Here's something that is completely useless for your everyday life. It will not help you dress well, or create a perfect mothers day gift, or fix your shoelaces, or build a dynamically-planted garden, or anything of the sort. But if you are at a dinner party or out with friends or in a mixed group and you wanna bring out something funny, erudite and pretty out of the ordinary, nothing works like an unexpected joke from an ancient figure whose quotes usually end up chiseled into marble.
Fair warning: some bawdiness follows. Despite the editors of ancient manuscripts, real people in the ancient world weren't above off color jokes.
What clothing item has something in common with freelance warriors, the Rat Pack, and a famous scientist from a beloved 1990's kid's show? Yep, you're staring at it: the bow tie.
Let's take a few minutes to dive into the fascinating world of this one-of-a-kind accessory.
If you’re committed to greatness in your craft, there’s no better way to improve than to mimic the masters. But if you need general inspiration to help you keep going in your pursuit of excellence, it’s helpful to watch any kind of expert at work.
In 2014, the newsreel archive British Pathé released 85,000 high resolution historic films to YouTube. Among these are a fantastic collection of newsreel footage from postwar factories all around Great Britain. It’s mesmerizing and, if you’re a maker, a bit humbling to watch these skilled men and women exercise their trade with such aplomb. (Not to mention, the peppy English narrators, using that classic clipped 1950’s news reporting style, are really funny.)
Thanks to the wizardry that is the Internet, there are hundreds of them available at your fingertips today.
“… my landlady, by the way, doesn’t like the Germans because when some playful Nazi pilots lived in her house some months ago, they threw a hand grenade into her chicken coop, and they had to eat the winter’s supply of chickens all at once.”
This is one of my favorite lines from our family's treasure: my grandfather’s back-and-forth correspondence letters during World War II. Frank T. Waters was an editor of the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. At several instances during the war, he sent correspondence back home to his mother, family, and friends sharing daily life overseas and fighting the biggest war of the 20th century.
Going through these letters is a truly amazing glimpse of a soldier's life during war-time Europe in the 40s. I counted 207 letters, official correspondence, orders, postcards, etc, so far. Reading these, I discover my grandfather was smart, curious, and pretty funny. Here are some of my favorite bits:
A few weeks ago I got a text from a buddy. He had just moved and was setting up the new house. He told me "I think this time around I want to make sure my sword has a place." By his sword, he meant his 1865 Union Artillery Saber that had been with him since the 1st grade. (Talk about high expectations when the parents give you a sword at age nine). But the issue was that he didn't have a good way to display it, and the cheaply made, $30 online holders just didn't seem fitting. That's why he called me up, and asked if I could help. I gladly accepted the challenge, and came up with this beast. Here's how I did it.
There is nothing like a long day of hiking or horseback riding to get you in the mood for some good, hearty eating. And so the American West's roving cattlemen and cross-country venturers created a long tradition of fantastic, simple meals meant to fill you up on the trail. So bust out that cast iron skillet and prepare yourself for some authentic cowboy eating.
Two fun facts: 1) unlike most styles, the cream ale is original to North American, born in the US in the mid 1800s; 2) the cream is, of course, an ale, but it is inspired by German lagers and "drinks" like a lager — it's light, crisp, and goes down easy. Okay, so that's what I do know; here's what I don't: what is a cream ale? And is there actually cream in it?
Spoiler alert: no, there isn't. Cream ales are simply light American ales that have an additional fermentable sugar sources like corn or rice to lighten the body. This makes the beer ferment faster, and therefore more economically; their overall lightness makes them easier
If you're a morning person — congratulations. Seriously, we're legitimately happy for you. The ability to sleep well, feel rested, and then be ready to get going nice and early is a real gift, and you're lucky to be wired that way.
For the rest of us, mornings can be rough. Especially in the wintertime, when it's dark, and cold, and tens of thousands of years of natural selection are encouraging you to stay hibernating so you can protect your genes from freezing off.
But, of course,
I am such a sucker for antique stores, obscure markets, and garage sales. I love pouring old and odd things -- the weirder, the better. I've bought pocket-sized trinkets all over America, many of which neither I nor the store clerk was able to figure out what they were. But this one really beats them all...
How do you feel about the term, "man cave?" I have mixed feelings on it myself. One the one hand - like "girlfriend" or "foodie" - it's easy to use it colloquially since everybody has a general sense of what you mean when you say it. On the other, I haven't really worked out for myself all the connotations that come with its use, since it sometimes seems to me like it implies that one can't be a man outside of his man cave (or at least that its a necessary domicile of rejuvenation), Or that the rest of the home is then outside of his purview. Or, all spaces for men must be themselves a cave, involving sports memorabilia and beer signs. In that way, I mostly see the term "man cave" as potentially condescending. Now obviously that's a drastic oversimplification, but I've been thinking about the word recently a fair amount.
These days, the word "tailgate" conjures up images of cooler and pavement, jerseys and face paint, grills and foldable chairs. But, despite its current association with parking lots and sporting events, it's actually got quite a rich history. Like, older than you think. Like... 1861?
The term film noir (or “dark film”) was first coined in 1946 (though not used commonly for many years) by French film critic Nino Frank to describe the emerging genre of gritty films that proliferated in the American studio system during the 1940’s-50’s featuring hardboiled detectives, femme fatales, and doomed anti-heroes.
From Roy Hobbs' “Wonderboy” in The Natural to Tom Cruise’ thinking bat in A Few Good Men, baseball bats hold a special place in the American masculine consciousness. A versatile weapon on the field, the baseball bat embodies an element of the American dream wherever it goes. The lone batter, a man himself against an entire team, hoping to hit it big.
Guys guys guys-- did you know Walt Whitman published a fifty-thousand word serialized guide to "Manly Health & Training" that has recently been compiled by a PhD candidate? It started in 1858 in the New York Atlas but was pushed deeper and deeper into the newspaper with each issue due to lack of interest. However, it's great for both its practicality and its utter impracticality,
Every great breakthrough has its "Eureka!" moment, whether we're talking the discovery of gravity or the founding of the world's largest shoe empire. In the latter's case, that happened while searching for a way to create cleats meant for a urethane track (meaning no more metal spikes on the bottom of running shoes), and it involved a household wafflemaker. The infamous wafflemaker was then lost for decades... and now found.
In 1997 a team of roughly 70 historians, archaeologists, and craftsmen set out to build a 13th century style castle in a forest two hours outside of Paris using only period appropriate tools. Every stone, tile, and brick is handmade, every tree is hand-felled, and even the trebuchet-looking construction set-up was hand-crafted.
If you ask me, the world of Vietnamese soups and broths is a world well worth spending time in. And none is better known, or more essential, to Vietnamese culture than pho, a seductive blend of aromatic broth, bright herbs, and bold chile slices to make things interesting. And though the broth is served hot, it's flavor profile makes it the kind of thing you can still enjoy in warm months, making it the ultimate year-round lunch.