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In response to the continuing debate of proposed law changes and aggressive attacks on freedom of speech and information on the internet, my state Senator is revealing information about her proposed changes to fight piracy and copywrite infringement without sensoring the internet. I’d like your feedback. What do you think of her proposals?

from Senator Maria Cantwell:

Thank you to the thousands of Washingtonians who raised your voices last week to support an open and free Internet. Thanks for your phone calls and emails to our office regarding the PROTECT IP Act.

Like you, I believe that America’s economy thrives on innovation and freedom of speech. The Internet allows entrepreneurs in Washington state and around the world to create ground-breaking companies and fuel economic growth. We cannot afford to rush an Internet policy that could trample on our innovation economy.

That’s why I opposed the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate from the beginning, and have offered an alternative – the OPEN Act. We need to protect creative content on the Internet from piracy by rogue foreign websites, but we must do so in a way that also protects freedom of speech, innovation and security on the Internet. Read more about the OPEN Act here, or read the full bill text here.

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A lot of people still don’t understand what the big deal is. The media is painting many of the websites that participated in the Blackout as “Pawns” and “Sites that promote Piracy and Illegal Downloads”. That’s not that case at all!

Internet users and websites aren’t against cracking down on digital theft, they are against giving up their freedom of speech and allowing the government to impose the kind of restrictions that are currently in places like China and the Middle East that severely censor what information is available to their citizens. In an article on the LA TIMES website (Read it here), Chinese bloggers express their opinions not only of the blackout but of the freedoms that we have that they lack. Take a look and then ask yourself, “Do I really want to live in a country that has THAT much control over what I am allowed to see, know or even say?” The problem with SOPA and PIPA is the loss of freedom. Under it’s current wording, I could face legal action including jail time for what I’ve just written, including the link back to the LA TIMES. I could have my website taken down and my accounts frozen or deleted. I could be shut down for trying to share information with my readers.

Here’s another scenario: Lets say I created a cute lil bunny character as an online comic strip with intentions to sell t-shirts and eventually toys. I start off with nothing but my wits, paintshop, Cafe Press and/or Zazzle and my own website to feature the comics. I put a couple of years into developing the idea and suddenly, shortly after launching the campaign, some big time toy manufacturer decides that it’s “infringing on their intellectual property” because they have their own bunny toy they are about to launch and decided to use comics as part of their PR campaign. I wake up one morning and my website is gone. My webhosting service has been forced to close my account and all my affiliate and other potential income-making sites have been seized, frozen or closed as well. I’m virtually banned and blocked from trying to promote my homegrown idea because someone with a bigger bank account than me decided to make use of the vague wording in SOPA/PIPA.

While I’m not trying to sell anything illegal, just my own inspiration, my own “intellectual property”, where would someone like me, the startup, the nobody who decided to make use of the wonders of the internet to try to make something of my ideas, get the financial and legal resources to fight something like that?

What happens when one network in your area decides to start blocking content that competes with it’s own content using the same vague language and loopholes in the current version of SOPA/PIPA?

We aren’t criminals. We are all pirates and hackers. We are just people trying to live the American Dream.

Before you start talking around the coffee machine at work about the “pawns” who participated in the Blackout, maybe you should learn a little bit more about the “unintended” consequences of letting these bills pass unchallenged.

While the voting has been delayed, the fight isn’t over yet. Learn more about SOPA, PIPA and other attempts at censoring the internet by doing your own search or check these links:

http://sopablackout.org/

https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act

Also, check out this great explanation from TED:

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Anne McCaffrey

News is just beginning to get out that one of my favorite authors, Anne McCaffrey has died. It is my personal belief that she played a massive role in creating the current fascination with, as well as the mythology for, dragons in contemporary literature. Even if you have never read her work, you have felt the impact of it, however unknowing.

I can remember reading the Dragonriders of Pern series when I was a child. Her writing played a large part in my falling in love with science fiction and fantasy novels. Because of authors like her and Piers Anthony, when other little girls were reading Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew, I was poring over my dad’s collection of thousands of science fiction and fantasy novels, discovering classic authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard and contemporary authors such as Arthur C. Clark and L. Sprague DeCamp.

The literary world has suffered a great loss, but her influence will continue to live on for generations.

from Alpha Airlock:

The literary world has lost one of its greats. Anne McCaffrey, the author of nearly 100 science-fiction and fantasy books, died Nov. 21. She was 85.

Random House, her longtime publisher, confirmed her death to Media Bistro on Tuesday.

Reports are that McCaffrey suffered a stroke, and died peacefully in Ireland, which has been her home since 1970.

Born April 1, 1926 in Massachusetts, and began her writing career with the publishing of Restoree by Ballantine Books in 1967. However, she is best known for her Dragonriders of Pern series, which now counts 22 novels and several short stories. Some included her son Todd McCaffrey as an author as well.

Check out the full article published by Alpha Airlock.

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When you first hear the title of the new MTV supernatural drama Teen Wolf premiering on June 5th, Michael J. Fox and Jason Bateman fans probably will fondly recall the comedic film and its sequel about a teenage guy just trying to fit in and have a normal life when he finds out about the family secret… they are werewolves. Not the kind of wolves where you turn into one by getting bit but the kind that are born.

While MTV is using the same title, it’s certainly not borrowing the plot… other than maybe some awkward teenage “out of control” moments that appear in every teen drama or comedy. Teen Wolf promises to be more dark, gritty and sensual, along the lines of Vampire Diaries or Lost Girl, both supernatural dramas that can be taken seriously, unlike the more pop-culture glam versions of classic monsters seen in the Twilight saga of books and films.

“It’s sexy and it’s scary and it pushes the envelope,” says series star Crystal Reed, who plays Allison, a member of a werewolf-hunting family and the love interest of the newly-bitten werewolf Scott. Tyler Posey, who plays Scott, describes his character as “the cool kid that was never accepted into the cool crowd.”

There are some in-depth behind-the-scenes looks at the show on MTV’s website. If the trailer peaked my interest, the BTS videos cemented it. I can’t remember the last time that I watched a series on MTV. With this one, they may just be tapping into the sci-fi and fantasy fan base that keeps hungering for high-quality content as their favorite shows get cancelled from network TV.

Check out the trailer below and decide for yourself.

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The Cape: The Complete Series

The live-action comic book series The Cape met a quick death at the hands of NBC, being pulled off the air without even airing the final episode. While the series was a tiny bit hokey, in the way you expect a comic book to be, it showed a lot of promise with a well-developed backstory, interesting plot twists and characters that you can empathize with. Friends of mine who hate sci-fi, fantasy or anything else slightly geeky became quick fans of the show and were frustrated along with the rest of us by its sudden disappearance and by the cliffhanger ending. Now, we’ll all finally have a chance to see the entire series on DVD, including the unaired episode. While we may never get all of our questions answered, hopefully the DVD will include some goodies to shed a bit of light on the mystery.

He’s righteous. He’s heroic. He’s The Cape. Vince Faraday (David Lyons, TV’s ER) is an honest cop on a corrupt police force. But when he’s framed for murder and presumed dead he finds that he must go into hiding leaving behind his wife Dana (Jennifer Ferrin, TV’s Life on Mars) and son Trip (Ryan Wynott, TV’s Flash Forward). Determined to battle the criminals who now control his hometown Vince takes the law into his own hands and becomes The Cape — his son’s favorite comic book superhero. Featuring an incredible supporting cast including James Frain (TV’s The Tudors), Keith David (Death at a Funeral), Summer Glau (TV’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Dorian Missick (The Manchurian Candidate), Martin Klebba (Pirates of the Caribbean), and Vinnie Jones (Snatch).

Pre-order your copy of The Cape: The Complete Series at Amazon, or look for it in your favorite video store on July 5th.

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Real Life Superheroes

For those of us watching Smallville this season, one of the ongoing story lines is public and government reaction to masked vigilantes. As young people growing up and into their abilities, we’ve witnessed every day people like Clark Kent, Oliver Queen and Arthur Curry take on the mantle of justice fighters, defending people in the name of Truth and Justice. In previous seasons, we saw the Justice Society of America and the scandal that put them out of the superhero business and now, as a new Justice League is forming, we see similar rumblings both pro- and anti-vigilante.

In a case of life imitating art here in my home state, a group of citizens has banded together to create their own team of superheroes patrolling the streets of Seattle. The Rain City Superhero Movement is a collection of masked vigilantes with military, martial arts and other special abilities. Seattle isn’t the only place you’ll find these Real Life Super Heroes, and it’s not a new movement. Heroes from all over the world are taking an active part in trying to improve the life of citizens in their communities, not only by fighting crime but hunger, disease, poverty and every other blight on humanity. Sometimes these heroes are praised for their efforts, and other times they are criticized or even mocked.

In a time when governments are failing to protect us, the interests of corporations have more weight then the needs of people, and apathy rules supreme, maybe now, more than ever, Real Life Super Heroes are needed. Maybe you can’t immobilize a thug with two fingers or take down a purse snatcher with a bola, but you can get involved and do something, however small, to improve the lives of the people in your community. From donating your time to feed the hungry at the local food shelter or helping build a home for a low income family, to raking an elderly neighbor’s lawn or participating in an AIDS or Cancer Walk, there are many things you can do to help improve someone’s life, not by spending money, which most of us don’t have much of, but time, which we spend too much of on frivolous things.

Have you thought about embracing your inner hero?

You can learn more about Real Life Super Heroes here:

The Real Life Super Hero Project
Real Life Superheroes.org
The Real Life Super Hero Project on Twitter
The Real Life Super Hero Project on Facebook
Real Life Superheroes Registry
Real Life Super Hero Manual

If you are looking for ways you can be a superhero without taking on an alter ego, check out these sites:

Rebuilding Together
Habitat for Humanity
AIDS Walk
Feeding America
Teachers Without Borders
MAP International
American Wildlife Foundation
Adopt a Highway

These are just a few of thousands of organizations, both local and international, that are doing good things that you can be a part of. Maybe you aren’t ready to save the world yet, but doing something in your own neck of the woods is a good place to start.

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The hours are crawling by as we wait for the premiere of the new Steampunk and Mythology inspired Riese the Series. Being three hours ahead of the folks out in Vancouver, BC (where series creator Ryan Copple and team are located), I can’t help but wonder what time of day they plan on launching. Is Episode 1 of Chapter 1 already uploaded and just waiting for the clock to roll past midnight and officially be November 2nd so they can post the episode? Or will they wait until later in the day, when most people are awake and in the grip of their daily routines? Regardless of when it actually launches, the day has arrived, or as the tagline goes: THE HUNT IS ON! I’ve made it through months of waiting, I think I might servive a few more hours if I absolutely have to.

If you haven’t already checked out the Riese the Series website, they’ve just re-launched with an awesome new look. According to the Episodes link, the Chapter 1 episode list is as follows:

Episode 1: HUNT (November 2, 2009)
Episode 2: FRAGMENTS (November 16, 2009)
Episode 3: BIND (November 30, 2009)
Episode 4: SPARES (December 14, 2009)
Episode 5: DAWN (January, 4 2010)

I know Chapter 2 filming will be underway in a few weeks so hopefully there won’t be too much of a break between Chapter 1 ending and Chapter 2 premiering. While you wait for the first episode to premiere, re-watch the above trailer, join the forum and bookmark the Riese websites listed here:

Riese the Series Official Web Page
Riese the Series Channel on YouTube
Riese the Series on KoldCast.TV
Riese the Series Official Forum
Riese the Series on Facebook
Riese the Series on Twitter
Riese the Series Fansite

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Cupteavity's Loose Leaf Earl Grey Tea

In my quest to increase my knowledge and fuel my passion, I’m always on the lookout to experience new coffees and teas. Recently, while surfing Facebook for coffee and tea groups, I discovered the Cupteavity fan page. Cupteavity hails from New Hope, Pennsylvania, and offers a wide variety of loose leaf teas ranging from traditional black and green teas to more exotic herbal tisanes and natural remedies. They were offering to send out free samples so I quickly accepted. A few days later, a package of loose leaf Earl Grey tea arrived.

Earl Grey is one of my all-time favorite teas. I frequently have it strong and sweet as a refreshing iced tea on a hot summer day, or hot and black with oatmeal and toast to start my morning just right. I’ve been disappointed with many of the brands of Earl Grey I’ve picked up, especially recently. True Earl Grey is more of a scented than flavored black tea. Its very strong aroma is the result of it being blended with or exposed to the essence of bergamot, oil from a citrus fruit. Some variations will include more orange or lemony notes, while others blend blossoms such as rose hips with them. While the aroma is potent, the fruit flavor produced by the bergamot tends to be light, and its sweet finish always reminds me of drinking the milk from a bowl of Fruit Loops. Some of the Earl Greys I’ve sampled over the years have ranged in flavor from minty to bland and grassy. While it’s one of the most popular and common traditional black teas, it seems to also be the one that’s hardest to find when it comes to high-quality, fresh teas.

Cupteavity’s Earl Grey has a heady aroma, both potent and cleansing. The strong citrus zest is set off by a hint of floral undertones. I was surprised to see the long dark leaves dotted with a small portion of lavender-colored blossoms that I believe are rose hips. I’ve never had Earl Grey blended with rose before so this was to be a true first for me. With London Fog being all the rage in cafes right now, I decided to experiment with vanilla and milk. While I steeped my tea, I also measured out some real Mexican vanilla extract (the kind you brew and age in barrels like a fine liquor), sugar and milk. I invited my teenage son to try it with me and talked him through the tasting process.

When I first poured the cups, I noted the russet color with a hint of oil swirling on the surface. When cupping my hand over the steam to inhale the aroma I noted that it was pleasant and cleansing with strong citrus, almost lemony notes, a hint of floral and an edge that reminds me slightly of mint. By cleansing I mean that after breathing in the aroma, my sinuses seemed to open up and I breathed deeper, the air seemed fresher and cooler and the aromas stronger and purer.

My first taste is always unsweetened. I slurped the tea and thought about the mouth feel of it. It came away clean with just a hint of tangy left on the back sides of my tongue. The taste was mildly malty with a slight fruit flavor and there was a mild aftertaste of floral that hinted at rose. Overall, it had a very balanced flavor, the bergamot and rose remaining tantalizing but neither dominating the flavor of the tea. Rose hips are not among my favorite flavors but their presence here was not unpleasant, just unexpected. It’s almost a tease of flavor because any time you think you’ve got the taste figured out, it eludes you again.

After trying it black, I experimented with light amounts of milk, sugar and vanilla. The resulting flavor reminded me of fresh-baked, home-made sugar cookies. While it was a bit sweet for my tastes, my son fell in love. We ended up splitting the rest of the pot, with me drinking mine black and he having me doctor up each refill with just the right amount of sugar and vanilla. While I can’t imagine myself drinking this Earl Grey on a daily basis (I tend to use Twinings most frequently), I can see myself getting this tea for special occasions or company since it is a pleasant experience that I hope to repeat. Cupteavity’s Loose Leaf Earl Grey tea is definitely one of the better Earl Greys I have had. I’m looking forward to trying other Cupteavity offerings as they have several teas I’ve not yet had the privilege of trying.

You can learn more about Cupteavity at their website, cupteavity.com, or, if you live in the New Hope area of Pennsylvania, you can look them up at 88 South Main Street.

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I am a huge jPod fan and, as such, I have made an effort to stay on top of the careers of the brilliant actors who starred in the short-lived, sorely missed television series. Whenever possible, I do what I can to help spread the good word for these talented young folks. Through their exploits, I’ve stumbled upon many wonderful shows that I may not have otherwise had a chance to see. Recently, I discovered that Torrance Coombs (John Doe on jPod) was starring in a new short film. The trailer (which isn’t available to embed yet so you’ll just have to follow the link to see it) tweaked my interest.

Sam has always been obsessed with vampires — from the time he was a child watching them on children’s programs, to when he was a college student reading horror novels on the side. On Sam’s 21st birthday, a mysterious gentleman offers him a peculiar career choice: become an assistant to a real-life Vampire. Intrigued and enthusiastic, Sam takes the job and meets Simon Bolivar, a 400-year old Vampire. Everything about the Vampire does hold some truth to it; a truth followed by a dose of hard-reality. Sam soon realizes that it is not so pleasant to serve his corrupt and neurotic behavior. Told from Sam’s point of view, the Familiar is for anyone who has ever pursued a dream only to watch it slowly twist into an unrecognizable nightmare. Be careful what you wish for… it may come back to bite you in the end!

I commented on the video and the Familiar creator Kody Zimmermann and I started chatting. After he shared some background info on the show, I was downright intrigued.

I’ve worked in Vancouver’s film industry for 13 years now with a long string of job titles, most containing the word “assistant” in them. Once, I was an assistant to a Hollywood actor. Someone whose work I admired, an artist who took his craft serious. But what unfolded was three months of sleepless nights, insane requests and an endless glimpse into the more shallow recesses of humanity. I started empathizing with the Renfield character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula; just another dutiful lunatic serving the will of a bigger evil.

Familiars — like Renfield — are spoken of in vampire myths. But like real-life assistants, not many people pay them any attention. But still, they compelled me. What kind of person would actually serve a life-sucking fiend? I guess anyone who complains about Mondays or is guilted into working the weekend kind of knows that answer already.

My story was found.

Aiding me on this journey was my good friend/collaborator Riley Walsh. Our mantra was to do it as cheap as possible while maintaining some form of professional integrity. We were both unemployed guys with mortgages hoping we could get a helping hand from friends and contacts. What we received was humbling; a true testament to how generous and gracious this industry can treat its own.

We conscripted Jennifer Nick as our co-producer; she got us audition space at the Men in Trees production office, spear-headed our festival circuit campaign and started researching funding grants. Riley approached Mark Freeborn (production designer of Final Destination III and X-Files II) to advise us on our design strategy. Mark and his team went beyond our expectations, introducing us to production designer Alistair Bell, giving us a literal ton of construction flats and then building our sets with them.

Riley procured a very generous Grip and Lighting package from William F Whites, a Sony F-900 camera package from Sim Video, a sound stage at North Shore Studios as well as enlisting the help of Sharpe Sound Studios for a professional sound mix pro bono. A crew of industry vets heeded our call for help: people who usually get paid $600-700 a day were coming out for us for free to do a five day gig.

What’s more, our cast was amazing. Torrance Coombs of The Tudors and jPod became our main character, Sam. The vampire was Paul Hubbard, more known as Ford’s “Random Celebrity Guy.” We had a great ensemble with Rachel Sehl, Luisa Jojic, Brock Shoveller and Art Kitching who did double-duty as our Nosferatu and a victimized Jogger.

We shot our first two days in Stage 8 at North Shore Studios, a place I went to for 4 years as an office assistant. It was exhilarating to go there in a director’s capacity. The Taylor Manor, a local film friendly and empty old hospital, acted as our vampire den for the next two days. Our last day was spent in a couple of shops in North Vancouver, ending along a picturesque boardwalk with the Vancouver cityscape as our backdrop. I was grinning ear-to-ear watching our vampire sucking blood and stealing some dead guy’s pants. It’s a rush to see something you wrote down on a computer happening right there in real life.

Riley and I set out to take this a step beyond the usual limitations we’re accustomed to. We wanted to make a feature film within the short format. I guess when no one is handing you that chance, you go out and make your own luck.

I think we got it.

With all the “romantic” rewriting of vampires in books, films and television these days, it’s nice to see someone showing the bloodsuckers as the bad guys they are supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the sultry vampire (Frank Langella was smolderingly sexy even to my 8-year-old self when I watched him in Dracula for the first time) but today’s vampires are shallow and pose no true threat or danger. Getting bit by today’s vampires is like getting a hickey — it’s unsightly, but no real harm done, and there’s no stigma attached to it.

The modern creatures are empty and untormented the way the traditional vampire used to be. There were, after all, two kinds: the monster and the victim. When I think of vampires, I always remember the lines from Sting’s “Moon over Bourbon Street”: “It was many years ago that I became what I am. I was trapped in this life like an innocent lamb…” and “I have stood many times outside her window at night to struggle with my instinct in the pale moon light. How could I be this way and I pray to God above. I must love what I destroy and destroy the thing I love…”

So, here’s the Familiar, a regular guy who buys into the whole modern concept of how cool vampires are and learns his lesson the hard way that giving up being human could also mean giving up your humanity. I can’t wait to see this show, and you can be sure I’ll be posting the trailer as soon as it’s available.

the Familiar
theFAMILIARmovie.com
22 minutes / 2009
HD Video / 16:9 (1.78:1)
Ghostwood Films

CAST:
Torrance Coombs as Sam
Paul Hubbard as The Vampire
Rachel Sehl as Alice
Brock Shoveller as The Old Gentleman
Jason Harder as Holland
Luisa Jojic as Penny
Josh Blacker as Virgil
Art Kitching as The Jogger & The Nosferatu
Suzka Mares as Vampire’s Escort
Rosette Sharma as Call Girl

CREDITS:
Written, Directed & Edited by Kody Zimmermann
Produced by Riley Walsh
Producer — Kody Zimmermann
Co-Producer — Jennifer Nick
Director of Photography — George Campbell
Production Designer — Alistair Bell
Costume Designer — Ivan Lehner
First Assistant Director — Riley Walsh
Music by Richard L. King
Special Effects Make Up — John Healy/Healy FX
Audio Post Production by Sharpe Sound Studios Inc.
Visual Effects Supervisor — Chris Buffett

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On thing I set out to do at the beginning of ÜSFG was to encourage geeks like me to celebrate the things that make us unique, to celebrate our differences and celebrate our lives. Reading books, watching movies or TV shows and playing with games and gadgets is something we geeks obviously share and discuss at ÜSFG but one thing we haven’t touched much upon is food and beverages. I’d like to change that. I love to talk about my passions, share my ideas and knowledge with others and learn how others think and feel about things. That especially applies to me for coffee and tea.

You’re probably asking, “What does coffee and tea have to do with being a sci-fi geek?” Well, I have a few different responses that I could offer to that, the first of which is that coffee and tea are the lubricants that keep our geeky minds oiled and running smoothly. I could offer a dozen more equally compelling responses, but rather then preach my Doctrine of Coffee and Tea, I shall just say this: Captain Picard had his Tea, Earl Grey, Hot; Captain Janeway had her black coffee; Harry Potter had his Butterbeer; and Ford Prefect had his Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. From Star Trek to ElfQuest and everything in between, food and beverages have played an important role in sci-fi and fantasy, so why not talk about it in the context of being part of geek culture?

My professional career has always been in the gourmet coffee and tea industry (I don’t refer to myself as ArtistCoffee Master, Geek for nothing). Over the years I’ve tried many brands and varieties of coffees and teas, and I’m always eager to learn about and experience more. My philosophy on food and beverages is that while some things are highly complimentary when paired to enhance natural flavors, most people just automatically cover things up with sauces and seasonings without giving thought to true flavor. They add sugar and cream to coffee and tea without sipping it first. They put catsup and mustard on their burgers and smother their salads with dressing. If you automatically have to cover up the flavor of something you are eating without thinking about it or even trying it first, you don’t really like the food you are eating — you’re just eating. Doing a coffee or tea tasting is an effort to consciously think about what you are consuming. It’s a meditation on food and the pleasure it can bring. The first sip is almost a Zen moment for me.

Drinking coffee and tea is a sensual experience. From the moment you hold the cup in your hands, you feel the warmth of it and begin to anticipate the sensation of it warming you from within. Then you drink it in with your eyes, the colors spanning the calming, earthy rainbow of yellow, ocher, and red, on through to deep dark brown and rich silky black. When you breathe in the aroma, you begin salivating and your other senses peak in anticipation of the first taste. When that first sip reaches your lips, the complex flavors dance across your taste buds, evoking thought and memory, completing the whole body sensory experience and often resulting in an involuntary vocal response such as an “ah” or “mm”. Your body responds this way whether you contemplate the physical reaction and appreciate it, or you just down your daily cup o’ joe.

When I do a coffee or tea tasting, my first drink is always black and unsweetened. Depending on how much time I have to enjoy it, I may prepare a food item or have other ingredients available in order to play with complementary and clashing flavors. I prefer to use a French Press with fresh ground coffee and a glass pot for loose leaf tea. I use water from a kettle heated just off boiling. When I pour the first cup, I look at the color of it. I examine the oils on the surface and then cover the cup with my hand and breathe in the aroma. This is a thought-provoking step. I like to savor it and think of the things it reminds me of. For example, the earthy aroma of fresh-brewed Sumatra coffees typically remind me of walking through a forest in the fall, the smell of wet earth and fallen leaves mingling in the air with the smoke from someone’s leaf burning.

After meditating on the aroma, I slurp the coffee or tea, drawing in lots of air with it to continue to involve my sense of smell with defining the flavor. As I swallow that first taste, I think not on the flavor but where I perceive it on my tongue and how it feels in my mouth. While teas tend to have minimal variations in mouth feel, coffees can vary wildly from thin to syrupy. Lastly, I sip the coffee and let it linger in my mouth a moment before swallowing. Only then do I let myself think about the flavor of it. What does it taste like? What does it remind me of? What would go well with it?

I can’t tell you how many times at this point I’ve watched someone make a face because they just aren’t used to sipping unsweetened or unflavored fresh-brewed coffee or tea. They automatically want to reach for the sugar because that is the dominant flavor they are expecting to taste. Taking the time to think about the flavor profile changes the entire experience. Your first sip of a pressed black coffee or steeped loose leaf tea is like a slap in the face for those who are used to drip coffee makers and boxed tea bags. At your second sip, everything changes. You begin to notice things you never noticed before. Revealed to you are subtle nuances of flavor that are masked by sugar and cream such as nutty, caramely, earthy, or tart. Once you recognize those flavors are there, you can truly begin to appreciate them and decide what will best complement those natural flavors. For example, sun-dried and naturally processed African coffees tend to have a sharp, exotic, wine flavor ranging from berry to citrus that dark chocolate and dried fruits go extremely well with. Something like Kenya AA is downright juicy when paired with a slice of iced lemon pound cake.

Just as some foods enhance the natural flavor of a coffee or tea, others completely ruin them. I’m not a huge fan of Latin American coffees in general (though there are a few exceptions I truly enjoy) but nothing tastes worse to me then pairing that same luscious iced lemon pound cake I mentioned before with Colombian coffee. The sharp chemical flavor that is produced is like licking lemon-scented furniture polish. Take that same cup of Colombian coffee and pair it with a fresh slice of banana nut bread, though, and it produces an incredibly sweet, almost cool sensation in the mouth.

I could go on and on like this, and I will, but not here and now. I just wanted to introduce the idea to you and set the expectation that some of the greatest adventures a geek can go on are culinary. I look forward to sharing a variety of food and beverage impressions with you in the future and hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I like talking about it. If not, however, I completely understand. After all, food and beverage reviews are not everyone’s cup of tea. 😉

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Requiem for Delinquency

I logged into MySpace today (something I avoid as much as possible) and had a friend request from Requiem for Delinquency. I followed the link for the obligatory “check it out before denying it” glance and was wowed by what I heard. What I had expected to be my usual 5-minute check of my messages before going on to other more important things that demanded my time and attention has now turned into over five hours of listening to streaming music on requiemfordelinquency.com while trying to find things to keep me busy at my computer so I can keep listening.

I’m the kind of person who listens to things on repeat for days, and sometimes weeks or months, on end. I get something under my skin and it just stays there. Unlike many people whose favorite things are constantly changing, once I become passionate about something, it becomes a permanent fixture in my life. My very first CDs were Enya‘s Watermark and Kitaro‘s Kojiki. Twenty years later, I’m still listening to those CDs on a weekly basis. I can see Requiem for Delinquency becoming another permanent fixture in my musical rotation.

Hobs End is the first album from composer Chance Morrison, who self-produced the project rather then trying to get the big labels to back him, and his grassroots approach seems to be working for him. It’s hard to put a genre label on the music as it is primarily electronica but is not as high octane as techno and trance or low octane as new age or chill. Each song has a unique hook to it (sound samples or effects), but the beat remains fairly consistent. While there are some faster tracks on the album it is balanced overall in mood (somewhat somber and sensual), making it the perfect dance selection for when the night is winding down but you aren’t ready to quit moving yet.

Some elements of Hobs End remind me of Bill Leeb projects such as Delerium and Fauxliage, but laced with Morrison’s own vocals rather than the sultry sirens who play guest vocalists in Leeb’s music. Requiem for Delinquency is the kind of electronica music you might find on a Six Degrees or Nettwerk label. (I’ll buy anything they release.) In other words, it may be self-produced but it sounds like a studio-backed production. Some tracks are similar to, but have more synth than, Robert Miles and Enigma compositions, but are not as heavily reliant on synth as Tangerine Dream or Vangelis tend to be.

I’m really searching for a way to describe Morrison’s voice but the only word I can think of is breathy. He almost whispers in a laid-back or mournful way that reminds me of Depeche Mode or Duran Duran. I say mournful because, listening to the lyrics, Morrison seems to be questioning the reality and depth of daily interactions, the life, love and experiences that we share with others. Sound bites from films and television shows call to mind images and ideas and then explore them. For example, in the track “The Work of Science” a sound bite from the classic science fiction film The Brain That Wouldn’t Die declares, “My eyes are deceiving me” and “What you see is real. What’s done is done and what I’ve done is right. It’s the work of science.” Then Morrison sings the refrain, “Will we remember what was real?”

Overall, the album is layered with rich sounds from a variety of instruments, both traditional and electronic. While his selection of instruments may be contemporary, the arrangement and use of them is similar to a classical composition and takes you on a journey of the mind. While Hobs End doesn’t have a signature sound to it that screams “Chance Morrison made me!”, it certainly stands out from the monotonous droning of most new electronica music. If you are a fan of Six Degrees or Nettwerk artists, do yourself a favor and check out Requiem for Delinquency.

You can purchase Hobs End at your local Barnes & Noble and Best Buy. If you prefer to shop online, you can buy the compact disc or download Hobs End at Amazon.com.

Requiem for Delinquency Links:
Official Website
MySpace Page
Facebook Page
YouTube Channel

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When Terry Goodkind‘s Sword of Truth books were made into last season’s new hit fantasy series Legend of the Seeker, fans of the books both cringed and rejoiced. I know I struggled with it at first because I really liked the show but found myself over and over again yelling “NO NO NO NO” at the screen when they changed major events and characters. Eventually, though, I was able to separate (for the most part) the television series from the books in my mind and now less frequently find myself yelling NO. I really love the show and the actors on it and believe that the essence of the primary characters (Richard, Kahlan, Zedd, Chase, etc.) has remained intact while less prominent characters suffer the most personality slaughter (i.e. Jenssen, Denna, Michael and particularly Adie).

I’m especially fond of Bridget Regan as Kahlan Amnell and feel the only thing missing is the famous green eyes (but Bridget’s beautiful blue eyes are just as dramatic as Kahlan’s were in the books). While the gorgeous Craig Horner doesn’t physically match the description of Richard Cypher in the books (in fact, the D’Haran racial traits are completely absent in the series), he portrays the nature of Richard very well and he and Bridget have a fabulous on (and off) screen chemistry. I think Bruce Spence was born to play Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander and Jay Laga’aia captures the very essence of Chase. While the plot of Season 1 only loosely followed the story of Wizard’s First Rule, from the sneak peek above and comments made by the cast and crew at Comic-Con and on Twitter, Season 2 seems to more closely follow the events of the second Sword of Truth book, Stone of Tears.

While the late last-season introduction of the Mord Sith Cara (arguably one of the most important characters in the series) was considerably different than in the books, hopefully Season 2 will bring her closer in line with the important role she played in the books. It looks promising since the actress who plays her, newcomer Tabrett Bethell, has signed a six year contract with the show. I must say that the casting for Cara is perfect. When Mord Sith Denna was introduced in Legend of the Seeker, her character and behavior were so out of line with the cool and in control, seething and simmering Denna of the books that those episodes featuring her still make me cringe. With Cara, however, even though the events have changed, I think they nailed the persona. I look forward to seeing more of her in Season 2 even though I know they are taking liberties with her character as well.

My biggest concern for the series now is, will they introduce one of my personal favorite characters, Nicci? I believe that her story is very important and, if told by the series, should be told as closely in line with the books as possible since her role is important not only in Richard and Kahlan’s life but in the overall message of The Sword of Truth. If this season follows Stone of Tears closely, she should be showing up at some point this season and I am curious about who they might cast as the woman who is described as “a vision of the good spirits, though they themselves would fear her”.

In other casting news, Charisma Carpenter, best known for playing the character Cordelia Chase in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel, has been cast as Triana in the Season 2 opener while writer, director and actor Michael Hurst, best known as Iolaus in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Amfortas in the Legend of the Seeker episode Revenant, will be returning to direct several episodes this season.

Season 2 is currently filming in New Zealand and will premiere November 7th. Can’t wait for November? Pre-order the DVDs (available October 13th) and pick up the books to get your Richard and Kahlan fix!

Order now at Amazon.com:
Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season
The Sword of Truth, Books 1-3: Wizard’s First Rule, Stone of Tears, Blood of the Fold
The Sword of Truth, Books 4-6: Temple of the Winds, Soul of the Fire, Faith of the Fallen
The Sword of Truth, Books 7-9: The Pillars of Creation, Naked Empire, Chainfire
Phantom: Chainfire Trilogy, Part 2 (The Sword of Truth, Book 10)
Confessor: Chainfire Trilogy, Part 3 (The Sword Of Truth, Book 11)
Debt of Bones (The Sword of Truth Prequel Novel)

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