For the Love of Lists
As another year ends, everything is enumerated
Almost everyone makes lists at least once in a while. An errand or grocery list keeps us focused. A list of things we want to do, see, read, etc., before we die puts things in perspective. David Wallechinsky’s famous bestseller The Book of Lists (and its sequels) gave us a chance to contemplate such rosters as “Famous people who died during sexual intercourse.” A year-end, best-of or top-10 list provides a shorthand for what’s important to us culturally — just ask David Letterman. Many of these lists are light-hearted fun, contrasted with the actuarial reality of, say, the list of people who died in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, or banks that failed in the recent recession.
Our love of lists, whether they be utilitarian, amusing or sobering, is a consequence of the human tendency to classify, order, arrange. Sequences and categories are reassuring; checking things off as we accomplish them is satisfying. This is how our brains work.
Sometimes, of course, we list things simply because … we can. And that’s the minimally mathematic spirit in which we offer this year-end feature: lists Seven Days staffers have compiled for whatever reason. Given our signature number, we’re limiting each list to seven items, though some of the originals are much longer.
And the New Year will inspire us to start all over again.
Weird vegetables my CSA taught me to live with (and sometimes love):
1. Red kuri squash. Like many things from Japan, this squash is damn cute — it looks like a mini-pumpkin. The persimmon-colored flesh makes an amazing pie.
2. Romanesco cauliflower. This star-shaped beauty looks more like an anemone, or an exotic flower. If you can bring yourself to cut it up and steam it, it has a delicate, nutty flavor.
3. Kohlrabi. The secret of these little green Sputniks is to peel them and eat them raw — in a salad, they taste like radishes.
4. Turnips. Like kohlrabi, the small, sweet ones add crunch to a salad or a veggie platter. The big, ugly ones are OK in a soup with chives and sour cream.
5. Beets. I’ve avoided beets most of my life. But now I know there are golden beets and candy-striped beets, which you can use to add color to a mixed veggie roast without staining everything else magenta. I’m still not a huge fan of regular red beets, but they crisp up nicely in a roast and pickle well.
6. Rutabaga. This gnarly root takes up a ton of fridge space, so I make it disappear by mashing it with potatoes and carrots.
7. Celeriac. It’s hard to love something that looks like a softball that mated with one of the aliens from District 9. But peel away the root tentacles and tough skin and — voilà — a budget form of celery.
Strangest questions I’ve been asked via email as a Seven Days staff writer:
“Ever wanted to pull a fire truck up Church Street?”
“Speaking of compost and poop, would you be interested in doing a story on us?”
“Who is the tobacco editor at Seven Days?”
“How much do you pay sources for your stories?” (Answer: nothing.)
“Did you know there’s a naked woman in a cage on Main Street dressed up like a cut of meat?”
“I’m looking for work as a reporter and require a salary in the low six figures. Do you have anything available on your staff?”
“I can’t believe you did that story. Were you high at the time?”
Things there should be words for:
1. A noun for that instant when you know you’re going to fall and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
2. A noun for the little thrill you derive from pulling off all the lint from the dryer filter in one piece.
3. A verb for writing on a to-do list tasks you have already done, just for the pleasure of crossing them off.
4. An adjective for the sound your shoe makes on the floor after you’ve stepped on gum.
5. A noun for a person who has two first names, e.g., John Henry.
6. A noun for the stuff in the back of your desk drawers that you haven’t looked at in years.
7. A noun for the nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten to pack something for a trip, generally felt after you check your luggage.
What I need to complete my kitchen:
1. A deli slicer. Who needs supermarket cold cuts? I want to roast my own turkey and beef.
2. A tandoor. I’ve been coveting one of these Indian clay ovens since I was 8.
3. An immersion circulator. The technique known as sous-vide involves cooking your vacuum-sealed food at extremely controlled temperatures under water.
4. A table saw. I’d like to take apart whole animals at home. Don’t cross me.
5. A comal. The kind that little old Aztec-descended ladies sit around in the middle of a room. Making tortillas on my stovetop just wouldn’t be the same.
6. A rotisserie. I’m not talking Ronco. I want to be able to roast a pig. Or a llama.
7. A dishwasher. I just moved into my first house that doesn’t have one. Pity me.
The most ethereal moments in classical music:
J.S. Bach, Sonatina, Cantata #106 “Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit”
J.S. Bach, Prelude, Solo Cello Suite No. 1
Georges Bizet, Entr’acte to Act 3, Carmen
Gabriel Fauré, “Cantique de Jean Racine”
George Friedrich Handel, “His Yoke Is Easy” from The Messiah
Giovanni Pergolesi, first movement, “Stabat Mater”
Randall Thompson, “Alleluia”
Ways Burlington Telecom can raise $17 million:
Create a Facebook Group: 17 million strong for Burlington Telecom
Take a lead from Comcast’s purchase of NBC and buy ABC
Turn live stream of council meetings into pay-per-view channel
Pretend to be Blue Cross Blue Shield’s former CEO
Claim to be Tiger Woods’ mistress; sell story to Enquirer
Rename the company McClure Telecom
Things I regret saying to former bosses:
“Oh, I’m sorry, you got your degree online from University of Phoenix? Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“Everybody here is incompetent, including you.”
“My weakness is that I just take on way too much work.”
“I’d rather not be sent out on errands to buy you Salem Menthols and Playgirl magazines.”
“The way you run this facility makes this place a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
“I don’t appreciate you telling me to pipe down. Why don’t you go yell at the quiet people and tell them to be more loud?”
My favorite Vermont Twitter feeds you may not have heard of yet:
The microblogging social-media service Twitter has been around since 2006, but this was the year we finally learned how to use it. As the online editor, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Twitter, following Vermonters and sharing links to our content on the web. The ones below have fewer than 250 followers, so far.
1. @TourterelleVT (74 followers) Lots of businesses and restaurants are tweeting, but not many of them are located in small towns like New Haven, Vt. I’ve gotten a couple of good news tips from Tourterelle’s Twitter feed, and I enjoy the person-on-the-ground weather reports from Addison County.
2. @vtdigger (96 followers) Following the Vermont Digger feed is a great way to keep up with the latest content on the nonprofit investigative journalism site.
3. @EricaViscio (98 followers) Erica is a sophomore graphic design and marketing student at Champlain College. Her prof, Elaine Young, is one of my local Internet gurus. I started following Erica because she did a fantastic job covering Terry Precision Cycling CEO Liz Robert’s speech at Champlain last month. She tweets often about marketing and the web, and has a real knack for condensing useful information into 140 or fewer characters.
4. @margot7d (103 followers) I feel a little sheepish promoting Seven Days’ own movie critic Margot Harrison on this list, but I think she’s underrated. Here’s one of her tweets from November 17: “The sparkly Twilight juggernaut approaches. Local midnight shows sold out. You cannot resist the chaste human-vampire passion!!!” Gotta love it.
5. @TylerMachado (141 followers) Tyler is a senior at St. Michael’s College and was one of our What’s Good bloggers last year. He’s also music director at the St. Mike’s student-run radio station. I’ll miss his savvy, well-written dispatches when he graduates.
6. @CouncilorAdrian (206 followers) You learn a lot about your elected officials when they tweet, and I hope more lawmakers take advantage of this communications tool, as Burlington City Councilor Ed Adrian has done. But I could live without his tweeting during City Council meetings. There’s no law against it, but there’s no law restricting texting while driving, either. Yet.
7. @skimaven (248 followers) I won’t be skiing or snowboarding this season, but I still want to hear about conditions at Vermont mountains and good deals on passes and gear. Ski Maven Kris Surette keeps me posted.
Cathy Resmer (@cresmer)
Reasons being a teetotaler is not lame:
You remember what you did or said the next morning.
You don’t hook up with hideous people by accident.
You never wet your pants unintentionally.
Drunk people tell you things they really shouldn’t.
Sometimes you end up with more money in your pocket at the end of the night than you had at the beginning (not saying how it got there).
You can drive home from that sucky party whenever you want, and don’t have to worry about getting pulled over for a DUI.
Greatest cock-rock songs of all time
“Hair of the Dog,” Nazareth
“Bang Your Head (Metal Health),” Quiet Riot
“Round and Round,” Ratt
“Rock You Like a Hurricane,” Scorpions
“Panama,” Van Halen
“Crazy Train,” Ozzy Osbourne
“Anything Goes,” AC/DC
Reasons I’m thankful my wife is breastfeeding our newborn:
Our daughter stands a much lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes, leukemia and childhood obesity, while my wife lowers her odds of getting breast and ovarian cancer.
We aren’t shelling out extra cash to a large multinational corporation that makes baby formula.
When she breastfeeds in public, it forces uptight individuals to confront their own squeamishness about the human body.
Our daughter’s dirty diapers aren’t stinky enough to qualify as hazardous waste.
My wife can feed the baby in bed overnight, granting me much-needed snooze time.
The hands-free breast pump and bra will make a great Halloween costume one day.
For at least a few more months, I can tell people my wife once starred in a Russ Meyer film.
Songs I confess are in my iPod workout mix:
“Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel,” Tavares
“In the Navy,” Village People
“It’s Raining Men,” The Weather Girls
“Faith,” George Michael
“I’m Too Sexy,” Right Said Fred
“Love Rollercoaster,” Ohio Players
“More Than a Woman,” versions by Tavares and the Bee Gees
Things I wish I’d invented:
Countdown clock to George W. Bush’s last day in office
Flowbee Haircutting System
Internet porn paysites
Democrats not running for Vermont governor in 2010*:
Diane Snelling (oh, wait, she’s a Republican)
*subject to change
Worst Yankee Candle scents:
Fresh Cut Roses
*Not an actual Yankee Candle scent
What to do with Seven Days when you’re done reading it:
I made this list in 1995 when we first started the paper, and it actually adds up to more than 50 suggestions. I thought photographs illustrating them would be a funny house-ad campaign. We made maybe three of them, and then it became too much trouble to execute. But I saved the list just in case.
Line a birdcage.
Shredded, use as mulch in the garden.
Obscure an “open container” in the park.
Cut into snowflakes.
Stacked, use as a baby booster seat.
Roll up to make flyswatter.
Wrap the “Leapfrog” sculpture on Church Street.