A First for Medieval Otaku: Cigar Reviews

Sometimes blogging brings about some interesting surprises.  An employee of Cigars City, an online tobacco retailer, discovered my article, Danna ga Wakaranai and Smoking, and then contacted me to see if I would be willing to do a couple of cigar reviews.  Who am I to turn down free cigars?  I accepted immediately, even though my expectation was to be sent something along the lines of “Cuban Magic cigars” or “Papa Bubba’s stogies.”  Instead, he sent me two fine cigars indeed: Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve and and Partagas 1845 Toro Grande.  The former company is especially renown for being Winston Churchill’s favorite–the Cuban ones anyway.  The Romeo y Julieta cigars sold in American come from Nicaragua, which happens to be my favorite cigar producing country.  Partagas, having been established in 1845, also has a long history.  It’s tobacco seems to primarily derive from the Dominican Republic, another country with prolific cigar production.

Apothecary smoking

And so, I shall endeavor to write two reviews worthy of these cigars.  Let’s start with my favorite of the two.

1) Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve (toro size)

I recently wrote about the need to wait and ponder an anime series before coming to a well-founded opinion.  Cigars differ not at all from that: the first part is called the bitter, which does not tell how good a cigar will be.  Eventually, one hits the sweet spot, whose flavors will sometimes evolve over the course of a smoke.  And most people will throw the cigar away upon reaching the label, though I often like to smoke a cigar to the point where I can only take two puffs before it gets too hot.

churchill with thompson

So, let me begin by saying that the bitter lived up to its name in this cigar.  Still, many cigars have had worse bitters.  My palate has not been as well formed for tasting cigars as for judging alcohol, but I discerned some white bread and cedar notes in the sweet spot.  The aftertaste evinced white pepper notes alongside of a leathery sweetness.  Overall, I thought that this was a great cigar.  Once which I would hand out at a celebration or in meeting a friend I have not seen for a while.

While my initial light was somewhat uneven, the burn evened out somewhat through the sweet spot.  The draw was very smooth until towards the end, where it tightened up a little.

Now for some suggested beverage pairings:

Scotch – Bowmore 12 or Glengoyne 17

Cognac – Courvoisier VSOP (Courvoisier happened to be Napoleon’s favorite cognac, by the way.)

Bourbon – Eagle Rare 10 Year Old

Wine – a slightly sweet and nutty amontillado (Hartley & Gibson’s Amontillado perhaps?  I haven’t had it in a while, so I might be wrong.) or Sandeman’s Rainwater Madeira

Beer – Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot Barleywine (Barleywine goes very well with cigars.  I might have also recommended Brooklyn Brewery’s Monster Ale, but they stopped producing it!  Quel dommage!)

One of my favorite anime cigar smokers: Sir Victoria Hellsing

One of my favorite anime cigar smokers: Sir Victoria Hellsing

2) Partagas 1845 Toro Grande

Unlike the Romeo y Julieta which features tobacco exclusively from one country, the Partagas features an Ecuadorian Habano Wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder (Yes, some of the most famous tobacco is grown in Connecticut), and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler tobacco.  A good smoke, but I cannot say that the cigar impressed me too much.  It lacked the complexity of the Romeo y Julieta.  I’m not sure whether I would buy it, but it does make for a good casual smoke.

To my surprise, the bitter was slightly sweet.  The draw felt a little tight, but nothing to complain of or capable of marring the experience–at least, until I got toward the end of the cigar, where it tightens up considerably.  It burned unevenly with the bottom burning faster than the top portion.

At any rate, the sweet spot revealed bread flavors like the kind made by mixing wheat and white flour.  The smoke also included some leather flavor.  The two flavors are not an unpleasant combination in a cigar.  (Sort of like how iodine and seaweed can be found in a good Islay Scotch.)  The aftertaste possessed a sweet walnut flavor–tasty, but not very complex.  I would like to reiterate that the Partagas is a good cigar, just not one I would seek out.

Nico of Earl and Fairy as he enjoys some scotch.  He's possibly the most awesome cat in anime

Nico of Earl and Fairy as he enjoys some scotch. He’s possibly the most awesome cat in anime

Scotch – Macallan 12, Glenlivet 12, or a Glenfiddich 15

Cognac – Pierre Ferrand Ambre

Bourbon – Woodford Reserve

Wine – Alvear’s Cream Montilla (Very tasty stuff!)

Beer – I’m going to recommend Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot again.  (It’s about time for me to get over the last unpleasantly chocolaty barleywine I had and to start drinking them again!)

Well, that’s my opinion of the cigars.  I hope that you liked the reviews and that the cigar smokers among you will be on the lookout for the Romeo y Julieta.  Will there be other cigar reviews on here in the future?  That depends on whether any of my dear readers have found this interesting and whether Cigars City or other people find this review done well enough to warrant sending me more free stuff.

30DAC – Day 23: Favorite Attack Someone has Used in an Anime


This article brings back memories. Kurama is my favorite character in Yu Yu Hakusho, and this article covers one of my favorite moments in the show.

Originally posted on The Anime Madhouse:

Seed of the Death Plant – This move is horrifying. Kurama only needs a quick opening to shoot his seed into the opponents body…

Oh grow up!

And…that’s it. He wins. You die. That’s not the worst part. You die…from having a huge flower bush grow inside of you incredibly quickly and then burst out of your body like a bunch of xenomorphs.

Couldn’t find clear screenshots from the show, so here’s the manga version.

The only downside is that it does take a little bit of time to take root and feed from Kurama’s energy in order to bloom once Kurama wills it, so it’s not a quick end, but he’s definitely strong enough to hold his own for a few minutes against any opponent while it grows, so it’s just insanely scary. You could be dead and not even know it. And it’s never been shown if there’s…

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On the Will of God and Poverty of Spirit

Akatsuki no Yona, with all its talk of Tenmei–literally, “the Will of Heaven”–has got me thinking about the Will of God.  This is often difficult to determine in our lives, and I have heard one Catholic commentator state: “The Will of God is inscrutable.”  But, not everything which happens by God’s Will or permission outstretches our understanding; otherwise, we should simply not understand God in the slightest and not be able to have a relationship with Him.  In general, He commands all people to follow the moral law and exercise charity towards each other.  On a more particular level, the Will of God may be communicated to us through our talents and desires.  Do you have an extraordinary talent for the most abstract arithmetic imaginable?  Perhaps, God wishes for you to become a university professor.   Do you love someone of the opposite sex profoundly?  Do not be surprised if God wishes you to marry that person.


Yet, desires can be a very tricky thing, and people are often mislead.  The particular Will of God for us is based in the individuality which God gave us.  It subsists in the core of our being.  Only by being true to ourselves can we be true to God and find happiness.  However, we are surrounded by many happy people in the world, and we might think that by having what they have we shall also be made happy.  Besides this, the world itself offers many things–especially money–which it claims will make us happy.  But, you cannot serve God and mammon!  The more you listen to the noise of the world the less you shall discern the whisper of God.  To one who has become too worldly, God can no longer whisper: He must shout!


As C. S. Lewis tells us, pain is often the means by which God tells us something is wrong.  We suffer anxiety, depression, and vague feelings of unhappiness.  Should our response to these feelings be seeking worldly distractions, God may sever us forcibly from the pleasures of the world with the blade of poverty.  Impoverished, we lack the means of spoiling or distracting ourselves with external goods.  All we have left are those talents and desires which we ignored in our prosperity.  In running away from our talents, our individuality, and our specific manner of serving our brothers and sisters, we have become less human.  We struggle for a while in attempting to regain our status, but the Mercy of God prevents it while we yet ignore God’s voice and rely solely upon ourselves.  At last accepting our fate, the vanity of worldly pleasures (many perhaps good in themselves but evil when they stand in the place of God) becomes apparent and the memory of them bitter.

St. Francis of Assisi. with his father having demanded that he return everything he "stole" from him, doffed even the clothes he wore.

St. Francis of Assisi. with his father having demanded that he return everything he “stole” from him, doffed even the clothes he wore.

Despite these many pains, poverty or very frugal circumstances are not signs that God hates us.  Instead, God calls the poor blessed–both the materially poor and the spiritually poor.  The fact that religious orders often include a vow of poverty indicates the link between the two.  Why are the poor blessed?  Because they contend less with the noise of the world and focus more on the Will of God and the intrinsic goods God has given them to share with others.  The poor in spirit are capable of great things because their only concern is the Will of God.


Though, I could use the example of many saints to show the sanctifying effects of poverty, I’d like to instead use the example of Ulysses S Grant.  Who can doubt that the man was born to be a soldier?  He was the only Union general with the competency to avoid losing ground to General Lee and the dogged tenacity to make a war of attrition successful.  The happiest times of his life coincided with his military service.  After resigning from his first period of service, he relied on the charity of his father-in-law until the outbreak of the Civil War.  After the Civil War, his name was smeared by the presiding over the most corrupt administration in history until modern times.  Afterwards, he did the unthinkable action of trying to break with Washington’s precedent in order to run for a third term!  A sore loser, Grant bore a grudge against James A. Garfield for winning the nomination–even though Garfield not only did not seek the nomination but even was horrified to gain it!


Compared to the humble, frank, and unambitious man of prior times, Grant the politician seems a different man–a monster!  Here is a description of Grant just after the Civil war by General Richard Taylor from Destruction and Reconstruction:

The officers of the army on duty at Washington were very civil to me, especially General Grant, whom I had known prior to and during the Mexican war, as a modest, amiable, but by no means promising lieutenant in a marching regiment. He came frequently to see me, was full of kindness, and anxious to promote my wishes. His action in preventing violation of the terms of surrender, and a subsequent report that he made of the condition of the South – a report not at all pleasing to the radicals – endeared him to all Southern men…His bearing and conduct at this time were admirable, modest and generous; and I talked much with him of the noble and beneficent work before him. While his heart seemed to respond, he declared his ignorance of and distaste for politics and politicians, with which and whom he intended to have nothing to do, but confine himself to his duties of commander-in-chief of the army.


That is exactly the man who commanded the Army of the Potomac and the one who wrote the most famous memoir of any participant in the Civil War–a memoir which a friend tells me affected modern American prose more than any other work!  (Grant’s memoirs do read like something our of the 20th century rather than the 19th.)  But, politics, power, and fame almost ruined Grant for good.  When Grant wrote his memoirs, he had been reduced to desperate poverty, which I have no doubt was God’s method of restoring Grant’s character.  The Hound of Heaven will resort to any means to prevent people baptized in His name from perishing everlastingly.

Good Shepherd

So, people suffering from want or various forms of misery need not despair.  Pain is often the sign that one is still united to Christ Crucified and often purifies the soul to a salutary poverty.  “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”  The share of the Kingdom of God we have on earth is performing the Will of God, which, though it may be a gentle whisper, rings loud and clear to the poor in spirit.

The Horror of Humanity in Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames


This is an excellent article on Garo, which was probably the hardest anime for me to cut from my watch list. The author points out what makes it unique among other stories in the tokusatsu genre.

Originally posted on Anime Monographia:

Leon Transform

Where there is light, shadows lurk and fear reigns…yet by the blade of Knights, mankind was given hope.

-Opening line to Garo TV series

This fall’s been shaping up to be a very good season for anime.  While popular sequels to franchises like Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works and Psycho-Pass are certainly carrying the mainstream wave, Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames (Honoo no Kokuin) has been a hit, pleasantly adding a much needed spark of diversity in a market swollen with hyperactive moe girls, uninspired shonen fights, and cookie-cutter harems.

Not that the tale that Garo tells is anything original.

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Philosopher Fridays: Pascal’s Ambiguous Wager


Here’s an well-written article on Pascal’s Wager–one of the best known arguments for belief in God.

Originally posted on Stories & Soliloquies:

Welcome to Philosopher Fridays, where I aim to expose the academic underpinnings of my thoughts on story-telling and writing. In this series I make no attempt to give a comprehensive view of any of the philosophers I tackle, but instead pick out and explain what draws me back to their works again and again. 

For the next few weeks I’ll be exploring the tenuous relationship between faith and reason in a sub-series I’m calling “Expecting Ambiguity“. My aim is to explain how philosophical arguments for the existence of God are not as concretely determinate (and thus as easy to dismiss) as they are often cast, but that they instead offer as much insight into the limits and powers of subjective human knowledge as they do into religion.


PASCAL: Born in 1623, Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, inventor, theologian, and philosopher until his death in 1662, when he was just…

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Advent time coming early


Never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Be sure to listen to the excellent Croatian Christmas song in the post.

Originally posted on Croatia By Us:

Radio show inspired me to write a text on Christmas way. The question was is it to early for city decoration. It started in November, earlier than year before so host show wondered is this festive decoration coming sooner and sooner each year. Comments  could be grouped in two major categories: the ones who think it is to early and that consumerism is stronger and stronger and the other one inclined towards good spirit that comes with this Christmas time and that if that means that people will be better for longer lets celebrate Christmas all year around. So I decided to write about our customers here during this time.

So lets start with this advent period meaning “season before Christmas” (old English), ), from Latin adventus “a coming, approach, arrival,” in Church Latin “the coming of the Savior,” from past participle stem of advenire “arrive, come to,” from ad –…

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A Danger of Aniblogging: Turning Leisure into Work

This post of Annalyn’s highlighted an oddity about aniblogging: it adds a degree of stress to a formerly relaxing activity.  Anibloggers naturally need to have opinions in order to write, yet this leads to people approaching Excel’s Saga like it’s Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina or Hemingway’s The Man and the Sea.  (Yes, my dear readers, I’m guilty as charged.)  This approach to anime exhausts one after a while, and I often find myself turning off my critical mind.  I’m a fan before I am blogger!


Like eating, there are three distinct steps to creating an informed opinion: tasting, chewing, and digesting.  How many judgments can I make while still tasting the story?  Five really: I love it, like it, don’t dislike it, dislike it, or hate it.  Purely emotional judgments which do not elucidate anything about the show itself!  The next step lies in chewing on the show: What led me to the reaction I had?  What themes does the story seem to be pursuing?  How well does the animation compare to other shows?  Is the soundtrack anything special?  What are the characters’ motivations?  Does the show seem to be alluding to other works of anime or literature?

Don't think that I could say something intelligent about Excel Saga if I tried.

Don’t think that I could say something intelligent about Excel Saga if I tried.

The reason I cannot do episodic reviews is because I’d hate to have to ask the above questions every episode.  Instead, I watch episode after episode chewing on these ideas and waiting to see if something strikes me about the show–which mode of viewing leads to the kinds of articles you see written here most often.  It might take many episodes indeed before I can stop chewing on the show and it begins to settle in my mind.  Sometimes, I never get to that point.

There's a girl who eats so fast that she neither tastes nor chews!  I should revisit Slayers at some point.

There’s a girl who eats so fast that she neither tastes nor chews! I should revisit Slayers at some point.

It is in the digestive stage where good objective judgments are formed.  Certain stories even resist digestion until the second viewing!  (“To read a text once is not yet to begin to read a text,” as Professor Jackson used to tell us.)  In order to facilitate my digestion, I will read what other bloggers are saying about the show.  So that I do not merely echo, I compare their judgments to mine and consider what their reasoning behind that judgment might be.  You’ll find that bloggers will criticize a show based on the expectations they made for it or praise it merely for the visceral pleasure it gave them.  I will not claim to be immune from either fault!


And so, it takes me a coon’s age before I lay down a final judgment on a show.  (Otherwise, I write a negative article like this only to have the show grow very high in my estimation.)  Most bloggers have already given their opinions on a season long before I give mine.  I am certain that my judgments would be deficient if I wrote sooner: “…in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:4).  

So, what do you think, my dear readers?  Does blogging take some of the fun out of watching anime?  Does it make you more prone to be cutthroat in your evaluations?

Kill La Kill Episode 7: Breaking the Chain


I rather liked this article of animecommentary’s on Kill la Kill. It presents the idea of Honnouji Academy attempting to chain people into the system though offering prestige and money to those who follow their rules. The article also views these attempts to enslave the students to the desire for money and power through the lens of Buddhism.

Originally posted on Anime Commentary on the March:


For all its out-and-out kinetic energy and sexually tantalizing body imagery (Satsuki and Ryūko, after all, both fight in very revealing battle-specific uniforms), Kill la Kill has plenty of deeper motifs and themes it examines; episode seven reinforces the Academy as an oppressive, hierarchical establishment where “might makes right” and the most powerful, highest-ranking members of the council dictate and enforce the academy’s rules over the “lesser” student (who do not have legal access to the strength-augmenting Goku Uniforms enjoyed by the Elite Four and Satsuki). This suffocating social environment inevitably led to class conflict and the apparent destruction of the family unit as the social center; the fragmentation of the student body into numerous (and increasingly absurdly-themed) clubs exposes the power struggle that forms the core ethos of the students who fight against the highers-up who wield more-or-less complete authoritative control over the campus. Even though students have a nominal “family”…

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Takayama Ukon to Be Beatified Next Year?


Here’s a cool story. It’s not often that a Japanese Daimyo is up to be beatified by the Catholic Church!

Originally posted on Aliens in This World:

The story is in the English language version of Asahi Shimbun, and was praised by Get Religion.

Currently, he’s Venerable Justo (or Justus) Takayama Ukon.

His Christian name was Justo, and Western Christian sources called him “Dom” (Portuguese for lord). Takayama is his family name, and Ukon was his office name that he went by as an adult. Other names are Hikogoro (his baby name, which Japanese back then usually changed upon becoming boys or adults) and Shigetomo (his young man name).

He was a great general, but also waged peace. He loved Japan but died in exile. His life story is full of twists and turns, but he seems to have lived it all with honor and good sense.

The man has his own “Dom Justo Takayama Ukon” TV Tropes page. It’s a good explanation page. Just don’t follow the links if you want to do…

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Gunslinger Girl Ends with a Bang!

What a great ending to a rather original series!  The last volume of Gunslinger Girl finally found its way to my shelves.  For the past couple of years, it’s been the only manga I’ve purchased translated.  On returning home, however, I discovered that I had never read the penultimate omnibus!  But, unwilling to wait for that book to arrive through Amazon (I don’t recall ever seeing that volume in a bookstore), I read those chapters in an online reader before turning to the last volume.

GSG opening

Despite how boring most people find the anime version of this work, the manga never bored me, and the anime hooked me until the end–even when it got slow.  The last three volumes of the manga, which have yet to have an anime version (But, I can still hope), blew me away by their non-stop action.  The last three volumes include more gun fights and agonizingly suspenseful situations than the other twelve volumes combined!  This even includes the fight between Triela–my favorite character–and Pinocchio, whose arc still stands as my favorite and features in Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino.

A picture of Triela.  The modifications to her body prevent shots to the arms from being disabling.

A picture of Triela. The modifications to her body prevent shots to the arms from being disabling.

Part of the fun of Gunslinger Girl is how the cybernetically modified young girls in the service of the Italian government contrast the vision of human beings with cybernetic parts found in Ghost in the Shell.  (Nota bene, I have not seen more than a few episodes Ghost in the Shell, but draw the following ideas from two essays in Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder edited by Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin: “The Making of Killer Cuties” by Christie Barber et al. and “Just a Ghost in the Shell?” by Angus McBlane.  That’s a book well worth owning!)  Basically, where Ghost in the Shell offers a future where cybernetics allow mankind to overcome human weakness, the heroines of Gunslinger Girl are still weighed down by their humanity as the machines inside them drain away their lifespan.  Henrietta, Triela, and the rest still retain the hopes and dreams of girls their age, but are forced to suppress them as they are mere tools of the Social Welfare Agency.  The author of this manga, Yu Aida, leaves one with the impression that the bad consequences of modifying human nature might outweigh the benefits.

Alfa Romeo

The struggles of the heroines to make the most of their limited lives create some very deep characters and engross the reader in their fates.  Few mangaka do characterization so well!  This, along with the great action of the final volumes, almost caused me finish the remaining chapters in a single sitting.  Indeed, they would have had not something important torn me away from them!  I might also add that Yu Aida is incredibly literate and well-versed in Western culture.  Gunslinger Girl contains allusions to the Bible, Thomas Macaulay, Beethoven, and others.  Few manga combine action with learning so well!

Triela with shotgun