Tuesday, January 27, 2009

They call it veggie porn ...

So the prudes at NBC have nixed PETA's latest ad campaign from being aired during the Super Bowl because  it "depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards," according to an NBC spokeswoman. 

The commercial's tagline makes the dubious claim that vegetarians have better sex, and it shows lingerie-clad models in seductive poses and actions with veggies and fruits such as broccoli and pumpkins.

I say too bad -- for it surely would have livened up the telecast, and might even have provided a watercooler moment that would eclipse the Janet Jackson debacle of several years ago.  Plus, it seems to be a LOT more savvy -- and potentially effective --  approach to getting their message across (instead of, say, throwing paint on wearers of fur coats.)  And it also smacks me as being a bit hypocritical, considering the way modern ads have become pretty much soft porn, anyway ... 

In case you're curious about the ad, here's a link to the PETA site with a video of the commercial, plus other PETA spots deemed too "hot" for mainstream media. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

The belle of the ball ...

That's what I felt like on Saturday night at the 37th Polonaise Ball in Miami Beach. 

It's an annual event sponsored by the American Institute of Polish Culture that Matthew and his mother have attended (as proud Polish Americans) several times in the past decade or so.   

But it's the first fancy, "grown-up" event I've attended in many, many years -- and I wanted to do it right; or at least as "right" as I could on an extremely limited budget.  

So, I scoured the local charitable and secondhand shops and found a gorgeous gown at a Goodwill outlet that just needed to be hemmed.  I already had a serviceable pair of shoes and a glittery  shawl.  After finding some rhinestone clip earrings at another secondhand shop, I was all set with the outfit.  I splurged on a pedicure and a fancy "updo" at my hairdresser's, plus I bought some new makeup.  

And, when I put it all together, I felt like a million bucks!  I walked in on Matthew's arm (with his mom on his other side), confident that I could hold my own amidst a sea of designer gowns and precious gemstones.  When he spun me around the dance floor, I truly felt like a princess. 

This year's guest of honor was Nobel Prizewinner (and former Polish President) Lech Walesa. 
We did not really rub elbows with him -- there were way too many "VIP" guests in attendance for that; however, we did get to shake his hand early in the evening.   

We sat in corner of the large ballroom, elbow-to-elbow with nine other attendees, far away from the VIP table.  The event was full of pomp and circumstance (and a bit too wordy for our taste), with dancing throughout and a tasty meal served over a period of about four hours. 

It was a magical evening, indeed.  One fit for a princess, the belle of the ball. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Once again, screwed by Mother Nature


Maybe there's a legitimate reason why so many women I know struggle with managing their weight, while the men just seem to be able to lose -- or maintain -- without much effort.  According to a story in Britain's The Independent, women may be biologically hard-wired to put on weight because of our reproductive functions (pregnancy and lactation).  Apparently, females have a much harder time resisting food temptations than do men. The study subjected hungry, non-obese women and men to the sight and smell of their favorite foods.  The men were able to "suppress" their cravings much more easily than the women. 

So, on top of having the physical advantage (more weight, more muscle mass, etc.) when it comes to burning calories, now they also have a brain-chemistry advantage in avoiding those calories in the first place.  Mother Nature, you are NOT nice!!! 

Monday, January 19, 2009

The disappearing magic of movies

For years, I was a huge cinema buff, seeing at least one release per week.  

But lately, not so much.  It just doesn't seem to be high on the list of preferred activities for Matthew and me, for several reasons. 

Foremost: Movies just aren't all that good these days, expecially for the price.  For instance, neither Matthew nor I was impressed with Doubt, which we saw this past weekend. The film, based on a hit play, centers on a psychological battle between a nun and a priest in the early 1960s over whether or not the priest molested a boy.  Although the acting is excellent (Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, with Amy Adams in a supporting role), it's a very bleak, austere film with no real conclusion.  It left us both with a feeling of vague dissatisfaction -- which, at $9.50 each, doesn't seem like such a great deal. 

Compare that to the exuberance and joy I felt after seeing Slumdog Millionnaire a couple of weeks ago.  Set in Mumbai, India, it was directed with style and verve by Irishman Danny Boyle.  This little "sleeper" of a film is absolutely breathtaking: A great story, wonderful acting, and incredible visuals (cinematography, editing, etc.).  I haven't loved a movie as much in many, many years.   

And it seems I'm not alone, for the film is garnering critical praise (including a recent Golden Globe for best picture) as it continues to pull in more and more viewers by word of mouth.  

Slumdog Millionnaire is pure, old-fashioned movie magic, so hard to find these days. Don't miss it. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Update: My right breast

I reported a couple months ago about my experiences with a recent mammography, which showed some "breast calcifications" in my right breast that warranted further X-rays (magnifications), which in turn led to a prescription for an immediate biopsy due to irregularities. (blog entry "Gulp .. and whoa!", Nov. 8).

Naturally, I was alarmed and confused by the urgency and lack of specifics. So, I did some research on the Internet. It seems that such calcifications are fairly normal, and in 80 percent of cases are completely benign.  Plus, the type of cancer that is associated with calcifications is localized and very slow-growing.

For these reasons, I put off having the biopsy until this past week (much to the concern and/or consternation of family and loved ones, to be sure!).  I also started taking a regimen of vitamin and herb  pills, based on further research about which natural supplements seem to be beneficial for breast health.  These include a super-antioxidant formula (vitamins A, C, E, B-2, B-6 and several minerals); vitamin D (which helps the body metabolize calcium); cat's claw; and cranberry (which as a bonus also helps with fluid retention and kidney health).

Nevertheless, I was still nervous when I went for the examination on Thursday.  My appointment was at Bethesday Health City, a wellness center affiliated with a local hospital. First, they took their own set of X-rays.  And, then, the technician led me to the doctor assigned to my case -- and she informed me that she saw no reason at this time to do a biopsy; the calcifications seem to fall under the "normal" category ... PHEW!! 

I do have to return in six months to the same place for another round of X-rays to compare whether there is any increase in size or amount.  But I'm OK with that: I really do feel that I'm healthy and will be fine.  I'll just continue my current diet and exercise plan and try to live as "healthily" as possible.  Oh, and I'll stay on that pill regimen, too! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


One "gift" I received during my Christmas break is something I surely did not want: I caught a cold on my last two days there (end of December) that is STILL lingering a little bit.  

It was one of those colds that hangs out mostly in your head -- coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing -- but was also accompanied by a HUGE loss of energy.  I was so wiped out that I ended up staying home on New Year's Eve, surfing the boob tube with Matthew. 

No telling where -- or when -- I caught it, of course.  

Or, even WHY.  I assumed it was because of the change in climate and not being used to the cold weather, combined with the stress of the holidays and the travel.  But now, a new study reported in Reuters points to another possible culprit: Loss of sleep.  According to the study, people who get less than seven hours of sleep nightly are three times more likely to come down with a cold than those who sleep enough.  (Your whole immune system is apparently compromised by loss of zzz's.)  And this vulnerability can kick in very quickly: The test subjects' sleep patterns were recorded for only two weeks before the experiment began.  

The end of 2008 was certainly a time of interrupted sleep for me, what with all that was going on: the new job -- then losing it -- then holiday preparations, then spending time with Matthew's visiting relatives, then going away for Christmas myself.  

Just another ironic fact of life: During times of busyness and stress in our lives, when we seldom are able to get enough sleep, these are the times we need our sleep the most

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Diet vs. exercise

The latest season of The Biggest Loser just got started Tuesday night.  I've been hooked on NBC's  inspirational weight-loss show for several years now, and have enjoyed seeing the astonishing transformations that contestants undergo during the six-month process (three months on the show, followed by three months at home before the final weigh-in).  I regularly participate in the BL message boards posted by my friend Gail, on her Weight Loss Examiner site (here's a link, in case you're interested in following it further). 

These contestants clearly have a huge advantage over the rest of us: Three months spent on the "ranch"  -- time dedicated exclusively to weight loss, with crucial support in all areas: nutrition plans, physical trainers (Jillian and Bob), psychological counseling and medical monitoring.  

Still, it has always seemed to me that exercise is the most important factor in their success, for the contestants spend HOURS in the gym every day.  And I certainly have made working out a significant part of my own battle of the bulge.  My exercise regimen has allowed me to be a little bit looser in my eating habits,  indulging in "moderation" foods more than I might otherwise. 

But a new article in Live Science may make me rethink this blase attitude about my eating habits.  Researchers compared African American women in metropolitan Chicago with women in rural Nigeria. On average, the Chicago women weighed 184 pounds, while the Nigerian women were 127 pounds.  Both groups had similar levels of exercise in their lives, but "the Nigerian diet is high in fiber and carbohydrates and low in fat and animal protein. By contrast, the Chicago diet is 40 percent to 45 percent fat and high in processed foods."

So, bottom line: Keep moving, absolutely; but you really need to watch what you eat! 

Monday, January 5, 2009

The secret of the swans

Do you believe in the possibility of a lasting love?  Can couples who've been married 20, 30, 40 years still be as crazy for each other as when they first fell in love? Or is that just some fairy tale cooked up by songwriters, romance novelists and movie makers? 

Well, even the most jaded among us -- those who think that love can't really "go the distance" in the human heart -- may have to re-think that position after reading about a new study, in which scientists compared brain scans of long-term loving couples with those of new lovers, and found similar chemical reactions arose in each person when thinking about his/her mate.  Researchers started calling the longtime lovers "swans" for their similarity to the animals that mate for life. 

The study, described in an article in The Sunday Times, lends credence to the idea that true love CAN last.  Such couples are able to retain the new-romance state called "limerence," which starts to fade after about 15 months for most people (with significant dips at three, seven and 10 years).   For swans, apparently, "elements of limerence mature, enabling them to enjoy what a new report calls 'intensive companionship and sexual liveliness.' "

The percentage of swans in the study was quite small -- only one in 10 -- implying that it's a rare gift to be able to hold onto the limerence in a relationship.  

But maybe it's more than a gift, something you have no control over.  Maybe it's possible to help the limerence remain -- by working to keep it alive in your relationship.  So here's another New Year's resolution for you: Put your mate first again in your life.  Remember why you fell in love in the first place. Keep the sexual fires burning.  Plan romantic dates.  Do something new as a couple.  Perform a thoughtful deed for each other every day.  Have fun together.  Cuddle often. Be a swan! 


Friday, January 2, 2009

JFK: Sex addict!

Just as Barack Obama readies for his historic transition into the White House, and the nation is swept up in the optimism and hope born from the promise of social change and governmental reform that he brings, we are reminded once again of the president with whom he is most compared: John F. Kennedy.  

But not, alas, in a good way. 

After all, Kennedy was the one who defied conventional wisdom that said a Catholic would never be elected president.  He not only won, but also changed the direction of the country with his grand vision of personal equality, humility, responsibility and service.  His "ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country" line (from his inaugural speech, Jan. 20, 1961), is still in the Top 5 of my favorite soundbites.  For now, Obama promises the same kind of inspirational leadership. 

Obviously, stories of the not-so-admirable side of JFK have been circulating in the pop-culture consciousness for decades: His possible ties to organized crime, his questionable performance in the Oval Office, his penchant for sexual dalliances, etc. 

But these stories were more like additional chapters in the man's life, hardly his entire story.  He was lucky enough to be president before key social changes took root that brought down Bill Clinton's presidency: the invasive, prying eyes of the media, combined with the public's insatiable appetite for titillation, combined with a hypocritical expectation of  "pure" behavior for our public servants. 

Now comes news from the New York Post that a new book coming out will portray Kennedy as a sex addict, a "compulsive philanderer", with lurid details of many of his affairs.  

Well, it had to happen sometime: Those stories were just waiting to come out; if not now, when? Our icons should not be impervious to revision, especially when it is warranted.  And in this day and age, it's actually kind of "hip" to come out as a sex addict.  So, maybe this book won't destroy his image after all -- maybe it will add a new kind of luster to it! 

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