The end of August, Michael Jackson, Chimay Grande Réserve, and me

Michael Jackson in the pub (credit unknown)
Research and/or relaxation

On our roughly spherical planet, yesterday is still today for a good while into tomorrow. Which is convenient, given my topic. But then, whenever you’re late to talk about an annual conjunction of timing, you’re also just really early.1 Anyway, the 30th of August is my birthday,2 and also the anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson — by which I mean the beer and whisky writer, not the other one. Given that it’s also usually the end of beer festival season here, it’s an excellent time to ponder inspirations and go back to the classics. And M.J. so radically overhauled and reinvigorated what became my avocation ― i.e., rambling about beer ― that he might as well count as its inventor. One of our fundamental organising principles, the notion of “beer styles”, was even his (surprisingly-recent) invention. You really can’t overstate the influence. And we’re lucky to have him looming over us, because he was damn good.

My first introduction to him was the Malt Whisky Companion that kept me sane while I was working at a bar with a dismal beer selection but an unexpectedly excellent shelf of five-dozen whiskies. Only later did I discover his work on beer — once I’d relocated to a better bar — but across both subjects he had the same easily readable, gently educational, and enthusiastically cosmopolitan passion for delicious things enjoyed mindfully and in context. Though it’s maybe too anachronistic a term for someone of his generation, he was a proper geek: just obviously keen to share his love of his favourite things with anyone who’d listen. Despite his (deserved) stature as the authoritative expert of his time, he doesn’t give off a whiff of snobbery. Read him on something that was ‘new’ and emerging and maybe much-maligned — like the craft beer movement of the U.S. in the eighties, or Japanese single malt whisky — and you’ll see him strongly rejecting the common and lazy assumption that different is automatically inferior. Instead, he’d pick up much-more-rewarding threads like the broad arc of history, how almost everything old is eventually new again, humanity’s long-running tradition of mucking with long-running traditions, and how fashion (for Islay whisky, or IPA) is just fashion and will one day be replaced.

I have my quibbles at the margins, naturally. He’s said some frankly-bananas things about glassware and serving temperatures, which I’ve reluctantly torn apart in User’s Guide-style seminars.3 And a lot of his work was in the Big Compendium Of Tasting Notes genre which has unfortunately spawned a generation of imitators4 who (to my mind) don’t do nearly as good a job of tempering that approach with the necessary context and quirky evocativeness which he excelled in.5 But he remains a subculture superhero, and a classic forever worth revisiting.

Chimay Grande Réserve (My house, technically the 31st of August, fittingly-enough)
Sublime nightcap

Speaking of which: this glorious thing. My friend and former bartending comrade6 Peter gave me a bottle of Chimay Grande Réserve7 for my birthday yesterday. It’s long been a favourite — since I plucked it out of a menu on a whim at an excellent little birthday dinner a decade or so ago, if memory serves — and this bottle happened to be from the 2007 vintage, so brewed the year we lost M.J.. No better way to mark the moment, salute your superhero, and end the evening, then, than to open it and pair it with a little of the Highland Park that the Companion made me fall in love with equally-many years ago.8 And it was simply sublime. Delicate and luxurious, rich but not overblown, full of perfectly nightcappy flavours like dark chocolate and deeply fruity port. We’d all be lucky if we were aging half as well.

So here’s to M.J., and to making the most of however-many orbits of the Sun you’re eventually allotted. As you go along, imagine his avuncular voice in your head — like Obi-Wan gently nudging Luke — as he says:9

I want you to think about every beer you put to your lips.

Diary III, page 36
Diary III, page 36

Original Diary entry: Chimay Grande Réserve 2007 — 30/08/15 Almost wrote 79 by sheer form-filling habit. @ home, after an excellent birthday. Watching the still-charming Beer Hunter series — he’s just such a natural, if a total dork — and pairing it also with a Highland Park. Seemed fitting all round, since it’s the anniversary of MJ’s death, which was in 2007. This bottle a present from Pete. So utterly lovely. Suprisingly light palate, so portish + with lots of chocolate flavour later on. Ages so well. The beer. Can’t speak for myself, obviously. But I did alright today. Very lucky chap. Pancakes + bubbles + beer + books + mooching + wandering and just generally having a top notch Sunday. Wouldn’t dare ask for more than that. What would be the need?

— Appendix: The Other M.J.

Meanwhile, an excellent coincidence of timing and timezones bundles the other Michael Jackson into all this: the 29th was his birthday and — as I said, given our roughly spherical planet — a good chunk of that day for an American just is the 30th for me (or the M.J., for that matter). To tie it all back to beer and other things of which I’m more-properly a fan, here he is drinking a Bud (remember: to each their own, and everything in its right place) while sitting next to Bruce Freakin’ Springsteen:

Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson (apparently during We Are The World sessions, credit unknown ― here under fair use)
The Boss, the King of Pop, and the (alleged) King of Beers

 

Station Ident: the 23rd of August

Easter the cat and my father (Photo by his wife, my mother, taken in Christchurch sometime in 1969)
Graham George Cook (23 August 1940 — 2 December 2014)

My father was the straightest-talking chap you’d likely ever have the privilege of meeting — except when he claimed not to like cats; that bit was palpable nonsense.1 He was calm and civilised in a way that’d make you doubt the efficacy of genetics if you’d met me, a loud bastard prone to ranting, first. But he certainly passed on his deep aversion to bullshit and his ability to enjoy simple pleasures, unworried by the vagaries of fashion or other peoples’ opinions as to their merits.

Today would’ve been his 75th birthday. Early last year, he was diagnosed with cancer of a sort and stage for which medical interventions were all likely to do much more harm than good. But he quietly beat his prognosis by a factor of two or three, for which we all counted ourselves hugely lucky, and (to borrow the useful cliché) he lived right up until he died ― even managing a half-round of golf and a tidy-up of the garden (his two enduringly-beloved hobbies) just days before the end. As he’d planned (and insisted, with his beautifully serene stubbornness) he died at home with his family, and as I watched I was awed at how he quietly and deftly snatched a fistful of dignity from the capriciousness of disease and death. If you have to go ― and I’m afraid I must inform you that you almost certainly do have to go, some time, somehow ― you’d do well to go out like he did; with pragmatism, authenticity, and grace.

He would’ve bought me my first beer, and I probably bought him his last. The beer that wound up as my first doubtless actually started out in his glass: I was a weird kid2 and took to bitter things, like coffee and beer, unusually early and remember wrangling small samples of each quite often. At some point in my teens ― probably during my parents’ thirtieth anniversary party ― my ration was upgraded to a whole serving. Dad’s tastes tended unashamedly towards the classic simple pale lager, stripped of any parochialism or brand loyalty. He was always open to trying the madder things I’d bring to share, but his favourites were his favourites — and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that — so I did my best to keep his fridge stocked with Dad-friendly stuff, for him and his visitors. Occasionally, in some kind of shock, people would comment on the ‘mainstream’ things I’d drink at his house, but I was having a beer with my father, and it was invariably quietly-but-utterly marvellous.

So today, I’m going to dig a hole so we can inter his ashes and plant a tree. After that, I’m going to have something that might seem out of character for a proud beer geek — but it won’t be. I’ll have a beer for my father, since I can no longer have one with him.


Beer writing: a word of caution

Most beer writing is crap.1 This should be unsurprising and uncontroversial for the simple reason that most of everything is crap. Enshrined as Sturgeon’s law, this isn’t a cynical or depressing conclusion; just a sound observation and call for better mental hygiene. But that strangely-comforting general cause shouldn’t blind us to the idiosyncratic causes of crapness in beer commentary — insidious things which we should strive to keep in mind. Reading with your faculties more-sharply engaged is just as life-enhancing as drinking more thoughtfully is. I recommend both.

'The Ultimate Book of Beers' (2014) — here under fair use for criticism / comment
Neither the best, nor the last — mercifully

I was forcefully reminded of all this when I picked up2 The Ultimate Book of Beers, a glossy British publication3 from just last year which attempts to round-up the world and history of beer by way of two hundred pages and four hundred examples. The result is, quite frankly, terrible. But it is at least instructively terrible, and that makes it great — even though it’s not the greatness they were seeking.

Too much beer writing sinks to the level of crap insidiously, because it either is or just appears like it might be advertising in drag; most amateur and professional commentators still won’t spell out commercial entanglements with their subjects (which might account for surprisingly-strong praise or mysteriously-missing criticism, or both), or even just note that the proximate cause for them talking about some particular thing at all is that free samples from the brewery arrived in the post.4 But sometimes, you don’t even need to start pondering potential moral wrongness; occasionally something will just overdose on old-fashioned factual wrongness. Here, there were some telltale false steps early on — like retelling a debunked version of the history of IPA that’d make Martyn Cornell spin in his grave, if he wasn’t still alive — but the wheels most-obviously fell off, for me, when I flipped ahead to the New Zealand section, curious to see their summation of the place where I live, and (after all) usually drink.

New Zealand beer spread from The Ultimate Book of Beers (2014) — here under fair use for criticism / comment
New Zealand beer, through a lens of significant weirdness

The three-spread section features sixteen beers5 and manages to make errors both trifling and troubling which vary from obvious marketing-guff passed on as gospel to patently bizarre weirdness pulled from nowhere obvious. They get their hop varieties confused, slightly mangle a few brewery and beer names, entirely elide the reality and centrality of contract brewing in our modern scene (Epic, Bach, and Yeastie Boys are all listed as if they were bricks-and-mortar operations),6 completely ignore the many-branded natures of our bigger companies,7 and a give over a half-page section to a beer (namely Pink Elephant’s ‘Imperious Rushin Stowt’) that hadn’t been brewed for several years when the book was published.

The selection, as a group, is also pants-on-head nonsensical. This isn’t even destined to be useful to future generations as a (flawed) historical document because the sampling is so un-self-consciously bizarre: it doesn’t track with present or historical popularity, or award-winningness, or uniqueness, or any kind of story about what we’re doing here. It’s not even a case of “we went there and this is what we had”, which would at least be obviously personal and idiosyncratic. My best guess is that the breweries listed were the quickest to respond to requests for photos and blurbs — not a great way to go about an “ultimate” survey.

'Did you know'?, from The Ultimate Book of Beers (2014) — here under fair use for criticism / comment
Disinfobox

Then there’s the utterly baffling claim in a break-out text box that “ice brewed beers are popular in New Zealand”. This is an unbelievably niche practice of freezing some of the water out of beer to make what remains stronger, and you’d struggle to find more than one example around here, if that.8 When the answer to one Did you know? aside is “no, I fucking did not, because I understand what ‘knowledge’ is and your statement was complete bollocks”, all the others are cast into question. There’s basically one of these putative factoids per page, and while I’m a determined collector of trivia I’m nowhere near expert enough to rule on most of the others. The presence of that, though, is an unpromising sign. Which is a perfect microcosm for the rest of the damn book — given the smattering of errors and distortions I can spot in the accounts of beers I know, how can I put any stock in the listings for things I’d never heard of? Easy: I can’t. If they so weirdly and subtly and pointlessly flub the story of beer in New Zealand — a country so historically and culturally linked to theirs that their flag is (for now) on ours — there’s scant hope for the rest of the planet.

All of this is emblematic of wider problems: this area — like all fields of criticism and reportage — is beset by challenges of overturning myth, unpacking spin, overcoming biases, and navigating conflicts of interest. I don’t know nearly enough about the creation of this book to accuse it of falling foul on the ethics — that’s a minefield for another time and another example — but the point is that you need to be wary of crapness in all its forms and whatever its cause. And when you hear the clang of a factual error or catch the whiff of an un-declared conflict of interest, hold on to that skepticism. We should do more to make it unnecessary — and it wouldn’t take much; a little more humility, a little more honesty — but unfortunately, it’ll still serve you well.


Beervana 2015 — a litany of gratitude

Garage Project bar (Beervana, 15 August 2015)
Raising the bar, raising the roof

I am a very happy beerperson. That was a huge festival season — the run-up to Beervana last weekend was filled with plenty of other more-or-less-related Things To Do — and now it’s over but for the mopping up and the inevitable retrospectives. I feel like I was a little close to the festival this year, and anyway attended it in a strange and many-hatted capacity, so I’ll leave those to others for now. For myself, I’m feeling unusually zen and grateful, and feel like I should basically footnote the real world with acknowledgements. If you’ll let me set aside my traditionally ranty manner a moment, massive thanks to —

  • Emma (at home) and Sean and the entire Golding’s crew (at work), for accommodating my multitasking and forgiving the shirking of (or distraction-damage to) my usual duties which it entailed.
  • My fellow seminar-wranglers — George (podcast accomplice and whatnot); Megan (friend of the show); plus Amber, Ben, Hadyn,1 Michelle, and Tim (collectively of Beyond The Achievements, which will also be helping get some of the sessions online for your after-the-fact viewing pleasure) — who pulled together a varied programme of panels and presentations in very short order.
  • Beth Brash, the new Festival Overboss (and also friend of the show), for trusting and/or saddling us with control of the seminar room. I’m a big fan of such things at beer festivals, massive nerd that I am.
  • Our seminar presenters — lawyer Paul Johns; can-maker John Savery; local brewers Ava Wilson (Beer Baroness), Kieran Haslett-Moore (North End), Matt Warner (ParrotDog), and Tracy Banner (Sprig & Fern); visiting brewers Darron Welch (Pelican), Jacob Leonard (Breakside), Jayne Lewis (Two Birds), and Tyler Brown (Barley Brown’s); and Victoria University scientist Dr Nicola Gaston.2
  • Providers and beer and props for the seminars — the Brewers’ Guild of New Zealand, Visy, Lion, North End, ParrotDog, Beer Baroness, Stone & Wood, Garage Project, Tuatara, Two Birds, Breakside, and Barley Brown’s (and also to Cryer Malt, who brought in and signed off on the last three). 3 Thanks also, with a bonus apology, to Te Aro Brewing Co., and the Fork & Brewer, who rescued the beer supply for one seminar only to have me forget them in this post’s first version.
  • Luke Robertson of Ale Of A Time, who invited George and I to sit down and record a podcast episode with him — which will almost certainly be online in a speedier fashion than the entire calendar year it took us to get his episode of ours up.
  • And finally4 thanks to two crews from the ‘legit’ media who invited me to ramble a bit. There’s a nice little write-up on Stuff from Olivia Wannan who asked me to elaborate on serving suggestions while Ross Giblin took video of my “Beer: A User’s Guide” talk. The day before, I’d had the pleasure of sitting down with Jesse Mulligan as he broadcast Radio New Zealand’s Afternoon show live from the concourse:

It was a great event all round, and the thousands who showed up to enjoy it make worthwhile the work of the dozens — paid and unpaid — who make it happen. I’m sure I’ll get into some kind of debrief or rundown of highlights of the festival as a festival at some point, but for now I’m still just chuffed to’ve been part of Beervana 2015 as a people-powered beer-related-enjoyment-dispensing machine. Bring on 2016.


Beervana 2014 ― the lost live podcasts

Just in time for those missing out on this year’s Beervana, a blast from the past. During the 2014 festival, George and I ― plus an excellent suite of special guests ― recorded two episodes in the seminar room, and brought sufficient quantities for the Beer(s) Of The Week to share with anyone who wanted to join the audience. Civilised. Technical difficulties beset the recordings, though, and they got lost in the weeds of last year. But, at last, here they are.

On the Friday evening, we were were joined by Matt Kirkegaard ― founder of BrewsNews.com.au and then-recent AIBA award-winner for his writing and podcast and hosting and such ― and Sean Burke of the Commons Brewery in Portland, which was part of the inaugural (and smashingly successful, and now repeated) Beervana Exchange. We drank a longtime favourite in NSW’s Stone & Wood ‘Pacific Ale’, and then Commons’ collaboration with Tuatara, ‘Nova Pacifica’.

The next night, our accomplices were Luke Robertson ― ex-pat New Zealander in exile in Melbourne, blogger and podcast and since recipient of the very-same AIBA award that Matt previously won ― and Denise Ratfield of Stone Brewery and the Pink Boots Society, and a driving force behind the utterly marvellous International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day. We drank Mountain Goat ‘Hightail’ and Latitude 33’s ‘Worldly Scholar’, which was a fundraiser beer for Pink Boots.

As always, direct downloads are available ― here’s part 1, and here’s part 2. There’s a podcast-specific RSS feed, and you can get us on iTunesGeorge and myself can also both be reached on Twitter, or you can leave comments here or on Facebook. The show also has its own Twitter handle — which you can use for feedback, updates, suggestions and whatnot. Cheers!

― Show notes:

  • …will have to wait until after Beervana 2015, I’m afraid. This is an insanely busy time to be a semi-professional beer nerd. Imagine if, at some stereotypical Christmastime à la hackneyed American holiday movies, you somehow had the timetable and temperament of Santa Claus, a few hundred of the elves, and a six-year-old, all at once.

 

Beervana 2015 ― upcoming absences and presences

Er, somethingbeer from someonebrewery (Beervana, 22 August 2014)
My first beer of Beervana 2014 ― and Wellington through a filthy stadium window

When the list of Beervana-attending breweries came out a little while ago, I stayed up late and made a spreadsheet comparing the attendees over the last few years against the Brewers Guild membership and the list of standholders at this year’s Great Kiwi Beer Festival. Obviously. And while it’s definitely true that there’s a whole pile of interesting stuff on offer this year, it was initially the absences that grabbed me.

It hasn’t been uncommon to hear ― over what we might come to call the Stadium Years ― that Beervana has gone mainstream, or something to that effect, often uttered to explain why individual drinkers feel like “moving on” to other (more niche) festivals. I’m sympathetic, here: I’m all for people doing whatever they like, and hugely fond of smaller-and-more-focussed events, and a big fan of “mainstream” ― or at least stream-spanning, less pejoratively ― ones as well. It’s a rich ecosystem we have,1 and we’re all better off for that. My point here, though, is simply that the data doesn’t bear out diagnosing Beervana with the dreaded mainstreaming ― or at least: to the extent that there was a flare-up, it quickly reversed itself.

Take, for example, The Many Faces Of Asahi,2 who are completely absent: there’s no Boundary Road, no Founders, no Sam Adams, and BrewDog (formerly distributed by them) will only be present via their new importer, Beertique. That’s a fairly stark contrast to 2013, when the company had four separate bars, out of a total of 31. Likewise, D.B. have retreated somewhat: they’ve abandoned the idea of Monteith’s and Old Mout Cider bars and are instead concentrating on their Black Dog brand. Even Lion (longtime suppliers of infrastructure to the festival) have pulled back a little, leaving behind both their nonsense Potemkin brand, Crafty Beggars, and gateway Australian offering, James Squires.

Something from Townshend's (Beervana, 22 August 2014)
My second beer of Beervana 2014

If I had to categorise the breweries who aren’t featured this year ― and from what I’ve told you of how my brain works, you know that I do ― I’d divide them into minnows too new and/or small-scale for an appearance to have much reward,3 regionals who have some special focus on an area that isn’t Wellington,4 and bargains who put most of their attention in the price-sensitive corners of the supermarket trade and for whom marketing budgets are tight and/or the demographic of a wide-appeal festival isn’t their best fit. Awkwardly, in the process of throwing names into those three buckets, I think it’s fairest to say that Stoke / McCashin’s and Moa5 both fit into the latter; they’d protest otherwise, I’m sure, but I suspect they’re only fooling themselves.

So yes, the event is changing. Every non-dead thing does, and it’ll change even more next year when its new owners have more time to properly ponder a course correction. But it’s not a linear watering-down. Drinkers and festival-goers are also themselves forever changing, so what we probably have here is a multi-variate version of the familiar perception threshold shift that sends people chasing more intense versions of a thing (be it hoppy beer, sour beer, spicy chili, gnarly mountain bike tracks, or crunchy sci-fi epics) to recapture the strength of the original thrill ― and also handicaps their ability to judge how much of a perceived change comes from within, and how much is actually attributable to the world.

Interrobang badge (My house, somewhen in 2014)
Interrobadge

Anyway, lots of interesting things will be pouring at the stadium this weekend. I’ll be there,6 and will attempt to track down some gems upon which to report back. I’m also going to be loitering in the seminar room (as I’m prone to do at these things) and helping present a Quiz on the Friday and my own User’s Guide To Beer on Saturday. If you’re around, keep an eye out for a nerd with a notebook and an interrobang badge; odds are that’s me.7

(And yes, I am trialling a new footnote system with this post. If it’s a huge improvement, or a giant leap backwards, do let me know. I suspect the answer might depend on your thing-reading-thing, too, so any details as to your experience per device would be appreciated.)


Beer Diary Podcast s05e01: 3G Coverage — Garage Project, GABS, and gastrophysics

And so the Beer Diary Podcast is back for a fifth season — and with our traditional delay in hitting ‘publish’, no less. Episodes should return to their usual non-super-sized format and a sharper turnaround in this back half of the year — but you all know what kind of paving projects are undertaken with good intentions. Here, we accidentally settle on a G-theme: we catch up about the end of my tenure at Garage Project, including some thoughts on how they make their interesting beers; discuss the debut of GABS — Sydney Edition, which also makes us ponder trans-Tasman beer availability; and read a neat little piece in the Guardian on Gastrophysics which sets us wondering about experiments that really should be done at the beer awards.

As always, a direct download is available, there’s a podcast-specific RSS feed, and you should be able to get us on iTunesGeorge and myself can also both be reached on Twitter, or you can leave comments here or on Facebook. You can also now point people at podcast.beerdiary.nz and the show has its own Twitter handle — which you can use for feedback, suggestions and whatnot. Cheers!

Mash tun hopback for Trip Hop (Garage Project, 6 July 2012)
A sea of green
Townshend handpull at GABS Sydney (Australian Technology Park, 30 May 2015)
Townshend being different
Garage Project parting gift (My house, 11 June 2015)
DOTD in perpetuity

 

— Show notes:

  • (0.40) It has been ages, in a few ways, inadvertently. This episode was recorded 9 June 2015.
  • (2.20) Beer of the Week #1: Garage Project ‘Sea Of Green’.
  • (3.10) The speed-winemaking phenomenon is Beaujolais nouveau.
  • (6.40) The poster is included in Pete’s blog post on the making of Sea Of Green, and their original Facebook post garnered a little pushback. The varietals don’t seem to’ve made it online anywhere obvious.
  • (10.30) Leaving the Garage. We made a little Vine on me last day, with me (first official employee) raising a glass of Trip Hop (first official beer).
  • (15.00) The ‘how to buy a beer’ ramble was recorded at Golding’s.
  • (16.20) BDP’s first away mission, damn near four years ago: Garage Project.
  • (18.00) The “cabbage beer” was Mon P’tit Chou, a saison brewed without cabbages. And George is no fan of saisons.
  • (23.20) Beer of the Week #2: Garage Project ‘Bossa Nova’. And I have some idea how they put the fruit in it, but that probably counts as a Trade Secret. Pete addresses the classification question in his blog post for the beer, and has similarly little patience for overly pedantic taxonomy.
  • (35.10) GABS 2015 — Sydney Edition v1.0, an excellent new incarnation of an excellent thing, and a lovesong to festivals in general.
  • (48.00) I did get this right: Robe Town Brewery, in Robe, SA.
  • (50.10) We talked about the ‘dud’ (now resurrected) P.K.B. in our episode with the now-Antipodean Stu McKinlay. ‘Darkmatta’ was released this week, huzzah for coincidences of timing.
  • (54.40) In fairness, Beervana’s new overlords are all over this already.
  • (57.00) Gastrophysics, following a little article in the Guardian.
  • (1.00.00) Tom Scott (H.F.O.T.S.) on grammatical gender. I don’t quite finish the thought in the episode, but I obviously also agree that the “key” example says as many worrying things about notions of gender as it does about oddities of grammar.
  • (1.01.10) It was ‘Black Se7en’ from 666 Brewing.
  • (1.06.40) Doubling-up on brands obviously gets into False Provenance, an enduring bugbear of mine. George’s dairy example was “Piako”.
  • (01.10.00) Beer of the Week #3: Garage Project ‘Day Of The Dead’. I’ve already cashed in my entitlement on Triple Day Of The Dead.
  • (1.14.00) My copy is currently out on loan, but in Cryptonomicon, it’s chapter 70, ‘Origin’, where the family divide up an estate using a parking lot as a large-scale graph.
  • (1.17.50) Our conversation with Hadyn on questionable beer names.
  • (1.25.10) Festivals “coming up” are obviously now long gone. But hey, Beervana is just on the horizon…
  • (1.30.40) Martin’s new URL is, indeed, beertown.nz
  • (1.33.40) Tip of the hat: Little Creatures (part of the Lion Group). It’s not rocket wizardry, people. Wag of the finger: sloppy keg-filling.
  • (1.37.40) Recommendations: Panhead special editions, and Hop Federation American Brown.
  • (1.41.20) Honorary Friend Of The Show: Neal Stephenson, my favourite living author (especially after Iain Banks and Terry Pratchett both died, sadly). I just finished Seveneves yesterday, in fact; it’s responsible for at least a day or two of my delay in getting this online. And speaking of big books, The Year Of Reading Massively is definitely worth a listen.
  • (1.46.30) A round of applause for Luke Robertson, too. Damn nice.
  • (1.49.25) Cue the music: ‘Shopping for Explosives’, by The Coconut Monkeyrocket. Audio editing done in Audacity. Habitual thanks to both.

Tastings and ramblings and whatnot