Friday, December 24, 2010

A little Christmas Trudeau

image“Uniformity is neither desirable nor possible in a country the size of Canada. We should not even be able to agree upon the kind of Canadian to choose as a model, let alone persuade most people to emulate it. There are few policies potentially more disastrous for Canada than to tell all Canadians that they must be alike. There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. What could be more absurd than the concept of an “all-Canadian” boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate. A society which eulogizes the average citizen is one which breeds mediocrity. What the world should be seeking, and what in Canada we must continue to cherish, are not concepts of uniformity but human values: compassion, love, and understanding.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lament for a frightened virtue…

Does this look like a dangerous person to you?
junk 001Before you favour me with the ‘kindnesses’ of your response, there is this:
The Ram 50 is a stead little beast but no amount of anthropomorphic resilience will bring her back to life after a winter's day spent shining her headlights into a snow bank. The wind-swept clutches of an icy parking lot work their slow magic on this proud monster like the little mice chewing away Aslan’s bonds. Only this time the creature does not come back to life but merely whimpers the last gasps of breath as I twist the little shank into her neck.
the battery is dead…
it’s dark. I’m tired. There’s the edge of a rankling brewing on the less than acceptable preliminary results of the exam I have just written. There are 4 other vehicles in the parking lot.
I push the truck to the middle of the lot. It sits prominently under a light pole, hood gaping wide like a suckling at the ready. I even have my own jumper cables. it’s cold.
three young ladies approach fomenting unimaginable horrors upon the nether regions of their professor. They will attend confession in the morning with a tell tale ache of the cerebrum. one of them makes her car beep and as they huddle around the red pontiac like coyotes around a carcass - I make my move.
they scurry inside the car and are gone before I can utter a word. even my inestimably demonstrative gesticulating of my arms does not attract their attention. I’m four bloody feet away from their car and the windows are not frozen. they are not looking at me – on purpose! the tail lights taunt, now visible at the exit. taunt like thumbs stuck in ears - fingers flapping.
my fingers are not flapping – they are stiff with cold. I dial my son to come and help.
two other girls approach – a guy, a pair of guys, and a girl all drive away in vehicles parked within mere meters of my dead Ram. I begin to wonder about the semiotic ‘readability’ of the propped open hood.
at first my anger seethes uncontrolled. a light post becomes receptacle for nasty epithets that discount the honour of the mothers of each of these unhelpfuls
as the blistering rage pauses for breath - a dim recognition
perhaps the sign that is misread here is me. perhaps, as the photo above will attest, I am the very thing their mothers warned them to avoid. looking at me they see that man – the dangerous man.
I should take a glory in the light of this. a smile perhaps? Not that I might revel in the thought of some imagined heinous identity I might possess. no the small glory should come in the success of post Mexico beard growing. but even that small medallion escapes.
now I am repulsed. that I could be a threat to any of those ‘brave’ souls who managed to ‘escape my wicked clutches’ is simply ludicrous. my repulsion fades into gloom.
how is it that an act of charity demanding meagre time wasted -- accomplish-able through the crack of the window, could so easily be discouraged? Should I conclude with Hobbes that we are an evil lot looking only for a way to excuse our selfish enterprise? Is the imagination of me being a potential threat an evident enough image to excuse charity?
Well Hobbes be damned there is benevolence after all. A boy, really, in his Ford SUV pulls up, having spotted me from the other side of the next parking lot. His girlfriend waits in a posture anything but patient. “I was just gonna drop her off at home – when I saw you.” it’s quarter to ten. “need a boost?”
i thank him through the inch and half crack of his window. it’s done. he’s gone. my son pulls up. as my hands slowly, in a screaming burn, return to normal circulatory function I dispense with Hobbes and shake my fist at fear.
a fear so humbly embedded on the everyday negotiation of safety left me out in the cold. a fear not recognized as fear anymore its just the way you do things. you don’t help beardy strangers in a parking lot – is just the way you do things. it is exactly the same quotidian negotiation that keeps us from dragging home the poor soul trying to sleep tonight on the park bench in Galt Gardens. fear is worked down deep inside the practices, keeping us from the charity that empathy might otherwise evoke. perhaps we no longer notice it as fear – its just the way we do things…
we’re not that bad – we’re just scared – and maybe we don’t even know just how scared we are…
look at me – won’t you be scared of me?

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Fav. Workout

Weight log: 207lbsimage

21 reps 100lbs bench press // Plank hold 12-8s (I count in sets of 8 @140 bpm) // 15 reps 15lbs per side lateral raises // 15 reps bench // Plank 8-8s // 10 reps lateral raises

Jog at pace 2 m / 3.2 km or 30 minutes (which ever is longer)

18 reps bench press // Plank hold 10-8s // 10 reps lateral raises // 15 reps bench // Plank 6-8s // 5 reps lateral raises

image Run 1.33 m / 2.1 or 20 minutes (which ever lasts longer)

15 reps bench press // Plank hold 10-8s // 10 reps lateral raises // 12 reps bench // Plank 6-8s // 5 reps lateral raises

Jog at pace .66 m / 1 km or 10 minutes (which ever lasts longer)

Cool down: Plank hold 3-8s twice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top 10 annoying things about being thinner…

Weight log: 205 lbs

10. Having to wear mittens and wool socks to bed to keep my aching digits warm enough to not wake me up.


9. Not being able to ‘take advantage’ of my wife’s life-stage related warmth to reduce our heating costs this winter.


8. Not getting any ‘body-size’ sympathy from female cops about my lack of seatbelt use.


7. Lost friendship with my former tailor from the tent and awning company.


6. Having enough loose floppy arm-pit skin to involuntarily (and often in the most inappropriate situations) produce those arm-pit farts that I could never pull off as a boy.


5. The way my now protruding bum bones make sitting on unpadded benches in church a greater challenge for the minister to have a good sermon.


4. Having to learn an appreciation for the number of beats per minute in electronic/dance/trance music. (my latest music purchase: The Biggest Loser Latin Dance Workout Mix)


3. Not being able to claim outrageous weight loss methods in response to the ever popular, “So how did you do it?” question.


2. No longer possessing the same threatening cache as potential member of any human blanket/Tuna fish/dog pile.


1. Did I mention the loose skin?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The woman language translator -

The woman language translator - Come on I gotta get this under the tree this year!

Between a Rock and …

Weight Log: 206lbs

For my History of Revolutionary Ideas final exam I have the following choices to write an essay on:

castro 1. Will history absolve Castro? (see link to his famous speech upon which this question is based)

2. Defend Stalin or Hitler or Osama Bin Laden.

3. Based on the revolutions of either Cuba, Vietnam, or China – justify the use of violence

Monday, December 6, 2010


Weight log: 209lbs (finally!)

I can't believe its not purple!
Roland Barthes, Mythologies
"One can trace in advertising a narrative pattern which clearly shows the working of this new vaccine. It is found in the publicityfor Astra margarine. the episode always begins with a cry of indignation against margarine: 'A mousse? Made with margarine? Unthinkable!' 'Margarine? Your uncle will be furious!' And then one's eyes are opened, one's conscience becomes more pliable, and margarine is a delicious food tasty, digestible, economical, useful in all circumstances. The moral at the end is well known: 'Here you are rid of a prejudice which cost you dearly!'"
Here's a video clip that might lend a helping hand in familiarizing yourself with the sort of advertising rhetoric that Barthes was talking about...

Also see this link here: http:Good Luck Margarine
The old prejudice being that there was nothing like butter - these commercials were able quite successfully, I would have to say in hindsight, at ridding ourselves of that old prejudice (if the dairy fridge at my local grocery store is any indication).
Barthes seemed to be arguing that these commercials were able to immunize the public into accepting the new form of food and rejecting the old form. It was unthinkable to make certain dishes without butter but then margarine came along and...
Well it swept into popularity - it became the new standard - it even could retain all the amazing flavor of butter...

and it could be healthy for you - and even sexy (see here)
So now margarine is the accepted "Established Order" according to Barthes. Of course margarine has had to clean up its act to keep butter at bay so transfats were eliminated from the edible oil product. (see here)
"It is in the same way that the Established Order relieves you of your progressive prejudices. The Army, an absolute value? It is unthinkable: (and here I should think any self-respecting Mennonite should be nodding along) look at its vexations, its strictness, the always possible blindness of its chiefs. The Church, infallible? Alas, it is very doubtful: look at its bigots, its powerless priests, its murderous conformism. And then common sense makes its reckoning: what is this trifling dross of Order, compared to its advantages? It is well worth the price of immunization. what does it matter, after all, if Order is a little brutal or a little blind, when it allows us to live cheaply? Here we are, in our turn, rid of a prejudice which cost us dearly, too dearly, which cost us much in scruples, in revolt, in fights and in solitude."
Now don't get too worked up about Barthes slam on the church. He was addressing problems in the church that at the time of this writing in the late forties and fifties needed slamming. Let's remember that this was precisely the time when under the auspices of church work residential schools, and significantly oppressive views toward women were rampant in the dominant church denominations in Europe (Barthes was French). What is important here is to think about the way that we perhaps have allowed ourselves to be inoculated against protesting the forms of corrupt and oppressive behavior that tends to sneak under our noses because we so willingly gobble us the advertising buzz around us. Delicio Pizza commercials are rampant - lettuce commercials not so much. Why is it that 'healthy' food like vegetables and fruit cost more than 'unhealthy' stuff like the bake-it-yourself-and-we-promise-it-will-taste-just-as-good-as-the-grease-drenched-stuff-you-order-from-Panago-pizza?
Sure there is broader religious and political critique available in Barthes words here but then even our choice of food is really a religious and political action. Right?

10 K

Today for the first time I jogged just over 10 kilometers – it took me 106 minutes to accomplish this feat. in honour of this accomplishment here’s a little treadmill humour to keep you on your toes

Friday, December 3, 2010

been there done that…

pics december 010

Now its party time…come on over!

electronic conscience

imageTexas Judge David Cabos has implemented the use of ankle bracelets to help reduce school truancy. Anna Maria Tremonte interviewed him in response to a program she aired on the rising truancy rate in Canadian schools. Finding effective solutions was the target of her investigation. The Judge issued some very interesting words about the use of the ankle tracking bracelets…

“It kinda serves as an electronic conscience as well” (17:35m)

Whole radio interview available here: (start listening at around 11:30)

Can a conscience be electronically induced? If it is possible to see the use of these electronic surveillance devices as a way of reinforcing important strategies of socialization (like going to school (regardless of the quality of schooling received)), what does that mean for the kind of mindful labour that Matthew Crawford and Wendell Berry advocate as important for virtuous engagement with the world? Can being mindful be transferred onto a device?

Here is Crawford…

“…modern science adopts an otherworldy ideal of how we come to know nature: through mental constructions that are more intellectually tractable than material reality, and in particular amenable to mathematical representation. Through such renderings we become masters of nature. Yet the kind of thinking that begins from idealizations such as the frictionless surface and the perfect vacuum sometimes fail us, because it isn’t sufficiently involved with the particulars.”


“…to be a good mechanic (or any other kind of person Crawford claims) you have to be constantly attentive to the possibility that you may be wrong.”

We need to, ”…perceive (the world) clearly, and this requires a kind of “un-selfing”. [A]nything which alters consciousness in the direction of unselfishness, objectivity, and realism is to be connected with virtue. [V]irtue is the attempt to pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is.”

Crawford suggests that if we remain in the world of projections (via ‘modern science’)…

“We have to wonder, then, whether degraded work entails not just dumbing down but also a certain unintended moral education…There seems to be a vicious circle in which degraded work plays a pedagogical role, forming workers into material that is ill suited for anything but the over-determined world of careless labour.”

So then the irony of the ankle bracelet technology is that it is being used to help students get a better education when in fact my removing conscientious engagement with the world it may in fact being accomplishing quite the opposite effect?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

please hand in your ‘absence’ slips at the pearly gates…

Weight log: 211lb (forgot to take my pill again today – it is really hard to tell the difference between taking it and not taking it – Great work out today though!)

I’m a little frustrated with an article in Christianity Today entitled A Feast Fit for a King by Leslie Leyland Fields. Fields does an ample job of providing a provocative critique of industrialized food. Its a thoughtful piece that doesn’t skimp on guilt-tinged advice for meaningful redirection of food choices for people who are mindful of their desire to follow Christ. She outlines some of the important strategies that are beginning to be recognized as the best ways to address the problems resulting from turning food into an industry. Of these the admonition to engage with local food production in our purchasing habits is likely the strongest.

Leslie also provides a challenging look at the fact that the new (especially anti-agribusiness) food movements in fact are thinly disguised forms of ideological rhetoric which tend to wander far too much into realm of religion. This is a valid point and a helpful caution for those who might see reform in the praxis of food to be essential to solving almost all of the worlds problems. She points to the influence of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy in the core elements of these sort of movements. But she also marks the fact that these same philosophies are not that far from core values intoned by Christian dogma.

The problem that I have is that I think she gives up a little too easily. Her conclusion toward the end of the piece seems to recover the standard defeatist position that has been the Christian mantra since Augustine.

“Our attempts to restore the earth and return to Edenic communion with it ultimately cannot succeed. Just as we cannot perfect our bodies or spirits through eating pure foods, so we cannot perfect the earth, no matter how heroic our efforts. Because of our foreparents' appetite for authority and forbidden food, creation has been groaning, subjected to futility and death… We steward the earth and exercise dominion over its creatures as expressions of love for and obedience to our Creator, who named it all very good, but we cannot take back or re-create the garden. Not until heaven will we see the garden restored.”

Stewardship and dominion over the earth and its creatures makes absolutely no sense if that stewardship and dominion do not have some actual consequences. We may as well bury the earth and its creatures in a hole and wait for the master to return. The earth and its creatures matter to God. They are not just symbolic elements of a uber complex Lego world he has fashioned for us to prove we love him in. These are not play things we are dealing with – they are the work of the master designer? Right? Eden may very well not be recoverable but then Eden likely not even a desirable idea for us to pursue. A more realistic idea would be to work within the indictment of man’s relegation to the make food by the sweat of his brow. To see this ‘curse’ to be the most potentially redemptive feature of our engagement with the real world might be the start of finding ways to recover honesty and integrity into how we consume and produce food. And is it not time for intelligent Christians to refuse to engage with the narcissism that results in the standard “-not until heaven” line. How arrogant is that. I mean can you even imagine anyone with a thread of human decency saying those words to those facing starvation and mal-nutrition around the world. At best it sounds something like this, “We’re sorry we aren’t going to help you because after all we can’t fix everything and heaven is just around the corner when we can forget that these terrible things ever happened in the first place – now say your prayers!”

It’s time to admit that more can be done and more responsibly. We have not even reached heroic status.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


“But these truths were a fire in me then. Now I can tell them without being burned. These truths do not have to be hurled in men’s faces. They are not intended to ignite fervor. I do not trust fervor.

Every time it has burst out somewhere, it has brought fire, famine, misery….And contempt for man.

Fervor is the weapon of choice of the impotent.” – Frantz Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Embarrassed at McDonald’s

The Greasy-Eyed, Sheepish Apology usually goes something like this: “Oh, I just picked something up at McDicks.”101109_happy_meal.grid-6x2
Allen Shelton noticed that when his fellow professors admitted to eating a Quarter Pounder and fries they talked about it as if, “this was an activity which in one way or another had been forced on them…They were vaguely apologetic or embarrassed by their presence there.” -- (Theatre for Eating, Looking and Thinking: the Restaurant as Symbolic Space)
McDonalds never seems to get the same ecstatic revelry from its patrons as say the Keg, or even Boston Pizza. “Yeah, you know I tried those new McMinis and they’re not that bad – actually.” Where as on the other hand you get…”If go to that new Indian place on 4th Ave. you just have to try the Baingan Bharta it is to die for!” Of course, it is not uncommon to hear criticism of all restaurants but even there a different type of language is used. “The portions at Ric’s Grill are small for the price and the food is just average – nothing outstanding.” Compared to…”Can you believe that they are actually bringing the McRib back? – That is just disgusting!” The differences are subtle but the way we talk about the food we eat at a restaurant says something important about what is “going on” in a restaurant.
Shelton’s article gives us a pretty convincing argument that a class analysis is available when we look at restaurants. He suggests a high end restaurant like Ric’s Grill or the Keg corresponds loosely to a high class identification. Boston Pizza on the other hand is more middle class. McDonalds and other fast food convenience type stores are more akin to the working class. It’s not that eating at one of these establishments means that you are that type of person but he says, much like Levi-Strauss says, that restaurants form a type of language that we can use to communicate things about our identity. They are located (loci) systems of meaning that we can use to speak to others and to ourselves. We know this intuitively since we hardly ever check what we are wearing when we enter a McDonalds but we pay special attention to what we are wearing at an upscale place.
Of course we know that food itself actually changes in these places as well. In McDonalds we can expect the same thing in every store across North America. The central item is the burger. At a place like Coco Pazzo’s we know that we won’t find the same food as anywhere else. In fact we may not find the same food week to week. Part of the reason for that is because we have different expectations about what is done with our food.
In McDonalds we know that its not really a chef making our burger but an assembly line of workers adding components that in the end construct the burger we order. No special attention is given to the food products themselves other than their order of assembly and the ‘state’ (usually hot or cold) that they need to be in to be ready to be added. Often the food is pre-manufactured to meet specification of assembly in these shops. A customer walks up orders a Quarter Pounder with cheese hold the onions – and one is delivered within minutes. Just over the tops of the burger shoots we can see the caps of these assembly line workers truckin along.
At the Keg something different happens. There is a chef and he has his minions. We usually can’t even see them working but we know they are there. And we know that they are having to do some magic with our food. We know this in a few ways. First of all we are asked about our preferences on how the meat is cooked which condiments or style of potato we want. The chef will need to work with the obstinate food ingredients to make sure they meet our specifications. The chef learns how to cook the steak just right so that it can be ‘done’ exactly as we have asked for it. We also know this because our food takes time to get to our table. Somebody must be working their butt off to get this stuff to us. And then we know this because the amount we get is usually proportionately smaller than what we could order for the same price at McDonalds or Swiss Chalet. So the price (the fact that it is more expensive) is another way for us to tell that our food is being worked into submission to meet our desire for pleasure.
Crawford calls this type of work mindful work as opposed to careless work. Crawford says attentiveness to how objects resist our will is not only a more elevated intellectual skill but it is also a virtue. He says when people have to work in jobs like McDonalds (in the mechanics world this would be Mr. Lube or Canadian Tire) a certain dumbing down occurs and also an unintended moral re-education. The Keg or Osho’s (the mechanics equivalent of the corner restoration specialist) helps workers engage with the particular of the material world and makes them more virtuous. (p. 101)
“There seems to be a vicious circle in which degraded work plays a pedagogical role, forming workers into material that is ill suited for anything but the overdetermined world of careless labour.”
How do you know its careless labour? – come on does the picture ever match what you get in side the box? Is there any wonder that they have to add a toy to the kids meal to make it really happy?
Enter the world of weight loss. If you wanted to lose weight you’d only eat at high end restaurants that feed you exceedingly small portions of the most succulent and worked over food on the planet. But that stuff cost the most. So you opt for Tony Roma’s instead of the Keg. You exchange Wok Box for Osho’s – Coco Pazzo for Pizza Hut. But then why stop there. Who has the money for Pizza Hut every night? You can get those Delicio Pizza a lot cheaper. But you exchange those for the Costco big pan $10.99 pizza – you fill your freezer with them and you admit under your breath that its not as good as Delicio but nothing feeds your family as well. You’ve traded down on the best stuff for you and you’ve end up with more food for less money – a whole lot more food. I can barely make pizza meal for my family from scratch for what it costs me to purchase a personal size at Coco Pazzo. But Pizza Hut and Costco have me beat cost wise by a mile.
So the food produced by careless labour is consumed by the poorest people – or most financially conservative. The question. If McDonalds type work makes us less virtuous labourers what does consumption of the product of this labour make the consumers? Dupes to be sure. We would do well according to Crawford et al. to only opt for the food products that have been sweated over. In the mean time consumers can’t afford that food. The food they can afford is the food that will make them fat. And to make up for the crappy taste of that food the multinational food corporations throw billions of dollars behind packaging and advertising to create a beautiful illusion (projection) or an imagined taste. If the consumer wants to unseat the powerful corporate interests that regulate this market structure he/she has to buy more expensive food. But now buying more expensive food is not even desired since the eat public has gotten used to eating and preferring the crappy food. (Why is it that my kids prefer the canned chicken noodle soup to my homemade stuff with real noodles? Why is a green garden salad so much more expensive to make than the main course and why don’t people like that salad as much as the main course?). I’m not talking about a conspiracy. I am talking about how tastes change – I am talking about about how obesity becomes ‘epidemic’ – I am talking about how economics at both the producer/chef/maker/assembler side and the consumer/eater/microvwaver/digester side of this problem is caught inside a system that inevitably shapes the free will choice of individuals within the system. It also allows individuals with enough dough to make the kind of pizza that will help them get thinner which will help reinforce their status as a high class individual in society which will…
OK its a conspiracy!
this is a chart of comparative analysis that I made up based on a few articles and authors I have been reading on this topic – the categories don’t necessarily line up exactly and are not analogous completely within columns but I have found this a useful way to keep track of the ideas of the authors presented…

Body as a sick engine

250px-D_H_Lawrence_passport_photograph I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self
and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance
long, difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake, and the freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify. – D.H. Lawrence

Obesity is commonly understood as an illness. Here I want to superimpose an interpretation of Lawrence’s poem that may not be accommodating of  his intention but I think there is room in his obscure language to make this available.

If as in a Cartesian sense the body is a machine, it makes sense to think that there must be possible to arrive at the idea of optimally running machine. Obesity from the point of view of optimum mechanical efficiency should be considered as an illness. But Lawrence is actually trying to reframe the idea of illness. Here illness is connected not to an improper function of the body/machine. Illness is connected to ‘wounds to the soul’ which he suggests take a ‘long, long time’ to recover from. So then obesity is not an illness of the body but of the soul. This is even worse. This turns into: “I am obese – I have an ill soul.” This is a short step away from: “You are obese – you are a bad person!” But something else is available here in Lawrence.

He suggests that these soul wounds require a ‘certain difficult repentance…of life’s mistake’. So perhaps if you are obese Lawrence would say that all one needs to do is repent of your mistakes – not of the body but of the mind and soul. So far we have covered the dominant rhetoric of the plenty of the weight loss as self-help programs (i.e. Weight Watchers, Weigh Down Diet, even Curves). Think right – eat right – be thin -they tell you.  But it is also the ‘freeing oneself from the endless repetition of the mistake which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.’ So what is this socially sanctified mistake that Lawrence is talking about? It is quite possible that Lawrence had a specific social problem in mind that was systematically opposed to healing. But he seems to have avoided being too direct in his accusation. As a result the poem is open for this: the endlessly repeated mistake that individuals must free themselves from is nothing less than seeing the body as a mechanism.

So what?

Perhaps if the body isn’t a mechanism then we can stop moralizing the body. Maybe we can stop using the body as a marker to determine which individuals are evil and which one’s are good. Maybe a better idea of illness can be recaptured. Maybe the common judgement of lazy, gluttonous, dirty, or careless can stop being the moral tags affixed to bodies that stand outside of the arbitrary way we have thought the typical body should look.

disclaimer: I am not in anyway trying to be an apologist for Lawrence. I doubt there is much of his ideological perspective I could endorse.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Upload Request

Weight log: 210lbs (now the trick is to keep it off till next Friday-yikes)

Hey everybody,

If you are interested in uploading your pics of 100lbs of significant stuff here is the PhotoBucket account that you can use to do that. The account name is “hundredpounds” and the password is, “100pounds”. Feel free to upload your pics at anytime. Looking forward to seeing what you all come up with.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

a good work ethic

sporting my newly crafted Saskatchewan RoughRiders hat
weight log: 213lb (I am tired of this weight let's get lower already)
I am a parent of four teenage boys. I think that one of my jobs is to teach them a solid work ethic (which is a euphemism for not being lazy). Since Tuesday of the first snow fall I asked my boys to shovel the driveway (I also ask them to shovel the neighbour’s driveway since he is old). With the onslaught of looming school work, I did not have the time to spend with them on this job. Each day after school when they would come in I would ask them whether they had done a good job. Each time they assured me they had. They were wrong. Their idea of good job meant that the packed snow underneath the tire ruts were left as is. Their idea of a good job meant that the garage doorway had been cleared for just enough space to plant one foot over the threshold. Mine was slightly different. By the time one week later I took the time to fix their lackluster effort one of my other neighbours had ‘conveniently’ brought his snow blower over to clear off our driveway. I hate snow-blowers – they pack just as much snow onto the driveway as they remove. So I spent 3 hours scraping my driveway while my boys intermittently lent their assistance to my project. I expect that they are more aware of my standards now.
I am glowing now with that tell-tale glow that one gets when you are frozen to the core of your being and the blood ever so timidly re-investigates the outer reaches of your capillary system. I am glowing with a certain parental one-up-man-ship. “I showed them what real work was all about.”
I tilt back in my chair with a hot cup of coffee and am dimly conscious of the sound of a video game playing in the background. Something occurs to me in my state of glowing that is irresistible and annoying at the same time. There has not been one time when I have ever asked my boys to be diligent in their video-gaming forays. I have never said, “Jesse you had better make sure you beat that monster in level 8.” I have never rebuked my son about his choice not to march his ancient army through the Spanish peninsula as would clearly be most prudent. I have never asked my sons to provide evidence of their scores, kills, or points after each day of game playing.
At first I am intrigued that there seems to be this whole new area of ‘accountability’ that I can use to reinforce the ‘values’ that I want to pass on to my boys. Of course this is just ludicrous thinking. Who uses video game proficiency as a way to mark, grade and sort labour. It’s just plain silly.
But then I think about my desire to have the boys demonstrate diligence in ‘real’ work with their hands. I wonder if this is going to make any sense at all to them or to their kids in a few years.
Growing up, I can still recall scenes of five and six year old boys running a single shovel plough behind an ox in Nicaragua. There is almost no chance that my boys will need to depend on that sort of diligence in the future to sustain their lives. So I begin to wonder why it is so important to teach the boys to work hard – do a good job – take pride in their work. Well, before I start sounding like a buffoon, I should say that the answer seems fairly self evident. Diligence in work is virtue regardless of what work one does. So I hope that my insistence on getting the job done right is actually something that will bear fruit in whatever labour they choose to engage in. More importantly, I want my boys to be independent. When their vehicle breaks down I want them to have the wherewithal to at least make an attempt to fix the thing. Not because that is the manly thing to do but because I want them to avoid the screw job they are going to get at Canadian Tire when they bring it there for repair. Luckily, my boys have had some fabulous employers who have been more than forbearing on their deficiencies. They report to me that my boys are hard conscientious workers. Phew!
But before I go back to glowing, I am stumped by a nagging question that just seems to avoid a satisfying answer. Why is it that some types of work/effort are seen as valid – almost natural while others seem well not even really like work at all? It seems likely that at least one of my sons will find employment in a field that will involve the use of technologies that will for all intents resemble the very video games they play today. So should I be asking them to diligently play video games? On a deeper level, am I prepared, as a parent, to avoid the condescending tone that goes with the words, “So when are you gonna find a real job?”
 We live in a world that is increasingly inaccessible. I still recall standing in sheepish chagrin over the disemboweled carcass of my new purchased Chevy Astro. My good friend was installing a water pump. I was a useless onlooker thankful that I had a friend who I could trust to get the work done. When one of the main bolts sheared off in removing the old pump I was in full panic mode. My hands were not even greasy but I was the one panicking. My friend calmly slid out from under the vehicle shut off the trouble light and causally said, “I’ll pick up a new in the morning and we’ll drill in out then.” A water pump is beyond my confidence level. Oil changes fine but that’s about it. My new cell phone on the other hand, I can’t do any maintenance on that. In fact if I do start to open the sucker up there is a sticker that tells me to leave it alone. I have only a few options all of which take the phone out of my hands. Return to store. Buy a new one. That’s it.
I’m a hard worker. I pride myself in that. I used to get winded from being over weight but now I think I am getting back to some of that old hard work form that once had. In the old days I used to work 12-14 hours a day setting and pouring concrete. Loved it. I am telling you that even in my peak athletic form there would be absolutely nothing I could do to fix my fricken phone!!! Those buggers who sell it to me have me over a barrel. In order to have a phone I can’t build one from scratch or fix my old one or upgrade it. I have to constantly be tied to their leash. So now tell me what is a good work ethic going to really look like in the future that my grand-kids will grow up into…?
For more on this stuff read the chapter: “The Contradictions of the Cubicle” in Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jamie Oliver is a food missionary

weight log: 213 lbs | The Current | Nov 22/10 - Pt 2: Jamie Oliver
Jamie says that people are not bright enough to empower people to evolve toward better food choices. He claims that corporations are to blame with fancy marketing schemes. He advocates a Nanny state to watch out for children's food consumption. Governments should get very involved. Really?
Poorest people are the most vulnerable.
British public was best when they had a "ministry of food" administered by 'girls'.
"What you don't want to be is a food NAZI!" - Jamie Oliver
so who is the fascist foodie?
does artisan food = good food?

So who wins? Really?

Let them eat broccoli! - The Globe and Mail
Margaret Wente has done a good job of describing the different sides of the fence on this issue. Do we want the state legislating our food consumption (in much the same way they have legislated consumption of tobacco)?
"If people can’t resist their own worst instincts, then the state is increasingly determined to do it for them. To impose virtue on the lower orders, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has asked the federal government for permission to bar the city’s poor people from buying soda and other sugary drinks with their food stamps."
or are we to give in to the Applebees of the world who seem to be waging a far too effective guerrilla warfare against our better judgment?
Let's face it - there is a serious dilemma for the conscientious Mennonite - do what degree do we take advantage of the all-you-can-eat-buffet?

S.F. Supervisors pass anti-Happy Meal law - Business - Consumer news - Food Inc. -

S.F. Supervisors pass anti-Happy Meal law - Business - Consumer news - Food Inc. -
so here is a question that might be worth asking: Is the presence of a toy a significant factor in the selection of a particular meal choice for parents? I mean does a toy make you choose one meal over another? I suspect that this will make very little difference in the sale of "Happy Meals" in San Fran. It will also likely not serve to change the proliferation of fast food as a significant source of food consumption for the population.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Status: None

Weight log: 215lbs

I know that some of you keeners out there have noticed that the little Facebook badge on the right hand side of my blog site lists my status as none. This is one of those quirky things that seems to defy the gremlins in cyberspace – as it would seem that “status” on Facebook is a principle feature of this social networking medium…

the invisible fat man

I want to be very careful here. It seems that racism is a distinct (and more horrific) form of bigotry. The oppression of non-whites is hardly something to trivialize with a comparison to other forms of discrimination. I do think it is possible to extract from the field of racism a particular nuance of the human experience of positional violence. I know violence seems like an overly loaded term in this space. It is appropriate if only to suggest that the act of reducing the other to something less is in itself a violent act where power is exercised to control the other. With all due respect and deference since I am a after all a white man I want to suggest a comparison that might get at a peculiarity at work in the field an us / them formulation.

In racism there is the black person and the white person. In body-sizism there is the fat person and the thin person. Black is to fat as White is to thin. This comparative equivalency is only really positional and not actual lest we fall into the dismissive problem stated above.

In order to think about this comparison let us turn to Frantz Fanon who gives us theory of how language situates and reduces the black person to a position of depersonalization. Fanon in the introduction to his first (and my favourite work) book Black Skin White Masks posits the way language works to reduce the black.

“To speak means to be in a position to use a certain syntax, to grasp the morphology of this or that language, but it means above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization…The Negro of the Antilles will be proportionately whiter-that is, he will come closer to being a real human being-in direct ratio to his mastery of the French language.”

Fanon is suggesting that the adoption of a language situates the individual to a restriction of identity as a subject. I think this should be fairly clear for anyone who has tried to master a second language since what becomes immediately apparent is the way the new language forces a different perspective, thought process, etc. The better one can speak the language the better able the individual is able to negotiate the essential elements of living within that culture. The accent is what gives one away as a foreign speaker – it keeps one at a distance. Distance might be negotiable but what Fanon suggests is that ultimately this restriction – the act of supporting ‘the weight of a civilization’ is an act of complicity toward a denial of the black person’s real identity as they strive to take on the whole cultural aesthetic of white person.

Turning back to food, I have already talked about how theorists have framed food as a system of signs that operate like a language. Food and eating is a way to communicate. Eating in a certain way is a way of producing identity.

Fanon again describes the project of coming out from under the restriction that language can impose on the racial oppressed black.

“We shall have no mercy for the former governors, the former missionaries. To us, the man who adores the Negro is as “sick” as the man who abominates him. Conversely, the black man who wants to turn his race white is as miserable as he who preaches hatred for the whites. In the absolute, the black is no more to be loved than the Czech, and truly what is to be done is to set man free…Mankind set free of the trampoline that is the resistance of others, and digging into its own flesh to find meaning.”

What Fanon is interested in is not just having the black person find vindication or revenge on the oppressor but instead to escape the entire system that allows this kind of oppression to exist and flourish. The point for the black person is not to achieve the position of the white it is to smash the whole thing to pieces to get at freedom. Fanon is alerting us to the fact that there is something deeply problematic about the function of distinguishing ourselves against another as something superior.

From here it is interesting to think about food again. If eating is a language than the supermarket is like a sort of dictionary. It catalogues the ‘words’ that are available for us to use to talk with the ‘language’ of food. And just like a dictionary a supermarket seems to provide a comprehensive catalogue of all the available words that we can use. (How many times have we heard in grade school: If its not in the dictionary then its not a word – of course in that there is no accounting for Sarah Palin’s “refudiate”) So when we head down the peanut butter aisle we think we are choosing from all the available kinds of peanut butter available – they are all there side by side. Chunky, Crunchy, extra Chunky, smooth, extra smooth, natural, organic, light, reduced fat, etc. – they are all right there together. But what we quickly and intuitively come to know is that although this seems like real choice – it is only actually a limited choice. There must be other peanut butters out there – they just did not make it on to the shelf. This illusion of real choice operates in the same way that words operate in a given language. There seem to be a limited amount of words available to use within a language to express what we want to say. So too it is with food and eating.

If the black man is reduced in speaking another language is the fat man reduced in speaking a different language. If I as a former fat man begin to speak in the new language of ‘being/becoming thin’ what do I do to the fat man. I say that the fat man was not as viable as the new thin man. I want to be thin so I choose to speak in a new language of food. I eat less. I eat the ‘right’ foods to keep me thin and make me thinner. All the while my former fatness betrays my accent in the new language. I have no way to express the way food made my former identity with the new language I am speaking. It seems ironic and even heretical for me to suggest to my son to make some microwave popcorn for him and his friend when I know that this is not the language I am supposed to be ‘speaking’ (and as a father I should not be teaching my kids to speak in my mother tongue). But as a fat man I was able to say things with food that I can’t say now. I used to be able to have ‘words’ telling cooks how awesome their food was by helping myself to seconds and thirds. There seemed to be a way that the mere fact of me being large was able to function as a verification of goodness of food. Now as a thinning man I am left without a voice – reduced. At every turn I must also deny the existence of the old fat man even though the flaps of skin are still hanging well below my belt. I am scrutinized and worried over. How many times have I already heard, “I hope you won’t waste away to nothing.” How ridiculous is that – there is a long impossible road before my material nothingness is realized. But another nothingness has appeared. The invisibility of the fat man. The fat man does not speak – only the thin man speaks. I learn the right way to talk about the fat man. I feel much better now than I did then. I choose different words/food to create my identity. I am trying to become thin…you might think this the ultimate sacrilege to racist discourse but here goes…

to take liberties with Fanon…To us, the man who adores (pities) the Fatso is as “sick” as the man who abominates him. Conversely, the fat man who wants to turn his fatness thin is as miserable as he who preaches hatred for the skinny. In the absolute, the obese are no more to be loved than the anorexic, and truly what is to be done is to set man free.

Here is the root of it all. There is something essential in human nature that perverts the natural distinguishing that inevitably occurs between individuals. When a distinction become a sight of making one person more worthy than another – we have engaged in an act of oppression…

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

100lbs of Significance Party

100lbsJoin the Facebook group for updates here:!/home.php?sk=group_163645170341693&ap=1

So the way I figure it I am about 2/3 weeks away from getting over that 100lb threshold. To celebrate I would like to invite you to a party. But in order to participate you will need to prepare the following:

1. Collect 100lbs of something significant.

2. If you can make it to the party – bring your 100lbs of stuff to the party. We will have a photographer take a picture of it. Then you can take it back home with you or leave with me to put into the fire we will have at the end of the night.

3. If you cannot make it to the party – take a picture of your 100lbs of stuff and post it either to the facebook group or to the photobucket sight I will provide you by email.

As soon as I have a date for the party I will post it and let you know more details. Until then start collecting.

Wondering what to collect:

students – how about 100lbs of books, pens, paper, etc.

accountants – how about 100lbs of coins

recent mom’s – 100lbs of dirty diapers

You get the drift…

When the Meridia is done - I'll switch to this...

Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds -

His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most -- not the nutritional value of the food.
The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.

But you might expect other indicators of health would have suffered. Not so.

Monday, November 15, 2010


weight log: 219lb (so technically Mexico left a little extra around the waste line)

Hitting the books hard now – this is tough sledding.

This last week was good and hard at the same time – I will no doubt blog more of this in the next few days as I squirrel my way out of this pile of work. Save to say that when certain sociological theorists write about hauntings – I think I may indeed be catching a sliver of what that feels like…

I could not have had a more exquisite time with my wife of 20 years. This really was all that we had hoped for to celebrate our love together and it made us even more excited about the trip to Nicaragua that we are planning for next year. We can’t wait to be able to take our boys with us to explore this beautiful part of the world.

I can’t sign off tonight without a brief comment about the accident which claimed the lives of 7 people on the morning of the day that we left the Mayan Riviera. 5 of these were Canadians. A quick glance through any Canadian press agency will tell you of the tragedy that this became for the Canadians involved. We know that they were a part of a wedding, that a little boy was one of the victims and so on. Now I mean no disrespect to the families of this individuals’ families and friends. Their loss is no doubt immense.

What I can’t get out of my mind is that we know very little about who the Mexican men were. The Canadian press told nothing other than their nationality but even after scouring the Mexican papers there is precious little that we know about these two. Their names and the age of one of the men was confirmed but nothing else. What bothers me is that the details of the lives of the Canadians seemed important and framed the situation as tragic and worthy of deep sympathy. Clearly, the loss of the Mexican lives is no less tragic but because we have no details there is no way to know who was left behind. In a place where scrapping by is the way life is – someone is now wondering were their next meal is coming from or worse. By not talking about the details of their lives we have left them in a certain kind of invisible state. (not that unlike the state of being that Ralph Ellison describes in Invisible Man) I am trying not to be bitter against our Canadian-centric digestion of this story but it is really hard for me. The tragedy is a glaring confusion of positions. A group of Canadians upwardly mobile enough to afford to get married in a far away place – with all expenses paid, etc, etc, – have their lives cut short in an accident in that place. Their choices put them in a place that was to cause their demise and great sorrow for their families. The Mexican men were in a much different place. They too made the choice to be there but their choices most likely revolved around a complex set of negotiations between kin and friends to stave off the edges of poverty in this place. mexico 078They were likely some of the more ‘fortunate ones’ who like the young man who drove us to the airport that day reported that he made 1300 pesos a month and his wife made 450. He put in 12 hours a day and together they supported his mom and aunt and grandfather and their little boy. What if he had been the one who had died? Now the tragedy seems to be cast in a different light but because of our position we have no contact with the reality of these two individuals situation. And unfortunately it seems we can far too easily forget them.

forgetting is such an important part of how we validate our own importance…

On a much lighter note – here is one thing I will not forget soon. The look of my boys in their newly acquired wrestling masks. Boys I can’t wait to let you taste this place that haunts me still.

Oh and I would be completely remiss to publically thank Char’s mom for watching our boys for the week. They were spoiled to bits.   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

if we’d all just be a little more altruistic maybe this ‘system’ would work?

So our friend Mr. Crawford tells us about about his work as a ‘abstractor’ (someone who writes abstracts for articles that are published in magazines). The objective of the job on the surface appeared to require substantial cognitive ability. But in the end, he found the job ultimately unsatisfying. The work was reduced to little more than a glorified bulleter of points made in the article – repleat with quotas on the number of articles abstracted and with the only measurement of quality reduced to grammar and spelling forms.

So then he says,

“What I want to emphasize is that the presence of this third party (the conglomerate that owned the company he worked for) seeking to maximize  a surplus skimmed from my labour, in a manner not sensitive to the limitations of pace arising from the nature of the work itself, must drive the work process beyond its limits.

Yet to identify greed as the problem would be to place the issue beyond serious address, leaving only important lamentation or a tedious exhortation to altruism.While greed may indeed be the root cause of our impoverished work life, it is surely no the case that the managers who design and orchestrate the process are themselves greedy (or rather, they surely are greedy no less or more than the rest of us, but that is not he issue.)  …The problem, rather, is in the organization of managerial work within which they must operate.”

I like this guy more and more all the time…

Coffee Cupping: How Professionals Taste Coffee | Serious Eats

Coffee Cupping: How Professionals Taste Coffee | Serious Eats
What i find most interesting about his article is that it attempts to do two things at the same time which on the surface seem contradictory. The premise of the article is to give in layman terms the process by which an elite set of individuals grade coffee. This apparently needs to be done because this process is mysterious and shrouded in obscure almost dictatorial power in its ability to affix value to coffee.
It is almost like the author is saying, "Do you wanna why certain coffee is considered better than others? Well, there is a perfectly rational system in place that allows certain individuals to make those claims about certain varieties."
The other thing that this article does is to maintain the control that these 'professionals' have over this stratification of food. With just enough vague brevity the author rather successfully re-shrouds this field of action all over again. At the end of the article we feel just as bewildered as before about the whole thing. We also feel appropriately distant from being able to achieve the elite status that the professionals have in tasting coffee. We know that even if we attend some of these coffee cupping events we will remain subservient to a predetermined number set by the objective set parameter maintained by the 'gods' of coffee tasting.
as for me right now - i just wanna find some good coofee to bring home this week!

Mañana en la mañana

Mañana en la mañana

Amanecerá el mundo a un recuerdo de la noche oscura

Los arboles bien quietos quedaran

Sin canción

Y su sombra los pajaritos se afijan

Que insuficientes son sus cancionetas

Para cubrir la inquietad

Mañana en la mañana

Amanecerá el corazón a un recuerdo del amor pura

Sin sangre revuelto en los engaños

De lo que gana

Las riquezas arrancadas con espada

Dejando pobre la novia

Del soldado libre

Mañana en la mañana

Amanecerá la mente a un recuerdo de una cierta duda

Que despierta la razón

En su certidumbre que otra vez ha caído

En la calle rechazado de la verdad

Que la sangre de los esclavos

Corre en la libertad

Mañana en la mañana

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


i am laying on the beach trying to hold down a conversation with my good friend from Germany about restaurant choices in Europe as compared to north America. this boy does a lot of international travel and has a fairly narrow palate that he uses effectively to mark high and low quality food choices. He tells me that in Europe the chain restaurant phenomenon is not nearly as prolific. while Fast food choice like McD’s do exist, there is far more trial and ‘error’ in finding the restaurant of choice for any dining experience. He also claims that the choice of restaurant has much more to do with atmosphere selection than menu style or type – this inspite of the fact that he claims restaurants generally have smaller menus with less variety and are able to cover less of the palate range than say you Ricky’s or Kelseys etc. Of course it is impossible to take his claims and generalize across a population but the comparative perspective is still a valuable tool in accessing certain dynamics of the public food eating experience.
At that moment a dude walks up trying to convince us of the need to go on the next booze cruise the hotel is planning – but he is not going to talk to us about that at all. Instead he tell us that he is an American transplant from Miami who decided to stay and make money. when we ask him why he is here he tells us. Back in Miami it is a crazy race with people getting nowhere – you go to work come home have a drink go to bed do it all over in the morning on the weekend you need to cut the grass so you go out to find that everyone else in your neighbourhood is doing the same thing. HERE he tells us – everynight i think which restaurant am i going to go to today and I go to a brand new one if I want to. I don’t like to do dishes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

a meal with Marcuse

Weight log: 214lb

The waiter approached our table he’s had two trays of steaming hot food in his hands. They looked delicious. He set them down in front of me and my dinner guest. As we both picked up our forks, the older man swung the conversation around to one of his favourite ideas. Alienation.

I’ve talked about the idea of alienation before and I bring it up again because I think it is important to uncover the way social frames, informed by capitalist sensibilities, operate to negate meaningful resistance or protest to repression in all its forms.

Alienation, the old codger started, is what happens to the individual who only possesses the effort of her/his labour. The labourer no longer owns or possesses the work of his/her hands and so must stand a distance to whatever product he/she makes out of her/his labour. The grey beard Karl reminded me of how important this was for him  as he watched the early Industrial Revolution emerging. Since labour was largely invisible it was a prime site for repression. So Marx predicted that capitalism would fail as the working class would revolt and demand a different way of exchanging their labour.

You sure sucked as prophet. – I told him not blinking. What you did not count on but perhaps should have predicted was that capitalism might actually be able to preserve itself by transforming the worker into a consumer. So that now a worker could ignore the alienation of his/her labour because it helped her/him be a better consumer. The wages of labour now paid for consumer goods which with growing demand caused the need for more consumer goods which meant more labour was needed to make more consumer goods.

Buddy Karl put down his fork in disgust and walked away from the table. And while he was over in the boy’s room freshening up our pal Herbert Marcuse wandered up and sat down in Karl’s place. He picked up Karl’s fork and proceeded to chow down. After a few bites he looked up and said…

We are again confronted with one of the most vexing aspects of advanced industrial civilization: the rational character of its irrationality. Its productivity and efficiency, its capacity to increase and spread comforts, to turn waste into need, and destruction into construction, the extent to which this civilization transforms the object world into an extension of man's mind and body makes the very notion of alienation questionable. The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment. The very mechanism which ties the individual to his society has changed, and social control is anchored in the new needs which it has produced.

I have just suggested that the concept of alienation seems to become questionable when the individuals identify themselves with the existence which is imposed upon them and have in it their own development and satisfaction. This identification is not illusion but reality. However, the reality constitutes a more progressive stage of alienation. The latter has become entirely objective; the subject which is alienated is swallowed up by its alienated existence. There is only one dimension, and it is everywhere and in all forms. The achievements of progress defy ideological indictment as well as justification; before their tribunal, the "false consciousness of their rationality becomes the true consciousness”.

a link to this essay can be found here

Now we see the trouble brewing in the pot all along. The object; the cell phone, the SUV (or more pejoratively the minivan), the coffee pot, the brand of soda pop, the hamburger, the ginger beef – become and an extension of ourselves. Of course its hard to choke all that down but then we have to remember to pick out the bones. Marcuse was not telling us that we have become the object – only that our identity is unavailable and inseparable from the objects/commodities which we use.

The waiter is standing at our table again waiting to be paid. So as I reach into my pocket for some loonies I am moved to ask the kind fellow – What do you call that meal we ordered here today. I’d like to order it again.

Well sir -the boy replies confidently- it is our special today Hungry Man. The succulent meat like substance that you enjoyed was processed by roughly 92 foreign illegal workers at meat packing plant in the U.S. mid-west just before they were rounded up and shipped back to their home country. The animals they used were inhumanely held in cramped cells standing in their own feces everyday. The vegetables you ate were reconstituted by a crew of youth on a summer job program. I’m sure you can appreciate just how close actual vegetables those items tasted and even at that young age these youth really know how make it all look so realistic. – the waiter stopped to take a breath.

Seriously? –I cut in impatiently pulling out my plastic- are trying to pull a fast one on me young man? I mean there is no way that this meal came from all those places. Did you not tell me this was a Hungry Man Meal?

Why yes sir I did. –he was backing down sheepishly-

Well then stop with this nonsense and process my credit card. –i was cranky- next time don’t try to dazzle me with all your fictions just admit it, you got this out of the freezer at the grocery store?

yes sir

I left the boy a sizable tip…he’s gonna need a good education…

commonly uncommon

I had a wonderful conversation – I should rephrase that – I ended up talking a poor fellows ear off this afternoon. While waiting for the wedding reception to begin I had the opportunity to discuss the scope of my research. I take any chance I can get.

Food is such a common object and so much a part of our everyday. Because it is so common drawing it out into the light to be examined gives it a special status. In any social analysis it is possible to miss the embedded environment of the social facts merely by focusing to directly on a single factor. I really want to avoid that from happening in this case. That’s why this conversation was heart-warming.

People are generally interested in food and especially if it is tied to a thinner body image but mostly people are not that interested in trying to think with food. This is a highly abstract endeavour. I’m not sure that people are really interested in thinking about how food might be conveying meaning about the kind of person that they are. I don’t blame them. There are many times when it would be easier to stop thinking so hard about something that I usually paid very little attention to. So when someone is willing to engage with me in batting around semiotic theory or other elements it is a treat.

Sometimes there are tiny cracks and windows into the real life of an object that has existed seamlessly as something  we’ve hardly paid attention to. Sometime we look down at our plate and think why does the idea that some of my food is touching on the plate such a big deal for me? Why am I eating this right now? Or what does feeding cake to your newly minted spouse have to do with love? Why is mac and cheese not a usual banquet menu item? Or how does Trina make those darn chocolate chip cookies so tasty?

So I have a question for you. Have you ever experienced a moment when food has startled you – surprized you – or made you stop to wonder what was going on? If so tell me about it…

Friday, November 5, 2010

More sinful food…

KFC-Double-DownIs it any wonder that this KFC treatsie has obscure yet intentional sexual overtones in its name?

But not only can we participate in sexualized sinful behaviour – almost like a vicarious affair but now we can draw out particular emotional racial stereo-types. Stephen Harper I challenge you to eat this “Bad Boy”.
The Angry French Canadian
Sign your name in the comment section below to add your voice to the petition to get our Prime Minister to eat this puppy…
Oh by the way…
Weight log: 215lb for those of you keeping track that is 3 pounds till 100

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pre-Blessed Food!

this video so totally matches up with a wicked cool story from today at supper. So my second youngest son stayed home from school today. He was supposed to go with someone for “Take your kid to work day” but he couldn’t go with Char to do catheters and pik lines and no other arrangements could'/were made so…

Char said, “Fine, you are going to stay home and find out what its like to be a house wife.” She lined up a bunch of chores for him to do around the house and i threw in a few as well. Bam he worked pretty much all day. I did take him to Dairy Queen for lunch (like I always did with Char every day when she was house bound as a house wife :))

Guess who made supper? – you guessed it! Now we are a family who still prays before we eat our meal. We tend to not use the memorized prayers but the content and format usually do not vary much. So tonight my youngest prays and as he says “…and bless the hand that have prepared this…” our grade nine ‘house wife’ throws up his hands like a football referee indicating a touchdown. He grins as I look over at him with a pretty blanked out look…

“That was me!” he says, “That was me!” He made the food – he got the credit and his hands got blessed in the process. What happened there in that moment is profound. Think of all the ways that scene comments on gender roles and the relegation of certain tasks into obscurity… Think of what that scene potentially says about for whom prayer is meaningful and how prayer operates either to create a certain kind of distance or to actually acknowledge engagement. Here is what I mean. There is a whole lot of work that has gone into getting the food we ate for supper onto the table. My sons work might actually be the least demanding. The table prayer is intended to reflect gratitude for this labour from which the rest of the family is benefitting. But is it possible that the prayer might actually be making the labour of getting the food onto the table disappear since it ultimately gives God credit for stuff that human beings spent a lot of effort producing. Don’t get me wrong – it not as if I don’t recognize that God ultimately is the source behind the food we get to eat. In a way (and i know this may not be popular to say) praying this prayer of blessing sort of allows to stop accounting for the guilt of not having worked very hard to make this food a reality. This video throws that door wide open. It seems to say look everything is already pre-packaged and pre-prepared but in order to allow yourself that unadulterated access to this food without having to even acknowledge the ‘ultimate’ divine source makes the alienation with the food complete. Now it is possible for food to exist without source – like it just appears on the Grocery Store shelves by magic – like manna appearing on the desert floor. The ludicrous nature of that idea should be apparent. I mean even the militant atheist would have to acknowledge that it takes a far weirder and outlandish faith to believe that stuff just appears on grocery store shelves than it does to believe that God is the source of all food.

In the end the disservice (the thing that does not get blessed) may lie in the fact that we are not really engaged in the production of our food.

So bless the farmer and the butcher and the meat wrapper and stock boy and the cart picker-upper dude in the parking lot. God bless the stove maker and the assembly line designer and the tortilla maker and the fertilizer distributer and the farmer who is wandering towards Christmas this year without so much as sniff of a profit line to show for all the rain and hope he has poured into the fields he tends. And God bless my son.

a special thank-you to the anonymous contributor who brought this video to my attention – storing up riches in…

what fuels your machine makes it

Weight Log: 219lbs (I’m getting impatient-get to a hundred already!)

Ingested (Tuesday November 2nd): 1 fairly large and delicious Ambrosia apple, 10 oven baked french fries, about three teaspoons worth of sampling my newly made spicy ketchup, 1 pot of coffee, 2 cans of diet coke. = Caloric intake: 240; Fat grams: 4.6

Old Man Descartes – you know the guy who said, “I think therefore, I am” ---well he also said that the body is a machine. And if it is a machine then whammo it needs a source of energy – Right? There is no doubt that we tend to view our bodies as machines and we view food as the fuel. The idea that food is fuel to help our body function makes a certain amount of sense but we can clearly see where that idea is far from complete. Who really thinks about fuelling up their body as they sit down for a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving? So food is obviously way more than just fuel. But as soon as you want to talk about nutrition, weight loss, weight gain, training regimens, etc. the food as fuel and body as machine imagery becomes dominant – and ultimately constraining. I think it is interesting that we have something like a calorie counter that can measure a typical type of food in its potential calories like we have here: Its strange really to think that this is possible because it is still completely unclear how exactly the body processes different types of calories and how they are used or stored in the body. This arbitrary calculator can now tell me how much energy I have just fed my machine.

But the story is a bit bigger than that. If food is fuel and the body is a machine. Then it becomes important to put the right kind and amount of fuel into your body. It is also possible to use the body as a reference for the kind and amount of food consumed. A body with that is fat has more than likely taken in too much fuel and a likely also the wrong type of fuel. A body that is fit and lean is taking in the right amount and the right kind of food. That would be the connotative logic – Right? But here too we notice something going on in the background. Thinner and fitter does not necessarily mean that the fuel consumption is appropriate – consider anorexia nervosa. This is where the real fiction is exposed though.

One would never judge the hauling capacity of a pick-up truck by analyzing its fuel. Nor would one ever say that a smaller leaner truck would be a more capable truck than a large one would be. So the idea of the body as machine and of food as fuel disappears as meaningful when it is paralleled with other machines and fuels. Still the body/machine-food/fuel metaphor persists. It has a long history of usefulness – especially once European nations emerged from a perpetual state of potential famine – much the same time as the Enlightenment was catching fire. This metaphor was first used to address what seemed to be very unfit soldiers who were failing on the battlefields of the various wars of the era.

Now we are in a place where the motivation is not toward the ability to carry out our duties as soldiers but rather that we are able to display in/on our bodies the appropriately idyllic gendered body type. Being a fit machine is important for aesthetic reasons not for functional ones. If you want proof listen to the group of guys or girls talking about what they find attractive in the opposite gender. I doubt you will ever hear a girl say - “Oh and by the way did you know that he can lift 300lb on the bench press?” and you certainly won’t hear a guy say, “you see those legs on that girl I bet she can burn out an elliptical machine with those…” (unless I have intoned some crass sexual euphemism unawares). The body machine now should have those functional qualities but not for their own sake but for the mark that these functions can leave on the aesthetic of the body. So now fuel is not only about being able to run an efficient machine but to allow that machine to produce the appropriate body.

Now glance back at the information I documented above. If I hadn’t confessed to you that it was my intake – you might guess that this record might belong to someone with an eating disorder. It does not. It belongs to me. And I defy you to figure out a way that what is represented as fuel can account for the flaps and bumps and bulges that are left on my body – even though functionally I might be in the best ‘shape’ of my life…

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

the good pain

Weight log: 218lb

Today I could have run for what felt like hours on that treadmill. I felt so good. 3.5 miles an hour for 60 minutes. Plus I actually ran for 6 whole minutes at top speed – to the rhythm of “She’s a Maniac". I starting to get strategies in place for keeping my ‘fitness’ regimen going while in Mexico. Lots of planning.

Today I was feeling overwhelmed – still feel that way. Too much work to do before I feel I can be ready for Mexico. I am need to get a lot of work done in advance and today it felt like the work is just insurmountable. I don’t want to feel pressure out there because this is supposed to be a celebration of our wedding anniversary. I am worried that I will be a grumpy old dog with all this stuff hanging over me. The treadmill seemed like the one thing that I could be in control of and it was almost like an escape. In fact if I am totally honest (imagine having to declare that fact) it felt very much the same way I have often experienced ‘comfort food’. It was like I was eating a big pile of mashed potatoes with gravy and huge juicy slice of turkey nestled into a huge dollop of cranberry sauce, stuffing, and some cinnamon pie. I know this stupid but i distinctly remember thing its almost like I’d like another serving of this treadmill stuff – Yikes – I am losing my mind.

“…and he’s dancing like he’s never danced before…”