Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cheese In The Middle East

Cheese In The Middle East
by Rob Cottignies 

             There is a tree. There is also an island. Actually, there are many trees and many islands but one particular tree only grows on one particular island. I am speaking about the dragon's blood tree (Dracaena cinnibari) which can only be found on the island of Socotra, the largest of four islands in the Socotra archipelago off the coast of Yemen. The dragon's blood tree is arguably the most interesting-looking tree on our planet and its red sap was mythologized as resembling the blood of a dragon. These trees can be found on plateaus, beaches, mountains, and wherever else they feel like sprouting up from the mighty ground. A dream of mine is to sit under a dragon's blood tree and admire Socotra's diverse flora and fauna, read a book, eat the tree's berries, contemplate, or whatever else.
            This seems like an innocent and easily-attained dream, right? Sadly, it will probably never come true. I have the means, motive, and opportunity to visit Socotra, so why should this not happen? Well, per the U.S. Department of State, 'Travel to Yemen is strongly discouraged due to a state of severe political crisis, as well as a very high threat of terrorist attacks, abductions, tribal violence and general lawlessness. Terrorist groups actively target tourist groups, with targeted suicide bombings and armed ambushes occurring yearly since 2007.' In short, I can't relax under a tree because people want to blow each other up. Sure, I could sit under the tree, but there's a decent chance I could be kidnapped and/or killed on my journey to it by terrorists, pirates, or any other group of angry folks who are waiting to cause chaos. Those trees are awesome but not really worth the risk to myself.
            How did we get to this point? By 'we', I mean humans, the only species of the roughly 8.7 million on Earth to cause such situations. Violence is in our nature. Take a look at the history of almost any country, tribe, ethnicity, or religion and you will find massive amounts of bloodshed. Even our ancestral apes, as pointed out by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, likely resorted to violence when the thought emerged. Sure, many animals fight with each other, but those bouts are limited to hunting for food and protecting the pack. Humans do horrible things to other humans out of greed, jealousy, revenge, enjoyment, or even no reason at all.

"For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or even why there were laws and governments; but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased and I turned away with disgust and loathing." -the creature, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

            And why would this state of things change? The Middle East has been a disaster since I've been aware of what it is and long before that...
            But then I wonder, 'Do they eat grilled cheese in the Middle East?' I think not, because the versatility of this food alone would make anyone stop blowing things up and start eating immediately. ANY person can take two slices of ANY kind of bread and put ANY kind of cheese between them to get a delicious and possibly nutritious snack. Follow this mantra- Cheese, bread, heat, eat, repeat. We all know that melted cheese makes any food into an absolute delicacy but with grilled cheese the melted cheese is the featured ingredient. Peaceful and relaxing, cheese has a proven* calming effect on any person it enters. When it's placed between bread and grilled, Nirvana is achieved. Go forth, young Arhat.
            What's even greater than great is that you don't have to specifically grill your sandwich. Instead, you could toast it, bake it, broil it, griddle it, pan-fry it, cook it over an open fire, put it in a Panini press, or however else you want to cook it for maximum deliciosity©. Phew, for a minute there I felt like somebody else…

            Have you ever seen Benny And Joon? Me neither, but apparently it contains some charming scene wherein Johnny Depp makes grilled cheese with a clothes iron. As far as I know, Johnny Depp has never wanted to blow me up so that I couldn't sit under a dragon's blood tree, so I'll also trust his method.
            By adding a few simple ingredients, you can make at least 150 different but still amazingly deliciously wonderfully melty grilled cheese sandwiches!
            If grilled cheese sounds amazing but not quite filling enough, have I got some great news for you. Grilled cheese's best friend is none other than tomato soup! Just think about dipping the corner of your scrumptious love-melt into a bowl of hot slightly-peppered liquid red wholesome creamy amazingness. Is anyone else drooling right now? If you're not, immediately stop what you're doing and spend no less than four hours on this site.
            Cranking the drool factor up to eleven for people who hate their bodies but love their taste buds, restaurant chain Friendly's once offered a grilled cheese burger melt, which was a good old juicy hamburger smushed between *two* grilled cheese sandwiches. Sadly/Thankfully, this item is no longer available.

            The Great Depression, by its own definition, was one of the saddest times in our country's history. To feel better, do you know what people ate during this era? Grilled cheese! They often called it Cheese Dream and I don't blame them for one second. Sometimes there were variations, such as adding bacon or eggs and- gasp!- preparing it open-faced. I mean, if the saddest people ever ate grilled cheese to get through their hardships, surely terrorists and counter-terrorists would benefit from its grandiosity, eating together while holding hands and singing Imagine.
            So forget about which celebrities hate each other and how awful people with different beliefs from yours are and whatever other nonsense occupies your days and make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich according to your own specifications. And enjoy it! Free will is everyone's right when it comes to cheese. Hopefully Middle Easterners will read my message and act accordingly, we'll do our parts, and I'll see you in Yemen.

*though it very well may have been proven, I made this up

Postscript- This article was originally titled 'Discussing The Disgusting' and had taken a very serious turn toward Existentialism and the history of human-on-human violence. Wasn't reading about cheese so much better!?!? You're welcome.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Travel- Beering Around Europe

Beering Around Europe
by Rob Cottignies

            Six weeks. Eleven countries. Twenty-four cities. Over one hundred beers.
            Contrary to the statistics above, my friend's and my recent European backpacking trip was not centered around beer. We just really like beer and trying new brews from new places is exciting. It should be noted that I am definitely not a beer expert nor am I a hop-head, so my choices tend to stray from IPAs and the like. Also, for the record, I wrote this objectively based on our experiences with no endorsements of any kind. From the common local brew to rare specialties, let's embark on a beer adventure around Europe. Join us...

            Our first stop was Iceland, where beers are quite expensive. The trick to successfully drinking beer in expensive countries is to find out which ones are worth the money, and that's where this blog comes in. A very good and fairly popular brewery out of Iceland is Einstök Ölgerð (pronounce the Ös like flat O/U hybrids and that last thing like the 'th' in 'this'). Their doppelbock can be found in the USA during the later-year months and is quite tasty. Their pale ale is solid but their key to victory for me is the toasted porter. Roasty and lovely. You can find Einstök beers in most major retailers in Reykjavík and other main Icelandic cities, of which there is one- Akureyri- sixty miles south of the Arctic Circle and where the beer is brewed. Also in Akureyri is the microbrewery Gædinger. If your time is short and you can't make it up to Akureyri, fret not. Owned by the brewery is Micro Bar, located right in Reykjavík. They offer a great selection of Icelandic beers and their collection of American beer is surprisingly growing nicely. I had heard wonders about the Gædinger Stout but sadly the keg kicked before we got there. Next time!
            Unless you enjoy the swill produced by the large American breweries, avoid Kaldi Lite. It was a nice reminder of why I stopped drinking light beer so long ago. Instead, enjoy a nicely-brewed non-alcoholic treat called Egils Maltextrakt from Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson. Say that three times fast. Actually, try just it one time slowly. This root beer can be found near the regular beer in a market and NOBODY should fault someone for unwittingly purchasing it without knowing it was a non-alcoholic root beer. After all, the label is written in the most insane language in all of Europe. If none of this has scared you away (and you enjoy the bitter cold), visit Iceland on March 1st- Beer Day, which commemorates the 1989 end of Icelandic prohibition.

            If you thought beers in Iceland were expensive, you should probably skip over Norway. But don't even consider skipping Norway because it's an insanely beautiful country. Any beer- macro or micro, draught at a bar or can from a market- will run about 12-15 US dollars. The rule from Iceland applies especially in Norway- find out what's worth it. Though we certainly couldn't afford to try them all, the beers we did drink from Ægir Bryggeri in beautiful Flåm were excellent. For an interesting concept beer, try their wasabi saison. They also have a new distillery, if paying $40 for aquavit on the rocks is your thing.
            Should you find yourself thirsty in the underwhelming city of Oslo, stop by Crowbar & Bryggeri. If you haven't figured it out, 'bryggeri' is Norwegian for 'brewery'. They have a great selection, including a few house brews. Also, to save a little money, keep an eye out in stores for expired beer. I don't know how common this is, but my friends and I benefitted monetarily from a six-pack of Pokal that went south six months prior. It tasted fine and nobody's jaws fell off, so cheers to victory!

            The Swedes are very friendly people. Walk into a bar in Gothenburg or Stockholm and you'll find at least one statuesque person with a smile on his or her face, waiting to make new friends. Unfortunately due to Sweden's less-than-Norway-but-still-ridiculous prices, we did not sample many Swedish brews, however I know that St. Erik's is a popular brand. I even rated their IPA a 3 out of 5 (and I haaaaaaaate IPAs). The brand name is misleading though, mostly because St. Erik's Bryggeri shut its doors in 1929. The name has since been purchased by Galatea Spirits. For a fun little treat, look into a few bars until you find the familiar B of a Brooklyn Lager staring at you from the taphandles. Garrett and company decided to expand to the fabulous land of meatballs, bikini teams, and puppet chefs!
            I'm here to make suggestions, not demands, but if you call yourself even the faintest hint of a beer nerd, you absolutely must go to Mikkeller Bar in Stockholm. Founded by two friends who shared a passion for beer, Mikkeller isn't actually a brewery. They brew their beers at and sometimes with other breweries from around the world. Found only in Mikkeller Bars, these rare beers will surely give your palate a treat, even if you don't enjoy them! If you absolutely cannot make it to this bar, show no fear- the original Mikkeller is in Copenhagen...

            Unlike the people of many countries, Danes are proud of their country's largest beer producer- Carlsberg. Don't expect a huge difference in taste by ordering one on draught just a few miles from the brewery, but enjoy it regardless. Try their Tuborg Classic while you're at it. You can get 2-for-1 during happy hour at Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. And after the rest of Scandinavia, you will be all-too-willing to spend the asking price.
            In the last section, I mentioned that the original Mikkeller Bar is in Copenhagen, and I actually wasn't lying! I walked in expecting basically the same beer menu and was shocked to find not one was the same as the Mikkeller in Stockholm. I ordered a Belgian-style Sour Quadrupel brewed with Cassis. Once more, that was a Belgian-style Sour Quadrupel brewed with Cassis, which is French or something for blackcurrant. I liked it- didn't love it- but it was probably the most interesting beer I've ever tasted. They also brew that style with rhubarb, raspberry, spare tires, Eskimo tears, and who knows what else. As I've hinted, there's always something interesting to try at Mikkeller Bar.
            For an experience that's more fun than their local beer, visit the quirky sub-section of Copenhagen called Christiania. This artsy village is trying to break free from the motherland and the purchase of every Christiania Thy Pilsner helps!

            After Scandinavia, we went to the more familiar (and reasonably-priced) beers of Germany. According to the Reinheitsgebot of 1516, German beer can only contain beer's four main ingredients- water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. This, along with careful and extensive brewing practices, ensures that every German beer will be of high quality but there's also not much room for varying tastes. Although the beers won't wow you with strange flavors, German brewers have developed tastes specific to their respective regions such as Kölsch from Cologne, Dortmunder from Dortmund, Berlinerweiße from Berlin, and the impressive array of beers from Bavaria. That all said, our first stop in Berlin was a Belgian beer bar named HERMAN. The owner/bartender is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about Belgian beers, likely because he is from Belgium. One fun fact he had for us was that the Quadrupel style is more of a Dutch innovation and Belgians tend to shy from it. After hearing that, I did the only reasonable thing- ordered a Quad! That Malheur 12 was a nice brew, but there are better Belgians lurking. We'll get to them in a bit. For those of you familiar with the one in Munich, there is also a Hofbräuhaus in Berlin. It's smaller and a bit more tourist-centered but worth a visit, if only for a liter of Dunkel.
            And speaking of Munich, let's head there for Oktoberfest, shall we? If you do or don't enjoy anything about life, stop what you're doing and book an Oktoberfest trip immediately. It's an enormous carnival with huge tents filled with people drinking huge beers. I say 'carnival' because there are rides and games and stands all over the place. Yes, rides. In the morning, you may promise yourself that you won't go on a roller coaster after six liters of beer. Yeah, talk to me after the liters. Anyway, Oktoberfest is wonderful, despite what my friend Becky might say about it. My friends and I were in Spaten's tent and drinking their delicious Märzen while singing bad American songs from the 1960s was a magnificent experience. Even if you can't get a table in a tent, just walk around and find a seat at a table outside of a tent. No beer is served outside of the tent areas, so if that's your goal you'll have to find a seat. At least be a little prepared, unlike a group of Australians we met on a train who were going to Oktoberfest but had no idea how it worked. I guess they figured it out when they randomly found us and immediately ignored us and attached themselves to the girls in a group of strangers we were talking to. Ugh, Australians.
            But speaking of countries which are proudly not Australia...

            To Austria! Austrian beer is quite good but often gets overshadowed by German beers and because many people don't know what Austria is. Think Schwarzenegger. So Innsbruck is a lovely city with many great places to drink great Austrian beer. Gastgarten zur Eiche proudly serves Zillertal beers, which are all very tasty (and organic). Their Schwarzbier is excellent. Augustiner is a German brewery but their biergarten in Innsbruck is great, although often quite busy and chaotic. More toward the city center is Elferhaus, which has many interesting beers on tap and in bottles. One that stood out to me was the Schremser Doppelmalz. In nice weather, they have outdoor seating (which closes around 10 or 11) and the inside is quite nice if you can handle cigarette smoke. Lastly in Innsbruck is a brewpub called Theresienbräu. I was only able to go there early in the day for a short time but it seemed like a good place and the food is supposed to be great, though I found their Märzen to be just average.
            On the other side of Austria is the country's capital, Vienna. It's a different world from Innsbruck but beautiful in its own way. Ottakringer is the local brewery which can be found on the outskirts of the city. As with many European breweries, schedule a tour a few days in advance if you'd like one. If not, visit the brewery's shop then head to Zum Bierfinken to sample the brew. Back in the main city, my disdain for Australians did not stop me from visiting Crossfields Australian Pub. It's a nice atmosphere with good food. Foster's is the only (sort of) Australian beer on tap but more can be found in bottles. Also, Ottakringer brews a lager specifically for the Pub, so check that out because you can only get it there. There are also two beers named after Australia's Ayers Rock. Both are tasty, but they're also not brewed down under.

            My friends and I went to Budapest for a weekend, but I had a nasty cold and cannot really comment on the beer scene, or much else for that matter. I do know that some beers were the equivalent of 80 American cents. That price blew my mind, having been in Norway two weeks earlier. I heard great things about bars built on top of old ruins and the nightlife in general is definitely not for the uninitiated. Again, next time!

            Should you find yourself in Interlaken, Switzerland, consider yourself very lucky. The lakes, hiking, air, and water are unbeatable. But you're here to read about beer, right? OK then. Ittinger and Feldschlössen are the most popular Swiss breweries, each with mostly average but solid products. If you happen upon a restaurant called Little Thai, go in for possibly the best soup you'll ever have and a surprisingly excellent selection of craft beers. This time around, I had a Star Porter from Stözi-Bräu, which was very tasty and rare enough that I had to enter it on Untappd. The owner is very beer-savvy so the selection constantly rotates and there is always something good. Also, seek out Adelscott, a French version of a Scotch Ale which made me very happy. This can sometimes be found at Little Thai or a really good beer store across town. Should you find yourself in Basel, have a pint or two at Paddy Reilly's Irish Pub then quickly get out of the most depressing city I've ever experienced.

            The Netherlands (or interchangeably, Holland) is not really known for beer aside from Amstel and Heineken. If you're still reading this blog, I take it you've had each of those plenty of times and have since moved on. We all know what Amsterdam is popular for, but there are plenty of good places to raise a glass or ten. Durty Nelly's Irish Pub is a good start. It's named after a pub in Shannon, Ireland, and is a great place to drink but its hostel is not the most accommodating. I tend to shy away from Heineken, but do seek out Oud Bruin, their black lager which is mighty good and can only be found in Holland. Brouwerij 't IJ (the I) is a lesser-known but superb micro-brewery that is worth the long walk from city center. They brew an array of beers and the ones I tried were all quite enjoyable. A definite is Zatte, their Belgian-style tripel and the first beer they produced. Bartenders in The Netherlands say their country is not very big on beer production because Belgium is close so they mostly import from there.
            And speaking of Belgium...

            You may recall from the beginning of this article that our European journey was not centered around beer. Well throw that out the window right now because my friend and I very purposefully ended our adventure in Belgium, the land of amazing beer. Why is it so amazing? Well, hundreds of years ago, Belgium was half-controlled by France while Germany claimed the other half. The Germans brought high-quality beer that they'd been brewing since 1516 while the French were more experimental. Instead of choosing a side, Belgians took the best from both to create their own fantastic brews. So there's your history lesson. Now, the coolest thing about getting beer in Belgium is that every order- draught or bottle- is served in a glass created by that brewery, sometimes even just for the specific beer. The Belgians take great pride in this presentation, which always has the label facing the customer. Just please don't ever steal a glass or some poor guy like me will have to drink Kwak from one with Carlsberg written on it.
            We started our Belgian journey in the really awesome and historic city of Ghent. After seeing the three main buildings and climbing the bell tower, you should start with a Jupiler, arguably Belgium's blandest brew. From there, grab an excellent beer from a grocery store (I got Chimay Blue for €2.50) and walk around. It's legal to drink in the streets, just don't be a jerk about it. Herberg De Dulle Griet is a marvelous bar serving only Belgian beers, as most do because Belgian beer is the greatest. Their draught selection isn't very big but take a look at the bottles they offer and try to narrow down a choice in less than an hour. I say order a Cuvée Des Trolls while you peruse. It's a tripel brewed by Brasserie Dubuisson, who also makes a line of Bush beers. These are obviously not the Busch beers known to American college kids and tailgaters. Try the Bush de Noël, then take a break. It's 12% alcohol and 100% delicious. The sudsy jewel of Ghent is Gentse Stadsbrouwerij, who makes a line of five Gruut beers. They have this name because four of their beers don't use any hops, but an ancient and secret mix of herbs and spices known as gruit. As a hop-hater, I was immediately attracted to this brewery. The amber and brown ales are marvelous while the other three (witbier, spicy tripel, and blonde) are also quite noteworthy. The brewery is small (1,000 hectoliters per year, which is about 850 barrels) but the tour is great. Our guide (Bram, possibly spelled that way) was very welcoming and knowledgeable and you get to sample three beers along the tour. Make sure to try all five though.
            From Ghent we went to the sort of fabled city of Bruges. Get there during the day so you can walk around and awe at the canals and alcoves and old but very well-preserved buildings. Climb their bell tower then do your best to find Staminee De Garre. This lovely bar is hidden down a creepy-looking alley but is worth the find. Brouwerij Van Steenberge (famous for Gulden Draak) brews a tripel just for the bar, aptly called Tripel Van De Garre. Their selection is very nice but the environment is the true appeal. Just order a beer, hang out, and forget that things outside of the bar exist. Should you feel like leaving De Garre, head to The Druid's Cellar, an Irish pub in the basement of an old building. The beer selection isn't great but it's a really fun place and the Irish bartender is as cranky as he should be. Trivia (in English) on Monday nights. A little out of the way (but the city is rather small) is Café Vlissinghe, a nice place that has a tasty blonde beer of their own. Brouwerij De Halve Maan has recently grown in popularity and for good reason. They produce four beers- oddly, the blonde and dubbel go under the name Zot while the tripel and quadrupel are called Straffe Hendrik. Start with the blonde and go up in order from there; they are all outstanding. In fact, I considered their quad to be the best beer in the world until I went to...
            Westvleteren. Beer geeks are drooling from experience and/or jealousy right about now. Rent a car in Bruges and take the beautiful hour drive to the small town. The Abbey of St. Sixtus is one of six Trappist monasteries in Belgium. Trappist Abbeys produce not just beer but cheese, chocolate, and many other products. In order to get and use the name Trappist, the products must be made by or directly under the supervision of the Abbey's monks and all proceeds must go back into sustaining the monastery or to charity. Westvleteren is the only Trappist brewery in which the monks currently do all of the brewing. They don't ship out their beers nor do they approve of reselling, thus making the beer extremely rare. Tours are limited to one person per year and that must be a very prominent beer journalist. Your best bet would be going to In De Vrede, a nearby café owned by the Abbey. There, you can have all three beers (on freakin' tap!!!) and order food, some of which bears the Trappist logo. You can buy souvenirs at the shop along with a maximum of two six-packs. This may sound strict but be thankful- you used to have to reserve a case well in advance and hope it was available when you visited. The blonde is great, the 8 greater, and the 12 officially has my stamp as the greatest beer in the world. I am not alone with this assessment.
            After struggling to leave Westvleteren, we drove into France (how cool is Europe that you can just drive to France for a few hours?) to search for a street with my last name. We found the street, but no road signs labeling it! The French... I was furious, but on that street in the town of Wasquehal was a restaurant called Beers & Co. It's a nice sports bar that's obsessed with Madison Square Garden for some reason. The excellent beer I had there was Réserve Ambrée, an amber by Brasserie Fischer, brewers of the aforementioned Adelscott.
            In order to not spend too much time in France, we quickly drove back into Belgium and found the lovely town of Silly. Yes, Silly, pronounced silly. Good news- there's a brewery in Silly, Brasserie de Silly! Tours are hard to come by (e-mail them directly well before you go) but next to the brewery is Café de Brasserie, a dive bar that ended up being much cooler than its first impression. My friend wrote a blog about it which you can read here. All I can add is that the beers we tried from  their fairly extensive selection were very good and the overall experience was just wonderful.
            After we got Silly, we ended up in Antwerp. Not knowing much about the city, we wandered and found 't Waagstuk, possibly the best beer bar I've ever experienced. Our first order was De Koninck, the local Antwerpian(?) brew. Alex, the American bartender/co-owner, said he could surely pour that beer for us, but we should consider ordering something else because of the caliber of the bar. I was very appreciative of this and, at his suggestion, opted for a Hop-Ruiter from Scheldebrouwerij, which smelled like an IPA but tasted like pure magic. The hops were present but absolutely toned down presumably for my enjoyment. I also had a Scotch Ale called Gordon Highland which was very good and a Faro by Brouwerij Lindemans. I had only heard of the latter style, which was a sour/sweet/salty beer and absolutely fantastic. The other co-owner, Hans, came in and was gracious enough to chat with us for a while with one of his students from the beer-tasting class he teaches. It was a most-interesting experience that perhaps you can replicate on your visit. Hans also works at t' Pakhuis in Antwerp, a micro-brewery housed within an impressive restaurant. Obviously we went there the following day to sample their first-rate beers. And before leaving Antwerp, we stopped at Matterhorn for a De Koninck, which was surprisingly good for a local 'eh' beer.
            Having limited time in Brussels, my friend and I shared a Westmalle Dubbel before going to Delirium, a staple if you're in the city. They have a very good selection in addition to the delicious Delirium beers.
            At my stop-over in Reykjavík, I ended the trip as it began, with an Icelandic beer- Einstök's White Ale. It was the perfect end to an amazing and quite informative journey. I hope you all embark on a similar trek with the focus on whatever your passion is. If that passion is beer, I hope some of my advice can help along the way. Other than that, keep those glasses full and drink responsibly.
Cheers! Prost! Skål! Op uw gezondheid! Egészségedre!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nonsense- Neuyaht -OR- Neil Young

Neuyaht -OR- Neil Young
Joseph McConnell (Woo Woo)
Adam Czaplinski (Big Fish)
Rob Cottignies (Smoky Jones)
Olga Fedorovna (Crow-talker)
Illustrations by Woo Woo and Big Fish

Last year, Odie and I went to Europe with a notebook and recorded random nonsense that we said into it. You can see that glorious blog here. We recently went back to The Continent with another notebook, and for your viewing pain and/or pleasure, here is the result. Enjoy!

It begins. Everyone is distraught.

Sludge butts.

That's some good-looking change.

I like the way you think, Brown Horse. You're on to something.

From Arizona to Ireland in an instant.

Eat grass, sleep, repeat.

Hey man.
Hey what?

Can you call the president and tell him to turn on the Northern Lights? I have to watch Mike & Molly. They don't have TiVO here.

James Earl Jones is the Aurora Borealis.

Jewish beach bugs.

I certainly don't want to pee into Parliament.

Damn it! Tens with fish on them! I want a fifty with a crab!

I just want a big ass with a pretty face.

Everyone has retards. They just put them away.

Scoop what you can and mix the rest with sand.

This is where we keep our blind priests.

That horse looks like Greta Garbo.

What do you do?
You just eat butt, man.

Visit the Blue Lagoon. It was... comfortable.

What's the point of having a big ass if you can't smack it? Like... why did you grow this!?!

Three boys, three caps.

So you need to find a city with whale meat, a lot of butts, and it's not too hot.

I'm a simple man. I like whale, butts, and jackets.

Don't insult the witch. I'm gonna go insult the witch.

Look, God, there's a lot more to me than just ass.

I bet you that whale meat is good for your memory. They have great memory. They travel a lot.

This... is not... Myrtle Beach.

It starts with your poop. It ends with opening a 10-kroner pizza in Bergen.

Is this Horse Limbo?

Use that time to have a good time.

I like my chocolate like I like my women- dark and they shut the fuck up.

You fuckin' bitch. A bagel wouldn't treat me like this. That's why I fuck bagels, oats, meuslix. It's fucking great.

I can't wait to eat with might be deer or something else.

You are one of the otter people.

"So this is the subway, huh?"

That girl is so tall, her butt is small.

Deep down, every girl likes the smell of egg.

Do you want a piece of gum?
No, I like concerts.

Bam, kids, ten-kroner pizza.

At ease, Pakesh.

I have so much liver paté here.

What are you, gay?
No! You're my doctor! Look at my balls!

Your mom introduced you to Sepultura?

It feels like I'm a southern woman with a huge ass.

Don't rush Pocahontas.

Why are you alive if you can't make fun of fat people?

Complex rice cake.

You and your Medieval Times.

I can't look at those. I get a boner just looking at mannequins.

Poop or Snüss?

She's smiling at him. Is he insane? Is he drunk? Does he not have a ticket? What is going on? I'm confused.

He hit the nerve in his head that was the goat nerve.

Did you see the scallion guy?

Oh yeah? Well I fucked your wife... AND your granddaughter.

Santa Claus, bend your elbows now.

You're a spoon addict!!!

Underwear is like oysters. You never know which one you're gonna lose.

I like it here. Let's leave.

My butt is gonna fart soon. No... I lost it.

People are always looking for shit that soothes their soul. Yeah, that's why I love beer.

7'11. Yeah water, you're in charge of those.

Christiania (Long sigh............................................)

That was Umami. That was Akebakke.

You died on the train.

Is this my special coin? This is my special coin. No, wait. This is my special coin.

I'm pulling out the yellow card, mate.

Checkpoint Charlie? Checkpoint naptime.

Anyone want a chicken?
Chubba-lubba over here wants some food.

You can cut your jeans into funky shapes.

I'm not afraid to hump women and eat buffet. I'm just not interested.

There are three fat girls inside who look like walking potatoes.. and they're loud. Guess where they're from.

Now you know what it's like to have an empire.

It's like my nose is a minty jet pack.

Everyone is their own Beowulf.

"I only have 2 rules: Don't urinate on me and you have to drink your drink after cheersing." -Soup Stain

When did we find out that I am DMX?

Ask somebody's sister.

I'll find the skinny waitress. I'll buy her a chin.

Well, I mean, head zits.

Farmers do anything.

If a mountain could fart, what do you think it would sound like?
That's what earthquakes are. Mountains farting.

Serious!? We were screaming Backstreet Boys!!!

Real butter or ghost butter?

Blaha No
Astoria Yes

Caribou Death Throat.

I slept like a groundhog.

When you argue with a guy named Soup Stain, it might not make total sense.

Nothing says Budapest like Britney Spears.

Fucking artists, man. Artists will save the world.

Their air circulator is a Rubik's cube.
Your brain is a Rubik's cube!
Yeah, maybe.

Ah, The Perfect Sturm.
[This is the only one I'll explain. In Austria, there is a drink called sturm, which is fermented grape juice in the stage before it becomes wine. It's delicious. Odie, Olga, and I were at a cafe in Vienna and we each ordered sturm. The waiter said, "Ah, The Perfect Sturm." It was awesome.]

Is Olga in the souvenir shop?
No, she's being.

What is he doing, taking wish money?

Dizzy Gillespie.
Dizzy Moocock.
Yeah, that's the one.

That's a good sleeve.

She's tall but her butt is not as nice as the one who was tall and her butt was small.

He likes pork. He is a pork pigeon.

Should we go to Strasbourg?
No, don't kill yourselves.

Where was Jenbach? Where is Jenbach?

It's gone. The plane has been taxied.
That's a good one. I've never heard that before.
I've never said that before.
It probably doesn't make sense.

Jerome will be there.

You have an eye like a diamond for the soup.

A lot of things have to happen in your life to be passed out in the middle of the afternoon on the steps of Vapiano.

No amount of sex is worth getting stabbed over.

You are the bread giver. I am the cheese master.

Oh, we are in a castle, eating cheese and drinking beer. Nice place to be.

You're a tough guy.
Well, eat this cheese for breakfast. Tough guys do that.

When in Rome, put your cheese outside.

Now is not the time for comfort. Now is the time for train chocolate.

I want to get something off but something is cold and amazing or something.

When you're old you get itchy but can only scratch yourself with soap brushes.

I refuse to do Basel Basel.

I don't need your pity berries.

More sports have no something.

If a walnut falls, you gotta eat it.

Where did you go today?

Pumpkins and napkins and locks.

If I get something with a beer, then I'll get a beer.

The goat nerve makes you bleat like a goat.

The butt of the gods was in Bergen. The holy butt of Basel, that all others are envious of, was in Paddy Reilly's. It belonged to the blonde girl with bangs.

Did you hear the Muslim guy trying to swallow his throat?

You can go to Amsterdam, or you can go to Amsterdam... in prison.

Hopefully they don't arrest me and kill me with guns and bullets and goblins.

Trust the Akebakke.

You're not full of love. You're full of cookies!

Even bus drivers know people.

I'm not shaking your hobo hand.

Are you tired?
I'm just existing. I'm tired. But I'm also wired. Tonic is horrible.

You wanna go sit out in the garden?
I'm looking at this chick right here.

When there's a will, there's a way.
When there's no wi-fi, there's no texting.

I want two billion billions.

Anything is the same.

What did you say about Teddy Grahams?

Mayonnaise is God.

They earned the smelly butt.

Dutch Bubba Gump Salad Guy.

Poo Poo Kenya.

They were worse than goblins. Demon goblin trolls of Basel.

We could sit here and watch a bunch of old people eat cheese. Their faces are so funny when they chew.

I'd rather have a Franken-lady than a pregnant lady.

I'm in Hell.
I'm a duck.

I never trust two guys in sweaters.

If he's part maniac he could have been Mumbling Man.

I like the smell of abandoned buildings.

This is where the Brits bring their ladies. Flying Water Douche.

Listening to Barry White in Bruges.

What's your team name?
Pwempay Pee Pee Poo Poo Paa Paaaa.

How do you go to sleep when your bottom half is a bowl of soup?!!!!?

Keep screaming, maniac. I'm going to bed.

Ping Pong Priest is gonna change the world.

I mean, I smell terrible... but I guess I could get drunk.

I've seen some good butts here, but they're not Bruges butts. They're tourist butts.

I might not be good at much, but I'm good at finding beer.

Drinking makes you learn Latin.

Sometimes you just gotta let her marry the fat guy.

Maybe he just talks to floors.

Now you have a Jerome of your own.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Social Commentary- Semper Fidelis, Aliquando Insipiens

Semper Fidelis, Aliquando Insipiens
by Rob Cottignies

            Firstly, that is Latin for 'Always Loyal, Sometimes Foolish'.
            Secondly, read this article.

            To start with the obvious, this incident was not news-worthy, but was certainly Fox News-worthy. Now, I'm not someone who automatically hates Fox News, and the first person to call me a lefty libby (or whatever people say) will receive a prompt boot to the face, but this news source is definitely skewed. The article is a great example of this slant because of how it presents the situation. 'Marine Vet' and 'A Marine Veteran' begin its title and the article itself, respectively. The reader is already supposed to be on this guy's side. The next three paragraphs, in order, mention both Father's Day and a kid's birthday, the Fourth of July and a military charity, and how long Alejandro served in the Marines and the fact that he was discharged due to disabilities.
            After the article refers to the incident as 'outrageous', it finally tells the story, from Alejandro's perspective (and from another news source). After informing Six Flags security that his shirt was not offensive and stating that he served in Iraq, Alejandro was asked to leave the park so his wife and kid started crying.
            Veteran, holidays, family, tears: How are you NOT on this guy's side against the unpatriotic meanie-heads at Six Flags?
            Well I am not, and it's for one simple reason- he thought the rules didn't apply to him. Six Flags is a private business which allows it to create its own rules, such as dress code. As written on their website under Park Policies, 'Clothing with rude, vulgar or offensive language or graphics is not permitted ... Park admission may be denied if clothing is deemed by management to be inappropriate.' Oh, wah wah, who takes the time to read a theme park's clothing policy? It doesn't matter how practical that is. I found it in less than ten seconds, just as anybody else could. Regardless, I say that 'vulgar' and 'offensive' are up to interpretation, and it WAS just a cheeky T-shirt, but it clearly promoted violence. Because of this, he was told to change the shirt or leave. My initial thought was that Alejandro should have turned the shirt inside-out, thus saving time and money, but this is apparently not an acceptable solution according to the company.
            The way I see it, he had these options:
            Option A: Go home to change the shirt and come back, allowing everyone to have a wonderful day as intended.
            Option B: Purchase and change into a Six Flags shirt, allowing everyone to have a wonderful day as intended. If my memory serves me, they have some excellent Bugs Bunny merchandise.
            If he was still upset about the situation after choosing either of these reasonable solutions, he could have written letters, made phone calls, or asked specifically to speak with the 'women in white shirts'.
            Option F: Dispute Six Flags security, throw a fit, attract attention, confuse and fluster his family, and do his best to ensure that no one will have a wonderful day as intended.
            You read the article. You know which option he chose. And I labeled it as Option F because it was an extreme Failure on his part. The fact that he is a veteran had nothing to do with the situation. The fact that proceeds from the shirt meant a military charity would get some money had nothing to do with the situation.
            The situation was simply this: Mario Alejandro not only wanted to break a rule, but had the idea that the rule did not apply to him. He thought he was exempt and special. This makes me wonder, as I often do, if he enlisted in the military for his country or himself, knowing that the general public is all-to-eager to laud praise on soldiers. I may be wrong because I don't personally know from experience, but doesn't the military teach people to not act unnecessarily privileged but to follow established orders and rules for the greater good? It's a shame that nobody spoke up to take Alejandro down a peg during his rant.
            The military is (unfortunately) a necessary entity which should be honored and respected, but when soldiers act the way Mario Alejandro did, it poses the question, 'Do we give them too much?' There are probably thousands of military-related charities out there. I'm not saying they are bad but surely part of their money-raising marketing plans involve tugging at the public's heart strings. To be fair, the same could be said about many charities. Nowadays, one cannot attend a sports event without the military being honored during the National Anthem or simply by pointing out a group of veterans to applaud. And yes, not applauding has gotten me some funky looks from some funky folks. Living near New York, I have seen women throw themselves at Navy sailors during Fleet Week. And I can't help but wonder why members of the military wear their fatigues in public when not on active duty. My guess is it's an established rule, but why is it in place? Representation? Or some kind of need to show off?
            One of the saddest displays I've seen was when Chris Rock hosted the Academy Awards. This was in 2005, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He opened by saying that the show was dedicated to the troops. A bunch of celebrities stood up to applaud, but this "dedication" ultimately meant nothing. How did a gathering that makes rich people richer honor soldiers away from home fighting a war that most people didn't understand?
            And, for the record, slapping a yellow ribbon sticker on the back of your car does absolutely nothing to 'Support The Troops'. If you really want to help them, donate money and/or time. Send care packages. Join a rally to bring the troops home safely. Just don't make a spectacle of yourself in the process, or you'll be no better than Mario Alejandro.
            To close, another article. This one is lengthy and intense but well-worth the read. I especially like what he says in point number one. Check it here.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fiction- The Path Goes Around

The Path Goes Around
by Rob Cottignies

It started with a lie.
While jogging around the park, I saw her walking next to an elderly man. Probably her grandfather; he could have instead been her husband.
“Why did you do that?” she asks me.
“It was the best I could think up,” I say.
What happened was this- my girlfriend and I broke up because I realized having a constant headache was unpleasant. Five days later, I never thought I’d meet anyone that beautiful. Five days later, I was proven wrong.
“Oh, you’re just saying that,” she playfully accuses me.
I thought there would be no others. But there she was, walking in her gray tank top and black pants with her fair skin and brownish-red hair, clueless of her indirect actions. By doing nothing, she showed me that others were out there. By doing nothing, she saved my life.
“I was going to kill myself.”
“When?” What a perfectly interesting response.
“When I got home, about ten minutes after I first saw you.”
I had always been awkward when it came to approaching women, meaning that I’d never approached a woman before without an excuse. I made one up this time. I did not allow myself to return home without even a mild conversation. I just had to; she was that stunning.
“Excuse me, sir.” My opening line wasn’t even directed at her. I told the old man, who thankfully turned out to be her grandfather, that I was writing a paper on war veterans. I had assumed he had been in at least one war. He had, so it worked. I made up and blurted out a series of questions which ended up being relevant instead of terrible.
“Did you believe in our country’s involvement?”
“Did you lose any close friends in combat?”
“What did you do when you got scared?”
I never even asked which war he’d been in. His answers were probably genuine and wonderful but I didn’t really listen. I feigned mental notes while lovestruck by his granddaughter.
“Is that when you asked me out?” she asks with equal parts frustration and romantic longing.
The smoothest segue I could think of was this- “Well, your grandfather has done a marvelous job in answering my questions. Perhaps you would like to answer some also… over dinner.”
My underestimated charm can be quite convincing. She agreed, and here we are. I simply had to tell her that whatever we were to become began with a lie. I was writing no paper on war veterans. My sole interest was talking to her. Goal achieved.
The most appropriate thing to do is apologize to her grandfather. I used the old man for personal gain. “Also,” I add, “I will write a legitimate paper on your grandfather’s experiences in the war.”
"And do what with it?"
She'd caught me. I hesitated. "Scream it up to the heavens!"
“This is the strangest first date I’ve ever had.” I believe her.
“I can understand that. Will there be a second?”
"No. How can I trust you when the first thing you did was lie to me?"
It started with a lie and ended because of the truth...

Monday, June 30, 2014

Animals- Moose Vs. Goose

Moose vs. Goose: The Eternal Battle Of The Rhyming Animals
by Rob Cottignies

If you've read my previous posts, such as the reasons babies are awful or why I should be allowed to shoot people in the face, you already know that this blog tackles today's most-pressing and serious topics. This one is obviously no different, with the issue-at-hand being how much better moose are than geese. It is unfortunate that the words 'moose' and 'goose' rhyme in American English. This mere coincidence is the only likeness between the creatures, however.

Large, awkward, and clumsy, the moose is mighty. It is certainly no accident that 'moose' and 'mighty' begin with the same letter. Another non-accident is how the G in 'mighty' is completely ignored during pronunciation. Goose starts with G and this G is silent, like hissing geese should be. Geese are not mighty and they think they are snakes. This is how dumb they are. A snake's hiss warns me to not go closer to it else I shall be struck down by natural poison, which is awesome. Not that me being poisoned would be awesome but the phenomenon that is snake venom is breathtaking, figuratively and actually but certainly not literally. A goose hissing makes me simultaneously laugh and angry, prone to grabbing a stupid furry goose child and punting it into a lake. The only species-confusion moose have is due to Europeans calling them elk. Why do Europeans do this? Certainly don't ask a goose or you'll get an answer like 'Duh, I don't know. I'm going to fly in a V pattern with my friends and crap everywhere because I'm rude and awful.'
For the record that I am sure you are all keeping, I am speaking specifically about Canada geese and not any other kind, such as snow geese, or 'snoogeez' as they prefer to be called. So these geese left Canada. Why? Canada is great and do you know why? Moose. So many moose. Geese got so mad at Canada because moose are amazing that they invaded America but kept their ancestral name. Somebody should petition Canada’s arch-duke or whatever they have to change the name of these embarrassing creatures that are the only blemish on the delightful nation.
Oh man, my feet are so sore after a hard day of work. I’d better put on my goose slippers. WRONG! No such thing. Go ahead, do a Google search. When seeking ‘moose slippers’, you’ll find pictures of many warm and cozy slippers with some sort of moose head complete with antlers that are not only practical but adorable. A search for ‘goose slippers’ will bring you nameless, faceless sleepy shoes which contain feathers from geese and are probably sort-of warm but look dreadful when juxtaposed with a wonderful pair of moose slippers.

 The best thing about moose is how freakin’ cool they are. When offered pluralization, the entire Cervidae family collectively said ‘Nah, we don’t need an S or anything. Whether there is one of us or one hundred, we will be moose, deer, elk, caribou, and reindeer.’ Not only tough in a literal fashion but highly considerate.

 Geese, on the other hand, totally rewrote the rules…… of annoyance…
Word guy: ‘Hey, how about ‘gooses’?
Goose representative: ‘Not only no, but we demand that you completely change two letters in our singular title. Yes, add a separate entry in the dictionary for our plural form, which MUST come alphabetically first, thus confusing everyone.’
Mice followed this example and there has been chaos ever since. Geese are such jerks. Now, mice are not jerks. Calling a mouse by a name one letter different from a moose is simply a fun thing to do, like calling a huge guy Tiny or a fat guy Slim. Mice are fun but moose are the best. Also, geese are the worst.

In the world of sports, there are several teams from northerly-latitudinal locations whose mascot is the moose. For examples, the Manitoba and Jackson Hole Moose terrorized their respective hockey associations for years. And the University Of Maine decided moose are so wonderful that they named their *entire* school’s mascot after the majestic beasts. To contrast, I found exactly ZERO teams named Geese in my internet search that was really brief because I was afraid of actually finding a team with that name.

 Staying with sports, everyone knows that the most obnoxious man in sports commentating is Tony Siragusa. What is his nickname? Goose! Another perfect example to help prove whatever point I am trying to make. Alternately, Daryl Johnston- nicknamed Moose- was recently entered into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall Of Fame. Can you name anyone called Goose who holds that honor? Can you name anyone else in that hall of fame? I sure can’t. Also, there is a player on the Detroit Pistons named Greg Monroe who is referred to as Moose. I don’t watch basketball because it’s terrible but I bet this guy is really good.

Another person who was possibly nicknamed Moose was Benito Mussolini. Hmm… Anyway, I heard this story while in Alaska: An older man was walking around the campus of the University Of Alaska at Fairbanks when he unwittingly strolled between a baby moose and its mother. Mama moose, fearing her child was in danger, immediately ran at the man, trampling and killing him. This is indeed a sad and unfortunate story for humans, but how bad-ass is that? Mama moose used her weight and might to stomp out a threat to her kid. What would a goose have done in that situation? Hissed. Maybe flapped its stupid wings. What potential predator would that deter? A boll weevil perhaps.

To close, this is how horrible geese are: Have you ever walked, run, skated, or biked in a park? Yes? Good job! You must be well-aware of how annoying it is to avoid 'landmines' on the path. Not only do geese crap everywhere like idiots but waiting for one or a series of them to cross said path is excruciating. Coming to a full stop (physically, not the British phrase for a punctuation mark) to watch these fat morons waddle out of the way is unbearable. Sometimes you'll witness them having a goose-battle over something stupid when one runs at the other. So they can run but choose to move at a snail's pace. I feel like there's something else they can do which would be convenient for everybody but actively choose not to. Oh right, geese are BIRDS with WINGS which enable them to FLY. They can move really fast if they want to but instead real animals must bide our time and, for some reason, not run them over. Let's change this. Run geese over. Spit at them. Kick them in their necks. Do anything you can to make their small brains realize that they are the worst species on the planet. Do you know how many species of animals there are on Earth? Like, dozens. Maybe even bakers' dozens.
To close for real, all hail the moose.