Monthly Archives: January 2011

My Tryst with Beer

Its been a while since I wrote anything about my encounters with alcohol. Its definitely not been due to a lack of consumption on my part. (Lets just think of what the sloth has come to represent and go on further) Instead, I have had some really interesting experiences with quite a few exotic alcoholic beverages. Of late, most of them have been with alcohol, in the form of beer.

Beer has almost become synonymous with male bonding over time. And by over time, I mean ever since I came to America. This may have something to do with the fact that beer is cheaper than water. And so, beer became the most freely and most frequently consumed alcoholic beverage. (So much so, I had totally forgotten the taste of good Scotch). Having pretty much exhausted all the cheap beer that America had to offer- the list going from Steel Reserve  (the Old Monk of American Beer) to Natty Lite to Budweiser- I set my sights on trying out some beer that was actually good.

And so my first tryst with good beer came about in the form of Corona and the inevitable piece of lime. And it was goooooooood! A refreshing change from the banalities of everyday cheap beer. Then I went on to try the other standard well known ‘good beer’ brands: Stella Artois, Blue Moon, Guinness, Samuel Adams, George Killian etc. And every one of them was rightly classified under the ‘good beer’ category. But then, I eventually realized that most of these ‘good beer’ brands tasted more or less the same. Most of them were Lagers (except Guinness and Killian) and they tasted a little less bitter and had the same amount of alcohol. And so the alcoholic gene in me began craving for some better beer.

 

My Personal Favorite

And in time, I had the opportunity to visit this nearby small town by name of Floyd. This town warrants an entire post dedicated to itself. It signifies everything that I had imagined in a typical American small town- cozy book stores where you find some amazing titles at cheap prices, a house serving as a coffee shop, a bunch of antique stores, bars playing live music from the local scene, beer stores selling hundreds of only the totally unknown local beers and most significantly: bars serving locally brewed beer.

 

I want that on a T-Shirt

And it was in a place called Dogtown Roadhouse in Floyd, that I had my first experience of some totally mind blowing beer. It came in the form of Bourbon Barrel Beer. Yes. This stout is actually ‘aged’ in used bourbon caskets. And it was god-damn good! Then I tried another beer: Hopsecutioner. As the name suggests, it is a treat for hop-heads. Not knowing what ‘hops’ even stood for prior to that, I drank it without the least idea of what it contained. It was extra bitter – the good bitter kind that is. And I liked it.

I would eventually go back to Floyd and try out more awesome beer. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Allagash Belgian White Ale- each made with a plethora of very interesting ingredients such as cherries, coffee, spices, dark chocolate etc. Needless to say, these beers taste like nothing you have ever had before. It is a memorable experience really when you first drink beer which was made with the intention of tasting good.

I later found that the international grocery store in Blacksburg (Oasis), has this geographically diverse collection of awesome beer. I also realized that being geographically diverse inevitably meant that the beer itself was quite diverse. The store thus has all kinds of beer. So much so, everytime I go there to buy beer, I have a problem of choice. The first time I did buy beer, the beer expert in that store suggested a Latvian beer: Aldaris Porteris. It is a malt based Baltic Porter with a chocolate and burnt caramel taste to it. Next time I went, there was a beer tasting session going on. I ended up sampling a few Irish beers- Smithwick’s and Guinness. Smithwick’s is a beer that does not use hops at all and so is hardly bitter for a beer. I ended up buying Shooting Creek’s Farmhouse Stout, another Floyd brewery product. It tasted similar to Aldaris except for the fact that the hops were more significant and there was a hint of maple syrup in it.

And so as is quite evident from my above mentioned experiences, I suddenly found myself drinking beer for its taste! Which got me thinking- WTF has gone wrong with me? I am not drinking beer to get drunk? Also, I am paying attention to the kind of beer that I consume and to how much I like or dislike that particular type. Lagers, Ales, Stouts, Porters etc, I have realized, have their own specific taste, primarily arising out of the brewing ingredients and processes. So next time you have beer with me, I might have a tendency to spoil the entire occasion by describing the beer with words such as ‘notes, undertone, after taste, cloudiness etc.’

In all seriousness, I have gotten quite interested in exploring new beers- not just for their taste, but also for their historical, geographical and brewing aspects. I can already see myself developing this as a hobby of some kind. And fortunately, I am in the right continent to be able to do so.

Which got me thinking, why Indian breweries fail to make good tasting beer? I am pretty sure that they do not lack the resources or the equipment for it. My only guess is that the demand is so damn big that the breweries do not really need to think of good tasting beer for making profit.

Oh and one very important tip for those who plan to drink beer to enjoy its taste. Always, drink from a glass. Never drink from a bottle. Drinking from the bottle masks so many fine aspects of the beer. Drinking it from a glass instead is the complete experience.

MCC’s Cul-Ah! 2011: ROFLMAO!!!

Before I say anything, let me get the context perfectly clear here. I am right now in the USA and have been here for the past 1.5 years. I woke up today morning and on my news feed, I saw that MCC’s Cul-Ah had been going on since Monday. This brought back all the nice memories of the Cul-Ah! that I had been to when I was in my PUC. So I decided to give it a read. This post is a result of the profound WTFness that I experienced subsequent to reading through those articles. READ ON…

For the uninitiated, Cul-Ah! Is the annual cultural fest that is conducted by Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, at their own campus. Usually they hold it in the month of January and this year too was no exception. This fest is considered to be one of the best fests in the city and is in high demand. (Hmm…I wonder why..). Perhaps the fact that MCC is a girls’ college with a continued reputation of housing the best chics  in the city has something to do with that popularity. Anyways, I got to know about this year’s fest through this and this article on DNA.

So this year, MCC has gone on and made the effort to theme their fest. The theme chosen is “ELEMENTS”. According to Andrea, general secretary of Mount Carmel College students’ union,

Our college is completely eco-friendly, and hence we came up with this theme. Considering that this year is the year of ‘biodiversity’, we have begun a number of campaigns in the college that encourage students to be more eco-friendly and to save the earth. For Cul- Ah, therefore, we chose the five elements of our planet to define and categorise our events.

The United Nations has this to say about the International Year of Biodiversity:

….that humans rely on the diversity of life to provide the food, fuel, medicine and other essentials needed for life… this rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities, such as the expansion of cities and farming. International Year Of Biodiversity is aimed at raising awareness about the loss of animal and plant species and organizing action to halt it.

Looks like a responsible thing the fest organizers have done. Starting a number of campaigns and getting their main fest to be themed that way to create awareness for the ‘Year of Biodiversity’. Just ONE small problem I came across:

The Year of  Biodiversity was LAST YEAR, 2010!!!

Yes, yes..this is the point where you go WTF???!?!!!??

I mean, seriously, what were the organizers thinking? I can imagine people messing up on some small aspects of the fest, but screwing up the very premise behind the main Theme of the fest, now you gotta be really messed up to do that!

I am now trying to reconstruct the discussion that I believe, took place, during the planning of the fest (in 2010).

Chic1: Girls! We gotta do something different this time. Something that will capture the attention of everyone for a very good purpose.

Chic2: Save the Planet!

Chic3: Oh my God! That is soooooo original! Lets totally do it!

Chic1: Wait! Save the Planet doesn’t sound fancy enough. Lets give it a different name.

Chic2: Hey look! This year is ‘Year of Biodiversity’! We can use that as an excuse to get this totally original idea on to our theme! This is so awesome no??

Chic1 and Chic2: Yay! This is going to be the best fest ever!

Chic4 (with mega-inferiority complex issues): Excuse me girls… err..hmm… but I was just wondering.. ummm.. since we will be holding our actual fest, like, next year, you know, 2011, don’t you think we need to consider that also?

Chic1: Did we ask you your opinion?

Chic4: Err…I was just saying…you know, that you had to consider…

Chic2: Are you suggesting that we don’t know how to do this?

Chic4: I am sorry.

Chic3: Yeah! Who the f*** cares anyway? As soon as they see something even remotely associated with Save Nature stuff, they will think we are doing a very responsible thing.

Chic1: So where were we? Ah yes! So lets make the theme as those 5 elements that make up nature. Earth, water, fire, air and space.

Chic2: Oooooooh! I so love Captain Planet! Go Planet! This is sooo good!

*******************************

Moving on, we now come to the events. The events are categorized with respect to the different ‘elements’. Here is the idea behind the classification:

Fire will include high energy events like dance, mad ads and mock rock, whereas music and poetry are in the category of Air. Water, with its characteristic intelligence, will include events such as quizzes and pictionary that test your intelligence and creativity while events such as vegetable carving, cooking without fire and flower arrangement fall in the category of Earth.

And here is the clincher, really. If you were wondering what they came up with for the ‘element’ of Space, this is what the Gen-Sec, Andrea, had to say (brace yourself for the profound WTF moment):

All these events will be conducted in the element of space, which in this case is MCC.

You know… if you really wanted to find an excuse to somehow include that 5th element, I am sure there was a less retarded way to do so. Let me reconstruct the discussion that led to this:

Chic1: Ok, now that’s a great idea. Year of Biodiversity, and ELEMENTS! I think we are onto something totally awesome here. Now how can we structure these events so that all the 5 elements are covered?

Chic2: I think the best way to do that would be to classify the events among 4 of the elements and treat the 5th element as something that will encompass all the other 4! I am so awesome no??

Chic3: So for example, we can put our events in Air, Space, Fire and Earth, while saying that we are holding our fest under Water. And then we can say that this is symbolic of how global warming is going to get all places under water soon if we do not do something about it! Isnt that a great idea? We can also use the Global warming excuse to put Fire as the 5th element saying we can die of heat and stuff.

Chic2: Oh my god!! There are so many options here! Lets draw lots!

********************

Ok. So enough with that. Lets now consider the actual events and their classification. Honestly, I really don’t know where to start. Fire is supposed to represent High-energy events? When exactly did rewriting a rock song in a funny manner (Mock  Rock) become a ‘high energy’ event? And so poetry and music events are classified under Air? Oh I get it! The vibration of air is required to create any sound and so music events come under Air. What about poetry? Oh I know! You need air to breathe while you create poetry! Epic!

So Water has ‘characteristic intelligence’? Hmm..lets see. Googling ‘characteristic intelligence of water’ yields results describing the Goldfish and the Portuguese Water Dog. I am sure the organizers found a way to link both these innocuous animals with their events. So quizzes and Pictionary are supposed to test your intelligence and creativity? Ok..so then why is the Kannada quiz in Air and not Water? You suggesting Kannada quiz does not require any intelligence or creativity? (Kannada Rakshana Vedike anyone??)

In fact, here is my alternate proposal for classification. Fire is generated by sparks. So a spark of the mind is related to the Fire element. Spark of mind also gives rise to creativity and intelligence, as seen in lit events such as quizzes and such. So classify all ‘intelligent and creativity’ based events under Fire. Then look for the real dumb and retarded events. Like Antakshari, where only the dumb get excited playing. You can classify such events under Water. Why? Because water destroys fire, the spark, the same way the dumb cancel out the intelligent!

“I am so awesome no??!!!?”

It is fairly obvious what has happened. The organizers somehow want to tag their fest with some kind of a socially-responsible message. And once they do that, they had to find ways to relate each and every event to the theme somehow. And so they come up with these ridiculous ways to connect their fest with the ‘Save the Planet’ message. And they know nobody is going to really question it or think too much about it as it is, by default, supposed to generate a feel-good factor. This whole thing, I have to say, is a perfect scenario to explain the idea of Subjective Validation.

Moving on, lets look at the Twitter account that MCC opened up to publicize and market their fest. Not a bad idea as a lot of people use Twitter and word gets spread around faster through it. There are 12 tweets in the account, the last of which was on Jan 3. Now I am not going to comment on the inefficient usage of the account. Instead, the followers of this account tell a very good story. (At the time of posting this) There are 21 followers, some of whose descriptions are as follows:

  • I’m a 17 year old girl. I Love Music. Met Jesus when I was 11. Living life in His grace and love. Servant, Daughter, Sister, Friend. =)
  • hi im **** a.k.a chikku.. im a huge fan of linkin park and edwars cullen.. i love playing different sports….well thats it for now… cya later……:-)
  • everything must be proportionate. your chicken and your rice must both last till the end. one must divide the bites of chicken evenly among bites of rice

No comments.

Well, I guess I am done with the organizers and the college. I have nothing against them really. I am sure they had a great fest and a lot of people had a good time. Come to think of it, I clearly remember to have had a memorable time when I went to Cul-Ah! 2003 edition when I was doing my PUC at St. Joseph’s PU College. But all that aside, I really cannot tolerate mediocrity. And hence this post. But I am not done yet. So far, I took care of the college. Now let me turn my attention to the newspaper- DNA.

Substandard or unethical journalism is something that really gets on my nerves. I have written about them before here and here. And I continue to see this even today. The DNA journos Merlin Francis and Vidya Iyengar have written the two articles that I have quoted here. In each case, I would like to know what the journos treat as their standard.

First up, with Merlin Francis. This is the dude who has got the Gen-Sec of the fest to quote that the Year of Biodiversity is this year. And he just took it for granted, making zero effort to check the factual accuracy of what he was quoting in his final article. All he needed to do was spend 15 seconds to google ‘Year of Biodiversity’ and he would have everything he needed. But no! Why? Well, I guess the standards differ, don’t they?

And now, with Vidya Iyengar. Call me a stickler for accuracies, but I really have a zero tolerance for inaccuracies in newspapers. The Fashion Show event is listed under the category Earth in the article.

The theme ‘Earth’ will be reflected in a fashion show that will sport rich, Indian ethnic wear.

However, in the actual brochure, the event is listed under Fire. This may look extremely trivial to some. But there is no guarantee that the above line was not just made up to suit the article. Maybe it was the fault of the organizers who fed in wrong information to the journo. Or perhaps, the organizers messed up their brochure (in which case, I would not attribute any wrong doing to the said journo). But these factual inconsistencies are not excusable in any form.

However, there is an even more WTF thing involved in these 2 articles. The General Secretary’s name is said to be Andrea D’Silva as per Vidya Iyengar, while it is Andrea D’Souza as per Merlin Francis!! Now, seriously, who f***ed it up? Poor Gen-Sec. You have my sympathies!

And I guess I am done. I am feeling good. Having said that, let me also add that I would like to thank all those involved in this awesome mess for providing me ideal fodder for a  blog post! Please keep it coming…..

UPDATE: The MCC folks have left a few comments below (along with the inevitable brickbats). Read them for their response and how all the facts did NOT go into the newspaper article. Also, since I am exercising my freedom to criticize people here, I also realize that I am open to criticism as well. I will not be deleting any comments here, even if they clearly show me in bad light. I will probably not be responding to them.

 

 

 

On My Disappearance

Ok seriously, not that anyone actually noticed. But I have been away from blogging for a while now- about 1.5 months to be precise. (The interpretation of the previous sentence ranges between I-have-been-too-damn-busy-for-this to I-have-a-cheap-excuse-and-it-is-called-laziness). And so for those who did notice, which would probably include 3 people on this planet, I have been both busy and lazy in the past few weeks. Of course the most significant part is that I am done with my Masters. And because of this, I believe I need to give some kind of a closure to a few of the things that have been on my mind over the past few months.

First of all, during the months of November and December, I realized that I can take the definition of working hard to a whole new level. This included running a code some 200 odd times processing over 16000 files in all. The process was so damn mechanical and automated, that it took me the entire 4th season of The Wire and the first season of Six Feet Under to be playing on the TV while I ran the code — just for me not to go insane. The other aspect of my ‘hard working’ included preparation for my Masters exam and the complete anticlimax during the actual test. Some other consequences of extreme levels of work included the act of what I call – ‘Simply Forgetting’. This largely refers to my complete forgetting of performing many of the day to day activities- like eating, sleeping, bathing, brushing teeth. Its not that I was too busy to find time for it. It was just that I SIMPLY FORGOT to do it. (You can throw in some other metabolic processes into it too).

But perhaps one of the most useful discoveries during this period was with regard to the food that I ate during those weeks. Initially, my diet primarily consisted of eggs/bread/cheese for breakfast, eggs/bread/cheese for lunch and eggs/bread/cheese for dinner. And then, for reasons I really cannot remember, I prepared Dal Tadka Fry. Little did I know at that time that this particular dish is going to save me so much damn time and help me get so much more work done-while all the time still helping me eat tasty and good food. You see, when you make, say, 1 container of Dal Tadka Fry, you are essentially making some 7-8 containers of the same. This dish, friggin thickens and it thickens a whole damn lot! All you need to do is keep it overnight in the fridge and it becomes so thick and dry that you need to add a whole lot of water just to get it back to edible consistencies, which consequently increases the quantity of the dal significantly. And this happens every single time. So next time, you are hard pressed for time and need to put in a lot of work, I strongly recommend preparing this and eating it for the next many days. (I personally made 1 container last for about 2.5 weeks!)

But in all seriousness, looking back at my Masters, I can now say that I really worked hard for it. So much so, I felt for the first time in my life, that I had actually achieved something of real significance. When I learnt that I had to spend close to $100 in order to do the graduation walk, I initially had to think twice about it. But then I told myself: “I have worked too damn hard and been through too much shit not to do the walk.” And so I did my graduation walk. Where I was at that point may not have been what I had imagined when I first came to the US. But still there I was. Without dramatizing too much, let me quote Atlas Shrugged: “The feeling was a sum, and he did not have to count again the parts that had gone to make it. But the parts, unrecalled, were there, within that feeling.” That was something to the effect what I felt then. But, now I am done.

Well, after my exams were done, came the holidays- perhaps the last break I will have in a long long time. And for me, it meant an opportunity to do nothing- which is what I exactly did, at least for about 2-3 weeks. Then I traveled. The temporary access to a car worked wonders and I am making the best use of it. Apart from that, my bass guitar seems to be seeing more than just the inside of the bass guitar bag. The combination of Sabbath, Dire Straits, Cream, Floyd, Deep Purple, PTree, and Guitar Pro seems to work wonders for my bliss factor. And I do not have any plans to cut down on it.

There is one thing of some importance that helped me get through the demanding times of the past 2 months. I first came to know about it when my cousin blogged about it. I am talking about DUDEISM. It is perhaps the most awesome thing anyone has ever come up with. If the universe gave existence to the Coen brothers just to create The Dude’s character, then I bow to the divine plan. I really cannot do justice to the whole idea here in a blog post. One can truly appreciate the idea only when you experience it first hand. The fact that there is really absolutely no friggin point in worrying about anything at any point in life, irrespective of how fucked up the situation may be, is something that has to be realized first hand. And I have been fortunate enough to be one of them. Just as long as you keep doing whatever is necessary, there is really nothing to worry about.  This realization eventually got me to get ordained as a priest at the “Church of the Latter Day Dude”!

If you have been following my posts of late (redefine ‘of late’ to whenever the last time I was writing), you will find some strong and passionate opinions expressed by me with regard to religion. Over the course of the past semester, I went through different phases of belief and non-belief. And now, I can finally state, without any apprehension or doubt, that I am an Atheist. I have framed some more very strong beliefs and opinions about religion and God since whatever I wrote before. But I do not aim to make more blog posts about them. Many of these new ideas have stemmed from some very long and intense phone conversations with His Holiness. I aim to document all these ideas and opinions in some substantial form in the near future-which brings me to something important.

I have decided to write a book. When, how, why, I have no idea. This is not my priority but it is something I hope to get done in about 3-4 years time. Looking at it this way, I want to get something out by the time I turn 30. On whether I actually possess the skills to do it, I will only know after I have tried.

One more thing. This is about by far the best TV Series ever made. I am talking about THE WIRE. There is absolutely no point in talking or elaborating about what the show is about or why one should watch it. Let me just say this: GO WATCH IT! I was fortunate enough to find all the 5 seasons in my University Library and made the best use of it. There simply cannot be a more realistic portrayal of anything ever. But if I were to give one reason why you should watch it, I would point out the Casting. Not just the acting, but the casting of the actors for those roles. The casting for the characters Omar, Marlo and Proposition Joe have got to be the perfect casting ever made. But really, every single character is so very detailed and perfectly cast that it is very easy to forget that one is actually watching a TV Show and not some documentary with perfectly hidden cameras.

And with regard to my (redundant) New Year resolution, I have decided to blog more regularly. Yeah…whatever.

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