7 Things For 7 Days 7/10/20

Words, pictures, music and random ephemera that guided me through the week

AUSTIN KLEON

My current favorite weekly newsletter comes from Austin Kleon. Every Friday he shares ten things that he’s found remarkable, noteworthy and wonderful over the past week. I discover new books, music and ideas with each issue. His book, Show Your Work!, motivated me to share some things I’ve loved this past week. It’s a great opportunity to jumpstart my sad, ittle blog. I tip my hat to his great taste and good advice and thank him for his inspiration.

MILES DAVIS – LIVE-EVIL & DARK MAGUS

These two 70s albums by Miles Davis are stunning in their breadth and musical daring. Both find Miles in the fiery jazz-rock fusion period that divided fans then and now. 1971’s Live-Evil is half live/half studio and a continuation of the journey he began with In a Silent Way. While Live-Evil is adventurous, it is still accessible. Dark Magus is in a class by itself. Recorded in 1974 at Carnegie Hall, Magus is loud, confrontational, soaring and searing. The record features four largely improvised two-part tracks named for the Swahili numbers one through four (Moja, Wili, Tatu, Nne). Here his jazz-rock palette expands to include funk and plenty of random dissonance. It’s mindblowing.

MY NEIGHBOR, THELONIOUS MONK

On another jazz note, Kottke.com tipped me to a lost Thelonious Monk live album recorded at a Palo Alto high school in 1968 that will soon be released. That story on its own is remarkable, but when I dug around for a little more information I discovered that Monk spent the last several years of his life just up the road in Weehawken. He was taken in by an heiress of the Rothschild family, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, who was a huge benefactor to the jazz community. She and Monk had quite a history together. I’ve run past the house many times without realizing the story behind the walls.

WAKEFIELD, THE SHORT STORY AND THE LONG MOVIE

One of my recent work projects included the 2016 movie with Bryan Cranston. In my research I discovered it was based on a 2008 short story by Ragtime and Billy Bathgate author, E.L. Doctorow. I found the story in The New Yorker and loved the tale of a high-powered lawyer descending into madness. The film is faithful to the story and Bryan Cranston brings a knockout performance to a movie that happens almost wholly in the deteriorating mind of the protagonist. My advice is to start with the story, then watch Cranston bring it to life.

THE NUMBER ONES

Tom Breihan of Stereogum writes one of the best music columns right now. He is reviewing “every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958.” Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday he goes deep on one song’s background, merits and historical context in an effort to understand why a particular track became the biggest song in the country. Plus, he rates all of them on a scale from 1-10. While I may not always agree with every assessment, I look forward to each installment. Right now he’s trapped in 1983 working his way back to the future. Let’s hope he can keep this Herculean effort going. Like so many online outlets Stereogum is fighting to keep the business afloat. If you’re interested you can lend a hand right here.

EXP TV

I am at a loss as to how to describe the supreme weirdness of EXP TV, a new streaming site that has me mesmerized. Perhaps a 1979 post-punk version of Robot Chicken might be the closest I can get and I am still miles away. Dangerous Minds called it a “freaktastic new video channel (that) will rip your face off and eat your brain.” Combining old commercials, chunks of forgotten low budget movies, bits and pieces of public access tv, insane music videos and so much more amazing cultural detritus, it’s a mind boggling random acid barrage of words, images and music.

I ADVANCE MASKED

A week ago the two masks I ordered finally arrived and this week I scored one at my local Fleet Feet. I am thrilled to hide my aging mug behind masks honoring Sonic Youth’s Sonic Nurse and Dave Pell’s always incisive and insightful NextDraft. It may be summer and it’s easy to forget that there are 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 a day. Cover that beautiful face, please.

***Bonus Thing***

MAGIC SPOON CEREAL

I love sweet cereal, but I try to avoid it. It’s far too easy to destroy a box in one sitting, leaving me in a stupor of bloat, sugar buzz and self loathing. It took half a lifetime to find the answer. For the past few months I’ve been enjoying the loopy goodness from cereal disruptor Magic Spoon and their high protein, low sugar, low carb cereals, It’s mail order only and not inexpensive, yet when I unload those bright, cartoonish boxes I forget the cost and dig in. My three year old is a big fan as well. Excuse me while we share a box and live to tell the tale.

Enjoy the weekend and I will be back bext week with more stuff that made my week special.

Carrots, Apples and Pears, Oh My! Weight Watchers, Part 1

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It’s What’s For Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Grapefruit, kale, strawberries, lemons, limes, chia seeds, protein bars, tofu, almond milk, coffee with skim, sugar free jello. Mmm, that’s pretty much my diet these days. You might notice the distinct lack of anything fun or indulgent or even that satisfying.

Welcome to Weight Watchers.

On the last Saturday of August I made a commitment to lose weight. My muffin top (and muffin bottom) had been troubling me for a few years. I spent 2009 through 2012 wearing pants that were too tight and vanity prevented me from jumping to a 38 inch waist. At one point I weighed in at career high 248.

The tipping point was running races. I was putting in 20-25 miles a week and racing once or twice a month. With all my training I assumed I had lost more than just a few pounds, but my race times were slowing down. My advancing years could account for some of the sluggishness I felt on hills, but there was more to it. I decided to weigh myself for the first time in over a year and was shocked to see I was still carting 238 pounds around. Damn.

I can’t just sort of lose weight in the same way that I can just sort of do anything. I need to go all in or it won’t happen. Half-assed isn’t the path to success for me. I was primed for action. Enter Weight Watchers. They had a decent deal going so I signed up. Downloading the app, I realized there was no turning back. This was the push I needed. I was on the edge and now my momentum was heading in the right direction.

Entering my details online, I received 41 SmartPoints per day plus 42 weekly points to use as I saw fit. I also could earn extra FitPoints through exercise. In case you are wondering, a single fast food meal can devour all those SmartPoints and not even fill you up.

I did Weight Watchers about a dozen years ago and it was a little different. Back then just about everything counted against me. Today I can eat all the fruit and vegetables I want, plus protein is a good bet. Sugar, oil and carbs are pretty much no-nos. I can eat them, but they aren’t worth the points. Goodbye bread, butter and breakfast cereal!

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Teeth Not Required

The NutriBullet I received for my birthday has played a big role in my program. Every morning I toss a bunch of fruit, almond milk, greens and protein powder into a cup and blend it up for a perfect low calorie breakfast smoothie. Some nights I return for a dinner bullet with greens, tomatoes, hot sauce, lemon and whatever else sounds good. They aren’t always as delicious, but they fill me up. Some days it seems I hardly use my teeth at all as my meals now come in liquid form. Yum!

My strategy is to preserve FitPoints by eating a low point breakfast and a medium point lunch so I can eat a decent dinner. Three nights a week we’ve been cooking Blue Apron and those are pretty satisfying after a long day of apple slices and crudité. Occasionally I indulge with a slice of pizza or a bagel, but most days are pretty simple and kind of boring.

At first I was starving. Then I was always a little bit hungry. Now it’s just what I do. It sounds torturous, but you get used to it. I make sure I have a lot of point-free snacks so I don’t want to splurge on a box of cookies or a half dozen doughnuts. Dessert has all but disappeared from my life as has most processed sugar.

That’s what is key about Weight Watchers. It forces me to track and think about everything I eat. At some point soon I will hit my goal and have to figure out a sensible compromise between complete deprivation and eating everything in sight. The real trick will be learning how to keep it off.

So far it’s been six months. How much have I lost? The answer in Part 2 coming soon.