Monday, December 31, 2007


Bermed! Though not too badly bermed this time...

I wish they could invent a snowplow that could clear the street without leaving a berm of snow across the entrance to one's driveway.


We've been bermed much, much worse than this. But this camera tends to supress verticals. That's about 10 minutes worth of shoveling right there.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Calling Neel Mehta

In a recent post about rock music, Neel displays a rock band poster for "Citizen Dick." Sly movie afficianado that he is, Neel doesn't even mention that Citizen Dick was the name of the fictional band headed by the Matt Dillon character in Cameron Crowe's Singles. Has some real band stolen the name?

Here's a movie trivia question for the master (Neel). Last year's well-regarded mockumentary about public school teachers, Chalk, was made by a production company called "Virgil Films," which sports a modest logo against a back backdrop with an evocative soundtrack: "plock-plock... pffft.... plock-plock .... pffft."

Okay, Neel, re-rent the movie if you have to. To what film is "Virgil Films" alluding? Hint: it's one of my all-time faves.

ANSWER (12/24/07): The Great Escape. The lead character, played by Steve McQueen, was named "Virgil Hilts," and the sound was that of playing solitaire catch by bouncing a baseball off the concrete walls and floor of the "cooler" -- the solitary confinement cell in the prison camp. McQueen/Hilt's repeated stints in the cooler and the baseball-bouncing were a leitmotif in the film.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


"Magical realism is the chili-inflected chocolate of literature"

That's all, really. Just a clever thing I said over dinner.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


A ravaged advent calendar


I totally get the charm of these Christmas season calendars: you open the tiny trap door marked by a number corresponding to that particular day in December and get a little piece of chocolate. It's a ritualized treat that keeps you going until Christmas.

It's great in theory, but I'm not one to be hidebound by traditional rules when it comes to chocolate. I'm somewhat rapacious when it comes to chocolate. With this particular advent calendar, I played along for 3 or 4 days, and then I said to myself, "It's my advent calendar, and I can eat it all now if I want to!"

I don't want you to have the image of me shoveling fistfuls of dainty chocolate morsels into my mouth all at once. It was really quite a civilized, one-at-a-time affair. Many of the pieces of chocolate were eaten together with these ginger-infused shortbread thingies which I discovered went really well with milk chocolate.

So why do I feel like Attila the Hun?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Aping the banana

I read recently that apes and monkeys peel bananas from the tip at the opposite end of the stem.

Like the author who described it, I agree that this is a better way to peel a banana. Basically, you pinch the tip, the peel breaks open more easily, and the little chewy strands peel away rather than sticking to the banana. Also, the stem -- now on the bottom -- can serve as a little "holder."

I have no idea why we humans invariably peel the banana from the stem, but the bigger point is that sometimes doing things in the opposite way turns out to be better. After years of shoveling snow, I tried "aping the banana" yesterday by shoveling in a direction away from the snowpile and throwing shovelfuls of snow over my shoulder and onto the pile.

Aside from trivial amounts of "redeposition" (stray powder falling back onto the ground where I'd already shoveled), I found that I could toss the snow onto the pile with sufficient accuracy from a distance at least equal to the width of my driveway. More importantly (perhaps due to the ergonomic "dog-leg" design of my shovel handle), I found it easier on my back to toss snow over my should than with the traditional forward scoop-toss.

I'm not saying this approach works for everything. I'm not saying we should all drive down the street in reverse. But for some things, it's worth considering.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Shirts and skins

After playing hockey in the mornings, I often have occasion to walk through the part of the gym with the basketball courts. There one can see numerous pickup games with teams divided into "shirts" and "skins."

The majority of men in these games are over thirty and have love handles and a layer of seal blubber, accentuated by a shiny layer of sweat. A solid minority are pale and scrawny. They are the opposite of eye candy. Eye rat poison, perhaps.

Men clearly overestimate how good they look without their shirts. Objectively speaking, I'm guessing that perhaps 5% of men look good without their shirts -- and perhaps that's wildly optimistic -- but if American men were surveyed on the question "do you look good without your shirt," at least 60% would answer "yes."

In hockey, we don't play "shirts" and "skins." We play light and dark jerseys. So what's the deal with basketball -- don't these guys own light and dark t-shirts?

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Living in Lake Wobegon

Sitting in the Cottage Cafe over a recently "warmed up" cup of coffee, I stared out the plate glass window while an inch of snow accumulated, I realized that if I don't live in Lake Wobegon, I don't live that far from it either.

The Cottage Cafe is an authentic diner of this region. Not an old-time railroad-car style diner, nor a 50s style diner, nor a breakfast nook of a place with cozy booths, the Cottage has a large, square dining room filled with formica tables and bathed in the cool glow of flourescent lights. The warmth of the place is provided by a combination of well-made comfort food and friendly waitresses who volunteer just a wee bit more than you want to know about them.

In the entrance-way "air lock," where we button up our coats on the way out into the snow, we a bulletin board covered in tacked-up leaflets advertizing such matters as used dairy equipment for sale, and a "meat raffle."

Lake Wobegon's Chatterbox Cafe undoubtedly looks like this. It resembles the Hollywood version of a warm and cozy diner about as much as a real gen-exer's New York apartment resembles the huge New York loft apartments of the movies.

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