January 3, 2013
Well, THAT certainly went by all too fast. It seemed like only yesterday I was putting up the Christmas tree, and here we are at the cusp of the worst two months of the calendar. January and February are a brutal slog, especially here in Manitoba when the weather turns from “Magical Winter Wonderland” to “Freezing Arsehole of Hell”. Though we’re in the middle of a warm spell right now, which is nice if a bit troubling from a climate change point of view. Plus, our benevolent government added a new holiday in February, named for Louis Riel, a Metis rebel leader who thought, towards the end of his life, that he was a prophet of God and was eventually hung for treason. Such is history, I guess. So it’s not as bad as it used to be, but the post-holiday season usually gets people on a bit of a down vibe. I’m no different.
The excuses of the holiday season no longer hold any effectiveness. “I’ll look for a job/call that university/write that blog post after New Years”, is what I’ve been talkin’ at myself for the last two weeks. Well, guess what Skippy, New Year’s is (almost) last week’s news. Time to get doin’ toin’.
So, here’s the blog post. The first of two I’ve had in the can for awhile. This is the big, picture-heavy one, so why not get it out of the way first.
I made out well this Christmas, for some reason. The parents decided that despite my laziness, back sass, and unemployment, I deserved to be materially compensated this Christmas simply for being their progeny. I tried to reciprocate the best I could given my limited funds, but man, were they in a generous mood this year. So, without further ado, let’s have ourselves a picture safari!
I asked for tea books this Christmas, and ended up with THREE of them. This one is a good little thing to have around while you’re drinking a cuppa. Nice photos and pretty good writing. Gets you in a tea mood, y’know? Of course, it’s just the little brother of…
Yeah, I got a healthy dose of Heiss, alright. I quite like this book, actually. Not the most entertaining of reads, but very informative and comprehensive. There were some weird printing errors, though, like whole paragraphs repeated on the next page. Not a fatal flaw, but kind of jarring in a 40(!) dollar book. Still, a good buy for folks just getting into tea. Even an old hand like myself (two years of tea drinking makes you an old hand by my own flawless logic) found stuff in here I didn’t know. A nice “Cooking with Tea” section, too, though I dare say I won’t be using any of my precious leaf to make risotto.
Okay, this book. It is certainly pretty. It has nice graphic design, gorgeous photos, nice glossy paper. Slick as hell, it is. But…well, I dunno, it rubs me the wrong way. For starters, it’s basically the Heiss book. I understand that a tea book has to cover a lot of the same ground as any other tea book, but the similarities are kind of distracting. I mean, they even have little interview sidebars like the Heiss book, in almost exactly the same places. There is a lack of discussion of Korean tea, too, which I find kind of irritating, since Korean tea and teawares are important. The flavour notes are a little flowery and can get kind of pretentious, and some of them are just odd (raw scallops in the aroma of infused Longjing leaves?). The section on tea and health has a good biochemical analysis of 35 different teas, but in the main body of text there are a lot of “is said to” statements (“wulong is said to have a slimming effect”) which are pretty useless as far as science goes. Plus, they call a gaiwan a “zhong” instead, which yes, I know zhong is the Cantonese term for it, but everyone else in the West calls it a gaiwan, so calling it a zhong is bound to cause some confusion for new tea readers.
Maybe I’m just being catty, but the book just sort of rubs me the wrong way. I’ve had tea from Camellia Sinensis (the store, not the plant…okay, the plant, too) and it wasn’t that bad, so they know what they’re doing, but a book that had something more unique to offer would have served us tea drinkers better than just a rehash of stuff we’ve all seen before.
The late, lamented David Foster Wallace just keeps crankin’ out books. Nothing like being a dead-before-your-time genius to boost productivity, I guess. Sarcasm aside, I’m a pretty big DFW fan, having read all of his fiction except for his first novel (Broom of the System) and most of his non-fiction. This book is a collection of essays never before put in a profitable medium. Quite a few of them are good, some are just silly, and none of them are as brain-taxing as most other DFW stuff. Which is kind of disappointing, really, since I read DFW to have my brain feel like its been put through boot camp and hurt like hell but have it hurt in the GOOD way that meaningful work sometimes hurts. So insofar as “light” DFW goes, this is pretty good. Maybe not 30 bucks good, but I got it for free, so don’t mind my whining.
Ha ha, I love this cookbook so much. I mean, it’s huge! My mother, bless her, thought it was just a regular-sized cookbook. I thought that too, honestly, as I put it on my wishlist. But lo and behold, it’s a monster, coming in a cardboard shell along with a kitchen manual. This thing is bigger than my National Geographic atlas. You could fend off a school of bull sharks with this thing.
Not only is it big, though, but it’s informative. I’ve learned a lot of about food just from the first section, and while cooking the “modernist” way requires some equipment I can’t afford just yet (even a humble pressure cooker is beyond me), once I get a cash flow, look out world, I’mma be throwin’ out sous vide blowtorch-crusted steaks all over ya face.
Here is my brand spankin’ new Nintendo 3DS XL (the version for “old people who can’t see well”, according to my friend Matt). The thumbs up inversely represents the reaction of any females to the news that I got this thing and love it.
This shirt is the event of the century. Just look at it!
I got some other tea related stuff, but I’m saving that for the next post. Can’t spoil y’all.
So that was Christmas. My family and I got along okay, I guess, though there was quite a bit of grouchiness going around. Not new for the holiday season, but on Christmas Day at least we had ourselves a pretty good time. Yeah, I’m glad I got all this materialistic good stuff, but I’m pretty happy we didn’t yell at each other for at least ONE day during the holidays. And I drank some pretty good tea. And watched a funny video about orangutans who have learned how to wash socks and use a handsaw by watching humans. Handyman Orangutan!
PS: Yes, dedicating a blog post to my Christmas presents is pretty narcissistic, but what else do expect from me at this point?