July 2014

Me and the BMI

or

Young Geoffrey is a great big fatso


Selfish the uncomfortable truth:
Young Geoffrey
doesn't suck in that gut, Jim!

June 30, 2014, OTTAWA — I've been unhappy with my body since I was in grade school. I'm not sure where it came from — I was never the fat kid in my class, so I wasn't picked on or bullied about my weight — but as far back as grade 5 or 6 (at least — it might have started even before that) I was conscious of the fact that my clothes came from the Husky rack. That I was, not to put too fine a point on it, chubby.

Now barely six months away from 50 years old, I'm still not happy with my body. Or at least, I'm not happy with the way it looks.

Truth is, I'd still kind of like to have chiseled abs and buns of steel.

But a recent discovery — that according to a widely-used and (presumably) well-thought of metric, the Body Mass Index — seems to have set off a minor revolution in my self-image.

For the record, my personal health metrics are actually pretty good. Since I stopped smoking a few years ago, my heart rate has dropped 20 beats a minute and my blood pressure is consistently "excellent", if various nurses and physicians are to be believed. I play soccer with people half my age, I commute almost 15 kilometres to work (and back) by bicycle and, for the first time probably since I was 15 or so, I sometimes break into a jog just because I feel like it.

Grading on a curve then, for a 49 year North American, and taking into account what my body does for me, I have to judge that I am actually in pretty decent shape.

The BMI, on the other hand, begs to differ.

According to Body Mass Index I am not just carrying a few extra pounds, I am not "a little overweight", or even chubby. No, according to the BMI, I am OBESE.

And you know what? There's something wrong with that picture. There's something wrong with the fact that anyone at all takes that test or takes its results seriously. Click here for a rant on body image and the fetisization of the decimal point.

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Canadian Authors' Association Book Fair

BumblePuppy Press author Carl Dow will be signing copies of The Old Man's Last Sauna at the first annual Canadian Author's Association (Ottawa) Book Fest.

If you are in or near Ottawa, come out, meet Carl (and buy his book!) and browse all the other fine works on offer!

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March 2014

Woe is knee!

or

I blog the body (semi) athletic!


Young Geoffrey fails in daring prison escape seeks an opening during a soccer match at Carleton U's Raven's Field, summer 2013. Photo by the Phantom Photographer

March 8, 2014, OTTAWA — How easily we forget physical pain; and a damned good thing, else our childhood's would be remembered as a litany burning fevers, snapped bones and flesh stripped away, like a carrot on a grater.

Ladies and gentlemen, last Sunday I skinned my knee — and I'm damned if it doesn't still hurt!

Actually, I didn't just skin my knee, I also got kicked in the hand during the same incident. Happily, the application of some ice took care of the latter assault in mere minutes.

Yes now, very nearly a full week later, the knee — alas! — still causes pain.

Click here for the full story including — consider yourself warned! — one Not Safe For Dinner photo on the other side!

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'Steaming like raw meat dropped onto a hot stove'

The Departure, by Neal Asher, reviewed

Image: Cover of The Departure, by Neal Asher

March 3, 2014, OTTAWA — It's not news that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I have a soft spot for space opera; I confess, the big space base (which I initially mistook for a starship of some sort) adorning the cover of Neal Asher's novel, The Departure, helped sell me on it.

As it turned out though, The Departure hardly qualifies as space-opera and only squeaks by as science fiction pretty much the way Superman does: on technicalities only.

Though it's set in the future and some of the action takes place in orbit and on Mars, the book is really just a narrated first-person shooter dressed up in some SF tropes — a corrupt and incompetent world government, artificial intelligence, robotic weapons and a transhuman genesis.

But all that is only window-dressing. That spectacular cover is a gateway to lugubrious dialogue, sophomoric libertarian philosophy, hackneyed world-building and, especially, to one pornographic blood-bath after another.

The Departure is one of the worst books I have read in a very long time. More boring than Atlas Shrugged (which I reviewed a while back), it drips with just as much contempt for ordinary human beings. Unlike Rand's John Galt though, Asher's superman does much of his killing at first-hand.

Does this novel have any redeeming qualities? The short answer is "no". The long answer lives behind this link.

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January 2014

It's a mystery ...

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Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

 

The Time of the Doctor:

Fanboy's triumph, viewers' tragedy

 

Screenshot from 'The Time of the Doctor', Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

January 9, 2014, OTTAWA — I've said it before and will certainly say it again: there is a big danger in giving control of a venerable and much-loved popular fiction franchise to a writer who grew up reading or watching the stuff.

When a true fan takes the wheel of their beloved creation, it can become a toy, a gadget used to satisfy the writer's childish fantasies, not a vehicle for delivering stories to others.

The results tend to become ever-more convoluted and self-referential, leading to a slowly-dwindling audience of those hard-core fans who enjoy the nostalgic winks, the meta nods, while the general public starts to look elsewhere for its entertainment.

As for fans like me, who wants story and character to go along with the in-jokes and arcana, the result can be torture. We feel almost as if a person, someone we love, is being abused and yet helpless to do anything about it.

And so I keep watching (for those of you who have wondered): because I care, even though my caring has been so painful, so often, these past three years.

I'm sad to say that "The Time of the Doctor" was not what I was hoping to get for Christmas. Far from it. So be warned: My review is long, spoilerific, and laced with venom and vitriol (though also, I fancy, sweetened with a strong dose of pure Canadian maple syrup. And pictures. And arguably one paranoid fantasy).

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Ringing in the new year with a book signing!

January 8, 2014, OTTAWA — The BumblePuppy Press is holding its first event of the new year in Ottawa's Glebe at neighbourhood fixture Brittons Books! If you're in the area — or even the city! — come on down, meet Carl Dow and (of course) buy a copy of The Old Man's Last Sauna!

Carl (and I) would love to meet you there!

Click the image below for a larger size poster and full details.

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December 2013

Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

 

The Day of the Doctor:

Flawed redemption still a happy anniversary

 

Screenshot from 'The Day of the Doctor', Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

December 5, 2013, OTTAWA — It was 1978 or 1979. I was in grade 8 and quite liked my home-room teacher. Mr. Pritchard also liked me, the bright, nerdly kid who had made the school's "newspaper" his own, contributing articles, editorials, cartoons — and (yes) even reviews.

One afternoon after class, as I watched over the Gestetner machine chunking out its blue mimeo pages and Mr. Pritchard watched over me, I mentioned I was looking forward to Saturday, when another episode of Doctor Who, this British television program I'd recently discovered, was going to be broadcast, right before the hockey game.

Mr. Pritchard looked up and laughed, his moustache bristling his delight. "Really!" he said, "Is that still on the air? I used to watch it when I was your age!" He was probably about 30 then, meaning I had barely been born when he was my age!

Learning of that long continuity delighted me as much as — and maybe more than — it did Mr. Pritchard. And now that 15 years of the program's history has become 50, and my personal continuity with it is twice what my teacher's was, the fact that Doctor Who is still on the air delights me even more.

All of which makes me doubly-pleased that the program's 50th anniversary episode, "The Day of the Doctor", exceeded my (admittedly, low) expectations by a wide margin. While not without some significant flaws, Steven Moffat's long-awaited 2013 series finale (of sorts; the upcoming Christmas special will probably mark the real series end, as well as the transition to the next) was a well-crafted entertainment, that balanced humour, drama and nostalgia and, even, pathos, without getting bogged down by the Enormous Anniversariness of it all.

Though some nonsensical elements demonstrated yet again Moffat's tendency to confuse plot with story and maguffin with plot, structurally, "The Day of the Doctor" was a happy anniversary present for this jaded and weary viewer.

Certainly it was the most entertaining multi-Doctor special to come down the pike since, well, forever. I really did laugh and I really did cry, on both first and second viewings — and it's been quite a while since a Moffat-scripted episode of Doctor Who hit me like that.

As usual, my full review is liberal with spoilers. And yes, I spend quite a lot of time exploring those "significant flaws". If you don't want your pleasure challenged, I recommend staying away; if you want in read on click here for The Day of the Doctor: The Bad, the Good, and the Meta.

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