George Clooney started it all, in a way. But the environmental crisis in this Mexican state is really a perfect storm of exacting tequila-production requirements and mercenary celebrity piling on. In 2013, Clooney became a co-founder of Casamigos tequila, which within five years was worth $5 billion. (Business acumen? Between that and his Nespresso flogging, “[Clooney] was named the highest paid actor of 2018 by Forbes after making $239 million despite not appearing in a single film,” according to The Times of London.) The subsequent proliferation of tequila investors-hawkers-mascots, among them Michael Jordan (Cincoro), Kendall Jenner (818), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Lobos 1707), Rita Ora (Próspero), and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Teremana), has helped fuel a thriving industry. Don’t forget Donald Trump’s offering (Lo MAGA). Actually, we just made that one up.
For Jalisco, it’s been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, tequila exports are setting records. “Last year Mexico produced 273 million litres, eight times higher than its output 20 years ago, in an industry worth [$11 billion],” said The Times. But tequila is made from the blue-agave plant, which takes seven years and a massive amount of water to mature—the acidic waste can contaminate local water resources, noted the newspaper, and the whole process causes some 40,000 acres of deforestation annually. ¡Salud!
Finally, the results of that study we’ve all been waiting for: the effect of a meat diet on the bathroom habits of the 14th-century monks at Muchelney Abbey. (In short? Not felicitous.) When a change in papal law regarding meat consumption took effect in 1336—monks were henceforth allowed to indulge twice weekly—the Muchelney friars went hog wild, as it were, and were soon on their way to “serious health problems,” according to the historian Michael Carter. “Basically,” Carter told The Guardian, “monks were slaves to their bowels.”
They hadn’t been on a proper diet to begin with, and one of Carter’s discoveries was a holy-service book annotated with healthful-eating suggestions. “A balanced meal might be ‘white, well-leavened’ or sourdough bread, ale flavoured with herbs, and eels,” said the newspaper. “There is a laxative recipe featuring various fruit extracts. Or a monk can perhaps feel better if they ‘take a pese of soepe, make hit smale and putt it yn youre fundamewnt and then rest upon your bed.’” Rest upon it not for very long, we suspect, no matter how smale that pese of soepe.
President Xi Jinping is “vow[ing] to ‘adjust excessive incomes’ in a warning to the country’s super-rich that the state plans to redistribute wealth to tackle widening inequality,” according to The Guardian, part of a push “to rein in the country’s largest private firms.” The newspaper noted that Pony Ma, C.E.O. of Tencent, announced that the Internet conglomerate would expand its social commitments by “deploying our technologies and expertise to help small and medium-sized businesses, public services and corporations.” The government had recently described Tencent’s games as “spiritual opium.”
Meanwhile, a more traditional form of spiritual opium has “touched a raw nerve” in China, the South China Morning Post reports. John Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) is planning to direct The Great Chinese Art Heist, based on a GQ article about major thefts of Chinese art and antiquities from European museums and palaces. “Most of the stolen treasures were originally pilfered when Western armies invaded and ransacked palaces in China,” said the newspaper. “The article … posed the question: ‘Is the Chinese government behind one of the boldest art-crime waves in history?’” As one person posted on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, “We wouldn’t steal them back. The stolen artefacts that are back in China now were either bought by Chinese, or returned to China after government negotiations.”
Residents of this special administrative region of China are questioning why Nicole Kidman, who just arrived in town to film the Amazon series Expats, is not in quarantine. “Under pressure to explain why the actress was out shopping at a boutique in Central two days after her arrival,” reported the South China Morning Post, “the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau clarified she had been given permission to carry out ‘designated professional work … conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong’s economy.’” And added that they would “continue to monitor the situation.”
Yacht gridlock returned to the French Riviera this summer, and if finding a berth for your Sunseeker means having to circle the Mediterranean a few times before someone pulls out, so be it: onshore, business owners are thrilled. “I am a happy hotelier,” one happy hotelier told Nice-Matin. “Visitors from the Middle East, northern Europe, America, Russia and Ukraine had arrived in bigger numbers than … expected and were staying longer,” reported The Times of London, in rooms costing as much as $4,700 a night. But that’s not the only cost: one chef “was struggling to keep pace with demand, particularly for his octopus salad.”
Marcus Venerius Secundio might have begun life as a slave, but his partly mummified remains, found recently in a prominent necropolis near the gates of ancient Pompeii, were marked by a gravestone attesting to all kinds of accomplishments. Slaves could pay to free themselves, and in Pompeii many who did went on to thrive, Secundio apparently among them. According to a story in The Guardian, by the time he died, at around age 60—years before that little problem with Vesuvius—Secundio, as custodian of the Temple of Venus, probably had organized Ludi, “festivals that could have been anything from theatre performances and music contests to athletics and gladiator games. The reference to Ludi in Greek on his tombstone is the first clear evidence of performances at Pompeii staged in the Greek language and also reflects the lively and open cultural climate of ancient Pompeii.” All in all, not a bad secundio (if you will) act.
Earlier this year, AIR MAIL Diary documented the friction in rural France between local citizens and vacationing urbanites who liked to complain about the racket—cows with clanging bells, roosters who had the temerity to crow, grasshoppers and their earsplitting chirps. Now the scourge has apparently crossed the border into Spain, where village officials have been fielding complaints about braying donkeys and such. “Last week we had a lady who called us three or four times over a rooster that was waking her up at 5am,” Ramón Canal, the mayor of Ribadesella (population 5,700) told The Guardian. “She told us that we had to do something.” They did, inaugurating “a tongue-in-cheek poster campaign that calls on city slickers to ‘assume all the risks’ of rural life.” The poster reads: “Here we have church bells that ring out regularly, roosters that crow early in the morning and herds of livestock that live nearby and at times carry cowbells that also make noise. If you can’t handle all this, you may not be in the right place.”
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail