Mar 052014
 

Bird Chronicle

This month’s selection: “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, by Haruki Murakami.

A couple years back we tackled another of Murakami’s books, “1Q84″, and were all somewhat blown away.  The man has a voice and vision unlike anything I’ve ever read. 

As we speak, I’m on page 101 (of 607) and wish I could simply curl up with this book and a dram of old BenRiach in front of the fire.  Alas…work keeps getting in the way.

If you haven’t read Murakami, let me offer up highest recommendations.

- Curt 

Mar 032014
 

This site is so unbelievably delinquent that I almost don’t know where to start.  Let’s see if we can’t get y’all caught up a little…

Looking back at past posts, I see the last event notes I shared were from Bulgakov’s “The Master And Margarita”.  While I will one day get back to writing up all of the gatherings that followed that one, for now let’s settle for just a quick rundown of what the Liquorature crew have been wending their way through over the past year and a bit.  Some neat selections to be sure.  The lads have some to the table with some very diverse selections.

After the aforementioned bit of classic Russian lit, our selections fell out as follows:

“Back To Blood” (Tom Wolfe)
“A Fine Balance” (Rohinton Mistry)
“Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” (Christopher Moore)
“Moby Dick” (Herman Melville)
“Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn” (Mark Twain)
“Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” (Philip K. Dick)
“The Year Of The Flood” (Margaret Atwood)
“Silence” (Shusaku Endo)
“The Outsider” (Albert Camus)
“Half Blood Blues” (Esi Edugyan)
“Fahrenheit 451″ (Ray Bradbury)
“The Fountainhead” (Ayn Rand)
“Slaughterhouse Five” (Kurt Vonnegut)
“Shalimar The Clown” (Salman Rushdie)

…and finally…this past month…

Count

We took the long journey from the depths of a prison cell in the Chateau D’If to sailing off into redemption with Edmond Dantes in Alexandre Dumas’s “The Count Of Monte Cristo”.

It’s almost embarrassing to admit that this was the first time I’ve ever read this veritable classic.  Man, what a tale!  I sincerely regret not having picked this up at some point in earlier years.  I was remiss.  Seeing as this novel is an absolute brick of a work in it’s unabridged edition, Jay offered everyone the choice of reading the novel as Dumas originally intended or in its more contemporary abridged incarnation.  The group was split about half and half as to which edition they chose, but those who went abridged learned a hard lesson in not taking shortcuts, as the abridged was a trainwreck of hacking and slashing.  The story was nearly unrecognizable from that which the rest of us read.

For any out there debating the choice between versions…unabridged.  Please.

Coming up we have a few more nifty ones.  As we speak I’m a couple dozen pages into Lorenzo’s March selection, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by one of our past favorite authors, Haruki Murakami.  (You may recall we were all quite wow’d by Murakami’s “1Q84″ a couple years back)

Following Murakami, we set to dive headlong into the following:

“Cutting For Stone” (Abraham Verghese)
“The Old Man And The Sea” (Ernest Hemingway)
“‘Salem’s Lot” (Stephen King)
“Hamlet” (William Shakespeare)

I promise you I’ll keep you better informed going forward.

In other chat…watch for some updates regarding club membership and what’s been going on here in Calgary.  The group has seen some big changes over the past while.  I’ll fill you in on who’s in and who’s out.

Some nifty news about a writer friend of ours as well.  I want to point you in the direction of his books.  More to come soon.

Until next update (very soon, friends)…

 

Slainte!

 

- Curt

 

 Posted by at 9:00 pm
Sep 082013
 

Liquorature #046 – “The Master And Margarita” (Mikhail Bulgakov)master

Date:  November, 2012

Host:  Scott

Whisky:  Compass Box Oak Cross, Arran Devil’s Punchbowl, ?

Rum: The Lash

 

Many years ago, while still living as a hippie out West, I saw the Violent Femmes play the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.  After a lengthy period of closure, the Ballroom had been fixed up and, at the time, just recently had its doors reopened.  The Femmes, who had played the Commodore in earlier (read:  scuzzier) days, were midway through a ‘blister’ing set (pun intended) when Gordon Gano took a few minutes to chat with the crowd.  His first comments were to the effect of ‘it’s good to be back in the Commodore.  They’ve dressed the old girl up and she’s looking pretty good.’

That’s sorta how I’m seeing the newly reno’d Liquorature.  A couple of departures…a couple additions…and here we are.  End of November, 2012, and nearly four full years after launching this little enterprise.  Recent days, as you may know if you’ve been following this blog, have seen the loss of a couple of core members.  Though this always hurts a bit, I’m trying to approach it as a ‘one door closes, another door opens’ kinda scenario.

So…here we are for gathering number one with the revised G9.  Please, if you will…a warm welcome to Lorenzo and Stuart.

Alright…moving on…

It all starts with a brisk stroll on a chilly Canadian winter night.  Or should I say subarctic f*cking freezing?!  Man…all joking aside…this is the reason I love this country.  When the trees are all rimed with frost and the night skies over the towns and cities are dressed in a perpetual orange haze…stunning.  And what better time to tackle a book set in the frigid spheres of the Soviet Union than the dead of Calgary winter?  Perfect alignment.

Playing to thematic elements is always fun on Liquorature nights.  Whether it’s food…décor…drink selections…what-have-you.  Scott made a few rather inspired beverage choices to tie back to the novel at hand.

First up…a rum called The Lash.  Yeah…rum.  A beverage suitable only for cleaning the flagellant’s wounds, I’d suggest, if only it weren’t so impure with all of its foul additives.  ;)  A takillya (tequila) drink aptly bearing the big, bold title of ‘Margarita’.  And whiskies?  Compass Box’s Oak Cross (of course) and one from Isle Of Arran called ‘The Devil’s Punchbowl’, a big ol’ vatting of whatever casks they had kicking around at the time (I kid, but wow…what an odd cask selection went into this 6,660 bottle release; peat, sherry, bourbon in all their various forms).  I think there *may* have been one more, but for the life of me, I can’t recall.

And the book?  Well…there are likely 666 reasons why this one was a trying read for some of the crew, and possibly most people who pick it up.  A few: period relevance vs contemporary comparables and relatables; the inherent challenges of much of Russian lit; the absurd and surreal aspects; the multiple time periods; Shakespearian ties; rather convoluted plotline; the difficulty in discerning relevance from mere poetic acrobatics, etc.  Interesting read, for sure, if tough.  Having said that…that why we do this.  Ease of consumption is not a prerequisite for book choices in Liquorature.  I should also mention…there was definitely a fair bit to discuss as well.

Randoms:  “From Christmas jingles to scatological”…”it’s good to be met”…”nibblies”…”the winners won”…”black people are rewarded in this life”.

 

- Curt

 Posted by at 11:37 am
Sep 082013
 

Liquorature Gathering #045 – “Mercy Among The Children” (David Adams Richards)mercy-among-the-children

Date:  October, 2012

Host:  Pat

Whisky:  Alberta Premium Dark Horse, Lot 40, Pike Creek, Alberta Premium 30 y.o.

Rum:  El Dorado 12 y.o.

 

This one quite took us by surprise.  Pat sort of has a gift for doing that with his selections, I think.  The utter poignancy and depth of emotion purveyed in this bit of Canadiana was not only unexpected, but nearly unparalleled in our club selections to date.  But forgive me…I get ahead of myself.

This was another intimate gathering, with the gang collected around the ‘big coffee table in a small room’ at Pat’s place.  These tight quarters make for a much more involved conversation, I think, and a tendency to have far fewer side conversations.  I always eagerly look forward to this more eye-to-eye setting for our meetings.

The novel Pat picked for this month was Giller Prize winner, Mercy Among The Children, by David Adams Richards.   It’s a tale to rend even the most hardened of hearts in twain.  The setting for the story is the Miramichi Valley of New Brunswick, and so, playing to themes as we’re wont to do in Liquorature, Pat elected to go whole hog.  We arrived to the smells of Canada’s signature dish, Poutine, being prepared…several bottles of tasty Canadian whisky on display…and our host himself decked out in a (ugh) Habs jersey.  Good stuff already (aside from the Canadiens apparel, that is).

Interestingly enough, aside from the two ADL releases on offer this eve (Dark Horse, and AP30), the choices Pat made were a couple I had only sampled days earlier at a whisky tasting here in Calgary with our friend and author, Davin de Kergommeaux.  It was a treat to revisit them so soon afterwards.

The book itself…hmmm…not sure where to start, so, no to be obtuse or anything, but I don’t think I will get into too many details here.  Suffice it to say that this story of one family’s struggles in the aftermath of a life-changing event are an exercise in challenging empathy and revisiting all of the sociological principles I studied back in university.  It reads very much reads like a literary snapshot of a poor historic rural Eastern Canadian town, and…I confess…had me in tears more than once.  Touching…painful…elegant…articulate.  This is one of only a couple of Liquorature selections to date that have so put me through the wringer.

A great selection, very much from untrod ground, and further…a great evening.

Randoms:  Poutine…”for such an idiot, you’ve come a long way”…”make like a tree…and bark”

 

- Curt

 Posted by at 8:14 am
Aug 262013
 

american godsLiquorature Gathering #044 – “American Gods” (Neil Gaiman)

Date:  September, 2012

Host:  Clint

Whisky:  Great King Street, Glenfiddich 15, GlenDronach 15

Rum:  Mount Gay XO Eclipse

 

Sadly, a night when I was fighting a wicked cold.  A couple of us (Pat, Scott and I) had just returned from a jaunt over to the promised land (Scotland) touring distilleries and drowning our livers in that greatest of libations, Scotch single malt whisky.  On my second-to-last day there I managed to contract a case of what was either the Plague or gonoherpasyphylaids.  Man…this f*cking cold knocked me on my *ss!  Contrary to initial thoughts (that all of that alcohol still running rampant in my veins would kill off any possible infection), this heavy drinking binge must have beaten the hell out of my immune system.  ‘Laid low’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Clint likely could have thrown out Johnny Walker Red and any of the McClellands line-up and I wouldn’t have known the difference.  Ok, ok…let’s not get silly.  Compromised tastebuds?  Yes.  But let’s be clear…it would take a full-on lobotomy to make me think either of the afore-mentioned constituted real whisky.  Settle down, I jest.  Ish.

As it was, Clint was playing to his themes.  He’d been writing a wee series for my other site, All Things Whisky, and his latest subject matter had been Speysiders at or around 15 years, if memory serves.  Ergo…we at Liquorature got to revisit a couple of old friends (the ‘Fiddich…s’ok, but the ‘Dronach…now that’s a special one).  On top of these two, Ostby broke out a bottle of Compass Box Great King Street, John Glaser’s latest concoction.  Great blend, this.  I know some of you more snobby buggers are reading that last sentence and thinking ‘oxymoron’.  Well…shaddap.  ;)  And for the Rum Sage…a bottle of Mount Gay XO Eclipse.

Good sipping, this, and well paired with an interesting pressed steak sandwich (hard to describe…easy to eat).  And with that, we were rolling.

‘American Gods’, by Neil Gaiman, is a book that had me hooked from the get-go.  It was dark, it was eerie, it was twisted and it bordered on brilliant.  I was picking up a bit of Clive Barker here…a bit of Salman Rushdie there…maybe a little Stephen King and a bit of…hmmmm…not sure…maybe some comic book flare throughout?  Not quite right, but neither is this an easy one to pinpoint.

The sad fact of the matter is, though, that we as a crew were simply not all that ‘on’ this night.  While the companionship was, as always, top-notch, the discussion itself was lacklustre.  Not our best.  We sorta seemed to be struggling for topics and lacked the enthusiasm a work like this deserves.  And trust me…it does deserve your attention.  There are some hella cool rollercoaster twists of absolute excellence as this book unfolds.  Summed up in two words:  Read it.

One note though, for those about to undertake this journey…if I had a do-over…I’da paired this bad muthaf*kka with some Highland Park.  Now THAT would have been epic.

Wish I’d felt better personally (and that the three of us weren’t still recovering from a liver-beating in Scotland), but still a memorable night.

Randoms:  Jesus says “f*cking dough head” … “gee…that guy got it rough, huh?” … “Irfit j*zz”

 

- Curt

Aug 262013
 

Liquorature Gathering #043 – “Ways Of Sunlight” (Samuel Selvon)ways of sunlight

Date:  August, 2012

Host:  Lance

Whisky:  Crown Royal Black

Rum:  Havana Club, a couple of aged Rum Nation releases and a schwackload more

 

Ok…don’t tell anyone.  I sipped rum this night.  And only rum.  And I actually sort of almost kinda maybe possibly didn’t mind one of ‘em.  Repeat that and I can’t be responsible for what happens.  Seriously.  You’ll tarnish my reputation.

This was a rather frustrating eve in which only four of the gang of eight made it out to participate.  Life gets in the way, I get it, but a rather poor showing can be quite heartbreaking, especially when hosting.  Nevertheless, we could have cried into our beers (errr…rum), or we could have turned it into a night to remember.  Obviously, we went with the latter.  Much like the case of the infamous ‘Blood Meridian’ night, this wee crew brought it all to the table and had a heck of a night full of Caribbean dialect, tooth-rottingly sweet libations, and holy-fires-o’-hell cuisine.  In short…our host took things to the authentic nth degree.

Lance, very much in Lance fashion, put together a feisty and fiery little feast for us.  Frivolous alliteration aside, these forays into full-blown fiery ring delight are always a source of anticipation leading up to the big event.  Once we’d all gathered, we dug in ’round the kitchen table for a helluva good meal before retiring to the great outdoors (aka the back deck) for the session itself.

Lance took us on a whirlwind tour of cane juice, putting our tastebuds through the paces, and actually managed to find one that I quite liked.  One I would have actually maybe considered buying, to be honest.  Think it was the Rum Nation Jamaica 25 year old.  Apparently it only takes rum about 25 years or so in the barrel to reach a point where I find it quaffable.  Hey…whatever works.  So long’s we get there in the end, right?

This month we didn’t have a tale to speak of.  We had about a dozen and a half.  Lance’s pick, ‘Ways Of Sunlight’, by Samuel Selvon (at one time a UofC writer-in-residence, interestingly enough), was a neat little collection of tales that took us into a completely new cultural vantage.  Very cool stuff.  While not exactly intellectually groundbreaking or anything, this quirky depiction of Caribbean life was broken into two sections, the first, entitled ‘Trinidad’, provided a peek into days gone by in this poor Southern nation.  The second section, ‘London’, provided a neat counterpoint in transposing character types (and possibly some of the same characters?) from part one into the urban sprawl of London, England.

Quite an enjoyable read, really.  Think Hemingway in the tropics and you’ll be close.

Good pick, Lance.  Thanks for taking us on another journey.  Insightful.  I mean that on more levels than one.

Randoms:  Curt liked a rum (RN 25 Jamaica) … and drank no whisky … wingman duties … what’s your house number? … “oh baby…you gonna have such good mangoes” … Lance brings the spice … four man crew

 

- Curt

 

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature Gathering #042 – “A Confederacy Of Dunces” (John Kennedy Toole)Dunces

Date:  July, 2012

Host:  Bauer

Whisky:  BenRomach Peat Smoke, Glen Elgin 16 y.o. Cask Strength, Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition, Glenglassaugh ‘The Spirit Drink That Dare Not Speak It’s Name’

Rum:  Gosling’s Black Seal

 

Oh boy.  Another one of those ultimately polarizing tales.  The guys either hated it or outright detested it.  No, I kid.  Sort of.

A couple of the crew (Clint and Chris, in particular) have a bit of a softspot for the more ridiculous stylings of this type of absurdist humor (hearken back to ‘Catch 22′, if you will), and as could have been foreseen, quite enjoyed this odd little romp through the opium fields.  Those of us with a more serious bent (read: better taste) found this barely palatable.  About as appealing as street vendor dogs when one is craving a nice filet, might be an apropos analogy.

As we pulled up to the digs for the evenings festivities, we were greeted by the great hotdog slinger himself, Bauer.  More Ignatious than John Paul Ziller, this guy.  Banner flying, literally, and hotdogs a’steaming (boiling? grilling?…can’t quite recall), we were led into the den of the absurd.

With a somewhat smaller crew than usual, we were able to crowd around a few seats in the cooler basement, and oh, darn…unfortunately had extra portions of barley juice to consume.  I know there was a rum on offer this eve, but for the life of me I can’t recall why.  Sage Surujbally was one of the absentees for this ‘Confederacy’ meet, so the rum may have taken a little knock or two, but not much more than that.  Proper respec’ to da whisky, as it should be.  (Sorry, Lance.  ;)  )

So, the book.  Wow.  What a trial in suffering.  I kinda think I’d opt for a coin toss between crucifixion and a re-read of the sour unpleasant life of Ignatius J. Reilly.  Truly an insufferable c*** if ever there was one.  I won’t expound on the virtues of the author’s capturing of dialect or time and place.  It becomes irrelevant in the face of such an insurmountable obstacle as tolerating the protagonist (can he actually be considered a protagonist?).  Instead, suffice it to say that this is one of the top three most-want-to-punch-in-the-face characters ever written, and for that alone the novel was an exercise in enduring revulsion.  Tough read.  (In case you’re curious…the other two in the top three are Holden Caulfield and Doctor Leet).

Even with an abbreviated crew…great night.  Clint and Chris in fine form.  Lotsa laughs.

Cheers, Bauer.  For the soiree, if not the book choice.  ;)

The randoms:  The Doors … “OG God” … “I wanna party on your p*ssy” … some Clutch … small crew … a few good laughs … acoustics … Ani DiFranco.

 

- Curt

 

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature Gathering #041 – “Cell” (Stephen King)Cell

Date:  June, 2012

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Macallan Cask Strength, Laphroaig 18 y.o., ADR Bowmore 15 y.o., Sheep Dip 1990 Old Hebridean, Octomore Orpheus, SMWS 33.114 ‘Sweet Versus Savoury’, Auchentoshan Valinch 2011

Rum:  Ron de Jeremy

 

Aww, man.  Theme nights.  So much win and so much fail.  The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that…

So…after a helluva night for ‘The Wicker Man’, I was hoping to ratchet it up again here for this one.  What subject could possibly allow more thematic fun than zombies?  Nothing!  And trust me…there was play a’plenty.  And therein lies the problem.  Too many distractions.

Two little bits of contest fun were set up to get the night rolling.  First up…a ‘Cell’ quiz.  Come on, lads…do you actually pay attention when you read these books or just gloss over and pray for the end?  The way it went down:  all the guys settled in with pen and paper and had to answer 20 questions related to the book.  Jay was running a bit late and showed up about halfway through quiz time.  He picked up his ‘homework’…scribbled for a few seconds…and got more right than any of the others.  WTF?!  Winner number 1.

Contest two…Ahhh…the fun stuff.  How do you take down a zombie?  Why, a head shot of course!  The walls were liberally plastered in decaying zombie heads (one from Zombi, one from NotLD, one from TWD, a wrestling zombie and a Spock zombie).  Each of the guys had to take a turn with dart guns (pistol and rifle) taking out the brain.  Tense, tense sh*t, I tells ya.  In the end, though…Chris took top honors as marksman.  I’ll be calling him when the inevitable zombie apocalypse gets rolling.

Now…the winners were brought out back to find two graves laid out under the deck, and told to pick one each.  Beneath each headstone was a bloody sheet-wrapped ‘corpse’ containing something cool.  The details…hmm…for club members only.

Maltmonster joined us again this eve as a guest, in what is becoming sort of an honorary Liquorature membership for nights I host.  Always fun…always one to contribute to the inebriation and to the evening’s humor…and a guy who freaking loves the thematic theatrics.  Couldn’t ask for a better contributor.

For edibles I tossed some carcass on the grill.  Couldn’t have a zombie night without gnawing the meat off the bone, could we now?

Whiskies on offer this eve?  Well…there were a lot of ‘em.  See the notes above for the full outlay.  Variety is the spice of life.

And the rum?  Well…depending on your take, we either took it up a notch this eve or sunk to rock bottom.  Ron de Jeremy.  That’s right.  A rum named for the king o’ swing, The Hedgehog, himself!

Randoms:  Barry sitting in … Lester or the atheist … Shooting contest … quiz … “The premise was pretty cute” – Barry … “Of course you did, you f*cking idiot, you’re in a Stephen King book!” – Clint … Pick your apocalypse … Buckteeth … “Actually have a part…in nine parts”.

 

- Curt

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature #040 – “Lord Of The Rings” (J.R.R. Tolkien)LOTR

Date:  May, 2012

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Amrut Fusion, Amrut Intermediate Sherry, Amrut Two Continents, Amrut Portonova

Rum:  Old Port Deluxe

 

Thank f*ck I’ve finally knocked this big b*tch off my list.  After years of getting riled from a few of my more literate amigos for not having delved into Tolkien’s masterwork I finally did the deed.  Let’s be clear…I did not come to this one willingly.  It was foisted on us by Jay.  Just the motivation required to finally do it up.  I should note here that this one stretched all rules of acceptability for Liquorature selections.  Books are to be single volume novels that stand alone.  So how does this three-parter qualify?  Well…it was argued that the intent was to have this published as a single volume and that it was actually the publishers who split it into pieces.

Cynicism and skepticism abounded, but in the end we took a majority rules vote and it was allowed to stand as Jay’s choice.

So, the concern I had always had about this one (yes…I knew the story ahead of time from having seen the films) was that it was just another fantasy tale (irrespective as to whether or not is was the granddaddy of ‘em all) and simply did not warrant being chosen due to lack of discussable subject matter.  When this happens, we tend to end up with some natter about the writing style, some favorite scenes discussions and a debate on the merits of the genre.

Indeed, we did discuss the genre, compared it to other fantasy we’ve covered to date, compared to the films, etc.  Much as foreseen though, there weren’t many ‘true’ discussion points.  Maybe this one suffered the same fate as did ‘Atlas Shrugged’.  We came in expecting a mind-meltingly deep philosophical discourse and ended up with anything but.  Oh well.  A lesson to be learned about expectations, I suppose.

For the devourables this eve…Jay threw out a blast from the past for this guy.  Pizzas ordered from Gondola.  I didn’t even know this chain still existed.  I remember going to Gondola when I was a wee lad in Manitoba.  Gotta say…bloody delish!  Thin crust…crispy as hell…tastier than tasty.

Malts on offer this eve?  Also from the far off lands (not quite Mordor, but not far off either).  India, this time.  A revisit to a couple of favorites, and a couple that were new to some members of the club.  All from the Amrut distillery in Bangalore.  Fusion, Portonova, Intermediate Sherry and Two Continents.  Even the rum, Old Port Deluxe, was an Amrut product.  Nice little flight of bevies from one of the most exciting and dynamic distilleries in the world.  And yes…these drams were appreciated by all.

So…the libations certainly helped grease the wheels of verbosity.  Lance’s juggling of the dwarfs’ names form the Hobbit and the nearly canonical reference to the lesser Jackson, Tito, were cause for great laughter.  A line-up of bottles boasting ABV’s of ~50-62% does not fall without a fight, but this little brotherhood of over-the-hill warriors, chubby dwarfs, effeminate elves and other lesser heroes did our best.  In the end…we went down swinging.

The Randoms:  “It’s gonna happen if you drink that” … Tito Tolkien … Counting dwarfs … “The Tony Robbins of Middle Earth” … “Gargamel” … “You lived in Fionavar?!” … The Mordor gay sign … debate over value of the appendices … sadly, no Robert or Bauer.

 

 

 

 

- Curt