Monday, January 29, 2007

"Should we be more subversive?"

I don't know how many times she did or did not rehearse and perfect that impossibly poignant little inquiry, but ever since the indelible Myia posed me those five words almost 3 years ago now, they have been my conscience, demanding reconsideration of every thought that crosses my mind.

"Should" - Is it preferable by some higher standard that we act or feel in one way or another? Who prescribes this imperative? If only oneself, then whatever question follows might carry no weight whatsoever with the person asked, though essential to the inquirer. In an orderly and just world driven or designed by a guiding force, we would all be pressed upon to act and feel in similar fashion. But without that? If one is unsure as to the presence, absence, or nature of any greater power that might mandate or encourage certain "shoulds" or "should nots"...then one is left to his or her own choices, all the while looking over their shoulder for approval they don't expect to find.

"we" - Was she referring to only herself and I? Or was this a statement that might apply to all of a given generation, to subvert what those before have established? If only us, then why us? What would put the onus on only us or those of like thought to subvert anything? Is it only a task for the young? the educated? those far from home? the middle class? the political left? She could have asked "Should I...?" but then, Myia is always concerned about more than just herself.

"be" - Act? Think? Preach? Exist in function, style, form, or only thought? Or all of the above? If she wanted to delimit any particular mode of being, she could have done so. This was meant to be all encompassing.

"more" - This assumes, of course, that one is subversive to begin with. So then, did she feel, knowing me already, that I was somewhat subversive already? Or, if "we" performed in a broader sense, did she assume that everyone in whatever group she had formed mentally was already subversive in some way? Maybe subversion is inherent to life, and one cannot help but to be just a little bit. After all, our parents and society establish norms and goals, but who ever ascribes to all of them? Each person is a smorgasbord of their own unique blend of internalized values and dreams, no one perfectly lining up with another. Perhaps, everyone subverts to an extent, but nobody subverts entirely. Is comprehensive subversion a n achievable goal?

"subversive?" - A word as loaded as an offshore missile silo. What does it mean to subvert something, or more so to "be" - in all ways - subversive "more" than "we" are. To undermine? undo? overthrow? destroy? All of these potential synonyms crave to know what they will act against. The government? Society at large? The older generation? It is necessary that it be something external to the subversives, so the answer is primarily dependent upon defining "we." It is impossible to subvert an establishment or idea of which one is a part, for the very seed of subversion slashes whatever tie one has to what is now his or her target.

How do I respond?

"yes" - The question serves its purpose through its own language. As we've seen, it is vague and pluripotent, qualities which demand investigation and questioning in and of themselves. Questioning is the root of all subversive thought and behavior, so by simply considering the meaning and implications of this question, one has answered it in the affirmative and become more subversive.

"no" - The question defeats itself through its own language. "Should" implies a higher level of subversiveness toward which we ought to strive, but to seek to do so, in accordance with this higher standard, would be an utterly un-subversive act. By ignoring this question, one paradoxically becomes more subversive by refusing to seek out the goal it sets for us.

Either way, the question forces me to be subversive. Maybe one path is more subversive than the other, but that probably depends on where a person starts. I don't feel very subversive myself, but I think I'm heading the right direction...whichever way it lie.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Something bad's a-home-brewing...

The other night, a few friends and I set out to make some beer. Three out of the four of us had done this before, to varying degrees, so we should have known what we were doing.

We had the grain - check - and the brew pot, a couple of large pails, the hops, 10 gallons of clean water, and our crazy seasonings, sarsaparilla, wintergreen, and rose hips - check, check, check, check, check. Good to go! The first step was to heat up 5 gallons of water in a 10 gallon aluminum stock pot on one burner of my very mediocre gas stove. It took a while. Hours maybe. I'm not sure, as we were always cooking up some curry and dreaming about the pie that was to come.

Eventually, with this warm water, we moved on to steep the grains. This is also known as the mash phase, or, as I think of it, making oatmeal. For those of you who have never made their own beer, imagine infusing your kitchen with the aroma of 12 or more pounds of Grape-Nuts (i.e. barley) mixed with your favorite oatmeal. It's possible that not everyone loves grains like I do, but, friend, it is a sweet thing.

I'll try to not to bore you with all the hot, sticky details of the brew process, but suffice it to say that it was hot and sticky in the least sexiest of ways. I think everyone got mildly scalded at some point, and my floor and our shoes were coated in gooey, malty water. When we were finally done with all the grain and ready to boil the wort (pronounced "wert," but it is a lovely word for pre-fermented beer, isn't it?), we prepared to wait the hours it would take the water to get up to boiling again, after which there would be at least an hour more of it maintaining that boil.

As we waited, we made pie. We used gooseberries, blueberries, and some leftover honey barley from the mash, all in a homemade pie crust, with caramelized peach slices atop each piece. It was another chaotic hour and a half, but it came out nearly perfect, as you can see. So perfect, in fact, that we had to wrestle Jeremy away from making love to it. A triumph all around - which is more than I can say about the beer...

We had been adding our hops at appropriate times throughout the boil and were finally ready to be done with it. Now, this whole time we've been taking measurements of the wort with our hydrometer and seeing very mixed and very weird results. These readings are supposed to give us an idea of how alcoholic the finished product will be, and most of the readings were pointing toward a 1-2% alcohol content. That's low even for Budweiser standards. So before the end of the boil we decide to toss in a can of malt extract just to bolster up the alcohol potential (more malt means more food for alcohol-producing yeast). This is a connoisseurial faux pas, akin to throwing a pound of sugar into a carafe to make bad coffee palatable.

The only steps remaining are to pour the wort into a pail, cool it to an inhabitable temperature for the yeast, and then to add the yeast. This is important to do quickly so the beer doesn't end up infected with some other bacteria that decides to homestead in these 5 gallons of malty elixir.

It's 3 am.

The yeast...the yeast...oh, good God, we don't have any yeast. We all would have kicked ourselves had we not been way too tired to make the effort. The only option was really to just try to keep it sterile until morning when we could rush out and buy some yeast for the brew. Hopefully we succeeded in doing so, but we won't know for a while yet. Now, as it continually bubbles and foams over the edges of its fermenter, I wonder just how much abuse can wort take and still become beer? I mean, this beer was going to be weird to begin with, but now it may turn out to be a true freak.

As we wait the many weeks for the beer to become beer, I think I might make another pie. Succeeding in anything is great, so I hear, but the best kind of success is when you can literally taste it.

One in a Million?

Almost. According to the Wikipedia entry for "blog," it's more like one in 60 million. But maybe mine will float to the top of that mass somehow. Given those odds, I'd be thrilled just to be in the top 100,000. Most blogs are probably nearly empty anyway. If my friends' attempts at blogging are any indication, at least half of those 60 million are never updated past the first one or two entries, and some of them are owned by the same person.

Really then, all I have to do is make 3 entries to ensure my place in the upper half of all blogs, world-wide. In fact, the easiest way for me to work my way up in the global blogosphere is simply to keep writing, right? Maybe slap some ads up here and shamelessly abuse those search tags, and, as the hit counter climbs, I'll enter that elite 100 grand club in no time.

But successful blogging is more than just a numbers game, so we all would hope. This first entry is pretty much written for an audience of none, with the hope that maybe, someday, when this is the most popular blog in the world for reasons unconceivable to me now, my myriad ravenous fans will eat up my archives as well as my most recent articles.

So, welcome! To what? I don't know. Come back and find out as it develops though, eh?