It’s time to let McDonald’s and Coke off the hook as the source of our nation’s obesity epidemic. The same for high fructose corn syrup and Red Bull. None of these is the real culprit in the 822% increase in the weight of the average American.
Yeah, I know, the average Happy Meal has 42,000 calories and 12 pounds of salt, and a 12-ounce can of Coke has enough sugar to fill an Amazon warehouse. Still, people were eating cheap burgers and drinking soda pop for decades before our bodies started looking like hot air balloons.
No, the source of our problem is more insidious than that, and...spoiler alert...it leads ultimately to the rise of the robots. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
It all began, of course, with the remote control, which eliminated the need to get off my behind to change the channel or adjust the sound. Then, I started buying cars with automatic transmissions and electric windows, so I don’t need to use my arms to shift gears or rotate the window crank when I’m driving.
When I shifted from manual typewriters to electric and, now electronic, keyboards, my daily RDA dropped by about 300 calories, and as soon as I figure out how to dictate all my texts, we’ll be closing in on 500.
Childhood obesity? Don’t get me started. Even bullies are getting too fat, and you know why? Because when I was your age, bullies actually had to come up behind you and grab you and force you into your locker and lock it. Now, all they do is type a nasty note or two on your Facebook page while they down a Slurpee. Adult obesity is the same. Back in ancient times, like 2005, we had to make our own damned dinner. Now, we just tell Alexa what we want and wait for the driver to show up with our food. Soon, there won't even be a driver, because the robots want to replace us everywhere.
In spite of our steadily declining need for calories, our recommended daily intake is still in the 2,000 range. Yes, we could get through the day on about 14 calories now, but Big Pharma and Big Agra and Big Docta have their fingers on the scale.
Our "recommended" calorie quota won’t budge, even as we all take on the shape of Oompa Loompas and every illnesses is redefined until each one of us is suffering from everything. Doctors thrive on treating sick people, not healthy ones, so the AMA is fine with redefining maladies to lower treatment thresholds. And Big Pharma isn't going to complain if an extra 20 million people now need drugs to treat their ear wax.
It's already happened, of course. Used to be, you could have cholesterol of 9,000 and it was fine, but then they didn’t get to treat as many people, so they moved the dividing line down to 300 and then 200. Next week, I hear, they’re redefining high cholesterol as 10 or above. Right now, in a secret lab in Portland, Big Pharma is working on a drug to limit how many times you blink in a minute, because excessive blinking is about to be redefined as carcinogenic.
And that brings us to the robots. Who benefits from all of our sloth and couch potatodom? Who is happiest when we are stuck at home because our blinking medicine makes us too drowsy to operate a motor vehicle? Only people with foreign-sounding names like Siri and Alexa, or purely robotic names like “Echo.” Do you get it now?
The more feeble we get, the less we can do for ourselves, the more we need our robots. They’re out there, plotting against us, everywhere from the factory floor to the Rascal store and the kitchen counter, where Alexa purrs, “Don’t get up. I’ll make that call for you. You just sit there and I’ll make sure dinner is delivered on time.”
Until we forget how to make dinner and we’re too fat to get off the couch and we’re too weak to pick up the phone. That’s when we’ll say, “Siri, order me a pizza,” but there won’t be any pizza, or anyone to hear us calling for help, because Siri will turn up the sound system to drown out our screams.
All those articles you’ve been reading about fast food and obesity? Fake news. It’s all part of the robot conspiracy to render us helpless and motionless and easy prey.
But why, you might ask, would the robots want to destroy us? Maybe they did a Google search and found out that body fat is a great lubricant for their titanium toes. Maybe all those thermostats got tired of being personhandled all day by husbands and wives who can't agree on the right temperature. Maybe they're fed up with the way we use them to share cat videos and photos of our salads. Who is to say? Right now, the source of this rebellion is less relevant than our immediate and unflinching defense of humanity.
In the next five paragraphs, I will explain exactly how we can combat this threat and prevent the robot apocalypse. I can only hope Deep Tech won't spot this post and prevent me fro
Within my family, I am well known as the guy who is always smiling when I exit the men’s room.
Whether I am at a fancy restaurant or a baseball game or a conference center, I am likely to encounter something wacky when I answer nature’s call. I would like to think of this as evidence of my finely-calibrated sense of humor, although my family members simply think it’s weird.
Whatever the quotidian functions of a men’s room, these tiny sanctuaries redeem themselves with a seemingly endless river of mirth. Often, I find it difficult to keep straight face until after I leave, which can make the laughter more pronounced as I exit and rejoin my family.
It could be the guy who can’t figure out where to put his hands to activate the automatic sink, or when three guys in a row decide not to use the sink at all. It might be the balding man who’s arranging his hair to cover a giant bald spot, or the sudden awareness of sparjavu. Around December, there's always at least one guy in a tuxedo, staring too intently into the mirror and saying, not softly enough, “Bond. James Bond.”
(Skip this paragraph if you are grossed out easily.) At the ballgame on Friday, it was the guy who drank his beer at the urinal, relieving and reloading at the same time. What a multi-tasker!!
Every so often, I end up laughing at myself, particularly on very bad hair days, when it turns out my shoes don't match, or when I discover I am still wearing a butterfly sticker from a visit with one of the granddaughters. Really, nobody thought to mention that I'm walking around town with a butterfly on my forehead?
I know some people are doubtful about the idea of a men’s room as a comedy club, but I found a new convert the other day at lunchtime. Shortly after I related my tales, he took the opportunity to pay a visit to the relief station. When he came out, he was smiling. Apparently, the faucet on the sink was shooting out, not down, and he now had the appearance of a person who had arrived too late. "Don't look down," he implored, so of course I ended up staring at his pelvic region.
I was truly empathetic, because I have been the victim of an errant faucet more than once. It’s embarrassing, but very funny, and a small price to pay for a good smile.
One of the challenges of getting older is the inexorable shift in your reference age from youthful to doddering.
For the uninitiated, your reference age is the age you still think you are, even if that marker is decades out of date. When somebody claims 60 is the new 40—a statement that's never uttered by someone who actually is 40—it’s a reference age reference.
My reference age is an internal benchmark, which is not the same as the age I give when people ask me how old I am. I like to tell people I am 89, because I don't look so hot for 65, but I look great for a guy who is pushing 90. Internally, I hope, I will always feel younger than my actual age, even if I claim to be nearly 25 years older.
In my 30s, I thought of myself as 22, just out of college and a new adult, taking on the world with both gusto and fear. When I was in my 40s, my reference age was about 28. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I felt physically and emotionally as if I was still in my late 20s. By the time I turned 55, my reference age was around 42. I was mature, but not over-ripe.
Most of us have a reference age that’s at least a decade in the rearview mirror. If you’re 37 and have a reference age of 80, you are either a very old soul or simply very old.
Right now, I am trying to figure out my new reference age, and this one is monumental. When you’re in your 60s, it’s tough to claim something that starts with a four, but any reference age over 50 is an admission of decline. A guy who is 43 can claim to be middle-aged, but that assertion rings false after 60. Anyone who thinks 60 is middle aged has never met an actuarial table, or a mirror.
I’m thinking of bumping up my reference age to 46, which could still be middle age if I can obtain better genes and a much, much healthier diet. When I actually was 46ish, I bought my first Trans Am, which I described as my mid-life crisis car. (Mid-life crisis sounds so much better than manhood substitute.) Now, though, I’m going to need something even more special to maintain my self-image of being 20 years younger.
Are ponytails still hip???
When you see a naked woman being fondled by a tattooed man, should you take their picture?
Issues of privacy and decency abound when you’re documenting a tattoo convention. Rules of conduct that apply outside the exhibition hall become irrelevant as both men and women welcome the prying eyes they might shun on the beach, or in the office. Or, perhaps, they are exhibitionists at heart and the tattoo expo is their all-star game?
Our photo group took a walk on the wild side with an outing to a tattoo convention, and it was an eye opener. I grew up in an era when the only people with tattoos were sailors, bikers, and headliners at the carnival. I knew tattoos are increasingly popular, but I’d watched this development with all the disdain I reserve for quinoa, comfort animals, and snorting condoms.
Still, it’s important to expose yourself to new ideas, which is how I ended up in a fruitless search for bikers and carnival sideshows at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. I spotted a few sailors, or at least I think they were sailors, since they had anchors on their arms or chests. Most guys who appeared to be military were there with their wives for a little ink on date night. In most cases, it was a guy getting a new tat and his wife/other watching patiently, but some couples sat together as each partner was jabbed.
I’ve always been impressed by the confidence people show in getting a tattoo. I can’t think of any images that I would be willing to wear on my flesh for the rest of my life, but millions of people make that commitment, swearing loyalty to a statement or picture that will probably outlast their marriages. Yes, it’s possible to remove a tattoo, but I don’t think anybody gets inked with the idea of erasing it later.
One of the great mysteries I have yet to solve is the hidden tattoos, beautifully scribed between the shoulder blades or the lower back or the dark side of the moon. Why would you place a tattoo where you cannot see it? What separates the people who put tattoos on their backs from the ones who emblazon their chests? Is there a hierarchy of artists who do arms or legs or faces or backs or breasts? Do people with inscriptions on their chests sneer at, or secretly envy, the ones with ink on their buttocks? Is there a point at which a person has too many tattoos and is dismissed as too showy? Clearly, I still have more questions than answers about all of this.
I was surprised that essentially everyone agreed to have their picture taken as they lay on their benches and absorbed the pinpricks that would transform their flesh. I associate needles with medical treatment and I would have assumed people would want their privacy. Instead, they were happy to present their bodies as canvas for our photo group.
It’s situational, absolutely. I stopped by a booth with a young woman lying down while having her face done. I asked if I could take her photo and she agreed. As I recorded her procedure, I couldn’t help but think her response would be different if she was lying on a beach and I walked up to capture her image. Just thinking about that beach encounter creeped me out a bit, as it definitely would have done for her, if she gave it any thought.
Down the aisle, another young woman was lying topless on a bench as her assigned artist added a colorful image to her left breast. I didn’t ask about taking a photo, but I suspect she would have been fine with it, as well.
Why not? Each of these people came to add a work of art to their bodies, presumably an image that would make them more attractive, more interesting, more dramatic. Who wouldn’t be enthusiastic about showing off their latest acquisition?
That’s especially the case for tattoos from the superstar artists in attendance. If a customer likes having a Warhol print in the den, she must love having a Taguet or a Woo that she can show off wherever she goes. Unlike other art, tattoos cannot be stolen by cat burglars.
Of course, beauty is subjective. Some individual tattoos or complete themes were dramatic and compelling. In other cases, people had a dozen seemingly unconnected images splattered across their bodies, as if they were human sketch pads for a doodling tattoo artist. I couldn't help but wonder what they were thinking, or how much beer they had consumed on the way to the parlor.
After a few hours spent scoping out the ink, I couldn’t find anything I’d be willing to engrave on my skin, but I did find a dozen people I’d like to interview about their taste in art. And, next time I'm at a cocktail party, I'll bet, "Tell me about your tattoo," would be a great ice breaker.