Saturday, April 30, 2011

library of congress marker

The Library of Congress bookmarker.

NOT the result of my own visit to these hallowed halls, unfortunately, but the gift of some friends who were in DC for a sleepover adventure at the Spy Museum. Yeah, right, wigs and false identification papers, the whole bit. Sounds fun!

So lets get right into this Library of Congress thing {{CRASH}} oops, road block. Here I am getting ready to be excited about the LOC, and hook you up with some linky-type adventures, and what do I find but this:

So... more on this later.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

sci fi covers deux

We've got some more crazy Sci Fi covers here. The last time I did something like this, it was more about how current fads are reflected in the cover art of classic science fiction. Classics work great for this because they're printed year-after-year, and with the possible exception of romance novel cover art --Fabio, I'm talkin' to you, son--Sci Fi has got some crazy stuff going on!

Click on the cover to enlarge it. Its fantastic! The guy is like: "Yeah, hey baby, just took a dust bath on this airless planet, and then I was gonna... Hey, why do you look so surprised?" Spacesuits are such a drag. Who needs all that air, and radiation protection? I wonder if Charles Louis Fontenay took a look at this cover art back in 1961, and said: YEAH! Perfect! Groovy! or whatever.

Flavorwire put this post up a few month ago, and the link still works, check it out. There are some goodies there. Where else are you going to get a lady, clad in a bikini made of flowers, being held like a balloon to keep her from floating off? Or a finger rocket? Or a chick in a low cut dress? Or another chick in a low cut dress? Or another chick with one eye and no dress? A couple of robots, various flying animals, and one funky looking thing, that looks like a cross between a giraffe and an electric guitar? Guys with horns, skulls, nukes, monkeys, more chicks... Funny thing is: there's only, like, 10 Sci Fi covers in this whole article!


Friday, April 15, 2011

spy museum marker

Siht ym sdneirf, si a rekramkoob morf eht Yps Muesum ni Notgnihsaw CD!

This my friends, is a bookmarker from the Spy Museum in Washington DC!

That's code, baby! A simple cipher, that I am sure no spy has ever used, on account of it being so crappy. But Spy Museum? Really? I guess so, and it gives the address right on the reverse of the bookmark. Sounds like you can walk right up there. Not very secret of them. But what do I know?

The image on this bookmark's obverse is a little collage of spyish-like-stuff. I have no idea if this is real stuff from the museum's collection, or just a bunch of receipts and train schedules from foreign countries, put together by the art department of some DC print company. I say I don't know, but thats not for lack of trying. I warmed this baby over a candle, rubbed it with lemon juice, scanned it in ultra-violet, and tried to discover ciphers in the text. I even held it up to the light of a crescent moon on midsummer's eve, but all to no avail. In the words of John Hodgman: Hello, nerds.*

This guy is actually from the International Spy Museum Store, located inside the museum. Or is it? That may explain why the address (or coordinates, as the website says) and phone number are so plainly written on the back. Its the store! The International Spy Museum itself, must be actually hidden somewhere, deep in the bowels of Washington; down where Franklin and Jefferson hid the Templar gold, and the bones of John Wilkes Booth's third brother, Fown, and Dan Brown's great-granddaddy's gold teeth, in a Mason jar full of everclear...

But after checking, I'm pretty sure its just a bookmark. Thanks to Natalie and Hope!

* for the nerds: if you know what the reference is--without googling it--put it in a comment.**
** the first person to answer correctly gets an official incunabular illumination T-shirt.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

sherlock iii

One of the reasons that Sherlock moved up on my reading list is the recent Guy Ritchie movie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, as the consulting detective and his chronicler/side-kick, John Watson. I vaguely recall the old black and white Sherlock movies--with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in the late 30s and into the 40s--and I didn't recall much about drugs, boxing, lethargy, or slovenliness in these older movies, that now seemed to be rampant in this newer film.

It made me wonder why the modern movie had decided to diverge so much from the tone of these earlier movies, which portrayed Holmes as a sort of dandy, with fine clothes, a clean house, and a spotless conscience. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the new movie actually returned the characters of Holmes and Watson to the way that they were originally conceived by Doyle, rather than the white-washed, pop-culture version I grew up with.

You can watch Basil and Nigel in Woman in Green free on the internets, right here chil'n. Its a little grimmer than I remember.

I'm in the process of pounding through some of John Watson's less than completely compelling--or 'singular' as Doyle may say--stories from the The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1894, and then comes The Return of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1903-4, followed by The Hound of the Baskervilles, originally published in 1902. Yeah, earlier! But which I already read (out of order, you may recall, in the last volume) so I'll be skipping this and moving on to The Valley of Fear.

I'm plagued.

I think something small and light is in order after this slog y'all.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

nerax 2011

Ah yes, good friends, its that time of year again: March has gone out like a lamb--then April came in like a Tasmanian devil--and its NERAX season! The New England Real Ale Exhibition celebrates its 15th year this year, and was once again held at the VFW Dilboy Post in Davis Square, Somerville. The VFW is working on getting a new hall built, and NERAX will eventually move there.

Smaller turn-out this year earlier on, which may have been due to the weather. It was raw, and a little nippy for standing in line this year, but the crowd picked up later and there was a line of folks waiting to get in when we left around 8:45. The exhibition runs Wednesday to Saturday, so the last session is going on right now. Prices to get in and for a glass deposit are the same as last year. $15 at the door with a $5 deposit for a glass. I took the 20 ounce Imperial Nonic glass, and drank quarter pint samples this year. They also had a 22 ounce snifter, silk screened with the NERAX logo for $10 (purchase only) for their 15th anniversary.

According to their website, 46 firkins of the expected exhibition total of 90 were on tap last night. Here's what I tried:

Shoals Pale Ale - Smuttynose, Portsmouth, New Hampshire (ABV 5.6%)
This was a great way to start. This beer is so much better than its bottled cousin, and that's why we do this cask conditioned thing, right? Beautiful, deep honey color with a fine, pale yellow and bubbly head that lasted until the last sip. Caramel nose, smooth, light, thin and hoppy. The hops were complex and balanced nice with the sweetness. The finish was clean, with a grapefruit or lime pith bitterness. This was one of the stronger beers I tried, and it was nice to start with one that I could compare to its mass produced version.

Cribyn - Brecon, Powys, Breconshire, Wales (ABV 4.5%)
Surprisingly stinky on the nose, but not the taste. This was the case with another beer last night according to a friend I was with. The smell was light, and so was the beer. Light wheat color with a thin head. The flavors came in waves: bread, yeast, and a malty smoothness and a strong hopped up finish.

Piston Porter - Oakleaf Brewery, Gosport, Hampshire, England (ABV 4.6%)
Molasses aroma, sticky mouth feel. Chocolate predominates. This porter was hoppy and dark, but balanced nicely with a malty sweetness. When it first hit my tongue, I was reminded of the taste of fresh snow. The finish was short and slightly bitter.

Whipper Snapper - Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire (ABV 4%)
Pale, grass colored beer. Grapefruit, spice and floral. Very expansive flavors with a slight bitterness. The head was thin, almost white and bubbly rather than foamy. This one was good.

Dilly Dally - Butternuts Beer & Ale, Garrattsville, New York (ABV 3.6%)
I started out with a strong one, and ended with a low alcohol beer. Caramel and cranberry aroma, fruit, wheat bread, malty and sweet, with almost no head and a smooth, toasted cracker finish. A very nice way to finish. I'm going to have to look these folks up.

Another fun night! Hope to see you next year!