Culture

Extra Hot Great

I enjoy listening to podcasts, but with a couple of notable exceptions, they tend to be relatively short lived affairs. I get the impression that they are a ton of work, with little payoff. As such, I’ve had the experience of discovering a podcast that I think is exceptional, only to have it close doors within a month or two of my discovery. Often, there is a big back catalog, which is nice, but it’s still depressing that no new episodes are being made. Again, I can’t really fault anyone for quitting their podcast – it seems like a lot of work and the general weekly schedule that is seemingly required in order to maintain an audience doesn’t make it any easier.

Extra Hot Great was one of those podcasts that I discovered about a month before they decided to call it quits. They had about a year and a half of back episodes, and I really came to love that podcast. Well, the reason they stopped the podcast was that two of the principle players were starting a new business venture in LA, a website called Previously.tv (I have linked to several of my favorite articles from them over the past few months). If you like television, the site is well worth your time.

And now we can all rejoice, because they’ve brought back the Extra Hot Great podcast! It is, more or less, the same format as the old classic episodes. A topic or two (usually a show or news item), with some irregular but recurring features inbetween (my favorite being “I am not a crackpot”, a Grampa Simpson inspired segment where someone lays out their crackpot idea), followed by Game Time, where they come up with absurdly comprehensive and sometimes complicated movie/television/pop culture quizzes and compete against one another (the thing that makes this segment work so well is that Tara and Joe know their shit way better than you, but are probably about equivalent with each other). The old EHG podcast shuffled between movies and TV, but I’m not sure if the Previously.tv incarnation will focus more on TV or not. Nevertheless, I’m excited to see a beloved defunct podcast brought back from the dead, and you should be too!

And while you’re at it, take note of your favorite podcasts and enjoy them while you can – maybe write them a good iTunes review, or drop something in the tipjar or something. Chances are, they won’t be around forever! For reference, here’s my regular stable of podcasts, you should listen to these too!

Reinventing The Movie Theater Experience (And Shushing)

A few weeks ago, Hunter Walk posted a short blog post about reinventing the movie theater by allowing wifi, outlets, low lights, and second screen experience:

Some people dislike going to the movies because of price or crowds, but for me it was more of a lifestyle decision. Increasingly I wanted my media experiences plugged in and with the ability to multitask. Look up the cast list online, tweet out a comment, talk to others while watching or just work on something else while Superman played in the background. Of course these activities are discouraged and/or impossible in a movie theater.

But why? Instead of driving people like me away from the theater, why not just segregate us into environments which meet our needs. … If you took a theater or two in a multiplex and showed the types of films which lend themselves to this experience I bet you’d sell tickets. Maybe even improve attendance during the day since I could bang out emails with a 50 foot screen in front of me.

Personally, this experience holds little to no interest to me (I can do that at home pretty easily), but I can see why it would be attractive to the Hunter Walk’s of the world (he’s a venture capitalist with kids and very little free time) and the notion of creating separate theaters for this sort of experience is fine for me (so long as the regular experience remains available). I mean, I probably wouldn’t partake in this sort of thing, but if there’s a market for this, more power to the theaters that can capture that extra revenue.

Of course, that’s not the reaction that Walk got from this post, which went much further and wider than I think he was expecting. It looks to me like a typical personal blog post and thought experiment(probably jotted out quickly on a second screen, heh), but it got picked up by several media outlets and the internet lost its collective shit over the suggestion. Some responses were tame, but many went for hyperbole and straw-manned Walk’s idea. He wrote a followup post responding to many comments, and again, I find Walk’s perspective perfectly reasonable. But then things exploded.

As cuckoo-nutso as this debate already was, Anil Dash came along and lobbed a grenade into the discussion.

Interestingly, the response from many creative people, who usually otherwise see themselves as progressive and liberal, has been a textbook case of cultural conservatism. The debate has been dominated by shushers, and these people aren’t just wrong about the way movies are watched in theaters, they’re wrong about the way the world works.

This is a bit extreme, but maybe I can follow this. People do refer to texters and the like as “heathens” and joke about the “downfall of society” as represented by rude people at theaters. Then he goes here:

This list of responses pops up all the time, whether it’s for arguing why women should not wear pants, or defending slavery, or trying to preserve a single meaning for the word “ironic”, or fighting marriage equality, or claiming rap isn’t “real” music, or in any other time when social conservatives want to be oppressive assholes to other people.

Zuh? What the hell is he talking about? Is he really equating people who shush other people in movie theaters with people who defend slavery? I suppose he’s trying to show a range of attitudes here, but this is absolutely ridiculous, and the entire thing is premised on a straw man of epic proportions. Dash goes on:

People who have fun at the movies can make almost any movie better. When the first Transformers movie came out, one of the key moments in the film is the first time the leader of the Autobots transforms in grand fashion from tractor trailer to giant robot, and pronounces “I am Optimus Prime”. At that precise moment, the guy next to me, a grown man in his early 30s, rose to his feet and shouted “YEAH!” while punching his fist in the air. I could see from his sheer emotion that he’d been waiting for this day, to hear this voice say those words, since the moment his stepdad walked out on his mother. This was catharsis. This was truly cinematic.

Dash is absolutely correct here, but, um, that’s not the sort of thing people are complaining about. He’s positioning shushers as people who disapprove of emotional responses to movies, as if people get shushed for laughing at a comedy or pumping their fist and shouting “Yeah!” during rousing action sequences. Of course, no one is complaining about that. Even at the most venerated theaters that treat the moviegoing experience with reverence and awe, like the Alamo Drafthouse, actively encourage such behavior! More:

The shushers claim that not giving a film on the screen one’s undivided attention is apparently unspeakably offensive to the many hardworking scriptwriters and carpenters and visual effects supervisors who made the film. Yet these very same Hollywood artists are somehow able to screw up their courage, grimly set their jaws with determination, and bravely carry on with their lives even when faced with the horrible knowledge that some people will see their films in a pan-and-scan version on an ancient CRT screen of an airplane that has an actual jet engine running in the background behind their careful sound mix. Profiles in courage.

This is, at best, a secondary concern. The complaint isn’t about the filmmakers, it’s about the other people in the theater. If you take your phone out in a dark theater and start talking (or texting), it’s taking away from the experience for everyone surrounding that person in the theater. Someone who laughs during a comedy or shouts “Yeah!” during an action movie? They’re contributing to the fun experience. Someone who’s talking to their spouse on the phone (at full volume) about tomorrow’s dinner party is seriously fucking with the people around them. You think I’m joking? That very experience happened to me last night during a screening of You’re Next (i.e. a horror film that is constantly building and releasing tension, often through silence).

It’d be easier for you to have exactly the hermetically sealed, human-free, psychopathic isolation chamber of cinematic perfection that you seek at home, but if you want to try to achieve this in a public space, please enjoy the Alamo Drafthouse or other excellent theaters designed to accommodate this impulse.

Again, no one is asking for hermetically sealed isolation chambers. At the aforementioned You’re Next screening, there were plenty of other people who were clearly into the movie that would occasionally blurt out “No, don’t split up!” or groan in empathetic horror when something violent happened – and those things added to the experience. The asshole talking about his rump roast with his spouse, was NOT. Incidentally, no one “shushed” that fucker, which leads me to wonder who the hell Dash is referring to when he talks about these mythical “shushers”.

Incidentally, the theater chain that Dash mentions as if it promotes this isolation is Alamo Drafthouse, which is indeed very intolerant of texting and rude behavior in theaters. But it isn’t hermetically sealed at all. For crying out loud, it’s got a full service restaurant thing going on, with people constantly walking in and out of the theater, eating food, and drinking beer. People are getting drunk at these theaters, and having a great time. I have no idea where Dash is getting this isolation thing from. Also, he mentions the Alamo Drafthouse as if there’s one in every neighborhood. I’d happily go to one if it existed within a hundred miles of my house, but there’s only 24 theaters in the country (16 of which are in Texas). And again, the only difference between the Alamo Drafthouse and every other theater in the country is that they have the manpower to actually enforce their rules (since waiters are in and out of the theater, they can see troublemakers and do something about it, etc…)

The intellectual bankruptcy of this desire is made plain, however, when the persons of shush encounter those who treat a theater like any other public space. Here are valid ways to process this inconsistency of expectation:

  • “Oh, this person has a different preference than I do about this. Perhaps we should have two different places to enjoy this activity, so we can both go about our business!”
  • “It seems that group of people differs in their standard of how to behave. Since we all encounter varying social norms from time to time, I’ll just do my thing while they do theirs.”
  • “I’m finding the inconsistency between our expectations about this experience to be unresolvable or stressful; Next time we’ll communicate our expectations in advance so everyone can do what she or he enjoys most.”

But shushers don’t respond in any of these ways. They say, “We have two different expectations over this public behavior, and mine is the only valid way. First, I will deny that anyone has other norms. Then, when incontrovertibly faced with the reality that these people exist, I will vilify them and denigrate them. Once this tactic proves unpersuasive, I will attempt to marginalize them and shame them into compliance. At no point will I consider finding ways for each of us to accommodate our respective preferences, for mine is the only valid opinion.” This is typically followed by systematically demonstrating all of the most common logical fallacies in the process of denying that others could, in good conscience, arrive at conclusions other than their own.

If steam wasn’t already shooting out of your ears in frustration at Dash’s post, this is where the post goes completely off the rails. The hypocrisy is almost palpable. Let’s start with the fact that most movie theaters are not, in fact, public spaces. They are privately owned buildings, and wonder among wonders, the owners have defined general guidelines for behavior. When was the last time you went to a movie theater and DIDN’T see a plea to turn off your fucking phone at the beginning of the movie. In other words, theaters “communicate our expectations in advance” of every movie they show. It’s the Dash’s of the world who are ignorant here. This is precisely why I wasn’t that upset with Hunter Walk’s original suggestion: If a theater wants to allow texting and talking and second screen experience, more power to them. Every theater I’ve ever been to has pleaded with me to consider the other people in the theater and, you know, try not to ruin other people’s experience.

Dash’s stance here is incomprehensible and hypocritical. What makes rude people’s differing standards more relevant than the “shushers”? He calls shushers “bullies” in this post, but they’re simply trying to uphold the standards of the theater. Why are rude people entitled to ruin the experience for everyone else in the theater? I honestly have no idea how someone like Anil Dash, who I know for a fact is a smart, erudite man (from his other writings), could possibly think this is an acceptable argument.

Amusingly, American shushers are a rare breed overall. The most popular film industry in the world by viewers is Bollywood, with twice as many tickets sold in a given year there as in the United States. And the thing is, my people do not give a damn about what’s on the screen.

Indian folks get up, talk to each other, answer phone calls, see what snacks there are to eat, arrange marriages for their children, spontaneously break out in song and fall asleep. And that’s during weddings! If Indian food had an equivalent to smores, people would be toasting that shit up on top of the pyre at funerals. So you better believe they’re doing some texting during movies. And not just Bollywood flicks, but honest-to-gosh Mom-and-apple-pie American Hollywood films.

He’s right, American shushers are a rare breed – I think I may have seen people get shushed 2 or 3 times in my life. And I see a TON of movies, to the point where examples of people doing rude things like talking about other subjects, answering their phone, etc… are countless. Usually, people just grin and bear it. And then give up going to the theater. Why spend $30-$40 to see a movie with a friend when you’ll just get frustrated by assholes doing rude shit during the entire movie?

India sounds like a horrible place to see a movie, but whatever. I imagine these theaters are pretty clear about what this experience is going to be like, so fine. Is anyone shushing Indians in those theaters? I find that hard to believe. But we’re not talking about India, are we? They clearly have different cultural norms than we do in America, and that’s awesome!

So, what can shushers do about it? First, recognize that cultural prescriptivism always fails. Trying to inflict your norms on those whose actions arise from a sincere difference in background or experience is a fool’s errand.

Someone is attempting to force their culture on someone else here, and it’s not the shushers. Dash clearly likes the way things work in India, and is arguing that we should adopt that here. If he’s talking about creating separate theaters for his preferred experience, then go for it! We’ll let the market sort out what people like. I’ll even concede that Dash could be right and his partial attention theaters will swallow up traditional American theaters whole. Of course, in that situation, I’ll probably never go to a theater again, but such is life.

Then, recognize your own privilege or entitlement which makes you feel as if you should be able to decide what’s right for others. There’s literally no one who’s ever texted in a movie theater who has said “Every other person in here must text someone, right now!” Because that would be insane. No one who would like to have wifi at a theater has ever said “Those who don’t want to connect should just stay at home!” Because they’re not trying to force others to comply with their own standards.

They’re not forcing me to text to talk on the phone, but they ARE forcing me to listen to them talk or see them text. Perhaps if we were talking about a true public space, this would be the case, but we’re not. The private owners of these theaters are asking you not to do this, therefore the entitlement is on the texters and talkers.

Dash has since written a followup that is much more reasonable (it makes me wonder if his initial post was just link-bait or some other cynical exercise), and again, I agree with the idea of producing new theaters around this concept. They may even experience some success. I just won’t be going to any of them.

Serendipity (Again)

Every so often, someone posts an article like Connor Simpson’s The Lost Art of the Random Find and everyone loses their shit, bemoaning the decline of big-box video, book and music stores (of course, it wasn’t that long ago when similar folks were bemoaning the rise of big-box video, book and music stores for largely the same reasons, but I digress) and what that means for serendipity. This mostly leads to whining about the internet, like so:

…going to a real store and buying something because it caught your eye, not because some algorithm told you you’d like it — is slowly disappearing because of the Internet…

…there is nothing left to “discover,” because the Internet already knows all. If you “find” a new bad thing, it’s likely on a blog that millions of other people read daily. If you “find” a new movie, like the somehow-growing-in-popularity Sharknado, it’s because you read one of the millions of blogs that paid far too much attention to a movie that, in the old days, would have gone straight into a straight-to-DVD bargain bin.

I’ve got news for you, you weren’t “discovering” anything back in the day either. It probably felt like you were, but you weren’t. The internet is just allowing you to easily find and connect with all your fellow travelers. Occasionally something goes viral, but so what? Yeah, sometimes it sucks when a funny joke gets overtold, but hey, that’s life and it happens all the time. Simpson mentions Sharknado as if it came out of nowhere. The truth of the matter is that Sharknado is the culmination of decades of crappy cult SciFi (now SyFy) movies. Don’t believe me? This was written in 2006:

Nothing makes me happier when I’m flipping through the channels on a rainy Saturday afternoon than stumbling upon whatever god-awful original home-grown suckfest-and-craptasm movie is playing on the Sci-Fi Channel. Nowhere else can you find such a clusterfuck of horrible plot contrivances and ill-conceived premises careening face-first into a brick wall of one-dimensional cardboard characters and banal, inane, poorly-delivered dialogue. While most television stations and movie production houses out there are attempting to retain some shred of dignity or at least a modicum of credibility, it’s nice to know that the Sci-Fi Channel has no qualms whatsoever about brazenly showing twenty minute-long fight scenes involving computer-generated dinosaurs, dragons, insects, aliens, sea monsters and Gary Bussey all shooting laser beams at each other and battling for control of a planet-destroying starship as the self-destruct mechanism slowly ticks down and the fate of a thousand parallel universes hangs in the balance. You really have to give the execs at Sci-Fi credit for basically just throwing their hands up in the air and saying, “well let’s just take all this crazy shit and mash it together into one giant ridiculous mess”. Nothing is off-limits for those folks; if you want to see American troops in Iraq battle a giant man-eating Chimaera, you’ve got it. A genetically-altered Orca Whale the eats seamen and icebergs? Check. A plane full of mutated pissed-off killer bees carrying the Hanta Virus? Check. They pull out all the stops to cater to their target audience, who are pretty much so desensitized to bad science-fiction that no plot could be too over-the-top to satiate their need for giant monsters that eat people and faster-than-light spaceships shaped like the Sphynx.

And as a long time viewer of the SciFi/SyFy network since near its inception, I can tell you that this sort of love/hate has been going on for decades. That the normals finally saw the light/darkness with Sharknado was inevitable. But it will be short-lived. At least, until SyFy picks up my script for Crocoroid Versus Jellyfish.

It’s always difficult for me to take arguments like this seriously. Look, analog serendipity (browsing the stacks, digging through crates, blind buying records at a store, etc…) obviously has value and yes, opportunities to do so have lessened somewhat in recent years. And yeah, it sucks. I get it. But while finding stuff serendipitously on the internet is a different experience, but it’s certainly possible. Do these people even use the internet? Haven’t they ever been on TV Tropes?

It turns out that I’ve written about this before, during another serendipity flareup back in 2006. In that post, I reference Steven Johnson’s response, which is right on:

I find these arguments completely infuriating. Do these people actually use the web? I find vastly more weird, unplanned stuff online than I ever did browsing the stacks as a grad student. Browsing the stacks is one of the most overrated and abused examples in the canon of things-we-used-to-do-that-were-so-much-better. (I love the whole idea of pulling down a book because you like the “binding.”) Thanks to the connective nature of hypertext, and the blogosphere’s exploratory hunger for finding new stuff, the web is the greatest serendipity engine in the history of culture. It is far, far easier to sit down in front of your browser and stumble across something completely brilliant but surprising than it is walking through a library looking at the spines of books.

This whole thing basically amounts to a signal versus noise problem. Serendipity is basically finding signal by accident, and it happens all the damn time on the internet. Simpson comments:

…the fall of brick-and-mortar and big-box video, book and music stores has pushed most of our consumption habits to iTunes, Amazon and Netflix. Sure, that’s convenient. But it also limits our curiosity.

If the internet limits your curiosity, you’re doing it wrong. Though I guess if your conception of the internet is limited to iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix, I guess I can see why you’d be a little disillusioned. Believe it or not, there is more internet out there.

As I was writing this post, I listened to a few songs on Digital Mumbles (hiatus over!) as well as Dynamite Hemmorage. Right now, I’m listening to a song Mumbles describes as “something to fly a mech to.” Do I love it? Not really! But it’s a damn sight better than, oh, just about every time I blind bought a CD in my life (which, granted, wasn’t that often, but still). I will tell you this, nothing I’ve listened to tonight would have been something I picked up in a record store, or on iTunes for that matter. Of course, I suck at music, so take this all with a grain of salt, but still.

In the end, I get the anxiety around the decline of analog serendipity. Really, I do. I’ve had plenty of pleasant experiences doing so, and there is something sad about how virtual the world is becoming. Indeed, one of the things I really love about obsessing over beer is aimlessly wandering the aisles and picking up beers based on superficial things like labels or fancy packaging (or playing Belgian Beer Roulette). Beer has the advantage of being purely physical, so it will always involve a meatspace transaction. Books, movies, and music are less fortunate, I suppose. But none of this means that the internet is ruining everything. It’s just different. I suppose those differences will turn some people off, but stores are still around, and I doubt they’ll completely disappear anytime soon.

In Neal Stephenson’s The System of the World, the character Daniel Waterhouse ponders how new systems supplant older systems:

“It has been my view for some years that a new System of the World is being created around us. I used to suppose that it would drive out and annihilate any older Systems. But things I have seen recently … have convinced me that new Systems never replace old ones, but only surround and encapsulate them, even as, under a microscope, we may see that living within our bodies are animalcules, smaller and simpler than us, and yet thriving even as we thrive. … And so I say that Alchemy shall not vanish, as I always hoped. Rather, it shall be encapsulated within the new System of the World, and become a familiar and even comforting presence there, though its name may change and its practitioners speak no more about the Philosopher’s Stone.” (page 639)

In this Slashdot interview, Stephenson applies the same “surround and encapsulate” concept to the literary world. And so perhaps the internet will surround and encapsulate, but never destroy, serendipitous analog discovery. (hat tip to the Hedonist Jive twitter feed)

Science Friction

Pharaoh’s curse: Why that ancient Egyptian statue moves on its own – Museum curators have noticed something odd about an ancient (3000+ years old) Egyptian statue in the Manchester Museum in England. It appears to be moving all on its own despite being locked in a case, and they’ve actually captured the whole thing on time-lapsed video.

The 10-inch (25-centimeter) statue was acquired by the museum in 1933, according to the New York Daily News. The video clearly shows the artifact slowly turning counterclockwise during the day, but remaining stationary at night. …

Oddly, the statue turns 180 degrees to face backward, then turns no more. This led some observers to wonder if the statue moves to show visitors the inscription on its back, which asks for sacrificial offerings “consisting of bread, beer, oxen and fowl.”

Well, as sacrificial offerings go, at least those seem pretty tame. Scientists and curators have come up with tons of hand-wavey explanations, usually involving magnetism or vibrations from passing tourists’ footsteps (“vibrational stick-slip friction”), but nothing seems to fit particularly well. It seems poised to remain a mystery, which is, you know, kinda freaky. (via File 770)

Adventures in Brewing – Bringing the Funk

After two weeks in primary fermentation, the 5 gallon batch of saison has been split into two. About 2 gallons has been bottled (yielding a little less than a case), with the other three being racked to secondary and dosed with Brettanomyces Claussenii (WLP645 for the enquiring).

Vial of Brettanomyces

Crossing the Rubicon of funk wasn’t particularly difficult just yet – it basically just consisted of opening the vial of yeast and dumping it in the secondary fermenter. The real test will come in a few months time, when the yeast has had proper time to work its way through the remaining sugars. Or maybe I inadvertently infected my entire house with Brett and will have trouble with all my future batches. The die has been cast, to continue the Rubicon metaphor.

Saison - before conditioning

Final Gravity: 6.9 Bx, around 1.007. As usual, my hydrometer gives a slightly lower reading, but we’re still looking at somewhere around 6.8% – 7.2% ABV, which is a little higher than expected, but still on point. This puts attenuation in the high 80% range, somewhere around 88%. Hopefully, this mean there’s enough residual sugar for the Brett, but not so much that the Brett version will be dominated by that character.

In the meantime, I’ll have some non-funky saison to keep me busy (though I’ll clearly want to save enough to do a side-by-side comparison once the Kaedrôme rises). I’m debating what to do with my next batch. Being the dead of summer limits options a bit. Saisons are great because they can ferment out at 70+ degrees with no real ill effects. But, you know, I just made one. I really want to make a hoppy red ale of some kind, and an imperial stout too. In both cases, I’d like a somewhat lower ambient temperature than will be possible during summer (and the bathtub trick is out because I’m redoing my bathrooms, though perhaps I could do something in a smaller container). And I’m going to want to do this split batch trick as well, dry hopping (for the red) and oak aging (for the stout) half the batches. Perhaps I’ll just make it a busy fall.

(Cross Posted on Kaedrin Beer Blog)

Adventures in Brewing – Beer #11: Kaedrôme Saison

My fourth batch, brewed almost 2 years ago to the day, was a saison that turned out fantastic when it was fresh, but degraded over time (and become super carbonated). I’ve been wanting to make another batch of saison recently, so I took the recipe for the initial batch, toned down in terms of malt, and threw in some fancy Nelson Sauvin hops for yucks.

The real adventure this time around will be splitting the batch into two after primary fermentation: half will be bottled at that point, with the other half going into a secondary fermenter and dosed with Brettanomyces. I’ve long ago established that saisons are the least coherent style in the history of beer… which is actually one of the reasons I love them so much. My initial batch (and half of this current batch) was patterned after Saison Dupont, a classic of the style. The Brett dosed half of this batch will (hopefully!) be closer to Fantôme’s saisons, which is where the name of this beer (Kaedrôme, get it?) is coming from (big thanks to Scott of Beerbecue for suggesting that perfect name).

Allllrighty then, lets get this party started:

Brew #11 – Saison

June 22, 2013

0.5 lb. Belgian CaraVienne (specialty grain)

3.15 lb. Northern Brewer Pilsen LME

3 lb. Briess Pilsen DME

1 lb. Light Belgian Candi Sugar (liquid)

1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops (bittering @ 5.8% AA)

0.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (bittering @ 10.9% AA)

0.5 oz. Saaz hops (flavor)

0.25 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (flavor)

0.5 oz. Saaz hops (aroma)

0.5 oz. Nelson Sauvin hops (aroma)

0.5 oz. Bitter Orange Peel

1 tsp. Irish Moss

Wyeast 3711 French Saison Yeast (Primary)

White Labs WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii (Secondary)

Ingredients for Kaedrome Saison

I’ll spare you the play by play, as that’s mostly the same for every batch. The only thing I’ll say about that is that my new kitchen kicks ass, and has removed 30-60 minutes from the process. It turns out that the “Power Boil” element actually lives up to its name (it still takes a little while, but much faster than my old stovetop). And the bigger, deeper sink makes cooling in an ice bath much quicker too. It only took a little less than 3 hours, including all the cleaning.

I hope the Nelson Sauvin hops work out with this one. I basically chose them on a whim, thinking they would go pretty well with the saison. I hedged a bit and used some Saaz that I had laying around too, so I hope it’s a solid combo. Hop Additions at 60, 15, and 5 minutes remaining in the boil. Irish moss at 15 minutes. Orange Peel at 5 minutes. Pitched the 3711 yeast at 70 degrees.

Original gravity: 1.060 (14.6 Brix), pretty much right on target. My little homebrew app says I should be getting 80%+ attenuation out of this (maybe even as high as 85%).

Now I just need to figure out the process for the Brett dosing, but I’ve got a couple weeks for that. Again, general idea is to fill up my 3 gallon secondary fermenter, pitch the Brett in there, and bottle the rest of it right away.

I know very little about the different varieties of Brettanomyces, but in looking around, this seems like the one that fits me best. For the uninitiated, Brett is a wild yeast strain. It usually contributes funky, earthy characteristics to beers. Some people use descriptors like “horse blanket”, “barnyard”, or “band-aids” (among lots of other stuff, even smoky and spicy flavors), but that… doesn’t sound good, does it? Indeed, Brett is generally viewed as a contaminant and thus something to be avoided, but if done properly, it can match really well with beer, especially sour beers. This saison isn’t meant to be sour, though apparently the Claussenii strain that I’m using is more subtle than some of the others and contributes a “fruity, pineapple like aroma”. I’m going for something along the lines of older Fantômes (which tended towards sour) or Logsdon Seizoen Bretta, but everything I read about Brett is that it’s a little on the unpredictable side. So fingers are going to be crossed.

Since the primary fermentation yeast is going to yield a pretty dry beer to start with, I’m guessing that the Brett won’t be a massive contribution, but that sounds good for my first attempt at this sort of thing. Unlike regular brewer’s yeast, Brett will eat up pretty much any sugars left in the beer, so I need to give it a lengthy period to do its thing, at least a couple months. Luckily, it’s a hardy organism and thrives in warmer temperatures (so summer was a good time to experiment with this sucker). On the other hand, my understanding is that Brett is difficult to clean, etc… and a lot of homebrewers advise keeping the equipment that touches it separate from your regular brewing materials. This should be fine, as I’ve basically been using the same stuff for two years and some of it could probably be refreshed anyway.

So this is going to be one of the more interesting batches I’ve ever made… if it goes well. Wish me luck!

(Cross posted at Kaedrin Beer Blog)

Tweets of Glory

As a testament to the enduring power of blogs, I give you a blog post that consists almost entirely of tweets. You’re welcome.

So there you have it. Blogs are alive and well. (See you on Sunday with, hopefully, a more edifying post).

The Irony of Copyright Protection

In Copyright Protection That Serves to Destroy, Terry Teachout lays out some of the fundamental issues surrounding the preservation of art, in particular focusing on recorded sound:

Nowadays most people understand the historical significance of recorded sound, and libraries around the world are preserving as much of it as possible. But recording technology has evolved much faster than did printing technology—so fast, in fact, that librarians can’t keep up with it. It’s hard enough to preserve a wax cylinder originally cut in 1900, but how do you preserve an MP3 file? Might it fade over time? And will anybody still know how to play it a quarter-century from now? If you’re old enough to remember floppy disks, you’ll get the point at once: A record, unlike a book, is only as durable as our ability to play it back.

Digital preservation is already a big problem for current librarians, and not just because of the mammoth amounts of digital data being produced. Just from a simple technological perspective, there are many non-trivial challenges. Even if the storage medium/reading mechanisms remain compatible over the next century, there are nontrivial challenges with ensuring these devices will remain usable that far into the future. Take hard drives. A lot of film and audio (and, I suppose books these days too) are being archived on hard drives. But you can’t just take a hard drive and stick it on a shelf somewhere and fire it up in 30 years. Nor should you keep it spinning for 30 years. It requires use, but not constant use. And even then you’ll need to ensure redundancy because hard drives fail.

Just in writing that, you can see the problem. Hard drives clearly aren’t the solution. Too many modes of failure there. We need something more permanent. Which means something completely new… and thus something that will make hard drives (and our ability to read them) obsolete.

And that’s from a purely technological perspective. They’re nontrivial, but I’m confident that technology will rise to the challenge. However, once you start getting into the absolutely bonkers realm of intellectual property law, things get stupid really fast. If technology will rise to the challenge, IP owners and lawmakers seem to be engaged in an ever-escalating race to the bottom of the barrel:

In Europe, sound recordings enter the public domain 50 years after their initial release. Once that happens, anyone can reissue them, which makes it easy for Europeans to purchase classic records of the past. In America, by contrast, sound recordings are “protected” by a prohibitive snarl of federal and state legislation whose effect was summed up in a report issued in 2010 by the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress: “The effective term of copyright protection for even the oldest U.S. recordings, dating from the late 19th century, will not end until the year 2067 at the earliest.… Thus, a published U.S. sound recording created in 1890 will not enter the public domain until 177 years after its creation, constituting a term of rights protection 82 years longer than that of all other forms of audio visual works made for hire.”

Among countless other undesirable things, this means that American record companies that aren’t interested in reissuing old records can stop anyone else from doing so, and can also stop libraries from making those same records readily accessible to scholars who want to use them for noncommercial purposes. Even worse, it means that American libraries cannot legally copy records made before 1972 to digital formats for the purpose of preservation…

Sheer insanity. The Library of Congress appears to be on the right side of the issue, suggesting common-sense recommendations for copyright reform… that will almost certainly never be enacted by IP owners or lawmakers. Still, their “National Recording Preservation Plan” seems like a pretty good idea. Again, it’s a pity that almost none of their recommendations will be enacted, and while the need for Copyright reform is blindingly obvious to anyone with a brain, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. It’s a sad state of affairs when the only victories we can celebrate in this realm is grassroots opposition to absurd laws like SOPA/PIPA/ACTA.

I don’t know the way forward. When you look at the economics of the movie industry, as recently laid out by Steven Soderberg in a speech that’s been making the rounds of late (definitely worth a watch, if you’ve got a half hour), you start to see why media companies are so protective of their IP. As currently set up, your movie needs to make 120 million dollars, minimum, before you start to actually turn a profit (and that’s just the marketing costs – you’d have to add on the budget to get a better idea). That, too, is absurd. I don’t envy the position of media companies, but on the other hand, their response to such problems isn’t to fix the problem but to stomp their feet petulantly, hold on to copyrighted works for far too long, and to antagonize their best customers.

That’s the irony of protecting copyright. If you protect it too much, no one actually benefits from it, not even the copyright holders…

TV Shows I Should Probably Catch Up With

As 2013 progresses, I realize that I’m watching much less in the way of movies lately, and catching up with more television series. In terms of “appointment television”, I still don’t watch much, but I do like to catch up with some older seasons of good stuff, and streaming sites like Netflix are a big enabler on some of this stuff. So what are some things I should probably catch up with?

  • Breaking Bad – Everyone loves this show so damn much, but I found the first season a bit of a slog. Some high points mixed in, for sure, but it always seems to slow down and focus on certain conflicts that I find really dumb. That being said, the beginning of the second season was amazing. It’s bogged down a bit again right now, but I’m sure I’ll continue to make slow progress.
  • Mad Men – A show I’ve never been particularly interested in, but heck, it’s on Netflix, so why not give it a shot sometime.
  • Doctor Who – Speaking more of the “recent” incarnation of the show, which is all available on Netflix right now. Boy, that Christopher Eccleston season sure did suck, but it started to find a groove at some point, and the second season really does pick things up. Looking forward to catching up with the these at some point. I grew up watching the old Doctor Who episodes on PBS… even if I can’t remember much of those episodes, I did enjoy them.
  • Twin Peaks – Many moons ago, a friend loaned me his DVD set for Twin Peaks season one… and I started watching, only to find that… the pilot episode was missing! It was apparently some sort of legal limbo or somesuch. Well, that’s all settled now, and the whole series is up on Netflix. Sign me up.
  • Arrested Development – I’ve seen a bunch of individual episodes of this in isolation, and probably the entire first season, but I’ve never really finished it off. I seem to go in chunks though, watching about 5-10 episodes in a row, then burning out and moving elsewhere for a while. But since new episodes are coming, I figure I should probably finish the series off.
  • Parks and Recreation – I watched the first season of this a while back and found it diverting enough, but I’m told that it really doesn’t hit its stride until season 2 and 3, so I guess I’m in for some more of this…
  • Alias – For whatever reason, I never watched this J. J. Abrams series. Well, it’s all on Netflix, so why not give it a shot? I mean, I like spy stories as much as the next guy, and Abrams seems pretty good with that sort of thing.
  • Supernatural – Last year, I watched a bunch of old X-Files episodes and I got that itch for episodic “creature of the week” type of shows, and this one seems to fit the bill nicely. Honestly, while there does seem to be some sort of overarching continuity to the series, most of these are standalone stories, which is actually kinda fun, especially when you’re bogged down with a bunch of other series that are all so involved (and probably not going to pay off)…

Well, that should keep me busy for the next five years or so. I should probably go and watch some of these right now.

Recent and Future Podcastery

I have a regular stable of podcasts that generally keep me happy on a weekly basis, but as much as I love all of them, I will sometimes greedily consume them all too quickly, leaving me with nothing. Plus, it’s always good to look out for new and interesting stuff. Quite frankly, I’ve not done a particularly good job keeping up with the general podcasting scene, so here’s a few things I caught up with recently (or am planning to listen to in the near future):

  • Idle Thumbs – This is primarily a video game podcast, though there are some interesting satellite projects too. I have to admit that my video game playing time has reduced itself considerably in the past year or so, but I still sometimes enjoy listening to this sort of thing. Plus, the Idle Book Club is, well, exactly what it sounds like – a book club podcast, with a book a month. I’ve not actually listened to much of any of this stuff, but it seems like fertile ground.
  • Firewall & Iceberg Podcast – The podcast from famed television critics Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg. It focuses, not surprisingly, on television shows, which is something that I’ve been watching more of lately (due to the ability to mainline series on Netflix, etc…) Again, I haven’t heard much, but they seem pretty knowledgeable and affable. I suspect this will be one of those shows that I download after I watch a series to see what they have to say about it.
  • Film Pigs Podcast – A movie podcast that’s ostensibly right in my wheelhouse, and it’s a pretty fun podcast, though I’m not entirely sure how bright it’s future really is at this point given that they seem to be permanently missing one member of their normal crew and publish on a bi-monthly schedule. Still, there’s some fun stuff here, and I’ll probably listen to more of their back catalog when I run out of my regulars…

Speaking of that regular stable, this is what it’s currently looking like:

There are a few others that I hit up on an inconsistent basis too, but those are the old standbys…