Imagine you go to a buffet, and laid out in front of you are all your favorite foods; and I mean all of them, perfectly prepared just the way you like. For me, that means there’s Reuben sandwiches, and my Mother’s breaded veal, and my Great-Grandmother’s Zucchini Patties, and perfectly-done Filet Mignon with Bearnaise sauce, and -ooh!- chocolate ice-cream with banana in there somehow; and those girl-scout cookies – what are they called? – oh yeah, “Caramel deLites,” and super fluffy pancakes with sausage where the syrup gets on the sausage a little bit, and… man, on and on; so much good stuff to eat.

Get one plate. Now, what do you do? Most people would take a tiny bit of as much as they could, no matter how disgusting the combination might seem in retrospect. I mean, how could you choose just one thing? And yet, when we think back on the best meals we’ve ever had in our lives, they didn’t require 900 of our favorite foods to be there to be great. We probably only ate one thing, but it was prepared just perfectly, and it was in a great place with great company, and we cherish each of those memories always.

Today’s media landscape – news, art, culture – is that giant buffet. Everything is accessible instantly; all your favorite stuff from every conceivable genre. I read a report recently that users of Spotify weren’t even listening to full songs anymore; they listen for a little bit, and then click over to another “favorite” song. A couple of days ago, I noticed my 3-year-old had the same tendency. He would ask excitedly to hear a particular song, and then about halfway through ask for another. So many great choices… so little time?

I began making him sit through a song fully before moving on. Almost instantly his behavior changed: afterwards he would often ask to listen to the song again instead of moving on; in some cases, he would have bypassed new songs altogether in favor of his usual ones, but when compelled to give it a try and not just click off – when compelled to spend more time with it – he found ones he liked even more.

Not all that long ago I watched a girl in her early 20’s text most of the way through one of the best movies ever made; a movie she hadn’t seen before, but proclaimed she “loved” after the fact. I estimate she saw half of it, and absorbed almost none of it, save the impression that it was really, you know, great. We have attention-deficit issues because we don’t pay attention to anything for more than a second; it robs us of true pleasure, true connection, clarity of thought, and satisfaction with life.

The best meals aren’t had at buffets. What did we expect?

Smorgasbored

The cause of the fall of the Roman empire remains a hotly-contested debate between various competing theories; we will never know the whole truth of what happened. But one thing we do know is that it didn’t happen overnight. It’s not like there was Monday Night Gladiator Games and by Friday everyone had packed up and moved on; it took hundreds of years. For the people living through it, it was a slow, glacially-paced erosion: a few less perks here, a few declining niceties there, punctuated by the occasional dramatic episode, followed by desperate attempts to return things to “normal.”

Normal, however, was constantly being redefined to describe lower and lower standards of living; the people were learning to do with less and less. And as the ominous specter of inevitability loomed, as they felt increasingly less capable of doing anything about it, they worried about increasingly irrelevant minutia. “The empire’s being invaded, the reforms are destroying things, the politicians are more corrupt than ever, the government is dysfunctional and the army is ready to take over any second… but you know what’s really horrible? Claudius the Butcher stopped serving lamb on Thursday so 50 of us are going to go down there and boycott. Around 5pm-ish. Wear a pink wreath to show your support.” ‘Cause what were they going to do? They had no idea; pine for the not-so-recently-departed good-ol’-days, and hope maybe to avoid the coming inevitable; maybe by dying; maybe by finding 1000 gold pieces in the trash. In the meantime, you just know they worried about the latest trends in sandals fashion, while watching their favorite Forum shops go out of business. They reminisced about things their kids would never get to see, and privately seethed about the non-citizens being allowed into the army, who would sooner serve ambitious generals than protect the Republic. Such people were probably ridiculed as doomsday-ers; grumpy old men who just think everything was better “in their day.” But they were right.

Today you can buy tickets to see some of the ruins of Rome – a city in one of the greatest, most powerful, most innovative, most expansive empires in history, and all that’s left of it.

Yep.

Just curious, does anybody know how long a copper statue lasts?

The Fall

Let’s leave “beautiful” out of it; beauty is subjective. Some scatologically-inclined sexual fetishists think a woman covered in shit is beautiful. And let’s leave “healthy” out of it, too; this seems to be an arbitrarily-defined term as well – worse still the concept of someone “looking healthy/unhealthy.” Every time she saw me, my Italian great-grandmother used to say I looked “too thin” and unhealthy, which, judging by the amount she tried feeding me, meant less than 300 pounds.

Instead, let’s consider the concept of “natural”; here we’re on more solid ground. Nature spent millions of years developing the human body; designed it to function certain ways under certain conditions. Like any good engineer, She built in tolerances: humans can vary somewhat in size, muscularity, etc., but the tolerances aren’t limitless: we can’t survive in sub-zero temperatures; we can’t go for weeks without water. Other creatures can. For 99.9% of time the species has been on the planet, the conditions under which it feeds, thrives, and multiplies have fit a certain profile, but in the last 100 years or so that profile has suddenly changed dramatically. Nature never planned on humans having endless amounts of food shoveled into their mouths 24-hours a day with virtually no effort; never planned on humans having to do zero hunting or gathering to survive; never planned on humans being able to be sedentary most of the time yet still multiply. And Nature certainly never planned on one of its creatures figuring out how to engineer artificial, nutrition-less substances as substitutes for food. Now, it’s true, Nature will adapt to these changes and others – like the exploding population problem, our chemical warfare against viruses, etc. – viciously and effectively in time. But Nature’s timescale is measured in thousands or millions of years; that we’re already seeing strains of superbugs immune to antibotics so quickly should give us pause about what Nature’s going to do when she’s got a little more time. But I digress.

It is a testament to the adaptability and resilience of the species that it can withstand the 50, 100, 200+ pounds of excess fat so many people are lumbering around these days. It’s a remarkable feat of engineering that our bones don’t just snap under the weight; that our joints don’t pop; that despite the severe restriction in flow, our hearts can still get blood throughout the system. The incredible burden this puts on the system is indisputable and fact, and utterly unnatural. But again, no shortage of people are interested in categorizing these facts under the “healthy” banner, where they can continually move the goal posts, and, most disturbingly, find doctors to collude with them – though I’ll remind you that doctors used to put leeches on people, and use tools like this:

Doc

whose function is so horrifying I won’t even describe it to you, and isn’t seen in the modern, civilized era. Except in dentist’s offices.

The bottom line is that if humans were as fat as they are on average today, the species would not have survived. We wouldn’t have been fast enough to catch prey, have enough strength to gather foods, or resilient enough to weather the weather. We’ve all but thwarted the concept of survival-of-the-fittest; we’re obsessed with survival of our weakest. Nature doesn’t understand that, either; we’re the only example in the known Universe that persues it. But we pride ourselves on it; we pat ourselves on our back for having one-upped Nature with our empathy and NICUs at hospitals. We don’t say that we’re superior to Nature outright at parties, but we believe it, and steamroll ahead with our rationalizations and out-of-control population – including our obsession with “Climate Change,” the number-one solution for which would be population control – though nobody knows how to make money selling that concept so we don’t hear about it.

In the end, if we think fat is beautiful, fantastic! By the look of things, we should be able to walk around horny all day, I guess. If we think fat is healthy, there are plenty of people to agree with us, since the term means nothing. But fat ain’t natural. It’s not what we’re intended to be. We can’t be fat and operate at our optimum; we can’t be fat and have our bodies perform their best. And if we’re not trying to make the most of our bodies and our lives with every action every day, then we don’t truly value our lives; we don’t truly love and respect ourselves. That, too, is a truth known to the person in the mirror, no matter how much we insist we are happy anyway; no matter how many other enablers we might find to collude with our lack of self-respect.

We constantly hear messages of surrender; messages to accept ourselves at our lowest. Perhaps instead we should join the chorus sung by the rest of existence, which says to fight, to improve, to strengthen, to be the best we can be. We will stumble and fall along the way, but we will also know that we are making the most of the one short life we know we have to live, which brings us a confidence and happiness no-one else can give us and no-one can take away. There are a million social media campaigns out there telling us to embrace ourselves no matter what; no matter how poorly we treat ourselves. You know what doesn’t need a social media campaign? The feeling we get when we look in the mirror and see our strong, healthy, trim bodies and bright eyes staring back at us; when we see the amazing specimen Nature spent so many millions of years perfecting as it was meant to be; when we know that no matter how many challenges we face; how no matter how many Xtra-Big-Ass Fries; political correctness, and double-wide seats we encounter, we won’t be swayed from doing what we can do to be our best.

But what is fat, anyway? Who determines that? Go down to the Natural History museum and look at the Neanderthals display. Look at how we looked for the previous 99.9% of history; strong, lean, muscular, powerful. That is the human that survived; whose legacy we inherited. Or, choose to be the walking image of a species unfit to survive; of a specimen abhorrent to Nature, doomed to disappear. It’s happening already. I, for one, am not going out that way.

Lighten Up

danica-mckellar-dancing-with-the-stars-ftr

Here’s where I come down:

I don’t care how “ex” you are, if you spent more than a decade with someone, shared a life with them, married them, have an amazing child with them, and are fortunate enough to be amicably separated, their well-being just can’t ever be completely beyond your concern. How can they ever be totally out of your heart? I dunno; maybe it’s just me. All I know is that from the moment Danica called to tell me she was going to be on Dancing with the Stars I was excited for her, proud of her, and knew she was going to approach it with the same tenacity and integrity she does everything else. Well you can add “grace” and “courage” to that list as well, because she’s dancing through a broken rib right now, and few people will ever know just how brutal that is for her. But I do. I’m hoping she gets the gold more than ever now; it’ll go with her heart. Go get ’em, D.

Danica Dancing

The Revolution is a quiet one. We reject the poisoned food supply and trace our meals to the source. We thwart the pacifying messages to consume by turning off the input stream. We beat the banks by using cash; we beat the pharmaceuticals by healing from within. We don’t look to failed leaders for guidance; we don’t look to the corrupt, governing elite for sustenance. Self-respect and self-reliance are our allies. Knowledge is our weapon. We do not expect to get what we deserve; we expect to get what we accept. The Revolution is a quiet one. But it roars.

The Revolution

DRACO’s CHRISTMAS LIST
1) Tricycle
2) Puppy Play-Doh Set
3) Google Nexus 7 Tablet so he can use the calcuator to play his new favorite game: Memorizing Times Tables and Calculaing Negative Numbers (I shit you not)
4) A black Tesla Model S P85+, which he informs me will allow us to use the key to automatically open and close the trunk with rear-facing seats “if we get the full Tech-Package.”

DADDY’s CHRISTMAS LIST
1) A 50-gallon barrel of Jack Daniel’s and a Straw

X-Mas List

Try this. Try this for two days. For two days, turn off all news sources. Turn off the networks. Don’t go to the web for Yahoo, or MSN, or Drudge; disable your homepage if it goes there by default. Don’t read news magazines or periodicals. Turn off the radio; no news during the breaks. Instead, spend every second you would normally spend reading news watching a TED talk on YouTube . Just find ones that sound interesting to you. Even the shitty ones are good. I promise that at the end of those two days, you will find life more interesting, more positive, and more worth living than otherwise. Just try it. Trust me.

Breaking News

When I was growing up, children were constantly dying from brain injuries sustained in tricycle accidents; I personally lost 12 classmates. This is why today children wear protective gear 24 hours a day. So I was shocked to learn of a recent study which conclusively proved helmets to be unnecessary unless your toddler plays in traffic. There is apparently a piece of anatomy called the “skull” which is filled with a brain-protecting fluid specifically designed for this purpose, and which is extra robust in children. The study tested 100 billion humans over a period of 250,000 years.

The Skull – Nature’s Helmet

Social media isn’t causing the erosion of interpersonal connection; it’s revealing it. We’ve already mastered the art of supplanting honesty with bullshit; replacing true opinions with politically-correct non-statements; eliminating “judgement”; spouting euphemisms. That’s what disconnects us. Nobody’s fat anymore; nobody’s poor; there are no “used” cars, and everyone’s specially-abled. What’s left of the truth is buried in fine print, in a disclaimer too small to see on screen too briefly to be read. Some restrictions apply; not available in all areas; dramatization; results not typical. “Everything we’ve said is a lie.” That’s what we’re surrounded by, 24-7. Choosing a more flattering picture than not for our Instagram portfolios isn’t the problem, it’s just the latest way for people to bolster an illusion – life as we wish it to be. We can’t handle the truth, and are too cowardly to tell it.

Bullshit, LOL

A lot of people wish others peace, kindness, and compassion in the new year. *I* would like to wish that you take your self-doubts, fears, failures, and insecurities, and beat them to death with hammers in the new year. Nothing in nature – nothing – survives on peace. Healthy forests burn down to make better forests, and everything else kills and eats. Facebook, this post, your country, and your entire lineage was made possible by a whole lotta dead people, so here’s a toast to strength, victory, and killing everything that needs killing. Like cancer. Nature fuckin’ hates peace, and I’m with Nature.

Happy New Year!

Draco: Take pride in everything you do – knowing you are the kind of person who does their best is a reward no one else can give you, and no one can take away. It is that which drives you to excel, but gives you calm amidst your failures when facing the man in the mirror.
Value self-reliance. Knowing you are a capable, safe, self-supporting person brings calm and confidence, and makes it more likely you will ask for help when you truly need it, instead of when you merely want it.
Enjoy being kind and compassionate. If you have done the first two items on this list, these will come without effort. If you fall short, see item one.
Do not pursue happiness; pursue a life without fear. In every life there will be both joy and misery; don’t try to ignore half of what it means to be alive.
Embrace your sorrows – the trying times teach us the most, and make life interesting. It is the attempt to suppress that which drives men mad.
Seek answers; it is largely the purpose of life. If you think you have found them, keep searching. If someone professes to have them, they are not to be trusted.
Don’t seek praise, but enjoy it. Don’t seek forgiveness, but earn it.
And above all, live right now, in this moment. It will never come again.

Cliffs Notes for Draco