Sunday, May 30, 2010

The making of chili ale - continued

I didn't expect to have an update for a few days, but this stuff is getting spicy. Hopefully I'll be able to tell you how the finished product tastes by next weekend.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Comics Roundup for 5/26/10

Secret Avengers #1 - This was a fun first issue, but that's not surprising at all. I guess the only criticism that I might have of this is that it feels a lot like an extension of Brubaker's Captain America, but considering how much I love that title, that's not really a negative. Anyway, they've assembled a pretty interesting crowd of characters here, and I don't think that I'd be all that interested if it weren't for the creative team (Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato) involved here. I bet that we won't get the whole cast every issue, as I can't imagine every situation calling for spies like The Black Widow and Moon Knight, a scientist like The Beast, and a space-traveling Nova (not to mention War Machine, Valkyrie, and Steve "Super Soldier" Rogers). Still, unlike Dark Avengers, which this one replaces in some respects, I can see this one having some legs beyond the whole Age of Heroes storyline running through Marvel's books.

Green Lantern #54 - It's good to see that the whole issue with all of the various colored lanterns hasn't gone away with the end of Blackest Night, and we also got a little bit more about this mysterious new villain, along with some more information about the White Lantern. Honestly though, I don't think I can remember what happened in the last issue of this series versus what happened in the Brightest Day series. Hopefully that title will remain a compelling read, as I wouldn't want this, one of my favorite comics, to start getting all confusing.

The Amazing Spider-Man #632 - This was a really compelling read, and Chris Bachalo's rather unconventional way of laying out a page was more fitting than distracting this time. I do have to wonder if everybody who reads this issue would necessarily get what's going on with the Lizard's new ability, as it didn't seem to be really well-explained. I got it because I 1) have read the early appearances of the character and 2) know that we still have a lot of reptile genes in our DNA. Essentially, the Lizard is once again using his power to control reptiles, but now it has been expanded to communicate with mammals, as he's been able to tap into the reptile part of our brains. Pretty cool...pretty cool.

Thor #610 - Apparently there isn't any mayo in Valhalla, and even if a goddess can see into its halls, she cannot be with a slain loved one. That was probably my favorite moment in this series, as the bit where Thor fights his clone from Civil War just felt like it was wrapping up loose threads. It seems like Kieron Gillen is going to be sticking around for a few more issues than the original plan. That's fine by me.

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #37 - They stole my idea! I always wanted to read an "untold tale" of Spider-Man meeting Captain America for the first time, and I thought about it real hard. Apparently they read my mind and stole my idea! Heh. Seriously though, this was just a matter of time, and it was handled pretty well. It also answers a really good question - if Cap has so much respect for Spider-Man, which he obviously does, why hasn't he used his good name to help Spidey's rather crappy reputation in the media? Aside from that, it was good to see an official "Untold Tale" from the original team behind the now-classic Untold Tales of Spider-Man: Kurt Busiek and Pat Oliff.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 (of 5) - Grant Morrison makes my head spin sometimes, but I dug this tale of Batman versus The Crucible plus a giant squid-monster. It looks like next issue he's going to be a pirate - kooky, crazy stuff.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The making of chili ale

For those of you who like to read my blog, but wish that you didn't have to do all that "reading" crap, here's a video log for my chili ale. Since I had to use cane sugar when I bottled, I'm not even going to open one of these until next weekend. (I understand that it takes longer to carbonate with cane, rather than corn, sugar.) I wonder if they will also need some time for the chili flavor to really sink in. Then again, shouldn't a week pretty much do the trick when you're talking about something like chilies?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Comics Roundup for 5/19/10

I'm going to start this one off with the title that I was looking forward to the most:

Avengers #1 - One thing that I was concerned about with this new series was that we were going to get a long build-up before the new team was established, and that wouldn't finally be in place until issue number four or five. Well, it only took up until page eight to see the new team assembled. It's part classic Avengers with Captain America (albeit the Bucky Cap), Thor, Hawkeye, and Iron Man and part New Avengers with Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine. By this point, it makes sense to have guys like Spidey and Wolverine on the team, considering everything that went down in the last series. Unlike New Avengers, this also felt more like a classic superhero story, and I mean that in the good sense. We have Kang, time travel, and something involving what looks like The Maestro (a future version of The Hulk). There were also some neat team dynamic bits, and I hope that we continue to get a good mixture of all that in the issues to come. Oh, and it's good to see that Steve Rogers, although not in his Captain America gear, is having a huge part to play in this series. In fact, it makes even more sense now why he's not wearing the uniform, and I'm quite content to keep the Bucky Cap for the time being.

The Invincible Iron Man #26 - There's not much to say about this issue, as it's mainly just setting things up for a new storyline. Still, I can say that I find the character's current predicament to be pretty interesting. Basically, Tony Stark has rocketed to the top and gone crashing down to the bottom. He's on his way back up now, and there are a lot of interesting dramatic possibilities.

Batman: Streets of Gotham #12 - I was a little disappointed at first with this story's direction. Basically, it involves a former Mad Hatter henchmen about whom I don't really care. However, I quickly found myself getting into it as it has all sorts of neat twists and turns. Also, there's just enough Batman in it to show that Dick Grayson is filling the cowl rather nicely.

Brightest Day #2 - Even though none of the characters on which this issue focused I could call one of my favorites, there sure were a lot of interesting bits with Firestorm, the Martian Manhunter, and Hawkman. I'm hoping that the next issue will get a little bit more into Aquaman and why he's only able to talk to dead sea creatures now.

Kill Shakespeare #2 - Meh. I loved the idea of this, but I think I'm done. I'm buying too much stuff, and there are a lot of interesting new series coming out, so I don't want to waste my time with something like this. The thing is, maybe I'm just some kind of Shakespeare nerd, but Hamlet just doesn't feel like the Hamlet that I know. I suppose my first sign of this was when in the last issue he was still palling around with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Keep in mind that this was after he had been banished to England, which is right around the time when (in the play) he had no problem sending them to their death, claiming that "They are not near my conscience." This issue has Iago, and he's just a generic villain here. Plus, I have a bad feeling about what they're going to do with Juliet. Yeah, this is probably an about-face from my enthusiasm after reading the first issue, but I think that I was more in love with the idea of the whole thing. Now that it, and a second issue, have sunk in, I think I've lost interest. I'd rather see this artist do a straight-ahead adaptation of one of Shakespeare's works.

Zatanna #1 - Here's a good reason to support a series starring Zatanna: If she gets popular enough, they'll have to make a movie with her. And if they make a movie, they'll have to find an actress who looks like her, and they'll put her in that costume. Nah, that's not really the reason why I bought this, but it sure doesn't hurt. I bought it because Paul Dini is writing it. So far, I like what I've read. Magical characters are tricky, as they have to be able to do some amazing things, but they can't be seen as being able to get out of any given situation or you don't feel like there's any threat. So far, so good.

The Astounding Wolf-Man #23 - Blah issue...blah blah...too bad the series is ending...blah blah...wonder where this is all going...blah blah...nothing new to say...blah blah...still really like it...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Draw Mohammed Day!

Perhaps you've heard it on the news, but certain ultra-fundamentalist religious types really get their shorts in a bunch over the slightest perceived offense. No, I'm not bagging on the Christians again. This time, it's the Muslims - at least, the ones who think that it's their right to attack anybody who draws a cartoon of their prophet.

In protest of this, a Facebook group announced that today is "Draw Mohammed Day". It's a celebration of free speech, and a big "up yours" to any of these loons who think that their religion gives them the right to limit our freedom of expression.

The irony is, from what I understand, there is no specific ban on creating an image of Mohammed in the Koran. Basically, Muslims are just more keenly aware of the notion that creating images of their prophet might lead to idolatry, and they want to avoid that. I mean, there is a history of Islamic depictions of Mohammed. Of course, fundamentalists of any stripe never let things like facts and history get in the way of their world view.

If there wasn't such a huge backlash against these cartoons, then I wouldn't take the time to bother with this sort of a thing. I don't deliberately go out of my way just for the sake of offending people. Besides, I realize that a reasonable Muslim wouldn't even find my picture to be offensive in the first place. After all, I didn't try and do something deliberately provocative like put him in a dress or put a bomb on his head. I actually tried to make him look kind of cool. (How did I "draw" him? I used Hero Machine 2.5.)

I'm sure that there might be some people out there who might point out the folly of me doing this. After all, I use my real name on my blog. Maybe some crazy fundie is going to come and kill me. Well, you know what? I'd rather die than live in a world I'm afraid of offending religious nutjubs. Will some non-crazy Muslims possibly get offended by this as a result? Probably. However, being offended is the price you pay for living in a free society. Look at me. I'm offended all the time.

If you want to know more about this whole thing, which is really getting crazy - to the point where Pakistan is trying to block access to Facebook and YouTube, click Wikipedia's link.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chili Ale is in the works

I've been homebrewing for a few years now, but I have always stuck with the kits. I've never ventured off into creating something that was really my own recipe. The reason for this is that for every kind of beer that I want, I can easily find a kit for it at MoreBeer. Still, there was one style that they don't have one for, and I've been wanting to make a batch for some time, and that's a Chili Ale.

My experience with the style is very limited. While down in Santa Barbara, I tried a Habenero Pilsner that was really awesome. It was really hot, but the coolness and refreshing feeling of the Pilsner instantly put out any fire as soon as it started. When I got back home, I looked for something similar at BevMo, but what I got really wasn't all that great. I can't remember the name of the brand, but let's just say that the only thing good about the beer was the chili flavor. It was basically a really crappy American Macro Lager with a touch of chili pepper taste.

I wrote about my trip to Humboldt County and how I enjoyed the Chili Pepper Ale of Six Rivers Brewery. Ever since then, I have been determined to make a chili ale of my own. I even got some advice from their brewmaster.

I figure that I'm going to blog about the whole process. Last weekend, I brewed up a batch of Blond Ale. From what I learned, you generally want to start with a beer that isn't really jam-packed with flavor as it is. You want something light and refreshing like a wheat beer or what I'm using. Anyway, it's fermenting as I type this. The weekend after next is when I start doing stuff to transform it from a Blonde Ale to a Chili Ale.

As of now, my plan is to put half of it in a secondary fermenter along with maybe about half a pound of peppers. I'll give it a little taste every day until it gets to the level of heat that I want. The other half I plan on bottling, but I'm going to stick some chilis into the bottles. This, of course, will involve me finding some good peppers that are thin enough to easily fit into a bottle. I'm also thinking that I'm going to try grilling a few of those to see what kind of effect I get from that.

Here's hoping that I get something good! At the very least, I should have a pretty decent spicy marinade.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Comics Roundup for 5/12/10

Lots of stuff came out this week. Here's what I got:

Siege #4 (of 4) - This was definitely a satisfying series, as it didn't drag on for too long, and it gave us the ending that's been a long time coming. Of course, it does seem a little hasty that the Superhuman Registration Act has just been completely thrown out, but does anybody want to read Avengers: The Congressional Debates? (An act of Congress thrown out by The President? The Tea Party was right! Obama is becoming a dictator!) It also makes more sense now that Steve Rogers is letting Bucky continue to be Captain America, considering that Rogers is now the top guy in the Marvel Universe. Just like the endings of Civil War and Secret Invasion, this leaves me curious as to what's coming next.

The New Avengers: Finale - Considering that this was one of my favorite series, I was a bit disappointed with this big wrap-up issue. I think that part of it is that Brian Hitch's art has suffered from a decline of late, and this issue is his biggest drop-off yet. I suppose that the story was fine, even though they had to shoe-horn Wolverine back into the mix. Now that the "Dark Reign" is over, I really have to wonder why they're going to reboot this series. I can see why there will be a Secret Avengers, but continuing this series just seems like a way of filling up the shelf space. Still, I'll at least give the first couple of issues a try.

Dark Avengers #16 - Now this is more like it - a finale that doesn't disappoint. The jig is up for the whole villainous gang, even though Dakken gets away. As for Norman Osborn, he's locked up deep down in a prison cell with only his alter ego of the Green Goblin to keep him company. I also thought it was interesting that Steve Rogers decided not to have Victoria Hand suffer the same fate as the rest of the Dark Avengers, and even more interesting, he'll allow her a place in his new regime. That scene was rather well done.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 (of 6) - So this is what happened when Batman got zapped by Darkseid's omega beams. I always assumed that they destroyed the person that they hit, but I guess they send you back into prehistoric times. So why does he hop forward yet again? I don't know, but I hope they explain it. For me the best part of this issue was Chris Sprouse's art; I'm not sure who's doing the next issue, but he'll be a tough act to follow. (I seem to recall reading that the series would have a different artist every issue.) Supposedly in the main Batman book, some more gaps will be filled in - like what happened to Batman between RIP and Final Crisis. I guess I'm going to have to reread everything, because this is a lot to absorb.

The Flash #2 - Now this is more like it. I admitted to not being too enthusiastic about The Flash: Rebirth series, but I did enjoy the first issue of the regular series. This one was probably my favorite comic of the week, and that's saying something considering how much I liked Siege and Dark Avengers. The best part? The Flash races into the library and reads a ton of books on architecture then quickly rebuilds an entire apartment complex that was destroyed in a battle. He does all this as the residents stand there in amazement. What really makes it work is the artwork of Francis Manapul, whose work on Adventure Comics was perfectly serviceable, but this series is a much better fit for his talents.

Batman #699 - Tony Daniel wraps up his writing run before the return of Grant Morrison next issue (and Daniel back on art duties). I'd say that he did a pretty serviceable job, and I wonder if he's going to get to write some more since he left some threads dangling. I wonder if Paul Dini was out of ideas for The Riddler, because Daniel pretty much took over the character. Anyway, this was a fun read, and I liked the part where the one dude turned into a tree.

The Amazing Spider-Man #631 - This issue was decent enough, as it continues the story with The Lizard. Even more interesting, it looks like Kaine is back as well, and he's going to be a part of the whole "Gauntlet" storyline, as he encounters the daughter of Kraven the Hunter. I hope they do a good job of tying all these disparate threads together at the conclusion of this rather large story.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Comics Roundup for 5/5/10

Hellboy in Mexico - Hellboy, vampires, and Mexican wrestlers. What more could you possibly want in a comic book? I've been following the adventures of Mike Mignola's creation ever since the first series, and I don't think that I've ever enjoyed them more than I have lately. Richard Corben also does yet another great job on the artistic end, but I'd still like to see Mignola draw some more adventures of Anung un Rama.

Echo #21 - Terry Moore has created one of the most macabre villains with Hong Liu, the physicist with half a face. It looks like he's met his maker here, but this is not the first time where he supposedly "died". I hope he comes back only to be even more grotesque. Also, Annie, the scientist who died in the first issue has now completely taken over the mind of Julie, the main protagonist of the series. As always, a solid installment of a compelling series.

Astro City: The Dark Age - Book Four #4 (of 4) - I haven't read this one yet. I'm going to sit down and read this entire, epic, sprawling series sometime soon. There's a lot of other stuff that I want to reread, so it might take a while until that happens. Still, some of my favorite comics ever were tales of Astro City, so I'm sure that I won't be disappointed.

The Amazing Spider-Man #630 - The Lizard, one of my favorite villains, is back. This almost has the feel of an episode of Batman: The Animated Series where the villain is pushed into his villainy by a heartless corporate boss. (Seems like some kind of communist indoctrination if you ask me!) I also like the relationship stuff - stuff that could not exist if Spidey was still married, of course. It certainly gives more of a reason for The Black Cat to be in this series anyway. Also, Chris Bachalo's art is good, but sometimes it borders on being a bit confusing, and his panel layouts don't always flow together. Still, it's an improvement over some of the stuff that this series has seen lately.

Batman and Robin #12 - The identity of Oberon Sexton is revealed, and it looks like the villain from RIP is making a comeback. When Bruce Wayne finally gets back to the present, we'll have to have a rematch, I suppose. Not much else to say about this one other than it was enjoyable and I look forward to the next installment.

izombie #1 - It was a buck, so I figured why not? The concept is interesting, as the main character is a zombie who's trying to lead a normal life, but she has to eat human brains once a month in order to not turn into your more stereotypical, mindless zombie. She solves this by working at a graveyard. I'll probably pick up the second issue, as there are some interesting possibilities here - especially since she gains the memories of the people whose brains she eats. Also, it's always nice to see Michael Allred on art. Did he ever finish his Book of Mormon adaptation? I'm still curious about that one, and I might wind up buying it one day.

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine - #1 (of 6) - Normally I'd dismiss a limited series like this as being little more than shelf-filler. Still, I was intrigued enough to check out an online preview. After all, one of my favorite comics of all time is the now-classic Spider-Man Versus Wolverine one-shot from more than twenty years ago. I was impressed enough by the story (Peter and Logan are trapped in prehistoric times) and the art (Adam Kubert) to pick it up. Definitely a fun read, and I'll be getting the next issue as well.

Brightest Day #0 - 1 - I passed on the "zero" issue a couple of weeks ago, but after flipping through issue number one, I became intrigued enough to check this series out. There's a lot of stuff going on here, and there are several protagonists. While some of them I don't really care too much about (Hawk) I'm pretty interested in what's going on with the others (Aquaman in particular). This is a biweekly series that'll last for a year, so I'll have to make sure that I'm really enjoying it if I'm going to continue to get it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Rating the Hamlets - Addendum

About two years ago, I wrote my thoughts on Hamlet in film. Specifically, I discussed my thoughts on four adaptations, which you can read at this link. To quickly summarize it though, I wrote about how I love the Kenneth Branagh version, really like the Mel Gibson one, only somewhat like the Lawrence Olivier film, and somewhat detest the Ethan Hawke movie.

Last night, I finished watching a more recent one, starring David Tennant as the title character, so I wanted to get down my thoughts about that one. Technically, it's not a film like the other four, as it was not released for the theaters. In fact, it was originally a stage production from the Royal Shakespeare Company. The BBC then went and created a made-for-TV movie using all of the actors from the stage production.

I have to admit that when I first heard of this, I wasn't really interested. I've seen the BBC's stage adaptations before, and while I really hate to use this word (as it makes me sound like a teenager with limited vocabulary) they tend to be pretty damned boring. The main problem is that they simply have the actors perform it on a stage, and then you wind up with a very static view of the whole thing. In other words, they're not filmed like movies, and so it doesn't just lack the immediacy of a live performance, but it lacks the dynamic qualities that film can provide.

I changed my mind when I saw a clip on YouTube though. While it certainly doesn't have the production values of a Hollywood film, it seems to me that the producers wanted to avoid the aforementioned problems. You get more camera angles and a lot more movement from the camera than you normally do with these things. Also, in a decision that could have proven to be somewhat cheesy, the camera often gets close up on the actors when they give their soliloquies and asides, and that's the closest you'll ever get to the personal feeling of live theater when you're watching something on your television.

The clip was enough to convince me to pre-order the Blu-Ray. Part of me wondered if I should just settle for the standard DVD, as it wasn't like they were showcasing all kinds of dynamic cinematography like you have with Kenneth Branagh's version. Then again, the Blu-Ray was only a couple bucks more, so I figured why not? I can tell you that I'm glad that I went for it. The picture is crystal clear, and when Hamlet looks into the camera and bemoans his mother's hasty marriage to his uncle, you feel like he's in the room with you. There is also an effective use of black and white contrasts that really come through with high definition.

What about the film itself? I have to say that I was really impressed. Sure, they went and cut some stuff - some of it I can do without like when Claudius talks to Laertes about some Norman who was impressed with Laertes' swordfighting skills. Other stuff I miss, like Fortinbras coming in and becoming the new king while bodies are strewn about the throne room. For me, that bit is crucial as it restores order and lets the audience know that tomorrow will be a better day even though our protagonist has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Still, the acting was top-notch. I might even dare say that I like Tennant better than Branagh in the title role. Branagh can sometimes be a little too whiny and teary-eyed. I like how Tennant plays the scene in the above clip, where he seems more annoyed and angry than anything else. Still, just like any good Hamlet, Tennant manages to convey a wide range of emotions and moods - something that the Olivier version doesn't do enough and that the Hawke version completely lacks.

The other actors did a great job as well, and I found myself laughing out loud when Oliver Ford Davies delivered many of Polonius' lines. He did a great job of making the King's advisor look absent-minded and foolish without making you wonder why Claudius would even want this guy as an advisor. Oh, and speaking of Claudius, I have to say that Captain Picard/Professor X does a great job in the role. Not only that, but he also plays the ghost of Hamlet's dad. I don't know if that's ever been done before, but I think that it creates all sorts of interesting psychological possibilities if the two brothers were also identical twins.

Much like the Ethan Hawke version, this one is given a more modern setting. Hamlet wears jeans and kills Polonius with a gun. Also, the whole motif of spying is showcased using surveillance technology just like in Hawke's Hamlet. This one, however, puts it all to better use. Oftentimes the camera angle changes, and we are made aware that all of Elsinore is littered with cameras. Hamlet even tears one off the wall, making even more sense of why he would start off his second soliloquy with "Now I am alone".

The running time is three hours, so while they do cut some stuff out, they don't cut out much. As for moving things around, there's only one major instance of that. I found it jarring at first, but then I found myself really liking it and even wishing that Shakespeare had done it that way in the first place. Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy and his subsequent falling-out with Ophelia is placed earlier in the play and is immediately followed by when Polonius attempts to question him only to get a series of "pregnant" replies. Considering that during the scene with Ophelia, Hamlet discovers that Polonius is spying on them, (that's the implication from the text, and I always see it interpreted that way) it makes far more sense that Hamlet would be so passive-aggressive toward the old man.

I'm often reluctant to give any sort of absolute statement on my feelings regarding a movie so soon after I've viewed it. However, I think it's safe to say that this very well might be my second-favorite Hamlet. If they were able to have the same production values (and kept Fortinbras in the ending) as Branagh's, it might very well have been my favorite.