Month: May 2009

Brews You Can Use

The Modern Drunkard

I was having a heck of a time finding bloggable drinking material last night. And then I stumbled across an old friend: Modern Drunkard Magazine. Its editor, Frank Kelly Rich, would appear to be a genuine drunk, but he’s a funny drunk and can apparently write under the influence (as could GKC, so Rich is in good company). When I stumbled across the MDM site, I immediately a handful of drool-worthy articles that I hadn’t read yet.

Like, “Welcome to BoozeTown. Dead Ahead: The drunkard’s paradise that almost was.” It’s about Mel Johnson, a man in the fifties who tried to establish a city around drinking, “where it’s always happy hour.” The drunken utopia never took off, but he enticed potential investors:

Just imagine, he asks his audience, a resort entirely centered on the culture of alcohol. A boozer’s paradise built expressly to facilitate drinking and the good times that naturally follow. Where the bars, clubs and liquor stores never close. Where the police force is there to help drunks, not hassle them. Where even the street names salute sweet mother booze: Gin Lane, Bourbon Boulevard and Scotch Street. An adult playground like no other. Just imagine.

Mel apparently thought of it all, even one of my favorite topics: the philosophy of money (what it is, why we have it):

BoozeTown would boast its own currency: visitors would exchange their US dollars for BoozeBucks upon entrance. Each buck would be backed by “liquid gold”—a vast vault stocked with barrels of whiskey at the BoozeTown Bank. The way Mel figured it, whiskey, as it aged, always appreciated in value,

Read the rest

Pirate Day

Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life For Me

One of the best podcasts comes from George Mason University’s economics department: EconTalk. It’s perfectly pitched at my level of economics learning, not too basic, not too advanced. I get excited every time a new podcast comes on line (though its current main project, going through Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, leaves me cold). Last weekend, they put one of their most entertaining podcasts online:

Peter Leeson of George Mason University and author of The Invisible Hook talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the economics of 18th century pirates and what we can learn from their behavior. Leeson argues that pirates pioneered a number of important voluntary institutions such as constitutions as a way to increase the profitability of their enterprises. He shows how pirates used democracy and a separation of powers between the captain and the quartermaster to limit the potential for predation or abuse on the part of the captain. He explains the role of the Jolly Roger in limiting damages from conflict with victims. The conversation closes with a discussion of the lessons for modern management.

I listened to it Monday while walking to and from work. It was great stuff. It bolstered my half-baked theory that some forms of anarchism (can anarchism have a form?) could work in society. The pirates operated outside the law, so they were, in themselves, little islands of anarchy, but they had rules. Indeed, they even wrote them down (called a “ship’s articles”), and pirates followed them, especially the captain, who, far from being a ruthless dictator over his crew, normally sought to exert the … Read the rest

Mini-Book Reviews

Some new, some old. Some in progress, some finished. Some repeats, some originals.

It’s a Random World

I bought this book after hearing Taleb interviewed on EconTalk. The host (Russ Roberts) asked Taleb about the economic meltdown (rough quote), “So, you were right about everything. Are people now listening to you.” Taleb basically responded, “Nope, but I sold a lot of books, and now I’m ready to retire to a life of philosophy.” I was intrigued.

I wasn’t disappointed. Taleb opens up a new world, one marked by random events and luck. The American Way says, “If you desire it, work for it, and have some talent, you can make it to the top.” Taleb says, “No. It’s mostly luck.” And he presents a formidable array of logic and anecdotal evidence to back it up. We don’t hear this type of thing from the ordinary media sources–no wonder, the folks that control the media sources are “at the top” and they want us (and themselves) to think they got there by grit and talent.

So what is a Black Swan? It’s a (i) rare event, that (ii) has an extreme impact, and (iii) is retrospectively predictable. Nine-eleven was a black swan, as was the economic collapse in October (though many people outside the mainstream predicted it). Taleb takes the reader through a lesser-known world of scholars, mathematicians, and writers to make his point and does so convincingly.

Unfortunately, he devotes only a few pages to dealing with black swans. His advice essentially boils down to: expose yourselves to good black swans, insulate yourself the best you can against bad black swans. You can’t predict … Read the rest

Religion and More Religion

Neo-Emerson Revival?

Very interesting review essay at The New Statesman about religion and modernity. The premise: Religion and modernity co-exist just fine. Voltaire and the Enlightenment and its progeny have always been wrong about modernity and religion:

Whether Marxian or Millian, socialist or liberal, secular rationalists have held one tenet in common: religion belongs to the infancy of the species; the more modern a society becomes, the less room there is for religious belief and practice. Never questioned, this is what lies behind the hot-gospel sermons of evangelical atheists: if you want to be modern, say goodbye to God.

At bottom, the assertion that religion is destined to die out is a confession of faith. No amount of evidence will persuade secular believers that they are on the wrong side of history, but one of the achievements of God Is Back is to show how implausible, if not ridiculous, their view of history actually is.

Although the reviewer agrees with the authors that religion co-exists just fine with modernity, the reviewer takes issue with the authors’ emphasis on monotheism. Religion in the modern world doesn’t have to be monotheistic, the reviewer seems to believe, and he points to instances of non-monotheistic revival in the modern world.

Problem with this is, monotheism is the advanced form of religion, not because of some fluke, but because mankind discerns higher truths as it moves forward. Superstition and polytheism are religious forms of worship for philosophical infants.

For me, one of the most startling things about the Old Testament is God’s revelation of his name to Moses: Yahweh. I Am Who Am. This was revealed a thousand years … Read the rest

Memorial Day Eudemon

Stay Out of the Museum

Night in the Museum 2 finished first in the box office: “Ben Stiller beat Christian Bale in the North American weekend box office duel between their respective “Night at the Museum” and “Terminator” sequels, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday. The 20th Century Fox comedy “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” sold $53.5 million worth of tickets during the three days beginning Friday, far exceeding the $30.4 million debut of its 2006 predecessor.”

Don’t waste your time. My son, Jack (12), and I spent the weekend together, and we went to it on Saturday. I thought it was pretty bad, as did Jack (12-year-olds aren’t the most-discerning). I think I laughed once. The women behind us squealed incessantly, much to our annoyance, but after seeing them leave the theater, it became obvious they were mentally-addled so they can be forgiven. I’m not so sure about anybody else who laughs.

(That’s a little harsh, I know. Humor is a tricky thing. One man’s joke is another man’s anguish. If you found this movie hilarious, good for you.)

A Drinking Problem

After spending a long weekend with my 12-year-old and his beverage proclivities, it’s no wonder I’m feeling a little weak: “Excessive cola consumption can lead to anything from mild weakness to profound muscle paralysis, doctors are warning.” Then again, I didn’t quite reach this dude’s levels: “They tell of the curious case of an Australian ostrich farmer who needed emergency care for lung paralysis after drinking 4-10 litres of cola a day.”

It’s amazing that these stories get so much attention. The concept of … Read the rest

Something for Sunday Morning

“The Christian should be an alleluia from head to toe.”

St. Augustine

I’ll try to keep that in mind. Unfortunately, I fail, repeatedly. Perhaps even more unfortunately, the alleluia people bug me. Not the people with quiet joy, but the in-your-face joyful, the people in whom it almost seems forced. … Read the rest

BYCU: Beer and Related Areas

Give Him the Nobel

Is your bartender pulling back a second early on the tap, leaving you a centimeter or two shy of the top? It’s costing you buzz. The new Beer Gauge tells you how much. “[T]he majority of the volume in a standard US pint glass is in the relatively small height in the top part of the glass. In fact, if a beer is poured to within about 1/2 inch from the top, 13% of the beer is GONE. If the beer is poured to about one inch from the top of the glass, an astonishing 25% of the beer is missing from your pint.” Just put the credit-card-sized gauge next to the glass, and it’ll tell you how much you’re missing. If you’re shorted an inch on four pints, you’ve been shorted a whole pint. And if it’s a craft beer, that’s $4 or more.


Sext Messages

Oh, take me back to my high school days, when beer was plentiful and sex was still somewhat special. Fox News has posted the Top 50 Text Acronyms a Parent Should Know. They’re filthy . . . and not a single one of them pertains to drinking. So hats off to the shepherds of America’s youngsters: They’re disease-ridden whores, but they’re sober disease-ridden whores.

I’d rather my kid get drunk with me.

The Drug Tax

Well, I’ll be danged: Some states tax illegal drug possession. I don’t know if it’s brilliant or deranged. It has a Capone/Ness ring to it:

Several American states now have laws whereby you are supposed to pay taxes on illegal drugs that you have

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