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The Seven Deadly Sins Diet


Sure, I know we’re all supposed to be acting like grown-ups these days – bucking up, buckling down, toughening up, pulling up our socks, straightening our ties – being more sober than we’ve ever been. And I know a lean, mean look, buffed up like Michelle Obama’s arms, much better suits these tougher times than a, shall we say, softer, silhouette.

Call me a self-indulgent whiner, but I still say losing weight or getting in shape is hard, and I still say hard stuff is, you know, tough. That’s why I had a warm, fuzzy blast to the past – you remember, the good old days when we still thought we could get something for nothing, like maybe 2007 – when I read about this “diet” to lose weight through more sleep. Not getting enough sleep could contribute to putting on the pounds so, yes, of course, just get some sleep and watch the pounds melt away. This is my kind of diet.

Still, it’s not enough. Now, sloth is one of my favorite sins, and if I can indulge it while thinking I’m going to lose weight, sign me up. But what about the six other deadly sins? We all have our personal preferences. There must be a way to tap everyone’s favorite weakness for diet purposes. So, as spring’s warmth and beauty leads to the shedding of our protective layers of big coats, I’m working on some seven sins diet tips.

Wrath is a pretty easy one to use. Pretend your partner has left you for a twenty-years-younger hardbody. How do you feel? Now use that anger to fuel getting into shape. About to slack off on the rowing machine?–more wrath!

And lust? Also easy. I’m not even going to bother Googling “sex diet” for you. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be the calorie burning or if you’re supposed to distract yourself from food, but feel free to let me know if you figure it out.


Posted by Deborah Klosky at 12:52 PM | Permalink

It’s Good To Be The (Drag)Queen


While reading the economic news is like taking a trip in the wayback machine (house prices from six years ago! stock prices from the 90s! a contraction like the early 80s!), it’s nice to see areas of society where there is real progress.

Specifically, in homecoming queens. Apparently gender doesn’t matter the way it once did.

George Mason University, in Northern Virginia, just elected its first drag queen as homecoming queen. This is definite progress. Why? Well, for most women, just the phrase “homecoming queen” – part popularity contest, part beauty pageant – has a retro-sexist feel to it. It calls up images of cashmere sweaters over pointy-coned bras, pleated kilts with bobby socks, football weekends where girls work on their M.R.S. degrees. So it’s nice that the students have elected someone whose flaunting of breasts is a stereotype breaker.

The best part of the election of a gay man to represent the school as its homecoming queen is that it seems to have been done almost matter-of-factly on campus. This is a hopeful sign about the decline of homophobia and the possibilities for legal gay marriages. Some day, it just won’t be an issue and opposition to gay rights will be clearly ridiculous, although of course many activists would prefer to speed up that day (or not?). It sounds great for the man elected too, who is described as being thrilled with the election and who had some tough teenage years in his small town after he came out.

It’s a good sign for George Mason, too. For several years the school has been hiring academic big guns to try to boost its standing and respect beyond that of a typical community college – and doing a good job of it, too. Well, a drag queen homecoming queen catapults it up to the next level. Nothing says elite college more than a student body that applies an irony suffused, liberal-minded enthusiasm to traditional institutions (except of course for alumni fundraising and job networking, which are sacred rites at all institutions of higher learning).

Also, a man in full-on glamour drag points out, to me, the artificiality of some of the ideas about women’s beauty (not to mention serving as a reminder that I really should investigate some more proactive underwear). Homecoming queens, beauty queens, women’s magazines, fashion, Hollywood, and by extension, pretty much every time there’s public comment about a woman’s appearance, the idea is reinforced that women are on display and we should keep that in mind and keep our tummies tucked in and lips plumped out. Your average female homecoming queen is a depressing reminder that women are still objectified way too much and far too early in their lives. In that sense, George Mason’s move to choose a man carries a lot less baggage for women; sometimes wearing lipstick can just be fun.

But we’ll know things have really changed when a Miss America wins in drag.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 12:42 PM | Permalink

Changing My Stripes


The last thing any of us need right now is any more uncertainty in life, any more shifting sands under our feet, any more treasured truths thrown by the wayside. Unfortunately, there’s a new reality we all must now face.
Brace yourselves: Horizontal stripes do not make you look fat. And vertical stripes do not slim you down. Apparently, it’s the reverse that’s true – horizontal stripes actually make you look thinner. Really – it’s been scientifically proven. A psychologist at York University in England recently presented the results of a (small but I’ll buy it) study showing this. However, he does still back the idea that black makes you look thinner, so at least the whole world hasn’t gone topsy-turvy.
If you’re like me, you figured the time you wasted absorbing stupid fashion “rules” (in magazines in the old days; now whenever I’m tempted to an errant click) at least would be compensated for by a better appearance, and – or so conventional wisdom has it – that is supposed to offer some kind of concrete payback in the real world. Every so often I’d be tempted by some cute sailor stripes, or a multi-colored sweater, but steer myself away or eventually purge it from my wardrobe (when it comes to worries about looking fat it’s a lot easier to get rid of the stripes than the brownies).
And now it turns out I should have trusted my instincts. And just worn what I liked. What’s next? I suppose now I’ll find out I’m not really a winter – or that those colors are all wrong anyway. Or that a good bra doesn’t really matter? That no matter how hard you shop there isn’t a flattering pair of jeans for everyone? The right piece of jewelry can’t perk up an outfit? The only way to look ten pounds thinner is to – lose ten pounds? Believe me, I am no slave to fashion, but I always figure a few tips can’t hurt (like, if you wear a t-shirt with a stain that didn’t come out, can you pass it off as the pattern? can you wear white sweat socks with clogs if the socks are super cozy and keep your feet warm?); still, it looks like my secret vice – checking out Oprah-type makeovers – is even more of a waste than I thought.
Here’s another annoying part – researcher Peter Thompson was inspired to do his study because of an idea about optical illusions from the 19th century. The good old Helmholtz illusion shows that for two same-sized squares, the one with horizontal strips looks taller and thinner than the one with vertical stripes. Thus, notes Thompson, 19th-century German physicist and physician Hermann von Helmholtz was backing totally different – and more accurate – fashion tips than nowadays. So what happened? We all got confused? I wonder just how much popular wisdom (in all areas) is simply wrong, or what other (arguably) useful knowledge was once common but is now buried. Just when I was hoping Google and Wikipedia were the way to find all the answers, now it seems we’ll have to look further. Of course, there’s always the all-black wardrobe.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 11:44 AM | Permalink

Calendar Moms


What if you put it all out there – and nobody wanted it?
I mean, physical appearance is supposed to be every woman’s back-up schtick. It’s a classic made-for-TV (movie or reality show) scenario: physics Ph.D. candidate by day, stripper by night, just to make ends meet. Former rocket scientist turned professional escort, for the better work conditions. (Those are just the lighter examples of too many too real situations where women have different levels of control over exchanging their sexuality for funds.)
And as we’ve learned, to the beauty industry’s delight, there’s never a good excuse to “let yourself go.” Aging legs still need to be shaved, or waxed or whatever – when you’re showing them off, you just need a different attitude than a hot, young thing might, as the older British women who inspired the movie “Calendar Girls” and have to date made several millions for leukemia research showed.
Of course, “hot young thing in a bikini” is a sure hit. Recently Ryanair flight attendants made a 2008 calendar to sell, pulling in over 100 thousand dollars for charity. That’s thanks in part to publicity from a Spanish government women’s agency protesting the sexism of the calendar, according to a nyah-nyah statement from Ryanair. So I’m guessing the company’s next donation will be to a European version of N.O.W.
So it’s clear. Whether you look like you should be advertising for Victoria’s Secret or as one of Dove’s “Real Women” (and fine looking they are, and professionally made-up, lit and photographed; you want really real, check out my bathroom mirror in the morning), there’s only one thing for a gal to do if she wants cash for a good cause – strip down and start shooting.
Which is exactly what some middle-aged mommies (sorry, the phrase is inevitable) who wanted to raise money for a youth center in their tiny (population 400) rural village in Western Spain thought. They did try lotteries and raffles. But when that didn’t bring in enough, the mothers of all seven students in the village undressed, covered the naughty bits with tinsel or fur pelts, and made their own calendar.
It was an amateur venture – they took each other’s pictures since they didn’t have money for a professional photographer. Still, they hoped it would appeal enough to sell several thousand copies at 5 euros (almost $8) a calendar.
So is this a story with a happy ending? Was the calendar so popular that the latest trend for women all over Spain is to draw fake stretch marks on their bodies with eyeliner? Can we say that good humor and a good cause will let the eye see beyond low production values? Well, no, not yet. The net result: almost 9000 euros of debt to the printer (over $14,000) and the youth center is still a dream.
The calendar sold at first, but, you know, somehow they missed the Christmas sales rush, and well…Of course that was before the press attention to their plight, so maybe sales will pick up. The women came up with the idea for what the Associated Press called a “tongue in cheek” erotic calendar, as a light-hearted way to raise money. And they are goofy pictures, of attractive, normal women but who had no professional photography/media-savvy/airbrushing/posing advice (now that’s shocking!). Here you go, you can see for yourself, and decide whether you’d like it hanging on your fridge.
It’s an interesting message for the village’s children. We care enough about you to want you to have a center. What’s the best way to get money? Sell nudie pictures of mommy. But gee, nobody wanted them. (And is that the secret nightmare behind every letter Oprah receives from a bedraggled mom begging for a makeover, or what? You get it all together, and no one cares.) We’ll just hope they get a little drop-in family counseling area in the center if it’s ever built.
Maybe there were a few more options to try before resorting to the old standby of flesh for cash. What about cashing in on other stereotypes? There’s always a bake sale.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 1:18 PM | Permalink

Love, Franco- or American-Style


Ah, those French. Sometimes, they are just so…French.
Today’s example: M. Nicolas Sarkozy, president of la France. This is a man who, just a few months into a new job heading up a major European nation, finds the time to publicly and enthusiastically conduct a new romance. Sure there’s a prime minister around too, but still. And Sarkozy was so enthusiastic about the whole thing that he and Italian-singer-former-model-monogamy-detractor Carla Bruni even got themselves hitched this past weekend.
Now, as I remember, real dating – when it’s done right – takes a lot of time and energy. And they seemed to be doing it right – they managed to be reported googly eyed in an amazing number of places given the few short months they’ve been together. Reading the papers has been uncomfortably like getting stuck as a third wheel at the table with a couple really hitting it off on their first date. Sarkozy might have considered the Disneyland Paris date as doing double duty by displaying a pro-U.S. stance, but even so it’s an unusual show of priorities for a head of state.
But this attention to le romance seems quintessentially continental. Like making good food and wine an important part of daily life, it’s quite in keeping with the stereotype to see a Frenchman take time for the rose-smelling, so to speak, side of life. We’d expect an American, by contrast, to typically be all business and efficiency – and take a fast food kind of approach to satisfying hungers.
To test this hypothesis, and speaking of fast food by the way, let’s look at an example of how a sitting, so to speak, U.S. president managed his affairs; how’s about Bill Clinton, simply because we know more than we need to about how he did so.
Clinton by all accounts put in long days on the job and should have felt free to take a few minutes away from the office. Yet, like many Americans these days who find love where they spend the most time, he picked a partner from where he worked – la Lewinsky, an intern. And in a real display of efficiency, but perhaps little romance, he enjoyed the interludes right in the office itself. Though I’m happily not privy to bedroom details for M. Sarkozy for comparison purposes, Mr. Clinton even chose what some gentlemen feel is a streamlined path to satisfaction, at times, if I remember the old reports properly, not even seeing the deed through to its natural completion.
Sarkozy’s romance unfortunately was a bit too, what? Exuberant? Whirlwind? Indicative of a need for therapy? In any case, too something for the French, as his approval ratings fell during the courtship. Clinton’s approval ratings weren’t hurt (surely the French can’t be more prudish than Americans?), but of course he had his own little impeachment difficulties following his in-office romance. So ahead of Valentine’s Day, you can consider whether you prefer a French or American path to love, but if you’re a nation’s leader, no romance (at least not in public) does seem like the best idea.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 10:31 AM | Permalink

Gettin’ Down With The Philly Sound


Kayne West, the producer-turned-rapper, has brassy, arrogant and winning Muhammad Ali/Miles Davis-like charm. He’s called out President George W. Bush and has a fairly predictable habit of declaring himself the winner at music award shows — even when the prize goes to someone else.

Still, he showed proper humility to the music gods at Philadelphia International Records, home of The Sound of Philadelphia. West had the good sense to deflate his ego and license — not steal — a sample groove from “Cola Bottle Baby,” an obscure 1980s Edwin Birdsong tune from the Philly International catalogue, in order to power up hit single “Stronger.”

Although not as celebrated, the Sound of Philadelphia (TSOP) rounds out the trinity of R&B that also includes the Motown sound of Detroit, and the Stax sound of Memphis.

Motown music, personified by the Supremes, Temptations and Four Tops, crossed over into the American mainstream soon after its creation. Stax music was the anti-Motown, sweaty and Southern compared to Motown’s Northern cool. Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Johnny Taylor and the Staple Singers were Stax artists.

Detroit vs. Memphis R&B is different as oil vs. water, yet both sounds had this in common: Each genre was powered by a small house band of very talented and, to some still unknown, musicians, Motown’s Funk Brothers or Stax’s racially mixed band led by the Booker T. and the MGs rhythm section. Meanwhile, Philly sound arrangements distinguished themselves from Detroit and Memphis with a 10-piece orchestra of string and brass players. This orchestra that rotated up to 70 musicians was way different from how Motown and Stax operated

But all of these record companies share “message” songs, anthems that called black people to action. “Wake up Everybody” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, was TSOP’s match to Motown’s “What’s Going on” by Marvin Gaye, said Chuck Gamble. I’ll offer Stax’s “Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers.

The Philly sound of Patti LaBelle, the O’Jays, and Teddy Pendergrass had a lot of Stax’s raw emotion, but definitely lots of Motown’s assembly line-like craftsmanship. And in many ways, the Philly Sound brought that bravado and attitude that was the pre-cursor to Kanye West’s success today in music and business.

Still, the Philly Sound is on my mind because this month I toured the recording studios on South Broad Street with colleagues from the Trotter Group, a society of columnists.

We’re writers and hams. Every time Chuck Gamble, nephew of co-founder Kenny Gamble, told an anecdote about one of the recording stars, we sang a few bars of hit songs like Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones,” or the Intruders’ “Cowboys to Girls.” Gamble appeared amused rather than annoyed by our playful interruptions.

We peeked inside several 10-by-12-foot recording rooms insulated with shag carpet on the floor and additional carpet on the walls. In a slightly bigger room where the orchestra backed the singing groups or solo artists, Gamble told us we were standing in the space where Patti LaBelle once broke a microphone with her voice and rumbled all of the glass in the room.

Inside the control booth, engineer Craig White turned up the O’Jays “For the Love of Money” then isolated the soulful shouts of vocalists Eddie Levert and Walt Williams. Then White added the bass, percussion and brass tracks that flavored the musical broth.

Chuck Gamble’s uncle, singer Kenny Gamble, plus creative partner Leon Huff, the pianist, were the visionaries of TSOP’s golden era in the 1970s. Back then, the label averaged 30 records a year, and during 1971-72, sold 10 million, said the nephew, a company executive.

Today, Gamble and Huff preserves and resells their vintage songs. New-school recording artists like Kanye West benefit from the old-school treasure chest. Philadelphia International published 3,500 songs and in that mix 70 of the tunes were No. 1 Pop and R&B hits.

Like 1960s Motown hits that became ubiquitous in the 1980s in movies like “the Big Chill,” 1970s Philly sounds routinely turn up in the opening of “The Apprentice” (the O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money”) or Coors commercials (the O’Jays again crooning “Love Train”).

Philadelphia International executives boast that every 14 minutes somewhere in the world a Gamble and Huff song is playing on the radio. I asked the Gamble nephew if there’s a Philly Sound project in the works along the lines of the various Motown TV specials, and last summer the PBS Stax documentary “Respect Yourself.”

Yes said Gamble, a PBS program is in production for release sometime in 2008-09. It ought to be called, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” a tribute to McFadden & Whitehead’s signature Gamble & Huff tune.

Posted by Wayne Dawkins at 9:29 AM | Permalink

Putting Life On Pause


This is official notice that friends will no longer be receiving any birthday wishes from me. I still do hope people have happy birthdays, but I refuse to say anything; what I could get back has become too risky. Like the latest example: I recently popped off an email to wish an old friend happy birthday, and she wrote back to thank me, sighing that she’s really not paying attention now because we’re getting so close to 50. 50? 50? Hardly, although she certainly does seem to have catapulted into a touch of senility.
Let me explain. Technically, my friend and I are in the decade that leads up to 50, but way way way on the young end of it. Barely there at all in fact. And, as my friends should be aware, and will be reminded if they ask, I’m younger than everyone I know. And staying that way.
Not that there’s anything wrong with 50. But there’s no need to get ahead of yourself. Not that you have any choice in how fast you age, but once that desperate looking-ahead to driving age and legal drinking status has passed, it’s time to relax and enjoy the ride.
There’s more to this than my personal refusal to accept that I’m getting older. I’m part of the baby bust, generation X if you remember back to that once-popular marketing term that took off after Douglas Coupland’s novel. All our lives we busters have trailed the baby boomers, that post-World War II span of high birthrates; that’s like growing up with a motormouthed, self-involved older sibling monopolizing mom and dad’s attention. (After all, when was the last time you heard the term “Gen X” used? We’re not the mass of boomers and we’re not so young, so who cares about selling to us anymore?)
Because they’re such a bunch of blabbermouths, I mean, because they have been breaking ground over the years in their openness to discuss personal issues, we’ve been hearing about what the boomers are doing and what they’re concerned about at every age – so that sometimes their concerns overshadowed our own. We couldn’t even spell sexuality, they were already having their ´60s hippies explorations and then 70´s disco decadence; so we ended up with Laugh-In go-go dancers, and gym class hustle lessons. Then, we were moving into the prime years to be concerned about contraception, just as some boomers started to worry about infertility; so news on IVF techniques filled health stories.
Now, with the oldest boomers into their 60s, we’re all being swept along as The Vagina Monologues crowds move on to Menopause: The Musical (well, perhaps not quite the same crowds). To go by the amount of chatter, we’re either all there already or are simply pre-menopausal, which is technically true (for women at least; men miss out on these clear hormonal cycle markers).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that previously taboo topics of life’s stages (I’m thinking more about women here, although who’s not comfy chatting about erectile disfunction these days?) are discussed more openly. Sharing information about what childbirth’s like, and illnesses, and what aging means, is a great help for people following behind and going through the same thing, and we could go further with openness. The bulbous generation will forge ahead on how to treat hot flashes, and what an aging neck really looks like. And I really hope boomers will sort out Medicare problems and the healthcare mess, and agitate for some gentle, respectful way to care for the elderly as their parents and they themselves face old age.
Heck, now, thanks to boomers sharing, I know all about breasts shrinking with age. And so I know what to watch develop (undevelop?). But…do I really want to have another detail of aging to focus on? Especially if there’s nothing (non-surgical) I can do about it?
And, yes, Nora (and you’re technically a pre-boomer, I see), my neck’s starting to bother me too – particularly after having seen an especially unflattering picture taken from a kid angle (pictures aimed up do no one any favors; my advice: don’t let your kids near a camera until they’re as tall as you are). But if it weren’t for having the title of your book stuck in my mind, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed it as much. I mean, don’t I have a few years before I need to buy a jaunty little scarf for my neck? In the meantime, I’d like to slap on some moisturizer and concentrate on other things than when my AARP subscription can start.
But the boomers’ concerns become everyone’s concerns. Or at least the concerns of anyone who chooses to pays attention to them. But at least if you pay attention there’s time to prepare for the next stage, which with my aging plan I figure won’t come for another 30, 40 years.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 11:38 AM | Permalink

Smart Stuff


As I first read about this recent study that found that first-borns have a higher IQ than their younger siblings, I started to get worried thinking about Son the Elder and Son the Younger.
I mean, nobody is going to tell me that either of my sons is any less of a genius than anyone else, even his brother. I’m as neurotic as any mother of more than one could be about not pigeonholing or comparing the little guys. So naturally I read every article about the study I ran across, noticing all the “buts,” the hedging and the qualifying, and I wasn’t really satisfied until I found some story that mentioned the most important point for anyone who reads these kinds of studies about human nature (wrongly) for personal insight: that average results say nothing about how particular individuals will be. Which I knew. And which is true of any study like this.
Bu these stories about scientific studies are like horoscopes for the college-educated. I can’t keep myself from reading about the latest one that catches the media’s attention: Study Finds That Music Makes Babies Smarter; Study Finds That People With Friends Are Happier; Study Finds That People Who Eat Are Less Hungry. What do they mean? Who knows?
That’s no comment on the original study. But by the time it gets filtered out into a couple of summary paragraphs and a quote, it’s hard to tell its significance. As the scientists themselves would point out, there’s often important context (like all the other research in a field) or caveats that simply can’t get worked in to a brief mention.
This study, in case you’re curious, and you know you are if you have more than one kid or have siblings yourself, showed a three-point IQ difference for the oldest son. The younger one though, might be the more original thinker, a psychologist pointed out when discussing the study. So really, to fully understand the study, the first thing to ask is, who on the research team had some old sibling rivalries still percolating? No, I’m sure it has its place in the scientific literature, and it might even be the definitive study, but I’m completely unqualified to decide and like most studies it just can’t be changed to a “news you can use” presentation.
Instead, it’s much more soothing to read about Paris Hilton. News about real events can be…disturbing. But with the Paris saga, you have a strong dramatic structure – the rise, the fall, the redemption? – without the necessity of really caring. Sure, it’s a bit disturbing to see a crying woman dragged off to jail screaming for her mother, and maybe for half a second you think, did she really get more jail time than “a regular person” would have?, but then you’re like, “Oh, it’s Paris Hilton. Whatever.” And maybe there’s a vague curiosity to see how the next chapter – Paris renounces her old ways and makes good – plays out, but, whatever. You can always catch up with the summer reruns.
Say what you will about our Paris-ian celebrity circuses, we harm fewer animals with them than the Romans did. So since no innocent children are involved in Paris’ escapades, whatever. I mean, there really aren’t any wider lessons to be picked up here. Are there? Or – wait – isn’t Paris an oldest child? So she’s the smartest of the bunch? I think we need some more research.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 11:05 PM | Permalink

A Green Wedding


Well, I think we’ve got this global warming thing pretty much under control these days. Because buying “green” is now quite the fashion. And if the answer to an environmental crisis really is just proper shopping, then I do have faith in Americans’ ability to shop our way out of trouble.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that more consumption is not the answer to a problem of misused resources, that if we all buy long-life lightbulbs, we’ll be drowning in the regular bulbs we throw away, or that rather than buying a new low-impact eyeshadow, it would be better…not to buy anything. The trick, as my colleague Scott Olin Schmidt points out, is to figure out how to make money off selling conservation. A little government money for solar energy wouldn’t hurt either. But I’ll just worry about all that tomorrow.
Because today, what’s one of the biggest sinkholes of shopping excess; a big, bloated ball of opportunity to blow through $5000 in flowers and $10,000 in white silk, lace and sequins in exactly four hours? Yup, the modern wedding extravaganza. But not to fear, even weddings can go green now. Judging by all the how-to reports, there’s at least some interest in green weddings, including among the highest spending wedders, those most likely to be spewing the most carbon on their special day. Sure, Time has looked at the subject, but even a magazine devoted to excess like Town & Country had a recent article on green weddings.
So make those flowers locally grown and organic, say the green wedding tipsters. This is easier to do in some places than others. Which probably explains Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s recent wedding. Brin, one of the current crop of ecologically minded super rich, presumably kept his environmental principles in mind for his nuptials. So it must have been the access to locally grown flowers that led to flying the whole crowd from San Francisco to the Bahamas on his private 757 airplane instead of loading them on a bus for a trip to a nice Hilton in nearby Oakland.
Naw, it’s too easy to knock the rich and famous for their private plane jaunts. I surely don’t want anyone to look too closely at my washing machine habits, for example. And even your average folks’ wedding gets a whole lot of people jetting in for the weekend.
But the World Wildlife Fund has the answer to that in its tips for a green wedding:

Consider purchasing carbon offset credits to mitigate [honeymoon flights or wedding guest travel]. You can purchase them yourself for your honeymoon or ask for the credits as a gift. You can also ask guests to purchase these to offset their own travel.

Asking people you invite to a wedding to purchase carbon offset credits probably would be a very successful way to have guests achieve the ultimate in energy savings: staying home.
Portovert says it’s the first and only (so far) magazine “for eco-savvy brides and grooms.” The most intriguing part of its site is where it says, “Calculate your wedding emissions.” Amazing what modern science has made possible.
Green’s not only the new black, it’s practically the new white too.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 3:37 PM | Permalink

Grounds for Coffee


I don’t mean to sound like an effete little whiny Euro snob, but sometimes the stereotypes are true: Americans drink a lot of bad coffee. I’m back recently from a visit to the States and believe me, it was rough, coffee-wise.
I don’t mean the drinks at all these coffeehouses that have sprouted; I’m talking your average cup of joe that you can get at the corner diner, if that still exists. O.K., I know someone’s going to pipe up and say, “Hey, what about Starbucks? They’re all over and they have good coffee.” Well, yes, fine, maybe they do, but first of all, Starbucks isn’t really in the U.S. It’s the European coffeehouse as filtered through Seattle, meaning it’s a good place to discuss philosophy in the rain, or, in other words: Canada.
And then, I was visiting family, and my family’s not really a Starbucks kind of family. For one thing – and here I’ll share my own thinking but it must have come from somewhere – my kids might one day be interested in going to an American university and if so, that $17.50 per mucho mocha super gigantgrosso we’d shell out at Starbucks might well be missed. And then, for the calories in a mucho mocha etc., you can get a plain old black coffee and a donut at Dunkin’ Donuts.
Oh yes, we are a Dunkin’ Donuts kind of family. By the end of the trip Son the Elder was keeping track of how often you could spot a Dunkin’ Donuts, which in Rhode Island and the company’s home state of Massachusetts where we were driving around averages one per block. Hard to beat that convenience. And Son the Younger had made up his own tune to sing the advertising slogan his brother read to him off the donut bags.
So it’s clear what chain had claimed our loyalty this trip. All these chain places are in a coffee war or breakfast war or lunch war or something, so I expect we’ll be getting a thank-you note pretty soon.
No, I exaggerate, we didn’t really spend the whole trip driving from Dunkin’ to Dunkin’, but I did learn a coffee drinking secret of theirs, by accident. See, when I say “black coffee and a donut,” black coffee is what I intended to have, and what I usually drink in the U.S. But at Dunkin’ Donuts, while trying to communicate in what I thought was my native tongue, I ordered coffee. Now, as part of this foo-foo coffee trend everywhere (apparently I’m not the only one who’s noticed your average cup of coffee is not always so good), even ye olde Dunk has fancy coffees; so when the counterman asked me what kind of coffee I wanted, I asked for “just regular.” Which, as I sort of vaguely knew, but relearned with the first sip, at Dunkin’ Donuts means with cream and sugar. Which is actually quite tasty, and makes the coffee irrelevant, thanks to those extra calories tucked in. So that’s a slip I repeated accidentally on purpose.
Traveling around Europe, one of the things a coffee drinker can do is check the guidebook for each country on how coffee is served and the language to order it. I thought in the U.S. I’d have it down pat. Apparently not. Although Dunkin’s coffee quirk doesn’t bother me because it strikes me as a little piece of the chain’s regional background hanging on.
That’s like In-N-Out Burger’s “secret” ordering codes. The burger chain is a California institution and possibly the only chain that could be good enough and hip enough for both Paris Hilton and the late Julia Child to frequent. If you’re in the know, you can order in a special way instead of straight off the menu, like asking for an “animal-style” hamburger to up the condiments. Although at this point, if an uncool outsider like me has heard of the secret menu, it’s got to be well on its way from insider code to pure marketing schtick.
McDonald’s too, now that I think of it, offers a cheaper senior coffee that you can ask for even if it’s not on the menu. And their coffee is supposed to be relatively tasty these days. But that’s senior as in senior citizen, and I hope I’d have to be a bit more jet-lagged than I’ve been so far to look like I could order that one.
And Starbucks apparently has off-the-menu possibilities also. Like a small-sized, bargain-priced coffee you have to know to ask for. Which I might have to try sometime, if I can remember how to order it.
Gee, I thought I knew the lingo back home. This all makes café con leche look mighty easy.

Posted by Deborah Klosky at 11:54 PM | Permalink

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