Mickey D & the Olympics

Maybe it is just me, but at the last Olympic, winter, games there were ads declaring that McDonalds was an official restaurant, or food, of the Olympics?  I pondered this at the time but never got around to writing about it and then the moment had passed.  And now there are ads proclaiming that McDonalds is a proud sponsor of the United States Olympic team.  As I say, maybe it’s just me but does this strike anyone else as oxymoronic?

Here are some of the fittest folks in the world, being sponsored by the purveyor of some of the least healthy food on the planet; the food of all evil.  We are in an America increasingly caught up in health crazes, diet crazes, food fads in some spectrum of society and increasingly and unrelentingly morbidly obese across many groups. Just take a walk through most Walmart stores and your self esteem will increase by 100%.

So while restaurants and brands are madly advertising that things are “natural” “organic” “gluten free” and “gmo free”  (a blog for another day) these elite athletes are, dare we say it, eating McDonalds? Is this a great leap to some kind of food legitimacy for the fast food chain?  First they start offering apples in their kid’s meals, then salads, now the olympics. While I don’t begrudge the Olympic athletes any support wherever it can be found, and I think apples are a great idea, we should not be fooled into thinking this is good food.  Even if you are a committed carnivore this is not good food.  It is processed, frozen, pre-prepared. As brands like Panera strive to convince us we are going back to clean and fresh, we seem to be farther than ever from just cooking fresh real food for ourselves.

Dont be fooled, fast food is fast for a reason. And most of us don’t burn 5000 calories a day or more working out.

Ad Culture in America and other addictions

For some time now it has become obvious that ads are targeting the wallets of baby boomers.  No longer do you see prime time ads for diapers and other baby and toddler accoutrements or youthful clothing (unless you are watching Stacey London), for example.  I assume that many of the “baby” ads are on during the day as the bad assumption that all good mothers stay home and watch soap operas still seems to hold some sway in this country.  Even most of the cleaning goods ads seem to be on at odd times with the exception of those that are geared to us “older” folks and our limitations.

Now, almost without exception, we seem to be bombarded with ads for products for women who have urinary urgency or accidents, for getting and keeping an erection (and no, the women having sex with those guys do NOT look like the women in those commercials).  Likewise, commercial for “manly” incontinence underwear, hair replacement, hair color to correct gray, supplements for every ailment, pills for everything under the sun including vaginal dryness; all of which have hideous side effects.  These side effects, to my mind, are far worse than the ailments that they are intended to correct/cure/affect.

So I was watching television the other night, thinking about these very things when a commercial came on that I had not seen before.  Mind you there are lots of laxative, bowel, digestive and urinary tract commercials but this one stood out.  It was a commercial for a laxative marketed to relieve opiod dependence related constipation.  What?  I thought.  The news is full of the “new” American heroin problem.  First, heroin is not a new problem but its prevalence among new classes of users has brought new attention to it.  Today the news is all about those who become dependent on pain medication and when they either can’t get enough or can’t afford it, they turn to the cheaper alternative, heroin.  And we know that pain medication can be obtained from multiple doctors since mostly they don’t talk to each other although some states, mine included, are getting smarter about tracking these things, making it harder to scam the system.  All of these drugs cause constipation apparently. So some bright ad person’s idea is to take advantage of this new scourge of the dwindling middle class and market to addicts to alleviate this particular side effect of their addiction.

Oy vey.  It seems that the money spent on this particular advertising would be better spent on treatment but greed is the American way, especially if you can capture a few of the baby boomer dollars.

War Is Not a Counting Game

I am astounded at how the world, particularly the United States, views the conflict in Gaza/Israel. The American liberal press, in fact most of the “prime time” press, views this conflict as an accounting game, to be determined by the body count. Understand, I am a dyed in the wool liberal, old time determined lefty. But on this, the lefties are mostly wrong.

Every article or story I read or see is about a dead or wounded Palestinian child. Now I believe that war is a tragedy for everyone, most especially for the innocents, caught in the violence. And every death is a tragedy and a keen sorrow for those loved ones left behind. We do not, however, see stories about the disabled Israeli children who, for the last years, have gone to the shelters at least once a week so that when it happens for real, as no it has, they won’t be destroyed by the disruption in their routines. We do hear or see the stories of the children and families who go to the shelters multiple, multiple times per day; whose lives, hearts and minds will never be the same from the daily and constant barrage of the rockets. Rockets that come much further into Israel than had every been imagined.

Israel is now, and has always been, expert at defending herself. By necessity obviously as she is surrounded by sworn enemies. Those that say Israel is perfect are blind, she isn’t. But to say that being better at self-defense makes you wrong is not just ignorant it is blatantly ridiculous.

The number of bodies on either side cannot define this or any conflict, nor does it define moral “rightness”. What defines both the conflict and the political catch-22 is that Israel is determined to survive and Hamas is determined that she will not. And those that are innocent on both sides are caught in the middle, living in fear and hoping for sanity and peace.

Tetzaveh – Exodus 27:20 – 30:10

This Torah portion is primarily about the priestly vestments, clothing, adornments and the altars.  Two things struck me particularly.  The commentaries point out that in the Torah portion Moses’ name is not mentioned at all yet the “directions” are to him.  So it is selfless and ultra present at the same time. Moses said to G-d that he would be nameless in the Torah as a result of the people sinning with the golden calf.  The ultimate selflessness, to remain nameless in the holiest of holy works.  And yet, he is in this most intimate relation with G-d in this portion, G-d providing him with the instructions required for the priests to maintain the relationship between G-d and the people.  Which directs my attention to the tzedakah question – nameless?  I think so.  We as Jews talk about tzedakah, about charitable good works, about tikkun olam, all the time.  There are those who do many good works but feel it necessary to be recognized as often and as publicly as possible.  How close to G-d does that put the person?  The good is the good but I think the desire for a “return” undermines the value of the good.  Sometimes the recognition, the price to the recipient, is too much.  There are those who do small good works but do them anonymously.  How close to G-d does that put the person?  Much closer I think.  It is much more intimate an act to do small acts of kindness and charity without hope of reward.  Not to say that there aren’t those that do great works without the need of public reward.

The other theme in this portion that struck me is that of the “everlasting” light that is supposed to burn from morning until night.  Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?  All the time versus some of the time.  I loved a commentary I read which is essentially that this contradiction is a metaphor for the contrast between the perfect and the imperfect. That it is our job to find a relationship between the divine and the human, the eternal and the temporal.  And isn’t that the meaning of our lives, the striving for a perfection that we know perfectly well is unattainable, yet we continue to strive.  And as with tzedakah, doesn’t the striving for the unattainable put is in a more intimate relationship with g-d.  And this is not the same as striving for “success”.  It is striving for the divine; the perfection of our selves.  Ironically striving to attain the perfection of our human selves is by definition to only attain a better imperfection! 

Ultimately in this portion, both themes that spoke to me are about doing the best we can not because it is asked of us, not because it will gain us material goods or rich recognition, but because it brings us closer to the divine.  They are both about improving our relationship with G-d and what is best in us; in having a more intimate relationship with G-d and with ourselves.  Shabbat Shalom.

Things I Want My Son To Know #27 ~ Don’t Be Nicer Than You Really Are

What a fine line this is to walk!  We all want so much to be liked and the temptation to pretend is great just to get that approval and friendship.  Most of us are nice enough naturally.  You certainly are; I probably am.  When you have a caring heart and an empathetic spirit, it is easy to become a doormat for people, to be gulled into doing things you know are not right or not good for you.  It has taken me a long time in life to learn that I can just be me, civil and respectful, of course, but just me.  It is okay if not everyone is your friend and not everyone likes or loves you.  The people that will matter in your life will find you and you will know.  You won’t have to pretend with them, you won’t have to act out something you don’t feel, you will just know. Then you will just be nice naturally, do things for them because you want to, give gifts, spend time, keep in touch.  Sometimes it is not easy to maintain friendships, but when it is worth it, you will try.  In business, nice vs. civil is sometimes hard to learn.  You have to be respectful and friendly at work, but there are different boundaries at work.  You don’t do things for your co-workers or subordinates that you would do for your friends, and that’s ok.  It doesn’t mean you aren’t likeable, just appropriate.  And depending on your job, likeable isn’t necessarily what’s required.  Even in your social life, sometimes likeable isn’t worth the cost. Don’t be mean, be your natural wonderful self, but don’t be nicer than you really are.

Things I Want My Son To Know #26 ~ Hard & Soft Aren’t Always About Touch

There are times to be tough and times to be sensitive. There are times for rough and times for gentle. Don’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in tough; in the idea that you can’t express feelings or pain. There are times in life when pain is appropriate – a breakup, a death, any kind of loss. Expressing it makes it easier, being tough just festers inside. There are times to be tough when it feels wrong. People will try to con you, try to manipulate you, try to get you to do things you know are wrong. No matter how much you like them, care about them or want to be liked, be tough. But always be gentle with those less able than yourself, your pets, the disabled, the bullied. Don’t be so tough that you think everyone is trying to con you or manipulate you. Try to be tough enough to stand up for what you know is right and sensitive enough to see when the wrong is happening. Don’t be too tough on yourself, but be tough in pursuing your dreams. Be a strong man with a sensitivity for other’s feelings. Hard and soft aren’t always about touch.

Things I Want My Son To Know #25 ~ Live With Humility

You are entitled to nothing.  If you remember this, despite the face that it may seem radical in today’s world, it will be much easier to appreciate what you have.  As a parent I certainly want my child to have everything he wants, needs or wishes for.  As a human I know that it is likely that life will most likely not go just that way.

To live with humility is to live with gratitude.  To live with humility is to do service without expectation of reward.  To live with humility is to experience the joy of what you can do for others without worrying about what they can do for you.  To live with humility is to listen more than you talk.  To live with humility is to put the needs of others before your own; to delay gratification. Pleasures delayed are often that much more pleasurable.

To live with humility is to be underestimated.  This sounds bad, like something to be avoided but, in reality, it is something to be treasured.  When you are arrogant and full of yourself, you rarely end up living up to the expectations of others. The good news is that when you live with humility you often exceed the expectations of others, often surprising them to your advantage.

Remember that you are just a small part of a bigger plan, a bigger world, bigger events. There is freedom in humility; if you are not in charge, not the center of everything, your are free to just be in your life and relinquish control of everything you truly can’t control. You will be surprised to find that, after all, a life of humility will bring you rewards and recognition in ways that you cannot imagine, in ways that are different than what you may have expected or hoped for. To live with humility is to be available in your own life and the lives of others wtihout your ego blocking your eyes, your ears and your heart.

blogging is weird

So… once again, life has intruded on life and I have been away too long.  Here on some part of the downhill side of life there is so much to do that it is hard to know where to start, or continue.  Bloggimg is weird because it feels very private when you are doing it.  But you know, somewhere in the back of your mind, that there is at least the possibility that someone you have never met will read what you wrote.  It is a most public activity in the end.  So, all you readers out in radioland, I am hoping to be back.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #5 ~ Be A Man

That is a loaded concept in our culture. In the time of our fathers it meant things like always walking on the street side of a date so her dress doesn’t get splashed, and going down in a fight when someone slighted you, your wife, your girl, your family in any way. In many ethnic groups it meant revenge and in America generally it meant that men didn’t whine about feelings or express emotion in any significant way.

The world has changed a lot in some ways and not so much in others. You should still walk on the street side of a date and do old fashioned things like opening doors and at least offering to pay on a date. The other stuff is not so simple to figure out.

Fighting is not the first best way to defend yourself. If you or someone you love is wounded by words, then it takes a big man to ignore those words, reject those words and walk away from the speaker. If the wounds are caused by “hate words”, towards you or anyone, it takes a courageous man to speak up against those words, to refuse to allow hate speech to go unanswered. If someone violates what you believe in, it takes conviction to stand up for your principles. This last will be tested many times over in your lifetime. How you live your principles is one definition of what it takes to be a real man.

If you are attacked physically, use your mind first and then, if you must, fight back. If you can walk away from a fight, do it. But always defend those weaker and more helpless than you are. You have always stood up for friends or others you thought were being mistreated, never stop doing this; it makes a difference in the world, in people’s lives.

We have already talked about loving with all your heart. Be a generous lover (see your Grandmother’s advice!). Marry someone you would die protecting, that’s how you know its real; you will understand this when you have children because they are the only people you would choose over your partner if you had to make the choice. Protect those children fiercely and without reservation no matter what the personal cost; they will always remember that you did.

Make up your own mind about everything. Read, research, discuss whatever it is you want to know about and then make a decision. There are almost no irrevocable decisions in this life and you will make ones that turn out to be wrong. It takes a real man to admit a mistake, learn from it and move on. Nobody escapes mistakes but many people make the same ones over and over. Don’t just take the advice of your friends who probably have not done the research; or of anyone else unless you respect the depth of their knowledge. Have your own opinions and be gracious about listening to those of others, you might learn something.

Don’t be afraid to feel and don’t be afraid to show it. There is a time for emotions and feelings and a time not. Keep your feelings to yourself at work, most jobs value your intellect and your opinions about the job, not so much your feelings. In your personal relationships, let those feelings out, they matter and will make you a much more attractive man.

Real men love with open hearts and show it; real men use their brains and not their fists whenever possible; real men fight for what they believe in; real men are all different, not cut from some cultural mold that told them what to be. Real men are fully their own selves ~ so be a man.

Practical Advice For My Son #8 ~ Let The Pan Heat Slowly

There is something about cooking that people don’t tell you… it takes patience. When you want an egg, you want an egg. The temptation, and generally the action, is to put a pan on the stove and just heat the heck out of it. Especially on an electric stove, you just want to put it on high, or at least medium high, and go for it.

Unfortunately, when you take this approach to cooking a couple of things happen. First, you get rubbery weird eggs that are overcooked on the outside and too runny in the middle. Second, you get a pan requiring industrial cleaning because there is stuff burnt on to it.

Life is a lot like this process. When you go at things full blast, with no thought, you get some difficult results. First, you may have an incomplete or inappropriate solution and have to re-do whatever it is. Second, you may have relationships you have “burned” on the outside without resolving the mush on the inside. Third, you may say things that you either can’t take back or didn’t want heard.

So, when cooking an egg, or almost anything at all, it is best to set the pan on medium or medium low. Then wait until it is evenly as hot as you want it. Then put your food in and wait for it to cook evenly and thoroughly. When you are done not only will you have food that looks good and tastes good, you will have a pan that you can clean and put away without much trouble. Life is like that… let the pan heat slowly.