William Gibson’s Spook Country, this week’s reading (if you can call a full novel “a reading”) involves the anxieties of post-9/11 America, locative art, and a Cuban-Russian connection regarding the undermining of the US. Gibson uses one of his characters to express his idea that what we used to call cyberspace is everting—turning itself inside out, and merging with the physical world. These reading responses, however, aren’t about doing book reviews or plot summaries, but about thinking about the topics raised by what we’ve covered.
At this point, you’re wondering where the cocktail is. Last week, it was an enticement. This week, it is a reward. Nothing keeps you from scrolling to the end, but what’s in between is worth it.
Of particular interest to me in Spook Country is the idea of locative art. One of my classmates did a fine presentation on it, and the possibilities intrigue me. If we live in an augmented reality in which we can use the technology we carry to not only enhance our business and social lives, the extension into art is obvious. I’m not just talking about Instagram filters, catching all the Pokéman, or simple QR codes on the sides of buildings here, but using technology for variable experiences with art. The main thing about locative art, sometimes called location-based media, is the user’s device unlocks the augmentation for the user—so following that line, can be user-unique. Perhaps I could put different costuming on the characters of a play—outfitting the cast of Our Town in 70’s Battlestar Galatica clothing might change a context or two.
The digital applications for business are endless—eventually even in the clothing store, they don’t actually have clothes, but a booth you step into or platform you climb on to “try on” whatever clothes you want. You pick what you like, they’re manufactured or modified, and shipped to you. Such a device down the road becomes portable, and now you have an actually fitting room in your closet.
The practical aside, the artistic becomes compelling. What if the film artist, the director in this case, shoots different versions of the film, not with different plots or resolutions, but with different actors in the role. The viewer can choose whether they’d rather have an offbeat Maggie Gyllenhal play the lead in Arrival as opposed to the more conventional Amy Adams, infusing the story with different overtones.
The thoughts here are only on augmenting existing art. Artists and dreamers may certainly use technology to create locative art in ways we haven’t even dreamed of yet—especially once we’ve mastered the quantum bit.
All this is making you want a drink. I want to return to the Cuban-Russian connection. Based on Spook Country’s themes, I really wanted to make a drink that would undermine your sense of national security, but booze can only do so much. I bounced some ideas off a celebrity bartender friend, and he suggested a Cuban sandwhich—a vodka martini with a pork and cheese stuffed pickle, in which the vodka becomes the “bread.” Clever idea, but not quite what I was looking for. There’s actually a Cuban Missile Crisis cocktail already, but it’s just an amped up rum and coke. I focused on the coffee angle. Russians are more likely to drink tea than coffee, but they have a fondness for vodka. Clearly we’re meant to mix the two. Capturing the essence of Cuban coffee, which is dark and sweet, is the direction I headed, but this isn’t a coffee drink, it’s a cocktail. Using Kahlua would be a little common and a little cheaty, so I decided to head straight for coffee itself.
2 oz. espresso
3 oz. Stoli vanilla vodka
.5 oz Coconut palm sugar simple syrup
Coconut palm sugar
3 espresso beans
Make the simple syrup with equal parts sugar and water. Reduce by half and let cool Dampen and rim a martini glass with the sugar. Coconut palm sugar is slightly more like brown sugar in aroma, so it lends a quite tropical and dark flavor. Pour the vodka and cooled espresso into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into martini glass, garnish with the espresso beans.