Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker


Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Title: The Age of Miracles
Narrator: Emily Janice Card
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2012)
Summary/Review:

This novel offers a speculative account of the crisis that occurs when the rotation of the Earth slows, lengthening the periods of daylight and nighttime.  This incident is referred to by the characters in the book as The Slowing, and it has the effect of causing birds to die off, an increase of solar radiation, a complete inability to grow traditional crops, and even causing some people to contract an illness.

While the premise is fantastical, the way the fictional American society responds to the crisis is realistic.  The US government determines that the country will continue to follow the 24-hour clock regardless of what time the sun is shining or not.  Some people rebel against this, insisting on living on “real time,” even going so far as forming their own separatist communities.

The narrator/protagonist of the novel is a junior high school girl from suburban San Diego named Julia.  From her perspective we see the dissolution of the social order among her family, friends, and school.  Any attempts to deal with the normal struggles of adolescence are overshadowed by the crisis that prevents any sense of predictability in the world. Julia narrates from an uncertain future while the narrative focuses on the first few months of the slowing as Julia faces changing friendships and an emerging relationship with a long-time crush.

This novel is dark and emotional and all too real to be reading at this time.

Recommended books:

  • The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

Rating: ***

Book Review: The Disneyland Story by Sam Gennawey


Author: Sam Gennawey
TitleThe Disneyland Story
Publication Info: Birmingham, AL : Keen Communications, LLC 2014.
Summary/Review:

This book caught my eye when I was looking for guide books for our Walt Disney World trip and since I’ve long had a fascination with amusement park history, I decided to read it.  The story documents the origins of Disneyland in California from Walt Disney’s fascination with model trains and miniature villages and the desire to give something for fans of Disney films to do when they requested to visit the studios in Burbank.  It eventually grew to be the theme park built in an orange grove near the then remote town of Anaheim.  Disney’s monomaniacal commitment to building and then tinkering with Disneyland over the last 15 years of his life makes one wonder how he found time to work on the studio’s film and television project. This is doubly true since he was bringing a lot of the talent from the studios to work on Disneyland, becoming the first imagineers.  For all the artifice of Disneyland it is fascinating how many real things – from train engines to architectural details – were salvaged to build the park.

The book is basically in two parts.  The 1950s and 1960s are more intricately covered with the focus on Disney’s dream and the projects completed and started in his lifetime.  From the 1970s to the present, the book is more of a listing of annual changes to the park, and the sense that Disneyland is getting neglected due to the company’s focus on new parks in Florida, Japan, France, and China.  The Michael Eisner era seems to be wrapped up in red tape and bad ideas as the company continually fails to expand Disneyland and the initial disappointment of the Disney California Adventure when it finally opens in 2001.  This period is also marked by the Disney company seemingly doing everything in their power to avoid ever paying any taxes to the city of Anaheim.   Nevertheless, while the book is rightly critical it also celebrates the imagination that went into creating and changing Disneyland and the joyous role it plays in American culture.
Favorite Passages:

Disney archivist Dave Smith said, “Disneyland’s true appeal, we admit now, is to adults. Children don’t need it. Their imaginations are enough. For them, Disneyland is only another kind of reality, somewhat less marvelous than their own fantasies.”

According to architect Robert A. M. Stern, “Ironically, Main Street and the very way the theme parks are designed would probably be, much to Walt Disney’s surprise, the actual genius of American Urbanism captured at a time when it had no value to most people, certainly in the architecture and planning profession.”

According to Crump, when he started working on the project, Ken Anderson took him aside and said, “Now you guys remember that when you’re designing anything for Disneyland, you’re the gods! You tell them what you want, and you make sure that they do it your way no matter what!” Then Crump met with Walt, who told him, “You gotta remember that there are electricians, there are plumbers, there’s air conditioning … you’ve got to work around that … they’re just as important as you are.”

At lunch with Walt one day, Ray Bradbury asked, “Walt, why don’t you hire me to come in and help you with ideas to rebuild Tomorrowland?” Walt replied, “Ray, it’s no use … you’re a genius and I’m a genius … after two weeks we’d kill each other!” Bradbury was flattered, “That’s the nicest turndown I’ve ever had, having Walt Disney call me a genius.”

Ray Bradbury recalled a time when Walt told him “Nothing has to die.” He wrote, “Walt was right. Nothing has to die. Just rebuild it. Steamboat America, lost? Carve a river bottom, flood it, and send your Mark Twain paddle wheel down the riverway. Victorian train travel, gone? Nail up a rococo scrimshaw station, steam in the 19th-century locomotive, carry passengers from Civil War territories through African jungles into AD 2000.” Disneyland was a way to live forever.

Recommended booksInside the Mouse by The Project on Disney, Mouse Tales by David Koenig, and Amusing the Million by John F. Kasson
Rating: ****

Beer Review: Almanac Pilsner


Beer: Craft Pilsner
Brewer: Almanac Beer Co. 
Source: Can
Rating: **** (8.5 of 10)
Comments: Almanac pours out golden, yet cloudy with a lot of effervescence and a thick head.  The aroma is of fresh cut grains and citrus with a flavor of mild hops balanced with a hint of sweet cream.  There’s minimal lacing and a light mouthfeel.  Overall this is great stuff.

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Otra Vez


Beer: Otra Vez
Brewer: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: *** (7.6 of 10)
Comments:

This beer is brewed with prickly pear cactus, which reminded me of the time I fell into a prickly pear cactus and since there were no tweezers handy I tried to extract the needles from my hand with my teeth, but ended up with a needle in my tongue!  This was a more pleasant experience of introducing prickly pear cactus to my mouth. It’s a sparkly, golden beer with a finger-width head.  A sour citrus aroma introduces a tart and sweet flavored beer, kind of reminiscent of a gin & tonic.  It’s low in alcohol and highly drinkable, so it’s good for a hot day.  It paired well with my supper of Israeli couscous and roasted vegetables.

Beer Reviews: 21st Ammendment Toaster Pastry


Beer: Toaster Pastry India-Style Red Ale

Brewer
: 21st Ammendment Brewery

Source
: Draft

Rating
: **** ( 8.0 of 10)

Comments
: Beer pours with a gorgeous amber color, but no much head or carbornation.  Fruit and malts are apparent in the nose.  The taste is a balance of sweet and bitter with wood, nut, and strawberry favors.  Nicely done and palatable.  Not overly bitter as the “India-style” usually implies. 

Beer Review: Stone Citrusy Wit


Beer: Citrusy Wit
Brewer: Stone Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating: **** (8 of 10)
Comments: On tap at Saus in Boston, this is a good beer to accompany Belgian specialties.  The beer appears cloudy and orange with a foamy head.  The citrus is strong with this one from the muted orange peel aroma to the orange/lemon flavor, punctuated by coriander spice, and followed by a bitter apricot punch.  As someone who is not a fan of bitter beers, this is a pleasant exception.

Movie Review: Dope (2015)


Title: Dope
Release Date: 19 June 2015
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Summary/Review:

Growing up in “The Bottoms” of Inglewood, California, Malcolm and his friends Diggy and Jib get good grades, play in a punk band, and are obsessed with 1990s hip hop music and fashion.  As geeky misfits they have to navigate themselves around bullies, drug dealers, and gang members on a daily basis.  When a young woman invites Malcolm to a drug dealer’s party at a nightclub, they find themselves in the middle of a shootout and with a backpack filled with Molly and a gun.  All sorts of hijinks ensue as the trio attempt to get rid of and then sell the drugs. It’s reminiscent in many ways of teen comedies of the 1980s updated with contemporary references. It’s probably most analogous to Risky Business, but since I always hated that movie I’ll point out that it shares commonalities with Real Genius in the ways the young protagonists use their smarts to outwit and outsmart everyone else.  While this movie is laugh out loud funny, grim realities are close to the surface and it does not shy away from depicting gun violence, drug use, and the frequent use of the n-word.  This is a pretty spectacular movie on all levels – script, acting, cinematography, and the brilliant use of music.

Rating: ****

Beer Review: Boont Amber Ale


BeerBoont Amber Ale
BrewerAnderson Valley Brewing Company
Source: 12 oz can
Rating: (7.5 of 10)
Comments:

Appropriately amber colored, this is an effervescent beer with a big, bubbly head that disspates quickly.  The aroma is grassy and rye bread, with a balance of caramel and citrus in the flavor, and a lingering hop bitterness. Light lacing on the glass.  Good solid beer.

 

Beer Review: Ballast Point Victory at Sea


Beer: Victory at Sea
Brewer: Ballast Point Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating: ****(8.4 of 10)
Comments:

This  Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter pours out black with a thick, cream-colored head.  The nose is chocolate and roasted coffee bean, and the taste is a rich chocolate with hints of vanilla sweetness and a bitter coffee atertaste. At 10% ABV, you can taste a bit of alcohol and will probably also feel it!  The beer has a light mouthfeel for a porter and leaves light lacing on the glass.  This is some fine beer right here!

From the same brewer:

Beer Review: Lagunitas Brown Shugga Ale


Beer: Brown Shugga Ale
Brewer:  Lagunitas Brewing Company
Source: Draft in a tulip glass
Rating: **** (8.1 of 10)
Comments:  This beer pours out a pleasant dark amber color with a pinky-width head.  The aroma is sweet with hints of grass and spice.  The flavor is complex – juicy fruit, brown sugar, and a touch of bitter hops. Oh and the presence of alcohol is noted.  There’s some lovely lacing and a medium mouthfeel.  Brown Shugga is a nice treat!