Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Rich are Different Than the Rest of Us

New research shows that rich people cannot feel pain, don't care if they're liked.

What!?!  Before we go into this lets get some literary and historical context.

The famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald coined an enduring statement about the rich in his classic book, “The Rich Boy”.  “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

Some people disagreed with Fitzgerald including most famously, Earnest Hemmingway who said “Yes the rich are different. They have more money”. 

But now there is research that shows that Fitzgerald was right in some surprising ways.

Being rich makes people somewhat invulnerable to pain and steels them against rejection by other people, according to researchers in China and America.  In several different tests involving actually pain and rejection technics rich people were consistently more resistant to pain and were seemingly unfazed by rejection, insults or other indignations that would make the rest of us cry and beg for anti-depressants.

Jeez, some other research shows that rich people even live longer, up to a decade more than the rest of us.  No wonder ancient guys like Rupert Murdoch are still reeking havoc on society years after everyone else is retired or dead.  This means Bill Gates could still be doing Windows fifty years from now.  Yipes!  Obviously the reason for this is they can afford the best health care in the world.  How else did Steve Jobs get to go to the head of the liver line in Memphis? 

And you know how they say the rich just get richer?  They’ve proven that now as well.  The explanation for this is a little easier.  They are much smarter with money because they are better advised and they get greater access to money-making opportunities. Duh.

There is another key difference between us and the rich. Their yachts do it. Their limousines do it. Their jets do it. Even their air-conditioned mansions by the sea do it. The trappings of wealth tend to emit lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide. This is why in some parts of the world strategists suggest setting an international individual cap on the emissions that spur global warming.  (Al Gore, are you listening?  Oh yeah, you are just rich...not super rich)  Makes you a little queazy if you are scraping to afford a hybrid Prius or a solar panel to cut your carbon footprint.  

I think all of us have fantasized at least once about being really rich. Think the fancy cars, the big houses, the jets and boats.  Now you can add resistance to pain and emotional stress and a longer than normal life to the fantasy.  

So what is the downside of being rich?  I have a really rich friend who tells me that the downside to being rich is that you become more of a target to others who want to take away what you have. He says he has to spend time and money on security, and you have to be a bit cautious about new acquaintances. He always wonders if people want something from him or do they really like him? He says he is “on guard” a lot of the time.

At the end of the day...he seems to have a really good time.  I even saw him bleed...but I’ve never seen him cry.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Aleve Generation

My body hurts...or at least used to before I started taking Aleve (Naproxin) twice a day at the suggestion of an orthopedic surgeon. Reason: I played football in high school, then switched to ski racing in college, and continued racing until I was 25, when I broke my back.  (And as they say in ski racing, “no one is ever fast again after a major injury...and its more psychological than physical”.) 

Leading up to my career ending back snap, I had an assortment of other injuries that included a broken thumb, pelvis, collarbone and shoulder, torn cartilage in knee and shoulder, major contusions all over and a couple of concussions. (which my wife says explains everything). While this may sound like a macho extreme, its pretty much the norm for these two sports and if you have a passion for a sport, you sort of deal with it....until you can’t.

By the time I was 30, my back, knee and shoulders hurt so much all the time I was just in a depressing perpetual state of misery...albeit one that I sort of got used to.  To get better,  I did the whole chiropractor thing, took Yoga, and tried all kinds of contraptions (including one where I hung upside down like a bat twice a day) all to no avail.  Then one day someone turned me on to Ibuprofen, and then Aleve and miracle upon miracle, I was (mostly) pain free.  Even better, these NSAIDs are non-narcotic (no buzz, no fuzz) and they really, really work. But wait!  There’s more!

Now we have a literal “Aleve Generation” comprised of creaky older folks pretending through the miracle of modern medicine that they are 20 years younger, and doing so without the use of narcotics.  I can’t imagine doing half the things for recreation that I do now without my beloved little blue pill. (Aleve’s MO)  An neither can the rest of the Aleve Gen.  In fact many young athletes use the drug as a pain “prophylactic” that supposedly increases their performance by masking the natural occurring discomfort associated with too much of anything.  Well, recent research says this is the WRONG thing to do.

Researchers have found that, in laboratory experiments on animal tissues, NSAIDs actually slowed the healing of injured muscles, tendons, ligament, and bones. According to the research “NSAIDs work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins,”substances that are involved in pain and also in the creation of collagen.. Collagen is the building block of most tissues. So fewer prostaglandins mean less collagen, “which inhibits the healing of tissue and bone injuries including the micro-tears and other trauma to muscles and tissues that can occur after any strenuous workout or race”

The painkillers also blunt the body’s response to exercise at a deeper level. Normally, the stresses of exercise activate a particular molecular pathway that increases collagen, and leads, eventually, to creating denser bones and stronger tissues, so if you’re taking ibuprofen before every workout, you lessen this training response,.  Your bones don’t thicken and your tissues don’t strengthen as they should. They may be less able to withstand the next workout. In essence, the pills athletes take to reduce the chances that they’ll feel sore may increase the odds that they’ll wind up injured — and sore.

In short there is no indication or rationale for the current prophylactic use of NSAIDs by athletes, and such ritual use represents misuse.” what is a decrepit 50 year adrenaline junky to do?  I have always felt like there will be hell to pay for all these pharmaceuticals we take these a way the question is whether you enjoy your life more today and maybe die a few years younger, or endure daily pain during a very long life.  

Not sure where I stand on that but Aleve and I are going surfing together this weekend to think about it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

13 Signs a Women is a Loser

The term “loser” is usually applied in regards to men, since they are so easy to spot. They are portrayed in the media as nerds, bums, lazy, slovenly and oafish. In most cases (but not all) the male “loser” doesn’t make much money, or love.

It’s somewhat harder to identify a female loser. A women’s sense of style (which can provide camouflage) and sort of a lack of societal expectations when it comes to women making money can create the conditions such that a man, loser or not loser, can inadvertently find themselves in the company of female loser. This proximity to a loser chick can create the risk that she might bind on to the unsuspecting guy (marriage) such that his life is essentially shot.

So if a girl looks good, smells good and seems to be fun loving, how can a man tell that she is really a loser in disguise? I found this handy list on the internet, and based on my own experiences, it seems both credible and useful as sort of a field guide to these terrifying creatures. These are the 13 signs to look for:

1. Dirty-flirty double standard: She flirts with dudes in front of you, shamelessly. Then, she gets super mad and makes a scene if you so much as give a cute waitress your order. This one is bad because it makes it almost impossible to enjoy yourself in public with her.

2. She needs to do everything with you: It's one thing to share experiences, but it's another thing to need someone to hold your hand all the time. When it goes beyond wanting to spending time together to demanding it constantly, you have to wonder, what's her problem? “Jeez honey, your hand is really getting sweaty...can I have mine back?”

3. Party pooper: She's mopey when you're not giving her 100 percent of your attention. When you start having fun, she wants to leave. “So what do you have against me having fun?”

4. Sex as a weapon: Putting out is the bartering chip she's been using since her school days, but it's a cheap ploy. A clever woman who respects herself doesn't have to abuse her sexual power. Most men are willing to play this game, at least for a while, but always comes back to haunt.

5. Baby, I'm yours: She wants to have kids so she can stop working and mooch off you. Now who's the child? This usually has a permanent weight gain as part of the deal as well.

6. High-maintenance mama: She's constantly complaining and barking orders. Everyone around her rolls their eyes at her demands. Why doesn't she get off her duff and do it herself? Divas are born...not made.

7. Friend indeed: She forces you to show off to her lady friends with grand displays of obedience, love, and virility. But she never wants to hang out with you and your best bros. Why is it she expects people to think she's impressive when she never does anything to impress them? Well, she’s bossing you around isn’t she?

8. Parent trap: She blames her life's problems on her parents, yet she depends on them, a lot. “Diddy is so mean to me sometimes....I wanted a white BMW and got me this crappy Volvo.”

9. Social climber: She's always looking for someone richer to kiss up to. When it comes to making new friends, she's a total snob. This is the Darwinian component of loser chicks.

10. Beauty is only skin deep: She thinks she should be famous, but she hasn't done anything to warrant admiration besides look pretty. In my opinion, the most dangerous loser chick trait to the average dude. Let’s face it guys, we are a sucker for a pretty face and/or a hot body but one must look beyond such shallow things. (At least try...)

11. Eau de desperation: She reeks of needing a man, and she will stop at nothing to bag one. When she's single, her female friends even feel like they have to hide their boyfriends for fear she will try to pounce.

12. One-way street: You're constantly doing things for her, but, as Janet Jackson would put it, "What have you done for me lately?" If she's going to act like a princess, why doesn't she treat you like the prince of a gentleman you are?

13. Go fish: She's always looking for compliments. You have to constantly reassure her that she's amazing, but her response always seems to say: "I know." I had a girl friend once that literally wanted fresh flowers every day and that was just the beginning of her daily need for reinforcement. There are only so many types of flowers at the Harris Teeter, and there are only so many credible compliments that be created, such that these girls eventually go looking for a new man with a different source of flowers and fresh compliments.

I hope that none of you reading this have discovered you are either with a loser or are one. If so, perhaps things can change. HA!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Do Smart Chicks Drink More?

A new study has found that a link between IQ and drinking that was "markedly stronger among women than among men". The study, which included 3,895 men and 4,148 women, assessed the associations between IQ scores obtained when the participants were 10 years old and their alcohol intake when they were about 30 years old. They found that for every 15-point increase in childhood IQ score, the likelihood of drinking problems increased 1.38 times for women, and 1.17 times for men.

So smart chicks drink more....but why? I sprung this question on Kitty during her show. She is a very smart women who enjoys a cocktail or two (but never to excess ;-) ). Who better to come up with some possible answers?

Sometimes people drink more because they are stressed. So are smarter girls more stressed out? Kitty says that she and other women “think about too many things at once.” They have “more brain activity” is her exact phrase than men. This theory would work if alcohol tended to shut down some of that activity, which I guess happens when excessive alcohol is ingested.

In my experience, however, having been fortunate enough to have attended several mostly all girl or “hen parties”, the alcohol tends to make the girls talk even more, and even louder. I think it follows logically then, that all that “brain activity” going on inside a women’s head would also get louder, and there would be even more of it under the influence, such that UNLESS a really loud “hen party” going on inside her head makes a girl relax, this theory doesn’t hold up.

Are women more susceptible to liquor and beer advertising? There is a lot of really sexy alcohol advertising in Vogue, In-Style, and other women’s magazines showing beautiful girls with perfect bodies, drink in hand, surrounded by hunky men. However, a look at men’s magazines and TV shows much more alcohol advertising aimed at them, with no shortage of busty babes literally draped all over their bodies. This is especially true on sports shows (which is all that men REALLY watch). So this theory doesn’t hold up either.

Are smart chicks more likely to get free cocktails at the bar? Smart women, it could be argued, might be better conversationists, which would possibly lead men to buy them a cocktail more often, which in turn would make them even more interesting. However, it could be argued that most men do not buy women a cocktail for their conversational ability, but instead for their looks. For this theory to work, a women’s brain power and her looks would have to be in sync, and we know that this is not always the case (witness the large number of blonde jokes). Another theory shot to hell.

Do smart chicks have more money to spend on drinking? This is very possible. Research has shown that smarter women do end up with better jobs. In fact, more women are graduating from college these days than men, and rightly so, women’s incomes are starting to approach men’s. With these higher paying jobs comes more stress and the need to alleviate said stress. Sometimes a few drinks can help there and cocktails, especially in bars, are very expensive these days.

All things considered this is a tough one to answer, and even the scientists who uncovered this drinking anomaly cannot explain it. I think the only way to figure it out is to design a study where these hard drinking smart chicks are monitored daily, such that lifestyle and behavioral patterns can be correlated with their drinking habits. I am sure that there are many men, scientists and laymen alike, who would volunteer to take part in such an interesting study....especially if the women would buy the drinks.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Dude Colony

There are a whole lot of ants on the planet, forming 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass. (this is more biomass than all of the BBQ eaters in the American South). The colonies are sometimes described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.

Now, scientists have discovered a single mega-colony of ants that has colonized much of the world. These “argentine” ants are living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan and belong to the same colony...and contrary to the image of ant colonies waging war with each other, the members of this global ant race refuse to fight each other.

Welcome to the real “creeping socialism”.

One Big Ant Family

Researchers actually mixed different members of the colonies together in several experiments. These ants rubbed antennae with one another and never became aggressive or tried to avoid one another. In short, they acted as if they all belonged to the same colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans. It would be like an American arriving in Japan, and already knowing everyone and the language.

According to the scientists, “The most plausible explanation is that ants from these super-colonies are indeed family, and are all genetically related. When they come into contact, they recognize each other by the chemical composition of their cuticles. Its kind of like they all like the same perfume.

In fact, ants communicate with each other using pheromones or smells. These chemical signals are very developed in ants, and they use the smells to transmit all sorts of messages. They mark trails, they send alarms, they even have “propaganda pheromones” to confuse enemy ants and make them fight among themselves. Something can disturb the ants on one side of the colony and the other side, miles away can get the message almost instantaneously.

This combination of propaganda and speed easily outdoes Fox News or CNN on any day.

In Europe, one vast colony of ants is thought to stretch for 3,700 miles along the Mediterranean coast, (“The Garlic Colony”) while another in the US, known as the “The Dude Colony” extends over 560 miles along the coast of California. A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan, “The Sushi Colony” and even in the US South, the now famous “Bubba Mound” is dominate. My favorite is the huge “Eurotrash” colony that stretches from Spain to Siberia.*

What’s so wonderful about these ants is that in contrast to the people from those regions who could not be more different, can barely understand each other’s language, and like to wage World Wars against each other, these ants when mixed together act like old friends.

All of these ants get along by acting collectively en masse, for the good of the whole. Many scientists believe these behaviors will enable ants to survive long after humans are gone. Many believe that ant behavior is analogous to “collectivist” societies like China that have colonized all of the WalMarts.

Most American’s, however have an aversion to this type of societal organization, preferring the rugged individualism taught by Ann Rand, pure market driven economies as explained by Adam Smith and the deification of wealth as demonstrated by Donald Trump.

Perhaps the best way for societies to survive is for individuals to behave somehow halfway between collectivism of “The Dude Colony” and the comb-overed extravagance of “The Apprentice”. BTW...I stayed at a Trump Casino one time and the service was great...the hired help swarmed all over the place like ants on candy...the candy of course being the rugged individualists hammering scotch and dropping coins into one arm bandits.

*Please note that I renamed these colonies such that the geographical significance of their location would be enhanced for the benefit of my readers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The New Snake Oil Salesmen

Remember the snake oil salesmen from the old Western movies? They were sort of traveling "doctors" with dubious credentials, selling some elixir (such as snake oil) with ridiculous marketing claims often supported by pseudo scientific evidence which was typically bogus. To enhance sales, an accomplice in the crowd (a "shill") would often "attest" the value of the product in an effort to provoke buying enthusiasm. The "doctor" would typically leave town just before his customers realized that they had been cheated.

Well, as they say, a sucker is born every minute, and the new snake oil salesmen are taking advantage of this unfortunate fact of life by hawking acai berry based products to the unsuspecting hoards.

Claiming everything from weight loss, the smoothing of facial lines, increased energy, curing cancer and reversing baldness, to name a few, acai berry, according to these scammers, is the miracle substance of the 21st Century. According to one acai snake oil company, “it will help you live a longer, healthier and happier life”. (I think the makers of Valium make a similar claim).

They even claim to have Oprah and Dr. Oz as their supporters (these would be their high powered shills), but both of these celebrities have gone out of their way to disassociate themselves from any products containing acai berry, and their lawyers are in active pursuit of these companies.

First some basic science regarding the acai berry. Virtually every berry -- blueberry, strawberry, goji, acai -- are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. (This is good). This particular one is exotic. It's found in Brazil. However, Acai is a very sensitive fruit that cannot be just shipped up from the Amazon without losing about 95% of its effective nutritional properties. And most drying/freezing methods also render the anti-oxidant value to well below other more commonly available fruits. You can buy acai products all over the United States, but almost none of them have the actual benefits of fresh, whole acai.

Even worse, many of the products claiming acai’s benefits are so called energy drinks that are pumped full of caffeine and sugar. One such product sold via a pyramid scheme has 15 grams of sugar (for rotting your teeth) and other man made vitamins that have not been proven to be fact recent studies show they could be harmful. A great deal for 4 bucks a can....

Imagine a network marketing operation powered by tens of thousands of highly caffeinated, sugar buzzed acai zealots occupying “virtually”, via Facebook, every street corner in America. Yee Haw! There’s gold in them there social networks!

If you really want powerful antioxidants and energy, why not a strong cup of coffee or a glass of tea, two totally natural and inexpensive drinks that are gaining a well researched reputation for healthfulness. The latest news on coffee is that regular use could reverse the impacts of Alzheimer's disease. The great news about tea is that it is actually healthier than water, and protects against heart disease and some cancers. And all this research is conducted by real professionals working for real universities in approved research environments.

Ironically, our susceptibility to snake oil salesmen and other marketers of sugary elixirs are helping fuel a rise in obesity and diabetes while denying people the benefits of more proven healthful drinks, which is the exact opposite of what they are promoting.

People are drinking less tea and coffee than before, and drinking more vile man made elixirs than ever. WTF!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Digital Narcissism: The New Reality

On Kitty's radio show this week, we talked about and made light of a societal trend that is getting a lot of attention called Digital Narcissism. This refers to a changing set of human behaviors where people are more concerned about their digital personalities...sometimes to the detriment of their actual personalities and social lives.
Social scientists say that the increased use of social networks and virtual environments are physically changing peoples brains, and the changes could be permanent. Even though I am a Facebook user, as are many middle-aged people, the primary impacts of this fundamental transformation of human behavior are on the younger generation, 13-25 who have put these technologies in the center of their lives.
Instead of me ranting on about this, I am featuring the work of a blogger who is 19 years old and a philosophy major at UNCW. He has written on this phenomenon from the point of view of a member of the generation that is most immersed in not only social media, but the virtual worlds provided by gaming, the constant contact of texting, and user created video and music.
Since the guest blogger is my son and I pay all his bills, I have not asked his permission to use his stuff. I simply stole the piece from his blog.
I must say that is feels good to lift other people's content without fear of recrimination or lawsuit. Anyway, I hope you enjoy his essay.

The Reality DilemmaBy: Brooks Venters

We are all becoming virtual. Our bodies aren’t metamorphosing into hordes of 1’s and 0’s or anything, but our perceptual existence is being sucked out of our terrestrial bodies into the infinite escape of the virtual world. Our existence as perceived by most people in our general network of friends, family and acquaintances (aside from the lucky few who actually interact with you regularly in physical reality) is becoming gradually more virtual as online social networking becomes the method of choice in human relations. This virtual social movement is modifying the human thought and cognitive process, as we are beginning to move more towards typed text to express our thoughts over words, which is producing generation after generation (beginning with children born after 1980) of more socially awkward children, silent and distant because they exist only in their own heads and virtual reality. This trend is making children and adults alike pose to themselves a truly horrifying question: What’s better, reality, or virtual reality? More and more, the answer is an omen of a dim, sterile future.

Marshall McLuhan, a professor of Media Studies in the 1960’s and 70’s famous for the controversial “the medium is the message” concept, predicted what is now an abnormal social phenomenon. McLuhan speculated that technology, as a perceivable entity in human reality, is merely an extension of the human body; the wheel being an extension of the human foot, the fork being an extension of the human hand, etcetera. McLuhan speculated that these technologies constantly modify reality as we know it, and can even falsify or disprove realities that we already know. The internet, for example, has become an extension of the human brain: our thought processes are becoming more databasical and robotic as we use facebook as a social spreadsheet to reference. Our reality has been modified in that our thought processes, entertainment, and even social functions are now being carried out through the information super highway. McLuhan was wise beyond his years.

Let’s analyze the UNCW student of 2009, just as an example. So you’re a student and your primary objective is to be successful in your classes. To be successful, you need to keep up with homework assignments, readings, cancelled classes, whatever. Where is all of this accessible? UNCW Seaport. You need to keep in contact with your parents to let them know if you need money in your bank account for food (drugs and alcohol): g-mail. You need music to walk to class to: iTunes, but more importantly Limewire (who pays for music these days?). You need to keep in touch with your high school friends and try to contact that bangin’ girl you met last night at that crazy party: facebook. You need to do a research paper on Buddhism in Popular Culture: Google, Wikipedia, Ask Jeeves (who uses that bullshit anymore?). Finally, when you’re alone in your dorm, depressed because the bangin’ chick hasn’t sent you a facebook message back and it’s been four whole hours: Bang Brothers dot com (until your roommate comes back, in which case you scream, “I’m naked!” while frantically closing your laptop and pulling your pants up).

So it’s fairly obvious that we’re becoming increasingly more dependent on the Internet for our daily functions. Facebook in particular has taken a strange role in our social reality. While it is the perfect networking tool, it has become an alternative reality of representation, a giant party where everyone is exactly the way they wish they were in real life: well-represented.

Facebook is very gender specific, as women take the representation factor to an obscene level, spending hours crafting their facebook image: tagging the pictures of themselves that they took at the last party with the 300 acquaintances that they saw there, untagging the ones where they’re not fully dolled up or smiling perfectly, captioning the pictures with inside jokes, smiley emoticons, and superficial compliments or statements of appreciation for other girls, and finally, naming the album after a song quote from Lil’ Wayne or Nickelback. But that’s just the pictures. Superficial appreciation is the currency of girls’ facebooks, as “I love you!” or “bffff for life gurl!” seem to be the most common forms of conversation on the public walls of the female facebook. Rarely have these girls ever spoken to each other in physical reality, but in the virtual facebook world they have love for each other, or more accurately, for their virtual representation.

Men explore facebook in a much different way than women do. For men, the facebook design is supposed to be crafted conservatively, to exude the overall message of a lack of effort and caring for their facebook. Instead, where men utilize facebook is in the field of stalking, or “creeping” as the girls call it. This may sound disturbing, but males clicking through hundreds of facebook pictures of girls they find attractive has become a normality. It’s like a softcore version of porn: they find a girl they think is hot, whether they’ve met her or not, whether heard of through a friend, or seen while scanning through the pictures of anothers girl's facebook, and learn everything about her by sorting through her pictures, creating a sort of idealization process. This causes male obsession with girls who have no idea the male even exists, a trend that has become far too common for comfort.

Aside from the creeping factor, facebook is much less of an addiction for males, as they may check it four to five times a day while the average female checks it seven to fifteen times a day (this is based purely on personal observation). Instead of facebook, males are addicted to another form of virtual reality, video games. Marshall McLuhan mentioned that the more interactive and physically involved a media is, the more likely it is to consume the consumer. This is very true of video games, as they have become the new dopamine for males of all ages.

As a person who has played video games their entire life, I can personally say that video games are a dangerous and overwhelming addiction. In a reality where our parents are divorced, school is propagated and boring and it’s too hot or cold outside to be active, the virtual reality of video games is a refuge for many. It’s the ultimate escape, the ultimate form of an alternate reality, where you can really do anything you want; this is why video games are dangerous. An increasing number of males in today’s time are failing and falling out of our institutional system not because of drug or alcohol addiction, not because they are criminals, but because they want to be ranked the highest in online Halo 3 tournaments. It’s the ultimate in falsely gratifying virtual reality, even more than facebook, because with video games, you truly accomplish nothing.

So how is this false existence affecting us socially? It has invaded us socially, that’s what. Girls are now discussing who said what on facebook in the real world, complaining to their boyfriends about not writing on their wall enough, guys know everything about every hot girl at their school, including name, year, and relationship status. Men are not leaving their rooms for days due to the neverending quest to be the best online gamer. We’re all becoming better at conversating through text, and our oral social skills are suffering because of it. Our brains, no longer made to survive in a primal environment, are becoming active and aware only in front of computer screens. It is questionable trend that is compacting and containing us all, as the seperation of reality and virtual reality is being blurred and many people are choosing the latter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Summer (Crazy) Crash Diet Imperative

Seems like there are two times of the year when we make the decision to try to lose some weight...New Years; because we are supposed to make resolutions that will change our lives and the beginning of summer; because we look like whales in our bathing suits.

Although New Years spawns diets, they tend to be more sensible and many times are tied to health club memberships and that sort of thing such that weight loss is more gradual and healthy. Of course most of these efforts fail which leads to “The Summer Crash Diet Imperative”, a panic caused by the need to go from whale-like to Jennifer Anniston-like in a very short period of time.

This annual rite of summer has spurned some bizarre diet schemes ranging from the ingestion of drug laced candy, to the use of fat burning soaps, a partnership with parasites and even a drug induced weight shedding coma. A wonderful history of some of these complete with step by step instructions is available courtesy of Elle Magazine, a purveyor of unattainable female body role models for over 50 years.

A few of my favorites include the "Candy Diet", which was driven by “Ayds Reducing Plan Chocolate Candy”. In this 70’s diet, you hammered chocolate fudge all day long which had been laced with an appetite suppressant called PPA that was later found to cause strokes in young women.

When I was a kid, Ayds was “the desert of last resort” when the Oreos and Twinkies had run out. My mother kept her Ayds stash on top of the fridge where the box would accumulate a layer of really nasty dust. In a desert panic, I would quaff a couple of these drug-laced chocolately treats and then go chase cars with the dog...which would have been a good way to lose weight if I was fifty...not five.

The AIDs epidemic ended the long running candy diet because people evidently confused unsafe sex with massive chocolate consumption, (no kidding) and Ayds drug candy went away.

Another diet of last resort required the symbiotic partnership between man and parasitic flatworms. The so called “Tapeworm Diet” was popular in the 1920’s among race horse jockeys where they would pop a pill containing a live tapeworm egg. Maria Callas, the famous opera singer was the poster child for this diet. She lost 60 pounds with the help of her pet worm but she blamed her love for raw liver as the cause instead of a purposeful ingestion of tapeworm eggs. Whatever.

Of course you can’t talk about anything crazy involving eating, gaining and losing weight, and drugs without mentioning Elvis. He spent most of his last years either ballooning 50 pounds on the bacon cheeseburger diet or crash dieting using the “Sleeping Beauty Diet”. The theory here is that if you are heavily sedated for days and never leave the bed, then you will not eat and you’ll “sleep off” the weight. There is a question as to whether Elvis actually knew about this diet or just inadvertently practiced it.

Elvis and Maria Callas are just a few of the celebrities who are known for wacked out weight lose schemes. Reese Witherspoon, (The Baby Food Diet), Guy Richie (The Cookie Diet), Beyonce, (The Master Cleanse) and Sarah Michelle Gellar, (The Cabbage Soup Diet) are just a few luminaries whose hot bodies are attributed to upside down nutrition.

Speaking of luminaries, Kitty Kinnin has her own diet scheme that my wife and I tried with some success. It’s called “Kitty’s Head Banging Rock and Roll Diet” and its based on the mostly healthy idea that losing weight should involve both draconian dietary restrictions and some exercise. And like most things “Kitty”, the diet should be fun and increase ratings.

Nutritionally the diet consists of thick, black “Bad Kitty Blend” coffee and unglazed donuts (from the donut shop of your choice). You just turn on her radio show at 100.7 The River, crank the volume and start hammering coffee and donuts in tandem. She will be playing head banging rock and roll (Boston, Journey, Aerosmith, etc.) in 15 minute increments. Stand in front of the speakers (so that you can get the best stereo effect) and play air guitar vigorously while simultaneously moving your head and upper torso up and down in the “head banging” mode.

Do this until she goes to commercial when you can rest and write down the name and address of all her sponsors. Repeat the process when she goes back to the ear splitting music. I am told by Kitty’s personal chiropractor and herbalist that if you do this diet every morning its good for your lutes, glutes and poots and you WILL lose weight.

Remember, tapeworms are nasty (they actually have six rows of teeth) and sleeping to lose weight denies you some great television. If you have to lose weight in a hurry, do something sensible and healthy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dumb Down for Love

Birds do it, bees do it...even the lowly earthworm does it. It appears to be naturally easy finding a mate and reproduce cause most bugs and animals are experts at it. But according to some recent research, really smart humans might be the most clueless creatures on Earth when it comes to this basic biological function. And if you assume brilliant humans are the very top of the food chain, then this research apparently contradicts of the Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest”.

In fact, the research seems to point towards the need to “dumb down for love”. Smart people tend to spend more time on achievements than relationships and tend to be bored by common folk. They view all of their achievements as “mental jewelry” versus the gold chains of common folk. What they don’t get is that “mental jewelry” is completely invisible and irrelevant when trying to garner sexual interest at a loud single’s bar.

Even worse smart folks “over think” the whole dating thing causing these people to “shoot themselves in the foot” on dates. (if they ever get to go on one) In short the study concludes "the smarter you are, the more clueless you will be, and the more problems you're going to have in your dating life. When all of your personal energy is concentrated in the head, it never gets a chance to trickle down to the heart, or, god forbid, the groin"

I won’t spend much time here paraphrasing the should click the link and go read it. (Ironically, if you believe the research, being able to read might interfere with your sex life, so if you are reading this you need to read the article....get it?)

I do offer some of the following suggestions to the parents of smart kids that could help correct the problem.

Assumption: Smart kids usually come from smart families.

Correction: If we are so smart, how did we successfully reproduce?

Assumption: Smart families are usually achievement-oriented.

Correction: Hey kid, if you are so smart, go find a girlfriend.

Assumption: Bring home those straight As and awards, son.

Correction: ...and a hot blonde.

Assumption: Get into those top colleges, daughter.

Correction: ...and pledge a sorority that is known for its airheads.

Assumption: Take piano, violin, tennis, swimming and gymnastics.

Correction: ..and don’t forget the Tantric Sex lessons.

And hey, smarty pants, let’s do some math. If you are in the top 5% of intelligence, (which you achieve by having a 125 IQ or higher) and are looking for someone in the same category for hot dates discussing quantum mechanics, monoclonal antibodies or the Uncertainty Principle, you have a numbers problem. You've just eliminated 95% of the world's population as a potential date. And given your probable high level of pickiness, at the end of the day only 1 in 5 of those remaining Mensas (a society of really smart people who have no sex life) will meet your criteria.

When you do the rest of the math, (and I’m sure you will), you will discover there is just a handful of folks who would/could go to “The Melting Pot” with you and discuss whether Karl Marx or Adam Smith was right, whilst ignoring the melted cheese hanging from your stringy Shakespearian beard.

Listen geek boy! “All the way back Australopithecus even further back to monkeys, to lizards, to the first amphibian that crawled out of the slime, the fish that preceded that amphibian, the worm before the fish and the amoeba that preceded the worm.

And you, YOU, in the year 2009 C.E., the culmination of that miraculously unbroken line of succession, you, Homo sapiens sapiens, not just thinking man but thinking thinking man (or woman), are the only one smart enough to screw the whole thing up.”

Luckily, my wife and I don’t have to worry about any of this. We entertain ourselves watching and re-watching romantic comedies on TV (usually starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, or Vince Vaughn). We like “Iron Chef”, Katie Couric, and The Weather Channel. My goal in life is to surf more...her’s is to get a great tan.

I finally learned my lesson about “smarty pants talk” when I brought up with my wife the possibility that the Large Hadron Collider was going to create a black hole that would swallow the Earth, whilst we were nibbling fried cheese at The Olive Garden. She reminded me that end of the world theories are not proper dinner conversation, even if they are concocted by hacks. She was right...I wasn’t going to let my concern about capturing the elusive Higgs boson get in the way of a great dinner (with unlimited salad) and how stupid could this guy be to think that The Standard Model would allow such limited creatures like us (at least sexually) be the creators of our own demise?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Recession Squeezing Men’s Underwear

So this nasty recession/depression keeps dragging on, and it continues to be amazing all the different ways that people are learning to cope. We already covered the drop in toilet paper sales, and now the word is that men’s underwear has dropped...sales wise that is.

And according to the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, (who some blame for this mess) it is a leading indicator “that people are feeling pinched” (and not just because they are wearing squeezers).

"If you look at sales of male underpants it's just pretty much a flat line, it hardly ever changes," writes Greenspan. "But on those few occasions where it dips that means that men are so pinched that they are deciding not to replace underpants. And [Greenspan] said 'that is almost always a prescient, forward impression that here comes trouble.'"

Well, here comes trouble.

A revised survey shows relatively large drops in the sales of men's underwear in the United States. The study projects a 2.3 percent drop in sales of all men's underwear products in 2009. Underscoring just how quickly the market has gone south, in November 2008, forecast sales were to grow by 2.6 percent in 2009. A serious downturn led to a serious revision.

Greenspan says that if you think about all the garments in the household, the garment that is most private is the male underpant, because nobody sees it except people in the locker room, but who cares," (I don’t) "Your children need clothes, your wife needs clothes that have to change, your children grow, you need clothes on the outside. But the last purchase that you don't have to make is underpants.... [men wear them until they are in] total tatters."

This was the way I operated even before the recession. I only get new underwear when my wife buys them for me, usually because she is disgusted with my old worn out undies, or when my mom gives them to me for Christmas, which she does every year assuming that I have worn out what she gave me last year (she also gives me socks, handkerchiefs, electric nose hair clippers and unique condiments...I have never had to buy any of those items in my life thanks to her).

It appears, that as per usual, men are making a sacrifice for the common good by putting their underwear purchases behind everyone else's needs, but guys, lets admit it, all underwear is more comfortable when threadbare. In fact, NOTHING is more uncomfortable than a crisp new pair of boxers or set of new briefs or squeezers with fresh elastic...its raising my voice an octave just thinking about those horrid things. In the case of the squeezers, they almost have to be old and stretched out to be wearable.

So I took a look at the women’s underwear market for signs of a downturn focusing on the Victoria’s Secret catalog. I can tell you nothing was turning down in that research source, in fact most of their items were looking up quite nicely. And the prices...jeez.

Could it be that women might be upgrading their underwear in bad times?

Not only are they upgrading, they are introducing new technology at the same time. “There is a a new, ‘smart’ bra that boosts a woman’s cleavage when she feels sexy.

The bra “detects changes in body temperature brought on by sexual arousal and squeezes breasts together to create bigger cleavage. expanding foam in the cups will loosen or tighten to adapt to the size of the wearer's breasts as they get hotter.”

Some advice girls from Mr. Science; when wearing this miracle garment outside, make sure you are either facing the sun or have your back to it, never sit with it to either side, otherwise you will develop an embarrassing symmetry problem.

"It's healthier than an ordinary bra because it will always provide the perfect fit," said a company spokesman. Oh...its for their health. Of course, men don’t need this kind of thing in their underwear because Mother Nature has provided a remarkable temperature control system down there which is both useful and potentially embarrassing at the same time.

So in the Great Recession of 2009, the men are walking around in underwear that’s barely holding together while the women are sporting new bras that change the apparent size and shape of their breasts based on their moods. I guess I’m OK with that...whatever it takes to get through this mess. Apparently, for women, feeling sexy is the antidote for feeling poor. I’m just glad I have an excuse for still wearing my 4 year old green boxers with little martini glasses on them. Bottoms up!