The Cob

This is the TV show I not only want to be in – but host. It may have an alternate title like “What Not To Be”. It is all about the ideal of the average male…or maybe an average ideal about a male.

Here is the premise. Me and portland get a bunch of guys to take the bait and sign up for a reality show. In that show, we promise, somewhat like “The Swan” to recreate you, but as a real guy. Like “What Not To Wear” we promise to renew your ability to interact with humans as a better you – but, unlike these shows, we teach the poor saps who are competing for our good opinion to actually be a good person, not just look like an attractive person. We will not make you richer, get you a better carrer or make your home a mansion. We teach you not to be a jerk or humilate you trying.

In one episode, we take apart the jerk who treats pals’ sisters like crap and leave him a whimpering ball of jelly at around 23 minutes past the hour. We break in on a date gone wrong with the girl of his dreams, show how a slob can treat a lady right (portland’s talent shining here) and leave him in our tracks begging to learn the secrets of being decent. But 57 after the hour, we do. In another show, we start by taunting pro-bowlers from the stands about spending more time with their families instead of on the lanes of mid-sized Mid-West towns. They learn to get real if dullish jobs with reasonable long-term prospects and get a hobby involving something actually useful like homebrewing. I can do that. In the grand finale, we teach a group of the quiet and shy to rock-out, live on gin and condiments for a week and finish a big night out having eggs on toast at dawn in a town where no one speaks your language or takes your currency. The winners of every episode compete for a big final prize at the end of the season, which we award arbitrarily to someone who shares the cash with us as a lesson that life is not based on merit.

It could happen.

Quick Note: Labatt Porter

labportWhile on the road, I chanced by a depanneur near the pulp mills in downtown Hull and found an artifact, Labatt Porter. This beer is a vestige of an earlier style of Canadian beer which died away as lagers came on to the scene. Old lumberjack taverns up the Outaouais may still have old sign for porter painted on their outside brick walls. Ten years ago Molsons still produced a competing beer under the brand Champlain Porter. Now only this one is left and likely has one of its few remaining bases of popularity, such as it is, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. It is really a sweet milk stout. It is chocolatey, lactose sweet, a bit like a richer cola with low carbination and the aroma of new baked bread and caramel. It is not hoppy like the Sleeman Fine Porter or roasty like Cooperstown Benchwarmer. Not profound but comforting. Probably the best tasting beer for style Labatt still brews – which is not a great compliment. It may be gone itself in another decade. Click on the photo for a better view.

The Pixies in Hull

In the late 80s there was an echo of punk that came to be grunge. Nirvana and Pearl Jam came out of Seattle and the Pixies came out of Boston. Like 70s punk with its intellectual anger, these bands spat loud about the question “why?” or rather “WHY????“. Of them all, the Pixies were the most surreal but also presbyterian. At one and the same time the world is not as it is and not as it ought to be.

I know them only through their most popular record Doolittle but I knew a part of my younger life would be renewed by hearing Frank Black scream “and if the Devil is six, then God is seven, God is seven”. I was right.

Some admissions. We sat at the back, my older brothers and I. I wore ear plugs. We left a little early to beat the rush. These were the accomodations of the years and I was not about to go through five days of ear ringing like I dealt with after last year’s Sloan concert. Plus, given the hockey rink setting, the concrete floor and the metal ceiling, it was all distortion falling over itself. Probably the worst venue for a band I have ever been at. The opening acts – one whose name we didn’t even bother catching as well as a quite respectable The Darkness-esque (with out the irony) called The Datsuns – did not get the idea of controlling the wall of sound to meet the venue. They were just loud. The Pixies were loud, too, but sometimes at moments not loud.

It was at first something of a wait for their hits “This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven”, “Debaser” and “Here Comes your Man” [6.9 MB 19 second short] – perhaps waiting most of all for the spectacle of a throat ripping yell from Frank Black (not nee but was Black Francis). But I was struck by the sharp needling guitar of Joey Santiago and the pounding red-hot bass of chain-smoking Kim Deal.

They were very tight and discomforting. Here are some murky photos from the show, including one of the incredibly busy beer vendors right in front of us.

Buying Beer In Quebec


Names for the Glass

A reply to Bruno’s post at his blog alerted us to the problem:

Heu… Un demi c’est 250ml, soit 1/4l, soit effectivement a peu pres une demi pinte.

This is the problem at set out in the post below:

…in France, when you order beer, the usual glass is the demi. France invented metric system, but some remains of the old days are still alive. A demi is in fact about half a pint, rounded to be 125ml. While a pint is being named distingué, and a liter of beer is a formidable (which I think means “smashing” – who knows why?)

That will soon read 250 ml. An email came flying across the Atlantic and, as it should, it has gotten me are talking about it.

For me a “glass” of beer is a specific thing, a 8 oz glass which kind of looks like a butt end of a baseball bat (shown right). You only order them in pairs except when an additional small can of tomato juice is allowed. These were the rules of the Jerry at the Midtown and they are alright by me. By comparison, a “pint” should be a straight-sided 20 oz glass with a bit of a wow up near the rim to give a bit of grip (shown left). Not that weird barrel-shaped dimply thing with the handle. In Holland, you ordered trays of small round glasses with about 5 ounces of liquid and five of foam, passes the tray around and drank them before the foam dissipated – “dead beer” they called one without a head even if there was plenty of carbonation. Never caught the name of that glass, though Alfons might know.

But both Bruno and I are mere amateurs in the world of beer glass names – even with the excellently named formidable for a litre – compared to Australians who have different glasses and different names for those glasses in each state. I have known an Aussie who owned a pub and apparently this is a matter of great importance. Ordering the wrong schooner in the wrong town in the wrong way apparently can cause variation in your sperm count level and that of those with you.

Grey Cup

I watched the Grey Cup last night and was happy to see the Argos win with style. Odd that BC chose to go with the back-up quarterback, expecially as the other one won the league MVP. Dickenson’s choke on two time delays ruining a two-point conversion opportunity followed my a missed kick for one point pretty much lost the game or at least blew the last opportunity for them to win the game. No rouge.

The Grey Cup always brings out memories. Colour TV at Mrs. Hawkins around 1972 watching Angelo Mosca and the Ti-cats win. The fact that once CBC and CVT used to both show the game at the same time – when Canada existed in a pre-cable, two channel universe. I was reminded of 1983 when I was in the Roost at Fish’s above the library at Kings in the fall of third year. The Argos had not win since the 50s and our jumping up and down with every play sent the evening library staff up the stairs to tell us to be quiet. I don’t think that we had considered the power of a librarian’s shooshing powers to extend beyond the library. I was also reminded by my father, after a short funny bit on the broadcast with June Calderwood teaching the art of the field goal, that I had mooned her as a tot in a Toronto waterfront park in the summer 1965. She was in a lawnchair sunning. I was in a diaper half way down me arse on a breakaway from the picnic blanket. I apparently have a winter version of roughly the same story involving less skin, a toboggan and Allen MacPhee.

Nice as always to see someone my age win the game’s MVP – the “other Allen” drilled some sweet passes and even the Argo back-up did well while he was in expecially with a very natty soft rainbow pass to the sideline. It was not all about the punt and field goal after all. Nice also to realize admitting you watch the CFL is not like admitting you lick cat feet.

If you have no clue what this is about, here is a link. Don’t expect the diaper reference to be there.

An Ordinary Bar in Bayonne, France

[This post was authored by Bruno Bord.]

Cold November late afternoon. I’m entering an ordinary bar in Bayonne, in front of the market. There are half a dozen of customers, drinking coffee, tea, milk with chocolate. The bartender says a loud “hello” as I sit at the bar. I often sit on bar chair, lean on the counter.

Bartender: What will you?…
Me: Well… What kind of beer on draught do you have?
Bartender: Well…Kronenbourg.

Only Kronenbourg. All right. It’s not the best beer, but if there’s no choice…in France, when you order beer, the usual glass is the demi. France invented metric system, but some remains of the old days are still alive. A demi is in fact about half a pint, rounded to be 250ml. While a pint is being named distingué, and a liter of beer is a formidable (which I think means “smashing” – who knows why?)
Me: How much?
Bartender: Two euros.

France had changed its currency in the beginning of the century, as millions of people in Europe. Now, everyone counts in Euros, which are about a USD worth. Prices on everyday products are rising at a dangerous rate, not only because of the economic crisis. The government raises heavy taxes on alcohol (and tobacco) to struggle against alcohol and tobacco-addiction.Kronenbourg. The ordinary beer. Low price. Low quality. Better draught than from a bottle, though. As I am sipping my glass, I’m looking in front of me. There are shelves, with bottles on them. A lot of them are not beer, in fact. Strong alcohols, mainly. Four bottles of beer on the shelf. Adelscott (a smoked malt beer, with a sweet sugar-like taste), Leffe Blonde (a Belgian you may have already read about), Blanche de Bruges (a Belgian wheat beer), and Pelforth Brune (a French brown beer, very good in fact). Well… That’s not large as a choice as the newly born beer writer might want.

A man enters the bar. He says something I don’t get to the bartender. It’s obviously Basque (or Euskara), one of the oldest languages in the world, and maybe the oldest tongue in Europe. This language comes from “nowhere”. Well… not really from nowhere, but actually no one knows exactly where and when it comes from. The Basque culture is really alive and strong in the Basque Country population, and its unique language is one of the most important part of it. I often see the colorful sticker “Euskara badakigu” on the door of some shops, or bars, it means “Here, we speak Basque”.

I assume that the bartender and the customer are talking about the latest rugby results. Rugby is the most important sport in the south-west France, way more than football (yeah, it’s not soccer here – it’s football). And Bayonne has a long rivalry with Biarritz. The two cities are five miles away and the two rubgy teams are deadly enemies. It’s the fight against the rich-and-smart city (Biarritz), with a bunch of highly-paid stars playing in the team, against the popular and young student populated one (Bayonne). The discussion between the bartender and the customer is now part French, part Euskara.

My glass is empty now. I’ve got to leave. The sun is low on the horizon. Usually, November is a rainy month on the coast. By the way… every month is rainy, here. There are many bars in Bayonne, maybe too many. All kinds of bars. From the Irish-ish pub to the Cuban bar, from the upper-class café to the drunken factoryman’s hangout. But I really need to find a good bar specializing in good beers.

Pictures from the Paralegal Front

My neighbour across the big river, our correspondent and 10th Mountain Division paralegal in Iraq, Brian, has created a photo gallery confirming that the occupation law is perhaps a little less dynamic than the TV shows would let you think. Despite that, it is an example for me of one of the most interesting things about the US and how it treats its soldiers – it allows them to have blogs and talk about themselves without any censorship other than the good sense of each soldier and no doubt the fear of paralegal Brian’s prosecutorial powers should any breach of good order break out.

Things insteresting to note:

  • His laptop’s screen saver appears to be about Guinness leading me to ask if the goodly black beverage is available and whether Brian would like to post an article on the Guinness of Baghdad on the beer blog.
  • Standard issue US desert fatigues blend in very well in the colour schemes chosen for their homes by former dictatorial tyrant murderers.
  • You still have to wear a visitor’s pass even if you bring your own machine gun.

Looking forward to more glimpses into a world I will never know.