Saturday, June 26, 2021

Peanut Butter Whiskey

Peanut butter whiskey is apparently a thing. And our friend Chris wanted to try some cocktails with pbw during her visit. So today, in the name of science, we conducted a hidden-label taste test with the five brands I was able to source in 50 ml bottles.

We sampled the options with and without ice. Then we ranked them, tallied the scores from the three of us, and here are the results, with some cursory comments.

With a score of 6 (1+1+4), our top choice was Skatter Brain (70 proof). You can see from the score that two of us ranked it highest of the five, though the other ranked it quite low. All three of us said it was sweet, but we also found all the brands a bit too sweet.

No. 2, with a score of 7 (2+4+1), was Skrewball (70 proof). We thought this one had the best pb taste with a very nutty, complex profile, though it also had the darkest caramel color. All of the brands use caramel coloring.

Perfectly in the middle was P'Nutty (70 proof) with a score of 9 (3+3+3). Without ice, I thought the taste was very kerosene-y, but with ice it mellowed nicely.

Tying for last place with scores of 12 each were the 99 (99 proof) and Sheep Dog (70 proof). I thought the 99 was terribly flat in both pb and whiskey flavor; the others said its taste was too artificial, chemical-y. The Sheep Dog was harshly astringent, but someone ranked it second.

We were back at the liquor store this afternoon and saw several other brands available, but maybe our ranking can help if you want to try peanut butter whiskey but don't know where to start. I'm not a fan of flavored whiskey, so I probably won't be purchasing a bigger bottle anytime soon, though I may change my mind after trying some recipes for mixed drinks later.

Happy drinking!

Friday, February 5, 2021

A Year in Art

For the past few years I've tracked all the art events that my partner and I attend together. We are avid supporters of the arts. All of them. In 2020, despite social distancing and the pandemic pandemonium, we tracked at least 109 events.

Genre/Medium

  • Architecture - 1
  • Art/Gallery/Museum - 20
  • Audio/Sound Art - 2
  • Concert - 4
  • Festival/Event - 44, split among 3 different festivals
  • Film/Video - 30
  • Lecture/Author Talk - 6
  • Literature - 1
  • Museum/History - 2
  • Music - 5
  • Performance - 8
  • Theater - 11
  • Workshop - 2

That's 136 individual works or exhibitions in total. The reason there are only 109 events tracked is because we block some things together; for example, a block of short videos during a video festival only counts as 1 event even though we may see 8 works.

The genre/medium designation is loose also, since some of the films and theater pieces were part of a festival. Forty-seven events were before quarantine (around the beginning of March); the other 89 were well under the specter of COVID-19.

I usually list my top 10 plays of the year, but since this was the (first) year of Covid, and because I saw so few live theater events, I'll instead focus on the artists/groups who made the best of a terrible situation and still managed to offer something artistically transcendent and technologically competent. Here are my Top 14 of 2020, in no particular order:

Editor Joshua Rothes put together Sublunary Editions Presents, a live reading of original works that spanned the globe. This literary event was early on in the pandemic and put to shame a lot of traditional art groups with much larger budgets that were still scrambling to put quality work together at the end of the year. I had fully anticipated on watching only a handful of the readers across its 4½ hours, but I ended up riveted to the screen because of the utter talent of the writers gathered together.

Another early event was Cold Spring Pandemic Dream with Bird by Dean Terry and his performance art collective therefore. This live video performance on Instagram perfectly captured the surreal and uneasy mood of the early days of the pandemic.

I've long sung the praises of Teatro Dallas, and 2020 made me appreciate and respect them even more. They managed to early on make available online several archived projects, from an early 1990s film Frida Kahlo: A Ribbon Around a Bomb to the audio project Pizcas about child immigrant laborers. They also were able to produce original works, both in video form, like The Monster in His Labyrinth, and in a safe(r), socially-distanced live/in-person performance of A Grave Is Given Supper, based on the poetry of Dallas writer Mike Soto.

If it weren't for Ron Athey, I'd be a much less interesting person. I've been a fan of his work, and his work ethic, since the early '90s. Just by following him online across various social media platforms I knew about several things going on that I'm glad I didn't miss, including the film Steven Arnold: Heavenly Bodies, the Johanna Went: Passion Container exhibition at The Box in Los Angeles that we caught before lockdown, the performance video of Self Obliterations I, II & III: Ecstatic, Sustained Rapture, Mortification on Vimeo, the Queer Communion book launch, and Pauline Oliveros' Full Pink Moon produced by Opera Povera. I'm looking forward to reading Ron's new book and hopefully seeing his retrospective later this year. 

P•P•O•W Gallery curated an online exhibition of video art called Hell is a Place on Earth. Heaven is a Place in Your Head. that made explicit the connections between Reagan's manufactured health crisis and Trump's.

Lena Herzog collaborated with Marco Capalbo and Mark Mangini on Last Whispers: Oratorio for Vanishing Voices, Collapsing Universes, and a Falling Tree, a sound installation and meditation on silence and the human voice. 

Culture Hole produced a video/performance series called Culture Hole TV that tapped into the melancholia of life in quarantine.  

Mimir Chamber Music Festival had an outstanding opening night by programming musicians from Auckland, Melbourne, Berlin, and north Texas.

In July Headlands Center for the Arts presented 7 Sounds/1 Sound, a live audiovisual work-in-progress collaboration between filmmaker Sam Green and musician JD Samson. 

Diamanda Galás' Broken Gargoyles, a quadrophonic soundwork-in-progress, premiered at the Fridman Gallery and was a collaboration with sound engineer Daniel Neumann and video artist Carlton Bright. It featured photography of disfigured WWI soldiers and excerpts from poet Georg Heym's Das Fieberspital.

Animator Don Hertzfeldt released the third episode of his World of Tomorrow series entitled The Absent Destinations of David Prime that made us feel lost all over again.

Chris McKim's art documentary Wojnarowicz: Fuck You Faggot Fucker screamed its way to the head of the class and taught us a thing or two about governmental policies of abandonment. 

The San Francisco Symphony, directed by Esa-Pekka Salonen, showed us the future of symphonic music with the world premiere of Nico Muhly's Throughline. This outstanding, creative feat was dynamically edited and visually powerful, and the rest of the music on the program—by Ellen Reid, John Adams, Kev Choice, and Ludwig van Beethoven—took us places. 

Organist James McVinnie wowed us live from Concert Hall 'Latvija' in Ventspils, Latvia, where he performed exquisite pieces by Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens, Johann Sebastian Bach, Marcel Dupré, and Ferenc Liszt.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Watching

Despite watching hours of television every week, rarely do I watch it for entertainment's sake alone. It's one of my many failings as a human, as an American. Instead, I tend to watch TV for what I can learn about others.

For example, did you know you can learn about the waning days of Trumpismo by watching Succession? It's all there: an utterly unlikable roster of characters who are trying to game a system where the one in charge is so senile and incompetent that he pisses all over the place.

I did, however, have to stop watching after a handful of episodes because it became more and more apparent that they were letting the interns write the shows. Rookie mistake: having a character have some kind of impossibly lucid epiphany after taking fistfuls of drugs.

A series that taught me about the goat-fucking underbelly of 4chan and QAnon was PEN15. Watch the "Vendy Wiccany" episode (S2E3) if you don't believe me: hysterics blended with wishful thinking all because mom and dad are getting divorced. (Only some of those words are used metaphorically here.)

If you want to understand solidarity, then perhaps there's no better show than the unconvincing, naively counter-factual miniseries Hollywood, where the Blacks, Asian Americans, young gays, and feminists all conspire to usurp power from shitty old straight—and gay—white men. You did not see that twist coming!

Or for a less fantasy-based miniseries, also about solidarity, check out Mrs. America, where the Black lesbian feminists don't get along with the Black non-lesbian feminists who also don't get along with white feminists who also don't get along with white religious feminists who are feminist in the same way that Reagan and Bush and Bush and Trump were conservative. Kudos for showing that cunt Phyllis Schlafly being thrown under the bus by both her husband and Reagan. (Sadly, more metaphoric language.) It's the exact opposite, more believable, more historically accurate story about solidarity.

I wish more shows were as cutting edge as The Conners when it comes to cutting out reprehensible people from the cast. It truly has been a sweet few months not hearing or seeing Roseanne. If only America were as competent at so-called cancellation.

Most shows I abandon after one or a couple of episodes. One show I watched entirely this past year was The Americans, which was violently terrible, especially when it became a teen drama and an infomercial for est. Credit, though, for the writers who came up with the will they/won't they story line about fucking a teenager. Said in thick Russian accent: "You have to do it for the Motherland." Yuck!

Silicon Valley was maybe the only sitcom that offered me any delight this past year, though some of those episodes were sheer drudgery. Part of what I enjoyed about it was assigning various Twitter friends roles, sort of like what boring white women in mid-management used to do with Sex and the City. I think you all know who our Gilfoyle is.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Books Read in 2020

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgA Luminous History of the Palm by Jessica SequeiraSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgDitch Water: Poems by Joseph DelgadoSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgMusic & Philosophy by Gabriel Marcel

My reading this past year was all over the place. I began 2020 participating in an in-person reading group called something along the lines of Books Your Parents Probably Read that ended with the pandemic. That's why you'll find Judith Krantz, Erich Segal, Mario Puzo, and Jacqueline Susann on this list. It was revelatory rediscovering how sexist, homophobic, and racist New York publishing was in the Sixties and Seventies. What a fucking garbage industry, no less to blame for shit American culture than Hollywood. Alas, times haven't really changed all that much.

The year ended with a couple of titles by Toni Morrison, whose voice is painfully missed. The few philosophy titles, also mostly garbage, were primarily for research on my phenomenology of music book that I'm still, and slowly, working on. Then even fewer literary works that I reviewed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Midnight in Drohobych

Originally, this drink, that I designed after translating Bruno Schulz's "Undula" and in honor of its release, which took place at midnight in Schulz's hometown in western Ukraine, was called the Republic of Dreams. But after the book launch, I decided Midnight in Drohobych was a better name and more of a specific reference to my work on Schulz. I've been teasing the recipe for months, often simply forgetting to post it as soon as I mention it. And it's been several weeks since I made one. But now's the time to share it with the world.

My 2020 project, thanks to a cocktail book I received last Christmas as well as to the circumstances of life in a pandemic, has been to educate myself on cocktails, liquor, and liqueurs. I've educated my palate, to say the least. I've taste-tested rums, vodkas, tequilas, and triple sec-style orange liqueur vs brandy-based orange liqueur. I've developed a taste for both sweet and dry vermouth, I've come to adore Lillet blanc, and for the first time in my life I actually like both frozen and fresh margaritas as well as other tequila-based drinks, with the right tequila, of course.

I know I hate the taste of anything with red dye, so Campari- and Aperol-based drinks are out. I know that I don't appreciate a Vesper because it's just too boozy; there's no nuance. I know Sidecars really are just too sweet for me. I now know when an inexpensive bottle is perfectly fine for a drink and when you really should splurge for something spectacular. I've tweaked the Tumbleweed recipe until its sugary sweetness has been adequately subdued by the fiery chili liqueur, which is what I appreciate more.

I've made my own simple syrups, both flavored and plain. I've made my own flavored rim salts. I regularly, as in monthly, make my own ginger syrup for Moscow Mules and Dark and Stormys. I've made my own coffee liqueur. I make my own grenadine. I will try to make my own orgeat in the next few days.

And I have most of the equipment required to run a public bar. I've learned to shake and stir like a professional. My garnish game is impressive. I can rim a glass better than your grandma. I can juice like a whiz and muddle like a motherfucker. I've even successfully converted a handful of drinks into frozen versions: the Bichon Frise and the Corpse Reviver No. 2, especially.

All this to say: I didn't just throw some shit together to make the Midnight in Drohobych.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz horilka, or Ukrainian or Polish vodka
  • ½ oz ginger syrup
  • ½ oz seltzer
  • ¼ oz cinnamon schnapps
  • ⅛ teaspoon absinthe

Technique

  • coat the sides of an old-fashioned/rocks/lowball glass with absinthe
  • fill glass halfway with ice (or with 1 large ice cube) and set in freezer to chill
  • add horilka (or vodka), ginger syrup and seltzer (or 1 oz of ginger beer), and schnapps to a mixing glass, fill mixing glass ¾s full with ice, stir for about 15 seconds
  • strain mixing glass contents into chilled old fashioned glass
  • pinch orange peel over drink and rub peel across the rim
  • garnish with an orange slice

With its cinnamon and ginger and hint of anise, this drink should definitely be enjoyed during the winter holidays. I like ginger beer a lot, so feel free to use less ginger syrup and more seltzer. For seltzer, I typically rely on Topo Chico, which is my favorite bubbly water. Absinthe is something you should, if you can, splurge on. I prefer Pernod, though you can replace it with any anise-based liqueur. Cinnamon schnapps--because Cinnamon Shops--can be replaced with just about any cinnamon-based liqueur; Tuaca, for example, has a cinnamon and vanilla liqueur that also works in this drink.

Sip responsibly!