Published on: January 7, 2011
Sometimes stories open your eyes. Sometimes, they make your jaw drop. This one qualifies, in my mind, as both.
An organization called the American Association of Wine Economists - which sounds like it could be a pretty good place to work if you are an economist who likes to party - is out with a study called “Women Or Wine? Monogamy and Alcohol.”
Yes, you got that right.
Here the basic premise of the study. Apparently, the researchers realized that the two main social groups in the world that allow or sanction polygamy - Fundamentalist Mormons and some segments of Islam - do not consume alcohol.
According to the study, there does seem to be “a correlation between the shift from polygamy to monogamy and the growth of alcohol consumption.”
There are some fascinating tidbits of information in the study. For example, the study says that “first major step in history towards monogamy is when formal monogamy is introduced in Greece around 1000BC. This rule is maintained by the Romans and is later spread over the Roman Empire. Interestingly, during the centuries of the Greek and Roman Empires, those are the only two regimes which have formal monogamy, and also the only ones that (only) drink wine. The rest of the world is considered barbarian by the Greeks and the Romans, for both reasons, i.e. for having multiple wives and for drinking beer.”
(I never saw a correlation between drinking beer and having two wives. Go figure.)
Later on, the study says, “With the decline of the Roman empire, the Christian Church played an important role in spreading and preserving both the rule of monogamy and alcohol production, i.e. viticulture as well as beer brewing. Later, while preaching and spreading the word of God, monks, priests and friars maintained and reinforced formal monogamy, but also promoted viticulture and, during the Middle Ages, monasteries became centers of brewery technology and beer production ...
Later, the Industrial Revolution brought significant social, economic and technological changes which appear to have played a major role in promoting effective monogamy and simultaneously inducing an increase in mass-alcohol consumption.”
Now, there seems to be no specific causality for why monogamous societies drink and why polygamous societies don’t. I’m actually a little surprised by it, since if I had more than one wife, I’m fairly sure I’d drink a lot more than I do. (Okay, that was the cheap and obvious joke. I couldn’t help myself.)
What I really love is the idea that someone actually did a study on this, and that retailers can now introduce a new marketing program next Valentine’s Day - “Celebrate monogamy, respect history, have a drink.”
One of my favorite columnists is Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post
, and she wrote a New Year’s piece that I thought was excellent.
Parker offered what she said were her “un-jaded, un-cynical, appropriately abbreviated (you're welcome) list of resolutions for all times, but especially now.” She used a familiar phrase - Eat, Pray, Love - and said it boils down to this: “Eat less, pray in private, love because . . . what's the alternative?”
“So how does one emerge a winner in life's little lottery? Scam the system by eating less. It's that simple. By eating less, we are less likely to become fat, which leads to multiple health complications, most of which can be avoided. Shop the perimeters of the grocery store (i.e., whole foods) and eliminate sugar. Easy.
“Pray there's a heaven but do pray quietly. It can't be a mystery any longer that the God urge has a disquieting effect on certain members of the human tribe. I share the urge but have found ways of communing that don't require converting others, invading countries or shedding infidels of their heads.
“Fundamentalists, no matter what their path to glory, share a streak of intolerance that can't have much to do with any but a malevolent creator's design. Either such a creator is undeserving of worship or the worshipers have misread their scripts. Whichever the case - and to each his own - what anyone prays is no one else's business. Let's leave it there.”
“Finally, the most sublime for last: Love.
We are mightily confused about this matter, but it, too, is a simple thing ... At the risk of sounding preachy, God forbid, it's about giving. Here is giving: Listening. Sparing time. Not interrupting. Holding that thought. Leaving the last drop. Staying home. Turning it off, whatever it is. Making eye contact. Picking it up. Taking the room's temperature. Paying attention. Waiting.
“More Golden Rule than heavenly virtues, but you get the drift.”
And speaking of the golden rule and interesting columns...
The comedian Ricky Gervais wrote a wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal
over the holidays about why he is an atheist. Some excerpts:
“As an atheist, I see nothing ‘wrong’ in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-powerful all-knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are.”
“‘Do unto others…’ is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is - a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. ‘Do this or you’ll burn in hell.’
“You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.”
Being nice is important. But sometimes, I think, snarkiness has its place. For those of you who agreed with my negative feelings about Oprah Winfrey a few weeks ago, check out the hilarious Lisa De Moraes column about her in today’s Washington Post
. (We are not alone!)
As I mentioned before i went off on Christmas vacation, one of my goals was to watch a bunch of movies. Which I did. And except for one movie, I enjoyed the hell out of them.True Grit.
Just great, and far superior to the original version, which even in its location shots still felt like it was filmed on a backlot; on this one, you can taste the dust. There are wonderful performances by Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn (the old John Wayne role, which Bridges makes his own, increasingly demonstrating that he is one of the best actors of his generation at the top of his powers), Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger who is more than he appears to be, and Hallee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, the resolute young woman looking for vengeance for her father’s murder.The Fighter.
Based on a true story and set in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the mid-nineties, this movie is about Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), two sons in a matriarchal family who tried to escape their modest circumstances in the boxing ring. The contrast between the two sons is striking - Micky is a quiet plodder, while Dicky has turned to crack to assuage his demons. The Fighter
is compelling stuff - one reviewer said the family dynamics (and the performance of Melissa Leo as their horror show of a mother) make it close to a Eugene O’Neill play than Rocky
, and I can’t disagree with that.The King’s Speech.
A period film set in pre World War II London and focusing on the travails of King George VI (Colin Firth), who unexpectedly found himself on the throne (after the abdication of King Edward VIII) and facing the challenge of inspiring the British population to fight against Hitler - while at the same time suffering from a crippling stammer that many thought made him unfit to be king. The movie examines the efforts of an unorthodox speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to help the king find his voice, both physically and emotionally. Simply stunning and moving.
Those were the three new movies. During the blizzard, I also watched with my sons the director’s cut of Avatar
in high-def DVD, which was fascinating...though it did make me wonder about the economics of shooting so much film that couldn’t be used.
And, I watched Toy Story 3
for the first time - and found it to be unexpectedly moving in its treatment of loss and loyalty. Not sure if kids get it, but I’ve yet to talk to an adult who wasn’t affected by it.
The only movie I saw over the holiday that I hated was The A-Team
, which I also watched with my sons. It was just awful - and I even disliked Liam Neeson in it, and I like Liam Neeson in almost everything. (Check out the trailer for Unknown
online...it looks very cool.)
And speaking of Neeson...I also watched Love Actually
for the umpteenth time...it is my favorite Christmas movie, and no holiday would be complete without it.
My wines of the week come from Mrs. Content Guy, who has become an enormous chardonnay fan...
2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Chardonnay, from Washington State’s Columbia Valley.
2008 Sebastiani Chardonnay, from Sonoma.
2009 Bogle Chardonnay, from California.
And I loved, by the way, our Christmas wine - the 2007 Director’s Cut “Cinema” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah, from Francis Ford Coppola. It was perfect with the evening’s filet mignon.
Oddly enough, I also discovered a beer over the weekend that I’d never had before - Samuel Adams Red Ale, which instantly became a house favorite. Perfect for these cold winter nights.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.