Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There Be (Real) Pirates!

Okay, so as you may have noticed, I recently converted “Banana Winds” over into the pirate-themed amusement you are presently enjoying. The purpose was two-fold. First, I like pirates! I grew up with the stories of “Treasure Island” and Blackbeard and all those other scurvy dogs! And I am naturally drawn to the warmer climes of the Caribbean.

Regrettably, as Jimmy Buffett sings, I was born 200 years too late!

The second reason for the change is that I’m planning to launch a more serious blog in the months to come, separating the light-hearted “Captain Dave” from the more pensive “Bro. Dave”.


That guy can really be "preachy"!

Y’know, when I say it that way, it makes me sound kinda schizophrenic!

But as they say in show-business, “Timing is everything”. And this time, the timing is off… in a big way! Just this week, off the coast of Somalia, pirates have struck yet again. They boarded a 58-foot yacht and took the four-person crew hostage. Yet, before the negotiations for ransom were much underway, they killed the four civilians who were – of all things – on a multi-year trek sailing around the world distributing Bibles.

Sigh.

Sure, a number of jokes come to mind, but I don’t wish to make light of the situation. While I find Johnny Depp and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise to be entertaining, and admittedly have often dreamed of the life of adventure that Errol Flynn promised us, I suspect that most of us have failed to acknowledge that pirates still ride the high seas, looking for whatever they can plunder – from small crafts to cruise ships to oil tankers.


It was only a couple years ago that the television show “South Park” tried to bring awareness to the growing problem of pirates operating off the horn of Africa. In that episode, titled “Fatbeard”, the boys start a Pirate Club at school, then travel the high seas recruiting other pirates.


When they actually encounter some real Somali pirates, Cartman is disappointed by their lack of stereotypical piratocity.

They’re not pirate-y enough!

But the reality is not so funny.

The nation of Somolia is ruled by a loose coalition of warlords and the economy is severely depressed. As with Caribbean islands of old, pirates come and go at will. In fact, most are hailed as heroes, as they bring their modern-day booty back to their starving villages. It is estimated that currently some forty ships and 800 crew members are being held hostage as international negotiations for ransom plod along.

Nonetheless, the “Banana Winds” will continue to sail. Those who sail with us must pledge to continue to drink the grog and chase after booty, and say things that end in “Aaaarrr!”… just because it’s fun.


I just wanted you to know that I know.

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's National Margarita Day!

Today is National Margarita Day, a day to lift a frosty beverage in honor of… uhmmmm…

Margarita!!!

Yes, today we drink in honor of Margarita, who was… uhmmmm…

Oh, what the hell! We don’t need no reason to drink Margaritas! Just tip it up and enjoy!

Oh, alright, if you must. According to legend, the Margarita was named after Margarita Sames, who created the drink in 1948 for a party at her cliff-side hacienda in Acapulco. The story goes that this mythical drink helped the party continue for two weeks!


You see? “Banana Winds” is educational as well as entertaining! Feel better now?

Okay!

So, Happy National Margarita Day!

For those who don’t imbibe, who suffer from hypertension (too much salt!) or who have a problem with alcohol and shouldn’t drink, today is also George Washington’s Birthday and thus, naturally, National Cherry Pie Day!


It also happens to be National "Cook a Sweet Potato" Day! And tomorrow is National Banana Bread Day, followed oddly on Thursday by National Tortilla Chip Day. And let’s not forget National Guacamole Day, which falls on September 16th.

Now do you see why I drink?!?


Okay, moment of honesty: I don't need a reason to drink!

Margaritas deserve the recognition though. According to people who know, it was the most popular drink ordered in 2008, representing 18% of all mixed drink sales in the U.S. – not including Jimmy Buffett concerts!

On average, Americans drink 185,000 Margaritas per hour – a typical Jimmy Buffett concert!

I sh*t thee not!

If you want to throw together a quick and easy Margarita today, just mix 1 part fresh lime juice with 2 parts triple sec and 3 parts tequila. Shake with ice and serve in a salt-rimmed glass. There are hundreds of other Margarita recipes out there – some of which use fruit juices others than lime, which I consider criminal – so try out several to find a formula you like.

Or if you’re too lazy to make your own, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville mix is good; just add tequila (preferably Margaritaville Tequila!). And if you’re too lazy for even that, Jose Cuervo bottles a pre-mixed Margarita.

For those who will be disappointed and hung over tomorrow, you can anxiously await the next holiday. April 7th is National Beer Day, preceded by “New Beer’s Eve”; not to be confused with September 28th, “National Drink a Beer Day”.


June 19th is National Martini Day, and July 19th is National Pi┼ła Colada Day.

There seems to be some disagreement about National Bloody Mary Day. Some celebrate it December 1st, while others celebrate it January 1st, coinciding with National "Hair of the Dog That Bit You" Day.

But remember: whatever you drink, drink responsibly. No one likes a sloppy drunk.


No, really.

I'm talking to you, Lindsay Lohan!

Here’s a classic Jimmy Buffett video to help get your Margarita celebrations started today!

And by "classic" I mean it's an oldie but goodie! Try to ignore the hair styles and fashions the band wears!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Moment of Politics

(For those who come to “Banana Winds” for a moment of levity, I apologize in advance for the following serious political commentary. Tuesday is “National Margarita Day”, so check back then.)

For the most part, I try to avoid discussions of politics. As an independent thinker, instead of aligning with a “party”, I try to look at the issues and individuals involved and make up my own mind.

Truth is, I don’t 100% agree with anyone about anything.

For the same reason, I didn’t join a fraternity in college. I couldn’t align myself completely with any of those offered. The same holds true for the numerous adult fraternal organizations and clubs. I have friends who are faithful “Lions” and “Kiwanians”. They do good things. But I am not one of them. And while my grandfathers were devoted Masons, I just don’t find room for that in my life, or in my faith and philosophy.

And now that I’ve pissed off everyone who belongs to such organizations, I return the discussion to politics.

In many ways, I think politicians of every party are all alike. Despite perhaps noble stands prior to their ascent into office, most are sucked into the whirling vortex of American politics. They are expected to vote along “party lines”, if only to stick it to the other party. "Ideals" are quaint; compromise is the name of the game.

But most damning, they too often succumb to doing whatever is necessary to get re-elected. Political outsider Stephen Fincher (R-Tennessee) was elected this past November to represent the 8th district of Tennessee, and even before he was sworn into office, he started setting up a PAC so he could raise money for re-election. Money, sex, power and influence have a strong pull that continually drags down our political system.


But I came across a news article this morning that may force me to make a definite stand with a political party – in this case, the Democrats.

According to the report, the Republican-majority House of Representatives pushed through a spending bill with $61 billion in cuts to domestic programs. The vote pretty much followed party lines, 235-189.

The cuts were in areas of school nutrition programs, environmental protection, and heating and housing subsidies for the poor. The bill also does away with all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but continues subsidies for Amtrak. It also gives a 2% increase to the Pentagon.

But, as they say on info-mercials, “Wait, that’s not all!” The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget was cut by 1/3 and its powers curtailed. The bill blocks proposed federal regulations on emission of greenhouse gases, mercury emissions from cement, and the proposed increase of the percentage of ethanol mixed with gasoline (from 10% to 15%).

It also blocks the planned clean-up of Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States and the source of clams, oysters and blue crabs, which we all love so much. Dead Zones (areas unable to support aquatic life) were identified in the Bay as far back as the 1970s, which affect the entire food chain.


The Republican bill also allows for mountain top removal for mining.


Obviously, the Republican Party is taking the position that “Big Business” is more important to them than clean water, fresh air and… well,… blue crabs. Their vision for our country is obviously not the one described in the song, “America the Beautiful”, but more like this:


I am not a “tree-hugger”, but I do somewhat understand the ecosystem. To paraphrase the words of Chief Seattle,

“Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. Even the [Republican], whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny."

I pray the Democrat-controlled Senate can stop this train wreck and not let this bill get through. Democrats or Republicans, God help us, we need some leadership in Washington that will make America strong again!

And that means taking care of the least of us, not just feathering the nests of the rich and powerful.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wine, Wine, Wine

Recommended Reading
This weekend I finished reading Julia Flynn Siler’s “The House of Mondavi: The rise and fall of an American wine dynasty.” I highly recommend it.

The book is a copiously-researched look at the true story of the Mondavi wine family, beginning with Cesare and Rosa Mondavi’s immigration from Italy to America in 1908. Originally settling in Minnesota, they moved to Lodi, California, in 1923, with two sons and two daughters in tow, to start a new life.

Keep in mind, Prohibition was in full swing. Yet, thanks to a loophole in the law, individuals were still allowed to make enough wine for personal consumption, so until the law was repealed, Cesare shipped grapes back east.

The next challenge was the Great Depression.

The book details the struggles of making a go of a winery during tough times, but the real intrigue comes along as Cesare wants to leave his legacy to his two boys, Robert and Peter. But the two disagreed on basic principles – make really good wine, or make lots of money? Eventually, the tension boils over and the family ousts oldest son Robert, who starts his own winery and literally puts Napa Valley on the map.

Robert does quite well for himself, growing his winery into a $500-million per year business. But he runs into the same problem that Cesare did – he has two sons, to whom he wants to leave his legacy. And again, Robert’s two sons – Michael and Timothy – play out a familiar story. Timothy wanted to craft high-priced wine and Michael wanted to make money and dominate the world wine industry.


The family business starts to crumble when, in order to raise capital for expansion, they make a public stock offering, which ultimately results in all the Mondavis being removed from leadership, and the Mondavi name and all interests sold to a New York buyer in 2004.

This book should be required reading for every college business course, as well as for anyone interested in wine. Some of it, I suspect, would even preach!

Recommended Drinking
As with books, one should not judge a wine by its label. But I made an exception not long ago when I came across a number of wines under the “Treasure Hunter” name. The labels mimicked ancient pirate maps. Even at $24 per bottle, I couldn’t resist.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The “Gunner’s Daughter”, a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, was delicious.

So I did a little research to find out the story behind these intriguing wines. According to their web site, the “Treasure Hunters” are “negociants” – that is, they buy wine from other top wineries and rebottle it under their own label.

Their claim is that they have a panel of experts – sommeliers, winemakers and restaurateurs – that judge hundreds of wines to determine which will be sold under the “Treasure Hunter” label. Thus, they claim they are offering top-quality wines at a much reduced price.

This may be pure P.R. / B.S., I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m going to buy more.

Not Recommended
You may remember my article from November 2009 when I blogged about the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau. You can read it here.

You may also remember my reaction to the 2009 vintage!

"Bananas? Are you kidding me?!?"

But I couldn’t resist the new year, so on November 19, 2010, I purchased a bottle of the new release. Dominique Capart, the head of Inter Beaujolais, an association promoting the wine, said that “this year's wine is a real treat and that the red fruits, the black currant, and the raspberries can even be smelled, it is so crisp and smooth in the mouth.”

But I was afraid to open it… until last night.

And it wasn’t bad.

Okay, I realize that’s not a raving review, but I didn’t immediately spew it out of my mouth like the 2009!

I paired the 2010 BN with a pork tenderloin. The sweetness of the pork complimented the “unique” flavor and effervescence of the wine. I drank a second glass.

This morning I awoke with a headache. Not a good sign!

But truly putting it to the wine-tasting test, I sampled it again tonight after it being open overnight. The wine had indeed changed.

That’s the joy of wine – the complexity, the variety of tastes and smells, the changing nature of the wine as it matures.

What was that new flavor I was tasting?

Raspberries? No.

Currants? No.

Bananas? No.

Wait, I’ve got it… Vinegar!

Here's looking forward to a better 2011!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Every year we go to the home of friends for the annual Super Bowl party. In 2010 it was especially meaningful as the New Orleans Saints took home the prize!

This year, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers have the spot light.

(sound of crickets chirping.)

And if that's not bad enough, I just found out that neither team has cheerleaders!


That's it! I call for a do-over! Back to the play-offs! I say let the Tampa Bay Bucaneers win so we will have some decent cheerleaders!


I like the Saints' football team, but I love the Bucaneers' cheerleaders!


Yes, I am a Pirate!

But at least there will be the commercials. We'll get to see Danica Patrick, the hottest... ahem... driver in racing, once again advertising for "Go Daddy".


I still don't know what they do.

And we'll get to see Kim Kardashian in a commercial for breast implants.


Just kidding.

And, if all else fails, you can be sure Fergie will be showing off her "lady lumps" during the Black Eyed Peas' half-time show.


At least the party with friends will be good!

And isn't that what the Super Bowl is really about?