Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hardy Kruger: The Hollywood Hunk With A Nazi Past

A month or so ago I was watching The Flight of the Phoenix (the original; not the remake) when I found myself quite taken with James Stewart's co-star in the film, a handsome German actor with blonde hair, blue eyes, and full lips named Hardy Kruger. In the 1965 adventure classic, Kruger's character -- Heinrich Dorfmann -- informs the crew after their plane crashes in the Sahara desert that he knows how to build airplanes and can create a new working one by salvaging parts from the damaged aircraft. Little do they know that Dorfmann's airplane engineering experience is limited to model airplanes -- the punchline moment of the film.

It's a great movie, and I don't know if I can ever bring myself to watch the 2004 remake (which starred Dennis Quaid in Stewart's role and the squirrely Giovanni Ribisi in Kruger's.) I'm a sucker for German guys, and after watching The Flight of the Phoenix I had to Google up Kruger to see what else he had been in. Turns out one of the things he has been in is the Adolf Hitler School at the Ordensburg Sonthofen in Bavaria! He was also in the German army during WWII, specifically the SS.

Now, it wasn't his fault -- according to Wikipedia and a website dedicated to his career, it was pretty typical for German boys in the 1930s to be drafted into Nazi youth organizations. In Kruger's case, he was recruited to join the Deutsches Jungvolk at the age of 10 in 1938. In the Jungvolk, students participated in physical activities such as sports, hiking, and camping -- and were also required to attend Nazi rallies and parades, and given military training. They were encouraged to inform the authorities if their parents were against Nazi doctrine. Luckily this wasn't a problem for Kruger; his parents were great admirers of Hitler. Years later Kruger told a Swiss newspaper, "The memory of Hitler's bust on my mother's piano stands for a wasted childhood, a stolen youth, and a painful passage into the state of being human."

By 1941, Kruger was apparently making a great impression on his teachers, because they selected him to next attend the Adolf Hitler School. Two years later, Kruger earned his first acting role for a German film called Junge Adler (Young Eagles.) He was 15 at the time, and the film's director secured the paperwork to have him leave the school to work in the movie. At the studio, he was taken under the wings of a veteran actor named Hans Söhnker, one of Germany's leading actors at the time. Söhnker developed a close relationship with Kruger. He also knew what was going on with the Holocaust, and the concentration camps, and over time informed Kruger of what the Nazis were up to.

When filming ended, Kruger was heartbroken to learn he had been ordered to return to the school. In 1945, towards the end of the war, he was recruited yet again to join the SS Division Nibelungen, a last-ditch effort by Hitler to fight the allies that was made up of mostly 16 year-old boys. Kruger and his group were ordered to eliminate a group of American soldiers, but upon seeing the men's faces up close he could not do it. He was supposed to be executed by firing squad for cowardice, but another SS officer stopped the order. He then was made a messenger, but deserted his squadron and hid out in the mountains and abandoned farms until the war was over.

He got a job as an extra in a movie, honed his acting skills, and then traveled to France in search of more work where he was met with distaste: "Look at you! Blonde hair! Blue eyes! We had people that looked like you all over France -- for years. Their arrogance is not forgotten. Nor are their crimes. Show us a grey uniform and we're scared."

Kruger felt ashamed, and guilty. But he eventually settled in London (where he was reminded again by an actress that everyone she knew had lost someone in the war.) He learned how to speak English and improve his accent, and six months later a British movie director named Roy Baker offered him the lead role of a German pilot in the movie The One That Got Away -- ironically, playing a German WWII pilot on the run after being shot down. The 1957 motion picture was a big hit, and more studios started to take notice of Kruger.

After several British and German films, Hollywood came calling when Kruger was cast alongside John Wayne in the 1962 African safari film Hatari!. During filming Kruger fell in love with Africa, and purchased the farm near Mount Kilimanjaro which served as the setting for the movie.

I find it interesting that Kruger was embraced by Hollywood given his controversial younger years -- but he has adamantly denounced his involvement with the Third Reich several times in interviews and he was forced to join it pretty much against his will, after all.

Other notable projects that Kruger has been in include The Wild Geese, A Bridge Too Far, and the TV miniseries War and Remembrance. He's also a pilot, having learned to fly at a young age, and the author of over a dozen books including his own autobiography. For over 30 years he's been married to a beautiful American woman, and his son -- Hardy Kruger, Jr. -- is also an actor. He's currently 88 years old, so here's a toast to those Teutonic genes!

I have a bit of catching up to do with the other films in Kruger's resume. He's a fine actor -- and darn fine to look at!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why I Believe Men Should Still Pay for Dates in the Year 2016

It was a week ago that an article called "It's 2016. Why are men still paying for women on dates?" appeared in the Boston Globe, and it really put my knickers in a twist. The completely clueless author (Afie Kohn) had been married for a few decades, got a divorce, and re-entered the world of dating expecting to get a free ride (and meal.) Namely, he was shocked to discover that women still expect him to pay for dates, given that we're holding positions in professions that would have been unheard of at the time he got married.

"Men paying for meals may have made more sense when fewer women worked outside the home -- and those who did faced a much bigger gender wage gap," he argues. "But today, unmarried women earn, on average, almost as much as single men. Yet traditional roles have persisted. Besides, what matters are the two specific people having dinner. If both make a good living, then the man’s paying for her makes precisely as much sense as the woman’s paying for him."

The thing that surprised me most about this editorial is that the author is not in his 20s or 30s, but appears (from his public website) to be older than me. He should know better.

This dude seems to be spewing his rhetoric coming from the perspective that he's all about women's rights, feminism, and that women should be HAPPY to pay for the food on a first date. But, my personal perspective on it goes hand-in-hand with something I said in the post I wrote a few weeks ago about men holding doors open for women. It doesn't matter what title a woman holds or how powerful she is in her job. At the end of the day, most of us still want to let our hair down and be treated like a lady. And a man can help her feel like a lady by paying for her meal.

I have had some lousy dates in my life, but I can honestly say there is one thing I have never encountered, and that is having to pay for even part of a meal bill. Even guys I went out with that made less money than me always paid for everything. And frankly, if I were out on a first date and the man didn't pay, it would be game over for me.

I may get some disagreement from some of my readers, but here's my opinion on the whole paying-for-meals-thing: I have no problem with couples taking turns with paying or splitting the bill once they're in an established relationship. But when a couple is just starting to get to know each other, and they're dating, that to me is courtship. And frankly, paying for the meal is part of that courting period.

That's right, it's called courtship -- something that I hear is falling by the wayside, especially as people find dates via Tinder and other ridiculous dating apps that are really meant for emotionally disconnected people that just want to have one-night stands.

However, if you're genuinely interested in a woman and want to show her you care and are interested in getting to know her, you court her by paying for meals.

I also don't understand how a man could let a woman pay for a meal on the first date, and somehow still feel like a man. Wouldn't you feel emasculated in some way?

Lastly, wouldn't it make you feel like a total cheapskate? Is that how you really want to be perceived by potential relationship partners?

What if you don't make a lot of money, or don't want to invest a lot of money when it comes to dating? No problem. If you're meeting a woman for the first time that you know little about (say you contacted her on a dating site) then meet for coffee, or for a walk around the local park followed by ice cream. Then, if you think she has potential, you can suggest dinner for the next date.

At any rate, as soon as I read the Globe editorial, I knew who to bring its attention to: James Michael Sama. He's a relationship and dating coach in the Boston area that I follow, and he advocates holding onto traditional dating values in our mobile-addicted, instant gratification, short attention span world. And while his blog declares that "the gentleman is the new bad boy", his site contains oodles of juicy advice for women as well. In fact, James reminds women to do their share of the work to make a relationship successful. One of the best quotes I saw on his site was aimed at women as well as men (I'm ad-libbing here): "A relationship is like a fire. You can't start it and then walk away; you need to stroke it and keep feeding it."

James has written many times about the whole who-should-pay-for-dates debate. Not only has he mentioned some of the points I brought up above, but he also argues that women will make the extra effort to look good for a guy; we'll do our makeup, buy a nice dress, and sometimes get a manicure. He maintains that the amount of money a woman invents in a first date is often more than the cost of a meal -- so men should take this into consideration and pay.

James thanked me on Twitter for sharing the article with him, and immediately said he was going to write a response to Kohn's article. As I rub my hands together with glee I admit that I can't wait to read it...I'll be waiting with my popcorn.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

9 Songs Written By Prince Covered By Other Artists

My biggest Prince memory is of a college friend that was madly in love with him. So much so, that she invited me and other friends to her dorm one evening to watch a Prince concert event on cable. It was the early '90s, and Prince's tour at that time had a Roman theme for the set, inspired by Caligula if I remember correctly. When he looked into the camera, made a "V" shape with two of his fingers and put his tongue in between them, my friend went nuts. I wanted to throw up.

Needless to say, Prince the man didn't do a darned thing for me sexually. To be honest, at the time I thought he was a little freaky and full of himself. When he changed his name to that of a symbol in the '90s, it solidified my personal opinion that he was a kind of a weirdo.

But...that doesn't mean I couldn't -- and can't -- appreciate him as a musical artist. (And after watching several interviews with him since his death, I can see now that he really wasn't a weirdo after all, but a very deep and creative individual.)

Not long ago here on Go Retro I lamented about how homogenized pop music has become...every song and performer sounds the same to me. Not so in the '80s, which was the decade that I received a personal stereo with earphones and truly discovered the world of music for the first time. And Prince's catalog definitely was a huge part of the quirkiness that often defined the '80s sound. I would guess that "1999" was the first song I remember hearing by him, followed by "Delirious" (one of my favorites), "Let's Go Crazy", "When Doves Cry", "Raspberry Beret", "I Would Die 4 U" (I guess Prince was texting in his song titles before texting was even invented) and of course, "Little Red Corvette." It wasn't until recently that I learned that Prince's debut album, For You, pretty much consisted of only one musician: himself. And he was just barely 20 years old at the time of its release. Somewhat of a child prodigy, Prince mastered several instruments and was writing music at a very young age.

Here's a list of the instruments that are credited to Prince on that first album: all vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Orr bass, bass synth, singing bass, Fuzz bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, Mini-Moog, Poly-Moog, Arp String Ensemble, Arp Pro Soloist, Oberheim 4-voice, clavinet, drums, syndrums, water drums, slapsticks, bongos, congas, finger cymbals, wind chimes, orchestral bells, woodblocks, brush trap, tree bell, hand claps, and finger snaps.

Ah, yes. Can't forget the finger snaps.

Anyways, on the eve of his death the media has been reporting that he had a treasure trove of unreleased material tucked into his stark white mansion that has never reached the ears of the masses...hopefully in time that will be compiled and released. But something else we should remember about the prolific Prince is the enormous amount of material that he wrote that was recorded by other artists. So in honor of Prince Rogers Nelson, here's nine songs that he wrote for other performers....some of which became huge hits, as popular as if they had been recorded by Prince himself.

"Nasty Girl" by Vanity 6 (1982)

Prince seemed to take pleasure in creating musical groups long before Simon Cowell, and one of his pet projects was Vanity 6, a female trio that was originally going to be called (and probably rather appropriately) The Hookers. Sleezy, yes. Vapid, absolutely -- but I'd be lying if I said this song didn't have a spot somewhere on my list of favorite guilty pleasure tunes of the '80s. By the way, Vanity herself died earlier this year at the same age as Prince, 57. She had become a born-again Christian after Vanity 6 disbanded and quit drugs as well as the Hollywood lifestyle.

"When You Were Mine" by Cyndi Lauper (1983)

One of the tracks on Lauper's She's So Unusual album, it got overshadowed by her big hits from that record. Originally written and released in 1980, Prince was inspired by John Lennon when composing it, and it became part of his set list on many concert tours.

"Jungle Love" by Morris Day and The Time (1984)

Prince wrote several songs for Morris Day and The Time, which isn't surprising considering Day starred with him in Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge (Prince also directed and starred in the now-forgotten Under the Cherry Moon, in which he played a gigolo hoping to swindle money from women.) The catchy song peaked at #20 on the Billboard chart, and Day would break up with The Time that same year to pursue a solo career.

"Sugar Walls" by Sheena Easton (1985)

(Note: Because of the controversial nature of this song and because it may violate my advertising terms, I am not linking to or posting a video.)

Prince didn't shy away from writing controversial, sexually charged lyrics; he has the honor of having two songs that he wrote listed on Tipper Gore's infamous "Filthy Fifteen" list of songs she deemed too violent or sexual for children to listen to: "Darling Nikki" (a song about a girl that loved to uh...grind) and "Sugar Walls", which was recorded by Sheila Easton. I think everyone knows by now what part of the female anatomy is being referred to in this delightful, dirty ditty. I have seen a lot of criticism about this song throughout the years -- one blogger said Prince's attitude towards sex was "juvenile" when he penned it -- but I have to beg to differ. If male singers can get away with referring to their private parts as "Mr. Jones", then why shouldn't a female singer have a euphemism for hers? Plus it's one of my most favorite sexy songs of all time.

"The Belle of St. Mark" by Shelia E. (1985)

Even before I knew who wrote it, I knew this song had Prince's mark all over it. He also wrote her big hit, "Glamorous Life" -- but there's something about the androgynous subject of the song that makes me wonder if Prince was secretly writing about himself.

"Manic Monday" by The Bangles (1986)

This is one song that still holds up today, especially when the Sunday night blues start coming on. Prince wrote it under the pseudonym "Christopher", and had originally intended it for another girl group he had pulled together, Apollonia 6.

"Love Song" by Madonna (1989)

Prince is among Madonna's rumored suitors from the '80s, so it's possible this song was inspired directly by their relationship.

"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor (1990)

This song has its origins in 1985, when Prince was working with a side project band called The Family -- but it was Sinead O'Connor that scored a hit with it in 1990. A good one to stay away from after a break-up.

"Love... Thy Will Be Done" by Martika (1991)

In the early '90s, singer Martika (mostly known by that point for her hit "Toy Soldiers") approached Prince with help recording some new material. One story says that Prince felt Martika as a singer should have been given stronger songs to work with. "Love... Thy Will Be Done" was actually written by Martika as a prayer, and then set to music by Prince. It was a top ten hit for Martika in the U.S., the UK, France, and Australia, and Prince would perform it on tours during the late '90s.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Going Retro With My Spending Habits: Why Cash Is Still King

Yesterday was payday, and since it's also the middle of the month that meant today was "pay the bills" day. When I looked at the balance online for this month for my credit card, though, I truly had a "yikes!" moment. I guess you could say it was sticker shock after the fact.

My bill was a few hundred dollars more than I intended it to be -- not because of anyone stealing my card, but because of my own haphazard charging on it during the past month. Normally the minimum balance it carries is only $25, with recurring charges for my monthly Sirius and Adobe Photoshop subscriptions. This time, though, using the card so freely plus previous purchases pushed it way past that amount. A dinner with my Meetup group, a lunch from my office building's cafe, lunch out with a friend, a purchase at the supermarket, an item of clothing, etc. Not to mention a lot of meat from my company that I've been buying. Seems there were a few times I was simply too lazy to go to the ATM, so I just used my credit card for the convenience. And therein lies the danger that so many Americans have been undertaking for decades now...

Just last Sunday, I had watched a two-minute long commentary on CBS Sunday Morning by Mellody Hobson on Americans' cash-less trend and obsession with charging purchases to credit cards (or using a debit card or a mobile phone to pay.) Very little of us carry cash around in our wallets today, or write out paper checks, for that matter. (You know, money...those green slips of paper your parents and grandparents used to pay for stuff.) As a result, our credit card debt has skyrocketed -- and Hobson says the average household carries $15,000 in card debt. Holy smokes! You can watch the video clip here before I continue (it wouldn't work when I tried to embed the link.)

Well, even before seeing my latest credit card bill, I had already intended to take Hobson's advice to heart: pay for everything -- or at least as much as I can -- in cash. Most of the time, I do. I've always been a saver rather than a spender. When I was ten my mother got me a savings account at our town bank. I loved saving the allowance I earned from doing chores into the account and watching it grow, along with interest, via the little book the banks used to give everyone (today, my account's records online and I don't really like it; I still miss the little books because to me it made the money feel more "real" and I could instantly see how much was in it versus calling the bank's 1-800 number and punching in my account number to get the balance.) And if there was a special toy I wanted to buy, I'd delight in saving my money until I had earned enough to pay for it.

I was in college when I got my first credit card, and then a few cards to my favorite stores. I never had a problem with overspending or overusing them, but it did amuse me how I would get rewarded with increased credit at a young age. If I weren't so dependable, I could have purchased a car with the credit amount that was given to me.

We don't live at or below our means so much anymore. We've become a nation of shopaholics. That old saying that was prevalent during the Great Depression, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" fell by the wayside decades ago when Diner's Club and Mastercard (then Mastercharge) were introduced to the public.

I'm not villainizing credit cards, by the way. They are a wonderful thing when you need them, especially for emergency purchases if you simply don't have the money yet, or for online purchases or traveling where cash simply isn't an option. They are necessary today for building one's credit. But they can become too much of a good thing if they're used casually for too many smaller purchases that add up.

When you carry cash, as the video points out, you're more aware of how much money you're actually spending. And you're also curbing an addiction for instant gratification -- if there's something you really want and don't have enough cash for it...well, you can always wait for the next paycheck (although most people won't -- they're going to pull out their card.)

The Germans, by the way, love paying for as much as they can with cash -- even more so than other European nations. Part of their motivation is because they simply prefer not to accumulate debt. The German word schulden, which means debt, comes from the word for guilt, which is schuld. According to this article, only about a third of Germans have a credit card.

I was surprised to learn that some stores such as T.J. Maxx and Kmart still have the layaway programs that they brought back almost a decade ago, because I don't know of anyone who actually uses them. Maybe if stores gave incentives (such as points you accumulate that earn you a discount or coupon) for those that use layaway, it might entice more people to pay for something when they can afford it.

Personally, I feel more powerful and in control having some dough on me at all times. So here's what I'm doing from here on out. I'm paying off the credit card bill, obviously, and taking out only so much cash each pay period to cover gas and needed toiletry items, plus a bit more to cover any upcoming social outing, special occasions that require a purchase, and unexpected purchases. And sticking to it. I look forward to seeing only those two recurring charges for most months on my credit card again.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Go Retro's Guide To Staying Slim and Fit

"How do you stay so skinny?"

It's a question I hear often. The last person to ask it was an older gentleman that's a business associate of my boss. He was in the office this week to drop something off, and I was in the middle of eating leftover Bertucci's pizza for lunch. So, actually, his full question was, "How do you stay so skinny eating that pizza?"

Had our conversation been taking place 30-40 years ago, I'm sure his question never would have crossed his mind. That's because -- as if it weren't obvious to everyone by now -- slender people were the norm, and you didn't see many overweight people. Today, sadly, the opposite is rapidly becoming true. A study that was published last week says that for the first time, overweight people now outnumber underweight people worldwide. And it predicts that by the year 2025, nearly 18% of men and 21% of women on earth will be obese.

It seems every day is one day closer to that depressing future world predicted in WALL-E, where humans are immobile blobs of fat that suck subsistence from giant cups of sugary garbage all day long while being transported around in their personal mobile units, glued to a screen in front of their faces.

Where did we go wrong?

The answers would fill several blog posts. I could go on and on shunning our terrible eating habits that have developed through the decades, particularly here in the U.S. where more than two-thirds (!) of adults are overweight or obese. I was shocked to recently learn that Massachusetts, where I live, is a state that has supposedly the fourth lowest obesity rate in the nation. The kicker? Massachusetts' obesity rate is now 23.3% (almost a quarter of the population) which is up from 15.3% in 2000.

Those contradicting facts make me sad, indeed.

I don't want to turn this post into a fat-shaming one, but let me say this: I'm proud of my body and what it looks like. I couldn't imagine trying to navigate through my day carrying an extra 20, 50, 100 pounds or more. Some may consider me lucky, and I am to an extent. I'm not on any medication that could cause me to gain weight, and I don't have any medical conditions. I also pretty much inherited my father's genes, as he was tall and thin. However, those facts still don't give me a free pass to mow down on those Ritz cracker sandwiches stuffed with artificial cheese (my downfall, which happen to be stocked and free for the taking in our office kitchen) and Chinese food on a daily basis. So I'm going to try to answer this man's question as to how I do stay skinny.

The simplest answer is I enjoy living a healthy lifestyle. Really, that's about it. I make it a priority, too. But now I'll go into a bit more detail into my lifestyle choices...and I admit, I don't know how "retro" this post really is. Some of these tips may be ones people from past generations followed, and some may not be. If I wanted to be funny, I could say the true retro guide to staying thin is to drink TAB and smoke cigarettes...two things that are not healthy for us, but did work for a lot of people in the 1970s. However, I'm more inclined to think  that my lifestyle would get two thumbs up by Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers, as it's really just based around common sense.

So here goes...a list of things that I do that keep me slim, that may or may not be retro.

1. I Limit Sugar In My Diet
There was a time when sugar was thought to be good for you -- as you can see from the ads above, that advocated eating sugar to actually assist you with losing weight. And as a kid growing up in the '70s and '80s, I was no stranger to sugary cereals, soda, and candy -- which I'm sure are responsible for some of the fillings in my mouth. But even at a young age, I realized that I didn't like the way my body felt after eating something sugary, especially for breakfast, and soon I was asking my mother to buy Cheerios and Kix for me instead of Count Chocula and Apple Jacks. Today, I only occasionally have pancakes or French toast for breakfast and when I do, I use very little maple syrup -- maybe a teaspoon at the most. I also limit the sugar in my coffee to one teaspoon or less.

I also very rarely drink soda (that includes the diet stuff, which in my opinion is even worse for you) and rarely eat candy, except for gummy bears on occasion. If I do need to indulge, I'll have a square of two of really good quality dark chocolate (ALDI sells a few German brands that are delicious.)

I do, however, agree with one thing regarding the ads above: I don't completely deprive myself of a bit of sugar. I have dessert on most days after dinner. A brownie, a slice of pie, some ice cream, or a couple of cookies, and always with milk. I just don't pig out on them or take humongous portions unless I'm really treating myself and know that I'll negate it with a really great workout.

More and more, I've been reading articles about how sugar calories are a different kind of calorie. Sugar contributes greatly to fat collecting around your belly and can cause all kinds of health problems from diabetes to high blood pressure. It's also hidden in a lot of foods like ketchup, sweetened yogurts and granola bars (I prefer to mostly buy plain yogurt and add my own mix-ins to it) so read your food labels. I just try to limit it in my diet the best I can.

And by the way, there's a new diet I've recently learned about called The Wild Diet. The creator of it eats everything -- butter, cream, cheese, red meat, dark chocolate, etc. The two things the diet does limit are refined sugar and processed foods. He lost a ton of weight with his new lifestyle and looks fit and fantastic.
2. I Eat A Healthy Breakfast
Speaking of breakfast, I always eat one and I try to make it a filling one, with enough protein and a serving of fruit. I love eggs and eat one pretty much every day. The whole egg, too, not just egg whites. All of the nutrition and flavor is in the yolk, and eggs are not the bad guys of breakfast like many people make them out to be. I eat bacon, too -- but only half of one long slice if it's the regular kind; a whole slice if it's turkey bacon. Organic cereal or a slice of When Pigs Fly bread with cream cheese or butter (yep, I eat that, too), fruit, water, and my morning cup of coffee round it out.

If I didn't have a protein and fiber-filled breakfast in the morning, I'd be ready to go back to bed by 10 AM. Not only that, but it keeps you full until lunchtime.

3. I Like to Cook and Prepare My Own Meals
I think this one is important, because when you make your own meals you're more conscientious of what's going into them. My favorite thing to make is soup, because you can pair it with a sandwich instead of chips or you can make a meal out of a bowl of it if you make the right one that has enough protein. My favorite soup recipes are a carrot and ginger soup made with coconut milk, and an Italian wedding soup made with pork/beef meatballs and kale that's a meal in itself when you have it with crusty bread and fruit.

(By the way, I don't dress like Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA is in the above photo when cooking, but she does look cute there.)

4. I Like to Exercise and Stay Active
Olivia Newton-John said it best: let's get physical. I don't think there's any way around the E word...although your diet determines an awful lot what your body looks like, you still need to exercise, too. But here's the thing: I never kill myself when I work out. I'm not into Crossfit, boot camps, or any of that hardcore stuff; I just want to look toned. So I do a mix of aerobics, lifting light weights, and floor/ab exercises three times a week. In the meantime, I also walk during lunchtime during the week with a coworker of mine -- if the weather outside is cold and/or lousy, we walk the staircase and various floors of our building. I walk the three floors up the staircase to my company instead of taking the elevator. I ride a bike during the warmer months of the year, and I also got into running a few years ago. I like going for easy hikes and swimming at the beach, and during the winter I try to go cross country skiing a few times (although our winter was so warm and devoid of snow this past season that it didn't happen.)

I feel like society in the '50s and '60s did a lot more walking and bike riding. Kids were also playing outside a lot more before video games came into vogue.

I think if more people did more physical and recreational activities that they enjoy doing, they might be better off. Also, I wouldn't discount housework and yard work -- I know from experience that raking, gardening, and cleaning up the yard burns calories. And yes, dancing burns calories, so why not put on that disco album and shake your booty? There's a reason why those Soul Train dancers always looked so good...

5. I Eat A Lot of Quality Protein
Beef: it's what for dinner. Back in the day, steak was a favorite meal, and openly enjoyed. Today it seems it's all about a vegan or vegetarian diet, namely because of the horrific way animals are treated at most U.S. farms, and the antibiotics and other crap that get fed to them.

Now that I'm working for an organic meat company, I get to take home the company's beef products for cost, and I actually find myself craving it. It's all grass-fed, so it's coming from cattle that are not just treated extremely well under strict animal welfare guidelines, but it's also naturally lower in fat and calories and has an amazing taste. But of course, I just don't eat red meat -- I eat chicken, turkey, seafood, legumes, and nuts. All are what I consider low-fat, quality protein. And protein helps fill you up and keeps you that way for hours.

Roasted chickpeas are one of my favorite snacks to make and great to curb that 3 PM snack attack; I toss rinsed and dried chickpeas with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried rosemary and bake at 400 degrees until they've started to brown just a bit.

Of course, I also eat fruit and veggies.

6. I Eat When I'm Hungry, And I Stop When I'm Full
It sounds so simple, right? Yet, I think a lot of people don't listen to that internal signal in their stomach when it starts to get full -- they keep eating. When I've had enough, I stop. (Gotta save some space for dessert, right?) I'm also not ashamed to ask for leftovers to be wrapped up when I eat out (remember when they used to be called doggie bags?)

George Burns was once asked how he stayed so thin when he ate out all of the time. He said he only half of what was on his plate, and took the rest home. Considering how much larger restaurant portions are today compared to decades ago, it isn't a bad plan to emulate.

I'm also not an emotional eater, a problem that seems to plague a lot of people today. I only eat when I'm hungry.

7. I Get Enough Sleep
You wouldn't think sleeping has anything to do with staying slim, right? But you'd be wrong -- studies have indicated that when we're sleep deprived, we eat extra calories because it's our body trying to compensate for not getting enough ZZZZZZZs. I've experienced this myself, so I try to get at least seven and a half hours of sleep each night. The bonus from sleeping enough is that you also have enough energy the next day to get some exercise.

8. I Limit Processed Foods
Michael Pollan, the author of several notable books about the food industry, has famously said that if your grandparents wouldn't recognize the food you're eating, then you shouldn't eat it. Maybe that's a little too strict, but it is true that things like processed cookies and other snacks aren't that great for us. I love crackers, especially with cheese, and I do eat potato chips on occasion. But I stay away from most of what Nabisco makes (except for those damn Ritz crackers with cheese, but I really limit treating myself with those.) The more "natural" your overall diet, the better you are in my honest opinion.

I know some people ban foods made with white flour, such as pasta and bread, from their diet. I don't. I usually choose a whole-grain or other bread that would be considered more nutritional than regular white bread, but I really don't make any food completely off limits. I just watch what I eat.

9. I Drink Very Little
Here is where I differ drastically from the alcohol swiggers of the Mad Men era; I save mixed drinks for the occasional event (such as going out to dinner with my Meetup group) and have a glass of wine at home maybe once or twice a month. Same goes for beer. A lot of those mixed cocktails are sugary calorie bombs, and I don't really get the social media craze of sharing what you're drinking on Facebook. Truth be told, it kind of makes you look like an alcoholic.

Was there supposed to be one more tip to make this an even ten? Well, I think nine pretty much sums it up. I drink a lot of water, move my body, and overall choose quality food. The other thing I think is important to know is that being a healthy weight requires not dieting, but a lifestyle choice. There are no quick fixes, folks. A diet is temporary; a lifestyle is a way of living. You can't change bad habits into good ones for a month, lose some weight, and then return to them thinking you won't gain it all back.

It remains to be seen if something is going to happen to society to stop the worldwide gluttony. But I say it's high time a lot of us returned to a more retro, natural lifestyle with our eating and activity habits.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Go Retro Gives Back -- Who Should I Donate To?

I'm trying something a little different before we get back to the retro-related posts, and I hope my readers will hear me out and read this. When it comes to charitable causes and helping organizations out, I don't often do as much as I could. It's been a few years since I've volunteered my time anywhere, and during the time I was out of work I didn't donate any money to a cause. But now that I am working again, I was inspired by an idea last night and thought I might have a little fun with it. What if I donated a month of my advertising revenue to a charity I care about, and better yet, what if I let my readers choose the charity?

Here's how this will work -- below is a poll of five Boston area charities that are near and dear to my heart. I will leave the poll up for the rest of April, and will announce the winner at the start of May. Then, any advertising revenue I make during the month of May will be donated to the charity with the most votes. There's a few things readers can do to help drive up that advertising revenue, but I'll mention them in May! (And no, I'm not going to ask you to click on ads, which goes against the advertising network rules anyway.)

Here are the five charities to choose from...granted, none of them have a retro-related theme (although the first one shares theirs with a Simon & Garfunkel song) but they all do really awesome work.

Bridge Over Troubled Water -- one of the few shelters in the Boston area for homeless teens and young adults. They provide food, water, clothing, shelter, showers, and medical and dental care for homeless teens and youth between the ages of 14 and 24, and provide services to help them develop their lives and get off the streets. A good portion of America's 1.4 million homeless are teens and young adults and when you think about it, sharing a shelter with adults can be a scary concept. Bridge Over Troubled Water has a wish list on, so depending on how much money my advertising raises, I can purchase items such as a backpack, sneakers, and clothing directly on the site.

Dress For Success -- they help disadvantaged women look and feel their best in job interviews by giving them suits and work attire as well as classes to help them develop work skills and get a job.

Ellen Gifford Cat Shelter -- a no kill, no cage cat shelter that not only takes in homeless cats, but provides them veterinary care, food, comfort, and human companionship until they can be placed in their forever homes. It was started by a woman in the early 1900s that rescued all kinds of animals. A few years ago I attended their annual fundraiser/auction and they do wonderful work, and will keep a cat for as long as it takes until they are adoptable and find the right loving home.

The Greater Boston Food Bank -- I've done the Walk for Hunger, a 20 mile walk through the city to raise awareness of hunger and funds, three times and all of the money raised goes to The Greater Boston Food Bank, which provides food for families all across Massachusetts that need it. I can't make the date this year, but if this charity is chosen you'll be helping to prevent hunger in the state of Massachusetts.

Colleen Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund -- even if you're not from Massachusetts, you may have heard of Colleen Ritzer; she was the Danvers, Mass. high school teacher that was brutally raped and murdered by one of her own students. She also lived literally a few houses down from mine. The Colleen Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund is awarded annually to one high school student planning on pursuing a teaching career.

Which one should I give to? Which one would you give to, if you could, and lived in the Boston area? Please cast your vote below before May 1st! (You can only cast your vote once.) Thanks so much -- I can't wait to see who I'll be donating to!

Please vote for a charity!

Bridge Over Troubled Water - Shelter For Homeless Teens
Dress For Success
Ellen Gifford Cat Shelter
The Greater Boston Food Bank
Colleen Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund
Poll Maker

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Why Does Most of Today's Music Suck So Much?

I really didn't want to write a "get off my lawn" title for this blog post. I really wanted to call it, "Why I'll Always Be Old School When It Comes to Music" or something equally as gentle. However, for SEO purposes, most people are going to be asking Google, "Why does today's music suck so much?"

(By the way, the two clowns in the photo on the right above call themselves Twenty One Pilots. I'm not even going to get into why they suck so much, but if you can stand the auditory torture, look up the video to a song of theirs called "Car Radio" and you'll hear--and see why.)

Let's face it: a lot of music being heard on the radio waves today does suck, particularly pop music. I know because I was forced to listen to it in work a few weeks ago. My work station is currently the front reception desk until our expanded office space is ready to use (we don't actually have a receptionist, but it was one of the few available places for me.) In the front reception area is a speaker. I have no idea who turned it on one afternoon, but all of a sudden it started playing one pop song after another. Since most people work in their own areas and offices I was really the only one that was going to get any benefit from it. "OK," I said to myself. "I can deal with this. I haven't listened to any of those pop stations in an awfully long time. I'll be open minded. Let's see what the young 'uns are digging these days."

Within an hour I wanted to shove bananas in my ears. After two hours I wanted to scream.

Then I realized the speaker had a volume control. So I went over to it and turned the volume down. The following day, I brought in my earbuds and I stopped being lazy about downloading Spotify to my office MacBook.

I tried, guys. I really did, but to no avail.

Why did the music grate on my nerves so much? Because every single song. Sounded. The. Same. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

Everyone sounded auto tuned. Every song had practically the same inane lyrics. Every song sounded like it had all been produced electronically. I couldn't make out a single guitar or horned instrument with the exception of "Uptown Funk" (admittedly, a modern song I DO like, because of its horns and retro sound.)

Today's music is truly soulless. There's no more individuality, no more creativity. It all sounds like it was produced by the same record company (there is some truth to this, which I'll get to in a minute.)

And believe me, I'm being kind here. I came across another blog recently where the author didn't mince words; he declared--right in the post's title--that "if you're under 25, your music is f***ing garbage."

One of the reasons I do love the music of the '60s, '70s, and '80s so much is because every singer and band had their own unique sound. You hear a song, and you can immediately identify who was playing it.

Not so in the year 2016. I invite you to watch at least part of the following video by Infowars journalist Paul Joseph Watson. Watson is a controversial figure; Infowars is known for being a conspiracy theory website, but this commentary is not about politics or world affairs. It's about the downfall of music as we know it and as spot-on as it is, I must warn that it may depress you. My favorite part? When Watson states that, "Now any stupid f***ing bimbo or braindead twat can be dragged off a reality show, dropped into a recording studio, and have their shrill, warbling voice auto tuned for mass consumption." And that's just the least of it. Watson believes we're being brainwashed. He may be onto something.

And by the way, I totally agree with him about Coldplay, too. I hate their music and think they're vastly overrated.

I don't understand how any self-respecting DJ can play any of this pap.

And Watson is right about the "verbal diarrhea" trend. Have you heard the song "Work" by Rihanna and Drake? (I can't believe right now I'm mentioning people named Rihanna and Drake on Go Retro.) I won't torture you with the music video of the song, but here's some of the lyrics so you can see how asinine the "writing" behind this gem was:

Work, work, work, work, work, work

He said me haffi

Work, work, work, work, work, work!

He see me do mi

Dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt!

So me put in

Work, work, work, work, work, work

When you ah guh

Learn, learn, learn, learn, learn

Meh nuh cyar if him

Hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurting

Yeah. Apparently "haffi" is a Jamaican term, but I'm not going to bother trying to decipher the "meh nuh cyar" gibberish. And those repetitive lyrics! You can trust me when I say the song is just as bad as the words.

Sadly, it's all about the almighty dollar and how much crap the record companies can shove in our ears. In 2002, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released an awesome album called The Last DJ which takes aim at the money-grubbing music industry. A lot of critics at the time thought that Petty was being a cranky crybaby with this release, but there's a lot of truth in tracks such as "Money Becomes King" and "Joe" ("Bring me a girl // They're always the best // You put them on stage // And you make her undress // Some angel whore that can learn a guitar lick // Hey! Now that's what I call music")

I want to clarify that there IS still intelligent music being written and produced that features artists playing their own instruments, but you have to hunt around for it. In my area, there's an independent radio station that features new artists but will also play some of the old classics, too (the Spectrum station on Sirius is pretty similar.) In the past few years thanks to my local independent station I've been introduced to Muse, Fitz and The Tantrums, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, David Gray, and J.D. McPherson. But I can't consider myself a true fan of any of them; it's more like I'm familiar with a few of their songs and I like them enough to not change the channel, but none of them have meaning to me like Chicago, Steely Dan, and Electric Light Orchestra.

In the past few weeks I've been asked by a couple of coworkers if I miss hearing the music and want it turned back on. I think you can guess that I've politely declined, explaining that I can't take today's pop music and prefer to listen to my old school playlists on Spotify. It kind of surprises me, though, how many people have said that they don't mind listening to it.

Well, I could go on and on here. But frankly, I think my energy would be better invested by this point by listening to real music by people with real talent, that can play instruments.

Do you agree? And if there's any recommendations you can make for good modern music, let me know in the comments!

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