Last night’s premiere of s.5 of Breaking Bad featured Larry Hankin as a junk-yard dealer. Coincidentally, in the mid-80s, Mr. Hankin also dealt junk to the Big Bad Wolf:
(The Hulu clip won’t work in some browsers, so you can also see it here on YouTube at 9:00.)
There’s no way that Vince Gilligan didn’t know about Mr. Man. Breaking Bad is outrageously smart and clever, but this might be the most deeply embedded joke it’s played so far. If you didn’t know before: Walter White is now the Big Bad Wolf. (And the Big Bad Wolf is Jeff Goldblum.)
According to the CDC, the HPV vaccine not only prevents genital warts and the spread of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection; it also protects against cervical cancer, which afflicts 12,000 and kills 4,000 women per year in the United States. The National Cancer Institute of the NIH, which recommends that the vaccine be administered to women between the ages of 13 and 26 who have not already been vaccinated, estimates that HPV vaccination can reduce the incidence of lethal cervical cancer by as much as two-thirds.
Seizing on the opportunity to significantly reduce cancer deaths for the relatively modest cost of a vaccination would seem like a no-brainer. South Carolina’s House of Representatives agreed, approving the bill by a 63-40 vote with bipartisan support, and the state Senate was even more emphatic, passing the initiative by a whopping 40-2 margin. Not so fast, said Haley, who must figure that cervical cancer is another thing women don’t care about. Defending the move in her veto message, Haley explained that providing seventh-graders with an HPV vaccine is a precursor to “another taxpayer funded healthcare mandate.” There are so many fallacies in this remark, it’s hard to pick a place to start.
It’s not really clear what Haley means by “another taxpayer funded healthcare mandate,” but let’s assume she’s referring to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That legislation isn’t a taxpayer funded mandate, or really a taxpayer funded anything for that matter. It’s a law that, in exchange for prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, will require individuals not already covered by insurance plans to purchase minimal, essential health insurance coverage or to face a civil penalty. Such insurance coverage is only “taxpayer funded” in the tautological sense, in that since we are all “taxpayers,” anything that any of us purchases is “taxpayer funded.” But in that sense, even the nice shoes on Governor Haley’s feet were “taxpayer funded,” let alone the over $127,000 of public money she spent during a week in Europe looking for “jobs, jobs, jobs,” so she mustn’t have meant it that way.
Whatever Haley meant, it’s self-evident that a taxpayer funded mandate of any kind is an oxymoron. A mandate by itself doesn’t require funding; it is merely a command that its subjects act a certain way. For instance, who “funds” the mandate Nikki Haley signed requiring South Carolina voters to show photo ID at the polls? That’s a rhetorical question, so you needn’t respond – the answer is that Haley’s comments weren’t about a “mandate,” they were a cheap swipe at the healthcare reform bill now pending before the Supreme Court and a tired attempt to portray that bill’s most significant feature as “socialism.” Real socialists hate the individual mandate because forcing the public to buy private insurance is, obviously, the very opposite of socialism. But today’s republicans couldn’t care less what real socialists think, since labeling something as “socialist” is one of many conservative clichés they can hide behind to avoid meaningful policy discussion. Such is the prerogative of a political party whose base has become so unhinged that it resides in an ideological hall of mirrors.
And even if the Affordable Care Act did impose some sort of a government-run, single-payer healthcare system – which it doesn’t and is a long way from coming to fruition even if the democrats wanted it to – how could there be “another” one, as Haley seems to fear? Is it possible to impose socialism on top of socialism? Haley has trapped herself with her own vacuous rhetoric. She can’t, out of one side of her mouth, miscast Obamacare as having imposed socialized medicine on America, while simultaneously, out of the other, striking down new legislation on the grounds it could lead us to socialized medicine.
It’s OK, Kalon. I’m sure you’ll get a rose next time.
When I committed to writing for this blog, I figured mosts of my posts would be about ABC’s reality clusterwank, The Bachelorette. In all seriousness, The Bachelor(ette) franchise significantly motivated this blog. The thinking was that I could offer a semi-regular dose of semi-humorous, semi-insightful commentary from a voice outside of the show’s target audience of 18-34 year old women. Then I got sidetracked trying to track down a password, the season got a couple episodes ahead of me, and a blog inspired by a television dating show became one dedicated to jackals and obese sea mammals.
With the fun and games out of the way, it’s time to get serious: it’s time to bring you Pesky Blubber’s poll of #peskybachelors. I should note that this list doesn’t strive to present who should “win,” but rather who will. In order from next-to-go to Emily’s go-to-bro, feast your eyes. Then cast your own vote at the bottom.
6. Doug “The Hulk” Clerget. “The Hulk” is a fitting nickname for Doug, not only because the man clearly takes pride in his [ostensibly] steroid-enhanced physique, but also because he’s just as clearly a rageaholic. Being a 33 year-old Doug myself, I wanted to like this guy, but he lost me from the first episode when he presented Emily with a handwritten letter that he no doubt forced his 11-year old son to write. How poor Austin was supposed to pen a touching note to a women he’d never met, let alone how Emily could credibly claim she found the note touching, is beyond me. What isn’t beyond me is that Doug is a rat fink bastard whose first order of business on The Bachelor was to exploit his son – who he left behind in Tacoma for two months to compete on a reality show – as a cheap gimmick to connect with ABC’s first single mom bachelorette. It also hasn’t escaped my attention that Doug is conniving, uptight, and recreant (and enjoys cross-dressing). Just two weeks after engineering Tony’s exit, he sold Kalon down the river. Doug probably thought he hit the jackpot when Emily not only sent the “luxury brand consultant” packing but also expressed disappointment at everyone else who didn’t share Doug’s willingness to stab a bro in the back. Unfortunately for Mr. Perfect, as much as Emily talks a big game about “baggage” and demands that her suitors pay lip service to playing the part of Ricki’s daddy, her step-parent requirements are a one-way street. There’s no way Ms. Maynard will be mom to another man’s moppet. She’ll string Doug along a while longer before she ruthlessly yanks the plug. Thankfully, Doug is wound up so tight we might just get a good blow-up on his way down the drain.
5. John “Wolf” Wolfner. It’s fitting that Wolf’s first date with Emily was in a cave because he’s the stalactite of contestants: he keeps hanging around, slowly dripping in the dark, but otherwise leaving no proof that he exists. Never doing enough to draw the ire of Emily or the envy of the other guys, Wolf also never does enough to seem interesting or reveal who this “data destruction specialist” really is. After five two-hour episodes, almost all we know about “Wolf” we learned during that one date, which was a two-on-one date at that—and that is really all we need to know about him. Emily picked Wolf as one of the two guys to subject to the hell that is a two-on-one date, knowing she had to send one of the two home at the end. That is hardly a signal that she senses a deep bond with either. When Nate, Wolf’s co-date, proudly mispronounced “quinoa” and then broke down in tears during his alone time with Ms. Maynard, Wolf back-doored his way into a rose. This is the essence of Wolf – that he doesn’t screw up – and compared against a lot littered with screw ups, it’s not a bad strategy. Constantine Tzortzis played it into the penultimate episode a year ago, while Lindzi Cox rode the do-nothing pony all the way to the final episode with Ben Flajnik. ”Wolf” will get by with it another round or two, but not likely look enough to reach the Final Four and earn a prestigious home visit. That’s okay. We still love him for calling out Kalon’s designer luggage. And for the red pants.
4. Chris “Young Buck” Bukowski. I’m not a fan of Chris. Maybe it was the way he kicked things off by presenting Emily with a grotesque bobble-head doll in her likeness. Perhaps it was the way he over-aggressively, and shamelessly, moved in on Emily for his first kiss. Or it could have been his attempt to “confront” Doug over a perceived beef that consisted entirely of his own insecurity about his age. Whatever the reason, Chris comes offlikea weasel. Whether Emily realizes this or not is ultimately irrelevant because, whether Chris thinks he’s mature for his age or not, she is not going to get engaged to someone younger than she is. Chris gets points for being the first to steal a kiss, regardless of how awkwardly he pulled it off, and he’ll likely survive another couple weeks simply by staying off Emily’s naughty list. We can hope for another good tussle with Doug along the way, but Chris should be sufficiently deterred from his last dust-up to dare going there. The sooner “Young Buck” is gone, the happier I’ll be.
Mr. Potatohead thinks BDA has an oversized head and tiny face.
Pesky Blubber saw Ryan Bowers on Emily’s Bachelorette and immediately glossed him Big Dumb Animal. It’s unfortunate that the name stuck, because B.D.A. has proven to be a brilliant wordsmith. (Incidentally, he’s also mastered a fake Southern good-ole-boy accent that exists only when he’s talking to Emily.)
Week 4 saw B.D.A. going Ben Franklin on all sorts of topics, and Pesky Blubber was there to collect them*—and will be there during Week 5 to do it again.
How old is Nate? 25? How old is John? 30? Five year difference. It makes a difference in a man’s life.
I’ve had coaches tell me that the enemy of great is good. But just being good is, uh, not enough.
Me and you would have some pretty children. Some pretty kids.
On intelligent design.
God designed you to be a beautiful woman. So be a beautiful woman. You know what I mean?
There’s a lot of depth here. You know. To who I am. I have a very, I guess, mature approach to relationships.
You don’t establish a relationship built on physical…. You know, I used to think that way, for sure.
On being a superhero.
Isn’t it great whenever you’re able to use a position like this?
Coming into this, I was praying not only for myself but for you. That you would use this opportunity to really impact tons and tons of people.
To whom much is given much is required.
On the Protestant work ethic.
I think that God smiles on a man who recognizes his passions and chases his dreams.
I personally feel like God has blessed me. In a lot of ways. I’m romantic and I’m athletic and I’m a charming guy and all those things.
Emily: I like what I see in her. I see that there’s great potential. But, then again, to be very honest with you, I feel like I’m called to something bigger. You know.
I don’t know. I guess guys do see me at the head of the pack. A guy they’ll have to beat out. As they begin to feel a little bit less secure about where they stand with Emily, they’ll begin to lash out. Sometimes I even feel sorry for them.
I’m not really worried about Emily and Arie. She says that every time we’re around each other she’s more and more impressed by me. So I just don’t see Arie as a threat to be honest with you. I’m very sure that I am a really good catch. You know. And I think the other guys see that.
I know she’s attracted to me and I’m attracted to her. Tonight I want to flirt with her a little bit. And build up some excitement.
Being flirtatious is a good thing. If you can’t flirt, what can you do?
There you go touching my leg again. Golly. That’s fine.
On clever witticisms.
I’m not here to impress you, but to make an impression upon you. You know?
On mergers and acquisitions.
I’m really evaluating Emily. I’m just doing my due diligence I guess you could say at this point.
To a beautiful trophy … possible wife.
On earning it.
I think it’s very admirable of you that you recognize that even though you are the center of attention, it doesn’t automatically make you worthy. So, tell me why you are.
On the future.
When this whole thing is done, if it doesn’t work out for me, I’m involved with the media back home, I’m going to say, Let’s do Bachelor Ryan or Bachelor Augusta. You know what I mean?
I’m a good man. I know that. I’m confident in my own [indecipherable], the reason I make the choices that I make. If I was the Bachelor, I would be ready to open my heart up. And it would be neat for everybody to see.
With so much hate for “The King,” it was only a matter of time before Rick Reilly – the widelyderidedfrontrunner that he is – decided to get in on the fun. And oh boy, did he:
You hate him — still! — for the way he botched the announcement of his free-agent move from Cleveland to Miami.
Forget that hundreds of people move from Cleveland to Miami every year.
Forget that dozens of NBA players change teams every year.
No, Rick, that’s not it.
It was only one mistake. Has he showed up in any police reports since? Has he cheated on his fiancée ? Has he left his children stranded in the pick-up circle at school?
Has he refused to speak to reporters after a single game this season? Has he called out his teammates for their poor play, as Kobe Bryant did twice this postseason? Has he gotten his coach fired? Been fined for criticizing refs? Asked to be traded, released or named general manager?
Has he punched anybody? Choked anybody? Screamed at any parking valets? (Mom doesn’t count.)
Ummm, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, and no. And no, Rick, you’re not getting any warmer.
You despise him because he passes too much. Imagine that. You hate a modern NBA player for not being selfish.
This just takes the cake. C’mon, Rick, who would hate an NBA player for passing too much?!
When a columnist suggests something as absurd as hating a basketball player for passing too much, it’s hard to tell whether he really believes what he’s writing or is just setting up an elaborate straw man to demolish in a blaze of self-pleasing glory. Since this is Rick Reilly we’re talking about, we can’t really be sure, especially when he underscores his message with the gravitas of so many gratuitous one-sentence paragraphs and rhetorical questions. So let’s give Mr. Reilly the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s being honest—in which case the man needs an education.
Almost a year after the fact, LeBron finally issued an apology of sorts to the people of Cleveland for “the way it happened.” But because his mea culpa revealed nothing about himself, only that he knew people were upset with him, it utterly missed the point. We all have favorite athletes that don’t belong to our favorite teams, and we all realize people make mistakes in life. We don’t expect perfection, on the court or off. But we do demand that our heroes act human – whether they have superhuman talents or not – and that they possess a basic level of self-awareness such that we know, that they also know, that they are human. We demand that our champions be more than just a brand, and that they not be so terrified of diminishing their personal brands that they lose sight of their own humanity. As GrantLand staff writer Carles put it:
I want to root for an athlete who accepts that he has a genetic gift that enabled him to make more money than me, even though I potentially do something that is more valuable to my city’s local economy. I need an athlete to remind me that it is “just a game” every now and then without making me cry about an off-the-field issue that is “too real.” I want to sort out levels of “greatness” later, and enjoy the personalities of the game.
In short, we hate LeBron because he doesn’t get it. It wasn’t that he strung six cities along for months to read tea leaves as to where he would be “taking his talents;” the reality of modern sports is that any superstar athlete will disappoint the fans of most cities when he signs elsewhere as a free agent. It’s that LeBron exercised his prerogative to make a purely selfish decision all the while coaxing us along with a two year cocktease as if his decision would be about more than that. It wasn’t that “The Decision” itself was a wretched idea; it was probably Jim Gray’s idea anyway. It’s that LeBron didn’t realize how self-serving and off-putting it was to everyone watching, and still can’t squarely acknowledge this. It wasn’t that he disappeared after Game Two of the 2011 NBA Finals and watched his team fall to an undertalented Dallas Mavericks squad; the postseason is cruel in that way and no athlete is capable of winning them all. It’s that after losing, instead of capitalizing on the opportunity to express a little humility, LeBron took to the air to chastise the haters and gloat that “they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today.”
You know the way it sticks out as strange and a little narcissistic when people speak about themselves in the third person? LeBron James lives his entire public persona in the third person – and still seems oblivious to the fact he’s doing it. And that, Rick Reilly, is why “King James” is absolutely not the kind of person I would want my [unborn] children to have as their hero. He just doesn’t get it.
Rick Reilly apparently doesn’t get it either. Who knew he and LeBlivious had so much in common.
A friend of Pesky Blubber sent us this story about NY Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan. In the five months since his team lost to the Dolphins on New Years Day, he has dropped 90 lbs—for a stunning (and either stellar or egregious, depending on your perspective) 0.6-pound-per-day loss. That’s over 4 lbs a week for everyone dutifully adhering to the conventional wisdom of 1-2 lbs per week for healthy and sustainable weight loss.* What’s his secret? He’s not telling:
Ryan had gastric bypass surgery two years ago. Ryan declined an interview request to discuss exactly how he’s dropped the weight.
So it wasn’t your first guess. What else could it be? Here’s one clue:
Ryan said players are getting on him about how skinny he looks. “They push me to wear [long sleeves] because of the weight loss,” Ryan said. “My arms look like twigs and things. They’re like, ‘Please put some sleeves on.’ I’m like, ‘all right.
I don’t know what ‘twigs and things’ are. I know what a twig is, and I know what it means as a metaphor for an arm. What would the universal object-referencer ‘thing’ mean in this context? Did he get misquoted? Perhaps he really said ‘My arms look like twigs and things that no-one wants to look at because they induce revoltion in the viewer.’ We’ll never know. But we do know that whatever his weight-loss secret, it has made his arms look small and disgusting—which tells us that he has lost massive amounts of muscle on his crash diet.
That should eliminate the paleo (or even low carb) diet as a possibility. A paleo diet would include enough protein to spare muscle, and it should improve hormones that do the same. My guess is that he hired a personal chef and embarked on the tried-and-true low-fat, low-calorie route, replete with lots and lots of chronic cardio. It’s a well-worn path to weight loss and regain in 99% of participants. Good luck, Rex! You’re already in the 1% in another area of life. Make it two-for-two!**
But why is Rex being mum anyway? Is losing weight shameful? Or is it a trade secret that warrants protection [like how Disney convinced film critics to treat The Avengers like it wasn't a huge pile of shit on par with Daredevil]? I understand that what exactly causes obesity remains a mystery (sort of), and how to get rid of fat mass without down-regulating your metabolism is damn-near, if not entirely, impossible. And those two facts lead to ridiculous and dangerous means of shedding fat and to inevitably regaining it. Still, it’s strange that a feat that inspires so much applause—losing 25% of your body weight—would lead to silence. It makes us wonder about his technique, of course. But it also makes us wonder about the perception of weight loss as a whole. Is it now not only embarrassing*** to have put on weight, but also embarrassing to have lost it? It’s a fascinating development, if we may extrapolate one person’s silence to the entire world.
Or does it just indicate how brutal it is for someone who is generally considered overweight to discuss how he or she lost (or is trying to lose) that weight? Everyone has an opinion—particularly, I hear, lifetime skinny people who are on horrible diets themselves and can’t grasp that it is their genes and not their brilliance that has kept them that way. From that perspective, we think Rex is right on track refusing to divulge his secrets. Who wants every Giants fan in the country talking about your diet and ripping you apart for it? Other health issues are considered private, and maybe weight loss should be too.
*To be perfectly fair, the article says that his weight loss started during the season. But we’re all well-conditioned on how hard NFL coaches grind preparing for games each week. It’s seems safe to bet that his real strategy wasn’t in full force until after the season. It also makes the numbers work much better.
**Maybe not. The friend who shared this story with us predicted: ‘One thing is for sure. He will be fat as s**t by the end of the season.’
***That’s a descriptive, not a normative, judgment. I do not personally think that anyone should be embarrassed by weight gain. But I do think that, as a general matter, most people who gain weight are somewhat embarrassed by it, at least from my discussions with friends and having sat through ‘Weight of the Nation.’
One way to look at the study is that 93% of the time, three of the four categories improved or stayed the same. From this perspective, I would answer the researchers’ question by noting that adverse metabolic response to regular exercise is, indeed, rare. I would also title a write-up of the study something other than “For Some, Exercise May Increase Heart Risk.” And I would certainly refrain from opening that write-up with this:
Could exercise actually be bad for some healthy people? A well-known group of researchers, including one who helped write the scientific paper justifying national guidelines that promote exercise for all, say the answer may be a qualified yes.
Reasonable minds can disagree on what ‘some’ means; that’s all fluff anyway. There are still two key questions about the study that Ms. Kolata leaves unanswered and unexplored: (1) What was the exercise? and (2) Do the health markers studied actually predict heart disease? After all, the study doesn’t matter without answers to those questions – talking about ‘exercise’ without defining it is as vacuous as talking about a ‘healthy diet’ without defining health objectives, or using the phrase ‘hook up’ to describe a romantic encounter without detailing the particulars…
That is unless you blindly accept the government’s definition of exercise, or whatever type of exercise is routinely used in studies like those analyzed. Is exercise a brisk walk? Is it Cross-Fit? Is it a hike? Is it a leisurely bike ride? Is it 10 sets of 10 on the bench press Monday, Wednesday, and Friday [I just described the routine of 78% of 15-25 year-old American males or, for those living in Pacific Beach or Orlando, about 89% of men between 15 and 38]? The meta-analysis itself doesn’t answer the question either, instead just referring the reader to the six underlying studies. But it does say that all basically involved ‘endurance’ exercise.
I read somewhere (whoever you are, thank you for the insight, assuming it’s accurate, and if it’s not, oh well) that researchers always study the effects of exercise through endurance training because it’s easy to measure. Something like VO2 max can be calculated and compared, as can be the minutes that a subject pedals on a bike. It’s much more difficult to measure the activity of someone who is walking outside, or lifting weights, or playing soccer, or doing any of the thousands of other activities that most of us would consider ‘exercise.’
There are two points to take away from this. First, whatever the findings of the meta-analysis are, they only apply to the type of activity looked at in the underlying studies. The findings do not apply to any other activity.
In other words, Ms. Kolata presents a study about a narrow range of activity and writes it up for the New York Times as if it applies to all exercise. That’s bad journalism. It’s not just misleading; it’s false. Resistance training is exercise, but its effects weren’t studied. Swimming 25-yard sprints is exercise, but it also wasn’t studied. Another rigorous, typically late-night, activity was also left out—and I’m certain that its non-STD-related health effects are 100% positive.
The other point is that the study and write-up disguise the interesting finding that endurance exercise could have bad effects. The paleo community — led by Mark Sissons’ admonition against chronic cardio – has long been questioning the benefits of steady-state ‘endurance’ exercise. The U.S. first went through an aerobics epidemic; now it’s going through a marathon one (thanks Biggest Loser!). Although someone like Dr. Doug McGuff might disagree, I’m guessing that jogging is one activity that most Americans consider ‘exercise.’ But jogging feels nothing like sprinting, or lifting weights, or a Cross-Fit met-con session, nor is there any reason to assume the body responds to these activities the same way. Maybe some of these activities do not trigger the same response meta-analysis revealed about ‘endurance’ exercise. But the way the researchers wrote the article, and they way Ms. Kolata reported it, you’d never know.***
The other elephant is whether the biomarkers studied (insulin, blood pressure, trigs, & HDL) even matter for heart disease, or for other diseases. Ms. Kolata briefly touched on the issue:
Some critics have noted that there is no indication that those who had what Dr. Bouchard is calling an adverse response to exercise actually had more heart attacks or other bad health outcomes. But Dr. Bouchard said if people wanted to use changes in risk factors to infer that those who exercise are healthier, they could not then turn around and say there is no evidence of harm when the risk factor changes go in the wrong direction.
Right. So the question remains: Are what we now consider risk factors really risk factors, and if so, what are their relative weights? That’s for another post, which will be consist of little but links to books and blogs.
*I use ‘favorite’ here not to mean “I love her work; everyone should read her” (the way I would call AJ Liebling, DFW, & Joseph Epstein some of my favorite essayists), but in the sense of “I always read her articles because they make me furious” — a sort of Google algorithm of favorite.
**More on what exercise meant in the study later on. Those quotes aren’t there for nothing.
***The ‘what the f*** is exercise’ issue reminds me of the ‘what the f*** is fat’ issue that we encountered in HBO’s “Weight of the Nation.” That, too, will be another post.
When a jackal like Schilling says he favors “small government,” what he really means is “small government for the destitute, the disabled, the unemployed, and the children who attend failing public schools.” No government can be big enough when it comes to pumping public money to the start-up ventures of legendary former athletes who’d rather spend the state’s cash than their own when they decide to pursue their dreams of developing fantasy action video games. After all, these are the “job creators,” and we should give them what they want. Never mind when they blow the whole wad and lay everyone off within two years.
Congratulations, Curt. You’re PeskyBlubber’s inaugural Jackal of the Week!