When I wrote about L.A. Confidential, I confessed that I had never been to Los Angeles (well, other than Disneyland), and had a fascination with the city that could not possibly be the least bit reflective of the reality of L.A., born as it was by my knowingly incorrect assumption that the city is nothing but a strange, hypnotic amalgamation of Raymond Chandler novels, the romance of Old Hollywood, and David Lynch movies — in particular, Mulholland Drive. In many ways, I suppose this makes me very similar to Naomi Watts’ character in this movie, albeit one I hope comes to a slightly less tragic sort of ending. And it’s fitting that all these inaccurate elements should form my amalgamated notion of Los Angeles, because they all come together in Mulholland Drive. This movie is one of Raymond Chandler “Philip Marlowe” novel — only it’s missing Philip Marlowe.
I know, I know. At this point, someone needs to make a guide to gift guides. The next two weeks will see you flooded with them in such volume that finding the right gift guide because even more difficult that finding the right gift. So you will just have to trust me when I egotistically say that if you are planning to by booze for someone, my guide on Alcohol Professor can help you out. Many spirits, many price ranges, and you know I don’t go in for that “this gift is for men! Here’s some Skinny Girl Margarita for you ladies” balderdash.
- Part one: Vodka, gin, tequila, and mezcal
- Part two: Rum, Cognac, Armagnac, and calvados
- Part three: Scotch, American whiskey, and international whiskey
- Part four: the oddballs — amaro, absinthe, cordials, liqueurs, shochu, and strange whiskey
On Alcohol Professor, it’s a celebration of the 10th anniversary of one of my favorite scotches. Monster of the Moors takes us on a journey through every version of Compass Box Peat Monster, from its genesis as a special request for a single liquor store to its position now as the flagship whiskey of the small but much respected Compass Box.
Over on The Cultural Gutter, I’m taking a look at one of my favorite sci-fi book series from my youth. Return of the Tripods chronicles my revisit as a man grown to John Christopher’s Tripods trilogy: The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire, which I first discovered when they were serialized as a comic strip in Boys’ Life magazine.
Over on Alcohol Professor, editor Amanda Schuster canvassed my fellow writers and me about what we’ll be drinking over the (American) holiday weekend. Spoiler alert: I am drinking a really cheap Spanish brandy. For the rest of the story, have a gander at Our Writers On What They’ll Be Sipping This Thanksgiving and get to shopping before the ice storm seals us all in.
Over on Alcohol Professor, I’m listening to The Crystals and writing in This IS Your Grandfather’s Whisky about the birth of the commercial single malt scotch category. It happened in 1963, and t celebrate the fact, Glenfiddich has produced a new bottle, The Original, and threw a party to commemorate its North American launch.
“Demobilized officer, finding peace unbearably tedious, would welcome any excitement. Legitimate, if possible, but crime of humorous description, no objection.” — Bulldog Drummond, 1929
Basil Dearden’s 1960 caper film League of Gentlemen is a little bit like if, instead of ending up solving crimes for a living, Bulldog Drummond ended up committing them; as if his humorous classified ad was answered by a fellow demobilized officer putting together a crew for a heist. Surely the overly complicated ladder theft that results would appeal to Drummond’s sense of humor. Unlike the old Bulldog Drummond movies however, beneath the breezy, dryly comical veneer of League of Gentlemen is the sort of political and social unrest that characterized much of Dearden’s work in the late 1950s and into the 1960s. The man was a master at making mainstream, commercial films that packed powerful, at times very pro-counter culture messages.
Last year, we took you on a lantern-lit tour of some of the most famous haunted locations in my adopted home of New York City. Once again, we don our novelty cloak and top hat and beckon you come with us for another round of macabre tales and spooky legends. Join me, won’t you, as we visit voodoo queens, gangland massacres, Edgar Allan Poe, and a ghostly garrison in the wilds of northern New York.
There is a whimsical character in so much of what constitutes Prague, a tendency to find the creative, the artistic, and sometimes the absurd in even the darkest of places. That indomitable creative spirit is most evident in the place where many of the Czech Republic’s creative spirits have come for their final rest. Historic Vyšehrad Cemetery, located on a hill high above Prague and on the grounds of old Vyšehrad Castle, was established in 1849 as a cemetery dedicated almost entirely to the dizzying number of musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, dancers, actors, and other artists who made Prague in particular and the Czech Republic in general one of Europe’s most interesting nations.
When I was young still and open of mind, my parents set me loose in the University of Kentucky bookstore with the understanding that I was allowed to choose for myself from the racks of tapes and books some manner of entertainment. As I perused the offerings with a diligent focus that can be mustered only by a seven-year-old with a serious decision to make, I contemplated my options. Not a book, I decided, even though there were several promising ones. But I wanted something in which I could indulge on the long car ride back to Centerfield, and I was not prone to car sickness except when I tried to read. So a cassette…but which one? I flipped through the racks, past recordings of old radio dramas. The Shadow? Maybe. Lights Out Theater? Even better. And then I found it. With nary a doubt in my mind as to the correctness of my decision, I took from the rack and presented triumphantly to my mother my choice of prize: a recording of Orson Welles’ legendary broadcast of The War of the Worlds on Halloween eve, 1938.