Tag: Coffee

Day 991: The Subjective Science of Getting Friendly With Your Water

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Good morning, water. You look lovely today. The way you have meticulously extracted the energizing essence of those crumbly brown nuggets of Sumatra in my coffee maker really brings out the glimmer in your droplets. Look, I’m a married man, but if I wasn’t, I would totally be gettin’ up in dat aqua, you feel me?

According to Dr. Masaru Emoto, I may have just created a more healthy and vibrant cup of coffee. Dr. Emoto is a revolutionary oracle of scientific knowledge, inasmuch as he has concocted his own definitions of the words “scientific” and “knowledge”. Dr. Emoto has “proven” (and it’s hard to find a source for his work that doesn’t nestle that word between the comforting pillows of quotation marks) that positive energy makes water better.

Not better-tasting, not more nutritious or refreshing… just better. Happier. More wholly fulfilled. Dr. Emoto unearthed that line where metaphysics and alternative medicine cross over into crazed Lynchian fiction, then leaped across it like a doped-up Olympian. He landed among the Technicolor bobbles of the absurd, cultivated his own particular brew of ludicrous reasoning and slapped a price tag on it.

And we bought in. Oh, how we bought in.

How could we not trust that sincere face?

How could we not trust that sincere face?

Masaru Emoto earned his doctorate at the Open University for Alternative Medicine in India, though I feel “earned” should be yet another resident of Quotes-Marks Manor, as I have unearthed a couple of sources which claim that such a degree can be bought for around $500. But Dr. Emoto’s doctorness is relatively moot, as he immediately set out to sail the vague ocean of alternative medicine, which contains far more fetid flotsam than it does navigable current. Read more…

Day 969: Pound-For-Pound Performances

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If anyone asks, I’m currently beefing up for the lead role in the upcoming biopic about Orson Welles’ final days. I haven’t been cast yet, and to my knowledge no such movie exists, but when Hollywood finally comes around to making it, I’ll be ready. So yes, I will have that second bag of deep-fried Oreos.

Screen actors – and perhaps stage actors as well, but that information is trickier to find – must occasionally alter their physical weight to slip into a part. Sure, they can cheat like Chris Evans in Captain America, whose 220-pound bulk was deflated to a scrawny pre-Atlas sand-faced wimp through the magic of CGI, but outside of the superhero genre, you’re not likely to see that. These self-abusatory body-wallops are a good reminder that some of the faces speckled across movie screens are actual artists who are willing to endure physical torture for their craft.

In tracking down some of the wonkier stories for this piece, I tried to uncover an actress who has made a similar transformation, but there aren’t many. Renée Zellweger snarfed back some pastries to gain twenty pounds for Bridget Jones’ Diary, but her final appearance was hardly extreme. I’m more impressed with Anne Hathaway’s 25-pound drop for Les Miserables, much of which occurred throughout the filming process. If anyone knows of any other actresses who pulled off feats like these, please tell me in the comments section. It’s quite the sausage-fest on this page.

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Considered to be one of the greatest actors of the last 50 years, Robert De Niro has yet to win an Academy Award since 1981. While I’ll withhold judgment on some of the scripts he has chosen in the last 20 years (I still can’t scrub The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle from the part of my brain upon which it splattered back in 2000), watching him perform usually justifies the cost of admission. If you have somehow deprived yourself of seeing 1980’s Raging Bull (for which he won his most recent Oscar), then you must immediately stop calling yourself a film fan until you do so – particularly if you have seen even one Tyler Perry movie. Read more…

Day 934: The Forbidden Fried Foodstuffs

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Every so often, I forget how much I despise fast food. I find myself seduced by the siren scent of McDonalds’ temptress fries, or the dangerously sweet allure of a Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfait (though I prefer substituting the hot fudge for caramel – my personal Achilles has remarkably fat heels). I know about the chemicals, I know about the trans fats, and I am fully aware that the caloric count of a Big Mac exceeds that which some humans will consume in a week.

But in those euphoric final seconds before that initial bite, there exists the possibility that this will be the numinous rajah of burgers, the godly Big Mac that actually tastes like something other than special sauce and pickle. Once – and only once – I thought I found it. A local McDonalds that concocted the perfect drive-thru construct, a veritable clone of the freakish stunt-food they eat in the commercials. Perhaps it was only a dream.

While my devoteeism to the perils of fast food fodder may be no more than a hidden shame in my gustatory closet, there are those who boastfully snarf down the grease-laden vittles procured by our corporate masters. And thanks to their crafty spelunking of these establishments’ stock items, they have uncovered (and shared) some of the secret menu items we can all use to pretend we are connoisseurs of comestible compost.

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If you’ve already sampled KFC’s Double Down sandwich and didn’t find quite the surge of self-loathing you were looking for, why not sample a Big McChicken from McDonalds? Sure, you could wuss out and grab a McGangBang (some McEmployees will actually make it for you if you ask for it by name), but that’s just a McChicken crammed inside a McDouble burger. The Big McChicken requires you to order three McChickens, throw out everything but the breaded meat, then use those as a substitute for the buns on your Big Mac. I guess this is a viable choice if the only thing you’re looking to cut out is carbs. And common sense. Read more…

Day 904: Acquiring A Taste For Acquired Tastes

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Earlier today, someone suggested to me that I pen an article about surströmming, which is a northern Swedish delicacy. As with any food that is considered a delicacy of a very specific region, yet has not made the official menu of well-known cliché ethnic foods from its nation (in Sweden’s case that would be meatballs, lingonberry sauce and whatever that whacky Muppet is cooking up), I knew it would sound gross. And it does. Surströmming is a fermented Baltic sea herring whose odor is allegedly so horrendous it has been banned from two major airlines and the Stockholm airport.

It’s an “acquired taste”, I’ve been told. This is a puzzling psychological concept to me, and would make for a more interesting kilograph than some terrorist cousin of the anchovy family.* There are foods I have tried and loved from the first bite – Kobe steak tartar, key lime pie, crème brulé, among others. But it’s true that sometimes a particular gustatory journey requires baby steps before the palette can truly hit its stride. Why is that?

Even beer. When my beloved aunt and uncle gave me my first can of O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock (my father passed on this rite of traditional bonding; he was more a drinker of wine and A&W Cream Soda), I hated it. Maybe that was because it was crappy beer, but I really think my tongue just needed some training wheels before it could appreciate what hops and malt could become. It’s a curious thing.

* Actually, the airlines claim they feared the tins might explode, it had nothing to do with the smell. Right.

* Actually, the airlines claim they feared the tins might explode, it had nothing to do with the smell. Right.

Babies are born with a predilection for sweet foods and a natural disdain for bitter or sour stuff. We don’t generally lean toward salty eats until about four months, but once we leap off the boob into a heaping bowl of solid foods we become suddenly very adventurous. This might explain why those little two-nub pieces of Lego can so easily find their way into a toddler’s gullet (though I suspect Freud would say that has more to do with a penis obsession, the sick bastard). Not long afterward, neophobia sets in. Read more…

Day 822: Pitying The Fools

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My wife hates April Fools’ Day.

She has a legitimate reason, stemming from the scar-worthy childhood trauma of watching one of her friends get April-Fooled into a lengthy scavenger hunt for a brand new puppy by his parents, only to discover the final prize was nothing but a prank. Were she not the empathetic soul I know her to be, I might assume this to be an elaborate act of transference on her memory’s part, that this may have happened to her; thankfully my in-laws aren’t quite so cruel.

I have always maintained an appreciation for a meticulously blueprinted ruse, provided the only perpetrated harm is the gloppy egg of embarrassment upon the face of one’s target. Every few years some news outlet or public pulpit successfully melds a crafty sense of humor with their automatic public earpiece and delivers a delicious morsel of weirdness to justify April Fools’ Day’s presence on our calendars.

A quality media prank is a rickety bridge above the chasm of banality and/or outright stupidity. One needs to find the threshold of credulity and glide one’s words upon it without causing a rupture in believability. We see this every so often when an article from The Onion or The Daily Currant makes its way as gospel into people’s Facebook feeds. When executed poorly, it’s a bad joke. When done right, it’s art.

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That Swiss lady plucking fresh pasta from her spaghetti tree was the talk of the British water coolers on the morning of April 2, 1957, after the BBC had run a story about the popular agricultural phenomenon the night before. The show was Panorama, a current-affairs, 60 Minutes-style show that’s still on the air today, and the gag was delivered without punchline. The segment focussed on a family in Ticino, northern Switzerland, as they reaped the bounty of a hearty winter spaghetti harvest, having defeated the nasty spaghetti weevil. Read more…

Day 677: Pouring A Frothy Pint Of Culture

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As the cast of characters in my young adult life glide into the final act, preparing for their bow and subsequent re-emergence in the sequel (Middle-Age: The Saggening), I find myself reflecting on the various story arcs that brought me here. The salient plot point of alcohol has been a recurring motif, though its impact on the narrative has shuffled and shifted from scene to scene. I sincerely hope it continues to pop up in the script, right up until the point where my character is killed off, the actors take their final curtain and the credits roll.

(I know, there are no rolling credits in a theatrical performance, but I simply couldn’t beat a metaphor that far into the ground without clumsily tripping over it at the end.)

The first time I got drunk, my aim was to get drunk. I was curious. Then I drank alcohol to feel more grown up. In my later teens, I drank so I could get drunk. Since then it has been more about the taste, the negation of my concerns over my wretched dancing, and most recently it’s how I earn a paycheck. Lately it has also taken on a somewhat anthropological tint, as I find myself ever curious over the world’s drinking cultures.

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Canada, or at least the tiny crevice of Canada in which I’ve lived, is not big on custom or tradition. Maybe it’s because 125 years ago this city was nothing more than a trading post and snow depository, but we Edmontonians don’t tend to wrap ourselves up in habit and history. It’s good practice to offer an open bar at your wedding, but I’ve been to several where that doesn’t happen. Perhaps coincidentally, I didn’t even make it to the cake-cutting at those events. Read more…

Day 638: Break Out The Balloons (And Wash Your Hands) – It’s Almost October!

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By no means am I eager to scoot September out the door and usher in October, which is quite often the beginning of winter in this northern hellscape town I call home. But I’ve got a theme planned for next week’s articles, and I don’t want anyone to miss the wacky fun and wild party opportunities for October. This is a month full of festivities, so you’d best polish up your favorite drinking chalice and concoct at least two or three good excuses for missing work.

Sure, we have Thanksgiving to look forward to, or Columbus Day down south – everyone loves a day off. And yes, the little kids will be begging door-to-door for candy while their moms (and maybe dads!) try to rock the slutty nurse costume they bought at the closed-down Office Depot-turned-Halloween store. But those are too obvious.

Like any month, October is filled with important observances that too many of us let slip by without noticing, probably because the evil forces at the big calendar companies refuse to slap them between the moon phases on their precious annual offerings. Well we don’t subscribe to such biases here. Religious holidays? Entrenched secular celebrations? Forget that crap. Let’s talk about Global Handwashing Day.

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Don’t worry, you still have more than two weeks to buy your loved ones their Global Handwashing Day gifts. Back in 2008 at the annual World Water Week in Stockholm, the… well, the water-people, whoever would attend World Water Week (mermen perhaps) suggested a day of global handwashing awareness. The UN signed off and declared October 15 as the day everyone is supposed to pay attention to their bathroom habits and publicly shame those filthy souls who walk straight from the stall out the door. Read more…

Day 629: Curse You, USB Demon!!!

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I have always been an ardent embracer of technology. And technology, for the most part, has reciprocated the hug. I own a device the size of a cassette tape that not only stores thousands of songs, but also enables me to play games, tweet photos of Anthony Weiner’s genetalia to my friends, and receive hilarious texts from GrateJokez every day for the low, low price of only 99 cents per message (today’s entry: “What’s stucco? It’s what happens when you step in bubblegummo.”).

But this morning technology slipped a tiny little dagger of betrayal into my spinal juices. The magnificent article that was meant for today’s web-waves inexplicably disappeared from my USB flash drive, as did everything else on it. This is not the first time one of these storage sticks has executed the Make-Myself-Useless command, but it’s the first such incident to have cost me a well-crafted article.

So the fascinating subject of the Tanganyika laughter epidemic of 1962 will have to wait until I’m once again willing to do the extensive research and make a day-trip to Africa to interview the involved parties. Maybe later today when I’m prepping Day #630. But for now, I’m going to devise a few ways to torture the ever-loving fuck out of this USB stick.

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Keep in mind I just want to scare this little bastard. I’m going to get ahold of 16 ½ stories of fishing line and tie it around his pudgy little forgetful frame and toss him out my office window. Then, just a few feet from the pavement (and I’m hoping that there are no exceptionally tall pedestrians on the sidewalk below), he will be spared his grizzly demise.

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The chubby jerk is just a little too full-figured to squeeze between the bars on my high-powered fan. A few Jack Bauer-esque minutes with a file and I bet I can get him so close to those whirling blades it’ll make his memory return in a flash (pun regrettable, but intended). If that doesn’t work, I still have a number of evil machinations to machinate. Read more…

Day 610: Blasphemy ‘n Interrobangs… Arrrr!

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What greater gift can a month offer than the promise of a long weekend to kick it off? I’ve always been a fan of September, and not only because my birthday stands like a perpetual beacon near its end. This is the month of back to school, sure, but it’s also the month of football, of the new fall TV season, and when nature’s palette swoops manic strokes of brilliance throughout our parks and our river valley, before tossing down its brushes and allowing the cold splash of winter to wipe the canvas back to a drab white..

But what festivities should we toast this month? Well, as I said, my birthday (and the one-year pre-nniversary of this project’s conclusion) rings in on the 27th, right alongside World Tourism Day. This serves as a cruddy reminder that I have never spent a birthday as a tourist; I am 38 for 38 (soon 39 for 39) in this city. Not a statistic to bubble up my pride and September-self-worth.

And yes, Labor Day gets top billing because it brings with it a day off. But there is plenty to cheer for in the merry month of September. Fret not, poor teachers and students who must now slap their weary butts back in those uncomfortable wooden seats – you can still party.

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Perhaps the most famous of non-calendar September celebrations – at least in the weirder, more fun corners of the internet – is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Instigated when two guys named John Baur and Mark Summers of Albany, Oregon were playing racquetball (one of them let loose an accidental “Arrr!” when he hurt themself), this holiday was popularized when nationally syndicated columnist and renowned rock “musician” Dave Barry unleashed it upon his audience in 2002. Read more…

Day 606: Dining Up North

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Despite my locale in the dark frozen tundra of Canada (whose climate has actually been tolerably pleasant throughout August), the majority of my readership is located south of the border. That’s okay, I’m descended from hearty American stock – my grandfather actually played stickball in the streets of Brooklyn during the Great Depression, so I’m descended from hearty American cliché as well – and I have always cherished the glorious U.S. of A. as my second home.

Canadian culture is, to a large extent, the overflow reservoir for American culture. Our most popular movies and TV, most of our store chains, our meth-like dependence on Starbucks in the morning, and indeed our varied selection of westernized food styles are all derived from American sources. Sure, we’ll scoff at your Dunkin’ Donuts and revere Tim Hortons as the superlative choice, but come on – we’re all still eating donuts and drinking coffee.

But beyond back bacon, maple syrup and poutine, what do our southern (or northern if we are talking Alaska) neighbors know about true Canadian cuisine? I’m curious to see just how hungry you’ll be after you read this.

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The Turkish version of the Greek gyro – a frighteningly large slab of meat, skewered, cooked, then sliced into a fattening pita wrap – is known as a döner kebab. In these parts we call either variation a donair, and while it’s greasy, calorie-heavy and occasionally a trigger of regret and self-loathing, there are a few subtle differences that make the Canadian donair truly unique. Read more…