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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