Tagged: recommending
for the #DiversityInSff hashtag — book recs
chris. | 4 September 2013 | 1:37 pm | (culture) consuming, biblios & syllabi, deconstructing bigotry | Comments closed

Today Twitter has been hopping with the #DiversityInSff hashtag.  It’s been interesting and useful conversation — check it out!

When i saw people asking for book recs, i braindumped all the useful awards lists i could think of:





Here’s one i retweeted:

I also saw many people asking about how to respectfully create diversity in their own works.  Here ya go:



And i couldn’t resist making a few comments of my own, because it was early in the day for me and i was feeling sassy and cranky:



Seattle quick recommendations
chris. | 22 May 2013 | 3:22 pm | eating out, Seattle | 3 Comments

In town for 2 days before leaving for WisCon and looking for food/drink suggestions?  Here are the handful of places downtown i can vouch for.


Sake Nomi [Pioneer Square]  The place to go for sake in Seattle.  Johnnie doesn’t serve food (“nomi” means “only”), but he’s really cool about people bringing in food from outside (because who wants to drink on an empty stomach?).  There are daily tastings, which cost $5 — the cost is then waived if you make another purchase.  Bottles for sale.  Johnnie is happy to guide you thru’ the sake to help you find one that suits your tastes.

Umi Sake House [Belltown]  For when you want a good sake selection with a nice meal.  I had a nice birthday dinner here the other year.  Sushi was good (tho’ i won’t again get the shrimp wrapped in ramen noodles and fried, ’cause that’s just weird) and the sake list is extensive.


Maneki [Chinatown/ID]  Maneki is a Seattle institution — serving “traditional family-style Japanese food” for more than 100 years.  Reservations recommended.

Maekawa [Chinatown/ID]  Maekawa is an izakaya — what some call a Japanese “pub”.  Food is served small-plate style.  Order a few things, take your time enjoying them, maybe order something else, have another sake, get one last skewer of bacon-wrapped tomatoes.  If you want the incredible cheese-filled pork football (“Pork Cutlet Served w/ Cheese and Garlic”), order that 1st because it takes 20 minutes to prepare.


Delicatus [Pioneer Square]  If you need a sandwich to take to Sake Nomi, go here.

fancy drinks

Bathtub Gin & Co. [Belltown]  I’m taking Andy’s word on this one.  He had a great time here ordering fancy drinks.  Technically not a speakeasy, but it is down an alley!

question: Everyday drinking sake
chris. | 2 December 2012 | 7:00 pm | drink | 2 Comments
This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series drinking sake w/ Wrdnrd

A friend emailed to ask for a recommendation for “an everyday drinking sake, of the sort we might find in the UK — which, obviously, is a geographical uncertainty for you, but! Is there a type or sort of sake that she might be able to find?”  The geographical aspect definitely makes it tricky for me (being in the U.S. and all), so i’ll approach this a couple of ways.

general thoughts on everyday drinking sake

I have not yet been to Japan (a trip is in the works, but i’m not sure when it will actually come together), but here are some comments from my readings.

In Japan everyday table sake is generally called futsu or regyura (y’know, “regular”).  Breweries make both the lower-grade regular sake and the higher-grade Special Designation Sake (so-called “premium” sake), and sales of regular sake in Japan far outnumber sales of the premium-grade stuff.  On the other hand, i’m not sure how much of the regular/futsu sake is exported — i can’t find numbers right now, but i think much of the sake imported from Japan tends to be the higher-grade premium sake.

Regular/futsu sake is made with table rice (according to Vine Connections), whereas premium-grade sake is made with specialty sake rices.

One thing to be aware of when buying any sake from Japan anywhere outside of Japan is that the price is usually going to at least double (possibly triple) in price because of the importing process.  For that reason, you may want to look for sake made in your country, if possible.

what you might find in the U.S.

U.S.-made sake is entirely findable1, tho’ many sake conoisseurs turn their noses up at it for various reasons.

For U.S.-made sake, you’ll most easily find bottles from these large breweries: Ozeki, Takara, Yaegaki2, Gekkeikan, SakeOne/Momokawa.  These are all on the West Coast and have connections to established breweries in Japan.

Andy and i started with sake from SakeOne/Momokawa.  It’s easily available in Washington State because SakeOne’s brewery is just south of Portland, Oregon.  We also started our sake exploration with SakeOne’s products because there was a sake lounge just 1 block away from us that largely served Momokawa sake.  Prices for SakeOne/Momokawa sake are generally in the upper-teens for a 720ml bottle.

For cheap drinking at home, we then worked our way downward to either Yaegaki (under $10 for a 1.8l bottle) or Takara’s Sho Chiku Bai (a little over $10 for a 1.8l bottle).

general sake terms you’ll find on the bottle

If you’re looking for a sort of everyday drinking sake such as one might drink as one’s everyday drinking sake in Japan, you’re probably looking for a cheap sake.  I love cheap sake!  I love to wrap my hands around a cup of warm, cheap sake on a rainy winter day and sip it slowly.  Warm cheap futsu/regular sake is probably what you’ve had at sushi restaurants.

A bottle of futsu/regular sake might not have anything on it to call it out as such.  It’s been a rare bottle of sake that i’ve seen that clearly calls out “futsu” on the label.

If “warm sushi bar sake” is not exactly the flavor you’re going for, here are some tips on understanding the terms used on sake labels.  I’ll again emphasize that these are terms for premium sake, so we are talking about a jump in price (especially outside Japan).  For any sake with any of these terms, i’d expect to be paying at least $25 (U.S. dollars) for a 720ml bottle, unless it’s made by one of the large U.S. breweries referenced above.

Here are some terms to avoid until you’ve become more familiar with sake:

  • aged: Unlike other fine boozes, sake is not usually aged. Sometimes it is!  And it gets really interesting and fascinating! (I tasted one once that was quite port-like. MMMMMMM.)  But probably not what you’re going for in an everyday sake.
  • nigori: “Nigori” means “coarsely filtered” and it will look like rice milk.  Because, besically, it’s alcoholic rice milk — whereas normally all the rice particles are entirely filtered out, in “nigori” sake some are left behind.  I love this type! But, again, not an everyday sake for most people.
  • sparkling: This is a pretty modern type of sake. I like it a lot3! But not really an everyday sake.

Here are some (premium) sake grading terms you will likely encounter on (translated) labels:

  • junmai:  This means “pure rice” and means the sake is made only with rice, water, and yeast (koji).  No additions are made — not brewer’s alcohol nor flavors of any sort.
  • honjozo:  This type of sake has a small amount of brewer’s alcohol added at the end of the sake-making process.  This is unlike futsu/regular sake, which has a fair amount of brewer’s alcohol added.  Honjozo sake is still considered a premium grade.
  • ginjo:  This is one of the terms that refers to how much the rice has been polished.  All sake rice is polished to smooth away the outer shell of the rice kernels, but higher-grade sake is subjected to more and more polishing.  Ginjo sake must be milled so that only 60% of the rice kernel remains.
  • daiginjo:  Daiginjo sake rice has been polished even more than ginjo rice.  Only 50% (sometimes less!) of the rice kernal remains.  Daiginjo sake is really amazing, and also equivalently expensive.

I also find this chart from Vine Connections to be useful and succinct.

In addition to terms about a sake’s grade, there are some terms about style — how it was made — that are useful:

  • genshu:  Genshu translates as “cask strength” and means the sake has not been diluted at the end of the process.  This means the alcohol of a genshu sake is typically anywhere from 18% to 20%.  I love the stuff (the depth and flavor can be amazing), but it can feel like a punch in the mouth.
  • nama:  Most sake is pasteurized twice before the consumer buys it.  Nama sake is unpasteurized.  The flavors cover a fascinating range, and the sake tends to have an effervescent zing.  I love how lively and fresh this sake is.  Nama sake (typically spelled as one word — namazake) is seasonal and is usually the 1st sake available once the brewery starts releasing its sake.  I usually start seeing it in Seattle in late summer.
  • yamahai/kimoto:  All sake is made from rice, water, and yeast (koji).  Most modern sake uses prepared yeast.  But some breweries still use the old style where the rice is allowed to sit out collecting yeast from the air, like a sourdough bread starter.  These styles are time-intensive, but tend to produce really fascinating flavors.  Yamahai and kimoto sake tend to be my favorites (and often heat up really beautifully).

The grading and style terms can concatenate and stack on top of each other as well.  One of my favorite sakes is Narutotai’s Ginjo Nama Genshu — all of which is translated thusly:

  • Narutotai:  The brand name.
  • Ginjo:  Means it’s been polished by at least 40% (leaving 60% of the rice kernel remaining).
  • Nama:  It’s unpasteurized.
  • Genshu:  It’s cask strength.

Potent stuff!  It’s sold in a can that is often affectionately referred to as “the oil can”.  I have a post about it that i’ll queue to go live in a day or 2 so i can link to it.

conclusions:  To bring it back to everyday sake.

Point #1:  “Everyday drinking sake” in Japan is futsu/regular sake and usually refers to the cheap stuff with lots of brewer’s alcohol added4.

Point #2:  Outside of Japan, the Japan-made sake you’re going to find is more likely to be premium-grade sake.  This means a price jump because of import fees.  The price jump may take it out of your wallet’s “everyday drinking sake” range.

Point #3:  Futsu/regular sake, while it may be “everyday drinking sake” in Japan, might not be the flavor you’re going for (especially if you already know that you don’t care for the “hot house sake” you’ve had in sushi restaurants).  You may prefer the flavors and varieties available in premium-grade sake, but the price may be prohibitive.  Unlike wine, it’s hard to find a table sake at a truly good price if you’re shopping outside of Japan.

What would Wrdnrd look for?  I would sample junmai or honjozo sakes in my price range to get a sense of what i like.  To find these terms, look either at the shelf label or the back label of the sake bottle (the front label is often still entirely in Japanese).

Many importers do a good job of providing a flavor profile on the back label, tho’ whether you agree with the profile can be hit or miss (sometimes they are spot on with what i’m tasting, other times the proposed flavors seem chosen by whim).  If you’re fortunate to have a store with staff trained in sake, seek out a clerk to talk about what you like and don’t like.

Don’t be afraid to aim toward the bottom end of the price spectrum.  In the U.S., for a Japan-made sake, that’s probably going to be mid-$20s.  I’ve had some really enjoyable sake at that price.  Conversely, i’ve been underwhelmed by daiginjo that cost $140 for a 720ml bottle (which i did not buy at that price, but had at a tasting).

It all comes down to what you personally prefer.  Experiment as much as you’re able!  Keep notes!

A caveat about age:  Sake is meant to be drunk within a year or so of being bottled5 — you do not cellar sake to let it age further, as one might do with certain fine wines.  There are a lot of considerations in whether a bottle of sake is “bad” — whether it was properly stored during shipment, at the distributor, by the seller — but here are some quick tell-tale signs to watch out for:

  • Does it look brownish/grey and have sediment floating in it?  I’d put it back on the shelf and move on.  I once accidentally bought a bottle that looked this bad and took it back.  Fortunately, the grocery store manager recognized that sake is not supposed to look that way, audibly gasped, and handed me a new bottle with no further questions asked.  Feel free to hold it up to the light!  With the exception of nigori sake, all sake should look clear.  Nigori sake should look milky white (the rice particles do usually fall to the bottom).
  • Is it more than a year old?  This can be confusing, i’ll be honest, because some sake labels use the year of the emperor and some use Western years.  So it might say 2012, 2011, &c. and include the month.  Or it might say “24” (it should still include the month).  The current emperor’s reign began in 1989, so that’s year 1.  That makes 2012 = 24, 2011=23, and so forth.  If the sake you’re looking at is more than a year old, i’d consider looking for a fresher bottle.  It may be perfectly okay, but there’s also more opportunity for it to have gone a bit off.  Some sake doesn’t have a (translated) year/month on it at all — which does not necessarily mean it’s inferior at all, but does make it a bit tricker to know when it was made.

What does sake taste like when it’s gone off?  I find it tastes kind of cardboard-y.

That’s (more than) enough for now.  As always, do feel free to ask any questions in the comments section!

Next post (not so big as this one) will probably be “what do i do with this bottle of sake??” — how to store it, how long it keeps, et cetera.

  1. If i could find bottles of Gekkeikan in liquor stores when i was living in small-town Central Pennsylvania a decade ago, then it really is findable most anywhere in the U.S. []
  2. Currently the toji — a.k.a, brewmaster — for Yaegaki is one of the few women toji in the world. []
  3. Okay, what sake don’t i like? []
  4. With some exceptions.  One of our favorite sakes is a futsu, but the rice has been polished to ginjo level. []
  5. Another exception is nama sake, which should probably be drunk a little more quickly since it’s unpasteurized. []
readings from the week — 2012-1-14
chris. | 14 January 2012 | 4:48 pm | (deconstructing) class(ism), (deconstructing) sexism, glosses | 2 Comments

women on book covers

Jim C. Hines: “Striking a Pose (Women and Fantasy Covers)”.

A while back, we had a discussion on the blog about the cover art for my princess novels. For the most part, I really like these covers, but they’re not perfect.

Now I could talk about the way women are posed in cover art … or I could show you. I opted for the latter, in part because it helped me to understand it better. I expected posing like Danielle to feel a little weird and unnatural. I did not expect immediate, physical pain from trying (rather unsuccessfully) to do the hip thing she’s got going on.

Pictorial hilarity ensues.  But don’t forget to ask yourself:  If Jim looks so funny in these poses, why in the world are they treated as normal for women on book covers??

I was a little disturbed, however, by the number of people in comments who congratulated Jim on his bravery.  Again, why in the world is it brave for Jim to pose for and post these pictures, but it’s normal for women characters on book covers??

a chav costume party sanctioned by Leeds University Union

Rachel: “Not your costume: Leeds University and chav parties”.

But imagine what it’s like to be a working class kid, already struggling to fit in and watching Leeds University Union promote this shit as acceptable and unproblematic.   Imagine how it would make you feel about your right to be at that institution at all.

And now tell me again why you think it’s funny.

on being asexual (and how it’s awesome!)

s.e. smith: “I Am Asexual (And It’s Awesome!)”.

There’s a devaluation that happens with relationships that are intimate, but not necessarily sexual in nature, and I hear that devaluation every time I get asked if I have “someone special” in my life. The answer to that question, of course, is “YES!” I have several special people in my life. People whom I love deeply and am very intimate with, rely upon for support, support in turn, and consider very close partners. They are not romantic or sexual partners, but that doesn’t make our relationships less valid or less strong.

you have failed me, grasshopper
chris. | 1 December 2011 | 4:20 pm | (culture) consuming | 5 Comments

The newsletter for our beloved sake bar announced that this weekend’s “sake & cinema” was going to feature Shaolin Grandma.  The title had me excited for all of the 45 seconds it took me to (a) watch the trailer and then (b) quickly google for more information on the movie.

Because, oh god, it looks so very, very terrible.  What a let-down!!  The premise in the title is right in my interest area: grandmas who kick ass!  How could someone waste such potential?!

To salve my wound, let us now discuss actually good kick-ass grandmas in Asian film.

My all-time favorite:  Momoko’s obaasan, from Kamikaze Girls.  Witness:

That insect shouldn't have pissed off Obaasan.

Take that, insect!!

Or, in the category of “kick-ass older lady who is not technically a grandma”:  The Landlady, from Kung Fu Hustle.  My evidence follows.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Yes, she’s kind of getting her ass kicked here.  But note:

  1. The Beast had to win this fight by cheating.
  2. She’s the one with the technique that everyone thought was just a myth1.

Thus leading me to conclude that, Stephen Chow aside2, The Landlady is the biggest badass in this movie.

Comments are open for your suggestions for bad-ass grandmas/older ladies in Asian film, literature, anime, whatever!

  1. Yes yes, it’s screaming — i know.  [sigh] []
  2. Because it’s his movie, so of course he’s going to come out on top. []
‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ (Hosoda, Mamoru. 2006.)
chris. | 16 January 2011 | 11:19 pm | (consuming) 2011 | 2 Comments

This is another movie Andy and i both enjoyed the 1st time we watched it.  I was thinking of buying a copy (i am, as you may have guessed, a sucker for time-travel stories), but Andy wanted to re-watch it before investing (or wasting) money.

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