Chocolate Lemonade

Summer’s over here so I wanted to relay a success on the mixology front.  My cocktail posts get the fewest reads but, nevertheless, I have a duty to share this information with the world.

This is a simple recipe:

Juice of One Lemon

Equal Parts Creme de Cacao (white, preferably)

Pour over rocks in highball glass and top with soda water

To my great surprise, this is quite a pleasant drink.  In each sip, the more pungent lemon hits first, then you taste the chocolate as an afternote, and the two tastes merge quite well.

That being said, this is definitely a “weird” drink with a lot going on outside the recipe.  The most important is to make sure that you don’t use a “weak” lemon with little sourness.  Just taste the inside of the rind after you juice it to make sure it’s as sour as expected.

The other is that creme de cacao formulations vary quite a bit.  I use the DeKuyper’s White Creme de Cacao, which is 48 proof and pretty balanced between chocolate taste and sweetness.  I prefer and encourage in others a taste for less sweet lemonade, but if you want something closer to the typical store-bought sweetness you might want to add a little simple syrup.  48 proof also means that each glass is about a quarter to half of a standard drink, something like a low-alcohol beer at most.  You might want to test this recipe out with whatever specific brand of creme de cacao you’re using to make sure it tastes right before producing it en masse — I think the drink, while simple, requires a pretty narrow range of sweet:sour:chocolate to be palatable.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a Japanese science fiction media franchise originally based on a series of novels by Yoshiki Tanaka.  I have never read the novels, which have received only a partial and recent English translation.  This post is about the anime, which ran for 110 episodes (plus a two hour prequel movie, “My Conquest is the Sea of Stars”) over a nearly ten-year period from 1988-1997 — partly a review, partly a way for prospective viewers to decide whether they want to take the plunge.

The Legend of the Galactic Heroes anime (henceforth LotGH) has a small cult following, and is currently being remade by the well-known Production I.G in an abbreviated form (I haven’t watched the twelve released episodes, and don’t particularly care to do so as a veteran of the 110-episode original series).  It is occasionally recommended to those interested in “space opera” because of its epic scope and character focus.  It’s also a huge time commitment for a subtitled animation series with generally solid but sometimes sketchy production quality.   But what’s it all about?  Why does anyone like it?  Might you, the reader, like it?  Read on.  I will keep it spoiler free.

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Cordwainer Smith: Missing Link in the History of the Catgirl

Cute female figures drawn with cat features — especially ears — appear in some Japanese comics and animation, often enough to merit recognition as a distinct media trope.  Even in the Anglophone world, familiarity with the catgirl is not limited entirely to sophisticates.  However, the conventional history of the catgirl, such as it is, leaves out an important figure:


This guy — Col. Paul Linebarger a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith: officer, orientalist, China Hand, psychological warfare expert, international man of mystery, science fiction writer, and cat owner.  The following is speculative, but if you’re a catgirl aficionado (I’m really not, but I do find this link rather interesting) you might be interested in where this all came from.

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Out of the Night Land

Before writing the Chronicles of Narnia for children, C.S. Lewis wrote his “Space Trilogy” for adults.  While primarily inspired by George MacDonald’s use of fantasy to explore morality and the human condition, Lewis also intended the books to provide a counterexample to contemporary science fiction, particularly the work of H.G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon.  As a Christian, Lewis obviously opposed the materialist views of both authors, but he also opposed Wells’ more or less implicit colonialism and was horrified by Stapledon’s proto-transhumanism.  This applies particularly to the first book, “Out of the Silent Planet” (1938), which is a much more stereotypical example of contemporary SF and so the fullest participant in the genre’s “conversation”.

The influence of Stapledon and Wells on the Space Trilogy are obvious and well documented — “Out of the Silent Planet” is very nearly a scene-by-scene subversion of Wells’ The First Men in the Moon — as well as some other lesser influences; Lewis’ Malacandra is at least a distant relative of Burroughs’ Barsoom, for instance.


It’s right there on the cover.

There is one influence however which as far as I can tell no one has ever noticed, or at least no one one the Internet: William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land (1912).

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Muckly Makgeolli Making

Makgeolli (pronounced like “muckly”) is a a traditional Korean fermented alcohol made from rice and some other stuff which we’ll discuss shortly.  There have been a few attempts to give it a catchy English name but none of them have stuck.  “Korean rice wine” is the best attempt I’ve come up with.  If you’re Korean or have been to Korea, you have probably tried this and maybe even liked it.  Unfortunately, if you do like it, it’s difficult to find overseas because it’s not shelf-stable — especially the good stuff — and it’s usually pretty costly for a substance which counts “is cheap” among its major virtues.  Fortunately, it is easy to make — I think based on some experience it may be the easiest fermented alcohol to prepare — as long as you can get a hold of a certain key ingredient.  I’ll show you how!

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RIP Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe, my favorite writer and one of the greatest literary talents America has produced, passed away at 87 this week at his home in Peoria, Illinois.


Wolfe was a retired mechanical engineer known for his role in the creation of Pringles, and became a writer only later in his life.  A family man, Korean War veteran, and devout Catholic whose faith suffused most of his works — and all of his great ones — Wolfe was a living refutation of the ridiculous Romantic notion of the artist as a rebel or revolutionary.

His signature was the creation of incredibly dense, semiotically multilayered works of fiction (on a quite reasonable timeline, by the way) drawing on a vast erudition in theology, philosophy, science fiction, and especially mythology.  By linking his stories to these greater concepts, Wolfe was able to produce not merely originality but even inexhaustibility.  More often than not these were written in the first person, and in my inexpert but not insubstantial assessment he may be the bar-none master of the technique in literary history.

I have not read his entire catalogue, but I can make a few recommendations.  Wolfe will be recognized as a Great Author in the league of Tolkien, so becoming familiar with his oeuvre will provide you with some future-proof snob cred in addition to the intrinsic rewards of reading a master author.

Seven American Nights: A short story collected in both The Best of Gene Wolfe and The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories.  I don’t really like the rather ugly world the story builds, however it is an excellent introductory exercise in thinking carefully about the nature of the received text, which is crucial to understanding Wolfe beyond the superficial level.

The Fifth Head of Cerberus: A novella later expanded into a novel; I recommend the latter unless you want to examine how Wolfe fleshes the story out.  Many Wolfe aficionados recommend this as a good introduction; however, Wolfe hadn’t quite developed the skill with which he executed his later masterpieces.  Then again, it is both relatively short and more than good enough to convince anyone with sense that they would like to read more from the author.

The Wizard Knight: This is my personal recommendation for anyone curious about Wolfe, despite the total work’s length (nearly 1000 pages, divided into two volumes, The Knight and The Wizard).  Wolfe is at the peak of his skill, and the book has a deceptive and incredible depth without being as obviously alien as The Book of the New Sun.

The Book of the New Sun: Four novels beginning with The Shadow of the Torturer.  This monumental first-person narrative of the professional torturer Severian in a Dying Earth setting would alone have been enough to cement Wolfe’s reputation as a great author.  This is Wolfe’s best-known work, and feel free to jump right in.  I did, and here I am.


Orgeat Syrup

It will soon be summer time and I haven’t written anything here in a while.  So, let’s start off with some refreshments: orgeat syrup.  Orgeat syrup is, basically, sugar syrup flavored with almonds.  It generally imparts a more “refreshing” taste with nutty undertones when used in place of simple syrup in a given drink.

Commercial preparations are available, but rare.  So if this sounds interesting, you’ll probably want to brew your own — and fortunately you’re reading this.

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