Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Don't Panic!

The Captain came across an interesting report in yesterday’s Huffington Post...

Why do you always act surprised that the Captain can read?

According to a new study from University of Texas at Austin, advertising dollars spent on promoting alcoholic beverages have increased 400% over the last forty years.

The study looked back to 1971 since it was in that year the Federal Trade Commission lifted the ban on alcohol advertisements on broadcast media.

Hey, that’s just 38 years after Prohibition ended in the U.S.!

Who says our government works slow?!

It has taken time to grow, but especially in the last four years money spent advertising alcoholic products has suddenly exploded, mostly in the area of electronic ads. 

Perhaps a $4 million Super Bowl ad might be a contributing factor...

This increase in spending is attributed in part to competition among the giant global booze corporations, and in part to a recent recognition that small microbreweries are collectively outselling the big breweries now.

Beer makes up the lion’s share of alcohol consumed in the U.S.

Yes, on average, Americans are drinking 20.29 gallons of beer each year! 

To put that into perspective, if you were ponied up to the bar at your local ale house, you'd have to drink 160 "Pints" to reach 20 gallons, or roughly one glass every other day. 

But before we allow ourselves to get alarmed by this information, we should read the rest of the report.

The UT-A study revealed that while advertising has increased dramatically, during the same period alcohol consumption has remained fairly flat. In 1971it was estimated that the average American consumed 22.2 gallons of alcohol per year, and in 2011 that number has only increased to 24.6 gallons per person.

Again, to put that into perspective, if you are a wine-drinker like the Captain, that would be the equivalent of about 120 bottles of wine, or roughly one bottle every three days. 

Frankly, the Captain feels these estimates are low, but that’s not the point of this blog.

CAPTAIN’S NOTE: There was no recognizable increase in consumption in 2003 when Disney released “Pirates of the Caribbean”, despite Captain Jack Sparrow’s trademark plea: 

Surprisingly, there was a slight – and momentary – uptick in alcohol consumption when the Captain launched “Banana Winds” into the blogosphere in 2007, but no measurable change in consumption when I signed up for Facebook in 2010 and started sharing the occasional – allegedly inappropriate – alcohol posts.

The Captain notes that there is an anomaly on the chart in 1981where alcohol consumption soared to 28.8 gallons per person, and we were curious as to why.

So I consulted “The People History” website to find out what might have happened in 1981 to cause people to turn to the bottle more frequently. Here are some possibilities:

  • Ronald Reagan succeeded Jimmy Carter as President of the United States.
  • Air Traffic Controllers went on strike and President Reagan fired them all.
  • Inflation in the U.S. was soaring at 10.35%.
  • Microsoft released MS-DOS.
  • The AIDS virus was identified.
  • And American Airlines introduces “Frequent Flyer Miles”.
All good reasons to drink!

But the truth is, we don’t really know why alcohol consumption rose in 1981.

And again, it is not belaboring the point to say that the overall consumption of alcohol has not significantly increased over the last 40 years despite the millions of dollars being poured into advertising.

Now, mates, the Captain is not a tea-totaller, as you might have already guessed. 

Nor is he a raging drunk.

Sorry if that disappoints some of you.

However, I do care about you and the safety of others. So, as always… 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I Like This Guy!

Of all the pronouncements world leaders make on a daily basis – and there have been quite a few recently – the one pronouncement that captured the world’s attention last week came from Pope Francis.

In a press interview, he confessed that the one thing he misses now that he is Pope is –

Wait, lean in closer!

– the ability to slip out and get a slice of pizza every now and then without being recognized!

I like this guy!

And upon hearing this alarming news, pizza-maker Enzo Cacialli sprang into action! He created a special pizza just for Pope Francis and hand-delivered it to the Popemobile during the Pope’s visit to Naples on Saturday.

The Captain applauds Enzo Cacialli for his quick thinking and loving gesture.

But this whole incident got the Captain thinking. What does a Pope eat?

And I was not completely surprised to discover that, unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis takes his meals in the communal dining room at the Vatican Hotel, along with other visitors to the Vatican, helping himself to the same cafeteria-style food that everyone else eats.

And why is this not surprising?

Already, Pope Francis has rejected much of the regalia of the papacy. You won’t see him in fur-trimmed velvet capes, and he prefers ordinary black shoes over the traditional red slippers. He lives in a two-room apartment instead of in the Apostolic Palace, and whenever he does wander out, he drives a Ford Focus instead of the papal Mercedes. He declined to order a new set of porcelain tableware with his papal crest, and he passed on a new papal ring.

Of course, this has created murmurs of disapproval from some in the Roman Catholic faith. This first-ever Latin American Pope is just “undignified”.

So remember, children, that no matter who you are or what you do, there will always be someone there waiting to criticize you... even if you're the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, and Servant of the servants of God!

So always follow your heart.

But those critics should have realized what they were getting when they elected Cardinal Bergoglio – a Jesuit – to be the vicar of Christ. Some Vatican watchers saw the election as simply a political move by the Conclave to shore up support among the growing Latin American Church.

What they got was anything but politics-as-usual.

The new Pope took his name from St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th century saint about whom Pope Francis said, “He brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He changed history.”

St. Francis was known for three things: his love for creation, his commitment to peace, and his care for the poor.

These three concerns make up the core beliefs of Pope Francis as well, beliefs which guide his daily life and inform his public pronouncements.

For example, he describes the Church as a field hospital after a battle.  

“The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds.”

When a reporter asked him about the status of gay priests in the Church, the Pope replied, “Who am I to judge?” He has repeatedly argued that the Church’s purpose is more to proclaim God’s merciful love for all people than to condemn sinners for having fallen short.

We need more world leaders like Pope Francis – people who, rather than chasing after the shifting (and often uninformed) winds of public opinion, have a set of core beliefs which they refuse to compromise.

If you follow football – or even if you don’t – you probably know that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended up in dead last place this past season. And while that brings a tear to the Captain’s eye, it also gives the Bucs the first-round draft pick of this year’s new class of rookies.

For the past three months there has been a great deal of speculation about how the team’s management will use that prize. I won’t bore you here with all the possibilities. But in a press release today, it was announce that the decision would be made “based on the team’s research and not on the potential reaction to its choice.”

That’s what I’m talking about!

Those who lack core values, who lack a clearly defined vision, who depend on public opinion polls to guide their decision-making are doomed to fail.

Have I mentioned yet that Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the first candidate to officially throw his hat into the ring for the 2016 Presidential Race?

“Doomed, I tell you!”

And here’s why core values are especially important.

In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it was found that “the precise timing of our decisions can be a powerful influence on the choices that we end up making. The process of arriving at a moral decision is not only reflected in people’s eye gaze, but can also be determined by it.”

In short, one’s decision-making can be swayed by the images last seen. This can be as blatant as seeing a “YES!” banner right before going in to vote on a ballot initiative, or as subtle as showing photos of terror victims when debating the need to send more troops into combat.

It’s why the Humane Society commercials show all the sad puppies and kitties right before asking for your donation!

This also explains why FOX News is so popular. The short skirts and ubiquitous up-skirt shot tend to catch the viewer's attention and favorably sway the opinions of said viewer.

I kid you not!

And you probably thought that was just an accident!

So yes, it is refreshing to find a world leader – or anyone today for that matter – who knows who he is and what he believes, and lives that out!

Go be like that!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Make It Dry

On Wednesday, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved a new product called “Palcohol”.

Yes, that’s short for “powdered alcohol”.

Note: The Captain is not a chemist; he just plays one on this blog.

Just add water and mix!

The Captain’s mouth is already watering!

Mark Phillips, the maker of the powder hails its convenience. ‘Cause, y’know, after a long hike or kayaking or doin' some other manly activity, a guy just wants to have a convenient way to enjoy a Cosmopolitan… or a Lemon Drop… or a “Powderita”…

Okay, not so much.

While he is right that it is inconvenient to carry a bottle of Tequila, Triple Sec, and limes while hiking, kayaking or doin' some other manly activity, one would have to at least carry a bottle of clean water to mix this stuff into. But if you’re carrying a bottle of water for your powdered drink at the end of the trail, why not just pre-mix a real margarita and carry it instead?

Phillips argues that some in the medical community are hailing his new product as a breakthrough in getting much-needed alcohol for sterilization purposes into remote areas of the world. Imagine how much of this powdered alcohol you could backpack into the heart of deepest, darkest Africa…

Just add CLEAN water and mix!

[Captain's Note: More than 50% of the people of Africa do not have access to clean water.]

Most others in the medical community are shouting the dangers of such a product.

Bad things will come should it fall into hands of minors, they say.

As with all alcohol, mind you.

It will be easier to sneak into concerts and sporting events.

Um, yeah...

Some commenters are already asking if you can sniff it!

And what if you mix two (or more) packets into a single glass of water…?

The TTB says what people do with Palcohol when they buy it is not their problem. The TTB’s job is to just make sure the package is properly labeled. And according to the TTB, when used according to the directions on the label, the product is perfectly safe.

…as opposed to tobacco products, also part of their portfolio, which, when used properly, will lead to various cancers and a slow, painful death.

But I digress…

How potent is Palcohol? A similar product in the Netherlands claims only 3% alcohol. A similar product in Germany boasts of a 4.8% alcohol level.

For those uneducated about alcohol, a good bottle of wine can exceed 15% alcohol, and a shot of whiskey normally runs 40-50% alcohol (straight). A traditional Cosmopolitan can have as much as 27.3% alcohol by volume.

Even mouthwash can contain anywhere from 6-27% alcohol.

Of course, you shouldn’t drink that stuff!

So, the question then becomes, “Who’s going to drink THIS stuff?”

Truth is, it would take way too much to even give you a buzz!

And what could it possibly taste like? The Captain has sampled various “lite” beers, cocktails made from bottle mixes, and even “Skinny Margaritas”.

Bleh, Bleh, and Bleh!

So can a powdered alcohol mix deliver any taste at all?

One person who has tried Palcohol compares it to “Tang”. You remember Tang… “The Drink of Astronauts” that was forced on all of us kids back in the 70s? It boasted 100% of your daily recommended vitamin C – just like real orange juice!

A couple years ago, astronaut Buzz Aldrin finally admitted, “Tang sucks!”

In an alternate reality, on one episode of “X-Files”, a despondent Fox Mulder bedded down in a seedy motel and mixed powdered Tang with Vodka...

Did anyone else think Gillian Anderson was really hot?

Again, I digress…

Let me wrap this up with a word problem: 

Palcohol is to a real Margarita 
Tang is to real orange juice…

Yeah, I don’t think so!