to still enjoy a tasty beverage is a good way to keep yourself motivated to stick to your resolution. After all, how tough can it be if you can still enjoy a beer? As with most things, moderation is the key.
The trick is to make the beer the indulgence, and perhaps the sole indulgence. Some people might tell themselves they can have a sweet treat once in a while as a reward. Others don’t want to give up a Sunday morning donut ritual with friends. For some, beer can be that treat. I find I can pour myself a beer and it lasts. While i’m drinking it I do not feel the desire to snack or munch on other things, and I can certainly watch television or do other tasks around the house while I’m drinking it. It’s a relatively low calorie treat that I’m enjoying over a lengthy amount of time. To balance it out, I try to stick to a rule of only enjoying the beer on days I go to the gym. This links the treat to the exercise and gives me motivation to get my workout in.
Ultimately the only true way to lose weight is to consume less calories than you burn, and fitting a beer into the consumption list is not at all difficult.
I apologize if someone has thought of, and done, this already.
More and more we’re getting some terrific beers aged in a variety of wine and alcohol barrels. (And certainly there have been plenty that aren’t that great and the barrel is just a gimmick, but you tend to get that in any popular technique) These vary from whiskey, rum, bourbon, etc. Often these barrels are near the end of their life cycle, which is part of what caused them to make their way to breweries in the first place.
What I’d like to see is a partnership instead of acquiring cast-offs. I’d love to see these barrels alternated between beer and spirits. Obviously this will be tougher to do for some of the longer aging spirits, but there are some that have shorter aging periods. Age a rum, then age an imperial stout in that barrel, and then age the rum in the barrel again. I think the right beer could add an interesting twist to the rum, and the alternating nature of the aging process might create some intriguing tastes.
Had a chance to see a screener of Django Unchained Tuesday night, and I was very impressed; great movie.
Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago. Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of “Candyland,” an infamous plantation. Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie’s trusted house slave.
The movie was fairly predictable in that you had no doubt it was a Quentin Tarantino film. It had the violence and bloodshed, the cinematic elements, the melee, crazy costumes and even crazier scenarios. The transitions and soundtrack are typical as well, but with Tarantino typical typically also means awesome and Django Unchained is no exception. You should probably know by now if you like Tarantino films and really that’s all you need to know in order to decide if you should see this one or not.
The acting was excellent too. We know Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson are great actors, but Christoph Waltz did an amazing job in his role of the ruthlessly apologetic bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz as well.
The movie is listed as a drama and a western, but it has plenty of humorous moments as well. Not least of which is a scene with Jonah hill and a Klan wardrobe malfunction, or pre-Klan since 1858 may have been too early for them. The music is wonderfully anachronistic and hilarious. I know there are allusions to other westerns, like Blazing Saddles, but having not seen many westerns I couldn’t point them specifically but I could sense a familiarity to the dialogue and the audience chuckles gave it away.
The plot itself starts with Django being rescued and then spends some time with the bounty hunter bit and character development before it takes off to Candie-land in a Bondesque infiltration mission to find, rescue, and free Django’s wife Broomhilda; this is where DiCaprio and Jackson come in. The events are mostly predictable, but it doesn’t take anything away from the movie and you’re kept wonderfully entertained and in suspense about what’s happening.
It seems like many movies are earmarked for at least awards nominations before they’re even completed these days. It comes off as an inner-circle a popularity contest sometimes, but Django Unchained was probably the best movie I’ve seen all year, so I’ll be happy to see it get that type of recognition.
These past two Sundays, you’ve been able to shop in New Jersey. This includes Paramus, despite additional town bans on Sunday shopping. They tried to fight the temporary lifting of the blue laws, but were denied. Kudos to County Executive Kathleen A. Donovan for requesting the lifting of the ban, Governor Christie for agreeing and for being a supporter of businesses open on Sunday, and for Judge Menelaos Toskos for denying Paramus’ aim to appeal it.
Now it’s time to make it permanent. There is some evidence that Christie has wanted to do so, and the number $65 million has been floated as additional sales tax revenue. In addition to the tax revenue is the work hours required to man shops on Sunday. With the economy and unemployment rates what they are, this would be a much needed boon.
The country is moving forward, and it’s time for anti-capitalist laws like the Bergen County blue laws to be repealed permanently. It only hurts local businesses, as in the 21st century shopping is not difficult. People can purchase pretty much anything online, or drive outside of the county to a different one, or to New York. This means extra unnecessary driving which is bad for the environment, bad for people that want to run a quick errand and bad in times of gas shortages. It means less revenue for New Jersey as a whole, and I could see where if the state and county made more money, tax-hikes could be avoided. It does create less traffic in Paramus and major routes through the county on Sunday, but that’s not much boon to travelers who have nowhere to go with everything closed. It also worsens crowds on Saturdays, when everyone that needs to shop is forced to do so. Supermarkets and other essential businesses that are allowed to open on Sundays are more crowded because shoppers do what they have to Saturday, leaving what they can do Sunday for Sunday. Opening businesses would create more total shoppers and cars and travelers, but it would spread it out over a longer period and across more shop as well. It’s also unfair to residents who work Monday through Friday and follow the Jewish Sabbath on Saturdays.
I do feel for residents that live right next to the malls and busy shopping areas, but if you were really looking for a peaceful area one day a week isn’t doing it for you. It’s time to stop getting in the way of businesses and their freedom to operate in this county.
With Hurricane Sandy forcing many towns in the northeast to postpone Halloween, it seems worth pondering a permanent change. Halloween’s connection to All Saints’ Day or a particular religious event is really only academic. Functionally, the holiday would make a lot more sense for everyone if it occurred on Saturday.
I’d suggest the last Saturday in October would be the best time to celebrate, although timing it with the first Saturday in November and the changing of the clocks could work too. Many parties and celebrations take place on the weekend anyway so why not do the same with the whole holiday? Parents that work either have to take off or take their children trick or treating after they get home from work when it’s already dark out in most of the country. More people would be home to give out candy as well, and if families prefer a different celebration, organizing or attending a party is much easier on a Saturday afternoon.