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Man Skills: Start a Fire with Your Car Battery

24 Feb

The latest issue of Men’s Journal Magazine (the one with a sick green Triumph Scrambler motorcycle on the cover) has a segment called “Survival Skills with Bear Grylls” in which they ask him a series of questions about adventuring, survival, manliness and his active life.  One of the questions they asked?  What is one skill that every man should have? Bear’s answer?  The ability to start a fire with your car battery. “I’ve had to do this a lot while camping with my family when I didn’t have matches or a lighter.”


Step 1: run your fingers through the grass.  The dead stuff will come off in your hands.

Step 2: Create a little bird’s nest with this dry grass.  Then run your jumper cables to it and ignite it.

Step 3: Add the ignited grass to a big pile of kindling, and you’ll have your fire.


Near-Death At The Movies

11 Nov

This article, from the November 2010 issue of Men’s Journal Magazine, was inspired by the release of James Franco’s new film 27 Hours.  In the film Franco gets trapped and has to figure out how to survive, escape or get help (extreme abridged version).  That led the writers of the magazine to brainstorm a list of other near-death experiences in movies.  The mag calls the folliwing movies “Nerve-racking survival films that are a must-add to your queue.” They are the following:

Touching the Void (2003)

Life, pain, suffering, death, and the hard moral calculus of extreme adventuring intersect in this riveting documentary about two accomplished climbers on a disastrous descent in the Peruvian Andes.

Cast Away (2000)

Tom Hanks lost nearly 50 pounds to play a marooned survivor of a plane crash with the smarts and determination to overcome loneliness and privation. That said, its his close friendship with a volleyball that stuck with us the most.

The Edge (1997)

This overlooked action thriller set in the wilds of Alaska features a brilliant script by David Mamet, a pair of cagey but knockout performances by Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin, and one very hungry grizzly bear.

Open Water (2003)

True story of a couple scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef who are forced to spend a long night in shark-infested waters when their charter boat leaves without them.  Simple premise, inspired execution.

Perfect Weekend: Scuba Diving Middle America

26 May

Having recently completed a scuba diving class only to take on a completely underwhelming dive on my honeymoon, I completely understand wanting to take more exciting and breathtaking dives.  Believe me.  This is why I am thankful for Men’s Journal.  In the June/July 2010 issue (Lance Armstrong’s 8th cover appearance), they highlight the perfect weekend: scuba diving middle america in an abandoned mine which has turned into an underwater ghost town.

Six hundred miles from the nearest ocean, eastern Missouri isn’t an obvious choice for scuba diving.  But the rural hamlet of Bonne Terre offers world-class diving just the same – in a former lead mine 60 miles due south of St. Louis.  From the 1860’s until 1961, the Bonne Terre Mine became the largest lead mine in the world, yielding millions of tons of lead ore.  After it shuttered, a billion gallons of groundwater flooded the 80-square-mile labyrinth, creating the world’s largest man-made underground lake and turning the former mine into the ultimate underwater playground – a cross between cavern and wreck diving, with eerie tunnels crusty with antiquated equipment hidden in the shadows.

More than 50 chartered trails are in the mine, threading narrow tunnels littered with old magazines, rock drills, and half-filled ore carts that still sit where miners dropped them 50 years ago, like the last vestiges of a working man’s Atlantis.  The most popular paths are overhung with stadium lighting, which illuminates the water’s 150 feet of visibility.  Wetsuits are highly recommended – the water stays a brisk 60 degrees year-round.  To avoid getting lost in the industrial-sized ant farm, certified divers must go in the water with guides from the on-site dive center, which is open on weekends and provides gear and scuba classes, as well as accommodations in a historic railroad depot restored as a bed-and-breakfast (packages from $210;

Record Book: Battle for the World’s Strongest Brew

10 Feb

One of the first recurring segments in Men’s Journal – after all of the contents pages, editors notes and first of 100 pages of advertisements – is a section called “Record Book.”  In the March 2010 issue of Men’s Journal magazine (the one with an aged Bruce Willis on the cover), there is a record on the world’s strongest beer:

Scottish alemaker BrewDog was sure it had a record with Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a 32 percent ABV imperial stout, in November.  But Bavarian brewer Georg Tscheusner was just biding his time.  In December, his Schorschbrau brewery unveiled a 40 percent ABV edition of its Schorsch Bock, a caramel-y ice beer that, for now, claims the ABV crown.  Is Tscheuschner anticipating retaliation?  “I hope so,” he says. “Let’s start the battle!  I’m looking for new limits.”  Speaking of limits, the 11-ounce bottle has a stopper for a reason.  One 11-oz bottle is equal to 11 Heineken Lights or 7 Grey Goose vodka shots. ($145 per bottle;

Joel Robuchon’s Cassoulet: Heaven In a Clay Pot

16 Jan

The latest Men’s Journal, on which Mel Gibson’s crazy face stares at you with an ace of spades, includes a recipe for Joel Robuchon’s delicious Cassoulet.  When you have reached your winter limit for comfort foods such as meat loaf and shepherd’s pie, turn to cassoulet, the classic french stew.

Like any man, tackling a great carnivorous tradition – think of the feuding between Texas and Carolina barbeque devotees – the would-be cassoulet maker has to first pick sides in an ancient regional argument.

There’s no disputing that a cassoulet is cooked in a traditional cooking vessel, a cassole, or that beans, meat, and vegetables are its base.  The controversy centers around which meats should join the beans and the vegetables.

Three French cities each claim to make the only authentic cassoulet, and according to the great french chef Prosper Montagne, the three styles are th holy trinity of southwestern french cuisine: Castelnaudary’s ham, loin, sausage, fresh bacon, and goose confit is the Father; the Son is Carcassonne’s mutton and partridge version; and the Holy Ghost is the mutton, bacon and pork belly cassoulet that hails from Toulouse.  While this is all very nice, you want to master one the right way – not one of the three right ways.  So you will be relieved to know that there is a fourth and superior front in the cassoulet battle.

In his indispensable new tome The Complete Robuchon, chef Joel Robuchon throws his weight behind a best-of-all-worlds cassoulet, blending lamb shoulder, lamb neck, pork sausage, pork belly, and duck confit.  Because of all these can be found in good gourmet shops, you’ve done half the work by the time you finish shopping.  After that just follow the straightforward recipe (below) and prepare for the ensuing gastronomic coma.

The Celestial Vessel

Deep and thick enough to distribute heat evenly, an authentic French cassole is a conical ceramic pot glazed inside, similar to this one from Emile Henry ($115;


  • 2 lbs dry white beans, tarbals or lingot
  • 1 carrot
  • 4 onions (2 stuck with 1 clove each, 2 sliced into 1/8 inch rounds)
  • 10 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 lb pork rind
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 1/2 lb garlic sausage
  • 3/4 lb saucisses de toulouse
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 lb lean pork belly
  • 1.5 lb duck confit, with fat
  • 1.5 lb boneless lamb shoulder, chopped into 2 inch chunks
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1.25 cups of dry bread crumbs
  • 1 bunch parsley leaves, minced

The Procedure

  1. Put the beans in a large pot with carrot, 2 onions stuck with cloves, 6 garlic cloves, pork rind, and bouquet garni.  Cover with cold water and turn heat on high, lowering before water bubbles.  Simmer for one hour.  Add garlic sausage and saucisses; simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Put pork belly in a large pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove pork to a colander, rinse with cold water, drain.
  3. In another pot, melt 4 tbsp fat from confit.  When hot, brown lamb chunks over high heat.  Remove to plate.  Cook sliced onions in same pot for 3 minutes over low heat; stir.  Add tomatoes, 4 garlic cloves, and 10 tbsp bean cooking liquid.  Let bubble for 10 minutes.
  4. Fish bouquet garni, onions, pork rind, and sausages from the bean-cooking pot.  Discard the garni and leave the rest on a plate.  Drain the beans, saving liquid, then add the beans to the pot with the tomatoes and onions.
  5. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Slice sausage and saucisses into 1/2 inch rounds.  Line a large terrine with the pork rind and fill with alternating layers of meat, saucisses, garlic, sausage, and bean-onion-tomato mix.  Finish with a layer of beans, top with 2 tbsp of confit fat (spread evenly over the surface). The liquid in the terrine should barely cover the top layer; if it doesn’t, add cooking liquid.  Bake for 3 hours.
  6. Mix bread crumbs with parsley.  When cassoulet has baked for 3 hours, sprinkle with parsleyed crumbs and put back in the oven for an hour to brown.  Serves 10.

Buy This Car, Break a Land-Speed Record

14 Dec

Guys like things that are fast.  Cars not only fit into this mold, but they define it.  In the December 2009-January 2010 issue of Men’s Journal Magazine, the one with Alec Baldwin on the cover, there is an article about the fastest car money can buy.  “When Steve Fosset disappeared in 2007, he had more than 100 land, air, and water records to his name.  But he left a big project unfinished: a jet-car just weeks away from testing.  Its driver deceased, the project was mothballed – a potential speed record sealed in time.  Now it’s up for sale.”

“Granted, the car has been around the block.  In 1996 it ran 675 mph under the stewardship of Craig Breedlove but went up on two wheels and veered off course.  In 1997 its engine ingested a rock just before Richard Noble’s team leaped ahead of the sound barrier.  But the car is no lemon.  Fosset and chief engineer Eric Ahlstrom spent a year rebuilding it from the ground up.  With a GE J-79 turbojet engine and a thrust to weight ratio of 2:1, the car may be capable of reaching speeds of 800, 900, or even 1,000 mph (asking price is about $4 million;”

Damn Cool Guy Furniture – The Sequel

26 Nov

Coincidentally, after I took the time to write the “Modern Furniture with Storage To Boot” article that came from the November 2009 issue of DETAILS magazine, I stumble across another gem that fits right into the category.  It was in a “Wish List” section in the November 2009 issue of Men’s Journal – the one with far too big of a close-up of Tim McGraw on the cover.  Now as many of you know, Restoration Hardware is awesome.  It is a Pottery Barn-like aesthetic that leans on the masculine side that you could go to without your wife/girlfriend and not feel awkward.  One of the featured pieces in this “Wish List was  the Mayfair Steamer Secretary Trunk, pictured below.  “The [trunk] makes every day at the home office feel like a vacation.  [$2,995;]