How to be a Skier

The topics covered here frequently assume a certain level of familiarity with skiing and ski culture, and I understand that this can be alienating for some readers in southern California, Texas, and New Jersey. This is not my intention. To appeal to a larger cross section of our Obviously-The-Best-Ever-But-About-To-Be-Made-Much-More-Greaterer Nation, I’d like to offer a few pointers on how to be a skier in the hopes that moving forward we can enjoy the best season of the year together.

Step 1. Talk Loud

The principle responsibility of any skier is to inform the people around him of his intentions. To do this most effectively, I suggest speaking clearly and audibly at all times, and especially when discussing the epic-sicky pow and how much gnar you will definitely shred this coming weekend. This is most effective in public trains, baggage claim areas, and bars with PBR specials, but is also applicable for fancy restaurants, wedding receptions, and first dates. Be sure to focus on what you’re definitely about to do, not what you have actually done.

Step 2. Dress Like an Aquarium Fish

Sometimes simply speaking loudly isn’t enough, or you’re too busy on the shot ski to state your shredding intentions. When this happens your clothing should speak on your behalf. When you dress yourself in the morning, avoid blacks, browns and understated patterns. Mauve is out. Earth tones are only allowable if they are actually digital camouflage. Goggles should be mirrored and imposing. When in doubt, leave the helmet at home.

Step 3. Go Fast; Huck Your Meat

It used to be there was a time way back in the day when skiing was difficult. The hard men and women of mountain towns across the world would tie themselves to a couple of old floor joists with leather straps, take a nip of schnapps, and point ’em downhill – damn the torpedoes. Simply surviving the run from top to bottom was a feat of strength, finesse, and emotional fortitude. A very few people on earth had the technique to make it look good.

tonimatt
Toni Matt knew how to be a skier.

These times are no more. With all the newfangled shaped skis and powerful boots, the equipment pretty much just does its thing. The skier is just along for the ride – no technique required. And so to demonstrate your superiority, it’s important to go as fast as possible and jump off the highest cliff you can find. Remember, no one cares if you land it. Disregard other, slower mountain users. If they were real skiers they would be going faster.

Step 4. Make Fun of Snowboarders

While you’re out sliding over snow with a board strapped to each foot, you may notice some jobless Communists out there sliding over snow with both feet strapped to a single board. Be sure to ridicule these people, they are of a lesser class. Everyone knows the only way to really enjoy sliding over snow is with two different boards. It is well documented in the that when people slide over snow with only one board it means their parents were siblings and they are of substandard intelligence and really they should feel lucky they’re allowed outside at all. You can’t argue with science.

Step 5. Drink Enough Booze

You can’t always be the best skier on the mountain, but that shouldn’t stop you from being the best drinker in the bar. To be clear- as soon as you’ve put on ski boots, you’ve gone skiing. There is no need to actually go outside. So take that shot of Fireball. Order up another bucket of PBR. Just be sure to talk loud while you’re drinking.

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Things We Can Agree On

The National Dialogue, over the last year or so, has been . . . contentious. A lot of us feel pretty strongly about more than a few things, and there’s been some awfully heated disagreement over foreign policy, healthcare, what constitutes a crime, and so forth. It feels like there’s nothing we can agree on. And so I’m pretty excited for November 9, when we can finally open our arms to President Stein and put this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad election behind us.

In the meantime, as two people collectively spend like $200 million in a week to scuff each others’ shoes, I thought it might be nice to focus on a few things we can agree on. Remember, we’ve got much more in common than we do apart.

  • Clear coffee cups are wrong – This is even truer if you take cream.
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The horror. The horror.

 

  • The left lane is not for driving – It’s for passing. And turning left. And that’s really it. If you’re over there for more than like 30 seconds at a time, you’re probably doing it wrong.
  • Airplanes are for silence – Unless the plane is actively crashing and we’re coordination an evacuation, there’s really nothing to discuss. Keep it to yourself.
  • Pie>Cake – “Cake” is a fancy word for flour and air.
  • Climate change is a thing – Look, we still have a lot to fight about. Let’s pull together on this one. It’s not something stupid like healthcare as a human right, after all, and just acknowledging it doesn’t mean we actually have to do anything about it. Besides, once we get on the same page here we can spend more time talking about that Walking Dead premier.
  • Toilet paper rolls over the top – Like a waterfall. If you’re in the loo as a guest in someone’s home, and they’ve accidentally loaded it upside down, please feel free to correct it. Don’t feel pressure to bring it up, we can all be forgiven for an occasional mistake.
We can all agree that's how it's supposed to look.
Correct.
  • Butter goes on the counter – So it spreads. If it’s warm out, I suggest a butter bell.
  • The whole “Rolling Coal” thing has really run its course – We get it, high school was awesome. That night you won state was like, the best ever. But there really are better ways to memorialize your fading relevancy than being this much of a twat.
  • No touching – There should be no bumping, brushing, glancing, shaving, or other forms of incidental contact between strangers at any time. Wait your turn. This includes concerts, shopping malls, mass transit, and sporting events.
  • Iceberg lettuce is a crime – It’s like slimy, perishable, packing peanuts. Advertising salad and serving iceberg amounts to fraud, and should be prosecuted accordingly. Enough with the emails. This is what true crime looks like.
  • Keep shit out of the hinge – If you borrow a pocket knife, don’t use it for spreading peanut butter. Or jam.

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Books for the Dark Ages: fall book recommendations

Winter is coming.

But it’s not here yet, and it won’t be here for a while. It’ll be dark like 20 hours a day soon, and the snow won’t fly for a little while longer, and the new season of Game of Thrones apparently doesn’t air until like July. Pretty much we’re doomed.

What are you going to do? We’re eeking toward that time of year when everything is exciting and wonderful because it’ll be ski season soon, but when it’s actually just cold and dark and kind of miserable because it’s not ski season yet. We’ve got a little bit of time until that happens, though, and while everything is dark and mysterious and before your friends and loved ones try to send you to an early grave with like 8-10 holiday parties a week, I propose that you read a book.

A BOOK!?

Yes. A paper one. With pages. None of those Kindle things. Isn’t that a Kardashian, anyway?

And so to get you started, here’s a few fall book recommendations that should get you through ’til the snow flies.

Fall book recommendations.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – B. Traven – Good ‘ol dang ‘ol adventure story with just enough socialist indignation to really resonate with a generation of millennials. A few down-and-out strangers in the 1920s skip town to search for a lost and cursed Aztec gold mine. Warning – there is a morale to this story.

The Immortal Irishman – Timothy Egan – Irish Republican indignation? Old timey frontier antics?  Mysterious deaths of famous people? He had me at “indignation.” The story of an Irish revolutionary and Montana’s first Governor, this one is a biography that reads more like fiction.

Trinity – Leon Uris – If The Immortal Irishman left your indignation cup just half full, then slip on some sheepwool slippers, pour yourself a Jameson (bring the bottle, this book is long), and crack into Trinity. If Jack London wrote the Bible and set it in 19th century Dublin, you might get something like this.

The Monkey Wrench Gang – Edward Abbey – This book opens with two characters cutting down billboards with a chainsaw, and the hijinx just keep going from there. If you’re feeling any indignation about Bernie not getting a fair shake, or the North Dakota Access Pipeline, or you’re just generally angry at The Man, here’s a great place to find some inspiration. Jeep week is right around the corner!

Alpine Ski Tours of the Canadian Rockies – Chic Scott – Because ski season is almost here, after all, and we can’t just be angry all the time.

Hot Water – PG Wodehouse – Light-hearted, hilarious. Best to read it with an English accent.

A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole – Here’s one that you might not quite know what to make of the whole time you’re in it, and then one day you realize it’s your favorite book. An homage to self-righteous, over-educated under-achievers everywhere.

Don Quixote – Miguel Cervantes – The first novel. No, really. It’s more than 400 years old, but it is absolutely modern in its concerns and its relevancy. You really owe it to yourself to know more about Don Quixote than that he jousted with windmills. Just make sure you get a good translation.

The Italian Grill – Mario Batali – It’s dark out. It’s cold. It’s actually a great time to fire up the grill. Batali’s recipes here take a long time (frequently days), so it’s a great thing to kind of work on a little bit during the week and then reap the rewards on the weekend. Summer cookouts are fine, but there’s nothing better than grilling under a crisp winter night. Batali himself has had some little ethical issues (like widespread, systematic wage theft in his restaurants), so feel free to get this one at the library or find a pirated copy online.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky – Nancy Horan – Buy this book. Buy one for yourself. Then buy one for your girlfriend/boyfriend/regular friends. Buy one for each roommate. Then for each member of your family all the way through third cousins. Hardcover is preferred. It’s the life and history of the man who brought us Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island and Kidnapped, packaged as a riveting novel. Probably you should buy a spare.

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 – Hunter S. Thompson – This is an election year, the media has pretty much blown it, and we’ve got one of the craziest candidates in centuries. This is an election cycle that deserves Hunter S. Thompson.

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace – You will laugh. You will cry. Carrying this book around is the perfect complement to your Warby Parker glasses and Gitanes cigarettes. The magnum opus of a deeply troubled, profoundly insightful man, you’ll get out of this one what you put into it. You will not get through this a few pages at a time before bed; I recommend leaving the country for someplace without electricity for a month and just, like, living between the pages, man.

The Nix – Nathan Hill – Is it disrespectful to call The Nix diet Infinite Jest? I don’t know. I do know that it’s got a similar style, similar feel, and also that it’s way, way more user friendly. You still get the fragmented narrative, the semi-cynical insights to the world around us, but you can probably read this one at home.

Don’t forget to support your local bookseller, and holler if there’s anything I’m missing.

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Donald Trump and Diet Coke

Consider, for a moment, the following photograph:

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I suppose that you see a glass of soda (pop? coke?), sitting on a wooden pedestal. A background of brick and sunkissed glass in the background, it’s a picture of summer evenings and sweet things quenching your thirst.

I, however, must disagree. Instead we are looking at the truest analogy we have for the Donald Trump candidacy.

Take, for instance:

The Old-Timey Patriotism – The glass itself is an ode to an older time. When war meant killing Nazis and coming home to a dame and a factory job and house from GI Bill. The glass is blazed with Red, White, and Blue, promising to spirit to your lips the best of America. It invokes the days when America was Great. With ticker-tape parades and jingoism. The shape of the glass is even a classic, harking to the good old days of Brokaw’s Greatest Generation. Its silhouette alone is the sum of our nostalgia for grainy John Wayne films and Ballpark Franks. The glass alone seems to be screaming “Let’s Make American Great Again!”

The Homage to a Craft – In America, we used to make things. Like machines. And beer. And diabetes. And here, to appease our yearning for an era of production, is blazed upon that glass’s curves is something we can all agree on: “Take pride in your beer.” And who wouldn’t take pride in their beer? Who wouldn’t like to see America great? It’s a statement so banal that to raise an eyebrow is akin to treason.

And yet, hidden in the glare of the setting sun, is the signature of a registered trademark. Yessirree, this here token of American exceptionalism is the intellectual property of one REDACTED Brewing Company. This simple statement is more than an affirmation of good faith. It’s the cynical commercialization of what we all hold dear – not so different from a TRUMP steak or the $25 Bling H2O available in Trump Hotels.

The Bait and Switch – Of course the glass that proclaims “Take pride in your beer®” holds no beer at all. The glass we see came filled, not with the bounty of fermented grain, but with a mass produced vacuum bag of sugarwater. Cynical branding aside, it’s the bait-and-switch. The glass promises the fruits of America’s heartland and delivers cheaply manufactured fluff. What’s more Trumpian than that?

I’ll tell you what’s more Trumpian. The double bait and switch. That there soda is a Diet. The promise to “Take pride in your beer®” can’t even deliver real corn syrup. How will it build a wall?

The Glass Half Full – And so we’re left looking at a half-full glass of unnaturally colored liquid, and we’re not really sure of what it’s made of. Sounding familiar? Well, you may have noticed that I said half-full. That’s pretty optimistic. Maybe it’s half empty?

Nope.

Take another look at the glass. The geometry of the thing, the bulbous top and narrow bottom mean that it’s not even nearly half full. And when you consider that most of it there is icy cold filler, not much substance, then the glass barely holds anything at all.

The more we look at the photo, the less it looks like a cool drink on a hot summer night. Even the condensation on the glass evokes the campaign team sweating as the new poll results roll in. It seems more like we’re looking at a cynically branded, disingenuous homage to the American Greatness of a time we never knew. It’s a bulbous, diaphoretic, discolored poison trying to emulate a flavor that is, for better or worse, a part of our shared heritage. Its substance is bloated by coldness, so that what seems to be a half-full lesser evil is hardly more than a few drops of sticky moisture.

A few drops of sticky moisture. Please try to remember that phrase when you’re alone in the booth, and think about how uncomfortable it makes you feel.

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The Machines Have Already Won

The game is over. The machines have already won. Skynet has been on line and self aware for quite some time now, although the warheads haven’t quite flown just yet. It seems that it’s taking a more subtle approach in murdering humanity.

Courtesy of xkcd.com

Take, for instance, Strava, the social media platform for running and cycling that turns every ride into a race. “Connect with friends,” they say, “and make the most of every run and ride” by racing the world with your GPS unit as the timekeeper.

What could go wrong with tens of thousands of people treating each and every road and trail like a race course at any hour of the day?

But while Strava has raised the hackles of critics inside and outside of the cycling community for encouraging impolite and unsafe riding on uncontrolled public roadways and trails, it’s probably a stretch to say that the software is the brainchild of an autonomous supercomputer bent on human destruction.

A stretch, that is, until you pair it with the newest craze to occlude the streets: Pokemon Go.

In the week or so that Nintendo’s mobile gaming platform has been live, it’s pulled millions of pale, doughy enthusiasts from their basements and thrust them staggering into traffic. The result has been predictably horrifying.


At the intersection of self-styled professionals racing against the cloud and cartoon enthusiasts wandering blindly through the world in search of an artificially rare collection of 1’s and 0’s there can only be chaos.

Skynet’s plan is taking shape. I heard it’s only a matter of time before Mario Kart Go delivers humanity’s coup de grace.

Mario-Kart-Go
Courtesy of NewsThump.com

Now, critics of my theory (there are sure to be one or two) could point out that citizens perishing in explosions of carbon fiber splinters or underneath a bus at the cusp of capturing the elusive Vaporeon have only fallen victim to their own loss of context. That Skynet’s greatest weapon is not a weapon at all, but simply a means to make the annoying and destructive aspects of human nature a lot more fun.

Take Twitter. It’s a remarkable tool for pure democracy and unfettered free speech. It allows the anonymous voice of the masses to be felt from uprisings in Tunisia to protests in Ferguson, MO. It’s one of the last bastions of truly organic communication.

It also got this guy nominated:

trump

And so maybe the critics are right. It’s not that we’ve relinquished too much autonomy to the computer on the dashboard, but not quite enough.

Courtesy of xkcd.com

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