Category Archives: Essay

Foods I Hate

People tend to impose their tastes on others, outrageously insulted that you would dare dislike something they find so delicious or popular. They simply can’t understand why you won’t change your mind, taste buds, or every fiber of your being to enjoy what they enjoy. This is especially visceral when it comes to foodstuffs, as every foodie populist or connoisseur elitist has a seemingly intractable opinions of how flavinoids should affect everybody. Their indignance, I fear at times, borders on the psychopathic; such that someday some fascist may round up all the non-Brussel-sprout-eaters and march them into the death camps once and for all.

A little hyperbolic, sure, but I prefer to arrive at my own irrational choices, thank you. Harmless and meaningless, they are not dictated by any ideological preference (such as vegans or locavores) nor any allergy (such as gluten-free or nuts). Speaking of nuts, one reason people may not take kindly to your opinions may be because they feel it attacks or denigrates the validity of their own, or rejects them personally. Weak.

So over time, my tastes have refined and/or expanded; where I once refused vegetables, I now enjoy the occasional salad, where I once despised the taste of beer I have since acclimated to it, and where I once went for the spiciest of wings on the menu, I now prefer to actually taste my food.

Here are my top five most despised flavors, in descending order.

Onions

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Onions definitely hold a special place of hatred in my heart.. or whatever organ determines hate.. probably the gall bladder.

I’ve never been partial to them, despite the insistence of others, and their existence in just about every Goddamned recipe. I don’t know if it’s their simultaneously slimy-and-crunchy consistency, their pungency, or their eye-wateringly badness, I just can’t do it. Sure, if someone cooks me something, I won’t be so ungracious as to refuse them, but neither will I hesitate to wait the extra twenty minutes to get my Crave Case without onions.

My total stubbornness may have descended from my days working at the Sandwich Shoppe, as a rookie Sandwichsmithee (long before holding the title of Patron Saint of Sandwichmaking) I was relegated the stenchy task of peeling and slicing 1-2 buckets of these nasty, noxious nuggets.

Strangely, the onion’s erstwhile cousin, garlic, has got to be in my top five foods, if not number one of all time. All time! Go figure.

Licorice

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I find black licorice disagreeable in particular (racist). Its status as candy is dubious, and its relationship to red licorice is unfortunate. I’m not a big fan of either, but while I could stomach the red vines, I shudder at the thought of that slick, twisted ebony foulness reaching my mouth. This hereditary abhorrence comes down from my grandmother, but I know from talking to people that licorice of any kind is not a commonly well-liked food. Most people avoid anything but the red stuff, and even then do not hurry to its defense. Still, you will meet the occasional weirdo who proselytizes a fervent dedication to black licorice. Shun them.

COFFEE

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So many people on the planet adore coffee, sometimes I feel like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in They Live! My father used to make and drink an entire pot of coffee while performing his morning routine, then make another to take with him in a thermos on the way to work, only to drink Lord knows how much while at work. I’ve been made to understand that this is not exactly abnormal for coffeeholics. I find no small irony in the idea of waking up at four in the morning to put a pot of wretched black coffee on in order to get the caffeine necessary to begin the day. And apparently, I’m the crazy one.

I find coffee to be unremittingly bitter, massively gaseous, and vile bile. It’s dark aroma of complex nuttiness and vaporous undertones of earthiness can only be described in a single word for me: ‘bletch!’

The residue it leaves in my mouth whenever I have given in to peer insistence and tried a new variety (‘you just haven’t tried the right kind, yet!) is parallelled only by my equal and appropriate hatred of the word ‘residue.’

Don’t mistake me, I do enjoy caffeine. Whatever life expectancy and health benefits I would have derived from denying myself coffee have been reasonably obliterated by my love of soda.

Mint

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While the breath fresheners, tooth whiteners, and pillow adorners of the world have pushed this idea of ‘minty freshness’ on us, I recoil in frustration. I try to find alternatives; fruity gum, orange toothpaste, cinnamon mouthwash, or even just a shiny new apple a day. But the ubiquitous nature of nature’s fresh-maker makes me feel… not so fresh.

I’ve been told, as with many of the items on this list, that it is an acquired taste. But why bother acquiring a taste you find so distasteful?

I don’t relish the biting sting or mouthy leafiness of mint, and I can’t believe that some poor, misguided fools would pair it with chocolate, ice cream or Jell-O. Ridiculous. Idiotic. Fucking pathetic.

Kill it with fire.

ALMONDS

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Nuts are one of those types of foods people can never seem to agree on. Some people hate the hazelnuts and love walnuts, while others swear by the health properties of brazil nuts and eschew chestnuts. Diversity in opinion abounds regarding pine nuts, pecans and pistachios, whereas the fatty macadamia is often heaped with adulation. We all seem to agree on cashews and peanuts, which are not really nuts but legumes. Allergies notwithstanding.

Almonds are the devil.

Not only is it a shameful slap in the face of one of history’s greatest American heroes, George Washington Carver, but also one of mankind’s oldest foes. Almonds were originally toxic to our mortal form, synthesizing as cyanide in our frail bodies. Only through random genetic mutation and careful horticultural selection were the dangerous and evil pods tamed to their present form. Seething  in their dry bitterness, the wrinkled old malefactors silently await their revenge, encroaching and infesting every innocent salad and unwitting bridge mix.

It is only a matter of time before they learn to kill again.

DISHonorable Mention: Circus Peanuts

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Circus peanuts, (more commonly known as ‘WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT??’) are not an official list item of my Most Hated Foods, based solely on the technicality that they are not actually food. Owed the singular distinction of being the only consumable more disliked by humanity than ‘Candy Corn’, it shares with it the same inexplicably inaccurate naming. Despite being vaguely molded to look like a moldy old peanut, they are the same pale orange as some medical scrubs, PAAS eggs, or weird cardboard, all of which adequately give you an idea as to their flavor as well.

You can chew it, but it doesn’t ever get chewed.

Somehow, this material was marketed to children by perverted sadists as something they should put in their bodies. Luckily, no child will willingly eat them, and only 90-year-old great-grandmothers find them palatable, out of some misplaced sense of nostalgia. Back during the Depression Era, you see, you either ate cardboard or you starved.

More astoundingly, if you cut them into tiny shapes and then douse them in milk with cereal, they become tolerable, downright edible if artificially flavored somehow.

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Of course, we all have our preferences to varying degrees. There are certainly dishes and flavor combos that I find undesirable or even repellant as well, and I must confess that I’ve not much a sweet tooth. I don’t indulge in chocolate for chocolate’s sake, but rather as a trace or hint combined with some other culinary creation. All in all, you’d find me a fairly easy person to order pizza with, amenable as I am to everything from pepperoni and sausage to pineapple and anchovies. I’ve a weakness for savory snacks and filling proteins, rich smoothies and light pastries. I’m as open-minded as they come, and in all honesty will not insult my host should they unknowingly happen an inclusion of those foods I hate.

But oh, how I fucking hate them.

The Lie of the Conservative Batman

I’ve waited a week to post this until enough people have had a chance to see the latest Dark Knight movie, but it bears mentioning: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Batman mythos runs so deep in our culture, that parallels are easy. Claims now run rampant that the latest brilliant installment of Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy is anti-Occupy, or pro-capitalist in sentiment. That it purports ‘only a billionaire’ can save us. Chris Nolan has dispelled as much, though it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the phenomenally successful series may be inexorably linked to current events, as no writer or director creates in a vacuum, and both life imitates art and art imitates life. All films reflect their times, and the Batman is no exception. The imagery itself has seeped into everyday usage, (much like the protagonist masks in V for Vendetta), the war-painted Joker has been used by protest movements to vilify seemingly every elite from Bernie Madoff to president Barack Obama. Even without the gadgetry, moral code, genius-level detective skills, martial arts, cape or cowl, many billionaires see themselves as crucial heroes, their “sacrifices” necessary for the good of the system. And yes, the probably psychopathic James Holmes seems unable or unwilling to separate reality from fiction, modeling himself after The Dark Knight‘s villainous Joker (portrayed inimitably by Heath Ledger).

But Christopher Nolan’s version of the Batman (dubbed the Nolanverse), had already established an old Gotham rife with political corruption, a recession predating our own by a few years (Batman Begins began in 2005), the excesses of the rich and inequity of their system, and the thievery of Wall Street.

The script for The Dark Knight Rises was written during 2010, with location scouting happening in December of that year. Filming ran from May to November 2011, overlapping the rise of the Occupy movement by mere months. Any similarity is purely coincidental, and furthermore seen through the lens of Fox news analysis and FBI entrapment, where Occupiers have already been condemned as criminals and terrorists. The predominant Beltway philosophy already has established the ‘infallible rich’ as a cornerstone of its power structure.

And the story of haves and have-nots is as old as time anyway, as the Dark Knight Rises draws heavily from A Tale of Two Cities and its historical Red Terror. It’s a false dichotomy (which many pundits love) that one cannot have both a healthy opposition to violent revolution and sympathetic support for a protest movement. It really reveals more about the claimants’ ideology than anything else. Charles Dickens, for one, cared deeply for the plight of the poor, but not for the brutal atrocities of the French Revolution.

We humans will ascribe our own meaning and see what we want in film and comic book escapism, no matter how earnest the telling. This trilogy simply rings true because it dissects the hard ideological differences regarding justice, evil, truth, responsibility, and just exactly who is the real psychopath, anyway. We can all too easily see the divides and overlapping philosophies of the Occupy movement, the police force, the rich elites, and the League of Shadows. And yes, both lone vigilantes and lone nuts.

But even if the movie were a direct allegory to our failed structure, it could hardly be seen as a conservative endorsement, as bloggers on both sides have contended. More likely, the chilling dystopian vision of a city torn into a No Man’s Land reads as a warning against radical demagoguery and institutional deception. And though some may not agree with the aims of the Occupy movement, it takes a willfully ignorant or forcefully disingenuous mindset to equate them with the insane philosophy of either a chaotically sadistic Joker or a frighteningly focused and cold-blooded Bane (portrayed by Tom Hardy).

Indeed, Occupy remains a leaderless movement, constantly worrying about being co-opted by self-interested parties. Bane adopts a populist message in order to peddle false hopes to the citizenry he hopes to torture, populating his army with liberated thieves and killers. Yes, and there are those whom society has forsaken. Bane’s armed revolt plays to the same paranoid fears of Fox News and the State Department, and the same rhetoric of a much less radical Anonymous; it is made up of janitors, shoe-shiners, orphans, ex-cons, sanitation and construction workers. The under-served.

Bruce Wayne’s (reprised by Christian Bale) sins are spelled out for us at the beginning of the Dark Knight Rises. Not only has he taken the fall for the crimes of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and conspired to propagate a political lie, he has turned his back on society and the world. The streets have become relatively clean without him in the eight years since he donned the cowl, but the less obvious ills of a broken system still endure as Bruce neglects the city he loves, and literally atrophies in his elegantly rebuilt mansion.

Gotham’s sins are also many, where betrayal and lies are common political practice, where war heros are expendable during peacetime, where critical-thinking police are discounted as ‘hotheads’, and where even good men like Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) get their hands filthy. The Batman himself, as the Force-ghost of Ra’s Al-Ghul (Liam Neeson) reminds us, “for years fought the decadence of Gotham with his moral authority… and the most he could achieve was a lie.” The overreaching Dent Act, based on Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne’s falsehood, has robbed the imprisoned of any chance of parole. And though it was (hurriedly) agreed that if they world knew of Harvey Dent’s crimes, the guilty would be opened up to appeal, it is this very act of conspiracy that threatens to help blow apart the system, once finally discovered. The career politicians, police bosses, day traders and rich elite are anything but sympathetic figures.

Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway) is the only decent representative of the 99%. She (as well as her politics and moral code) is adaptable, values anonymity, and doesn’t seem to care much for gun control. She embodies the ‘honor among thieves’ adage, she is generous, and sees herself as somewhat of a Robin Hood, at least more than the society types she robs from, who ‘take so much and leave so little for the rest.’ However, she is equally horrified, frightened and disgusted by the madness that ensues during Bane’s “revolution.”

John Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn), on the other hand, is your stereotypical corporate vulture, a literal blood diamond opportunist looking for his next hostile takeover, who doesn’t have time for “save-the-world vanity projects.” In fact, Daggett doesn’t care if the world is destroyed with his help, so long as he acquires more money, and the “power it buys.” It is the likes of Daggett and the other one-dimensional capitalists who worship the status quo when it suits them, and then collude with criminals on the side. Daggett only sees Bane as ‘pure evil’ once he realizes the imminent threat to himself and his riches. Once it’s no longer himself who’s in charge. It should be noted, for the record, that there are no real-life Occupy figures who could cow a crooked billionaire by placing a hand on their shoulder like an alpha dominant.

But of course these unsympathetic crooks are surely served up as contrast to our hero: the billionaire who would save us.

And though the Batman/Bruce Wayne may be heralded as the authoritarian’s dream; willing to employ mass surveillance, extreme rendition, and solely deciding what technology the people deserve and can be trusted with, he is no societal Superman. He is not a billionaire’s billionaire, for though he has more cars than cares to count, has never answered his own door, and “doesn’t even go broke like the rest of us,” he is also easily displaced within his own boardroom, decries the egotistical hypocrisy of charity balls, and has not been watching his own money carefully. Notably, he wants to fail. He relishes the opportunity to be destroyed as the Batman, if it means saving the lives of everyone; the rich, the workers and the poor alike.

Neither, however, has he been serving his own people and city of late, trading in his once rich playboy identity for a Howard Hughes shtick. Not only is his corporation floundering, his beloved charitable foundation is practically defunct. Orphaned boys age out of Gotham’s social programs, neglected by a city with no homes of jobs available. Here they become easy prey for vaguely Middle Eastern terrorists and organized criminals, where they die in the sewers and wash away once they are used up.

The progressive responsibility of socially conscious and civic-minded billionaires, (an extremely endangered breed both in Gotham and out real world) had to be summed up by an ecoterrorist acting the part of a lovely socialite (Marion Cotillard); “You have to invest to restore balance to the world.” Bruce has been lacking in his duties, and that evil that he and Commissioner Gordon buried isn’t dead, but rising up once again.

Bane’s movement is a false one, as he tells the people of Gotham that he is not a Conquerer but a Liberator, but in actuality he is neither. Bane is the Destroyer. Spinning a hopeful message in the wake of his havoc, telling the people to “take control” of Gotham, Bane uses his “truth” to get the citizenry to “tear down a corrupt city” and reclaim what is theirs from the rich oppressors who had peddled their myth of opportunism.

And it is not just any “ordinary citizen” who holds the detonator to their destruction, but equal parts rich girl and terrorist-anarchist. These masterminds did not just create a populist movement to fulfill their diabolical plot, but infiltrated powerful corporations with their subterfuge as well. For comparison, real-world anarchists, despite practicing just another political philosophy, are readily depicted by the media as murderous terrorists. Protestors, despite exercising their constitutional right to assemble, are either beaten or made into bridge bombers by the FBI. Even those who have read the anarchist or socialist literature pale in comparison to the bloodthirsty Bane army. But the fear has been writ large in the news: if a lone nut like the joker can inspire a depraved massacre in a theatre, what would an evil warlord and his army of mercenaries inspire?

Like the Batman, authoritarians do seem to create their own enemies.

What follows once the structures fail lacks even more subtlety; in the face of such wanton violence, the government will abandon you. The good cops will attempt to salvage the status quo, and the bad cops will either desert or work against the people. Idiotically and blindly following orders, in fact, could get orphans and priests killed. Only the Batman can save us.

As even Selena realizes too late, this is not what the 99% ever wanted. Their system has swung wildly from an authoritarian, decadent state to the bloody turf of a mad warlord. It is the Dark Knight who is the hero we need, but unlike any known billionaire, he is now humiliated and humbled, fearful, responsible, accountable, and thus strengthened, empowered, respectful and focused. “Hardened by pain… not from privilege.”

It really should go without saying, by the way, that is not until Bruce Wayne loses all of his money, loses nearly everything, in fact, and is dropped into a pit to rebuild himself, that he is worthy of becoming a savior. And even those he still uses all those wonderful toys that only his privileged life could have afforded him, there can be no analogue for his virtuosity. Nobody has done as much as the fictitious Wayne family. And no playboy industrialists don a mask and fight crime.

As super-fan of the Batman, Kevin Smith, points out:

“In our world it’s not the case. The richer one gets, the less moral one seems to become. Not in all cases, but you hear about everything that just happened to our economy in the last few years… at the end of the day, Bruce Wayne/Batman [is] a moral example of a billionaire… Right then and there you should be able to divorce yourself from reality because no billionaire would waste their time helping others.”

This establishes the film’s central conceit as high fantasy. The Batman doesn’t have what we’d normally call superpowers, and we’ve seen it’s not simply the gadgets or money that keeps him going, but his rigid moral compass and drive to do good that makes him superhuman.

It isn’t just allegorical. It’s not just a cautionary tale. It’s a mad thought experiment. Fiction. Fantasy. Though some of us do have trouble separating that.

For there is no Ayn Randian perfect citizen or engine of the economy that somehow magically makes everything better. There is no Nietzschean Übermench. In the face of the very real threats of depraved elites, deadly terrorist groups and savage gunmen, there are no real superheroes.

Batman will not save us.

Reaching Out Right

There are many things keeping the underemployed and oppressed people of both left and right at polar ends of the spectrum. Radicalizing extremist movements, manipulative systems of power and hard fought biases prevent the largest, most powerful populist movement in American History from emerging and meeting on the ground between their silos.

 It seems a little dismissive and condescending to assume that low-income, working class white America votes against its self interests. Democrats have done almost as much harm to the poor over the decades as Republicans have, and offer few strong, progressive solutions. Both sides understand that change is needed, but disagree on the details. The minds of those on the right are as complex as someone with any other ideological stance, and to think otherwise reveals a disturbingly close-minded bias. As for the conservative bias, however, research indicates a predisposition to obey authoritarian social orders and subtle cues.

Researcher Chris Mooney calls them “authoritarians,” those who are particularly allergic to uncertainty and fiercely refuse to modify their beliefs in response to new evidence. They “extol traditional values, are very conventional, submit to established leaders, and don’t seem to care much about dissent or civil liberties.”

Science is discovering that the brains of those who rely on belief and intuition shift away from analytical and critical thinking, and vice-versa. All it takes is a little movement over time towards the science-based facts, to being a more “open personality” than a close one, and people will begin to work with one another. There are always those out there who, deep down, value individual liberty more than conformity.
This may even result in conservatives seeming happier, by large. They may be unburdened with the worries of the social contract, and cheerfully resolute in their locked-in worldview. But it can also result in a nasty case of cognitive dissonance, since so many facts about the economy, business ethics, science and education are in direct opposition to the deceptive claims of the GOP leadership. When faced with such facts, research indicates that believers become more entrenched in their position, as all humans are wired to do. In fact, as conservatives get more educated or “informed” on an issue such as global warming, they end up more disconnected from the facts. While most people do not get their news from anywhere at all, repeated studies show that those that get theirs from FOX News are consistently the least well-informed.

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read then newspaper, you’re misinformed.” ~Mark Twain

The echo chamber of Big Conservative Media, and the center-right media bent on protecting the status quo of inequality, “frames” every argument in moral terms that benefit their side, of course. Their twisting of quotes, research, statistics and rhetoric have resulted in millions of Americans distrusting science, medicine, and even critical-thinking itself. Contrived controversies obscure the actual state of humanity’s knowledge at this point in history. Analytical people are all ignorantly cast as atheists, who are now the most hated subgroup in the country. (Interestingly, testing shows that those “primed” with reminders of America’s secular authority and history are less likely to distrust atheists).
False dichotomies have forced the conservative mind further to the right, as moderates were slowly ousted during the Gingrich era (and again today), and replaced by the fundamentalists who worship selfishness instead of a more morally responsible individualism. To get an idea of this devolution, one need only read the harshest words of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater, then compare them to the most reactionary accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, to the radical activism of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, to the angry language of the Tea Party. (For a thorough shock to the system, read some Abraham Lincoln for comparison).
“When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”
~Barry Goldwater
Much of this extremism was introduced so slowly that people did not even notice they were caving into it, like the fabled frog in the pot of boiling water. Things that would have been ghastly yesteryear are commonly accepted “best practices” today; spying on all domestic communications, suspending habeas corpus and due process, corporate bribery, assassinations and torture.
The social contract fails when the masses are enslaved and subjugated by a select, powerful few. This classist bias has existed since the beginning of our history, but so has the gradual, progressive march away from restrictive, totalitarian systems.
Ayn Rand’s psychotic philosophy has been shown to be a disaster. The super-rich prove to us that they cannot be trusted again and again. Trickle-down economics was a failed experiment for a long time, but it continues now as a virulent lie. Milton Friedman’s unregulated ‘free market’ principles have become religious tenets, both in their fundamentalist tone and faith-based refutation of facts. Many have suggested that the primary role of neoliberalism was as an ideological cover for capital accumulation by multinational corporations.

“The laws of commerce are the laws of Nature, and therefore the laws of God.” ~Edmund Burke

Their wealth is essentially no better than hoarding, and their risky banking as dangerous as drunk driving. Conservative think tanks have been corrupting data with bias, slowly overtaking think tanks, and lobbied for less regulation than we’ve had in 30 years.
The history of our Protestant work ethic has written these ideas into our culture, so we are painfully susceptible to being manipulated by them.

“At the unconscious level, Americans believe that good people succeed, that success is bestowed upon you by God, your success demonstrates that God loves you.”

~Clotaire Rapaille, author “The Culture Code”

Now, the dystopian visions of Upton Sinclair’s It Can’t Happen Here are coming true, with the rise of corpofascism helped along by right-wing activist courts, bought legislators, unleashed lobbying, propaganda, disenfranchising voters and silencing dissent. The rich are not particularly smarter, (though they can afford higher education without incurring crippling debt). Nor do they create more jobs, as corporations are always looking to downsize, outsource, automate or maximize profits by destroying the middle class. Consumerism has been shown, in fact, to be a driver of antisocial behavior, and the percentage of psychopaths in finance may be higher than the percentage of the general population.
The powers that have been growing have successfully engineered a false moral argument that all taxes are immoral, and that the rich are the infallible engines of the economy, when any reasonable mind knows that some taxation is needed to maintain and  grow an infrastructure as large as the United States, and that no group is without faults. The rich are all too quick to remind the populace that the working class are not the producers or job creators, and may even be leeches of the system. All in the hopes that the people will forget that we are The Public, the working class, the constituency, the consumers, and the voters of the United States of America.

“Democrats have moved to the right, and the Right has moved into a mental hospital!” ~Bill Maher

American democracy needs two strong, solid political parties, but currently one of the parties is just a mess – incapable of making coherent policy when it’s in office, and dangerously obstructionist when it’s out of office. It has also has the effect of energizing sovereign citizens, secessionists and white nationalists.

Though American democracy needs two strong political parties, one is just a dangerous, incoherent mess, and neither the president nor the voters are likely to change this. It will probably take interests within the party who are worried that the crazy will impede their ability to get things done, that will push to end it.

We’ve seen a little bit of this already. During the healthcare debate, many normally Republican-leaning groups chose to work with the Obama administration and cut their best deal, rather than sticking with the rejectionist GOP. Several companies quit the conservative state lobbying organization ALEC when it became controversial by lobbying for ideological and partisan goals. On the national security side, a break has emerged between the Department of Defense and movement conservatives; both conservatives who care about national security and (on some issues) businesses might choose to stick with the Pentagon. And it’s not quite the same thing, but there’s been a small but steady stream of defectors from the movement.

Many in the Republican party (or conservative or libertarian or center-right independents), are not happy about the destructive course the party is on.
Rep. Alan SimpsonFormer Chairman Jim GreerReagan-appointed Judge Richard PosnerFreshman Republican Richard Hannah, and others have decried the co-opting of their political philosophy by scheming conspirators. Though they are discounted as ‘moderates’ (as if it were an insult) or ‘RINOs’ (Republicans in Name Only). This fracturing creates opportunities for reform.
There have to be ways to amicably bring people in the Red States to a more rational and reasonable mindset, where even if real progress does not take hold, at least they won’t be working against the development of a civilized human race. A way for conscionable and socially-responsible citizens to declare, “Not in My Back Yard!”
There is even a small conservative town in Texas where the city’s mayor, police force and Tea Party movement support their local Occupy protestors.
Even within the Catholic church there are progressive elements and stirrings. Attacking religion is ignorant and counterproductive anyway.
The trends also show us some hope. For even though polls shoe that about 40 percent of Americans believe that God created the Earth less than 10,000 years ago, secularism is on the rise in America. The Millenials (the ‘digital native’ youth on the cusp of adulthood), are more science-minded and skeptical than ever before:

Polls and surveys, like this one from Pew or this one from the Center for American Progress, have helped paint a picture of the Millennials. They’re the most ethnically diverse generation in American history: just under 60% are white, a record low. They’re also one of the most politically progressive generations in decades: they voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by a 2-to-1 margin and opposed the Iraq war by 77% to 21%. They’re disinclined to prolong the culture wars: for the most part, they’re comfortable with gay marriage, immigration, racial and gender equality. They tend to marry later in life, to be highly educated,politically engaged and technologically savvy, and to place a high value on leisure and civic engagement. And they’re the least religious generation of Americans ever;  the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans now exceeds 1 in 4 among the Millennials, a record high.

Millenials also exhibit a new phenomenon, they are getting less religious as they get older. Most importantly, by 2020, the Millennials will represent almost 40% of all American voters.
Other trends in America include the record low approval ratings of government (where conservatives have always led the way) and distrust of organized religion.
But this should not just be a waiting game. Nor should it be a zero-sum game. There are many social issues that, we must all agree, will not be solved with consensuses reached, and will remain for each side to argue and debate for decades. But on many issues, we do agree, and are both amenable to compromise in the light of the truth and moral reality. A plurality of Americans support a tax hike on the rich, for example.

Most Americans oppose the Citizen’s United decision, and do not consider corporations to be people.

We agree on our rights and liberties being protected and protecting the constitution. We recognize the importance of community, family, social responsibility, the need for transparency and accountability in our leaders and the powerful, and the consequences of not planning for the future. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom from religious oppression, guarding against unreasonable searches and seizures, and supporting our patriots. Very few on the right are criticizing Obama for his murder of citizens without due process, violations of human rights, and suppression of the freedom of press. Instead, rabid demagogues condemn the president for wanting to take away guns, institute Maoist socialism, and kill babies, (none of which have come to pass).

 There are Ron Paulites who can be won over, libertarians who can be de-brainwshed, and Tea Partiers to be deprogrammed. The moderates must reclaim and recover the Republican party from the hawkish, neoconservative elites.
But there are many who refuse to let help each other to help each other. They cannot be reached, defying all reason and ethical pleadings for compromise. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” only works when the other party doesn’t also believe that “you’re either with us or against us.”
As for the stubborn power-mad elements within the GOP, it will be a slow, building process. Taking a cue from the very rise of the ‘New Right’, it will be a war by inches, death by a thousand cuts.
They have turned ‘liberal’ into a bad word, and shamelessly attempt to do the same to ‘progressive’. We can turn their own conservative tactics against them: projection (the ‘I-am-rubber-you-are-glue’ now employed by Romney), false polemics, shouting down opponents with ‘Gish Gallop‘ and sound bites, “framing” or changing the conversation, picking subjects made to look ridiculous, and perhaps even dirt-dishing perfected by the likes of Karl Rove. If facts and figures will not convince them, use their own tactics to steamroll over them, not on their terms, but on their own turf.
All while building a new progressive movement with the trust-busting powers to make Theodore Roosevelt proud. We can construct a new economy movement of worker-owned co-ops, small local banks and credit unions, “responsible banking” ordinances, and consumer protection laws. We can endeavor to put worker, consumer, environmental, or community representatives of “stakeholder” groups on corporate boards. In other words, democratizing the American infrastructure.

Other models fit into what author Marjorie Kelly calls the “generative economy”–efforts that inherently nurture the community and respect the natural environment.

We must wage a media war on all fronts, with “new” media transforming our world and providing key tools that help organize revolts and even revolutions. We must present literature, research, and viable solutions in every medium in order to influence the mainstream, open dialogues with other political camps and change the national conversation.

People of any ideology will be able to see that the lower classes (anything below rich or super-rich or ‘filthy stinking’ rich), that we are being branded as corporate slaves, cyber-terrorists, dissidents or ‘dead weight’ for simply living free as we always have, and exercising what were once inalienable rights.

The solutions and actions are many, and need not come from one camp, or one level of expertise, or mandate. We can utilize social justice hacks as readily as pranks and culture jamming, hard-boiled citizen journalism and activism as well as street art and theatre. Create apps that bring more into the fold. Create freeform political ads (endorsed by neither candidate) informing the electorate that they are being manipulated. We need flyers, mailers, transmission interrupts, piracy, co-sponsored DJ events, town hall meetings, flashmobs and boycotts! It may take decades. But despite where we may disagree on those one or two issues, despite what the elites try to peddle us, we are all in this together.

Will the Student Debt Movement Legitimize Occupy?

The mainstreamies out there are pretty occupied (pun intended) with working more hours for less pay, mortgage foreclosures and a host of other pressures. But for my money, the predatory lending practices, price hikes and unfair or outright fraudulent policies regarding payment, interest, or consolidation will bring Real America closer to realizing the progressive changes we need for the middle class to survive and the country to thrive.

It is the aspiration of nearly everyone, regardless of race, religion, politics, or creed, to attain higher education. It helps us expand and diversify our minds, meet new and interesting people, live free and wildly independent, study under the tutelage of wizened mentors, access courses, books and topics they otherwise may not have the opportunity to experience. People of any age go to school to grow philosophically, gain skills, learn seemingly secret or arcane knowledge, or, as the marketing departments tell us, to get better jobs and make more money.

Of course, it doesn’t really work that way, with an American workforce still in the shitter, skilled jobs scarce and a growing economic class of people below the rising line of college affordability. Parents and guardians, also burdened with co-signed loans, want what is best for their younger generations, but are crippled by Draconian corporations. A feedback loop of greed has been created by big education dealers like EDMC, usurious loan companies like Sallie Mae, and the collections agencies that sometimes fall under their own banner (not exactly a conflict for Sallie Mae, but a matter of compounding debt and problems for the indebted). If one were to be thoroughly conspiracy-minded, it wouldn’t take much to add a dystopian vision of private industry fueled by underpaid workers (a la Foxconn) enslaved by the debt of their overpriced and now apparently useless education, the return of debtor’s prisons in a private prison industry!

But enough slippery slope arguments, for the tamer future reality is nearly as frightening. No massive conspiracy, but hundreds of small ones perpetrated by the psychopathic CEOs at the top tiers of the power structures in this country, with no regard for the populace “below them” or indeed the very future of the country, the planet, or our species. This is what Occupy is all about, but this message hasn’t entirely translated to the mainstream America who gets their news from Fox, or more likely, doesn’t care to get the news at all.

You will undoubtedly see people criticize any progressive movement on the left, and decry any debt absolution, industry regulation, activism or protest movement as leftist propaganda and overreaching government attacking poor, defenseless billionaires such as Albert Lord, CEO of Sallie Mae. For every true story told at occupystudentdebt.com, one could likely find a snide youtube comment tearing them down. There will always be reactionary bullies and their herds of sheep. A perfectly natural (and primitively primate) revulsion of the youthful vigor for liberty.

Fortunately, the facts are overhwhelming, as student loan debt in America tops $1 trillion, some are seeing their loans triple due to interest, face ridiculous fees, with no way to negotiate, no bankruptcy protection, and no regulation. Since 1980, average tuition for a 4-year college education has increased an astounding 827%. Since 1999, average student loan debt has increased by a shameful 511%. Student debt collectors are incentivized to violate federal aid laws, and even Obama (who topped the list of those fighting for student debt reform) and the Department of Education rely on debt collectors profiting from student debt. And Republicans are again trying to double the interest rates for student loans. Which is really the overreaching government action?

If it looks like a bubble and acts like a bubble…

Unfortunately, as we have seen with issue after issue, facts do not necessarily sway voters. We need to reframe the issues, changing perceptions and public opinion, alter the very conversation in this country of where the money is going and why the prices are fixed as they are.

The student loan corporation heads (like all the clueless and insulated rich) must have received quite a shock upon realizing that the protest movement of their victims is coincidentally somehow both young and educated.

But once the bubble of student loan debt bursts, and make no mistake, it will, Americans will watch as the same drama plays out again with corporate bailouts and vulture capitalism that nearly wrecked us so recently.

Prices for education will not drop (they haven’t for homes), as the economy takes another hit unemployment will rise with no regard to the educated, skilled, or fealty to young innovators, things we once valued and prized in this country. Even the parents and grandparents will take up their torches and pitchforks if and when the shit makes such total abstract art of the fan. The first economic shitstorm of mortgage usury took everyone by surprise, and an unaware America could be fed nonsense and propaganda contrary to the facts or their better interests. But as George W. Bush once stated in his American dialect, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” Years later, Americans are more skeptical of rushing off to foreign wars in Iran or Syria, compared to our gullibility in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re more savvy if we’ve lived through it once before in recent memory.

There are other options, of course, than utter collapse. Floating Universities and Open Education Resources are becoming more popular online for a fraction of the cost of similar coursework and lectures. Certain degrees in technology are being offered by once-exclusive institutions at affordable rates (even cheap as free), and tuition can be pre-paid or locked-in early to save money. Blogging itself is increasingly being seen as a scholarly activity. Some incentives exist to get courses for cheaper, though overall, scholarships and federal grants for financial aid are diminishing, and even community college costs are rising. And despite their innovation and necessity, let us not allow such cost-saving measures deter us from fixing the regulatory holes hemorrhaging the system.

A current bill is being proposed by Rep. Hansen Clarke, who might lose his seat due to Republican redistricting, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 (H.R. 4170), that would give those Americans a way out debt by letting them pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years. America is slipping behind with every year in education! We all need to educate ourselves, get informed, and act! Sign a petition, write your congressmen, or march in the streets if you can, to occupy our very right to be educated.

In the end, if worst comes to worst, they may not even call it Occupy, and they may not consider it ‘legitimized.’ But the looming financial hubris cannot be sustained, and unregulated will come to a point where no American can ignore it.

X-mas Rated

Remove yourself from it for a few years (or work retail) and it begins to look very absurd, indeed.

Full of odd tropes, so many that it seems every single thing in the world has a Christmas version, every television show, series of toys, comics, characters, discography, magazine, aesthetic changes for a few months in service of tradition careening out of control more and more each year.

There are Santa prons, there holiday specials, and even the Japanese (for which less than 1% of the population are Christian) can go absolutely bonkers for the holiday.

For Christ’s sake, ham becomes ‘Christmas ham.’

These themes pervade such as; ‘this is going to be the best Christmas ever,’ ‘this is a very special Christmas,’ ‘the last Christmas, the very last Christmas,’ ‘Christmas is in danger!’, ‘we need to save Christmas!’ ‘the Miracle of Christmas!’ And not merely in fiction, but IRL as well.

Religious fundamentalists and fanatics decry the commercialism of the holiday, even going back nearly a hundred years. It is not merely the Grinch, Scrooge, or any other of a countless nefarious foe out to eradicate the holiday with a push of a button, but marketing departments, conglomerates, thieves, cheats, secularists and competing religious/philosophical worldviews.

For some such as myself, the holiday has no real meaning, nothing that the warmth of family, friends, and community cannot provide on other holidays or year round. A pleasant nostalgia that could also be served by watching TMNT or playing NES. Part of the absurdity I find in the fanaticism of Christmas stems from the seemingly arbitrariness of choosing this particular holiday. Why not St. Patrick’s Day? Or Easter? The madness associated with Halloween is fun and outrageous (and now exported to every part of the globe), but on no such scale as the industrious and brobdignagian Christmas.

Even allowing the synthesis of a long-running Christian dominance over Western society (and later the world) with strong pagan roots, I’m amazed at the incredible surge of ‘meaning’ that appears to have historically manifested in the last couple centuries. Almost as if Christmas is quickening towards some kind of ‘holiday singularity’. The corporatization aside, even the larger celebrated secular Christmas tradition looms large over society, literally enveloping a quarter of the year. Fair-weather Christians attend church on this day, and people who profess no kinship to friends and families may buy gifts or cards out of misplaced obligation. Children and indeed adults pretend to be ‘extra special good’ in the weeks leading up to Santa and also Christ’s arrival. Acts of madness ensue in mall parking lots. A mini-apocalypse, since Christians known not the time of his return, but do know his birthday.

Every musical artist ‘worth their salt’ has to release multiple Christmas tracks, sometimes part of a compilation with others, often an entire album or two of their own. The majority are covers of what are now considered ‘holiday standards,’ enough to fill entire radio stations for months. Others compose their own holiday ballads, in the hopes of making it their own repulsive standard, and in fact may later be covered themselves.

If you stop to consider, there is an entire genre of music that is only popularly played during one time of the year, and you probably know most of the lyrics.

And when I think of the number of Christmas songs performed by Frank Sinatra, I can also mull over the many years of Christmas experiences the Chairman may have himself had, filled with joy, sorrow, loss, togetherness, loneliness, prosperity, charity, or bitterness. His experiences, both good and bad, are like all of ours, and more or less contribute to the shared cultural phenomenon doomed to repeat each and every year.

For you see, you can’t really remove yourself from the season at all. It is in you.

Christmas for many is religious, or nonsecular, or secular, or commercial, or a state of deep depression. I don’t mind the fetishism of the day and its symbols and themes, even if it has been fully taken over by mass consumerism and capitalist scheming. I don’t even necessarily mind that it is overtaking Thanksgiving and Halloween, though many do, and those days should certainly be observed for their own intrinsic kickass nature. Christmas itself, for a period of each year at least, becomes a religion unto itself. We worship with our pocketbooks. By our consumption of holiday treats and the same old movie classics.

There are those who, regardless of their spiritual nature, idolize and glorify Christmas, despite the number of atrocities that occur during the month. There are those that get depressed, as suicide rates rise (myth) and crimes increase. More break-ups occur in November through January, attesting perhaps to our inner cheapness. So why give in to it at all? Why bother being so upset and lonely, simply because society is emphasizing the special romantic togetherness that others have? Just boycott and ignore it.

‘The true meaning of Christmas‘, itself an overused trope, has been alternately defined by everyone from Tiny Tim and Linus to Ernest and John Lennon. And the downright freaky.

In posing this question to others, I received several theories. The evolution of Christmas, from romantic prose and Germanic saintly gift-giving, the search for a proper holiday mascot, and the formulaic standardization of Santa Claus by Coca-Cola and Norman Rockwell, has been one long growing culture of capitalizing on such heavy heartstrings. Others have suggested that we are more susceptible due to our winter blues, cabin fever, the wistful changing of the seasons and yes, the end of our very calendar system. The need to share warm food and family unity, much like Thanksgiving, harkening back to our harsh harvesting days. Another pointed out that the advertising and sales push is driven by the year-end audit, the taxable stock, and need for final quarterly revenues in the black.

Capitalism has certainly latched onto this endless cycle of tropes and dogma, ignoring that Santa himself doesn’t make or spend money, we all remember that the very first Christmas gifts were very expensive indeed; gold, frankincense and myrrh. Even the message of Rudolph is clear: your peers will have no respect or value for you unless your uniqueness provides some basic utility to the employer. This year, Best Buy actually looks to actually out-do Santa Claus.

Which begs another question, of not just why Christmas, or why not some other holiday, or why anything at all, but why not all year-round? The parallel dimension of all-year Christmas may look frantic, insane with shoppers and muggers, and surprise military attacks and shady legislation, wars still fought and the rich getting richer, but would also be a world with consistently impressive tips, donations, charity, the ostracizing of Scroogely misers, kindness to children, brotherhood and understanding to people around the world, and that most lovable absurdity of all; gift-giving.

And what of the universe with no Christmas at all? Would they miss it? Would some other institution inevitable take its place around some other holiday, or destined to be near the cold, wintry end of the year regardless? So necessary and ingrained in us that no Twilight Zone trickery could remove it?

Christmas permeates every thing, there is no escape, easily 1/12th to 1/4 of our lives is Christmas. And if one wished to, one could use decorations and sites of the internet (because why bother taking any of them down?) to celebrate all year.

I guess it doesn’t matter. You can celebrate in whatever way you want, even if that means deliberate boycott, solitary solemn worship, family reunion, or all-out spending spree. You can have no regard at all for the day but still relish the excuse to give gifts. It means many different things to many different people, and that even includes complete apathy.

As with everything, I advise not wasting any of your vitriol on the holiday season. Christmas hatred is perhaps the worst absurdity of all.

Calvin presents 'Pascal's Christmas Wager'

“I will stop taking Christ out of Christmas is you stop taking Thor out of Thursday.”

Think of all the ascorbic acid you eat in a day!

As symbols, every picture and for that matter, any word, implies a previous and/or a following action. Many times the implications are very simple; a man on a door implies ‘Men’s room.’ Other times, an object in space has much more to ‘say’ concerning its role in society, well-known history, common usage, double entendres, mental closure, function, usual ties to other objects, and context. The more complicated the pictures and words, the more that can be extrapolated from the ‘part-of-the-whole.’ A drawing’s shading implies the location and prominence of lights in a room, just as resonant audio would imply its size. A drawing’s lack of shading may have been an intent of the artist to emphasize a contoured iconographic style, perhaps. By showing a large portion of the whole, the artist makes a very different statement than by showing a focused one. This can even be the moment for a juxtaposition, wherein what is acceptable or even mentally expected is then replaces by its polar opposite, or a non-sequitur, some wholly unexpected thing. This opens up all forms of comedy, socio-political satire, and intense visual stimulation. The suddenly clever thing to do is then to reveal several meanings at once to the audience. Perhaps the meaning is intentional (and the level of this that the author reveals is discretionary), or perhaps too much is read into coincidence, but even this becomes part of its philosophy. If meaning can be ascribed an object, and is internalized by the viewer, then it does contain validity. Indeed, the unintentional mental connections made between otherwise arbitrary elements is what makes enjoying art possible

The audience then, as the only arbiter of his/her own reality, is the true artist. At the final moment in art’s production, which must culminate in audienceship (even if only by the author’s review of it), the artist’s intention is inevitably cast aside in favor of the newer relevant present that the viewer brings to the object. Many artists (or fans of the artists, or critics, for that matter) would stay attached to the original meaning. However, no author would or could have involved every possible interpretation in the creation of the piece, no matter how clever or foresighted. True art lies in subtlety, a craftsmanship in ambiguity, in understanding that the artistic process does terminate in the necessary witness by a viewer, an thus their roles irrevocably linked despite any passage of time.

a Thin Veneer of Cheese

or: “Going on a Diet can Go to Hell”

Portion control is very difficult in first-world capitalist consumer-pleasure-dominated society. We can blame the corporations for shoving that delicious pie down our throat to keep us sated as they rob us blind. We can blame the post-WWII boomers who lived to revel in the excesses of sugary, delicious pie. We could even blame the pie for being delicious. In the end, it doesn’t matter. We live in the here and now with 300% of our daily caloric intake, and eating out at trans-fatty dollar-sign fast-foodatoriums.

There are several possible solutions, so let’s address them in no particular order, shall we?

1. Die.

You could die of heart disease (the number one killer according to the CDC), diabetes, or other complications arising from unhealthy American obesity. You’ve heard a lot of these facts and figures spouted again and again, and they don’t seem to affect your thinking too much, so here they are again. Dying is perhaps the easiest solution, though dying of these agents may not be as rewarding or exhilerating as, say, jumping off of the Queen Mary. If this is not our fate, then read on.

2. Attempt to lose weight.

Join a gym, prescribe exercises with calorie burning goals, drink nothing but juices, eat nothing but juices, cut out fiber, cut out sugars, cut out carbohydrates, cut out lipids, cut out proteins… and perhaps lose a few pounds. And though calorie counting is still the gold standard of scientific weight loss, there are other contextual considerations.

The problem is not really physical, but psychological. Statistics show that the simple act of making New Year’s resolutions, for example, almost guarantees that they will fail.

I once had a job transcribing for a nonprofit group whose goal had been to change the ‘built environment’ with a mind to ‘active living’ and ‘reducing obesity’ in urban populations. While this was perhaps a fine step in shifting the societal responsibility, it does little to change the manic bipolar attitudes towards weight: glamorize the anorexic fashion models, advertise the fattiest hamburgers, hype the latest diet craze, get the kids to watch TV after school instead of playing outside, censure McDonald’s menus and restrict their private enterprise, blame and marginalize the fat for being fat, raise the monthly rates at the gyms. The irony, of course, was not lost on me that I logged twenty hours of these nonsensical interviews whilst sitting my fat ass in my little-wheelied desk chair.

People often ‘hit plateaus’ in their weight loss plans. Or they lose a lot at first and don’t know why they can’t continue at that rate. Some people may never escape their body type, but still wish they were Victoria’s Secret model thin (*sigh*). More on this later.

“The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over, and then expecting different results.”

The most successful results come when you do not ‘go’ on a diet, but instead change your habits and your very cognition. As soon as you tire of those calorie counting, rice and celery juicing, overworking exercise regimens, you WILL put that weight back on, because you were looking at the light at the end of the tunnel the entire time. And that light was not just a single delicious slice of pie, but a return to the lifestyle that brought you such devastating misery in the first place. Which brings me to the third potentiality:

3. Alter your habits

There are plenty of things you can do to simply make better choices. As opposed to all those ‘diet fad’ books, I have found that the caloric swaps in David Zinczenko, Matt Goulding (authoritatively titled) Eat This Not That to be frighteningly enlightening and weight-lightening to boot. The restaurant guide in particular reveals what cultural change has done over the generations to slowly let us accept our meaty fate. You would be surprised how easily you can save a hundred calories or two from your diet by eating one specific greasy fast-food dollar-menu breakfast sandwich as opposed to another. It involves calorie awareness, but not necesarilly calorie counting, which I contend is inconvenient, and as such will probably not be a fail-safe sticking method for everyone.

Some foods even trick your brain and stomach into eating fewer calories.

And don’t be hydrophobic, drink water as much as possible! It’s better than any health shake, ‘detox cleanse’ bullshit, soda, coffee, beer, corn syrup juice, or sugar drink you can get. And doctors agree that there is no such thing as water weight (as much as getting two doctors to agree to anything is possible).

Here’s something you may not have put together (I know it came as a late revelation for me, and boy, did I feel stupid). Are you fat and broke? Well, there’s your problem right there. Of course, cutting down on portions is easier said than done. But preventing yourself from losing money is the greatest motivator, combined with losing weight and saving the planet, it may just be the winning combination you need.

There are numerous apps (most of them free) to keep your health on your mind.

An easy way to save money at that overpriced gym is to find a community college that offers phys. ed. classes for college credit. It’s possible to enroll for just that one class, and the monthly breakdown may end up being a fraction what one of those chains (and even the Y) charge. It may also be as simple as taking the stairs at work more often, or, if you take the elevator, doing your squats while you wait both on and off. And simplicity in exercise is often key.

There are websites entirely dedicated to saving you money on outings, activities, and group meet-ups. These are fun, and at least some of them are in line with your interests, but viewing them with an eye to being more active may give you that extra gumption to actually get out and do them. They’re cheap or cheap-as-free, so that chain gym won’t be getting any contractually obligated sum of your money, and they integrate fun, some skill you’ve been meaning to learn, and thus burn calories without you having to think about what a chore this whole calorie-burning thing might be.

These kinds of lateral moves will not only save you some money, but in doing so create a positive mental feedback loop that inspires and encourages you further.

And lest we forget, a rigorous and adventurous sex life is perhaps the best exercise regiment available.

4. Alter your philosophical outlook

How many fuckers do you know who say they are ‘so fat’ when they are ‘so not’? How do you feel when you haven’t quite made that health goal? Additionally, how will you know when enough is enough, without appearing to have some body dimorphism, harmful self-esteem issues, or gypsy curse? And isn’t the worst part about this whole weight loss thing when you’ve put your effort and time in, then fall into a few evenings of lounging instead of exercise (or perhaps as some reward), but then immediately feel guilt?

Don’t feel guilt, this is counterproductive. Likewise, don’t tell yourself that you’ve ‘earned’ this. You are still viewing it all as some external component of life that you engage in, what those alien fitness people allow you to temporarily engage in.

When you have a more platonic relationship with the universe (something I advocate anyway), you don’t care what society tells you about your body image or unhealthy habits. This doesn’t mean you lose all attachment to personal responsibility, just that you can gauge what is both productive physical time, and what is productive relaxation time. Wastefulness is your attachment to complaining, to worry, to stress, and to the labels that prevent you from fluidly being both the fitness-buff-and-couch-potato-in-one. It makes you a diverse person, and who doesn’t want to be that?

If you earnestly stop trying to make specific weight goals, while at the same time making good decisions on a regular basis, you will ingrain it into your being that health is a major motivator along with all the other rewarding and pleasurable activities in your life, you will escape the unfair expectations of a bullshit society and your own deceptive mind, and discover that vagueness can be liberating.

‘Laziness’ has gotten an unfair reputation, as our modern industrial world allows us more leisure than ever before, and people judge whether you spend it as an armchair sophist or benchpress hypertrophist. And let’s not forget the importance of sleep to your health! You most certainly burn calories while you slumber, and at the very least, any cheesecake you consume in a dream isn’t going to your hips.

A recent study suggests that people who are obese (barring other unhealthy factors) may live just as long as their skinny counterparts, and certainly longer than the stressed lives of those who continually attempt to lose weight and fail. It is important to remember that the BMI method is somewhat flawed, that only certain forms of obesity put you at high risk (such as belly fat), and that everything, including not just weight gain but weight loss, should be taken in moderation.

A new advocacy group and online community, Healthy at any Size, is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. Their website “supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:

  • Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
  • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.”

And let’s face it, though it sounds like something your mother would say, it IS true; do you really want to date/hang out with/sleep with/gain the approval of people who judge you for your body type, anyway?

In the end (your fat rear end), the most important thing is deciding what is right for you. Spend some time thinking about it, and don’t try to give up cheese if you love cheese so VERY, VERY FUCKING MUCH. Moderation by mediation, by meditation, make bargains with yourself as to what your needs, wants, and not-so-needs-or-wants are. Make lists of each. You’d be surprised how much you would happily give up and not notice.