Monthly Archives: March 2018

FDA may expand cigar investigations.

yuja-wang-steinway-and-sons-piano-artist-pic1

The future is now.  A boutique cigar company allegedly has figured out how to have the consumer smoke a cigar, experiencing all of its pleasures, without drawing on it.

How it works is still under lock and key.  But the entire idea was prompted by one of the most respected grand piano manufacturers in the world.

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Steinway is striking a chord with a new segment of buyers. And some don’t even know how to play the piano.

The key to its newfound success? A technologically sophisticated self-playing grand piano that retains the 165-year-old brand’s rich musicality.

Made in concert with piano engineer Wayne Stahnke, the Spirio uses a mobile app and an iPad included with the purchase to activate the performances of masterful artists such as David Benoit and Bill Charlap.

It costs $99,300 for the 5-foot-7-inch-long, 560-pound Model M Spirio and $133,800 for the 6-foot-10.5-inch, 760-pound Model B Spirio.

The piano is a far cry from the days when Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky tickled the ivories. But it’s putting Steinway on the map for buyers who never thought they could enjoy a world-class, high-resolution piano performance in their home.

“It’s a player piano, but we call it a re-performance piano,” CEO Ron Losby said in an interview. “It is a seamless melding of 21st-century technology and Old World craftsmanship.”  – Nathan Bomey USA Today

When the cigar will be introduced, cost and availability is also a highly-kept secret.  But its release may have to do with when the FDA lowers the hammer on the Cigar Industry. And when that will happen is anybody’s guess.  But it will.  Aren’t you just sick of it???

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCWC1Vd4S58

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Getting closer enough to the blues.

blue cigar

Was at a lounge the other day and I couldn’t help but notice that there was a gentleman (I’m guessing) smoking a cigar that was giving off clouds of blue smoke.  Yes. Blue smoke. Was it an illusion or was it true? Can cigar smoke be pastel blue? There’s no doubt there’s gray, purple, white, black, and red smoke – so why not blue?  From various sources, of course. Blue, like the other colors, has a varied past. Some connect, some don’t. To whit:

“It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect.” (Wiki)

“Middle English: from Old French bleu, ultimately of Germanic origin and related to Old English blǣwen‘blue’ and Old Norse blár ‘dark blue.’” (Wiki)

“Some of the color words preserved in the earliest Semitic languages (e.g., uqnu, “lapis lazuli” or “dark blue”) are loanwords for materials from other unknown older languages. Other terms – later shared in different languages – were possibly words (but certainly not the corresponding category “abstractions”) corresponding to “red” and “green” which may have existed in the early Neolithic of the Near East, perhaps 10,000–12,000 years ago, prior to the documentation of language [10]. In Akkadian (uqnu) and Egyptian (xsbdj), terms for lapis lazuli designated “dark blue.” In Greek, a term (kyaneos) for blue appearances is derived from the Akkadian. In Egyptian, turquoise (mfkāt) denoted “light blue.” Akkadian used several terms for “light blue” (including ḫasˇmanum, possibly from the Egyptian word for amethyst, ḥsmn, which was not used as a color word in Egyptian). Chinese lán is a term for “blue” colors but appears quite late (in comparison to, e.g., “red,” “white,” “black,” “yellow”). As a category, the modern English term “blue” evolved to ultimately eclipse the distinction (still preserved in Russian) between light and dark blue. Through the second millennium BC, color terms are mostly rooted in materials – most of which were later eclipsed with abstract words.” (Encyclopedia of Color Science and Technology DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-27851-8_75-12 # Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014 Page 2 of 9 (http://imbs.uci.edu/)

“In France, you can also specify “blue,” i.e. the outside is seared, but the center still has the blue color of uncooked meat.”

The Urban Dictionary closes out its discussion of the word by determining that blue is a Color Intermediate between Green and Violet.

When Crayola® crayons were imported to Japan in 1917, schoolchildren began to more clearly distinguish green from blue than in the past. But Crayola® has since become an expert on distinguishing blue from other shades of blue, coming up with at least 19 different variations on the color in its standard boxes since 1903.  These variations include blue, blue-green, blue-violet, cornflower, midnight blue, cadet blue, aquamarine, navy blue, sky blue, ultra blue, blizzard blue, cerulean, teal blue, Pacific blue, robin’s egg blue, denim, bluebell, outer space, and wild blue yonder.

The lighted background color most often used when mixed with dry ice, and smoke during rock concerts, such as the Bee Gee’s Famous Reunion Concert when they performed at the National Tennis Centre in November 1989; or in 1990, when Billy Joel gave his live historic performance of ‘New York State of Mind’ from his 1976 album Turnstiles at the original Yankee Stadium in the Bronx; or the 2004 genesis of Phil Collins’s First Final Farewell Tour.  Magical, mystical, magnificent.  

Add an “s” and the word instantly changes to mean “ . . . an African-American music that traverses a wide range of emotions and musical styles. “Feeling blue” is expressed in songs whose verses lament injustice or express longing for a better life and lost loves, jobs, and money.  (Google).

Then there’s the original “Blue Movie,” according to the Urban Dictionary is “a pornographic film. The use of the word “blue referred to sexually explicit content (and) was first recorded in Scotland in 1824. “Blue meant “lewd” because of prostitutes dressed in blue gowns.  (A tinge of the apocryphal?)

Blue Man Group.  “There really isn’t an explanation,” says Matt Goldman, who along with Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, created one of the most entertaining spectacles to date,  “Chris dug up a picture that he drew when he was five years old, and it had three blue men in it. And I had a thing in my wallet for years with a blue tribe in South America. I don’t know why it was there; I never put pictures in my wallet. We think the Blue Man has always been here. The best answer is that we found each other.”

Blue on Blue, heartache on heartache,  Blue on blue now that we are through.  Blue on blue, heartache on heartache, And I find I can’t get over losing you  – Bobby Vinton

But nothing is lost.  Only misplaced. Emotions, sentiments, an instinct.  That’s probably where my needle is at – Instinct.  Animals and humans learn a lot of things from other animals and humans. But if there isn’t any learning involved, then the behavior is an instinct. Instincts come naturally, like a baby’s desire to feed. Some behaviors are a combination of instinct and learned behavior, like language. Others happen without any teaching at all, like the instinct to run when you see a big, hungry-looking bear. When you see the word instinct, think natural response.

And that’s what’s occurring to me now in this beloved business.  I’m listening to my gut reaction and paying closer attention to the thickened blue hue that has surrounded me and is slowly being absorbed. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ti38LFY7x1Y

This Book (cigar) Shop is small.

wigtown

Sometimes bigger isn’t always better.  (By the way, I’m also listening to “Tales from the Back Row: An Outsiders View from Inside the Fashion Industry,” by Amy Odell.  So if I veer off the subject, forgive me, but I need a challenge right now.)  

I’m reading a book review from the Times Literary Supplement about a small bookshop in Wigtown, a small, no, a Lilliputian town in Scotland, by Alan Taylor, titled “The Diary of a Bookseller.” (£14.99).

Not only is the town small, the review is also tiny.  And that includes the photo of the establishment.

It begins: “Wigtown lies in a corner of south-west Scotland few natives and even fewer travelers have ever visited. In The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan chose to dispatch Richard Hannay into the surrounding Galloway Hills as the best place to avoid his pursuers. When Shaun Bythell, the author, was growing up there, in the 1960s and 70s, it was home to around a thousand people, the majority of whom were dependent for their livelihoods on the Co-operative Society creamery and Scotland’s most southerly whiskey distillery, at nearby Bladnoch. When they closed in 1989 and 1993 respectively, unemployment rose precipitously and Wigtown fell into the doldrums.”

Then it goes into the meat of the review why this is even an article to read.  “What saved it from wrack and ruin was its anointment in 1998 as Scotland’s first book town.”  The industry, fashion, cigars . . . .   (This is a bit difficult because the woman reading the book is C.S.E. Cooney who has a very clear voice without any pretension at all.  I can hear why she is doing what she is doing – reading the book to, well, me.  Her voice is alluring, confident, and animated.   She’s talking about fashion bloggers now and being fired, and why Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, once said that it’s good to be fired (She was from Harpers Bazaar) because you now know what NOT to do next time around.)

Back now, ah, “In less than two decades it (Wigtown) has been transformed . . . . If there is a downside, it is that it is easier on its main drag (yes, even small towns have the latter) to lay hands on a novel by Camus or Calvino than it is on a carrot or a cauliflower.”  Due to the latter, “There are at least a dozen bookshops of various sizes, by far the largest (and best) of which is The Book Shop, which Bythell bought in 2001, at the age of thirty-one.” 

Cooney is now telling me how the internet is empirical in building fame and becoming a success in fashion and its efficacy in securing shining stardom.  So the cigar industry is right in the mix here.  Your business – be it cigars, jewelry, art, books!! is either on the internet or you really don’t exist.  Save for this anomaly – The Book Shop.

“The Diary of a Bookseller,” begins February 2014 and ends a year later.  All the minutiae of the business take its inspiration from George Orwell’s essay, “Bookshop Memories,” for the most part, adding in a “dash of Bridget Jones’s Diary the romance/comedy of manners novel written in 1996 by Helen Fielding and made into a film in 2001.  In short, the book limns what went on each day, be it good, bad or indifferent.

But what attracts the reader is that a small shop endures where the owners do what they want to persevere.  Survival is so archaic a word.  And do quite well thereby placing Wigtown back on the map.All from the spirit of books, words, sentences, and ideas.

As one would do for the love of cigars?  There is a shop in the Chicagoland area that recently took on new owners and is kicking the ass of another cigar shop not too far away.  No diary here.  This is a personality-driven endeavor.  Placed in print, it could be the Doppelgänger of The Book Shop saga.  

And it is small cigar shop.  Very small.  Void of what the other shop pressed deeply into the market as its ticket to unrivaled success and in the end would have been the stone that toppled its nearby itch.  In short.  Air Guitar.   

Good cigar connection here, page 20 (“Tales from the Front Row.”) “As much as I would like it to be my job (which some cigar smokers apparently have taken on), I am never going to succeed in making a career out of posting photos of myself (or smoking a f**king cigar) in different outfits for people to enthuse over on the internet.”  Ah ha!  It’s everywhere.  Wisps of smoke slowly escaping upwards from the seductively colored lips of a sultry woman as if that means something.  What?  “Taste my pleasure.  Come here now.”

Ahem!  I digress.

No.  Bigger isn’t always better.  Smarter is . . . .  

 

Color, Clarity, and Cigar Bands.

cespedes band

What would you think are the two most important elements in the art of cigar advertising?  I may garner a few upturned eyebrows here but it is my belief that the two most critical components that attract attention are clarity of focus and color.  Why do you think digital cameras and televisions are so popular today?  

If you’re old enough, you may remember photographs printed on paper and television shows projected through the cathode ray tube.  Even when both of these inventions appeared on the market people were amazed.  Then, as technology improved so did the attraction factor.  

Ergo, why are some cigars noticed and others are completely ignored?  Methinks it’s the colors of the band.  Now I wonder if the cigar manufacturer analyzes the potential effect a particular color has on the prospective buyer’s decision to purchase a particular cigar.  What I do believe is that the band is a subliminal reflection of what the cigar’s creator has in mind to grab your attention.

Note on the band above the Juan Carlos Céspedes’s cigar band – Céspedes.  First, you are drawn to the white script font of his last name.  Why?   Because white is associated with light, goodness, innocence, integrity, and decency.  It is considered to be the color of perfection.  White means safety, purity, and cleanliness and has a positive connotation.  

Its clarity then reflects back at you as it rests on the deeply rich, matte-black background. A color that denotes strength and authority;  black is considered to be a very formal, elegant, and prestigious shade.

And even though red is a favorite to attract more attention than any other color, your eyes are not ready for this beast of beauty.  Immediately your vision focuses on the most predominant shade on the band – glimmering gold.  Google says it best when it describes gold “as the cousin to the color yellow and the color brown, and is also associated with illumination, love, compassion, courage, passion, magic, and wisdom. Gold is (the) precious metal that is associated with wealth, grandeur, and prosperity, as well as sparkle, glitz, and glamour.”

More detail would include flake or metallic and reflective slivers also known as golden and is one of a variety of yellow-orange color blends used to give the impression of the color of the element gold.  The web color gold is sometimes referred to as golden to distinguish it from the blush of metallic gold.

Now tell me all these color analyses are churning inside Juan’s cranium?  Perhaps.

Unlikely.  But the desire to attract attention is – ergo, the addition of a glint-like oxygenated red which is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, and determination as well as passion, desire, and love.  Red enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure or better desire.  It dilates the romantic corpuscles coursing through our bodies.  We don’t know that, but we are attracted and we want to be near that amorous band that surrounds the cigar that evokes its erotic aura.

And then – and then all these colors must be elegantly separated as would a man and a woman who are aching for each other’s emotions hoping to be drawn together to toss and turn and make love.  But both still understand the need to be apart to appreciate the eventual glorious union of the two.

(Note the clarity and brilliance of the color in the video.  Both pull you in.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juiCRd5XllA

Imagine tears and turtle shells.

oko

Tears don’t come easily for some people.  There are thousands of reasons why people weep. But I’ve noticed that crying is on the upswing.  And from what I can tell, the natural reaction is not feigned.  The droplets of fluid streaming down someone’s cheek or the obvious globular increase in the size of someone’s eyes who is about to shed tears is visibly obvious.  

As mentioned there are myriad of inexplicable causes for this natural phenomenon to occur. There can be tears of pain, or “Cry for Happy,” George Marshall’s 1961 classic film. 

To limn them would be foolish and insincere prose.  In short, more people are showing their emotions and whether they know it or not are saying “To hell with the social stigma.”  I am emotionally damaged or intensely charged at this time and I’m going to let it out for the world, my coworkers, my family, my wife, my children – everyone to see how I feel.

Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been susceptible to this outward showing of touching drama. And as I look around me, it’s fairly obvious why.  I’m an extremely sensitive individual whose sales shell is still forming.  Oh, sure, my protective layers are far thicker than the average, but I’m really not – there – yet.  You know the kind.  The obnoxious ones.  They always stand out.  And as I’m thinking this through, I’m not at all sure I would ever want to be in that group.

turtles chinatown

Yet, here I am – a cigar broker, an independent SALES representative who, according to The Collins English Dictionary as, “. . . a person who sells products on behalf of a company, usually traveling away from their own company’s premises to find and sell to customers.” with a developing shell.

Initially, turtle embryos develop like the birds and mammals do . . . .  But as turtles mature, their bodies undergo an unusual folding process during which certain portions of their skeletons and muscles tuck in on themselves. This folding causes some bones and muscles to connect in ways that they don’t in other animals.  As a result, the turtle’s shoulder blades slip beneath its rib cage, and its rib bones grow out to the sides instead of curving downward.  Over time the flat, splayed-out ribs harden to form the turtle’s upper shell.”  (National Geographic Keer Than 7.9.09)

Ergo the tears.  My shell is not maturing as quickly as perhaps nature intended.  Or, I’m holding back the growth process that would allow my skin to maturate into an adult turtle resembling the staying power of the late, great Zig Ziglar (my raison d’etre not to be your average sales rep) thereby pulling me into the emotive chords of the symphony of sales.  

Masterpieces such as Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47; Verdi – La Traviata; Beethoven – String Quartet No. 14 in C♯ minor, Op. 131; John Williams – Theme from Schindler’s List is sure to drain your tear ducts.  And sales reps like .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . are sure to empty your pockets.

Yes, tears – those tiny, yet heavy, falling drops of water, mucin, lipids, lysozyme, lactoferrin, lipocalin, lacritin, immunoglobulins, glucose, urea, sodium, and potassium are becoming the norm.  Yes, tears are becoming commonplace in the public.  And not just due to the sensitivity to sales rejection, but, because of mass shootings at high schools, churches, concerts, shopping centers, and airports.

Unfortunately what has become the norm is being brought about by the gradual, slow unraveling of man’s mind thereby maiming our sense of what is right and what is wrong and what has become regrettably acceptable and sadly tolerable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkgkThdzX-8

 

Looks what I found.

cigarmag

“Cigar.com” was in my mailbox this day.  Elegant in style, attractive graphics, with 88 pages of cigars and cigar-related paraphernalia from front to back.  I’ve received other catalogs through the mail and I usually throw them out.

But for whatever reason, I didn’t fling this one into the trash.  So I started to flip through the pages to see what’s offered for this March 2018 issue.  Of course, it’s jammed with deals.  Or so one would think.  I don’t know every retail or wholesale price of every cigar that’s offered in the shops.  So I really can’t say if they are high or low.

As much as this pains me, I thought I’d mention some of the brands that are included in this very readable publication.  Let’s see, Punch, Cohiba Red Dot, Rocky Patel, Davidoff, Graycliff, a wide assortment of cigars by A.J. Fernandez, Oliva, Macanudo, Acid, Nat Sherman, (a brand that’s looking for a rep and may have found one by the time this is published), CAO, Camacho, Diamond Crown, of course Gurkha, a bunch of house blends, (probably made by the same folks who brought you the more recognizable brands).  

Oh look, here’s Ashton, Caldwell, Drew Estate, Don Pepín García, My Father, Alec Bradley, San Cristobal, Partagás, more Rocky Patel, Obsidian ( I think that’s PDR), Fratello, Padrón, Sancho Paza, (odd to include), HC, Asylum 13, Warped, Southern Draw (Oops!  A boutique cigar by A.J.?)  Arturo Fuente, Nub (isn’t that odd, too?), and on and on and on and on and on.

Wow!  If I didn’t know better I’ll bet you a dime to a donut that some of these are offered in the shops.  Again, I can’t criticize because I don’t know the prices.  Whoops, forgot Java, just saw that one.  I mean there are so many.  

I used to buy from J.R. in the early days.  In fact, I just smoked my last Champion from that company and despite its age, it was one grand cigar.  I think that was one of the first boxes I bought from a catalog.  Although, I clearly remember Davidoff sending me a five pack of some cigar very early on that I enjoyed tremendously.  Sadly, when I called to reorder, the customer service person said that they couldn’t send me a single five-pack, something to do with a minimum order and I wasn’t about to spend any more than I planned.  Keep in mind this was years ago when I was simply a consumer.  Without sounding too elitist, I don’t buy cigars anymore.

It’s really a treasure chest of cigars that are offered.  And you can buy them from your house.  Click, click, click and they are on their way.  No muss no fuss.  Snow, rain, sleet or snow – I can get a cigar.  Though I will throw in you have to wait a few days for them to arrive.  But then you have to wait in line at the cigar shop, too.  So what’s the difference? Ah, convenience.  You can’t beat it.

So I’m writing as I am and I can still remember one of the stores I visited not too long ago as a broker.  I stood while the owner frantically ran to his computer to see if the cigars I was introducing for sale were offered on the web – the paperless catalog.  I just stood around while this little circus act was being performed because God knows the shop owner wouldn’t dare pick up a brand I was selling if he found it in, oh say Cigar International, or Famous, or Thompson (alas poor Thompson – we knew thee well).

I often wondered why the hunt and peck for my brand when I could have sworn I saw Montecristo, Rocky Patel, HC, Drew Estate, and many, many more brands that are in the catalog are offered on his very sacred cedar shelves.  I’m sure he would have been aghast if he found any I had just shown him on the internet.  But he did not – find any – of mine – on the internet.  No blunt excuse to say, “No thanks.”  “No, thanks.”  Shit.

Today I still stick with boutique cigars that are not listed on the web or photographed for the catalogs.  Though.  Though, that has changed dramatically.  You can find some of the boutique cigars I represent on the net and in the catalogs.  Even though we were told that would never happen.  That was our ace up our sleeve to make the sale.  The customer had to visit your establishment to get the cigar because it wasn’t available anywhere else. Excuse me, I have to vomit.

No, now it’s “Oh, yeah they have it, but it’s price protected by an ironclad contract.”  Good God how I hate to wretch.  Forgive me.

Oh boy.  Whew!  I’m feeling a bit better.  

So, as independent cigar brokers, we go on, “Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life,” a grand book by Maurice Sendak that explores the daring imagination (that) has woven a simple rhyme into a brilliantly original tale about Jennie, the Sealyham terrier, who seeks Experience and becomes the star of the World Mother Goose Theatre.”  (Wiki)

I’ve been to New York, Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta and I have yet to find this particular playhouse, but I will not tarry and the search I will never give up.  I will go far beyond the false promises, useless ironclad contracts, and sincere foolproof declarations of “No, it will never be on the net,” to find the missing arena where I will someday wear my five-pronged star with pride, dignity, and truth.  I mean, really – who would f**k with Mother Goose?

Cigarlazed over and looking.

sinclair

Right now – this very second I’m glazed over with cigars.  For the time being, I’ve limited my exposure.  I’ll smoke ’em later.  So . . . . 

. . . . I just ripped open a parcel from Amazon with a book in it that peaked my interest just the other day.  “My Grandfather’s Gallery: A Family Memoir of Art and War,” by Anne Sinclair.

If I may quote from the back cover:

“On September 20, 1940, one of the most famous European art dealers disembarked in New York, one of hundreds of Jewish refugees fleeing Vichy France. Leaving behind his beloved Paris gallery, Paul Rosenberg had managed to save his family, but his paintings–modern masterpieces by the likes of Cézanne, Monet, and Sisley–were not so fortunate. As he fled, dozens of works were seized by Nazi forces, and the art dealer’s own legacy was eradicated.

More than half a century later, Anne Sinclair uncovered a box filled with letters. “Curious in spite of myself,” she writes, “I plunged into these archives, in search of the story of my family. To find out who my mother’s father really was.” Drawing on Rosenberg’s intimate correspondence with Picasso, Matisse, Braque, and others, My Grandfather’s Gallery takes us through the life of a legendary member of the Parisian art scene. Rosenberg’s story is emblematic of millions of Jews, rich and poor, whose lives were indelibly altered by World War II, and Sinclair’s journey to reclaim it paints a picture that reframes the history of twentieth-century art.

The book is in pristine condition.  I am as particular about my reading materials as I am about the cigars that I smoke.  In fact, I know one shop owner that is so fastidious that he will, when time allows, make sure that all the bands are in the same direction in the box and that the box is as full as it can be.  

The contents though, methinks are the same in nature.  There is no difference.  Both objects are made from nature nudged into shape by man.  Paper is a thin material produced by pressing together moist fibres of cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets. It is a versatile material with many uses, including writing, printing, packaging, cleaning, and a number of industrial and construction processes.”  (Google)

The editorial copy is pressed or sprayed onto each sheet from an author’s soul and diligent research and is arranged in such a way as to make sense and to the reader, not only knowledge but the sweet fruits of entertainment, be it an intellectual or whimsical end.  

“Tobacco is Nicotiana tabacum, or cultivated tobacco, an annually-grown herbaceous plant (plants that, by definition, have non-woody stems. Their above-ground growth largely or totally dies back in winter in the temperate zone, but they may have underground plant parts (roots, bulbs, etc.) that survive.  It is found only in cultivation, where it is the most commonly grown of all plants in the Nicotiana genus, and its leaves are commercially grown in many countries to be processed into tobacco.”   (Google)

It too goes through dozens of stages of growth, fermentation, drying, and blending to produce, for our purpose, that lusty and provocative end product – the cigar.  It too provides a variety of results from relaxation to the sheer enjoyment of a nicotine buzz if that’s what’s desired by the consumer.

Maybe I’m not really as bored with cigars as much as I am being unproductive as defined by the Urban Dictionary when it states, and I paraphrase, bored is what I probably am if I’m looking up the word.  “Get off the computer and do something interesting.”  Like, read the book, “My Grandfather’s Gallery.”

My Grandfather’s Gallery tells Paul Rosenberg’s story in bits and pieces that construct a life and a legend through association . . . A detailed and important record of twentieth-century art”The Boston Globe

Now, who is this Paul Rosenberg?  Butane on . . . .