Tag Archives: culture

Couch Potato Curse: Where’s the real danger?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I try to eat well. I know that I should exercise, and I frequently do, although certainly not as often as I should. I don’t smoke and I know that being around people who smoke is harmful. But toxic chemicals coming from my couch? That is a little more than my brain can digest.

Two articles in the New York Times this week (Eat Like a Mennonite and  Warnings from a Flabby Mouse) give me pause. They both reference endocrine inhibiters, whatever in the world those are.

Apparently, these are chemicals that can mimic or disrupt hormones and, while the science is still evolving in this area, these chemicals appear to be closely linked to several cancers.

We are always hearing about new things that are bad for us – and frequently, those things have become fundamental aspects of our modern culture.

If it turns out that plastics really are bad for us, just think of all of the things we use every day without even thinking about it that are made from just this material. It boggles the mind.

And then they talk about things like toxins emanating from car interiors, and shampoos, and couches, and cosmetics. It is exhausting.

I live in Colorado. It is unbearably dry here and I have a lotion and some sort of lip product in extensive use at all times. Is this dangerous? And does that mean sunscreen is dangerous? Which is worse for me – wearing sunscreen or not wearing sunscreen?

I don’t have children and can’t imagine trying to work through all of this to make sure one is doing the best one can for a child -just trying to navigate these waters for myself is overwhelming. I know my new year’s resolution is to let it be – and I am trying to do that. But I hope that there are some smart grownups somewhere in some agency who are helping make sure that my chapstick is not killing me.

Suzie chapstick always looked pretty healthy to me, but does anyone know where she is now????

What do you think? How do you navigate all of the health information that comes your way, especially about things that are non-food related? Does any of this worry you? Have you taken any steps to change your eating habits or other lifestyle choices because of this type of information?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Environment, Fitness, Food, Health, Parenting, Role of Government

Tunes Tuesday: Silver Thunderbird

DSC00630There are so many great songs about cars. Maybe because the automobile is such a foundation of the American culture, for good or evil.

My favorite car song is Silver Thunderbird by Marc Cohn. I can smell the leather seats and see the feather in the man’s hat. This song probably resonates with me because it reminds me of my grandfather and his big sky-blue car – I don’t think it was a Thunderbird, but this song could have been about him and his car just the same.

I miss that man and his car but am thankful for a song that reminds me of him.

Silver Thunderbird
Marc Cohn

Watched it coming up Winslow
Down South Park Boulevard
Yeah it was looking good from tail to hood
Great big fins and painted steel
Man it looked just like the Batmobile
With my old man behind the wheel

Well you could hardly even see him
In all of that chrome
The man with the plan and the pocket comb
But every night it carried him home
And I could hear him sayin’…

Don’t gimme no Buick
Son you must take my word
If there’s a God in heaven
He’s got a Silver Thunderbird

You can keep your Eldorados
And the foreign car’s absurd
Me I want to go down
In a Silver Thunderbird

He got up every morning
While i was still asleep
But I remember the sound of him shuffling around
Then right before the crack of dawn
I heard him turn the motor on
But when I got up they were gone

Down the road in the rain and snow
The man and his machine would go
Oh the secrets that old car would know
Sometimes I hear him sayin’…

What do you think? What is your favorite car song? Are there any songs that remind you of your childhood and special people in your lives?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Music, Parenting

Homemade Twinkies? Is someone really going to make those?

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The second most read New York Times article right now (after a cool interactive tool that will help you plan your Thanksgiving meal) is a recipe for homemade Twinkies.

While I feel as sad about the news that Hostess is folding as anyone, I am intrigued that there has been such a national outcry about this. And I am more intrigued that anyone would want to make homemade Twinkies.

I find it very interesting how food is linked to our emotions in this country – perhaps in every country.

I have to admit – I believe I have shared this here before – when my sweet gentle giant of a pup passed away in 2010 while I was in Argentina, I had an undeniable craving to head straight to McDonalds and get some salty french fries. They tasted like home to me and I needed that.

I suppose that the multi-national corporations who tempt us with ever bigger portions and even more fat-laden options are well aware of this connection, and in fact work hard every day to make that type of link with their products. It is a powerful force.

But Twinkies? I have to admit to being a little pleased – I know this will be seen as blasphemy by many – that Hostess has struggled. I am not sure that there is a speck of nutritional value in a single one of their products. (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong – it has happened before and will likely happen again).

I am sorry about the lost jobs and I will miss having that guilty pleasure calling out to me from the convenience store when I am on a road trip. But maybe now that I won’t have that temptation, I will actually reach for a piece of fruit or a string cheese instead. Ya think?

What do you think? How do you feel about the liquidation of Hostess? What is your favorite Hostess product? Why do you think people are so distressed that Hostess is going out of business? And what impact do you think the amotional food connection has had on our waistlines and on our pocketbooks?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Food, Health

Photo Friday: Frankfurt

The European Central Bank – I like the reflection of the historic building in the windows
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We arrived in Frankfurt by train from Berlin bright and early. We thought this would just be a quick stop on our way to the airport.

We were exhausted from all of our adventures, so we thought we would finally step foot on a tour bus for the first time this trip. We realized that we had not been in a car during the entire journey! How refreshing!

We took the train from our hotel near the airport, to the main train station, with the idea of hopping on a tourist bus. But when we got to the tourist information center, the woman informed us that Frankfurt is small enough to walk.

So, we set out on foot to explore the city. And we loved it!

We were too tired to go into any actual museums or anything, so we spent the day like locals.

We ate bratwurst from a stand outside the train station, walked through the city taking in the mix of old and new, ate pastries by the river, and finished the day in a residential neighborhood with one of the most authentic meals we had the entire trip.

The Bratwurst stand outside the train station where we had lunch
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We did not consult a guide book for the first time in weeks, and just enjoyed exploring the city without plans or agenda. It was decadent.

What struck me most about Frankfurt was the contrast of history and progress. Castles stand side by side on the same street with sky scrapers.

An Occupy Frankfurt demonstration outside the Central European Bank illustrated the ongoing debate about the European Union and Germany’s role in the Union.

It was delightful to experience the city without feeling like tourists. My favorite part had to be simply sitting outside in a residential area we discovered and watching the world go by. I hope we get to return and do more of that.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to take this trip. It was an extraordinary opportunity to visit places with such rich history. The museums and cafes and food and lifestyle were simply seductive. I must go back.

But for now, I will have to survive by looking back at some of my favorite photos. Here are my favorites from Frankfurt.

Castles next to skyscrapers – A great reminder that we don’t have to tear down the old to make way for the new
Copyright JC Politi Photography

The Occupy Frankfurt demonstration
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A cafe outside the Opera House
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One of the signs from the Occupy Frankfurt demonstration. I don’t know what it says, but I figure that anything with Millionaire and Democratic on the same sign is probably something I would be interested in
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The view across the river
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The Beer Garden where we had our last meal in Europe. It was a charming neighborhood restaurant where everyone knew each other. Such a perfect ending!
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Flowers from a neighborhood shop
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What do you think? Have you ever been on a trip and just decided to skip all of the tourist attractions and live like a local? When and where? What was that like? If not, does that sound like something that appeals to you or do you feel like if you are going to go somewhere, you have to see the most famous destinations in that location?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.      

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Business, Culture, Economy, Food, History, International, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Technology, travel

Photo Friday: Berlin

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Border between East and West Berlin, where the Berlin Wall used to stand. Most of it is torn down now.

After leaving the quaint, but bustling Amsterdam, we took an overnight train to Berlin. We stayed in East Berlin, just down the street from Alexanderplatz, which was really the heart of East Berlin.

After all of the beauty of France, Spain and Holland, East Berlin was striking for its lack of decoration. It was a fascinating place to visit for its history, but the sadness and anger were palpable.

From what we observed, the division between East and West Berlin still exists to this day. We spent the vast majority of our time in East Berlin, going to what we were told was the trendiest neighborhood for dinner and visiting the historic sites.

But it is striking to stand where the wall used to stand and to look to the East and to the West. The East is full of cranes and development, but I couldn’t help feeling that the West kept moving forward while the East was stuck in time.

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Construction in East Berlin

East Berlin feels like a savagely damaged city, just now showing signs of rebirth. The evidence is everywhere, showing a city devastated by war, and then severely restricted and terrorized during the Communist occupation. It is simply tragic.

There is a solemn beauty to the city, however, even in the midst of the melancholy. I share some of my favorite photos here.

For those who would like to read more of the history of Berlin, this 1963 speech by President John F. Kennedy is a powerful denunciation of the communist occupation. When you visit Berlin, you understand this speech much more.

What do you think? Have you been to Berlin? What was your impression? Do you think that East and West Berlin will ever truly integrate? What kind of impact do you think a history like this would have on a culture?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

Copyright JC Politi Photography
This has to be one of my favorite photos from the whole trip! I snapped this shot at a metro stop.

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A watchtower over Checkpoint Charlie

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The view from our hotel. You can see the Soviet TV Tower in East Berlin and the tall hotel in West Berlin. The hotel staff told us this was done intentionally by West Berlin to show their strength and contrast.

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An old car in East Berlin

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A powerful holocaust memorial

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A pretzel seller

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Berlin Cathedral

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Chairs in an historic East Berlin Cafe

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You can see the bullet holes in the old buildings

 

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Checkpoint Charlie now

 

 

 

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Filed under Culture, Economy, History, International, Photography, Photos, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Terrorism, travel, Uncategorized, violence, War

Photo Friday: Paris

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View from the Pompidou Museum

Paris – doesn’t just the word itself transport you to another world? As I mentioned in an earlier post, I fell in love with Paris at first glance. Yes, figuring out the metro system and where we needed to go was a challenge at first, but when we came out of the subway the first time, my jaw dropped.

We have all seen places that are described as “French-style”, so I was expecting beautiful architecture. But to see every single building with wrought-iron balconies as far as the eye could see – it is hard to describe. It is clear that beauty is simply the top priority in Paris, held in the very highest esteem.

I loved the cafes and the restaurants, the business-people and beautiful women on bikes, the churches, the plazas, the museums, the pastries, the music which seemed to be ever-present, the small boutiques, the bread shops, the cheese shops, the wine shops – I even loved the metro, which turned out to be easy to use and convenient to get us everywhere we wanted to go.

Copyright JC Politi Photography
View from our sidewalk restaurant in Montmartre

Montmartre had to be my favorite place. Even though it has become more commercialized, you could feel the bohemian energy all around. And while it was filled with tourists, I felt a kindred spirit with many of the tourists there who made the trip to seek out this bohemian enclave.

What I found so amazing about Paris was how charming and intimate it feels, despite its size. We did all the requisite tourist activities, but I would give anything to go back and skip all tourist areas and just get to know some of the neighborhoods. I will do that one day.

For this Photo Friday, I wanted to share some of my favorite Paris photos with you. I hope you enjoy the photos and are able to feel a little bit of the romance around every corner.

What do you think? Have you been to Paris? What was your favorite part? If you haven’t been, but would like to go, what would you look forward to most? Where is the most romantic place you have ever visited?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Plaza in Montmartre, Paris

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Stained Glass Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

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The Eiffel Tower, Paris

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Birds in flight outside the Pomipdou Museum, Paris

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Paris, France

For those wanting more:

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Filed under Culture, International, Love, Music, Photography, Photos, Stereotypes, travel

Make new friends, but keep the old: The Champs-Elysees

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Arc de Triumphe – Paris, France

There is an article in the New York Times this week about the Champs-Elysees and since, as you will read on Friday, Paris was my very favorite city on our European tour, I felt that I had to write a little bit about this article here.

The article discusses concerns that the Champs-Elysees is becoming too commercialized and mainstream and losing the Parisian joie-de-vivre that defines French culture.

We visited Paris last week and it was love at first sight. Our first tourist destination was the Arc de Triumphe and the Champs Elysees. We walked the entire length of the boulevard and were mesmerized by the luxurious shops and cafes.

We ate the most delicious pastry I have ever tasted – or seen. I wish I had a photo to share with all of you, but this gallery of sweets, which has been in operation since the 1800’s was off-limits to photographers. The word pastry simply does not do justice to this decadent delight.

The New York Times article examines the influence of new chain stores like H&M and Banana Republic opening on the boulevard.

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Champs-Elysees: Paris, France

We did a Rick Steve’s walking tour down the Champs-Elysees and learned that there was a lot of concern when McDonalds opened.

Steves notes that McDonalds was only allowed to open as long as they agreed to paint their arches white and maintain a café feel, including sidewalk tables.

I understand the concern over losing the artistic and luxurious energy of this iconic avenue. And I certainly saw some signs of this deterioration firsthand. But I also saw the future compromising with the past in a way that held some beauty.

It is hard to explain, but as an example, I was absolutely blown away by the Abercrombie and Fitch store. The outside of the store – we did not go inside – was as beautiful as any museum. We did not learn the history of that building, but I have no doubt that it is a place with great historic significance.

Frankfurt was another incredible example of the old meeting the new, where sky-scrapers share a block with castles, which I will share on my Photo-Friday about Germany.

I find myself wondering how I feel about this. It was wonderful to see historic buildings being preserved and put to use rather than destroyed like we are so quick to do here in the United States.

But is it OK to have a McDonalds in a place with such a rich history? Something doesn’t sit well with me about that. Perhaps it is the desire to slow down the rapid pace of change. But can we do that?

What do you think? Do you have issues with historic buildings being put to use for modern-day services? Would you have a problem if a castle turned into a Walmart, even if it maintained the architectural integrity of the original structure? Have you seen any positive examples of old things being repurposed for new uses that could serve as a model for others?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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