GRAY MONK LATITUDE 50 (2009)—Safe from meteors, at least for now

My Fellow Inebriates,

You may be thankful that my friend Scarybear’s End of Days prognostications petered out after December 21, but the safe passing of that date threw him into a funk that’s been intolerable for everyone at LBHQ. For months he’d thought of nothing else. Despite his avowals that our annihilation would be tragic, he enjoyed the notion of Earthlings’ hubris biting them in the ass, with fireworks to boot.

Mayan calendar jokeThankfully no one will ever give Scarybear weapons or a job at a nuclear power plant. And that’s fine with him, as long as he has television. But the children’s programming that invariably knocks his shows off the schedule has contributed to his depression. He hasn’t even been able to generate any excitement about his own upcoming birthday.

So, with apologies to an entire city of Russians enduring sub-zero weather with no windows in their houses because of the sonic boom generated by yesterday’s meteor strike, the incident has given Scary a new lease on life.

“Dude, you have to see this!”

Holy crap, my fellow inebriates! And it seems Russians really dig these in-car cameras, because that meteor was captured by countless drivers as it hurtled 10-13 mps through the atmosphere with the shock-wave force of 30 Hiroshimas, setting off a sonic boom that shattered windows for miles. Over a thousand inhabitants were injured—mostly due to flying glass shards—in the most thunderous such event since the 1908 Tunguska Event.

In the aftermath, the biggest emergency is lack of windows. Chelyabinsk is on roughly the same latitude as Edmonton, with weather to match. Glaziers are being flown in for urgent repairs.

“Dude, that could have been us,” said Scary. “Or at least it could have been our Uncle J.”

Uncle J doesn’t know we call him that, but he does indeed live in Edmonton, meaning a mere lucky spin of the globe put him out of harm’s way. Which is still a vapid observation on Scary’s part.

“And dude,” Scary continued, “have you noticed these things always happen in Russia?”

Chelyabinsk impact areaWell, it is the largest freaking country on Earth. Still, Scary pointed out, by far most of the planet’s surface is not-Russia. The odds of a meteor blasting through not-Russia were much higher than the odds of the strike happening where it happened.

“So what does it mean, Scary?”

“I’m still thinking about that,” he said. “But dude, did you notice the time stamp on the video?”

I hadn’t noticed. (I was drunk on GRAY MONK ESTATE LATITUDE 50.)

Russian meteor time stamp big

“See?”

Russian meteor strike time stamp

“Whoa, Scary, either that guy’s camera clock is wrong or hundreds of Russian drivers are involved in a conspiracy to shock us with footage about a meteor strike that happened a month and a half ago instead of yesterday.”

“I know, right? Why would they do that? I have to think about it some more.” And Scary was happy for the first time since the Mayan calendar ended.

2009-gray-monk-estate-winery-latitude-50-white-20110606090751-285871Relieved that no loss of life had been reported, I continued drinking LATITUDE 50. This popular white wine blend is pleasantly off-dry with a pale lemon tint and richly layered tropical aromas. Yet another recommendation from our favorite liquor-store consultant, it coats the palate with substantial texture, letting loose mango, apricot, and sweet citrus notes. While delicious chilled, LATITUDE 50 really comes into its own once it rises a few degrees, and ends with a lingering finish. For fans of solid foods it would probably be an excellent accompaniment to light dishes such as poultry or even spicy cuisine, although those foods would of course soak up some of its 12.7% alcohol, leaving you less value for your $13.99.

“Dude!” said Scary.

“Leave me alone, I’m drinking.”

“Dude, if that wine were ‘Latitude 55’ you might not be enjoying it right now.”

“Scary, if I were enjoying a beverage from latitude 55, it would be vodka.”

Leaving aside Scary’s lack of empathy and even schadenfreude at yesterday’s meteor event, the impact is a grim reminder of the knife-edge on which our little planet exists. Just hours before, a small asteroid had squeaked by Earth with 17,000 miles to spare, and over 9,500 celestial bodies make regular near-Earth passes.

“The whole thing illustrates two things,” said Scary.

“What?”

“I don’t know yet, but one of them has to do with the time stamp on that video.” Scary scratched his ass. “Oh wait, I know the other thing: When a really killer asteroid’s about to hit, the government will never tell us.”

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BODEGAS CASTANO MONASTRELL (2010)—worth keeping on hand for the End of Days

My Fellow Inebriates,

The four-year-old recently took the scissors to Glen Bear, who ended up with a surprisingly restrained fur trim, which nevertheless prompted my mum to put the scissors in a high-up cupboard until the “paper only” rule is better internalized by the kids.

Thankfully not Glen or any of us

Glen has fewer brain cells than I do, which puts him into the negative numbers, but now he also looks like a dork. And even though he doesn’t care or really realize what happened, I’m shaking in my fur. It could have been any of us! And who knows? If the kid had been feeling especially demonic, Glen could have been decapitated.

Rattled by this incident, I started thinking about how illusory our sense of safety is. If you’re enjoying computer access and have the leisure to read an alcoholic bear’s ruminations, it’s a good guess that your basic physiological needs—food, water, air—are taken care of, as well as security concerns such as shelter and privacy too. But as my friend Scarybear likes to remind me constantly, we are just one semi-apocalyptic event away from chaos.

For me that event might consist of scissors-wielding kindergartners, but Scarybear is thinking about much larger destabilizing events. We talked about asteroids (and hemorrhoids) recently, but Scary finds the asteroid scenario, in all its preventability, boring. He’s thinking a gamma-ray burst will do us in this year.

Of course gamma-ray bursts occur all the time. They’re invisible to our eyes, which means we’re blissfully unaware of the daily gamma flashbulb that goes off, bathing our little blue marble in gamma radiation and then winking out. These bursts are 10 quadrillion times stronger than the sun. They don’t even come from our own galaxy—they come from other, distant galaxies (a long time ago, hitting us now) and are thought to be caused by collapsed stars merging. Wow!

So, Scary says in the brief pause he takes from snarfing an entire container of ice cream, what if two collapsed stars in OUR galaxy merged? OMG!

Uncertainty is frightening. I feel exactly the sort of trepidation Scary does about gamma-ray bursts when I’m considering buying a new bottle of wine. Like lots of wine drinkers, I have “go-to” wines that are always reliable; they hit the sweet spot between price and quality that allows you to feel good about dropping $15 to $20 in your local booze shop and pounding your purchase in front of the TV. It sucks to go out on a limb and come home with some barnyardy vinegar and have to drink it knowing you could and should have bought one of your old reliables.

So when our friend Robert came over with one of his old reliables, I took notice. BODEGAS CASTANO MONASTRELL (2010) certainly hits the sweet spot on price ($11.97) and boasts a reasonable alcohol content (13.5%). Made from 30-year-old monastrell (mourvedre) vines, this Spanish table wine is opaque and violet with a fresh berry nose. In the glass it sports generous legs and likewise coats the mouth with a plush, hearty mouthfeel. Stone-fruit top-notes and structured tannins make for a satisfying palate pleaser with a moderate to long finish.

BODEGAS CASTANO MONASTRELL is striking for being unassuming. The flavors are balanced without jockeying among themselves for prominence, which makes the wine undistracting—an excellent choice for a party, an involving conversation, or a really gripping episode of Breaking Bad. And if you’re fretting about the End of Days, BODEGAS CASTANO MONASTRELL can help you relax.

Not Scarybear, though. He was freaked out by Glen’s dorky haircut and worried about his little humans getting ideas about performing ursine surgery, so he transferred all this worry to thoughts of Armageddon—gamma rays especially.

He has a point. The Milky Way is pretty big and pretty old, and collapsed stars aren’t so easy to detect, never mind two of them spiraling into one another. Even if it happened a thousand light years away it would look like a second sun on our horizon, and our atmosphere would get cooked. With our ozone layer fried off, we’d all get skin cancer, but even if we hid indoors, the burst would annihilate all the ocean plankton, destroying the basis of our food chain.

Scarybear figures this could happen any time, meaning that it has already happened in our galaxy and the deadly burst is racing toward us at light speed, ETA Mayan End of Days.

Which means we have just 306 days left to stock up on some reliable wine.

What’s your “old reliable” at the liquor store? Are you stocked up?

In case you were wondering what happened to those decapitated bears

5 ways to help your anus thrive

My Fellow Inebriates,

Running out of alcohol feels like the end of the world, which—especially here in 2012—got me thinking about actual Armageddon.

How will it come when it comes?

Are we prepared? What does “prepared” even mean when we’re talking about wholesale annihilation?

Sobriety is a bitch but I have to admit it makes it easier to read Discover Magazine. I like the way Discover’s Phil Plait (Death from the Skies!) calculates the odds of each of ten flavors of cataclysm occurring. In a way it’s reassuring—in a way not. Then again, the only proper reassurance is a headful of booze to make his scary ideas go away.

But I’m going to deal with one of them today: asteroids.

Phil Plait calculates 700,000:1 odds of anyone dying from an asteroid impact. Those are vanishingly long odds, considering you have 18,000:1 odds of being murdered (and 2:1 odds of getting away with murder; consider that). Chances of a meteor crashing into your particular house? Try 182 trillion against. Chances of you getting hemorrhoids? You just need to be the lucky 1 in 25.

So it doesn’t make sense to worry about an asteroid slamming into the planet. Nobody used to fret about it, even with the 1908 Siberian event as a cautionary reminder that there’s an asteroid belt out there between Mars and Jupiter that slings the occasional city-size chunk at us. Plenty of asteroids have grazed us over the years, but we were blissfully ignorant. That or we realized our close call after the fact. Some of them, like the bus-size rock that glanced by us on Wednesday, would have disintegrated in the descent through our atmosphere. Others, such as 1,300-foot-long 2005 YU55, which whizzed within lunar distance last November, needed only a little English on their trajectories to take out entire cities.

Holy shit, how often does this happen?!

Well, it doesn’t occur nearly as often as painful hemorrhoidal itch does. Hemorrhoids are an absolute epidemic compared to asteroid hits. Worse still, your odds of getting hemorrhoids increase if you enjoy binge drinking. Tales of alcoholic woe abound:

  • …everytime i go out and party and drink alcohol in mass quantities at somepoint the hemorrhoids protrude. By the end of the night I feel them sticking out and the next day because of the irritation they tend to bleed…It only happens shen drinking alcohol. Help please!!
  • every time i have a drink the next day i see blood on the toilet bowl which is very scary…. i tried to quit drinking but its not that easy… i am only 22…. i was hoping to get surgery but i dont know yet…
  • it felt like as if there was something popping out, like as if i’m going to soil myself but it’s actually just the hemoorhoids getting bigger which makes me panic a bit…when my body temperature rises in a warm environment they start to get irritating…also when i drink alcohol they get worse and i’m running to and from the toilet a lot

Leaving aside the profound effect hemorrhoids seem to exert on spelling and punctuation, they do sound like a dreadful death knell for the party lifestyle. What are the wretched things anyway?

Also known as piles, hemorrhoids are painful lumps that result from excessive anal pressure. In addition to causing the ass to bleed, they interfere with comfortable pooing, and the unfortunate social stigma they carry often causes sufferers to avoid seeking medical attention or even purchasing soothing ointment. One of my mother’s friends was so embarrassed by his affliction that his hemorrhoids ran rampant until he finally shoplifted some Preparation H because he couldn’t face the drugstore cashier.

I should mention that he has an enviable liquor collection and rec-room bar. But is curtailing his drinking the only way to rid himself of the burning sensation of hemorrhoids?

Of course not—how silly that would be, and how intolerable. Here are some medical recommendations:

  1. Get some exercise. This would of course include grinding away at a dance club. (Did I mention my friend Julia Gale of Broker’s Gin recently injured her knee at such a discotheque, gyrating to Love Shack by the B-52s while her colleague Petronella looked on aghast? Julia, who described the injury as an “alcohol-fuelled” form of “self-expression” is going under the knife this week to repair the damage. This sounds infinitely worse than hemorrhoids, although of course the latter can eventuate in surgery too.)
  2. Eat fiber. This makes it easier to flush stool out of the rectum, alleviating anal pressure. Have your breakfast oatmeal with Jack Daniel’s instead of just having Jack Daniel’s.
  3. Drink plenty of water. This softens your poo, which also eases pressure on the anus. If you have hemorrhoids, it’s okay to water your scotch.
  4. Defecate regularly. I guess this means you need to make an effort instead of waiting for your business to slide out on its own.
  5. Avoid heavy lifting. This means modifying point #1 to exclude weightlifting. I’ve heard of compound exercises recruiting multiple muscle groups, but who knew the anus helped with your deadlift too?

And of course there are all sorts of other ways to strain the anus. You may have a favorite way, or even several favorites. The important thing is to realize that your anus needs a rest now and then. It is your friend and you mustn’t mistreat it.

But is alcohol necessarily contraindicated for hemorrhoid sufferers? Scientific reports conflict, besides which they are brain-numbingly full of numbers and terminology. I couldn’t make any sense of them at all, but they do conclude that alcohol’s contribution to hemorrhoids is dose-dependent. The upshot is that there’s a definite sweet spot when it comes to drinking—an amount that will allow you a few drinks yet permit your anus to thrive.

OMG, what amount is that? you may well ask. Sadly, I don’t have a clue. I don’t even have a functional anus, my friends.

But don’t envy me just yet, because there is a dark side to lacking an anal cavity.

It means my odds of getting hit by an asteroid are greater than my odds of getting hemorrhoids.

OMG!