Gripping Agrippa

In the midst of this week’s discussion of markup, including TEI, XML, HTML, and more, the thing which has struck my imagination most is Agrippa (A Book of the Dead).  Nominally a 1992 art project between artist Dennis Ashbaugh, author William Gibson, and publisher Kevin Begos, Jr., it’s basically a work of art designed to destroy itself so that people who wanted to experience it had to solve the puzzle.  The Agrippa Files is a scholarly website/archival projected dedicated to the work.  The entire project is a book in a heavy case made to look like an old relic, 42 pages of DNA sequences set in double columns of 42 lines each, copperplate aquatint etchings by Ashbaugh, and Gibson’s poem on a self-erasing diskette buried in the pages of the book.

The primary question I have to ask myself here is “what’s the point?”  The contents seem secondary to the packaging, if you will.  There are press releases, scholarly writings, and more on the Agrippa Files site, leading me to deduce that the work being a thing is more important than what the work is.  More to the point, it seems intentionally created for a shadow culture to develop around the work.  The piece makes its statement by what it does in the broader culture by simply existing.  Knowing Gibson, this may be what he intended in the first place.

I’m all for artistic exploration, even at its most incomprehensible.  We never know what we’re going to find when we open ourselves to possibilities.  Works may be intended to do one thing or another, but once they’re complete, the author/creator’s intention is inconsequential. Whatever Agrippa (A Book of the Dead) is, it stands testament to the ancient idea of throwing everything onto the wall and seeing what sticks.  What we want and what we get may be radically different things, which is the nature of exploration in the first place.

If I were to do an Agrippa cocktail, it would be either one that consumed itself or one that you couldn’t actually drink, but had to simply muse on the existence of.  Perhaps it would be one that you had to reconstruct at some point.  All those ideas are patently silly.

Instead, I’m going to make something based on the non-scholarly thing that’s taking up some of my free time, playing Out of the Park Developments Baseball.  The short version is that it’s a computer baseball sim in which you can play the team’s GM or field manager or both, building your team to compete either in real historical leagues or in fantasy leagues that you make up.  I started with my beloved Baltimore Orioles in 1969.  Through some clever trades and draft picks, we’ve managed to win the World Series every year from 69-79 save for one.  Two thirds of the way through 1980, we’re running away with things again.  That was getting boring, so I’m now trying something new.

I went back to 1961 (an expansion year, with more expansion to come in 1962), released all the players from all the teams, and held a draft.  But we’re drifting away from the point.  I want to make a drink in honor of my beloved Orioles.

The colors are obviously black and orange.  The Black-Eyed Susan is the state flower, so there’s an herbal flavor I think can work with.  Black becomes the problem, because it’s going to obscure any other colors, although I suspect that a black drink garnished with orange fits the bill.

This one actually took some experimentation.  I ran through some dark rum and orange variants, but here’s what I settled on.  One of the orange things I ended up using is Orangecello—yep, there’s an orange version of Limoncello, although I suspect it should be called arancello.

The Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

3 oz. Wild Turkey Bourbon 101.

3 oz. Ginger Beer

1 oz. arancello

.25 oz crème de violette

Shake the first three ingredients over ice, strain into cocktail glass. Using the back of a spoon, float the crème de violette around the edges.  Because it’s slightly heavier, it’ll float down to the bottom of the drink, giving you the two-tone orange and black.  I obviously neglected to garnish this one—if I were up in Maryland, I’d go find a Black Eyed Susan to float on the top.  Part of the reason to use the crème de violette is to evoke a floral quality, which would get multiplied with an actual flower floating there.


About sheldonmenery

Sheldon Menery is a self-taught food and wine aficionado who has circled the globe in search of the riches it has to offer. He's wined and dined at some of the best (and worst) places in the world.
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