Monday, February 28, 2005

Comfort Food

It's a gray, rainy, miserable day in the ATL. What does this mean? Comfort food at the Silver Grill of course! Today I had a breaded pork chop, mashed potatoes, and crowder peas. I tell you, it really hits the spot on a day like today. Special bonus--the cornbread was hot! I need to dwell on the cornbread a minute. I think Kevin stole the recipe from my Granny; it really is that good!

And no, their potato salad still isn't nearly as good as yours Mom.

Darwinism? What the Heck?

Calling them as he sees them... 'Nuff Said.

Iron & Wine

I've been really digging Iron & Wine for a while now. In honor of that, here's a nice interview with Sam Beard.

I'm definitely looking forward to his show at the Variety next month.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Day's Wasted If You're Not

Yesterday, the usual group (plus a few additions) gathered to sample various bits of brown water. I had planned to liveblog the event, but alcohol and blogging probably don't mix very well, so I'm compiling various impressions after I've had a day to think it over and recover.

The first up was the Bowmore 21 year old, islay scotch I mentioned purchasing last week. The cork made quite an impression, but ultimately didn't really relate to the ultimate taste of the scotch. We were all surprised at the smoothness of the expression. It is much milder in taste than its younger counterparts. It had a slight peatiness with a bit of vanilla taste, with a moderate finish. It was everything we had hoped it would be.

Next, we tasted an old favorite: Highland Park 12 year old. The only new reaction came from a newcomer to our tastings: it's a good scotch for someone who doesn't drink scotch. Luckily, Chris refrained from doing it as a shot this time.

Next up, we tried another scotch that was a bit older than we are used to: Glenrothes 20 year old. We've tried Glenrothes expressions before, but not one this old. It had a very light nose, but the taste belied the smell. A very strong first taste on the tip of the tongue led to moderate heat and a clean, crisp finish. A bit of a fruity aftertaste was also observed by a number of the collected brown-water snobs. Also, for the first time in four-odd years, two attendees independently brought the same expression to the tasting. I'm surprised it took this long to be honest, but we all had a laugh about it.

Next, we tasted the Longmorn again (referenced below), before moving to the Glennfiddich Caoran Reserve. I like the latter just as much this time as I did during our impromptu tasting last week. New impression: it was very ashy and ember flavored, almost like waking up the morning after a bonfire party. Christian, in his best Simpson's Ralphie voice, described it a, "this tastes like burning."

Finally, we tasted my favorite--or home--expression: a Laphroaig 15 year old Islay. I don't really know what to add here. It was peaty. It was smoky. It was briny. It was wonderful.

Neko Case, The Sadies, Visqueen

I saw a fantastic concert Saturday night at the Variety Playhouse in L5P. The opening act was Visqueen, and I caught about half of their set. I really liked their aesthetic, though I thought it an odd choice for an opening act for this particular show. Playing very high energy music, they had just been joined by the bass player from the Muffs (not that that can explain their sound). The lead singer's voice (Rachel Flotard) was used like another instrument, sliding up and down the scale in a very effective way.

The Sadies followed Visqueen, performing a short set before backing up Neko Case for the headline set. I hadn't heard anything about them other than their work with Neko Case, but I have say I was very impressed--awesome instrumentalists. They reminded me of a surf-country-punk version of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Once they were joined by Neko, however, they settled gracefully into the background (well mostly).

I'd never seen Neko Case live before, and I have to say that the studio recordings I have don't begin to capture the quality and power of her voice. You could almost feel a collectively gasp from the capacity audience as she began to belt out her first number. She didn't play much of her back catalog (a couple of songs off Blacklisted), but stuck to singing new songs from her latest album, "The Tigers have Spoken." Some of the best songs were the songs she said she had written with The Sadies. My only complaint is that she only played for an hour and 15 minutes. But the music sounded great, despite the fact that she was recovering from the flu. It was one of those odd evenings; I hoped more for the quiet slow numbers because of the quality of her voice and the feel of the songs, even though that is rather opposite than my normal tastes.

All said, if you have an opportunity to see her live, do it.

Friday, February 18, 2005

News from Home

My hometown (or close enough) is making national news these days. In summary, the local school board met this week to consider changing their WRE (weekday religious education) program. This practice has been upheld as constitutional. The program doesn't receive any tax money, and the students meet off the school property in either a nearby church or mobile trailer. The children are there with their parents consent as well. This is not really my point or problem with this news.

Now again, before you go thinking I'm about to go off on a rant here, stop. I participated in this program myself, and my father even had something to do with it as well when I was growing up (raising funds from our church to support it I seem to hazily recall). The only solid memory I have of the whole experience is contributing small amounts of change every week so we could send it to a needy child, who, in turn, would write us a letter (I believe from Korea). The program didn't really affect the way I turned out, so, I guess the end result is probably a good one.

OK, so I'm rambling here, but my main point is that it seems strange that the only time that the area where I grew up gets any news at all, it has to do with religion, and generally entails church versus state issues. At least they don't get into the news for this as often as Cobb County. I'm just disappointed in this portrayal. The area is about as red as it gets, and it has been for a long time. Rockbridge County just to the south is probably the only county in western Virginia that votes blue from time to time, and that's probably due to the influence of Lexington (home of my alma mater). Most people there go to church too, but with some exceptions, they are not of the Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson variety of Christians. In my experience, they seem a lot closer to what I would call "truly Christian" in that they still worry more about helping those in need than converting people loudly from the nearest streetcorner.

But there's a lot more to the area. The people there, despite this type of portrayal, are more kind, generous, and open than in many of the other places I've been (again, I'm looking at you Cobb County). On top of that, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth, especially in the fall, despite all the leaf peepers that descend on the Blue Ridge Parkway. How about some good press for a change!

Update: Edited for clarity.

Update the second: After speaking with my father, it turns out he was president of the WRE committee (one of those if you show up, you get nominated deals apparently).

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Scotchy Goodness

Highlight of the day: taking a fieldtrip up to Tower Spirits to purchase a special bottle of whisky to commerate four years of scotch tastings. The result? Bowmore, 21-year old Islay single malt scotch (Top scotch entry). I'll report back on how it tastes as we're partaking next weekend.

In the interim, to celebrate our trip, we absolutely had to try a couple of expressions today. As I type, I've just finished a wonderful Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve. It's not especially old--12 years--but theoretically, it could have whisky of a much greater age included since the casks are never less than half full. This expression had a unique nose, smelling of seaweed or something else organic, but the taste totally belied the nose. Very long finish, very smooth taste--typically Glenfiddich.

Next up, a 15-year old Longmorn, left over from when we last gathered. Another excellent choice. Very good taste, but not as long of a finish. The initial taste is a bit spicy.

Finally, we're going to taste a bit of bourbon (Basil Hayden's to be exact).

Update: Added links.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Hey, Cobb County, Check This Out!

In honor of their latest failed attempt to remove evolution from the realm of scientific fact, I give you this smackdown by John Derbyshire. I never thought I would link to anything in the National Review, much less by Derbyshire, for any reason other than to eviscerate, ridicule, or otherwise berate it, but I suppose there's a first (only) time for anything.

The thing is, he's exactly right. I've been hearing these same dimwitted arguments since I was in high school (a time that is receding uncomfortably quickly into the past these days). Intelligent Design "Theory" is just creationism expressed in less biblical terms. A design infers a designer, etc. It was refuted handily then (more times than you can shake a stick at), but they don't even bother to change their arguments because, for them, their ideas are received a priori rather than perceived a posteriori.

The funny thing is, the last time this theory was in vogue it was used for quite different purposes. If my education doesn't let me down here, the idea of design was prominent in the Enlightenment, before any real modern science had been done in the fields of geology and paleontology. And at that time, the idea of design was a way of deists like Thomas Jefferson to sidestep the puritans and the whole biblical version of events by glossing over them by taking the easy way out without getting into trouble.

So, here's what we're left with concerning modern Intelligent Design "Theory": ideas that not only leaves out everything accomplished by Charles Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould, and many, many other prominent biologists, but also ignores such bedrock scientific principles as Uniformitarianism as pioneered by James Hutton. I may be mixing apples and oranges a bit here, but what the heck. "Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, /(I am large, I contain multitudes.)". Apologies to Uncle Walt.

In any case, it just goes to show that these folks are serving an agenda, not a genuine search for understanding.