Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

25 August, 2006

Friday Skin

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Brew Report From the Verge of Autumn

September is a week away and that means that autumn is just around the corner. We've had a lot of rain the past couple days which is good practice for the days ahead when more precipitation will be falling. As the seasons change, so does the beer available at your local home of John Barleycorn. Now is the time we transition from the wheat beers and IPAs of summer to Oktoberfests and those brews which look to the fall harvest for inspiration. Let's start with the brewers in the Madison area.



Capital over in Middleton has a couple brews for the season. Firstly there's their fall seasonal – Oktoberfest. It's a Märzen style brew. Traditionally, Märzens were brewed in March ("Märzen" is German for March) and aged until the fall when their sweet malty goodness is enjoyed. It should be available now. Secondly there's Autmnal Fire, a limited edition brew. This is a doppelbock with a bit of bite. Capital says that it's good for sipping from a snifter and this is indeed the case as this is no session beer at 8.5% alcohol. Look for it next month.



Also next month, look for Berghoff Oktoberfest from the folks down south in Monroe at the Huber Brewery.



A bit east of Monroe in Highway 11 is Janesville and Gray's Brewing Company who I don't think have updated their webpage in years. The words "Check Back For Seasonal Beers" have been up there for ages. Gray's seasonal is their Autumn Ale. This is an English Brown Ale and, like Märzens, is light on the hops and heavy on the malts with the color coming from small amounts of caramel and chocolate malts.



Over in Lake Mills, Rob Larsen brews Gemuetlichkeit Oktoberfest. I'm not sure when it'll be available. The last newsletter from the brewery didn't mention it but it did mention Rob's next entry in his Brewers Gone Wild series:



Rob says the beer: "is based roughly on our Wannabe Extra IPA same malt profile, same hops but she is not quite as heavy (she had a fairly aggressive fermentation)... a little more bitter... has a wee bit more of an alcohol kick (~7.6%) and is dry-hopped with a little bit more than a pound of hops per barrel. Highly speculative debut date of September 7, bottle filler dependent." The wait is on.

I am pleased to see that there's a new brewery in these here parts - Furthermore Brewing. It's in Spring Green, which is about 40 miles west of Madison. They currently have two brews:



Firstly there's Knot Stock, "a most particular pale":

Black, cracked, stuffed in a sack, boiled and cold-infused. We've braided the assertive presence of hops with the stimulating character of fresh black pepper. Not so much a kick in the shorts as a hop lover's wake-up call, our Knot Stock might just become your go-to pale.

Then we have Proper, "12 ounces of easy-going elegance":

It's not just about the best beer, but the best places to enjoy it. Nestled in the woods near Spring Green you'll find American Players Theatre. There, the audience can kick back and marvel at the genius of Shakespeare brought to life. APT and its festive, open-air venue have inspired us to craft an elegant, light-bodied and "proper" English Ale. Furthermore Proper is a toast to APT, a Spring Green gem.

The stuff is fairly widely available considering how new it is. Here's a list of locations where their suds can be found.

Considering that I work a mere 3 blocks from the Great Dane Brewpub, I am woefully ignorant on their seasonal brews and their webpage directs folks to the pub itself. The Ale Asylum has nothing new on their beer list. J.T. Whitney's is now serving Frozen Tundra Championship Ale which they call their "Packer seasonal". It's a medium-bodied amber ale. Kudos to JTW's for indicating what's on tap at their webpage.



Looking to Milwaukee, Lakefront will soon release their Pumpkin Lager. There's pumpkin in the mash plus spices. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of beers that try to emulate the flavor of a pumpkin pie. One is my limit.



Also in the Milwaukee area is Sprecher with their Oktoberfest.

Before looking up nort, I do want to mention that New Glarus now makes mention of the next iteration of brewer Dan Carey's Unplugged series - Enigma. Here's the description:

The mystery began with wild yeast spontaneously fermenting a rich treasure of malted barley and whole cherries. Unlined oak casks breathe deep vanilla hues and chords of smoke into this sour brown ale. Our Master Brewer has forged a smooth garnet tapestry that defies description. Wander off the beathen path.

Sounds like a batch of his Cherry Stout went south and so he improvised. Look for Enigma in October.



From the City Brewery in LaCrosse comes their Festbier, an Oktoberfest.

Over in Black River, the folks at Sand Creek Brewing Company have a couple seasonal offerings.



Their Pioneer Black River Red is an Oktoberfest lager.



The Cranberry Special Ale is their fall seasonal.





Keep an eye out for Abby Normal, the Viking Brewing Company's August release, a Tripel Abbey-style Ale. And starting next month, they'll have their Rauch, a smoked beer. Or, rather, a beer made with smoked malt. The folks up in Dallas say that it's light on the smoke flavor.



Lastly, we have Leinenkugels and their Oktoberfest. It'll be available starting next month.

Next week I'll be off to Rhinelander and Green Bay for work and I'm hoping to hit a brewpub or 3. If all goes well, I'll be able to report on the Brown Street Brewery in Rhinelander and the two in Green Bay.
|| Palmer, 8:09 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

22 August, 2006

GenCon '06: Finale

Sunday was the final day of the con and, when it rolled around, it came all too soon. Not only would the con be over but I'd have to return to work. Blah! I spent part of the morning with Andrew checking out some winners of the miniatures painting contest. (I really need help with my macro-photography.)





We also wandered through the miniatures hall and found this funky dragon.



A final stroll through the vending area led us to this hottie who had taken over from the orange gal in hawking the Cthulhu Live LARP.



But she's not just another pretty face – she actually plays the game too. I found out that her name is Emily Harris and you can read more about her LARPing at her homepage.

We went from the convention center across the street to the Westin for the Gothic Lolita Fashion Show. Unfortunately, the room it was to be held in was in the middle of a bit of anime so we just presumed that the fashion show had been called off. This is quite a shame as there were some hotties running around peeking into the room hoping to attend or be a part of the show. Among them was this gal:



Across the hall from us was this guy.



It got towards 11:30 my party was getting ready to head back home. I wandered outside with Carl and Andrew for one last smoky treat. As Andy bounded out the door he realized that he'd lost his Settlers of Catan ribbons. He'd had them glued to his badge but they had mysteriously disappeared. (I can't remember if he had the "Wood for Sheep" ribbon or whether Charles bought that from a vendor.) Back at our hotel, I saw Randalf sans costume and found that the gray hair and beard were all real. On a sadder note, there was some guy by the elevator with tears in his eyes. I didn't catch what had happened exactly but it was something to do with a bunch of stuff having gone missing or stolen. Bummer. The drive back allowed me to catch a bit of a nap as well as to spy the Arkham Horror Expansion Set which James bought and will be put into action next week. I'm thinking that our band of investigators is in deep doo-doo.

So, what did I miss? Well, a country ton of stuff. Firstly there was the CoC game, "The Poetics of Violent Death". The GM is actually from Madison and someone who did play the game described it thusly: "That was the sickest Call of Cthulhu game I've ever played in." D'oh! The scenario is based on the book Dark Shamans: Kanaima and the Poetics of Violent Death by Neil L. Whitehead, a professor of anthropology – again, here in Madison. The GM had this to say about the practice:

Essentially, practitioners of kanaima stalk and kill other humans in order to ritually prepare them so their cadavers can produce what kanaima practitioners call "maba," which is the food their god, Makunaima, whose name means 'great evil,' demands of them.

Fuck! That would have been an awesome game!

Another thing that I didn't check out was the manga room. I've never read any manga and there was a room full of the stuff there for people to check out. Everytime I got to Westfield Comics here in town I just blithely look over to the part of the store that has the shelves of manga. It's one of those things that I've wanted to check into but never have and the manga room would have been perfect.

I'd also hoped to check out a screening of The Gamers: Dorkness Rising but the lines were heinously long. I did, however, catch the last half hour or so of Gamers, a fan film that was done on 35mm and featured some actual Hollywood folk such as John Heard, Kelly LeBrock, William Katt, and Beverly D'Angelo. While the film received a lot of raves, I found it overly crude. Don't get wrong, there were some funny parts but, overall, I thought there were too many jokes that were the Three Stooges plus scatology or sex.

Mr. Katt was at the con for autograph signing and the like but I didn't pay to see any of the actors. However, I will say that it might have been worth it to cuddle up next to Gigi Edgley who played Chiana on Farscape. She looked hot! Poor gal – she probably had to suffer a lot of sweaty guys who didn't bother to shower all weekend.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to make it next year. With my roommates getting married in Mexico so all the guests have to shell out a lot of cash, I don't foresee myself being able to swing the con and the wedding. Why the roomies don't get married here and honeymoon down by the equator is something I'm still pondering.

Next year it's to be held on 16-19 August.
|| Palmer, 12:59 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

GenCon '06: Day 3

Again running on a paucity of sleep, Charles and I headed over to the Hilton for our nine o'clock Killer Breakfast with Tracy and Laura Hickman. Tracy helped design the Dragonlance game world for Dungeons & Dragons. Together with his wife Laura, he's written fantasy novels and they also developed the Ravenloft module. Together they have decades of gaming experience.



The Killer Breakfast is attended by hundreds but only a select 150 or so get to go onstage and be killed by Tracy. Sitting down, I noticed that Mr. Shiny and his daughter, who was 9 or 10, were sitting in front of us. This meant that they'd end up onstage as well as Charles and I.



As you can see from my crappy photo, Tracy looks like your typical gamer. He had a southern accent and was really funny. The idea is that you go up on the stage and Tracy gives you a scenario. He then asks how you got into his scenario and what your character does. One of the funniest moments was when a guy onstage was told that he was being attacked and he responded that he casts a mirror image spell. In D&D, this spell creates a series of images of your character which will (hopefully) confuse your attacker and allow you to escape or attack the creature without it knowing which of the images is in fact your character. So the guy makes his comment and reaches behind the curtain behind him and pulls out a life-sized cardboard cut-out picture of himself. This had the crowd rolling. Mr. Shiny's daughter was also funny. When asked how she got there, she replied, "You'll have to ask my father that one."

Once the Killer Breakfast was done, I opted to forego "The Poetics of Violent Death" Cthulhu game in order to hang out with Charles and roam around. We headed over to the convention center and found my brother waiting to get into a miniatures game involving the siege of Stalingrad. I was totally unsurprised by the World War II theme as, like our dad, it's his favorite bit of history. Even after 2 years of owning a pretty nice digital camera, I'm still pretty inept at using it. I wish I could take some nice pictures of the miniatures because most of them are really freaking cool. I can only imagine the time and effort that folks putting into them as they are extremely detailed. Anyway, here's a couple snaps of the setup Carl played. We've got some ruins of Stalingrad and a couple T-34s.





After informing the GM that I wouldn't be able to play, Charles and I headed downstairs to the vendors area. We found that Alyssa Moore was back and in a different outfit.



Here's Charles with a pokemon:



I thought that the character's name was Pokemon but was quickly corrected. Pokemon is a species, I guess, and not the actual name of a character. I have no idea what this yellow hoolie's name is. During our travels, we decided to check out the Utilikilt joint and Charles tried one on.



Here's some other shots from the floor.













The above castle bits were really neat. The company displaying them sold moulds into which you'd put plaster of Paris and, when dried, you had bricks and doors and all kinds of neat pieces to assemble a dungeon or an Egyptian scenario or the interior of a spaceship. I really dig that steeple. I could probably even make the pieces but painting them is a whole 'nother story.



Now, this hottie was hawking Cthulhu Live - a LARP. Although the booth didn't have a ton of stuff, it did have this book which I presume is a copy of the Necronomicon or some similar profane text.



Opening the book and turning to a random page, I was struck by a sketch of an eldritch creature and arcane Latin text which gave me an uneasy feeling as I read it…





We also ran into Harley Quinn and a hottie of a barbarian.





Around 5:30, I headed over to catch the end of the costume contest. I stood in the doorway for a bit before Ted wandered in and we caught a couple seats. As per usual some parent dressed their young daughter in naiad gear and made them do a Riverdance like routine. And there were the usual Star Wars outfits. (The Darth Maul guy was genuinely intimidating.) Overall, though, I wasn't too impressed by the costumes. There were some really nice ones – don't get me wrong – but I didn't see anything like the elvin woman with wings or the Grim Reaper costume I saw last year. Nothing seemed like it took years to make. I stepped out early and found Andrew. We went outside and grabbed a root before heading back in to get photos of the hotties as they left the hall.













An event was going to start in the hall in which the contest had been held soon but there were oodles of people lingering and gawking. The poor event volunteer tried to hustle us out but, if there were pics to be taken, we weren't moving. I overheard him on his walkie-talkie telling the person on the other end that there were lots of people in the hall and that there was no way for him to get them out. Andy and I went back outside where we ran into Mike and these two lovelies.





Wandering around some more, we ran into Randalf from Dork of the Rings and Princess Leia.





I think dinner came after this – BW3 again. Afterwards, Andy took off for True Dungeon and Mike for a gaming event. I eventually found my brother and we hung out until a bit before 11 when we went into the Westin for the Hentai dubbing session. The line was really long but Charles had a place pretty close to the door so we joined him. We ended up waiting for 10 or 15 minutes. However, the monotony was broken when free DVDs were handed out. I was shocked to find that they were copies of Beating the Bunny. The case had this menacing bunny on the back and a blurb telling the tale of some guy who becomes addicted to pornography and his life ruined. It was some kind of Donnie Darko Christian anti-porn PSA. A group had given the GenCon organizers the DVDs for free so they gave them away. Eventually we were let into the room and we took our seats.

A pony-tailed gentleman welcomed us. He worked for some company in Los Angeles that makes porn flicks and also dubs Hentai videos into English. The guy began by showing us a brief video about his company and what they do. It was really hilarious. In one scene, a woman who does voices showed how she does some of her sound effects. To capture the moistness down below of a woman, she uses a fork to slosh around a bowl of tuna salad. It was at around this point that the ceiling began to bow and the chandelier bits began to swing. The GenCon dance was above us and getting pretty heavy, apparently. That and a pipe had sprung a leak the night before so everyone feared a ceiling collapse and ran out the door. Maintenance was called in and we were soon given the all-clear.

Most folks remained and the intro video finished. The gentleman then explained all about what was to transpire. A scene already dubbed into English of a couple minutes or so was shown and then audience members would go up to the front and do their own dub of the scene. Although they were given scripts, the aspiring voice actors could do whatever the hell they wanted. It was absolutely hilarious! There was this little brunette hottie who volunteered every time. There was one clip in which a guy was schtuping a woman from behind doggie style when he made her bark. The dubbers from the audience took it further and it went from dog, to goat, to chicken. The woman's clucks matched the character's onscreen mouth perfectly. The session was well-worth risking our lives for.

Unlike last year, I really didn’t buy very much this year. I did grab a couple mini-prints from Death From Above which did these military pin-ups.



I also picked up a couple Doctor Who sticker/activity books for The Dulcinea's kids and a David Tennant action figure for her. In addition, I got her a sticker of Ron from Harry Potter. Also at that booth were some nice Bettie Page stickers and I bought a couple for Miss Pamela. For myself, I added another title to my DVD collection: Demon Hunters 2: Dead Camper Lake.



I'd bought another movie of theirs, The Gamers, last year and thought it was great.



I was sorely tempted to get a copy of Call of Cthulhu, a movie by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. It was supposedly a very faithful adaptation of the Lovecraft story of the same name. The video is in B&W and silent and is a pretty strict reproduction of 1920s filmmaking.

I saw in the event listing that there was a demo of a collectible card game about tech support but I wasn't able to make it and I didn't see the game anywhere in the vending area. Anyone know anything about this? Having seen my first bit of Hentai, I went over to the tables of this outfit that had tons and tons of the stuff. Charles and I looked at the dozens of titles baffled – what to get? He asked the vendor what types of hentai there were. He replied, "Man & woman, woman on woman, man on man, tentacles, BDSM, men with women with strange packages…" How to choose? A single DVD was $20 so we went with a 4-DVD set for $40: The Darkness Collection:



I haven't sat down and watched any of it yet but I did take a sneak peak at the first episode, "Alien From the Darkness", and I can tell you that it's full of tentacly goodness.

I also bought a couple t-shirts.





So, if you see someone walking down the street with one of these on, it could very well be your humble narrator.

One last thing I'd like to address here is the rumor that I heard on Thursday about GenCon not being held in Indy next year. Either one of the GMs or the guy who ran the foam weapon making session said that the convention center had double-booked next year's dates with a knitting convention and the knitters were getting preference. I fecal matter thee not. He remarked that the person responsible for the double-booking had been fired but GenCon would have to find other digs for next year. Anyone else hear this rumor?
|| Palmer, 10:15 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post