The latest batch of beer went from a quiet pool of brownish coffee-like soup to a swirling mix of bubbles and suds that overflowed and spilled all over the counter top and dribbled onto the floor.
When it gets like this, I feel like putting on a white lab coat, strapping a pair of welder’s goggles to my face and shouting to the heavens, in my craziest Gene Wilder voice (as if there is any other kind), “LIFE! DO YOU HEAR ME? GIVE! MY! CREATION!” (very deep breath, pause for effect) “LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!”
Michael is kind of a quiet guy with an office job selling insurance, keeps to himself, has a six-year-old boy locked in a room in his basement whom he violates sexually every night after they eat dinner and clean up the kitchen. You know, ordinary.
Whenever one of these stories surfaces in the news I give it about one or two minutes to rattle around in my brain before I have to shut it down and never think about it again. What’s it like to hold a six-year-old captive in your basement for immoral purposes? Not something I want to dwell on very long.
But the film fest is all about going to movies that I might not ever consider watching otherwise, and I have to admit, this was a well-made movie. Well-written, well-acted, good cinemaphotography. I also have to admit that I admire the film’s makers for their decision to avoid going for an easy ending. Although the bad guy got what was coming to him, in a matter of speaking, the police didn’t break down the doors, no curious neighbor tipped off anybody, and there were no heroes to save the day. It started out with what appeared to be an ordinary guy, and it ended with the ordinary guy’s mother looking through the basement for some extra hefty bags. What happened to the boy? It would have been easy to answer that question with a tearful reunion scene, but this wasn’t an easy subject, so neither was the ending.
I spent Sunday afternoon stirring barley malt and hops into a kettle of boiling water in the garage. Tell me that’s not living well.
I’m shooting for a darker brew this time. I don’t know why. I just like dark beers, that’s all. So I started by stuffing a couple bags with a mix of 1/4 lb UK Chocolate, 1/4 lb UK Black Patent and 1/2 lb TF & S Dark Crystal roasted barley to give this batch a deep, dark color, as well as some body, and I think it turned out pretty much the way I wanted it. This is my favorite part of the process, actually. I start out with a big pot filled with two and a half gallons of plain old water, and after steeping roasted barley in it for about 45 minutes while the water slowly comes to a boil, I ended up with what looks and smells like, well, beer. It tastes disappointingly weak, because it’s just the first step, but it looks and smells great.
When steam was shooting out from under the lid I shut down the burner, picked out the bags and dangled them over the pot to let the yummy, yummy wort drain from the grain. Then I stirred in 8 lbs of Munton’s Plain Amber dry malt extract into the brew. That took a little over five minutes, almost ten, because the sugars coagulate into lumpy dumplings as soon as they hit the surface of the soup, and it takes a lot of stirring to break them up. When it looked like the extract had finally dissolved completely, I dropped in a 1-oz bag of Newport hop pellets, rated 12% Alpha, and lit the burner again. The brew took about ten minutes to return to a boil.
About thirty minutes after stirring in the DME and re-lighting the burner, I dropped in another 1-oz bag of Newport hop pellets and gently poked it with the end of a spoon to soak it through. I don’t know why I decided to add the hops in increments like this. Just felt like it. Forty-five minutes after relight, I plopped a final 1-oz bag filled with Cascade hop pellets, rated at 6.2% Alpha, for the finish, and fifteen minutes later, I shut down the burner.
After bringing the temperature of the soup down to a safe seventy degrees using a wort chiller of my own invention (ten feet of copper tube from Home Depot coiled around a paint can, real high-tech stuff), I poured it through a funnel into a carboy on top of two and a half gallons of filtered water, pitched a bag of Wyeast (1056 American Ale) in with it, fixed a blow-off tube to the neck and called it done.
Clean-up’s not as much fun as brewing is, but it’s still somehow satisfying, and then there’s always the celebratory glass of beer afterwards. Tonight’s will be a pint of Hinterland Saison. Salud!
As I was scanning the headlines on NPR’s web site, my eyes flitted across a headline that turned the crank on my admittedly already-cranky disposition: “Blowin’ In The Wind Still Asks The Hard Questions.” Heavy sigh. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say something like, “Blowin’ In The Wind Asks Needlessly Cryptic Questions That Are Still Confused With Deep, Spiritual Meaning?”
I never got Blowin’ In The Wind. I could see that practically everybody else in the world felt it had the moral, ethical and philosophical qualities of the sermon on the mount, but to me it has always been nothing more than a lot of nonsense questions, strung together and sung to a repetitively simple tune that bored me silly.
I didn’t come to this conclusion quickly. Blowin’ In The Wind was once considered so spiritually significant that the Catholic congregation our family was part of back in the 70s sang it every Sunday during guitar mass, so aside from hearing it overplayed on the radio, I had to sing every line of it once a week in church, as if it were a prayer. Even with all that time to think about it, none of the supposedly deep, inner meaning of Blowin’ In The Wind has ever revealed itself to me.
This is a little maddening because I genuinely like Bob Dylan’s music, an appreciation I got from my Dad, who added quite a few Dylan recordings to the pile of 8-track tapes we kept in the back of the family shop. My favorite was Desire, an album I plugged into the Panasonic tape player and cranked all the way up to ten (this was back before anyone had ELEVEN) so I could hear it through the door of the darkroom when I had to work into the evening. Try overmodulating Bob Dylan on a cheap stereo sometime. You have never heard as many Mondegreens as I’ve heard listening to Black Diamond Bay.
I found a wife, Miranda
She wears a necktie and a Panama hat
Her pisspot shows a trace of
Another time and space
She cooks nothing like Spam
Now there’s a lyric that forces you to ask some hard questions, and I tell you honestly, as well as a little sheepishly, I’ve asked myself over and over again: What the hell does her pisspot have to do with anything? And Spam? Why Spam? In my defense, Dylan’s mumbling style of singing doesn’t make him easy to understand. Also, the water was running.
But even with all the words scrambled, Black Diamond Bay was a million times more enjoyable than Blowin’ In The Wind ever was, and it always will be, especially now that I know the words. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is for me to sing it without regressing to the screwed-up version in my head, though.
I’ve been wandering through Saint Vinnie’s for weeks without finding a single thing I considered for a moment worth purchasing. Then, today, I wandered in, not expecting to find anything, yet within five short minutes of walking in the front door, I was cradling a copy of the Jules Verne Omnibus, a big, thick, old-looking book that included From The Earth To The Moon, a book I haven’t read to this day, although I promise to rectify that oversight this weekend.
Not far from that I found a memoir of Franklin Roosevelt by Rexford Tugwell. Who names their kid Rexford Tugwell? Well, the Tugwell part of the naming is already done for you, but really, Rexford? If you’re going to name your kid Rexford, you’ve got to be pretty damned confident he’s going to grow up to attend Columbia and become a close personal friend and confidant of the President of the United States.
But the catch of the day, I have to say, was the two-disk special edition DVD release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail! Zow. The second disk includes, among other things, the complete movie dubbed into Japanese, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail in Lego!
I dreamed I was at work. I really hate it when that happens.
At least this time it was more than a little unusual. This time, the office looked like a mash-up of all the offices I’ve ever worked in, a standard cubicle farm, but surrounded by racks of electronic equipment. Even the people who worked there were a Who-hash of all the people I’ve worked with, and I kept asking the wrong people to do things. The last scene I remember, for instance, was asking Aaron to adjust the connections on a particular electronic component, and all he could do was give me a blank look. “You don’t know how to do that, do you?” I asked him, when I realized he was not the guy to ask for that.
I started to do it myself when my bladder woke me up. I hate it when that happens, too, because it almost always wakes me up too early. Most of the time it’s just five or ten minutes before I would normally hear the alarm clock start bleeping, but this morning it was half an hour early – just enough time to go back to bed, begin to drift off to sleep, and then wake up to the bleeping alarm clock. I said to hell with that, grabbed my bath robe and headed for the kitchen to make what turned out to be a pot of satisfyingly strong coffee.
Satisfyingly strong to me. To my brother, it would have been weak tea. A single pot of the coffee he drinks could light up the whole city of Chicago for a week. I don’t need a jolt that strong yet. Maybe someday. For now, I’ll just sit here and nurse my tea/coffee.
The best thing about going to the Wisconsin Film Fest is taking a whole week off to do nothing but sit in darkened theaters watching films, then hanging out in restaurants between films to relax with a glass of wine and share what we liked most about the film, or try to figure out what it was about.
The worst thing about taking a whole week off to go to the Wisconsin Film Fest is returning to work after. *sigh*
I had about 150 e-mail messages waiting for me when I logged in to my computer that took me almost an hour to cruise through, answering the ones that were easy and flagging the ones I’d have to do some work on before I wrote an answer. I’ve still got about two-dozen flagged messages waiting for me.
There were 20 or 30 voice mail messages on my phone, but about a third of them were hangups and five or ten were repeats. I answered them all by the middle of the afternoon, but then I got 30 calls during the day, so I’m not sure whether or not I came out ahead.
And there are piles of files and other paperwork mushrooming all over the top of my desk. Can’t even see the desk, really. The paperwork looks like it’s magically floating beside my computer.
Won’t get to answer many e-mails, voice mails, or finish much of that paperwork today, either. I’m helping one of the other supervisors interview applicants to fill a vacancy in her office.
I’m still not at all sure how many of the scenes in the movie Without took place in reality, and how many took place in the girl’s head. I’ve been trying to figure it out since yesterday morning, but it’s still a mystery to me.
Joslyn is the 19-year-old girl hired to take care of a geriatric invalid in a vegetative state by a family living on a remote island, although I’m not even sure that happened. Shortly after she arrives it becomes clear that she’s never cared for an invalid before. The family leaves her with a set of hand-written instructions for taking care of the old man, loosely stapled together on yellow sheets of legal paper that she goes back to, page by page, as she’s trying to figure out how to lift the old man out of his wheelchair into bed. Does that seem at all probable to you?
The only thing that does seem to have taken place is that Joslyn has lost a connection to a dear friend, a significant other, who she can’t stop thinking about. Laying awake at night, she pours through the photos of a girl on her iPhone, unpinching the screen to get as close as she can before turning the lights out and setting the phone beside her bed to wake her up with a jingle in the morning.
Except that the phone isn’t by her bedside in the morning. She rolls out of bed and snatches it up from the window ledge to shut off the incessant tune it’s playing, first without a thought, then with a furrowed brow. When she finally duct tapes it to the bed stand it stays there, but when she rolls out from under the covers she finds that the t-shirt she went to sleep in is lying folded at the foot of the bed. Confused, she pulls it over her head and gets dressed. I’m pretty sure that last part happened to her. Not sure how or why, though.
The old man is an interesting character. He speaks just a few words in the whole movie. Oddly, they’re not the words I expected: “Umm, Juicy Fruit.” They were much more ordinary, while at the same time more sinister, although I’m pretty sure he never said them. I’m pretty sure he didn’t exist outside her mind, even though he locked Joslyn out of the house at least once. Might have been twice, although I think she locked herself out the first time, which means she could’ve locked herself out both times without realizing it. If she was even there. I’m so confused.
Joslyn isn’t sure at all that the old man is the basket case he seems to be. As it turns out, by the explosive scene at the end of the movie she’s absolutely sure of it, and yet, if I’m right, then everything she believes him to be is almost certainly a product of her own troubled mind, and she was just house sitting the whole time, and had way too much time to think about her friend, and it made her go a little la-la. Or maybe she really did walk off into the woods, and she disappeared forever, but then what does the last scene mean?