Beerchaser of the Month – Art Vandelay

The  Beerchaser-of-the-Month or Quarter is a method this blog has periodically employed to acknowledge certain individuals or groups – simply because they should be recognized.  Some, such as the four bartenders from the first four taverns visited (November 2011), are directly related to beer or pubs.

Lt. Jud Blakely, USMC at Than Thrah Viet Nam

Lt. Jud Blakely, USMC at Than Thrah Viet Nam

Others such as two of my SAE fraternity brothers at Oregon StateJud Blakely (Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient for Viet Nam service) September 2013

and

Craig Hanneman (Collegiate All-American football in 1970, NFL career and successful summit of Mt. Everest in 2012) August 2012

Craig Hanneman (right) on Mt. Everest Climb
Craig Hanneman (right) on Mt. Everest Climb

and

Dr. Harry Frankfurt (Princeton University Emeritus Professor and author of the book, On Bullshit) January 2012 are named because of their achievements and contributions to society.  And some such as the fabled crew of the USS Constitution July 2012 and retired chemist, Harold Schlumberg August 2011 for more light-hearted faire.

Professor Frankfurt, author of "On Bullshit."
Professor Frankfurt, developed a theoretical framework in his book “On Bullshit.”

In that spirit, the current Beerchaser-of-the-Month is recognized for his profoundly inconsequential contribution to the world of Latex.  Art Vandelay, President and CEO of Vandelay Industries a latex manufacturing company has largely slipped under the radar for many years – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Art Vandelay, President and CEO of Vandelay Enterprises

Art Vandelay, President and CEO of Vandelay Enterprises

He grew up in Keokuk, Iowa, where he was President of his eighth grade class – twice and in high school was voted “Most Likely.”   

Childhood on the Mississippi
Keokuk – Childhood on the Mississippi

Vandelay then moved to Racine, Wisconsin and attended Kramer Community College for four years where he received his associate degree.  He didn’t participate in major team sports but was a Bowler.

After a very short first marriage to a classmate, which was voided by the court based on a “technicality,” he moved to New York.  Art Vandelay gained new confidence upon realizing that all his annoying habits disappeared when he lived alone.

Vandelay Industries' Products, in part...

Vandelay Industries’ Products, in part…

Our Beerchaser then became a latex salesman for Vandelay Industries and rose up the corporate ladder when he validated the following leadership theory propounded by comedian Dave Berry:

“When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that person is crazy.”
—————————
Art Vandelay’s solution for a market slump was originating the slogan for one of their more well known products:
“Wrap it in latex, or she’ll get your paychecks.”

After becoming President, he led his company to a record number of years of marginal profitability – his employees followed him primarily out of a sense of morbid curiosity.

Leadership that inspires followers....
Leadership that inspires followers….

Idiosyncrasies such as his habit of paging himself on the intercom raised questions.  However, his personal lifestyle and political philosophy had a calming effect on the organization.  For example:

“Set aside five minutes each day.  At the end of the year, you will have saved up 1.27 days.”

Another five minutes accrued.....

Another five minutes accrued…..

or

“Annoy a liberal – Work – Succeed – Be Happy!!”

Room Temperature...
Room Temperature Intellect and Personality…

—————

This led to the oft quoted expression: “Work of Art.” 

So raise a mug to an individual, who notwithstanding his room temperature IQ, may not have raised the bar, but at least passed it.

P1010994

For those who want more detailed information about Vandelay Industries including the real story, use the following link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Vandelay#Pseudonyms

Beerchaser of the Month for June – Dr. John Walker – Portland State University Professor of Public Finance and Economics

Cheers to a Notable Prof.

Thebeerchaser’s recent visit (and last blog post) to the Cheerful Tortoise on the edge of the Portland State University campus brought back memories from the late 1970’s.  While a loyal OSU Beaver alum, I received an outstanding graduate education in the PSU Masters in Public Administration program.  When my wonderful adviser, Dr. Walt Ellis, chided me that since it had been seven years, I needed to finish my MPA within the next three terms or they would start taking credits away.

Like most good procrastinators, I had saved the toughest courses until last –  to wit:

Public Finance       Statistics and Data Analysis   (2 terms)

While thebeerchaser’s new spouse – a fellow MPA graduate –  pulled me through Data Analysis, I faced Dr. John Walker‘s course on public finance with trepidation given the prof’s reputation for being a tough grader and his challenging tests on complex topics.

Red Line = GPA Trendline After Public Finance Course

Besides, how interesting could three-hour evening lectures be by a guy who published a paper entitled, “Long Run Aggregate Supply Verticality: Fact or Fiction,” in the American Economist. To my surprise, however, I learned a great deal from Dr. Walker – enjoyed his lectures immensely and, in part, based on my study partner’s (former Oregon Department of Human Resources Director, Jean Thorne) discipline, even aced the course.

Stimulating????

John Walker would start each lecture with a monologue, of sorts, railing against government policies, politicians and institutions.  With his dry and sarcastic wit, these were humorous and conveyed his point vividly. He also peppered his lectures with these comments.

Enjoying this type of humor, I “collected” these witticisms – listed them in a section of my legal pad and filed them away – until two weeks ago while going through old files. It was refreshing in 1977 to listen to a very intelligent person who disdained political correctness.  So while trying to absorb the Law of Variable Proportions or comprehend the intricacies of the marginal rate of transformation in lecture, I would gleefully jot down comments such as:

“Taxing the rich isn’t always a good idea.  It’s very easy to think of a group of very nice rich people and really crummy poor people.”       

or

“Government being run like a business means that it should raise taxes while concurrently lowering services.”

Dr. Walker had the flu during the term and one of the students subsequently asked him how he was feeling and his reply was “Relative to what?”

I determined that others should be able to share in some of the gems that he conveyed although for obvious reasons, deciding to eliminate the names of specific politicians in the quotes such as  “The combined ability of ______ and ______ is a negative number.”        or     “Governor ______ wants to be just.  The problem arises because his version of what is just is wrong.”

We start with my favorite:  “It’s much more economically efficient to bury people vertically rather than horizontally.”     (He does have a point…)            

The Model is Economically Inefficient….

“I went to testify before the Oregon Legislature as an expert witness, but there was no precedent for expert testimony.”   

Do fish mind swimming through crud if there is enough oxygen?  No, but we have no reason to believe that fish know anything.”

Potential Invaders??

“It is my opinion that we could lower the defense budget to zero and the Russians would not attack….However the Mexicans would.”

Under the Oregon fraternal organization statutes, something has to be given to charity each year to be exempt from property taxes.  The law doesn’t say how much — all  you have to do is give $1 to any deserving midget once per year.  When the Department of Revenue conducts an audit and asks what your charity is, the organization simply replies, ‘Marvin.'”

“I prefer diversity. It’s bad enough that I have to look at you each week, but think how bad it would be if you all looked the same.”              

Undesirable Students!

“School boards are elected to make people’s kids smart and beautiful.  Three years later, when they’re still dumb and ugly, the board members are not re-elected.”

“The great general cause of poverty is the absence of money.”

Although it has taken thirty-five years, here’s a toast to Dr. John Walker as Thebeerchaser of the Month – just as we toasted his humor after class at Sam’s Hoffbrau in 1977.  Similar to a previous recipient, Dr. Harry Frankfurt (Beerchaser of the Month for September) of Princeton University, the author of the brilliant book, On Bullshit, Dr. Walker used his wit and creativity to educate — effectively.

It also seem appropriate to end with a citation (also used in a prior beerchaser post), but one which I think Dr. Walker would approve:

Therefore education at the University mostly worked by the age-old method of putting a lot of young people in the vicinity of a lot of books, hoping that something would pass from one to the other –while the actual young people put themselves in the vicinity of inns and taverns for exactly the same reason.

Beerchaser Miscellany

Thebeerchaser’s tour of Portland pubs, taverns and bars and this blog commenced in August 2011.  My education on blog software is continuing and I hope to make it easier in the future to find items on the site; however, it may be helpful until that time to recap the venues reviewed in categories during the last ten months.

The next review will be posted this week and recaps our visit to Interurban, which will be followed by a visit to the historical Mock Crest Tavern.

Neighborhood Bars

  • Brooklyn Park Pub
  • Gladstone Street Pub
  • Hawthorne Hideaway
  • Laurelthirst Public House
  • Muddy Rudder Public House

“Taking the Plunge…”

Dive Bars (Not a negative connotation – see post entitled “Analyzing Dive Bars – Head First” from September)

  • Ash Street Saloon
  • Dixie Tavern
  • Joe’s Cellar
  • Yukon Tavern

Brew Pubs

  • Amnesia Brew Pub
  • Coalition Brew Pub
  • Migration Brew Pub

Miscellaneous Bars and Pubs – In a Class of Their Own

  • The Buffalo Gap Saloon
  • Proust
  • The Twilight Room (Could be considered somewhat of a neighborhood pub but also a traditional  “hang-out” for watering hole for University of Portland students)

Followers  of the blog have asked if I have identified a favorite establishment to this point.  While every visit has been positive, probably two tie as favorites for different reasons:  The Laurelthirst and The Twilight Room.

Beerchasers of the Month

This label above is a misnomer because only five of the ten months have named an “honoree” as follows:

  • Princeton University professor and author of On Bullshit, Dr. Harry Frankfurt
  • Crime novelist, James Crumley
  • Retired chemical engineer and drinker, Harold Schlumburg
  • The bartenders of the Brooklyn Park Pub, the Gladstone Street Pub, Prost and the Twilight Room

Efforts will be made to bestow that honor more frequently, however, my favorite to this point is the esteemed Dr. Frankfurt, who responded to thebeerchaser’s e-mail informing him of the distinction and he became a follower of the blog.

BS Expert – Dr. Harry Frankfurt

Beer-related Lawsuits

Having worked in a law firm for twenty-five years and at the Oregon State Bar prior to that time, I collected a lot of law-related articles and memorabilia. In reviewing old files, I came across my favorite law suit – reported in The Oregonian in 1976. It documents a $53,000 suit filed against the Mount Angel Oktoberfest in Marion County.

The plaintiff, Robert Rispler, claimed the portable toilet he entered at the annual Oktoberfest was pushed over by unruly patrons and he was “violently thrown about inside said portable toilet, became intimately mixed (emphasis supplied) with the contents thereof and sustained a fracture of his right wrist and other contusions and abrasions.”                                                          

A Lawsuit Dr. Frankfurt Might Appreciate

Unfortunately additional research on the results of this suit are beyond the resources of thebeerchaser although a quick search of the internet found two Robert Risplers – one, a 1974 graduate of Reynolds High School in Portland (he would have been too young to drink legally….) and one who is now Director of Accounting at Fannie Mae in Washington DC.  Thebeerchaser avoids political commentary (at times) and will omit any direct or indirect implications related to federal agencies.

Favorite Bar Jokes

Although my archives has more lawyer jokes than bar jokes, this blog needs to return to more relevant topics in this post and will finish with a few bar jokes, which will also grace future posts:

  • A grasshopper walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Hey, that’s really cool.  We have a drink named after you. The grasshopper looks at him skeptically and says, “You have a drink named Murray?”

  • A piece of toast, a glass of orange juice, some hash browns and a side of eggs walk into a bar and they order four beers.  The bartender says, “I’m sorry we don’t serve breakfast here.”
  • A physician, a nurse, a rabbi and a bulldog walk into a bar and the bartender says, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Spring Training in Phoenix

Thebeerchaser and spouse were privileged to take in a few games during Spring Training in Phoenix in March.  While the tour of pubs is restricted to Portland, we visited and observed a number, which generated these observations:

It seemed like every bar we passed was jammed with people especially from about 4:30 to 7:00 and not necessarily because of Happy Hours.  It may be that given urban sprawl in this badly planned metropolis, that people don’t try to drive during rush hour and just hit a bar each day.  Rotating designated drivers keep things legal.         

It also seemed that many of the venues had multiple levels to accommodate all the patrons (see pictures below).  Perhaps it was also the hot weather.  It was ironic that it cost $4 for a bottle of water at the baseball games when one could get a PBR for $1.50 at the pub across the street.  It brought to mind, beerchaser of the month, Jame’s Crumley’s  request from his main character, C.W. Sughrue, “I want a beer as cold as my ex-wife’s heart.”

Of special interest was the Irish Pub, shown below, that also served as a saddelry.    

Did you hear the one about the horse that walked into the bar? **

*Bartender says, “Hey! Why the long face?”                     

Happy New Year – The January 2012 Beerchaser of the Month – Dr. Harry Frankfurt

Although somewhat erratic in 2011, the intent of this blog is to recognize a Beerchaser of the Month twelve times each year.  The honoree, so to speak, may or may not have a direct relationship to pubs or beer.  When more indirect, I will attempt to explain the link, which is necessary for the January recipient.  Dr. Harry Frankfurt Ph.D., an author and professor at Princeton University, has shown wisdom and humor in promoting meaningful communication.

Princeton Professor Emeritus – Dr. Harry Frankfurt

One of the reasons for thebeerchaser tour is to experience the ambiance unique to each bar, pub or tavern.  I would suggest that each ale house has its own character based, in part, on the conversations and relationships of its patrons.  Thus, by listening and interacting, I have gleaned pearls of wisdom from my visit to Joe’s Cellar that were distinct from Prost, the Yukon Tavern or the Twilight Room and other stops on my tour;

however,

All the discourse was worthwhile and sincere, which is not true of much of today’s dialogue – most notably in politics, government and law.  It seems fitting, therefore to start the New Year by acknowledging, Dr. Harry Frankfurt Ph.D., as the January Beerchaser of the Month.  He is the author of a brilliant 67-page treatise published in 2005 entitled:

As the esteemed Dr. states: (all quotes below in blue italics)

The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.

Unmitigated BS

In On Bullshit, Dr. Frankfurt, quotes from learned sources such as the Oxford English Dictionary  

 

 

 

An excellent reference source

An excellent reference source

The Prevalence of Humbug (an essay by Max Black 1985)      

The Economist 

and “Lying” in Treatises on Various Subject in Fathers of the Church by RJ Deferrari (1952) re. St. Augustine’s position on lying.

St. Augustine

Dr. Frankfurt’s stated purpose in On Bullshit will help you understand why this little book is so insightful:

In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.  And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us.  In other words, we have no theory. 

I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory analysis…..My aim is simply to give a rough account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is not.

Understandably, the professor agonized that, “Even the most basic and preliminary questions about bullshit remain, after all, not only answered, but unasked.” (emphasis supplied)  

Questions on BS??

With the Presidential election cycle upon us and the increasing use of the internet and social media for communication, “On Bullshit” becomes an invaluable resource to gauge communication….and character.

A recent column by The New York Times Op-ed Columnist, David Brooks, entitled, “Behaving Badly in Cyberspace” wisely states:

And if more people spent their evenings at least thinking about what exemplary behavior means they might be less likely to find themselves sending out emotionally stunted tweets at night.                                       ……The reason politicians behave badly these days is that we spend less time thinking about what it means to behave well.  This was less of a problem in past centuries when leaders, teachers and clergy held detailed debates over what it meant to have good character.

Does the proliferation of e-mail and social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, increase the amount of bullshit in global society?  Dr. Frankfurt wrote his tome before the advent of social media and since then the number of talk shows and reality shows has also increased dramatically.

Is the Amount of BS Time Relative???  Even in 2005, when Dr. Frankfurt wrote his book, he opined that the amount of BS was distressing:  Why is there so much bullshit?  Of course, it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more of it nowadays than at other times.  There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased        

Perhaps it is nostalgia, but it would seem that some of the great statesman and intellects of the past were more direct and concise – essentially far less inclined to bullshit, than current dignitaries.    For example, let’s compare the wonderfully concise assertion of Henry David Thoreau in 1854, to former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s response at a press briefing in February 2002:

A Great Communicator and Pub Companion

“We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”  Thoreau said this even before some of the statements uttered by George W. Bush and Texas Governor, Rick Perry  (I wonder if they had a pub in the vicinity of Walden Pond?)  It also begs the question whether Thoreau was implying that Maine and Texas residents are bullshitters, which Dr. Frankfurt does not address in his book.

And now, Rumsfeld’s comment on why no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq:

Obfuscation or Just BS?

There are known knowns, there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.

Rumsfeld’s quote may typify government communication and reinforces the need for a new law signed by President Obama, effective October 2011 – “The Plain Writing Act” – perhaps more aptly described as the “Anti-Bullshit Act.”

Can You Legislate Against BS?

It was prompted by such examples as the Pentagon 26-page brownie recipe which included a directive that “ingredients shall be examined organoleptically.” 

Frankfurt would certainly classify that directive as bullshit. A pre and post – Act comparison is edifying:

Before – “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans” recommends a half-hour or more of moderate physical activity on most days, preferably every day.  The activity can include brisk walking, calisthenics, home care, gardening, moderated sports exercise and dancing.”

After – “Do at least 30 minutes of exercise, like brisk walking, most days of the week.”

A Stark Contrast – Does it Drive One to Drink?

To further the premise that communication has declined in quality and the bullshit quotient increased, we can turn to the contrast between Benjamin Franklin and current Republican candidate, Presidential Newt Gingrich.  Perhaps dialogue was more meaningful, tempered and civil in Franklin and Thoreau’s time because they strived to make it that way.

Franklin integrated his social and civic life with his business life.  In 1727, he formed a club of young workingman called, “The Junto.”

The Founder of The Junto

When they met they discussed issues of the day, debated philosophical topics and devised schemes for self-improvement.  In a description of the goals of this group, Walter Isaacson, in his 2003 590-page book, Benjamin Franklin, An American Life” states:

Franklin stressed the importance of deferring, or at least giving the appearance of deferring, to others…… ”When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him.”  

Instead, he would agree in parts and suggest differences only indirectly…. This velvet-tongued and sweetly passive style of circumspect argument would make him seem sage to some, insinuating and manipulative to others, but inflammatory to almost nobody.

BS Trendline in Election Years

The contrast between Franklin and Gingrich’s demeanor and communication is striking.  Gingrich’s term as Speaker of the House, essentially marked the beginning of the end of bi-partisanship and civility in Congress.

“Yo — BS Alert”

I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words.

..There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate

The above is Newtie’s rationale for multiple marital affairs – BS so profound that it would astonish even Dr. Harry Frankfurt.  Perhaps the following excerpt from On Bullshit is particulary apt during election campaigns — especially in this era of concern about global warming:

When we characterize talk as hot air, we mean that what comes out of the speaker’s mouth is only that. It is mere vapor.  His speech is empty, without substance or content.  His use of language accordingly does not contribute to the purpose it purports to serve. 

Uplifting???

No more information is communicated than if the speaker had merely exhaled.  There are similarities between hot air and excrement, incidentally, which make hot air seem an especially suitable equivalent for bullshit.  Just as hot air is speech that has been emptied of all informative content, so excrement is matter from which everything nutritive has been removed.”

While Franklin’s Junto may not have initially met in a tavern or alehouse, it would seem that this type of setting would have been appropriate.  Although it is a generalization, I have found that those who frequent pubs have a propensity to identify and refrain from drinking with bullshitters.  There is a certain authenticity and candor to bar-room rhetoric that is refreshing.

This is not to suggest, however, that a good bull session is out of place in the tavern setting.  It is critical to understand the distinction.   

What tends to go on in a bull session is that the participants try out various thoughts and attitudes in order to see how it feels to hear themselves saying such things and in order to discover how others respond, without it being assumed that they are committed to what they say. It is understood by everyone in a bull session that the statements people make do not necessarily reveal what they believe or how they really feel…..

Shooting the Bull

The purpose of the conversation is not to communicate beliefs.  Accordingly, the usual assumptions about the connection between what people say and what they believe are suspendedThe statements made in a bull session are different than bullshit in that there is no pretense that this connection is being sustained.

This resemblance between bull sessions and bullshit is suggested also by the term ‘shooting the bull,” which refers to the sort of conversation that characterizes bull sessions and in which the term ‘shooting’ is very likely a cleaned-up rendition of ‘shitting.’  The very term ‘bull session’ is, indeed, quite probably a sanitized version of “bullshit session.’”

So let us embark in 2012 by toasting Dr. Harry Frankfurt and his book – still available at Amazon.  Let us resolve to speak with candor and frankness, but with civility.  Let us not shy away from debating issues ranging from the Portland Trailblazers, to the Columbia River Crossing to the impact of eliminating the letter ‘M’ from the alphabet, in bull sessions.

But as we lift our mugs in 2012, let us avoid the furtherance of bullshit.

A Toast to Dr. Frankfurt!

A Concluding Rhetorical Question from Dr. Frankfurt

Is the bullshitter by his very nature a mindless slob?  Is his product necessarily messy or unrefined?     The word ‘shit” does, to be sure, suggest this. 

Excrement is not designed or crafted after all; it is merely emitted or dumped.  It may have more or less coherent shape, or it may not, but it is in any case, certainly not wrought.

A Tour of Portland Pubs — Bar None!

Happy New Year from Thebeerchaser