Women and men tend to value very different physical traits when searching for a potential partner. A common motif among opinion polls, dating sites and anecdotal evidence is that women prefer taller guys. Many times, it’s relative. A 5’2” girl might be happy with a guy who’s 5’8”. Other times, a girl sets the specific and arbitrary baseline of 6 ft., as if it’s somehow the magic number after which every guy becomes an Adonis. Men, on the other hand, will often discriminate based on weight. There is a whole line of products emblazoned with the phrase “No fat chicks.” But, while height preferences continue be accepted and embraced by the female community, the lingering taboo against discussing obesity has reduced male proclivities to “anti-feminist,” “misogynistic” and “supporting the patriarchy.”

How fair is that, though? Height is one of those variables a person can’t change without some very horrific procedures. It is not a predictor of health problems nor does it inform on the personality or tendencies of an individual. Aside from playing certain sports professionally, there aren’t any limitations on short person’s ability to live a normal life.

However, society constantly places a premium on taller men. Celebrities notoriously inflate their heights or wear lifts. Men often embellish by an inch or two when asked their heights. The stereotypical Napoleon Complex is a disparaging description of the inadequacy short men must feel. We project an inherent deficiency in someone based solely on an irrelevant genetic variance.

When women openly declare a preference for tall men, there’s no backlash. No social justice warriors step in and argue against these biases. Everyone seems to understand. It’s biological, right? An innate attraction to what’s perceived as more virile and better able to protect the herd. An entire group of men are relegated to second class.

Try saying you aren’t attracted to an overweight woman and you’ll suddenly understand the double standard we’ve accepted. Men who want a fit woman are shallow and perpetuate an unfair image of female beauty.

People can control weight, though. In theory. In the 1950s, 33% of Americans were overweight and only 9.7% were clinically obese. This was a decade of American prosperity. We had won WWII and climbed out of the Great Depression. Industry was booming and people had more income and more free time. By 2014, the obesity rate had skyrocketed to 27.7%, with an additional 35.3% listed as overweight. That’s 63% of the population over the normal BMI range.

Genetics is a common excuse for obesity but how does that make any sense? Every person alive was birthed from those before him or her. Did we have a mass mutation whereby everyone’s metabolism suddenly slowed? Or is it because of the 20% increase in caloric consumption between 1970 and 2010? Combine that with less overall physical activity and you’ve got a very fat populace.

It’s the same with the medical conditions people like to cite as reasons for gaining weight. The blame is never on lifestyle and decisions, but on every other excuse.

For these reasons, it’s fair to make assumptions about a person’s mental and emotional fitness when they’re obese. I would never suggest a fat person can not be “nice” or “charitable” or “funny,” but you can certainly raise questions about self control and emotional stability. If someone can’t manage something as simple as calories in vs. calories expended, are they fit to manage other areas of life? Obesity is also precursor for several serious ailments.

Consciously destroying your body for temporary gratification is not attractive. Of course everyone has the right to consume as much food as their bodies can handle. This liberty doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility not to do it. Consuming too many calories extends resources unnecessarily, forcing more food production and ensuring a larger environmental impact and worse treatment of livestock. There are also documented economic costs related to healthcare and decreased productivity.

There are cases where people do have medical conditions that may slow metabolism, but these are relatively rare and still don’t explain poor choices. A person predisposed to heart disease shouldn’t indulge in red meat. A diabetic must monitor sugar intake. A family history of cancer means you should avoid carcinogenic substances. Some people need to sacrifice more for good health. Leading a life filled with hobbies and interests makes you a more interesting person. Whether these are active or sedentary, drawing satisfaction from other activities can preclude you from overindulgence in harmful substances. There are so many explorable avenues beyond the most primal and basic.

Returning to the original topic, the issue isn’t feminist, it’s realist. Being attracted to a fit women is embracing someone who makes responsible decisions and takes control of her life. “Fat Acceptance” operates under the false assumption that a person can be “Healthy at Every Size.” It has gained traction among those who would rather move the goalposts instead of centering their shots. The movement perpetuates dangerous myths about obesity and encourages people to deny widely regarded science in favor of emotion. If a school changes the passing grade to 50%, more students would pass. They’d move from grade to grade, never questioning their choices until it came time to graduate. Then, real life would teach them that knowing half of a subject is not good enough. Why change age old standards so a select group of irresponsible people can feel better about themselves?

Just because you fall into a group of people on the other side of an argument, doesn’t mean your argument is valid. Citing exceptions of unhealthy thin people and healthy obese supports fat acceptance like throwing a snowball in congress denies climate change. It’s fallacious reasoning based on outliers. Additionally, asserting something repeatedly doesn’t make it true.

Let’s stop criticizing individuals for uncontrollable criteria and start questioning those who knowingly refuse to improve their lives. Or at the very least, let’s not suggest a person is shallow for appreciating physical fitness while failing to point out the double standard in requiring 1.83 meters of human flesh just to knock on the dating door. One of those is adjustable, the other is not.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic World is in theaters June 12, 2015. The newest Dino action movie starring Chris Pratt will revive a franchise dormant since 2001. With a little over two months to the big day, a review of all four movies seems a good way to examine the highs and lows of the franchise.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Steven Spielberg’s special effects masterpiece, based on the Michael Crichton novel, takes viewers on an adventure through a theme park of cloned dinosaurs. When the dinosaurs escape, a small band of people must navigate their way to safety. The movie is part action, part adventure, part horror/thriller and can be summed up in one word: Perfection. Jurassic Park is the best film ever made.

Now that opinion can be argued against a million different ways. People may point to a mediocre script and flat characters as points against the movie. Jurassic Park shares a wavelength with Jaws, another Spielberg film, and you can certainly argue the “human” element of that movie shines through more effectively. However, I will methodically explain how excellence across the wide spectrum of filmmaking endows Jurassic Park with all it needs to compete for the top spot.

Directing – Few can dispute Steven Spielberg’s competence as a director. While his movies often lack the style and depth of a Quentin Tarantino, a Martin Scorsese or a Stanley Kubrick, the man knows how to shoot a film. Jurassic Park’s subject matter is the perfect vessel for Spielberg to bring his vision to life. Tackling a world where dinosaurs and man coexist, and making it believable to a mass audience, is no small task. Spielberg manages it beautifully.

Writing – Michael Crichton was an accomplished author and screenwriter. In addition to Jurassic Park, he created ER, The Andromeda Strain, Congo and other stories that exist in multiple mediums. Ask anyone who has read the novel Jurassic Park and they will tell you it’s even better than the film. Widespread popularity doesn’t always mean critical success, and vice versa, but he achieved both during his career.

Script – While the script rises to serviceable, it is by no means the driving force behind the movie’s success. The plot works for the genre but characters can sometimes seem stockish and one dimensional. Movies are often superficial versions of their source material, which is the case here. However, the excitement and thrills of the adventure outweigh any philosophical issues that may be lost in translation.

Score – John Williams composed the music for Jurassic Park. It is an iconic, epic score I’ve seen included on the playlists of people with varying musical tastes. That’s to say nothing of John Williams’ reputation as one of the best movie composers of all time.

Acting/Characters – As stated earlier, the characters can sometimes seem flat. However, the actors also provide some of the most memorable parts of the movie. Richard Attenborough’s interaction with a pre-recorded version of himself, Jeff Goldblum’s “One big pile of shit” line, and Sam Neill detailing to a bratty kid how a pack of Velociraptors would devour him are just a few of many wonderful moments in this film. The characters all have their “thing” and it works given the focus on the fallout of the events. Alan Grant has an arc, John Hammond has an arc, Newman gets eaten by a Dilophosaurus. These are positive things.

I’d also like to note that Laura Dern, who plays Dr. Ellie Sattler, was 26 when Jurassic Park was released. I am now older than she was back then. Craziness.

Quotability – This relates to both characters and script, but the movie is extremely quotable. A few of my favorites:

  • “Some of them smell. Babies smell.” – Alan Grant on kids.
  • “We have a T-Rex.” – John Hammond, to an incredulous Dr. Grant.
  • “Shoooooot her. Shoooooot her.” – Robert Muldoon, while a raptor attempts to tear a fellow worker apart.
  • “Dodgson, Dodgson, we’ve got Dodgson here! See nobody cares.” – Dennis Nedry.

The total list is about a hundred times more expansive. Basically, I can quote the script.

Special Effects – The impossible element to overlook. Jurassic Park set a standard for the time it was made and put most of its contemporaries to shame. While dated compared to the best CGI today, Jurassic Park’s computer generated effects still hold up. When you look at the dinosaurs and compare them to the cartoonish depictions of wolves or goblins in today’s crap, you realize that great care was given to breathing life into this fictional world.

The movie embodies the wonder of the filmgoing experience that’s so lacking in today’s big budget epics. A focus on bigger and better has superseded the need for any kind of realism or emotion (looking at you, Star Wars prequels). I twice saw Jurassic Park at a drive in movie theater, surrounded by trees and tall grass. The prospect of a raptor climbing out of the landscape scared the bejesus out of me. The film uses its effects effectively.

Critical Reception – Jurassic Park is 93% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Box Office Success – Jurassic Park’s $50.1 million dollar opening weekend was record breaking for the time. The film made $914 worldwide in it’s initial run and combined with a 2013 re-release in 3D, has grossed over a billion dollars, which ranks 15th all time.

Watchability – One of the biggest elements working in Jurassic Park’s favor is its watchability. Films like Citizen Kane or Casablanca, both of which I love, the latter of which I consider my second favorite film, are often near the top of best movie lists. The truth is, though, that while these movies are classics and set the standard for countless others, they aren’t necessarily appealing to wide audiences. Critical acclaim (which Jurassic Park attained) can be seen as a measure of snobbery when more accessible movies are released to mediocre reviews. Jurassic Park toes the line between these two worlds.

Recap – While many movies may have some of the criteria listed above, few have all. Jurassic Park is a culturally recognizable icon that is still well regarded 22 years later. It remains my favorite movie of all time for the reasons listed above and because of the nostalgia factor. I used to create my own park with toys and actions figures based on the movie. My cousins and I used to trade off playing raptors and humans during our summers in Upstate NY. There was a magic about it all, which I still experience with every viewing.

Watch it now.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Steven Spielberg was partially responsible for coaxing a novel sequel out of Michael Crichton, which this movie was based on. It has a lot of the surface elements that made the first movie so good. Spielberg directs, John Williams composes, Jeff Goldblum is in it. Dinosaurs.

This movie is a turd. The lead child’s gymnastics skills are set up early on so the payoff can be her kicking a raptor through a window using uneven bars. Just no.

Also Vince Vaughn is in it.


Jurassic Park III (2001)

Spielberg is gone, as is Jeff Goldblum. Sam Neill is back and Lauren Dern makes an appearance. Joe Johnston directs. He also directed The Rocketeer, October Sky, Jumanji, and Captain America: The First Avenger. These are all facts.

Another fact: The movie blows.


Jurassic World (2015)

How does one review a movie that isn’t out you ask? This image is my review:


This movie is going to suck so hard.

Please skip it, so they stop making this garbage.

Extreme Beer Fest
Beer Advocate held its 12th Annual Extreme Beer Fest this past weekend, sponsored by Dogfish Head Brewery. The event gathered over seventy American and Canadian craft breweries at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, MA. As its name suggests, the beers featured tend to the more unique and experimental, pushing the limits of flavors, styles and ABV. There were 3 sessions: the opening one on Friday evening, then a Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening. We chose the Saturday afternoon due to potential supply concerns with the more popular beers.

The day started cold and wet. Apropos of a record breaking winter, Boston got more snow on the first day of Spring. This carried over to the morning of the event. The session started at 1pm, so we aimed to arrive just after noon to ensure a good place in line. There was already a sizable outdoor queue by about 12:10. An assortment of twenty-somethings decked out in denim and spring jackets formed a border around the venue as the snow waned from thick flakes to scattered flurries by the time we were ready to enter. Event workers meticulously checked IDs and scanned tickets ahead of time, so once the hour turned over, there was nothing left to do but flash your wristband, grab a cup and begin.

People had obviously planned out routes ahead of time. Our first stop was the Dogfish Head both prominently situated just inside the entrance. The 120 Minute IPA was an aged variety from their 2011 batch, clocking in somewhere around 20% ABV. I’ve had fresh bottles of more recent versions of the same beer. Fresh, it is very sweet and resembles a barleywine as much as a Double IPA. After tasting what four years of aging can do for this exceptional brew, I’m even more excited for the two bottles I’ve got in my own cellar. Really delicious stuff and I even went back for seconds later in the afternoon.

The highest Beer Advocate rating at EBF was Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout. I purposely read up on nothing ahead of time so I could remain unbiased as possible about all the wonderful (or not so great) beers. This lengthy line spoke for itself, however. We jumped on it while we were drinking our 120s, so it wasn’t more than 2 or 3 minutes past 1 o’clock. The guy just behind us lamented his spot and pondered loudly if they’d be out by the time we reached the counter. Even moving efficiently, it still took almost ten minutes for the line to disappear in front of us. The situation was not quite so dire as the guy predicted and we successfully secured pours of the 8th highest rated beer in the world. I can say with confidence, it’s the best Stout I’ve ever had. The blend of coffee and chocolate flavors, finished with maple, really deserves a dedicated review. In short, if you’re lucky enough to find it, buy as much as they’ll allow.

There were several other notable beers throughout the day, but those first two made an impression and really set the tone for a quality event. It was nice to see Newburgh Brewing Company well represented and discover many other breweries I hadn’t heard of before. My biggest complaint would be a lack of diverse food offerings, but I realize that’s not the aim. They did have oysters, though, which actually was a nice deviation from the usual fried foods and pretzels.

Last call was promptly at 4:30. I had just reached the front of a line when the half hour struck and was cut off. They allow you an additional 30 minutes inside the venue before they start to move everyone towards the exits. The buffer was a nice touch and probably alleviated a lot of stress.

I’ve been to several beer fests over the past few years and can’t recommend the Beer Advocate events enough. Both the American Craft Beer Fest last May and this Extreme Beer Fest were impeccably managed events a step above the norm. Despite large, eager crowds and tons of alcohol, the venue remained easy to navigate and clean for the length of the afternoon. It’s nice to have actual representatives from the respective breweries ready to answer questions, as opposed to event volunteers who have no connection or knowledge. Everyone was very courteous to each other. Lines moved quickly. Aside from a few highly coveted beers, stocks remained readily available from start to finish. If you have the chance, I highly recommend attending EBF and ACBF in the future.

In the wake of the Great Recession, many Americans began fetishising what they perceived to be the glory days of American life. For hipsters, the allure was a time compressed turn of the century, when mustaches and speakeasies reigned supreme. For Tea Party folks, it was when Jesus rode down from heaven and endowed our Founding Fathers with the Constitution, conveniently overlooking slavery, women’s suffrage and Equal Protection as important issues to address. For others, a revived interest in U.S. manufacturing began to take hold. 2009 saw unemployment rise over 10%. Suddenly, the success and growth of 1950s became an ideal to strive toward.

American manufacturing has been disappearing for many years. Since the 1970s, the U.S. has recorded consistent trade deficits, largely resulting from imports of oil and consumer goods. Nowhere is this more evident than the clothing label. According to the AAFA, 97% of all apparel and 98% of all shoes sold in the United States is manufactured overseas. That’s in stark contrast to the 1980s when 70% was still made domestically, and the 1960s when it was as high as 95%.

Why should we care? Americans today spend less than 3.5% of their annual household budget on an average of 70 pieces of clothing per person. Compare that to 1960, when we spent 10% of our budget on fewer than 25 pieces per person. Spending less money on more goods means additional disposable income to purchase even more products and continue to stimulate the economy. Add that to the increased availability of labor in developing countries and everybody wins. Except, of course, American labor. If skilled jobs with fair wages don’t exist, people have less unbridled income to spend. Successful companies that don’t rely on the shared success of American workers contribute to the middle class wage stagnation we’ve seen over the past few decades.

Remember when Polo Ralph Lauren was blasted for its Olympic uniforms that were made in China back in 2012? Never mind the garish corporate logo blazoned across the chest (let’s be honest, suffocating advertising IS pretty American), we would not stand for such an affront to our values. We were riled up about something and something was going to happen.

Which brings us to the American heritage trend, part of the larger preference for Made in the USA in recent years. As politicians began bloviating about returning American manufacturing, companies who never left began advertising these ideals. Companies like Allen Edmonds, Alden, Filson, Orion Leather, Tanner Goods, LL Bean (for their Bean Boots and Maine Hunting Boots), Bill’s Khakis, 3sixteen and Sterlingwear Boston are just some brands that provide high quality, American-made clothing and accessories. The truth is that you will have to pay more, on average, for American made products from these brands. The craftsmanship, longevity and loyalty to American labor, however, is worth the price.

Many other brands, sometimes the culprits of the mass jobs exodus, began seizing on the trend by bringing segments of manufacturing back to the U.S. Levi Strauss is an easy target for criticism. Once an iconic American workwear brand, Levi’s long ago moved production to the developing world. The 501s, Levi’s oft-emulated, straight leg jeans, are produced in a number of poor countries. Inconsistent sizing and shoddy production resulting from its wide scale manufacture has made this industry standard much maligned in the denim community. Yet, that never stopped the brand from touting its history as traditionally American. Invoking images of the American worker while simultaneously moving thousands of jobs overseas is deceptive and cheap.

Today, some of the most authentically American denim is manufactured in Japan, the birthplace of the Americana revival. Japanese companies broke into the industry by creating reproductions of the original 501, made from raw selvedge denim on shuttle looms. Innovation soon took over and today there’s a wide assortment of brands creating signature styles in a niche section of the market. Startup American brands, unsatisfied with the poor selection of the Levi’s of the world, have also begun offering their own wares. In the interest of fairness, an offshoot of the main company, Levi’s Vintage Clothing has produced American-made products for some time. With market pressure, Levi’s also recently unveiled a Made in the USA line as part of their core business.

Another company, Shinola, arose out of our desire to embrace anything authentically American. Founded in 2011, the Detroit-based brand promised domestic manufacturing jobs for the poster child locale of labor contraction. They did indeed create jobs in Detroit, which is commendable on any scale. But you have to dig deeper to see beyond the marketing hype. Shinola’s watches, billed as Built in Detroit, are made from Ronda Swiss Quartz movements, built domestically. A movement, the core element of what makes a watch run, contains the most moving parts. Furthermore, Switzerland has less stringent standards for country of origin distinctions, requiring only a percentage of the components to be Swiss. The movements in question largely source these from China. So while the watches are assembled in the United States, a long supply chain reveals only a fraction of the total production is done at home.

The investigative wizards at Forbes, ever bastions of the American worker, featured an article about Shinola that lobbed softball questions allowing them to broadcast their “American-made” marketing angle without answering for the superficiality of their intentions. What makes a watch unique is the proprietary design of all the neat components that make it run. What Shinola created was a Fossil watch where a few pieces were screwed together by American hands and the end product was marked up to $600 a unit.

Taking shots at cynicism is fun, but at least Levi Strauss and Shinola have real American manufacturing jobs. Apple, on the other hand, uses the Taiwanese manufacturing network Foxconn to produce all its mobile products. Apple’s infamous “Designed in California” label is probably one of the most embarrassing plays by an “American” company to capitalize on nationalistic tendencies. I’m sure the creative minds at the two former companies didn’t travel to China to develop their next denim jacket or wallet designs. It can only be supreme arrogance that compels a company to exploit cheap labor in dreadful conditions, then turn around and try to have its cake, too.

Of course, people don’t want to pay a couple thousand dollars for an iPhone. Or $200 for jeans or $3000 for a truly American-made watch. We accept a degree of ignorance because it’s convenient to our minds and budgets.

Not all foreign labor is inherently substandard, obviously. Developed countries in Europe, Canada and Japan all manufacture fine products (and crappy ones too). Sometimes a certain country is just known for producing something you can’t get at home. Even in developing nations, there are superb products being manufactured every day. Sam Hober creates wonderful, custom made ties in Thailand. I’ve had clothes made to exacting standards that I know came from China.

Some countries have the infrastructure in place to accommodate certain orders. Allen Edmonds, which I mentioned earlier, sources their boat shoes from the Dominican Republic. So does Sperry. You can choose to purchase from Quoddy, which manufactures in Maine and charges $300/unit, but not many people will do that for a summer shoe.

Free trade has elevated the standards of living for many developing countries. Human decency should not be measured merely by how many Americans we put to work. Globalization is about creating dignity and providing a means of self sustenance. However, we should ask ourselves if our reasons for abandoning a certain industry is for the practically prohibitive cost of manufacture or just because we hunger to consume in such excess that cheap goods become necessity. Can the average person survive with fewer, higher quality items or would social devastation ensue?

Buying cheaply and in great quantity favors corporate bottom lines over customer satisfaction. Quality materials, fair wages and skilled craftsmanship will usually equate to longevity, especially in more complex products. A $50 pair of shoes will rarely outlast a $300 pair. Our disposable culture is built on a concept of disposable people. Every cost cutting measure is accompanied by a human cost. For the United States, it’s one fewer job in the economy. For foreign laborers, it’s a guarantee that wages and conditions will never reach the minimum Western standard. If they did, there would be no incentive to outsource at all.

The 1950s does not hold the answers for cultural nirvana. Segregation and racism were rampant and McCarthyism dominated our deepest paranoias. American authenticity is also not the image of a cowboy smoking a cigarette under a sunset in the old west. It’s the imagination and innovation conceived by our people and our contribution to our world. When we fail to look ahead, fail to realize that prosperity can not be achieved without a strong middle class, fail to understand that abusing our resources generates temporary profits and lasting consequences, we are at our weakest.

IMG_1836I’m not much of a coffee fan. Before last month, I hadn’t had a cup in over a year. I certainly don’t drink it for the appreciation of some rare, organically grown, fair trade Peruvian specialty bean harvested from the base of the Andes. For me, the stimulating effects of caffeine are the sole purpose and I rarely found myself needing that kind of jolt.

Starbucks, one of the top sellers in the United States (and globally), never held much appeal. It had a reputation for overpriced products and often excessively bitter coffee. My personal experiences proved poor on most occasions. Sometime in college, I resolved to not patronize a corporation whose java was more expensive, less delicious and less accessible than Dunkin Donuts.

Coffee connoisseurs can castrate me for my consciously controversial, contradictory conception of quality, but I’m not unfamiliar with snobbery. I’ll never choose a Budweiser, Miller, Coors or other American Adjunct Lager over a merely mediocre craft brew. Single malt scotches only, please. Loose leaf tea for life!!! You get the point. But if something doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t taste good. No amount of evidence is more convincing than the proof on my own taste buds.

Old habits die hard and grudges are not easily lost to the annals. Coffee’s merits fell on deaf ears and Starbucks became the embodiment of why I hated it. I was convinced of some elaborate yuppie collusion meant to drive millions to consume a product they all secretly despised. Beliefs are tricky. They sink their claws in, take hold and it’s awfully hard to let them go.

A month ago, two things changed in my daily routine. I began running again (in addition to a consistent weight training regimen) and I resolved to up my word count per day. With a proper diet, the first was no sweat (deducting ten points for puns). Longer, grueling runs actually induce a stimulating high that temporarily counters the sheer amount of energy expended. It doesn’t last, though, and it certainly doesn’t compel me to knock out 2000 words in an evening. I needed something tangible, so I turned to the most cliche substance a writer can use (besides alcohol).

Coffee helped. It instantly made me more productive and I began to manage my schedule a lot better. Before long, I submitted to the inevitable and began to write at a table in the back of Starbucks, which was more convenient than any other option. I ordered a plain coffee with some whole milk and drank. It tasted good. Not just “I need this shot of stimulant to my system good,” but genuinely enjoyable. And at ~$2.50 for a large (I still won’t call it a Venti), it’s not unreasonable to have a cup every now and then.

Maybe Starbucks changed. Maybe I changed. Whatever the cause, I realized that keeping an open mind to change is never a bad thing.