Well, here’s good news for human beings. The MS Business Insider opines that market forces in women’s underwear are shifting away from pencil-thin models toward healthy and more normal looking women. They cite as evidence strong upticks in sales of lingerie at stores such as Adore Me and Aerie who market primarily to the non-waif crowd. It seems that curves are in. Or at least getting there.
Part of this certainly issues from the fact that we – Americans primarily – have grown fatter over the past few decades. Once anything becomes a norm within a culture, it cycles back onto itself as the de facto standard. In this case, it’s mostly a good thing. People are coming to reject the marketing mantra that you must look like this or be shaped like this to be happy and attractive. And exercise research reinforces what is intuitive: fit and strong, as opposed to wan and weak, are important components of a healthy lifestyle for all adults.
The Insiderties several marketing moves into the explanation including Sports Illustrated’s editorial decision to include different body types in their swimwear issue and a backlash toward Victoria’s Secret for putatively moving their catalog offerings toward soft-core porn. They note model Iskra Lawrence as someone who is ‘curvy’ as having success in modeling and speaking out against the unhealthy lifestyles of models forced to adhere to the ridiculous standards of advertising executives.
Keep a grain of salt handy. Popularity and fashion do and will change. What makes a healthy lifestyle doesn’t. There are controversies about diets and health and sales people like Dave Asprey will always prop up something new as an essential for what-ails-you. But the science of health is steady: good food, moderate and consistent exercise, and meaningful relationships are what make you healthy and happy.
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Copyright Dennis Mitton
I found much to enjoy here and much to relate to: my grandparent’s extreme frugality and my mother’s granite belief in the satisfaction and duty of hard work. My family’s sloughing off of the old ways. Gorokhova tells an interesting history of a young girl growing up in the Soviet Union but I wish she would have parsed her story more thoroughly. Why was her mother such a staunch supporter of state truth? How did the author decide so easily to leave country, family, and friends? I would have loved for her to juxtapose the poverty and security of the Soviet welfare state versus freedom loving Americans who, awash with money and religion, allow people to ‘sleep under bridges’ and suffer without health care.
It seemed so easy for the author to leave her homeland and family. Leading up to the point, she never expresses longing for freedom or for the West but is mostly just perturbed with silly state protocol – the same things I feel when I renew my driver’s license. In fact, her decision to leave isn’t really even a decision: she simply jumps aboard a wind that blows from an American student: he proposes to her as a means to help her leave the USSR with the caveat that he will continue to see other women while they are married. This apparently presents a better future than the author is expecting in Moscow but she doesn’t explain why.
However much I wished for something deeper, I was absorbed by the book and story. The prose is wonderful, especially for a non-native speaker. The characters can be thin and, typical for memoirs, there are dry spots but the story will carry anyone with an interest in family or history. This isn’t quite Tolstoy or Solzhenitsyn but a very good read in its own right. I’m not sure of the book’s appeal to those without a connection to Russia or the Eastern Bloc. Well worth the cost.
Enjoyed the book thoroughly though I’m not sure of its appeal to readers without a connection to Russia or the Eastern Bloc. My mother’s parents grew up in peasant Slovakia and much of Gorokhova’s story mirrored my mother’s and grandmother’s. I finished the memoir wondering if the writer’s mother was right: “You’re going to live in America? What kind of a people or country allows its citizens to live under bridges and die of starvation or for a lack of money to buy the care they need?”
Three-and-a-half stars. Well worth the price of admission.
Invest in trends only after exhausting the tried and true
Copyright Dennis Mitton
If your Twitter feeds looks anything like mine then you are inundated with advice from every corner. 6 Words To Avoid When Writing a Short Story! 18 Rules for the NEW Social Media! 5 Essential Trends in Exercise Marketing! It’s all hype. Most of it is the same-old-same-old junk repackaged by a ‘content marketing’ genius. Some of it is good. Some of it bad. Most of it is mindless filler intended to get you to click your mouse.
But remember this: the tried and true – the thing that works – is a hard sell. Want to lose weight? Then consume fewer calories than you burn each day, every day. You will lose weight. It’s a law of nature. But no one will a buy a book with that title. Want to be a better writer? Then write more. And when you are done then write even more. Write until your fingers ache. There is really no other way to improve than to do more. Yet who pays for this advice? Who clicks on an ad claiming that “We Will Teach You French in Only Five Hours a Day!”? No one.
I’m not saying that everything new is bunk. Nor am I saying that everything old is genius. What I am emphasizing is that you should invest the time to know the merits of what you’re investing in compared to your long-term goals.
Take a look at the sad souls here. I don’t know who they are and I would protect their anonymity even if I knew. But I guarantee that they were trying to look the part. A manager or publicist told them that this is how they had to look. Go with the trends! Forget talent! Forget singing ability! Or magic or whatever they were doing. “Look the part and legions will flock to you!”. And maybe they did. For a night or a month or maybe for a year. And maybe it was a fantastic year? Maybe it was worth this hideous picture. But if you are looking for something lasting then it’s tough to beat whatever has worked for the successful who come before you.
I remain flabbergasted at current culture of hatred
Copyright Dennis Mitton
I had a friend once, more of an acquaintance, who grew up in Yugoslavia. One day, this was in the ‘eighties, we were lolling about and I asked him if was Serbian or Bosnian? Good gawd! He was so instantaneously incensed that he couldn’t talk. He spit nonsensical words and I truly thought that he might hit me. He fled the room and I sat completely bewildered at what had just happened.
It turned out that he was a Serb. He hated Bosnians. And I don’t mean garden-variety hatred. I mean the kind of spur in your spleen that contaminates every thought and action with vitriol. In the one conversation we had about my question to him – I never dared broach the subject again – he said that his Grandfather hated Bosnians, his Dad hated them, and that he hated them. As far as he was concerned? These aren’t even human beings. He would feel worse about kicking a dog. So here I am, sitting in a nuclear plant where we are all vetted through a dozen layers of security probes, and this guy tells me with pride and with fire that, if he could get away with it, he would kill any fucking Bosnian that he could. And again, I’m sitting shaking my head, flabbergasted.
I haven’t a clue what it’s like to grow up with this kind of hatred drilled into your soul every day. We got into fights when I was a kid but that was just entertainment and figuring out the pecking order. But this sense that those people are so different than you that they have no value as human beings is an infection that touches everything. It’s the Midas touch in reverse.
Of course, you know where this is going. I’ve been flabbergasted all over again by the abject hatred spewed by presidential candidates, people that I have admired, and many of my friends. I’ve successfully filtered most of the spewing from the social media sites that I follow and life is a little brighter. I haven’t any hope that this election will change anything. Neither Trump nor Clinton will accomplish anything that the other won’t or wouldn’t. Change is a decades old rolling cultural juggernaut and smart pols hop on board before they are run over.
So relax. Be nice to your friends. Play with your children today. Recognize that political parties, politicians, and the media all exist to sell you something. Buy if you want but consider it optional for a good life.
I’m cleaning up some book review files so will be posting a few over the next weeks as time allows. Enjoy or cajole or throw stones as you see fit.
Reset Your Child’s Brain, Victoria Dunckley, MD
There was a time – in the glorious and gilded days when I was a child – when we picked up our rooms and wore bow ties to school. I knew what a tough day mom had so I always offered to clear the table. I said ‘Yes, Ma’am’ and ‘No Sir’. And imagine my shock when, on my wedding night, I learned that girls and boys look different without underwear?
Yes. This is preposterous and silly. But there is a sense of urgency in Victoria Dunckley’s Reset Your Child’s Brain that harkens back to those good ol’ days that never were. She promises to ‘End meltdowns, raise grades, and boost social skills by reversing the effects of electronic screen-time’. I don’t care what era or what the evils: this is a fantastic sales pitch that will never fail to sell books.
Dunckley’s argument is that electronic activities trick your brain into thinking you are under attack. Your heart rate and breath quicken. Plasma cortisol increases. You sweat. You begin to identify with game characters. You start to buy into the sales pitch. You become a minion. There is evidence that all of this is true – but to what degree? The research is, by nature, correlative with almost no way to prove causation. What, really, is the cause of Johnny’s poor grades? Loss of the family dinner table? New math? Or mom’s iPhone? All have a part and no single ingredient will solve any crisis. Dunckley provides research references but take care to bring along a grain of salt. Any research involving children or even humans is tough to pull causation from. Most of these have a very small sample size which makes finding significant differences difficult at best. There might very well be something important here but as most doctors and researchers agree a lot more long-term research is required.
But I don’t in any way write Dunckley off. She’s a respected child psychologist who looks at the whole life rather than treating ailments symptomatically. And while maybe not a panacea, I can’t argue with her advice – lay off the electronics. Make sure important things are done first. Keep them active and socially involved. I’m not sure if this is a revolution in child rearing in the modern age or just good advice that your grandmother gave. I’ve done this with my own children. It will surprise no parent that after a steady stream of Teen Titans Go! or Adventure Time my kids are sassy brats who think their parents are idiots. I notice a calming change when I put limits on game, phone, and TV use. But I can’t say for sure that I am stemming psychological changes or if I’m simply making sure that important things are done first. We make sure that the kids are active and play with friends. Electronics are mostly for free time when life slows a bit. Yes, I would prefer that they write to pen pals in Paris or read the classics in Latin but, geez, they’re kids. I whiled away in-between times with car models and Iron Man comics. I turned out alright. Maybe.
As an interesting and relevant aside, I encourage parents to read about ADHD treatment in France. Per the Amen Clinic, fully 80-85% of ADHD medications are prescribed in the US. France has much lower rates of all childhood behavioral issues but only prescribes medication after a full dietary, behavioral, and social work up of the entire family. Normal French discipline is cited as well by providing more stringent guidelines of proper behavior instead of the more free or non-existent discipline of American families. Interesting stuff.
See the Amen clinic write up here.
See Psychology Today here.
I encourage all parents to read the book. You have to tip-toe a bit through hyperbole but the information presented is important and relevant.
And a story with a question – I read about three pages of a Stephen King book and put it down scared out of my wits. I haven’t a clue as to the title but bushes began to uproot themselves and chase the poor heroes to their death. I was so scared I’ve never read anything else by King. I am sure that my blood cortisol and heart rate were elevated and that I began to sweat. I identified with the characters to the point of putting the book down I was so scared. So maybe – ? – it’s the content and not the medium? Or both?
Here’s a little existential absurdity to brighten your day!
Copyright Dennis Mitton
I was reminded of this bit of classic existential absurdity the other day listening to the Philosophize This! podcast.
We imagine that we are modern and progressive. Animals, yes, in an abstract evolutionary sense, but something special nonetheless. We read, use phones, we prepare lovely meals, and think hard about important things. We drive cars to work where we shuffle paper and make sure that the factory line keeps moving. We have morals. The reality, though, and we have late Frenchman Jean-Paul Sartre to thank for reminding us of it, is that we are nothing more than animals of the barnyard kind. We sit to eat at a table of cobbled together tree parts. Our meals are dead and rotting plants and animals. We grunt to each other and shrink from the dark and mysterious in fear. We have learned how to fashion rocks into metal. From a certain vantage – The Planet of the Apes? – we are no more than worms with arms and legs.
This is what existential absurdity is. That we imagine that we are something far different than what we really are. For Sartre and Camus, this opens the door to a kind of freedom. If what they say is true, then aren’t we able to forge any meaning we want? What forces us to engage in what we have had no choice in choosing?
Good stuff to try out at your next little get-together for a round of adult beverages!