Sunday, March 17, 2013

Vatican Idol- Season I

It's been a long time since an event has compelled me to write. And as you might expect, the event falls into the "Big Three" of  topics:  Religion, Politics and Bacon.  In this case, I'm talking about the election of the new leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis I.

As an extremely dormant Catholic, Papal matters normally don't interest me.  I wouldn't say that I've entirely abandoned my religion, but lets just say I metaphorically went our for cigarettes 20 years ago and haven't come back.  But the drama and intrigue of a Pope giving his two weeks notice drew me in for a few reasons.  Afterall, this is only the second time this has happened in Betty White's lifetime.

Interesting sidenote, but what really forced me to revisit my religion was the whole notion of the College of Cardinals having some extra time to find his replacement.  Normally after one Pope expires, they want to replace him as quickly as possible before people start jumping ship.

So there they were with two extra weeks to contemplate the next leader of 1 billion registered Catholics.  Just enough time for me to update my resume get it to the Vatican.  Now, I'm not so delusional that I thought I had a good chance at being the next Pontiff.  Afterall, my resume is extremely light in theology, I only know enough latin to pick up chicks in law school, and I haven't stepped foot inside a Catholic Church in five years, unless you count cutting through the parking lot on my way to Steak and Shake.

Still, I thought maybe they would mix it up a bit this time.  Look for something different that would attract younger Catholics.  Maybe look at the millenials and see this as the religious version of "bring your own device" to work.  Afterall, the Pope was on Twitter for a day and a half.  Perhaps after centuries of electing guys who had one red shoe in the grave, they wanted a fresh face.

But Alas, just days before Pope Francis was fitted for his golden ring from Shane Company, I recieved a form rejection letter for the College of Cardinals.  It was almost verbatim (from the latin word verbum...ahem) to the letters I recieved in my twenties.  Not enough experience, qualifications don't match responsibilities, please apply again when you're a Cardinal, blah blah blah.

Then the black smoke.  Black smoke.  More black smoke.  And finally, white smoke.  The Cardinals fell back into the traditional methods of electing a new Pope and missed a golden opportunity to modernize the Catholic franchise.  Instead of giving all of the power to a few hundred of the 1 billion Catholics worlwide ,why not open up voting to all of us?  It could be like American Idol, only better because there would be no Randy Jackson.

We could even allow the Cardinals to narrow the field down to the top 12 contestants, and then let the Catholic masses take it from there every Thursday at 8:00 Eastern.  The top 12 contestants could be judged weekly in areas such as, "best latin, "best miracle", "coolest hat", and of course the "X" factor.  Or the XIII factor if you were planning to choose the Papal name Pius.  Pope Benedict could even coach them kind of like that guy Jimmy on American Idol.  And the Dalai Lama could be a guest judge.

Voters could text their votes to POPE04 where standard texting charges may apply.  They could even vote on the Papal name, which could also use some updating in my humble opinion.  How about replacing "Pope Pius" with Pope PiuZ, or "Pope Innocent" with "Pope Inno$ent Featuring Meely KrewZ".

I realize that in the eyes of many Cardinals, this would be only slightly more popular than electing an aetheist, or Sean Penn.  It would be a the huge departure from traditional release of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere after each vote, but I'm sure College of Cardinals would love the ratings.  It might even launch a few careers of Cardinals who don't get elected Pope.  They might get signed by another religion, put out a solo album or choose the path Reuben Studdard and sink back even further into obscurity.

Had I been offered the job, I certainly would have considered this model for my successor.  Who knows- maybe I'll get a call back during the next vacancy as my letter said they would keep my resume on file. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

"The Cleanse Diet" or "How I Lived Without Bacon for Seven Days"

Some of you may know that Mrs. MacT is a vegetarian.  Technically she's an ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means she eats dairy and egg.  By most standards, she's a vegetarian and has been since college.  But I knew this when we met.  It wasn't as if she surprised me three years into our marriage, suddenly switching sides in the middle of the game.  I knew what I was getting into.  Or so I thought.

Since our nuptials it has been an implicit, mutual understanding that I wouldn't attempt to sway her back to the omnivore side, and she would not attempt to turn me into a kale slurping, lentil eater.  So far it has worked fairly well.  Even during pregnancy cravings when she talked about buffalo wings non-stop for three weeks, I held up my end of the agreement by eating them in the other room.  And bless her malnourished little heart, she is happy to prepare animal-based dishes for me and the little MacTs.

However recently, Mrs. MacT read a book about a dietary "cleanse" and for reasons beyond my comprehension, I decided to accompany her on this journey through gastronomic hell.  And though this cleanse technically allows for some meat, I feel like I'm dangerously close to other side, albeit temporarily.

So why am I embarking on this little adventure?  I honestly have no clue.  I already consider myself a healthy person; I work out regularly, eat very little processed or unhealthy food and haven't seen the inside of a McDonald's since 1987.  I do have my vices, like anyone.  And this is where this little challenge will get tough, even though it's only for seven days.  I love coffee (32 oz per day like clockwork)- no caffeine.  I love scotch (not to the point of singing, dancing, crying or fighting but I enjoy a good dram of single malt weekly, especially when I write)- no alcohol.  I love bacon (do I need to explain why?)- no bacon.  In fact, this cleanse goes beyond detoxification of free radicals and also forbids foods that are normally considered healthy; bananas, oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, Captain get the picture.

For the next seven days, I'll be feasting primarily on lentils, quinoa, broccoli, kale, grean tea, brown rice, rice milk, apples, almonds and coldwater fish- whatever that is. 

At the end of seven days, I hope to have regained some natural energy, rejuvenated my body's ability to heal itself, improved my general sense of well being, and added four inches to my vertical leap.  At least that's what the book promises.  Time will tell.  In the meantime:

Goodnight coffee
Goodnight moon
Goodnight cow made of cheeseburgers jumping over the moon
Goodnight scotch, and the glass of Harpoon....

This is making me a little sad.  More to come...


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Charlie Sheen is in Fact- Winning

Have you ever looked back at a particular moment in history and thought, "Boy did society get that wrong.  What the hell were those people thinking?  Slavery?  The Inquisition?  Parachute pants?" 

We've all been quick to point and snicker at the one ring circus that is Charlie Sheen's life.  But I have a nagging feeling folks, that we're going to look back at this at some point and realize Charlie was right.  It may not be tomorrow.  It may not be next year, or in the next 20 years.  It may not even be before the Cubs win another World Series.  But mark my words, eventually this Inconvenient Truth Torpedo will tear a hole in our collective stern larger than Jay Leno's chin.  He is winning and we are losing.

Lets face it- none of us live in Beverly Hills collecting $2 million dollars to do whatever it is he does.  Maybe he is winning, and we're just miserable, stinking trolls who are held in bondage by organizations like AA, AAA, the ABA and the USDA.  If we were to score my life against Charlie's, Sheen would be pitching a shutout.

Charlie Sheen:  Tiger blood; Adonis DNA
Me:  Guinea Pig blood, SpongeBob Squarepants DNA
Advantage, Sheen

Charlie Sheen:  Rock Star from Frickin' Mars
Me:  Subway Sandwich Artist from Frickin' Des Moine
Advantage,  Sheen

Charlie Sheen: Highest paid actor on TV
Me:  Third highest paid guy on the lunch shift
Advantage, Sheen:

Charlie Sheen:  Warlock
Me:  Not a Warlock
Advantage, Sheen

Charlie Sheen:  Starred in movie "Major League"
Me:  Can quote the move "Major League"
Advantage, Sheen

So maybe in the real world, none of these comparisons really matter.  By all accounts, anyone who is happy is winning.  Charlie Sheen obviously is not.  He may have millions of dollars and all of the other acoutrements that fame can afford, but obviously the guy needs real help.  I feel bad for the actor who gave us such compelling performances in movies like Platoon, Wall Street and Hot Shots- Part Deux.  All kidding aside, I hope for his sake and his children, this he gets help quickly.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oprah's Frontal Assault on Omnivores

My fourth least favorite person on the planet, Oprah Winfrey, recently launched another attack on my God given right to enjoy a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.  I'm referring to, of course, Ms. Winfrey's 2011 Vegan Challenge.

The challenge:  no eating meat, fish, dairy, eggs or anything derived from the animal kingdom for seven days.  The irony:  She partook in this challenge while still wearing her leather shoes and perfume derived from whale fat among other animal-based consumer products.   Two years ago, the "queen of whatever is trendy" attempted a 21-day vegan cleanse of her own, but apparently was not impressed enough with the lifestyle for it to stick.  This year she lowered the bar to seven days, but also dragged 378 poor saps on her payroll into this Godforsaken baconless world.

The results were apparently mixed, though I'm sure the challenge's sponsor, Kathy Freston, would consider the experiment a huge success.  Oprah Winfrey just promoted her books and lifestyle for the second time in two years, and several of the lab rats actually had some very nice sound bites and anecdotes.  I'd call that a financial success if I were Ms. Freston, too. 

So here is my standard disclaimer:  I don't care what you eat, and I would appreciate it if you didn't care what I eat.  If you want to promote healthy eating, that's great.  But don't assume that people who aren't in lock step with your lifestyle are any less healthy or happy.  I recently read some of the results and reactions, and question the interpretation on Oprah's site.
"Some staffers had a harder time with the challenge than others. Co-Producer Veronica says she used to eat a lot of fast food, and eating vegan left her feeling "angry." Kathy told her it was because she had an addiction."

Addiction?  Color me reactionary, but Kathy Freston has no business diagnosing anyone with an addiction.  She's not a doctor.  Or a psychologist.  She's not even a nutritionist.  In fact, I'm pretty sure she isn't even a certified yoga instructor.  Her credentials?  She began modeling at the age of 16,  married too young and was involved in a bad relationship.  Re-married a wealthy producer (who happens to be currently working for the Oprah Winfrey network) and wrote a book about her previous relationship.  Later, she proclaimed herself a wellness expert and began writing other books.  Thanks for the addiction diagnosis, but do you mind if I get a second opinion from my wife's equally qualified hair colorist?

As for the anger; I'd be angry too if I were staring at a bowl full of kelp for lunch.  Me, personally, I'd rather get punched in the groin by a five year old with a runny nose and bad table manners.


"By the third day, Rich says he felt better than he had in 10 years. Before the challenge, Rich says he was taking six to eight antacids a day and suffering from migraine headaches. "And let's qualify it, I ate horribly," he says. "I ate poor foods. Now I don't. And I lost 11 pounds."

Eleven pounds in one week?  Someone obviously removed part of Rich's brain, which was included in total weight loss.  Note to Rich: you can eat healthy, lose weight and still be an omnivore.  Really.  There are, like, hundreds of us who do it.


"By the end of the week, 300 of the 378 Harpo staffers who signed up successfully completed the challenge. Collectively, they lost 444 pounds and gained 84 pounds...and used a record amount of toilet paper.

78 Harpo staffers have a modicum of intelligence.  378 people lost a total of 360 pounds (444 minus 84 gained) in one week.  That's less than one pound per staffer, which equates to two glasses of water.  Don't aggregate the numbers to make them sound more impressive.  And what about the tiolet paper consumption?  Wasting normally productive time while sitting on the can, killing trees to produce "record amounts" toilet paper and wasting thousands of additional gallons of water flushing toilets.  How does this factor into the green lifestyle?

The real result of Oprah's challenge?  More air time for this unqualified whack job to sell her books.  As I've stated before, everything in moderation (except bacon).  I agree that people should be conscious, healthy eaters, except around the holidays or during March Madness.   But what I don't agree with is Oprah turning her mindless minions into lentil recipe exchanging stepford wives because some fly-by-night wellness "expert" thinks veganism is the new Prius.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Battle for our Hearts, Minds and Stomachs

There is a silent war raging in America. A war without weapons, but not without casualties. It’s tearing apart families and destroying relationships. Battles are taking place on college campuses, in homes, grocery stores, restaurants, on and Twitter. At stake in this conflict are our very souls, and our rightful position atop the food chain. I’m talking about the battle of herbivores versus omnivores.
For those of us in the trenches, the battles intensify with each passing year. Restaurants are bypassed due to a lack of vegetarian options. Side dishes are increasingly becoming main dishes at holiday dinners and office parties. And looks of disapproval are intensifying with each mouth-watering forkful of pork tenderloin braised with a white wine, rosemary and shallot reduction.

For some, this battle is about health. For some, it’s ethics. For others, it’s about freedom of choice. Discussing dietary lifestyles can be both emotionally and politically charged. Conservative versus liberal. Vegetarian versus Omnivore. Vegan versus Pescatarian.

The herbivore’s conundrum is their argument that we are just another one of God’s creatures. What gives us the right to kill and eat another of God’s creatures? The paradox is that God’s creatures are continuing to kill and eat each other on a regular basis. Ah, but we are a more evolved creature; on a higher plane than God’s “other” creatures. So if this is true, we are not “just” another of God’s creatures. We must be above them. And what better way to prove that we’re above them, than to kill and eat them?

The omnivore’s dilemma, well, apparently we’re nihilistic, unethical, heartless, earth scorchers because we occasionally enjoy buffalo wings or a McRib sandwich.

Personally, I make no judgments about one’s dietary choices. I am an omnivore, and no book, movie, television commercial or haiku will ever change this. I’ve even tried my own version of the 100-mile diet, eating only food processed at plants within 100 miles of my home. It was much harder than I thought, primarily because I don’t know my geography.

The way I see the animal kingdom is fairly simplistic. There are three types of animals; pets, food and everything else. I don’t condone the cruelty to any of these groups, though I wouldn’t scratch someone who occasionally kicks a cat off of my Christmas card list. Some cats are just asking for it.

All I ask in return is that others don’t make judgments about my dietary choices. Don’t recommend movies like, “Food Inc.”, books like, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, or CDs by Sarah McLaughin. Don’t make snide comments about the amount of nitrates in my bacon wrapped hot dog kabobs. And don’t expect me to eat arugula as an entrĂ©e on a regular basis. Everything in moderation. People who consistently criticize vegetarians tend to be somewhat Neanderthalic; and pure vegans, well let’s just say some can suck the fun right out of the room.

As the conflict intensifies, the omnivores appear to be losing ground. Up to 13% percent of the U.S. population considers themselves vegetarian or semi-vegetarian. Semi vegetarians may continue to eat eggs (ovo-vegetarian), or dairy (lacto-vegetarian), fish (pescatarian) or Jello and/or Jello Pudding Pops, which contain dairy and gelatin (Jello Pudding Popsatarian). An additional 17% of the U.S. population has indicated that they will likely reduce animal intake in the future. Great news for bean growers.

In the meantime, where the lives of omnivores and herbivores are intertwined, a psychological tug of war is taking place.

“You’re killing helpless animals.”
“I’m ridding the world of carbon producing cows. You’re killing oxygen-producing plants. Now who is the bad guy?”
“You’re going to die of heart disease.”
“You’re anemic.”
“You’re a heartless ogre.”
“I hear ogre is the new bison. I probably taste delicious. You’re high maintenance.”

Not all conflicts are this overt. Many of these messages are merely implied. But the battles are still very real, and each side believes they have a trump card. Herbivores secret weapon is their belief that vegetarianism will save the planet and the human race. And omnivore’s secret weapon is bacon.

Vegetarian web sites have sound the validation cry as they publish the latest vegetarian statistics and poll results. But like all battles, there are stories, like this, behind the statistics.   My job- to bring these stories to you.  More to come.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Plushenko Discredits Saints Super Bowl Victory

Yevgeny Plushenko, who recently criticized Evan Lysacek's Olympic gold medal performance has recently turned his sour grapes ire toward the Super Bowl Champion New Orlean Saints.  Through an interpreter, Plushenko was quoted, "I was positive that the Colts should have won that Super Bowl.  Maybe they felt the Saints needed it more and the Colts already had one.  I don't know how you can consider yourself a world champion when you have a defense made of swiss cheese."  Plushenko was referring to the Saints winning the championship despite giving up an average of 52 points per game during the regular season.

Plushenko continued, "If you can win a championship by playing offense only, it's not a sport.  It's arena football."  Drew Brees was shocked and hurt by the comments. "I guess I was a little disappointed that someone who was my role model would take a hit at me in probably one of the most special moments of my life that I'll never forget, regardless of what anyone said there.  I've even attempted to grow a wicked mullet like Yevgeny in his honor."

Brees was also quoted, "For him to discredit the Saints is not right, it's probably the strongest Saints team there has ever been.  In fact, as soon as this interview is over, the Plushenko posters in my bedroom are coming down and I'm shaving off the mullet.  But maybe he said some things in the heat of the moment and I should give him the benefit of the doubt.  So I'll still keep the autographed 2005 world championships leotard."

Later that day, Plushenko was also overheard criticizing last year's American Idol winner, Kris Allen.  "I don't know how you can be the American Idol when you cannot even hold a C flat for at least 45 seconds.  It's no longer singing, it's rapping."

Allen could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hacked off at China: Google takes on the Red Dragon

I realize this news isn't as mainstream as Heidi Montag getting 34 plastic surgeries last month at a drive-thru clinic in California, but I argue that it's slightly more important.  Over the past decade, the Chinese have been perperating extremely sophisticated and coordinated cyber attacks on a variety of U.S. interests from goverment to large corporations.  These attacks rarely make big news for a variety of reasons, but recently Google has decided to raise a red flag.

Google has threatened to shut down their Chinese search engine and pull out of the country unless the government agrees to allow uncensored search in the communist country.  The event that prompted their tough stance was a serious attack on their infrastructure.  An attack that Google has all but officially accused the Chinese government of conducting.  Of course the Chinese deny involvement.  Right.  And Mongolia built that wall to keep the Chinese out.

We all know that the Chinese are dirty players and power hungry, but these attacks can be construed as an act of war-like agression.  Interpol estimates roughly $1 trillion in stolen intellectual property was stolen through hacking in 2008.  The vast majority of attacks originate in Russia and China and even though their governments deny involvement, their words are meaningless.  They stand there like four-year olds with icing all over their faces, and deny eating the cake.

So why do we treat cyber theft so lightly?  If the Chinese government waltzed into Bank of America and stole $1 billion dollars, we'd have the entire Pacific fleet parked off of the coast of Japan.  Yet because the crimes happen electronically, nobody seems to care.  They are on the other side of the world, not at our borders but their intent is the same:  cripple us, while they grow stronger.

So how much is enough and what should our retaliation be against the Chinese?  Government sponsored cyber warfare?  Boycotts?  Miltary action?  I don't believe Military action is the right answer, and cyber attacks might escalate into mass chaos.  But maybe the old adage of living and dying by the sword could still apply.  They attack us with computers; we attack them with computers.  The difference is that we drop our from airplanes over Beijing and Shang Hai.

Would several thousand desktops cause billions of dollars in damage?  No, but it would sure get their attention.