The Lung Brothers

Hanging out at the extreme end of the long tail ...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sucker Punch

This Saturday we will be throwing a rather sizable bash at our top-floor Barcelona apartment. It’s a shame you can’t come. I began these February festivities ten years ago to celebrate my then thirtieth birthday (which actually falls in January but we won’t go into that).

The mathematically astute among you will no doubt have perceived that I have just reached the ripe old age of forty. So this year the celebrations will be a little special, this being my official coming-of-aged party.

That being said, we’re not planning anything out of the ordinary. Our stalwart belief in tradition would not allow it. Our party supplies will be limited to the essentials - big bowls of unflavoured crisps, nuts and olives – a fridge filled to the brim, a veritable sarcophagus of beer cans – ice flung into the bath to be used as an subsidiary cooling point – spirits and mixers strewn over a covered table and eighty to a hundred people invited to attend the proceedings. We always prefer to throw wholesale parties with an emphasis on bulk rather than customized. I consider my guests less as a kaleidoscope of quality individuals and more in terms of biomass.

And of course, no Lung bash would be complete without the compulsory tub of sangria. Ah sangria, the cruellest joke that the Spanish ever played on the rest of the world, (the Inquisition and Conquista not withstanding). It was probably invented in the late sixties and I can just imaging how:

“Hey José, these jodidos German and British tourists are drinking my bodega dry! Now I will have to go buy some more wine from my neighbour Ramón. And that hijo de puta charges me two cents per litre. Look how he screws me, that Billy goat, I shit on his ancestors!”

“No problem Jorge. You can easily dilute your own wine with the water that you wash your fruit with, and then dump in a bunch of ice, some anti-freeze and sugar to disguise the foul taste. Then you just tell these estupido tourists that it’s a traditional punch our forefathers drank to celebrate cutting the throats of Moors. For this reason it is called ‘blood’ or ‘Sangria’.”

So here are the ingredients to my trademark February sangria:

Three or four Tetrabriks of Don S. red wine. Ah yes, Don S., fuel to a generation of street tramps, penniless teenagers and frustrated housewives. To call it cooking wine is to do it too much justice. Even cooking wine usually comes in bottles. Actually come to think of it, calling it wine might be doing it too much justice.

Three or four Tetrabriks of supermarket brand fruit juice. My favourite is the ‘Mixed Tropical Fruit’ juice because you just know they swept the floor of the fruit factory at the end of a shift and threw the contents into the press while the next crowd were clocking in.

Empty the contents of said Tetrabriks into a plastic basin (remembering to remove your dirty laundry first). Add a fist full of sugar, a squidge of lemon juice, a flummox of ice, a few drops of nail polish remover and a scatter of cloves. (Curiously, in Spanish the word for cloves is the same as the word for nails. So if you don’t have one, you can always use the other.)

Stir the contents of the plastic basin with a tire iron.

Serve into polystyrene cups with a common ladle. (If you don't own a ladle, a chipped teacup will do nicely)

I call this drink my ‘Sucker Punch’ for the following reason:
We usually ask our guests to contribute some extra booze to the event. So the idea is that some of the lesser intelligent, more lily-livered of them (designated drivers, anorexics, Spanish etc.) will bring some tasty beer along and then dive into the sangria, wrongly assuming that it’s a more harmless alternative to their fresh pilsner. Their offering is therefore free to be imbibed by a more deserving guest or more importantly, by me.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Twenty Things that You Never Wanted to Know about Chemistry.

1. The cleaner the lab coat, the less the sense of humour of the wearer. (so to answer to your next question ‘Yes - CSI is full of shit’)

2. The more the piece of laboratory equipment looks like a washing machine, the more it costs. (NMR, electron microscopes, Plasma spectroscopy,..etc)

3. You "can" judge a book by its cover. The prettiness of a chemical corporation’s catalogue is directly proportional to how sinister the nature of its activities . They tend to compensate for their evil ways with publicity.
For example if there is a paper manufacturing company that has a simple aerial photo of their factory on the cover of their catalogue, then you can rest assured that they are probably just what they claim to be i.e. a company that manufactures paper.
However, if you see a catalogue with a photo of waterfalls, a mother holding a baby or a family having a picnic in a field of sunflowers then you can pretty much conclude that this company puts dioxins into baby food or experiments on pandas.

4. The presidents of nearly all large German chemical conglomerates look like child molesters. I’m not kidding. Check it out. It must be something to do with the blond moustaches and the devious smiles but I personally wouldn’t let one of them within half a mile of a playground.

5. Unlike architects, writers, computer programmers, engineers or librarians, chemists don’t usually have friends who are chemists outside of their workplace. Because let’s face it, who the hell wants to be friends with a friggin’ chemist. “Hey Mike, lets get together tonight for a few brewskies and chat about surface catalysts for ketone synthesis”. “Hell yeah! That’d totally raaawk.”

6. Any chemist worth his/her salt should be able to cook. The processes are almost identical even if the smells are not.

7. All chemists above 5-foot ten have a stoop.

8. A lot of high level chemists have a chip on their shoulder about the fact that quantum physics and genetics are the sexy, trendy sciences that are getting all the media attention at the moment. I’ve heard stories of photos of Craig Venter being stuck on dartboards in University staffrooms.

9. The chemistry departments of almost all universities are usually housed in the ugliest building on campus. Something resembling a high rise prefab or an inverted bunker. The obvious thinking behind this is that the college shouldn’t spend a lot of money and effort on a beautiful and expensive building when there is a fair chance that it might accidentally explode some day.

10. Surprisingly, the hardest thing to find in a large laboratory is a small glass rod to stir the shit in your beaker.


12. You know those ignorant philistines out there who think that the most useful application for helium is to make your voice sound like a smurf’s?
Well, they’re actually right.

13. It is not generally known that in 1997 after extensive research into Mexican food, IUPAC reclassified the term ‘Noble Gas’ as an oxymoron.

14. You know in the film ‘Blade’ when Wesley Snipes makes Stephen Dorff explode by injecting him with a solution of the chelating agent EDTA? Well that was frigging cool, that was.

15. Don’t even bother asking a chemistry student if he knows how to make LSD. I can guarantee you that the book was borrowed from the university library in 1967 and never returned.

16. Chemists and cordroy. Don’t ask me why.

17. That ‘hide-the-metalic-sodium-in-the-swimming-costume’ gag stops being funny after the third or fourth time.

18. Primo Levy is the chemists’ Jim Morrison.

19. (To be rapped)
Beaker and Bunsen Honeydew.
It’s funny coz it’s so true. (Motherfucker)

20. There was a girl in my college year who could fill a 50ml pipette with her mouth in eight seconds flat. Boy was ‘she’ popular.