A Healthy Old Man Shares His Secret!

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It was an icy cold April morning in Orlando. In fact, it was yesterday morning. I don’t know how low the temperature was but it must have been around 70 degrees. I was up early because after months of preparation, I finally set the alarm clock and was planning to take a walk around the block.

Mostly I sit at home at a desk and a computer and write advertising copy disguised as blog posts. You can make amazing money working from home but that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about the amazing thing that happened yesterday.

As I was walking towards the mailbox I felt a rush of nervous energy and anticipation because I knew I was about to take on the toughest physical challenge of my life.

After making it to the end of the driveway, I found myself a nice little spot kind of away from where the dog usually does his business, where I could do some stretches and warm up my legs a little. As I was stretching I glanced over my left shoulder. Or it may have been my right shoulder. Some details I remember so well and others, not so well. But I saw a man arching his back and pointing his chest towards the sky.

He was a lot shorter than me and a bit more weathered but we struck up a conversation and amazingly after a few minutes of chatting I found out that I was actually talking to a man in his mid-50s.

I remember our conversation like it was yesterday.

He was soft spoken and he was brimming with energy. He told me that he just turned 55 years old and that he exercised. Every morning. And that HE was about to walk around the block. Not just walk around it, but run around it. Well maybe a combination of walking and running.

I was in awe.

I was 25 years old, in fact I still am, and here I was talking to someone more than double my age who was about to put his body through more pain and more stress than I could possibly imagine.

I was truly dumbstruck.

Here I was, trying desperately to find a way to cope with the stress of writing ad copy free of grammatical and getting fatter every day and here this incredibly old guy was in amazing shape and running around the block to boot.

What’s your secret I asked him?

He looked at me puzzled. You talk funny, he said.

While he slowly raised his hand over his head and bent to the side to stretch his hip, he told me that a long time ago he discovered that eating a certain combination of foods helped give him a significant boost of energy.

I was skeptical.

But I looked again at this 55 year old man who was getting ready to exercise, and my disbelief slowly faded.

What? Can you say that again? I asked him.

He said what, are you fucking deaf, I’m supposed to be the old guy here,
and then he told me that years ago he discovered that when he ate a combination of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, stayed away from sugars and fats, and got regular exercise his energy levels dramatically increased.

He didn’t know why, or how, he just knew that he felt great and that now he never went a day without working out and eating this magic combination of “vegetables” and other superfoods.

I can still remember his face and how his eyes lit up when he was telling me this.

Is it possible that eating healthy food and getting exercise could help give a guy in his 50s enough energy to go outside and run?

After a few more stretches and general chit chat he took off. But I needed more answers so it was time to go back inside to sit in front of my computer do some research.

After getting distracted by a few Buzzfeed quizzes (it turns out I’m Smaug!) and some porn that came up by accident and some proofreading tips that I’ll get to someday I plowed through hundreds of websites, research papers and medial journals I found something really surprising about diet and exercise and that’s what I want to share right after I catch up on the sleep I missed…

The Florida Film Festival Begins!

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The Florida Film Festival begins on Friday, April 4. If you’re in Orlando, I strongly urge you to check out the program and see a few of the excellent movies in their two-week lineup.

This year, the Festival asked some of us in the community to be curators of the Festival. I’m one of them, as are my friends John and Kristen.

Here’s a link to us and our fellow curators, with our selections and writeups linked to our photos:

http://www.floridafilmfestival.com/program/tastemakers

(Image above from one of my picks, the moving documentary Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution.)

The Academy Awards, and other disappointments

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“Life is disappointing,” says the Emcee in Cabaret, a movie that should have (and likely would have) won the Academy Award for Best Picture, if it hadn’t been for a little thing called The Godfather. As disappointments go, few things are more reliable than the Oscars, which have been letting us all down since Mary Pickford won the second Best Actress award for Coquette back in 1928.

At the time, Pickford was as famous as anyone has ever been — you could make a case for her as the woman who invented “stardom” as we know it, and who used her fame to gain total artistic control and real industry power. Those are the things she won for, because in Coquette she delivers a performance of astounding badness; she’s like Shirley Temple playing Scarlett O’Hara, minus the charm. That same year, the legendary Jeanne Eagles was nominated as a vicious murderess in The Letter, a high-wire act that 86 years later can still raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Artistically, Pickford’s win is a sick joke, but the concept of Mary Pickford winning an Oscar is one of the most right things that ever happened.

That award set the precedent and the template for the Academy Awards: they’re only coincidentally a record of artistic achievement, but they’re a pretty reliable indicator of the history of Hollywood power, popularity, and groupthink. Put the details of the individual winning movies and performances aside, and the patterns come into sharper focus. There are lots of awards like Pickford’s, basically career achievement awards that certify the artist’s high standing with the industry and the public, and have little to do with the performance in question. Katharine Hepburn won three of them, in fact. They’re for three of her least impressive movies, as is her first, but the fact that she won four leading actress awards seems very right, and its a record one hopes will never be beaten. She’s Katharine Hepburn, for God’s sake.

One of the most consistent awards is the one for “seriousness,” with the examples too numerous to cite. They’re the Big Important Movies that grapple with some significant social issue… racism, alcoholism, anti-Semitism, the trauma of war, the evils of slavery. Many of these movies look pretty dull now, not just because being lectured is tedious, but because we’ve already gotten the point and moved on. Nothing dates faster than a previous generation’s idea of gravitas.

Actors vote for these things, so there’s a preponderance of Academy Award performances about one lonely soul’s journey against all the odds toward a state of grace. Matthew McConaughey is up for one tomorrow night, and he’ll probably win it — not as much for the performance, which is solid, as for his own journey from shirtless mimbo to serious Act-tor. Unless Chiwetel Ejiofor wins for his journey from obscurity to fame in one film, and for the Academy congratulating itself on learning to pronounce his name.

McConaughey also benefits from the I Transformed Myself Physically factor, which always helps you win acting awards, starting way back when beefy proletarian Paul Muni put on a beard and a pince-nez and won for playing Louis Pasteur (lonely soul cures rabies). Sometimes the results are phenomenal, like Charlize Theron playing Aileen Wuornos (lonely soul kills people), but would an actually ugly and repellent actress — there must be one or two — have won that Oscar? Probably not. There’s also the Leopard Changes its Spots award, for a performer who does something unexpected, like sweet Shirley Jones playing a whore in Elmer Gantry. The shock value of these performances often wears off fast, leaving future generations to wonder what the fuss was about. Jones is borderline amateurish in Elmer Gantry, but she was never going to win or even be nominated for The Music Man, so what the hell.

Every so often, there’s an Academy Award so perfect and so out of left field that you wonder how it ever happened. How on earth did a movie as awesome as Casablanca win? The Big Serious Oscar-thumping movies of that year were Watch on the Rhine, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Song of Bernadette and Madame Curie, all of them quite unwatchable now. Maybe they cancelled each other out. Casablanca isn’t just a well-made and entertaining movie… it’s a Thing. It’s schlock transfigured into art. It’s magic. These lone examples of timeless perfection intersecting with temporal awards are the real miracles of the Oscars, and maybe more interesting to contemplate than the beautiful losers that are so often cited. Like Citizen Kane or Raging Bull – two movies I find a chore to watch, myself, but which a lot of people find deeply affecting, or whatever. We all have our own lists, right? Mine would include such unlikely items as Kiss Me Deadly, Bonjour Tristesse, I’m Not There, Mysterious Skin, Kim Novak as Best Actress in Of Human Bondage…  Hell, Kim Novak in anything — give the woman a goddam special Oscar, will you? If only for trashing that piece of shit The Artist when everyone else in Hollywood thought it was so wonderful. Kim Novak is on a true lonely soul’s journey, but not the kind you get awards for.

No, the list of Oscar winners is a very corporate, institutional list. It has the safety and solidity, the banal impressiveness, of a bank building erected a century ago. It’s an historical record of where we put our money and our faith at different times, so to speak. Like the movies themselves, it’s way more about commerce than it is about art. If you watch the Oscars hoping for actual achievement to be recognized and rewarded, you’re bound to be disappointed.

As you will be if you go anywhere with that kind of attitude, Mister. So, life is disappointing? Forget about it! In here, life is beautiful! Which reminds me: don’t even get me started on Roberto Benigni…

 

Curating the Florida Film Festival

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I’m excited and very honored to have been asked to be a Community Curator for the upcoming Florida Film Festival in April! In this role, I’ll help to recommend some of the 170 films being shown at this 10-day Festival of current, independent, and international cinema — my print and video commentary will be part of the marketing materials included with Festival communications.

The Festival features moviemakers from all over the world, many of whom are premiering their latest works at this event. There are also a variety of special screenings, celebrity guests, and events where film lovers can mingle with with filmmakers and celebrities over hand-crafted cocktails and a locally-sourced menu. The Festival is one more reason to feel great about living in Central Florida.

I’ll be posting more next month, after the announcement of the Festival program on March 12. In the meantime, information about the Festival can be found here:

http://www.floridafilmfestival.com/

PechaKucha Night Orlando v12

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We will be “showing Orlando some love” a week before Valentine’s Day with a great lineup of presenters:

David Alecock: Being Present for Love

Emily Empel: The Futurist’s Paradise

Max Jackson: Love and the Human Brain

Kristen Walmsley-Manieri: A Yearning Curve

Carolyn Moor: A Modern Love Story

Susan Rienzo: Color Sings to Me

Joe Tankersley: Data Love

Thomas Thorspecken: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Orlando

Mike Van den Abbeel: Would You Please Sign this Petition?

In addition, we’ll have entrees from Tamale Co., cupcakes from Yum Yum, coffee from Lineage Roasting, and beer/wine from Shipyard!

Complete event information is available here:

http://www.pechakucha.org/cities/orlando/events/52418687dbdd203f71000001

How Not to Write a PR Statement

Chris Christie

By now you’re heard about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his “Bridge-gate” scandal. It broke yesterday morning when New Jersey and New York news outlets released emails that indicated Christie’s closest aides orchestrated four days of traffic jams in Ft. Lee, as retribution for that town’s Democratic mayor declining to endorse Christie’s bid for reelection. When the story broke yesterday, Christie canceled a public appearance. Eight hours later, his office released this statement:

“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”

Somebody needs to be fired: the person or persons who assembled (“wrote” is too generous) that statement. Hard to believe it actually took eight hours to create it. In fact if you picked out one of every two citizens of New Jersey at random, put a gun to their head, and said “Talk!” this is probably what would come out… blustery accusation that sounds like toughness but actually blames somebody, anybody else and takes no accountability.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable.” Now there’s a sentence. It casts away everything — context, explanation, setup — in a mad dash to get to the key point that Christie never saw the emails and knew nothing about them. And the mad dash ends in a Splat! ending on the lame, pseudo-censorious word “unacceptable.”

The next sentence is even worse. Grammatically, it breaks down like this:

“I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that A) not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but B) this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.”

In other words, “I am [adjective] to learn that this [adjective] conduct was made without my knowledge.” How do you learn that something was done without your knowledge? The Governor is using his second sentence to repeat, in pretzel-like doubled-up fashion, that he had no knowledge of the thing he said in his first sentence he had no knowledge about. That, my friend, is a whole lot of no knowledge.

Oh, and he was “misled by a member of my staff.” Finally, we get to somebody specific to blame. Well, not specific, but you know. Heading in the direction of specificity.

And more adjectives: this completely “inappropriate” and “unsanctioned” conduct. “Inappropriate” is almost as pseudo-censorious as “unacceptable,” and of course you know what “unsanctioned” means… it means he had no knowledge about it.

“One thing is clear.” Well, thank goodness for that. Because nothing has been clear so far, at least in this sorry excuse for a paragraph. What is this one thing that’s so clear?

“This type of behavior is unacceptable.”

Whoa. Think you already said that. Unacceptable, right.

“…and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better.” Okay, well that’s two things that are clear, but who’s counting?

Again, let’s break it down. This is the only reason you won’t tolerate this kind of behavior? The reason you object to snarling up traffic for days at one of the only exits from the island of Manhattan to settle a petty political score is that people in one state (you screwed over New Yorkers, too, but let it pass) “deserve better”? Your staff caused thousands of people to be inconvenienced or worse for days. This is “behavior”?

Okay, well, let’s move on, because as a communications professional, as a former resident of New Jersey, as a human being… I’m losing patience with you.

“This behavior [again with the behavior] is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”

Now we get to the real problem for the first time: the fact that the worst part of this scandal is that it seems wholly representative of the Governor and his administration. It’s what Hemingway called the objective correlative, the specific detail that suggests the entire big picture. That’s what is so damaging about this story — it gets right at the thing people don’t like about Christie (they think he’s a bully), and makes it clear and relatable.

And finally, “people will be held responsible for their actions.” This is a cop-out in three ways at once: the use of the passive voice (who is the actor in this sentence? who will be holding these people responsible? nobody, it seems) — the use of the vague “people” — and the fact that this accountability will happen in some distant future. This triple backing away from actual responsibility gives the lie to all the other attempts to make Christie sound like a decisive leader. There is no leader present in this statement; there is only an injured and frightened ego.

“People will be held responsible for their actions.” Does the Governor still not know who is responsible? He had eight hours in which to ask some very direct questions, eight hours in which to get some answers, eight hours in which to fire these unnamed and apparently unknowable people… assuming the entire eight hours wasn’t spent crafting this pathetic, inadequate paragraph.

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