Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Skills: I got 'em

Bill Altreuter points to this list of 75 things every man should be able to do, I guess, in order to be able to really lay claim to true manliness or something. Surprisingly, Bill doesn't do what bloggers are supposed to do in such cases: reproduce the list, with specific comment on his ability, or lack thereof, to do the things on the list. Well, unto the breach I go!

1. Give advice that matters in one sentence. Sometimes you can do it with one sentence, sometimes you need more than that. I guess he's saying that you need to be able to distinguish the one from the other. That's not particularly earthshaking; don't give a sermon when a sentence will do. Check. I can do that.

2. Tell if someone is lying. Well, for this you have to get to know each person, since each person has his or her own "tell", right? An easier way is to know what you're talking about before you ever talk about it. That way, no matter what someone tries telling you, you can tell the BS as soon as it starts to fly. But the guy in the article seems to be endorsing the "All liars do this" kind of thing, which is just silly. Watch Bill Clinton and George W. Bush: they don't lie the same, do they?

3. Take a photo. I like to think I can do this, but it's usually more a matter of trial and error than anything else. I like to point and shoot.

4. Score a baseball game. Well, I don't know about this one. Sure, keeping score well requires and rewards a keen eye for the game's inner workings, but does that really translate into something every man should be able to do? Really? I don't think so.

5. Name a book that matters. Feh. Anybody can name a book, as the writer shows. I'd be more impressed if he could tell us why he thinks that The Catcher in the Rye does not matter. Hell, we'd better start with clearing up just what it means for a book to "matter" anyway. If he's saying that you should be well-read, well, duh. But if he's saying that there's some esoteric secret knowledge of what is truly good that can only be found by reading the books that "matter", well, that's where I get off the crazy train.

6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible. I kinda-sorta agree, although I don't like the way he frames this to only include music done by "groups". Why not knowing a composer or songwriter as well as is possible?

7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill. Sure. But why limit this idea to just meat? A man should know how to render bacon, to cook eggs to order in all degrees of doneness, to make a roux and know how to use it, to cook perfect pasta, and to be able to do all of these things with only a good set of knives and a good set of pots and pans.

8. Not monopolize the conversation. Why should this be a thing men should know how to do? I'd extend this to everybody.

9. Write a letter. Yup. I do this very well, and I wish I'd find time to do it more often. Maybe we should come up with a Blogistan-based letter exchange of some sort?

10. Buy a suit. I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to go about buying a suit. I'd find a decent haberdashery, though – an independent place that's been around for many years, hopefully even decades, with the ownership in its second or third generation, and then I'd put my shoulders back and say, "I need a suit and I have absolutely no idea how to buy one."

11. Swim three different strokes. I'm covered. I can swim freestyle, backstroke, and breast stroke; I can do a butterfly stroke if ordered to, although if my life depended on executing the fundamentals of the stroke with any degree of proficiency above that of a purely recreational swimmer, I'd be screwed. I can also do that weird underwater thing that Patrick Duffy did on The Man from Atlantis, which actually works but looks really weird.

12. Show respect without being a suck-up. Sure.

13. Throw a punch. Well, OK. Or, know how to avoid situations where punching would be a useful skill.

14. Chop down a tree. What kind of tree? If you're taking down something small, the size of a Christmas tree, fine. But if this guy's suggesting that you should know how to bring down that three-hundred-year old oak in your backyard, that's just silly. Call the professionals.

15. Calculate square footage. Everybody should know how to do this, right? Moving on:

16. Tie a bow tie. No. Sorry, but if you want to wear a bow tie, then learn. Otherwise, who cares?

17. Make one drink, in large batches, very well. I'm genuinely not sure what the point of this is. What if your one drink is one that isn't very popular with the people you're having over? This one is just silly.

18. Speak a foreign language. Everybody should be able to do this. I can't, except for an extremely basic comprehension of French left over from my high school days.

19. Approach a woman out of his league. To what purpose, exactly? Conversation? A trip to her home? I've never been the type to approach people I don't know, anyway.

20. Sew a button. Another skill everybody should have.

21. Argue with a European without getting xenophobic or insulting soccer. OK, although the soccer thing is off the table if they bring it up. Then, it's fair game. Especially if they take after baseball.

22. Give a woman an orgasm so that he doesn't have to ask after it. Wait a minute: there are guys who ask after it? A better rule would be, "Never ask. Period."

23. Be loyal. To what? And don't be unquestioningly loyal. And if you're in a position of authority and responsibility, reward loyalty rather than demanding it.

24. Know his poison, without standing there, pondering like a dope. Sure.

25. Drive an eightpenny nail into a treated two-by-four without thinking about it. Yup – and afterwards, use a nail set to drive the head below the surface of the wood.

26. Cast a fishing rod without shrieking or sighing or otherwise admitting defeat. I'm not sure if this is something every man should be able to do, but maybe that's just because I've never gone fishing in my life. There, I said it.

27. Play gin with an old guy. I don't know about gin; seems any such game would do. Like chess.

28. Play go fish with a kid. Again, why make it game-specific? Any game will do, as long as you keep up with the kid's age by not playing Candyland with a fifth-grader. (Besides, as I've mentioned before, aside from the shuffle of the deck, there is no element of chance at all in Candyland.)

29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped. Sure. And be able to talk about evolution, plate tectonics, and astronomy. Be able to pick out constellations and name some stars.

30. Feign interest. I confess that I'm not terribly good at this. If the topic at hand is not interesting me, I can't keep my eyes from going all glassy.

31. Make a bed. I can do this. I never actually do this, but I can, which I guess is the important thing. Bed-making has never struck me as being a terribly useful or important thing, unless one is having company.

32. Describe a glass of wine in one sentence without using the terms nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick. This ability goes beyond wine: if you can describe wine in more poetic terms than talking about how oaky it is on your palate, then you can probably also describe the way your co-worker's pale orange sweater reminds you of the sky just before sunrise on the first day of summer.

33. Hit a jump shot in pool. Meh. Or, just don't play pool or assume that people give a crap about how good at pool you are.

34. Dress a wound. For God's sake, everybody should be able to do this.

35. Jump-start a car (without any drama). Change a flat tire (safely). Change the oil (once). OK, that's three things, which is cheating. But anybody should be able to do this, too.

36. Make three different bets at a craps table. Oh, come on. I think this writer is making some pretty liberal assumptions as to the universality of his personal interests as applied to all men. Knowing how to make three different bets at a craps table is of no more use to me than being able to load a reel-to-reel tape deck. Less, even, since I have hobbies that could conceivably lead to me threading a reel-to-reel tape deck if I took them far enough.

37. Shuffle a deck of cards. Again, everybody should be able to passably randomize the deck.

38. Tell a joke. Maybe, maybe not. There are lots of people I know who are terribly witty and funny and who yet cannot tell a joke. If you can't, accept it and just don't make the attempt.

39. Know when to split his cards in blackjack. There he goes again. Not all men are regulars at the tables in Vegas.

40. Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear. Or she.

41. Speak to a waiter so he will hear. Again, or she. Also, always remember that just because they're being paid to serve you doesn't make them your servants.

42. Talk to a dog so it will hear. Huh? Really: huh?!

43. Install: a disposal, an electronic thermostat, or a lighting fixture without asking for help. Sure.

44. Ask for help. Absolutely.

45. Break another man's grip on his wrist. Sure, why not?

46. Tell a woman's dress size. I can't imagine why this ability would be useful, much less so useful as to universalized to all men.

47. Recite one poem from memory. Don't stop at one. Know lots of poems. Song lyrics, too, but the good songs by the good songwriters. Especially if you have any inclinations toward writing.

48. Remove a stain. I'd extend this to being able to do laundry without ruining stuff.

49. Say no. Not a skill I've been blessed with, sadly enough.

50. Fry an egg sunny-side up. Or any other way, really. "Over easy" doesn't actually mean "flip it over and cook it to death".

51. Build a campfire. Another skill everybody should have, probably.

52. Step into a job no one wants to do. That's the entire nature of my current job.

53. Sometimes, kick some ass. OK, I suppose.

54. Break up a fight. This has never come up for me, so I don't know.

55. Point to the north at any time. Always useful. At night, be able to pick out the North Star.

56. Create a play-list in which ten seemingly random songs provide a secret message to one person. OK, now here's a skill I've got in spades. I make terrific play-lists.

57. Explain what a light-year is. I can do this. I can also explain a parsec and offer all manner of BS rationales why Han Solo wasn't full of crap.

58. Avoid boredom. One step might be to stop reading this blog! (Kidding, of course. This blog rocks.)

59. Write a thank-you note. This is a skill for everybody, not just men.

60. Be brand loyal to at least one product. For me? Yuengling Lager, Ben&Jerry's ice cream, Captain Morgan's spiced rum, Cockburn's Ruby Port, Rishi green tea.

61. Cook bacon. This falls under my category above of being able to cook lots of stuff. I don't believe in "flat" bacon, though: I like my bacon all twisted and curly, the way it gets when done on the stove in a pan. Especially if the bacon is for use in a BLT, because then the bacon curls on itself on the sandwich to make double thicknesses of bacony goodness.

62. Hold a baby. Sigh....

63. Deliver a eulogy. I don't know that I could deliver one, but I know I can write one.

64. Know that Christopher Columbus was a son of a bitch. OK, you have to click through above to read the writer's larger rationale on this one, but I think it holds for everyone.

65-67. Throw a baseball over-hand with some snap. Throw a football with a tight spiral. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably. Meh. Everybody should be able to demonstrate the fundamentals of whatever sport it is that's their "thing", but doing these three things specifically? Again, meh. (probably because I suck at basketball.)

68. Find his way out of the woods if lost. A definite. I wandered off a trail once in Allegany State Park, but finding my way back to "civilization" was a fairly easy matter of continuing to always head downhill until I reached a road.

69. Tie a knot. Another one for everybody. One or two kinds of knots is fine, though, unless you're a sailor or someone who really wants to know lots of nautical stuff.

70. Shake hands. Lord, yes! You don't have to crush the other guy's hand – it's not a contest of strength, after all – but really, nothing's worse than a guy with a limp handshake. There really are few things I think are acceptable for women that aren't for a man, but a limp handshake is one of them.

71. Iron a shirt. Yup, this is useful.

72. Stock an emergency bag for the car. Another one for everybody, not just men. And "beer" does not count as an emergency item. If stocking an emergency bag for winter, don't forget candles and a large tin can, like a coffee can; a fat candle burning in a tin can puts out a surprising amount of heat. And a gun, with one bullet for each member of your party. (Oh, come on. I'm kidding about that one. Jeebus!)

73. Caress a woman's neck. Oh, yes. And speak the language of love! (Not French, either.)

74. Know some birds. I'd extend this to knowing birds and trees and rocks, to an extent. Nature walks and hikes are more rewarding if you're able to appreciate your surroundings on a deeper level than "Oooooh, pretty!"

75. Negotiate a better price. I dread large purchases, because I have little tolerance for haggling, little ability for haggling, and I don't have a hell of a lot of sales resistance, either.

I don't know what this all means about me. Aside from the goofy gambling stuff, most of this is stuff that everybody should know how to do, right?


Call me Paul said...

You really are the quiz-meme-thing master. Seventy five items! These days if a quiz has more than about twenty items, I take a pass.

Anonymous said...

The problems you are finding with these statements can all be traced to one thing: they are from Esquire magazine.

Not too long ago, I received an offer in the mail for two years of Esquire for $10.99. "Gee," I thought, "that's not bad, and didn't they use to publish Vidal and Mailer and Capote?" So I send in the money order, and what do I get: a magazine who's sole purpose is to help 40 year old (male) virgins not be virgins anymore.

I don't know if it was always like that, but I sure as hell wouldn't admit to reading it without blessed anonymity.

Anonymous said...

Regarding #64: In the words of Malcolm Reynolds, "It's my estimation that every man ever had a statue made of him was one kind of sumbitch or another."

Belladonna said...

You have NEVER been fishing? Wow. That surprised me. I could totally understand if you didn't like it or did not choose to do it again...but to have never even been exposed to it just was not something I ever would have guessed.