Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Archive for the ‘Just for fun’ Category

Blog Like Shakespeare Day

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 23 - 2010

Canst there be any greater honor than to don the vestiture of that noble poet, a chronicler of sooth, purveyor of wicked humor, and parabolist of tragedy, on this, the day of his birth? Aye, even better 't would it be to write him right.

So here goes.

At the Sign of The Prancing Pony

Come, come good shepherd of the vine, and drink
Of fruit thou grew to know through sun and moon.
Cast off thy livery upon the brink,
Earth's dear bequest shalt bear our merry tune!
Ah, yon's the lass once mine, ne'er was I so bless'd,
Her thriftless beauty maketh me to nip.
Next bot'le I drain, forsaking my dear guest,
Doleful, obsessed, the host is now a dip!
Oh, now must face the furrow of thy teeth
Or quail beneath the gnashing of thy brow
I'm fey!--nay stow thy bayo in its sheath,
Instead, the young, fair wench's not worth the row:
My lot tis this inexorable funk--
It happens ever only I'm when drunk!

A Righteous Good Entertainment

And because I can't get enough of baseball, Shakespeare performed well, and Abbot and Costello, this is marvelous fun that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with wine.

Popularity: 14% [?]

Writer Stabs Self with Corkscrew, Staph Follows

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Posted by Burke Morton On April - 1 - 2010

Wine writer Burke Morton, jack of all trades, master of two (according to him), narrowly avoided a date with the undertaker after opening a bottle of wine. He stabbed himself with the worm of his corkscrew while trying to remove a stubborn cork from a bottle of '97 Marcel Deiss Engelgarten Riesling. His sixth and final bottle of Engelgarten almost turned out to be his last bottle ever.

"The damn cork on that wine...I've never gotten one out without it breaking. Spongy and brittle from the very beginning--worse than the cork on an old bottle of Chateau Musar!" Morton said from his hospital bed, clearly expecting me to know what he is talking about. "It made me so mad that I stabbed myself when I tried to slam the corkscrew back in to get the rest of the cork, but I missed the bottle and got my left index finger. That's what I get for being so hot-headed."

When Morton struck his finger, the corkscrew didn't go all the way through the skin, but only got the top layers. Apparently that was the problem. "A staph infection got in between the layers of skin, and...well, my wave is now one finger shy of a hand."

Morton, a classically trained musician, was remarkably sanguine about losing a finger, but the percocet may have been helping to dull more than just the pain: "Well, I wasn't a very good pianist anyway, though I sure will miss shredding like Hendrix." Even so, he manages to look at the bright side, "I like to learn, and now I'll have to relearn the home row."

Speaking with Morton's doctor, it becomes clear just how confused Morton has become. "A staph infection? Could be, but what makes him think that, I wonder? Does he think he lost his finger because of Impetigo? I haven't seen an adult with that in ages. He had a Felon infection, which I can tell you is quite painful, but we don't know what caused it. It could have been Staphylococcus aureus, but since we cut the thing off, we didn't bother to culture it--couldn't afford to because of cut backs from his insurance company."

Aside from the snarky doctor's breach of HIPAA laws, perhaps that's the bigger story here.

Popularity: 14% [?]

Off-topic: Incident at the Border

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Posted by Burke Morton On September - 16 - 2009

Vintage Tractor (photo: MBM)August 6--International relations between the United States and Canada were soured last Saturday by an incident at the Michigan/Ontario border.

Returning from vacation in northern Ontario the Morton family were deep into day two of their drive. The old trapper's town of Temagami (pop. 1,000) and its eponymous lake were the environs of the vacation, and a more beautiful place on Earth would be difficult to find. After a week in the semi-seclusion of a cottage on a lake so crystal clear you can still see the bottom fifty feet down, seven-year-old Sebastian knew it was too good to be true.

"I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. It hit me in the head with a colossal waste of time at the border crossing."

Anticipating the madhouse created by the construction rerouting at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, the family chose to cross back into the US through Port Huron, MI.

Port Huron looked like smooth sailing upon approach. "We even took a pit stop before we crossed over," says Burke Morton, 37. "Thank God we did!" When they got back into the car and began to climb the bridge, there were three lanes, the far right marked with an overhead sign reading "CARS"; the middle lane marked with a sign for "TRUCKS"; the left-hand lane had a credulity-straining sign over it reading "Vintage Tractors".

Mr. Morton: "Vintage Tractors? My first thought was that since this was farm country for both Ontario and Michigan, it didn't seem too implausible for there to be a tractor lane, and perhaps some Amish-looking German Anabaptists would chug past on their way to do some freelance plowing across the border." Doubting there was such a community in Port Huron, MI or Sarnia, Ontario, the family pressed on, but as they reached the zenith of the bridge, they could see a Vintage Tractor Parade beginning.

Hulking & Sleek Machines
"The tractors weren't on our side of the bridge, they were heading into Canada. We were a bit disappointed that we would miss seeing it, because it sounded to me like good, quirky fun," says Mr. Morton's wife Cynthia, 34. "We could see a bit of the tractors through the bridge railings, and we even saw a combine, but it really wasn't a rewarding view."

Cars piled up at the check point. The Morton's mini-van was three cars from the Border Agent's booth--tantalizingly close to freedom. "We waited for an hour. We started worrying about some kind of border lock-down--had they found drugs? An illegal immigrant? Explosives? And then out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a vintage tractor returning from Canada!" At this point Morton started ranting things that cannot be printed in a family publication, but he was, according to his wife, not the only one frustrated by this.

"I got out of the car with the kids and walked over to the side of the bridge to watch the parade. I figured we might as well make the most of it, and my husband wasn't really fun to be around just then. We were joined by lots of other wives and kids, too."

Having regained his composure and looking a bit sheepish, Mr. Morton tried to save his dignity by saying that "people all around were worked-up and getting angrier at the ridiculous parade, because they didn't actually use the designated 'Vintage Tractor' lane. There were at least two thousand cars backed up that I could count, and there's no way there weren't twice that over the crest of the bridge. People--even those with Ontario license plates--were swearing at the Canadian government for consenting to this nonsense."

Memories of the Fields
Port Huron resident Fred Ramsey, 72, extolled the virtues of the Vintage Tractor Parade. "I just love seeing these tractors. I grew up on a farm and vineyard here in St. Clair Township, and we had an old 1952 Minneapolis-Moline--it was an ugly thing...had a rusty orange color...." He heaved a sigh. "What a great old gal!"

The Black River Area Antique Power Club's annual Vintage Tractor Parade causes traffic snarls every year in Port Huron. "One year we had a 15-minute traffic jam," said Earl Roberts, 59. "For Port Huron that's like Detroit rush hour, so I hear."

After crossing the Blue Water Bridge, the parade ended at the Thomas Edison Inn, for Port Huron's Concours d'Elegance of tractors--110 of them on display, some from as far back as the 1940s.

Implicated & Exonerated
It seems that drivers stuck at the U.S. Border misplaced their ire. For while the tractors did cross the Blue Water Bridge, they turned around in a maintenance lane without ever getting off the bridge. Turns out the city leaders of Sarnia, Ontario saw the problem from the beginning. Tractors aren't allowed on the major roads leading off the bridge, because they are too big and slow, and would cause major traffic problems.

Popularity: 11% [?]

Ancient Greek Wine Art

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Posted by Burke Morton On August - 11 - 2009

Wine Cup with OrgyI know more than a little about ancient Greece, as Ancient Mediterranean History was the only major I seriously considered other than Music, and I took many of the requisite classes just because I was interested. The Greeks made significant impacts on the world that are still influencing our cultures (witness the Athenian system of government as but one example), and left behind physical manifestations of that cultural richness that serve as reminders of a fallen society. Not that we are good at learning from historical object lessons....

The Greeks had a special influence on wine and wine culture. They were in the vanguard of wine-making 5,000 years ago, and their wines were treasured across Europe, western Asia, and north Africa. Most people still don't think of anything beyond Retsina when it comes to Greek wine, if they know anything at all, but Greek wines are ascending nowadays, and the residual effect of this is that some of the Grecian wine-reveling past is attracting broader interest, too.

Drink & Be Merry
Take, for example, Greek wine cups, which are some of the most common works of ancient Mediterranean art still available for us to enjoy. These terra cotta wine cups depict common scenes of Athenian life in the Archaic period (about 2500 years ago). The cup shown above is a tall-handled cup, known as a kantharos, with a depiction of an orgy. And no, you can't click on the picture to make it bigger. Not tame, but then most people think of this aspect of ancient Greek society when they think of it at all. And as far as some other Greek art goes, we could safely call this PG-13.

So think of the Swinging 70's multiplied by a thousand, and that's a bit of Greek life 2,500 years ago--work hard (must kill the Spartans!), play hard (where's thy neighbor's wife?). This tall-handled cup is not the shape we most commonly see of a Greek wine drinking vessel. Museums across the country have more examples of the shape the Greeks called a kylix in their collections. The kylix looks like an inverted frisbee on a small pedestal. It was designed so that you can drink from it while reclining, which shows some incredible forethought: clearly it's an artistic 'party promoter' meant to prepare and, as you will see, eventually excite those soon to be taking part in the scene on the kantharos.

Anyway, the kylix is so flat and wide that I'd imagine it would be difficult not to slosh the wine out, especially when you read the inscription on this one as you stare into it to take a drink:


This is a fairly famous piece (and also probably not PG-13...) from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The words on the top are, "&Eta&epsilon &Rho&alpha&iota&sigma &Kappa&alpha&lambda&epsilon," which translates as "The girl is pretty." This is certainly innocent enough, in light of what is going on in the picture. Notice, though, the words cascading from the man's mouth: "&Eta&epsilon&xi&epsilon &Eta&epsilon&sigma&upsilon&xi&omicron&sigma" which of course means "Hold still!"

Background on the Kylix
This kind of thing was quite common, apparently. Here is some further illumination on the kylix from Wikipedia:

"The almost flat interior circle on the interior base of the cup, called the tondo, was the primary surface for painted decoration in the Black-figure or Red-figure styles of the 6th and 5th century BC. As the representations would be covered with wine, the scenes would only be revealed in stages as the wine was drained. They were often designed with this in mind, with scenes created so that they would surprise or titillate the drinker as they were revealed."

Sounds like it would be as much fun (considering that almost no artistic subject matter is taboo) to make one of these as it would be to drink from one. Since most of these wine cups are made of terra cotta, it is apparently not difficult to execute either the pottery or the glaze, so anyone could have made one of the wine cups, though, as you can imagine, only the works of masters are celebrated today.

In this way I guess it's like watercolor, but not as easy to clean up.

Popularity: 100% [?]

Video Today

You don't need to speak French to know that the iPad can double as a Champagne Sabre.... Happy New Year!

Popularity: 83% [?]


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