Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nobility and Royalty

Today's puzzle is about about tandem operations between royalty and the church, in the true medieval style.  Your match has just reached its middle phase, but with some quick thinking, you might be able to end it now, rather than play through to the end.

You are red.  You must mate in 3 moves.

Scroll down for the answer.

First Move:  Bishop to h3. Check.

You opponent needs to get his king out of danger.  His only choice is to move his king to g1.

Second Move: Queen to f3.

At this point, it really doesn't matter what move your opponent makes.  His best option is to move his queen to e2, but he is trapped in any event.

Third Move:  Queen to g2.  Checkmate.

Until next time, chess fans.

Bruce Kingsford hopes that the readers of Liquid Ether enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday (especially the pickle stuffing).  He hopes that this puzzle will prove diverting while preparing your leftovers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Stuffing Options

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, the staff of Liquid Ether has complied our favorite stuffing recipes, in the hopes that you can spice up the traditional holiday fare.

Lord Magna hails from the south originally, and this stuffing recipe has been a perennial favorite in his household.

Crawfish Stuffing
6 tbsp. cracker crumbs
Meat from 24 cooked crawfish
1 1/2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 onion, minced
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fish broth
1 tbsp. parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten

Moisten crumbs in milk, add chopped crawfish meat to butter.
Add onions, flour, broth, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Simmer for a few minutes, then add crumbs.
simmer for an additional 2 minutes.
Let cool slightly, then add egg.

makes 2 cups worth.

Bruce Kingsford prefers fish to the regular turkey. This stuffing recipe is designed for fish, but can be used for fowl, if desired.

Pickle Stuffing
3 cups soft bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped dill pickles
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup onions, minced
1 tsp. minced parsley
1/3 cup butter, melted

Mix all ingredients except butter.  Add butter gradually, mixing lightly until blended.

Will fill 2 (3 pound) fish.

This recipe is an excellent change of pace from more traditional stuffings - it is best when served with duck, but is fine for any fowl.

Apricot Stuffing
1/2 lb. dried apricots
2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup cracker crumbs
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp paprika
4 tsp. chopped celery
1 tsp. minced parsley
4 tsp. butter, melted.

Wash apricots, cover with cold water and cook until tender.
Drain and chop the apricots fine (save the liquid for making sauces and puddings).
Combine the crumbs with seasonings, celery, and parsley.
Stir in butter and chopped apricots.
Mix well.

Will fill a 4-5 pound fowl.

Finally, a fine and more traditional stuffing, different enough without the exotic twist of the above selections.

Wild Rice and Chestnut Stuffing
1 cup wild rice
1/2 lb. chestnuts, blanched and cooked
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. minced onion

Wash rice thoroughly and steam, using 3 cups of waster and 1 tsp. salt, for about 40 minutes or until tender.  Drain.
Add remaining ingredients and toss lightly.

Fills a 4 pound fowl.

Happy holidays, and enjoy.

The staff of Liquid Ether hopes you enjoy your thanksgiving with your family and friends. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Queen's Consent (Part One)

A Story of the Beauchamp Universe
By Lee Strong

Richmond, Surrey, Kingdom of England
March 23, 1603

The great queen lay dying. A week ago, Elizabeth Tudor, first of that name, Queen of England and last of her dynasty, had danced like a young girl at a court reception. The ambassador of the nation that her seamen had defeated so stunningly 15 years before had compared her to a fairy princess. But now, the Angel of Death’s hand was on her shoulder, minutes away from escorting her into the Great Unknown. But he would wait those few minutes as she performed her very last service for her people.

“Your Majesty,” whispered her Chancellor. What was his name? She had outlived so many….

“Your Majesty, you must name the heir to your Throne. We will read a list of candidates and ask you to make a sign to indicate your Consent. Is this acceptable to you?”

Her hoarse breathing faltered for a moment but resumed. Her stricken face looked at her courtiers and her forefinger gestured upward, signifying acceptance. Her gentlemen nodded gravely. The Chancellor gestured to a clerk chosen for the latter’s clear, carrying voice.

The clerk began reading slowly from a list of royals and nobles related in one way or another to the dynasty. The Queen listened intently as the names rolled past.

“Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp?”

The Queen’s finger gestured upward. The clerk repeated the name. The Queen painfully lifted both hands to her head, backs of her hands to her forehead, fingers aloft, forming the image of a royal crown. The courtiers stirred in quiet excitement.

“What about James Stuart of Scotland?” loudly demanded one partisan.

The Queen’s hands lowered to her bedcovers again. The royal finger waved back and forth, signifying negation. Her courtiers bowed in acceptance. The Queen’s eyes closed in repose. It is time to go, she thought.

Edinburgh, Kingdom of Scotland
Several days later

“Who?” blurted James Stuart, the sixth of that name. “Lord Bow-schamp?” He stumbled over the French name imported into English. “Who is Lord Bow-schamp? And how has he usurped Good Queen Bess’ affection for me?”

The Earl of Lennox cleared his throat. “Edward Seymour is the son of Edward Seymour, the Duke of Hertfordshire and Baron Beauchamp, and Lady Catherine Grey. King Henry VIII named Lady Catherine as the next in line for the throne in the event of the death of his daughter Elizabeth in his will. Therefore, young Edward is the heir….”

“Was not there some question of the legality of the marriage?” interrupted the king. He was no traveler and depended on his courtiers for news of the larger world.

“There was, but that proved to be a false report. Hertfordshire and Grey married in 1560. Since she was an heir to the Throne, she required the Queen’s Consent to lawfully wed. While there was a report that the couple did not receive the Consent, in fact, they did. Had the Consent not been received, the marriage would have been illegal under English law. It is very doubtful that Elizabeth would have named young Edward her heir had his parents attempted to marry without her blessing. In that hypothetical case, I most respectfully believe that she would have named Your Majesty to the Throne of England.” He bowed deeply to express both respect and regret.

James was officially a Presbyterian like most of his subjects. In fact, he was deeply superstitious. “What demonic luck! What does this mean for Scotland?” he mused aloud. “And for England?”

London, Kingdom of England

His Majesty, Edgar Seymour, the first of that name, frowned. “I understand that I now own the former Dutch colony of New Netherlands. My question concerns this proposal to redraw the maps of my new colonies and rename this city and colony after the English city of York. What is the rationale for changing the maps and city name?” He only used the royal plural in public.

The gentlemen of the Privy Council shifted in their chairs. Edgar’s efficiency and toleration of local customs was well established. One spoke up. “The intention is to honor your subjects of York, England and to encourage them to emigrate to New York, thereby populating it with loyal subjects.”

The king tapped his finger on the table for a few minutes as he pondered the logic of the proposal. “Gentlemen, I must disagree. We must give my new subjects the chance to demonstrate their loyalty rather than assuming disloyalty. We can best do that by respecting their dignity and traditions and persuading them to become Englishmen, not forcing them. Let them keep their traditional city and provincial names.

“Likewise, I must disagree with this proposal to carve up New Netherlands into the provinces of….” The king consulted a written copy of the proposal. “The provinces of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. The same applies to this carving up of New Sweden and this artificial extension of Massachusetts Bay Colony almost to the Hudson River. Set the boundary line between Massachusetts and New Netherlands halfway between their capital cities of Boston and New Amsterdam. They are all my subjects now and I will not treat them as so many chess pieces.”

Christiana, New Sweden
July 2, 1776

John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, quickly read the clerk’s notes and solemnly intoned the fateful words. “The Colonies of Massachusetts, Rensselaer, New Sweden, Virginia, Roanoke and Kingsland have voted in the affirmative. No colony has voted in the negative. The colony of New Netherlands has abstained….”

“Courteously,” amended the affable Mr. Smoire of New Amsterdam.

“… and, therefore, the Declaration of Independence is adopted,” finished Hancock.

Under his breath, John Dickinson of New Sweden cursed his monarch. “If only Edward VIII were half the king Edgar was…!”

Edinburgh, Kingdom of Scotland

His Majesty, Henry Stuart, the first of that name, should have been a clergyman. He would have greatly preferred to renounce his crown for a monk’s tonsure or a bishop’s miter. But Fate, or possibly his ancestor’s demons, had placed him on the secular Throne of Scotland where he was determined to do his best for his Earthly kingdom as well as for His Lord’s Heavenly One.

He spoke excellent French, which was not only the mark of a gentleman but especially fortunate at this juncture, as the French general holding a map in front of him spoke no English.

“Therefore, Monsieur le Roi, with your permission, the French Directory will place an army commanded by myself in Scotland. Transporting my army to your country will require the combined efforts of the French and Scottish navies. Once our armies are established in Scotland, we will march south and overthrow the Seymour kings who have so long thwarted the natural ambitions of Scotland and France.” The French general was short but full of energy. His eyes glittered as he traced the proposed military movements on the map of the British Isles and the surrounding seas.

Henry studied the map carefully, especially the middle sized kingdom south of his own smaller one. “And it is definitely agreed that I will become the King of England, Wales and Ireland? As God and His Majesty King Henry Tudor VIII intended.”

The French general looked directly at the Scottish monarch. “Of course, Monsieur le Roi, of course. France merely desires an end to English hostility and trading rights with your empire. With yourself on the Throne of Scotland-England, our two great nations will be in complete accord.” His face glowed with sincerity.

Henry simply said, “Very well, General Bonaparte. I agree.”

The Editor welcomes this original fiction by our very own Lee Strong.  Look for more work from this talented  author in your local bookstores and libraries very soon.  This story is considered a prequel to his previous work, "What would you have me do?" This work is copyright Lee Strong 2010. All Rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From The Kitchen: Hot Ham Sandwiches

Being competent in the kitchen is vital to being a gentleman - you cannot rely on a cooking staff or family members to provide you with meals. In addition, when entertaining, a prepared meal is far more impressive than restaurants to a discerning future paramour. With that aim in mind, this publication aims to provide you with simple and effective ways to cook meals that will be exciting for you palette and easy on your pocketbook.

As the weather turns colder in our part of the world, our fare turns to warm meals on brisk afternoons and evenings. This little hot sandwich is easy and inexpensive, to say nothing of delicious.

1 lb. chopped cooked ham
4 tbsp. creamed butter (or butter spread)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. mustard
16 slices white bread
2 eggs
2 cups milk

Combine chopped ham, butter, mustard, paprika in a large bowl. Mix well.
Spread combined ingredients onto 8 slices of bread, covering with remaining slices.
Cut each sandwich into 3 strips.

Beat eggs slightly and add milk.
Dip sandwiches in egg mixture.
Saute in butter, cooking until brown, then flipping.

Serves 4.

The Editor has had rave reviews from familiy on this particular recipe, and hopes you will share it with your own kin with similar results.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kingsford Coffee

With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, it has come time to turn our attentions to festive drinks to keep you warm and full of cheer throughout the season. This fist item is an old family favorite that has served me well for many years. Enjoy with my compliments.

Kingsford Irish Coffee

5oz. Irish Cream Liqueur
5oz. Irish Whiskey
2 cups Brewed Hot Coffee (the stronger the better)
6 Tbsp. Whipped Cream
1 dash Ground Nutmeg

Mix the liqueur, whiskey, and coffee together.
Top with whipped cream.
Sprinkle nutmeg.

Enjoy in front of a warm fire.

Bruce Kingsford neglected to inform the editor of his Irish decent to The Editor before submitting this drink. In light of this excellent drink, though, he has been forgiven this lapse. The editor hopes that all other revelations about him are accompanied by such fare.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A One-Two Punch

Today's puzzle is about the value of a two-point offense. You and your opponent have reached the endgame, each of you are reasonably well-defended, but your opponent is in a weak enough position that bold action could win you this match.

You are white. You must win in two moves.

Scroll down for the answer.

First Move: Queen to h7. Check.

At this point, your opponent must take your queen, and must do it with his knight, because he cannot put his king in check (your knight would threaten him). Knight to h7, taking your queen.

Second Move: Knight to g6. Checkmate.

Until next time, chess enthusiasts.

Bruce Kingsford's chess puzzles are usually quite challenging, but The Editor found today's fare rather simple. Bruce has been advised of this, and promises a more complicated puzzle next time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Mad King

Original publication by the Frank A. Munsey Company, 1914
Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Reviewed by Lee Strong, the Librarian of St. Gilda’s

“All Lustadt was in an uproar. The mad king had escaped. Little knots of excited men stood upon the street corners listening to each latest rumor concerning this most absorbing occurrence.” – The Mad King, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Into this chaos ventures Barney Custer of Beatrice, Nebraska, intend on enjoying a simple vacation. Instead, he finds himself mistaken for mad King Leopold by the delightful Princess Emma and the picturesque citizens of the postage stamp principality of Lutha. Even the cruel regent Peter of Blentz and his minions think that the wandering American is really the escapee. What follows is a rousing two part adventure of daring do in the finest tradition of the Master of Adventure himself!

In the first part, originally published as The Mad King of Lutha, Barney has to figure out why every Luthanian seems to be crazy. He eventually discovers that, thanks to his father winning the heart of the King’s aunt, he is an exact physical duplicate of the royal lunatic. Hunted by the villainous Regent and captains Maenck and von Coblich, not to mention free lance bandits, Barney struggles to make sense of the situation and to restore Leopold to his throne. But what of the fair Emma, who is more taken with the dashing Nebraskan than his pallid Luthanian cousin, to whom she is betrothed?

The second part, originally titled Barney Custer of Beatrice, picks up with Leopold on his rightful throne but not exactly in his rightful frame of mind. No surprise there since Peter of Blentz has managed to retain most of his evil power by becoming Leopold’s chief advisor. A royal command sends an assassin to Beatrice to eliminate the threat supposedly posed by our American cousin. Barney rides to the rescue of Princess Emma once more, only to blunder into the opening guns of World War I and Austrian counterterrorist operations. Can our hero overcome Leopold’s suspicions, Peter’s plotting, and the blazing guns of an entire Austrian army corps? And even if he succeeds, who will ultimately win the hand of the woman promised to one man but loved by two?

This story was obviously inspired by the better known The Prisoner of Zenda but, happily, has a more rousing plot and comes to a more romantic conclusion. Most of the characters are fairly two dimensional and clearly copied from their Ruritanian counterparts. However, the Master of Adventure brings his own excitement to the basic model. Rudolf Rassendyll fought a couple of duels; Barney Custer has to fight an entire world war! And the more individualistic Luthanians and Americans navigate their romantic tangle more successfully than do their Ruritanian counterparts. All in all, a modestly enjoyable story and an interesting departure for the creator of Tarzan of Africa and John Carter of Mars.

I rate The Mad King as 3.0 stars on the 5 star scale because it’s good crackling fun. – LS

The Editor is proud to announce that our resident librarian has been contracted to produce a novel-length story in Burroughs' hollow earth setting. We at Liquid Ether wish him all the best, and are more than confident that his endeavor will be intellectually uplifting and financially profitable. All the best, dear friend.

Lime Chicken

Being competent in the kitchen is vital to being a gentleman - you cannot rely on a cooking staff or family members to provide you with meals. In addition, when entertaining, a prepared meal is far more impressive than restaurants to a discerning future paramour. With that aim in mind, this publication aims to provide you with simple and effective ways to cook meals that will be exciting for you palette and easy on your pocketbook.

Today's fare is Lime Grilled Chicken, a favorite of mine, originally introduced to me at an Independence Day party several years back.

Lime Grilled Chicken

4 whole boneless chicken breasts
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, finely diced
3/4 cup of lime juice.

Combine olive oil, paprika, salt, jalapeno, and lime juice in large bowl, mix.

Cover both sides of the chicken in sauce, then leave them in the sauce to marinade for a minimum of 8 hours, turning once. The longer you let the chicken sit, the stronger the spiciness - I typically let it sit overnight in the fridge, but I am renowned for my love of strong tastes.

Grill chicken, using the marinade as a barbecue sauce, to baste as you flip.

Serves 4.

The Editor hopes that you enjoy this dish at your next gathering. It is best served with grilled corn, and potato salad.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Give and Take

Today puzzle is about sacrifices, and how to make the best of them. After a particularly gruelling game, your opponent is positioned to trade his pawn for another piece (most likely a rook or a queen), and your only options at that point would be to sacrifice your rook, or trade queens. Even after that, your opponent is well-positioned. You have scant time to salvage this match.

You are White. You have 3 moves to mate.

Scroll Down for the answer

First Move: Queen to h7, capturing the pawn. Check.

Your opponent's only move at this point is to capture your queen, in order to get his king out of check. King to h7, taking your Queen.

Second Move: Rook to h1, check.

Your opponent's only move again is to relieve the pressure on his king, and he is limited in the number of ways he may do this, due to the position of your bishop. He has no alternative - King to g8.

Third Move: Rook to h8. Checkmate.

Until next time, fellow enthusiasts.

Bruce Kingsford returns to his "regular" duties in the chess column this week, much to the relief of the Editor.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Back in Black

It is rare that I find something truly different to write about regarding cards and card games. Cards have been around for centuries, and its rare that a game so entrenched in history finds a way to break out of the established mold and really come up with something new.

Ellusionist has done it. They have produced cards that are high-quality and handsome, a necessity for any gentleman's gaming table.

The company is a magic shop, specializing in street magic, and therefore lives and dies on its knowledge of style, and how to use it to distract and draw attention. These cards, originally designed for tricks, are the most beautiful designs I have ever seen, and are sure to turn a normal game of poker, faro, or even bridge, into an event.

The cards themselves are conversation pieces - each design is intricate and unique, and the decks are themed, allowing a discerning buyer to pick up ones that will compliment his environment, or ones that will provide for maximum visual impact at another person's game.

But cards like this can speak for themselves. Let's have a look.

The first deck we will look at is the Ghost - an all-white deck licenced by Bicycle. This is perhaps the least of the Ellusionist decks, but is different enough that it will turn heads. The cards utilize line drawings and minimal red coloring to give the deck an unusual look. The Ghost gets 2 stars out of 4 for style - it really is different, but in a subtler way than the other decks. The ghost costs $4.99 plus shipping fees.

The Black Ghost, a Black varient of this deck with a clean style and handsome card art, is available for $7.99 plus shipping. It garners a 3 out of 4 for style - not much differentiates it from the Black Tiger (below), but the card art is better.

Next, the Black Tiger. This deck is the beginning of the company's turn to the truly stylish. The cards have a black and white back, with black facing and red and white symbols (there is an all-white symbol version as well). The cards are visually striking, and earn a 2.5 out of 4 for style - while very different, I wished that Ellusionist would have tried more with this deck. There are so many different designs and coloring concepts that look very nice on black - I wanted more than this deck offered. The Black Tiger sells for $6.99 plus shipping.

But my disappointment was short-lived. Enter the Shadow Masters, a deck that begins to explore some of the visual elements that an all-black background makes possible. While the Black tiger played it safe, focusing on making a recognizable Bicycle deck with changes to the palette, The Shadow Masters takes a few more risks. The Bicycle design is faded in the middle and at the edges, giving the backs a distressed and haunted look. The Ace of spades and the Joker cards are excellent, evoking ghostly images that are both memorable and welcome. The deck earns a 3 on a scale of 4 for style - it is one of my personal favorites, but I still would like to see more experimentation. The Shadow Masters costs $6.99 before shipping costs.

Next is the Viper - a deck with several differences from the aformemtioned decks. It was produced in conjunction with Tally-Ho instead of Bicycle, so the card backs are not limited to the familiar style. They come in two formats (circle and fan), and are a great improvement over the bicycle pattern. The cards are heralded as elegant and they are - but they lack the artistic flair of some of the earlier attempts. The deck is handsome, but not daring. The Viper sells for $7.99 plus shipping, and rates a 2.5 of a four-point scale.

Finally, the most recent and most striking deck produced by Ellusionist - the Arcane. This deck is truly gorgeous. Custom backs, exeplarly artwork, and a redesign of the face cards shoiws that the company understand the potential of cards as functional art. I was very impressed with this deck, and had only one complaint - after five decks, we're still seeing a two color pallete. Splashing some additional colors on the face cards in contrast with that background would complete the set with a new look. Nice as these cards are, they're not too far out of Ellusionist's comfort zone, and I want them to try newer things, rather than improving of old looks (successful as they are). The deck is available in black or white format. The Arcane earns 3.5 out of 4 for style, and sells for $6.99 plus shipping.

Of course, if you intend to spend good money on cards like this, you will desire a card clip, to keep the deck straight, and limit is exposure to moisture and warping. Ellusionist provides stainless steel clips for most of their decks ($16.95), and a special set for the Arcane ($34.95).

The Editor hopes that you pick up some or all of these decks before your next poker or faro game - once you play with them, you will have no desire to return to the older decks.

Mother Russia

Russia has had one of the bloodiest and most tragic histories of any nation - from the sacking of Kiev by barbarians, to the grinding battles of the Great War, to the Tsar's murder along with his family, to the susequent Communist regime and all its atrocities. Russia is a land steeped in blood and snow, and today's drink commemorates this unhappy land in a truly russian fashion. The drink itself mirrors the nation, with the cranberry-derived color accented with flecks of gold, like shining snow falling across a blood-red sky.

The Mother Russia

6 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. Goldschlager


Bruce Kingsford returns to the pages of Liquid Ether after an extended leave of absence he is unable to explain. The Editor hopes that you will forgive him this lapse, and looks forward to a more regular series of contributions in the future.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Gentleman's Guide: Basic Grooming

There are an alarming number of young people passing themselves off as adults in our "modern" world who have none of the skills a gentleman requires to make his fortune. To many people, it seems that just managing to put on a tee-shirt and sneakers is a Herculean task (to say nothing of those unfortunates who have not figured out the proper way to wear pants and underclothes).

For years, I railed in silence about this horrible inequity in our children's classical training. Finally, I came to understand that it is likely that these rapscallions are not entirely indifferent to the proper ways of the world - they simply don't know that they look like barely-trained monkeys in clothes fit only for the tents of Ringling Brothers.

In a effort to correct this egregious oversight, I have compiled a small list of items every civilized man should know before he can consider himself a man of taste and consequence. I have included links to these items, for easy research.

Good hunting, my future gentlemen.

Select Appropriate Attire
Tie a Tie
Select Tie Accessories
Determine Your Hat Size
Apply Pomade
Determine Your Suit Size
Iron Your Clothes
Select Cufflinks
Fold a Pocket Square
The Value of a Fountain Pen
Shave with a Straight Razor
Shave with a Disposable Razor
Give an Appropriate Handshake
Carry a Pocketknife

Lord Magna grows weary of poorly dressed and boorish man-children trying to pass themselves off as responsible adults. He hopes that the above listing can at least make the aforementioned folk LOOK like gentlemen. He apologizes to those gentlemen who may already be reading this, and hopes they can commiserate.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Black Pearl

This cigar made a splash several years back in Cigar Aficionado, but has since fallen back into the ranks of the average, especially as so many newer labels have gained traction. I myself only learned of it while browsing a new cigar store (I have recently moved) and seeing it for sale at a very reasonable price. Like most new cigars I try, it was a pretty thing to look at, and was worth the risk for the little green it cost me.

To begin with, the band is well-designed - nothing special, but pleasant and tasteful. The purple-black-gold color scheme contrasts well with the dark brown of the cigar itself, and would look handsome in any humidor. It is further decorated with a wrap of cedar along the bottom two-thirds of the stick, and topped off with a small purple ribbon.

The cigar itself had only two problems - there were veins in it (quite noticeable), and it was thinly wrapped. The smoke was pleasant enough, with a slight nutty flavor that I found pleasant, but too slight for my admittedly robust taste.

I smoked this particular cigar in the early afternoon, so only water was at hand, but I hesitate to suggest a drink with this cigar - not much that I can think of would go well with it. The smoke itself was pleasant, the cigar burned evenly and each draw yielded a decent amount of rich smoke, but I would not place this experience along that of smoking an American or Sopranos - it was closer to an Africa, with less spice.

I would rate this cigar a 2.5 on a 4-star scale - it is a pleasant but unremarkable cigar, strictly middle-of-the-road, though the extra half-point is granted for style.

Cigar: Black Pearl Morado
Size: 4.75 x 52 Robusto
Wrapper: African Cameroon
Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler: Nicaragua

The Editor wishes to report that he has moved successfully from his native Virginia home to to wilds of Western Idaho. Apart from a distinct lack of high-quality cigar shops (and the absence of dearly-missed friends), he has found the changes to be pleasant, and assures his friends and relatives that he will stay in touch.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Invasion of the Sea

Published by Wesleyan University Press, 2001
Written by Jules Verne
Reviewed by Lee Strong, the Librarian of St. Gilda’s

I am certainly glad that Monsieur Verne is publishing again. Being dead for 105 years showed him down considerably and it’s good to see that he’s back at work. Unfortunately, he’s still not back up to par.

This novel is a rather pitiful little travelogue masquerading as a science fiction novel. The invading sea of the title refers to a serious 19th (and 20th and 21st) Century idea to create an inland sea by flooding parts of the Sahara Desert. The goal would be to improve the climate and transportation potential of the area and, incidentally, create a military barrier to 19th Century Tuareg caravan raiders. In Verne’s novel, the plan is put into motion by one company and taken over by another in the future year of 1930. The prospect of no longer being able to raid European colonial commerce upsets the local Arabs who promptly seize the surveyors checking on the work in progress. The latter easily escape their captors and a convenient earthquake ex machina creates the sea and some minor suspense.

This story is pretty much Verne’s last work and it clearly shows it. All of the potentially interesting macro-engineering work is handled off stage by the earlier company and earthquake. The European surveyors simply ride or walk across the landscape talking about dates – the edible kind – sand dunes and Arab distemper. The anti-colonial Arabian characters are somewhat more interesting but their story is reduced to cheap melodrama. In the end, the most interesting characters are a European horse and dog. The entire story is a sad anti-climax for the creator of the brooding Captain Nemo and the fabulous Nautilus.

I rate the disappointing Invasion of the Sea as a mere 2 stars on the 5 star scale as being only marginal science fiction with a weak plot. I’d rate the book lower but the appendices provide some interesting information on Verne’s work, past translations, and Wesleyan University Press’ plans to bring quality Verne translations to the Anglo-Saxon audience.

Liquid Ether is pleased to return to publication with this review by the inestimable Mr. Strong. We hope that all our readers have enjoyed their holidays, and look forward to another productive year.