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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Ethanol or Ethan Hawke? A possibly sustainable alternative fuel or a faded star with a history of sexual infidelity?

 So in order to debate the issue, we need to know a little bit about them. The type of ethanol that is the current media darling is Corn-Based Ethanol. When I first heard about this I was like, what? Seriously, the government is taking an alternative and renwable fuel source seriously? Awesome! But eeh, these guys are usually on the wrong side of things, what’s the catch? I hope there isn’t one…….

Hmm. Oh wait. Of course there’s a catch. The catch is corn. Corn is something you should know about, and be thinking about, regardless of whether or not you read The Omnivore’s Dilemma (which you might want to consider, as it is fun to read and pretty interesting).

One basic thing to know is that corn is in everything we eat. It is there to hang out and add calories. Now, I know as soon as you mention ‘calories’ you sound like a one-apple-a-day-eating-livejournaling freak (perhaps like Ethan Hawkes’ ex? interesting….) but it’s important. Adding corn syrup is food manufacturers’ way of bulking up a product, making it look and taste more like food, without actually adding any nutritional value. It’s like the Rosie O’Donnell of food (not that The View was so nutritious to begin with).

Check the back of your bread package. Chances are, unless you buy organic or some other kind of ‘specialty’ bread, corn syrup is the second ingredient. Hmmm, right. You don’t need me to tell you, that doesn’t belong.  You don’t need me to tell you, it will make you fatter and take away delicious calories you could use elsewhere, like, for this. Mmmm.

So anyway, the point is that corn makes its way into everything, corn farmers get huge subsidies from the government for growing things that make us fatter and more diabetic, and oh right, it’s also totally genetically modified and freaky (like Gattaca maybe? interesting….).

When I said “corn farmers” up there, it’s important to note that I don’t mean happy jolly feel-good farmers, I mean huge huge HUGE businesses like Archer-Daniels Midland and Monsanto. They get the vast majority of the millions of dollars the government spends on farm subsidies, and they use much of it to produce corn, much of which is for corn syrup and animal feed (cows and salmon and other such animals are trained to eat corn-based feed instead of their natural foods and it makes them fatter and, right, us who eat them fatter).

So who stands to gain from a push for corn-based ethanol? Those guys.  Those already super rich and just gonna get richer guys.

Alternative fuels are a totally good idea, much like a movie version of Fast Food Nation. However, it’s not such a good movie to watch, and corn-based ethanols are already driving up the price of food around the world. People in Mexico have been protesting in huge numbers the 60% (!!) increase in the price of corn tortillas that has already happened, and some economists are estimating rises in the US as high as 14% for milk and 21% for a dozen eggs.

“The stage is now set for direct competition for grain between the 800 million people who own automobiles, and the world’s 2 billion poorest people.”

Yikes.

So, what’s the answer? Another term you might have heard is cellulosic ethanol – it just means stuff made from plants. Any plants. Different plants take different amounts of pollution to make into fuel, and different plants’ fuels result in different amounts of pollution. Corn is not the best. Different plants do different things to the soil – some are better for it and some are worse. Corn is worse.

Just a few things to think about as we move into our debate: Ethanol vs. Ethan Hawke. Hmmm. 

The truth (duh) is that Dead Poets Society (oh god my heart!) will win out over any fuel, ever, be it cellulosic ethanol or trillium or coal.

I encourage you to continue the debate with your friends and onlookers.

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pilsner.jpgLast week, in my beer-sodden euphoria, I may have been a bit too harsh on Brooklyn Brewery’s Pilsner. I realized my error only last night, after I drank one of the leftovers. And you know what? It was actually pretty good. It’s a light beer with lemony highlights and a pleasant crispness. It lacks the bitterness that most of the other Brooklyn brews feature. I think the problem was that the other beers overwhelmed the flavor of the Pilsner and the tofu pups in blankets were not adequate palate cleansers.

In related news, I think I had a dream last night where two European ladies told me that they thought it was ridiculous that I drink any kind of beer all year round. In Europe, they explained, they are given incredibly detailed instructions written in tiny lettering about which beer will be ready at which precise moment, a particular amount of time from the date it was created, and only then after having been chilled at one temperature for one amount of time and a different temperature for another amount of time. Depending at what day and moment you wanted to drink a beer, you basically only had one choice. I thought that was kind of fascist.

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Pool is passé.

I’m going to break it to you, there are no longer guys in fedoras tapping their wingtips to the jukebox, with a cigarette between their fingers. It’s been replaced by frat boys in polo shirts & baseball caps, or suits with loosened ties. All the romance is gone and has been replaced by a certain banality.

Bocce doesn’t need to get people to pay for it. They know they’ve created a group of individuals who will come to the only bars in Brooklyn (owned by the same person) to get their bocce fix. They’ve created a subculture who crave their hands around their large balls. They will come week after week, set up leagues, and practically live at these bars. Do we need it in more places? No. And I like it that way. Pool you can go almost anywhere. I can barely walk down the street without running into a pool table.

And I’m sorry, something is wrong if you think handling a small stick and delicately hitting small balls is somehow tough. All that green felt is simply bourgeois. Bocce requires you to get down in the dirty court, pick up balls with your bare hands, and throw it down a court. You really learn to channel a more primal energy. You call that cute? Obviously you also haven’t heard the smack talk that goes on.

You have to accept that bocce is the new hotness, while pool is the old hotness…which can’t be anything but lukewarm.

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I don’t think the word ethereal has ever been used in relation to a game where you lob large circular objects onto a court in an effort to knock other balls out of the way. However my point was not that Bocce is ugly. More that Bocce is, in a word, cute. Bocce is billiards’ cute indy-rock girlfriend who is a little more shy and less overtly sexy. Billiards, on the other hand, is slightly more out of one’s league (pun sooo intended). Billiards has a series of shiny, colorful balls and a beautiful green felt table with six evenly placed leather pockets. And you use a looonng, shiny, aerodynamic, wooden stick that you know you just want to wrap your hands around and….. Ahem. Chalk.

Anyway, again, bocce is definitely hot. Its balls just aren’t as polished.

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Bocce is, perhaps, the hottest game in the history of bar sports. It doesn’t have to hit you over the head with its overtly sexual equipment (cue, balls, holes, etc.) – it’s a demure game with dignity, class, and a regal aura. Sure it’s easy to look sexy while splayed out on a table, man-handling a huge stick. That’s some rookie shit. All of the sexiness in bocce emanates from a player alone on the court, the envy of the entire bar. That player in untouchable. And as we all know, the hottest person in the room is the one you can’t even get close to.

Where billiards is carnal, bocce is ethereal. Though your feet are on a court made of earth, your spirit hovers above near the pressed tin ceilings. Your body becomes a vessel for the, um, balls and thousands of years of Italian history course through your veins, like so many Brooklyn Lagers. If there is anything sexier than the spiritually superior and historically inclined, I don’t want to know what it is.

This sport is so fucking hot, even the pope plays.

bocce-pope.jpg

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Dear RK,

I don’t know how to tell you this, but you are mired in a prejudice so thick and vile, you may never find your way out. The yellow trains are not slow. I mean, no more slow than any of the other trains – all of which travel at the speed and with the agility of a toddler. The F train is no prize, my friend.

However, you did make a good point regarding the above-ground stops. I love those. But you know what’s better than chugging along past the Kentile sign at Smith & 9th? Crossing the East River on the N and Q trains (also on the B & D trains that I use to get to work). You can look north and see the charming waterfront-industrial scene or you can look south (my choice) and see the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the big shiny Financial District buildings, boats, dead bodies…it’s like a little bit of heaven! All the while, your F train is creeping along underground like so many giant, seething rats.

Seething rats.

f-train.jpg = rat.jpg

A simile.

Earlier:
Subway (Debate) Series
Subway (Debate) Series: Rebuttal

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I am a pool player living in Brooklyn, and was recently introduced to the small world of bocce. Featured at a few bars in my neighborhood, some of my friends have recently taken an interest, and I have been more than happy to come along for the ride.

A lot has been said on this blog about the game of bocce. It’s been around for centuries. Charlemagne played it between orgies and fighting wars against the Saracens. Mussolini threw the balls around while drinking tea and reading Il Popolo D’Italia. I myself used to watch the old French men in my neighborhood stand around, chomping on cigars and getting their shoes dusty while playing the very similar game of petanque. And now it has gone so far as to reach the Brooklyn bar scene.

I enjoy playing bocce, even though I suck. And I have to say that of the two bars I have been two with bocce courts, they don’t fuck around. People seem to be enjoying themselves immensely, and I have heard that leagues have been established and are quite popular. I know for a fact that one of the editors of this blog happens to be an avid bocce player. My question is this: does the concept of playing bocce in bars have any staying power? Will this catch on? Will bars start to sprout up all over the country with long, rectangular courts and large balls in every corner?

The answer, is no. And the reasons are simple. For starters, you have to have a pretty big establishment to host even one bocce court. Floyd already feels a little cramped with the one they have in there. Secondly, no one will ever pay for bocce. And this is for the simple, but incredibly stupid reason that there is too little involved in the sport. Would you honesly want to pay to throw little balls on the ground? No. Thirdly, and I am not denigrating the talent involved in playing this sport in the slightest, but it is not a sexy sport.

Pool, on the other hand, is a popular sport worldwide to pay for and play in bars. Men and women alike are drawn to the long phallic shape of the cue, and know that they don’t have the money to purchase a pool table of their own. You can pack a bunch of them into a room, and charge people two dollars a game to cross their fingers and hope that they can make that bank shot and look cool in front of the sexy person standing next to them. Why does this look cool? I’m not really sure. Ask Paul Newman.

Even if there are only two bars that I know of (although I’m assuming there are a few more) that have indoor bocce courts, I hope it stays that way. While it may not have the sex appeal of the aforementioned billiards, there is something comforting about sitting in a dimly lit bar, clutching a nicely poured micro-brewed beer and listening to the sweet cracking of two heavy, hard balls. I’ll always have pool, but it’s nice to know that there’s an alternative past-time in Brooklyn.

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