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New York Bar Serves Weak Drinks for Ladies, It’s Going Badly

New York Bar Serves Weak Drinks for Ladies, It’s Going Badly


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A restaurant in Brooklyn is offering weaker drinks for women. Guess how much everyone hates it?

Look at all these women who have decided to drink elsewhere!

In Brooklyn, a Clinton Hill restaurant called Los Pollitos III has introduced a “his and hers” drinks menu, where the men’s drinks contain a higher alcohol content, and the options “for ladies” contain less.

According to restaurant manager Marcos Merino, who designed the new menu, the decision to water down the women’s drinks was meant to “make people laugh” and customers were supposed to “have fun with it.”

Bartender Leo Vasquez clarified to DNA Info, "Anyone can order anything, but a lot of times ladies don't like to have the strong stuff so this menu is for them."

So with all the fun and delightful gender imbalance going on, I think I’ll sit this one out, lest I over-exert myself and get the vapors.

I’ll leave it to Twitter to show you how the menu change is going:

Lighter drinks "for ladies"? No thank you. “@MegRobertson: Brooklyn restaurant offers weaker drinks 'for ladies' http://t.co/rTdKTst19B”

— Alexandra Farrington (@trampabroad) June 5, 2014

1. This is stupid. 2. This encourages men to get even more stupid drunk. Consensus? Stupid. http://t.co/RZ1NsZm3wd via @NYDailyNews

— Gina Rizzo (@GinaRizzo1) June 5, 2014

A Clinton Hill restaurant has a weaker drinks menu for women. On the ladies menu: wine, baileys and "just a half-a-rufie, topped w lemonade"

— Ser Janet Manley (@janetmanley) June 5, 2014

This is personally offensive on so many levels: Los Pollitos III offering 'His' & 'Hers' booze menu (via @DNAinfo) http://t.co/eYgeGe66Er

— Andra (@pandramonium) June 5, 2014

Will NOT be going to Los pollitos III in #clintonhill #brooklyn #mexican #food #sexist #dontmesswithmymargs

— GRETE (@AllOfThePizza) June 4, 2014

#Brooklyn Restaurant Has #WeakDrinks 4Ladies http://t.co/engW83uy9n via @EaterNY #LadiesBeware #MethinksTheyDothProtect2Much #LosPollitosIII

— didi (@didinyc) June 4, 2014

-Bunch of idiots- | A restaurant called "Los Pollitos III" in #NY created separate cocktail menus for men and women: http://t.co/96gZajL5y6

— Kasbrika Velásquez (@kasbrika) June 4, 2014

Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.


Norwegian Drink Lists

Norwegian really outdo themselves with their Norwegian Drink Menus, they so many different menus on their larger ships, that you will have a hard time trying to decide which is your favorite bar. My personal experience with Norwegian Drinks was rather disappointing, most of the drinks I ordered were weak, and they used very inexpensive liquor for their house drinks. That is something that I had not experienced o n any other cruise line. That said Norwegian Drink Lists are very good, and they offer a great variety of drinks for everyone to experience. After looking at this page you should have a good idea if the Norwegian Drink Package is good for you or not.

Norwegian Non-Alcoholic Drinks and their specialty coffees.

Norwegian Drink packages prices.

What is included in Norwegian’s cruise line ultimate beverage package? This is 2014 information.


Strong Drink Is Not for Men Alone

IT’S been going on for years, actually. When I was in college and went out with my oversize football player boyfriend, we’d order drinks, and every time I’d be served the frosty piña colada with the pink paper umbrella that he’d ordered, and he’d be served the tough-guy Scotch-rocks that was mine.

Fast forward, lo these centuries later, and we are, I am told, in the midst of a cocktail revolution. Forget the dripping daiquiri blenders perched on every bar that were part of the soundtrack of drinking in the 1970’s. Now the poor bartenders are watching their order slips pile up while muddling mint leaves in mortars with pestles, praying for someone to cave in and order a Bud. Entire menus are devoted to drinks made up of so many components they seem the liquid equivalent of recipes from “The Silver Palate Cookbook”: leave three ingredients out of most of them, and they’d be just as good.

Though I still drink Scotch periodically, at some point I switched to Maker’s Mark bourbon. These days, I order it in a tall glass to ensure that the ratio of booze to soda gives me a fighting chance of getting to the appetizer without falling out of my chair. But among some male bartenders, I’ve noticed more than a tad of residual resistance to the notion that the female of the species can drink hard liquor unadorned by grenadine or chunks of oxidizing pineapple.

A few weeks ago I settled down at the bar at Lombardi’s for the inevitable table wait for one of those sublime pizzas and ordered my drink. My husband ordered the same thing. I watched as the bartender filled two tall glasses with ice. He poured bourbon into the first glass, a healthy amount, then squirted some soda on top. In the second glass he poured the bourbon and soda simultaneously, rendering it the color of a weak ginger ale. Guess which one was mine?

I handed it back. “Could you put some more bourbon in this, please?” I asked, struggling to remain polite. Struggling back, he did just that.

A few weeks earlier, I had eaten at Blue Smoke, the barbecue restaurant that serves an impressive list of bourbons and an even more impressive selection of appetizers that complement them, deviled eggs, and the creamy blue cheese and bacon dip with house-made potato chips being just two of them. Seated at a table, I was a gender-blind customer as far as the bartender was concerned. But when the tray of drinks arrived, I realized that two men at the table had ordered the same as I had, Maker’s Mark in a tall glass with soda. The waiter was male, and sure enough, the drink lightest in color was served to me.

I summoned a manager and pointed out the discrepancy. He was deeply apologetic, the drink was fixed and a good time was had by all. But it made me start paying attention. Obviously, a restaurant has a great stake in keeping you drinking. If you’re overwhelmed too quickly, there goes the bill. I get it. But too weak a drink, and the dinner doesn’t ignite. No one’s getting into the spirit, coveting that great bottle of wine or that aromatic yet severely overpriced steak for two that looks so great at the next table. You’re too busy trying to wave down a waiter to get a second drink because the first one didn’t take.

When I saw my drinks being made by women, however, the difference was tangible. At Prune, the East Village restaurant owned by Gabrielle Hamilton, the staff is predominantly female. I was served a glass of bourbon and ice, three-quarters full, with a small bottle of club soda on the side so I could decide for myself how much I wanted. On that particular night, that drink lasted straight through to the entree. But no worries. We still ordered wine. The bill was safe.

At La Mirabelle, the cozy French bistro on West 86th at Columbus Avenue, which is a throwback to the Old World places that used to fill the West 40’s and 50’s like À la Fourchette and La Grillade, I always make it a point to sit in Danielle Ruperti’s station. She has been a waitress there for decades, she painted all the pictures on the walls, and if you get her on the right night she will come to your table and sing a knockout rendition of “La Vie en Rose.” And when this girl pours a drink, life is rosy, indeed.

So unite, women of New York! To heck with stingy men, crème de cassis and pink umbrellas, most of all! Salud!


If Only the Dollar Were Stronger

THE dream of retiring to a Tuscan villa or a beachfront home in Costa Rica almost always hinges on how to pay for it, but rarely do graying expatriates plan well for another pocketbook issue: the value of the American dollar.

Its decline has led American retirees living abroad to give up many luxuries that attracted them overseas in the first place. At the same time, baby boomers considering a move permanently offshore are having second thoughts, if not eliminating their top choices simply because of the exchange rate.

“People often pick where they’re going to retire based on places they like on holiday,” said Hugh Bromma, chief executive of Entrust Administration, a financial-services firm that serves retirees living abroad. “But living in a Marriott is not the same as living there.”

Mr. Bromma recently gave a lecture in Atlanta to a group of prospective retirees who were considering moving abroad. “I think I talked every one of them out of going anywhere,” he said. Given the state of the American economy and the value of the dollar, “you have to have a compelling reason to retire to another country right now.”

The United States government does not track where Americans retire overseas or even how many do. But in nearly every part of the world, retirees from the United States are being pinched. In particular, Europe is increasingly off limits to retirees because of the continuing decline of the dollar against the euro. Just since the beginning of the year, the value of the dollar has eroded 7 percent against the euro.

Claire Larson is beginning to feel the pain. When Mrs. Larson and her husband bought land in Portugal, near Faro, in 1989, they gave little thought to the exchange rate. “We just wanted to go to the other side of the Atlantic,” she said.

A few years later, they built a house on the land and retired there from New York City in 1996. “I’ve seen the dollar go all over the place, but this is the worst it’s ever been,” Mrs. Larson, 56, said.

She has cut back on her spending, mostly traveling elsewhere in Europe, the one activity that attracted her to Portugal at first. She is also driving less, with gas running at nearly the equivalent of $7 a gallon. “I’m staying home a lot more, but at least the house is paid for,” she said.

Mrs. Larson is even going out of her way to save money. (Her husband has since died.) She traveled to Germany to have knee surgery. Doing the procedure there, she said, halved the cost because of lower doctors’ fees.

Health care is one item that hits retirees abroad very hard. Generally, they must pay for such costs on their own. Medicare typically does not cover patients outside the United States, and American insurance carriers generally do not extend coverage overseas.

“Americans think that health care anywhere but in the U.S. is cheap,” said Daniel Prescher, publisher of International Living, a monthly magazine focused on living overseas. “Yes, it’s less expensive, but when you need it often as a resident in a foreign country, it’s something you still need to plan for as part of your budget.”

Planning for a retirement overseas, though, is difficult when currencies may fluctuate wildly over a few years. While tourists traveling in foreign countries are often able to make adjustments to their itineraries to balance a drop in the dollar, it’s not as simple for people expecting to spend the rest of their life abroad.

“I advise people to plan the location of their retirement about five years in advance,” Mr. Bromma said, admitting that if someone had planned to retire to Europe five years ago, “their cost of living would be some 50 percent higher today based just on the value of the dollar.”

Leo and Linda Keller are in that situation. The couple, from Boston, bought land in southern Spain while on vacation six years ago, with the intent of building a house when they retire next year. But now, Mr. Keller is having second thoughts and is searching for land in Central America.

“It just doesn’t seem like the euro is ever going to drop,” said Mr. Keller, 62. “Even if it did, we can’t count on it staying low for the entire duration we’re there.”

To compensate for the dropping dollar, Mr. Prescher of International Living suggests picking a place with a lower cost of living than in the United States. “If the cost of living is much lower than what you’re accustomed to in the U.S., then it really takes a huge drop in the dollar to make a real difference,” he said.

Dan Neuschwanger, 63, and his wife, Carol, 62, have focused their search for a retirement home in Latin America because of its low cost of living. For now, they are renting a home in Costa Rica. They spent the early part of last year in Nicaragua and plan to move to Panama next year.

“We’re living out of a suitcase,” Mr. Neuschwanger said. “We haven’t found the place we want to settle yet.”

Although the dollar has declined 4 percent against Costa Rica’s colón since they moved there, Mr. Neuschwanger said “it’s not that noticeable in daily living.” And compared with their last home, in Colorado, “everything is so much cheaper.” The exception is the cost of diesel, up 20 percent since they moved to Costa Rica.

Still, the erosion of the dollar has persuaded the Neuschwangers to make the value of the currency part of the equation in determining where to retire. “I never thought the decision would rest on the exchange rate,” Mr. Neuschwanger said.

If they settle in Panama, the dollar’s value will not make a difference because its currency, the balboa, has a fixed exchange rate, trading at par with the American dollar. That is the main reason Panama has become a top destination for American retirees, Mr. Prescher said.

John McCann, 56, considered retiring to several other Latin American countries, including Costa Rica and Mexico, before settling on Panama four years ago. “If you’re not ready to spend years researching countries, you’re not ready to retire overseas,” said Mr. McCann, who is finishing construction on a new home there.


Cocktails for the History Books, Not the Bar

Robert Simonson Dale DeGroff and Audrey Saunders

A collection of cocktail world figures lined up Saturday at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, the annual New York drinks convention, to shoot down some sacred cows.

Many a pre-Prohibition libation has been glorified in recent years as the cocktail demimonde began to resurrect and lionize the drinks of Days Gone By. Not every drink deserved the honor. That was a point of the panelists gathered at the Andaz 5th Avenue hotel for 𠇍o Not Resuscitate,” a seminar sponsored by Pierre Ferrand Cognac. The speakers included the legendary barman Dale DeGroff the owner of the Pegu Club, Audrey Saunders the mixed-drink historian David Wondrich the owner of Fort Defiance, St. John Frizell the tequila and mezcal authority Steve Olson and the wandering cocktail generalists Robert Hess, Philip Duff and Angus Winchester.

A few of the darlings of the cocktail renaissance took a heavy drubbing from the panel. Among them was the Brooklyn cocktail. Entirely obscure a decade ago, this mix of rye, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Amer Picon (a French amaro), can now be found on bar menus across the United States. “This is not a good drink,” Mr. Frizell said with unhesitating definitiveness. As the owner of a Brooklyn bar, Mr. Frizell has seen his share of Brooklyn cocktails. Most of said concoctions bend over backwards to make up for the fact that you can no longer buy one of the drink’s key ingredients, Amer Picon, in America. 𠇍rinking a Brooklyn makes you think, ‘Why am I not drinking a Manhattan?’ — a drink for which the ingredients are readily available,” he said.

Mr. Degroff took aim at the aviation, a cocktail made of gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur from the early 20th century. Rediscovered in the early 2000s, it was one of the earliest and most celebrated reclamation projects of the mixologist community. “It was a darling of the Internet,” Mr. DeGroff said. But, “It tastes like hand soap.” And, if you use the blue-hued creme de violette called for in some recipes, “it’s more like hand soap.”

The Papa Doble — a famous creation credited to Ernest Hemingway that contains much rum, some lime juice and almost no sweetener — also received no love from Mr. DeGroff. “Why should we have our drinking habits dictated by Hemingway’s diabetes problem?” he asked. He added, regarding the novelist’s way with mixing a cocktail: “Hemingway always got it wrong.”

Of the vesper, the vodka-gin martini variation made famous by fictional spy James Bond, Mr. Winchester said, “I would not be sad if this drink disappeared.” He added that you couldn’t make it anyway, because one of its ingredients, Kina Lillet, hasn’t been produced for years. Ms. Saunders, meanwhile, berated the French Martini. She mainly disliked the blend of vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord for the way it made people behave. That is, badly.

As the table’s resident agave ace, Mr. Olson trained his sights on the el diablo, a newly popular drink from the 1940s, made of tequila, creme de cassis and ginger ale. “It’s great that bars are starting to think outside the margarita when it comes to tequila cocktails,” Mr. Olson said. 𠇋ut when they decide to put a different tequila cocktail on the menu, they’re moving to the el diablo. When you add ginger ale to tequila, you kill the agave. What makes it worse is a lot of that ginger ale is coming out of a soda gun.”

A few of the drinks executed by the panel are still so little known that their deaths would be little noticed. Robert Hess lambasted the snowball cocktail, taken from the famed Savoy Cocktail Book. “When I see equal parts of ingredients in a cocktail recipe, I get suspicious,” Mr. Hess said. “It’s too convenient.” The stomach-churning, gin-based formula for the snowball boasts matching doses of Creme de Violette, Creme de Menthe, anisette and cream. “This may be the only bad cocktail in the Savoy Cocktail Book,” Mr. Hess suggested.

Mr. Wondrich laid into the bath cure, the house drink at Chicago’s famous Pump House. Resembling an early ancestor of the Long Island Iced Tea, it called for six kinds of liquors, adding up to a full eight-and-one-half ounces of booze. “This drink should not only not be made, it should not even be thought about,” Mr. Wondrich said.

Charles H. Baker Jr., the mid-20th-century cocktail writer and mixologist, was left bloodied and battered by the speakers. About Baker’s Holland Razor Blade — a blend of Holland gin, lemon juice and cayenne pepper — Mr. Duff said, “To say that the Holland Razor Blade is your favorite Baker cocktail is like saying you ride a T. Rex to work — it’s not possible, and it can’t be pleasant.”

Mr. Duff further suggested that Hemingway and Baker, who were pals, may have represented the original 𠇊xis of evil,” cocktail-wise.


Ingredients

In an old-fashioned glass filled with ice cubes, pour the gin, vermouth, and Campari.

Gently squeeze an orange twist or slice over the glass, then add it as a garnish. Serve and enjoy.

  • The gin is going to make or break your Negroni. Be sure to choose a high-end gin such as those that you would mix into a martini. Hendrick's, Bombay, and Beefeater are all excellent choices.
  • Choose a sweet vermouth that's of equal quality to the gin and Campari. Carpano Antica, Cocchi, and Dolin are all good choices.
  • If you have to dust off the vermouth bottle, it's likely time to replace it. The fortified wine has a shelf life of just three months once the bottle is open.

Recipe Variations

Adjust the Campari if needed. This is particularly important if you are new to bitter aperitifs, because it is not a taste that everyone is accustomed to—especially Americans. We have learned to enjoy sweet drinks and the occasional dry cocktail, but bitters are in an entirely different realm.

  • If you pour a full-strength Negroni and find that it's too much for you, try "training your palate" to enjoy the bitter taste. Cut the Campari in half and double up on the gin the next time you mix one up. After a while, your taste buds will become used to the unique taste, and you can work back up to the original recipe.
  • Not a fan of gin? Pour vodka instead. The drink will be similar to a Campari cocktail, though the vermouth is a nice addition.

WORLD CUP USA ’94 : A Model Failure : The NASL’s Collapse Serves as a Painful Reminder of What a New League Should Not Do

The New York Cosmos did everything in a big way. The franchise’s collapse was no different.

From 1975 to the early 1980s, the Cosmos were the flagship franchise of the North American Soccer League, America’s first and last major outdoor professional soccer league.

When the Cosmos failed, the league failed with them, and with the league went all of soccer’s credibility as marketable entertainment in the United States, the world’s largest entertainment market.

In their heyday, the Cosmos played before crowds of more than 70,000 in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. They had international star power--at one time the Cosmos had 14 nationalities represented on their roster. And they had Pele.

They were New York, and they were huge.

And anyone with links to the team is still blamed for ruining soccer in America.

Mark Brickley, the president of Sportslink, a New York sports promotional firm, was the vice president of broadcasting and public relations for the Cosmos, and he still is defensive about the team.

“We didn’t consider ourselves to be competing with (NASL franchises in) Tulsa and Tampa Bay,” Brickley said. “We were competing with the Yankees and the Mets and Lincoln Center.”

The Cosmos drew 70,000 to games by signing Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia, former World Cup stars whose skills were diminished when they arrived in New York, but whose drawing power had not.

“We felt, if we’re going to do it, we have to get the big-time guys,” Brickley said. “We knew that (the NASL) would not work on a minor league level. Our ethnic fan base demanded the big-time names.”

The Cosmos were owned by Warner Communications, which could afford high-priced international talent. The rest of the league, largely owned by individuals or small-time partnerships struggling to fill modest payrolls, was outclassed.

Said Brickley: “They’d say, ‘Well, we can’t be the NFL, but since my kid plays soccer, we can be the Houston or Memphis NASL team.’ Those owners that tried to keep up quickly went belly-up.

“We didn’t think they needed to. No league has ever done badly with a dynasty in it. All leagues have to have somebody to hate like the Yankees or Green Bay in their heyday.”

With Warner pumping money into the roster, the Cosmos won four championships in six years, and the rest of the league, which fluctuated from a peak of 24 teams to a low of five, had to do something .

Trying to keep pace, team after team burned itself out.

Peter Wall played briefly with the NASL before becoming the coach of the now-defunct California Surf and L.A. Lazers.

“The NASL was one of the reasons I came from England,” Wall said. “When the Cosmos brought in the stars, it pushed the average salary up. The (Cosmos’) salaries were used as a comparison just like any other sport.”

Since the NASL, American fans have seen leagues of all shapes and sizes come and go. Mostly go. None have brought soccer to the national consciousness, or even network TV, the way the NASL tried to.

“We made some critical mistakes, chief among them expanding from 12 to 24 teams without researching and carefully planning the ownership groups,” Brickley said. “Then (when a franchise failed) you couldn’t go back into those cities because you’ve left a bad taste in their mouth.”

Now comes Major League Soccer, the first attempt at a high-profile pro league since the NASL.

The MLS is already ahead of the NASL in some ways.

NASL TV advertising was sold locally. The MLS is recruiting national sponsors. As the NBA, NFL and Major League baseball have made prospective expansion owners jump through endless hoops to come aboard, the MLS is showing selectivity the NASL was destructively cavalier. Only seven of the 12 franchises have been awarded with no evident rush to get out the last five.

And Wall now sees a major appeal for the MLS that the NASL never had: home-grown talent.

“In the NASL, you had only to play two American-born players. I honestly believe now that there is more than enough talent in America. And fans obviously would rather follow Americans.”

Even more important, Brickley maintains, is the generation of Americans whose soccer career is long over.

“The NASL projected 22-year-olds as their fans,” he said. “Really, its closer to 35. That’s a 12-14 year gap, which is just how long it’s been since the NASL folded.”


'In the Company of Cheerful Ladies': The Weaker Sex

IN THE COMPANY OF CHEERFUL LADIES By Alexander McCall Smith. 233 pp. Pantheon Books. $19.95.

AMONG the many oddities of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is its unabashed sexism. McCall Smith treats the weaker sex -- men -- with pitying condescension. "Boys, men, they're all the same," a woman Sunday school teacher says when she learns that a boy has been exposing himself to a girl in the next seat. "They think that this thing is something special and they're all so proud of it. They do not know how ridiculous it is." Another female character dryly observes, in another context: "We are all human. Men particularly." She is Precious Ramotswe (known as Mma Ramotswe), the regally fat, brilliantly sensible and preternaturally good and kind private detective around whom the series, set in the young republic of Botswana, revolves. "The Miss Marple of Botswana," a book jacket quote says of her. But this is wrong. Mma Ramotswe resembles Christie's character as little as the books resemble Christie's mysteries. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books aren't really mysteries at all. There are no murders in them and little suspense. When asked about what the agency does, Mma Makutsi, Mma Ramotswe's assistant, replies (as a psychoanalyst might), "Most of the time we are just helping people to find out things they already know."

The Sunday school teacher admonishes the boy who exhibits his penis by creeping up behind him and hitting him over the head with a Bible. McCall Smith similarly uses the Bible to fix the reader's attention. The laconic, fast-paced stories of the Old Testament are the ur-texts for Mma Ramotswe's clean-edged cases, whose solutions have an air of mythic inevitability. In his classic study "The Art of Biblical Narrative," Robert Alter identifies the "type-scenes" of the Hebrew Bible -- notably, the betrothal that takes place at a well -- and the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series is ordered by a similar repertoire of set pieces.

One of the most charged of these occurs at a rural orphanage and involves a fruitcake. Mma Potokwane, the bossy head of the orphanage, serves the cake to people from whom she wishes to extract favors no one who eats the cake can refuse her. In the fifth book of the series, "The Full Cupboard of Life," McCall Smith spells out the reference that has obscurely hovered over the scene: "Just as Eve had used an apple to trap Adam, so Mma Potokwane used fruitcake. Fruitcake, apples it made no difference really. Oh foolish, weak men!"

But lest it appear that McCall Smith is himself a foolish and weak author, writing heavy-handed parables, he pushes the scene to an extreme that illustrates the quality that is perhaps the chief reason for the appeal of these books: his playfulness. In the sixth and latest book, "In the Company of Cheerful Ladies," McCall Smith moves the cake scene to the waiting room of a famous Johannesburg surgeon to whom Mma Potokwane has brought -- with no appointment -- an orphan with a clubfoot. When the surgeon appears, Mma Potokwane whisks the primal fruitcake out of her bag and thrusts it into "the astonished man's hands" -- and he, of course, after accepting his second slice, can do nothing but helplessly agree to operate on the orphan. At the end of the tall tale, Mma Potokwane reports that "he did not charge anything either. He said the fruitcake was payment enough."

Good comedy requires villains -- they give the game its high stakes -- and McCall Smith provides his feminist comedy with an especially chilling one in the form of Note Mokoti, a sociopathic trumpet player, whom Mma Ramotswe as a very young woman makes the terrible mistake of marrying. This man is not weak and foolish he is strong and evil. He regularly hits Mma Ramotswe, sometimes so hard that she has to go to the hospital for stitches. He abandons her after the death of their newborn baby and disappears from her life -- and from the series. But he remains a sinister background presence, the touchstone of the capacity men have for reducing women to primitive fear and helplessness. In the new book, he reappears and threatens to destroy Mma Ramotswe's successful career and happy second marriage.

Of course, Note is routed in the end (I will not say how), but his reappearance has deepened our sense of the seriousness of these light books and strengthened our bond with its heroine. She is the only daughter of Obed Ramotswe, a man of exquisite virtue -- there are deviants from the weak and foolish majority on the good as well as on the evil side -- from whom she inherits her own moral poise and also the means to set up her detective agency. McCall Smith does not render her realistically. Although he repeatedly cites her fatness (traditional build, he calls it) and the tiny white van she drives and the bush tea she drinks, we see her more at the majestic distance from which we view characters in the Bible rather than in intimate novelistic closeup. However, in contrast to the Bible's rather bloodthirsty feminist heroines (Judith and Jael, for example) Mma Ramotswe is an entirely benign instrument of justice. She exacts no revenge from the errant men (and the occasional errant woman) she catches out. Her impulse is always to spare the sinner and find some kindhearted way of exacting retribution.

"She was a good detective, and a good woman," McCall Smith writes of his heroine in the first book, and adds: "A good woman in a good country." The goodness of Botswana is crucial to McCall Smith's enterprise, and the source of much of its comic inspiration. McCall Smith follows the satiric literary tradition in which a "primitive" culture is held up to show the laughable backwardness of Western society. But, as McCall Smith is aware, the goodness of Botswana, a former British protectorate that gained its independence in 1966, has a hybrid character. The country's unspoiled natural beauty and the unhurried, kindly ways of its people are only a part of what makes Botswana the paradise of Africa. After independence, Botswana rapidly became one of the most prosperous and progressive -- and Westernized -- countries in Africa. (The prosperity is a result largely of the discovery of diamonds.)

McCall Smith gamely takes on the task of distinguishing between the good and the bad things that have come to Botswana from the West. Among the unarguably good things, for example, are the antidepressants that rescue Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, a gifted automobile mechanic and the transcendently kind husband-to-be of Mma Ramotswe, from incapacitating clinical depression and among the unarguably bad things is the fashion for thinness that is telling ladies of traditional build that a slice of Mma Potokwane's fruitcake has 700 calories. To illustrate the brilliant evenhandedness with which McCall Smith plays the two cultures against each other, here is a conversation between Mma Potokwane and Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni that takes place in "Tears of the Giraffe," the second book of the series. Mma Potokwane has been on the telephone with a grocer who took an irritatingly long time to agree to donate some cooking oil to the orphanage.

"Some people are slow to give," she observes, and continues, "It is something to do with how their mothers brought them up. I have read all about this problem in a book. There is a doctor called Dr. Freud who is very famous and has written many books about such people."

" 'Is he in Johannesburg?' asked Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni.

" 'I do not think so,' said Mma Potokwane. 'It is a book from London. But it is very interesting. He says that all boys are in love with their mother.'

" 'That is natural,' said Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni. 'Of course boys love their mothers. Why should they not do so?'

"Mma Potokwane shrugged. 'I agree with you. I cannot see what is wrong with a boy loving his mother.'

" 'Then why is Dr. Freud worried about this?' went on Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni. " 'Surely he should be worried if they did not love their mothers.'

"Mma Potokwane looked thoughtful. 'Yes. But he was still very worried about these boys and I think he tried to stop them.'

" 'That is ridiculous,' said Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni. 'Surely he had better things to do with his time.' "

The passage is a tour de force of double-edged irony. McCall Smith's gentle mockery falls equally on African innocence and Western knowingness. Mma Potokwane's "I do not think so" is worthy of Twain.

In the new book, Arcadia is showing signs of decline. In the opening scene, Mma Ramotswe sits in an outdoor cafe in the capital city of Gaborone and witnesses, in rapid succession, three instances of flagrant antisocial behavior. First she sees a woman who is parking her car scrape another car and drive away. Next she sees a woman steal a bangle from an outdoor peddler while his back is turned. And finally she herself is ripped off: as she runs out of the cafe to try to stop the jewelry thief, she is stopped by a waitress, who accuses her of trying to leave without paying her check and demands money as a bribe for not calling the police. Gaborone as Gomorrah.

After the incident of the scraped car, Mma Ramotswe reflects that "it was not true that such a thing could not have happened in the old Botswana -- it could -- but it was undoubtedly true that this was much more likely to happen today." Her reverie continues: "This was what happened when towns became bigger and people became strangers to one another she knew, too, that this was a consequence of increasing prosperity, which, curiously enough, just seemed to bring out greed and selfishness." A few pages later, in a scene in a church, we are recalled to another threat to the African paradise. The minister speaks of "this cruel sickness that stalks Africa" -- that, in fact, stalks Botswana more cruelly than almost any other country: Botswana has one of the highest H.I.V. infection rates in the world, roughly 40 percent of the adult population.

I get this statistic not from McCall Smith's series but from an article by Helen Epstein in the February 2004 issue of Discover magazine. The "cruel sickness" is not an overt theme of the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" books. McCall Smith does not even give the scourge its name. On some subterranean level, however, his sexual comedy and the tragedy of AIDS intersect. The sexual activity by which the H.I.V. infection is spread is the activity by which the books themselves are driven. Sex is everywhere in them.

A large percentage of the clients of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency are women who want to know if their husbands are cheating on them. (They invariably are.) When Mma Ramotswe interviews one such client "there flowed between them a brief current of understanding. All women in Botswana were the victims of the fecklessness of men. There were virtually no men these days who would marry a woman and settle down to look after her children men like that seemed to be a thing of the past." The case takes a characteristically comic turn. After Mma Ramotswe personally entraps the husband and presents the client with the conclusive evidence of a photograph in which he is kissing the detective on her sofa, the client is beside herself. "You fat tart! You think you're a detective! You're just man hungry, like all those bar girls!" But the comedy only underscores the unfunniness of the priapism by which McCall Smith's Botswana is gripped.

McCall Smith does not connect the dots. He never talks explicitly about how "the cruel sickness" is transmitted. But one has only to look at the real Botswana (where McCall Smith has lived) to see what he must be gesturing toward. In a second article on the subject in The New York Times Magazine, Epstein writes chillingly about the promiscuity that is the agent of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. She attributes Botswana's especially high H.I.V. rate to a special sort of promiscuity: the concurrent long-term sexual relationships with more than one partner, largely male-orchestrated, that are a fixture of the country's life. She notes that a program of "partner reduction" or "increased faithfulness" in Uganda, where such relationships had also been commonplace, brought about a marked change in the H.I.V. infection rate so far Botswana has not established such a program.

McCall Smith's major characters -- Mma Ramotswe, Obed Ramotswe, J. L. B. Matekoni, Mma Makutsi, Mma Potokwane -- are hardly in need of partner reduction. McCall Smith writes so compellingly of their goodness that we don't immediately notice their sexlessness. But there is a sort of chastity enveloping them that is in conspicuous contrast to the hypersexuality of the society at large. In the first book of the series, Mma Ramotswe articulates what is to become implicit. She has refused the first proposal of J. L. B. Matekoni, and worries about losing him as a good friend. "Why did love -- and sex -- complicate life so much? It would be far simpler for us not to have to worry about them. Sex played no part in her life now and she found that a great relief. . . . How terrible to be a man, and to have sex on one's mind all the time, as men are supposed to do. She had read in one of her magazines that the average man thought about sex over 60 times a day!" Mma Ramotswe later accepts the transcendently kind mechanic, and eventually marries him, but we don't get the feeling that sex has much to do with it. The sexual magnetism of the sociopathic trumpeter brought her nothing but suffering. Matekoni, clearly not a man who thinks about sex 60 times a day, if at all, brings her fatherly companionship. She is satisfied with it.

In a reprise of the cake scene, Mma Ramotswe and Mma Potokwane give the allegory of transgression yet another comedic tweak. As they sit in Mma Potokwane's office eating the magical confection, Mma Ramotswe asks her friend if she eats too much cake, and Mma Potokwane responds:

" 'No, I do not. I do not eat too much cake.' She paused and looked wistfully at her now emptying plate. 'Sometimes I would like to eat too much cake. That is certainly true. Sometimes I am tempted.'

"Mma Ramotswe sighed. 'We are all tempted, Mma. We are all tempted when it comes to cake.'

" 'That is true,' said Mma Potokwane sadly. 'There are many temptations in this life, but cake is probably one of the biggest of them.' "

The "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series is a literary confection of such gossamer deliciousness that one feels it can only be good for one. Fortunately, since texts aren't cakes, there is no end to the pleasure that may be extracted from these six books.

Janet Malcolm's latest books are "Reading Chekhov" and "The Crime of Sheila McGough."


Fed’s Reversal on Bank Capital Requirements Serves No Purpose

The Fed reimposed a requirement that big banks hold capital against Treasury bonds and reserves on their balance sheets.

Greg Ip

Since the financial crisis more than a decade ago, the general attitude about bank capital has been that there is no such thing as too much.

It was in that spirit that on Friday the Federal Reserve reimposed a requirement that big banks hold capital against Treasury bonds and reserves (cash kept on deposit at the Fed) on their balance sheets.

The case for that requirement is flawed. The purpose of holding capital, usually shareholders’ equity, is to absorb potential losses. But Treasurys and reserves are risk-free. With that capital requirement back in place, the Fed achieves nothing toward making the financial system safer while potentially raising headwinds to its other goal: stoking an economic recovery with easy credit conditions.

The Fed exempted Treasurys and reserves from capital requirements a year ago in the midst of the market turmoil triggered by the initial pandemic-related economic shutdown. The central bank didn’t want banks to avoid holding or trading Treasurys because of the capital requirement. The exemption also in theory freed up capital that banks could use to make loans to businesses and households.

The decision announced Friday means the exemption is now due to expire March 31. Banks wanted it to continue but ran into a buzz saw of opposition from progressive Democrats. “The banks’ requests for an extension of this relief appear to be an attempt to use the pandemic as an excuse to weaken one of the most important postcrisis regulatory reforms,” Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said earlier this month.


Community Reviews

I first read these stories when I was about 10 or 11 years old, then loaned the book to someone and never saw it again. As I was passing the sci-fi section in a well-stocked used bookstore recently, I thought I&aposd take a chance and, there it was, another compilation of my youth.

How to prepare TALES FROM GAVAGAN&aposS BAR:
Take 2 jiggers of Lord Dunsany&aposs Mr. Jorkens club tales, add a snifter of the rare essence (in 1950) of what we now call "urban fantasy", grate some Damon Runyon to taste (alternati I first read these stories when I was about 10 or 11 years old, then loaned the book to someone and never saw it again. As I was passing the sci-fi section in a well-stocked used bookstore recently, I thought I'd take a chance and, there it was, another compilation of my youth.

How to prepare TALES FROM GAVAGAN'S BAR:
Take 2 jiggers of Lord Dunsany's Mr. Jorkens club tales, add a snifter of the rare essence (in 1950) of what we now call "urban fantasy", grate some Damon Runyon to taste (alternatively, O. Henry can be substituted for a more surprising variant), add a small dusting of The Travels and Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, charge with nitrous oxide and serve in a tall glass - chilled or neat, preferably in an old-style, big city, neighborhood saloon while listening to "Duffy's Tavern" on an old Philco radio. (If decanted and served in the United Kingdom, substitute essence of "pulp science fiction" for the urban fantasy (being careful to strain most of the the pulp), and grate a fine dusting of P.G. Wodehouse to taste to create a Tales From The White Hart). Also note, alternate mixes created later from this basic recipe include the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon and the Curious Quests of Brigadier Ffellowes.

Many of these stories stayed with me through the years. One even inspired a story idea of my own (sadly, yet unwritten - too much time spent in bars, I'd wager). These are charming, light-hearted, low-key tales of the "would you believe what happened to me?" sort, the British "club story" moved down-class to the neighborhood bar ("pub story", perhaps?). The bar setting serves as a wonderful frame - not just for natural raconteurs and plot timing involving comedic side comments, interruptions from the bartender and dramatic punctuations like a dropped glass - but also as a suitable bed for what is commonly called, nowadays, "flash fiction" - wonderful because it allows for some of the stories to end unresolved (although, conversely, this also means that a number of the tales are barely stories at all, just showcases of a cute idea, and so a few are rather weak). Although these stories were written in - and are set in - the 1950s (with a full compliment of businessmen, salesmen, academics and Cold War characters) - they actual feel of a slightly earlier period (1920s-1930s) and are in no way part of the "Rat Pack" culture gaining footholds in a few years. There are some similarities between Gavagan's Bar and Duffy's Tavern - the owners are never present and so the premises are run by the bartenders (Mr. Cohan and Archie, respectively)

I'm not going to go into detail (and thus possibly ruin the fun) on every story, just some teasers (including the main alcoholic libations consumed therein):

"Elephas Frumenti" - the square cube law limits the selective breeding of giants, but what happens if you turn it around and attempt to breed the perfect bar pet? (one of my favorite stories here - only a scientific justification for a rosetae coloring in the creature is neglected - and a bit of an oddity as it all happens in Gavagan's) - Presidente cocktail, 1/8th of a shot of whiskey.

"The Ancestral Amethyst" - a drinking contest between an unreasonably self-assured Dane and a reformed Irish pickpocket is undone by some magical (and human) cheating ("up Erin!"). (another oddity, again all happening at Gavagan's) - cherry brandy, schnapps, shots of Irish whiskey, a Manhattan, a shot of vodka - it was a drinking contest, after all!

"Here Putzi!" - the trails and tribulations of being married to one of the lesser tribes of were-creatures (features some wonderful interaction between Mrs. Vacarescu and Mrs. Jonas over the use of the term "bitch") - Tokay.

"More Than Skin Deep" - the secrets of snaring a husband can be found in a special treatment at a very special boutique. - Presidente cocktail, whiskey sour.

"Beasts of Bourbon" - Asian metaphysics, despondency and bender don't mix, as a man finds his DT figments manifesting in the real world (most witty title of any here!) - Yellow Rattler cocktail, Daiquiri, rye & soda.

"The Gift of God" - a composer of religious poetry for the radio finds her prayers being answered - without heed to the actual intent behind the wording. (a weak story) - double Martini.

"The Better Mousetrap" - A man borrows an unearthly pet to solve a vermin problem, then loses it. - Boilermaker and a long shot, double Zombie, Vin sable wine, Tom Collins.

"No Forwarding Address" - an impossibly old research librarian, who seems to possess personal knowledge of ancient history, gets in dutch for teaching a simple trick. - Martini, Sazerac cocktail.

"The Untimely Toper" - an unruly bar fly is cursed to an imaginative fate until he sobers up. - Martini, Tom Collins, scotch & soda, Lonacoming whiskey, bottle of bourbon, Prairie Oyster cocktail, deluxe Boilermaker.

"The Eve. of St. John" - you can only push a fairy curse of automatic bad luck so far before the backfires backfire on you! - Angel's Tit cocktail, rye & water.

"The Love Nest" - a young woman evidences an interesting mutation (pretty weak story) - scotch & soda, Boilermaker.

"The Stone of the Sages" - an item found in the Florida surf may be the stuff of legend (kinda weak) - rum & Coke, scotch & soda.

"Corpus Delectable" - a mans discovers his visage is an undertaker's advertising dream - Boilermaker, Martini, double scotch.

"The Palimpsest of St. Augustine" - an accidental discovery solves an historical, religious mystery - or perhaps not (weak story) - whiskey, Martini.

"Where To, Please?" - Two friends' disagreement over whether the past or the future is more palatable leads to a bet and accidental time travel (enjoyable story) - Martini, double brandy, Brandy Smash.

"Methought I Heard A Voice" - a popular religious orater may be too popular (weak story) - double Manhattan.

"One Man's Meat" - a spy mission in soviet Czechoslovakia runs afoul of Communist spies, but a mysterious old man and a sausage save the day. (another story that stayed with me - the final image is wonderfully absurd!) rye & soda, Slivovitz, Tom Collins.

"My Brother's Keeper" - Twin brothers, one pious and one less so, share a link - of the "Corsican" variety. (pretty weak story) double whiskey, Manhattan, Boilermaker.

"A Dime Brings You Success" - a mail-order course imbues strength of personality but also bad luck (another pretty weak story). Boilermaker, whiskey sour, rye & soda.

"Oh, Say! Can You See" - a man falls for a mysterious girl who seems to live on the roof of an office building (another favorite of mine from years ago) - Boilermaker, dry Martini, double Stinger, Hennessey.

"The Rape of the Lock" - A man is given a good luck charm that will open any door, but it leads to unforeseeable problems (excellent story with a truly marvelous, unresolved ending) - rye & water, Martini, Rob Roy.

"Bell, Book & Candle" - the minutia of religious ritual cocks up the attempted exorcism of a poltergeist (again, a pretty weak story). scotch, Manhattan, Stinger cocktail.

"All That Glitters" - the bar's ancient spittoon hides a secret of Leprechaun gold and local politics (enjoyable, very "Oirish" story) - Irish whiskey (of course!).

"Gin Comes In Bottles" - a cocktail party gets lively after a misunderstood request unleashes an atypical "spirit". - Appetizer #3 (very dry whiskey cocktail), Boilermaker, double scotch, Martini, Gin, dry-ice Martini.

"There'd Be Thousands In It" - the invention of an automatic "dressing machine" causes unforeseen problems (a weak bit of slapstick, really, and no fantastic element) - Boilermaker, neat vodka.

"The Black Ball" - a fully functioning crystal ball unbalances the local criminal numbers racket, leading a lawyer to intervene. - Rob Roy.

"The Green Thumb" - an aboriginal magic gift "curses" a tomboyish woman to be unable to cook a non-fancy meal. - rum & Coke, Alexander cocktail, Angel's Kiss cocktail.

"Caveat Emptor" - some trickery involving sub-leasing of souls in a classic deal with the Devil. - Martini, Boilermaker.

"The Weissenbroch Spectacles" - glasses made from Kobald Quartz (that function like X-Ray Specs) assist a man with a specific, if common, fetish. - Boilermaker, (Hollands) gin & bitters, Stinger cocktail.


Watch the video: Monk Wine Bar στο Μοναστηράκι (May 2022).


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