October 17, 2007

Time for a new category “Film.” What, prey tell, does film have to do with tea? Nothing. Except for the fact that a solid film is as relaxing and enjoyable as the best cup of tea or a great book to me. I’m not a movie theater person though, and most of the films I watch tend to be independent, unknown, foreign, anime, or just plain nuts. I don’t watch esoteric films just to be “cool” either… they have to be excellent and stand on their own. Documentaries are a particular area of interest to me, and almost an obsession. I’ll toss out a few films and quick overviews from time to time to maybe turn you on to some great entertainment. So, it is with documentaries I’ll begin:

“Johnny Berlin” – This documentary follows Johnny “Berlin” who works as a porter on an old Pullman car as a means to provide him with enough money to travel to some far away locale and pursue his writing. Sounds straight forward enough, and it is mostly filmed in the claustrophobic confines of the train while Jon speaks in monotone about just about every topic under the sun including The Dead Kennedy’s, re-used headstones, and pubic hair. In many ways you feel bad for Johnny, and most likely there is some condition or secrets from the past that account for his personality and life, but he endears himself to you and he possesses a great wit and intelligence which hits you almost unexpectedly. Simple, real, and exactly the kind of film that would never get made if not for a filmmaker willing to take a chance.

“Dark Days” – Live the life of a homeless person in NYC. This documentary is riveting and hard hitting but not in the usual way homeless are portrayed. You are not lead to feel sorry for them but to understand them and their lives. In fact this film singlehandedly changed my view of what “helping” the homeless really is. The “help” that we see as a positive, such as shelters, or finding them housing, are in fact quite the opposite. Filmed in black and white, Dark Days is a film that every person should watch and digest.

“American Movie” – One last documentary for today, and I’ll change to a happier and humorous note. A film about an amateur horror filmmaker. Doesn’t sound like a premise for levity, but I assure you it is. I have watched this movie countless times and laugh myself stupid each and every time. Another very simple tale that manages to cover a wide spectrum of understanding, emotion, and feeling. It’s required watching to even know me.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals and Getting Stoned with Savages

October 15, 2007

J. Maarten Troost is an odd bird to me. On one hand he leads the life I wish I did, on the other he is a polar opposite. Over his two “travelogues” I have never been able to connect with the author himself but amazingly it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the books. The novels follow Mr. Troost and his fiance on their journey following college. Neither wants to give up freedom for a cubicle so they hatch a plan to work in paradise. By they he means his fiance though who is left to find gainful employment while he gets a permanent vacation… he claims to be a writer. His actual writing doesn’t start until the events of the second book. These tropical “paradises” in the South Pacific turn out to be anything but and he is ill equipped in both skill and knowledge to do much of anything but survive and blindly hope for the best.

If you were to read only one, make it The Sex Lives of Cannibals. The first book is much more humorous and lively, but as I wind down with the second I can’t say it isn’t worth the read just not up to the standards of the first. In both books his pacing and storytelling can leave a lot to be desired but he does an adequate job of getting his story out. My main gripe is with the author himself. I can’t help but see him as a fake. A total fake. He does such a big job of painting himself as a free spirit complete with a penchant for illicit substances and a slacker attitude… yet the second book begins with him working high up in the World Bank. It’s also clear he was born with quite a sizable silver spoon in his mouth. The fakeness oozes out throughout the books and it is impossible to shake no matter how much you like the tale. A good read, that I’m happy to have stumbled upon, but also happy to be done with.

Shui Xian –

October 15, 2007

OK, it has been a long time coming but here is the final review from my teaspring order: Shui Xian. It’s a winner. I haven’t spent much time with it only because Kelly has been running through it like there’s no tomorrow. I may just have to update this post and let her add in her thoughts and notes… my first guest review! I will say that the level of roasting is almost perfect (a touch light) but very close to my preference level for Shui Xian. I like it to be noticeably roasted/fired but not to the point of charcoal or so light that the leaves unfurl effortlessly in one or two brewings. Mid to heavy roast. Flavor is great, raisin, charcoal, sweet and it holds up to multiple steeps very well.

Overall, I have to say that Teaspring has performed well across a decent spectrum of tea and that the value for the money is very good. Easily worth adding to your vendor list for Chinese teas. They are limited in their selection to only Chinese teas, but  other than that they get high marks from me. I prefer a specialist over generalist when it comes to tea.