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.