Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hamptons Quality, Newark Pricing

I was in Times Square a couple of days ago and I saw this billboard. No, that's not Ben Stiller. According to a web page I just found, any resemblance to Mr. Stiller is unintentional (right...), and that's actually someone named Wass Stevens, "a local actor and doorman." Of course there's the possibility that it is actually Ben Stiller furiously trying to "punk" passersby on Broadway. Regardless, it's the best-looking ad I've seen in some time. For those who don't know greater New York's geography well, Newark is a black ghetto and the Hamptons host the largest collection of billionaires' summer homes in the country, or maybe the world.

In spite of having grown up in Russia, though perhaps unsurprisingly in view of my family background, I've only tasted a couple of sips of vodka in my entire life. They were utterly disgusting. But then all alcohol turns me off. The most expensive booze I've ever tried was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot which the guy who sold me my current apartment left for me in the fridge as a parting gift before moving out. I did appreciate the gesture, but the champagne itself tasted like soap mixed with dust, bubbles and medicinal alcohol. Perhaps I'm simply missing something essential that allows others to enjoy the taste of these drinks.


  1. They taste like heck to me too, though I get along better with wine and especially champagne than you do. The idea of sipping an alcohol drink other than wine is crazy to me. I slam it and then drink something sweet immediately, or just don't drink it at all. But we may indeed be missing something; we may have a high number of alleles for high taste-sensitivity to bitter chemicals.

    I don't know, but I do suspect, that Yidn, along with other partially or wholly south-European or Semitic peoples, probably have an average phenotype of high bitterness-sensitivity. Higher rates of alcoholism in north-Euros is well known, and are probably related to how much more briefly they have been in possession of grain agriculture. Needless to say, genotypes bearing any significant odds of becoming an alcohol addict (light or heavy) were sub-optimal in pre-industrial societies.

    I am far Northern, mostly Irish and Scandinavian. So I might actually enjoy being buzzed or drunk more than you do. Things like genes for acetaldehyde-producing enzymes might produce some of the difference but there is probably more to it. For Native North Americans, I would guess, alcohol feels significantly better than it does for either of us, and this is probably a big part of why it is so much more dangerously addictive for them than it is for Greeks or even ethnic Russians.

  2. I didn't know about the research on the differences in taste perception. Thanks for the link.

    The theory that the longer a population has been exposed to agriculture, the less prone it is to alcoholism sounds plausible to me. One fact seems weird in this context though: Islam has always banned alcohol. If Arabs aren't in danger of becoming drunks, why did they feel the need to ban alcohol altogether? The Arabian peninsula itself has always had a mix of nomads and oasis-based farmers. Even if the nomads didn't make any booze themselves, they would have probably been able to get it through trade from the nearby farmers. Of course this ban could simply be a cultural fluke, unrelated to any actual need for it. I don't think Lebanese Christians, who are allowed to drink, are known to abuse alcohol much.

    By the way, in Russia Siberian natives are more affected by alcoholism than ethnic Russians in the same way that American and Canadian Indians are more affected by it than nearby Whites. And I have a feeling that Mexican Indians, who've been farming for a long time before Columbus, are less prone to alcoholism than the recently-hunter-gathering Indians of the north. So yes, reality seems to support Greg Cochran's theory on this.