Archive for February, 2010

Meditation on Wil Wheaton

This is part of a series of posts about people from whom I am learning:

Wil Wheaton says “don’t be a dick.” It’s a philosophy he promotes and practices. More than that, he’s an energetic creator who strives to promote positivity and enthusiasm by creating fun, funny, touching things and spreading them to his friends and fans. He’s always creating—when it’s hard, when it’s tough, when it’s easier not to, he’s always making something new to post, to share, to publish. He writes, he records, he acts, he puts himself out there and it pays off for him. I’m learning from Wil how to be funny and self-deprecating without undermining my own position, my own right to be me. I’m learning, by talking with Wil, to respect my own needs as an artist—as silly as it feels to say that—and to believe that being a mensch and treating readers right may be enough to turn good writing and hard work into success. Maybe.

And then, today, he demonstrates his enthusiasm again with this valentine to Twitter, and says it as well as I wish I could. His enthusiasm spreads and warms like good scotch. Let’s get drunk.

LOST: “What Kate Does”

Last night’s episode, “What Kate Does,” is an unlikely sequel to Season 2′s “What Kate Did.” While I found the alternate-timeline story to be full of unbelievable holes, and the whole episode a tiny increment of forward movement, we got some great dramatic buttons (“I just lied to him, didn’t I?” “…Yes.”) and an ending that does leave me hungry for next week, so… job done.

Watch out: Spoilers.

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Caprica: “Reins of a Waterfall”

Caprica City's Beautiful Anachronisms

Caprica City's Beautiful Anachronisms

This week’s episode, “Reins of a Waterfall,” feels like we’re laying more groundwork for upcoming stories. For the second hour of a series that needs to build and explain twelve planets’ worth of new material, though, this is fine.It’s not unusual for soaps, like Caprica, to have episodes that further the stakes and add complications without having a strong, self-contained story, and I feel like that’s what’s happening here.

Here we go with bullet points for the episode. I know I’m skewing mostly towards the world-building aspects of the show and away from the storytelling, but as episodes unfold, it’s clear where a lot of my interest in this series lies. I’m hoping to get more enmeshed in the narrative as things go on, but I’m not here to predict what will happen next, but to look at how the show is put together and what sort of creative choices (and dramatic questions) are made along the way.

Spoilers ahoy.

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A Post About Scotch

The other night, I attended a Scotch tasting at Atkins Park, here in Atlanta’s Virginia Highlands neighborhood. Atkins Park is a nice joint, full of dark hardwoods, and the site of Atlanta’s oldest continually licensed tavern. There we — being a bunch of old friends from CCP and I — drank a dram each of Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Talisker, Oban, Singleton, and Cragganmore, to get a sampling of single-malts from across most of Scotland’s discrete whisky-making regions.

When I mentioned this on Twitter, Chuck Wendig suggested I write about it. So here I am. If you’d rather, you could go watch something like the Three Sheets episode on Scotland. I’m not the boss of you.

(A note here about links: I don’t have a favorite whisky site, so I’ve linked mostly to two general sources. One is Wikipedia, the other is the official website for these spirits — watch out for biases.)

Scotch is an acquired taste, but can be as fun to drink and parse as wine, if you’re so inclined. To me, it’s like a drinking in a sense of place, and since that place is Scotland, you know I dig it. It’s about downing the distilled essence of a landscape, tasting the waters and grains and peats of a far-away land; about turning Scotland into smoke and fluid and taking it in through your nose and mouth.

It’s a form of vicarious travel. More aptly, it’s a form of vicarious travel that gets you drunk. So, yeah, I like it a lot.

Let’s talk a little bit about that word, whisky. Near as I can tell, whisky (no “e”) is the word for the stuff that comes from Canada and from everywhere east of Ireland. Whiskey (with the “e”) comes from Ireland and America. Scotch whisky, sometimes (often) just called Scotch, is whisky that comes from Scotland.

Bourbon, by comparison, is a whiskey from the States, or more strictly, from Kentucky, or more strictly, from Bourbon County, Kentucky.

What we were given the other night was a sampling from the Classic Malts collection of single-malt whiskies, owned by Diageo, and the evening had a bit of a sales-pitch vibe to it, for better or worse. (But the price was low for all these whiskies and paired foods, so I’m not complaining.) If the goal was to get me to buy more Scotch, it worked. But I was buying Scotch anyway, so whatever.

A very rough guide to the origin regions of Scotch whisky.

A very rough guide to the origin regions of Scotch whisky.

Officially, according to the Scotch Whisky Association, Scotch comes from one of five regions: the Lowlands, the Highlands, Islay (I’ve been saying is-lay, but it’s eye-luh), Speyside, and Campbeltown (note my typo in the graphic at right). Practically, the Island region (technically a subregion of the Highlands, I guess) is sometimes counted as a region unto itself. In fact, I thought it was a region unto itself until I set out to write this thing, so either I was wrong before or I’m wrong now. Have a dash of salt — I’m not yet a renowned whisky writer.[1]

• We were started off with a Glenkinchie and soda, which was rather a disappointment. We came to taste Scotches, not Scotch-like cocktails. As a result, I can’t tell you much about Glenkinchie’s taste, except that it can’t be too dark or smokey, as the glass I was handed was all but clear. Glenkinchie is one of the few Lowland distilleries left, but I can’t tell if it’s typical of the region or not. I’ll report back when I know more.

Our cocktail was served with a pasty parmesan shortbread cookie that was helped bring out the brightness of the drink when it wasn’t crumbling down the front of my sweater.

• Next up, the lovely Lagavulin, an iconic Islay. This was one of my favorites, already: a smooth, dark, smoke-filled whisky. Peaty; a little like drinking a bog, in all the best ways. A little bit of water or a single rock of ice and this thing opens way up — it’s a great Scotch to learn with, as it tastes pretty distinctly different neat and with water. Good stuff.

This was served with a blue-cheese risotto ball, but I missed out on those because they didn’t bring enough for the table. They looked and smelled good, though.

• After that: Talisker (10-years old, I believe), the Scotch of the Isle of Skye. I’m a sucker for these island Scotches, it turns out. I started paying attention to Scotch when I bought a bottle of Scapa on Orkney island, so it may have helped to set my palate for the stuff. Talisker’s light and airy, nicely smokey, with a salty edge. I thought I’d had it before, but this isn’t what I remembered. Damn good, though — possibly my next bottle, if I don’t go for something peatier.

Our Talisker came paired with a bacon-wrapped oyster, perhaps to remind us how the flavor mates well with seafood, maybe just to evoke a rich, ocean-side sense of place. Welcomed, either way.

Maybe it’s just me, but Talisker sounds like the name of a rogue cop (“You’re a loose cannon, Talisker!”).

• I’ve been wanting to try Oban (oh-bin) for a while, and now I have. It’s a Highland whisky with profuse flavor and a rounded character, not too dark and not too bold.I drank mine neat, but if I was smart I would’ve put a rock in it to see how that affected the taste.

We were served a slice of an unidentified fruit with this, and whatever it was did the trick. The Oban came off much brighter and more floral with that taste still swimming around. Good stuff. I’ll get this again soon, I hope.

• On to Cragganmore.  This one’s from the Speyside region, and struck me as being mellow with its smoke yet pretty flavorful overall. I prefer a smokier, peatier Scotch, though. To be honest, my recollection of this one’s pretty vague, and that’s pretty telling. Either it didn’t pack much punch, or I was getting slippery by this point. Probably both.

This was served with slices of bread melted with mozzarella and pancetta, which were delicious. The effect of the pairing was lost on me, though, as I pretty much ate these and then drank my drink, in that order.

• We ended with the Singleton, also from the Speyside region. The website says this thing was a big hit when it debuted, but to me it tasted too much like bourbon to scratch my itch for Scotch. Don’t get me wrong, I drank this and the dose served to a friend of mine, who rejected it for its bourbon-ness, but I won’t be ordering this anytime soon…

…unless, maybe, it comes with more of the soft, juicy rabbit sausage this was paired with. That was tasty. The pairing effects may have been lost on me by then, but I didn’t find the Singleton opening up much with its flavors. I just remember, “Mmmm, sausage,” and saying, “Sure, I’ll finish your glass.”

Some of us faded the evening out with a nightcap at the Indy — a black velvet for me — and, all told, it was a stellar evening. Let’s do it again sometime.

[1]The fella who led our tasting, though, mentioned a few “whisky writers” that night, and now that I have heard the phrase I cannot shake it. How does one become a whisky writer? If the answer is “by trying real hard,” then stand back, because I may have a new goal to chase.

Caprica: “Rebirth”

Caprica

Caprica

Here we are, with Caprica the series finally unfolding before us. I’ve been looking forward to this for months, with an audience’s curiosity and a writer’s. I’m eager to try and write a spec script for this series, to get under its hood, and to see what choices the writers make when expanding and deepening this world they’re creating. So I’m planning on giving Caprica the same treatment I give Lost: a weekly musing on what I’ve seen.

I don’t have cable, though, and the show’s on a days-long delay on Hulu and iTunes, so I won’t be able to get around to these posts until just before the next episode airs. Bear with me.

Naturally, spoilers follow.

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