Never leave for the South Pole without your scotch

Perhaps one the  most fascinating stories in the modern history of spirits is the discovery of whisky brought to Antartica by the famed explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton.

Apparently Shackleton left behind around five crates of what appears to be scotch whiskey buried beneath a hut he used during his famously failed expedition to the South Pole.  (And yes, that was five crates, not just  five bottles!)  The labels say the bottles were produced, probably sometime in the late 19th century, by Mackinlay and Co., a label now owned by Whyte and Mackay,.  In 2006 the bottles were discovered and late last year Whyte and Mackay were granted permission to examine and test their contents.

Whyte and Mackay examine Shackleton's whisky

Whyte and Mackay will remove a tiny bit of the whisky using a syringe to analyze the contents of the bottles.  They are hoping discover what kind of whisky it is, how it was made, and how well it was preserved by the polar conditions.  It will be a sort of “time capsule” for the whisky world and, perhaps more importantly, will tell us something about Shackleton himself.  I mean let’s be honest.  Is there anything that conveys more about a man’s character than what kind of whisky he is willing to carry with him to the ends of the earth?

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton

Let’s be honest, the whisky and its discovery is not nearly the most shocking and inexplicable portion of this story by a long measure, nor any of the complexities involved in its analysis or its return voyage to Glasgow.  To me, the most fascinating aspect of all this has to be the very fact that Shackleton actually had this much whisky left in his hut to leave behind?  I think even just a few days in the subzero temperatures of Antarctica would be enough to make me want to dip into the reserve, so to speak.

Posted by: David McBride


Published in: Uncategorized on January 31, 2011 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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God Speed Challenger

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.  On this date in 1986, STS-51-L exploded over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

The Space Shuttle Challenger

My classmates and I were huddled around a television watching as thrilling excitement turned into shock and then gut-wrenching sadness.  For my generation, it was that “loss of innocence” moment we will never forget.  God Speed Challenger!

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 12:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Shocked to find there is sexism in pro sports!

It seems that the sports world, or at least football fans in Great Britain, are understandably and correctly up in arms over something we here in the United States are fairly used to by now, sexism in professional sports.

Sian Massey

Sian Massey

Sian Massey was the assistant referee this past weekend during a match between Wolverhampton and Liverpool.  It was her second match in England’s top flight, arguably the most popular league in the world.  I do not recall seeing her first match myself, but I did see this one and she did a fine job.  But as we all know by now, putting in a commendable effort is not always enough for a woman trying to break into the boys club known as professional sports.

During the broadcast of the game on Sky Sports, Andy Gray and Richard Keys, two longtime football commentators, remarked that she was incapable of handling her job because she was a woman.  The two thought their microphones were cut when they made the comments, which only makes them imbecilic as well as sexist.  In the days since the games, Keys has resigned and Gray was fired.  Neither the commentators nor Sky Sports has much to be proud of here in the handling of the situation.

Richard Keys and Andy Gray

Do I really need to point out how remarkably stupid and backward these two “pundits” were when they decided to make these remarks?  I simply refuse to believe that anyone born after the Paleolithic age truly believes a woman incapable of judging offsides because of her gender.  No, this is like every other such reactions to social change.  It’s based on fear and general ignorance.

Shocked to find there is sexism in professional sports!

Thankfully, few if any have come to the defense of these two cavemen and neither will be working any longer in a field they obviously needed to retire from long before this weekend.  But I can’t help but thinking this is something of a Captain Renault moment for many speaking out against Keys and Gray.  While I applaud their denunciations, its time for them to do their part in helping to break the barriers that women face in professional sports.  Its easy to criticize the club, and its even easy to change the club’s rules, but it’s much, much harder to change hearts and minds of its members.

Through the Night Rode Paul Revere

Perhaps Sarah Palin’s knowledge of American history would be well served if she read this article posted in January of this year. 

The latest article published on the American Public House Review comes to us from the Warren Tavern in Charlestown, Massachusetts.  Named after General Joseph Warren, this fantastic pub once counted Paul Revere among its regular patrons.  Like many Americans, the Mr. Revere’s name instantly causes the involuntary action of reciting a poem we all had burned into our brains as children.

“Paul Revere’s Ride” was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and first published in 1861 when the country was on the brink of Civil War. It may not be the most historically accurate depiction of Revere’s immortal ride through the Massachusetts countryside, but it is certainly one of the best and most memorable.  Enjoy!

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said, “Good night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all!  And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders, that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest.  In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled,–
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,–
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

And the Lion Shall Sit Down with the Lamb

President Obama shakes hands with Speaker Boehner - photo by Jim Young/Rueters
Whether or not we can achieve the long-term civility and cooperation envisioned by President Obama in his State of the Union address remains to be seen. But at least for one night during this long cold winter, there appeared to be a bit of genuine warmth emanating from  the House chamber. The simple gesture of having the members of both parties sitting next to each other might actually begin to change the tone in Washington. (If nothing else, the tone of Speaker John Boehner’s tan finally seemed balanced.)

On this particular night the United States Congress  appeared to be the government  of all the people, instead of the usual partisan fans of two opposing teams in their assigned bleachers at a high school football game.

Since the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords there has been much talk about the need to change the tone of our political dialogue. While I will not speculate as to what degree the events in Tucson were influenced by the current level of acrimony between Democrats and Republicans, my years of experience in the tavern business have taught me that our discourse and tone certainly do matter. 

I have been witness to too many instances where a highly charged atmosphere combined with some  ill-chosen words  provided the license and excuse for the less rational patrons to display their violent tendencies. 

On the other hand though, I have experienced many more occasions where a kind word, a calming hand on the shoulder, or just the invite to sit down next to someone else diffused a potentially dangerous situation. So let us not discount the power of what we say or where we sit.

Tir na nog Irish Pub - Trenton, NJ

So in the spirit of proper tavern etiquette,  I would ask our politicians  to please remember the following points:

  • There is a place for everyone at the bar.
  • On St. Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish.
  • The rest of the year we are all Americans.

Posted by: Chris Poh

Can “King Eric” lead the Cosmos and American soccer to victory?

Last week saw what was perhaps the most bizarre, and at the same time potentially the most important, signing in American soccer history.  Eric Cantona, Manchester United legend and world football icon, was hired to become the Director of Soccer for the New York Cosmos, or I should say for an organization hoping to become the New York Cosmos.

The bizarre aspect of all this is that Cantona has the “overall responsibility for all soccer-related matters” for a team with no players.  The Cosmos are currently a club without a team, and with no guarantees that any top-flight team will exist in the near future.  Also, I don’t believe Cantona has any knowledge of the MLS or American soccer nor any front-office experience, but obviously that is not the point here.

"King Eric" Cantona joins the semi-fictional New York Cosmos

While Cantona’s position may very well be nothing more than a publicity stunt, it is a publicity stunt with huge significance.  What it tells us is that the folks running the Cosmos brand are not only looking to become an MLS franchise, they are looking to once again become the biggest and flashiest soccer team in the country.

As a child growing up in the New York area during the 1970’s, there truly was nothing bigger in sports than the New York Cosmos.  I remember going to Giants Stadium packed to the rafters with fellow fanatics to see world-class legends like Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto.  It was certainly the glory days of soccer in the United States.  Despite our recent successes with the US Men’s National Team, when the rest of the football world speaks of the United States they still tend to speak in somewhat derogatory terms about our inability to understand or play the sport.  But the one phrase they still recognize as a positive in our soccer history is the “New York Cosmos”.  It remains our one great contribution to world’s most important game.

Pele and the New York Cosmos

That team and those players inspired me to play the sport as a child, which led directly to my adult obsession with the world’s most popular sport.  And I am not alone.  Since the inception of Major League Soccer, fans of the sport have been waiting for the Cosmos to return.  Now that the league has established itself and soccer has made serious progress, it is time for the country’s most storied franchise to return to the pitch.

I have been a fan of the New York franchise in Major League Soccer (once called the Metrostars, now the Red Bulls) since the league began.  For those who don’t know much about the MLS, the team has been nothing short of an epic failure on the field, the polar opposite of my first love, the Cosmos, who were the most successful of their generation.  But despite those hardships we have stood by the Red Bulls all these difficult seasons.  Finally, we now have a stadium, ownership, and players worthy of our support.  There is no doubt that should the New York Cosmos enter the MLS they would instantly become our biggest rivals.  But I will be honest, it will be very hard for me to root against that shirt.

A Dark Day Indeed

In my Inbox this morning, i received my daily “This Day in History” message from the History Channel.  While normally these messages concern themselves with political and military milestones, today’s was about something much more dark and sinister…canned beer.

It seems that on this date in 1935, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company delivered the first cans of beer to the consumer market, marking a seismic shift in the future of the  beer industry.  Storing beer in cans was easier and cheaper in almost every aspect of the beer industry.  Soon, the entire country was drinking from a can.

Now, I am aware that I have a tendency to voice some controversial opinions on this blog a bit too often for the likings of the editors at the American Public House Review.  However, despite those occupational hazards, I am here to declare that this is the anniversary of a very dark day in history.  A very dark day indeed.

Beer is an ancient wonder of human ingenuity.  It is a constant that has stood the test of time and has evolved over the centuries to meet the tastes of an ever changing human palate.  It is our job as stewards of this legendary necessity to work towards its perfection.  To craft it in a way that either tells our story to future generations or simply improves the enjoyment of our fellow man.

However, in the winter of 1935, someone, and I will not name names, decided to cheapen this noble art rather than better it.  Yes, I understand there is something to be said about making beer more affordable in times of need.  But there are just some things in life where quality is more of an imperative than quantity.  So tonight, let us lift a glass bottle together in an oath to do our part to never again allow ourselves to dishonor   this most solemn art again.

By Dave McBride

Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 10:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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A King Holding Court

I have certainly made a habit of visiting the Rose and Crown inside Epcot, and I have also made a habit of talking on this blog about the pub’s iconic bartender Carl.  A few weeks ago I once again spent some quality time in this great pub, chatting with Carl and watching as this master barkeep held court.

Carl holding court at the Rose and Crown

Carl is known for not only being at the top of his nobel profession, but he is also a friend and a welcoming site for many a weary traveller.  He is perhaps best known for his bar-tricks, the “Leaning Pint of Guinness” chief among them.  But once again, he had myself and my fellow patrons scratching our heads trying to figure out one of his liquid riddles.

the work of a master

So, what we have above is two shot glasses, one on top of the other, and water filled half-way up the overturned top glass, which alone is puzzling.  Then, he balances a third glass on the bottom of the upside down one.  Bare in mind, the bottom of that glass is both wet and not exactly flat!  I can only imagine how many glasses I would shatter trying to do this on this hard bar-top…

By Dave McBride

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield!

We here at Pub Talk have decided to expand our ranting to include more subjects that interest us…and hopefully you as well.  Besides our normal topical banter, the editors told me I had “carte blanche” on whatever topic I wanted to discuss. So I chose, among other things, the world’s greatest sport…football!  (No, not advertisement plagued football we americans play, the real football!)  Join me each week as I blather on about my favorite sport!

Can one man’s ambition really change the contemporary thinking of a worldwide sport?  If not, than Blackpool manager Ian Holloway is certainly giving it a try.

Blackpool FC manager Ian Holloway

For decades, small clubs have gone out against the giants of the sport with the horribly boring idea of sitting their entire team inside their own half with the hope they could fend off the usually inevitable for 90 minutes and earn a scoreless draw.  Sure many a minnow has succeeded with this agonizingly dull tactic, and a few have even won a game or two like that, but is that really what we want out of our team?

This season, Ian Holloway brought his incredibly undersized Blackpool into the English Premier League, perhaps the toughest, and certainly most expensive, league in the world.  I for one expected little, and many football pundits wondered only half-jokingly if little Blackpool could earn even a single victory during their campaign.  But so far, with half the season completed, Mr. Holloway and his band of so-called misfits have proved us all wrong.  And they have done it with only one noticeable trait we all failed to take in to account when prognosticating this past summer…ambition.  Pure, exciting and wonderfully refreshing ambition!

The Blackpool faithful are living a dream season

With 21 games played so far, Blackpool have 8 wins and sit 10th in the league table.  That might not sound like much to us, but for a club with probably a third the resources of most of their competition, it really is.  But what’s more, they have gone after every game to win it and have attacked each Goliath with confidence.  Along the way, they may have just rewritten the book on how to play as a minnow among sharks.

I suppose there is a chance that Blackpool may yet be relegated back down to the lower leagues.  And even if they do manage to stay in the top flight next season, the odds will once again be stacked against them.  But no matter what happens, the example has been set and football world has had its collective eyes opened.  Play with ambition, strive for better!  And you too will become the stuff of legend!

By Dave McBride

Published in: on January 18, 2011 at 10:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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