Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Drinking responsibly

Sorry to leave you hanging for a couple of weeks -- I went out of town two weekends in a row. We now return you to your regularly scheduled bitchfest.

But no, actually I have something relatively pleasant to report today. It's about drinking responsibly. And I don't mean not getting shitfaced and puking in the bathroom at a wedding reception (Who among us hasn't done that?). I mean buying alcohol in such a way so as to minimize the damage you are doing to the planet. (Who gives a shit about your liver? Life is short.)

This article appeared on Salon.com today. It summarizes a paper that basically says that if you live east of Columbus, then surprisingly it takes less energy to get your wine from Europe (assuming it's shipped by sea rather than by air) than from California. This is because the California wine will arrive via trucks, and trucks suck. (Yay trains!) My Columbus readers ought to like it since you all get a shout-out, and also I think we should listen to the authors of this study because one of them appears to have added umlauts to his name for toughness.

Anyway, apparently Columbus is the spot where the average carbon costs are equivalent such that you can choose California or European wines based on your own preferences without feeling guilty about not making a green choice. Incidentally, if you like California wines and you are interested in sustainable farming practices, you may be interested in Benziger. We visited their winery in Sonoma the weekend before last for a tasting and we heard about their new sustainable, organic, and/or biodymanic farming practices that they are trying to implement for all their grapes. I was very happy to see this because I always liked their wines anyway, and have otherwise not really liked many of the organic wines I've tried. (Please let me know in the comments if you know of any good ones!) Admittedly, the Admiral was not a huge fan of the reds that we tasted at Benziger. But his taste is just incorrect -- really the reds are great. Trust me. If you buy a bottle and don't like it, I'll even drink it for you because that's the kind of friend I am.

Friday, October 19, 2007

My thinking about this had become very uptight

(To paraphrase The Dude.)

This week I got to hear a talk by Katie LeBesco, author of an excellent book called Revolting Bodies? The Struggle to Redefine Fat Identity. She came to campus to give a lecture for the Media Studies senior seminar, entitled "Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression" (which is also the title of a book that she co-edited with Jana Evans Braziel. I won't try to summarize the whole thing here, but I just wanted to point out one thing about it that has changed my thinking about fat. In the talk and also in Revolting Bodies, LeBesco made the point that the fat acceptance movement is probably better served in the long term if we quit claiming "innocence" all the time. A lot of pro-fat writing (including mine, I'm afraid) centers around the idea that fat people are not to blame for being fat. It's genetic, it's developmental, it's environmental, it's caused by a virus, it's caused by having fat friends (ha), it's a result of suburban sprawl, it's because we work too much, it's because junk food is cheaper than healthy food, it's a big mystery, etc. And hey, look at me, I eat like a rabbit and I work out all the time, but I'm still fat.

It's not to say that there isn't some truth to all this -- by now it should be obvious that not all fat people are lazy gluttons, and clearly different people have different metabolisms, giving the lie to the standard "calories in-calories out" model of weight loss. But what LeBesco is saying is that we should not act like we are totally helpless in all this. For one thing, it's easily falsified. Of course there are fat people who eat a lot of junk food and don't exercise, so we shouldn't pretend like every fat person is a health nut. Also, even those of us who feel like we don't "deserve" to be fat based on our eating and exercise habits are still not "perfect" (whatever that might mean), nor should we have to be. I don't think I eat more than the average person and I think I may exercise more than the average person, but I do have a sweet tooth and I also drink a fair amount of alcohol. So it's not as if there's absolutely nothing that I could cut out of my lifestyle if losing weight were a big priority for me. The point is that even though I may be predisposed to being fat, I am still choosing not to do everything I possibly could in order to get thin. But by acting like I am doing everything I can, I am just reinforcing the idea that being fat is something you should do everything possible to avoid. And I am also contributing to the idea that fat people don't control their own lives, they are just passive victims of whatever causes fatness.

So I have decided I am going to stop doing that. I still take pride in my identity as a runner and a vegetarian, but I am not going to act like I as a runner and a vegetarian lead some kind of ideal lifestyle that everyone else should aspire to. Rather, I am a runner and a vegetarian who is also a foodie and an enjoyer of fine beverages. And I can also be lazy sometimes, just like everybody else, and that is OK.

I am very grateful to Katie LeBesco (who in addition to being a great writer and an entertaining lecturer is also a very cool person who I was fortunate to have a chance to hang out with a bit when she was in town) for opening my eyes to this defect in my thinking which I should have recognized a long time ago.

Monday, October 15, 2007


It was another great weekend. The Buckeyes are #1, thanks to LSU's loss to Kentucky and Cal's (unfortunate) loss to Oregon State. And we had a nice dinner with our friends last night. And we went to the Lebowskifest, where the main highlight (for me, anyway) was the costume contest -- there was a Dude that looked just like the Dude, and a Walter that looked just like Walter. It was eerie. But I have to admit that the best part of my weekend was our trip to Canter's after the Lebowskifest on Friday night, and in particular, the cupcake that I got there.

We're usually too full for dessert when we eat there, but on Friday I just wanted dessert. So I asked the waiter what was their best dessert, and he mentioned a few things including 'hi hats'. My ears perked up at this because I have a cupcake cookbook that includes a kind of complicated recipe for hi-hats in which the author goes on and on about how great they are. So I figured I should have one and see what all the fuss is about, and oh my god. You have not lived until you have eaten a hi hat. Basically they are chocolate cupcakes with white frosting on top and then they're dipped in a coating of chocolate (the photo above shows one that has been dissected). I am going to have to try making these. I found a version of the recipe here that looks promising. I have a feeling that the white frosting in this recipe can't be as good as what they use at Canter's, which is just the most delicious bakery cake-type frosting, but who knows.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

OK, back to some more negative shit

Who in the hell is Michael Tarm to decide who looks "...like a starting line is, well, the last place they should be"? In this article on the growing number of participants in big-city marathons, Tarm points out that nowadays you will see people at marathons who are old, fat, wearing chicken suits, and/or wearing g-strings. So far, this all sounds fine to me. But a large number of people collapsed from heat stroke and exhaustion at last weekend's Chicago Marathon (possibly due to the water running out at some of the water stations along the course, though the organizers are denying that this happened), and in response to this, some unnamed "marathon purists" to say that races are "too all-inclusive" and are being overrun by "novices" who "crowd courses for more serious runners".

OK. Marathons may be getting bigger, but if race organizers seriously wanted to cut down on the number of entrants (which evidently they don't, since they like collecting entry fees and the host cities like collecting the revenues from all the people who come to the marathons from out of town), there are plenty of ways to do this. For example, they could require entrants to achieve a certain qualifying time in another marathon, like they do in Boston. Or for those races that don't wish to be exclusive to fast runners, they could just put smaller caps on the total number of entries and register people on a first-come, first-served basis. Or for races that really don't want the "novices", they could require participants to qualify by completing a shorter distance race, e.g., a half marathon, before entering. Or, hell, they could just allow entries by invitation only if they wanted a purely elite field. But none of these possibilities is explored in the article. The only identifier that is suggested for weeding out the "not-so-serious" runners is appearance. If you are old or fat or not wearing socially acceptable attire, it is implied that you are not serious enough. That is wrong and crappy. There are plenty of "serious" participants in events like this who don't necessarily "look" like elite athletes. Just to pick a totally random example, there are people weighing 200 pounds and even more who successfully run marathons. And hell, this woman is a fucking triathlete! So really, I think your seriousness as an athlete has a lot more to do with your attitude than your looks. And I hope that things like this crappy article don't contribute to prejudice against participants who lack the runner's traditional "look". Especially since, as I've said elsewhere, I personally have always found the running communities I've been a part of to be very accepting of different body types.

Monday, October 08, 2007

An antidote to the negative shit

I said I was going to try to post positive things on this blog, didn't I? Well, sometimes it's hard. I think my last post was pretty negative. So, here is a photo of my cat to brighten your day. Is he not the most adorable thing you've ever seen?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Reason #872 why men don't want to date fat chicks*

Apparently being in the company of a fat person means you are fat too.

Case in point: Last night Admiral Seamus and I were walking out of the gym (yes, the same gym) after working out, and some high school kids drove by and one of them yelled, "You guys should hit the gym more often!"

By now I am not particularly sensitive about incidents like this, so I won't necessarily blog about it every time someone looks at me funny for being fat. But the reason I thought this was interesting is that somehow Seamus was perceived as a fatty (or at least as someone needing to go to the gym) just by virtue of walking next to me. I would say the remark could have referred to our sweaty and disheveled appearance (I in particular get pretty red-faced when I exercise), but this happened at about 10:30pm and it was way too dark for them to see anything but our body shapes, especially since they were driving by. For those who don't know him, Seamus does not look at all like a fat person. I just calculated our BMI's, and his is in the "Healthy Weight" category. (Mine, on the other hand, is in the "Severely Obese" category.) So basically he got pegged as a fat person by association. And that, my friends, is another in a long list of reasons to avoid fat people at all costs.

*And yes, I know that a lot of men want to be with fat chicks, but let's not deny the fact that many of them do not.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Like owner, like cat

Our cat Bunpote loves to eat. No matter how much food you give him, he inhales it immediately and then wants more. I sympathize with him, and we give him a lot more food than the bag says you are supposed to give a cat his size (10 pounds!), but in the back of my mind I worry about him getting really fat. And then I wonder if I am a hypocrite. My main reason for not wanting him to grow into one of those giant 25-pounders is that cats that size have trouble reaching their butts to clean, which is yucky and can cause irritation and health problems like anal prolapse. But I wonder if maybe that's really not a big risk, and if I have just bought into it because I have already bought into the cat version of our society's anti-fat hysteria. Maybe this is parallel to the claim that fat (in humans) raises a person's risk for esophageal cancer. Apparently this is true, and I don't mean to downplay or trivialize what must be a really horrible kind of cancer to have, but the disease is so rare even for people with an "elevated" risk that it seems like a pretty lame reason to give someone for why they should lose weight. I think the only reason it gets mentioned is that the other supposed "risks" of being fat like diabetes and heart disease have not actually been shown to be caused by fat.

Anyway, so we're trying to be laid back about Bunpote's chubbiness (and are even pondering the question of whether we should just give him as much food as he wants -- though for now we're avoiding that because overfeeding can cause gas, which B already emits a fair amount of), but we also can't help making fun of his body and eating habits. We even coined a new verb, to bunpote (tr.), which means to inhale your food as fast as possible. As in: Gosh, Fred, you really bunpoted those tater tots! And I also could not help making the LOLcat above. I meant to get a shot of him sitting next to his empty food dish, but by the time I got the shot, he had gotten up and was walking towards me, and I actually think it ended up being funnier that way.