Robin Williams, Our Troops, and an Appeal

Over at Mission: VALOR (and on Facebook), Jenna Wilkins Perminas (the new and amazing social media manager for Mission: VALOR), hits it out of the park with a bloody marvelous post on depression, suicide, and an appeal to troops and veterans.  Check it out.

“Craft” Distilling

It appears that a lot of people who are into bourbon are now upset to learn that a lot of “craft” distillers don’t do their own distilling.  That, in point of fact, the “craft” spirit they love may come from carefully selected mixes of spirits produced and/or aged elsewhere.

An article at The Daily Beast was the cold slap of reality for them, and it has led to a lot of angst and discussions of what “is” is, or rather what is craft and what is horrible-big-batch-chain-megaconglomerate-otherbadwordthing.  Artisan, craft, crafty…  Well, call it what you will (and this article makes some very good points).

For me, lost in the angst and the latest “in” bourbon (or some other spirits for that matter) is process.  I know that my current favorite producer of bourbon has just started to distill on premises again — which means the product I love did not start life there.  Yet, I personally still consider it to be an honest product.

Why?  Simple.  It starts with the fact that they don’t hide it.  They may not advertise it, but they don’t try to mislead you.  Following-up on that is the fact that they are building on the recipes and traditions that began decades ago in the family and were interrupted by a rather poor business decision (IMO) and a sale.  Now that the family has bought things back, they are building on the previous traditions and refining.

Think about what goes into providing the flavors in any good spirit.  It starts with the mix of grains/ingredients.  Some families and businesses have developed recipes over the years and stick with them for good reasons.  That’s where a lot of flavor comes from, and by playing with small changes in proportion you can make some rather interesting (and potentially significant) changes in flavor.  Changing the type/variety of wheat/corn/rye makes a difference, which is why good distillers take care to ensure continued sourcing of preferred varieties of each.

Good stills do make a difference, pot or column, but where those stills are located does not make a significant difference.  It may be next door, or it may be a few hundred miles away.  On-site or next door are much easier to deal with from a logistics standpoint, but…

Next is the wood for the barrels, and if charred how charred.  Again, there has been a lot of trial and error over the years and those who have been doing it a while have their preferences.  New companies have a good idea (often) of what they want, but if smart they are likely going to play around with that at least a little bit.

Finally, where it is stored makes a difference.  A range of temperatures and humidity do make a difference.  My current favorite may not have been distilled on site, but guess where the aging warehouses are?  Again, for each type of spirit there is a good bit of data on the climate needed, as the conditions of aging are important.

To me, what makes a truly great spirit are the flavors that come from the differences in the production and aging, while the spirit remains within the larger brand taste.  It’s why I like single-barrel single malts a lot, and accept that in many respects each bottle I buy is going to be different.  Accept heck, I look forward to it.  It’s also why I’ve quietly snickered at some of the hot-brand-of-the-month bourbon and rye whisky out there (and most especially at their fanboys).

Folks, if that very expensive bottle of aged “craft” bourbon or rye comes from a company that’s only been around a couple of years, the odds of it being produced and aged elsewhere is, oh, about 100 percent.  They may have a true genius blending things for a great taste and consistent taste over time and from a large source of stock.  They may have a wonderful product through chemistry.  However, if you think it comes from people who have devoted years or decades to learning the craft and carefully producing a product from start to well-aged finish, well, I have a bridge for you.

Find what tastes good to you.  Explore.  Enjoy.  Learn a bit about the process and what goes into making that spirit.  My “everyday” bourbon and favorite “small batch” bourbon are technically both mass produced.  My current favorite high-end bourbon and rye come from a place that just started distilling on-site again fairly recently (at least by bourbon standards).   For me, the devil — and the pleasure — are in the details, and the details are not exact sameness bottle-to-bottle.  Consistent, yes.  Exactly the same and rigidly checked by chemical analysis, no.

If you have to have a spirit from master distillers/craftsmen who have studied and worked for years/decades and only do small batches that are distilled, aged, and mixed to taste on site, good for you.  There are a few out there.  Just be prepared to pay a truly premium price and accept scarcity of supply.

Contest Winner To Be Killed!

And the runner up maimed!  Oh my, the humanity!!

Yes, it is true.  The winner of the Mission: VALOR art contest will die three times (and enjoy it no less), and the runner-up will be maimed.  Thanks to Sarah A. Hoyt, Tom Kratman, Michael Z. Williamson, Le Creuset, MilitaryLuggage.com, Battlemug.com, and Doctrine Man for the initial prizes to go to the respective estates.  Oh, and not only is Nick Searcy a judge for the contest, he’s now on the National Advisory Board for Mission: VALOR.  Thanks also to judges John Sheppard, Greg Browning, and Erin Ingram, who stand ready to join with Nick and give the death penalty multiple times.

 

It’s My Birthday

Yes, it is indeed my birthday, and if you want to do something for me, go make a donation to Mission: VALOR.  Thank you

A Random Act Of Beauty

Mission: VALOR has been taking almost every moment of my time recently, especially as we are completing start-up and moving into stand-up phase.  So, Saturday I took a small bit of time for me and went down early to the Mosey Down Mainstreet in Lafayette, IN.  Here are the first images that I present as a senseless act of random beauty (or cruelty, depending on your opinion of my photography).

mosey1a1 mosey2a mosey3a mosey4a mosey5a mosey6a mosey7b mosey8a

Just Because

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& a slightly different version, both of which I hear in “Pooh” voice

BuggerPoo

 

Marion Zimmer Bradley & A Dangerous Double Standard

I love to write, always have and I hope I always will do so.  I’ve been fortunate to have people from teachers to other writers encourage me, and to help me grow.  One of the more interesting ways this has happened is through my having been a science writer/writing guest at a variety of science fiction conventions.

At one such event, I met the late Marion Zimmer Bradley.  I will confess that I had not and have not read much of her work, and that was a point I danced around very diplomatically when we were both guests at a MOC (Magnum Opus Con) many years ago.  She was not just polite to me, she was warm, engaging, encouraging, and even offered to buy a fiction story.  Sadly, her assistant refused to do so because I lacked the right body plumbing, and the refusal to honor MZB’s wishes was disappointing (if not surprising).  While MZB was welcoming, her staff was not and I was left with no real desire to explore her works further given the response.

I was well aware she had handlers and staff, and that they jealously guarded her and access to her.  Had we not met in person as guests, I doubt that anything I would have ever sent her would have been seen by her.  I know the messages sent to her after the convention sure weren’t… What I did not realize was that people protected her in more ways than I realized.

Over the last few weeks, a great deal has come out about Marion Zimmer Bradley and her second husband, Walter Breen.  So much so, that some writers are doing the right thing in regards payments and royalties from her estate.  What is truly sickening is that so much of this was hidden, and actively covered and enabled, and apparently by more than just those close to her/them.

To expand on what I wrote on Facebook, I find it sad that so many covered for them both, and were prepared to ignore the real harm being done to minors by both.  This is not hurt, it is real and lasting harm and the latest revelations disgust me.  One can argue many things about age-of-consent laws and application, but there are things that are clearly right and clearly wrong, and far too many were not just willing to turn a blind eye to wrong, but apparently to actively cover for it.

In an era where baseless charges of racism, sexism, and more have been leveled at writers, editors, and fans over mere politics, it seems more than passing strange that some have been given a pass for real and harmful actions against minors. It seems to me that paedophilia should be treated far more severely than simply holding a political opinion.  I eagerly await the outrage from those foaming at the mouth over political incorrectness at this real and gross violation and sexual exploitation of children.  (yes, that last sentence is sarcastic)

News To Share

Well, I did indeed run in my first run/race, the 5th Annual Big Apple Run for the Warriors, and despite issues on the second half, managed to take silver for men in my age group.  No, I’m not saying how old I am.  :)  I ran in a Blackfive t-shirt, but switched to his one after the race.

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I’m also very pleased to announce that the IRS has spoken, and Mission: VALOR is now a 501(c)(3) charity.  More than that, the IRS made it effective as of our date of incorporation, so any donations from 10 March 2014 on should be tax deductible.  We need volunteers, and we urgently need donations so we can move out to help with the crisis in veteran employment.  There is a lot more news to share, but that will wait just a bit while we get word of our new and much appreciated status out to the world.  Remember, you can donate anything from $1 on up, and you can use the quantity button to make things match what you want if we don’t have it already set.

 

Bergdahl

I am glad SGT Bergdahl is free.  I am far less than happy at HOW he was freed.  That we do not leave anyone behind is an article of faith and devotion for the rank and file, though I do wonder how seriously higher takes it…

Now, comes the hard part and what we must all demand of higher:  a fair, complete, and impartial investigation of all the circumstances that placed SGT Bergdahl into enemy hands.  Given the number of troops who died trying to find and recover him, the questions must be answered and justice done to the fullest possible extent.  Being freed is not a free pass, for a very high price has been paid and a long-standing tenet of diplomacy forfeited in the process.  I fear a very bad precedent has been set, and to whitewash to even the slightest degree will only make it worse.

Sadly, I have no faith and confidence that any of this will happen.  I would be unsurprised to see SGT Bergdahl hailed as a hero and given a ticker-tape parade.  I hope to be proven wrong, but will not bet on that happening.

UPDATE:  Another reason this smells.  Everyone is focusing on the first sentence, look at the second.  Hard.  That is the key, and the target on our troops just got larger IMO.

Memorial Day

Foster Powers USN, KIA 1945

Foster Powers USN, KIA 1945

To the God in Man displayed — Where’er we see that Birth, Be love and understanding paid As never yet on earth!

To the Spirit that moves in Man,
On Whom all worlds depend,
Be Glory since our world began
And service to the end!

Final stanzas, The Choice, Rudyard Kipling

Let me start with the end, instead of the beginning.  I am not asking that we make Memorial Day somber and solemn, a thing without levity or fun.  I know none who have served who would want that, particularly those who did not come home.  We should enjoy the day and the weekend in their honor, so that they and the reason for this day are not forgotten.

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