Monday, June 30, 2008

Kids say the darndest things

For my birthday, the Admiral got me a box set of all five seasons of Kids in the Hall on DVD. I had almost forgotten what a great show that was. I'd also forgotten (or didn't realize before, since I was pretty young when the show originally aired) how progressive it was. As I watch it now, it doesn't seem scandalous, but I think that in the late 80s there weren't that many places on TV where you would regularly find cross-dressing and openly gay characters. At the time I just thought it was funny, but now I realize that they were really pushing the envelope.

Another really cool thing (and the reason I'm telling you about it) is that we ran across a sketch with a fat-positive (or at least an anti-anti-fat) message. The transcript is here and there's a video here. The setup is that Kevin is hitchhiking, and Dave picks him up and proceeds to hurl all sorts of nasty anti-fat insults at him. Part of the absurdity of the sketch comes from the fact that Kevin isn't even remotely fat (though part of the background is that apparently in real life he really was fat and lost a bunch of weight). The insults are also hilariously over the top, like when Dave says, "Boy, am I hungry. You know, I guess I haven't had anything to eat in about, uh, an hour. You ever done that? You ever gone a whole hour without eating?" But the best part is at the end when Dave gets fed up and orders Kevin to "drag your cavernous stretch marks outta my car," so Kevin gets out and then Dave says, "God, I hate fat people. I hate what it says about their personality." It's such a great send-up of anti-fat rhetoric, and I think it's really interesting that these guys were in touch with this stuff 20 years ago, before things got quite as nasty as they are today.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Musings On Our Third Blogiversary

It was three years ago today that this blog was born. I guess the main thing that's changed since then is the coining of the term "fatosphere" referring collectively to Fat Acceptance blogs. What that means for this blog is a lot more traffic, since this is the first page that comes up when you Google "fatosphere" (which a lot of people do).

There is also now a popular RSS feed called "Notes from the Fatosphere". At first I put off trying to register this blog on the feed for no particular reason, and then kind of gradually decided I didn't want to. I'm still torn about it and there are lots of great blogs featured there, but I feel like adding my blog to the feed would give me a responsibility that I don't want (not to mention probably bringing a lot more trolls my way). Once a blog is on the Fatosphere feed, it gets traffic not only from Fat Acceptance blogs but also from forums devoted to eating disorders. So when a blog on the Fatosphere feed features, for example, a pro-dieting post, people go apeshit. I can't say I blame them -- we hear enough pro-dieting rhetoric already, and none of us need to hear more of it, especially those for whom diet talk may serve as a trigger for disordered eating. You are never going to find pro-diet talk on this blog, but I still don't want to have to worry about people having any particular expectations based on the blog being on the Fatosphere feed. Those of you who don't really read other FA blogs might not think this is such a big deal, but you can check out this post (and the comments) to see just how ugly things get when a putative FA blog posts unexpected stuff and readers dare to complain about being blindsided by it. I guess the silver lining here is that people are really passionate about FA and about trying to define it and defend it. This kind of conversation wasn't even happening a few years ago, so I think it's a good development. The discussion just gets uncomfortable at times.

Elsewhere, unfortunately I have to say I think things have gotten worse for fat people everywhere in the last three years. Maybe I just think this because I'm paying more attention, but I think fatphobia has reached a new level. In Japan, for example, companies and local governments are now forced to measure their citizens' and employees' waistlines, and they will be fined for not reaching the state-mandated "targets". Any person (regardless of height or build) whose waistline measures more than 33.5 inches (male) or 35.4 inches (female) will be made to lose weight, and if they don't, they will be "re-educated". How long before fat (or, really, non-thin) people are fired or kicked out so that their employers and local governments don't have to pay the fines? How long before we get similar policies in the US? Oh, wait, looks like we've already started. This and all the other anti-fat policy and rhetoric out there seems to be exacerbated by the failing economy and degraded environment -- after all, back before everyone "believed in" global warming and before they started rationing rice at CostCo, nobody would have thought to blame all the world's problems on the fatties.

I guess in general, I feel pretty cynical about the whole state of affairs, but I also have some reasons to hope that things will improve. Regardless, I'm just going to keep on blogging.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reach Your Fitness Goals, the Severed Panda Head Way

Some friends of ours got Wii Fit, so we had a chance to try it out yesterday. In a nutshell, most of the horrible things you've heard about it are true, but it's more fun than you might think.

Wii Fit got some negative press when it was first released because it told some guy's 10 year old daughter that she was fat. Nintendo apologized and said BMI isn't necessarily accurate for "younger age groups". Or for anyone else, I might add.

I figured maybe the Wii Fit had some other fun stuff in it, if you just didn't do the BMI measurement part. That turned out to be partly true, but the system won't *let* you not do the BMI part. At the beginning, you select your Mii and then it asks you your height and date of birth, and then you step on and it weighs you and calculates your BMI. You can't get past that part to get straight to the game.

The BMI thing is interesting. They obviously thought parts of it through pretty carefully, even though the entire premise is ridiculous. You step on and it asks you how much your clothing weighs (!), and then it tells you your BMI. And then in an awful but hilarious twist, your Mii expands to reflect how fat it thinks you are. It never displays your weight on the screen; in fact, you have the option of using a password to protect your weight so that nobody else can ever look at it (of course, if they know your height and the BMI formula then they can calculate your weight). It does tell you if you are "Underweight", "Normal", "Overweight", or "Obese". It doesn't use the word "Fat", so the news stories about Wii Fit telling that girl she was "Fat" must not have been quite right. Anyway, for some reason I found it kind of funny standing there waiting for it to tell me how fat I am. I was thinking that 5 years ago I would have been really bothered by a game calling me "Obese" in front of my friends, but now not so much. In fact, I was probably the least bothered out of all of us, since I knew there wouldn't be any surprises. Some others got called "Overweight", which was pretty surprising. Everyone took it well, though, and I don't think anyone plans to go on a crash diet or start purging as a result of the label. But one extremely messed up thing is that not only does the game tell you that it is best to be "Normal", but it also says that within the "Normal" range, people with a BMI of 22 are the "least likely to get sick". One of us had a BMI of a little over 23, which is in the "Normal" range, but the game told that person that they should really aim for 22. Of all the BMI nonsense, that was the one thing that made me blow a gasket. I guess you can never be Normal enough!

After the BMI test comes the balance test. This I found extremely strange. Does anyone out there who knows Japanese culture care to generalize as to whether the Japanese are obsessed with posture and balance? Because I definitely got that feeling, but it could just be this game. You get a lecture about how putting more weight on one leg when you stand causes you to have bad posture, which in turn will somehow cause you to be less healthy -- and to get fat! (Don't ask me what the connection is.) You have to stand on the pad for several seconds and then it shows you where your "center of balance" was during that time and how much it moved. The goal is to have it right in the middle and perfectly still. Then you get this test where you have to lean a certain amount to the left or right and hold it exactly there for three seconds, and if you move out of the correct range then it starts the three seconds over. There are five tasks like this and they're all timed. It's a pretty hard task (especially when you've had a cocktail or two). I did well, but one person did so hilariously badly that a couple of us broke out into uncontrollable laughter verging on tears. At the end of the balance test, the game gives you a score, and if you do poorly it tells you that you have bad balance and asks, "Do you find yourself tripping a lot when you walk?"

Once you've finished the balance test, you get your Wii Fit Age. Somehow it takes your real age and then it figures out how old you really seem. Your Mii stands there looking nervous and drumming its fingers together while the Wii calculates your Age, and then you get a big number on the screen. I figured it would tell me I was really old because of my BMI, but surprisingly I was the youngest in the group by far. We're all in our late 20s/early 30s, but our Wii Fit Ages were 31, 39, 41, and 51. I was the 31, which was described as "+1" meaning that my Wii Fit Age is one year more than my actual age. Er, OK, my 31st birthday is less than a week away -- which Wii Fit knows perfectly well since it asked for my birthday -- but whatever. Anyway, I'm not sure exactly how the Wii Fit Age is calculated, but it is obvious that the balance test is the most important thing. The 51 year old in our group tried the balance test again and instantly took off 20 years with a performance that was much less hilarious than the first time (and surprisingly, this was *after* a shot of tequila).

After you get your Age, you get to set a goal. The goal is very narrowly defined to mean a *weight* goal. I find this terribly lame, but on the positive side, the goal can be anything you want including no change at all. The game doesn't judge your goal. The "Normal" person in our group decided to gain 22 lbs. in two weeks, thereby moving into the "Overweight" category. I thought the game might try to discourage this or issue a reminder about how great it is to be "Normal", but it didn't say anything. In fact, later when the Personal Trainer came on the scene, he actually used the goal as motivation during a workout: "Come on! You need to gain 22 lbs.!" We didn't play around too much with the weight goals, but there don't seem to be any limits. Although I appreciate the lack of prescriptivism in some respects, I think this could be dangerous in the hands of a child or a stupid person, or especially a stupid child. (Or, on a more serious note, a person with an eating disorder.)

Finally after you go through all that body testing stuff, you get to the game. There's a lot of yoga and aerobics stuff we didn't try. We basically focused on the balance games. Which are hilarious. There is a slalom ski course and a ski jump, both fun. Then there's a table with a hole in it where you have to tilt the table to roll a ball (which, weirdly, has your Mii's face on it) into the hole. That one is hard. And then there is a tightrope, where you kind of pick your feet up a little bit to simulate walking, but you try not to lean too much or your Mii plunges to his/her death. The best part about the tightrope game is the Jaws of Death. After you make it 19 yards on the tightrope, the Jaws of Death come at you (because, you know, walking on a tightrope isn't enough of a challenge). You have to squat and then quickly stand up, at the exactly the right moment, to simulate jumping over the Jaws of Death. None of us was able to time the jump correctly, so the record stands at 19 yards. But the best balance game (so far) is definitely soccer. You stand there while a bunch of kids line up and kick soccer balls at you in rapid succession, and you have to shift your weight to position your Mii's head in the right place to head the balls away, and you get points for every ball you head. But the trick is that it's not just soccer balls coming at you. For every four or five soccer balls, instead of a ball some kid will throw a foreign object at you (see, this is why I'm not having kids), which subtracts points if it hits you in the head. One such object is a soccer shoe (with cleats, as I recall). The other is THE SEVERED HEAD OF A PANDA. And no, I am totally not making this up. The problem with the panda head is that from a distance it looks like a soccer ball, but just as it approaches you realize there's some red on it (THIS WOULD BE THE PANDA'S BLOODY NECK STUMP) so you have to shift your weight away from it quickly or lose 3 points. What can I say, it's fun, until you think about it.

In fact, I'd say Wii Fit is like one big severed panda head. Yes, it is furry and fun to play games with, but ultimately it's a dead panda.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Shiny, happy fat people

I just picked up these little fat figures at a gallery down the street and they really made my day. I especially love the fat thinker.

These are just resin reproductions (the dancers are about 6" tall), and I am trying to find out some information about the original artist since the web address that I got doesn't work. I'll post an update in case anyone is interested.

Friday, June 06, 2008

National Donut Day

Today is National Donut Day. I shit you not!

There is even a fun quiz for you to take on the LaMar's website (warning: the interface isn't great because when you mouse over the question it shows you the answer). I scored 5 out of 10 -- d'oh!

Unfortunately I don't know of a good donut place around here (in fact I don't know of *any* in the immediate area; my primary criterion for a 'good donut place' is that they use white pastry cream, like at Krispy Kreme, rather than custard, in their cream-filled donuts). So I'm going to have a bagel for breakfast... at least it's got a hole.

Thanks to Admiral Seamus for the tip!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pie recipe

By popular demand (i.e., one person asked me), I'm posting the strawberry pie recipe that I use. This is not the same pie as in last week's photo, but I'll bet it tastes even better.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 pie crust, baked and cooled (I recommend Trader Joe's because it tastes homemade and doesn't have any trans fats or other nasty ingredients)
2 lbs. fresh strawberries, divided
1/4 c. cornstarch
3/4 c. sugar
pinch of salt
2 T. fresh lemon juice
homemade whipped cream

Rinse and drain strawberries and cut off the tops. Slice half of the strawberries into 1/4" thick slices.

Put the remaining whole strawberries into a molcajete or large mortar and crush them to a pulp. Add cornstarch, sugar, and salt, and stir until the cornstarch dissolves. Scoop into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Cool for 30 minutes, stirring a few times, until the mixture cools to room temperature.

Stir in the sliced strawberries. Pour into pie shell, then refrigerate until chilled. Top with whipped cream.