In My Neverending Quest. . .

. . . to reduce complex issues to sound bites, bumper stickers, or posters, I came up with:

Faithful To My God
Loyal To Our Country

Separation of Church
and State:
Not Just A Good Idea,
It's Constitutional!


Self-Improvement, Part 2

Back about the beginning of February, I mentioned I was trying to lose some weight and replace some of the middle-aged fat with greater muscle mass, via doing some exercises every few evenings (as well as watching my diet, something I've tried to do anyway for years).

Hummph. Some progress made, but not much. Started at 183 pounds, got down to 179 once, but mostly bounced around between 180-182.

Most of the lack of progress is probably because I was intending to do about a half-hour of exercises every other evening before going to bed. In actuality, this tended to be about very third or fourth night; on too many nights, going thru the fairly long checklist of TTDBB (Things To Do Before Bed) kept me up late enough to hit The Wall. ("The Wall" is the point at which your body overrules your good intentions and starts to shut your brain down regardless of whether you're still standing up.) And once you've reached that point, just finishing the last of the TTDBB is a struggle, and the exercises tended to get pushed back to the next night (or the next, or . . .).

So . . . I'm trying something that 1) is a more formal, structured diet/exercise plan, and 2) time-shifts the physical exercise to mornings. Not that there isn't a TTDBGTW (Things To Do Before Going To Work) list too, but at least in the mornings, you start with a full tank of energy, instead of the last few dregs.

The plan is the "8 Minutes In The Morning" routine developed by Jorge Cruise. I've been interested in it for a while, and picked up a copy of the book from Quality Paperback Book Club a few weeks ago.

(It's been available from QPB for a couple of years now. And when I checked Cruise's website, I found he's currently pushing the latest iteration of his fitness program, The Three-Hour Diet, which basically adds smaller, more frequent meals to the 8-Minute program. With my schedule, I'll stick to the original version, thanks.)

The exercise portions of the program are two strength-training exercises, performed with light dumbbells, done each morning. The exercises vary to work different parts of the body each day, rotating on a 28-day cycle. You do a set of 12 of the first exercise. Then, rather than a rest, you move directly to the second exercise and do 12 of that. Repeat three more times, for a total of four sets of each exercise, all within about an eight-minute time period.

(It actually takes a bit longer, since he recommends some running in place beforehand to warm up, and also some cooling-down stretches afterward. But altogether, it shouldn't take more than fifteen or twenty minutes each morning.)

He also has a fairly rigid diet program to follow. It's pretty much based on the Diabetic Food Exchange diet, and the first week ("Quick Start") only allows about 1000 calories per day. After that, you go to a calories/exchange-allotment based on your current weight. (For me, about 1600 calories per day.)

The diet calls for eliminating almost all refined sugars (AIIIEEEEE!!!), most caffeine as well (DOUBLE-AIIIEEEEE!!), and almost all fats except "healthy" ones. Ummm, okay; I've known for a long time that I drink too many sodas, and tend not to watch fats as closely as I should. But, jeezus, my caffeine too?

Cruise also recommends soy milk and soy cheeses in place of regular dairy products. His rationale lies in the possible allergenic reactions to regular dairy. Since I've never had that problem, I think I'll stick to the skim milk I've used for years. (Some of the soy milks aren't bad, but unless soy cheeses have improved a LOT in the fifteen or twenty years since I last tried them, I'll stick to small amounts of regular cheese, thanks.)

He also recommends, as the healthiest oil to use, flax oil, reputedly highest in Omega-3. I picked up a bottle at Sprouts, my local farmers' market/health-food store, to give it a try. Interesting; it had a faint grassy aftertaste, sort of like alfalfa sprouts. Didn't bother me, but some people would probably find it offputting. (Flax oil also apparently breaks down under high heat; Cruise mentions several times that it should be added to hot foods only after they've finished cooking.) Since I take several fish-oil capsules a day, I'm probably getting enough Omega-3 already.

The book also contains a number of motivational messages, and suggests keeping a journal. I think, though, that unless you come to such a program already motivated enough to follow its guidelines, those messages, or a journal won't really help.

(So, umm, why am I writing this post? Because posting my intention, in public, to try the program will help keep me following it more closely than I might otherwise.)

Did the first exercises, and started following the diet, yesterday morning. Starting weight: 180. I'm planning on posting progress reports about once a month. (Consumer-Reports-R-Us!)


My Letter To TIME

Dear Time magazine:

I am writing in regard to your decision to feature Ann Coulter on the cover of your April 19th, 2005 issue.
April 19th is the 10th anniversary of the mass murder of men, women and children in Oklahoma City by domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh. Ann Coulter's reaction to that day of horror was to regret that McVeigh had not gone to the New York Times building instead. Later questioned if she regretted that statement, her reply was that she would have had no regrets about such an attack on the New York Times as long as only editors and reporters were in the building.

Ann Coulter advocates the murders of anyone she declares to be "liberals". And you not only put her on your cover, you gave this enabler of terrorism, this advocate of death and murder a fawning, gushing article that attempts to make her seem sane and reasonable.

I am a letter carrier. Yesterday, I had to deliver dozens of copies of your magazine to my customers. For the first time in over twenty-five years of working for the Postal Service, I felt sick and ashamed of what I was doing.


Bruce Arthurs
Glendale, AZ



Hate The Sin, Love The City

Hilde and I went to see SIN CITY earlier this week.

I didn't expect Hilde to like it; she generally likes blow-em-up-real-good action movies, but she doesn't like characters (even "good guy" characters) that are brutal, callous and cruel (even towards "bad guys" that deserve it).

And the "good guys" in Sin City are brutal, callous and cruel. They're "good" because their actions are directed towards "bad guys" whose own brutality and cruelty are directed against innocents. (The "innocents" are, invariably, women.)

But I was surprised to find that even I was uncomfortable with the unrelenting level of violence and bloodshed in the movie. Particularly since I've read most of the original SIN CITY comics and loved them. (As widely noted, the movie is "the most faithful adaptation of a comic ever done.")

I think there are two main reasons for this differing reaction between comics and movie:

First, the comics are, essentially, short stories. They're stripped-down, pure-essence, high-speed morality plays. Reading one, even the multi-issue stories, can be done in half an hour or less. The reader can live in Sin City for that length of time, the reader can tolerate the continuous violence and bloodshed and desperate struggles.

But Robert Rodriguez collated four of the original SIN CITY stories into the movie. For over two hours, the viewer watches beatings and shootings and killings, and more beatings and shootings and killings, and still MORE beatings and shooting and killings. And in the end, it's just...

...too fucking long.

(The couple sitting next to Hilde and me in the theater got up and left partway through the movie. I think it was at the point where the dog was tearing a hunk of meat off of Elijah Wood.) (Fair Warning: If you see this movie, you'll never trust Frodo again.)

(I should probably also note that this movie probably sets a new record for the number of times, and number of characters, that are kicked, punched, stabbed and shot in the groin. And, in the movie's most notorious scene, a bad guy has his genitalia torn off . Ouch.) (After this movie, no one will ever shake Bruce Willis' hand again. Ever.)

And second, Frank Miller's high-contrast, highly stylized, black-&-white illustrations for the comics aren't real people. There's an extra layer of distancing in the comics; the reader can see the beatings and shootings and killings going on, but you never (quite) forget that these are drawings you're looking at.

Even though the movie tries (mostly successfully) to replicate the look and feel of the comics, even though most of the sets and backgrounds are computer-generated, these are still real people up on the screen. Even if the viewer knows that these are only actors pretending to be beaten or shot or killed (or to beat or shoot or kill other characters), when real people are going thru (pretending to go thru) the relentless, continuous, unstopping parade of beatings and shooting and killings, it's just...

...too damn close to the real thing. It's just too damn much to take for a solid two hours, when you have real human beings acting out these stories.

I don't regret going to see the movie. I think it was worth watching. Once. But if I want to enjoy the Sin City stories, I think I'll go back to the original comics.

- - - - -

While I'm on the subject of violent movies: The most violent movie scene I've ever watched was the final shootout in a gangster movie where both rival gangs, armed with machine guns, let fly at close quarters in a crowded room. Blood and gore go flying, and splashing, and dripping. People are hit in their limbs, their torsos, their heads. They drop like flies, covered and drenched in blood and gore, lying in pools of blood. When the firing finally stops, everyone, everyone, gangsters and innocents alike, is lying in heaps and mounds of blood-soaked corpses.

Then they all get up and do a final song-&-dance number.

The movie was BUGSY MALONE, and it was a children's movie. All the gangsters and other characters were played by children (including a young Jodie Foster). And the machine guns were called "splooge guns" and shot streams of whipped cream. So in that final shootout, all that blood and gore I mentioned was actually copious white splatters of whipped cream.

But... all the young actors, umm, acted as if the shootout was real, as if real bullets were flying, as if they were really being shot and maimed and killed. So, even all these years later, I can't help thinking that the "splooge" in that scene was only a stand-in for the "real" (in movie terms) blood and gore that would have been used in a gangster movie for adults.

And that's why BUGSY MALONE is one of the most violent movies ever filmed.


Guy Cooking

When you're a Guy, you're expected to cook things like roasts and steaks and chops, with a side of something starchy and deep-fried.

So, when a semi-regular foodblogging event announces that its next theme for entries will be "My Little Cupcake", what's a Guy to do?

Here, from Spiceblog, are the instructions for making your own Manly Cupcakes, an intriguing adaptation of Yorkshire Pudding, blood sausage, and a cranberry sauce "icing".

These'll put hair on your chest, deepen your voice, and add inches to your, ummm... your waistline! Yeh, that's what I meant to say, waistline.

- - - - - - - - - -

(As it turns out, a new European deli that opened up near us about a month ago actually makes it's own blutwurst!. So I'm actually planning on making some Manly Cupcakes of my own.)