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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chechens

Most Americans first became vaguely aware of Chechens as the combative people in the Caucasus who seemed to be constantly at odds with the Russians.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, American awareness of Chechens and their national character became more acute.

With the publicity attendant on the first anniversary of that bombing, Chechens are again in the news.  This recent video of a group of Chechens capturing an escaped brown bear might lend some additional insight into their character. The bear's not quite full grown, but still….it's not exactly how Americans would do it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sprinter names 2014

Just took a look at the yearly high school track rankings, and sure enough, among the top-ranked 100 meter dash runners there are a lot of creative given names.

A few of my favorites among the men:

Isak Washington. His parents must have taken one of those "Learning by Phonics" courses.

Aunrie Davis. His parents probably heard the French name "Henri" pronounced and thought it sounded classy.

Jahrod Henderson. Is "Jared" not distinctive enough?

Gamarquis Girdy. His parents must have liked the name "Marquis," but also wanted alliteration.

Devarius Turner. The various what?

Orion Salters. He's reaching for the stars.

Cravon Gillespie. Better that than Craven. Or Cravin'.

Jamire Jordan, JeMaun Charles. Why does JeMaun -- but not Jamire -- capitalize the "M"?

Deltron Hopkins. Sounds vaguely like a new technical gizmo.

Among the women:

Jazmen Bunch. It's undoubtedly meant to be a variation of Jasmine, but it also sounds a bit as if her parents named her after Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Dizzy Gillespie, all at once.

I'Shunique Hamilton. I is unique?

Aminat Iriafen. Am I not good enough?

Tiffani Johnson. "Tiffany" isn't trashy enough?

Diamond Spaulding. She's some girl's best friend.

Essance Sample. You know how when you go by those perfume counters they give you a free spray?

Rhesa Foster. At least her parents didn't name her Rhesus.

Glorilisha Carter. Were her parents trying to evoke glorious or a gorilla or something delicious? Or all three?

Tope Williams. From Dictionary.com: To drink alcoholic liquor habitually and to excess.

Chanell O'Conner. Ms. O'Conner is ranked #72, not #5.

Deja Young. Where have I heard that name before?

Akita Cook. Her parents also considered Malamute, Husky, and Shih Tzu.

Labria King. Thank goodness for that "r."

Chassity Love. Her name is not quite an oxymoron.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Out of the Furnace"

My son and I saw Out of the Furnace this past weekend. It was slow-moving, heavy-handed, and predictable, your basic revenge film. Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson did their usual good jobs, but there wasn't much they could do with the script.

The movie also featured Casey Affleck as a veteran of Iraq around whose self-destructiveness much of the plot revolved:


My son, an Afghanistan vet, was utterly disgusted by the portrayal. He said, "The Hollywood types who made this movie have obviously never hung out with real vets. First of all, no Army guy would ever cover himself in Army tattoos like that. The guys I knew might get one Army tattoo at most; but the whole point of tattoos is to show your individuality and that you're badass, not that you're part of a large organization.

"Secondly, no self-respecting vet would wear the lower half of his ACU's [Army combat uniform] to engage in a bare knuckle prize fight.

"And finally, I guess they had to evoke every cliche in the war book, like how he saw a dying child, and how terrible it was for him to see body parts. And then he has to ham it up and scream histrionically at his brother so we can feel his anguish.

"What an annoying asswipe. I hope he [the character in the movie] dies."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mini-Me

I was looking at "Traffic sources" in the Statistics section of my blog and saw that I'd gotten a number of referrals from a blog called Coming Out of The Crazy Closet. When I looked at the blog, it turned out that its proprietor, one Connie Stevy, had copied some of my posts word for word without giving me credit. The reason I had gotten those referrals was that in a few of the posts she copied I had inserted links to previous posts of mine.

In fact, 26 of Stevy's last 51 posts (including 4 of her last 5) are simply direct lifts from this blog. (Click on the above link, you can see for yourself.) It's flattering in a way, but it's also infuriating. It's nice to be reproduced or linked elsewhere, but this is the first time I know of where someone has simply tried to pass my words off as her own.

She seemed to favor the prison pen pal posts and various posts on Obama, along with a smattering of others. When she's not lifting my material, she mostly posts about interior decoration; I have no idea whether those posts are original or not. In a couple of posts she references and posts pictures of herself; she's quite pretty -- if those are actually photographs of her.

I was going to write the following comment on her blog, "Love your blog -- it's brilliant! Where do you get all your ideas?" But she didn't set her blog up to allow for comments.

There are also no dates on the blog (other than months without years). The last month listed is December, and her latest posts are mostly lifted from December 2012 on my blog, so it seems she's stopped "writing."

If she starts another blog, she really ought to title it, Coming Out of The Plagiarism Closet.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The sports article I want to see

I find that as a follower of competitive swimming I'm just about (well, almost) as much a fan of women's swimming as men's. It's the same sport, just with a different set of standards. I think this is true of most hard-core track fans as well: they follow the women almost as closely as the men. Most tennis fans seem to follow the women about as closely as the men as well.

Somehow, the same dynamic doesn't exist with basketball; I don't know a single male fan who follows the WNBA. And the average baseball junkie knows next to nothing about women's softball.

But I enjoy following women's swimming; I just judge the performances by a different yardstick.

Nonetheless, whenever I read a politicized article -- the kind you find in the NY Times sports section -- about how women are making breakthroughs in previously male domains, or about how social barriers are being broken down so that women can compete in NASCAR, or about pay inequity between male and female golfers, it rubs me the wrong way.

Most professional sports are run pretty much according to market principles. If more people go -- or tune in -- to watch them, there will be more revenues, and thus more money for the athletes. (This isn't a perfect correlation, but it's generally true.)

The reason some women's sports don't pull in the same kind of audiences is simple: they're just not as good athletes. If you want to see the fastest runner on the planet, you watch Usain Bolt, not Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. If you want to see a 100 mile-per-hour pitch, you tune into major league baseball, not women's softball. And so on.

That the NY Times is always trying to imply that it's only piggish males who hold women back from achieving their full athletic glory makes me wants to see an article which spells out gender differences in all their gory detail.

The following is adapted from the Wikipedia summary of swimmer Missy Franklin's accomplishments
at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona (italics mine):


At the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, Missy Franklin won six gold medals, setting a new record for the most golds won by a female swimmer at a single edition of the meet. Frankliln's three individual golds came in the 100 and 200 meter backstrokes and 200 meter freestyle.

In her first individual event, held on the third day of the pool competition, the 100 meter backstroke, Franklin won gold in a time of 58.42. The men's event was won by American Matt Grevers in 52.93. (It took a 54.72 just to make it into the men's semi-finals.)

On the fourth day, in the 200 meter freestyle, Franklin won her second individual gold in a personal best time of 1:54.81. The men's event was won by Yannick Agnel in 1:44.20. According to Swimming World's conversion charts, Franklin's 1:54.81 equates to a 200 yard freestyle in 1:41.49, which might even win the boys' state high school championship in a few places like Wyoming and Alaska.

On the seventh day, Franklin successfully defended her title in the 200 meter backstroke, winning with a time of 2:04.76 and setting a new championship record. The men's title was won by Ryan Lochte in 1:53.79; this means that had they race head to head, he would have beaten Franklin by roughly ten body lengths. 

Franklin's primary advantage as a female swimmer is her size: she is 6'1", with large hands and feet. But even though she is basically man-sized, her times show that the women have a long way to go before they catch up to the men.


(I emphasize: it is only the Times and their ilk who make me want to see such an article.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

William Shatner

The other day my son pointed out a video of William Shatner "singing" (speaking) the words to Elton John's Rocket Man, from 1978. (Shatner's part starts about 50 seconds into the video.)

My son said, "Can you imagine what a tool this guy is, to speak the song this way, thinking he's being really cool?"

Shatner, wearing a tuxedo and smoking a cigarette, exudes an air of self-importance and egotism so strong it has to be seen to be believed.

My son continued, "You should hear his rendition of Mr. Tambourine Man, where he does this incredibly hammy, anguished, Shakespearian interpretation. It's really painful to watch."

My son watched it with me anyway, and couldn't stop giggling the entire time.

The videos make one think of Galaxy Quest, the excellent 1999 comedy which spoofed Shatner's legendary ego and referenced his castmates' utter contempt for him.

The weird thing is, it wasn't just William Shatner who thought his "singing" would be a success. His agent undoubtedly told him it was a good idea and would sell. A band agreed to back him up. A producer produced it. A record company marketed it. And distributors sold it.

It was mass insanity.

You have to wonder what the musical types who were involved in this production thought as they made it. How many of them secretly snickered, or at the very least, had to hide their disgust at Shatner's massacre of perfectly good songs?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bigotry

I got the following comment yesterday on the Gay Men post:

Having looked at a number of your posts, John, it seems to me that you are very interested in men, their bodies, and their sexuality. Over and above your clear bigotry toward gay folk exhibited in this post, I seen a strong desire on your part to become more involved in the gay world. I encourage you to stop hiding your desires and just be the person you truly want to be. 

The comment is interesting on two levels. First, the commenter is almost undoubtedly a gay guy, yet the most scathing insult he could come up with was to accuse me of being gay.

And second was his use of the word "bigotry." If you take a look at the original post, What I did was describe the atmosphere at a Club Med as busloads of gay guys arrived and categorize the different types I observed. (They did come in several distinct flavors.)

Merriam-Webster.com gives the following definition of "bigot:"

: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)

Does that make me a bigot? I certainly don't hate gays, or refuse to accept them as part of society; and I had gay friends long before the movement gained mainstream acceptance. I simply described a group of guys the way they were. I've always had an interest in how people differ

Why is a simple statement of facts called bigotry these days?

It seems to me that to show true bigotry, or prejudice, would be something more along the lines of me meeting a really tough guy who happens to be gay, and saying, oh no, he couldn't be tough, he's gay! That would be prejudice -- I would have pre-judged him based on his sexuality. But if I, say, pointed out that after climbing Mt. Everest without an oxygen tank he then spent a lot of time in gay bars, I would merely be pointing out a fact.

Are the facts themselves bigoted?

It's similar to today's conversation on race. It used to be that racism referred to judging a person based on his race. Todays definition has expanded to judging a race by its people, i.e., noticing differences. To do the former is unfair, but to not do the latter is simply ostrich-like. But today, if you merely point out a statistic on racial variations on IQ or crime, you are a racist.

It seems to me that most everybody observes human differences, but nobody feels free to comment on them, even when they impinge on public policy.

I seem to be one of the few people rude enough to admit to noticing such differences.

I will not admit, however, to what the commenter accused me of.

Political movements as personality disorders

The essence of narcissistic personality disorder is that people who have it can never admit they're wrong, and can never take blame. No matter how badly they screw up, narcissists will never own up to mistakes: it's always someone else's fault. We've all known people like this.

People who will never admit they're wrong can never learn from their mistakes, and as a result are rarely right.

When you have an entire political ideology based on the inability to take blame and a commensurate need to blame others, you can be sure that ideology is deluded.

The essence of feminism is blaming others -- i.e., men -- for all of women's problems. Most women don't subscribe to this type of thinking. But if you're the type who doesn't like to ever admit fault, it's an attractive belief system.

Don't earn as much as you'd like? It's men's fault.

Don't like the fact that you can't have a full time career and also be a full time mother? It's men's fault.

Don't like the fact that the fireman's test requires one to be able to lift a 160 pound dummy and carry it across a room? It's men's fault.

Feel worthless? It's the fault of our patriarchal society that values men more.

Aren't considered pretty? Men need to be reprogrammed.

Men can be used as scapegoats for everything.

Feminism is essentially a narcissistic political movement. This is not to say that there is no truth to anything the feminists say. But for the most part, feminists are the types who must lay blame for their own lack of accomplishment, or personal issues, or faults, elsewhere.

When you think about it, most liberal thought runs along these lines: it's rich people's fault that the poor have less money. It's white people's fault that black people don't test well. It's the fault of the Group of Eight that Third World countries remain less developed.

Feminism, like most of liberalism, is just narcissism writ large.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gun-free zones

All big Army bases  -- like Ft. Hood -- might as well post those signs which announce "Gun-free zone." Which pretty much translates as, "Shoot at will; we will not resist."

For someone bent on mayhem, can there possibly be a more open invitation? 

Many are now suggesting that the Army reconsider its no-gun policy on bases, and that a percentage of military personnel on base be allowed to carry in order to avert another mass killing like the ones perpetrated by Ivan Lopez and Nidal Hasan. 

Has there ever been a more self-defeating policy? Does anyone think that some crazed killer is going to see a ""Gun-free zone" sign and think, "Oops, I guess I better carry out my mass shooting somewhere else -- it would actually be illegal here."

Maybe there's another way to put it which wouldn't be quite so inviting:

Only nice people allowed on premises!

We promise not to shoot back. 

Defenseless wishful thinkers area

Victims inside!

C'mon in! We're unarmed and un-dangerous!

The sign basically paraphrases the NRA's "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

If the anti-gun crowd did have their way and private ownership of guns was banned, how would people react? I imagine suburban homeowners would be disgruntled, and complain, but most would probably end up turning in their guns.

But would the criminals turn in their guns? Hmm…..here's how the gun control crowd evidently expects them to react: 

The Mafia: "We better turn our Uzis in. They're against the law now." 

The Russian Mafia: "No more Uzis for us. It's back to the good old days of just knives and garrotes." 

And the Crips and Bloods would sigh, "West Side Story, here we come -- we're just going to have to have our rumbles with chains and switchblades from here on."

So….with law-abiding people unarmed, and criminals armed, will that make for a better society? Just ask the folks at Ft. Hood.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Questions about the college players' union

A recent article pointed out that the impetus behind the new college players' union is coming from the United Steelworkers Union, which funded the case. And the NLRB -- the same organization which tried to prevent Boeing from opening up a new plant in South Carolina -- passed judgment. Evidently the unions see a chance to collect more dues.

The rationale is that colleges make millions off their football programs, both in TV revenue and alumni donations, but the athletes themselves get no compensation beyond their scholarships.

One wonders exactly how this will work. Let's say these student/athletes end up being paid a couple hundred thousand a year: how much resentment would this engender among the other students? Would they still root for their college team?

Unionization certainly puts into clear relief that certain "students" are attending college mostly to play ball. That big time college football and basketball players are not serious students is hardly a secret, but how much more scrutiny will their farcical academic credentials withstand before serious questions start being asked about whether this situation should be allowed to continue?

The vast majority of colleges will doubtless harrumph and insist they are serious educational institutions, not factories for future pro athletes. (Does any academic ever pass up a chance to sniff at a lesser college?)

The essential power of a union lies in its ability to call a strike. How exactly would that work for a college football team? They would seem to lack leverage, since their only alternative is the pros, which most of them aren't good enough for. What kind of bargaining position does that give these unions?

There are plenty of students who played high school ball but weren't good enough to make their college teams who'd jump at the chance to take the place of the striking players. Would these "scabs" be ostracized by the first string players? Would they have to cross picket lines to attend practice?

What if one of these second string teams ended up playing in a big game? It would probably end up getting more publicity -- and possibly even paying fans -- than a normal game. It's not hard to figure out whom the average American fan would be rooting for in that situation. That fan might be disappointed in the lack of a Hollywood ending to the game; nonetheless, he would still be interested enough to watch.

So will we ever see a situation in which the Chicago Bears and University of Oklahoma get into a bidding war for the services of a star running back? Doubtful.

Part of the rationale behind the NLRB's decision was that the football players devote a lot of time to their sport as well as having to take courses. But if having to take courses as well as train for a sport is a "job," then why don't the rest of the student/athletes unionize? Because the less publicized sports don't make money for their colleges.

But that still begs the question of why their campus existence is any less of a job. Don't swimmers, rowers, and cross country runners work even harder at their "jobs" than do football players? Especially when you take into account the GPA's and graduation rates of those teams vs. the football and basketball teams?

Here's another way to look at it. Maybe the colleges where the athletes have honed their skills and gotten national exposure should demand a cut, say 15%, of the athletes' future earnings from their sport. After all, they've helped the players develop as athletes, all while giving them a free education and room ad board to boot. 

These colleges are effectively coach, agent, and benefactor all at once. 

So, how about it? Shouldn't they get a cut of those fat NFL salaries?

Sounds like a case the NLRB might be sympathetic towards. As long as the colleges are willing to pay union dues.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

South Americans at the NCAA swimming championships

This past weekend the men's NCAA's took place in Texas. Here are the first three finishers in the 100 yard freestyle:

Joao De Lucca of Louisville and Brazil:


Note the humped trapezius muscle and the huge deltoids and arms. De Lucca came to Louisville as a 1:40 200 yard freestyler but by his junior year swam a 1:31.5.

Here's second place finisher Marcelo Chierighini of Auburn University and Brazil:


Note the humped traps, convex deltoids, and thick arms. Chierighini didn't even start swimming until age 16.

Here's third place finisher Cristian Quintero, of USC (via Venezuela):


Note the thick trapezius and convex deltoids. Quintero also placed second to De Lucca in the 200 free and won the 500 free.

Obviously, I can't know for sure whether these swimmers are taking steroids. But I do know that De Lucca and Chierighini have both shown near miraculous improvements. I know that it's basically impossible to become a champion swimmer if you start at age 16 (11 is considered too old these days). I know there's a bit of a steroid culture in Brazil. I know that humped trapezius muscles and convex deltoids are steroid signatures, and that it's virtually impossible to get those kinds of traps without juicing.

I also know that it's hard to gain --- or even maintain -- muscle mass while training hard for swimming. Here's Connor Jaeger, a University of Michigan senior who got second to Quintero in the 500 free and who has a more typical swimmer's build:



And here's freshman Jack Conger of Texas, perhaps the most versatile swimmer at the meet, who finaled in the 500 free, 100 fly, and 200 backstroke:


Obviously, people come in all shapes and sizes, and genetics and exercise have much to do with that. But sometimes other factors come into play as well.

I'll let you make up your own mind about what's going on with the top three finishers in the 100 free.

My mind is already made up. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Workouts as windows to personality

My son recently mentioned something he'd just read: that you can tell everything you need to know about someone from watching him work out. I thought about it, and realized it's true.

Working out is something you generally do purely of your own volition. It's not like the Army, or even a corporation, where you're expected to conform. So you can find out a lot about someone's personality from watching him work out.

Does he work hard at it? Does he break a sweat? There are those, mostly women, who don't even break a sweat on the treadmill.

Does he know what he's doing? Does he work his entire body, or just his upper body? (Any guy who works only his upper body is almost guaranteed to have an IQ below 110.)

Does he do exercises which utilize his entire body, or does he isolate the Hollywood muscles? (One guy can move well, the other generally can't; there's an IQ correlation here as well.)

Does a woman work her upper body as well, or just her legs and tummy and tush? If the latter, she is doing it purely for sex appeal, and has zero interest in athleticism. 

Does he look in the mirror a lot? Does he seem to like what he sees? You can get a good read on the ego-meter from that.

Can he work out by himself or does he need workout buddies to keep him motivated? (Is he a peer pressure-type or does he actually have any will power?)

Does he prefer exercise classes? (Sheep alert! Or, possibly, voyeur alert.)

Does he vary his effort depending on whether someone else is watching? (If so, don't expect honesty in other regards.)

Does he/she spend a lot of money on his/her workout outfit? (There's an imperfect but generally inverse correlation between the expensiveness of the outfit and the seriousness of the workout.)

Does he/she read a book while he works out? If so, he's not putting much effort into it. And you probably won't want to have lunch with him, because he'll be spending most of his time staring at his cellphone.

Is he more into lifting or cardio? One kind of guy wants to be more manly, the other wants to live forever, and each will probably express that dynamic in every other facet of his life. (Marathoners don't drive Ford 150 pickups, and power lifters don't drive Volvos.)

Is he the type who talks about his workout plan but always finds an excuse not to stick to it? (Don't expect him to stick to anything else either.)

How neurotic is he? If he misses an exercise, will it really bother him? (If so, don't expect him to be flexible in other regards.)

Does he use good form? Does he bridle if you suggest a change? (That's his whole personality right there.)

Is he willing to share whichever machine he's using? (A hog is a hog everywhere.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bad hair days for all

A recent article in the NY Post said that Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, had ordered all the men in his country to get his haircut:


If you knew absolutely nothing else about North Korea, that one little fact is all you'd really need to pretty much understand what kind of country it is.

Just as a brief snapshot of someone's personality can sometimes give you all the information you need to make an informed judgment about him (for instance, that he treats waiters badly), so too can a snapshot of a country suffice.

It's not that North Korea hasn't given us plenty of similar snippets before. During the reign of Kim Jong Il, the current leader's father, the North Korean press announced -- with a straight face -- that he "regularly" hit four or five holes-in-one during each round of golf that he played.

Like father, like son.

It's tempting for a libertarian to attribute all this ridiculousness to communism, but in fact, while North Korea calls itself a communist country, it's really just another tin pot dictatorship run by a dangerous megalomaniac. North Korea could call itself a socialist paradise, or a capitalist empire, or even Eden, and it would all be equally meaningless: it would still be the same thing, Kim Jong Un's personal fiefdom.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to succeed in journalism without really trying


Former television anchor Willow Bay has just been appointed director of USC's journalism school. She was until recently a senior editor at the Huffington Post, and has hosted Good Morning America and NBA Inside Stuff as well as other shows. She started her career as a Ford model.

She also happens to be the wife of Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Co. (They are pictured above.)

Bay went to Andover, Penn, and NYU's Stern School of Business, so for all I know she has an IQ of 150.

But there are plenty of others with her academic credentials who never achieved a fraction of her success. Most of them got stuck writing about local news for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch or the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Their problem was, they just weren't good-looking enough. I'm not sure exactly how a pleasing facial physiognomy helps one craft more insightful editorials, but evidently it does.

This blog has previously discussed men who've parlayed their bodies into success in fields where their physicality should theoretically not matter.

Bay is part of an even larger tradition of women who have parlayed their looks into power and prestige.

It's highly doubtful she would ever have been hired as a television anchor had it not been for the physical attributes that helped her as a Ford model. It's also doubtful that Bob Iger would have married her if not for those same attributes. (I think I can make both those statements with great certainty.)

And once she had those things on her resume, all sorts of other doors opened for her. Including those at USC.

There are undoubtedly some people at the school -- grumpy old profs who see journalism as a sacred calling -- who are muttering similar sentiments right now.

But USC in fact made a commonsensical decision. Most heads of academic institutions are primarily glad-handers and fundraisers for their schools. And frankly, whom would you rather shake hands with, some bitter, cynical old rummy who takes his craft seriously, or a beauty like Bay?

Bay's connections will certainly not hurt. Think some money from her former employers at the networks will find its way into USC's endowment? Think any Disney money might possibly wend its way there?

Of course, nobody associated with the school will admit to any of this publicly. All of their talk will be about journalistic integrity, reporting the news in unbiased fashion, the duty of the press in a free society, and so on.

Bay herself will undoubtedly participate in this charade. Who knows, she may even teach a course or two herself. They'll probably have titles like Television Journalism in the Age of the Internet and The Role of Media as Watchdog.

But in fact the courses she is best qualified to teach aspiring journalists would be:

How to shed those pesky pounds around your tummy and thighs

How to find the best plastic surgeon

How to appear perky on TV

How to snag a rich and influential husband

And the best advice she can give those students is, "If you want to be successful, be good-looking. Very good-looking. Then everything else will just fall into place."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Naked and Afraid"

The TV show Naked and Afraid is an intriguing concept: putting two people into the jungle and seeing if they can survive for 21 days and reach a certain destination point. (I think many of us have wondered how we'd fare in similar circumstances.)

The show is also marketed well: though the it has nothing to do with sex, its title implies that it does, and it's always a man paired with a woman, who meet each other for the first time in a remote location, stark naked (they are strategically blurred onscreen).

All of the people who volunteer for the show are always self-styled survivalists, or wilderness experts. But a lot of them in fact seem to be no such thing. A fair number of them, especially the women, seem to rely on their partner to do most of the work.

The show is most interesting as a study in psychological endurance: how long will people go sleep-deprived and food-deprived before they give up, or at least become dispirited. (It doesn't take long.) While it's not clear how much real danger the cast members are in, they are inevitably tested to the limits of their endurance, and all lose weight during the 21 days.

Watching the show, it's hard not to wonder how the human race survived the Stone Age.

A more accurate name for the show would have been Tired and Hungry and Dirty. But that wouldn't have had the allure of Naked and Afraid.

It's hard not to wonder what the sexual dynamic is, at least at first, between the two castmates. Surprisingly, it's almost nonexistent, at least after the first hour or so. The presence of the cameramen must quash whatever friskiness they might have initially felt, then, soon enough, they're basically starving, filthy, and covered with mosquito bites, none of which exactly encourage romance.

On top of that, the man and woman sometimes end up resenting each other.

But by the standards of reality shows, it seems quite real, and that's what makes it interesting. The cast members' discouragement doesn't seem faked, and you don't get the impression that the cameramen are feeding them MetRx bars on the side, or that they're sleeping in posh hotels when the cameras aren't rolling (as Bear Grylls evidently did in Man vs. Wild).

That original "reality" show, Survivor, was summer camp by comparison.

The show is worth a watch, just don't expect titillation. It's more about the soft porn of watching other human beings break down.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Evander Holyfield and steroids

I remember watching the Holyfield-Tyson fights of 1996 and 1997, and thinking how magnificent they looked. Both men entered the ring superbly muscled, each looking like testosterone personified. With Tyson, it was natural; he had been an abnormally thickly-muscled specimen from the time he was 13.

With Holyfield, in retrospect, it was not. He had been the Olympic bronze medalist in the light heavyweight (178 pound) division in 1984, at age 21. He then turned pro, campaigning first as a light heavyweight (175 pounds in the pro ranks), then as a cruiserweight (190 pounds). He won the cruiserweight title at age 24, in 1986. In 1988 he announced that he was moving up to heavyweight.

By the early 1990's Holyfield was a lean 215 pounds. People wondered how he had put on so much muscle so quickly. Holyfield attributed it to his revamped exercise and diet regimen under new trainer Mackie Shillstone.

Here's Holyfield after he had already put on 15 pounds to win the cruiserweight title:


And here here are two pictures of him as heavyweight champion:




You just don't put on that kind of muscle through sparring, hitting the bag, and roadwork. You don't even put it on through weight-lifting.

The dead giveaway with steroids is not just how much muscle you put on, but how it goes on. Steroids always seem to turn the trapezius muscles (which run from the shoulder to the neck) convex, and also give a weird emphasis to the definition between the pectoral muscles.

Here is what Wikipedia had to say about recent allegations that Holyfield had used steroids:

On February 28, 2007, Holyfield was anonymously linked to Applied Pharmacy Services, a pharmacy in Alabama that is currently under investigation for supplying athletes with illegal steroids and human growth hormone (HGH). He denies ever using performance enhancers.

Holyfield's name does not appear in the law enforcement documents reviewed. However, a patient by the name of "Evan Fields" caught investigators' attention. "Fields" shares the same birth date as Holyfield—October 19, 1962. The listed address for "Fields" was 794 Evander, Fairfield, Ga. 30213. Holyfield has a very similar address. When the phone number that, according to the documents, was associated with the "Fields" prescription, was dialed, Holyfield answered.


But we really didn't need all that to know. The only evidence we really needed was visual. 

I point this out because Holyfield is such a perfect example of what steroids do to you: they make you magnificent, in a slightly misshapen way. 

"Marching as to war"

Pat Buchanan is a lone voice of sanity in a country whose government seems to be filled with warmongers.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why opposites attract

Most people seem to have a "type" to whom they're physically attracted. And it is often said that opposites attract. It seems that quite often, a person's "type" will be someone with whose genes they might combine with their own to produce good-looking offspring.

Therefore, people will often desire partners who will offset their own aesthetic flaws. Someone with a weak chin will be attracted to people with stronger chins, someone with a bulbous nose will be attracted to people with sharper noses, skinny will be attracted to strong, etc.

It's quite possible for two opposites, neither of whom is particularly good-looking, to produce attractive offspring. You see that all the time.

It make evolutionary sense that such an instinct -- attraction to opposites -- would have been bred into us. Genetic fitness is not purely a matter of having a lot of offspring yourself, it's a matter of having enough offspring who have their own offspring.

Vacations and schadenfreude

A couple days ago I was talking to a friend from my hometown who's about to leave on vacation for Florida.

"It's going to be 80 degrees when we get there," he enthused.

I replied, "You shoulda gone two weeks ago, when it was 10 degrees here."

He said, somewhat glumly, "Yeah I know." Then he brightened up. "But it's supposed to get down to 30 here again on Monday."

I know exactly how he feels.

Whenever I'm on vacation, I like to check the weather back home, and I always find myself hoping it's miserable. I could say I'm hoping for that just so that I could feel I was getting my money's worth from my vacation. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to an element of schadenfreude.