Breaking up with the Food Network…

Oh Food Network…I don’t know what to say, other than to speak from the heart. We’ve had a long relationship, going back to Molto Mario, the original Iron Chef, and Emeril before he went Live! era. It was the heady, early days of “Food TV”, where chefs weren’t celebrities yet, they didn’t have to have your vaunted “culinary point of view” like this stooge, and everything wasn’t some contrived game show with Guy Fieri. The chefs were still a little awkward, learning how to do this TV thing. But they knew how to cook, they were real, and no cults of personality had yet formed. Heck, Emeril had not yet even had his own sitcom, or Bobby Flay had not showed up on Law and Order yet.

I am old-school. I like watching “chop and dump” shows like the Barefoot Contessa and Giada at Home. I like learning new things and seeing how to cook differently. I care deeply that Ina makes something to Jeffrey’s liking.

But lately, I find watching the Food Network makes me feel stupid. And worse yet for you, I turn the channel a lot. I don’t care about a “Cupcake Wars”, (a title that is patently insulting, war is nothing to joke about. Really? A war? C’mon. Go visit a V.A. hospital and see what a war really means), some silly show starring a boy band-turned-reality show hack on recreating Twinkies, or best yet, a seemingly endless loop of Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-in and Dives”. The first 100 episodes were cute, Guy, but I can’t take any more. It all looks the same. (As an aside, how has Fieri’s hair not fallen out from the toxic cocktail of bleach he must be continuously dunking it in? My sympathy for his scalp. Oww.)

So Food Network, I am sorry to say, we’re breaking up. It’s not you, it’s me. (Uh, I think really it is you, but I want to be nice.) No reality shows, none of the other game show crap. Bob and Susie, your programming acumen is clearly not for people like me anymore.

I may allow myself to cheat at the gym with Chopped (yay Ted Allen), but only if there are not celebrities on it. Alton Brown will be a case-by-case basis, but only if he is cooking and being smart – not trying to be creepy mean (which I know he is probably not in real life.)

Giada and the Contessa are always a go, but I suspect they may not be in your line-up much longer as chefs, since everything has to be about being a “personality” who doesn’t cook.

We shall see. But Food Network, all the best. We were great while we lasted. But I’m moving on and letting you go be who you need to be.

Allez Cuisine.

Is Bossy a bad word?

Been ruminating on Sheryl Sandberg et al’s efforts to ban the word “Bossy” from the lexicon in describing women. I understand trying to take away the stigma that women cannot, and should not, be leaders because it somehow makes them less likable or feminine.

But I think this endeavor is really too simplistic. Let’s say they are successful, and bossy is banished. What about the other words that get tossed and stuck on female leaders: bitches, ball-busters, domineering, and even worse stuff. To me, bossy is way less offensive than the other words women such as Sandberg, Condoleezza Rice and other leaders have been stuck with. Look at all the nasty words that get hung on Hillary Clinton.

The idea is more of a sociological change of how we need to approach girls and women. We can be smart. We can be leaders. We can be pretty. We can be athletes. We can be math nerds. We can be stay-at-home moms. We run the gamut.

Kids, hanging the “bossy” label on girls at at young age, learn this from home. You are only popular as a girl if you act “like a lady”, aka defer to the boys. The whole pink princess thing, which seems to be more popular than ever, predicates that you be the damsel diva in distress waiting for Prince Charming on his white horse. It’s more important to be liked for being pretty than smart or a leader. That’s the ideology that needs to be changed. And that starts at home, with the adults in the boys’ and girls’ lives. They need to break through the way they may have been raised, and go beyond the old school of gender norms. Do better. Be better. Promote your child’s full potential, no matter the gender.

We ultimately put ourselves in boxes. Kids have no boxes to put others in, until we, as adults, give the labels to them. Let’s banish the bossy idea, so that the words really don’t matter anymore. They’ll be useless.

The Olympics: real-fake or fake-real?

Ni Hao from the Beijing Olympics. And no, I still don't know what that mascot is.
Ni Hao from the Beijing Olympics. And no, I still don’t know what that mascot is.
And that’s my deep-think question right now.

What exactly are the Olympics? A noble sporting event that unites the world in athletic competition and sportsmanship for a few weeks, hopefully bringing out the best in all? Or is a a shameless, corrupt, corporate/cartel-driven faux sporting event that is as real as the fake “artisinal” bricks in Cinderella’s castle in Disney World?

Depends on where you stand. And yes, both answers can be correct.

I’ve been fortunate enough to cover two Olympics, and see the truth firsthand. For the athletes, it is the highest event in their sport (short of winning the soccer World Cup or hockey Stanley Cup). All the cliches about training hard, sacrifice, families putting everything into making their kid’s dreams come true are real. I’ve gotten to know many Olympic athletes, and even if they finish 17th, they still have the accomplishment of being an Olympian on their resume. They’re proud, happy, it’s their moment to shine for a bit. All good.

Then on the other side, is the corporate domination, the political drama, the IOC’s mafia-like ways, the added wrinkles of governments/countries doing things that other people don’t like, and the gigantic amounts of money flying around. Billions, as in a big B. Being at the Olympics is like being assaulted with everything corporate all the time. McDonald’s here, big Coke display there, VISA kiosk there – you get the picture.

Sochi is a swirl of manic construction right now, with unfinished hotels and general lack of being finished. But Vladimir Putin says they are ready, so yippee for that sage update. (Putin World is NOT open yet. Bummer.)

A bigger question to ponder: are the Olympics becoming an entity that’s too big to fail….like General Motors …or are they failing and cracking under their own weight before our eyes? Sochi is flawed, Rio in 2016 probably will be the same…maybe it is a time for discussion on what we (in the global) sense are doing here. It’s the world’s biggest reality show, with some blood, sequins and sweat thrown in.

But what’s the real price in the end?

Not sure. But will be thinking about it over the next few weeks.

We can’t have it both ways…or can we?

Every day the contradictions fly: we hear how everybody is getting too fat, and then the celebrity magazines either declare somebody to be too skinny (Nicole Richie) or too fat (everybody named Kardashian or Oprah). Baby bumps are watched closely, and then the moms are slammed for not losing the weight quickly enough (Alyssa Milano) or celebrated for being skinny 2 weeks later (Rachel Zoe).

And we wonder why everybody is confused?

What got me thinking about all of this is two-fold. I have battled my weight most of my life. I never want to be “skinny”, a pejorative term at best, I just want to be healthy. And I am working on that. I’ve lost 50 pounds, gained a little back, and now want to lose more.

I saw a 10-ish year old girl at Target today. Nice girl, shopping with her mom. They were looking at clothes along the aisle, near the juniors section. I don’t think the girl was big enough to shop in the juniors, but like any pre-teen, she wanted to see what the big kids were wearing. She was holding a sweater, one that made me laugh as it had Flashdance, Madonna-Borderline video circa 1985, and rubber bracelets written all over it. Yes, the 80s are back in style, and yes, it still looks stupid to wear an off-the-shoulder crop sweater with leggings. But I digress…

This girl was looking at the sweater, and her mom told her to put it down because she was too fat in her stomach region to wear something like that. Yeah, thanks mom. The girl put the sweater back, and I could tell she looked crushed. Her mom was on the phone, and I don’t know if she registered the impact of her words.

And so it starts as a woman in this society. You’re too fat. You’re too thin. You’re looking good during pregnancy, but too big post-partum. You’re too skinny. And on and on. Fat-shaming. Bikini-bridge worship. (go look it up if you need a primer.)

I’m just tired of it. Just makes me sad that magazines, TV shows, websites, Twitter, you name it, seem be platforms for playing this game.

How about, to start 2014, we all aim to be healthy. Sane. Rational. Trying to eat better, without eating disorders or guilt if we have some ice cream. Exercising to be healthier, but not needing to flip over truck tires from one end of a parking lot and back to show how “dedicated” we are.

I call nobody out. I am working on my own weight, and trying to get healthier. I vowed to walk at least 10K steps per day, and according to my Fitbit, I am doing it. Next comes getting in more weight training. I’ve cut out anything white flour. I am trying. And I am going to keep trying for the rest of my life, as this is a lifestyle change, not a diet that gets switched on and off.

But the biggest thing I am going to do is turn my back on the silly noise about who is what. It really doesn’t matter anyways. No eyeballs = no revenue for the producers.


Being grateful…and toasting life.

I love the holidays, as it is a great time to reflect on the year and think about everything.

I have tried, as I have gotten older, to make myself much more cognizant of all the blessings in my life. It is really easy to take things for granted, like being healthy, people in your life being happy, even the amazing flowers every spring in the garden.

Life is a miracle. Even in the saddest, darkest situations in this world, which are so easy to get depressed over, there are good people and good things happening in the midst of evil.

Life is a blessing. And hopefully, we will all continue to be blessed with what we need in 2014. I wish everybody a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a blessed 2014. There are a lot of exciting things brewing in 2014, and I can’t wait to see how they unfold.

Namaste. And ho ho ho! And cheers!

Do it! Do it! Do it! (get the hint?!)

I don’t normally ask for money, but this is a project I believe very strongly in – and I can personally vouch for the amazing person doing this.

My friend, the immensely talented, award-winning, super amazing photojournalist Kate Brooks, is in process of creating a documentary on the horrible harm of the ivory and horn trade on elephants and rhinos. I don’t know about you, but I love the elephants – only place I have ever seen them is the zoo, but wow…such noble beasts. I can’t say I am a huge rhino person, but I don’t believe they should be slaughtered for consumer purposes. China and the U.S. are two major consumer markets for these very illegal commodities. And as Kate has discovered, the sale of ivory also supports terrorism and conflicts. So no, there is NOTHING good coming from this.

Kate’s documentary is going to be a huge wake-up call for the world and very important journalism. I have donated to support its funding. And I am asking you to do the same. Every little bit helps.

So please go here…and support “The Last Animals”.




A new approach…

Been answering a lot of reader email (and if I have not gotten back to you yet, I am working on it – 500-plus to get through!) regarding my story in The New York Times on Michigan and Michigan State having neurologists on their football sidelines.

A few things I wanted to add/discuss, because as always, a writer never has enough space 🙂

– Drs. Kaufman (MSU) and Kutcher (UM) are not just for the football program. They see all the athletes at their universities. There are 900 at Michigan, and 800 at Michigan State, and a lot of the other sports, such as wrestling, basketball, volleyball, etc. can lead to concussions too.

– Some readers have questioned if the Drs. are really allowed to make their own diagnoses, even it it means taking a star player out of action. From what I was told by everybody, from the athletic directors, coaches, to the neurologists, the process seems clean. If somebody is hurt, they’re not going back in. The brain is more precious than a game.

– Why don’t more schools do this? Every athletic program has their own protocols, so just because they don’t have a neurologist on the sideline does not mean they aren’t taking care of their players. A lot use referrals out to neurologists from their primary care docs.

Deep thoughts…

One of the fun things about teaching a few classes and still working in the real world (not that teaching isn’t working or the real world – they definitely are!), is getting to run the students through situations I encounter. We had a really active discussion on Friday, about a CNN story that I was interviewed for on NFL cheerleaders. For the record, which was a little lost in the story, I have nothing against cheerleaders, I think they should totally be allowed to do what they do. I know they train hard, have to have a dance/gymnastics background, etc. What my comments were about revolved around the idea that cheerleaders are totally important to the NFL game product, and without them, nobody would cheer, etc. Which we all know is clearly false. Cheerleaders are just window-dressing, eye-candy, and something fun for the hetero male population. (Never mind that there are A TON of female NFL fans….)

So the CNN story went up, and we watched Friday, in real time, the hateful, nasty, and just stupid comments go up on their comment board. Some against me, some for me. Some calling me a political partisan, slamming me for not being a model (because only other models can discuss models – so I can only assume KrispyKreme123 is like, Naomi Campbell?), and others just inane and insane.

But the lessons were real, and perfect: 1) people who can hide anonymously on message boards will say things that they NEVER, EVER would say in public. It’s like another identity, an outlet to be totally horrible without being held accountable, 2) being in the public eye, even for a tiny bit, draws in people who want to knock you down, 3) Al Gore invented in the internet for this?!? (I kid, I kid).

The students were horrified. This can happen to you when you write a story? Or comment on something? Yep. You get taken apart. You are called stupid things, and without much sense entering the picture.

Life lessons are always the best teacher. Even for the teachers 🙂

Thanks to WKAR…

I taped an interview appearance this week, as a guest on “Current Sports” with host Al Martin, for WKAR (the PBS station at Michigan State). I was honored to discuss concussions and other things, and I especially loved the questions from the studio audience. Live TV?!? Yikes! But the students in the audience were kind and I made it out alive. Thanks to everybody at WKAR and Michigan State.

Where’s Waldo?

Actually, meta-Waldo, aka me, is here. Working hard, doing a lot of different projects that I can’t tell you about yet. But I will be doing an interview appearance on Lansing PBS station WKAR, on Current Sports with Al Martin, on Wednesday, with the airdate for the interview on Thursday. I am thrilled to get to share a little of my concussion research with Al Martin and the kind folks at WKAR.

Bringing perspective, and some thoughtfulness, to the concussion and sports debate is one of my big goals.