My 22-Hour Raw Foodism Experiment

During my junior year of college, I inexplicably lost 30 pounds. I was working 80 hours per week at the student newspaper, taking 15 credits and still managed to play pick-up basketball about four days per week. I was also taking Hydroxycut, the weight-loss pill that was yanked from shelves no so long ago over health concerns. (They’ve since changed their formula.)

I played my senior season of high school football at 219 pounds. Since then, I’ve never weighed more than 230 and never less than 207, which is pretty miraculous considering I spent the better part of six years on a college campus. Right now, I weigh 225, give or take a few.

After 19 hours, I started noticing changes to my physical appearance. I grew concerned.

The other night I stumbled upon the raw food diet. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, nothing heated above 110 degrees. I thought I’d give it a try because I read nothing about portion control and raw foodism still allows for trail mix. And I love trail mix.

For 22 hours, I dabbled in raw foodism. I went to Trader Joe’s Saturday and dropped $47.34 on produce. I ate bananas, blackberries, raisins, a salad, carrots, oranges, trail mix and drank almond milk and water. I worked out and felt fine. The raw food diet relies on natural energy found in foods with enzymes that promote more effective digestion. They say after two weeks, you can almost completely detox your body of all those Taco Bell quesadillas and Whoppers from Burger King. (I’ll spare you the details, but said detox also leads to some pretty epic trips to the men’s room. Which is nice.)

Twenty-two hours. What went wrong? Why did I stop?

Coffee. Then beer. Oh, and Chipotle. Lemonheads. After 22 hours, I caved to the fact I love me some processed, genetically-modified foods. I love cheap drive-thru fast food. I love milk … from a cow … not milk … from an almond. And coffee — sweet, succulent bean juice of the gods. If I’m obese to the point of immobility someday, remind me how lucky I am to have coffee in my life. I’d take a sedentary lifestyle as long as I had Sumatra.

Fortunately, right now, I’m just obese. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, my body mass index (BMI) is 30.5. My recommended body weight is no higher than 183 points. (Pfff … I remember 7th grade.) The BMI has its limitations, of course, not taking into account muscle mass. Look, as long as I can run a few miles, play some basketball, walk stadium stairs — I’m not overly concerned about my weight.

But people like me — once active, now employed — often become too busy to keep in shape. The way my work schedule goes now, I’m either at the gym at 6 a.m. or 7 p.m., neither of which are the most desirable time slots, but that’s my reality. That’s why I (briefly) considered raw foodism. Silly boy.

I may never know a size 30 waistline or “abs,” but at least I have coffee. And beer. And Chipotle. And Lemonheads …


I Haven’t Seen Skins, But I Did Go To High School

I understand there’s been quite some furor over a new teen drama on MTV called Skins. Apparently the show depicts teens engaging in sexual activity, as well as drug and alcohol abuse — you know, teen stuff. Numerous sponsors, including Taco Bell, Subway and L’Oreal, have dropped their sponsorship while there’s been roaring debate whether the show features child porn.

(If the show featured child porn, I don’t think it would require debate. That’s a pretty specific feature.)

I haven’t seen Skins or any MTV show in years. I grew up on MTV and always felt a little too young to watch it, but as I grew older, the network seemed to shift its programming toward younger audiences. That said, I’m always a little saddened to hear peers talking about Jersey Shore or Teen Mom or whatever nonsense reality series that’s airing. I can’t help but think, “Really? MTV? At your age? Shame on you.”

I give MTV credit for pioneering the reality series (as we know it) with The Real World. In its first few seasons, the seven strangers picked to live together had to maintain jobs, income, relationships, a sense of order. It was all quite fascinating for a white kid growing up in Middle America. It was like my first chance to intimately know people of different races, religions, sexual orientation and views. The Real World was, dare I say, educational?

Around season five — I refuse to go back and fact check — the cast members were pre-assigned jobs and that’s about when the deviancy started kicking in. The Real World was no longer a microcosm of the lower-case real world, but rather a group of over-muscled, over-tanned, over-sexed, over-boozed twits polluting a posh living space.

When that formula started to fizzle, MTV started skewing toward the kids with shows like Laguna Beach, The Hills and The City. Now, here we are — I presume — with Skins. I haven’t seen an episode, but reading a synopsis, I thought, “Yeah, that sounds like high school,” and I started high school over a decade ago.

The season premier of Skins was seen by 3.3 million viewers. The second episode? Just 1.6 million. Why would this popular infamous series geared toward teens lose half its viewing audience in just one week? Because teens have already seen every episode. They live Skins.

So, what’s worse: The fact MTV’s airing a show with teens having sex, drinking alcohol and taking drugs, or the fact Skins might just be an dead-on depiction of high school in 2011?

Filing Taxes Isn’t As Thrilling As It Used To Be

It’s that time of year again — tax season. I began filing my W-2’s last night in what’s become one of the most joyous endeavors of the year for me. I’m not yet to the point where I’m paying in, so whenever late January rolls around, I start to plan out ways to spend that sweet check signed by Uncle Sam.

Last year, I was responsible with my return. I put the whole thing in savings to help fund a cross-country move. The year before, I re-upped my golf equipment — new irons, a driver, a bag, shoes. This year, I was planning on a car down payment.

I’m halfway through filing but I keep running into an error with H&R Block’s online filing service. Here’s hoping this won’t lead to an audit or something. I’ve already passed the section that determines which income-based credits I will receive, and unfortunately, my income is too high for several of those. I found myself wishing I made less so I could get a bigger tax return. I’m not saying I support tax evasion, but I certainly understand it.

The cruel part is H&R Block’s program shows your federal and state return through each step of the interview, and each time you move onto a new page, it adjusts to your most recent answers. Last night, my federal return peaked at $1,784. That was after my first W-2 statement. After I entered my second W-2, that amount dwindled down to $903. I felt like I lost $800 — money to which I was never entitled, but money H&R Block never should’ve promised.

Everyone deserves a tax return. It’s like the government’s giving you a high-five and saying, “Have a 42-inch LCD TV, on us.” Thanks, government.

I agonize knowing my lucrative tax returns are probably coming to an end, which is significant to a guy who, at age 26, still gets a stocking on Christmas and an Easter basket on Easter. Soon, I’ll have to save up before filing so I can pay in. This is among many moments and events that remind me, in no uncertain terms, that I’m getting older.



I’ve Never Felt So Wrong About Being Right

I caught the second half of the Bears-Packers playoff tilt yesterday at a friend-of-a-friend’s apartment. Among the dozen or so people there, I knew just a few: my longtime friend Jake, his girlfriend and his friend who owned the apartment.

There wasn’t a single Packers fan in the place, which was bad, because the Bears quickly trailed 14-0 and third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie was taking snaps midway through the third quarter. What the Bears lacked in points these folks made up for with whisky shots. I have to marvel at 20-somethings with full-time jobs who can observe Sunday Funday. I rarely observe Friday Funday.

So, I watched on as the tenor of the room began to shift from disappointed to hostile the more alcohol and emotion mixed. Late in the game, when the Bears’ mad attempt at a comeback ended with an interception, there came a commercial break.

You know the commercial: It’s the Revolutionary War and the British army stands atop a hill, ready for Gen. George Washington’s army with muskets drawn. Instead, Washington comes peeling through a valley in a Dodge Challenger holding an American flag from the window. The British army looks on, terrified, before running away in retreat.

At the end of the commercial, there’s a male’s voice: “There’s a couple of things America got right — cars and freedom.”

My friend Jake loves this commercial. When it came on, he asked a guy sitting ahead of him in front the television to quiet down from his Jay Cutler-rant so he could hear the commercial. The guy blew Jake off. Jake — always outspoken — said, “Are you a terrorist?!”

The guy paused, slowly got up from his chair, turned around, and said, I served overseas for two years in the National Guard, defending our country from terrorism. So, no, I’m not a terrorist.

I quickly came to Jake’s defense and said, “So, you fought for his right to speak freely?”

The guy sat down, visibly agitated, and continued watching the Bears game. Jake sat quiet, stunned and pale, which is rare, because, again, Jake isn’t afraid to get into a war of words, but it was clear he felt bad about the “terrorist” remark.

And you know what? I felt bad, too. I’m not a big fan of war, but I support our troops. Anyone who’s ever fought overseas owns a type of courage I’ve never known. Still, I get frustrated with the “fighting for our freedom” rhetoric, which is to say if we weren’t engaged in war, our freedom would actually be at risk. I don’t believe that. Not one bit.

I took and threw that rhetoric back into the face of a veteran. If he fought for our freedom, well, the First Amendment is among those, so he fought for the right to be called a terrorist. Jake had no idea this guy had served and he wasn’t actually accusing him of being a terrorist, which is why I pounced at his heavy-handed response. If we can’t speak recklessly, even if it’s in poor judgment, the terrorists have already won.

Still, I was wrong. I was wrong. I may have been right in a literal sense, but it wasn’t my place to be right. And what was there to win? Did I expect him to apologize? I have no idea what he experienced over there. I couldn’t begin to imagine. I hate the fact there was ever reason for him to go overseas in the first place, and despite my opposition to the war, that doesn’t mean I should’ve tried to make this guy look like a fool. Instead, I appeared ungrateful for his sacrifice, which is the last thing I wanted to do.

He was drunk and emotional from the game, so he was more justified in his response to Jake than I was in sober response to him. I didn’t apologize to him before leaving. I didn’t feel the need to apologize until hours later. Maybe an apology isn’t necessary. Maybe the best thing I can do is appreciate my freedom to speak (and write) freely, regardless of whether I feel that right has ever hung in the balance. That’s not the point. The point is someone fought on my freedom’s behalf.

I’m sorry and I deeply appreciate those who’ve served.



Could ‘Fountain Lady’ Put an End to Viral Videos?

Once every few weeks, I write a blog post for Idea Peepshow, which is the official blog of Fast Horse Inc., the consumer marketing agency where I’m currently an associate. Today, I wrote about a woman who’s threatening a lawsuit after a security tape showing her falling into a fountain was posted on YouTube:

Woman walks through a mall. Woman receives a text message. Woman responds to the text message. Woman, distracted, trips and falls into a fountain.

Woman – shocked, embarrassed, drenched – exits the fountain, and exits the television screen if you’re watching the security tape that captured the whole event. Mall security watches the tape. Someone with mall security decides to post a video of the video – an important distinction – onto YouTube.

Within a week, the original clip is viewed more than 1.8 million times.

Continue Reading

His Name Was Colin — Here Are His Papers

It’s finally here! Well, almost. Portlandia, the new short-form comedy series on IFC debuts tomorrow night. However, the first episode has been posted on YouTube – fo’ free!

(The first episode was pulled from YouTube yesterday. Sorry.)

You won’t have to travel far on this here blog to happen upon my love-hate relationship with Portland. Just when I was starting to miss ol’ Stumptown — the coffee, the rain, the bridges — Portlandia smacked me back into reality, reminding me of all the goofballs and poseurs who damn near drove me berserk.

Jason DeRusha — The Rare Broadcast Journalist Who Gets It

Good journalism is hard to find, especially on television.

A career in broadcast journalism usually equates bouncing from market to market every few years, so by the time a reporter finally gets a grasp of the community they’re serving, it’s on to the next city. It’s a tough gig to be sure, and few do it well.

Jason DeRusha does it well. Really well.

I’ve settled on DeRusha and WCCO-TV as my go-to TV news source in the Twin Cities. He’s been in the local market since 2003, acting more as a concerned citizen than the know-it-all news guy. DeRusha’s bursting with curiosity — an essential trait for any journalist — and that’s most apparent during his Good Question segment, which seeks to answer viewer submitted queries that run the gammut.

Last night, DeRusha took on a tough one — “Why have so many Somalis chosen to come here?” Most journalists would avoid the question in the name of cultural sensitivity, but DeRusha went for the jugular:

It is perhaps the least likely place to find tens of thousands of African refugees: the cold, snowy, middle of America. So why are there so many Somalis in Minnesota? … The Somalis are here as legal refugees, largely. The Somalis Minnesota story tracks to 1991, when civil war broke out in Somalia. Millions fled to refugee camps, many in Kenya. Two years later, the first wave of Somali refugees were sent to Minnesota.

Is it a sensational story? Is it riddled in scandal, sex, crime, blood — the accoutrement we expect to make the 10 p.m. news? No. But it’s answering a matter of public curiosity with facts and research — you know, actual journalism.

Kudos to DeRusha and WCCO-TV for winning this viewer over. Why can’t we get more broadcast journalists like him?

Good question.