Friday, August 30, 2013

'The Daily Tea'

Will be glad to have Jon Stewart back on "The Daily Show" next Tuesday, but John Oliver's summer run has been fun — and, of course, tempered by the occasional tea.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blomus Sencha Teapot

Wired mag spotlighted this sleek beauty this month, and I covet it despite the steep price tag. Given my propensity for letting the pot sit a while — thus growing cold and bitter — the removable basket and the tea light would be spiffy. Donations accepted.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuesday tea tunes: Deep Freeze, hot tea

Here's a band with a name as absurdist as most of its songs: the Deep Freeze Mice. An underground persistence throughout the ’80s new wave, this quartet produced 10 albums of self-consciously wiggy but still musically sound pop — a more daffy version of Monochrome Set, a more centrist prelude to the Frogs. Click here for a live run through "I Like Digestive Biscuits in My Coffee," the opening salvo of their 1981 album "Teenage Head in My Refrigerator." Fear not, the line following the title is: "I hear some people dip them in their tea ..."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

China tea, by Neal Stephenson

As a thesis-writing diversion, I have finally gotten around to delving into Neal Stephenson's latest novel, Reamde. A longtime fan of Stephenson's speculative fiction, I've had it on my nightstand for nearly a year waiting for the right moment. This month was definitely that.

Reamde is a surprisingly white-knuckle techno-thriller, the first part of which involves several hackers kidnapped and dropped into some wild hijinks in Xiamen, China. So there are some tea moments worth mentioning. For instance, some international terrorists stop to have tea at one point, a ritual that "involved a lot of spillage" and employed a riot shield as a tea tray. One character, Yuxia, is a Chinese woman inadvertently mixed up in the intrigue. She is introduced by way of the leaf:

And then suddenly this woman had been in front of her, blue boots planted, smiling confidently, and striking up a conversation inn oddly colloquial English. And after a minute or two she had produced this huge bolus of green tea, seemingly from nowhere, and told Zula a story about it. How she and her people ... lived way up in the mountains of western Fujian. They had been chased up there a zillion years ago and lived in forts on misty mountaintops. Consequently, no one was upstream of them — the water ran clean from the sky, there was no industrial runoff contaminating their soil, and there never would be. Blue Boots had gone on to enumerate several other virtues of the place and to explain how these superlative qualities had been impregnated into the tea leaves at the molecular level and could be transferred into the bodies, minds, and souls of people condemned to live in not-so-blessed realms simply by drinking vast quantities of said tea.

Stephenson's a mind-expander. Every title of his is recommended, though chronological order has served me well.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Teaku No. 16

From a particularly beautiful recent San Diego evening ...

Hojicha and fog
over rims of mountains, cups
— this is the city?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday tea tunes: 'Cocaine'

Rock legend J.J. Cale passed away this summer — just a mile from where I now live in San Diego. I delivered my eulogy already, but the impact of the mystery man deserves further study. His laid-back music ain't bad tea-drinkin' music — and here's the Tea Drinkers Band (a covers group in, uh, Serbia) doing Cale's most notorious tune ...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Le Creuset mugs!

Do you have or covet a favorite piece of Le Creuset bakeware? Silly question. To the point: Did you know they made mugs, too?

Pick out a favorite color — or one that matches your French Oven — and sip your tea with the same high-quality standards as the company's kitchen stuff. Speaking of cleaning tea stains — with this beautiful enamel you shouldn't have to.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Scrubba, scrubba, scrubba

Our new house is cursed with a porcelain kitchen sink, and I've lived most of my life with the glory of stainless steel. So I'm scrubbing a lot. While I was greasing my elbow this week, I thought I should share about Bar Keepers Friend.

I write a fair amount about tea-related cocktails on this blog, sure, and one of the best tips I ever got about keeping my teaware clean was from a bartender. Actually, he recommended Bar Keepers Friend for my stainless cookware — and it's a wonder on that, cleaning and polishing like a dream! — but I began using it throughout the kitchen with great results. BKF is similar to Comet but without the scary chemicals; another great cleanser is Bon Ami. I've used baking soda as well as salt with a lemon, which work fine — I haven't tried vinegar, though I love this lazier related method involving wine! — but when I've neglected a pot for some time and need the big guns to spiff her up, I find Bar Keepers Friend indispensable — and, importantly, soft enough without scratching. Rinse well!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday tea tunes: Do the reggay!

Summer always finds me turning to my reggae cache, which has gotten bigger than I expected. Here's a languid tea tune from the tea-wary islands: Dillinger's "Cup of Tea" ...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Keemun, Obi Wan Kenobi. It's our only hope.

My research into virtual performance has begun exploring some of the cutting-edge technology that may soon astound.

Much of the performance spectacles we've seen in recent years — from the Tupac resurrection at last year's Coachella to Hatsune Miku and the other digital idol singers in Japan — are often reported as being holograms, but they're not. They're two-dimensional projections made to simulate 3-D, actually using an upgraded theater trick from the 19th century.

Three-dimensional projection into real space, though, is creeping its way into reality. There are numerous projects in the works now to generate 3-D images, say, dancing on top of your iPad or in the middle of your dining table. The video below — a quickie, just 12 seconds — shows a demonstration of the latter. It's a tiny teapot, projected in 3-D so you can see — as the camera moves around it — the whole object from all sides, including real shadows.

We're gonna see that Princess Leia hologram tech before we die, by gum.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bear, boat, tea

I'm loving the naturalistic artwork of Lieke van der Vorst, a young artist from the Netherlands. In a cut-out and block-print style, she depicts wondrous scenes often involving forest animals in some communion or activity with humans, often children. Her site is a delight to page through, including samples of her work and photos from her earthy but stylish realm.

She uses the bear a lot, often shown as if it were an imaginary friend, and of course I'm drawn to this scene of a young woman having tea with the bear — on a boat, of course.

Somehow it took me back to one of my favorite novels of all time: The Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor, an elegantly written tale of a complicated bear who plays jazz saxophone — some of the best writing about music ever.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday tea tunes: Vaporwave

On my main blog, I recently wrote about a new (to me) subgenre of music called vaporwave — a bittersweet concoction often entirely comprised of reconstituted parts from commercial music sources. It plays like a pleasant ad soundtrack, or mellifluous mall music. The experience is usually better than that sounds.

Anyway, one of the vaporwave artists I ran across is called Pen15Club, and here's a series of his/her sounds, an album of sorts titled "Tea Time" and including the appetizing tracks "Tea Time," "Coffee Cake," "Milk," "A Cube of Artificial Sweetener," etc.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tea and whiskey highball

In cooler months, my transition from afternoon into evening occasionally goes like this. As afternoon tea wanes, I return to the last dregs of work that must be tended, and the black tea in my cup or certainly that remaining in the pot loses its heat. Finishing my labors, I take the tepid or cold cup to the bar and splash some whiskey or bourbon into it. Then I start thinking about a real cocktail and dinner.

The marriage of tea and whiskey cleans up good, as my dad used to say, and isn't seasonal. Chow offers up a superb recipe for a Tea and Whiskey highball that I tried this weekend. It's basically a well-blended twist on a julep and a sour. Given the cool-down and the syrup prep, it takes some advance planning — but it's worth it.

The details suggest using Lapsang Souchong — using nothing but that might take the smoke a little far, though I recommend adding at least a pinch of it to a good black tea (my beloved Keemun worked swimmingly).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The teapot speaks

Spotted. Adored. Reblogged.