Monday, July 6, 2009

Good vs. Bad TV

The other day I saw an ad for "The View," the daytime show hosted by a lineup of female hosts, their bios of which get less distinguished in direct relation to their age. (You're surely familiar with veteran Barbara Walters but who's Elisabeth Hasselbeck, exactly?)

The show, which aired on July 2, did not include Barbara Walters. Maybe she's no longer a host; I wouldn't know because I've never watched more than a snippet of it in passing. I DVR'd it because it featured the top-of-their-profession luminaries in enlightened circles: John Edward (clairvoyant), Dr. Brian Weiss (past life regression expert), Sandy Anastasi (tarot reader, psychic), and Joanne Reeves (astrology).

Now, you may or may not agree with my descriptions above--either of the gals on "The View" or my undeniable bias toward the guests. But this is my blog and I can do whatever I want on it, right? No one's paying me and I've never entered any journalistic pact with my readers to be fair and unbiased.

On the other hand, these woman are responsible for hosting a major ABC television show. Presumably, when you agree to invite guests on your show you will 1.) exercise due diligence by informing yourself on the work for which your your guests are known and, 2.) make a modicum of effort to stay balanced and neutral regardless of your personal feelings.

Now, I guess the conceit of the show is the hosts are supposed to be lady hell raisers. They've got opinions, informed by their age, color and religious orientation and goddamit they are going to tell you about them. I get that.

I also get that the folks invited to participate on the show are guests. I doubt that they were told in advance this was going to be a rather malicious feeding frenzy. If the ladies didn't like or approve or believe in what the guests do, DON'T HAVE THEM ON! Instead what the audience what subjected to was an exercise in intolerance and ignorance. These so-called pros were stunningly rude and downright cruel. They behaved like whining children in need of a timeout. One saving grace: You're familiar the hated Class Bully character? Each host, in her own inimitable way, came away looking like that while the guests stayed unspeakably gracious under fire.

You should see for yourself and if you agree.

Here are viewer responses to the show. I encourage you to first watch the episode. You may first have to sign up or "launch" something, though. Then let me know what you think.

This is not so much about beliefs; this is about BAD TELEVISION. Without getting all lecture-y about it, we've got a lot of garbage floating around under the guise of "media," and most thinking people agree. It'd be great if we took back medialand to a kinder, gentler and decidedly smarter time.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Body Brushing Redux

On yesterday’s post, I neglected to mention what might perhaps be for some the most important benefit of body brushing. For those of you who wax or shave various body parts, you know that those irritated and irritating red bumps are often the unfortunate cost of the clean-cut look.

In that case, we’re told this is the brush for you. You can purchase it at the Grass Roots Store.

Do report back.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Body Brushing, Aha, aha

I just had an Aha moment. Before the Aha moment, I decided to do a little research on body brushing because I keep hearing about it, that it’s supposed to be really great for everything from lymphatic draining to—and here comes the Aha moment—acne prevention.

So back up, Spadette.

Until six or so months ago my regular face-washing ablutions (I love that word) included the use of a face brush—I was a body brusher and didn't even realize it! It did take me awhile to grow accustomed to the brush because it felt pretty abrasive to my skin at first. But for some reason I stuck with it and got to the point where the brush felt like a nice face massage. And my skin looked great.

Then, again for no particular reason, I stopped using it. (Actually, it was because I attended the International Spa Association conference and came home with a bag full of products that beckoned to be sampled.) Not long after, I began noticing bumps on my face—like pimples that were not quite ready, if you catch my drift. It’s been a frustration ever since. What’s going on? No matter what pricey products I switched out for other pricy products my skin was not as clear as it used to be.

So after boning up on body brushing, starting today I’m pulling out my face brush and shall begin using it ASAP. I am also going to start making use of one of several body brushes I’ve owned for awhile. (Thank you again, ISPA.)

Body brushing—with a DRY brush— is just a full-body version of what I do to my face. Think about it: Our skin is our largest organ. As such, it acts as a shield of protection from the environment. Sloughing off dead skin cells for five minutes is a simple way to stay healthy and maintain that glow—even as the winter continues to press down upon some of us.

Here’s how to do it: Get a soft-to-moderate natural-bristled brush. (It is said that the stiffer the bristles, the better lymphatic circulation you’ll generate, but speaking from experience you’ll want to start soft and build to the harder bristles.) A brush with a long handle will help for those hard-to-reach spots.

Here’s what it will help:

+ Body brushing allows nutrients and oxygen to come to the surface of the outer layers of your skin, thereby increasing blood circulation. Great if you are prone to cold hands or feet.

+Brushing the chest promotes lymphatic drainage to release body toxins, which takes the load off of large organs so they don’t have to work so hard.

+Body brushing promotes collagen and elastin production, which is great for keeping cellulite at bay and generally for healthy skin tone.

+By keeping it optimally healthy, the skin becomes an immune-system support, so you’re less likely to be at the mercy of colds and infection.

+Don’t forget the benefit of muscle relaxation as you gently massage your skin.

+And, when you think about it, since you’re increasing oxygen flow, it’s got to affect the brain for improved focus and clarity.

Start gently and build to short, brisk strokes. Watch dead winter skin fall away. Now take a warm bath.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Touch Yourself This Valentine’s Day

Not having a partner shouldn’t exclude you from getting your fair share of The Touch. Strong, able hands are available to soothe your aches and pains as well your heart. For that matter being strapped for cash shouldn’t be a deal breaker either.

I’m talking here about massage, but in this case it’s self-massage and I'm not the only one advocating it.

People tend to get all stressed out about what to do on Valentine’s Day, and non-partnered people tend to get a double dose of that stress. Hooked up or not, it’s enough to make you need a massage.

The inspiration for this blog is a neighbor I had years ago. He was single—and a little creepily, he was always looking for sympathy because of it. But there was this one thing that he did that I came to believe was a sign of healthy self-nurturing: he’d give himself massages. I thought it was weird at first but then I tried it myself. He’d cross his left arm over his torso to his right and begin kneading the side of his neck. Then he would move down to the always-knotty shoulder muscles and focus there. He could easily manage deltoids, bi- and triceps, the forearms and hands. And then he’d do it all over on the other side.

Legs and feet are easy to get to too. And who can’t do with a good belly massage after a meal? It’s a great aid for good digestion.

The thing about self-massage is that you’re in complete control of the amount of pressure you receive. You also know how to zero in on the exact spot that needs the most attention. You can use classic Swedish style or incorporate some shiatsu or acupressure.

There are lots of props you can use, too. I’m sure you’ve seen those self-massagers made of wood. They resemble a three-dimensional image of planet constellations a là your high school science project. Do they work? I find them a little cumbersome but you may not.

Tennis balls, for the bottoms of your feet are great. Just have a seat and roll that puppy under the sole of your foot. Be careful not to apply too much pressure and that you don’t do it too long. I got a foot cramp once. Tennis balls are also great for neck massages. Just put one inside a regular gym sock, place it on the floor and then carefully position the center of your neck over it. Now roll it around. Feels great.

Feel free to pass on any self-massage tips that work for you. And have a happy, stress-free Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Spa Trends 2008

As soon as the calendar flipped to 2008, spa publications and other experts began rolling out their predictions of what spa goers would be asking for in the upcoming year. (But as these things go, what they are really doing is telling spa goers what the industry is telling them they should be asking for.)

Within the various lists there was some overlap, but also striking opposites.

One prediction said we’d see more luxury spas with designer “labels.” There is now an Armani-branded spa in Tokyo and the Versace empire has a spa in Australia. Bulgari, Prada, they’ve all entered spa land. Is cross marketing the term for this? (Yes, yes, there are other names for it, too.)

On the other end of the spectrum, and perhaps a proletariat pushback of sorts, young people, they say, are beginning to seek out places of relaxation before spa was spa as we now know it—ethnic bathhouses, saunas and mineral springs that were once all the rage. They fell into disrepair when painkillers, being a much more expedient way to deal with arthritis, etc., were developed.

But I believe young people have been long onto these “best-kept secret” spots because of their retro feel. In Chicago there’s a Korean bathhouse called Paradise. My friends and I discovered it about 15 years ago. It’s on a sleepy (though used to be sleepier) stretch of Montrose Avenue and it’s the real deal. You have sauna, steam, hot and cold baths. But there are also massage therapists on hand, a restaurant and even a quiet zone with reclining chairs and television. The cost is well under twenty bucks and for westerners it used to be a spectacular portal into the traditional Korean spa experience. I don’t think they liked having us around, though I can’t be sure because there was not much English spoken on the premises.

Last year I had another old-time spa experience that I still think of fondly. Hot Springs, Arkansas used to be the water cure destination of choice for 19th and early 20th century seekers. People flocked. Bathhouse Row, as it’s called, is now making a comeback. Grand, free-standing buildings tricked out in beautiful mosaics and porcelain everything. I had my traditional spa day at the Arlington Hotel, though the Buckstaff is also a good choice. The Arlington was once the poshest of hotels but not much has been done to update its look. Original signs still announcing crazy-cheap prices hang and everything is musty and saggy and a bit dingey because of the high humidity levels and the absence of a fresh coat of paint.

But prices are still cheap by modern-day standards and there are lots of elderly regulars who have been going weekly for years. In fact I was told the Buckstaff frequently has a line of locals waiting. (If they are put off by the onslaught of newcomer tourist types pushing their way in they won’t be able to hide it behind a foreign language.)

Don’t expect much TLC. This was the era when clinically speaking bodies were slabs of meat—which I suspect had as much to do with the era being more rough-and-tumble as it did with ye olde Protestant ethic. That’s right, no co-ed experiences here. There is a lady's side and the men’s side and never the two shall meet. I was scrubbed and slapped and kneaded and talked to in assembly-line tones by gritty gals who’ve been doing this work for years. . . having taken over from their moms before them! I kept pretending it was 1800 something and I'd crossed the country by rail to heal my lumbago. It was just great.

Everyone should check out one of these throwback spas if only for a basis for comparison. And, after all, the spa experts say, you know you want to!

Here’s a fine photo of me wrapped in steamy hot-springs-water-soaked towels.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Is the Personal Massage Heading Into the Toilet?

Kind of looks like a giant commode, doesn’t it?

Wipe that thought clean out of your head.

It’s called a Spa Capsule and it’s surely something the Jetsons would have owned had massage been popular in the early 60s. One of these babies can be in your home tomorrow, just pony up for what it would cost you to buy a new Honda Accord—about $30,000.

It reminds me of that time, not so long ago, when people started realizing they didn’t have to go to the gym to use a motorized exercise machine. Now they could purchase one, throw it in a big room (and therein lies the rub: who’s got the space?) and you’re good to go. Some collected dust while others allowed people to never step foot in a sweaty gym again. Depends on your personality.

Home spa-ing is not new. We've all read the stories—heck, some of us have even pitched and written them—on how to spa up your home. It’s just that now it’s been elevated to new heights— and widths, in this case.

The concept was created by doctors and comes equipped with aromatherapy and an audio-video system with Bose speakers, all controlled by a touch screen, and . . . a dry water massage! What’s that? I hear you ask. The water pulsates over your body but it’s circulating inside a silky-comfy sheet so you never get wet. And your head stays outside the toilet—er, capsule—the whole time, so claustrophobia, they say, is kept at bay.

Cost aside, what do you think? Are you willing to give those human healing hands up for a revved-up automated de-stressor?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hopping the Wellness Train

I’ve been feeling kind of medical minded these days. I guess that’s not so surprising since, individually, as a group and out of necessity we’ve been slowly shifting the paradigm from treating disease to the much more optimistic model of staying healthy to begin with. Hence the birth of wellness centers and integrative medicine, which makes use of the best practices from the west and east.

So again I draw your attention to two items from one of my daily resources for what the heck is going on in the world, the New York Times.

In yesterday’s paper, in the Science Times (my, how I love that section), Jane E. Brody’s column was about how we can cut unnecessary deaths during one routine hospital procedure: IV insertions. People die unnecessarily of infection all the time! A physician and researcher at Johns Hopkins named Dr. Peter Pronovost came up with a simple five-point checklist that, when used, not only reduced patient death by infection to zero but also saved billions of dollars in Michigan hospitals where the checklist was put into place. These are points about as elemental as they get: first point on the checklist? Wash your hands.

And if that’s not staggering enough, though Pronovost has proposed implementing the checklist universally in our country. . . yep, you guessed it, he’s gotten nothing but resistance. Spain, however, approached him and is going to implement it.

It should be mentioned that Brody got this story from my favorite doctor/author Atul Gawande. He and Pronovost recommend writing members of Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Do it!

Second item needs way less exposition. The story made the front page. Here’s the headline: High Mercury Levels Are Found in Tuna Sushi Sold in Manhattan.

Ugh. If it happens so rampantly there, please don’t be eating sushi in Kansas City.