Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The UFC and the US Armed Forces: Strange Bedfellows Indeed

Dana White, President of UFC

I was living in Washington, DC, in the eras of 9/11, the start of both recent US wars on/of terror, the Beltway sniper and the now fabled anthrax attacks. One day my friend Andrew J. and I went to see a movie. At the start of the movie was the now common US Marines recruiting ad. I looked over to Andrew and saw that he was visibly saddened.

"What's up?" I asked him.

"They've won," he said. I asked him to explain and he said, "There was a time when the military recruiting ads would come on and everyone would boo because we all saw through it. Now we all sit in silence." And indeed, some seemed to sit in not only silence, but in reverence. "They've won."

Fast forward to present day. In the past couple of weeks, I've watched a lot of UFC. I love the sport of MMA and I love the way that UFC has helped the sport to grow. I've blogged about it here, here, here and even here. In this post, I wrote:

"I've argued many times that MMA is a civilized sport, that it exalts in the purity of the human spirit and strives to make a man confront his true self. The battle is, in many ways, irrelevant to the character-building journey that minimal-rule fighting represents."

A weird thing has begun to happen in the last few months, particularly in the last few weeks --or maybe I've been to blind to notice it before: the ever-growing intimate relationship between MMA --the UFC, in particular-- and the US military. This relationship, sadly, may somewhat invalidate my quote above.

At least one entire UFC pay-per-view (PPV) event was completely sponsored by the US military and was put on specifically for US military personnel. At last month's finale of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC's reality show, it was announced that one of the competitors was leaving for Afghanistan in a few days. The fight commentator, Mike Goldberg, was almost in tears, emoting on how this young man was fighting in the octagon, but would soon be abroad "to fight for our freedoms".

At UFC 107, which I finished watching last night, it was announced in the ring that one of the fights (that between Kenny Florian and Clay Guida) was being "brought to us" by the US Marine Corps. Both fighters then gave the corps a standing ovation, and the camera panned to shaven-head men in uniform in the audience, whooping it up.

In the past, UFC has sent its fighters to tour US soldiers in the field, such as Rampage Jackson's trip to Camp Pendleton. The relationship between UFC and the US military is an increasingly intimate one.

Well, what's the big deal? Ordinarily there wouldn't be one. In my world, any legal entity is allowed to sponsor any legal event and reap the rewards of sponsorship. And it's certainly any citizen's right to express his patriotism in any legal way he sees as appropriate. I may not like the recruitment methods of the US military, and I certainly don't like the way in which armed men have begun to be revered in some parts of society; but I do not deny the military's right to sponsor events and the UFC's right to accept such sponsorship. And, as I'm sure has occurred to many, there is a certain congruence in two brands of violence finding love in one another's tattooed arms.

Admittedly, it makes me uncomfortable that an erstwhile global brand like the UFC is visibly tying its philosophies, fortunes and values to the political dynamic of a single nation, the USA. I wonder what that says of the company's attitude toward fighters from nations not sharing American geopolitical ideologies. The company's newsworthy inability (or unwillingness) to sign Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, considered by many to be the pound-for-pound greatest living fighter in the world, might be indicative of an inability to fit competitors from non-NATO nations into their conceptual dynamic. Even so, if UFC wishes to tie its fortunes thusly, as did many professional wrestling companies, I suppose it is their right to do so, however unattractive to me their brand becomes.

But let me be absolutely clear and say that this post is not about bashing the military. Not at all. In other posts, I will gleefully offer my criticisms of US (and increasingly Canadian) military fetishism, and of the thinning line between soldierdom and policymaking, and of immoral and politically inappropriate use by government of the instruments of war and security. But no one should take any of this as criticism of the individuals who serve in the military. All of my interactions with members of the latter have always been pleasant and cordial.

Rather, the big deal, for me, arose when I received a Twitter tweet from UFC President Dana White, acting, not as a private citizen, but as the President of the UFC. The tweet was this:

danawhite http://www.tinyurl.com/yd22h4b Read the story then you decide. They have my support. I hope they have you too.
Click on the link he forwarded. It's a Facebook page asking for political, emotional and financial support for "two elite Navy Seals" who are facing courtmartial for allegedly abusing an Iraqi detainee in their custody. According to the page, the charges are of "impeding the investigation and dereliction of duty in failing to safeguard a detainee."

I don't know the facts surrounding the incident beyond those reported in the Facebook page. The page itself exists to garner public, and therefore political, support for a sociopolitical perspective, specifically that the rights of the detainee are less important than the need to honour the Navy Seals in question. To quote the page:

"The proceedings against these heroes are an outrage to all the brave Americans serving in uniform to defend this country, especially those deployed in harm's way."

Their rationale is that prosecution of alleged abusers plays into the master plan of "terrorists" to diminish soliders' morale. This is followed by:

"The supposed victim, Ahmed Hashim Abed, was the mastermind behind killing, burning and mutilating four American contractors in Fallujah, Iraq, in March 2004. His followers hung the desiccated corpses high on a box-girder bridge over the Euphrates River. Mr. Abed was run down by the SEALs on a covert mission in September 2009."

I hope it's clear to anyone reading this that the charges against a detainee (who has yet to face trial, by the way) has no bearing on whether or not his custodians are allowed to strike him. This is the nature of accepting the responsibility of custody. This is how it works in every legal system in the Western world. And as an aside, my congratulations to the US military for convening such a courtmartial; it goes a long way to reclaiming their image as a law-abiding agency worthy of international respect.

So what makes me uncomfortable about this whole thing? It's the fact that UFC President Dana White, in his capacity as President of a corporation, is sharing this website address to UFC fans and adding the qualifier, "They have my support. I hope they have you too. [sic]"

It's one thing to accept sponsorship from an arm of the government, on behalf of your company, and to further state your support for the policies and practices of that governmental arm. (After all, that's what allowing the military to embed itself so closely within your commercial activities means: that you associate yourself with that agency's policies, practices and philosophies.) It's quite another thing to brazenly advocate for the preferential slackening of criminal law on select transgressors where such slackening coincides with the larger agenda of your sponsor.

In other words, Dana White, private citizen, can do whatever the heck he wants. Dana White, corporate head of UFC, has no business encouraging UFC fans/customers to advocate for the vitiating of selected criminal proceedings.... That is, unless that it is indeed the will of UFC, Inc.

I wonder what the UFC Board of Directors has to say about this? And if indeed it is official corporate policy to take a side in this particular matter, then UFC needs to spell this out clearly. And, of course, they will have lost me as a fan, and perhaps many more like me.

I'm surprised that no one else has been commenting on the growing intimacy between the UFC (the fastest growing brand in sports) and the US military. A Google search brought me just two hits: this peace activist has a more angry stance than me; and this exchange on a fight forum has already been deleted, only accessible, it seems, through Google cache.

Many people reading this will respond with several predictable tropes. As in the cached exchange, some will reply with, "From the entire U.S. army, Go **** yourself." Others will say, "Well what did you expect, that's their demographic."

The former is par for the course. The latter is simply saddening. What I "expect" is irrelevant. What is important here is what we choose to tolerate. How comfortable are we as a society with our corporate leaders using their corporate heft to influence consumers to not only accede to certain political philosophies (nothing new there) but now to overtly advocate for the vitiation of criminal proceedings in favour of the abuse of an individual?

Strange --and critical-- times indeed.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Those Dyin' British Actors

I just learned from Rondi that Edward Woodward is dead. Most of you will remember him from that great American TV drama, The Equalizer. That show represented something sorely missing from current entertainment media: recognition of the skills of the middle aged. Rather than a team of models-cum-martial artists, all with genius IQs and deep histories going back decades beyond their actual ages, The Equalizer was about a retired British secret service agent who righted wrongs on the tough streets of the USA.

I loved Woodward in one of the creepiest of understated British horror films, The Wicker Man (the original, not the ridiculous Nicholas Cage remake). His son, Peter Woodward, is also a successful, though lesser known, actor, most noted in my world for his excellent and creepy portrayal of Galen, the "technomage" in the Babylon 5 spin-off, Crusade.

You also may not know that Edward Woodward had a key role in the recent (2007) Simon Pegg comedy, Hot Fuzz. Edgar Wright, the director of that film, has a tribute to Woodward on his website. Wright links to this Youtube clip of the opening of one of Woodward's early UK dramas, Callan. As Wright put it, "Edward Woodward was badass".

I find it pretty cool when serious British actors pop up in bit roles in their twilight years. Another example of that was the late great Patrick McGoohan's role as British King "Longshanks" (Edward I) in the Mel Gibson epic, Braveheart.

I will always lump the two with Richard Harris, who in his twilight years played Dumbledore, far more convincingly, in my opinion, than his replacement, Michael Gambon. I always thought Heath Ledger was on track to become the next Richard Harris.

Many people don't remember that Richard Harris was the voice behind the 1970s epic song, McArthur Park. For some reason, I can never disassociate this fact from the 1981 parody of his performance on SCTV. Here's Dave Thomas playing Richard Harris doing McArthur Park:

In terms of classical British actors in their twilight years, who does that leave? Peter O'Toole, of course, most recently seen in a gloriously creepy role as amoral Pope Paul III in The Tudors.

In Other News

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin claims that Canadian forces engaged to some degree in the illegal detainment and torture of Afghans. Conservative Ministers McKay and Baird deny such allegations and turn to questioning Colvin's very character. Thus, despite opposition demands, the government has refused to initiate any inquiry into possible abuses.

Hmm, you know what would really help to clear up any of these misunderstandings and allegations? I dunno, evidence of some sort, a smoking gun.... maybe some photos. Because, as we all know, when photos of crimes are taken, any truly responsible and democratic government would enter such photographic evidence into the public record, so that wrongdoers can't hide behind slandering their accusers or by erecting the wall of denial.

And we all know that no responsible, ethical and democratic government would ever seek to, I dunno, conceal such photos because that would be illegal, unethical, tantamount to criminal conspiracy, and plain old wrong.

Just sayin.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wine and Rum and Coconut Water

Hmm. 2:30am and I'm still a bit tipsy. So what do I do? Blogging in my hotel room while watching UFC champion Randy Couture in The Scorpion King 2. Zod, my kingdom for satellite TV!

Speaking of TV, today I caught an American commercial for the drug "Ambien CR". Like so many pharmaceutica ads, this one was 90% warning. Check out the text:

"When taking Ambien CR, don't drive or operate machinery.

Sleepwalking, and eating or driving while not fully awake, with memory loss for the event, as well as abnormal behaviors such as being more outgoing or aggressive than normal, confusion, agitation, and hallucinations may occur. Don't take it with alcohol as it may increase these behaviors.

Allergic reactions such as shortness of breath, swelling of your tongue or throat, may occur and in rare cases may be fatal.

Side effects of AMBIEN CR may include next-day drowsiness, dizziness and headache.

In patients with depression, worsening of depression, including risk of suicide may occur.

If you experience any of these behaviors contact your doctor immediately. "

Sweet Jebus, based on this ad, who would take this poison??!!

Had a great day in Kingston, Jamaica. I haven't really seen much except for a couple of hotels. But people have been very nice. One of the joys of the Caribbean Studies Association is that it holds a very social conference. The attendees are always interesting and diverse. I've met a black Guyanese woman from Scotland, an Italian specialist in Cuban literature who lives in New Mexico, an economist from Guadeloupe, and the list goes on and on and on.

This evening was a reception at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies. This place was paradise! Built on the site of a former sugar plantation, there are stone ruins on campus, overlooked by rounded mountains and a beaming sliver moon. Remind me why I teach in Ottawa again?

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

You're Fired!....Guv'nor.

Cousin Ajay sends us this. Is funny:

Cousin Ajay also sends us this, with the comment that he fears it might turn kids retarded:

Cousin Ajay is on a roll. (It's a figure of speech; he's not actually riding bread.) He also sends us Helen Keller's twitter feed. Go look.

Special Ed sends us Captain Kirk's Best and Worst Moments. (Yes, it's the real Kirk, not this new poser.) The list is missing the bit where Kirk has nasty Captain sex with the hyperfast accelerated woman who can kill him with a scratch, yet somehow manages to avoid any and all abrasions. That's skill.

Special thanks to Dr Qais Ghanem for hosting myself and Dr Robert Huish on Dr Ghanem's radio show last Friday. Hopefully the MP3 of the interview will be posted very soon.

A further thanks to the organizers of the CSEB student conference this weekend for inviting me to be a judge in theit epidemiology poster competition. Ironically, this weekend I also judged a literary contest with co-judge Shanthi Sekaran. Shanthi's new book is getting a lot of attention; I can't wait to read it.

What am I doing now? Procrastinating. How? By watching the UK version of The Apprentice. Man, I love this show! Well, I love most things British. It's so delicious watching Brits argue. Their turns of phrases sound so cute and alien to me that it's impossible for me to get too emotional about it, only highly entertained. And I love that their equivalent of Donald Trump, Sir Alan Sugar, is an enormous prick who doesn't take shit from anyone, and whose firing decisions appear to be both consistent and justified! What a change!

Okay, back to TV...

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

2009 TV Finales

Auuugh! I have so much work to do. But here I am at 10:30pm on Sunday night taking a break to blog about something really inconsequential: TV.

Yep, the last few days I've spent immersing myself in the various finales (both season and series) of my favourite TV shows of this year. Beware: spoilers abound. Here's my countdown of the top 9 finales of 2009.

9. Hell's Kitchen: Yes I watched this ridiculous show, mostly because Gordon Ramsay's unabashed arrogance fascinates me. Never again, though. This show is pointless and staged, with amateurish editing passing for drama. Give me more of Ramsay's more serious British shows, where the reality provides the drama, and less of this American tosh which tries to manufacture drama from dysfunctional personalities and improbable scenarios.

8. Celebrity Apprentice 2: Midway, I was really enjoying the show. I enjoyed how the producers apparently hate C-list celebrities, and were eager to show their shallowness in full colourful glory. But Donald Trump's cronyism, his illogical and inconsistent decision making, and his uncanny ability to offend all my sensibilities simultaneously have conspired to keep me away from his fatuous face for the rest of his TV career. If I never see the monstrous Joan or Melissa Rivers, or the weirdly self-aggrandizing Annie Duke, never again, it will be too soon.

7. Heroes: I don't even remember what happened. I'll probably watch next season; but really, what's the point?

6. Smallville: Oh Gawd. Jimmy Olsen is dead.... but he wasn't the real Jimmy, so that's okay. Clarke still can't fly. The Green Arrow thinks he's Batman. Supershmuck's epic battle with Doomsday --the only creature to have actually ended his life-- lasted all of 5 seconds, with the climax shown as stock footage of a factory explosion. Booooo! Still, I'll watch the 9th and hopefully final season next year.

5. Survivor Tocantins: JT won. Everyone knew he would. Meh. While Survivor may not be particularly relevant anymore, this year gave us Coach Wade, who is either profoundly impressive or overwhelmingly delusional. Still, he provided an opportunity to question some of the emotional aspects of feats of deprivation, about which Survivor is all about. He was worth watching.

4. Lost: The ending of the penultimate season of this most impressive of TV shows was somewhat banal, but instrumental in moving the landmark tale into a new domain. Lost has been a wondrous achievement for sticking to a complicated, mysterious narrative that nonetheless has a plan-- a rarity in TV history. Unlike The X-Files, which was great at piquing interest, but lousy at providing any narrative pay off, Lost clearly is headed somewhere. Its final 16 hours, to be broadcast in the Spring of 2010, will focus on the implications of the killing of the demigod Jacob. Lost has a rich mythology potentiated with strong acting and excellent writing. Its season finale, however, suffered from a ridiculous love quadrangle that just got in the way. But let's not focus on that.

3. Battlestar Galactica: This was one of the most anticipated series finales in the history of television. I enjoyed it, and hope to provide my review on Skiffy.ca very soon. But, you know what? It doesn't linger. It wasn't disappointing, but it also wasn't a transformative experience. And don't you doubt for a second that excellent television can be a transformative experience. This should have been one.

2. Prison Break: Yes, I know most people have stopped watching this show. But this 4th and final season was actually pretty interesting, as it managed to bring all the clumsy threads from the previous seasons together. I rank it as the second best finale this year for one reason only... Michael Scofield's very sad death. It was done with dignity. And while some see it as a kick in the collective nuts of all the fans, it's hard to argue that it doesn't linger. As a result it's the one season/series finale that I can't stop thinking about. There's something profoundly poetic about a a man who struggled and succeeded to save everyone else, but failed to save himself. Mind you, a direct-to-DVD movie is coming out soon about the circumstances of his death, so I'm a bit afraid that Michael has actually faked his death and is living on a beach in Panama with a transexual hooker. Boooo!

1. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Check out Deemack's review of season 1 on Skiffy.ca. Here is a classic example of a show too smart for its own good. It never found a core audience large enough to justify its expense. What a shame. Of all the shows I watched this year, Terminator is the only one that I could never predict-- that's how unusual the writing was. And its finale --what a work of art! All season, watching Garbage's Shirley Manson coax the manbot John Henry into the world of sentience was treat enough; but then seeing these activities culminate with a trip to the future to change the course of human travail was quite the adventure. Its final scene, with John Connor arriving in the future to find that no one knows his name, his father alive and well, and the female Terminator he secretly loves manifesting as a flesh and blood woman --all shown in slow motion, softly lit with suggestive music-- was one of the most charming and emotionally powerful scenes I've ever seen on American TV. Well done indeed.

Too bad it's been cancelled. Now on to summer reruns and the return of British science fiction...

PS, Honourable mention goes to the finale of House. Enjoyable and well written episode. But with House, I've come to expect the predictable mind fuck, and that's what we got.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Wasn't Arthrotec Some Kind of Japanese Cartoon Robot?

Being laid up at home with a bad back has compelled me to download and watch a LOT of TV, even though I gave away my TV set 4 months ago in an attempt to wean me from the glass teat. Last night, I watched 6 straight episodes of season 2 of Celebrity Apprentice. Jesse James is my new hero! (And Melissa Rivers is just freakish.)

Last week, in full lumbar pain mode, I watched the entire 5th season of Entourage. And since I Google absolutely everything as I watch, know what I learned? That Jason Patric is the grandson of Jackie Gleason! Bet you didn't know that.

And speaking of lying on my back in lumbar pain... three cheers for Arthrotec!

And speaking of TV, Mary Ellen sends us the following photo, the only comment for which I will make is, "But in what order?"

Now, as you know, I sort of play sitar, and I've often had a fondness for a certain Guns'N'Roses song, "Sweet Child of Mine", which I actually sang aloud in India 13 years ago. Well, Sarah M. sends us this:

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Moobootica and Further Douchebaggery

I don't have a TV anymore, so while visiting my parents I took the time to surf as many channels as I could. Today I came across something called bpmtv, which is ridiculous silly crap. But it did have one segment featuring the "cheesiest" dance videos of all time. Some were just atrocious. So I thought I'd share a few with you.

First up is, um, "I Need A Vacation" by Paul Lekakis:

I like how Paul adds some hot chicks to the video just to ...you know... preserve some doubt.

Next is one that is clearly intentionally ironic, but nonetheless ridiculous. It's "Biker Shorts" by Canada's Stink Mitt:

I've saved the cheesiest for last. It's by the excellently named German band Moonbootica, a song called "Roll The Dice". It's mesmerizingly atrocious in its transcendent douchebaggery:

After all that, I think we all need some ear bleach. I give it you now in the form of the wonderful Susan Boyle appearing here on "Britain's Got Talent". I implore you to watch the whole thing. It will make you happy.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009


How much Ibuprofen can one man take? Day two of my latest migraine and I've decided to get out of bed and pretend to go about my day as if I were pain free.

Speaking of pain, I was at this yoga fest thingy in Toronto this weekend when I saw a demonstration of something called the acuball. I bought one on the spot as therapy for my various back woes. The next day, after an evening of use, I was pain free for the first time in months! I wasn't cured, but I was certainly better!

I was so pleased with the device that I took it with me to my various appointments, visits and lectures. Leaving the children's hospital, I got on the University shuttle bus to make my next lecture and reached into my bag for my acuball, hoping to sink into its analgesic bliss for the duration of the ride.

But horrors! It was gone! I ran off the bus and retraced all my paths. In my next lecture, I put up a slide of the acuball and commanded 200 students to keep an eye out for it. I emailed the manugacturer and asked how fast they could send me a replacement ball!

Then I got an email from Jane, a friend I visited at the hospital. Apparently she had found a strange blue spherical device in her office, and was concerned (given that it originated from me) that it was some sort of diseased pervy contraption. The following image was attached, with the tag line, "Unidentifiable item, possibly hazardous":

Apparently further experimentation was performed on said device, as evidenced by this photo of Nasty Nicky B investigating the benighted acuball, labelled "Operation Disease Ball":

I'm pleased to report that after much negotiation, the acuball was returned to me in a brown paper wrapper at a meeting held at twilight by the banks of the Rideau canal. Details of the transaction will remained sealed.

In Other News...

Everyone has been sending me the news that Indo-American actor Kal Penn is joining the Obama White House. The problem is that the news comes with a massive spoiler from the TV show House, from an episode that I had not yet seen.

Thanks for nothing, everyone.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Last Cylon

Obama about to take office, war in the Gaza strip, Russia freezing out Ukraine, enormous military movements in Sri Lanka, the world economy tanking.... so what will I blog about? Well, Battlestar Galactia, of course.

I have long held that the reborn (or "re-imagined", as the Powers like to say) series is the single finest current television show in the world. I am not alone in this assessment (see here, here and here.) Few other mainstream entertainment products offer such dark assessments of the human soul, drawing fairly obvious analogies to modern American military policy, primarily the "war on terror". It takes courage to present a universe that clearly mirrors our own, North American world, but in which the polytheists are the ostensible good guys and monotheists the bad guys. It takes further courage to miraculously get us to sympathize with the mass-murdering, robotic bad guys-- and yet somehow the show manages to do this.

There are many ripe philosophical fruits to be plucked and devoured in this show. Among my favourites is the anti-heroic path of Dr. Gaius Baltar. He is demonized as a villain for having made some selfish, but very human, self-serving decisions. But if we are honest with ourselves we recognize in Baltar (in all but his genius intellect and creepy narcissism) the truth of our existence. He, unlike other impossibly and predictably heroic members of a typical TV show, behaves pretty much how a normal human being would behave, given the truly extraordinary circumstances in which he finds himself.

Baltars quest for redemption underlies, for me, the lesson of the show: that everybody is both good and evil, that everyone both deserves life and deserves death, and that only the honest among us can embrace this truth and thus seek justification for our continued existence. Dark? Of course; it's Battlestar Galactica.

The other, more accessible philosophical plumb presented by the show is the number of models of "skin jobs", or human-form Cylons. There are exactly 12 of them. Why? It is never expressed explicitly, but the implication is that the race of mechanic Cylons took a good, long look at humanity and saw only twelve of us. There are only 12 archetypal human beings, so simple are our motivations, so predictable our behaviours and responses.

Others have discussed this aspect of the show's mythology. The show's producers have encouraged this discussion, and most have landed upon a summary of the archetypes, as summarized well by a poster on nightly.net:

The innocent
The regular guy
The warrior
The caregiver
The explorer
The destroyer
The lover
The creator
The ruler
The magician
The sage
The jester

Now, as fans of the show know, while there are 12 archetypes, there are only 11 Cylon models so far identified. The lasting mystery is, of course, the identity of the final Cylon. As shown in the image below, Cylon D'Anna glimpsed the faces of the Final Five Cylons, four of whom are now known to us as occupants of the Colonial fleet.

The producers have fed the speculation, most famously by issuing the following manipulated photo, based on "The Last Supper", with the message that none of the characters portrayed is in fact the Final Cylon:

A series of snippets were also released by the producers on a website called YouWillKnowTheTruth.com, that further fed speculation and planted clues (or, more likely, misdirections). A summary of those clues is given here.

For a lot of reasons, I believe the identity of the Final Cylon boils down to two candidates: Felix Gaeta and Anastasia Dualla.

Now, I know that I have discussed this several times in the past. And I have linked to at least one thorough analysis of the clues. But I love a good mystery. I am so satisfied that the Final Cylon is one of these two individuals that I'm even willing to put money on it.

Part of the charm of the mystery is the bizarre, almost secretive, evolution of Felix Gaeta. If you're a fan of the show, I doubt you will ever be able to forget the haunting, creepy yet beautiful song sung by Gaeta as his leg was amputated. The composer of the song talked about it on his blog, and called it both "Gaeta's Lament" and "The Stump Serenade". Much analysis has surrounded the eerie song, as it supposedly contains clues to the identity of the Final Cylon, to whom God (or the gods, depending on which of the show's faiths you subscribe to) has bestowed a special fate relating to the dispositions of both races, the humans and the Cylons.

This post has, for my money, one of the more intriguing analyses, specifically that Gaeta's secret is his transsexualism. The theory has some appeal to me, since the nature of the hidden Cylon(s) has been something of a bridging of gaps or paradigms. Much the same way that the "skin jobs" cross the divide between men and machine, a transsexual Cylonic Gaeta would cross the divide between male and female.

Then again, for all I know, the Final Cylon is the dead cat formerly owned by Apollo's lawyer buddy. It's just a TV show, after all. The identity of the Final Cylon will be revealed to all in a matter of weeks.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

The Biggest Loser

Well, I broke my carb embargo in spectacular style today, as Ed and Meiling Wong once more stupefied us with unbelievably delicious (and a tad fattening) brunch food. The lady of the house makes something particularly yummy and life-shortening called "monkey bread", which we devoured with such voracity that I'm pretty sure we'll all need insulin shots within the week.

That means I lasted about 6 weeks of an extremely low carb existence. Mind you, I've been sliding slowly back to the land of breads and sugars this past week, with the unavoidable Christmas drunkenness and the occasional bite of cake. But otherwise I've been pretty strong. I feel pretty gross right now, though, and need to wash it all back with a litre of Metamucil!

The gastric adventure coincided with my first exposure to an episode of The Biggest Loser, that American reality show in which a bunch of fat people compete to lose pounds. I found the show ver very troubling. Here are a few observations:

  • The show advances the belief that most fat people are just mentally weak. While I certainly subscribe to the school of thought that most people lack discipline, and that discipline is one of the surest paths to success in almost all aspects of life, there is a bit of wiggle room when it comes to extreme weight gain: mental health issues, metabolic diseases, poor nutritional education, insufficient access to proper foods and scheduling demands that prevent proper shopping and exercise among them.
  • I suspect that the show deliberately selects for contestants whose weight issues are discipline based, allowing them to promote their boot camp mentality and further propagate the above belief.
  • The show promotes weight loss as the end all and be all of fitness. This is perhaps the most dangerous of its failings. It's easy, for example, for a large muscular man to lose weight quickly. If he focuses on aerobic activity and ignores hydration, he will drop muscle mass and water weight very quickly. This is not healthy weight loss. There are many more acceptable metrics of progress:
  1. Inches (or centimetres) around the waist.
  2. Pinchable fat at the belly, hips and triceps.
  3. Body tissue electrical resistance, a proxy measurement for body fat ratio.
  4. Body mass index.
  5. Energy levels and psychological disposition.
  6. Serum cholesterol, blood pressure, arterial inflammation and cardiac enzymes.
  7. Clothing size!
  8. Physical fitness benchmarks

So far, I am not impressed by this show. Maybe I'll give it a few more viewings.

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