In the United States Memorial Day is generally seen as the start of Summer. Schools are close to letting out, vacation-time nears, and public pools open up. It may not be the Summer Solstice this weekend, but culturally it feels like Summer time, which for me means a three day weekend and even (probably) a break from writing and blogging.
Several years ago I tried to get my on-line friends to engage in an exercise I called My Summer Weekend. I want to know what my friends are reading, watching, eating, and listening to, and holiday weekends (especially in the summer) have always felt like a good time to check in on those things. While what I’m doing is how this post starts, I hope that you’ll share your weekend activities with all of us too. (How will I know what to read later this summer if you don’t?)
READING: I’ve got a lot on the reading agenda this weekend, and it should be a pleasurable mix of research, rock, and recreation. First up is Radical Religion in America: Millenarian Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah (Religion and Politics) by Jeffrey Kaplan. I enjoy reading about most religious movements, but I picked this book up specifically to read the chapter dealing with the Asatru Folk Assembly. How am I ever going to write a “Ten Important Heathens” column without doing a little research? I’m really looking forward to this.
As soon as I heard about it I knew I would be picking up Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal by Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman. A book on the history of heavy metal as told by the people who make up the world of heavy metal? What am I? Made of stone? I’m not a huge fan of the “oral history” genre, but this book has generally gotten good reviews and we are dealing with the soundtrack of my youth gone wild years.
I read comic-books, most specifically graphic-novels, not obsessively or anything, but I pick up a few titles here and there. For much of the last few years Fables has been my “go to” title, but it’s recently been replaced by Scott Snyder’s terrific American Vampire. When I found out that Snyder was writing Batman that too became must-read. Snyder’s first volume in his Court of Owls storyline was the best Batman I’ve read in years and Greg Capullo’s pencils are an interesting hybrid of grittiness and pure superhero triumph. Luckily for me there are two more volumes in the collected story and I’m hoping most of this Saturday is dedicated to reading Batman: The Night of the Owls.
If that wasn’t enough to read, I picked up A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson yesterday. I hope my wife won’t mind a visit to the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum on Fisherman’s Wharf (San Francisco) when I’m done with it.
WATCHING: Sundays are TV nights at our house, and are usually dedicated to Game of Thrones and Mad Men (and The Walking Dead when it’s on). I think my wife is a little more into Mad Men at this point (Don Draper has become nearly villainous this season), while I’m a full-on George R.R. Martin geek. I expected a big break in momentum when GoT announced that they would be splitting A Storm of Swords (the third book in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire) in half, essentially running it in Seasons Three and Four, but I probably shouldn’t have worried. The casting in this show has been near perfect, and the adaptation choices have been mostly to my liking. I do want to see more Davos Seaworth though (yay Onion Knight!).
In addition to my two favorite drams on television, I’ll also be checking in on the NHL and NBA Playoffs. Let’s hope for the sake of my fragile psyche that the Pittsburgh Penguins get it together and skate into the Eastern Conference Finals. Speaking of Eastern Conferences, I’d be pleased as punch if the Indiana Pacers figure out a way to slip past the Goliath-like Miami Heat.
If we hit a movie theatre this weekend it’ll probably be to see Epic, a CGI sword and sorcery tale. I’m a little burned out on Hangovers at this point and there’s no way my wife (or anyone else I know out here in California) will consent to see The Fast and Furious 6 with me.
LISTENING: This friday I’m heading down to lovely Santa Cruz California to see the band Blood Ceremony. I’m a sucker for Black Sabbath-like heavy riffs mixed with organ, flute, and female vocals, that Blood Ceremony has released two songs about the god Pan is the icing on the heavy metal cake. I tried to get in touch with them about a little interview or something, but no dice. Their loss I guess, but I’m still excited to see the band. They’ve got a new album coing out May 28 (The Eldritch Dark), feel free to offer up condolences to the wife now.
My wife ran into the band The Orange Peels on NPR the other day and said to me “find their Sun Moon album for me or I’m cutting off your cider supply.” I might have exaggerated there at the end, but she was pretty adamant. She shouldn’t have worried, I love shimmering power-pop too, and the group’s from right here in Sunnyvale California, double bonus.
DOING: I’m planning some ritualizing this Saturday, but I’m also going to set aside a few moments to remember those who sacrificed their lives for the greater good of us all. I think the meaning of Memorial Day often gets lost over the long weekend, and it is about more than the start of summer and backyard barbecues. Light a candle and say a prayer to the brave fighting women and men who have lost their lives in service to our country (or your country for those of you outside the United States).
EATING and DRINKING: I’m sure I’ll be firing up the grill this weekend, but what I’m really excited about this weekend are my cheesy potatoes. My cheesy potatoes have become famous at many a Pagan gathering and with good reason, they are delicious. There’s no real secret to making good cheesy potatoes, you just have to be generous with the cheese and sour cream. Cheddar melted with some American (fake) cheese works best; the American cheese has a lot of butterfat in it and helps absorb the oil that comes from cheddar. The cheddar is what provides the flavor. I suggest mixing up a good cheese sauce first and then pouring that mixture over you potatoes (I prefer fingerlings), then bake at a high temperature for a good hour, stirring occasionally. Simple as that.
On the more healthy side of things I’ve become obsessed with tangelos lately, so sweet and juicy. Blueberry season has begun out here too, and there’s no better dessert in the world than some blueberries topped with a little bit of whipped cream. I could eat that for days on end.
Angry Orchard has just released a new Elderflower Cider in time for the summer. So far I’ve only been able to find it in “variety packs” but I’m going to keep my eyes open for the elusive six pack. If I can find a travelling companion I might head down to Rabbit’s Foot Meadery sometime this weekend. Great mead, great ciders, and most of the regulars dress like they’ve just come from the Renaissance Faire. I love this place.
That’s it, that’s my holiday weekend. Blessed Memorial Day and Blessed Start to Summer.