Sneak Peeks: Fat Head Kids, The Movie

That sound coming from my office is me taking a deep, relaxing breath. For nearly two years, much of my evening and weekend time has been devoted to the Fat Head Kids film. Now it’s done. Well, okay, there might be a tweak or two when we get feedback from our distributor. We’ll also have to cut a trailer, produce some poster art, etc. But the big job is done.

Like the book, the film is presented in chapters. I’ve uploaded chapters two and four to YouTube as sneak peeks. As you know if you’ve read the book, Chapter One explains why getting fat isn’t about your character. Chapter Two goes on to explain that getting fat is about chemistry. That’s the chapter where we introduce The Nautilus, the biological spaceship that serves as our analogy for the human body:

In Chapter Four, we explain how the ship’s fuel system works. Later chapters explain how a bad diet causes that system to go haywire:

The brief opening credits aren’t actually part of those chapters, by the way. I added them to the YouTube videos just to make sure anyone who sees them embedded elsewhere knows they’re part of the Fat Head Kids film. Some of my Fat Head clips ended up embedded in blogs with no attribution or link to the film.

Man, this film was a ton of work. When I made Fat Head, I paid other people to create the animations, compose the music, mix and master the music, record and mix the soundtrack, and color-correct the video to broadcast standards. It was a huge financial investment … and then the first two distributors never paid us.  You’ve likely heard that story, so I won’t repeat it except to say I had no intention of ever making another film.

We have an honest distributor now, but because of my experience with Fat Head, I nonetheless didn’t want to be in a position where I need to sell 20,000 units or whatever just to break even financially. So we decided to do all the work ourselves this time.

For each of the animated sequences (more than 400 of them), Chareva and I kicked around ideas and created a thumbnail storyboard.  Then she drew the necessary cartoon characters, props and environments — most of them by hand before scanning them into Adobe Illustrator to vectorize and color them. Then I composed the animations in After Effects — after learning how to use the software, of course.

I recorded and edited my narration and all the character voices (most of which were performed by my talented relatives) in Adobe Audition. I composed and recorded the music, which required learning how to mix and master music in Logic Pro. And of course, I edited the whole film together in Premiere before adding sound effects and mixing the final soundtrack.

Like I said, it was a ton of work. We may have to sell 20,000 units or whatever to earn the equivalent of minimum wage, but knowing I won’t have post-production debt to pay off is quite comforting.

Those of you coming aboard this year’s low-carb cruise will see the entire film on Monday night. After that, I plan to spend much of the cruise catching up on sleep. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see me at the breakfast buffet.

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Warning: I Could Turn Stupid Any Day Now

I have some ideas for longer posts I plan to write, but they’ll have to wait until I return from the low-carb cruise. I’m not giving a speech on this year’s cruise, but I will be showing what I hope is the final version of the Fat Head Kids film. I just finished the final task – mixing the sound – last night. Chareva and I will watch the whole thing a couple of times over the weekend and make notes on any final tweaks. When we’re happy with it, I’ll probably upload a couple of preview clips to YouTube.

I have other pre-cruise stuff to wrap up as well, so I may or may not squeeze in one more post before leaving. The Older Brother has already agreed to take over the Fat Head chair while I’m gone.

In the meantime, I felt I should warn you all that I could turn stupid any day now. I was informed of the possibility years ago by buddies who got married and had kids at a much younger age than I did. Prepare yourself, they said. When a daughter becomes a teenager, her dad goes from being one of the smartest men on the planet to one of dumbest.

My daughter Alana turns 13 today, so I’m at serious risk of seeing my intelligence take a nosedive.

I dodged that bullet when Sara turned 13. I warned her that I might become stupid when she entered her teens, just in case. She thought about it and replied, “I don’t think it’s possible for me to ever think of you as stupid. But I reserve the right to think you’re old and just don’t get it.”

My intelligence was probably protected in her case because we think so much alike. As Chareva has pointed out many times, Sara inherited my love of language, my appreciation for math and logic, my ability to memorize, my sense of humor, and many of my likes and dislikes. So if I turned stupid, it would reflect badly on her.

Alana is much more like Chareva. She inherited her mom’s artistic abilities, to name just one example. She already draws amazingly well.

Chareva has never thought of me as stupid as far as I know, but then she never knew me during her teen years. When she was 13, I was 27. She probably would have considered me stupid at the time. I didn’t have a low IQ or anything, but when I look back at the decisions I made at that age, there was some form of stupidity at work.

Anyway, the point is that Alana and I are different enough that I could turn stupid without posing any threat to her own sense of self-worth. I’m unprotected this time around.

If I do turn stupid, I hope some of you fine folks will set aside social niceties and call me on it. I’d want to know. In fact, do me a favor and keep an eye out for the warning signs:

If I ever slam a t-post hammer onto my own skull again, I may have gotten stupid.

If ever get stung on the arm again and assume that mysterious red patch spreading from the wound will just go away on its own, I’ve likely gotten stupid.

If our chickens ever start disappearing again from a chicken yard that’s been reinforced every which way and I don’t immediately conclude this means the predator is living inside the chicken yard, I’ve probably gotten stupid.

If I ever again try to lift a bridge that weighs more than I do without using my legs while spending a weekend doing heavy farm work despite a mysterious pain in my shoulder, I’ve almost certainly gotten stupid.

Okay, that should do it.  No, wait … one more:

If I conclude that humans should live on a diet of 63 servings of fruits and vegetables per day because it’s the equivalent of gorilla’s diet and lowers cholesterol, I’ve most definitely gotten stupid. But no point warning me in that case, because it means I’ve given up blogging to join the faculty at an Ivy-League university nutrition department.

Now I need to get home for Alana’s birthday. I hope I don’t turn stupid on the way and forget where we live.

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Dr. Willett Has Convinced Me To Become A Gorilla

Dr. Walter Willett, whom the Boston Globe once described as the world’s most influential nutritionist, has finally convinced me to adopt the diet of a gorilla. Yes, it’s a big mental shift, but the turning point came when I read about a rigorous, unbiased study Dr. Willett recently conducted, as reported in the U.K. Telegraph:

At least one-third of early deaths could be prevented if everyone moved to a vegetarian diet, Harvard scientists have calculated.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics suggested that around 24 per cent or 141,000 deaths each year in Britain were preventable, but most of that was due to smoking, alcohol or obesity.

But the new figures from Harvard suggest that at least 200,000 lives could be saved each year if people cut meat from their diets.

Wow. Apparently giving up meat would provide as many health benefits as giving up smoking or heavy drinking. Or to put it another way, apparently eating meat is as damaging to your health as smoking or heavy drinking.

I admit, I found this confusing at first. As a logical person, I tend to assume if a change in diet provides massive health benefits – like, say, giving up meat prevents one-third of all premature deaths – we’d see consistent evidence to that effect.

But that’s not what we’ve seen. When it comes to meat and health, the evidence has been all over the place. Sure, vegetarians can cherry-pick some observational studies in which vegetarians had longer lifespans, but I can just as easily quote from observational studies in which they didn’t.

For example, here’s the conclusion from a study titled Mortality in vegetarians and comparable nonvegetarians in the United Kingdom:

In conclusion, our results suggest that United Kingdom–based vegetarians and comparable nonvegetarians (including people who eat fish but not meat and those who eat meat <5 times per week on average) have similar all-cause mortality.

That’s in spite of the fact that the people classified as “regular meat-eaters” in this study were older and less active on average than the vegetarians.

Here’s a similar conclusion from an Australian study titled Vegetarian diet and all-cause mortality, which included more than 250,000 people aged 45 and older:

We found no evidence that following a vegetarian diet, semi-vegetarian diet or a pesco-vegetarian diet has an independent protective effect on all-cause mortality.

No difference in mortality in two large studies, and yet Dr. Willett calculated that one-third of all premature deaths would be prevented if we all stopped eating meat – and we know Dr. Willett has to be right because he’s from Harvard. But how can his conclusions differ so drastically from the conclusions drawn from large epidemiological studies? Like I said, it was confusing.

But then I read this:

Dr Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Medical School said the benefits of a plant-based diet had been vastly underestimated.

Ahhhh, now it makes perfect sense! The reason those other large studies didn’t find a longevity benefit for vegetarians is that the benefits were vastly underestimated! Those silly scientists just didn’t see what was right in front of them.

Nothing unusual there at all. It happens all the time. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of the modern NFL era, yet he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round. Teams chose 198 other players ahead of him. NFL scouts looked at the guy and weren’t impressed. They vastly underestimated the benefits Brady could provide.

Nonetheless, I was still unclear on exactly how these inferior scientists were so wildly underestimating the benefits of a vegetarian diet. But this cleared it up for me:

British-born Professor David Jenkins, of the University of Toronto, also told the conference that the benefits of vegetarianism had been ‘undersold.’

His team recently teamed up with The Bronx Zoo in New York and travelled to central Africa to record the feeding habits of gorillas.

Man, it’s times like this I’m painfully aware of the gaps in my education. I stupidly assumed if you want to calculate the benefits of a particular diet on humans, you study humans. Turns out you’re supposed to study gorillas. Anyway, here’s what they found:

When they recreated the diet for humans – which amounted to 63 servings of fruit and vegetables a day – they found a 35 percent fall in cholesterol, in just two weeks, the equivalent of taking statins.

“That was quite dramatic,” he said “We showed that there was no real difference between what we got with the diet and what we got with a statin.”

Around 17.5 million people eligible for statins to stave off heart disease, equating to most men over 60 and most women over 65.

I’d like to have a chat with the people who consumed 63 servings of fruits and vegetables per day while lowering their cholesterol levels so dramatically.  I curious about how much they enjoyed that diet.  I’d also like to know how many of them found bananas and apples to have the same metabolic effects as broccoli and asparagus, since fruits and vegetables always seemed to be lumped together in these studies.

Anyway, let’s the follow the logic:

  • Recreating a gorilla’s diet for humans – which translates to 63 servings of fruits and vegetables per day – reduces cholesterol as much as statins.
  • According to the latest guidelines, almost everyone over 65 who still has a pulse should be on statins … even though statins have been demonstrated to prevent premature death for pretty much nobody except older men who’ve already had a heart attack or are at unusually high risk of heart attack. But within those highly specific groups, taking statins may prevent one heart attack for every 100 people treated … at least in the most positive studies.
  • Therefore, if everyone stopped eating meat, we’d prevent one-third of premature deaths.

Dang, I’m humbled. I can’t believe I didn’t connect the dots myself. This is the kind of solid, unbiased scientific reasoning that’s made Harvard and other universities such trusted sources for advice on diet and health.

And so, thanks to the impeccable work of Dr. Willett and his colleagues, I now understand I should be eating like a gorilla.

Vegetrollians, of course, have been telling me that for years. Oh, yeah? You think you need meat for complete protein? What about gorillas, huh? HUH?! They’re big and strong enough to tear you apart, and they only eat plants!

I’ve always replied that if I ever wake up and find myself with a gorilla’s big jaws and huge digestive system required to extract protein from leaves and metabolize cellulose fibers into fats, I’ll give the gorilla diet a try.

But thanks to Dr. Willett and his colleagues, I see that was limited thinking on my part. Who’s to say I can’t develop the physiology of a gorilla? When did that become a law of the universe? Maybe I don’t have gorilla-sized jaws because I haven’t exercised them enough.

In fact, once I worked past my speciesist biases, I began to see the advantages of becoming more like a gorilla. That huge gut size I mentioned above is just one of them. For human beings, a big ol’ round belly is both embarrassing and unhealthy … yet many us of struggle to maintain a flat belly. In fact, a comedienne I worked with back in my standup days speculated that men decide they’re ready to get married when they finally grow tired of exercising and sucking in their bellies.

On the other hand, have you ever seen a gorilla trying to suck in his gut when there’s a lady gorilla around? Of course not. For gorillas, a healthy belly looks like this:

Again, that’s because living on fibrous plants requires a ginormous digestive system. With enough time and effort, I believe I can expand my digestive system to the size of a gorilla’s. And if some snarky person comments on my girth, I’ll just reply, “Look, you idiot, I’m working my way up to 63 servings per day of fruits and vegetables, and this is what it takes. Dr. Willett says it’s good for me, and he has to know what he’s talking about, because he’s at Harvard.”

The more I think about it, the more I’m looking forward to going out and buying the kind of “relaxed fit” clothes I tossed after I lost my big belly by switching to a high-meat, low-carb diet.  I could gain 15 pounds over the holidays while wearing those clothes, and they still fit just fine.  Nowadays, gaining 15 pounds means my pants are tight.

But even more than the new wardrobe, I’m looking forward to spending 80 percent of my waking hours chewing my food or resting from the effort. I don’t mean to complain, but my current lifestyle can be hectic. There’s the programming work, the commute to the office, family responsibilities, weekend farm work, researching and writing posts, animating and sound-mixing and composing music for the Fat Head Kids film, etc., etc.

Gorillas don’t deal with that kind of stress. Because their diets consist mostly of fibrous plant matter, they get to spend nearly all day chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing their food to extract the nutrients, then resting. Thanks to Dr. Willett and his colleagues, I now recognize what a healthy, relaxed lifestyle that would be for me. I want in.

I believe Chareva will agree I’m entitled to the change. We both had jobs early in our marriage, but before the girls came along, we decided I should provide all the income so she could be 100% available for the wee ones.

We didn’t make that decision lightly, of course. Because I’m such an avid reader of academic papers produced by gender-studies departments, I pointed out that making her financially dependent on me would reproduce existing patterns of discrimination and inequality imposed by the patriarchy. She countered with something like, “Shut up and go to work,” so I reluctantly agreed to oppress her.

But she surely recognizes that as teenagers, the girls are no longer as dependent on her. Seeing Mommy go to work and take over the mortgage-paying responsibilities might even inspire and empower them. And if that doesn’t convince Chareva, I’ll simply say, “Look, Honey, if I don’t start eating like a gorilla, I’ll probably die soon anyway. Dr. Willett said as much, and he’s a professor at Harvard, so we know he’s right. At least this way, you can visit me in the back pastures when I’m out there gathering and chewing my dinner.”

I know some of you wacky paleo and low-carb meat-eaters will disagree with my decision to become a gorilla.  Some of you may even hurl insults in response. Well, I’m not worried. According to Dr. Willett, two-thirds of you will die prematurely anyway, so you won’t be around to argue with me.

And I know Dr. Willett is right, because he’s a professor at Harvard.

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Review: ‘The Magic Pill’ Is A Terrific Film

I mentioned recently that I watch documentaries while walking on my treadmill. Today I fired up Netflix and watched The Magic Pill, produced by Pete Evans and directed by Rob Tate. I met them both when they visited the Fat Head farm in 2015. That’s Pete mugging it up in the photo below, of course. There’s a reason he’s a TV personality. Rob is the quiet guy farthest to the right in the photo.

They didn’t mention the film back then, so perhaps they weren’t working on it yet. Or perhaps they weren’t far enough along to talk about it. Either way – and I don’t say this just because I like them personally – it’s the most compelling documentary I’ve seen on food and health. Period. It’s beautifully shot, beautifully written, and a couple of the stories told over the course of the film will likely bring a lump to your throat.

Before we continue, here’s the official trailer.  If you don’t subscribe to Netflix, you can also buy or rent the film on Amazon.

The film opens with the question Why are so many people around the world fat and sick? Why are we dying of what seem to be preventable diseases that didn’t afflict our ancestors?

The filmmakers interview Aboriginal Peoples in Australia, who, like Native Americans living on reservations, have screamingly high rates of diabetes. The older people remember a time when their parents and grandparents died of old age, not heart disease and diabetes. We learn that several of them will go on a retreat for some weeks and live on their traditional diet.

That story alone would have been interesting, but then we’re taken to meet people in America who are also struggling with the diseases of civilization: obesity, diabetes, asthma, cancer and autism. They have likewise accepted a challenge to switch to a real-food diet of meats, seafood, vegetables, eggs, nuts and fruits — in other words, a paleo diet.

Watching these people empty their kitchens and pantries of what passes for food these days is simultaneously amusing and horrifying. You know what I mean, because you’ve tossed those foods yourself … the cereals, breads, Spaghetti-Os, goldfish crackers, Doritos — oh, and of course the wheat crackers in a box bragging about the whole grains and low fat content.

Then we see them learning to cook and enjoy real foods. It doesn’t always go well. One little girl on the autism spectrum was so outraged at having her goldfish crackers and Doritos taken away, she refused to eat for five days, according to her parents. But once she started eating actual food, she kept asking for more.

While waiting for the results of the dietary-change experiments, the filmmakers take us on a tour through a bit of dietary history. We learn how a low-fat diet based on grains became the standard nutrition advice and what the results have been. Lots of people whose books or other works you know make an appearance: Nina Teicholz, Nora Gedgaudas, Dr. William Davis, Lierre Keith, Dr. Jason Fung and Joe Salatin.

We also learn how ferociously the food industry (and the dietitians they support) will fight back against the real-food movement by seeing some footage from the Tim Noakes trial — the one where he was acquitted of all charges before the HPCSA decided to appeal and go after him yet again.

The lump-in-the-throat moments come around near the end, when we see what happens to sick people who switch to real-food diets. Sure, I knew they’d get better. I expected to see overweight diabetics lose weight and stop taking insulin. I expected to see asthma to go away. I even expected to see cancer go into remission.

But as a father of two girls, seeing the effects of a real-food diet on the little girl with autism got to me. I was also moved by the retired nurse who was fat and miserable and diabetic and taking ever-higher doses of insulin, then lost 45 pounds and now needs no insulin at all. You can tell this was a woman who was ready to give up.

Rob Tate, the director, mentions to her that our treatments for people struggling with obesity and diabetes always seem to boil down to Here, try this pill or that pill. Maybe what we need to try is changing what we eat.

I think I always knew that, she tells him. But I think I didn’t know how.

Bingo. With so much garbage advice being handed down from dietitians, government agencies, “health” organizations like the American Heart Association, etc., etc., it’s been difficult for people to know how to cure themselves with food.

The real magic pill is real food – and it tastes good too. That’s the message of this beautiful film.

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Post-Feminist Vegans Are Doing The Right Thing For The Wrong Reasons

Boy … uh, I mean Non-Gender-Specific Person, it must be tough being a committed vegan these days. There you are, convinced you’re doing The Right Thing, only to discover that you’re doing The Right Thing for the wrong reasons … so wrong, in fact, that you’re reproducing existing patterns of discrimination and inequality.

I only became aware of this vegan dilemma thanks to scholars working in the rigorous intellectual discipline known as gender studies. Here’s the abstract from a paper published in the Journal of Feminist Media Studies.

This article explores the way vegan and vegetarian diets have been articulated within neo-liberal post-feminist culture. While these diets have an important role for vegetarian eco-feminists, as signs of resistance against the patriarchal and capitalist exploitative system, in post-feminism they have become sexy and business oriented.

This shift is analyzed through the case study of Beyoncé’s involvement with the commercial enterprise “22 days,” a dietary regime that involves the elimination of any animal product for 22 days. Our argument is that while eco-feminists have embraced vegetarian and vegan regimes as ethical and political choices, post-feminism depoliticizes and deradicalizes them. In this way, they become part of an individualistic project that emphasizes empowerment and meritocracy; choice, agency, and responsibilization; and the focus on a healthy, sexy body.

Ultimately, the post-feminist articulation of vegan diets promotes a form of “commodity veg*ism,” that is not only devoid of any critical force, but also reproduces existing patterns of discrimination and inequality. We use the term veg*ism to indicate the fluid uptake of vegan and vegetarian diets, whereby the avoidance of animal products relies more on an individual than on ethical and/or political choice.

It was a real letdown to realize I’ve been wasting my life reading books on health, nutrition, history and economics when I could have been learning about responsibilization.

Before we return to the abstract, I need go on a brief rant about these mushy-science academics and the kind of intellectual and verbal drivel they produce -– much of which is supported by your tax dollars through the university system.

I follow @RealPeerReview on Twitter. Whoever he or she is (if he and she aren’t offensive labels), he or she has access to a gazillion academic papers and regularly posts abstracts to demonstrate what passes for scholarship in today’s universities. The most amusing examples are produced by (ahem) “scholars ” in sort-of-science departments like gender studies.

After laughing my way through several academic-gobbledygook abstracts in a row one day, I saw a connection to Dr. Who. Hang on, I’ll explain.

Dr. Who has been around for several decades. The writers have slowly created an entire alternate reality. Sara became a fan a couple of years ago and watched episode after episode online. She could go on and on about the Dr. Who universe, its history, its characters, and all its rules.

In fact (as she informed me), there are entire books written about the Dr. Who universe and all its rules. Those rules are internally consistent and, in the Dr. Who universe, they make perfect sense. Fanatical fans can cite those rules. They can name the inhabitants, the organizations, the terms, the powers characters do and don’t have, etc., etc. Fans can even engage in debates over what would happen in this-or-that situation. To someone immersed in the Dr. Who universe, those debates might even sound logical.

But of course, the Dr. Who universe, despite all its richness, complexity, and internal logic, is fiction. It’s all been made up.

Same goes for the universe produced in the imaginations of gender-studies scholars. It’s a rich and complex universe with lots of terms and rules, but it’s all been made up. It’s fiction. Let’s call it the Dr. Hooey universe. The main difference is that when fans of Dr. Who write about the Dr. Who universe, they don’t usually come across like morons attempting to sound intelligent.

Here’s part of another abstract tweeted by @RealPeerReview:

As a non-Western woman I found that without an epistemic disobedience to colonial aspects of knowledge I cannot speak in the academic area where Eurocentric and masculine approaches dominiate in producing knowledge. Taking an arts-based and bricolage approach, I have expressed an epistemic disobedience to this hegemony through performative uses of images, story telling, archetypes, “fictocriticism,” and performative writing.

Your tax dollars at work.

I believe in some long-ago post, I mentioned an excellent book on writing titled Telling Writing, by Ken Macrorie. He has a term for that desperate-to-sound-intelligent style of writing that’s basically big-word gobbledygook: Engfish.  Universities produce reams of the stuff.

I’ve also mentioned Eric Hoffer, author of the fabulous little book The True Believer. Hoffer wrote in the 1950s, but his insights about people are (unfortunately) still relevant today. Here are some quotes from his book Reflections on the Human Condition:

Where thought is prompted by a penchant for weightiness and a high purpose, the result is often a blend of pompousness and hysteria.

An empty head isn’t really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish.

And that’s what we get with these supposed scholars: pompous, hysterical rubbish written in Engfish.

If we were merely talking about tortured sentences no sane person would want to decipher, that would be bad enough. But even when the language is somewhat comprehensible, it’s clear that intellectual rigor not only isn’t a requirement in these goofy academic circles, it may actually be discouraged.

We’re talking about women (I’m assuming women isn’t an oppressive word — it’s difficult to tell with this crowd) who choose to major in oh-so-practical fields like feminist studies, then write papers explaining that the evil patriarchy is the reason not enough women major in math and science … instead of, say, feminist studies.

After finishing their courses in feminist studies, they write more papers explaining that when males and females behave differently (assuming they don’t consider the labels male and female to be oppressively cisnormative), it’s solely because of socialization imposed by the evil patriarchy. For an eco-feminist vegan to believe such nonsense, she merely has to love animals so much that she never actually spends any time with them and therefore knows almost nothing about them.

We’ve raised a lot of chickens over the years. Every rooster we’ve owned (I’m assuming owned is an oppressive word) attacked me at least once if not several times. Little bird, a fraction of my size, attempting to kick my ass. Why? Because they’re roosters, and that’s what roosters do. Get too close to the flock, and they’ll beat your legs with their wings or try to spike you with their spurs.

I’ve never had a hen attack me, other than make a half-hearted poke at my hand when I was reaching in to collect eggs. (I’m assuming collecting eggs was an exploitative act on my part.) Roosters act like roosters and hens act like hens because that’s how Nature coded them. Socialization or the chicken patriarchy or toxic rooster masculinity or whatever have diddly to do with it.

In his breakout book 12 Rules for Life, psychologist Jordan Peterson spends nearly an entire chapter describing the battle for dominance among male lobsters. Dr. Peterson isn’t trying to make your next visit to Red Lobster more illuminating. He’s making the point that lobsters are one of the oldest species on the planet, and we see the battle for dominance play out among males in nearly every species that came along after lobsters … lions, deer, monkeys, humans, you name it.  If you want to avoid being a pushover, you’d best be aware that a drive for dominance is woven into the fabric of the world.  Stand up straight with your shoulders back, as Dr. Peterson advises, so the dominance-seekers don’t make you a target.  (He is of course talking about an attitude, not just a physical posture.)

Males act like males because they have male hormones, not because Daddy Lobster socialized Junior Lobster into a pattern of toxic masculinity. In fact, as several scientists have demonstrated in animal studies, you can inject a female or a passive male with testosterone and BINGO! — you get a much more active, aggressive animal as a result. Some female animals injected with testosterone will even pursue and try to mate with other females — without asking permission first. Or you can block testosterone production in a male and end up with a far less aggressive critter as a result.

Even a writer for The New York Times understands how strongly hormones affect behavior:

Testosterone is clearly correlated in both men and women with psychological dominance, confident physicality and high self-esteem. In most combative, competitive environments, especially physical ones, the person with the most T wins. Put any two men in a room together and the one with more testosterone will tend to dominate the interaction. Working women have higher levels of testosterone than women who stay at home, and the daughters of working women have higher levels of testosterone than the daughters of housewives. A 1996 study found that in lesbian couples in which one partner assumes the male, or ”butch,” role and another assumes the female, or ”femme,” role, the ”butch” woman has higher levels of testosterone than the ”femme” woman.

Anyway, to sum up the rant: to be taken in by the multisyllabic blathering (or what I sometimes refer to as verbal vomit) found in papers produced by “eco-feminist” or other gender-studies scholars, you have to live in the Dr. Hooey universe, not the real one.  You have to pretend hormones don’t affect behavior — or, as some feminist scholars have advocated, you simply declare actual sciences like biology to be part of the patriarchy so you can ignore them.

So now that I’ve expressed my opinion of the rigorous scholarship typical of the field, let’s return to the paper and its Engfish explanation of why some vegans just aren’t doing it right. Or for the right reasons. Or something.

While these diets have an important role for vegetarian eco-feminists, as signs of resistance against the patriarchal and capitalist exploitative system, in post-feminism they have become sexy and business oriented.

Well, at least now when I hear people talk about being part of “the resistance,” I’ll know what they’re resisting: the patriarchal and capitalist exploitative system. This is, of course, in stark contrast to communist and socialist systems, where other people are allowed to live off the fruits of your labor, yet you are somehow not exploited in the process.

As for all that brave resisting going on … I dunno, when I think of resistance fighters, I tend to picture people who actually put themselves in danger while blowing up bridges and such to interrupt Nazi troop and supply movements. Seems to me engaging in “resistance” by eating soybeans instead of burgers is pretty wimpy. (I assume wimpy is an oppressive word.)

Our argument is that while eco-feminists have embraced vegetarian and vegan regimes as ethical and political choices, post-feminism depoliticizes and deradicalizes them. In this way, they become part of an individualistic project that emphasizes empowerment and meritocracy; choice, agency, and responsibilization; and the focus on a healthy, sexy body.

Ahh, now we get to the meat of the problem. (I assume meat is an offensive and oppressive word, but don’t care.) If you embrace a vegan regime as a political statement, you’re doing it for the right reasons.  (I assume a vegan regime, as opposed to a vegan regimen, is what you get when a dictator’s idiotic economic policies finally cause a permanent shortage of all animal foods.  North Korea may be a vegan regime by now.)

But if you go vegan for your own empowerment — especially as part of a quest for a healthy, sexy body — you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Well, I have to say, that certainly pokes holes in the arguments made by a lot of vegetrollians.  (I assume pokes is an offensive word to eco-feminists, but don’t care.) Back when vegan zealots were constantly showing here up in the comments, they kept telling me if I give up meat, I’ll live longer. Or get skinny and sexy like them. In fact, one of the best-selling vegan books is titled Skinny Bitch and promises women that going vegan will make them radiantly healthy, thin and beautiful.

Next time a vegan tries that argument on me, I’ll just quote this next paragraph from the paper:

Ultimately, the post-feminist articulation of vegan diets promotes a form of “commodity veg*ism,” that is not only devoid of any critical force, but also reproduces existing patterns of discrimination and inequality.

Look here, you vegan zealot, by promising me I’ll get healthy and skinny, you are promoting commodity veganism devoid of any critical force! And worse, you’re asking me to reproduce existing patterns of discrimination and inequality by adopting a diet to make myself more attractive than the other boys. Isn’t the world unfair enough already?!

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t handle the guilt. So I’ll avoid the whole internal conflict and continue eating meat. I hope the eco-feminists understand … not that I can understand anything they write in their papers.

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The Farm Report: Back To Work At Last

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Man, it’s good to be alive and working outside on a spring day in Tennessee.

That’s what I was thinking on Saturday afternoon. After the surgery, then weeks of having my arm pinned to my side in a sling, then months of recovery and physical therapy, I finally got to do some actual work on the land. The time and effort required didn’t quite take me to the mental and physical state I call Dog-Tired Satisfied, but it was close – close enough that I felt justified in downing a cold Guinness afterwards while sitting outside and taking in the view.

We’ve been planning for years to surround the back of the property with cattle panels (Chareva’s favorite construction material) so the dogs can run around back there. I even got as far as hacking the jungle away from a line of t-posts that run alongside the creek.

But as Nature has demonstrated several times, jungles grow back. There are t-posts hiding in that mess you see in the pictures below.

We’ve had rain most weekends this spring, but Saturday was sunny and right around 60 degrees. Perfect outdoor-work weather. So I fired up The Beast for first time since last autumn.

Cutting down the jungle in that patch of land requires a lot of switching from forward to reverse. There are some steep drop-offs along the creek, and given that The Beast weighs a ton, going forward just a wee bit too far could mean hiring a small gang of strong men to lift it up and out of there. The jungle is so thick in some spots along the creek, it’s impossible to see where the land stops and the little cliffs begin. So I put The Beast at its lowest speed and moved forward verrry slowwwly.

Success. After about two hours, I’d cleared enough of the jungle to expose the line of t-posts. The next step will be to do some additional clean-up using my weed-whacker with a sawblade attachment.

Of course, while I was recovering from surgery, Chareva still had plenty of farm chores to keep her occupied. As you may recall, we built a new chicken yard last August to move the surviving chickens away from a racoon who had (as I discovered far too late) taken up residence somewhere beneath their coop. When we first moved them, their new yard looked like this:

All nice and green. Now it looks like this:

That’s what chickens do. But as we’ve discovered, that pecked-bare land is exceptionally fertile because of all the chicken droppings. So Chareva moved the chickens to one of the old chicken yards, and this one will become a garden. She just planted some blueberry bushes in there.

She’s also been busy building raised beds in her existing garden area. You probably can’t see it in the picture below, but she took the extra netting from the newest chicken yard and extended it over the garden. The net doesn’t quite reach the fence on one side, but we’ll worry about that if and when we ever rotate chickens to this area.

My last bit of farm work before the surgery was inside Sara’s cabin. I spent an October weekend cutting away bits of wood that extended beyond the 2 x 4s in the ceiling. (Too bad I was doing the work with a bone spur in my shoulder. That probably contributed to shredding the bicep tendon.)

I’ve been lobbying to get the cabin finished because I’d like Sara to enjoy it for a few years before she leaves for college. After talking over the possibilities with Chareva, Sara decided she’d be happy to call the ceiling finished (for now, at least) if they used fabric instead of wood planks. She and Chareva took care of that job recently.

That just leaves the floor. Chareva scored some free flooring from a contractor who had salvaged it from his last job. After putting down a plastic vapor barrier, she and Sara began installing the flooring a couple of weeks ago. They’ll need another day or two to finish it. Then it will finally be time to drag some furniture into the place and call it done.

Did I say Sara leaves for college in a few years? Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are. One more month, and her first year of high school will already be over. Come November (when I’ll turn 60), she’ll be able to get a learner’s permit. As a father, that scares me a bit.

I don’t want driver’s ed class to be the first time she’s behind the wheel of a car. I own a good-sized chunk of land. I put two and two together and realized we have an opportunity here: she can drive around the front pastures just to get used to the feel of the gas pedal, brake, steering wheel.  There’s almost nothing out there to hit.

You can imagine what happens when you mention the possibility of driving to a 14-year-old. All other desires take a back seat. I can drive? When? WHEN?!

I told her we’d have to wait until the front pastures are completely dry — meaning several days with no rain — because I don’t want to slide around or get stuck out there. She tracked the weather like a meteorologist, counting the consecutive days with no rain. It’s been a wet spring, so she kept having to restart the clock.

But a couple of weeks ago, Friday afternoon rolled around after a five-day dry stretch. Before Sara arrived home from school, I made a 25-cent bet with Alana: how long after Sara walks through the door will she ask me to take her driving in the front pastures? Alana placed her bet on five minutes. I said two minutes.

The correct answer was 30 seconds. And so, 25 cents richer, I made good on my promise.

Man, it’s good to be alive and driving around the pastures on a spring day in Tennessee …

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