Saturday, 27 February 2016

A Tale Of Cocktails #59

Brazilian Bellini


4oz cava
1oz cachaca
2 oz passion fruit juice
1 tsp sugar

Taste: 5
Look: 6
Cost: 9
Name: 7
Prep: 7
Alcohol: 3
Overall: 7.2

Preparation: Combine all non-sparkly ingredients and stir. Add the cava, very slowly otherwise it will react with the sugar and overflow. Add quarter of a passion fruit as garnish and serve.

General Comments: I think really this should use passion fruit syrup rather than juice plus sugar, but the final result is pretty similar, just a bit less thick and a lot easier to source. Whether you want to source it is another matter, of course; as is so often the case with cocktails containing cachaca, the best thing you can really say about its inclusion here is that it doesn't do too much damage to the taste. Cachaca is even worse than vodka in this regard; you don't add it to drinks to improve them, you do it to get rid of cachaca you've somehow ended up with if you find the smell too unpleasant when using it to scour your floors. [1]

Still, the passion fruit is nice (though the chunk floating towards your face each time to take a drink is a little disconcerting), and its low-level tartness is offset by the sugar. Bubbles, as usual, are fun and ticklish, and the whole thing is pretty cheap. Really, though, there's nothing here to recommend this over other sparking white-based cocktails, especially since it's a little more hassle than most.

[1] I should really note here that we only have cachaca because some friends of ours were ludicrously generous and brought a bottle of it to one of our cocktail parties (which are rather more free-form and shouty than that phrase typically implies: dress code is casual/vomit-stained). They weren't to know I would take so utterly against it, and we remain grateful for any and all additions to our booze supply AKA the Magic Cupboard.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Culture In My Squiddy Face

I found myself in Herbert Museum and Art Gallery in Coventry on both days of last weekend due to bad planning, but since it's entirely free beyond voluntary donations I don't feel bad.  Especially since what I went to see was so cool: the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015. It's hardly surprising this is as gorgeous as it is, and when you get bored of looking at all the awesome pictures of the awesome animals (plus the occasional villainous insect that presumably received the photo-shoot equivalent of pity sex), you can argue about how utterly wrong the judges' decisions were.  The below, for example, somehow failed to be recognised as Best Animal Photo Of The Year Or Ever Really.

Copyright Marc Albiac

What is wrong with these people? This next one needs mentioning in dispatches, actually, not because it was one of the absolute best on show, but because it makes me giggle every time I look at it.

Copyright Peter Lilja
The chick on the far left is just so clearly going "Muuuuuuuuum! You know I'm a vegetarian!"

Our accidental return journey also afforded me the chance to have another look at this Charles Ricketts painting.

To my shame I've never actually seen the Faust story in any form, other than the most obvious one, that of adaptation/rip-off. What interests me in the painting, though - obviously and doubtless to my discredit - is how much Mephistopheles' skullcap looks like Magneto's helmet.

Think about it: an immensely powerful being who offers you a slice of that power in exchange for your soul. Sounds a lot like the bargain you'd strike joining the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in its early days, I think. Certainly it's a less horrifically offensive and reductionist metaphor than "Magneto is Malcolm X".

Monday, 22 February 2016

Chappie Chat Number 2: Chappie Is Number Johnny Five

The title is deliberate, of course, as is the ordering of these posts (ooh look, isn't Squid clever with his structures and shit or whatever).  Chappie doesn't riff on Short Circuit, but on Short Circuit Two.

(Spoilers below)

Friday, 19 February 2016

Geek Syndicate Review: Harrow County Vol 1

In which I cover the first four issues of the 21st century's slowest ghost story. It's better than I make it sound.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

No Apologies For The Infinite Radness 1.1.8 - "War on Drugs" (Barenaked Ladies)

(Trigger warning: suicide)

There is a woman, present tense, and things are going very badly for her. She has a plan to make herself feel better, but it's simply not one that can work. She dreams of a past that never existed, and reclaiming a husband who will never return. So there she sits, balanced between two tapestries of lies, cracked and mangled.

The narrator is having dreams about her dying in the bath again. But what does this mean? Has she already died once, and he's reliving it? Or does he worry she'll die, and having the same sad dream about it over and over? Someone is dead, we know that much, but is it her? Just what are the demons haunting him? Do they spin misery? Or regret?

It doesn't matter, in the end. Some demons make you feel guilty, and some make you feel miserable, but sooner or later they switch places.  Or perhaps I should say that they breed. If there's one thing the monsters in your mind excel at, it's generating new monsters. An infestation. A colonisation. A war.

I have a friend who I am quite sure is suffering from depression. Having no medical experience whatsoever, this diagnosis is worth no more than a pinch of salt drowning in a bucket of warm spit, but I know what I see.  And he won't ask for help. That's not how he was raised. A man finds his own solutions, or he isn't a man. Medication is for quitters; the move towards pharmacological solutions must be fought.

The war on drugs. 

It is as the song says hard to admit, but I used to fight that war myself, long ago, before I realised just how totally and horribly I was losing. Losing sleep, losing friends, losing joy. And even when peace treaties were signed and diplomatic lines established with a slip of green paper and a fortnight of addlement and nausea, the demons didn't stop whispering. They just shifted from misery to guilt.

Near where the narrator lives there's a viaduct. They've put a suicide net there to catch people trying to end their lives by hurling themselves into space. But does that stop people from killing themselves? Or does it just mean they kill themselves indoors instead, where the rest of us don't have to take notice? Where we can go about our day. Every time I'm on a train that stops because someone is on the tracks, I look around at my fellow passengers rolling their eyes and remind myself I once knew someone who killed himself by jumping in front of a train.  Nets and railings and fences are valuable, sure, but they're not a solution, they're what we have to have in place whilst we look for a solution.

Or they should be. We don't actually seem all that bothered about the problem in the first place. The commuters roll their eyes, and wonder how much the delay will make their workdays harder. The wheels, sooner or later, keep turning.

"Another died, and the world just shrugged it off."

Thursday, 11 February 2016

"He Said To Hold A Glock To Their Heads; He Didn't Say To Shoot Them"

Added because otherwise the picture for this post will automatically be Gambit
Holy hellfire, is the world filled with some truly disgraceful assemblies of swamp-water and cowshit.

Aside from rage , the only thing I can really add to Surrence's comments is context. One of my roles in my department is to act as first contact for around twenty or so undergraduates. Their physical and mental health are a primary concern. Sometimes that means talking to them about the process by which they can apply for special consideration of "extenuating circumstances" because they've broken a leg and can't get to lectures, or they miss an assessed class test because they got food poisoning.

On occasion, I discuss with students how we can support them during long-term depression.

This is a tough job, partially because my own depression means these conversations are entirely too familiar, but also simply because I'm a human being and listening to another human being talk about how much they're suffering and how completely helpless they feel in the wake of that is a profoundly upsetting experience. It is my job to find a way to ask a student if they are planning on harming themselves. It is my job to phone them if they've stopped responding to emails to check they are still alive. All of this is as part of a considered departmental response, of course; I'm not suggesting I'm going above or beyond here.  But that's precisely the point. When it comes to mental health, the standard response has to be to understand the worse-case scenario and react accordingly.

Unless you're Mount St Mary's University in Maryland. If you're there, you need to ask your students whether they're mentally ill so you can flag them as likely underachievers who can then be asked if they'd rather not leave so they don't spoil the graduation ratio with their miserable tear-stained failures.
In an email exchange, obtained by the Post, some professors expressed concern about the survey, and one shared with colleagues some questions he said were from the survey that troubled him, given that the survey was not confidential and would be used to judge students. It included questions such as:
“How often were each of the following things true in the last week?:
I felt depressed.
I felt that I could not shake the blues, even with the help of family and friends.
I thought my life had been a failure.
I felt that people disliked me.”
I'm sure the story of the fired academics is worth following up on, but it's this section that needs to be engraved on stone tablets and fired through the window of every who has argued those with depression need to pull themselves together. Somehow we've arrived - in 2016! - a situation in which there are people who don't just under-consider or ignore or refuse to take seriously depression, but who will actually seek out those suffering from it so they can be pressured into going away.

This is utterly contrary to the most basic standards of care a university should be held to, to say nothing of basic human decency.  The idea of ever having to hand out this questionnaire as part of my pastoral duties makes me want to toss back a paraquat cocktail. The fact that the man who instituted this policy described those who would fall afoul of it as bunnies in need of drowning is almost too perfect.

Something to think about the next time someone tells you universities are slaves to the PC brigade.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016


Spoilers straight away, though really, how can I spoil a story Carter has told a half-dozen times already?

Monday, 8 February 2016

Chappie Chat Part 1: Chappie Is Robocop

Headline first: Chappie is at heart an entirely undisguised combination of the Robocop and Short Circuit franchises, refracted through a 21st century prism. But whilst that might do as a soundbite, the specifics are worth commenting upon.  At the very least, Blomkamp deserves credit for realising that a less cynical Robocop and a much darker Short Circuit darker actually lets the two stories join up in more or less the same place. Beyond that, though, there are concrete ways in which Blomkamp has improved upon the originals, or at least reshaped them in ways I find interesting.

Spoilers from this point on.