He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

There have been a few moments this week where the topic of weight and how we judge people has come up. Something in the universe cooked up a bunch of random moments all tied to this subject that led to me to my post today.

First was this moment on Tuesday during the Bruins / Lightning NHL game when Bruins broadcaster Jack Edwards had some kind of mental breakdown and decided that instead of talking about what was happening in the hockey game, he would just go momentarily rogue and body-shame one of the Lightning players.

The best part of this is that after the game, Maroon outclassed Edwards by donating to a charity in Edwards’s name and encouraging fans to do the same. The charity is a local nonprofit organization focused on strengthening behavioral health outcomes for depression, anxiety and substance use disorders and Maroon (+fans) at last count had donated $50,000 in Jack Edwards name. Classy and admirable response.

There was also some talk in our house this week about Body Mass Index (“BMI”), a simple but dumb medical metric where you take your weight and divide it by the square of your height. The result is a tiered set of numbers that places you into buckets as seen below, complete with body shaming images. You can already see where this falls apart. A professional athlete, for example, who is very muscular would obviously weigh higher on the scale, but is clearly not obese. See “Pat Maroon” point above.

Even on my recent physical, the BMI metric appeared on my visit summary.

Today, the New York Times ran this piece, which does a nice job of walking us through the history of BMI, interviewing a variety of medical experts on it and also includes what might be a better way to measure your level of health and wellness when it comes to weight – it’s simpler than you probably think.

Then I remembered that during COVID in 2021, the initial vaccines were starting to be offered and there was a phased rollout, people by age, people with pre-existing health conditions, etc. There was a lot of scrambling around to schedule our shots online and maybe even “cut the line” if we could, because we all just sought normalcy as soon as we could get it. We found out that one of the ways to cut the line was to have a BMI that was 25 or over, or “obese.”

I started wearing a Fitbit in May of 2020 and my BMI has consistently been around 25-26. I’ve consistently been at that number in the two+ years I’ve been tracking my health. My weight typically ranges from 175-180 all year long. And that allowed me to cut the line and get a vaccine a bit earlier than my age group.

So by definiton of BMI, I am overweight. And that is ridiculous. I consider myself fit. I am not overly muscular, though I have *some* definition. I still play ice hockey three times a week and walk 1-2 times a week. I feel as if I am quite ordinary and normal in terms of build and I think most who know me would agree I’m not overweight. I certainly don’t let this arbitrary BMI metric bother me and I hope you don’t either!

Weight and body image are tough enough subjects as it is. We don’t need this kind of judgment, nor does the world need to hear a man broadcasting to hundreds of thousands of people snide comments about someone’s body.

The Songs of National Freedom

I admit that I sometimes take for granted the freedoms and opportunities we are granted by living in a democratic country where free speech is largely allowed and not suppressed. There are plenty of people stateside who might disagree with that statement and at a micro level, they have a point, I suppose. Look no further than social media companies outright banning certain people or de-emphasizing certain posts that contain controversial content. Or our own government’s relationship and influence on the press. Some of this is very concerning.

Sometimes it gets muddy out there, I know that. But zoom out a little bit and you get the point – even with the warts, we are afforded various freedoms of expressions and choice that many other countries do not have and definitely long for. For all its blemishes, and there are many lately, the United States remains on a pedestal for the many suppressed who live outside of it. And maybe that number of people who aspire to live like Americans has dropped a bit. I wouldn’t know.

So it was with a bit of fascination (and now added perspective) that I read this morning’s New York Times article about content suppression and censorship in China. It is worth a read. The Chinese censhorship engine is so well-oiled and so strong that dissenters truly have to put a lot of effort into gaming the system and having their content be made visible anywhere. It’s getting to the point where protesters are just playing the volume game with dissenting content just to try and overwhelm the servers, as it may be.

Yet over the past few days, as Chinese people frustrated by severe Covid lockdowns have taken to the streets, videos of the marches and rallies have continued to surface on Chinese sites such as WeChat, a chat app, and the short video sharing app, Douyin. Experts say the sheer volume of video clips has most likely overwhelmed the automated software and armies of censors China has tasked with policing the internet.

New York Times, 11/29/2022

Along with playing the volume game, the article talks about how people are flipping videos on their side or recording videos of videos to confuse the AI and Machine Learning Chinese police bots. People in China are also hacking their way onto Twitter and Instagram (banned in China), as those are “beyond the reach of China’s officials.” You have to really work hard in China if you want to voice your opposition. You also have to work hard to even be outdoors – COVID restrictions in China are brutal and militant (sometimes literally) in ensuring that people aren’t out and about spreading what is, for many, a bad cold.

I was also slightly amused to hear that many Chinese citizens were astounded while watching the World Cup, because all of the spectators were maskless. This is how much the media is controlled by the Government there. Chinese citizens aren’t exposed to any part of the world that is moving on from COVID. It’s hard to believe, but there it is, clear that Chinese coverage of the World Cup is purposefully keeping cameras only on the field now and even obscuring or blurring crowd shots so as not to show unmasked people.

Chinese officials “are telling people that outside of China people are dying massively, they can’t handle the virus” and “that what we are doing is the only correct way,” Xiao said. So when people see a different reality on display at the World Cup and compare it with their own situation, perhaps under lockdown, it can sow discontent, he said.

Washington Post, 11/29/2022

So yeah, there’s a lot wrong with America these days. But perspective can be interesting, sometimes, right?

Give the People What They Want

I don’t think this is an idea that is revolutionary by any stretch, but why do we publish the names and images of violent criminals all over the newspaper and television? I don’t profess to knowing or understanding why people commit crimes, but I think in some cases it has to do with a desperate need for attention, recognition and fame. I know that some people have a real interest in the macabre – look no further than the proliferation of true crime podcasts out there – but it just seems to me like it’s just all about sensationalism.

That is totally on brand, though, for the media. In an increasingly crowded world of TV, news, podcasts and social media, the key decision makers in the media are stuck between a rock and a hard place – either play the game or the other [media entity] gets the eyeballs and ratings. As with many things, it comes down to selling advertising and making money. I get it, I’m not dumb.

But there must be a happy medium somewhere. Why do we give criminals the attention they crave? And wouldn’t we at least chip away at crime rates just a little bit if we stopped the mass-exposure of violent criminals in the media? Or do you think it would just continue at the same rate, reagrdless of mass media exposure? I don’t know. If I had any semblance of lawmaking power, I’d at least try to push through some kind of regulation about what gets reported about the people who are performing violent acts of crime.

Seperate but related, the topic of Johnny Depp came up in the car today on a family ride. Depp’s been in the news again lately as there’s some talk of him reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow. What studio head would allow this? The Depp/Heard trial was infuriating to me, yet another example of sensationalism and money-grubbing by the media. Airing out the personal lives of these two – audio recordings, he said/she said, accusations, crying, all for the public to watch – was a bit much. What I got out of that trial is that Depp is an out-of-control loser with a horrific, scary temper and worse, he’s a physical abuser. And while the treatment on social media that Amber Heard received was as revolting as it gets, she doesn’t get a free pass either. By all accounts, she was also physically abusive.

Send both of them to moon, please. Just don’t broadcast it, give them roles, or show their faces in magazines or on TV anymore. Give them the thing that they would hate the most – a complete, utter lack of attention. That would probably be more painful for them than monetary fines or jail time.

Stay Sharp

I’ve seen enough shows on TV and read enough articles about dementia and Alzheimers to know that it is not something I want in my life, my family’s life or really anyone’s life. In short, it’s terrifying. This is not news.

When I was younger, I think I was more of a hypochondriac than I am now. I attribute part of that to life experience, of witnessing the maladies of myself and others and seeing that the overwhelming majority of them got through it ok. I’ve also tried to read a bit and learn over the years and I think that also helps to temper any thoughts I might have when I get a headache or whatnot. So it’s safe to say that I don’t feel doomed if I’m not feeling well and I certainly don’t “rabbit hole” it by doing copius Google searches if I show symptoms of something. That said, dementia freaks me out.

I recently had an MRI done. This was the first time in many years that I stopped for a moment and thought “oh gosh what if they find XXXX or YYYY and my life spirals down the drain?” It wasn’t too bad, but when a doctor tells you to get an MRI, you can’t help thinking about some scenarios! The MRI was ordered because the opthalmologist noticed an ever-so-slight difference in the movement between my right eye and my left eye and they thought it would be prudent to make sure all was ok.


Rock of Ages

I realize that talking about age is an over-trodden path, with clever and well-worn commentary everywhere about things like forgetting why you walked into a room or how everything hurts in the morning. Bob Hope and George Burns made a living off that. Those are well-worn shoes, those musings. And I imagine all of them are true stories for the many of us who are getting up there in age. And by mentioning Bob Hope and George Burns, I realize I’m getting up there in age.

I’m 51. I still see a younger version of me every single day in the mirror. I can’t really see my own aging – the progression just isn’t as obvious when you see yourself multiple times per day. Also, if you have no hair like me then there’s also less of a barometer, other than the fact that you’ve lost all your hair. But when you see someone for the first time in 25 years, BAM! Someone who knew me and my long, black hair 25 years ago would get that BAM moment if they saw me for the first time since 1997.

1997 and 2022

That’s the physical, though. The front-end. There’s much more, of course.