G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Friday, September 05, 2014

Vodka: Nobody in the World Knows What it is Made out of

The Hindu, August 27 2014: "Kerala bars to be closed by September 12. 15 days’ notice will be served on all bars except 20 bars in five-star hotels."
 
Mark Lawrence Schrad:

“…Yet even as drinkers of the world raise a toast to vodka, we should all be reminded of its dark past: the generations of Russians who found not only consolation at the bottom of the bottle but also grief, illness, and death. We must remember that such incredible human costs were—and still are—attributable not just to the lowly drunkard, but to the autocratic political system that reaped unimaginable profits from the people’s misery, generation after generation.

With history in mind, the cowboy philosopher’s alcoholic musings sound even more fitting: “Now that is the whole story to Vodka,” Rogers surmised. “Nobody in the world knows what it is made out of, and the reason I tell you this is that the story of Vodka is the story of Russia. Nobody knows what Russia is made out of, or what it is liable to cause its inhabitants to do next.”

The story of vodka truly is the story of Russia: not just its culture and society, but its history and statecraft as well. Whether it can ever break free of the shackles of vodka politics—and the autocratic system that nurtures it and is nurtured by it—may well be the most fundamental political question facing the future of Russia.”
 
Old Russian Proverb:


“A man comes from the dust and in the dust he will end—and in the meantime, it is good to drink a sip of vodka.” 

 The Times of India, July 2 2013:
"India's vodka consumption declined 3% last calendar — first fall in more than a decade — suggesting the odorless spirit's waning honeymoon with the youth."


The Economist, December 20 2001:
"...It may be small—each molecule is less than a billionth of a metre long, and consists of a handful of atoms of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen—but ethyl alcohol makes an excellent time machine. People have enjoyed alcoholic drinks since prehistoric times, making drinking one of the few strands that runs throughout the history of western civilisation. Appreciating the art, music or literature of long-vanished cultures can require years of study; recreating their drinks, and comparing them to what we enjoy today, is simple in comparison, not to mention more fun. The consumption of alcohol is so widespread in history, says Patrick McGovern, an archaeological chemist at the University of Pennsylvania, that drinking is, in effect, “a universal language”.."


When I drank little more than occasionally, I liked vodka, beer and rum. I hated (and still do) whiskey's taste including even Scotch's.

These days I hardly drink and don't miss it but I enjoy many aspects of drinking. For instance: What do people drink, how much and how they change in the process?

The chart in The Economist dated June 17 2013 is very informative.

China's national liquor baijiu accounts for a whopping 99.5% of all spirits consumed there. So China does not even feature in rankings of the best-known internationally consumed spirits in The Economist charts. Indi
India does figure there in rum and gin charts.  I wonder how. Isn't India's national liquor arrack/ toddy/ hathbhatti (हाथभट्टी)/desi-liquor (देशी दारू)?

Among branded liquor, Vodka is the most popular in the world, 4.44 litres, billion.

On Vodka drinking, Serge Schmemann wrote in NYT April 15 2007:

 "...The European Union would define vodka simply as diluted ethyl alcohol, which is, of course, what it is. ...vodka is a Russian word, a diminutive of “water” (before you adopt an ironic smile, be aware that “whiskey” comes from the Gaelic for “water of life”)...My beef is with the whole brouhaha over a liquor whose greatest, and only, virtue is that it is colorless and tasteless...the proliferation of premium vodkas, in ever fancier bottles and at ever higher prices, is understandable, given the decadence of the Western world. The endless debates about which vodka “tastes” better are less so..."




Running Amuck dated November 16, 1904, 

cover of the satirical magazine Puck depicting Russia—clutching a jug of vodka—stumbling into war against a Japanese hornet. 

Artist: Unknown to me

Courtesy: 

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division 
                                  and
‘Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State’, 2014 by Mark Lawrence Schrad

No comments: