PGP 5.0: Once There Was A Pub Game In My Town…


So, aside from the fact that I was not a contestant in the Wellie Boot Chuck and that I walked by the Wellie Boot Chuck to actually go to the pub, I thought the Wellie Boot Chuck at one of my favorite pubs on the planet went rather well. See, I was under the impression that the boot chucking was done in the street in front of the pub and under some sadly false illusion that the view of the chucking could take place with an oatmeal stout in hand. No. Twas not to be. And, see, there was a 37 second walk from the stout to the chuck and I was more focused on the stout. So… we were in the pub. But I am pro-boot-chuck and, of course, pro-charity so it was not the pub, it was not the chucking… it was me. If you appreciate that you will understand everything.

And science can teach us things even when we don’t wish to learn. So, what do we learn from the Kingston Brew Pub‘s rubber boot throwing? First, it does not take a lot to put together a good pub game.

Frankly, the silliness adds to it all. Secondly, a pub game can be good for the community even if it is good and silly. I don’t know how much was raised for charity but it was likely more than your pub raised… definitely more than I raised. Third… it’s throwing a boot in public as your appetizer for a little craft ale. I would have thought that was your secret wish in life. And not just because it’s mine.

To be clear – we did walk by and see the crowd of wellie chuckers. It was a lovely Saturday afternoon and the wind was still providing for the prospect of a great chuck. A lovely sight was made by smiling happy chuckers filling the air with wellies. What I want to know is this – why more pubs don’t do this? Perhaps they do.

Again With The Whither The CBC On This Tough Day

So who do you blame? Who do you blame for the evaporation of much of the CBC today? Do you blame me who stopped watching and listening years ago and regularly disses it? For that you can pretty much blame Brent Bambury leaving the local CBC Ottawa drive home show as that was the last thing I would tune in for. Do you blame Stephen Harper? You could I suppose – but when people are losing their jobs all over the place, when private news and entertainment sources in Canada are closing – is every job at the CBC sacred and worthy of tax dollars? Harper himself would blame consumers – you – ultimately but that is part of his whole passive / aggressive love / hate thing that has worked out so well.

You know who I blame? Paul Martin and Stephane Dion – Tweedle dumb and Tweedle dumber. “WHAT???” you say with a high screechy voice? Yes, Martin and Dion. They had the nation handed to them as only a Liberal party leader can, they had the ability to continue in the steady (if sometimes slightly sticky) hand of Jean Chretien. But no. Martin has to wrestle the leadership away from Jean only to find he has no skill at being leader. And Dion has to run against Iggy only to discover that, zoot!, he is actually a goofball egghead. Had these two men not botched the natural governing party, we would not have the social and economic experimentations of our rural overlords. We would not be driven into deficit by the single decision to reduce the GST from 7% to 5%. Remember that? Would it have made a tick of difference to anything other than the emptying of Federal bank accounts had the GST stayed at 7%.

This is what happens in a leadership void whether a void created intentionally by the CPC which wants to prove that the Federal level is irrelevant or by the Grits who, until recently, apparently wanted to prove that they were. Don’t get me wrong. I think the CBC in large part created the wall that it is now slamming headlong into. It has a singular lack of vision and stilted stance on its own importance that stands out among public broadcasters and public institutions. I should be a fan of the mothership, a booster. But it failed me long ago. I feel very badly for those who will be out of work, perhaps including creative clever friends from that undergrad with the journalism school I attended all those years ago. Still, the CBC deserved and deserves better. Blame those who should have defended her and who should have been there in these dark days. Blame Martin and Dion and the Grits who supported them.


Group Project: Is Twitter The New Gold Fish Eating Contest

I wonder about things. I wonder why I need so many half consumed jars of jam. I wonder why the rise of the internet, the economic bubble and its bursting are all related. I wonder why no one seems to notice that. And I wonder why Twitter is taking off, jumping the shark and about to become (in Mr. James’s words or – better – something like them) the usenet of the 2010’s. Remember usenet? It was so great. People being all Web 2.0 a decade and more before Web 2.0? Now people are being all 25% usenet fifteen years or more later. What is up?

Anyway, being ticked that the Whitehouse apparently really really discovered Twitter last night and finding 30 or so of the last 50 posts I had to wade through were about policy and Obama girls, I deleted that feed. I have been spending much of my Twitter time in the last two weeks deleting feeds. I even had a show trial of a brewer whose pace of twitting was far too manic. I bet that really stung. Being unhappy with Twitter has given rise to a few observations which I trust you will confirm in their entirety:

  • People consider the haiku moment of Twitter to be the restriction to 140 characters. I would prefer 50 characters myself. I had no idea that people could actually go on with only 140 units at their disposal.
  • Twitter is now full of spam. Twitter spam is of two sorts:repeating the posts of others when any one with any sense would plagiarizer a good idea and straight up commercial blabbery. Are people now so accustomed to spam that they don’t notice it is spam?
  • A more annoying constraint is the limit to the number of posts I can view meaning that a twitting blabber mouth can monopolize your view screen. I say view screen as it is a more accurate 1964 way of describing the screen you view. For you stuck in the 90s please refer to the GUI. If you post more than 4 times a day, you are cluttering your readers’ view screens.
  • There is something really really sad about news media discussing Twitter. But it might equally be said that it is very sad when bloggers write about Twitter.
  • Twitter is incredibly anti-social for social software. It is entirely isolating, insulating and, if one were hooked, immersing. Stephen Fry may well be playing out his addiction in public and one wonders what it means to “follow” 55,243 feeds. Surely, the format is simply broken at that point.

So, is Twitter the widget that is so simple yet dysfunctional that no one actually has to admit it does not really work except as a Borg training device?. And why is it so apt for people in the time of recession? What does it speak to in a time of doubt and uncertainty? Is it like Depression-era eating goldfish or dancing non-stop contests without a prize?


Book Review: “Beer and Skittles”, Richard Boston

bas1This arrived from a used book shop in the UK yesterday and, today being off sick, it was a great opportunity to rip through this book in record pace. Richard Boston was the columnist for the then Manchester Guardian whose weekly “Boston on Beer” is credited as being as important as the early days of CAMRA in raising public awareness of the impending loss of real ale that England faced in the early 1970s. He passedaway late in 2006.

I had hoped that this book would be a reprinting of his columns but it is more of a reworking from the point of view in 1976 – not a bad thing but it covers a lot of ground later beer writers like Cornell, Brown and Haydon dealt with in more detail. That being said, it is still a real treat. Boston left beer behind and went on to many other things in his life with a engaging eccentricity but his 1970s beer writing played an important role in preparing the public appetite for the writings of Michael Jackson whose first book, The English Pub was published in the same year.

The book includes information on the history of beer; home brewing and cooking with beer; a guide to where to find real ale 32 years ago as well as a handy discussion on the elements of the pub. This section includes descriptions of games such as Toad in the Hole and Bar Billiards– and contains a passage of incredible value, a description of both the rules and manners required to play shove-ha’penny. Through my tireless (but somewhat fruitless) efforts in relation to The Pub Game Project, I have placed shove-ha’penny on the list of those games I might actually get to play. Manners, as is the biggest part of any game, are critical:

How do you decide if a coin is in, or if it is just touching the line? Some boards have sunken brass dividing lines that can be raised to see if they move the coin or not. Some players run the edge of a piece of paper or the blade of a knife or engineering feelers between the coin and the line. This is poor stuff. The rule is that the coin must not only be in, it must be clearly seen to be in. If you have to ask a scorer for a decision, then it’s out. A good player will never argue the issue.

Throughout the book, Boston is both grumpily entertaining and keenly critical. Of CAMRA he writes “it has been said that some of their members would drink castor oil if it came from a hand pump and would reject nectar if it had no more than looked at carbon dioxide.” Filled with relevant poetic quotes, illustrative anecdotes as well as charm, it captures a moment in time that has turned out to be critical to the development of real ale in the UK as well as North American craft brewing. Long out of publication, Beer and Skittles is well worth the sort of price you will pay if you find it second hand

Extreme… X-Treme… X-Tre-m… XTRM… ?

Hub-bub. That is what is going on. There is hub-bub afoot these days about “extreme” beer. Here is what I know, though things may be changing on the fly, minute-by-minute as it were:

The Independent in England goes all yikes over BrewDog and other new strong beers even categorizing their article under the “health news” beat. Best ‘fraidy cat panicky quote: “alcohol campaigners have complained that drinkers may be unaware of the strength of the new products, a single 330ml bottle of which is enough to make an adult exceed their daily recommended alcohol intake.” Deary deary. Let’s hope know one in England under 40 has heard of gin either because I understand that, too, can get you tipsy.

Then Pete Brown goes yikey-doodles in response laying it on thick and hearty in return, due to the article’s reliance on his own work to create the “health news” in question. Best Pete-flips-lid quote: “[the article] creates a master class in hypocrisy that would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that it might damage brewers I care about who spoke to me in good faith.” Look, I know as a good North American I am supposed to think the residents of any EU nation are nothing but big daft socialist softies but I still find it hard to believe that anyone who might actually have chosen to try an extreme beer would be deterred by this “health news” – and suspect, for that matter, that many more would take it as an opportunity to explore the big brews mentioned.

And, then, Stan asks the musical question – with a lot less of the yikes – as to what “extreme beer” actually means to you… and to me. Specifically, he asks:

What I’d like to know is if the term “extreme beer” means something specific to real live beer drinkers. I’ve never heard a customer at a bar say, “I’d like an extreme beer, please.


Good point but since the advent of extreme beers I have also never heard a customer say “I’d like to try a few more of all these wonderful new experimental session beers you offer, good publican.” That’s because extreme beer has had this Vulcan Mind Meld on so many craft brewers that all their explorations are based on turning to the volume to eleven, too often to focus on quantity of taste as opposed to quality. There is no room for modest balance (or modest price for that matter) where all on offer is extreme.

What’s it all mean? My comment at Stan’s begins extreme beer means nothing to me and that is as honest as I can put it. Mainly because it is really nothing new. Experimentation with very strong beers like Samichlaus or Thomas Hardy Ale well predate the X-TR-M label. Experimentation with odd and intense ingredients has been going on in home brewing well before Papazian’s first book. While you are at it, just consider the simple fact of Belgian brewing history or even only the sour branch of it. But besides all that – aside from the claims to new and exciting – for too much of the time extreme beers simply disappoint because they taste like you’ve just sprayed aerosol furniture polish in your mouth or because you really didn’t want to revisit the undergrad skull splitting headache the next day. Yet it has been latched upon as a means to market, to increase price and perhaps forgo value in a way that ignores that the adjective “extreme” has become a bit of a joke in other areas of pop culture.

X3M09? One year later and I still feel now as I did a year ago – the push for more ends up feeling like nothing so much as branding and hyping and inflating of a particularly tedious sort. A little like those ads aimed at “off-centered” people, I really look forward to the day that we look back at “extreme” brewing as we do the song stylings of Rick Astley. Must I quote the Scottish play? Has it come to that? Extreme beers are…

…but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

None of which speaks to the quality of any particular beer. Some are wonderful and lovely. But for all the US strong beers I have enjoyed I have disliked more… and more than once felt a bit ripped off. And I suspect most feel this way – though both the panicky health nuts on one hand and the craft marketing hype machine on the other might not like to admit it. The trend is not for death by ale, is not for beer that could sterilize surgical instruments while tasting like steak sauce or shoe leather, is not for the 25 dollar bottle that captures the essence of a thousand hop blossoms. And, because of that, it does a disservice to the bulk of more moderate craft beers and the vast majority of beer sales and buyers.

Were there that North American beer consumer lobbying group, I would expect that a backlash against the focus on extreme might have started some time ago. But we have none so it’s not begun. Maybe it should.

Of Course – It Was The War On Red Tape!

Do we hate “red tape” as much as before? Is there still a general feeling that too much intervention is always wrong? Not a chance. This morning I think even Stephen Harper with his recent anti-libertarian and anti- classic liberal statements would be nodding in agreement with this passage from today’s New York Times editorial page:

The financial crisis, including what went wrong at A.I.G., is not just the result of a missing regulator, a gaping structural gap in the regulatory framework. Rather, it is rooted in the refusal of regulators, lawmakers and executive-branch officials to heed warnings about risks in the system and to use their powers to head them off. It is the result of antiregulatory bias and deregulatory zeal — ascendant over the last three decades, but especially prevalent in the last 10 years — that eclipsed not only rules and regulations, but the very will to regulate.

Now, to be fair, our rural overlords in their heart of hearts want to regulate things in our private lives that mostly don’t need regulating but the point is still valid. What is the most important word up there? Deregulatory? Bias? No, it’s “zeal” – that thing that can overcome good sense wherever you go. Why would you want a zealot to structure your law – whether financial regulations or social engineering – when you would not want to sit next to that person at a dinner party? Is it not the zealot’s lack of balance that gives us terrorism, obscenely sub-prime mortgages, mockery of the deaths of the weak, bifurcation of the community and the undermining of the long standing social principles and institutions which have served us so well? And blogging. Don’t forget in inanity of blogging. Could it be plainer? Is there anything behind social instability other than zeal? So, in this time of transition and reformation, ought we not drum out zealotry wherever it may be found? Is this not the cause of the next five year?


Great Moments In Support Staff Career Building

Monday morning. No one like Monday morning but you can bet you like this Monday morning more than a certain somebody in Ottawa:

An aide in Mr. Petit’s Ottawa office said the MP was very busy, and would not likely have time for an interview to explain his comments.

Should we not feel for the backbencher’s aide? Are these not the jobs held by friends that people initially admire until that Saturday night dinner party where too much is poured? “Too busy,” he said, “Tell them I am very busy!!!” “More wine?” “Yes. Yes, please.”


Friday Bullets For The Golden Age Of Orange

It was 1:22 am when the game ended. I only made it to about four overtimes listening on UConn’s radio AM 1080 out of Hartford but Syracuse won. So that was good. I thought I was staying up late to watch Cramer on John Stewart but that was a fold. I kept waiting for Cramer to say “but you don’t exactly treat your subject matter with full seriousness.” Nada. He rolled over and asked to have his tummy rubbed.

  • Dalek For Sale Update:once. i. built. an. evil. em. pire. made. it. run. made. it. run. against. time…
  • “Why Doesn’t The PM Understand?” Update: Apparently PM Harper takes the wrong road and blames consumers for the economic collapse…but then refuses to confirm that is what the secret speech was all about. Not the finance industry and certainly not economists. Average people. Nice.
  • I love this photo. It’s like Zep cross the space time continuum and left messages in the Italian sky of 1527.
  • Speaking of Cramer and who is to blame, I think these people are to blame. Blame the eggheads.
  • For all the gloating about new media, note how many papers are in trouble because of debt. And often debt that was incurred by non-news-people taking on newspapers. Blame convergence as much as anything.
  • Nice to see Joe grew up. But is this the biggest loser of a guy taking a “personal day” ever?
  • All of Charlie Brown is now online. Rejoice.

Gotta run. Up way too late.


My Seemingly Obligatory Thoughts On St. Patrick

Have a thought for Saint Patrick, the actual guy. Taken as a teen age slave from his native Wales to Ireland, familiar with all the details of Druidism from whose bondage he was destined to liberate the Irish race, able to paralyze those who would deter him from his mission and all we can do is get pounded in his name. Isn’t the 17th of March now a bit of a sad legacy given, at least in certain places, the celebrations reach a pitch which would make a Druid blush?

Craft beer fans seem to object to the St. Patrick’s Day as a general thing. Andy Crouch is turned off by the exploitation by big American breweries, the push by Guinness for a holiday is seen for the commercial exploitation that it is and slightly excruciating efforts are made to find another angle on green beer.

But not being Irish, not being American, no longer being a regular Guinness drinker and not being a person to go out and get sloshed in bars like some cheese-eating frat boy…what’s the harm? Isn’t the cheeriness associated with the day and the doings somewhat compelling? Aren’t there peoples from Patagonia to the Republic of Palau who ache with jealousy at the good PR the Irish get out of it? And, given all the free press about beer this time of year – if we are like Patrick to be evangelists ourselves – isn’t this a great opportunity for a teaching moment? Isn’t this, frankly, the sort of beer holiday that craft brewers would dream of making up if it didn’t already exist?

Saint Patrick can be associated with bringing the gift of civilization, of the pluck to take on an impossible task, of the enduring drive to achieve passion’s dream. These all seem great values you can associate with hard working craft brewers. Take back and take on the day, I say.

Either Really Healthy Or Really Weird

One thing that I think the internet may have done is tempered local weirdnesses about bad things. When I was a kid in the Annapolis Valley, the local AM radio stations would broadcast the fire alarm announcements as paid advertising. So, thirty four years ago, right in the middle of hearing the theme to The Greatest American Hero or “Island Girl” there would be the sound of a wind up fire alarm, the statement “the fire alarm in the Middleton Area is brought to you buy Smith’s Chev-Olds” a little ad and then the news that Mrs. Muldoon’s chicken shed burned down due to little Johnny playing with matches. If the fire news was good enough, people would get in their cars and go have a look see. When the Greenwood mall burned, the gawkers packed the highways and byways, likely impeding trucks providing mutual aid from outlying communities.

I thought of that when I heard about the new French-language obituary channel that is starting up in Quebec.

A Quebec businessman believes he has the perfect business to suit ageing, Baby Boomer viewers – an obituary channel. The country’s first television channel dedicated to funerals and mourning could start broadcasting as early as this summer, after the CRTC granted a licence for a regional Quebec cable channel called Je me souviens. The French-language station would broadcast obituaries, notices of hospitalization and messages of thanks and prayers.

It may come to English Canada, too. What a boon for the disaster mongers currently stuck cursing the sunny days on the weather channel. Guaranteed negative news to cluck over. Apparently the developer of the concept “the idea of putting obituaries on television came after he attended several funerals over the years that left him longing for more.”

There is something odd about this. And not just the obvious oddness. Does anyone think this is actually a bad plot of a sci-fi show and that somehow somewhere this will trigger the undead to be walking the streets?