Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why I Love Disney

Disney is the quintessential American success story. Walt started with little, but built an empire that lasted way beyond his death. He became larger than life while he lived, and left a legacy that will likely last beyond the days of Captain Picard.

I love Disney movies, and I love riding Big Thunder Mountain, or Space Mountain, or even Captain Eo's Mountain ( carried away there), but it's not just the movies or the's the whole feeling.

For excitement, I could say that Six Flags Magic Mountain is better. They have much better rides (Superman made me squeal like a school girl the first time). For entertainment, well, there are a lot of movie studios that have kept me entertained. But Disney is more than is an experience.

When I go to Disney, I leave the rest of the world behind. Going to Six Flags Magic Mountain I have to pass through a metal detector and then be pat down by a security guard. Even still, once inside I have to deal with a bunch of people that look like they are fresh out of prison. Interestingly enough, if you stay past 7 PM you notice the park gets much more pleasant...I guess parolees have to be home before dark...

ANYWAY...back to Disney. I can drive to Disney and park just outside, then walk to Downtown Disney (10 minutes from my free parking) and, almost from the place where I park, I am in a totally different mindset. It's like being transported into a different world! I don't have to buy anything, not even the caramel popcorn, whose sickly sweet smell permeates about 1/4 of the downtown Disney area. Merchandising aside, Disney makes sure that, from parking lot to parking lot, you are transported into another world: The Happiest Place on Earth.

I guess that is why I will spend $300 on an annual pass to Disney, but haven't spent $70 for an annual pass to Six Flags since 2005.

Friday, September 24, 2010

LiLoh update...

Going to jail. Waste of time and money if you ask me...the only thing it will accomplish is prove to Lindsay she can survive jail.

But at least the four helicopters that were hovering over Burton for the last 2 hours are finally gone.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lindsay Lohan

Okay, I know she's been a pain in the ass for a year now. But the justice system hasn't been much better, so I still have to opine about this topic.

I personally think Lindsay is a 5 year old girl in the body of a 24 year old actress. She needs to grow up, but the circumstances of her life really make that a difficult feat to accomplish. So what should we do?

Well, on the one hand, she has violated some laws which have landed her in the criminal justice system. That system is very rigid; everyone is expected to respond appropriately. Of course, if you tell a 5 year old, "You're in big trouble, Mister!" they're probably going to stick their tongue out at you.

Nevertheless, she is a criminal, right? She drove a car under the influence of a controlled substance.

Wait a minute. She drove a car under the influence of a controlled substance.

She was under the influence of a controlled substance.

A controlled substance.

Let's just leave the "she drove..." out of the equation for a moment. The "controlled substance" is the only debatable point here. Alcohol is a controlled substance. As a physician, I have to say, I am against the recreational use of chemical substances to alter your mood or perception of reality (not that there is anything wrong with that! Sorry...channeling Seinfeld). Still, most controlled substances, if they are not combined with driving, have no negative impact on those who do not participate. Taking controlled substances wreaks havoc on your body and mind, but what you as an individual choose to do to your body or mind is none of my business.

Disclaimer: light up a cigarette (or any other burning substance) next to me and you're affecting my lungs how fast drown your cigs and bitch slap you.

So...Lindsay wants to f* up her life by taking drugs, that's her problem. Let her. Don't waste my news time or my taxes on trying to force her to change her habits.

So now let's deal with the "driving" part. The California Driver's Handbook emphasizes that driving is a privilege, not a right. I totally agree with that. If you are a good driver, California will allow you to drive on the streets, highways and freeways. If you don't drive safely, you're really in possession of a deadly weapon, and too stupid to know how to use it. It's the equivalent of giving a bazooka to a 5 year old.

So what should we do? Well, if I were the judge, I'd tell Lindsay one thing:

Bitch, you can throw your life away on drugs if you want, I don't give a $#*!. You can disrespect me if you want: I'm above that. But you have two choices: you can follow the rules and keep your license, or you can prove to me you still like to make bad choices, and I'll take your driver's license away for the rest of your life. I'm not going to play games with you. You're on probation for 5 years: no driving under the influence. We'll outfit your car with a breathalyzer, and if you blow 0.0001 with no good reason (like you had Nyquil to control your cold symptoms that day). Or you can take plan B: no probation, and for the rest of your life you must have a driver take you everywhere.

Maybe it's just because I'm tired of that f*ing helicopter flying around my house whenever that brat has to go to court (like I'm sure it will this Friday).

Deathly Hallows trailer

You know, when the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone came out, my oldest was a little too young to read it.  Still, we got through it, and read all of the books as they came out, though he became less interested as time went by.

Now the oldest has moved out, the next oldest boy was 'too cool' for Harry Potter, and the girls have all moved over to the Twilight crowd. Oddly enough, their grandpa also likes that series...go figure. So now it almost seems like I'm the only one wanting to see Harry Potter through to the end (though I've already been there in book form).

The last movie, Half-Blood Prince, was the worst adaptation of the series (so far, though to be fair the book on which it was based was [to me] the least interesting of the series [It could have been a few chapters at the end of the 5th book, or the beginning of the 7th, but anyway...]) The last book was very exciting, IMHO, and I loved the way Rowling handled the whole, "Will Harry Potter Die?"

But with the kids not interested, the poor quality of the last movie, and the fact that Deathly Hallows has the same writer and the same director as Half-blood Prince, I really thought this was going to be another movie series I couldn't stomach seeing to the end. Then I saw the newest trailer for Deathly Hallows.

Harry (Daniel Radcliff) is now a young man, and perhaps as such he reminds me a bit of my nephew, who is currently a marine recruit in boot camp. That would explain why watching the trailer I felt a desperation in Harry's fight against the forces of evil. Or the weight of him possibly losing Ron and Hermione's friendship.

The bottom line: I have to admit, the trailer was emotional, inspiring, and, children in tow or not, I will definitely be going to see the new Harry Potter movie.

Bad Communication Between Cars

No, I’m not talking about that middle finger. I’m talking about doing something other drivers don’t expect you to do. Like passing an exit at 90 MPH and then deciding you need to zoom over the median and jump onto that exit you almost missed. I got news for you: you missed it. But don’t worry, there is another one a mile or so up. You can take that exit and work your way back.

It’s even more stupid (and dangerous) when you’re in the carpool lane of an 8 lane freeway and decide you need the exit that is 500 feet away, so you make a right turn on the freeway without using your blinker, moving out of the carpool lane in a non-designated area, crossing 7 lanes of traffic and running over the $500,000 Highway Beautification Project to take the H Street exit…only to find out you needed the J Street exit anyway. Nice going, Mr. Wheeler. Why can’t you be more like Mr. Walker?

Source: Dallas Transportation Blog
So use your blinkers to let others know what you’re intending to do. Change lanes safely. And when you see someone turn on their blinker, that doesn’t mean speed up so they can’t get in front of you! Share the road with others. Leave enough room between cars.

Don’t drive like there is someone waiting for you at your destination, drive like there is someone at your destination waiting for you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

‘Superman’ and Broken Schools

This weekend sees the opening of Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary Waiting for ‘Superman’. In it Guggenheim follows the lives of a handful of children who are, in the street vernacular, being kept down by the system. Guggenheim has been on several programs this week promoting his movie as not only an exposé on an educational system that has been broken for 40 years, but, thanks to new research over the last 10 years, a solution to the problem.

Disclaimer: I have not seen the movie. However, unless it addresses three very important factors, it’s not worth the price of admission.

1) Whoever really wants to learn will learn, even if they go to the worst school in the worst area. Guggenheim said that the educational system has been broken for 40 years. I’m 40. I went to public school. I was accepted to UCLA. I am now a physician. In medical school one of my classmates was also a student at my [public] high school. Granted, my schools were not the worst, nor in the worst neighborhoods, but it does not change the fact that those who wish to succeed will.

2) Not everyone needs an education to be successful and contributing members of society. I always wanted to do well in school. When I got home, the first thing I did was plop down on my bed and do my homework (and I had chores to finish before my father got home, or there would be a whoopin’). On the other hand, my two sisters hated school. One barely graduated at all, and she would have given her firstborn (well, at the time; now we all would have slapped her upside the head if she would have given away that little angel that came into our family 10 years later) to be able to leave school without repercussions. But that sister has been self sufficient since turning 18 and was the first in our family to buy her own home. Yes, she works for the government (no, not in Bell, CA), but she is doing something she’s wanted to do since she was 14, something important to every member of our great state.

3) Not everyone wants an education. My sister, as I said, wanted to leave school as early as she could without damaging her ability to get her dream job, one that has kept her happy for the last 25 years. But I don’t believe she was ever a distraction in class. There are students who are forced to go to public school who do not want to be there, who do not need to be there (they want to be mechanics, plumbers, etc., all good respectable jobs that keep a roof over heads and bellies full), and whose presence is detrimental to the learning experience of those around them. I’m not saying anyone should be forced to leave public school because they are having difficulty. But I do think that those who know early on that their chosen career path does not require continuing education should not be forced to occupy space in a public school, become bored (or worse, rebellious) and begin participating in activities that may get them into bigger academic (or worse, legal) trouble.

You can argue that point 3 is the result of being in an environment that is not conducive to learning, that if they would just receive positive attention they would see they should study, they would do better on exams, they could get into college, and they could become a doctor or lawyer or etc. But we will still need mechanics, and there are still only 160 medical schools. If 100% of all students graduated from high school and went on to college, and as many people who wanted to could enter medical school, we would have so many physicians that each one would make $20,000 per year if they were lucky.

And where would we get our cars fixed? Could you imagine paying $85,000 to have your tires changed? Because that would be what the engineer who installed them would want…after all, why else did he go to college for 6 years and accrue $150,000 in student loans?

The Motorcyclist with a Death Wish

Let me qualify this by saying that my dad rides a motorcycle, and I wish had the guts to ride one, but I like my guts on the inside, thank you very much. I’ll stick to riding out in Glamis. Bikers are hard enough to see and easy enough to smear all over the road when they are driving safely. If they drive like idiots, they’re really asking to meet their maker.

Brad Pitt during unsafe
lane splitting (Examiner)
Bikers: you are allowed into the “carpool” lane, and you are allowed to “split lanes,” but you must still do both safely. Lane splitting is legal for a biker because their engine is air-cooled (with no radiator, they rely on air flowing over the engine to keep it from overheating and seizing up), but just because you can split a lane does not mean you should. Only split lanes when traffic is moving slower than 35 MPH, and never go more than 10 MPH faster than the cars you are passing (if you do something stupid and startle me, it may legally be my fault that I ran you over, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have to order off McDonald’s I.V. selection and have a nurse change your diapers for the rest of your life).

Enter and exit the carpool lane only in the designated spots (see more tomorrow).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Long Beach – the Armpit of CA or a Hidden SoCal Jewel?

Growing up I was under the impression Long Beach was the armpit of California. Probably had something to do with Richard Pryor, who said in one of his routines, “Going to jail in Long Beach is a M* F*.? ‘Where you at?’ ‘I’m in Long Beach!’ ‘Well $#*! we ain’t comin’ down there to get your a** out’ ”

But I love the ocean, so when I was offered an hour on a ‘hydrobike’ at half price, I snatched it up, even though I would be launching from the Long Beach marina.

Gimenotis' Panoramio pic
It was amazing. I pedaled out into the open marina and across the bay to the island of Naples. There I entered a small canal that reminded me of Venice. Beautiful houses lined each side of the canal, and each house had a dock housing anything from kayaks to small versions of those tour boats they have at Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise up to larger ski and even cabin boats. “Treasure Island,” just outside of Naples, had larger slips housing yachts of all sizes. An hour was about the right amount of time to cruise around the marina and see most of the interesting sights, and I will definitely be returning.

Especially since, upon returning to the dock, I was given a coupon for $5 off my next ride. I was also informed that in the month of December they would be outfitting the bikes with lights festive lighting for evening cruising and parades. The weather, of course, will be cooler on a winter night as opposed to a summer day, but the bike is completely out of the water, and I didn’t get wet at all, so I would have no problem wearing appropriate clothing to stay warm.

Photo from lbhydrobikes site
Nothing is ever perfect, and I should mention the following: The “bike” was nothing fancy – just a bicycle seat on a frame attached to a pair of plastic pontoons. The handle bars were attached to a rudder in front, and the pedals to a propeller in back. The dock, as expected, is a bit dirty (hey, a marina is basically a parking lot for a bunch of boats that leak icky stuff into a small, enclosed area). But the owners/operators are very friendly and run as clean a place as can be expected in a busy marina.

All in all, I highly recommend visiting Long Beach Hydrobikes (

Unsafe Lane Changes

Just because you want to change from your lane into my lane doesn’t me you get to change into my lane. Not because it’s mine and I won’t let you (that’s a$$h0li$h), but because you have to make sure you have enough space to make that move. If I have to slam on my brakes to let you in, you’re doing it wrong. My James Bond solution: hit the missile launcher and blow you into a million pieces that rain harmlessly onto my car as I pass through where you used to be.

Change lanes safely. Make sure you are moving into the middle of that 3 second cushion between the cars next to you, not 2.875 seconds behind the car in front, putting you a scant .125 seconds in front of the car you just cut off (who now has to slam on his brakes – look out for that missile – 0.125 seconds is not enough time to see it going into your tail pipe!).

I’m trying to be funny here, but 0.125 seconds is an exaggeration in the opposite direction you would think! I have had people cut me of with literally less than a yard between me and their car. I have had people so close behind me that I cannot see their headlights! At 70 MPH, 3 feet is 0.03125, or 31 milliseconds! I don’t think brake lights have time to light up that fast; there is no way a person could see and react to brake lights, let alone actually slow a 3,000 pound car down that fast.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Disappointing Movie Summer of 2010

When I was young, I went to the movies at least weekly, if not two or three times per week, especially in the summer. I saw E.T. the Extra Terrestrial 13 times at the theater...eight times in the first 7 days! And this was on top of reading a novel per week. I still love to go to the movies, but I find it less and less fulfilling each year, and I've been wondering why.

Then I watched M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender, and I think I've figured out the problem. Hollywood has become bloated.

When I was little, Lucas had not made CGI king. When I was little, movies were about a great story. When I was little, actors were paid what they deserved, not what they thought they deserved (Marlon Brando got $250,000 plus a percentage of the gross for The Godfather). And it has to be said: agents got 10% of what their clients made. Not 2%, not whatever the client wants to give, and not a salary of $5 million per year plus bonuses.

Don't get me wrong: I love George Lucas, and I love ILM, and I love great special effects. But somewhere along the line, they took over. Special effects bloated movie budgets, and with larger budgets actors thought they deserved more dough, and then when action stars made more money, everyone else thought they deserved more too. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. But it wasn't too long ago that a movie budget over $50 million made executives' hearts falter. Now budgets soar to $150, $200, even $300 million.

Of course the increased costs have to be passed on to the consumer in the way of increased ticket prices. Add the IMAX movie experience for even higher ticket prices. Personally, I didn't see any difference in that's nothing like real IMAX. And thanks to James Cameron every movie has to be in 3-D now. Now, I'll admit, the new 3-D is much better than when I was a kid...but it jacks up the price from $10 to $15. Plus the IMAX thingy, making it $20 just to get in the door! And to top it off, most of the movies aren't even new anymore. It's either the novel made into a movie, an old TV show made into a movie, or the old movie made into a new movie. Or maybe not so old (I'm looking at you, Death at a Funeral).

What should be done?

Costs have to come down. Production costs as well as consumer costs. In Mexico, a movie ticket will cost you $5 at full price. Wednesday it's $2. The result? University students dash off to see a flick between classes. High school students stop at the theater on the way home. Families go out on a whim. This is a country with a very low average income, yet they still say, "Want to go to the movies?" and invariably get a response of "Sure! What's playing?" Think about that...the question is, "do you want to go to the movies?" not "do you want to spend the money to see that particular movie." The average Mexican will go to the theater and choose their movie based on what is playing next.

I believe that with lower production costs, Hollywood will be able to afford to take the risk of investing in new, original ideas. I don't mean throw money away on crap (I've seen enough of that on The Sci-Fi [ SyFy] channel, where frequently the movie of the week is not just poorly acted and poorly directed, but poorly written). I mean look to agents who really know a good story, pay a good director a fair but non-exorbitant fee to develop the story, with a reasonable budget to produce the film and actually turn a profit.

(Note: I just read that Monsters by Gareth Edwards (which looks to be a great movie) had a production budget "in the low six figures." I hope it does great, and it proves my point: good does not have to be outrageously expensive)

Shyamalan made millions on Airbender, but the movie sucked so bad they took it out of theaters so fast it made my head spin. And with a production budget of $150 million they should have been able to afford a better script (Shyamalan sucks), better casting (Shyamalan sucks) and better directing (did I mention Shyamalan sucks?). I read a review by an 8 year old who had better vision. I guarantee a different director with a good writer could have made a much better movie on an $80 million budget...and it would have made a profit. Probably enough to save the sequel.

I love George Clooney, and I loved Ocean's Eleven. But come on...$20 million for it was a bit much. The production budget was $85 million, meaning George was 23% of the production cost. Knock his cost down to $5 million, the production budget goes to $60 million. That doesn't mean more profit for the studio: lower costs translate to cheaper tickets for the consumer, too. But that means more ticket sales, meaning little to no loss in profit for the studio. Plus you've got $15 million toward another, new, original, non-remake flick.

At least Ocean's Eleven had the decency to be a remake of a 40 year old movie (still looking at you, Death at a Funeral).

So come on, Hollywood. Get your s#*! together. Get out of your rut and make my movie going experience great again. If you need help, I'll gladly write circles around M. Night Shyamalan for a fraction of his fee.


No, I’m not talking about the barbecue in the football stadium parking lot, I’m talking about driving too close to the (idiot who is also tail-gating) in front of you. You should always have at least 2 to 3 seconds of empty lane in front of you. I say 2 to 3 seconds for two reasons: the exact distance depends on your driving speed (at 10 MPH that would be 30 to 45 feet, whereas at 70 MPH it would be between 205 and 310 feet), and most people find it difficult to jump out of their car and run up to the car in front of them dragging a tape measure at 70 MPH (it’s so much easier just to watch the car in front of you pass something then make sure you don’t pass it until you count “one thousand ONE, one thousand TWO, one thousand THREE!”) My James Bond wish? I need the Oil Slick button to send you spinning off the freeway.

If everyone maintained the proper distance, the vast majority of our traffic would disappear. Why? Everyone going at 70 MPH with plenty of space between them and the car in front of them allows people to change lanes and merge onto or off the freeway without having to fight for space. If you don’t leave enough room between cars, lane changing will always cause people to have to slam on their brakes, and that is how our freeways end up being parking lots.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Iran: kidnapper?

I have been wondering all week if I should post something about this. It’s been bothering me, because I don’t like to stay silent, but at the same time, I think my reaction may be extreme. Nevertheless, I think Iran’s actions with regards to the three hikers arrested last year and accused of espionage should at this point constitute a crime (specifically: kidnapping).


The hikers were arrested on a charge of espionage. They should have been tried, convicted and sentenced, or they should have been found “not guilty” and released. However, last weekend one of the hikers, Sarah Shourd, was to be released on humanitarian grounds (illness) prior to trial. Then suddenly there was a problem, and she was not to be released. Then there was an issue of a $500,000 “bail.”

I’m still not clear on whether or not that money was paid (I believe it was). However, paid or not, it cannot be called “bail.” I believe “bail” is a universal concept, and that concept is not “Get out of jail for money.” Some people may think it is, but bail is actually a way a government allows someone out of jail before trial while (attempting to) guarantee they will appear at trial. Appear at trial, get your money back. Don’t appear, lose the money. Bail has to be affordable, but too much to risk losing.

In Ms. Shourd’s case, bail was to be paid with no expectation she would appear at trial, or even return if tried and sentenced in absentia. I guess guilt is unimportant (especially if the charges are completely bogus, though I don’t know enough about the case to make that statement). More importantly, when you think about it, Iran is making a much worse statement here: We have kidnapped your citizens. Drop $500,000 in unmarked bills in the trash can marked “ransom” at the Iraqi border. Wait – who cares if they are unmarked? We are Iran…what are you going to do to us??

Please...opine...what should we do about such a horrible action/statement by a sovereign nation? I have my own opinions, and as I said, they are extreme.

So Cal Traffic

You know, I’m really not a violent person. I swear! But sometimes I wish I had James Bond’s car; I would use it to eliminate all the stupid people from the road.

About 10 years ago I was driving on the 15 out of San Diego. I was headed toward my dad’s house and had to pass through the Corona area. Traffic started to slow about 8 miles south of the 91 when some idiot decided he was the most important person in the world and didn’t need to slow down like the rest of us, so he floored it and swerved into the emergency lane doing about 80 MPH. Since this was Corona, there was a lot of gravel off to that side, and at that speed, he threw gravel into the air, showering all the cars in the two right-most lanes. Of course everyone had to slam on their brakes: some out of fear or surprise, others to avoid hitting the people slowing in front of them, and some out of caution because they saw brake lights and didn’t know what was going on.

I’m sure 99% of the US would agree with me when I say that the driver of that car was an ass; he intentionally did something illegal to save time, putting everyone else in jeopardy as well as making their commute both slower and more aggravating. But there are also a lot of people who do things they think are totally acceptable, but that actually lead to massive freeway slowing.

Despite what you may think, a gajillion cars on the road is not what causes traffic; driving like an ass is the number one cause of traffic. Yes, “a lot of people” are necessary for traffic, but simply “a lot of people” will not cause traffic. While driving like an ass on a 6 lane freeway with 3 cars on it will not cause a traffic jam, neither will a bajillion cars on the same freeway if they’re all driving safely. Some of those cars have to be driving like idiots to cause the slow-down. Over the next four days I'd like to blog about the most common errors that lead to traffic jams.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tyra Banks and Model Health

Ok, I admit it. I watch America’s Next Top Model. Not proud of it, but you know what they say: admitting you have a problem is the first step toward getting better. And Anamaria, the contestant who was eliminated this week, has a problem that she refuses to accept is a problem.

We all know that models are expected to be tall and skinny. Well, apparently not too tall, as contestant Ann (not to be confused with Anamaria) can tell you: she’s 6’2” and was repeatedly rejected as being too tall, so apparently models have to be between 5’10’ and 6’1”. But I don’t want to talk about height issues, as you don’t choose how tall you grow. I want to talk about weight. We all know that models are expected to be rail thin; hence the jokes like, “She’s angry because she’s hungry!” or “Oh, girl, eat a cookie!” or “The other day, my roommate – the model – asked me if I wanted to split a grape.”

All the girls on this cycle of ANTM are thin, some thin enough to make me worry as a physician. But the fashion industry wants them thin, right? So you would think that a model, or aspiring model, would get the clue when her peers and potential employers tell her she’s too thin.

Yes, the other models and the judges all told Anamaria she was too thin. During the discussion of the photo shoot for judging, Tyra Banks said, “This is your best photo, because in the photo you are hiding your body. The other photos made us uncomfortable.”

Anamaria’s response? “Maybe you’re not used to it, but I am. I like my body.”

First, as a contestant in any competition, that is a stupid remark to make. Second, if you are going to be a model, the hope is that your pictures will be seen by millions of people, and initially they will also not be used to it. And if someone who knows what it’s like to look at waifish models tells you they’re uncomfortable with your body weight, so will those other millions. And thus ends your being seen by millions of people.

So Anamaria was dinked. Her parting comment? “I like being this thin. If I get rejected by a lot of agencies because I’m too thin, maybe I’ll think about gaining some weight.”

I don’t believe her. I think she has an eating disorder and an unhealthy body image that will only be changed if there is an intervention. Modeling agencies may reject her without ever telling her why, or they may make up an excuse, or give another true and valid reason for rejecting her rather than tell her to eat the damn cookie. In the end, I think she will always walk away from each rejection saying, “Well, what do they know?”

To an extent she is right: what do they know? They’re part of the problem, and they err on the side of “too thin.” Someone needs to take that girl to a doctor who can give her objective measures of what is too thin and what is healthy. While there is no one parameter that fits all individuals, common indicators include the BMI (body mass index) and TBF (total body fat). The first method is the least accurate but the easiest to calculate, the second is more difficult but a better indicator.

BMI is basically a way to say, “How fat (or thin) am I compared to my height?” It is calculated by dividing your weight by the square of your height (in kilograms and meters, respectively). There are online calculators that will do this for you automatically, in kilos or pounds and inches or centimeters. There is also an app for that on iPod touch and iPad. As for percentage of body fat, there are machines available at Brookstone or Sharper Image and probably a lot of other stores), as well as bathroom scales at Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond, that will measure your body’s electrical resistance and calculate how much body fat you have.

Women should never have less than 10% body fat. Men may go lower, but still should not go below about 4%. Anyone below these figures will have heath problems, and a woman who wants to have a baby will not be successful below 15% body fat (18% or higher is suggested). Still, it’s hard to measure total body fat, as the machines currently available are inaccurate and most people don’t have them on hand, so I like to use BMI, and a healthy BMI is between 20 and 25 (some people say as low as 18; I don't like it, but there it is).

SOOOoo...A model, at 5’10” tall with a BMI of 18 should weigh at least 56.9 kg or 125 pounds. Bare minimum. Ideally, that same woman should weigh 153 pounds (BMI 22).

If Anamaria asks, “What do they know?” I respond: Tyra knows. She herself was accused of being “FAT” by the tabloids in 2008 when Australian paparazzi snapped unflattering pictures of her, reporting a 40 pound weight gain. Tyra set the record straight by going on TV in her bathing suit and admitting she had gained 10 pounds, reaching 160 pounds. At 5’9” tall, that means she has a body mass index of 23.75. Tyra seems to know what is healthy, and what is not.

So when Tyra, who is judging whether or not you can be a good model, tells you that you are too thin, think about it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bicentenario de México – Margaritas anyone?

This article started out as a review of the new La Sandía restaurant at the Santa Monica Place mall, but somehow I felt the need to throw in the following two paragraphs as background:

Today is Independence Day – if you’re Mexican. And even more, today is the bicentennial of Mexican Independence from Spain. On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo, a Mexican Priest from Dolores, Guanajuato, rang his church bell to gather his pueblo. Once gathered, he gave an inspiring speech about the need to free themselves from Spanish oppression. In response, the people began shouting their support, and the war of independence began. Hidalgo was eventually captured, tried, sentenced and executed by the Spaniards, but the movement carried on, and 11 years later on September 27, 1821, Mexico was free of Spanish rule.

Much like the 4th of July, Mexico’s independence is celebrated on the day the movement began, not the day it ended. Every year on September 15th Mexicans gather for festivities that include traditional music, foods and fireworks, leading up to El Grito de la Independencia, the cry of independence at midnight, lead by the President of Mexico, who rings the bell of the National Palace in Mexico City. Across Mexico, los presidentes municipales (municipal presidents, or for us Americans, mayors) do the same at their municipal palaces (city halls). Each president (national and municipal) repeats a cry of patriotism (based upon Hidalgo’s original speech) from the balcony of the palace to the assembled crowds below, and the patriotic crowd chants back.

Yeah, yeah…a rowdy rabble of uncultured seditionists. I bet that’s what King George III said about that little letter he got from John Hancock, et. al. shortly after it was sent on July 4th, 1776. “Hedley? Dispatch the following message to Mr. Hancock and his rowdy rabble of uncultured seditionists.” And with a wave of his royal highness’ hand, Hedley is shot by the king’s guards.

Crowded plazas? Food sold from carts? Fireworks forcing me to cover my ears (I was once separated from my family in the parking lot of Six Flags while leaving during the fireworks show…I have a small problem with the noise and the lights if I’m too close)?

Personally, I’ll celebrate at La Sandía, recently opened on the Dining Terrace of the newly renovated Santa Monica Place. Most Mexican food restaurants in the US serve food a true Mexican wouldn’t even be able to identify as Mexican, but Chef Richard Sandoval was born in Mexico City, and he knows Mexican.

The place is huge…much larger even that it appears when you first walk up. I think the ceiling is three stories above your head, and tables are not crowded together as happens in some other restaurants. The menu was authentic, with fair prices (we got out of there at about $50 per person, including drinks and tip). The wait staff was friendly, enthusiastic and attentive, visible enough when you need them, but at the same time unobtrusive. I don’t think any of them spoke Spanish, though…just the bus boys.

Prior to going I had heard their margaritas were bitter and watered down, but I started off with a blended strawberry one just the same. I thought it was sweet, and I was tipsy by the end of the first round. 

The queso fundido (melted cheese) was a great companion to the drinks. The plate arrives with the cheese still sizzling, a small side of guacamole and two salsas. Disclaimer: I have been eating very hot (peel your tongue type hot) peppers and salsas since I was a little kid, so cautiously take my opinion when I say the standard salsas were very flavorful, but not very spicy. I requested a hotter sauce and was supplied with a habanero based salsa. I ended up mixing this sauce (whose spice I preferred) with the standard sauce supplied with the home made tortilla chips (whose flavor was amazing) to apply to most of the rest of my food.

As a main course I ordered the Taco Platter, choosing chicken tinga as my filling. The rice and refried style black beans were savory accompaniments, and the chicken tinga (shredded meat simmered in a tomato and chipotle sauce) was great, but I think the amount of lettuce in each taco overpowered the flavor a bit. I ended up pulling the lettuce out and eating it on the side as a flavorful salad, making the tinga flavor of the taco stand out more.

As a chaser I ordered another appetizer: the grilled steak huaraches.  Huarache in Mexico is a sandal or flip-flop; this dish gets its disagreeable name from the shape of the masa, or batter, which is a corn-based batter fried like a pancake to make a thick tortilla like bread. The huarache is topped with caramelized onions, cilantro, refried black beans, cheese, red sauce and a medium rare slice of skirt steak. Quite delicious, if you ask me.

My only two complaints:

1) They only take reservations for between 2 and 6. Their reasoning was that there is too much mall traffic and if someone shows up as a walk in at 7 or 8 and sees an empty table, they wonder why they cannot be seated. I think this is a stupid argument because everyone I know understands the concept of “reserved.” I am calling to make a reservation specifically to assure a table in the event the restaurant is very busy. I am thinking ahead to avoid standing at your door for an hour while I am hungry and with a group of friends. People who don’t think ahead are welcome to wait that hour. Avoid having to explain empty tables by setting aside half of the restaurant for walk-ins, and anyone arriving late for their reservation loses their table.

2) I so totally over-ate!

So celebrate Mexican Independence: go to La Sandía in the Santa Monica Place.

Sorry about the pictures; I'm not a bad photographer, but these were just snapshots with a point and click digital camera.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

$#*! My Dad Says

Yesterday I watched my first promo for this new series, and I have to comment. It’s a moral imperative. For those of you who don’t know, it is premiering on Thursday, September 23 at 8:30 PM (7:30 PM Central time). It’s a sit-com based on the wildly popular twitter account of Justin Halpern. It stars William Shatner, Jonathan Sadowski, Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan.

To be honest, living in LA and seeing all the billboards around town, I was sick of the show long ago. William Shatner, to me, is really just “Captain Kirk,” always and forever…even TJ Hooker was “TJ Hooker, starring James T. Kirk,” and as an author, it should be, “Get a Life by James T. Kirk” and “TekWar by James T. Kirk.” Sorry, dude…I know I’m so wrong, but I discovered you on re-runs when I was 4.

And word-of-mouth…well, it was bad. Everyone I knew told me this show was not worth watching. “Shatner is stiff and bored,” they told me.

But, as I said, I saw the promo online yesterday, and it looked great. And not because of Will Sasso or Nicole Sullivan, both comedy veterans of MADtv, the Cleveland show, Family Guy, Scrubs, etc. (see their profiles for their full credits). I thought Bill (May I be so bold, Mr. Shatner?) really looked like he could carry this show:

“Son, if it looks like manure and smells like manure, it’s either Wolf Blitzer or manure.”
“Why do I have to keep identifying letters?? I’ve been driving for 60 years and I’ve never been rear-ended by a gigantic E!”
“I’m sorry that I was rude to you…you didn’t deserve that. You seem like a very nice ho-mo-sexual.”
“Ed Goodson?” “Very common name!” “Edison Milford Goodson?” “A somewhat common name!”

Okay, in text it’s a bit dry: it’s just as funny (or as unfunny) as the twitter feed. But Bill really does a great job of delivering the lines. I believe he is a loving dad who just grew up in a time when men did not show emotion (same era in which Kirk was raised, I expect). He loves his son(s), but can’t show it, at least not in the way we would expect.

But I have to say, CBS…you’ve got the title all wrong. You shouldn’t call it “Bleep My Dad Says.” You should call it what it is: “Shit My Dad Says,” and just actually BLEEP the first word.

I don’t know if it will make it into my normal TV routine, but I will certainly watch the pilot. Good luck, guys!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Gym

I like going to the gym. I feel great after a 90 minute run on the elliptical trainer. It also helps that I burn 1500 calories in that 90 minutes, meaning I can eat 3500 calories per day without gaining weight. Daddy liiiike...

But there is a down side to the gym. Unless it's your own private gym, you share it with others, which means exposure to their bad etiquette, or worse, disease. When I first started, I would go in street clothes, change there, shower afterward, and then leave just as clean as when I arrived...or so I thought. Two months later I had athlete's foot. I have to assume I picked it up in the shower. I now arrive in gym clothes and go home sweaty, to shower in my own, clean shower.

More recently I changed gyms (now I can walk to the gym from my house). Shortly after starting at this new gym I developed a serious stomach infection that lasted 5 days. Talking to another member of the same gym, I was informed that he too had gotten ill the same day as I, and had worked out at the gym as well. Furthermore, he had gotten sick at that gym before. No smoking gun, but enough evidence to make me decide that, prior to every workout, I would spray down all surfaces of the elliptical I intended to touch with a disinfectant and let it sit for 20 to 30 seconds before wiping it down. I have not been sick since.

Recently I have seen several things happen at the gym that makes me grateful for this almost mysophobic (germaphobic) routine. As I already said, I no longer use the locker room, which means I almost never go into the bathroom. I have used the restroom twice at the new gym: once when I did 3 hours on the elliptical, and once when I did my normal routine, but had come from being out and about, and I tend to drink a lot of water. Both times I saw men shaving. At my last gym, several times I saw men shaving their backs and arms. In my opinion this should never happen. If you use the full services of the locker room, it should not be a substitute for your home grooming. The point of a gym locker room is to allow you to arrive and leave clean. Shave at home. I don't want to have to worry about being exposed to HIV or hepatitis at the gym because you decided to skip shaving at home and cut yourself at the gym.

Another time, while I was working out, I glanced over and saw a man using another machine, and on his arms he had several lesions of some sort. I didn't ask him about it, and for all I know they were just sores from sliding into third base, but regardless of their origins, they were crusted with dried blood and lymph. Obviously they were not bandaged, and they were on his hands. Not in direct contact with the machine, but could be if he accidentally backhanded the machine while reaching for something. I probably should have said something to him, such as, "Sir, you really should bandage those wounds prior to coming to the gym, both for your safety as well as the safety and peace of mind of others." I would think, though, that such a practice would be common sense.

Finally, I would like to mention the Really Ugly of the gym: cruising. I don't have any problems with meeting someone at the gym, and if that leads to dating, or just hooking up, or whatever, that's your business. But it is one thing to see someone you think is attractive, make contact, and then take it private, and quite another thing to see someone you like and just stare them down. Repeatedly. If you don't know how to flirt, get a coach. But don't stare me down on a daily basis, or worse, follow me around the weight room. That's stalking. Get a clue: if I didn't respond to you at first, I'm either not interested or not paying attention (which means you didn't catch my interest, right? So I'm still not interested). Go away!

Okay, so that is my gym rant. The point: I like going to the gym, but remember people, it's a public place. Treat it well, so others can enjoy it too.

Monday, September 13, 2010

MTV VMAs last night

Chelsea Handler is a great comedienne, in my opinion, and I love comedy. Just ask my parents…from a very young age I have parroted my favorite comedy stand-up routines, sometimes to their enjoyment, sometimes to their tremendous embarrassment. To this day I love to watch Stand-Up…I have satellite TV specifically to get Comedy Central.

Chelsea Lately … ok, well, it’s not on Comedy Central. It’s on E! Entertainment Television. But it’s a good show. Comedic commentary on current events. I can’t say I care much for the skits she does at the end of the show, but the panel discussions are pretty good, in my humble opinion.

And I have always thought the only reason to watch any awards show is the host. Too many musical artists can’t pull off a live performance. Award winners can be found in the news the next day. Even the best and worst dressed are better the next day. If the host sucks, I see no reason to watch the show.

But last night’s VMAs just sucked. Chelsea was stiff, uncomfortable and basically lost. The writing was horrible. About the only thing that I found entertaining was LiLoh’s self-deprecating rant. “Pull it together, Handler! Do you think anyone wants to work with a drunk? Take it from me…they don’t!” If you ask me, in those 20 seconds she outshined Handler…and made me believe she might actually have a chance at getting back on top of Hollywood.

I hope Chelsea gets a chance to host another awards show. But if she does, I hope she’ll bring the writers from her E! program.

Burning the Quran

This past weekend we commemorated the 9th anniversary of the “9/11” attacks. These attacks were carried out by terrorists who belonged to one religion: Islam. Since that attack, there has been a growing prejudice, both in American and abroad, against Muslims, culminating, in my view, with last week’s announcement by one Terry Jones in Gainesville, Florida that he would hold a “Burn a Koran day” on September 11, 2010.

On September 7, 2010 Russell Goldman of ABC News commented that Jones was “perhaps the unlikely face” of this anti-Islam, or anti-Muslim movement. But I disagree. While it could easily have been a different individual, I think whoever became the face of this movement, it would have to have been someone like Terry Jones.

I have to make a disclaimer here: I am a Christian (I’ll refrain from reporting which exact denomination). When it comes to religion, we (correctly or incorrectly) believe that we are right and (not we) are wrong. Therefore, even before 9/11 I had misgivings about Islam. But I am also an American, and as such I believe in the freedom of religion, as outlined in the First Amendment of our Constitution, and I think a lot of people don’t understand just how important and far-reaching that amendment is.

I would hate to have people associate my form of Christianity with that practiced by many others: David Koresh (of Waco, Texas fame) jumps to mind; the Ku Klux Klan; the Army of God (anti-abortion extremists); Scott Roeder; the “Hutaree” group in Michigan, as well as other Christian Militia groups belonging to the Christian Patriot movement; and while it is an ancient reference, I have to mention the Crusades (including the Children’s Crusade) in which thousands of people died in the name of Christ. Personally, I cannot remember a single example of rebellion in the United States whose leader did not claim guidance by some form of Christian God.

My point is this: crazy people exist, and they belong to all sorts of groups, including different religions. We cannot blame 9/11 on Muslims any more than we can blame sedition on Christians. “Pastor” Terry Jones reportedly frequently tours his church’s property with a pistol strapped to his hip. He sounds a bit crazy to me.

On Friday, Jones held a news conference outside his church, saying he had cancelled the “Burn a Koran Day” event, because “...the Iman [sic] in New York” had agreed to move the mosque from Ground Zero. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf responded by announcing he had neither spoken to Jones nor agreed to move the mosque. Jones then announced he felt he had been deceived, and that either the “Iman” had to agree to move the mosque or he would have to reconsider holding his “Burn a Koran Day.”

My thoughts:

1) Mr. Jones (I have a real problem calling him “Pastor”) condemns Islam and all Muslims, yet he doesn’t even know enough about them to be able to pronounce “Imam.” When all Americans hated Russia, we could still pronounce Czar. And Imam is not even that hard to pronounce: you say all the frickin’ letters!

2) He was supposedly in talks with Imam Muhammad Musri for 2 days, yet could not be bothered to remember his name (Come on! Even if you want to be an “ignorant American,” who the hell can’t remember “Imam Mohammed” ??? It would have been close enough…it’s not like he was going to spell it while talking!)

3) It seems to me that, in the lead-up to the “Burn the Koran Day,” Jones’ point was that “Islam is of the Devil.” Initially, no mention was made about the “Ground Zero” mosque.

4) If you really think Islam is “of the Devil,” why would you negotiate with them?

5) If, at any point, either initially or toward the end of the drama, a deal is offered by Jones (“Either do [thing I want] or I will do [horrible thing]”), does that not make him a blackmailer? Or terrorist? Don’t we have an obligation as a society to not negotiate with such a person?

6) Given this growing anti-Muslim and anti-Islam movement, is it possible that we actually need a Muslim center at Ground Zero? People have countered with, “Should the Nazis be allowed to build a cultural center next to Auschwitz?” I agree, the Nazis should not be allowed, but the Germans should! “Look, this was a black mark on our history, perpetrated by Germans who claimed to be fighting for the good of Germany. But please be aware: they were wrong, and we know it. Do not confuse those Germans with today’s Germans.”

Terry Jones is a nut-case. He got enough attention to attempt to act like a bully. Thankfully it appears it has not worked.

If it does end up working to his favor, perhaps I should declare a “Burn a Bible Day?”

My ravings on the matter…