Sunday, April 24, 2011

Art - what is it good for?

Art, a snapshot of a culture. Not only the art created but the art that survives tells a lot about the impression a culture wishes to leave to history. Art has to be especially scary in authoritarian times, it requires imagination to create and provokes emotion when viewed. Luckily it's very easy to denigrate.

The first art controversy I remember is when the Canadian government purchase a piece of art for the national museum that consisted of 3 stripes. Oh the outrage over the photograph of the painting. What a waste of money. I, jumped on that band wagon as well. Really, even I can create 3 stripes of colour and I'm no expert but I know what I like. Fast forward a couple decades; I went to an exhibition and spent most of my time standing in front of a white canvas. If photographed it would look like a polar bear beside an igloo in a blizzard. In reality there was an amazing display of texture and pattern impressed on that white canvas. I haven't seen the 3 stripes but I can appreciate that if I did, they would speak to me the same way.

The first time an exhibit really made an impact on me was when I went to see The Castration of St. Paul. A friend said we should go see it while it was on campus. I wasn't much interested in going to see photos of 30 male groins but I went anyway. I thought I would walk through unaffected, perhaps a little embarrassed, but the photographic style was very effective and the shear numbers emphasised the tradition of patriarchy entrenched in religious authority. And that any male midriffs could stand in for any saint worth noting, well you know who the important ones are.

Piss Christ, created a few years before the Castration of St. Paul exhibit, was irreparably damaged this month by a religious mob while on display in France. A Christian's ambiguous comment on the cheapening of religious icons has been destroyed at a time when religion is openly being used to get people to toe an authoritarian line of an earlier age. Had the artist not named the piece Piss Christ, one would simply marvel at the lighting that created an unearthly glow that reflects the holiness of Jesus. If only religious adherents had matured enough to see the irony of their protest.

I wish I could have seen this exhibit. A small image on a computer screen is compelling, I can only imagine the effect of the 60x40 inch work.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Holiday eating

There's nothing like a being out of routine to totally distort your eating habits. This has been a tough winter for me as I've travelled for work during what is usually my fitness focus time. Then we went on a 2 week holiday. It reminded me that weight loss about more than just counting calories and/or going to the gym.

While studies show exercise doesn't make you loose weight by "balancing" calories it does give many important benefits. I admire people who travel intermittently and fit in exercise. I always intend to do it first thing in the morning since I usually have more time but instead I take advantage of being able to sleep in. Rats. I find business trips very sedentary. Not only is there little time during the day for walking around, but frequently the evenings are scheduled with activities that aren't particularly active. I find it easy to just suspend my activities until I get back home. I'm sure if I actually travelled regularly I would find a way to incorporate exercise. Holidays are different of course as you set your own schedules. When we go for our tropical vacation we do stuff we don't do at home because of time or availability. Most days we kayak, snorkel and walk as much as possible since we aren't on a schedule.

Over time I have come to prefer grilled food over fried food, internalized schedule eating so I don't snack when I have nothing to do, and better estimate serving size. I know I have to be careful as, like so many, if I get really hungry feeling I over eat tremendously. I also find that the novelty of free fall gorging gets thin pretty quickly, although dessert never seems to get old :^)

So how did it work out this year? After holidays I noticed my exercise clothes fit differently. I'm in the middle of the BMI range but I have developed a tummy so it feels to me like I'm doing crunches with a firm pillow in the way. Just a reminder that sweets are not a food group.

I've read articles denigrating the attitude that to loose weight effectively one has to consider it a lifestyle change. I think it can't be emphasised enough that without that lifestyle change any weight loss effort is bound to fail over the long term. Weight gain is quite subtle and it's easy to get into a bouncing cycle or just resign yourself to buying larger clothes every year. It would be awesome if everyone learned healthy eating before having a weight problem but our culture seems to be more into being reactive than proactive.