As some of you may have heard (I have griped about this rather frequently lately), the cold, icy grip of 40 is looming around my next corner, poised to wrestle my youth to the ground before September’s end, pummeling it with its grey-haired, middle-aged fists.
But I’m okay with that.
Not only because I will finally experience my first day off from writing since December 30, 2011, and not because I believe some faucet of inherent wisdom will squeak open and gush the solved riddles of the universe upon my anxious brain, but because I simply refuse to stack my plate full of anxiety and dread over a number. 40 can be the new 30 – except my kids are mostly grown-up, my time is more my own, and my taste in beer has matured to a delicious and luminous plateau.
Besides, I’m not the only one packing air into his lungs for a big 40-candle blow-out. Skittles turn forty this year, so does the Volkswagen Golf. The Intel 8080 chip was released four decades ago, as was the San Diego Chicken (from whatever oversized, freakish coop in which he was reared). Let’s see what else will be launching its fifth decade on earth in 2014.
The toy whose very visage defines the 1980’s was born in Budapest on January 16, 1974. The Rubik’s Cube is, quite literally, Rubik’s cube. Ernö Rubik worked at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts (where I suppose you can begin working on your major in kindergarten), and he designed the toy as a way to solve the design problem of having the parts move independently without the entire thing falling apart. After playing around with it for a while, Rubik discovered that putting it back to its alpha state, with all six sides sporting a uniform color, was a nifty little puzzle. Read more…
Whilst wandering the school grounds during recess, pondering the lunacy of those hearty Edmonton settlers who determined that this frozen hellscape would somehow not be a ludicrous place to plop down a new town, I noticed a boy in my grade who was eating snow from his be-mittened hand.
“Enrique,” I queried, as even as a child I possessed the foresight to change the kid’s name to avoid a lawsuit, “what on earth are you doing?”
“It’s like the whole world is a giant Slurpee, just without the flavor!” The kid had enthusiasm and a downright sparkly approach to life, I’d give him that. Dumb as a moss-tucked stump, but he knew how to make the best of a situation.
I’d imagine that most local convenience store owners are counting on somewhat unimpressive sales of their Slurpee-like products today, with temperatures not expected to slither up past 15-below with the wind chill. Though I suspect a handful of parched throats around the city will crumple up logic and reason and internal temperature control and grab themselves a slushy treat anyway.
Some of us will down a cold beer tonight – why not a Slurpee?
Why not both in one beverage?
The Slurpee brand name belongs exclusively to 7-Eleven, though many of us forged our addictions at other stores with Slushes, Chillers, Mr. Mistys, Slusherinos, Squishees, Slush-Puppies, and Half-Frozen Sugar Juice (some stores in my town were very literal). My local corner store had the machine stashed behind the counter, leaving the artistry of crafting the perfect flavor mix in the hands of the same ornery Chinese guy that stacked the pornos at the back of the magazine rack so we kids couldn’t reach them. The world seemed so far beyond our control back then. Read more…
The Apple Macintosh gets a lot of credit for breaking computer users out of their DOS-command prisons and allowing them to unleash their freedom within the first true point-and-click world. Surely the great Apple, pioneer of the way we listen to music, Facetime our nieces and ignore one another around the kitchen table, must be behind this glorious technology.
After all, we remember that famous Super Bowl commercial (oh yeah, they also invented the importance of the Super Bowl commercial) that demonstrated their new technology’s liberation powers:
You don’t see a lot of literary references to sell stuff in commercials anymore.
But Apple merely popularized a modified form of what had already been done. The real innovation took place years earlier, at a place called the Palo Alto Research Center. And the company behind this work wasn’t Apple. It was Xerox. Read more…
Nobody picks up a guitar and searches clumsily for their first proper E chord, hoping someday they’ll play in a Bay City Rollers tribute band. But they might figure out the progression to “Saturday Night”, and it’s possible that they’re pretty good at it. And when they’re older, struggling to get a record label to invest a little faith in their prog-fusion-house-alt-disco jam band, they might be able to pull in their rent money by pretending to be Eric Faulkner.
That’s the guitar player from the Bay City Rollers. I had to look it up.
“That’s okay, even I’d have to look myself up.”
The vote’s not completely in on who was the first tribute band. The fad started with one of the acts most aspiring musicians wanted to be: Elvis or the Beatles. Elvis impersonators could (and truly might) be worthy of an entire kilograph to themselves someday; the first Beatles tribute band was launched in the mid 60’s. People knew their chances of seeing the real thing were slim. This was the next best thing. Well, the next best thing apart from simply seeing another good original band then going home and listening to one’s Beatles records. Read more…
Here are three perfectly good reasons I plan on drinking tonight:
- It’s Monday. Not only Monday, but it’s the Monday of a five-day week – the first of four consecutive five-day weeks until my next long weekend. It still baffles me that, as an advanced society, we have not yet evolved to the point where a four-day work-week is the standard. You have failed us, The Future.
- As a devoted Peyton Manning fan, it pains me to see him struggling this year, and I have no doubt he’ll struggle again tonight against the Chargers. Alcohol might help me through that.
- My mother-in-law is coming into town and staying with us.
I’m kidding about that last one, of course. My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman, who may or may not read this site on a semi-regular basis. That said, I’m going to recommend we all toast a glass with some of Wikipedia’s recommended duo cocktails tonight.
This was a great find. Wikipedia not only lists all these drinks, but it provides handy charts on how to make them. There is no reason to ever go thirsty again.
I’ll start at the top of the list, with a B&B.
You make this drink with equal parts cognac and Benedictine, serving it on the rocks or straight up. I’ve never tasted Benedictine, but my sources tell me it’s an herbal liqueur from France. I’m trying to imagine the flavor but all my brain-tongue can come up with is pine needles.
Now that I think of it, this might be a tetch too highbrow for an evening’s first drink. I’m going to need a few beverages first in order to acquire the illusion of sophistication required to consume something like this. Read more…
Yesterday I examined the history of beverage distillation for the purposes of intoxication and rendering members of the opposite (or same, whatever) sex more attractive. But I never really got my palette wet. Many nations possess a ‘national drink’, an alcoholic beverage that distinctly defines their collective palette. It’s not often an official designation, but to most adult-age citizens, it can become a source of national pride.
Some national beverages are obvious. Champagne, cognac, and brandy are all proudly consumed under the flag of the French. Scots love their scotch. Irish whiskey is a source of Irish pride and Irish brawls. Jamaicans like their rum, and for what it’s worth, so do I.
Let’s take a trip around the global bar.
We’ll start in Greece, where their national beverage compliments one of the finest global cuisines to have ever embraced my palate and added to my waistline. Ouzo is flavored with anise, which gives it a strong licorice taste. The alcohol they use is usually 96% alcohol-by-volume ethyl alcohol, so if you plan on making a night of drinking ouzo, you’d best plan on a quick evening in a room with a soft floor.
In Poland you’ll have two options for a national drink. You can go with vodka – and Polish vodka has the potential to be among the tastiest of vodkas – or wash down your kabanos with a hearty glass of mead. Not a distilled beverage, mead is a delicious honey-based wine. It’s also to alcoholic drinks what James Brown is to funk music: where it all started. The earliest evidence of mead production dates back to 7000BC. They knew how to party back then. Read more…
Lately I find myself taking an increasingly long time to decide which carbonated soda beverage I want to pour into my gullet on a weekday afternoon. And while I’ll occasionally ride the wild seas of root beer, surf the jagged waters of a lemon-lime soda, or explore the untamed wilderness of Dr Pepper’s 23 mysterious flavors, inevitably I return to Coke. The plain-flavor pop. Standardized soda.
But what is the ‘cola’ flavor? I’ve tried many incarnations, from Coke and Pepsi to their hick cousin, R.C., and numerous distant relatives that no one ever calls and invites over: Jones, Happy Pop, Jolt, generic Safeway brand. But if someone who had never tried any of them were to ask me to describe the flavor, I’d be tongue-tied beyond “Coke-ish”.
The kola nut, that must be the answer. Everyone knows that Coca-Cola was invented using two distinct ingredients: kola nut and coca leaves, which come from the same plant that gives birth to cocaine. There’s a super-secret recipe which was safe-guarded for 99 years until some marker-huffing board of directors decided the public deserved this:
Except that the kola nut is passé. The big soft drink titans have moved on to other ingredients. Besides, biting into a kola nut isn’t going to taste like crunchy soda. It tastes bitter at first; how someone came to boil it for consumption with rum, I have no idea. I’m grateful, but I have no idea. Read more…