, a map
And, via Boingboing
, a Harvard Magazine article
about the historical origins of obesity:
"The French explanation for why Americans are so big is simple," said Jody Adams, chef/partner of Rialto, a restaurant in Harvard Square, speaking at the Oldways conference. "We eat lots of sugar, and we eat between meals. In France, no one gets so fat as to sue the restaurant!" Indeed, the national response to our glut of comestibles is apparently to eat only one meal a day—all day long. We eat everywhere and at all times: at work, at play, and in transit. "Japanese cars—the ones sold in Japan—don't have drink holders," New York Times health columnist Jane Brody said at the Oldways conference. "The Japanese don't eat and drink in their cars."
Also, did you notice Al Gore
's lengthy Bush dis? Of course you did. Why couldn't Gore do anything this statesmanlike when he was running against the jackass?
And Carnival of the Vanities
Lastly, here's some stuff about SUVs
and crash safety
(first link discussion, second a New Yorker
reprint from Malcolm
During the design of Chrysler's PT Cruiser, one of the things Rapaille learned was that car buyers felt unsafe when they thought that an outsider could easily see inside their vehicles. So Chrysler made the back window of the PT Cruiser smaller. Of course, making windows smaller--and thereby reducing visibility--makes driving more dangerous, not less so. But that's the puzzle of what has happened to the automobile world: feeling safe has become more important than actually being safe.
In psychology, there is a concept called learned helplessness, which arose from a series of animal experiments in the nineteen-sixties at the University of Pennsylvania. Dogs were restrained by a harness, so that they couldn't move, and then repeatedly subjected to a series of electrical shocks. Then the same dogs were shocked again, only this time they could easily escape by jumping over a low hurdle. But most of them didn't; they just huddled in the corner, no longer believing that there was anything they could do to influence their own fate. Learned helplessness is now thought to play a role in such phenomena as depression and the failure of battered women to leave their husbands, but one could easily apply it more widely. We live in an age, after all, that is strangely fixated on the idea of helplessness: we're fascinated by hurricanes and terrorist acts and epidemics like sars--situations in which we feel powerless to affect our own destiny. In fact, the risks posed to life and limb by forces outside our control are dwarfed by the factors we can control. Our fixation with helplessness distorts our perceptions of risk. "When you feel safe, you can be passive," Rapaille says of the fundamental appeal of the S.U.V. "Safe means I can sleep. I can give up control. I can relax. I can take off my shoes. I can listen to music." For years, we've all made fun of the middle-aged man who suddenly trades in his sedate family sedan for a shiny red sports car. That's called a midlife crisis. But at least it involves some degree of engagement with the act of driving. The man who gives up his sedate family sedan for an S.U.V. is saying something far more troubling--that he finds the demands of the road to be overwhelming.
Two things he brings up that resonate with me: first, the idea of learned helplessness. This is a major theme in Barry Schwartz' 'The Paradox of Choice,' which I just finished reading (too much pop psychology and not enough cultural studies, but still very good). And second, the idea that SUVs tap into a desire not for safety but for the appearance of safety. That's another excellent tool for understanding modern life, I think, the way that the appearance of something has come to substitute for the thing itself.