Friday, October 29, 2010

Exercise: A Masochistic Celebration of The Body Beautiful

We'd like to begin by assuring you that we have no intention of preaching to you about the joy of “the runner's high,” as we are firm in our belief that there is no such thing.

Exercise, by it's nature, is physically challenging. Even if you are so fortunate as to find an activity that tickles your masochistic pleasure centers, in order to be effective, exercise must be, to some degree, difficult. (read: unYummish) For the Yummish, the Yum of exercise comes later, after the unpleasantness of clingy and unflattering active wear and stinky, moist sneakers has been put away.

First, though few people look good while exercising, everyone looks better after exercising. Over the long term, exercise helps your body look its personal best by strengthening, toning, reducing and enlarging to taste. In the short term, cleansing sweat and increased circulation are good for the complexion. Also, some activities require semi-adorable outfits like tennis skirts or yoga pants, which can lead to the tangential Yum of shopping.

Next, if you exercise on a regular basis, your body will begin to feel better overall, as your strength and stamina increase. You will have more energy and ability to do the things you find Yummish, such as shopping*.

Also, regular exercise increases your metabolism, allowing you to indulge in Yummy treats without concern or regret. Thirty minutes or so of exercise seems a reasonable exchange for getting to order dessert. We like to think of it as the carrot cake at the end of the stick.

Lastly, there is our favorite indulgence afforded by regular exercise – the joy of blowing it off. The greater your dedication in general, the greater the pleasure in granting yourself a brief holiday – just as we intend to do today. We might even celebrate with a cookie.

Today's exercise: Don't. (Tomorrow's exercise: Do!)

Next: An Election Day Message from The Cocktail Party

*It has been over a month since our last pilgrimage to Yummish Shrine of Tacky Acquisition H&M and it may be starting to tell on us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The signs are unmistakable. Fishnet stockings and glow-in-the-dark nail polish start to show up on grocery store shelves, alongside the jars of peanut butter and boxes of sugar cereal. Costume specialty shops pop up seemingly overnight, like mushrooms. Rubber monster masks, cheap felt pirate hats, and plastic action-hero guns are for sale in virtually every store open for trade of any sort. 'Tis the season to be... anyone.

Actors make a living* by pretending to be another person. Writers make a living** pretending to be a dozen or so other people. (In that way, writers are like actors with multiple personality disorder and a decent vocabulary.) For the rest of us, though, there are few opportunities in our daily lives to try on a different persona(e). Those who try are often labeled as “insincere” or “schizophrenic.” Thankfully, there is one exception to this - the day of elective collective madness known as Halloween.

For the Yummish, the “masquerade” aspect of this holiday is very important. What some might dismiss as child's play, the Yummish prefer to see as “walking a mile in another's shoes.” For one night, we present to the world a different self and get to sample what it is like to be perceived as such -- the den-mother-soccer-mom wearing a saucy streetwalker outfit, the retired grandfather-of-many dressed as a slick, stylish mobster, the scrawny mathlete ensconced in foam super-hero bulk. We get to perceive ourselves differently because others see us differently. We carry this experience with us, even after the temporary persona has been set aside, and it becomes part of our world view. It is truly harder to judge someone after trying on their witch boots***, especially if you find yourself enjoying the experience. It is an exercise in open-mindedness, in understanding, and in finding shared Yum. It is a way of learning to relate to that which, at first glace, seems to be “other” and discovering, once again, that All is One****.

There's also the chance for free candy and/or parties featuring adult beverages. Yum!

Today's exercise: Get to know someone new this Halloween, from the inside out.

Next: Exercise -- a masochistic celebration of the body beautiful.

*Well, a handful of actors make an actual living...

**See note on actors.

***We're you.

****I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jane Goodall: The Third Yummish Saint

Scientist, environmentalist, redhead. To try list all of Jane Goodall's accomplishments here would take too many pages (and essentially recreate the work already done by the many wonderful nerds of the Wikipedia Community). If you've never heard of Jane Goodall, The Yummish Council encourages immediate correction of this oversight. So much more than “the chimp lady,” Ms. Goodall is a UN Messenger of Peace and, through the many programs of her eponymous institute, a world renowned environmental educator and activist.

She is also one of the most inspiring speakers we've ever heard.

A petite, elegant woman with delicate features, we watched as she held a large school gymnasium filled with students, parents, reporters and others in hushed rapture. Warm, funny, self-deprecating and extremely intelligent, Ms. Goodall shared her passion for chimps, animal welfare and environmentalism at large through stories of her personal experiences, punctuated by well-researched facts. She spoke with simple eloquence, using no gimmicks or verbal trickery to “market” her message to the largely teenaged audience. Instead, she addressed her audience with respect and her topic with great reverence. She wasn't there to “sell her message.” Rather, she seemed sincerely motivated to share her Yum.

And the nature of that Yum? For that we quote the Jane Goodall Institute core values:

We strive to respect, nourish and protect all living things; people, animals and the environment are all interconnected

We believe that knowledge leads to understanding, and that understanding will encourage us to take action

We believe that every individual has the ability to make a positive difference

We believe that flexibility and open-mindedness are essential to enable us to respond to a changing world

We require integrity and compassion in all that we do and say

Sounds Yummy to us!

Today's exercise: Remember that those who shout the loudest might not have the most to say. Quiet voices can also convey great passion.

Next: TBDBD (To be determined by drinking)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Sexy Scars: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Hotter

WARNING: The following meditation has been rated WEIRD by the Senior Member of the Yummish Council, who finds emotional scars far more interesting than the physical variety.

SCARS: A perspective by HotGingerMess

I love my scars. They're almost ridiculously sexy. No plastic-fantastic, Barbie-boring body here, no sir. My body is a unique, ever-evolving work of art. My scars are the story of my life, writ large in fleshy hieroglyphics. They are the souvenirs of the adventures of my life.

First, there is my favorite scar – my hockey scar. It's on my left knee. I got it when I fell down at a hockey game... in the stands... while completely sober. While it wasn't so funny at the time (and cost me the one pair of pants that made my butt look acceptable), it has since become one of my favorite one-liners to tell, timing being, as it is, everything.

Kawasaki Ninja
Below that are the faint remains of road rash, from when I laid down my Kawasaki Ninja. Suffice it to say, fuel is necessary for acceleration and the reserve tank is your friend. Still, any motorcycle story – even one where you end up on the pavement – is bound to impress someone. (I must assume this is so, or else Ewan McGregor couldn't keep making all of the Long Way Whatever movies.)

Then there is the scar on the left side of my upper lip – the result of an epic paper cut gained while... licking an ordinary white, size 9 envelope. While the story is less-than-epic, I like the rakish look it gives my face. The ring through my navel also has a unique, jaunty angle, thanks to the hernia scar above it. The surgery scar on my lower abdomen underlines and highlights the Chinese dragon tattooed on my belly, creating a type of altar on which she dances.
Year of the Hare Chinese Character tattoo

The scars on my back are no uglier than the moles they replaced, but are far more mysterious. Gun shot wounds? Cigarette burns from some torturous spy game? Samples of human flesh taken during an alien abduction? All more interesting options than some unsightly “cluster of melanocytes.” My chicken pox scar is a sexy almond shape, like a tiny white eye on my inner thigh. The deformed middle finger of my right hand reminds me of the day when, as a young teen, I elected not to have the break set, because the presence of a cast would have caused me to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Chinese Dragon TattooI could go on... and on and on and on. I've gained at least one scar for every year I've been alive. (I'm also clumsier and more fair-skinned than most, so I'm probably somewhat ahead of the curve.) Each one has a story, though. Each is a symbol of triumph, a victory over injury, illness, or adversity. They are outward signs of my inner strength.

In a game of survival of the fittest, my scars are the proof – I'm a survivor. What could be sexier than that?

Today's exercise: Celebrate your scars, wrinkles, freckles and other “imperfections” and the triumphant tales behind them.

Next: Announcing the Third Yummish Saint

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Cocktail Party: Official 2010 Endorsements

Having recently come to the realization that political endorsements are more about promoting the endorser than the endorsed, The Cocktail Party would like to offer the following thoughts on the upcoming November elections.

1. We endorse voting. It is your right, your responsibility and your privilege.

2. We endorse making an educated choice. Your vote will affect the course of our nation, our lives and (said with no sense of irony or egotism) the entire world for many years, if not permanently. Understanding such weighty choices takes time and effort, but our nation is worth it.

3. We endorse voting on facts rather than fears. If it sounds too good OR too awful to be true, be extremely suspicious. (When in doubt, see item 2.)

4. We endorse voting based on the needs of your family, community and country rather than for benefit of politicians, corporations or their attendant media shills.*

5. We endorse approaching the voting process with reverence for the importance of the act and with gratitude to those who, in the past and still today, in myriad ways, strive to protect our Democracy.

6. And finally – what the hell – We endorse Jerry Brown for Governor of the State of California. The Plymouth Satellite, cutesy nicknames and yoga – we've long suspected Mr. Brown of Yummish tendencies. He also never sat on the board of robber baron Goldman Sachs, which is always a plus in our book.

Today's exercise: Start filling out your sample ballot. November 2 is closer than you may realize.

Next: My Sexy Scars: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Hotter

*The Senior Member of the Yummish Council – a staunch advocate for voting reform – maintains this can be done only by voting a straight ticket of “None of the Above” on all candidates and measures, until a multi-party system is allowed to be established. For the Yummish, as a rule, it is hard to reject the concept of “more parties,” and we are thus willing to consider his point.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Los Dias de los Muertos: Dancing Skeletons, Smiling Death's Heads, the Grateful and the Dead

It's autumn and the fragrant chill of mortality is in the air. The scent of the overripe and the rotten, fermenting in the bright, brief sunlight, mixes with clean scent of fresh blood from the recently slaughtered and sweetly drying grains. Increasingly over-filled cupboards stand in stark contrast to an ever-more barren landscape. Bitter north winds tear across desolate fields, the encroaching darkness trailing behind them, a herald of the coming winter.

...That is if this were the the American Great Plains of the 1800s. As this is 2010 and the Yummish Council is currently located in the extremely climatically stable San Francisco Bay Area, the harvest season is more accurately recognized by the addition of overpriced ornamental gourds and under-priced, oversized bags of candy to grocery store shelves, back-to-school sales, and the beginning of the football and hockey seasons. (Go Red Wings!)

Nevertheless, this time of transition from the endless days of summer to the darkness and deprivation of winter has become a traditional occasion for people to reflect upon and celebrate death. Halloween, All-Saints Day, All-Souls Day, El Dia de los Muertos, and countless other fall and harvest festivals all around the world celebrate the glory of death in some way; from lighting candles to lighting bonfires, from singing simple songs to making a riotous cacophony intended to (literally) wake the dead. (For more harvest/death rituals, we recommend Primitive Mythology from Joseph Campbell's Masks of God series.)

“Why?” you might ask, “is the cessation of life something people want to celebrate?”

For the Yummish, the answer is suggested by the question itself. The Yummish are called upon to celebrate all life and recognize death as a part of life – the last part. It is the finale of the film, the closing chapter of the book. Without it, the experience would be wholly unsatisfying. Death brings the gifts of closure and resolution to our lives. It brings structure to our existence – a distinct beginning, middle and end.

Death forces us to see ourselves not as just this one, temporary expression of life, but to identify with something more lasting – a family, a tribe, a country, a species. It encourages us to think beyond our own lifetimes, to strive to pass along as much as we can of what we've gained – genetically, educationally, artistically and spiritually – to those who will follow us.

Because they will die, we love our parents. Because we will die, we love our children.

While the Yummish celebrate Death as a part of the cycle of life, it is important to note that we do not celebrate any specific instance of death*. The end of an individual life -- any life -- is a solemn occasion. Though we might celebrate the beauty of the life of one who has passed, the Yummish take no joy in the death. The end of a life brings only sorrow, while Life Ending is, to us, a glorious mystery. It is a complicated issue and probably explains why we drink as much cheap red wine as we do - cheap red wine historically being the preferred beverage of philosophers, revolutionaries and vagabonds alike.

Today's Exercise: Like the brightly colored sugar skulls of el Dia de los Muertos, let the specter of death remind you of the sweetness and joy of living.

Next: Cocktail Party Official 2010 Endorsements

*The Senior Member of the Yummish Council argues that the following perspective could be an exception to this general rule:

To die, to sleep
No more - and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to - ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished.

One a related note, Bay Beat Sounds will soon be announcing the triumphant return of Thanatoid Jones.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Burgers, Ourselves

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Epicure and candidate for future Yummish Sainthood

Fans of the original Japanese Iron Chef (voted by the Yummish Council to be The Finest Television Show Ever) will, undoubtedly, recognize this quote from the opening sequence. Most of us are familiar with the cliché that “you are what you eat.” You may have even said something similar like “I'm not really a sushi person” or “He's a meat and potatoes kind of guy.” On one level, we seem to accept the truth of it, but if that were really the case, would we really accept foodstuffs like this?

Mechanically Separated Poultry

The act of eating is, at its essence, brutal. One expression of life, animal or vegetable, is sacrificed in order to sustain another expression of that same life-force. According to Yummish teachings, both of those expressions of life are of equal value. It just so happens that one aspect of the total value of one of those lives is its ability to sustain, through its death, the life of another. That life will, in turn, feed another and so on. (If you think that being at the “Top of the Food Chain,” means we only consume and are never the consumed, there are some bacteria in your belly and mites in your lashes right now that might beg to differ.)

The act of eating is also terribly beautiful. That which you eat becomes a part of you. Its flesh becomes your flesh, its blood, your blood – a true communion. (For more on this theme see the Roman Catholic Church and/or True Blood) Broken down into its basic components, this other life becomes the basic building blocks of your life. Your body is continually recreating itself, completely renewing itself every 7 – 10 years. These new cells are built from what you've consumed. Your skin, your hair, your eyes, your heart, your everything is made out of the apples, the steaks, the Twinkies you've eaten throughout your life.

The Twinkies?

Your heart is made out of Twinkies? Your child's heart?

Perhaps it's time to pay more than lip-service to this fundamental truth: You are literally what you eat.

There are plenty of folks much more eloquent and far less lazy than the Yummish Council who can tell you how far off track our food culture has gone. We recommend the writer Michael Pollan, the films Food, Inc. and King Corn, the book Fast Food Nation, and the future Yummish Saint Alice Waters.

Or you can simply start by asking yourself why we're irrigating the California desert in order to grow the majority of our food supply while the nearly perfect farm lands of Indiana and Kansas produce little but corn and strip malls.

Today's exercise:
Call or write your state and federal representatives and tell them to create and support farm subsidies that benefit family farms and promote public health over the profits of corporations like Monsanto and Yum Foods, Inc. (see above link), two wholly un-Yummish organizations. Shop at your local farmers markets and farm stands. Grow your own food, even in a small way, like a tomato plant or pot of basil. Learn to shop the “perimeter” of the grocery store and avoid the processed and prepackaged as much as possible. Read labels. Get picky. Get angry. Get healthy.

Next: El Dia de Los Muertos

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Uncontroversial Cookie Recipe

Granola Fruit Bars

Traditional Recipe:

Wait for Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
Locate the rural area of the US or Europe closest to you. (Possibly Canada, too, but not certain. Might be too cold there, eh?) Go there.
Find a large patch of wild blackberry vines. (Note: Due to the copious numbers of large, man-eating thorns, long sleeve shirts are strongly recommended.)
Harvest blackberries until lightheaded from the resultant loss of blood; approximately 2 - 3 pints (of blackberries, not blood. This is (semi)real life, not True Blood, y'all.)
Wash berries in cold water to remove dirt, small leaves and shreds of your own flesh.
Make homemade jam.(Approx. prep time for jam: 28 hours)
Continue with below directions for Simplified Recipe

Simplified Recipe:

½ cup butter, unsalted
2 Tbs butter, salted (softened)
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (can substitute 1/3 cup of white flour for equal amount of whole wheat for extra flavor)
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract, split
8 oz jam, any flavor (Recommended: Polaner All-Fruit or my Mom's homegrown/homemade Bay Minette blackberry jam.)
2 cups oatmeal (Not instant. Recommended: McCann's Quick Cooking)
Cinnamon, nutmeg & sugar to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine unsalted butter, flour and sugar,1 tsp vanilla and nutmeg to taste. Mix thoroughly with a pastry blender or fork.

Use fingers to press evenly into ungreased 8” x 8” baking pan.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until lightly browned

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 – 10 minutes

Meanwhile, mix remaining vanilla into jam. Combine oatmeal, salted butter, and sugar and cinnamon to taste.

Spread jam mixture evenly over crust. Sprinkle top with oatmeal mix.

Return to oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until oatmeal is toasted.

Allow to cool completely before cutting. Yield: 16 bars

Today's exercise:
Make cookies! (These or other. The Yummish Council is open to all cookies of all persuasions.) Extra credit for posting the recipe (or link to the recipe) for your favorite cookie in the comments section. Share the Yum!

Why are you wasting time worrying about that when there are cookies that need baking?

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Yum of Sport

It is important to open this topic by reassuring those who don't give a fig about sports that the Yummish Council is in no way suggesting it's necessary for them to do so. (Though you may want to try out my true favorite sport, if you haven't already.) As we know, each Seeker has his or her own unique path to the Ultimate YUM. You might, however, find today's discussion helpful in understanding those who do enjoy participating in and/or observing sporting matches.

It is true that sports can sometimes appear violent, what with tackles and body checks and rope-a-dope, etc. There is, however, another way of looking at it; namely that sports provide a controlled, socially acceptable way of expressing the aggression many of us carry or have carried at various times in our lives. Though sports may involve seemingly hostile acts, the rules both allowing and governing those acts were established and agreed upon beforehand by all involved. Therefore, while the game-play may be aggressive, there are no victims, only participants. Exorcising one's road rage by starting a fist fight in a parking lot is generally not beneficial to society. However, deciding to go a few rounds in the boxing ring at the gym after work provides the opportunity for a less socially destructive expression of that tension.

Watching sports, in person or via the broadcast method of your choice, can also bring a similar release of tension, allowing the viewer to be fully, but temporarily, emotionally engaged in passionate conflict, while avoiding physical risk themselves. (For a really long diatribe on the subject of Single Combat, go bother Tom Wolfe, but don't say we didn't warn you.)

Sports also bring diverse people together, providing a common ground for understanding and engendering positive feelings, a sense of community. Though the person may be a complete stranger to you, when you see them wearing your team's logo or sitting in your team's section, you feel connected to them. You feel positively inclined toward that person. You know you have at least one interest, one Yum, in common with them. Maybe you smile or wave or just exchange a glance. Either way, a small connection was made.

Sports also encourage people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet (be they from the other side of the county or the other side of the world) to join together to a common purpose, even if it is “only a game”. Though they may have nothing else in common and even support different teams, the game itself provides a basis for common understanding. Even if they can agree on nothing else, players and fans have elected to agree on the rules and structure of the game.

Ultimately sport allows us to express many of our less attractive human traits – aggression, competitiveness, tribalism – in less harmful ways.

Sports also give us the excuse to drink cold, hop-y adult beverages, eat nitrate-laden pig sandwiches and geek out over attractive hockey players*. Yum!

Today's Exercise: Root, root, root for the home team! (And for the senior member of the Yummish Council, we say “Boomer Sooner.”)

Next: Possibly something controversial about the concept of “free market economy”... or maybe another cookie recipe.

*Straight male and lesbian readers may feel free to replace the last item with an alternate Yum, such as the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, who are all also blindingly attractive.