How I’m doing on the 75 things

One of the big memes cruising the Information Superhighway last week was Esquire magazine’s list of “The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master.” I’ve reproduced their list here (but not the commentary accompanying each list item; I hope this constitutes “fair use“) in order to explore how well I’m doing on each of the things in the list. Without further ado:

  1. Give advice that matters in one sentence. Like “Secure endcap or die?”
  2. Tell if someone is lying. Easy with some, hard or impossible with others.
  3. Take a photo. My strategy: take one million photos and trust to random chance to make some of them good.
  4. Score a baseball game. I know that “K” means strikeout.
  5. Name a book that matters. Heh: Writing GNU Emacs Extensions.
  6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible. As well as is possible? That sounds like it could devolve into a philosophical debate.
  7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill. Check.
  8. Not monopolize the conversation. I can do this, honestly, but you’re at the wrong website for me to demonstrate it.
  9. Write a letter. Check.
  10. Buy a suit. Check.
  11. Swim three different strokes. Check.
  12. Show respect without being a suck-up. Check.
  13. Throw a punch. I know the theory, but the last time I tried for real, it didn’t avail me too well.
  14. Chop down a tree. I spit once in each palm before seizing the axe and striking a single mighty blow, right?
  15. Calculate square footage. Got that one covered.
  16. Tie a bow tie. I’ve tried. I’ve not yet succeeded.
  17. Make one drink, in large batches, very well. One drink, eh? I’ve cooked entire Thanksgiving dinners for forty people!
  18. Speak a foreign language. Sí se puede.
  19. Approach a woman out of his league. Done, sort of.
  20. Sew a button. Done.
  21. Argue with a European without getting xenophobic or insulting soccer. Fast kicking! Low scoring! And ties? You bet! What’s to insult about soccer?
  22. Give a woman an orgasm so that he doesn’t have to ask after it. Gentlemen don’t tell.
  23. Be loyal. To a fault? Check.
  24. Know his poison, without standing there, pondering like a dope. Is it too unmanly if my “poison” is a Cosmopolitan?
  25. Drive an eightpenny nail into a treated two-by-four without thinking about it. I admit: I stink at this. I bend more nails into useless shapes than I manage to drive in properly.
  26. Cast a fishing rod without shrieking or sighing or otherwise admitting defeat. The one and only time I did this was 1976. I did OK.
  27. Play gin with an old guy. Just wait, soon I’ll be the old guy.
  28. Play go fish with a kid. Haven’t done it, and it’s high time I did.
  29. Understand quantum physics well enough that he can accept that a quarter might, at some point, pass straight through the table when dropped. In fact I understand it well enough to know why some people might think this is possible but also why it will in fact never happen.
  30. Feign interest. Check.
  31. Make a bed. Check.
  32. Describe a glass of wine in one sentence without using the terms nutty, fruity, oaky, finish, or kick. That’s a cinch. At home, where we have many bottles of wine that predate having children, I can often be heard to say, “I think this wine has turned to vinegar — but I’m not really sure.”
  33. Hit a jump shot in pool. Gonna have to work on that one.
  34. Dress a wound. Hey. I have two young boys. We have a whole shelf that’s just Band-Aids and Bactine.
  35. Jump-start a car (without any drama). Change a flat tire (safely). Change the oil (once). I have attended, but not performed, oil changes. Same thing with jump starts; they scare me a bit. I have changed a flat tire a couple of times and did a fine job of it.
  36. Make three different bets at a craps table. I’ll see your “make three different bets at a craps table” and I’ll raise you a “write craps-playing software.”
  37. Shuffle a deck of cards. Check.
  38. Tell a joke. My favorite:

    A cop is parked at the side of the highway when he sees a convertible go by with the top down. A man is driving and in the back seat there are six penguins. The cop says to himself, “This oughta be good,” pulls onto the road, and in a minute has the convertible pulled to the side.

    “What are you doing with these penguins, sir?” he asks the driver.

    “Honestly I’m not really sure what to do with them, officer,” says the driver. “They just showed up in my car this morning. I’d be grateful for any suggestions.”

    The cop rolls his eyes and says, “Why don’t you just take them to the zoo?”

    “The zoo. OK, thanks!” says the driver, and the cop lets him go.

    The next day, the same cop is in the same spot by the highway and sees the same convertible drive by with the same six penguins in the backseat! Again he pulls the car over.

    “I thought I told you to take those penguins to the zoo!” says the cop to the driver.

    “I did!” says the driver. “And we had so much fun, today we’re going to the movies!”

  39. Know when to split his cards in blackjack. Yes, but you’ll seldom catch me playing blackjack, because I don’t like the nasty looks I get from other players at the table when they think I’ve made a wrong play and they don’t get the cards they were supposed to.
  40. Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear. Check.
  41. Speak to a waiter so he will hear. Check.
  42. Talk to a dog so it will hear. Check.
  43. Install: a disposal, an electronic thermostat, or a lighting fixture without asking for help. Does it have to be one of those three specific things? I’ve done several other, similar things.
  44. Ask for help. Check.
  45. Break another man’s grip on his wrist. Don’t you have to be a Vulcan or something?
  46. Tell a woman’s dress size. I thought it was universal for a man to tell a shopgirl, “She’s about your size,” when buying clothes for his gal.
  47. Recite one poem from memory. Check (including one or two that aren’t even by me).
  48. Remove a stain. Check.
  49. Say no. Yes.
  50. Fry an egg sunny-side up. Here again, I must admit to many tries and many failures. What could be easier? And while I’m pretty handy in the kitchen, I’ve never once managed a sunny-side-up egg that wasn’t brown and rubbery.
  51. Build a campfire. I’ve never been camping. (All together: “You’ve never been camping?!”) But I’ve built some decent fireplace fires in my time, even with no Duraflame logs around.
  52. Step into a job no one wants to do. Done.
  53. Sometimes, kick some ass. With rhetoric? Check.
  54. Break up a fight. The opportunity hasn’t presented itself.
  55. Point to the north at any time. I can point north most of the time, except for the first several months after moving to California.
  56. Create a play-list in which ten seemingly random songs provide a secret message to one person. Huh? This is one of the seventy-five things? (Or is this a secret message to one person?)
  57. Explain what a light-year is. Check.
  58. Avoid boredom. Check.
  59. Write a thank-you note. Check.
  60. Be brand loyal to at least one product. Check.
  61. Cook bacon. It almost cooks itself.
  62. Hold a baby. Check.
  63. Deliver a eulogy. Check.
  64. Know that Christopher Columbus was a son of a bitch. Check.
  65. Throw a baseball over-hand with some snap. Check.
  66. Throw a football with a tight spiral. My spiral could be tighter.
  67. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably. Not if my life depended on it.
  68. Find his way out of the woods if lost. You keep your left hand on the wall — no, wait, you carve an X on each tree you pass — no, wait, you build a small fire and watch which way the smoke blows — no, wait you — oh screw it, I’ll just summon some friendly anthropomorphic woodland creatures by singing and they’ll help me.
  69. Tie a knot. Right over left; left over right. Got it.
  70. Shake hands. Check.
  71. Iron a shirt. Check.
  72. Stock an emergency bag for the car. Check.
  73. Caress a woman’s neck. Check.
  74. Know some birds. Personally?
  75. Negotiate a better price. Do I get extra points for having haggled over jewelry in the ancient bazaar in Jerusalem’s Old City?

Missing from the list is “be man enough to be satisfied with the skills you have,” which I am.

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