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Freedom of Choice

Posted by Dirck on 19 April, 2011

I was listening to an audiobook version of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot this morning as I was getting ready for the run to The Regular Job, and I forced into a bit of a meditation on the choices available to consumers.  In the bit in question, the protagonist is offered a beer by his doomed girlfriend’s doomed father.  The positive response pleases the father, as had the protagonist declined he would have showed himself for a pot-headed hippie art-fart.

My contemplation began with, “Say, I’d have been in some trouble, there.”  Let me disclaim status as pot-head, hippie, or (within certain proscriptions) art-fart.  No, my trouble would arise because I would not present a simple yes/no response, but rather a question of my own– “What kind of beer do you have?’

The thrust is not to establish which brand name of otherwise indistinguishable ultra-pale nearly-pilsner-style industrial lager is applied to the bottle, but to establish the subspecies of beer. It is a lager or an ale?  Pilsner (a proper one), porter, stout, imperial stout, oatmeal stout, tropical stout, pale ale, india pale ale, bitter, special bitter, extra special bitter, wit, hefewit, helles, barley-wine, Belgian red, Belgian blond, English brown, Irish red, gueze, bock, double-bock, trappist, trappist quadrupel, or perhaps something from Budwiess?  Some of those I like, some I’m not much of a fan of… but I am excited to find myself living in a time when so many styles are available.  Were I standing in Maine, or any other part of North America except possibly New York City, of 1976, I would have said quite truthfully, “No, I find beer unappealing, much like thoroughly-watered skunk juice.”

…which brings me at last back to pens, because the lack of readily available choice to consumers is something that leaves me wondering what people would write with if they were aware that there was more to life than “ballpoint, roller, or felt?”  I’ll admit that there is somewhat more variation amongst ballpoints than between the various brands of industrial nearly-pilsners, but it pales into insignificant when one looks at the variation in a single model of fountain pen.

Today’s pen, for example, one would have in ten different points (five widths, all firm or flexible) and choose between an open or hooded “Taperite” point.  Even a modern pen, losing the option of flexibility, can be had in a lot of different points– the Lamy Safari, for example, has at least 14 possibilities (if one includes both colours) of which I only have five.  In a very early entry here, I also mentioned the fact that each model is different, either subtly or radically, from every other model, too.

I guess, since I should really wrap things up, the point is that those who aren’t looking at fountain pens are constraining themselves as thoroughly as those who stick to a single type of beverage.  If you don’t look around at the possibilities, how will you know if what you’ve got is actually the best choice?

Today’s pen: Waterman Crusader  (I didn’t mention the two different shapes of unhooded section, did I? Yet more diversity!)
Today’s ink: Diamine Rustic Brown

2 Responses to “Freedom of Choice”

  1. NYC was the place I was finally able to try La Trappe Quadrupel (on your recommendation), lo these many years ago. A meaty (well, more sweet and malty) brew to be sure! I was at an Irish pub on Hollywood and Vine last week so I ordered fish and chips, and a Guinness. No less than two waitresses and patrons, separately, commented on how good it looked, as though the combination had never occurred to them. It’s nothing but cocktails and chicken strips in those thar parts.

    • Some old chap said something about an unexamined lifestyle being not worth living– I assume that includes the occasional self-directed, “Why am I eating this again?” If there’s anything like a brewpub about, you might try the combo with a more local stout– I’ve found Guinness’s quality declines with distance from Dublin.

      Did I ever tell you of the family pilgrimmage to the monastery whence springs La Trappe? I’ve never been so close to adopting monotheism as I was that day….

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