I stayed in last night, watched Wag the Dog with my son, got some knitting done. I put away the autumn decorations and got a start on the Christmas decorations. I brought out our collection of Christmas CDs — we have a couple of dozen, so I guess I had better start playing them.
In fact, I usually have begun my annual Christmas music Advent Calendar here by now. Advent usually begins on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, but this year it doesn’t start till Sunday.
Still, before we begin thinking of Advent carols, we could get a couple of completely secular songs in. For today, I offer you “‘Tis the Time of Yuletide Glee.” If you click on that link you can scroll down to hear a midi of the entire piece, plus files of all the separate parts. And here are the words. This means that you can forward it to your friends and have everyone learn different parts. There is plenty of time to polish that up before the Christmas party. Then you can sing a madrigal around the tree.
This will seriously impress passersby. In fact, I think you should do it for your office party. You might get some press out of that, or at least a reputation for having a frightening level of coordination. The competition will be scared.
The song was written by Thomas Morley, a madrigal pop star. It is very lovely when sung right. Our choir is currently singing it pretty badly. I’m reminded of an evening with the Master Chorale when we were butchering a section in the new Rutter piece we did for our autumn concert, when the director kindly told us, “I’ve heard recordings of this piece, and this section is really supposed to be quite pleasant-sounding.”
It was news to us.
Ah, yes, the knitting. I am getting the lace made for Ivy, the body of which I completed about a month ago. I like this lace, and am looking forward to wearing Ivy. However, it seems to me that the collar is much narrower than it should be. If you are able to see the picture of the sweater in the book in the very dark photo at the top of the page, you can see that the collar goes nearly to the shoulder. On mine, as you can see clearly in the second photo, where I brought it into the light, the collar is much smaller. I may remove the binding off row and knit a bit more on the collar before I sew on the lace. Of course, that means that I won’t know exactly how long to make the lace, and it can’t be cut to fit, so I will have to quit working on the lace until I’ve done the collar.
I’m reading The Fattening of America, by Eric Finkelstein, sent to me by the nice people at Amazon Vine. I’ve completed the first section, which argues a) that Americans are fatter than we used to be, and b) that this is the result of economics. That is, the cost (both the monetary and the opportunity cost) of eating and especially of eating unhealthful foods has fallen and that of exercising has risen, so it is much harder to be thin that it used to be. Some of this is not so much news — agricultural subsidies and new food production technologies have made processed foods more readily available than real foods, women aren’t home cooking for their families any more so fast food is a large part of the American food equation, laborsaving devices and the change in our occupations have cut down severely on the amount of physical effort our lives require — but some details were surprising to me.
For example, 1000 calories of potato chips can be had for 80 cents, while 1000 calories of carrots costs $4.00. The actual food used for fast food is so cheap that increasing the portions for the same price costs the company practically nothing, so size of portions is now a primary marketing device. The fitness craze has resulted in an average increase in planned physical movement of just about 3 minutes a day, compared to the days when we washed our clothes by hand and walked to the neighboring department instead of emailing them. Thus, while the average American spends 3 more minutes a day in vigorous play, he hardly spends any time in vigorous work, while eating a few hundred calories more every day. We could say, “Do the math,” but Finkelstein has done it for us.
Finkelstein does look at other explanations of the rise in national avoirdupois (have you heard the one about the chicken virus?), but he concludes that there really isn’t any need to look for further explanation. Those of us who are genetically predisposed to gain weight have been put into an environment where it is much easier, economically speaking, to be fat than to be thin. Those who do not have such a genetic predisposition are the ones who are still thin.
The next section of the book considers the question: so what?
Throughout the book the author has been talking about his Uncle Al, a fat lawyer who I hope is fictional, or at least has agreed to be discussed in this book. Uncle Al, he says, might have been faced with the choice when he was a young man: be careful about what you eat all your life, work less and be less successful at your profession, sleep more, devote more time to exercise rather than to your family and friends, and live to be 75 instead of 70. As far as utility value goes, Finkelstein says, Uncle Al might well have made the choice to die at 70.
As a medical economist, Finkelstein writes with confidence about the medical consequences of overweight. If you are less than 30 pounds over your ideal weight, he says, there aren’t many.If you are 100 pounds over your ideal weight, there are lots. In general, a really obese person can expect to live a few years less than a fit person.
However, Finkelstein is concerned about a couple of other consequences. He points out the high level of discrimination against overweight people, and the high degree of belief that their weight is evidence of weak characters and gluttony. And he also points out that the next generation of children may not be looking at developing Type II diabetes at 65 and living to 70, but at developing type II diabetes at 14 and living to 30. The changes that have led to the fattening of America began in the 1980s, so we haven’t yet seen the effects on people who actually grew up in the new circumstances.
This is an engagingly written book. I’ll let you know how it turns out.