The Great Divide, and Physical Culture as Alchemy

…Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.  

To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.

Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold.

Oh, I’ll accomodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine…

— chef/author Anthony Bourdain, most recently of  The Travel Chanel’s No Reservations

Bourdain is, of course, being incendiary here, as those who have something to promote (books, in this case, and a new television series) are often wont to do.   In my mind, the only thing left to debate in the great diet wars is not what is the healthiest diet for human beings — I  have yet to see a solid health-based argument against the Paleo approach — but the minutia of the Paleo diet itself.  Questions over saturated fat consumption, consumption of raw dairy, to supplement or not to supplement with fish oil — things of that nature.  Animal welfare — that other sentient beings should be (unwillingly!) at our carnivorous beck-and-call is, in my mind, another debate altogether.  And one that, unfortunately, diverts attention from an issue we all find despicable — that being the inhumane treatment of animals.
I think that both the Paleo and vegetarian/vegan camps can agree that CAFOs and their ilk are an abomination.  Very well; we can rage against the machine in our own distinct ways — I choose to “rage” by way of my (albeit very limited 🙂  ) wallet, and by spreading the good word about sustainable and, yes, reverential animal husbandry.  Others chose to “rage” by abstaining from animal products altogether which, in my mind, is fine as well.  To sacrifice one’s own health in protest of abomination, or for a greater good, is nothing new in the course of human events.  If the vegetarians/vegan and Paleo camps could agree on this one concept, it would go a long way toward bridging the divide between these two powerful entities, and better align them against the one common-cause issue near and dear to both — the abolishment of CAFOs.
And yes, once that’s done, we can all get back to arguing over the validity of China Study  🙂
As far as our right to dominate over other sentient beings, my feelings are this: I make no apologies for having (this time around — if you believe in that kind of thing) incarnated in a species that occupies the top of the food chain.  I make no apologies as well, as to how evolution has crafted my dietary needs, and that crafting’s ultimate outcome.  That I will one day become worm nourishment in no way riles my angst against the worm — it is, quite simply, the nature of things; (star) dust to (star) dust, you know.  Now, do I feel that I am obligated to treat each and every sentient being with the utmost respect, as one of God’s creatures?  Absolutely.  That the Comanche relied upon the American bison for their very livelihood and which elicited their reverence for the animal in no way prevented them from dropping the beast as need be — it was simply understood as — again – the nature (or right order) of things.  Reverence ought not divorce one from the natural order, but quite the opposite; the natural order ought to be enhanced by one’s reverence.  Seen in this way, reverence for — and reliance upon — are not mutually exclusive properties but are, in fact, mutually enhancing properties.


From Alchemists, ancient and modern,

…serves as a useful reminder to modern scientists that even the most cherished theories need to be treated with constant scepticism. This is because, as the alchemists found out, it can be all too easy to see in your results what you want to see, rather than what is actually there

Emphasis mine.

Or, as Nietzsche might have said, “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies”.

N=1 Physical Culture is defined as a lifelong journey, a journey in which, to be truly enjoyed, one must continually question one’s own assumptions — every step of the way.  The shifting sands of “unknowing” ought to be embraced, not feared.  Do today with what you know today to be “true”; remain open though, to the notion that tomorrow may present to you truths that run counter to yesterday’s — and that’s okay!  The unencumbered mind is the most nimble of minds.  Treat convictions like cards in a poker hand; with no emotional attachment, enable yourself to “discard” as the current hand requires.


In-utero epigenetic signalling — just one piece of a the highly complex, multiple-moving-parts family problems collectively known as metabolic syndrome.  This article, from British Columbia’s Globe and Mail, does a nice job of describing this aspect’s contribution to the world obesity epidemic.  Again, none of the contributing factors to this epidemic should be considered in isolation, but rather as part-and-parcel of a much grander weave of contributing factors.


Here are a few sample workouts from last week.  More and more I’ve taken to multiple “micro workouts” scattered throughout the day, as time permits.  These seem to work well for me, and fit nicely into my schedule.  Quite a change from 30 years ago, when 2-hours a day, 6-days a week was my norm.  Those days seem almost quaint, now.  I don’t miss those marathon training sessions so much as I miss the ability, time-wise, to engage in such long sessions. Ah, to have that kind of available time on my hands once again!  🙂

Monday, 2/21/11 –

A Joe Defranco-inspired shoulder routine:

(A1) seated plate front raise: 35/20; 45/15, 15

(A2) seated db lateral raise: 20/15, 15, 15

(A3) seated db Cuban press: 15/15, 15, 15

(A4) red Jump-Stretch band pull-aparts: 15 each round

(B1) High Box step ups: 135/20; 185/16, 16 (alternate legs)


Tuesday, 2/22/11 –

(A1) hip press (h2): 400/12, 500/6, 600/3 (hierarchical)

(B1) explosive trap bar vertical jumps: 115/10, 10, 10

…..then, later in the day

XCCentric incline press: (+0)/21 rest-pause, then (+30)/6+ rest-pause

….and then a little later in the same day

Hip press (h2): 500/21, breathing presses

Wednesday, 2/23/11-

(A1) nautilus pec dec: 110/13, 8, 9

(A2) nautilus reverse flye: 110/15, 12, 10

(A3) weighted dips: 70/7, 6, 5

(B1) nautilus pull-over: 255/10, 2, 2, 7-singles (rest-pause)

Thursday, 2/24/11 –

(A1) T bar swings: 150/25, 25, 25

(A2) EZ curls: 105/12, 12, 8 + 4 rest-pause

(A3) EZ French curl: 105/10, 10, 10


In health –


Common Ground with a Vegetarian? ~and~ The Health Care Reform Manifesto, Writ Paleo

“Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.”

John Galsworthy

H1N1 is killing me. No, not literally — and not the virus itself — but all the extended hours I’m having to put in as a result of readying a manufacturing plant for the full-scale filling and packaging operations associated with putting the vaccine on the street.  Whether the threat of this virus is real or manufactured I’ll leave to your own personal conclusions (for what it’s worth, I’m passing on the vaccine) — what I do know for a fact, though, is that I’m working my damn ass off as of late.  Unfortunately, the only drawback to the Paleo way is its inability to put more actual hours in my day.

Before I move on, though,to the topics at hand, allow me a quick rant.  This, my friends, is what American-style, hyper-capitalism business has come to: work the few people you’ve retained till they drop, then reload from the ranks of the over-educated and marginalized, who (and this is the full-circleness of the issue) are inclined (due to a sputtering economy) to accept less-than-adequate wages/working conditions/benefits.  Why not carry a little extra fat in the ranks?  Wouldn’t that be prudent, from a business (not to mention, humanistic) point of view?  Hey, are you friggin kidding me?  Have you seen the price-tag associated with a benefits package as of late (I’ll forgo the health care reform rant here)?  Not to mention that the fat cats on Wall Street want quarterly results, Jack, and the issue of any additional headcount — over and above the overworked zombies required to produce a satisfactory profit margin — is a non-starter.   How’s this for irony: scrambling through the business corridors in your work-induced brain fog, you’re forced to dodge impromptu hallway gatherings of upper-level management, and representatives from the notorious McKinsey Group.  A pretty innocuous looking bunch from the looks of their site, eh?  Just what the hell do they do, you ask?  Slash and burn, my friend.  Headcount elimination.  The “do more with less” (and we all know what that means) specialists.  Ah, but here’s irony x2: isn’t it odd that 90% of the group’s representatives are of Indian decent?  Seems as if the group that specializes in outsourcing has taken the notion to heart and outsourced itself.  Can’t label them as hypocrites, I suppose.  Pure contrived fiction, I tell you, could not be steeped in such irony.  Such is life as a member of the American workforce…what’s left of it, anyway.

So, just a couple of things you may not have run across this week:

Common ground with a vegetarian?

Well, if the issue is limited to the protest of the horrid conditions found in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), it would seem so.  Now I can certainly appreciate a vegetarian who leads that particular lifestyle purely as a statement against needless animal cruelty.  I’m not so sure, though, that Jonathan Foer, has considered the optimization of his own health in this “go veggie” decision — but hey, to each his own.  I just wish that the author of Everything is Illuminated would study the virtues of the free-range/grass-fed experience — both from the animal’s point of view, and from that of the consumer (and of the earth, for that matter) — and tweak his stance accordingly.  And although I loath the very idea of CAFOs, and how they’ve totally adulterated the mainstream protein supply, I find it hard to believe that they are as heavy a greenhouse gas producer as say, what’s produced from world’s combined coal-fired power plants.  Now, I don’t know this for fact — and I’m certainly not defending CAFOs in any way, shape or form — I’m just sayin’… if you’re interested, there’s another quickie-interview with Jonathan, here.  He does come across as an intelligent and affable enough fellow.  If you’ve read Jonathan’s new book, Eating Animals, drop a comment and let us know what you thought.  To be quite honest, I’ve not placed it high enough on my “to read” list to ever realistically get to it — I’m currently engrossed in two Gandhi-related works (here and here) — so if you’ve already read — or plan to read — Jonathan’s work, give us the run-down.

Health Care Reform

Wow, Dr. Kurt G. Harris, of the wonderful blog, PaNu, nails this essay on health care reform — a copy of which ought to be tacked to the doors of congress, Martin Luther style.  Make sure you read Dr. Harris’s essay, and while you’re over there, peruse the balance of the PaNu blog as well.  Plenty of great Paleo-minded information can be had, there, of the type that I take and integrate into workable, real-life scenarios — putting Theory to Practice, if you will.

Becoming Human

I hope that the next two installments of this NOVA presentation are as fascinating as episode #1.  What a show; TV at its finest!   Part 2 is coming up November 10 (my birthday, by the way).  Be sure to catch it.

In health,