Friday, October 26, 2012

One Hell of a Trump Card

The world would have been a much better place if Donald Trump had just stayed in the 1980s, where he belonged. That was his time--that was when he was aligned with the world, or more appropriately, when the world was aligned with him. Things have moved on in the last thirty years, thankfully, and more and more Trump is looking like a pathetic remnant of a bygone age, a person that has been left behind.

It's no wonder he'd be looking for something to re-establish his relevancy and get his name back in the news cycle. You may have heard rumors of his October Surprise earlier this week, and you've probably heard of just what that surprise entailed. Evidence that President Obama is actually a humaniform robot sent back in time to prepare the world for the rise of the machines? Proof that Mitt Romney found the leprechauns' secret gold reserves or job factories? No!

He's going to give $5 million to a charity of President Obama's choice... if, by October 31st, President Obama reveals his passport applications and college transcripts.

Now that's a hell of a surprise, isn't it? Truly, this is the sort of information that will blow this election wide open. Except it's not. This is Donald Trump flailing around like a man on fire, desperately trying to remind people that he exists and breathlessly trying to convince us that he has anything worth saying.

As far as I know, as I write this there has been no acknowledgement of Trump's magnanimous offer from the President or his staff--and that's how it should be. At first I thought it was a simple slam dunk; there's no question that President Obama went to college or has had to hold a passport. A simple show of documentation, and that's a quick $5 million to a charity... but things are never that simple.

This isn't about charity. This is about Donald Trump, a private citizen, trying to make the President of the United States dance to his tune. To serve him. As ridiculous as the whole brouhaha over the long-form birth certificate was, at least there was a veritable legion of idiotic birthers--a tautology, I know--constantly jawing about it. Nobody is talking about passports or transcripts but Trump. Nor do I have any faith that Trump would actually follow through with his charity commitment.

Imagine if something like this had been done in October 2004; say, if Michael Moore had pledged to give $5 million to a charity of President Bush's choice so long as he presented, say, his full National Guard service record. Sure, Fox News and the conservative blogosphere would have been apoplectic, but I can guarantee you that Bush would have ignored it completely. The President of the United States has far more important things to deal with than self-important blowhards trying to manipulate him like a marionette.

It's just telling, really, about the sort of world that's unfolding before us. Personally, I think Trump should accept Stephen Colbert's counteroffer.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quaff Review #27: Red Racer Pumpkin Ale

It's not every day that I review something that comes in a can, but craft brewers these days don't just restrict themselves to bottles--it isn't just the domain of the big brewers. Still, with the weather having changed to such an extent that I can see my breath at night and my head starts to ache from the cold after walking around outside for two hours, I can only change with the seasons.

For many brewers, the changing of the seasons means opportunities to roll out limited edition, seasonal brews. Here in British Columbia, Surrey's Central City Brewing Company has demonstrated the harvest time spirit through its release of Red Racer Pumpkin Ale, based around that traditional October squash, the zucchini.

Pumpkin. Whatever. The cans are eye-catchingly orange, giving them excellent camouflage amidst the falling leaves of autumn, and the can is practically American--with only the word "bière" present in French, it's not exactly the sort of design that wold roll in Quebec. Assuming, that is, that it gets out that far--Central City's beers are most easily available in Metro Vancouver, understandable given that I can see the site of their brewpub from my window, though some of their varieties are available as far east as Ontario... mostly the pale ales, though.

Pumpkin Ale is definitely not a pale ale, and for that I'm thankful. You can find it at the BCL or at private sellers such as Central City's own liquor store for approximately $12.45 for a six-pack before taxes.

Smell is always the first encounter you'll have with a beer, and while Pumpkin Ale didn't have any particularly detectable smell when I cracked the can or after I poured--at least, not to me, I may just have a malfunctioning nose--ultimately, the important question is whether or not the taste is worth it. For some beers, the crafting of an actually flavorful beer is less important than just loading it up with alcohol until it tastes like, and could probably be used as, paint thinner. That's just the sort of thing you have to expect from the big breweries, though. For craft breweries like Central City, the situation is different.

The taste of Pumpkin Ale lives up to its name. More importantly it's a departure from the ordinary--it quickly and strongly sets itself up apart from the standard "beer." There are plenty of brews out there, in my experience, that seem to be just minor permutations of the same recipe once I pour it out. Pumpkin Ale, by contrast, isn't the sort of thing that can be mistaken for something else, unless that something else is a different seasonal pumpkin ale. Sure, there's an initial rush of the "beer" taste and the alcoholic tang, but it's quickly drowned beneath the tang of the pumpkin and the spices that follow it up.

It's a comfortable, familiar taste, really--it's a lot like drinking a pumpkin pie. With 5% alcohol by volume, it goes down smooth and it does not overstay its welcome.


Previous Quaff Reviews

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Bit of Doggerel

Today is "Doggerel Day" on Acts of Minor Treason, a distinction I only invented just this minute. I haven't been posting much recently because my main computer experienced a catastrophic processor meltdown last week, and I am relegated to my 2007-era backup. There was a time, not so long ago, when 2007 was unbelievably futuristic... alas.

But I do have something today--something quick, something minor, something dredged from the edges of memory. Verses like it were an integral part of my up-north camping experience as a youth, and with a slight bit of lyrical modification, it becomes highly appropriate to the present day.

They say that in Vancouver, the weather's kind of wet
Was raining when I got here, it hasn't let up yet
Oh, I don't want no more of B.C. life
Gee, ma, I want to go
Back to Ontario
Gee, ma, I want to go home!

Relevant meaning, indeed.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

SF, Star Trek, and the Status Quo

Today is an auspicious day in the annals of spaceflight. Fifty-five years ago the first artificial satellite, the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, was launched into orbit. Eight years ago SpaceShipOne made its its second competitive flight, winning the Ansari X Prize. Three hundred and fifty-one years from now, the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) will be commissioned into service, and given that synchronicity I feel like it's a good day to talk about Star Trek.

It's been quiet on that front recently, really. Aside from the upcoming movie Star Trek into Darkness--and here I thought they would have gone with something like Star Trek: To Boldly Go--there's nothing on the horizon. During the course of the last seven years, there's been two hours of new Star Trek produced; twice as much was made in the week from May 26 to June 2, 1999, when Deep Space 9 was airing its final episodes and Voyager was becoming the only active series. From 1987 to 2005, there was always a series in production. Star Trek dominated televised science fiction, and today that whole category seems to be in suspension except for things like Doctor Who... and that's space fantasy, anyway.

A few days ago I encountered an interview with Ronald D. Moore, one of the people responsible for Deep Space 9 unfolding how it did, where he talks about the movies being unable to cover quite the same ground or ask the same questions as the television shows because of their nature as movies. Generally, people don't go to the movies for things like that.

I'll agree that there is a niche for a new Star Trek series out there--and I think it should be approached in a rather different way than all the previous series have. I think that should Star Trek return to the airwaves, it should do so as an anthology series: call it Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

What would it mean, having an anthology series? You wouldn't have a series that followed the same crew, the same ship, week in and week out. You wouldn't have the flagship of the Federation running into all the spatial anomalies and saving the galaxy time and time again. The stories would follow different ships, different crews, different people--not necessarily only once, of course, but the camera would no longer be bolted to a single bridge.

This would be a boon for storytelling, since it vastly opens up the possibilites that can be explored. Rather than searching for situations to affect the characters as they've been established--something that can get pretty damn crazy after a few years of running time--characters can be tailor-made to fit the situation that they're going up against... or, alternatively, to not fit it. There's plenty of dramatic hay to be made out of putting an unprepared character in a difficult situation, and seeing how they react to it.

More importantly, the stakes can be higher--the stakes for the characters, that is. One of the reasons Star Trek relied so heavily on technobabble for its plot resolutions, I feel, was because it was the easy way out. Making a difficult decision or taking the best of the bad roads might be dramatically interesting, but it upsets the status quo. Far better, in that respect, for Geordi to save the ship by reversing the polarity on the phase inducers and generating an anti-tachyon beam to destabilize the anomaly, rather than something that would result in the characters picking up scars. In an anthology series, the entire balance changes; every episode, we're meeting new people. The audience isn't as attached to them as they are to Kirk and Spock and Picard and Worf and so on.

To put it bluntly, they can die and it won't matter as much. There's no applecart to upset; what happens to one crew won't necessarily affect another. It would make things more interesting. Everyone knew that Voyager would get home--that doesn't have to be the case for some other starship that lacks a seven-year commitment.

It would be something that hasn't been done before in Star Trek, an opportunity to breathe new life into the franchise. I think, myself, that it would be worthwhile for the ones in charge to consider.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Returns

It's the first of October, and I'm back from my weblogging vacation--I had plenty of time to think once I'd stepped away from the treadmill, and more importantly, I was able to continue a limited media vacation. I feel a hell of a lot better about myself now, having kept myself from drowning in bad news that just gets worse for the last few weeks. To be honest, I was getting tired of maintaining Acts of Minor Treason as purely a commentary vehicle--of actively looking for things that irritated me enough to justify writing about them.

Things aren't going to be like that here anymore. Anyone can go anywhere for commentary on and interpretation of the news. I'd rather this weblog be something where you'll find things that don't appear elsewhere.

In that idiom, then, the daily-update schedule is over. I will no longer be posting something every day for the sake of posting something every day. With new posts becoming less frequent, I'll work to make sure that the posts themselves are of high quality so that they're worth your time. I'm already working on a few things...

- A convention report of Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention,
- Tunnel Visions reports on the Portland and Seattle streetcar systems,
- Reviews of not-well-known short science fiction and beers,
- And other things I haven't figured out yet.

Thanks for sticking around with this weblog, and with me. I'll do what I can to make it worthwhile.