Roads to Jillian

Jan 11/12

In North America, our number one problem may well be obesity. It leads to many other health problems, which drive up health care costs. Meeting health care costs is a struggle for our governments and our society. Furthermore, the problem may be getting worse, which alarms health care accountants as well as doctors and nurses.

We are victims of our own success: in nature, every animal's number one goal is getting enough to eat. Triumphantly, we are the first species to have reversed the problem: we eat too much. There are two ironic consequences: one is that the body is better equipped to deal with being underfed than overfed. The other is that our instincts continue to drive us to overfeed, since abundant food has never been dependable - even here - until the last fifty years or so.

If you find something you like, consuming it excessively can be all too easy in a modern capitalist economy. Take peanut butter cups, for instance. When I was a kid, chocolate was a rare treat. Your parents rarely bought it for you, because they argued kids shouldn't have much chocolate or candy. (They were probably right, of course.) You could buy it with your allowance, but never as much as you wanted.

Nowadays, I can go into a store and buy a big bag of peanut butter cups. They're really cheap - especially after the Christmas season. I can buy a kilogram of them for ten bucks. Now, that's a lot of peanut butter cups - easily more than I want to eat in a week. But I easily could binge and eat twenty peanut butter cups in a day. If that became a habit, I'd either have to exercise a lot more than I do, or else buy some "fat" clothes.

Here's the problem, though: pressure. We live comfortably in North America. (The lucky ones do, anyway. I know not everyone has it easy, or even - unforgivably, for a society so affluent - has enough to eat.) However, our comfort often comes at the price of a fast-paced, ever-changing work environment. Instead of "I need it in a few days", the request might be "I need it yesterday." The worker - more likely, the contractor - has to change into work mode from 8 pm until midnight, when they'd planned to watch a few shows with their spouse on the couch.

Let's say that the contractor accomplished the task mentioned above. However, they got to bed much later than they'd planned. Next morning comes. They've got to get up, feed the kids, and prep them for school. Of course, they're tired. Well, there's no better way to wake up than with a coffee and a few peanut butter cups. (Of course, you can't do this in front of the kids; you've got to sneak the peanut butter cups in another room with your microwaved coffee.) The tasty treat energizes the weary contractor, so they can effectively and cheerfully feed the kids their bagels with cream cheese and get them off to school. Problem solved; peanut butter cups save the contractor's bacon.

The choppy, unpredictable lifestyle so many of us live in North America today leads to quick meals and quick fixes. The sit-down, square meal of the fifties is much rarer because you need time to prepare it and then time to eat it. On-the-go foods you can eat walking into work or at the steering wheel are much more common. Since they're meant to be tasty (it's, once again, a market economy), they often aren't as calorie-conservative as a meal you might make yourself. Of course, it's harder to gauge how much you eat in a day when you "grab something here, then grab something there."

One thing's for sure: when you need a pick-me-up, either because you really are hungry or for whatever reason, the market economy is right there to supply you. If you're in a hurry (which is always, for many), instinct is going to kick in. You're going to grab more than you need, just to make sure you got enough. And you're going to go for what you like, because being happy and cheerful is more than half your job, in many cases. And you know what they say: fat and happy.

This is one of the many "roads to Jillian". Jillian, of course, is the tough trainer from the hit reality show Biggest Loser. She conveys the idea that fat is public enemy number one - and almost no cost is too great to eradicate it.

This is such a "big" issue, I'll be covering more aspects of it in future posts. We need to get real about why we're fat - and why we want to be thin.

Jillian fr. Biggest Loser Home

Jan 12/12

Reading Deathly Hallows (by J.K. Rowling, of course) to the kids, Grindelwald has emerged. He is, so far, a carefree kid, very powerful and wild. He's my favourite kind of character.

Grindelwald, with his free spirit, has cast me into reflection about when, in a person's life, they have it easier or harder, and how they can develop as a result. For instance, Grindelwald clearly had it easy in his late teens - when life is supposed to be easy and fun.

For me, school was always easy - and therefore, life was until high school was over. Undisciplined, I had a terrible time my first few years out of school. I made it through business college - where I learned typing, accounting and filing - then went on to university. My first two years there were disastrous. Poverty and hard work toward a dubious goal made the years from 18 to 25 the hardest of my life. Therefore, when I should have been feeling young, strong, and powerful, I was struggling.

At age 41, my life is definitely the best it's ever been. I don't look back at the past, missing the "glory days", because I didn't have any. In fact, I try to avoid thinking about it - although the past few years I've been revisiting it in small doses.

Grindelwald felt powerful as a young man, and pressed his advantage. Many people do, and ride a wave of confidence into middle age. People who've had to "adapt" to adulthood generally seem more circumspect; they don't want to rock the boat that was hard to get afloat.

Confident youth can be beautiful. I've seen many rich kids swaggering down to the night club or just across the street. They've got a magic about them - an entitlement, like they're the true royalty. Everyone else can look on, wondering what it's like to move like that, and smile like that, and feel like that. You can't preserve that vitality; it's like the feeling of an early spring day. You experience it, you watch it happen - and then it's gone. Like electricity, it passes somewhere else, to someone else. The 30-year-old is still confident, but they don't look like that anymore. The seventeen-year-old - who used to be four - stole that magic, just like Grindelwald stole a wand. While they have the magic, they both use it, but neither is prepared for something that powerful. Sometimes magic is used well, sometimes it's used poorly, but it's amazing to watch - from afar.

Are you looking forward or backward?

I'm not telling what happens to Grindelwald.

Gellert Grindelwald Home

Happy Friday 13th

Taylor Dayne is a favourite singer of mine. She first got my attention with "Tell it To My Heart" back in the late eighties. I got busy (see my article from yesterday), then didn't notice anything else from her until "I'll Be Your Shelter". That song came out in 1990, but I didn't notice it until the late 90s, after university.

"Tell it To My Heart" I remember from a dingy dance club I used to frequent back in '89. The place didn't look so bad in the dark....Anyway, the music scene changed abruptly in the late 80s. I didn't like most of it, since I hadn't had time to adjust. I liked "Tell it To My Heart", though, the first time I heard it. It played every night in that club. Then one night I got refused service for suddenly "not meeting dress code," and never went back. Perhaps developing a connection to Ms. Dayne was the only reason I'd been meant to go there.

"I'll Be Your Shelter", in my opinion, is her best song. It reached number one in Canada in August 1990 - long before I ever noticed it. It's got a great message - that somewhere, someone cares about you and will protect you. When the song plays, you can't help but imagine it's true. Written by Diane Warren, it's got great lyrics. Dayne performs it at the perfect pace. The video's not so bad either, although it takes the song in a direction I would never have imagined.

Reading about Dayne in Wikipedia, I encountered two songs I didn't know: "Love Will Lead You Back" and "Beautiful". Today I listened to both. Instantly I recognized "Love Will Lead You Back", but "Beautiful" was new to me. Both showcase Dayne's interpretation of songs: she doesn't just sing them, she makes you feel them.

Dayne's pretty hot-looking, too. You'll see.

Wikipedia was also used as a source for "I'll Be Your Shelter".

Taylor Dayne Home

Jan 15/12

Judo tournament yesterday

Our club hosted, so it was only three blocks away. We got there for 10 am, then left at about 2:30. The whole thing went off without a wrinkle. I wasn't personally involved in the event, but my wife helped out with time keeping and of course my two kids competed. I was pretty proud of the Club. They did a hell of a job, I thought - especially since it was the first time they'd hosted a tournament.

My older son could have won his first two matches, but gave them away. By the third one, he was angry, so he tried much harder. However, his third opponent was much tougher than the first two, so he lost again. He got very upset. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a competitive person and I don't encourage my children to be. On the other hand, I guess he'll have to become more competitive if he wants to start winning. I'm not telling him that, though.

My younger son lost all three of his matches, too, but he put up more resistance. He was smiling after each one and happily watched the rest of the tournament afterwards. However, when he came after me for a ham sandwich at the concession, and then didn't want to eat it, I wasn't too happy. Times have sure changed....

One of the judo kids I've drawn before was here yesterday, but he's from a long way down the coast. He did well - got gold, actually - good for him.

It was brilliantly sunny yesterday - and is again today - but only reaching around five degrees by afternoon. At night, it dips to five below - cold for here. The rooftops are caked with frost in the morning.

I drew someone from the tournament: this is the first aid attendant. I think she had a pretty easy time - one possible concussion was all I heard about.

Talk to you soon.

First Aid Attendant Home

Jan 16/12

Sean Penn

When I was a kid, I heard Sean Penn was married to Madonna. (I think she went on loving him after they divorced in '89.) I knew much more about Madonna than about Penn. My parents weren't big on the popular culture, so they rarely took us to movies. You could learn about Madonna just from the radio, but you had to see one of Penn's movies to "meet" him.

It wasn't until last year, therefore, that I saw Colors on TV, and was introduced to Sean Penn. He was great in that movie, although I dare say it probably wasn't his best performance. He underplayed the character (Officer Danny McGavin) - and so did Robert Duvall (Officer Bob Hodges). Their similar manners made each more believable.

I've glimpsed passages of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, in which of course Penn famously starred as Jeff Spicoli. Somehow I don't see that role as being definitive for him, but for his career I'm sure it was propellant.

For a long time now, Sean's political and humanitarian views have caught as much attention as his movies - or even more. He's run personal dialogues with Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba. His anti-war views are common. (Note that Ron Paul might be seen to be anti-war as well, though apparently arriving from a different perspective.)

My favourite presentation by Penn is the ad he did about hunger. He compared the cost of feeding all hungry American children (or was it all the hungry children everywhere? I don't remember which) with the cost of the Iraq war and the 2008 bank bailouts, showing how much less it would cost to feed the hungry. If you really want some "bang for your buck", he clinched it, you'd feed the hungry instead. The ad was compelling.

Sean may not know this, but in fact he and I have some history. He used to eat at a pricey restaurant a few miles from one I worked at. We knew, at our place, when he was at the other place.

Looking good, Sean.

Sources: Wikipedia, IMDb, Wikipedia again.

Sean Penn Home