Monday, December 29, 2014

To 2015 in a handbag

So yesterday My Good Friend F and I went out on our annual Legendary Christmas Extravaganza. It was a little disappointing, to be honest.

Look, if you go out on actual Christmas day, there's a special atmosphere. People know it's a weird day to go out, and they're willing to make the most of it. There hasn't been a Christmas when we didn't meet some strangers who were willing to make some new friends for one night. Because it is a special night. (Isaac Newton's birthday, obviously.)

But if you go out on The Sunday Three Days After Christmas, like we did this time, you get a bunch of people who look like they're having just one more beer before they have to go back to their Excel sheets and their knitting.

I noticed a weird thing when we walked into the first bar. Everybody there was arranged in a neat pattern of straight lines. The people at the bar were all sitting upright in almost the same position, and the tables on the other side all had exactly four people sitting straight and talking calmly. Nobody was standing or walking in-between. It was pretty mathematical.

Adventure Time fanart

It also probably didn't help that F had to fit this in between visiting his mother in Friesland and visiting his in-laws in Serbia. I think he's on a plane right now.

And I was in a weird mood. Look, I've spent Christmas with my girlfriend for the past six years, but we broke up a few weeks ago. So everything is kind of different and weird. I had a short discussion about politics with F, which I literally never do because I'm very bad at disagreeing with people. I got irritated and ugh the mood was gone and I wasn't even feeling drunk anymore and I couldn't even downvote him because real life has a disappointing lack of clicky buttons.

F did have a pretty good theory about evolution though. Something about animals learning to make tools, developing a computer and using it to crack open nuts. Yeah, it's just a theory.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 just won't end

And now a word from our sponsors.

TripAdvisor would like to point out that this photo of The Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Let's talk about Trappist beers. Somebody somewhere once said that the best way to learn is to teach, so I'll try to edumacate you, and myself in the process.

(Last year around this time, on our annual Christmas outing with My Good Friend F, I bought us and some strangers we'd met a round of Westvleteren. Set me back like fifty euros or something. But goddamn it's worth it, and I might make it a tradition. We're going out again this year, tonight or tomorrow. Always fun.)

So what is a Trappist? Well, something something monks, vow of silence blah blah Belgium, etcetera boring whatever. Just check Wikipedia.

Well I just checked Wikipedia, and it turns out that, contrary to popular belief, Trappist monks do not take a vow of silence. They do have a Trappist sign language though, 'cos they're not big on talking. And they think laughter is evil? Hahahaha srsly wut. Well that'll teach me, for wanting to learn stuff. Let's point at them and laugh.

Just follow the instructions and you'll be fine

Anyway, back to beer. Check out this episode of the Beer Hunter on Youtube, made in olden times (1989). He visits the monasteries of La Trappe and Chimay, and also Brouwerij 't IJ and a bar in Amsterdam, and some more Dutch microbrewers. Also there's a young monk who goes red in the face after drinking one Triple. It's kind of adorable.

So what's new in the world of Trappists? A whole bunch of stuff, actually. First of all, Westvleteren, generally considered the best beer in the world, always used to come in a bottle without a label. But it looks like that's about to change in 2015. To comply with European rules, they have to put a lot more information about the ingredients on the bottles, and it won't all fit on the bottle cap anymore.

Critics have pointed out that this may be the end of civilization as we know it.

Also, there's a bunch of new Trappists! Oh by the way, to make sure that a beer is really a Trappist, look for this logo:

Image courtesy of... Well jeez if you can't figure that out there's not much hope for you really

Here's a list of all Trappist beers: dummy text to link to a list of all Trappist beers

And here's a newspaper clipping I thought was funny:

From Bad Newspaper

Back to Trappist beers again. Big news: there's now an American Trappist beer! Specifically, it's brewed in Spencer, Massachusetts, by monkeys? No wait, monks. Well that makes a lot more sense.

Ok my mind is wandering all over the place. Maybe I shouldn't drink beer while writing, but come on. I got a huge bottle of La Chouffe for taking care of that one huge hamster, and this is the perfect moment for making it gone.

Speaking of which, and in addition to my previous post, you should check out Drunk History. Warning: there's real puking in that video... But also the quote "Tesla was the electric Jesus." Every episode they get a famous(ish) person drunk, and get them to tell us about a piece of the history of where they live. And it's re-enacted with lip-synching.

Anyway, new Trappist beers. There's an Austrian monastery, Stift Engelszell, brewing Gregorius, Benno, and I guess Jubiläumsbier but that sounds temporary.

Also there's Zundert. Ugh this is taking way too long and I'm out of Chouffe. I don't know if you can tell but I write really slowly. I'm going to clean out a hamster cage. Later, everybody (one person who may be reading this).

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Still 2014

So, what have you been doing over the past year? Really? How interesting. Actually it was a rhetorical question, but... No by all means, go on. Huh. With sharks you say? Isn't that illegal? Yeah but... I mean, how do you even know that it's consensual? Well that's a good point. Still, it sounds a bit fishy. HAHAHA GET IT? Sorry no, I didn't mean to... Go on. Oh that was it? Huh. Well I really don't know what to... Yeah, no I won't tell anyone. You wouldn't want to... Exactly. Yeah. Well that was unexpected. Good story though.

ANYWAY, here's what you should have been doing in 2014:

Listening to the Serial podcast.
"The most popular podcast of all time" (so far) may not be the type of thing that appeals to you, but it does mean that millions of people are adding at least dozens of perspectives to a real murder case, that may or may not have gone the way the prosecutor and the police want you to believe it did.
Hae Min Lee, an 18 year old high school student in Baltimore, was murdered in 1999. Adnan Syed, her ex-boyfriend, was convicted for the crime and is currently in prison for life. Did he do it? Who the hell knows. Should he have been convicted? I don't think so. Should we blithely speculate about things that deeply affect real people's lives? Um...
I think the answer is yes, actually. It brings some much needed attention to things we might otherwise take for granted, concerning the (U.S.) justice system, truth, subjectivity, justice, and the American Way.

And if you like Serial, you may also like:
The documentary series "Up" by Michael Apted. I mean, it's very different from Serial, bur it's real, and my god it's brilliant. In 1964, British broadcaster Granada Television commissioned a documentary film about fourteen 7 year old British children, and Apted has been revisiting them every seven years (and filming them) to see how they were getting on. In the most recent installment, two years ago, they were all 56 years old, and if like me you've watched every installment, they are like old friends. Yes, even you, John. Please keep participating. We honestly do appreciate it.

Watching Soul Mates.
Australian comedy series about two men who are friends through different periods of history. Four periods, to be precise. Just watch some clips: Cavemen Discover Addiction (to spinning around really fast), Kiwi Assassins: The New Zealand Munustry of Dufinse, "Fuck the Banks" by the Bondi Hipsters, and there's a future time travel agency, but I couldn't find any clips of that on Youtube... I guess you'll have to watch the show to find out how they manage to undo all of Christianity.

And if you like Soul Mates, you may also like:
Flight of the Conchords, the Mighty Boosh, and you should really already be familiar with the IT Crowd you philistine.

Watching Jane the Virgin.
A playful take on a Venezuelan telenovela, Jane the Virgin mixes lighthearted fun with sincere depth. Centered around, and anchored firmly by, three generations of Latina women in Miami, the show can afford to be silly without losing sight of what's important. And silly it, um, affords. I particularly enjoy Rogelio (Jaime Camil), the completely shallow but well-meaning telenovela star (it's a show within the show!) who is physically incapable of talking about anything other than himself. Check out the character's Twitter! And then, you know, watch the show.

And if you like Jane the Virgin, you may also like:
Twin Peaks! Yeah that's right, I said it.

X14 part B

This is a Christmas Blog by the way. I only blog at Christmas.

Xmas 2014

You know, I wish I had some thoughts. This would be the perfect place to write them down.

Note to whoever left two hamsters at my place: they're totally fine, not trying to kill each other at all. Although I kinda remember there used to be three of them? Could be wrong though.

Note to whoever used to be my girlfriend for the past six years: ah what can I say. Hope you're doing well, I really do.

Note to whoever is reading this: do you know anyone in New York City? I really want a .nyc web URL thingy, but they're only available to people with a physical NYC address. So I wish I knew someone there.

In fact, considering how obsessed I am with the city, I wouldn't mind making some online friends there anyway. I might look into that.

Speaking of which, can you BELIEVE they're replacing the wooden Boardwalk on Coney Island with concrete? It's been there since 1923, and it should damn well stay there. Coney just wouldn't be Coney without it. Please sign the petition on to have it designated a NYC Scenic Landmark. Because it is a damn landmark.

Coney Island's Riegelmann Boardwalk (via wikipedia)