Barefoot Zen?

Barefoot Zen?
Namaste, Y'all...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

This Is Why You're Fat

Here's the story referenced in my post below. You gotta see it to believe it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Food Flight!

I'm not one of those people who abhors flying. Sure, it's a hassle, but a 4 1/2 hour flight to Las Vegas beats a three day drive...unless you're traveling with a certain gonzo journalist of ill repute.

This flight, however, was not one of the more comfortable journeys I've had. Turns out the gentleman next to me - and he did seem to be a very nice guy, so I mean him no ill will here - was a man on the verge of requiring two seats. He'd have been more comfortable with the extra room, and I would've as well.

In an effort to compensate for his girth, I angled myself away from him, putting my shoulder slightly in the aisle, where I was body-checked a good twenty times during the flight, often by people who were having a hard time squeezing through the aisle as it was.

Now, before I go off on a tangent here, let me say that, in preparation for my trip out here, I bought two new pairs of khakis. Both were 34 inch waists, and both fit...but oh-so barely. In fact, it was a tight enough squeeze that I swapped them for 36's because I knew I was setting myself up for days of discomfort. Winter is rarely my friend, in terms of nutrition or exercise, and I've got some work to do when I get home. More Yoga and running, less Wisconsin sharp cheddar and M&M's. I won't be a hypocrite and say I'm not out of shape. I am. I am admittingly in need of a reclamation of the standards that took me from size 40 to size 34 in the first place over the years. If we are to treat our bodies like a temple, then I've missed the boat these past few months. I've treated mine more like a rundown Presbyterian Youth Center. So, yes, as I point my finger, three point back at me.

That said, this flight was a sad reminder of how we Americans live. It's a uniquely American issue, and the South seems to be the true breeding ground for obesity. In 2008, nine of the top ten fattest states in the US were in the South. Be proud, Georgia, we were #12!

I continue to wonder where the fault lies with this epidemic. Is it that people aren't taught properly from the get-go? Is it a lack of control? Is it genetic? This question has always intrigued me.

Case in point: During a four hour flight, the man next to me produced the following snacks from his carry-on bag: an economy sized bag of Twizzlers (at least 50 in the bag, the kind you find at Costco), a bag of Everlasting Gobstoppers (no joke, they make 'em), candied nuts, Skittles, and a can of Pringles. He ordered two Cokes.

What struck me was not how outrageous this morning (yes, morning) of gluttony was, but how it didn't seem to phase him. This wasn't 'special snacks for a special trip'. This was 'Friday'.

Add to that the number of people who body-checked me in the aisle who were on a similar obesity path, and I left the flight feeling more resolute about my own goals, and more disturbed by the prospect of our jet slowly sinking into the Colorado River.

Last night, I saw a news story about a website called I encourage you to go check it out if you can stomach it. It shows you the extremes of American overkill when it comes to junk-food combining and our 'more is better' mentality.

You'll see:

*a hard boiled egg on-a-stick wrapped in sausage, rolled in breadcrumbs, and then deep fried

*a Bacon Chili-Topped Cheeseburger (not just topped, but smothered)

*the "Porkgasm", featuring bacon strips, bacon sausage, ham sausage, ham slices, smoked pork sausage and roasted pork belly surrounded by ground sausage shaped into a pig, wrapped in bacon and roasted. Garnished with chili ears and tail.

Hey, I understand gluttony. When I was in high school, one of my favorite things was to go to The Varsity Jr. with my dad, where I would order four - count 'em, four - chili dogs and two orders of onion rings. I'd eat 'em, then lay on the couch and groan my way through a Braves game. Add that to an unwillingness to exercise and you get a guy who doesn't date much in high school or college.

I realize this post contains a lot of navel-gazing (albeit into the navels of some really big tummies). Forgive me, but this kind of thing is therapeutic now and then. I have to remind myself of the extremes so I can get back on the middle path - the one that says 'no' to breakfasts meats (as yummy as they may smell), but doesn't feel that I have to go totally raw foodist to achieve my goals.

I'm off to try to make the best choices I can for breakfast in a Vegas restaurant. I wonder if my seat partner has made it through the Twizzlers yet...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Those Who Can't Do, Critique...

"He flunked junior high band he couldn't march in time.
He tried to write a song once, he couldn't make it rhyme.
He went two or three chords on a pawn shop guitar,
He just never quite had what it took to be a star, so he's a critic."
- The Critic, Toby Keith

I was in the doctor's office the other day, getting new glasses, and picked up the latest edition of Time. Then I knew I needed to get my eyes checked again, because the music critic for the magazine had penned a devastating review of the new U2 CD - a CD that I had already managed to fall in love with.

The band was confused and lost, he said, "Stuck in a moment they couldn't get out of" to borrow a phrase from one of their recent hits. And, most melodramatically, he declared that their new CD (titled "No Line on the Horizon") might mark the moment where U2 sees the sun setting on their own horizon, their inevitable descent after a decade long zenith, and an almost 30 year history of majestic music.

As I read on, I found much to ponder in this critic's writing. Some of his points were so obtuse, I wondered if we were listening to the same CD; and while Rolling Stone gave the CD five stars, and Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-, I still felt a slight sting when I finished reading this two page bitch-slap from Time.

I doubt Bono's losing sleep, so why should I? I saw the same thing a few weeks before with my other larger-than-life musical hero. Bruce Springsteen's new CD, a pop opus that embraces the joy of lofty melodies and soaring arrangements over his recent spate of political and spiritual musings, was criticized by some for not being a retread of "Born to Run", as if a 59 year old artist has the same concerns as the 25 year old who wrote "Thunder Road".

I've always thought that artists that aren't moving forward with their work, who aren't restlessly experimenting with their palette, music, camera, or pen were playing it safe. It's why I haven't bought a new Elton John CD in 15 years. It's why, if you have one Norman Rockwell reprint, you're pretty much covered his oeuvre. There's nothing wrong with predictability, if that gives you comfort. But, if your spirit is restless, you likely want your favorite artists to be on a similar quest.

Some people want art to fit in a portable box, others want it to be as elusive as a shooting star. I guess I fall into the latter category, and that comes with some risks. It means believing Robert Plant and Allison Krauss when they say they were meant to sing together, or Johnny Cash when he covers a Nine Inch Nails song; it means trusting the Coen Brothers when they take a pendulum swing from a broad comedy to a bleak Cormac McCarthy masterpiece. It means going along for the ride when Sonny Rollins says he can perform an entire jazz concert alone: just himself and his saxophone.

The risk is high, and when it is, the rewards can be glorious. The fall, also, can be brutal. Think of the worst 'concept' album you ever listened to. Remember that three-hour indulgent experimental play you sat through with the acting troupe in black spandex and bare feet. Consider that Styx thought "Mr. Roboto" was an important piece of musical theater.

Heck, what do you make of this factoid: There is a huge audience out there who just howls at the sight of Tyler Perry in a dress. I don't get it. But someone does. And good for them. There's room on the planet for the Three Stooges and the Three Tenors, for Lewis Grizzard and Lewis Carroll. For you...and U2.

But, for the critic, there's only room on the sidelines.