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Posts from — June 2008

Die Große Stille

From Netflix this week was Die Große Stille or Into Great Silence. It’s a documentary movie about the heartbreakingly beautiful Grande Chartreuse Monastery of the Carthusian Order. This is my favorite monkish order. It’s a one of a kind inside look on the lives of the monks and it won many awards. At the end of the movie, the director comments before the credits about gaining access to the monastery to make the movie. He wrote the order and asked permission. They wrote back and said it was too soon. They said, maybe in 10 years. He heard back from them 16 years after his original request. This saint recommends this film. It’s very interesting. Here’s a clip showing an interview with a very old blind monk:

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Here’s the U.S. trailer for the movie:

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As you might expect, the comments you find about this movie are droolingly praise-full. A few years back I visited a forum for lay people interested in this order of monkishness. And, yes, it was a looney bin. One person in the forum had actually lived in a Carthusian monastery with the intention of becoming a member of the order. He left and is leading a life in the world. His first hand description of life inside the slammer is a little different from the portrait in this movie. To get the full flavor of Carthusian monastic life, you would need smell-O-vision. Personal hygiene was not practiced by many of the monks at the monastery where he lived. So, watch this movie but, as you watch, imagine the smells.

June 29, 2008   No Comments

Portion Control from Mr. Bento

Mr. BentoAre you horrified by how big people are getting? Being OCD in every bad way possible, I find myself watching men I pass and counting how many have jumbo breasts. I don’t remember any other time in my life when so many men were sporting boobs. I’m not talking about a little softness. I’m talking about full blown racks of boob. This is not a good thing and it’s probably a bad introduction to my topic of portion control.

When American companies first tried to market food to Japan, the Japanese didn’t want it. I remember the cookie story. Think about the last package of cookies you bought in a snack shop. It was probably a large package containing two jumbo cookies. This is what Americans seem to like. They want big. It can taste like buffalo butt road kill but if it’s big, we’ll buy it and eat it. When this same type of cookie was marketed in Japan, the Japanese wouldn’t buy it. After a bit of cultural education, the American company returned to the Japanese market with little cookies about the size of a half dollar. Bingo! They flew off the shelves. The Japanese concept of portion is very different from our own.

Many years after the cookie marketing success, our criminal fast food companies may have had their way with Japan’s concept of portion control. They are becoming super-sized. Japan has one of the best health care systems in the world and they are attacking the bulge. From the Wall Street Journal Health Blog:

Anyone with a weight-related medical concern and whose waist is bigger than the acceptable size –- a rigorous 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women –- must lose weight, according to a new law. Otherwise, they face compulsory diet advice and follow-up visits for three to six months. For some perspective, the average male waist size in the U.S. is 39 inches, while American women average 36.5 inches.

I love this idea. I don’t think it could ever happen here but it’s needed much more here than it is in Japan.

Mr. Bento BoxI’ve found a simple way to benefit from the Japanese concept of proper meal portions. It’s Mr. Bento from Zojirushi. Mr. Bento is an insulated stainless steel jar lunch box containing perfectly portioned microwaveable plastic containers. If you follow the Amazon link, you’ll see it’s a bit pricey but you can get it for much less on Ebay. When I use this bento box system for my lunch, I’m able to effortlessly maintain control of my diet. The containers are the right size. Mr. Bento does not allow you to pack American size portions. It’s small, efficient and keeps food either hot or cold. It’s ideal for the bicycle commuter. It fits perfectly in a student back pack. My typical lunch in Mr. Bento is rice, Miso soup, and two containers with fresh raw fruit or vegetables. It works. It’s easy.

June 27, 2008   No Comments

Pub Med Alert – Hybridizing Humans and Apes

Here’s one of the hits I received recently from my set Pub Med alerts. It’s a dandy from Cambridge:

Beyond eugenics: the forgotten scandal of hybridizing humans and apes.

This paper examines the available evidence on one of the most radical ideas in the history of eugenics and utopianism. In the mid-1920s, the zoology professor Ilia Ivanov submitted to the Soviet government a project for hybridizing humans and apes by means of artificial insemination. He received substantial financing and organized expeditions to Africa to catch apes for his experiments. His project caused an international sensation. The American Association for the Advancement of Atheism announced its fund-raising campaign to support Ivanov’s project but gave it a scandalously racist interpretation. Ivanov’s own motivation remained unclear, as did the motivation of those in the Bolshevik government who supported Ivanov until his arrest in 1930. This paper discusses three hypothetical reasons for Ivanov’s adventure: first, hybridization between humans and apes, should it be successful, would support the atheist propaganda of the Bolsheviks; second, regardless of the success of hybridization, Ivanov would catch and bring to Russia apes, which were necessary for the rejuvenation programs that were fashionable among the Bolshevik elite; and third, hybridization, should it be successful, would pave the way to the New Socialist Man whose ‘construction by scientific means’ was the official purpose of the Bolsheviks. Ivanov’s ideas were arguably important for the American proponent of reform eugenics, Herman Muller, and for the Soviet anthropologist Boris Porshnev.

I hadn’t heard about this little project before. It scores a 10 on the creepy quotient. I fail to see how it would support an atheist viewpoint. It seems to me that it only supports the viewpoint that all totalitarian governments are evil.

June 13, 2008   No Comments

Padre Pio – Better than Live Bait

The post I made about Padre Pio, the soon to be sainted fraud, is almost as popular as the Mash Cone. For all the pitiful Pio followers, I wanted to make a plug for a great book by Joe Nickell. It’s called “Looking for a Miracle” and it’s available from Amazon. Nickell is a great writer and his books are a pleasure to read. Besides, who doesn’t want to learn how to make their own weeping madonna statue?

June 11, 2008   2 Comments

The Flower Duet with Sutherland and Tourangeau

But, without and ad for British Airways. I’m not a true opera fan but this is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever created. Also, while you watch, think about this: What would the child of Joan Sutherland and Jay Leno look like?

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Joan Sutherland is a Saint.

June 7, 2008   No Comments

Too Cool Mirrored Shades

JiMarti Aviator Revo Style Mirrored SunglassesIt’s confession time. I’m a sunglass-aholic. Ever since my first pair of glacier glasses in 1968 in Tucson, I’ve loved mirrored shades. My eyes have always been sensitive to light. The bright sun in Tucson drove me to my first pair of mirrored shades and then it became a habit. I also like to take good care of my eyes and I’ve always bought rather expensive glasses to try and ensure quality. These days, with the universal access to information, you can discover whether those extra bucks are actually buying better quality or just a fancy name. I’ve found that in sunglasses, it’s often just a fancy name. My latest sunglass find is available on Amazon. These glasses are fantastic for wear in bright sunshine and the price is unreal. I have all three pairs and I am three times as cool as I was before I bought them. Take a look at these beauties!

June 7, 2008   No Comments