Beer And Philosophy: The Book Is Out!

bapIt is either out or I have just received my copy but either way it is all quite exciting to have a book in my hand with a chapter written by me. So, of course, I read my chapter first and found myself thinking that I could have written most sentences better and that I hoped I didn’t lose all the legal footnotes…though I suspect the sensible editing was afoot on that one. Then it strikes me – I don’t know – can I do a proper book review when I wrote about one-fifteenth of the thing? I don’t have any percentages deals or anything. But I can be pure of heart with the best of them can’t I? So let’s see.

Price? Reasonable. This is a trade paperback meaning it’s going to cost you a decidedly reasonable $13.57 on an Amazon pre-order. The book covers a lot of ground, partitioned as it is into segments entitled “The Art of Beer”, “The Ethics of Beer”, “The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer” and “Beer in the History of Philosophy”. Fascinating stuff. And with chapters by Garrett Oliver and Sam Calagione (not to mention me) as well as a forward by the late Michael Jackson (no mention of me) there is plenty of familiar names for the average beer geek.

But it is when the book goes beyond the expected that it gets really interesting. Except for the crew named above, the rest is written by Phds (pronounced “fudds“, professors and a dean. Egads! I See Eggheads! Yet, they bring the egg down off the head and…and…OK, I can’t finish that analogy but rest assured this is interesting stuff. An example: in the chapter by Rex Welshon, Chair of a Philosophy Department in Colorado, explores Nietzsche’s relationship with the drink opening with the philosopher’s observation that a “single glass of…beer in one day is quite sufficient to turn my life into a vale of misery.” I recall my philosophy professor recounting his wife’s observation that she was not so much disappointed that Nietzsche thought all those things so much as that he wrote them down. Perhaps the same might be said about him having that beer. Another example? Neil Manson, a professor from Mississippi has his bio right next to mine (which falsely claims he can drink more than me and you. Lie – I simply choose not to), has provided a dialogue of the Socratic sort (I think) on “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Beer” which seems to talk about God a lot as three characters drink. Neato. It’s like what you think your dinner parties were like the foggy-headed next morning. And there are about ten more of these sorts of chapters.

So…bottom line…get this book. I earn nothing more from saying so yet you will gain incalculably from the procurement.

Is Wisconsin The Continent’s Beervana?

Slumming around the internet, I came across this article about beer and Wisconsin which made me wonder whether it is the beer friendliest jurisdiction in North America.

From handing out free samples at grocery stores to shunning a proposed tax increase, Wisconsin lawmakers love their beer. One of the first bills they passed this year made sure bar patrons didn’t lose drinking time when the clock jumped back an hour this spring. Other pro-beer bills are brewing.

Free beer at the grocery store! Good Lord. There are places in Canada where they hold exorcisms for folks who think like that. But then there is this: “Wisconsin is also one of only a handful of states that allows parents to purchase alcohol for their children to consume in their presence.” Holy Moly. I had no idea. Well, sure, this is progressive and good and all – especially if you believe like most conservatives that the family is the source of the best instruction and all that stuff…but I had no idea. Who knew?

Knut Goes Nowhere And Hangs Around His Mailbox

[This post was written by Knut Albert Solem aka “Knut of Norway”]

knutOn the outskirts of Europe there lives a peculiar tribe of people. Like most other nations, they feel that they have the solution to every problem on the planet. Other small nations have had to bow to the necessity of adjusting to their surroundings, but Norway had the curse to find oil and gas in the 1970s, giving them the possibility of constructing their own reality.

One of the inhabitants of this country is a contributor to A Good Beer Blog, sending his impressions from his travels across Europe. When the generous editor Alan managed to find some sponsors for his blog, he wanted to share some of the spoils with his contributors. One sponsor is the Cracked Kettle in Amsterdam, and Alan figured that they could probably send a few beers to two of his European contributors. Packages were dispatched in early February, and the one sent to England arrived within days. Here is what happened to mine:

The package to Norway was first returned because the shipping company couldn’t deliver outside the European Union. Fair enough, they found an alternative.

Two weeks later, I get a letter from the Norwegian Postal Service, Posten. They can tell me that they have received a package from abroad, and that they can do the customs clearance for me. For a fee, of course. I sign a form authorizing them to do so, and wait for the package to arrive.

Another two weeks, and they send me a new letter, telling me that I should provide them with a receipt, an invoice or similar documentation for the package. I reply with a short handwritten note that this is a gift, and I do not know the value of the package.

Another two weeks, until yesterday. A new letter, cheerfully telling me that I must fill in a form. This is an application that has to be processed by the Directorate of Health and Social Affairs, which decides if I should be allowed to receive the gift. In the instructions following the form, I am told that the maximum amount of alcohol I can receive in this way is 4 liters. Luckily the package only contains 2 liters. For more information, see the back of the page. The back of the page is blank.

I do not know which criteria the Directorate of Health and Social Affairs use to determine if I should be allowed to receive the package or not. Will they check if I have been prosecuted for bad behaviour in public places? Will they ask the neighbours if I beat my wife? The answer is probably written in invisible ink on the back of the form, or possible posted somewhere in a basement as in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I faxed over the form today. If the Directorate of Health and Social Affairs decide in my favour, I will then receive a permit to import the beer. This permit will then be mailed to Posten, who will then talk to the Customs people.

It would be interesting to find out how many hours of work it will take for various government employees to process this package containing two litres of beer. And I have a strange feeling that there might be more efficient ways of combating drunkenness and alcohol abuse. But what do I know?

It Is Right And Proper To Dislike FIFA

I am greatly saddened by the whole soccer head scarf debate surrounding one girl who wants to play. Playing is good and as we learn over and over FIFA is bad. It is not a difficult or even controversial statement. It is simply so. Feel good about thinking FIFA bad. Does anyone shed a tear for the Olympic Committee or any other private unelected mens’ clubs that organize sport to rake in personal privilege and benefit? It is only right and good to lump FIFA in and, frankly, place them up at the top of the lump.

Let us review some facts. Here is the essential part of the rule…sorry the law of football that is engaged in this case:

A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewellery).

All items of jewellery are potentially dangerous. The term dangerous can sometimes be ambiguous and controversial, therefore in order to be uniform and consistent any kind of jewellery has to be forbidden.

Players are not allowed to use tape to cover jewellery. Taping jewellery is not adequate protection.

Rings, earrings, leather or rubber bands are not necessary to play and the only thing they can bring about is injury.

You might be confused. You might be asking yourself what a rule about jewellery has to do with a head scarf. You would be right except this is the core prohibition in the rule being cited by FIFA:

Soccer’s legislators have ruled that no player can wear a head scarf on the field. The International Football Association Board was asked at its annual meeting Saturday to adjudicate on a decision to ban an 11-year-old Muslim girl from playing in a tournament near Montreal last weekend because she was wearing a head scarf. “If you play football there’s a set of laws and rules, and law four outlines the basic equipment,” said Brian Barwick, chief executive of the English Football Association, which is one of the IFAB members. “It’s absolutely right to be sensitive to people’s thoughts and philosophies, but equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to, and we favour law four being adhered to.” Law four lists the items a player is entitled to wear and head scarves are not mentioned.

That last sentence added by The Globe and Mail is not entirely true as Law Four goes on to state:

Modern protective equipment such as headgear, facemasks, knee and arm protectors made of soft, lightweight, padded material are not considered to be dangerous and are therefore permitted.

A headscarf is light, soft and in this instance one understands is protective of modesty according to the standards of the player. As her leggings are. By any reasonable understanding they are allowed. By any reasonable standard they are an entire non-issue.

But remember who you are dealing with. FIFA considers soccer players – you know…the people who play the game – as something between figures on paper and Subbueto players. Uniformity in uniform is about central control. This child might have been Amish or had a skin disease requiring covering. It just so happens that this one child is honouring her Islamic faith. It could as easily be any other thing. For FIFA that is not really important as she is fundamentally not acting FIFA-n. She is displaying unFIFA-like personal characteristic. That is anti-FIFA and that cannot be tolerated.

Why is this? First, FIFA wants to dominate world sport. To do this, there must be one game defined by one set of laws imposed by one bureaucracy. This means the other games to be driven out – it must be so if FIFA is to achieve the power and benefit that uniformity brings. We do not need to get to the level of cheese rolling or other local games or group play-like traditions. We just have to keep in mind there are many football games that sprung from the mid-19th century. When more organized games were formed between, say, 1850 and 1920, the lack of communication and the greater interest in the local meant no one worried that Gaelic football was different from Canadian rugger or from what has become Aussie rules. But FIFA now cares and cares very deeply as one of the forms of sub-global football, NFL style, has the notion of also being a global game. That must be stopped just as all other deviation must be stopped.

This is not about that keen young lady or her particular faith. It is about the primacy of the primates of FIFA. Hmmm…the phrase “the anti-Christs of play” just popped into my head for some reason. It is enough to say for now that FIFA is anti-play and therefore anti-KSPC. For that reason we shall be kicking a ball about this summer around here without any sidelines to which someone can tell me or mine to go sit. I expect it to be fun.

When Is Theft OK?

If I never read the Boingsters, I probably would never encounter the “right to take” as a great new idea. But two recent posts point out something of the hypocrisy and the case-by-case arbitrary judgement that really is at the core of the arguments against respect for authorship – let’s call them the “anti-authorship” group – who call themselves “copyfighters” and part of the “remix” culture:

  • On June 29, 2005 Boing confirms that big Nike stole little rock band’s imagery without payment. The taking of the stuff of others wrong.
  • On July 6, 2005 Boing praises an essay in Wired which states that the new era of takery is here:

The remix is the very nature of the digital. Today, an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of creative product (another antique term?). To say that this poses a threat to the record industry is simply comic. The record industry, though it may not know it yet, has gone the way of the record. Instead, the recombinant (the bootleg, the remix, the mash-up) has become the characteristic pivot at the turn of our two centuries.

So because it now can be done, it must be ok…except when we like the band and the company that takes is big. The sad thing is that people by what Boingsters like Cory Doctorow and Wired and they say about the appropriation of copyrighted material because he has successfully leveraged status rather than successfully argued the point. It is a tyranny of the self-described cool, which is a very weird tyranny. Sadder still is that there may be good arguments for specific accommodations of digital media which are lost through this broad and craptastic “remix culture” pap that sounds so neato…until it is your website layout, your icon, your text, your music and your art that is taken.

Russia v. Green Bay

Beer teaches. At least in the sense that you learn a few things when hunting for beer stories. Consider this latest decree from Vlad Putin:

A ban on consumption of beer in public places came into effect in Russia this month, but no one knows how effectively it can be enforced. President Vladimir Putin ordered the ban following months of parliamentary debates. Supporters of the ban, coming shortly before World Health Day Apr. 7, argue it could help rising alcoholism and indiscipline, particularly among the young. The new law bans consumption of beer in places like recreational parks, sports buildings, educational establishments, medical institutions and public transport. The fine for violation would be the equivalent of 3.50 dollars. Legislation passed in August last year had banned advertisement of beer. But consumption of beer, considered by many to be a soft drink, continues to soar.

Compare that to a 110 year old prohibition that continues in part of Green Bay, Wisconsin:

In a city with an image of pubs full of Packer fans enjoying a pint while watching the game, one neighborhood has firmly stayed dry. Not an ounce of alcohol has been legally served in public anywhere in a three mile-by-two mile area on the city’s west side where a 110-year-old law still bans the stuff out of fear that saloons might degrade the neighborhood. But area business leaders say the ban has crimped development. They hope voters opt to scratch the booze ban in a referendum Tuesday, when more than 20,000 residents will be asked whether to let restaurants and hotels serve alcohol.

Obviously there is a lot of middle ground but it would be interesting to see 50 people from each land dropped into the other.

Last of the Speakeasies?

Big news from a little place. One of the last vestiges of the prohibition-era speakeasies of the first half of the last century has left the scene in Canada’s smallest province. 
CBC PEI reports

In 1900 Prince Edward Island became the first province to ban alcohol. It was the last to end prohibition almost 50 years later. However, there continued to be dozens of bootleggers around the province…

It seems Charlottetown’s bootleggers have raised the white flag, choosing to close their illegal establishments in the face of tough new legislation passed by the Binns government. The bootleggers run illegal bars in homes. The houses are gutted, a bar is put in, and the people who run them resell liquor and beer. They don’t have liquor licences, and don’t conform to any provincial or municipal laws. They’ve been raided, railed against and reviled. But mostly, they’ve been tolerated, selling booze for much cheaper prices than legal lounges and nightclubs. That’s until this past weekend, when the doors of the known bootlegging establishments in Charlottetown were suddenly locked.

The writing has been on the wall for these illegal bars – one of which is illustrated as shown on the CBC PEI website – for a few years since a man died at a table and was not detected as being dead for some time. It is interesting to note, however, that on the main street of Ogdensburg, NY, one of the last holdouts of British North America in what is now the eastern USA, these sorts of small home-sized bars do operate under license as one might also see in St. John’s Newfoundland. With any luck they will become similarly licensed in PEI but that may destroy some of the attraction to their customers who took advantage of after-hours drinking and unregulated low pricing.

Of somewhat finer interest is the use of “bootlegger” in PEI for an illegal bar. Growing up in Nova Scotia it meant an illegal retailer only.

Buying Beer In Quebec


The Government Store, Canada

When I was a kid old O.H. Armstrong in our church called it the “Government Store”. In the South Shore of Nova Scotia apparently it is called the “Power House”. What ever you call them, there is a little left over from prohibition in every province in the country – the need to control…which also leads to the inability to shop around much. We are lucky here in eastern Ontario with the shops of Quebec and New York state not that far away, so that an hour and a half or two gets you into another world with another set of wacky regulations. If you are looking for something different when you travel, you can plan ahead with the web…but just don’t get too depressed from what you read:

What do you learn from looking at these sites? Don’t go beer hunting in PEI right off the top: no selection, six imports three of which are Heineken, Becks and Stella – mmm, macro-industrial North Sea lager. Quebec has very interesting beers, allows you to find out if a bottle is actually in your shop and shop on-line but if you are in a northern village you have to let the local authorities know what you have ordered. Newfoundland calls beer from New Brunswick imported. Alberta has privatized the shops in 1993 and has since only regulated but still they are left, according to the Bar Towel in 2002, with limited selection.

So – what do you do with a country that cannot organize itself better than a cornerstore in a suburb of a small US city or a pub in Halifax

Internet and Defamation Decision

I came across an interesting case on defamation and the internet today in a newsletter passed around the office. On 4 June 2004, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in the case Barrick Gold Corp. v. Lopehandia, the key facts of which are set out in paragraph 12:

Mr. Lopehandia embarked upon an Internet campaign by posting a blizzard of messages on “bulletin boards” or “message boards” on various Internet web sites. The web sites in question are dedicated to providing information to those interested in the gold mining industry, including those interested in investing in the stocks of gold or gold-industry companies. Some of the web sites are dedicated to discussions concerning Barrick specifically. The web sites include (in the financial markets message board sections dedicated to Barrick and another company, Durban Roodeport Deep Limited (“Durban Deep”)); and (in the financial markets message board section dedicated to Barrick);;; and

Cut to the chase and the internet slagger was ordered to pay to the internet slaggee $75,000 CDN in general damages and $50,000 CDN in punative damages. In support of that award, the Court of Appeal found at paragraphs 75 and 76 that:

Mr. Lopehandia is ordinarily resident in British Columbia, but there is no way to determine from where his postings originate. They could as easily be initiated in an Internet café in downtown Toronto or anywhere else in the world, as in his offices in Vancouver. Given the manner in which the Internet works, it is not possible to know whether the posting of one of Mr. Lopehandia’s messages on one of the bulletin boards in question, or the receipt of that message by someone accessing the bulletin board, traveled by way of a server in Ontario to or from the message board. It may have, however. The highly transmissible nature of the tortious misconduct at issue here is a factor to be addressed in considering whether a permanent injunction should be granted. The courts are faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, they can throw up their collective hands in despair, taking the view that enforcement against such ephemeral transmissions around the world is ineffective, and concluding therefore that only the jurisdiction where the originator of the communication may happen to be found can enjoin the offending conduct. On the other hand, they can at least protect against the impugned conduct re-occurring in their own jurisdiction. In this respect, I agree with the following observation of Kirby J. in Dow Jones, at para. 115:

Any suggestion that there can be no effective remedy for the tort of defamation (or other civil wrongs) committed by the use of the Internet (or that such wrongs must simply be tolerated as the price to be paid for the advantages of the medium) is self-evidently unacceptable.

…The posting of messages on that board constitutes at least an act done by the defendant that affects Barrick’s reputation, goodwill, and personal property in Ontario, and arguably constitutes an act done by him in Ontario. The courts in Ontario must have jurisdiction to restrain such conduct.

Common sense and an innovation that only a Court could provide. Based on the technological obscurity, the Court chose certainty. Beware my fellow Pajamistanians of the pitfalls of defamatory internet discussion in Canada.