Neil Degrasse Tyson narrated one of the most beautiful monologues I’ve ever heard. Superimposing his description of the most astounding fact about the universe was a treat for every science lover out there. In a nutshell, we are all made of star-stuff…
We were made in the same furnaces that created every planet and star in the universe. We are the universe made sentient, creation itself inspecting and trying to understand itself. In the end, we are all connected on a level that defies everyday comprehension.
It’s why I almost became a physicist.
For much of my youth, I had two great passions: science and language. On the one hand, tales of Asimov and Clarke and the great masters of the Golden Age made me want to find out what was out there. I wanted to know the blueprint of reality. I also wanted to create my own stories, make something that thrilled and stirred my imagination like Ellison, Stoker, and the dozens of other authors I gorged myself on when I was younger. That ability to make others wonder, to feel and imagine things that never existed… That was my goal.
I could either study physics and unlock those secrets… or I could learn to write.
I chose writing. It wasn’t an easy choice. Freshman year at DePauw, I could have gone into science or English. I chose English. Something occurred to me, something I think is the reason we write, the reason we take photographs, the reason we continue to draw and imagine.
There is truly only one of whatever we make.
We are all made of stars, but there is nothing different about the oxygen in my body versus the oxygen in a supernova cloud. If we erased all of history and every scrap of scientific knowledge to start over, eventually, we would discover that matter is composed of atoms. That future society would emerge from the dark ages and eventually find out that the Earth orbits the sun and we came from monkeys.
But we would not have Isaac Asimov. We would not have John Donne. We would be forever without the works of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. And no one would have known the maniacal face of Spider Jerusalem.
I recently discovered Drinkify, a website that matches muscicians with the type of drink best suited to listen to their music. There’s a short list of a few samples over at Buzzfeed, but I think someone needs to make a database for drinks best suited to artists and other areas of art. And gaming.
In fact, we need to get some drinks together. Let’s get started.
Edgar Allan Poe
1/3 oz absinthe
2/3 oz blackberry liqueur
Add blackberry liqueur to shot glass and layer absinthe on top.
H. P. Lovecraft
Dark and Stormy
1 oz black rum
Pour rum into the beer. Drink.
1 part Schnapps, butterscotch
1 dash Schnapps, vanilla
7 parts cream soda
Add both vanilla and butterscotch Schnapps to mug. Pour in cold cream soda and stir very gently.
1.5 oz Scotch
1 tea bag
1 tbsp honey
Put scotch and honey into a mug. Add a tea bag and fill with boiling water. Steep for a few minutes, then remove the tea bag.
This one actually has several drink suggestions based on your style of play. I’m planning on making the spiced wine this weekend to try it out.
1 bottle of beer (bock works best)
1 shot bourbon (Jim Beam works best)
Add the shot of bourbon to the beer. Drink.
German Hot Spiced Wine
1 gal Burgundy wine
1/2 gallon water
1 tsp all-spice
2 whole cinnamon sticks
Slice half the orange and 2 lemons. Peel the zest from the last lemon. Drop into pot. In a tea ball or a piece of cheese cloth, put the allspice, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, drop into pot. Add the burgundy and water. Heat on low until hot, add sugar. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 2 hours. Turn off and let rest 30 minutes. Remove tea ball or cheesecloth. Serve in warmed mugs and garnish with 1/2 slice orange floating in cup.
½ oz bourbon
½ oz Mountain Dew
1 oz cinnamon Schnapps
Mix all ingredients in mixing glass, along with 1 cup crushed iced. Strain into margarita glass and serve immediately.
That’s it for today, folks. I’d like to make this a regular feature. If you have specific drink recipes or combos you think are applicable for authors, art, gaming, movies, whatever, send me a message through the Contact Me page and I might include it next time. For now, with the recent announcement that Where’s Waldo? might be made into a movie, enjoy this possible sneak peak at what this cinematic, uhm, experience, might be like.
Guess who has to drop several pounds gained over the last year? Yeah, it’s going to be a fun month cutting back on caffeine, sugar, pounds, AND getting ready for the holiday season. Woohoo?
With that in mind, let’s get some links out of the way.
Assassin’s Creed may be making its way tot he movies, but some insiders are shocked, SHOCKED I say, that Ubisoft has virtually total control over story, casting, everything. What does a video game company know about making movies, they ask? I’d ask instead what the hell Hollywood knows about adapting video games to movies. Bloodrayne, anyone? Prince of Persia? Doom? I could go on…
Speaking of which, the president of Universal admits his company makes “shitty” movies. His words, not mine.
No, I’m not going to address the Casey Anthony trial except for one thing. All I’m going to say is that everyone stunned by the verdict needs to answer one question: is there reasonable doubt? Yes. Is there evidence to show she did it? Oh yeah. But go back and look at that last answer. Reasonable doubt? Oh yes. That’s the basis of our justice system. There were so many pieces of evidence that were not linked that while most of us might readily assume she was guilty, it’s an assumption.
And finally, Neil Gaiman alone is already nerd fuel. Adam Savage of Mythbusters? Also cool. Adam Savage serenading Neil Gaiman as Gollum doing a spoke-word rendition of “I Will Survive”? The only way this could be cooler is if Gaiman was being knighted with a lightsaber.
Rick Perry is a moron and if he does run for President, I want the rest of the country to be ready. There are far crazier people, like Bachmann and Kane, and there may be dumber, such as Gingritch, but Perry has something the others don’t have.
He has a lot of cred with right-wingers, and he has the backing of a lot of groups like the NRA. The Tea Party loves him. And let’s not forget that he’s actually more eloquent than the last yahoo from this state that ran for president. Before we even get to the primaries, before the ads run, and before people start wondering “Who is Rick Perry?” allow me to fill in the gaps for you, dear reader, and save you some trouble. And as you read these and think to yourself, “NO one could be THAT dense,” remember that Perry also once claimed that Juarez, Mexico was the most dangerous city in America.
Perry’s stance on a lot of things boil down to one word: prayer. Yes, everything from rain to protection from terrorists requires nothing more than getting down and praying to Pops, Junior, and Spooky. Don’t believe me?
He didn’t ask for plans for irrigation and water storage systems. He didn’t offer aid to the people struck by this. He didn’t even pitch the idea of a PSA to let people know of things they could do to help conserve water. The man asked his state to pray.
Now, I’m no scientist, but I live here, and I can tell you that it hasn’t rained in a LONG time. We’re dryer than a Hemingway story over here. We’re getting lakes catching on fire, and Perry thinks God will come down and bring water from heaven.
Shouldn’t God be doing this without so much prompting? I mean, it IS His creation? I know if my manuscript caught fire, I’d put it out.
Then again, Perry did invite the other 49 governors to join him to fast and pray for our nation to help combat things like terrorism. Five guesses how that went.
Maybe he needs to get a new long-distance plan, ‘cause Texas might be roaming.
Rick Perry jogs and, as the governor of one of the most armed states in the Union, he has a full security detail. Let me repeat that: our governor has a fully armed and trained security team with him when he goes out.
Which explains, I guess, why the governor felt it was necessary to shoot a coyote he found while on a jog.
The story goes that Perry saw said coyote and it approached him. It threatened his dog, so the governor, in accordance with Texas law, took out a .38 pistol and shot the coyote dead.
Sounds like a great case for being able to carry a gun, huh?
Except that’s not quite the whole story. According to Perry, he CHARGED the coyote after it had stopped with a verbal threat. The animal was already stopped in its tracks. All Perry and the team and his dog had to do was go in a different direction. Did Perry do that? Nope. He shot an animal and killed it. And where did this take place?
In a hilly suburban area of Austin. The man pulled out a laser-mounted gun and killed a wild animal like he was Allan Fraking Quatermain. That wasn’t approaching him.
We’ve already established that Perry is a man of God, a man of Faith, but did you know he is also a man who understands the nuances of economics and basic morality? It’s true! A few years ago, Perry made the bold claim that if the federal government didn’t stop trying to force these draconian programs, like much-needed health-care reform, he and his state would secede!
That’s right. A sitting United States governor openly threatened to leave the Union. I’ve already put my two cents in on the whole “We have the right to leave” business, but I think none other than the king of liberal snark, Keith Olbermann himself, put it best when it came to Perry’s threat.
With that being said, it’s quite shocking, then, that Perry recently asked for government aid when wildfires burned through the state. I guess government is evil and oppressive… until you actually need something from it. Then you’re entitled to it. Which is why he just had to bash the stimulus as unethical two years ago and why he had to nevertheless take billions in federal funds to plug our state’s deficit…
The recession was caused by a number of factors such as the housing bubble and the banks taking far too many risks with no regulation to keep them in check. It’s a bit complex, but two years down the road, we can look back and see where the country went wrong. For Rick Perry, though, it’s much simpler than that.
God did it.
See, God wants us to be more self-sufficient, to go back to Biblical economics. I guess Perry forgot all the slavery and buying and selling people thing in the Bible, too, but that’s beside the point. Perry believes that the government should do nothing, that we have to fend for ourselves, and this is a lesson from the Almighty.
Coupled with the fact that he actively bashes welfare programs that could help women and children while he takes billions of dollars to plug a deficit he helped create, this only leads to one conclusion.
He has to be. It’s the only rationale for why he would be above the rules set for the rest of us. I had to borrow money from the government to go to college, and now I’m paying it off, but in Perry’s world, that makes me a slave. I have friends who have to use food stamps to feed their children. Obviously, keeping their children healthy and fed makes them evil.
But not Perry.
He can shoot animals in residential areas, and instruct people to refuse government aid while he instructs people to be religious and refuse said money themselves.
Even though his numbers are low in Texas, he’s pretty popular with the Tea Party and many Right-Wingers. And we all remember what happened last time a religious fanatic from Texas got into a position of power, right? I’m just trying to warn everyone. I don’t think he’d win, but then again, I didn’t think the leader of the free world would almost be assassinated by a pretzel.
Ever played ding dong ditch? You know, where you ring a doorbell, run and hide, and watch some poor sap go to the door and find no one there? Oh, good times! And as we all know, the appropriate reaction to seeing a kid pull a prank like this is a SHOTGUN BLAST TO THE BACK. I seriously hope they put this guy in the deepest, darkest hole we can find, then cover him in fire ants.
On the other hand, it’s comforting to believe in something that has no basis in reality. It’s yours. It’s personal. Conspiracy theorists work this way. They see themselves at the center of some unimaginable tangle of powerful beings and organizations that can somehow control everything from the political landscape, to the progress of technology, and yet cannot catch these desktop detectives as they unravel the web of deceit.
And yet you and I are much too smart for that, right?
How different is superstitious thinking from fanatical religious thinking? Not that far off. We had people who believed, who genuinely believed, the world was going to end last month. Some people, even if not religious themselves, will cross themselves before entering a Catholic church, just in case. My sister refuses to shuffle cards a certain way when we play poker because it will disrupt her card-ma.
Yes, “card-ma.” Her word, I swear to Bob.
I have a Dungeons and Dragons player who insists her dice rolls don’t count if the die touches an object before it comes to a standstill. While I don’t think she really believes it, she insists that touching another object throws her off. In fact, gamers are finicky when it comes to their dice. Some dice are just “lucky.” Of course, gaming dice aren’t tested for balance like casino dice, so there very well might be lucky and unlucky dice.
Everyone’s done these sorts of things, and I tend to laugh when I see them or hear about them.
I believe in chance and choice. I believe there are things I can and cannot control. The things I cannot control are the events that are beyond my grasp, the choices others make, and the totality of existence. I can’t tell lightning where to strike. I can’t make others think what I want them to think. I can’t luck out and hope a publisher sees my work online and offers me a contract.
I can, however, choose to not stand out during a lightning storm while wearing a tin foil hat. I can learn how to put together a coherent argument and make my point as persuasively as possible. I can make my work the best possible and look for ways to advertise and get the word out.
There is nothing that says charms, spells, or even good luck rituals work for us, and yet so many of us really do cling to these beliefs. I know someone’s going to fire back with, “But that’s the die I used when I slew the vampire king! It’s lucky!” or “I was wearing this shirt when I met the love of my life. It’s my lucky shirt.”
Well, show me the study where we discovered luck. Show me equations. Prove to me that our lives and random events around said lives are controlled by invisible force fields and I’ll eat my words!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do laundry and make sure I have my gaming shirt for this Saturday. When I wear my Star Wars shirt, I KILL!
And finally, I have to say that while I’ve never heard of or tried this beer, this commercial alone makes me want to do it. it’s over the top, obviously conscious of its own absurdity, but it owns it like a boss. Enjoy, and I’ll see you Friday.
But yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, Mary’s last day of class, and I felt like cooking something.
I was going to make fish, but I figured I could make some pico de gallo, salchicha, and… I was stuck for a while. What dish could really capture Mexican pride and simulataniously satisfy a 12-hour work day full of class, work, and research papers?
When he cooked, the man COOKED. Years ago, he gave me the recipe for his carne asada, Mexican grilled meat, and I’ve tried to make it for a long time with little success in replicating his unique flavor. I mean, the meat was good, but it wasn’t the same. It was like a photocopy of a photocopy. It just didn’t feel right.
I think I got it.
When my grandparents cook, there is never such a thing as a recipe. They go more by instinct than anything else. They know the specific parts of the dish much like I would know the overall themes and ideas for a story or poem, but I could never really teach someone one perfect way of getting those ideas down on paper. In the same way, they don’t really measure their ingredients, but instead put them in as needed. It’s taken me years to get this close to the actual recipe. I have it written down, but it’s like trying to learn another language by reading it.
Any self-respecting Mexican knows how to cook. My uncle could make chimichurri from scratch or whip up a caldo de rez to make you forgo vegetables for a month. My grandmother makes delicious dishes with everything from bell peppers to chicken. She’s like Midas with food.
While he was alive, I tried to replicate my grandfather’s recipe. Now, with him gone and only my memories and a piece of paper to guide me, I’ll keep trying to reach that pinnacle of flavor he created so many times for us on special occasions. It’s like kendo training… I’ll just keep going for the rest of my life, getting ever closer to that elusive perfection.
And I’m okay with that.
Years ago, I wrote a poem for my grandfather and his skills. I figured it was appropriate today. Scroll afterwards for the links, and I hope none of you did anything regrettable on Cinco de Mayo.
Dried leaves and sticks,
Crushed color and aroma
From plants I could never pronounce.
Papi kept them in plastic bags and jars,
Autumn in a pantry, an old hechicero’s2 alchemy.
He summoned a nation with each dish:
August heat, like the Tamaulipan desert,
Unyielding, like El Grito de Dolores3,
Or cool and green, like a Cuernavacan4 spring,
Subtle as a pretty morena’s5 wink.
One bite and you thought you’d die
From the cinnamon burn in your blood
And la lengua cortada6 would make you mute.
A bowl of pozole7 was a hundred miles of fields
And boiled muscles under the Aztec sun.
The heat in our tingling veins sang
A slow mariachi ballad,
The living history of our family,
And the old hechicero sat and listened,
While fragrant Mexican autumn filled the room.
1“Ahl-kee-MIS-tah”: Spanish for “alchemist”
2“Eh-CHi-SE-roh”: a sorcerer
3Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest in Mexico, gave what is known as “The Yell of Dolores.” On the morning of September 16, 1810, he rang the church bells and called on the people of Mexico to rise up against the Spanish, calling out “Mexicans, long live Mexico! Long Live the Virgin [Mary] of Guadalupe! Long Live Fernando VII! Death to the evil government!”
4The city of Cuernavaca is known as “The City of Eternal Spring” for its mild weather and seasonal rainfalls.
5Morena(o) is a term for someone who is darker skinned, and most likely has native Mexican blood in their heritage.
6“LEN-gwa cohr-TA-da” literately means “cut tongue.” It is an expression used to symbolize the feeling of very spicy meals on the tongue. Even people accustomed to spicy dishes reach their limit when they proclaim they have a “cut tongue.”
7“Po-SOH-leh” is a traditional Mexican dish, similar to a stew, made with cacahuacintle corn, pork, and guajillo peppers. It is often topped with radishes, lettuce, onion, lemon juice, dried oregano, and powdered chili. It has a very strong aroma and taste.