Croix de Guilan

Hey, so today we’re live-reviewing a two-day old bottle of Buzet’s Croix de Guilan that’s been hanging out in my fridge. It’s in the Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon family and it pairs well with boiled chicken (poule au pot). It also pairs well with stir-fried mushrooms (poêlée de cèpes), wild boar stew (civet de sanglier), and a tray of cheese (plateau de fromage). I don’t know if that’s supposed to be all at once, or if you’re having any one of those dishes separately you’re good to go, but you’ve definitely got options. I’ll be drinking this wine with a meager side of nothing else, because I already ate my supper.

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This wine is meant to be served at 17-18°C, and since I don’t really know too much about Celsius other than room temperature was always 25°C in chemistry class, I’m gonna say that 17-18° is prolly about the temperature of my fridge. As I said, I opened it two days ago with some friends, so it’s had a little time to respirate. Should be a pretty relaxed and chill wine by now—let’s go!

First, we’ve got to do the swirly-swirly around the glass. At first glance, I notice that this glass is a lot dirtier than I originally thought. To be honest, I didn’t know we had any wine glasses in the apartment, otherwise I would’ve been using them instead of mugs for the last month and half. I found this one tonight, actually, while doing the dishes and if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, that’s the reason I started writing this review. It’s probably fine though, shouldn’t interfere with my assessment. Looks like we’ve got about ten or so bubbles slippin’ down the side. Pretty good. Nice and smooth vibe I’m picking up. Maybe overfilled the glass a bit; there’s wine all down the front of my sweatshirt.

I’m getting pretty excited now. I know I’m not, like, a professional oncologist or anything like that, but I have to say, this wine tasting thing is really growing on me. Half the experience of wine tasting is in the build up: the anticipation of that first sweet sip is what heightens your senses and allows you to pick out every individual note that the wine has to offer. Two weeks ago, my buddy told me a story about an orthodontist that could tell you after one sip what perfume the guy or girl who was making the wine was wearing at the time of its bottling. He told me the story in French, so I may have misheard or confused some of the details.

Next we’ve got to look at a cross-section of this wine, shining a light through it while holding it up to a white surface and tilting the glass. Definitely massively overfilled the glass, it’s hard to get a good… oh, yep, there’s some wine on the table now. It’s alright, though, I still got a pretty good gradient going on here. Yeah, I’m seeing now that this glass needed a good rub and a sponge bath before the tasting. But still, strong reds and a clear sort of transparent edge. Definitely gonna be a full-bodied wine with that kind of nebulous red tone’d’ness.

So, we’re running this whole thing from the memory I have from two weeks ago in Bordeaux when my buddy showed us how to drink wine, as well as my somewhat abstract notion of how wine tasting works, and I think the next step is to give it a good sniff whilst slowly rotating the glass. The rotation helps relax the wine and make it feel more comfortable releasing its smelly-smells into your face’s scent port. I’m smelling it now; it’s got a good smell, very red, definitely notes of fermented grape. I’m going to say a certain sweetness as well, maybe like a juice-box grape or a grape lolly kind of thing going on here.

Giving it a taste now. Yeah, really hit it on the nose with the red. I’m going to say that’s the dominate flavor tone at work here, really the tonic note, if you will. I’ll go even further actually and say that the sub-dominant note is grape, with a leading sour raisin finish that brings us right back to the red tonic flavor.

I’m not gonna lie, I did try and look to the bottle for a little help here in my saveur analysis, but it turns out that Buzet’s main selling point isn’t the flavor of their wine, but rather their production method. They don’t use any chemical fertilizer, they promote the development of local fauna and flora blah, blah, blah… they did at one point say, “Le travail de la Terre, le soin apporté à la vigne, la sélection des grappes, le suivi attentif de la vinification et le savior-faire des œnologues, vows garantissent des vins dont nous sommes fiers,” and I thought, “BOW! Really nailed it on the grape tones,” until I realized that grappes in French is actually “a bunch/bundle of fruit.” Pretty interesting vineyard though, their slogan/motto/thing is “une viticulture respectueuse de l’Homme et de la Nature” (a viticulture respectful of both Man and Nature). I am a man, and I felt like the wine was very respectful when it entered my mouth, and it for sure had some earthy tones too, harkening its natural origins, but again, that might have just been the dirty glass.

Anyway thank y’all for tuning in for today’s review. I hope you liked my first foray into the world of oenology. I think this has been a very promising first step down the road to a kind of Dionysian awakening. I give this wine four Snowflakes for anyone thinking about buying it—it’s well worth the four to six euros I spent on it. If you enjoyed this review, or want to see more like it, leave me a comment, like my post, or send me a message.

The Square

Directed by Ruben Östlund, reviewed by me. 

Snatched this poster of Allociné’s site. Still not sure if I can do that or not, but here we are, giving credit where credit is due. 

Hey, everyone, so today I’m doing my first movie review. I should probably mention I’m a pretty avid reader of Rotten Tomatoes’ home page, and I’ve read a lot of their certified critics’ one or two line reviews. So, that said, I think I’m ready to go ahead and cut my teeth on this year’s Palme d’Or winner, The Square, directed by Ruben Östlund. I watched the original version of this film with French subtitles about a week ago in the Théâtre Gallia. I wanted to write this review while it was still fresh in my mind, but, like, also ripe enough to really dig into, so that’s why I’ve given it a few days to mature in my mind-garden. I’m sure other film critics would argue that it’s better to write a review right after you’ve seen the movie, or even watched it a second time, but you know what, I’ve never subscribed to that kind of Rorschach, first impression applesauce.

So, all in all, it’s pretty good. I’d say it’s definitely better than watching The Room with your parents, but worse than eating saltwater taffy at the beach. Or eating anything while watching The Square; Théâtre Gallia is apparently too good for a concession stand. Their philosophy seems to be that we’re supposed to feel adequately nourished by the experience of auteur cinema alone, without the aid of snacks or drinks. I even snuck food into the theater once, but I couldn’t eat it because no one else was eating and pretzel M&Ms are too crunchy to eat inconspicuously and alone.

For all my philistine readers who just aren’t in the know, ol’ Ruben’s a Swedish director from Styrsö, a quaint town of roughly 1,300 inhabitants and famous for its exportation of Ruben Östlunds. And this film is, for the most part, in Swedish with the exception of scenes featuring Elizabeth Moss, which are in English. Elizabeth Moss, however, wasn’t in most of the movie, so I spent the better half of two hours reading the movie with my adoptive compatriots. Actually, that reminds me: as I was leaving the film, one of my adoptive compatriots was discussing the film with the lad working the front, and complained that it was a long film in which nothing really happened.

I, on the other hand, would beg to differ. Christian, our film’s protagonist, goes through a whole roller coaster of awkward emotions and encounters. Sometimes Christian shares genuine moments of camaraderie with strangers, fending off staged aggressions against women who then rob Christian of his wallet while he’s distracted. Sometimes Christian yells at obnoxious little boys, who’ve broken in to his apartment, and who’re causing a ruckus during the wee hours of night, much to the abject horror of his daughters. Sometimes Christian tries to flex his affluence, only to arrive at a distressing half-chub of ostensible power that thinly veils his true status as yet another pawn in this cruel and pitiless world. This seemed like a pretty important point, you know, that even though Christian is a well-to-do, white, middle-aged, sexy-in-that-rugged-hipster-dad kind of way dude, he’s gettin’ the business just like everyone else.

And by everyone else, I mean mostly homeless people. This film really drives home the wealth inequality and destitution that the humans of Stockholm are experiencing. If Christian isn’t in the office neglecting his responsibilities as museum owner or at home pulling his screaming daughters off of one another, he’s out and about interacting with the other half. Usually by passing them by and ignoring them only to change his mind later and interact with them in some charitable or recompensing way.

I do see where my disgruntled adoptive countrywoman was coming from though. The movie doesn’t really end on a high note; we’re left with a disillusioned and jobless Christian driving his daughters home after his quixotic quest to right his wrongs against an underprivileged family is cut short. But my boy, Ruby Two-Shoes, was aiming for that glorious, murky sweet-spot of désespoir, weltschmerz and crushing absurdity. Really a winning combo. He stated in an interview that he was aiming to capture that feeling of trying to right a wrong that you’ve committed only to discover it’s now too late and the moment’s passed. Basically, if ol’ Rubes wrote the ending of Chamber of Secrets, Fawkes would’ve arrived a minute later and dropped the sword of Gryffindor on Harry’s petrified corpse.

So, like I said, I watched this movie about a week ago and it was in Swedish, so I don’t really have any good quotes ready for you. But I do have some quotes from my first review, John Green’s Turtles all the way Down, that fit the bill pretty nicely, so I’ll be supplementing square-quotes with turtle-quotes.

Towards the end of the novel, Daisy tells Aza this with regards to their own tale and how it ended in a somewhat unresolved and unsatisfying way:

“You pick your endings, and your beginnings. You get to pick the frame, you know? Maybe you don’t choose what’s in the picture, but you decide on the frame.”

And I think ol’ Ruben would agree with that. See, ol’ Ruben’s not the kind of guy to crop you out of his profile picture; he’s the kind of guy that crops you in and then also the older gentleman photobombing your photo with his fly down, pecker out. When Ruby edits a movie, he doesn’t just leave the fat on the final cut; he leaves a little bit of skin and hair on there too. His shots are just a little bit longer than you want them to be, and you get that extra screen time with moments you just wish would’ve already ended or never existed in the first place.

Midway through the movie or maybe even later there’s a scene in the film where Christian and his two girls are hanging out in the museum, checking out the Square, and Christian explains to them a little bit about what it represents. By the way, the eponymous Square is a piece of modern art that Christian spent way too much money on to have brought to his museum in Stockholm. Sorry, totally should’ve mentioned that earlier. Anyway, allegedly the Square is a place where anyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, can stand and feel safe. The poor can stand among the rich here, and if you need help, help will be given; if you need to talk, then good conversation will find you. Inscribed on a golden plaque near the piece are the words:

“The Square is a sanctuary where trust and altruism reign. Inside, we are all equal in rights and obligations.”

Or something. That’s my translation of the French translation from its original Swedish. Or maybe it was in English… this might be an English translation of the French translation of the original English plaque. Doesn’t matter, it’s a plaque with a kitschy slogan on it. Similarly, in Turtle’s All the Way Down, Aza and Daisy are walking through an old sewer and they see the words ,“THE RAT KING KNOWS YOUR SECRETS,” scrawled on the sewer’s wall. I don’t want to equate the potency of these two masterstrokes of genius, but I think one thing the Rat King has over The Square is its likelihood of actually influencing the life of a homeless person. Although, that’s more of a geographical commentary than a content one.

All in all, I give this film seven snowflakes, because as far as auteur cinema goes it’s pretty accessible in that you can watch it and be pretty interested without having Bourdieu levels of cultural currency. Also, it really highlights the misgivings social classes have about each other and how it can be hugely awkward when they try and interact, even with the best of intentions, and deflates upper-class philosophical philanthropy and idealism, which is good, because a lot of us like to talk a lot and at the end of the day we’ve changed nothing other than the way we feel about ourselves. Plus, Östlund nailed the tone and experience he was going for, leaving us in a uneasy state of moral ambiguity.

I hope you liked this review and feel free to like it, or share it, or print it out and throw it in a bin. Either way, I’ll see you next week!

Turtles All the Way Down

Written by John Green, reviewed by me. 

Hey, everyone, welcome to my first review!

Ouf, that looks a little funny… probably kinda weird to say welcome to a review. I mean, this isn’t, like, a physical space; I’m not opening my review’s front door and ushering you in to my review’s foyer, taking your coats and scarves and hats and all that. You didn’t bring me, like, a page-warming gift. No baked goods, or flowers, or edible arrangements. I mean, it’s not a physical space, I know, but wow, that would’ve been really rude of you to show up here empty-handed. It’s a good thing, I guess, that I’m not really welcoming you into anything other than, y’know,

Knowledge.

I’m still trying to figure out what kind of review we’re going to do here. Not really sure if I want it to be funny or serious. I definitely want to make you, the audience, think a little bit and, well, let you get a taste for whatever this book has to offer. Don’t really know how to write a review either… I guess we’ll just, you know, start this thing.

So, Turtles all the way Down. All in all, it’s pretty good. I’d say it’s definitely better than a terminal case of Clostridium Difficile, but worse than the first time you saw Orion pull back his bow on a clear summer’s night. This book is good, I’m not saying

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Found a nice little cover shot on the interwebs. Got it off of Google Books, so don’t, like, sue me or anything. I thought this would be better than just a picture of my Kindle.

it isn’t, but I’m talking about a human experience here. Like the kind where you leave your apartment for once and actually go talk to human people. A book is still just, well, a book. I mean, it’s not like anyone’s gonna go and fight a war or kill anyone over a book. It’s all just pages and letters; the night sky is pretty much infinite.

I mean, listen, you’re sitting there, with your back against the grass, and you don’t have a care in the world. It’s summer, the weather’s nice, you’re enjoying this little vacation from life’s worries. Maybe there’s someone special there with you. You’re sitting there and then maybe you think about holding the hand of that special someone who’s fortuitously reclined next to you in the grass. It’s him or her, that boy or girl you’ve had your eye on for a little while now. You’ve never done it before and you know your hands might be sweaty, but perspiration be damned! You’re here, under the night sky, safe in that perfect moment you’re sharing with them. It’s rare, you know? To be sharing the exact same view as another human being. I mean it’s like Aza, the protagonist from this book I’m supposed to be reviewing, said:

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”

And you’re not thinking about class. You’re not thinking about biology. Specifically, you’re not thinking about your intestines. You’re definitely not thinking about C. Diff, about how you could have a life-threatening colony of bacteria growing inside of you as we speak, usurping the aristocracy of your current micro-biome. Now C. Diff is standing on the tables of their lavish banquet halls, pulling down its pants, and defecating on the food prepared as a commemorative feast honoring the many years of peace and prosperity within the micro-biome pffftabaleacdasaepoiavh…

Oh, woah. I just dozed off for a second. Also looks like my cat just walked over the keyboard or something, I should probably go through and edit all that…

What are we doing? Where am I? It looks like… right, a review. I’m in a review.

Ok, so the drama here is that we’ve got a 16 year-old high school girl trying to solve a missing persons case while juggling her social life, a new relationship, and a crippling case of OCD. There’s a lot going on there for sure. Definitely a lot to unpack… Not sure how I’m gonna get started on this…

Let’s talk about the author.

John Green is an author and vlogger, among other things, and runs a Youtube channel with his brother, Hank, called vlogbrothers. He’s also one of the creators of CrashCourse, an educational channel that puts out videos talking about everything from World Mythology to explaining the Nature of Reality through DiCaprio’s Inception. The videos they’ve put out are wonderfully informative, well delivered, and accompanied by simple graphics and animations that help delineate their points and break up the monotony. They strike a similar vein to KurzgesagtA channel as helpful and inspirational as it is hard to pronounce, whose animated videos are well structured and deliver incredibly thought-provoking and intricate ideas in a logical, easy to follow fashion. Better yet, just think Khan Academy, but with animated ducks.

Um, yeah, that’s John Green. He’s done that stuff and some other things and then he wrote this book and published it pretty recently. Uh, I guess, let’s see, why did he write this book again?

So, right, OCD is a topic very near and dear to Green; its an experience that he shares in common with the story’s protagonist, Aza. On his vlog and in interviews, he’s spoken out against the romanticization of mental illness, noting examples from film and television in which a mentally ill protagonist uses their illness like a superpower. For Green, this has not been his experience with mental illness at all (as he states in his video What OCD is like (for me)), and this has in turn helped inspire Turtle’s all the way Down. Aza Holmes is constantly at war with her “invasive” thoughts, and often times feels like she’s miles away from the world going on around her. For her, OCD doesn’t give her a leg up on the detective game. It doesn’t make her a better friend or a better girlfriend—in fact, it often times leaves her feeling quite the opposite. She’s painfully aware of how self-involved her illness makes her seem, and this awareness juxtaposed with her inability to express her situation to friends and family produces some of the most provocative and sincerely moving moments of the novel. Ultimately, we feel as though we understand the futility of Aza’s struggle, and that compounds our frustration when we realize the shortcomings of language in dealing with matters of the head and heart.

Another fascinating subplot of the novel is Green wrestling with his own existential crises. The same video wherein he denounces Hollywood’s portrayal of OCD, he also goes on to mention that the illness poses certain problems with regards to how he constructs his personal identity:

“If I can’t choose my thoughts, and I am at least in part made out of those thoughts, then am I actually the captain of this ship I call myself?

Pretty hard line of internal questioning there. But this question is ubiquitous within Green’s narrative; Aza is constantly doubting her own agency. She starts off “her” story suspecting that she may indeed be a fictional character in a novel, muling over her lack of agency before sharing this revelation:

“But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.”

I mean, unless you write an autobiography. There were probably, like, brackets or an editor’s note in the first draft saying something similar. I mean, if you write an autobiography, then it’s both. Anyway, I digress and Aza goes on to say in the next paragraph,

“Of course, you pretend to be the author. You have to. You think, I now choose to go to lunch, when that monotone beep rings for on high at 12:37. But really, the bell decides. You think you’re the painter, but you’re the canvas.”

It just goes to show, any thing or place can be a platform for discussing existentialism and your place in the universe, even a… Whoowee! Look at the time. And by time, I mean word count. This review is just all over the place. I’ll probably edit all this, take out that part about laying in the grass, put in some simpler allusions to the text, and omit that shameless plug about Kurzgesagt. By way of wrapping all this up, let’s give this book eight snowflakes for lending you a tremendous insight into the life of someone with OCD, a kind of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time meets John Green’s obsession with micro-biomes, plus some philosophical musing and teenage drama. If you liked this review, let me know. If you didn’t, cool, maybe I’ll hit the mark next time.