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Friday, November 28, 2008

The Naked Truth About Weight Loss

I don't know when it really began to sink in that I was obese: Was it the back aches? The morning I couldn't close the collar button on my shirt? It was hard to say, but the warning signs of being a fatso were there: Climbing the stairs at work made me huff and puff like a broken choo-choo train. I'd be sweating profusely through my shirt to the point of getting soaked. If I bent over (with great difficulty) to tie my shoes I groaned loudly. I grossed myself out so much I couldn't look at my reflection in the mirror anymore because I knew what I'd see. A big fat fuck with a sloping belly. All my clothes were tight and too small.

It was nobody's fault but mine. I went out with my equally huge pal, Joshua and we'd have big monster power lunches every day of the work week. By the time I got home I was too full to eat dinner. "Come on", I'd ask my wife, "wouldn't you rather just have snacks tonight than a real meal?" That didn't last very long!

Doctors were no help, all they said was my blood pressure was pretty high. Not one of them dared to say, "Hey maybe you're really fat with your jelly man boobs. Stop eating like it's your last meal". Which I did: I ate like it was my last meal on Earth every day because I used to be homeless, so the fear of living out on the streets again haunted me to the point of overeating. Maybe if I had too much food inside me I would never starve (so I thought). All the overeating was unhealthy for me, too. I'd wake up in the middle of the night feeling the acid crawl up my esophagus, almost choking me in my sleep. I couldn't eat anything without feeling sick to my stomach.

When exercise failed to change anything, I reached for the last resort: Howard Stern's people kept saying on the radio, "TRIMSPA TRIMSPA, blah blah blah!" After seeing pictures of Anna Nicole Smith go from Behemoth into a human pencil I was sold. I bought the expensive bottle ($30) at Rite Aid and took it three times a day, per the instructions. One week later:

My taste buds died. I couldn't taste food much so I cut down my portions. It didn't take much food to make me happy anymore. Cutting my portions in half still satisfied my appetite. The physical changes, however, were downright bizarre.

Lying in bed I could feel my ankles hurting. My knees started aching like crazy. My previously meaty forearms and shoulders twitched, shrinking down to a bony thinness. I thought maybe there was a tapeworm inside eating up all my flesh! The payoff was weird:

1. My clothes started getting big on me. I started looking like a little kid wearing Daddy's clothes. Only they were the same clothes that felt too tight on me three months ago.

2. My shoes felt bigger because the width of my feet shrank. I remember when my shoes always felt tight!

3. Rings that fit snug before started sliding off my fingers! That's how I lost my wedding ring.

4. Since nothing fits any more you have to start buying new clothes that do fit. I went from a size 44 waist to a size 33. And dressing all in black to hide your flabby waist is over. You will discover you look good in purple, and in blue and in green. Colorful clothes can be worn in confidence now.

I just want to say that weight loss isn't easy and definitely not a comfortable experience. The pounds don't drop quietly, while you're relaxing you can feel your body shrinking and it feels creepy. You realize there's less and less of you around, but hey! at least when you get photographed sitting around a swimming pool you won't get mistaken for a rubber raft with hair.

Forget about the glamour factor. Let's talk about health: since I've taken Trim Spa three years ago all the annoying water retention in my body is gone (my stomach used to slosh around like a beer barrel). My blood pressure is back to normal, the stomach aches and back aches are gone, and I look halfway human in a bathing suit. I'm a living Before And After poster.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stuff I Burned From TCM, Part 4

Well, the past TCM entries I posted here bemoaned the non-DVD release status of certain films, ones that starred big-ticket stars. The four movies listed today are a little more obscure, the only common thread uniting them in any way is that two of them star 2 of Ronald Reagan's wives! More on that later:

Zazie Dans La Metro (1960): Louis Malle-directed rendition of the Raymond Queneau novel, lavishly filmed in beautiful color. The frenetic pace of this comedy becomes a bit irritating after awhile, but damn, I thought Richard Lester invented this hyperactive slapstick film style. Malle has him beat by a good five years! I don't think Malle ever made a truly bad film. Why isn't this one released yet?

Kid Nightingale (1939): This one's a dilly! A washed-up boxing promoter needs a new meal ticket to help pay off his debts. He sees an opera-singing waiter punch out a drunken heavyweight champ he manages, and decides to groom the waiter for ringside fighting. The waiter will only do it if he can sing Verdi during his boxing matches, hence the name "Kid Nightingale". After he wins every match he goes straight into "Pagliacci". His love interest in this yuk-fest is Jane Wyman, the future Mrs. Ronald Reagan #1. This is the kind of movie Adam Sandler's notorious for making (hint, hint).

Talk About A Stranger (1952): Weird one about a kid whose pup mysteriously dies, and everybody in the small town blames it on the quiet German shut-in. A thinly-veiled critique on the Communist witch hunts that were so prevalent at the time, ironically starring Nancy Davis (aka Reagan), Ronnie's wife #2. Even more ironic is that her husband in the movie is played by George Murphy, the future conservative Californian Senator!

The Devil Thumbs A Ride (1947): Most Lawrence Tierney movies are garbage, but is there an actor more watchable than him? I think not. This one's no exception: a psychopathic killer hitches a ride with a young, dizzy newlywed. Along the way they pick up two oily chicks and break into a house to get out of the rain. There's tons of murder and attempted rape as the censors would allow back in the Forties. Lawrence Tierney reminds me of tons of creepy punk rock guys I used to drink with who would go psycho on you at the drop of a hat. Another RKO classic! Turner Classic Movies never disappoints!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Burden of Being Eric Burdon

When I was a little boy I didn't know much about sex but the minute I heard "Boom Boom" by The Animals I thought it was the sexiest song I'd ever heard. I didn't know it was a heavily tarted up version of a John Lee Hooker song, all I know was that I felt the vibe the band projected, and I felt pretty funny all over at the time. "House of The Rising Sun" was their biggest hit, a very jazzy reading of an old Leadbelly folk tune that completely transcended the sharecropper fields by Eric Burdon's East End working class Angry Young Man voice. It definitely didn't end there!

"It's My Life" and "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" were further raw slices of intense Albert Finney-style anger served by Mr. Burdon set to the jazziest organ in British rock. (Rod Argent of The Zombies was more classical than jazz to my ears). When Burdon drops to a baritone when he sings "I don't need your sympathy" in "Inside Looking Out" it gives me chills. His reading of Donovan's "Hey Gyp" makes more sense than the original, altering the original's "I don't need you sugar cube" to "I don't need your Cadillac, long, shiny, cool and black", pouring out more sex again. And let's not forget recalling his first sexual experience in "When I Was Young", "She was brown and I was pretty green".

Making the transition from Mod groovers to Psychedelic explorers has always been rough terrain for some bands (The Kinks, The Zombies, etc.) but for others like The Who it was a slam dunk. The Animals really took to psychedelia with sometimes hysterically bad results. Ironically, though it's really entertaining kitsch! "A Girl Named Sandoz" is a love song to acid with some tasty vibes, but then there's the cringe-worthy "San Franciscan Nights" with it's silly spoken introduction urging one and all to move to Haight-Ashbury. No matter how bad the lyrics Burdon sings with so much conviction you almost want to believe everything he sings. But common sense tells you not to.

"Winds of Change" is one of his name-drop tunes, where he tells us about the history of music, "Frank Zappa zapped...The Mamas and Papas knew where it's at". I'm not making this shit up! At least he roll calls jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Cozy Cole, so he's not just playing pop favorites. But the roll call continues with "Monterey" with it's Big Girl Lost in The Bigger City music stolen from The Mothers of Invention's "Call Any Vegetable" (Zappa produced an Animals album, so maybe he okayed it). The roll calls got sillier: "Hugh Masakela's music was black as night...His Majesty, Prince (Brian) Jones smiled as he moved through the crowd...Even the cops grooved with us".

If there's one thing that's unimpeachable about Burdon, it's the soulful sincerity of his music whether he's crooning a cool bluesy number like "Club A Go-Go" or goes tropical in "White Houses" ("you better get straight") or goes Disney African on us with "Spill The Wine". Whether he's at the top of his game or playing the migraine hipster Eric Burdon is never boring.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

High-Definition Bible

“Harvey, you should try believing in something bigger than yourself. It might cheer you up” - Toby, American Splendor

A couple of weeks ago in synagogue the Cantor read the festival scriptures from The Book of Genesis. It was the chapter in which God commanded Abraham take his son Isaac up to the mountains and slay him as a sacrifice. Of course an angel appeared to tell Abraham to stop because it was simply God’s test to see how devoted he was to God’s commands. As I listened to the tale being read, two things entered my mind:

1. I thought about Michael Tolkin’s film “The Rapture”, where Mimi Rogers changes from her sex-addict lifestyle to become a born-again Christian, the story culminating in her taking her daughter to Joshua Tree and killing her as a sacrifice to God.
2. Abraham, who was an incredibly remarkable man did things that were beyond eccentric to prove his devotion to God. For example:

In addition to being asked to sacrifice his son for God, he was also commanded to circumcise himself, which began the Jewish custom of circumcision. Imagine the faith he had to do that to himself! He followed suit without questioning God. He did, however, question God’s judgment when he was told Sodom and Gomorrah was going to be destroyed. A non-violent man, Abraham bargained with God as to how many people can possibly be spared from what became extremely violent devastation.

When you take into account that this is a man who existed at a time when the concept of God didn’t even exist, Abraham either appears as a genius or a full-blown eccentric comparable to a street person. God had him pegged as a true believer from day one: When he was a child he went into his father’s showroom (he was an idol salesman!) and smashed up the idols. His father came in a little while later, and shocked, asked Abraham, “What happened? All my idols are ruined!”
“Well, it’s like this”, Abraham fibbed, “The Goat God said he was the mightiest god alive and then the Lion God said, No I’m the mightiest god kneel before me and then they started fighting and the Sun King killed them and they all killed each other”.
“Don’t be a fool, Abraham”, his father said, “These idols are just stupid statues. They can’t talk”.
“So why do people worship them?”
“Who cares? Business is business!” his father mused.

It’s hard to imagine which is easier to conceive: society's fickle faith in idols; as soon as Moses took off to Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments the newly freed Jews built a Golden Calf and worshipped it, or the prophets, whose vision was so isolated in faith it would be viewed in our day and age as insanity. A prophet’s actions in these days of technological control and hipster skepticism would be attacked in worse ways than in Biblical times. Daniel thrown into a lion’s den and Samson being blinded would be a picnic compared to the punishments available now. The suspension of sanity for faith is the benchmark of the Bible.