Forgive me, trendy holiday cynics: Christmas brings me great joy | Mikki Halpin

Everything about the season is worth loving, except eggnog. Eggnog is gross

People think its cool to hate Christmas its like hating Taylor Swift or fake meat. Hating Christmas means you are pure and above it all, that cliched lowbrow enthusiasm. Hating Christmas is the rockism of winter.

The griping starts every fall, whenever the merchandise begins to appear in stores. Its so superior, so predictable and so boring. I cant believe its the holidays again! Ugh, Christmas. I refuse to participate in this overhyped, bourgeois manifestation of all that is wrong with society.

For bonus cool points, especially on Twitter, you can add a cynical flourish by also mocking the war on Christmas. (Im OK with that, actually. I dont believe in the war on Christmas thats just a load of political and religious crap.)

And joy? Joy is not part of a properly detached aesthetic.

But joy is why I do believe in Christmas. I believe in decorations, and sparkles, and cookies, and snowmen, and department store window displays, and tinsel, and presents, and caroling, and gingerbread houses, and fruitcake, and crying when I see British pop stars sing Do They Know Its Christmas even though I know its problematic.

I believe in David Bowie showing up to Bing Crosbys house to sing. I believe in Its a Charlie Brown Christmas, I believe in Miracle on 34th Street and of course I dream of a White Christmas. I believe in the Nutcracker, which is an entire ballet about candy, my friends. I believe in the spirits coming to visit Scrooge and his transformation. I believe in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and its live camel.

I believe in it all, except eggnog. Eggnog is gross. Oh and Santacon: no one can defend Santacon. Ill give you Santacon, Christmas-haters.

I throw epic Christmas parties at my house for my friends of all denominations. At the last one, I had three Christmas trees, four themed windows, several nutcrackers and every foil streamer I could find on eBay. There was a punch bowl with a block of ice in the shape of a wreath. There was a giant fake fireplace, a smaller fake fire and a television playing a fire on a loop. There was fake snow on the windows. There was stollen, and gingerbread, and presents, and snowflakes and 36 hours of Christmas music on the stereo. I had on a dress made of paper that matched my paper tablecloth.

There is no room for cynicism at my house.

Christmas is also the time of special episodes on my favorite shows. On the second season of Girlfriends, they did a twist on the O Henry story, The Gift of the Magi that got across the perils of deceit as deftly as the classic did. On Popular they retold A Christmas Carol with Nicole, the shows villain, as Scrooge. The Six Million Dollar Man also went with A Christmas Carol; the guy who represented Scrooge was called Budge, which is hilarious, truly. On Supernatural, Sam and Dean had to defeat a bloodthirsty Mr and Mrs Santa but they still gave each other presents in the end an episode that is obviously loosely based on Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.

You guys, scholars make a big deal about how myths are retold over and over in different cultures, and it happens right here every year, right before our very eyes.

Ive even borne witness to a Christmas miracle. One year, my friends Josh and Jens and I had just returned to Brooklyn after a movie. We wanted a drink, but there we stood, alone in the snow, thirstily looking up and down the main drag of our neighborhood. Everything was closed. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

But what to our wondering eyes should appear? Suddenly Rosemarys Greenpoint Tavern lit up with Christmas cheer! We were the first customers in, and it felt like family. Family with beer.

One of my favorite things about the season is this joke:

What did one snowman say to the other?

Do you smell carrots?

If you can grasp the joyful absurdity (Damon Lindelhof could) of that, then surely you can find a little fun in Christmas. Im not asking you to believe in Christ. But believe in the spirit of the season, if nothing else. Be merry.



When the New York Observer endorsed Donald Trump, I had to resign

I was the restaurant critic. I could have carried on writing about crudits and borscht. But taking money from a shill for Trump implicated me in his hate

For the last three years, Ive been the restaurant critic for the New York Observer, a weekly paper in the upper minor leagues of metropolitan newspapers. Generally speaking, being a critic is a good deal and being a restaurant critic is even better. You get paid to eat, eat well (usually) and then write about it. Whats not to love?

Last week, after the paper endorsed Donald Trump for president of the United States in a bizarro editorial, I resigned. Its not quite falling on my sword, more like leaning gently on a butter knife. I had long known, of course, that the paper teetered toward Trumpism. It is owned, after all, by Trumps prospective son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the boyish real estate scion betrothed to the Donalds daughter, Ivanka Trump.

But the editor, Ken Kurson, had assured its readers and writers that the paper would remain neutral. I decided as editor that there wasnt a great way for the Observer to cover him, he wrote in July. The appearance of conflict was unavoidable.

And then, last week, the veil came off. It had, in truth, been slipping. Earlier this month, a story broke that the editor had helped Trump with his speech to Aipac. Even before, the Observer had run a bizarre takedown of a Trump political nemesis, the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. There was even some business wherein the paper ran Putin propaganda. Putin is, according to Trump, his BFF.

But I wrote about crudits and deconstructed borscht. So I kept my head in my plate and tried to ignore the ugly politics around me. In my own indirect way, I tried to push back. Shortly after Trump delivered a toxic attack on Mexicans calling them rapists and murderers, I parroted his syntax for a favorable review of two tremendous Mexican restaurants, Cosme and Rosies. When Mexico sends its people I wrote, Theyre sending people that have lots of poblanos and theyre bringing those poblanos with them. Theyre bringing tclayudo. Theyre bringing tlacuyo, their arepas. And some, I assume, are good people, too.

Subtle, it wasnt. And for a while I contented myself as working for gradual change from within the system. I tried to convince myself that if I lauded love and light in my writing it could somehow redeem the dark toxicity of the papers ownership. Perhaps that I served the reader or shone the spotlight on chefs could absolve me. But in the end, there became less and less room to manoeuvre. But whats the difference between a court jester and a genuine voice of dissent? One the court keeps; the other has too much integrity to keep the court entertained.

Such is, perhaps, the hidden blessing of extremity: it forces one to make hard choices. I could and did wriggle my way out of many morally tight spots and I know myself well enough to understand Im an ethical octopus. Give me even the smallest aperture and Ill squeeze out of it. Trump foreclosed that out. Taking money from and making money for a shill for Trump, Destroyer of Worlds, implicated me no matter how many self-justifying asanas I assumed.

Had it been Kasich, meh. I like restaurants more than I dislike him. Had it been Cruz, a man with remarkably sensual eyelashes and terrible, terrible policy, I could have eked out a few more reviews until the general election came. (Both Cruz and Trump are projected to lose in head-to-head match-ups no matter who the Democratic challenger is.)

Trump, however, is sui generis. His danger lies not just in his policies which, hitherto, had been rather moderate but in his demagogic summoning of our worst angels. His rallies are like seances from a much darker time and an even darker future. So it is besides the point entirely that he will certainly become a scary blip come November. To stand with Trump is to stand with hate; what I ate, and what I thought about it, is small beer compared with that.

If there is one positive lesson to be found in this election cycle, with all its rhetoric and all its hyperventilation, it is this: there can always be compromise and there always should be. Thats how our system works best. But to compromise oneself, whether by delivering paid speeches or hateful pandering or even reviewing restaurants, is unforgivable.

  • This piece was amended on 19 April 2016 to clarify that Ken Kurson assured readers about New York Observers neutrality in July, not December.



5 People So Blinded By Their Hobbies They Forgot To Live

Not everything we do needs to have this super-special, universe-altering purpose behind it, especially since the universe could give negative shits about what us sentient specks of space dust do with our brief love affair with consciousness. So go ahead, indulge in a pointless hobby or 10 — play the shit out of your video games, color all the adult coloring books, get that doctorate that everybody spits on because you weren’t born with 35 years’ experience. Just don’t let the pursuit of pointlessness consume your life to the point where actual important stuff goes forever ignored.

If you ever find yourself doing anything like the following, burn it all to the ground, hug your family, and apologize profusely for so coldly ignoring them all these years. If you don’t have a family, hug Mario and Luigi. They miss you too.

#5. Don’t Blow 40 Years And $2 Million Building A Giant Boat, Especially If You’re Landlocked

Dillon Griffith isn’t the first person to build his own boat. But while most content themselves with stitching together a pile of wood and praying to the Sky God that the Tuna God doesn’t whisk them away for a forced marriage to Aquaman, Griffith went and built himself a 64-foot, 40-ton, steel-and-electric monstrosity that he dubbed the “Mystic Rose.” It took him 38 years and cost roughly $2 million to complete.

Naturally, he did it to earn money.

Now we know who taught Axl Rose everything he knows about managing start-up costs.

He was inspired to build his own giant boat in 1977, after chartering his first, less-giant boat for fishing trips failed to earn him any money. After concluding this was because his galley was too small to allow for truly hardcore fishing, he set out to build his own, ginormous fishing boat. That way he could charter more people for more trips and make more sweet, sweet mackerel money.

Reminder: He spent $2 million to get there.

Unless somebody catches the Kraken, good luck breaking even before the next supercontinent forms.

He also took 38 years to finish, because Dillon Griffith is not a professional huge-boat maker. What’s more, he eventually moved away from the ocean and into a land-locked area, yet he continued to build his boat. That’s like moving to Death Valley and trying to build your own ice hockey rink. Oh, and the project damn near killed him, and not in the typical “oh, all this hard work is killing me” kind of way. No, more like a crane fell on him once and shattered his body. That kind of killing. Also, an 11-pound cylinder once broke his neck. After that, it was probably less a labor of love and more one of pure stubbornness. He saw a ship that steadfastly refused to be built, and he stared it right in the barnacle-encrusted porthole and said, “Fuck you, thou shalt be built.”

And build it he did — after nearly 40 years of lonesome, dawn-to-dawn work days, the ship is ready to sail. Finally, as Griffith says, he’ll “make money and [he] won’t have to worry anymore.”

Of course, there’s still the issue of getting the boat to sea, since he lives far away from it and all. He estimates it’ll cost an extra $55,000 to have it towed there, but then he’ll make money for sure! He’s set up a GoFundMe to cover these final costs, so feel free to help him if you like. He’s almost there; he just needs a little push over that finish line.

Well on his way!

#4. Don’t Waste Half A Century Building Your Own Helicopter Out Of Garbage

Like so many children of the pre-1950s (and post-2020s, after President McCarthy executive-orders all vaccines into the same dirty pit where we stashed those Atari ET games) a Honduran man known simply as Agustin contracted polio. He’s been unable to walk since.

Young Agustin dreamed of being a pilot, so he’s spent the past 50 years constructing a helicopter out of garbage. This despite knowing precisely dick about helicopters aside from “they exist.” And he insists his will fly, despite it never coming even once close to doing so. Ever bet 99 percent of your poker chips on what winds up being a 6 high? That’s this, in weird mutated sorta-copter form.

And this is insisting your 2-2-4-5 is a royal flush and the dealer’s just blind.

Agustin started this project in 1958, thinking it would take only three months because what’s a helicopter compared to a soap-box racer or a homemade turkey sandwich. So already we have a grown man cock-sure that he could build a working helicopter, single-handedly, with everything that Oscar The Grouch had grown sick of masturbating to, in three months. He missed that deadline by a mere 573 months, because, according to him, “Things kept getting complicated.” Big flying machines that typically require an entire crew to assemble do tend to be that way, yes.

Nothing should take 20 years to finish except raising a child. And writing The Winds Of Winter.

But still he perseveres, tinkering with his helicopter daily, all by himself. He gathers junk, trash, and spare parts wherever he can find them and assembles them all on his own — even the propeller’s chains are DIY. It’s neat, but it’s also Fallout 4: Saddest-Ever Edition. And I do mean he finds those parts wherever — for years, Agustin used an old, rickety wheelchair, until his friends and family bought him a shiny, new, working one, direct from the United States … which he immediately disassembled for helicopter parts.

Good parts.

If this were simply performance art, it’d be one thing. But Agustin still believes, and will likely keep believing until his final day, that his literal pile of garbage will get visited by the Blue Fairy one night and become a real helicopter. He outright admits that it “looks like a caricature of a helicopter” but somehow doesn’t grasp that that’s exactly why his only hope to fly is the same as ours: Board a plane, get drunk on boxed wine, and let someone who knows what they’re doing help him roam about the country.

#3. Don’t Spend 17 Years Building A Wooden Lamborghini In Your Basement

Hey, let’s watch 1/27th of a movie!

That’s the intro to Cannonball Run, and even non-carheads can see it’s awesome, as is the Lamborghini Countach Tara Buckman zooms around in. Ken Imhoff certainly agrees, but unlike us the film didn’t inspire him to drink shitloads of beer and fantasize about getting coldly laughed at by Buckman if he dared approach her. He was instead inspired to build his very own Countach. Out of wood. And not just some rinky-dink model for his mantel. He was going to build a life-size wooden Lamborghini, engine and all, and he was going to drive that motherfucker.

Maybe he drank shitloads of beer after all.

He can’t drive 55. Or 45. Or 35. Or 25. Or 5.

Like most people who don’t know what they’re doing but confidently stumble through it anyway, Imhoff figured his “Bull In The Basement” project wouldn’t take long — five years, tops. It took him 17, the literal length of childhood. That’s an appropriate analogy, by the by, since he missed much of his kids’ own childhoods while locked in his basement sanding, polishing, fucking up, redoing, sanding, and polishing again.

Wouldn’t want to enter the void with anything but a perfect shine, after all.

By 2007, his Treeborghini was finally finished and ready for unveiling. Except, he couldn’t get it out of his basement, since basements don’t have garage doors. So, Imhoff did the only logical thing he could: He paid a guy to cut a big hole in his basement, dig up a gnarly dirt ramp, and tow the car out of the basement and into the light. He would’ve driven it out — it theoretically being a car and all — but it’s a chunk of wood.

Good thing he brought those protective blankets. Wouldn’t want anything to get damaged
and plummet in value or anything.

He eventually powered it up enough to joyride around the block, bring his kids to school, and gather a few termites. But, after five years, Imhoff decided to sell. He claimed the maintenance was too much to handle; all that wood polish sets you back, but presumably he’d also love to recoup some of the “unimaginable [financial] extremes” his Cannonball Pratfall put him and his entire family through. At least we know he won’t try anything this dumb again.

Oh wait, no. He immediately started work on a wooden Studebaker Hawk. Check back with Cracked in about 20 years for an update.



San Bernardino office building reopens a month after mass shooting left 14 dead

The complex had been shut since 2 December when a couple burst into a holiday party and opened fire in the deadliest terror attack on US soil since 9/11

The Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino has reopened for the first time since last months massacre, allowing around 600 employees to return to work at the site.

After passing guards who checked identity cards, the workers were expected to gather in small groups to talk on Monday before resuming their duties serving 30,000 people with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The centre has been shut since 2 December, when Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, burst into a holiday luncheon in a conference room and opened fire, killing 14 people and wounding 20, in the deadliest terror attack in the US since 9/11.

The conference room remained shut authorities have not yet decided what to do with it but the rest of the campus, comprising two large red stone buildings, was open.

Crews have cleaned up broken glass and other debris from the attack and erected a chain-link fence around the complex. Professional counsellors were on site for any employees who felt in need of their services.

We have security guards at each entrance area. We continue to measure the security and we will continue to look at it, Lavinia Johnson, the centres executive director, told reporters outside the facility.

Today I will be spending time with my staff, my directors and my managers and have welcoming remarks for them. We have food inside the agency as well as counselling for those who are still not ready and still continuing the healing process. Most of us are relieved to be back at work. We want to continue with the normalcy, and we miss each other very much.

The World Way, a Christian ministry, set up a prayer tent near the entrance and provided coffee and breakfast bars. Later on Monday, Californias governor, Jerry Brown, was expected to attend a private memorial service for the victims in nearby Ontario.


Staff members hug before returning to work at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. Photograph: Nick Ut/AP

San Bernardinos step towards normality came as prosecutors prepared the case against Enrique Marquez, a friend of Farook who purchased the guns used in the massacre. Marquez, who is being held without bail, is expected to enter a plea in an arraignment Wednesday at the US district court in Riverside.

Farook, 28, and Malik, 29, died in a gun battle with police a few miles away soon after the massacre. Investigators are still piecing together how Farook, a US citizen who was born in Chicago to Pakistani parents, and Malik, a Pakistani national, came to be radicalised. The couple allegedly pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State.

Farook described by relatives and colleagues as a quiet, reserved and devout Muslim was a county environmental health inspector and had worked alongside the victims. He had left the holiday luncheon, part of a daylong training session, and returned with Malik, both wielding assault rifles and wearing masks and combat-style clothing.

The site remained frozen for weeks while investigators combed for evidence. A few employees visited during that time to retrieve personal belongings, but most stayed away.

Staff used laptops and iPads to access patient records through a web-based operating system, letting them work remotely and serve a community of children with autism, mentally disabled adults and other clients in what is a largely poor and working-class swath of California.

Staff were looking forward to reuniting, a centre spokesperson told the Associated Press.

With the two shooters dead, prosecutors have focused on Farooks friend, Marquez. Relatives and friends have expressed shock that a 24-year-old known for goofy humour, fixing old cars and enjoying beer could be implicated in an extremist plot.

Federal prosecutors have painted a different picture, saying that as Marquezs friendship with Farook grew, he converted to Islam, started attending a mosque in 2010 and became a wannabe terrorist.

Marquez allegedly made false statements in 2011 and 2012 when he bought two semiautomatic rifles for Farook, who feared he would not pass a background check. According to an affidavit, the two plotted attacks on the 91 Freeway in Corona and at Riverside City College in 2011 and 2012, but neither attack went ahead.

Marquez faces five charges, including supplying the weapons and smokeless powder contained in an explosive device found at the scene of the attack, plus marriage fraud. In 2014, he married Mariya Chernykh, a Russian national whose sister is married to Farooks older brother. Marquez faces up to 50 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges.



Anheuser-Busch InBev under EU investigation for potential antitrust violations

 (AP File Photo)

The European Union opened an investigation Thursday into global beer giant AB InBev to determine if it has abused its dominant position in Belgium by hindering cheaper imports of its products from neighboring countries.

EU officials said there are suspicions the company, based in Leuven, Belgium, may be pursuing a deliberate strategy to block imports of its beer from less expensive countries, including France and the Netherlands, to the pricier Belgian market.

“AB InBev’s strong position on the Belgian beer market is not a problem,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said as she announced the probe. 

However, she said, “keeping out cheaper imports of its beer from neighboring countries would be both against the interests of consumers and anti-competitive.”

AB InBev spokesperson Korneel Warlop said the brewer “is fully cooperating with the European Commission.”

In an e-mail to the Associated Press, Warlop said, “It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the substance or potential consequences of the ongoing investigation.” 

If the EU investigation finds the beer giant guilty of wrong-doing, it could fine the company as much as 10 percent of its global revenue– well over $43 billion.



Science Explains Why You Only Like To Smoke Cigarettes When You Drink

If you ask people today how they feel about smoking cigarettes, most will tell you itjust isnt cool anymore.

So, despite our society taking several steps backward in recent years (re: that orange creature who lives in the White House), weve at least managed toget the memo on how bad smoking really is for your health.

Except, we still have a few stragglers on that front.

If youve ever been to a party, you know who these people are. Theyre the ones always asking otherpeople if they can bum a cig, because they dont consider themselves to be legitimate smokers.

Theyre the casual smokers who would never go out and buy a pack for themselves, yet every time you see them at a social gathering (particularly when alcohol is involved),there they are, puffing away on a cancer stick, like its NBD.

I hate to burst your bubble, casual smokers, but puffing is kind of a big deal.

A new studyfocused on young adult smokers, between the ages of 18 and 25.

The researchers found participantstended to derive more pleasure from smoking a cigarette when drinking alcohol, compared with smoking a cigarette when also smoking pot.

Now, to me, these findings inherently make sense.

In my own experience, Ive seen plenty ofpeople at parties dangling a cigarette in one hand and precariously holding a red solo cup in the other.

On the other hand, you dont ever really see people double-fisting a cigarette and a joint, a bowl, or literally any other pot-smoking device.

I think weve all heard the excuse, I only smoke when I drink, more times than weve ever cared to.

According to another study, the declaredsocial smokers light one up when they drink because they desirea stimulant effect (which nicotine provides) to combat the drowsy feelingthat alcohol often causes.

But, just because science has now kind of confirmed how good it feels to smoke a cig while sipping a beer, and how it keeps you from feeling drowsy, that still doesnt make it OK.

The researchers concluded in their studyon the pleasures of combining alcohol and cigarettes,

Targeting the increased pleasure from smoking cigarettes when drinking alcohol could enhance effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions among young adults.

The authors also hope future studies in this area will explore what people think will happen, or how they expect to feel, when pairing cigarettes and alcohol together.



Are You Sweet Or Savory? What Your Favorite Flavor Says About You

I firmly believe there are two kinds of people in this world: people who love sweet food and people who love savory food.

I honestly have never met anyone who loves both types equally. If I could count the number of people I’ve met who told me chocolate just isn’t their “thing,” I’d be out of fingers and toes. (By the way, how the hell can younot like chocolate?!)

In my experience, youre either the girl whocries into a box of chocolate after a breakup (me) or the girl whoeats her way through a Big Mac and fries. Either way, “Heartbroken You” ends up fat and sad, but I digress.

I always seem to go for Hersheys Kisses, Reeses peanut butter cups and Starbucks Venti mochafrappuccinos when I want a treat. Sometimes Ill even opt for a bucketload of sugar for dinner instead of real food. It just satisfies me.

Hungover medoes the same. Greasy breakfast doesnt cure my post-drinking woes. Chocolate bars dipped in hot chocolate do.

Ive always wondered if theres any sort of connection between the foods we prefer and the kinds of people we are. My best friend, for example, is a little salty around the edges. Shes a bit of a cynic, but she hasa gentleinterior. She also hasa permanent can of Pringles on her desk.

I, on the other hand, see the world throughrose-tinted glasses. I also happen to live exclusively for chocolate: white, milk, dark. You name it, I eat it.

Could it be a coincidence, then, that I — the so-called “sweeter” of the two of us — reach for the sweet stuff, while my more realistic BFF reaches for the chips and guac?

The American Psychological Association conducted a study of 55 college students and rated their affinities for 50 different foods in the five major taste types: sour, sweet, bitter, spicy and salty. The researchers found that the students who liked sweets had a higher level of agreeableness, which also meant they were more likely to be cooperative, compassionate and amicable.

In another study,55 undergraduate students were each given abland cracker, a piece of milk chocolate or nothing. They were then asked to helpa college professor complete a task. The students who were fed the sweetened food (milk chocolate) were more willing to help the professor than the students who were fed unsweetened food and those who weren’t fed at all.

There’s no scientific evidence as to why the sweet-loving students were also the sweetest. Maybe the chocolate lovers felt momentarily energized fromtheir sugar high, which would explainwhy they’d want to take on an extra task. Or maybe chocolate lovers are just naturally cooler people (ahem), which is the theory I’m going with.

According to other research, salt-lovers like my friend, who chow down on foods like pizza and french fries, go with the flow and have what’s called an “external locus of control.” In other words, they believe that outside forces like fate — not their own actions — determine the path of their future. They take things in stride and don’t stress over the bad sh*t because what happens is supposed to happen. Interesting.

As for you spicy food lovers, you’re risk takers. But I think you probably already knew that. You’re the kind of person to take risks not justin life, but also withfood. While everyone else shies away from trying crocodile meat, you gladly take on the challenge because it adds to thelistof cool sh*t you’ve done. Basically, everyone else should aspire to be a little more like you.

For those who like the taste of bitter foods, I have some not-so-great news. It turns out you’re the most likely to have psychopathic personality traits. That means that if you like your coffee black or enjoy the taste of beer over wine, you might be narcissistic, malevolent and take pride in inflicting pain on others.

All right, then. Don’t mind if I stay away from you guys.

I’m intrigued by the apparentlink between our flavors of choice and who we are as people. Whats funny is that Ive tried to change my tastebuds in an attempt to develop acquired tastes for different foods. I dont want to end up with diabetes (it runs in my family), so Ive been incorporating more salty, savory and spicy foods into my diet.

But maybeI’m also subconsciouslytrying to change the way I look at the world. Because though being sweet is one of my greatest strengths, it also happens to be one of my greatest weaknesses. I tend to let people walk all over me, and that isnt exactly the best quality to have.

I think itd be too much to be part of a friend group in whicheveryone isexactly the same. Having friends with varying tastebuds makes for a good dinner groups because though you guys might disagree on which restaurant to go to, at least you know you wont be eating off each others plates the entire time.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me rejoice. I HATE when people steal my food. Especially myoverpriced organic chocolate.



The Shocking Things About Aging That No One Ever Talks About

Everybody ages differently and nobody actually understands how they wound up at their own 60th birthday party. For most of us, “old” will always be 20 years down the road from whatever age we are now. But there are some surprises in store for some young-ens, some things that nobody warns you about. We asked our friends and Huff/Post50 readers what caught them off guard about the aging process. Here’s some of what they said:

1. Hair relocates; who knew?

Yes, men — and often women — go bald as they age. According to the American Hair Loss Association, by age 35, two-thirds of men experience some hair loss. By 50, about 85 percent of men have significantly thinner hair. Among those who lose hair, 40 percent are female.

But aging also brings with it hair growth in places you don’t really want there to be. Menopause — and certain hormone replacement products you take to beat back its symptoms — can cause facial hair to grow on women. Let’s face it: Thick black chin hairs and a coarse mustache are no friends of womankind.

While there is no scientific evidence to prove this, many a women’s book club has discussed whether the chin hairs appearing are somehow connected to the eyebrows disappearing. Yes, eyebrows go MIA and in many cases, take your eyelashes with them. Truth. Prozac taken for depression and Atenolol for hypertension can also cause it. How big a deal is losing your eyebrows? A pretty big one. Some people have even taken to having eyebrow transplants

And lastly, there is a change to pubic hair. It thins out to a shell of its former glory and will turn white or gray just like the hair that remains on your head. Don’t sweat this one too much because the extra belly roll that many middle-agers sprout generally blocks our vision of what’s going on down below anyway. 

2. Our bellies can beget more bellies.

On men, we call those protruding pouches that spill over the top of trousers “beer bellies.” But women get them too and they really don’t come from drinking too much beer. They are belly fat and they are the enemy of good health. Regardless of your overall weight, carrying around a spare tire on your middle will increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The National Institute on Aging says belly fat comes from the age-related slowing of your metabolism. 

Reader Helen Pardoe, who is nearly 70, has put on some weight since she retired five years ago. “While working I was always very slim,” she said. “It could be that I sit more, or I have less stress or that I enjoy my food more…” She added, “I am not complaining. I am healthy and I can put up with dieting every so often, just to keep my fat under control.” Same thing happened to reader Sue Burroughs, who just turned 69 and retired two years ago. “I always took the stairs and frequently used them multiple times every day at work — 42 steps! Now with about 15 additional pounds to carry around, I realize what a good thing I was doing!”


Peter Dazeley via Getty Images

 3. For some, the days fly by.

Remember how, after you had kids, you’d tell people how you only thought you were busy before they came along? Oddly, that’s what some retirees say about retirement. Reader Burroughs wrote, “Before I retired I always got annoyed at retirees who said, ‘I don’t know how I ever worked! I wouldn’t have the time to fit work into my schedule now.’ And now I find that there aren’t enough hours in the day …” Posting as Nature’s Medicine Cabinet came this in agreement: “Time certainly seems to speed up each day I grow older.” Staying busy is good for us. Busy people are happier people. 

4. But that is not a universal truth.

Loneliness sucks at any age, but not having interesting people or things to fill your days in retirement can lead to depression. So can illness, pain and chronic medical conditions. Depression impacts older people differently than it does younger people. In the elderly, it lasts longer and is associated with an increased risk of cardiac diseases and an increased risk of death from illness. Studies of nursing home patients with physical illnesses have shown that the depression substantially increases the likelihood of death from those illnesses. 

Instead of going straight from the rat race to the bingo game, the new trend is a gradual ease into retirement. It even has a name: phased-in retirement. You basically shift to part time and train the younger workers how to do your job. And besides, who still plays bingo anyway with Candy Crush just a screen click away? Games and puzzles are actually good for aging brains, studies have shown, and online gaming is an inexpensive form of entertainment and it doesn’t require driving at night.

5. Aging hurts sometimes.

A few readers said that no one warned them about the multitude of aches and pains they would experience as they got older and their body parts begin to fail. Reader Tom Stowe said he is plagued with “daily joint pain that limits the amount of things you can accomplish in a day.” Reader Elaine Vallo could do without the “sagging skin.” And Ilene Whitehead just wrote “aches and pains!!” 

Attitude, it’s a wondrous thing. The true fountain of youth may be found in having a positive attitude. 

6. You finally shake off middle school.

What you’ve heard about not caring what others think is absolutely true — and a great part of aging. You wear comfortable shoes. You never ask what the expected attire is anymore. You will go to the grocery store without wearing makeup. It isn’t that you don’t care about how you look; it’s that you don’t care how others think you look. 

There may be nothing more liberating than the freedom not to care. 




Park life: Tokyo, the latest city to get a high line

A section of disused railway in central Tokyo has been converted into a pretty paved lane a welcome sanctuary in the worlds largest city

New York and Paris have one, Singapore and Seoul want one. London cant make its mind up. High lines regenerating the elevated sections of disused railway lines to make new public spaces have become a must-have for many cities. Like Tokyo.

One metro stop from the tourists walking Shibuyas scramble crossing is an urban village, still in central Tokyo, called Daikanyama, where Log Road is the worlds newest high line. The best thing is: its also the most low-key.

Log Road is a collection of wooden cottages built on top of the old Tokyu line tracks, where trees and plants sprout next to benches. After the madness of Shibuya, walking through the tenements and green spaces of Log Road is an unfamiliar Tokyo experience.


Number 1 Log Road is Spring Valley Brewery, owned by Japanese brewer Kirin. Local hipsters queue for lunches of Okinawan pork sausage and beer flights out on its terrace (try the sweet On The Cloud and bitter Afterdark). Or get a seat in the industrial interior, which shows off huge fermentation tanks through glass cases.

Crucially for this high line, theres plenty of outdoor space. If you cant get a table at Spring Valley or outside at Garden House Crafts, go to the end of Log Road: theres an elevated space with picnic benches. This particular afternoon, the sun shines and couples are taking selfies in front of the districts low-rise buildings. Im drinking a flat white and eating a green matcha doughnut. A moment of peace in the worlds largest city.



Abortion rights are in trouble. Here are 9 actions you can take to protect them.

It’s been a tough start to 2017 for abortion rights.

Just days into office, President Trump reinstated the Reagan-era “global gag rule” that strips aid to nongovernmental organizations that offer (or even discuss) abortion services with patients. On Jan. 24, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would make the anti-abortion Hyde Amendment permanent. Trump’s choice for secretary of Health and Human Services is staunchly anti-choice. And Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced a “heartbeat” ban on abortion (almost certainly meant to provoke a legal challenge to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision).

Like I said, it’s been a tough start to the year for abortion rights and it’s only January.

With so much happening all at once, it’s easy to feel lost and unsure how best to show your support. Luckily, there are ways. Many ways.

First off, it’s important that those of us who support reproductive rights recognize that we’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans (57%) believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the highest level of support in more than 20 years.

So let’s say that you’re part of that 57%. Now what?

Here are nine real things you can do and groups you can support in the fight for abortion rights in the U.S.

1. Support national and local abortion funds by donating or participating in fun fundraising campaigns.

Most people who want to support family planning, abortion rights, and factually accurate sex education donate to Planned Parenthood. And that’s great! Keep doing that! But if you want to support an organization specifically to help make abortion more accessible, you should check out the The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF). Abortion funds help individuals who need abortions, but can’t afford them, pay for them. When you donate to the NNAF, your money is going directly to help people exercise their constitutionally protected right to an abortion.

In the past, people have found creative ways to help fundraise for abortion funds. For example, there’s the Taco or Beer Challenge modeled after the Ice Bucket Challenge. Another fun way to help is by signing up for events like the annual National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon (which will be back this April).

The NAFF centers around tenets of intersectionality, autonomy, collective power, and compassion for people in need of abortion. The group provides support to around 70 organizations throughout the country (many of which you can donate to directly if you’d like they’d probably appreciate that).

2. Support reproductive rights and abortion advocacy organizations.

There is a long list of groups fighting for safe, legal, and accessible abortion throughout the U.S. some better known than others. Of course, there’s Planned Parenthood (a group that seems to be under near constant attack from anti-choice politicians), NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Abortion Federation, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Other organizations to consider supporting include the National Organization for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), All* Above All, A is For, Backline (known for their national pregnancy talkline), the Sea Change Program (a group working to reduce stigma), Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equality (URGE), the National Black Women’s Reproductive Agenda, the Lilith Fund (helping abortion-seekers in Texas find access), DKT International (the largest family planning organization in the developing world), the Haven Coalition (a New York-based group providing travel and lodging assistance for women traveling to New York for an abortion), the National Women’s Health Network, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), Ipas (a group dedicated to ending preventable deaths and disabilities from unsafe abortion), PCIGlobal (a group focused on ending physical, sexual, and mental violence against women), and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

3. Participate in abortion storytelling campaigns.

You or someone you know has almost certainly had an abortion. While the “1 in 3” estimate that’s often tossed around is almost certainly a bit high, the fact is that abortion is more common than you probably think. Unfortunately, abortion remains pretty stigmatized by society, and that’s why it’s so important that those who are willing and able to speak up about their experiences do so.

For many people, having an abortion isn’t really a huge deal and the overwhelming majority (95%) of those who have had one don’t regret it. Still, because of the stigma surrounding it, many might not feel comfortable discussing their experiences. You can help change that!

Whether it’s participating in social media campaigns like #ShoutYourAbortion, telling your story through a site like We Testify, or hosting a teach-in through the Abortion Truth Project, sharing abortion stories plays a powerful role in battling the stigma that surrounds the procedure.

4. Call your legislators at both local and national levels.

Calling your legislators is one of the best ways to show your support or opposition to any issue close to your heart. Is your representative pro-choice? Give her a call. How’s your senator planning on voting on an upcoming bill? Give him a call. It’s important to remember that our elected officials are meant to represent their constituents that means you!

There are some great guides too. Former Congressional staffer Emily Ellsworth’s “Call the Halls” guide is a tremendous resource to have at the ready. If you’re the type of person who struggles with phone anxiety, here’s a really cool Tumblr graphic. And if you need help coming up with a script or finding the right number, check out 5 Calls.

It doesn’t have to be boring either! Maybe you can organize a call or postcard writing party with friends, complete with drinks, food, and prizes where you get together and contact your reps.

5. Run for office. Yes, you.

The day after the massive global Women’s March, 500 women in Washington, D.C. gathered to discuss taking the energy from the march and channeling it into a political movement. The group worked together with EMILY’s List to learn the basics of getting involved in politics, and you can too!

As our new president has shown us, no prior political experience is no problem. But you don’t have to run for president or Congress to make a difference. Consider getting involved with smaller local races if that’s more your speed. Getting involved on a state, county, or municipal level can help make a real change in the world.

6. Promote comprehensive sex education.

It turns out that there are a couple surefire ways to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in the world (which, in turn, has the effect of reducing the number of abortions as well): ensuring access to contraception and improving the type of sex education we provide in schools. In fact, a recent study found that abortion is at an all-time low, and it appears to be a direct result of an improvement in both of those areas.

One obvious way to get involved in setting the agenda for sex education is finding a spot on your local school board (see point #5) or at least attending the board’s meetings with the public.

7. Talk to friends and family about why abortion rights matter to you.

Large-scale projects dedicated to helping change public opinion using celebrities and stories from strangers about why pregnant people should have the ability to make their own decisions about their bodies are one thing, but there’s nothing quite like hearing something from someone you trust. Sure, it might be a bit awkward, but at the end of the day, it might help reduce stigma (see point #3) and inspire others to feel more open in discussing the topic.

The National Network of Abortion Funds put together a quick guide on talking to your loved ones about abortion.

8. Volunteer as a clinic escort.

It can be hard for some people to feel safe and comfortable walking into an abortion provider’s office. Protesters can make going to a clinic a scary event, but that’s why clinic escorts exist.

Clinic escorts are individuals who help guide patients and staff in and out of abortion providers’ offices, offering distractions to patients and just generally trying to reduce what can be a traumatic time. Planned Parenthood recently shared information on how to become a volunteer clinic escort.

Additionally, you can support the Clinic Vest Project, an organization that provides brightly colored escort vests to volunteers for free.

9. Vote. Really vote.

One of the most direct things you can do to help influence policy is to become an informed participant in the democratic process. It’s an unfortunate fact that more than 92 million eligible voters stayed home this past Election Day. The presidential election, itself, came down to around just 80,000 votes spread out over three states. Your vote matters!