Beer of the Week 34 Éphémeré

Unibroue's Éphémère Apple

From the label:

Ale brewed with apple juice, coriander, curacao peels and with natural flavor added. Éphémeré is a seasonal ale brewed with apples. It offers a fragrant green apple bouquet and a remarkably well-balanced mouthfeel. Truly, a refreshing summer delight in every sip.

From my notes:

Cloudy, straw colored, thin head that quickly dissipates. Green apples and yeast on the nose. Very clear, crisp taste (dry). Flavor delivers on the smell of granny smith apples with some spice as well. Fruity finish.

I think this is a beer that wants to be a cider

Éphémeré is another great spring or summer beer. Cool and crisp with a tart apple taste. This goes great with lighter fare: salads, fish, sushi, chicken; also would go great with fresh berries. This would also taste great after being out in the heat or just sitting on your porch watching the sun set. I get the feeling that Unibroue wanted to make a cider but couldn’t commit and so they created a beer that came as close to cider as you can.

Rating (out of five):

Not a Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I picked this up on the Kindle either right at the end of November or the beginning of December last year. I knew enough from friends and acquaintances that the book heavily referenced video games and 80’s pop culture. I didn’t know much beyond that though. I dove in and quickly discovered just what Ready Player One is all about.

The book tells the story of Wade Watts, a destitute nerd barely ecking out an existence on a dystopic Earth where climate change and government inability to successfully manage a global economy has created vast disparities between people and where a fully immersive internet coupled with an addicting, and free, MMO called OASIS (think Second Life but fun(?)) that serves as most people’s panacea. Life sucks here so zone out and tap into a digital life that has more meaning. The co-creater of this digital utopia has died and left his controlling shares in the company that controls the game to whoever can solve the puzzle he’s designed within OASIS. Wadd Watts with the help of some friends end up claiming that prize and in doing so saves the OASIS from the evil corporation intent on turning the game into a cash cow.

Ready Player One is a fun nerd thriller; is nerd thriller even a genre? It should be one, there are enough of us… That deftly manages to use the tropes of the thriller genre to lead the protagonist and the reader through the mystery at the heart (the puzzles and riddles that need to be solved in order of Wade Watts to win the contest and claim control over OASIS) of the story without boring the reader. I didn’t have any issues with the story line. My complaints come largely from the lavish, and near constant, praise of 80’s pop culture and nerd culture (if it can even be called such a thing…) which quickly overwhelms every other aspect of the book. In fact, less than half way through the book I became suspicious that the whole story was a thinly constructed excuse to nostalgically ejaculate about the 80’s. I was there too, I remember those years. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t amazing either. A perfectly good book ruined by the author’s enthusiasm for a very niche subject area…

[rant]

Final complaint: In the end, I couldn’t enjoy this book because it rewarded someone who wasted their life. It rewards this disturbing kind of obsessive compulsive expertism. That a decent, no, great substitute for making something of your own life is to catalog the minutia of someone else’s. Mr. Watts has no real skills. In this world he can not DO anything. What he can do is tell you, in excruciating detail, all about  the songs, movies, and video games of the 1980’s. I have hobbies and obsession too; but, I’m not kidding myself. I’m not deluding myself into thinking that those are a substitute for hard work and useful skills. It’s the latter and not the former that are going to feed and provide for my wife and I. I just seem to have a real issue with these kind of characters.

Maybe, because I see a little too much of myself in them? Maybe, because I can’t delude myself anymore that I’m not wasting my time?

[/rant]

Repost: Ruminations on Ashputtle

Everyone knows this story, right? Wrong!

I’m not feeling well today. This is a repost of something I wrote back in September of 2007:

One of the books I bought at the used bookstore in Eugene, OR was a collection of the Brother Grimm’s fairy tales. I’ve been flipping through the pages randomly looking for fodder and boy is there a lot of it. Either living in the 18 century was much more surreal than it is in the 21st, or the Brothers Grimm knew some sick fucks. Take for instance that most famous of disneyfied story, Cinderella, except her name isn’t Cinderella, which at least sounds pretty, and really what 5 year old, No, what grown person raised in a first world country knows what a cinder is? So you can ignore where her name comes from. The “ella” adds a little sophistication to the name. Ashputtle though? Nothing attractive about that name, I can’t think of a worse name than Ashputtle, Ingrid and Gretchen are pretty bad, but Ashputtle? Worse name ever!

So the story starts with a rich man’s wife dying. The dying mother tells her daughter that she should pray to God for anything she might need and He and herself would watch over the girl. We never learn her real name. The rich man remarried, having a nice wife must have been really boring because he married a crazy bitch. Who of course had two daughters who also happen to be crazy. Crazy is just the beginning though, all three of these women are also vindictive, shallow, spiteful, on and on. The two ugly girls in the Disney movie don’t come close to what these two were. Worse than this though is the apathetic father, who does nothing to protect his first daughter?! Where is this man? When his daughter is forced to pick food out of the ash in front of the fireplace, and then forced to sleep there and wear the same clothes over and over? The man is pretty much a non-event. I guess it is true that Men will do anything for a little tail… Sigh. He does provide a branch of the first tree he brushed against on one of his trips, which Ashputtle takes and plants on her mothers graves. She waters the branch with her tears and it grows into a tree, which she visits everyday. The birds that live in her tree provide her with anything she wishes for. Which is nice I guess, too bad she never wishes to get out of her shitty life. Which just goes on and on… Until the prince of the realm holds a ball to find the most beautiful woman in the land, who will become his wife, because this is how royalty finds its next member… Do you see any beautiful people in the House of Windsor? Of course not, because every royal is inbred. Their the human equivalent of show bred dogs, and about as clever which is apparently why they’re all still swimming in the same stinking, shallow genetic pool, common blood would corrupt it. It is nice to see that someone besides fundamentalist Christians are sticking to obsolete ideas… That is a completely different subject though, back to the folktale.

The Prince throws a ball, the step sisters get Mommy and Daddy to spend ridiculous amounts of money on them so that they can impress his Highness. Ashputtle though can’t go because she looks like a extras reject from a made for television Dickens’ drama. Lucky for us readers Step-Mom is crazy and though she has no intention of letting Ashputtle go, for all she knows they Prince has some sort of dirty slave girl fetish, she pretends that if Ashputtle can complete impossible tasks she may go. So she dumps bags of dried lentils on the floor and tells her she has to pick them all up. Then the stepmother disappears confident that there is no possible way her step daughter can collect them all, having all the confidence of a James Bond super villain. Ashputtle has the birds clean up the mess and takes it back to her step-mom, who now dumps two bags and tells her to clean up, again she leaves?! Again the birds save the day, again Ashputtle is hot down. Then everyone goes off to the ball leaving Ashputtle at home. Ashputtle goes to her tree and cries and through the magic of trees that grow on your mother’s grave, a beautiful dress and fancy shoes fall down and she goes off to the ball, where she has a grand time and makes the prince fall in love with her, it gets late, Ashputtle wants to go home so she runs away. Prince follows but loses her, this whole thing repeats itself two nights in a row, each time Ashputtle gets a fancier get-up, each time she escapes, the third night Ashputtle loses one of her shoes because the stairs were covered in pitch. The prince shows up at the house of Ashputtle, cause he knows she lives there, he followed her twice to it before she disappeared…

At the house he tells the Mother and Father that he is going to marry one of their daughters if the shoe fits, which is gold by the way not glass (both being equally ridiculous as choices for cobblers). The eldest step sister tries it on first, and you know it doesn’t fit, what you don’t know is that crazy step mother tells her own flesh blood to cut her toe off?! “You won’t need to walk when you’re queen”. So she does?! I don’t care how much I love my mother I’m not cutting myself just because she told me so, even if I do get to be queen! (Don’t read in to that statement). So now the shoe “fits”, the prince takes the girl away to the palace but on the way those birds tell the Prince to look at the his bride to be’s foot. He sees the blood and turns around. Wash rinse repeat with the younger step-sis, except cut your heel of this time. Now the prince wants to know who is left, no one the father says and now I’m quoting from the actual text, “There’s only a puny little kitchen drudge that my dead wife left me. She couldn’t possibly be the bride.” Again, give this man Father of the Year award!

So the Prince and Ashputtle get married, and the step-sisters get their eyes picked out by birds at the wedding, beautiful. I love how at the end the story tries to teach a lesson, their eyes were picked out for being false and wicked… Nothing is said about the step-mother and father, so I guess being piss-ass poor parents is okay, in fact it should probably be rewarded. Just don’t try to cash in on your step-sister becoming Queen after you were mean to her, cause then you lose your eyes. Recap: shitty, scarring, permanently damaging parenting is okay. Trying to mooch off of the in-laws eyes PECKED OUT BY BIRDS!!

Gotta say I love that message.

Bastion: Not a Review

Does this logo tell you anything about the game?

 

Bastian: What is that?
The Childlike Empress: One grain of sand. It is all that remains of my vast empire.
Bastian: Fantasia has totally disappeared?
The Childlike Empress: Yes.
Bastian: Then, everything’s been in vain.
The Childlike Empress: No, it hasn’t. Fantasia can arise anew, from your dreams and wishes, Bastian

Bastion was the first release for Xbox Live ‘s Summer of Arcade 2011. I don’t know if the game was heavily marketed or not. I know I didn’t start hearing about it until the game came out and what I heard from friends and others was an inability to describe what exactly made the game so compelling… Comments like “It’s kinda like Soul Blazer because you build a world, but not really,” and “the narrator adds so much! He tells you exactly what is happening on screen,” or “What is with this narrator? I know what is going on I’m playing the one playing the game!” I made a few attempts to get clearer definitions from the makers of these comments but to no avail. All I learned was that it was an action-adventure, with a bit of RPG, some sort of world building component, and a narrator. Not much to go on.

A section of the titular "Bastion"

My curiosity was piqued; I downloaded the game and began playing. The game itself is a competent 2/3 pseudo isometric view action-adventure game wherein players control the protagonist, “the kid,” through a world destroyed by the “Calamity” and attempt to rebuild it through the magical powers of the Bastion. If we left it at that there wouldn’t be much to write about… Bastion’s ability to keep you playing lies in its narrative and how it is conveyed to the player. As you explore each level a narrator describes what your on-screen character is doing, what he is seeing, it’s in-world context, and moves the storyline forward. An odd feature, I’ll admit, what does it add to the game? Well, between the actions of “the kid” (your actions) and the narrator’s words the world of Bastion, the world that at the beginning of the game is gone, is rebuilt before the player’s eyes. Each level begins as a discrete lone room floating above a water-colored nothingness. As “the kid” moves around the world hallways, doors, rooms, and buildings spring into existence. Just as Bastian (I don’t believe this game’s name is a coincidence) in the Neverending Story is tasked with renaming the childlike Empress and rebuilding the world of Fantastica with his imagination the player in Bastion is tasked with re-creating the world of Caeldonia.

Not everyone or everything wants the world restored...

The idea that words, written or spoken, have the power to create and destroy is an incredibly old one. Various forms of mysticism and magic centered around the learning of correct names in order to control invisible beings, both benign and malignant. It’s an idea that for some reason appeals to human nature, that by organizing the world, by labeling it humanity can exert some measure of control over it. Bastion taps into this idea and uses it to build a beautiful world and a deep story about loss, betrayal, the horrors of war, and the redeeming nature of mankind, all without extensive cut-scenes or text-boxes, and presented in such a way that you don’t feel as if you are playing a game, or watching a movie, rather the image I walked away with was listening at the knee of a talented story teller.

This is how it all begins a lone room suspended in nothingness...

There’s a good game to go with the story and narrator. Bastion has near on the fly difficulty and challenge adjustment , branching story lines, customizable/upgradeable weapons, a new game+ feature, beautiful visual, and lovely music. That isn’t what kept me playing the game though, I kept playing because  I wanted to see Caeldonia restored, I wanted to hear the end of the story.