In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Digital Interfaces and Analog Eyeballs | Main | Oldest, Firstest, Fake »

May 13, 2009

Health and Fitness Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Mark Sisson offers some cheese tips, and lays out some seriously unappealing facts about conventional American beef. You can pre-order Mark's new book here, and read an interview with Mark by Richard Nikoley.

* Mr. Henry enjoys some damn fine prosciutto.

* The online medical-industrial establishment at work.

* Scott Kustes wonders if eating Paleo and getting some exercise is all about vanity.

* Here's a brilliant look at the kind of research and thinking that too much health advice is based on. My favorite line from the posting: "Sometimes I think we should say 'I don’t know' rather more often." (Link thanks to Dr. Michael Eades.)

* Dr. Malcolm Kendrick recounts how he lost faith in the "lipid hypothesis" -- the theory according to which saturated fat in the diet causes high cholesterol in the blood, which causes heart disease.

* Maybe the reason so much good food can be found in New York City is that the natives demand it.

* Evolutionary Fitness guru Arthur De Vany recommends this podcast about how and why modern lifestyles tend to lead to depression and out-of-shapeness. I'm interested in anything De Vany thinks highly of. He seems to me to be one of today's Really Interesting People. I've joined his private blog and have watched his DVD set -- highly recommended.

* Jimmy Moore takes a look at 30 eating-and-diet books.

* Time to start doing some Orgasmic Meditation?

* Does "artisanal" automatically mean "good"?

* Are today's veggies pale shadows of oldtime veggies, nutritionally speaking?

* Jonny Bowden points out a necessary but often ignored point: Though much of the exercise and eating advice we're given would suit a marathoner or a serious weightlifter, most of it is worse than useless for the rest of us. Carb-loading? Not a good idea.



UPDATE: As the New Jersey Assembly considers whether to permit the sale of raw milk, Andrew Martin takes a look at some recent food-contamination cases.

posted by Michael at May 13, 2009


Mr. Henry is clearly a rube. The best damned prosciutto in the world comes from Dalmatia(Croatia). The Italian and Spanish shit doesn't even compare. True it is a bit of a hit and miss type of affair; but when made by a master and slowly dried in the cold "Bura"; My God! Nothing else compares. It has to be sliced so as to be nearly translucent and accompanied with good crusty bread. After eating it, the Latin stuff is like eating a wet paper towel.

Warm summer nights, good company, prosciutto, wine and olives. That's living! Who the hell gives a damn about the calories!

Posted by: slumlord on May 14, 2009 6:44 AM

Ha, that last point is very, very true. Too many skinny guys and fat guys make a half-assed effort to exercise then try to eat as if they were constantly annihilating their massive muscle tissue. That doesn't work well.

Also true is its inverse - conventional nutritional advice is often terrible for even semi-dedicated amateur athletes.

Posted by: Martin Regnen on May 14, 2009 8:16 AM

Martin sums up a lot of fitness advice (and change-the-world advice) in a very short posting:


That's a great group blog, Martin. Eager to catch up with what you've accumulated there. As a fan of Bhetti's from running into her over at Roissy's, I'm eager to learn more about how the bunch of you met and banded together too.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 14, 2009 8:42 AM

Ugh, I tried reading about the vanity thing, and I damn near puked in my mouth. Sorry, but man, hard-core paleos are just as freaking annoying as Dean Ornish and his bunch.

Good God, Why is anyone so damn boggled when someone doesn't give a shit about not wheezing and coughing, or being able to "play a good pick up game" or even feeling healthy in general?

The justifications are just laughable. "Humans are lean and healthy in their natural state, being unhealthy is unnatural." Well, then shall we return to the Paleo-ethical system of the Yanomami then? Toss spears and wear loincloths? I won't even bother with the rest of their "points".

It's like Evangelicals who can't comprehend why someone wouldn't accept Christ as their personal savior. Then give loaded lists as to why people should accept them

I'll eat what I damn well please and smoke what I damn well want to, drink every night and I'll pay the price it puts on my body because (wonder of wonders) I don't value my body. It's just something I put nice clothes on. When it gets too unpleasant to inhabit this bothersome reeking demanding carcass, then it's time to end the feast and darken the lamps.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on May 14, 2009 9:40 AM

Spike, spoken like someone who is currently healthy and has many, many years to live.

Posted by: JV on May 14, 2009 11:18 AM

The reason guys work out is twofold: to look good naked (to women); and to impress (i.e., intimidate) other guys. Ladies like lean, and that's why we run and step and row and swim for it. Guys are impressed with strong, and that's why we strain and heave and grunt for that.

No doubt looking good by being lean and strong is rooted in the esthetic consequences of paleo survival requirements and the resulting reproductive desirability thereby signalled. Big deal!

People work out to look good. And then to feel good. Looking good means firm muscles and minimal unsightly fatty deposits. Feeling good means good energy levels, minimal aches and pains, and ease and range of movement. Vanity is only a problem if the worker-outer is so driven by the look-good part, that he lets the feel-good part deteriorate (if he exhausts himself, injures himself, destroys his freedom of movement).

Otherwise, vanity is simply the desire to look good to women. It is just part of the badly needed (re)discovery by North Am men that dressing well, looking good, dancing well, and talking well are all things that women like from men...and which men seem to have developed a perverse desire never ever to give women.

I like looking good to women. Vanity? Obviously! And what's your problem with that, schlubbo-boy with your white socks in sandals, swelling belly, baseball cap over balding scalp, double-chin wagging as you dig into your latest bag of Cheetos, all while yelling out adolescent smirky putdowns at the video game console you spend your life plopped down in front of?

Seems to me, a spot of vanity might do you some good.

Posted by: PatrickH on May 14, 2009 11:45 AM

Spike, I hope you hit the point I did a few years ago, when you realize you've been on the road too long, you've had one too many margaritas, and you've listened to that sad country song one time too many...and's still not time to "end the feast and darken the lamps".

I hope you run into that Great Big F*cking Wall before you end up Looking Into The Zero. My family all met the Zero before they met the Wall, and that means their lamps have all been darkened, their feasts are ended.

My lamp's still burning, and I'm still feasting. The difference? I got the order right: bottom out first, die later. Hope you get it right too.

P.S. You need the love of a good woman. She's out there, and I'll be damned if you're going to deprive Her of a chance to free you from your prison and show you the Big Wide World out there. The Wide Wild World is fun (pace Cat Stevens), and I'll bet She is actually very good looking. Stay around, give Her a shot.

Posted by: PatrickH on May 14, 2009 11:59 AM

Spike's great and I enjoy his dandyish hedonism. That said, once youthful bounce and brio fade away (early-mid 30s for me), what to do? You wake up on the other side of youth and all the equations change -- at least they did for me.

Given my physiology, drinking/smoking/rash-living-generally just stopped being fun, though god knows I'm certainly not going to decline the occasional indulgence or party. Not enjoying life is a sin. But, come my middle 30s, I certainly had to make some big adjustments.

Vanity? Yeah, some, and as PatrickH says, what's wrong with that? A spot of narcissism is fine -- it's being ruled autocratically by it that's a pain. Mainly though, especially after 40ish, I've had to do some of what I do in the way of moving and eating for the sake of feeling decent. If I look a little better, that's great. But mainly I simply get more out of life these days if I eat decently and get some exercise.

Paleos can be as nuts and as pain-in-the-assish as anyone else, of course. But let's not forget that (at the moment anyway) they don't run the show. I think it's OK to let protesting minorities occasionally overdo it, no? Especially when the autocrats in charge are damage-doing maniacs, and are wrong.

Hey, a cool thing about Sisson and De Vany is that they fold evolutionary theory into their approaches. De Vany's quite explicit about this: past the age of 35 our genes are done with us. They don't care if we fall away liked used-up husks. But we're still alive, and we still want enjoyment, quality of life, etc.

So the eating and fitness routines he's devised (inspired by what real hunter-gatherers tend to do, as well as by chaos theory) are meant to basically trick the organism into continuing to deliver blasts of youthfulness. You're using eating and fitness techniques to goose more ease and energy (and, consequently, life-worth-living units) out of what you've been given in the way of your biology. Don't try to stretch out a long period of painful decay. Live fully instead.

Even apart from eating and fitness, it's a pretty fascinating general vision that De Vany has: nonlinearity, phase shifts, power laws, evolution ... I bet he's a fascinating economist too. He also seems to have reviewed an awful lot of health research and evaluated it Gary Taubes style: what's worth paying attention to and maybe doing something about, and what's based on lousy evidence and is worth ignoring. My shit-detector may be off, but he seems like a dependable source here.

Nassim "Black Swan" Taleb is a huge fan, for what that's worth, and has used De Vany's techniques to turn himself from a tub of lard into something pretty sleek.

Sisson's a much more accessible, much easier-to-follow guy, but the conclusions he reaches and the advice he peddles turn out to be similar to De Vany's. Both are smart guys who enjoy good livin' and good food, and have been lifelong athletes.

By the way, it seems to me (in a very general sense) that there's an important diff between the high-carb mainstream and the low-carb/Paleo alternative. (Completely aside form truth and efficacy ...) With the mainstream, you can never do enough. Cholesterol probs? Well then follow our advice even more fanatically. Maybe you should become a vegetarian. And what if you're getting fat and depressed as a vegetarian? Then become a vegan! They're peddling Utopian nonsense. (By the way, it turns out historically that a lot of establishment health advice has its roots in '60s vegetarianism, and at Berkeley in particular. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing wrong with knowing about it either.)

To me a great thing about the low-carb/Paleo alternative is that (despite the occasional fanatic) it's piecemeal, and it suits life as most people lead it. You don't have to be a nut to get a decent amount out of it. (It's like a Christopher Alexander approach to health and fitness -- piecemeal, acceptance of life as it exists, working with demonstrated preferences instead of against them ...) Cut back on some stupid sugars -- quit drinking soda and fruit juice. It'll make a big diff. Don't be afraid of good fats.

Get some modest exercise but mix it up, do something you enjoy, and don't spend too much time in the gym. Sisson and De Vany both want you NOT to spend hours upon hours each week in the gym -- you've got more important things to do with your life. Even if you don't go all the way with their suggestions, the chances are awfully good that you'll make some positive strides and enjoy the consequences of them.

And with both of these guys the emphasis isn't on living forever, it's on getting more out of the lives that we've been given to lead. Suits me, anyway.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 14, 2009 1:12 PM

I always enjoy your health posts, keep 'em coming.

I went through the same mid-30s slowdown but it took me until a few years ago to pull myself out of it. I did nothing radical, pretty much "quit drinking soda and fruit juice. Don't be afraid of good fats." That and free range eggs, whole milk yogurt or kefir, high-quality butter, getting enough sleep and an hour of walking every night have made me feel better than I ever did in my 20s.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on May 14, 2009 4:25 PM

I tried that “World’s best bacon” that Levine refers to in his column on “artisanal” foods and thought it was OK, but nowhere as good as the uncured Niman Ranch bacon I get at Food Emporium. Also, many of the jams sold at the farmer’s markets in NY contain pectin, which is fairly common, but is also the silicone implants of jam making. If you’re an expert jam maker working with great fruit, you’d rather be pelted with quince before using pectin.

Thanks for the link to the Joseph Epstein piece which I somehow missed.

Posted by: CL on May 14, 2009 4:42 PM

Just to tie the vanity thing into the modernism thing: Chesterton said something like, "In the middle ages, saints like Thomas Becket wore their golden robes on the outside and their hairshirts beneath. This was to the benefit of those who got to see the golden robe, and to Becket who got to feel the hairshirt. Now, the businessman wears black and drab outside and keeps his gold watch inside, on a fob, next to his heart. This is to the benefit of no-one, not even the businessman."

Remember that horrible oozing modernist apartment building whose photo Michael posted? The ugliness was all outside, inflicted on the people of the Village. Meanwhile, the wealthy residents of that melting monstrosity got to enjoy no doubt luxurious interiors (perhaps furnished with antiques!) and got to gaze out on the pleasing spectacle of the neighbourhood beneath them. All the pleasure for themselves, all the ugliness for everybody else. And that was the point, just as surely as it is with the businessman with his gold watch right next to his heart.

Now take the enemies of "vanity", the neo-Puritans. They're like the businessman, aren't they? The schlubbos too. They inflict all their ugliness on the people who have to look at them, while they, who don't have to look at themselves, get to enjoy the spectacle of people who are so immature and weak and unindividuated as to actually care how they look to other people! Clearly the schlubbo lardo who doesn't give a damn about how disgusting he looks, and smells no doubt, is a hero of individualism and self-expression.

Well, no. All he is is selfish. He doesn't care about how he looks to you because he doesn't care about you at all. His schlubby self fills his schlubby mind as he wanders through his schlubby life to meet his eventual schlubby end, dressed as badly as ever, and smelling worse! And all he'll have on his deathbed will be what he's lived his whole life caring about exclusively...his self. His fat, smelly schlubby selfish miserly self.

Hell for the schlubbo will be nothing but mirrors. Mirrors everywhere. Just as Hell for the modernist architect will be an endless field of the exteriors of the buildings he's designed.

They'll be all alone. Together. Individualists to the last. Meanwhile, all the "vain" folks will be in Heaven, looking Absolutely Fabulous to, and for, one another. To paraphrase St Paul, God and Good Taste will be All in All.


Posted by: PatrickH on May 14, 2009 6:45 PM

Thanks for the kind words, Michael.

Unsurprisingly, I ran into Bhetti's comments over at Roissy's. I liked her blog so I asked her if she'd like to move her new posts over to our site. We were looking for someone who can write intelligently about relationships and books and she's really good at both. That's pretty much all there is to that story.

The site owner recruited me last year because of some posts I made about genetics on a music forum, of all things.

Posted by: Martin Regnen on May 15, 2009 4:55 AM

Patrick, probably your best comment ever. I couldn't agree more, although I do like a few modernist exteriors.

Posted by: JV on May 15, 2009 1:22 PM

Speaking of why New Yorkers demand good eating out, did anyone catch the recent Anthony Bourdain No Reservations show about the classic no frills restaurants and diners of New York that have been in business like forever? There was Katz's Deli on the lower east side, of course (pastrami on rye and a Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray tonic), but there was also Eisenbergs Sandwich Shop (tuna melt sandwich and a lime rickey), a German restaurant in Yorkville, on or just off 86 Street, The Heidelberg Cafe (an appetizer! consisting of three types of wursts; roast suckling pig with crackling skin, wiener schnitzel in mushroom sauce), and Val D'or, a French restaurant about a block from Bloomingdales serving all the standard stuff (onion soup, coq au vin, flan desserts). All these places are completely unpretentious with no "attitude" whatsoever and they're all wonderful. Bourdain also visited a Chinatown joint, wish I could remember its name, where you can go either way: the old type American-Chinese won ton, egg roll, spare ribs, lobster cantonese; or authentic Chinese food.

Next time I'm in the city I intend to visit each one of these joints and eat my health away.

Posted by: ricpic on May 15, 2009 3:50 PM


I'm sympathetic to your general outlook (I'm simply not going to choose my cheese based on its supposed life-extending qualities) but as always, that dull word, balance, is key.

Today is a huge day for me. The instrument I have been working on for the last 8 years is being installed into the Hubble Space Telescope. One of the guys who has worked on this and every other Hubble servicing mission isn't here this time. He's sitting in intensive care back in Colorado, trying to breathe amidst the fluid in his lungs and the failure of his pacemaker. He's 59 years old. That's a little too early to darken the lamps these days.

Posted by: CyndiF on May 16, 2009 7:26 AM

CyndiF, you're married aren't you? Too bad, 'cause you are just exactly the kind of cool rockin' neato brilliant woman that Spike needs in his life. Would your husband understand if you decided it was necessary to give Spike a little, ah, tender loving care?

After all, a life could be at stake.

P.S. Don't even think of asking me to, ah, share my own brilliant beautiful beloved for Spike's sake. If that polymorphous racially ambiguous self-destructive pipe-smoking boho dandy lush so much as touched my love...I'd kiiiillll him.

Posted by: PatrickH on May 16, 2009 10:10 AM

It's somewhere in the mid-40s, I found, that the effects of the whole "taking care of yourself" thing really starts to become dramatic. The smokin'-drinkin'-overeatin' crowd starts to to look first a decade, then a couple of decades older than the crowd that takes a little care. And they start spending a lot more time at the hospital than the rest of us do too.

FWIW, a doctor friend once said to me that much of the U.S.'s medical crisis (costs, crowded hospitals, coverage, etc) had much more to do with 1) smoking and 2) obesity than is generally recognized. Lots of the non-old people who are in the hospital are there mainly as a consequence of smoking and/or of being very fat.

Things will go wrong with age, sadly, but a lot more goes wrong among smokers and the obese.

That said, how to enjoy the life you've been given is always a great topic too. Don't want to neglect that one.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 16, 2009 12:22 PM


Very much married. Found my nerd guy 13 years ago and we're still pretty pleased with each other. Though after watching them yesterday, I might be tempted to trade him in for an astronaut. Hell, after yesterday, he'd probably be willing to trade me in for an astronaut.

Posted by: CyndiF on May 17, 2009 9:09 AM

Congratulations on the successful installation of your piece into the Hubble. That is just a cooool beyond words thing to have accomplished.

And, agreed, astronauts can be veeery sexy. They always know how to get the thing right into the slot. In zero-G too!

Too bad for Spike then. Hey, maybe he should try out for the space program!

Spike? How about it?

Posted by: PatrickH on May 18, 2009 1:00 PM

Epstein is clearly clueless about non-Western food. I thought at first that he was talking about continental or American restos only in which case his New York comments might be relevant. But since he mentioned Chinese that is a different story. Most of the best Chinese is in various burbs and not in any of those cities. For example, Flushing is probably better than NY Chinatown and San Jose is better than San Francisco. Almost certainly Monterey Park is not just better than LA, but probably has more good Chinese places than any 3 other cities in the US combined. Chinese like the suburbs and hence, the best Chinese food is likely to be outside the big cities and outside of Chinatown.

Posted by: Not Gandhi on May 18, 2009 5:08 PM

Not Ghandi, Joseph Epstein is a Chicagoan born in 1937 who likes finely made Chinese food that won’t intimidate Americans, not a SWPL foodie who trolls His favorite NYC Chinese, Shun Lee, is too expensive for me, but I’ve been there and the food’s quite good. If he’s a rube for not going to Flushing, then so am I.

For those who are interested, his essay, “Memoirs of A Cheap and Finicky Glutton” (which can be found via Google and is in his book “In a Cardboard Belt!”) is an appreciation of his favorite Chinese restaurant of all time, The Bird, in Melrose Park, IL.

Posted by: CL on May 19, 2009 11:58 AM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?