A Grief Interlude

It seems so strange to interrupt an ongoing tribute to a now deceased famous person who affected my life significantly…to talk about recent deaths of similarly significant celebrities. And yet here I am, writing this post rather than writing one of my Cravenous reviews as I continue to make my way (very slowly) through Wes Craven’s oeuvre.

There have been several deaths recently within the celebrity circuit. It’s rather alarming, actually, how many famous people have departed the realm in the past month or so—and not celebrities who we might have anticipated leaving us. It’s one thing when someone tips the scales into the upper 80s or even 90s and then leaves us still wanting more but grateful that they were there to inspire and entertain us for as long as they were.

No. These have been wholly unexpected (at least by the general public) and wholly depressing. These have been the deaths of people still active in their crafts, be it music or acting or writing or art. These were early deaths. Painful deaths from an illness far too prevalent among us all. For me personally, I find that the recent deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman have been almost as upsetting as Craven’s unexpected death in August of last year. Both were 69 years old. Both succumbed after lengthy yet quiet battles against cancer.

For Bowie, I confess that I didn’t start actively getting into his music until a few years ago. To me, he was first Jareth the Goblin King.

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I’ve already written about the significance of Jim Henson and his Muppets to my early years. Make no mistake that I consider Bowie to be a crucial part of that significance. His performance as the Goblin King to Jennifer Connelly’s Sarah is what made Labyrinth as captivating and memorable as it was. Plus, Bowie wrote all the music for the movie, which he of course performed.

It was his appearance as Jareth that I found most compelling, with the whimsical (though slightly lewd) costumes, the magnificent hair, and the most stunning makeup, made all the more ethereal by his one eye with the forever-dilated pupil. He was beautiful. It wasn’t until later that I realized that it wasn’t just Jareth who was beautiful. It was Bowie himself. Androgynous, feather-light, stick-thin, snaggle-toothed, and stunning. Whether as Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, any of his movie roles (several of which are standouts among my beloved genre fiction, such as The Hunger or The Man Who Fell to Earth, which seems as though it was written with Bowie in mind), or simply Bowie, he was always gorgeous.

David Bowie (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
David Bowie (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

(Also, from the look of this photo, Tilda Swinton owes him significantly as well…do you think she knows? Oh. Yeah, I think she does.)

As I learned more about his career, I realized that Bowie also was one of the most influential artists within the rock world to which I was first introduced. Even when I didn’t realize his impact, I was feeling it. Every time I turned on a Culture Club video and swooned at the sight of Boy George in all his early gorgeous glory or fell under the spell of similarly androgy-gorgeous Eurythmics-era Annie Lennox, I was reaping the benefit of Bowie’s influence. Any time I fell in love with an artist for being unabashedly, defiantly unique, what I was really falling in love with was how Bowie burst through the doors that continued to remain open for all these subsequent acts who fell within the purview of my growing attention to music. Bowie showed that it was all right to be different. It was okay to be flamboyant, to be a “Space Oddity” and not fit in. He showed the way for so many artists who walked the peculiar path whose bricks Bowie helped lay.

Even when I had no idea who or what Ziggy Stardust was, I was enjoying his short existence that continued to benefit all of us who were, just as he was, delightfully left of left of center. And even in my nascent naivete toward music and musicians, I was grooving to songs laid down by the Thin White Duke. I didn’t know who sang the songs (I predate the ease of holding up a smartphone to a radio and having the ghost in the machine tell me what I’m listening to), but I knew I liked them.

I liked David Bowie. His creativity was immense (almost as immense as Jareth’s cod piece) and left an indelible mark upon the creative spaces of sound and image. His influence shaped the musical landscape to which I arrived in all my unknowing glory and continues to enthrall and influence even now.

Many of these same sentiments can extend to how I feel about Alan Rickman’s equally unexpected passing. Rickman, with that striking singular voice. That voice will always, to me, be the Voice of the One True God (beware, NSFW for language):

Whether he was telling you to “shoot ze glass” or threatening to carve your heart out with a spoon or trying to teach you a new spell to protect you from the Dark Lord, Rickman’s dulcet timbre was always captivating and instantly recognizable. His performances were always satisfying, his range always astounding. By Grabthar’s hammer, he could bring gravitas and pathos to any character he played. He also breathed life into some of the most momentous genre fiction characters we’ve had the pleasure to meet on screen, be they Metatron, Dr. Lazarus, the Sheriff of Nottingham, or that most infamous Death Eater of all, Professor Severus Snape.

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For me, while it was all about these larger-than-life roles (of which, I do believe the Metatron was my favorite) to some degree, I think I loved Rickman most of all in a couple of his quieter, lesser-known roles: Dr. Alfred Blalock in Something the Lord Made and Alex in Snow Cake, which paired him once more with Sigourney Weaver.

Regardless of his role, Rickman was always watchable (or listenable, if it were one of his voice-only roles). His talent made many a movie more enjoyable and it will be sorely missed. He will be sorely missed as well, for his humor, his kindness, his depth of care and compassion for other actors. From what I have gleaned from recent words of kindness spoken of him and Bowie, both men were exceptionally generous with their time, attention, and advice. They were solid, solicitous souls who brought light to all they did. Both he and Bowie have left irreparable holes in the fabric of creativity as well as in the hearts of many a fan, including this humble and sorrowful wolf.

CSI: Catherine Still Incompetent?

Visitors to the lair know that when I’m devoted to a show, I’m in it to win it until the very end. I’ll even follow you into continued “seasons” in book form if I’m really into you (which reminds me: I need to finish the “eighth season” of Deep Space Nine before I completely forget the first three books from the run). It’s no surprise, then, that I have continued to watch the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation through every bump and dip the show has seen in recent years. And, even though I confess to no surprise from the announcement earlier this year that CBS had cancelled the series after 15 years, I still felt a pang of loss. This show has meant a great deal to me for myriad reasons—so much so that, even though it had become only a sliver of its former self, I mourned the inevitable loss of the comfort I took from its familiar presence in my life.

It was, therefore, with no small amount of sadness that I tuned in this past Sunday to watch the final 2-hour movie that CBS green-lit to wrap up story lines and give fans one final Vegas hurrah. The final movie was, indeed, written almost exclusively for those of us who had watched the show with any sense of religious devotion. It was all about the characters, as it had become within recent years (much to my dismay, TBH). They brought back numerous characters, including Detective Jim Brass, “fan favorite” Lady Heather (who I found entertaining at first, but then quickly found irritating), and one-time show stars Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows.

Clearly, from the title of this post, I’d like to focus primarily on Catherine Willows as well as, more generally, how CSI ultimately failed many of its female characters as well as its female fans. I charge that its biggest failure in this regard, however, was to Ms. Willows.

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When the series began in 2000, Marg Helgenberger and William Peterson clearly were marketed as the stars—sort of the Scully and Mulder of the forensic world, with the sassy headstrong redhead and the nerdy-hot socially awkward loner. As the series got its footing, it became more and more clear that, while Grissom was the technical leader of the team (read: He was the one making the bucks and getting all the attention), Catherine was the engine that made the operation run. However, there was a far less progressive message being conveyed in the depiction of Catherine’s “behind the scenes” role. She wasn’t in charge, but everyone on the team, including Grissom, depended on her to keep everything on track—paperwork completed, assignments passed out, reviews given, etc. In essence, in addition to being a high-ranking and capable CSI, Catherine Willows was Gil Grissom’s administrative assistant, taking care of all the clerical duties that Grissom felt were not what he should be focusing on.

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with anyone who performs clerical tasks. There isn’t even anything wrong with setting up a scenario in which Grissom is completely inept at such tasks and Willows steps in to provide him the support he needed to keep the team on-track. What was wrong, however, was the turn of events that started at the beginning of Season 5, when the lab director decided to split up the grave shift, setting up Catherine as the new swing-shift supervisor in charge of Nick and Warrick. With Willows and Grissom separated, Grissom continued on as he always did, and no attention was paid any longer to his clerical ineptitude. He was simply the grave-shift supervisor. Period.

However, almost from the start, TPTB wrote Catherine Willows as unable to perform her supervisory duties with any degree of aptitude. She bungled cases, her team (two people previously under her supervision on the grave shift and previously possessed of respect for her skills and supervision) disagreed with her constantly, and the generally accepted presentation to viewers was that she was not suitable as the swing-shift supervisor. This was disappointing, of course, but also problematic. When the team was together, it was very clear that Grissom cared far more for cases, evidence, and investigations than in his supervisory duties. Catherine was the one who took care of all that, and Grissom trusted her implicitly. Plus, he trusted her implicitly as a CSI, often deferring to her as the next senior-ranking investigator on the grave shift. Nick and Warrick respected her as well while they were all on the same team. Splitting her away and making her their actual supervisor should not have changed any of what had already been established—should it? And yet, it did. The implication, of course, was that Catherine Willows could only be successful if she was supported by Grissom, who actually gave her no support at all. But clearly, she couldn’t handle all the things she used to handle without someone there to give her no help at all!

It was no surprise, then, that the next season brought them all back together as one team, Catherine once more serving as second to Grissom. Now, I get that this “breaking up the team” story arc was just a one-season ploy to begin with—something to stir up some controversy, shake the dust of familiarity off everything, and whatnot. What was frustrating was the fact that the ploy had to come at the expense of showing a previously capable member of the team fail so dramatically that no one even questioned her unspoken demotion at the beginning of the sixth season. Or at the beginning of the 12th season…but we’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve already gone off on a tangent about how CSI treated its female characters. And while some of my thoughts from that post have evolved with time, they’re still pretty on-target. However, what I point to from that post is the fact that Jorja Fox and Marg Helgenberger were the ones to call for a truce between their characters. They saw the value of ceasing and desisting with the continuation of discord between Willows and Sidle. It’s just one of the many reasons that I admire both of them. Of course, the writers’ solution? Stop having Willows and Sidle interact. Instead of climbing out of their clear comfort zone of supporting the notion that women cannot work together in the same collegial way that male characters often do and writing Willows and Sidle into two representatives of a new idea…a fantastic idea…the amazing notion that women can work together without sinking teeth into each other, figuratively or literally…they just gave up on having the women interact at all unless they had to. And usually? It was to spark some kind of fight between them that required male intervention to solve.

Again, all part of the process of pushing stories forward, but it’s trite. It’s demeaning. And it reflects the perpetuation of a misconception that deserves to DIAF. Women work together all the time without fanging each other or deceiving each other or betraying each other or just in general hating each other, “because women.” I do it every day. Even better, my female coworkers and I can pass the Bechdel test with almost every single conversation we have—something that, even by the last episode of a 337-episode run, Willows and Sidle failed almost completely.

But I digress. This is about CSI Willows. Fast-forward from the sixth season demotion to William Peterson’s departure in the middle of the ninth season and Catherine Willows’s subsequent promotion-by-default to head of the grave shift. Again, a shift she’s been helping to run for many years, supervising people she’s worked with for years—she’s got this. Right? And yet, at the beginning of Season 10…the beginning of Season 10, when Catherine Willows has barely been in charge for half a season, we learn that one of her staff has left after filing charges against Willows, for what? Incompetent management.

Again, the writers needed to cover the fact that an actress they’d cast the previous season either left or they let go because the character wasn’t working, but notice how this is the second time they’ve made Catherine Willows incompetent to fix the flow of the story? Sara even tells Catherine, in one of those delightful yet sadly rare moments when these two characters interacted amicably, that she’s a great CSI and that “the only thing that Grissom had that you don’t, is you.” (P.S., this was yet another instance in which Sara and Catherine also failed the Bechdel test, because apparently the only way these two could see eye-to-eye was if they first discussed Sara’s relationship with Grissom…but we’ll get to that in a moment as well).

[Loba Tangent: By the way, this could have been an incredible moment in which the writers decided to make Sara Sidle the second-in-charge to Catherine Willows, thereby having two women in supervisory roles. Can you imagine? Instead, they had Catherine make Nick Stokes her second-in-command. Look at there: Catherine Willows, supported yet again by a man. Surely, she’ll be successful this time!]

So was Sara lying? Or was it simply the fact that the writers at some point decided that the best way to fix major story changes was simply to make Catherine Willows the default incompetent scapegoat? Don’t believe me? Head on over to the beginning of Season 12. Laurence Fishburne had decided that serial television was not to his liking so he departed, to be replaced by Ted Danson. Arriving as D.B. Russell, Danson’s character quickly was established as, what? The grave-shift supervisor. Apparently, being He Who Was Sam Malone trumps the status of the woman who has been on the series since the beginning, and once again Catherine Willows becomes too incompetent to lead.

What’s even worse is that this time her incompetence stems partly from her emotional response to actions that took place at the end of the previous season—actions that a few of the male characters were complicit in carrying out for equally emotional reasons. But it was Catherine Willows who fell and served in demoted silence for all of one season before Helgenberger finally called it quits and left the realm. At least they replaced her with another woman when they brought Elisabeth Shue on as CSI Julie Finlay. Strangely enough, Shue didn’t get to become the head of the team. You’d think that being an Oscar-nominated film star would trump being Sam Malone. Guess not.

Jump, jump, jump ahead to the end. Catherine Willows returns in her new capacity as a field agent for the FBI’s Los Angeles office. Incompetent as a state employee? Don’t worry. The federal government has got you covered, bae!

Seriously, though. By the time Helgenberger left the show, the writers had written the character of Catherine Willows as someone whose personnel file was so riddled with problems that she should have been shipped back to the strip club where she started. And yet, they felt it was appropriate to send her off to the FBI? Forreals?

Right.

So Willows comes back to help during a time when Sara Sidle, by dint of reason that she’s literally the last remaining original CSI left (even though she didn’t appear until the second episode), oh and the show is ending, is up for consideration as the director of the crime lab. WHO’S THE BIG DAWG? Winning by default is still winning, AMIRITE?

Never mind that she’s up for a job that we will never get to see her actually work. No, scratch that. That’s one of the things that really pissed me off about seeing Sara Sidle up for this huge promotion. Pardon my language, but big fucking deal. Why didn’t the writers consider her for the promotion when they decided to demote Willows a third time? You want to give these women reason to fight? There would have been your reason. You know, because women never support each other in the workplace. Instead, she’s not up for any kind of promotion until the last episode. A promotion that she gets (spoilers) and then just as quickly gives up (spoilerz) because love interest is love interest and nothing more. Sara Sidle was always meant to be, first and foremost, Gil Grissom’s love interest. All that time that Sara Sidle was on the show after Grissom left? Well, none of that counted. All those cases she worked and victims she helped and suspects she put away. Meaningless. Everything about her was meaningless until Grissom could return and woo her away once more.

So who became the director after Sara rode off into the sunset with her Prince Charming (literally, spoilers)? The intimation was…it was Catherine Willows. Third time’s the charm? Again, though, big fucking deal. Not only do we not get to see Director Catherine Willows, we don’t even get to see her take the role. It was far more important to see Sara Sidle give up everything to fulfill her ultimate destiny as “Gil Grissom’s love interest.”

Wow. That’s a lot more than I anticipated writing. And yet I barely scratched the surface. Not to say that the show didn’t have great female characters. It honestly had many wonderful female characters come and go through the years. For instance, Julie Finlay was a fascinating character—you know, up until the point where they had her beat into a coma by a serial killer, stuffed into a trunk, and then confirmed as dead in the last 10 minutes of the final episode.

Whatever.

Why does any of this matter? After all, it’s just a show. Just a show that not only ran for 15 years but inspired the creation of at least a dozen knockoffs, including three spinoffs. A show that helped change the course of television in highly influential ways. And yet, when TV Guide dedicated a cover to Helgenberger and Fox? This was the photo they felt was most appropriate:

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Nothing like women on their knees, eh?

Oh, and if you’d like to dress like a CSI for Halloween? Better just put your own costume together, because this is what you’re going to find in the stores:

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Positive representation matters. If you think it doesn’t, then you probably are lucky to belong to a group that has never had to worry about any kind of representation, either in the media or in reality. To everyone else, it’s a big deal. CSI made a huge impact in many positive ways, but it also missed the opportunity to make the same kind of impact on how women are depicted in popular culture. They could have taken the character of Catherine Willows and made her an example of a woman who brought herself up from a life she no longer wanted to lead to a life that could have inspired. Instead, she was Catherine Willows, forever destined to make poor professional and personal choices and never ever ever learn from any of them. She—and we—deserved better.

There’s still hope, even in this particular franchise. Patricia Arquette is the lead in CSI: Cyber, which returns this upcoming Sunday. Of course, Ted Danson is shifting over to that show now that the Vegas crew has investigated their last crime. So help me, if he somehow ends up bumping Arquette to second-banana, hell will truly have no fury like Loba unchained.

Go ahead. Try to demote me again.
Go ahead. Try to demote me again.

Rant Me the Serenity…

Talk about much ado about nothing. I relaunch the blog after so much time and effort to rebuild my online lair and then…nothing. Pfft. Fizzle. A couple of Flashback Fridays, some book reviews, some PhotoShop trickery…but no meat. Just sides.

I want more. Truth is, though, that I feel sometimes like there are so many variables against “more.” My job has evolved into something far more consistently all-consuming than before, which means that by the end of the day, there’s not much intellectual energy left. I mean, come on now, I’m practically running on fumes all the time anyway…now, I’ve reached the point where by the end of the day, I simply can’t brain anymore.

Please don’t make me brain anymore.

Seriously, though, I work out my focus all day long, trying to keep multiple projects on track, on time, on budget, on fleek. I come home and I got nothin’ left. The jam jar is empty and all that’s left is the dried-out jam crust around the lid. No one wants that.

The other problem (beyond my tendency to make really disgusting analogies) is that I’ve lost my indignant fire. In my Angry BloggerTM Days, I had no dearth of anger for fueling myriad rants. I’m old now, and I see the futility of ranting. Not to say that I don’t still go on rants…but they’re usually about things meant to incite wrath from the geek community. I’m really good at that.

Ranting about things that matter IRL though? Ranting just deepens the divide. I’m more into (or I’m more into trying to be more into) seeking solutions. Trying to find the problem and fix it. Trying to find answers to questions that I’m quite frankly tired of asking and tired of watching everyone in charge ignore simply because the answers aren’t…simple.

The problem is that this path isn’t easily packaged into a navel-gazing blog blurb. And this path shouldn’t be easily packaged or reduced or simplified. It’s a path of thorns and brambles. A path abandoned for too long because choosing this path requires serious work, and who wants to do that? It’s way more fun to keep ignoring this path and taking the easier one that solves nothing but lets us all be utter cockwombles from the anonymous comfort of our Internet-trolling couches.

[Loba Tangent: In other news, my British friends have taught me the word cockwomble, and I now try to fit it in whenever I can. Because cockwomble.]

So that’s where I’m at. I’m still here, pacing the lair, trying to figure it all out. I’m still writing blog posts. I’ve got a couple saved as drafts (which I couldn’t do before I repaired things, so progress!!). If it makes you all feel any better, I’m not just ignoring the lair. I haven’t even really been reading all that much lately either. Again, jam crust.

And just so I don’t leave you all with that disgusting image in your head, have this. Uzo Aduba is one of my new favorite people in the entirety of the universe. If you don’t know why, then get thee to a Netflix account and stream the hell out of Orange is the New Black. Hers is one of the most captivating characters from what is one of the most delightfully diverse, female-centric shows ever (a shame, though, that we can only get diversity behind bars).

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Wine A Little

I went really deep into the contemplative weeds on that last post, eh? Thought I would lighten things up a bit by finally discussing something that I’ve discovered I really, really love doing. A lot. A LOT.

Naughty denizens, whatever you’re thinking right now…I’m proud of you. But it’s not that. Or that.

No. See, while another one of my Internet PersonalitiesTM might be known as a whiny hater, Loba would now like to declare her passion as a wine-y lover. (Ooh, overwork that pun, Loba!) I love to drink. True, I used to love to drink because I loved the numbing insouciance of total inebriation. Rite of passage and all that jazz, I suppose. I’m a bit of a higher-class drinker now. I drink to enjoy the flavors, the craft, the love that goes into these libacious fineries. I’ve already proven myself to be quite the beer snob, both through Darktober and Febrewary.

Now it’s time to do the same with wine.

For several years now, we’ve been making regular trips to both the East Coast (Virginia) and West Coast (California) wine regions. Virginia has surprised us several times with some really fabulous wineries nestled throughout the Shenandoah region, but none so far has come close to competing with what California has to offer. Whatever miracle of wind, water, fire, earth, and air that winemakers have captured out there, they have become masters (and mistresses) of bottling the magic in the most delicious ways possible.

First, a few points of clarification. When we visit California wine country, we stick with Sonoma. Why? Personal preference. Experience has left us with the opinion that Napa is overcrowded, overpriced, and overhyped. They have decent wine, sure, but not decent enough to support the fees and prices they charge. Napa is the Disney of Wine Countries.

Conversely, Sonoma is bucolic, relaxing, and they offer wines that are the most appealing to our palates. If you lean toward Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels and shy away from crowds and empty fanfare, then Sonoma might be the side for you, too.

The other thing that we love about Sonoma is the abundance of small wineries. I love going to wineries so small that their bottles don’t even have bar codes on them. I’m not trying to be “I liked that wine before they had bar codes” hipster or anything. I’ve simply learned that a lot of times (but not always), if a winery has become large enough that they’re able to ship large batches of multiple varieties and vintages all the way over to the East Coast, then it’s because they’ve hit upon a process that allows them to produce bottle after bottle after bottle of generic wine. Again, it can be generic and delicious—but it’s still generic.

Think of it this way. When you buy tomatoes from a chain supermarket, they’re tasty, right? Nice, pretty little hothouse on-the-vine tomatoes that all taste fine…and the same. And then you get tomatoes from a farmers’ market or, even better, from your own garden. They might not be as refined or as pretty as the hothouse tomatoes, but they’re fresh and warm and succulent. And the flavor! You can taste the difference—intense, rich, robust. That’s kind of how I feel about wineries large enough to mass-produce versus the smaller wineries. The mass-produced wines can be great (there are a few I love), but the smaller wineries are free from the pressures of mass production and can focus on cultivating a wine of intensity and surprising variation.

Like I said, today is my declaration of wine snobbery, denizens.

That all being said, whenever we’re about to take a trip to Sonoma, I spend a good week or more doing research. I pull out my map of the region and I begin to cross-research wineries there against wineries recommended by different sites related to the area as well as against personal reviews on Yelp or Trip Advisor. I narrow down the selection to a list of places I think will be good (or places we’ve been to previously that we enjoyed and want to revisit). I group them according to area, charge up my GPS, and I’m ready to go. So far, we’ve made it to more than 50 wineries (in both Sonoma and Napa). That might sound like a lot (okay, it actually is a lot), but we haven’t even scratched a patch on wine country, considering that Sonoma alone has almost 400 wineries.

So what’s the point of this post? Well, I’m not Yelp or Trip Advisor, but I do have some recommendations. I’ve narrowed my first list down to 10 (because that sounds like a lovely even number, right?). Some of these are wineries we’ve been to more than once. Some are wineries we just discovered—but their wines were so delicious, I couldn’t help but praise them. All of these wineries produce rich, bold, complex reds—so sorry if you aren’t a red wine drinker. I’m admittedly just starting to learn more about white wines, but I will be sure to indicate if any of these wineries have whites I enjoyed.

Oh, and enjoy a few of the multitudinous photos I took recently while driving around Sonoma. That’s another thing I love about Sonoma—even if you don’t like wine, you’re going to love the area. Stunning vistas and long, winding roads that duck through groves of ancient, gnarled trees cloaked in Spanish moss and meander through orchards and rustic valleys full of flowers and farmhouses and collapsing barns. I could drive around these areas all day. Plus, the perfectly aligned rows of grape vines do wonderful things for my mild-grade OCD.

And now, in alphabetical order…

Loba’s Top Ten Sonoma Wineries, 2014 Edition

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A. Rafanelli. We visited this winery for the first time during our most recent trip. It’s by appointment only, but it’s well worth the effort. They also are very amenable to making time to welcome you for a tasting. I didn’t realize we needed an appointment, so we ended up literally phoning them while sitting outside their gate; 15 minutes later, we were driving up to one of the most beautifully kept wineries we’ve ever visited. Seriously, this place is beautiful. Do not miss the opportunity to wander around the property after your tasting. We entered the rustic tasting room and immediately received a glass of the most delicious Zinfandel I’ve ever had. It was dark and luxurious, with a fine floral finish. They don’t offer many wines for tasting, but this Zin was wonderful enough to make the trip worth it. We also were lucky enough to meet the owner (who looks eerily like actor Ray Wise, who will always be Leland Palmer to me). He’s quite a gentle, genial gentleman, and the history of his family’s journey from Italy in the early 1900s to this beautiful winery and its wonderful wines is lovely.

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Bacigalupi Vineyards. This was another recent discovery, but another winery that shows the strength of its age and experience through delicious wines. One of the things that we learned from other wineries’ staff is that Bacigalupi is a well-respected vineyard. Several other wineries purchase grapes from them because of their quality and consistently praise them (which is kind of nice; Sonoma wineries are very supportive of each other). It’s only been since 2011 that Bacigalupi have run their own tasting room to let others sample their own blends. The winery produces a lovely Chardonnay, but we instantly fell in love with their Pinot Noir. Again, this is a wine that speaks to a deeper level of care and skill, with delicious complexity. Additionally, the family-run tasting room was a lovely experience; we even ended up meeting both the Bacigalupi twins, Katey and Nicole, as we stopped one day for a tasting and the next day to pick up a bottle of Pinot because we couldn’t stop thinking about it. Great experience.

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Frick Winery. What do you get when you combine a charming tasting room, an eclectic wine maker, and a line of wines so delicious that it’s virtually impossible to select one favorite? You get my favorite winery. Bill Frick is a viticultural virtuoso. He’s been working his vines since 1976, and it’s pretty much just him running the whole show. He only produces 1,400 cases each year, which grants him the ability to be very hands-on and selective with the whole wine-making process. The end result is a series of some of the most holistically pleasing wines I’ve ever had the honor of experiencing. He also offers one of the most diverse line-ups, especially for Pinot Noir and Zinfandel-heavy Sonoma. He excels at both reds and whites; his Viognier is elegant and coquettish, and his Cinsaut and Counoise are bright bold streaks of incomparable flavor. There’s a reason that we have more Frick in our fridge than any other winery’s offerings. Simply put? He’s amazing.

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J Vineyards & Winery. This is probably the most mainstream winery that will be on this list. It’s also one of our first truly great wine-tasting experiences (and the winery that introduced us properly to the Sonoma side of the wine coin), so J has a special place in my heart. They are gifted at Pinots, including several single-vineyard rotations that definitely wow and surprise with subtle flavor variations that make each worth trying. They also surprised me with some truly exceptional sparkling wines. I’m typically not much of a sparkling wine fan, but J’s line is atypically sweet (without being cloying) and refined (without being overly processed). Be forewarned though: They are also one of the most expensive wineries we’ve ever visited in Sonoma. Definitely a treat reserved for when we feel like splurging a bit.

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Matrix Winery. I nearly didn’t stop at this winery because of the name. Unless Trinity is going to be my sommelier and Morpheus is somewhere in the back, adding blue and red pills to the wine, I kind of think the name is a little silly. Then again, I go by LobaBlanca, so what do I know about serious names? I’m so glad we stopped, because Matrix has become one of our favorite stops since we discovered them a few years ago. They are a premier producer of fabulous Pinot Noirs, Zinfandels, (sensing a theme?) and Sirahs, including several awarding-winning vintages made with…Bacigalupi grapes (insert “It’s a Small World” theme here). Their tasting room can get a little crowded on weekends, which detracts from the experience slightly, but their wines have always impressed.

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Merry Edwards. Ms. Edwards, one of California’s first female winemakers, has been cultivating her viticultural skills since 1974. The result is unquestionably stunning Pinot Noirs. In fact, I would be so daring as to state that I think her line of Pinots are the finest we’ve yet experienced. Considering the competition (even on this list alone), that’s about the highest praise I can offer.

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Moshin Vineyards. What’s not to love about a winery with a giant hummingbird statue out front? Even when we don’t stop to go in, I love driving by this charming little tasting room. Inside, though, I know is a sublime line-up of amazing reds, including a fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon (which is more prevalent over in Napa than among Sonoma vintners). They also make a couple of delightful Chardonnays, but I always come back to their wonderful line of Pinots. One thing that I haven’t yet noted is that, with smaller wineries, variation is a reality…a beautiful, delicious reality. Vintages at these wineries will change depending on how well (or not so well) that year’s grape crop did. With a winery like Moshin, with several different types of Pinot Noir, you are bound to find yourself switching preferences based on all the wonderful, magical things that transpired in the process of getting from grape to wine. What’s even more fun is when wineries let you do a side-by-side comparison of different vintages of the same wine (something that Moshin has let us do). So much can change in the span of a year…

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Porter Creek Vineyards. Roll up to this vineyard and you might find yourself greeted by a friendly vineyard pooch. You will definitely find yourself floored by the beautiful view from the tiny tasting barn (yes, it’s a barn). Again, this winery can get crowded easily because of the small size, but the wines are worth the stop. Pinots and Zins, of course, dominate, but Porter also makes an exceptional old vine Carignane as well as a silky Russian River Chardonnay.

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Thomas George Estates. This was another recent discovery, but their wines were so amazing that I ended up buying half a case of their varieties (and would have bought one of each if I could have). They are equally skilled at whites and reds, with divine Viogniers and Chardonnays and Pinots and Zinfandels of impeccable caliber. Plus, their tasting room is located inside their wine cave, which makes for an awesome tasting experience. We were lucky enough to have a great sommelier, who had recently taken a trip to Virginia to sample some of their wines, so we were able to compare notes and exchange recommendations. We were also lucky enough to finish up our tasting and purchases right as a limo-bus full of tipsy bridesmaids (and presumably a bride) arrived to make the wine cave echo like it was being invaded by drunk chickens. Why mention this? To point out that wine tasting is not just about the wine. It’s about the sommelier, the location, the other patrons. I have no doubt that my experience there would have been far different had we arrived while the bridesmaids were getting their drunk on. In fact, I probably would have left without even going in. Just keep in mind that sometimes a winery needs a second chance to impress you (or disappoint you twice).

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Zichichi Family Vineyards. If you are looking for a unique boutique experience (try saying that five times fast after a day of wine tasting), then I direct you to Zichichi. This winery does barrel tastings, which means that they take you directly into their fermentation area and draw samples straight from the barrel. It’s really quite awesome. (True, they might do “regular” tastings, too, but I don’t think they do; at least they haven’t either time we’ve been to their winery). Also, they make some truly remarkable Zinfandels. I vacillate in preference between their Estate Zin and their Old Vine Zin (see? Tasty, tasty variation), but both are extraordinary. Plus, the vibe here is so…chill. You enter a beautiful tasting room and are greeted by some of the friendliest, most relaxed sommeliers possible (I’d be pretty mellow, too, if I had their view all day). Nice, friendly, informative staff and some amazing wine. Seriously, what is there not to love about a place like this? Just note that what they are offering from the barrel hasn’t yet been bottled…so if you like what you try, you can order it, but then you’ll have to wait a few months for it to finish aging. Trust me, though, when I say it’s well worth the wait.

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And there you have it—Loba’s top 10 Sonoma wineries for the moment. I’m sure this list will change. I’ve already started a list of new wineries for our next trip. Who knows what those might bring (other than more delicious red wines)? If you ever find yourself roaming around the back roads of Sonoma and you stumble across any of these wineries, I hope you give them a go. Or head to their Web sites and see what they’re selling (if you’re lucky enough to live in a state that allows wine shipments). Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy. I also hope you have some really strong tooth paste…or just enjoy having a purple smile. Red wine—stainfully delicious.

LobaBlerch

It’s been a while, hasn’t it, denizens? Not a while since I paid any love to the lair. I’ve been banging on about books and beers and strange ephemera from my youth that once (and forever) made me happy. But it’s been a while since I wrote something navel-gazey, eh? What better day to change that then the auspicious 11th birthday of my bloginations?

One of my favorite online stops every now and again is The Oatmeal. Funny, dorky, irreverent, and grammar sticklers.

During a recent perusal, I ran across the section The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances. True, I don’t really run all that much. Sometimes, if I have an abundance of energy, I’ll bring it down a few notches with a jaunty jog here and there, but mostly I walk. A lot. Uphill, downhill, on paths, on trails, in cities, in the woods, wherever. I love to walk. The longer and more strenuous the walk? The more I’m going to dig in. I don’t take glucosamine every morning for nothing, dammit.

But why? The unglamorous reason is that I started walking four years ago as a means to outpace having to deal with my mom’s death. I dealt with it some, mostly through blogging here, but when the edges got too sharp and the feelings got too raw? I moved on. If I just plugged in my earbuds and kept moving, then I could focus on the music, on the pace, on the sweat and exhaustion, on the physical pain and not the deeper hurt. Basically, I tried to walk away from dealing with it all, not accepting that it was chained to my ankle and following right along with me.

But that’s a whole other story.

Funny thing (and I’m always one for gallows humor), is that when I started to resurface from the fog of my self-enforced avoidance through exercise…I really liked the physical me I came back to. I’d “avoided” myself down 50 pounds and up several metabolic notches. I had a reduced appetite and increased energy. I was toned and muscular and for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to run away from the reflection in the mirror.

Thus bringing me back to the Oatmeal post on running. Bet you thought I’d forgotten that, didn’t you? Some of the post made me laugh and some of it passed right over me without any response. One panel, though. One panel punched me right in the solar plexus:

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“I grew up a fat kid.”

When I was in the safety of my own world (as any good introvert will tell you, we all have two worlds: the outside one in which we have to live, and the inside one in which we choose to live), my weight wasn’t an issue. It never stopped me from battling Cobra Commander and Destro or using my proton pack to fight ghosts or calling for K.I.T.T. before the bad guys found my hiding spot. I could be anyone, do anything in the confines of our yard…although, looking back, I would love to have known what the neighbors thought of my strange antics, swinging from tree limbs, running and rolling and ducking and dodging, none of them able to see the fantastic adventures my imagination was creating for me.

Outside of my own world? I was fat. And others made a point of informing me that I was fat, as if somehow this truth eluded me without constant reminding. Because somehow having to shop in the boys’ husky section for jeans or the women’s plus-sized section for school clothes when I was 11 wasn’t enough.

[Loba Tangent: Don’t cry for me, Argentina. Yes, kids bullied me for being fat. The sad truth, though, is that when someone else came along, even lower on the popularity food chain than me, I didn’t step up and defend them. Instead, I reveled in the feeling of finally giving back some of what I’d been taking all those years. Kick a dog too much and sometimes the wrong person ends up losing a hand when the dog finally bites back. I bear the weight of that truth even now, because introspection is deservedly cruel sometimes.]

I’ve tried since my teens to tame my weight, but almost always in that half-assed, “miracle diet,” snap-my-fingers-and-it’s-done-right? way. You know what that approach gets you? A boatload of disappointment and discouragement. Intellectually, I understood that being healthy was more important than being skinny, and that being healthy was a commitment (that I obviously wasn’t ready to make).

But the part of me conditioned by years of fat-shaming and societal demands to fit into one generic mold, regardless of the multitude of body shapes women should have, had left me convinced that I was never going to be attractive as long as I had a double chin or my thighs rubbed together when I walked or I had bingo wings—and these were the reasons that I had to be skinny!!11!!!1

[Loba Tangent 2: That’s a whole other post as well: realizing that society’s expectations, especially for how women “should” look, are bullshit. Okay, so maybe that’s not a whole other post…but I bet I could turn it into one. Because wordy.]

Worse yet, I was never going to consider myself attractive. I was only going to see these “flaws.” I was always going to feel terrible and let those acidic feelings erode my self confidence, thus trapping me in a cycle I simply didn’t have the strength from which to break free. Truth is, at the point when my mom died, I was still overweight and still unhappy about it…but it was an “I can’t do anything to change it so why bother trying” defeatist unhappy, which feels as sucky as it sounds.

And then I finally pulled my head out of my ass after a year of running from the sorrow of my mom’s death and, I’m not going to lie, denizens…emotionally, I was still a mess, but physically, I felt fantastic. I had the energy level of a hamster on speed, my joints and back no longer hurt after I did any physical activity, my cholesterol was no longer a worry, I’d developed muscles in places I’d never had them and strengthened the muscles I’d previously had—I had let go of my erroneous focus on weight and ultimately ended up letting go of the weight as well. Not the ideal way to finally get my ducks in a healthier row, but sometimes we just have to go with what we’ve got.

Also, in my need to outrun my sadness, I’d finally outrun the shadow of my arch nemesis: “The Fat Girl.”

See, Mr. Oatmeal Running Man Matthew has his Blerch. I have the Fat Girl. I joke about her all the time, saying that she’s still back there, WAAAAY behind me…too out-of-shape to catch me now. But she’s persistent, and one day, she’s finally going to close the gap between us. I “joke” about her, but secretly, she is my greatest fear. Wounds heal, but scars remain…and if a wound goes deep enough, the scar is just that much uglier.

The Fat Girl is my ugliest, deepest scar.

Do I let her control me still? Not often, but sometimes…sometimes I can hear her breathing right behind me. And so I strap on my sneakers and I go. I go walking. I go work out to some shockingly bad 80s movie. I move in some kind of positive way, because as long as I’m moving, those admittedly juvenile fears won’t catch up…even when I stop to drink half a bottle of wine in one sitting or eat ice cream for breakfast while at the beach (because what else should I eat for breakfast while at the beach?).

I’m always going to have a damaged image of myself. I’m always going to worry about my weight, always going to pay attention to what I eat. It is what it is. However, I’m not going to let that damage stop me from enjoying myself. Even in the not-quite-how-you’re-supposed-to-do-it way that I typically employ, I’ve learned that it’s not about dieting and meeting external ideals. If that were the case, I still wouldn’t look the way I do (but I finally look the way I like, so nyeah). No, I don’t always eat what I “should” or stick to some kind of tortuously limited diet. But, no matter what I eat or drink, I always make sure I keep moving…moving way more than I ever moved before.

“I run because it’s the only way I know how to quiet the monster.”

I began walking to quiet the sorrow in my head. I still walk, only now it’s to quiet the sound of a past that I can’t change but that I can continue to outpace. One step at a time.

St. Patrick’s DIY

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit, denizens!

Aye, tis a grand day to be Irish. Or partially Irish. Or just someone who likes to diminish an entire ethnicity down to one stereotypical pastime.

Sláinte, indeed.

Regardless of your reasons for celebrating the day, please stay safe. As for me, the sudden return of winter dictates that I shall stay within the warm, dry confines of my lair for any celebrations. That’s fine with me, because I have the perfect brew to mark the occasion.

[Loba Tangent: I also fail to spell occasion correctly 95 percent of the time I write it. I don’t know why. Thank goodness for spell check.]

Remember back during Febrewary, how I returned to my ritual of brewing my own beer on a work holiday? Well, turns out that the prep schedule was such that my White House honey porter was officially ready to crack open for consumption this past Saturday. Rather than drink it then, I decided to give it a couple extra days and celebrate today with my very own beer.

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Look at that beer, denizens. Even though it’s not present in this photo, this porter poured out with a fizzy accompaniment of froth that dissipated to lines of carbonation crawling up through its beautiful carnelian center. I took a backlit photo, just so you all could see this gorgeous color:

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Also, look at how clear it is! I’ve finally gotten the bottling correct!

To be fair, even though this is supposedly a porter, that color, the mouth feel, and the taste are all more indicative of a red ale than what I would typically attribute to a porter. I wonder if perhaps the age of the recipe lends itself to this less-than-modern-day-porter conveyance of flavors and feel. Or maybe I simply didn’t steep the malt mix long enough. Not sure.

Whatever the reason, I hesitate to praise this as a porter. I also kind of wish I’d refrigerated it before drinking because, again, it’s not really a “serve at room temperature” beer. Then again, it’s cold enough in the house that this time, “room temperature” was still nice and cool.

Beyond the points I’ve already mentioned, this porter has a beautiful bouquet. It’s wonderfully malty with a frisson of honeyed sweetness. That honey plays through into every other aspect of this beer, with a soft, smooth mouth feel and a delightful flavor that remains on the safe side of sweet without toppling over into saturation. I do wish that it had a bit more carbonation, because if you don’t drink it quickly enough (and I honestly didn’t want to drink it too quickly because it was that tasty), it does start to go a bit flat.

In other words, Irish you all could taste this beer.

Ha. I see what I did there, and I LOLed.

Seriously, I am supremely pleased with this latest homebrew adventure. Northern Brewer wins as a new supplier for my homebrew dabblings. I have their Caribou Slobber kit downstairs right now, awaiting brewing, and then there are a couple other kits that I would love to try as I get more and more confident with this new process. All that being said, I would not be averse to giving this honey porter another go once I finish tackling these new flavors.

Putting the “Brew” in Febrewary

So how could I possibly call this “Febrewary” without actually brewing some beer? I just can’t, denizens. Therefore, I give you this:

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Seems that I’ve made a bit of a habit in recent years of spending my cold weather holidays brewing beers…a habit that I sadly didn’t continue throughout 2013 because…well, because life. That’s pretty much why.

Now, not to say that I don’t have a life this year, but I do have a bit more free time than I did last year. Plus, with about a foot of snow still on the ground and daytime highs still below freezing, I’m thinking that staying indoors on my day off isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

Plus, there’s the added bonus of recently relocating a gift card that my cousins gave me to Northern Brewer Homebrew Supply, that must have gotten lost in our recent move. When I looked through Northern Brewer’s brew kits and saw that they offered, among other tasty concoctions, a White House honey porter? I took that as a sign that my Presidents’ Day was set.

I’ve written before about my beer brewing adventures. I have to say that those previous kits can’t even compare to the simplicity of the Northern Brewer kit that I used today. In some ways, I feel like it was almost too easy…like I missed a step or didn’t have all the ingredients or forgot something or…I don’t know. It just wasn’t anywhere near as complicated as the previous kits made the process out to be.

Instead, the Northern Brewer White House honey porter kit was a breeze as well as way neater, way quicker, and way more fun. I’m not saying that the other kits were bad; on the contrary, they were the ones that got me hooked on homebrewing in the first place. However, Northern Brewer has shown that applying a little bit of creativity to a process can simplify and streamline it in ways that make everything more awesome. And who doesn’t want more awesome in their lives?

So right now, my gallon jug full of honey porter is sitting down in the dark coolness of our storage room (a storage room! Such beer-making luxury!), its little airlock in place, just waiting for the yeast to start the fermentation process. Minus the feeling that this was simply too easy, I’m very pleased with today’s brewing exercise. I was also very pleased with the Star San sanitation process I used. Again, made everything way easier.

This whole experience has revived my love for making my own beer. I guess I had forgotten how much fun it can be to create something that I love…and obviously, I love beer. Now that we have more space, including an area of the house where I can keep my brews cool and dark while they beerify themselves, I might start doing this more frequently. Hell, I might even start moving into deeper homebrew waters, beyond the relative safety of these types of one-gallon kits. However, I already have another gallon kit waiting in the wings once today’s batch has finished fermenting and I’ve bottled it. Plus, I have a little more money left on my gift card. Methinks it’s time to treat myself to some more professional brewing equipment.

Stay tuned, denizens. Bottling is only two weeks away…and then, two weeks after that? It’s Millah Time! (Only way better than actual Miller. I hope.)

OMG Update!

While testing the links in this post, I loaded Northern Brewer’s home page, only to find this: Wil Wheaton’s VandalEyes PA!

SHUT. UP!

Seriously, I wrote in my first blog post about my homebrewing adventures that Wil Wheaton was the main inspiration for my interest in this hobby in the first place. What can I say? I really am just a geek. Just like Wil.

I wish that I liked IPAs, because I would buy this kit in a heartbeat if I did, just to experience the love that he’s invested into creating his own beer. I bet it wins everything. But it’s an IPA. With an awesome name. So if that’s your bag, denizens? Give it a go, and be sure to let me know how it goes!

Also? This makes me love Northern Brewer that much more. Wil Wheaton. So much awesome.

Personal Aesthetic

The woman who taught us how to apply theatrical makeup for our high school play one year chose me for the “old age” portion of our lesson. She told me the lines that formed around my eyes when I winked provided her an “easy template.” She also let her 4-year-old daughter run around the classroom wearing a greasy chicken bucket on her head. I should have taken her words in that context. A 16-year-old kid already equipped with low self-esteem doesn’t understand context.

I think about that woman and her bucket-wearing child every now and then, usually when I’m washing my face in the evenings or applying eye liner in the mornings. I’ll wink and watch the lines feather away, arrow fletchings along my skin. I’ve gained new lines since those “easy template” days…lines that curl upward and join the creases that undulate along my forehead or loop across my nose. If I crinkle my brow and wrinkle my nose in just the right way, I can form ridges like a Bajoran. I’ve practiced this move several times.

I notice the lines. I rub them with SPF lotion (for I am pale and freckled and love the sun). I clean them with face wash. I sometimes run my fingers along them. Every now and then, I confess that I try to smooth them away, revealing for fleeting moments that younger me, only now with a perpetually shocked lift of her brow.

Better to look shockingly young than dour and old!

And yet. I like my lines. They tell me stories. They mark my worries, my thoughts, my moods, my years. They remind me parenthetically that I love to laugh, that whole flocks of glee have marched across my skin. They map summer journeys and connect the dots that sunshine left behind.

And yet.

These lines tell you nothing. They are my prologue to the story I know. They tell you nothing of my joys or my sorrows. They don’t tell you who I have lost or who I have found. They don’t teach you anything about me deeper than those superficial creases.

These all seem like obvious statements, logical sentiments.

And yet.

Your body does not define you. Your body is not beautiful. It is not ugly. It is a shell for the beauty or ugliness you choose to cultivate within.

You are you. Make that mean what you want it to mean.

TL;DR

I give this my vote for one of the ugliest acronyms in the indecipherable sea of txtspk brevity: “Too Long; Didn’t Read.”

The first time I ever saw it was in regard to an article that was, admittedly, longer than one typically has time to absorb during work-day downtime. However, recently I’ve been seeing it with more and more frequency, sometimes in reference to pieces that dare to be more than the length of a tweet. And that greatly bothers me.

I’m old-school in a lot of ways when it comes to words. I see beauty in words the way many see beauty in a Van Gogh or a sunset. Words unlock my imagination in ways that no amount of CGI manipulation ever will. Want to not hear a sound from me for an entire day? Place a stack of books on one side of me and a fresh supply of coffee on the other. You’ll forget I’m even there. The best part? I’ll forget I’m there, too, because I’ll be in myriad other locations and times…wherever those beautiful words lead me.

Sometimes, I feel as though I am a dying breed…that I’m the awkward, bloated blog post in the room full of fit tweets, all silently judging me for not shedding my verbal lumpiness and joining them in their snappy bon mot runs every day because I’m too busy gorging myself on wordiness.

Other times, however, I feel as though I am succumbing to the wordless void. It’s so easy. Open up your social media account. I’ll bet one of the first things to pop up in your feed is going to be a photo or a video posted by one of your friends—probably something they’ve shared from one of the innumerable sites out there, designed solely to produce “share”-worthy photos and videos. Sometimes, they have cultural, political, or social merit. Sometimes, they’re designed to tap into geekdoms or childhood memories. Sometimes, they’re just stupid. But you click. And then there’s “you might also like…” and you click that…and click…and click…and before you know it, you’ve spent the better part of the evening binge-watching cat videos.

Don’t get me wrong. I tweet. I post random photos or videos to my social media pages with nary a word of description. I understand the appeal. Sometimes, you don’t feel like writing a treatise on that random Captain Janeway photo you came across or that snippet of some horrible 80s flick you enjoyed as a child.

I also acknowledge that part of why language is so beautiful is because of its mutability. Txtspk is simply another variation on a theme. So is the transformative influence of Web trends on modern language, which has left us with so many feels. Because teh Interwebz.

I suppose what bothers me is the fact that, for some, “TL;DR” is becoming their standard response rather than the occasional “Sorry, I couldn’t get around to reading that article you sent me, but I’ll try to make time later.” Instead, it’s a simple dismissive not just of saving it until later but even of the concept of reading it at all. I’ve encountered a few people who have sprung a variation of the phrase “I don’t read” on me with spurious pride, some even looking at me as if I’d asked them if they think Yetis like twerking.

I know, I’m being curmudgeonly and paranoid. People aren’t all going to stop reading. Still, we’ve seen in the past 20 years a virtual demolition of the newspaper industry. Even once-esteemed papers such as The Washington Post highlight online content that is top-heavy with photo galleries and cutesy videos but lean on actual news. Add to this how once-stalwart news magazines have shuttered their shops, and we’re left gleaning our information from Upworthy videos and cable “news” channels that are nothing more than cesspools of unfiltered vitriol and unsubstantiated bile. Why use actual facts to discuss topics when you can just insult your co-host? Because YOLO.

What’s the point of all this? Well, I suppose if you’ve made it this far, you’ve at least not deemed my latest rambling rant “TL;DR.” For that, I thank you. I also suppose that my point is merely a plea for MOAR READZ. Even if it’s just perusing Yahoo News or maybe picking up a copy of Entertainment Weekly to read about some of your favorite movies or television shows (you know, they even do book reviews in there, too!). Even better, track down a copy of the book on which the latest (or possibly next) hit movie is based. I hear rumor that, almost always? The book is better.

Whatever you read, just read. Expand your mind, engage your imagination, tackle philosophical ideas, wrestle with theology…but just read. Because while a picture can be worth a thousand words, a thousand words can be priceless.

#Read. Because words.

Merry X-mas!

No, denizens, I’m not contributing to the “war on Christmas.” You know me, though…always looking for a loophole. And, in this case, our two lovely well-wishers would say nothing less than Merry X-mas. Think about it…what if, at the end of the series, Mulder and Scully disappeared to the North Pole and took up residence as that mythical toymaking duo, the Clauses? We’d all want to believe then, eh? Plus, they’d still be having crazy adventures with strange UFOs…just now, Mulder would be at the helm!

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As a special treat, click the small and get the full-sized version. Use as you wish. Share as you wish. I hope it brings you joy. And, whatever your pleasure, denizens, I hope your day is marvelous. Just like you.