Sunday, December 13, 2015

Laugh it off!

Most, if not all, of us are already aware of the benefits of laughter.  A recent Huffington Post article reminds us that “laughing does wonders for you.”  “This Is How Laughter Really Affects Your Body” outlines how laughter helps to “brighten your day, calm your mind, and lift your mood.”  The boost to one’s mental and emotional health is evident, but we might not all know about the physical benefits that come with laughter.

The following is a list of some of the positive ways laughing impacts our bodies:

1. “Reduces the effects of stress hormones, lowering your stress and anxiety levels”;
2. “Increases production of antibodies”; “activates protective cells, including T cells and cells that kill tumor cell activity”;
3. In your heart, “reduces inflammation”; “protects against cardiovascular disease, including arrythmias, hypertension, and recurrence of heart attacks”; “lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol”; “lowers systolic blood pressure”;
4. “Relaxes your muscles”; and
5.“Increases your pain tolerance by releasing endorphins.”

In essence, the article jogs our collective memory in that when we are having a rough time and feeling some pain (psychological or physical), we might benefit from laughing it off!  But what about those situations where laughing it off doesn’t seem to work?  You know what to do!  It is time to…blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How to get the monkey off your back

From time to time, I comb the net to find amusing stories that serve to draw a smile.  This morning, I came across one about a monkey who was roaming a neighbourhood in Florida.

In her article, Ashley Mungiguerra outlines how a monkey named Zeek (Zeke) was getting himself into a little mischief.  Zeke was reportedly jumping on cars and sitting on a mailbox eating someone's mail.  When the police arrived, Zeek was there to greet them, and started ripping the molding off the patrol car.  To curb the amount of damage he was causing, the police ended up distracting Zeek with a bottle of water.  Ashley points out that folks can legally own monkeys in that part of the country, as long as they have a permit and meet specific cage requirements.

Since Zeek was able to get loose, it puts into question whether or not the owner had met the cage requirements.  That said, perhaps the owner was simply trying to “get the monkey off his back”…get it?!  Given what transpired thereafter, I believe that a quote from George Carlin’s fits the bill: “Just ‘cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”  I couldn’t help but ask myself: Was Zeek looking for anything in particular?  Since the mail had already arrived, due to fast delivery, I guess that he technically helped himself to some “fast food”…

If, by chance, you do not appreciate the humour in this story and post, I have but one thing to say…blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Saved by a bra?

As I was combing the net for a topic to write about, I came across an interesting article on how a woman’s life had been saved by her bra.  At first, I thought that it was a joke, but to my amazement, it proved to be true!

As the story goes, while out for a bike ride, the woman was struck by a hunter’s stray bullet.  Although she felt a sharp pain in her chest when struck, her life was spared when the bullet deflected off the metal underwire of her bra.

Some would say that it was a case of the woman being in the wrong place at the wrong time, others would say that it was dumb luck that she came out of it relatively unscathed.  I choose to look at it from an entirely different angle…

Here is my slant on it.  Since the woman was out for a bike ride, she was likely intent on getting in some exercise to facilitate a healthy lifestyle.  As for the hunter, he was simply trying to find some meat to put on his table.  So in essence, one was trying to work it off, while the other was trying to put it on.  Therefore, only one thing can be at the root of this unfortunate situation!  It is clear as day!  Since consumption was the cause of this ill-fated circumstance, and both parties were looking for their respective fixes, all one can do is…blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The basic food groups

While Googling to find some information on food, I came across several sites that described the basic food groups.  Stopping at the United States Department of Agriculture website, I came across “the five food groups,” which they call the “building blocks for a healthy diet.”  The site says that you should “think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl” and then goes on to outline those food groups.  They are: 1. fruits; 2. vegetables; 3. grains; 4. protein foods; and 5. dairy.  In addition, there is another grouping summarized as “oils.”

As the site suggested, I started to contemplate what goes on, and in, my dishes.  In the meantime, I continued with my surfing.  Then, I happened to come across a site on food humor, and one of the cartoon strips jumped out such that I couldn’t help but laugh.  It reminded me of the fact that nothing is really what it seems!  Let me explain…

Although I cannot speak to all of your situations, whenever at the supermarket, do you ever stop and take a look at what is in your shopping cart when you’re at the check-out?  What I’m referring to is what the food comes in.  When I reflected on my own purchases, I had the proverbial “ah-hah” moment.  What a revelation!

Based on how we shop for food, we should reconsider the food groupings.  Coming back to the site on food humor, the cartoon strip that I referred to earlier depicts how Aunty Acid goes about cooking using the “Four Food Groups”: canned, boxed, bagged, and frozen.  In essence, this really does describe our reality!  Everything is packaged in varying layers of cardboard or plastic!  And the food is supposed to be fresh and natural?!  Doesn’t seem that way to me!  And who’s at the heart of all of this wasteful and unnatural packaging?  Easy: Blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Food Fight!

Believe or not, there’s a food fight going on!  Part of the fight affects us, the consumers, directly, such that we find ourselves being “beaten” by the fast food industry.  The other part is more indirect, where one fast food chain is having a food fight with another, and we, the consumers, are stuck in the middle.

I found myself amused when I came across a blurb that outlined how fast-food joint employees were warned against eating some of their employer’s dishes.  Comments included: dirty machines that are rarely cleaned; meats that are left out for days; recycled meats; and artificial products that are microwaved and then left in containers for hours.  What a revelation—and sarcasm intended!  If thinking that this might be going on makes you sick, then imagine what will happen if you actually ingest the goop!  Is that direct enough for you?  Ugh, I think I’m going to barf!

Moving on to the indirect impact that this fight is having on us, we find one fast-food conglomerate jabbing at another, making fun of it while trying to promote their own version of the slop.  It pokes fun at the same monotonous menu and likens some of the dishes to land mines, just waiting for us to “step on them.”  They go so far as to portray the clowns as “evil.”  This is all out war!

Hey!  Wait a minute!  Didn’t I make similar comments about the food and clowns over a year ago in my book?  I think they stole this from me!  I think that we have a lawsuit on our hands!  However, and to use the catch phrase from Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem!”  I’m way too small, without any clout, and I don’t have the necessary resources, financial, or other to fight a conglomerate.  So, what can I do?  You guessed it!  I can only…blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Monday, June 08, 2015

FIFA involved in corruption?

In a May 27th NY Times article, “After Indicting 14 Soccer Officials, U.S. Vows to End Graft in FIFA,” by Stephanie Clifford and Matt Apuzzo, a number of concerns are raised regarding the executive committee of FIFA.  Reportedly, one member “shopped his ballot to the highest bidder.”  The article goes on to say that, over the course of the last two decades, soccer officials and marketing executives have been involved in “shadowy dealing and $150 million in bribes.”

The authors underline that there are billions of dollars at stake for the privilege of hosting the World Cup.  If the final decision can hinge on a single vote, is it surprising that members of the executive committee would put their votes up for sale?  As outlined in the article, international soccer is described “in terms normally reserved for Mafia families or drug cartels” and given the same “charges under racketeering laws usually applied to such criminal organizations.”

Given that greed is innate in many human beings, it only makes sense that those who wield as much power as members of FIFA would take advantage of their positions.  Although I wholeheartedly disagree with their actions, it is evident that these people project themselves and are perceived by many as great and powerful individuals.  In my view, John Dalberg-Acton’s quote succinctly encapsulates the entire situation: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

If that quote doesn’t quite reach you, I’m left to suggest the following: Blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Alter the Justice System?

In an article published in the NY Times entitled, “2016 Candidates Are United in Call to Alter Justice System,” Peter Baker outlines how more than 20 years ago, the Democrats and Republicans “were competing to show who could be tougher on murderers, rapists, and drug dealers.”  In the process, “sentences were lengthened and new prisons sprouted up across the country.”

Peter Baker suggests that the current presidential candidates are now “competing over how to reverse what they see as the policy excesses of the 1990s and the mass incarceration that has followed,” including policies that resulted in a “system that has locked up a generation of young men, particularly African-Americans.”  Peter underlines that their focus is “on overhauling the criminal justice system,” and that this “represents a profound shift in American politics.”  He adds that today’s candidates “have concluded that previous leaders went too far.”  Quoting Mr. Michael Waldman, “there’s a competition for reform and to take on the issue of mass incarceration. It’s really unheard-of in recent decades.”  Peter points out that although they approach the issue from different perspectives, “they share a consensus about the goal.”

Wow!  I don’t believe it!  The Democrats and Republicans are agreeing on something!  What’s even harder to believe is that they have a consensus on the goal!  But wait a minute.  This is all fine and good, but there still remains a problem…

There is no question that some folks currently in prison deserve to be there, while others who have be incarcerated don’t deserve to be there.  However, we must stop to ponder about those who deserve to be in prison but aren’t!  Is the reform going to address that reality?  I doubt it!  “Why,” you ask?  No amount of reform is going to change the fact that people with power, influence, and money always have and will continue to (literally) get away with murder!  Furthermore, many lawyers and politicians are the biggest criminals and crooks alive!  Do you think that they will do anything that will increase the likelihood that they will wind up in jail?  For sure!  And I have a bridge to sell you!

All of this is to say that nothing will ever change the disparity that exists within any legal system until any and everyone is treated equally; in other words, no one should get preferential treatment of any kind.  Will that day ever come?  I don’t know, but I doubt it.  Until the day that any justice system reform does so, all I can do is…blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Star Trek Message

With the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy (aka Spock from Star Trek), we were witness to the outpouring of love and many tributes that recognized his contribution to the science fiction genre.  In his article entitled, “What Star Trek taught me,” Eric Liu speaks to what he describes as “the vision of society that ‘Star Trek’ [and Mr. Spock] embodied.”

When Star Trek hit the TV screen, our society was, as Eric points out, “fractious, polarized, [and] flying apart.” He underlines how in the series, “Scots and Russians, people of Irish and Japanese and African descent, humans and Vulcans, all [thrived] together as a crew without having to downplay their differences—[and] indeed, [activated] those differences.”  He points out how such a vision “must have seemed truly like science fiction to adults” in those times and “it [even] seems similarly fantastic in our own times.”

Eric speaks to how the Star Trek series demonstrated “a way of being…that was about inclusion without assimilation…participation without self-obliteration.”  He adds, “Its diversity was not mere tokenism; its diversity was in fact the raw material of excellence.  And all that diversity was subsumed to a larger cause (that of the Federation) and a more urgent mission (that of the Enterprise).”

Synonyms of the term “Federation” include: alliance, coalition, partnership, amalgamation, combination, and union.  In the TV series, the very existence of the “Federation” required that countries and planets come together to move toward a common goal predicated on inclusion.  Eric refers to it as “this greater good.”  This is in fact what the characters of Star Trek embraced!

Now let’s compare Star Trek’s vision to our current world.  I dare say that there is no comparison!  As Eric suggests, in American life today, people “are divided along so many chasms of race, class, faith, and ideology.”  He adds that “it’s becoming more challenging than ever to sustain a cohesive sense of shared identity.”  It’s clear to see that the blame for this falls on the conglomerates.  They use countless schemes to make us believe that they are “unifying” us, the consumers, and making us better as a people when in fact their rhetoric and brainwashing techniques are merely ploys to get us to buy the poisons and junk that they are pawning off.

Contrary to the first lesson Eric mentions in the article, instead of appropriately working with the existing diversity, our society allows supposed “inclusive institutions,” like schools and government, to leverage their power over us.  Are they by chance trying to turn us into “clones?”  Yes, they’re trying to assimilate us, turn us into lemmings that will follow each other’s tail over a cliff and thus self-obliterate!  Likewise, rather than working toward a greater, unified mission as Eric mentions as the second lesson, we’re being manipulated by our society and the conglomerates to do the opposite: purchase and ingest their garbage in order to express one’s individuality!

In hope of bringing us closer together, Eric offers us a slightly different take on Spock’s famous catch-phrase, "Live long and prosper."  He suggests that the Spock character actually summons a different maxim: "E Pluribus Unum," or “from many, one.”  Now wouldn’t that be something if we could come together in this world instead of ripping our world apart!  Yah, right!

I rest my case.  The Star Trek message is lost!  All there is left to do is…blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Saturday, March 07, 2015

It’s a cold! It’s the flu! No, it’s a super bug!

Recently, I happened to catch the airing of Dr. Oz on February 27, 2015, where Dr. Oz and Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke about the “superbug” outbreak (click here for more information).  Essentially, the problem is attributed to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics and that they tend to lurk in hospitals and communal places.  Another piece points out that the rise of antibiotic resistance is also due to “the use of antibiotics on factory farms, in order to bring animals to slaughter faster or to make up for crowded conditions on feed lots.”  So I dare ask: How did this come to be?

To me, the answer is quite simple.  The overuse and misuse of antibiotics stems directly from our society’s pervasive ambition to fix every ill instantaneously with a pill.  Furthermore, our insatiable need for instant food has served to cultivate food producers’ greed such that producers realize they can quickly profit by feeding this need using every possible shortcut and saving at their disposal.

The result is that the food we eat, and require to survive, is making us sick.  Adding insult to injury, the medical industry, in turn, profits from our sickness.  What a vicious circle!  So what are we to conclude?  To me it is clear: Blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Monday, February 09, 2015

Is This Realtor for Real?

In her article entitled, “Homelife Superstars realtor accused of duping homebuyer of $12K,” Rosa Marchitelli outlines the sad but true story of a homebuyer, Mr. Bains.  In a nutshell, after closing on the purchase of a home, the courts state that Mr. Bains must dole out about $12,000 to another realtor, Mr. Dhaliwal, with whom he had previously signed a representation contract.  Mr. Bains says that he does not recall having signed such an agreement.

The Canadian immigrant, who speaks predominantly Punjabi, has comprehension and vocabulary skills in the English language at a Grade 3/4 level.  It was his 17-year-old son who acted as translator during the transaction with Mr. Dhaliwal.  It is reported that Mr. Bains had made written offers on two homes in Apr. 2011, but they had fallen through, and it was at this point that the relationship between he and Mr. Dhaliwal changed.  When Mr. Bains contacted Mr. Dhaliwal afterwards, the realtor became “too busy” to show him more houses.  Eventually, there was no contact at all.  In Aug. 2011, Mr. Bains contacted another realtor, made an offer on a home, and finally purchased that home.  Because of the “contract,” he now owes Mr. Dhaliwal commission on that home.  Conveniently, the seller’s agent also worked for the same real estate office as Mr. Dhaliwal.

The issue did go to small claims court in Jan. 2013 and the transcripts outline how Mr. Dhaliwal stated that he had explained the agreement to Bains in English, not Punjabi.  Mr. Dhaliwal also stated that he and Mr. Bains were the only ones present in the room when the papers were signed.  The judge, Marvin Kurz, awarded Mr. Dhaliwal and Homelife Superstars Real Estate the money, saying that he had “no reason to believe that fraud was committed on Mr. Bains by Mr. Dhaliwal. Nor [did he] have reason to believe that he misrepresented anything.  The document was there for [Bains] to read and sign.”  Mr. Bains then turned to the Real Estate Council of Ontario, filing a complaint with RECO in early 2014.  It also proved unsuccessful.  Essentially, the deputy registrar, regulatory compliance with RECO, outlined that the onus is solely on buyers when it comes to real estate deals.

Everything points toward the realtor taking advantage of Mr. Bains’ difficulty with the English language.  In court, Mr. Dhaliwal admitted to explaining things in English and without Mr. Bains’ son present, and the courts still ruled in favour of Mr. Dhaliwal!  Then RECO has the balls to say that the onus is on the buyer!  Wow!  To add insult to injury, the real estate office common to Mr. Dhaliwal and the seller’s agent washes its hands of everything!  All I can say is: What is this world coming to?!

In one sense, it is plainly and painfully clear: The courts and other organizations are not there to protect the rights of “regular Joes”; they are there to see that businesses make money.  They ensure that they uphold laws that favor those with all of the money and power.  “Why,” you ask?  It is likely to have some type of privilege in the future.  You know the “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” approach to things!  And they are padding each other’s pockets in the process!

All we can do is throw up our hands and…blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin

Monday, January 05, 2015

Malnourished boy locked up and fed junk food twice a day

Seven months after a couple was arrested and charged, a trial date is to be set for a sad case regarding a 10-year-old boy being locked in a bedroom for up to two years.  Before moving on to the story, on a positive note, he has been living in foster care since his discovery and is said to be adjusting well.

The case first surfaced back in May 2014, after a tip from the public led to detection and intervention by the authorities.  When the child was rescued, he was underweight and confused, having been permanently confined to a filthy bedroom for 18 to 24 months.  He suffered from malnutrition as a result of a diet consisting of fast food given to him twice a day.  Also, he had never been to school.

Please do not misunderstand: In no way, shape, or form am I trying to make light of this case, and no humour is intended.  It is one of the rare times when I am being dead serious about the subject.  With this in mind, I must underline two significant facts that illustrate how it is our responsibility to ensure the health and well-being of our children: Not only was this child locked up and lacking the stimulation (school and other forms of socialization) that all human beings require to live, he was also malnourished because he was fed fast food for an extended period of time.  It is both of these factors combined that contributed to his poor state of health.

Ultimately, the blame is clearly on the shoulders of the so-called adults whose job it was to see to the care of the child.  There is no question that they failed extensively and should be held accountable.  In my view, the only form of justice that would serve to approximate what they did to this child would be to subject them to the same set of conditions: confinement without stimulation, living in filth, and fed a diet of junk food.  Food for thought, no?

- B. J. T. Pepin