Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dear Beer 

Beer Stein-way or Highway

Dear Beer,
I miss you and I wanted you to know I’m thinking about you. I miss your heady, frothy effervescence. I miss your hoppy tang. I miss your refreshing wash down my throat on a hot day. I miss your mix of sweetness, your floral redolence, your yeasty nose, and lingering sourness and acidity. I miss how you complement a steak. You’re such a fine friend to meat. Oh and the things you add to a cheese plate or charcuterie are boundless. I think of you often after a day when the city has worn me out and my haggard hand reaches into the fridge. I see you there, but alas I cannot have you. I hope you understand, dearest beer, it isn’t you, it’s me.

Since January of 2019, I haven’t been able to drink beer, or any kind of alcohol really. It is connected to what was an allergic reaction but is now more like an auto-immune system failure that causes my skin to erupt into a bubbling hot rash that is painful, itchy and is something you might expect from the special F/X department of a zombie movie. It’s akin to having a very bad full body sun burn and occasionally being attacked by angry wasps and this is only made worse by alcohol. I don’t really know why. Something about dilation of blood vessels making the over abundance of histamines in my system more readily absorbed, but who can say and at this point, merely existing is a painful proposition. The key for me is to remain “cool and dry” and under no circumstances, alcohol of any kind.

This condition was recently, I don’t want to say “diagnosed” but sort of re-defined as spontaneous idiopathic urticaria. Tell your friends. Tell your neighbours. Tell them to avoid it and don’t ask me how I’m doing, because, unfortunately for all involved, I will tell them, and it is kind of gross. No one wants that.

Yet like the light on the hill or the glow of dawn of a new day there is some hope. There is a drug treatment administered as a once a month injection. Oddly this drug is used for asthma and allergy sufferers too. Secretly, in my secret heart, the one no one knows, I dream that this wünder drüg might not only manage my urticaria but also my asthma and general congestion from dust sensitivity. This is probably wishful thinking, but wishes are free so make as many as you want. Would this mean I could be reunited with my old chums beer or wine, whisky, bourbon, gin or scotch? Maybe. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


Sunday, January 05, 2020

The Thirty Year Read 

The false thumb of a pandas is actually a wrist bone. Image via

I can’t recall the exact date or year but it was probably 1986, the year that my brother Chris and I were both attending Memorial University. That was actually a very unique year. For at least one semester, three of four Rogers brothers were all attending the same scholastic institution. I was doing what was then known as General Studies, Chris was completing a Bachelors of Science and Dave was studying Commerce. Not since Chris, Mike and Dave had all been in grade school at St. George’s in a one room school house, (yes, such a thing existed even in my lifetime) had three of us been studying in one place. Unfortunately, as university schedules can range from 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM lectures, and Chris was busy with unscheduled lab work, this situation led to a complicated and varied commute. Most mornings we went in together in one car, but because university days could go longer than planned or required extracirricualr group study sessions et cetera, our return home was more mixed. None of us, that I recall, were what you would call “Morning People” so the morning commute was usually more mute than communicative. Yet the ride home could be far more animated. As science was a common topic for Chris and myself the conversations ranged from the offshore fishery to the statistical likelihood of contracting an illness from a university toilet and how that likelihood increased with proximity to the student centre. At some point I complained that I probably wouldn’t get much from reading Darwin without any real background in biology (somehow I managed to skip it in high school) but Chris suggested Stephen J. Gould as an alternative.
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Saturday, January 04, 2020

Seen in December 

Klaus. Image via The Movie Db

December is the darkest month of the year which is a perfect time to hibernate and let the remote control be your guide. I stayed close to home and the couch and what I've shown here is only a portion of what I watched as it's typical over the holidays to consume comfort food, I also consumed comfort television and re-watched plenty of old favourites.

Lyra and her daemon in His Dark Materials. Image via The Movie Db

His Dark Materials, Season 1

Ok. I have no idea how to describe this HBO series based on a trilogy of Philip Pullman books so I’m going to cheat and just use the Internet Movie Database description: "A young girl is destined to liberate her world from the grip of the Magisterium which represses people's ties to magic and their animal spirits known as daemons.” The world of the young girl, Lyra Belacqua is sort of Steam Punk with a kind of unknown period look that could fall between 1910 to 1950, yet there are many vehicles or devices that appear very modern and old at the same time, such as the great air ships that are a common transport.The story is very much a battle between religious extremism (the Magisterium looks very much like the Catholic Church) and scientific discovery. The quality of the cast plus the production values are clear indicators that HBO hopes this may be their premium Game of Thrones replacement, and while I doubt it would reach that hype, if you enjoy fantasy, dramatic adventures, this might be for you.


This Netflix original animation is lovingly rendered in a style Disney animation pioneered and has long since abandoned. This Christmas cartoon is a standout for its design, which appears far more “2D” and like traditional animation than the more typical computer rendering you see nowadays. It also has a well used cast. Jason Schwartzman plays Jesper, a postman sent as punishment to the most northernly post office, tasked with meeting some kind of letter quota if he ever wants to return to his previous posh position. The town itself is locked in an inter-generational feud of unknown origins which makes the likelihood of an abundance of mail even less probable. Through one incident or another, Jesper meets a woodsman Klaus, voiced by J.K. Simmons, who lives alone and happens to be an expert toy maker. Spotting an opportunity to have children write letters to Klaus in exchange for a toy, Jesper schemes to meet his quota by essentially inventing a Christmas tradition. There’s a little more to it than that but not much. This film is beautifully realized and is a fun holiday treat. Give into its charms and enjoy it like the Christmas sweet it is.

The Laundromat

Stephen Soderbergh’s take on the Panama Papers, is like a version of the Big Short which so expertly explained the 2008 financial crisis. Unfortunately, despite the combined star power of Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas this film fizzles rather than burns. I suppose the intent was to show the wide ranging impact of the sort of tax-sheltering shell company financial world the release of the Panama Papers exposed. I think we all get how these schemes work, but don’t understand how any of it remains legal and how difficult it is to prosecute. How can a single person be named as the CEO of hundreds of companies that exist in name only? How can a company exist that has no board of directors, no address and no employees? All the loopholes of all the tax systems in all the world seem to have created havens such as the Canary Islands where a company needs none of these things to exist, and nothing stops a company like that from creating and owning many similar companies. The effect, of course, is that wealthy individuals not only hide their income from several tax collecting countries but they manage to keep that money out of the economy of many other countries solely for the purpose of stockpiling it. I could have told you all of this before seeing this film and have no greater insight after having seen it. Ironically, this film itself is a shell game. An empty shell at that.
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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Partial End of the Decade 

Not to be one of those guys, but I think we're generally pushing this whole "end of the decade" thing too much (isn't 2020 still the same decade as 2011?) This is especially true when Spotify tells you this is your music of the last decade, when you've only been paying for the service since 2015. I'm not sure why we're so interested in this kind of year/decade end round up thing but here we are at the end of the year. All the clocks and calendars are set to roll over and I guess everyone feels it's an opportunity to press the reset button. So if you have a button you want pushed, push it now.

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Everything is Special 

Snow is extra special at this special time of year.

Everything is so special at this time of year. Light snowfall on a sunny morning is pretty, not worrying. The twinkly shop lights and window displays in the dim afternoon light seems extra lovely. The darkest and longest night of the year isn’t a day of dread but of Solstice celebration. Coffee is sold with peppermint, chocolate and whipped cream, which is special. When it’s cold enough for the ice rinks to open, it’s so special to see crowds of people circling in a small rink.

Even laundry. I did Christmas laundry this morning and it was so special! There was a momentary streak of sun which lit the tiniest crystalline flakes of snow in the air. Very special. Cleaning is special when you’re tidying up the house to prepare for visitors. Why can’t I keep the house this tidy all year long? Because the rest of the year isn’t special, that’s why. What is dreary every other time of year is less dreary at this time of year. Cooking a big meal with all of the special ingredients is especially special. Eating, something we do every day of our lives (if you’re lucky) is super special when it’s a special meal downed with a special drink. Doing the dishes after a special meal doesn’t seem special until you realize your head is bopping to the special music of this special time of year.

This time of year is so special that people will nearly ruin themselves to spend quality time with the special people in their lives. They will take special care to get to the airport early to catch the special flight with the extra special price. Or they will drive for hours through dangerous weather just to get to that special feeling of being surrounded by loved ones.

This year I did something super special. I took out the not-so-special part of Christmas and simply stayed home. I didn’t just “stay at home”, I stayed at home, in the house on the couch. Of course, I did eventually leave the house and see people I know in friendly environs but on Christmas Day itself, I was alone. I was alone with the TV shows I loved, the music I loved, the books, movies and food I loved. Via technology I saw family face-to-face with only a pane of glass and thousands of kilometres between us. Alexander Graham Bell would’ve wept. It was lovely. It was not lonely. Now I’m not saying I would do this every year nor would I recommend it to those who require familial support. I might be unique or this year may be unique but I am rolling around in my solitude the way a mountain dog rolls in fluffy snow. I’m watching beloved movies. I’m reading on the couch which leads to napping on the couch. I’m eating chocolate, liquorice, cake, chips and clementines. I’m wearing what I call “house jamas” (not really pyjamas per say, but light loose and shabby clothing nonetheless) and loving it. My health hasn’t been super this year (an ongoing skin condition that would have made Job an atheist) and travelling like this would have been my end. Rather than fight line-ups, security checks, other travellers, weather, fate and lastly sitting in this skin I’m in on airplanes and in airports, I’d rather be left at home to my own devices. Sometimes to appreciate what makes this time of year special, you may have to sacrifice some of what makes it special to preserve its specialness.