Drink Your Fill

 

With the arrival of hot summer weather, people give more consideration to how much water they are drinking. It’s peculiar that such a basic survival and health issue has received as much medical and layperson attention as it has in the past forty years. It appears to coincide with the rise of the bottled water industry. Before that, people had a common sense approach to drinking water, as in drink when you’re thirsty, and drink a lot when you’re sweating. Not much too that. Certainly not enough to warrant the expenditure of millions of dollars in studies.

 

Ljubljana (7893964904)
Dog drinking from a fountain in Ljubljana, Slovenia; photo by Marjolein from The Netherlands.
One practice that has thankfully been mostly discarded in the past twenty or more years is the idea that restricting water intake helps lose weight, particularly during vigorous exercise in high heat and humidity. That boneheaded practice used to be the norm in outfits like football teams and military boot camps, though now it is suspiciously difficult to find evidence of it on the internet. Memories of survivors and their anecdotal evidence will have to do. The idea behind restricting water intake of a person who needed to lose weight was that a good portion of that weight was water. Sweat away the pounds! In reality, as opposed to just dreaming stuff up, there is more water weight in muscle than in fat.

 

Your body does a very good job of telling you what you need. When you’re outside working or exercising in 90 degree weather, with a heat index over 100 degrees, and you are pouring sweat, and your body is telling you to drink – nay, guzzle – some water, why would you let a moronic theory tell you otherwise? Would it make more sense if the moronic theory was proposed by a coach? a drill instructor? how about someone wearing a white lab coat and carrying a clipboard? Do you think your dog or cat would hesitate a second to listen to those people before lapping up copious amounts of life-giving water? How much more or less sensible are you than your dog or cat?

 

Fat tabby cat drinking water from a pond-Hisashi-01
Fat tabby cat drinking water from a pond; photo by Hisashi from Japan.
Thank goodness that nonsense is all behind us, or should be. Now it seems the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, with the silly recommendation about eight glasses of water a day. That recommendation appears to have arisen from bottled water industry executives whispering in the ears of select scientists and doctors. Ever since, there have been an awful lot of people striking poses with their high profile branded water sippy bottles. It gets to be like an article of clothing with a visible logo, announcing to all and sundry that you are a fitness-minded person with class. Sippy sippy all day long, eight glasses worth.

 


In this collection of Oompa Loompa songs from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa Loompas didn’t address water drinking, but their common sense, didactic advice would have been welcome if they had.

What really matters, again, is what your body tells you. Your age, body type, and regular level of physical exertion are trying to tell you things, too, though sometimes a doctor’s advice may be required for you to properly hear what they are saying. Common sense, listening to what your body wants and responding to it, and a plentiful supply of cool, pure water ought to keep you safe and healthy in the summer heat. Pain doesn’t always mean gain; sometimes it means maybe you should be sensible and take a break in the shade.
― Vita

 

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My Way or the Highway

 

While infrastructure in the United States crumbles from neglect and is starved of public funds needed for its repair, the owners of sports teams seem to have little trouble extracting public funds for what are ultimately private facilities. Most new stadiums, arenas, and ballparks are financed with a mixture of private and public funds, and when a municipality refuses to throw taxpayer money into the pot, team owners threaten and cajole until they either get their way or successfully shop their team to another municipality that will contribute financing to their liking. It’s a corrupt bargain, and the benefits of a new facility for the municipality are not nearly as great as city and team officials would conjure when they are selling the plan to taxpayers.

 

Colosseum in Rome-April 2007-1- copie 2B
The Colosseum in Rome, Italy, at dusk in April 2007; photo by Diliff. The ancient Romans had their bread and circuses, too, but they built things to last.
The National Football League’s Raiders, after long negotiations with Oakland city officials in which the city was prepared to bend over backwards to keep the Raiders, but refused to contribute taxpayer money for a new stadium, will move sometime within the next few years to Las Vegas, Nevada, where city officials bent over backwards and kicked in taxpayer money to help build the team a new stadium. Once the new stadium is built, it won’t be named for the good people of Las Vegas, or the Raiders, or even the team’s owner, Mark Davis, but for a corporation, in the form of advertising sold as naming rights. Tickets and concession stand items for a family of four can cost over two hundred dollars for an afternoon or evening of entertainment. Add to that a higher tax bill for years to come to pay off a luxury with nebulous benefits for the fans and the city, all of it ultimately benefiting a handful of team owners and banks, and it’s a wonder ordinary people put up with it.

 

But put up with it they do and, remarkably, mostly without complaint. People are so rabidly engrossed in their sports team affiliations that they allow greedy team owners and craven city officials to raid the public treasury to finance luxurious private facilities, the revenues from which will mostly go to others, and little to the taxpayers. The ordinary people allow this while they themselves depend on roads, bridges, water supplies, and public facilities that are neglected, derelict embarrassments. They point with a kind of perverse civic pride instead to the new, billion dollar plus stadium or arena or ballpark in their city, a facility which isn’t even their own, despite having helped pay for it. Why do they care a great deal about something that means little, when all about them meaningful things crumble to dust?

 

Through the middle years of the twentieth century, Americans built the great hydroelectric dams and the major roads, including the interstate highway system we rely on still today. In those years, three of the four major sports – football, basketball, and hockey – were peripheral to the lives of most people. Only baseball took a central place, and even it wasn’t the enormous business it is today, with billions of dollars at stake. What changed all that?
Aqueduct of Segovia 02
Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain; photo by Bernard Gagnon.

 

Television and mass media played a part, starting in the 1950s and gathering momentum and power through subsequent decades. The NFL Super Bowl, inaugurated in 1967, is now annually the most watched television event. The next day at work, people buzz with their co-workers about the Super Bowl commercials. Another factor is the lack of civic involvement people feel, particularly in big cities. The 1950s and 1960s gave rise not only to mass media, but mass man and woman as well. Faceless cogs in the corporate machine. One person’s lonely voice doesn’t matter. You can’t fight city hall, and the Chief Executive Officer of your company is out of reach.

 

Via appia
Remains of the Via Appia (Appian Way) in Rome, Italy, near Quarto Miglio; photo by Kleuske.
But you can sing your team’s fight song from your seat in it’s sparkling new stadium, the stadium you may have grumbled about having to pay for, but in the end you didn’t speak up and object. It’s your team, after all, one of the few things you have left to cling to in this uncertain world. Try taking your enormous foam hand with the forefinger raised in a “We’re Number 1” gesture and going to a nearby highway overpass, one where the concrete has crumbled away in spots, exposing the rusting reinforcing bars, and sit underneath that bridge on the sloping concrete revetment, with your enormous foam finger in your team’s colors, and start pointing out to passing motorists the decay all around you, and see where that gets you.
― Ed.

 

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The Games People Play

 

“Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”
― Barry Switzer, U.S. football coach.

 

In 1976, the movie Network satirized the television business of the day and projected then current trends into the future, to extremes that at the time seemed preposterous. A reality show about terrorists? A planned assassination filmed live on television? Too much! Satire turned into fantasy! Looking back from over forty years later, we realize maybe it wasn’t too much. Maybe it was prophetic.

George Fenneman and Groucho Marx You Bet Your Life 1951
George Fenneman and Groucho Marx
on “You Bet Your Life” in 1951, a quiz show
where the financial stakes weren’t as
important as entertaining conversation.

Thirteen years before Network appeared in theaters, the psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment at Yale University that tested how far subjects would go in administering electric shocks to other people they thought were also subjects of the experiment, but who in fact were actors. It turned out that when directed by authority figures (also actors), two thirds of the subjects giving shocks escalated the punishment to 460 volts, which is severe to the point of being dangerously debilitating. In 2010, a game show aired in France which re-enacted the parameters of the Milgram experiment in the name of televised entertainment. The producers later revealed that the show was in fact a fictitious re-enactment, with no one harmed, but most of the participants did not know that while the show was in production, nor did the studio audience. In the French game show, 80% of the subjects delivering shocks escalated them to 460 volts.

A 2012 experiment designed by the psychologist Paul Piff at the University of California-Berkeley had subjects play the board game “Monopoly,” with the rules changed to allow one subject to enjoy advantages throughout the game. The methodology and results of the experiment appear to indicate we do not so much learn the haughtiness of economic privilege as have the capacity already within us, waiting only for the switches of power and money to activate it. Economic inequality in the United States has burgeoned since the 1970s when the fictitious mad TV news anchor, Howard Beale, ranted about the inequities in American society, and the divergence between the haves and have nots has only increased since then.


The point where the 2010 French game show and the 2012 “Monopoly” experiment intersect is in describing what has become acceptable behavior for people seeking fame and fortune. Forty or fifty years ago, before YouTube and Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, fame and fortune were as like as not obtainable only after a long slog of work for most, and certainly it was rare to become an overnight sensation. Now we see that most people have sloughed off the diffidence and decorum they had when appearing in public in the age before instantaneous media saturation. Now it seems many people feel little restraint in satisfying their thirst for fame and fortune, no matter how ignominiously won, and will cast off all restraint when egged on by peers or authority figures. Now conscientiousness and civility have become quaint afterthoughts.
― Vita

 

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Green Grows the Grass

 

Winter dormancy is settling in on lawns almost everywhere but the pampered ones in National Football League stadiums. The groundskeepers who maintain stadium turf have an especially difficult job this time of year because they are staving off the natural tendency of grass to retreat into dormancy and turn brown and stiff as winter approaches. Not only does that look unappealing on television, it is difficult for the players who have to compete on it. If the ground becomes frozen hard, natural turf can be as dangerous to players as the old artificial turf fields which had insufficient cushioning beneath them.

Preparing the pitch at Stamford Bridge
Preparing the pitch with grow lights at Stamford Bridge, London;
own work by TheBlues

Modern NFL stadium natural turf stays green into December and January because groundskeepers take measures to prolong its growing season, from heating systems underneath to grow lights overhead. They effectively keep the grass in a condition most homeowners have not seen in their lawns since September. The “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is a memorable phrase evocative of the hard knocks of winter football outdoors in the upper Midwest, but it hardly applies any longer to the actual playing conditions considering modern turf management techniques.

For the average homeowner who looks out at a brown lawn throughout the winter (when it’s not covered in snow), the remedy lies not in trying to replicate the green turf of NFL stadiums. That would require an enormous input of money, time, and effort equivalent to what an NFL franchise invests, albeit considerably scaled down. Better to let the grass go to sleep for winter, but to tuck it in with some lime, some compost, maybe a light application of preferably organic fertilizer, and then a last mowing at a short setting to mulch the last of the fallen tree leaves. For the rest of December and January it’s time to settle into a comfortable chair in the warmth indoors and watch the football games on TV play out on the greener grass of early fall, maybe with snow falling on it for added dramatic effect.
– Izzy

View of Lambeau Field
View of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin;
own work by JL1Row

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