News Maybe We Can Use? Introducing MagCloud, A Print-On-Demand Glossy Magazine Service

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Today’s New York Times has an article on MagCloud, a new service (still in beta) by Hewlett-Packard, which allows users to create full-color glossy magazines and sell them print-on-demand style, charging 20 cents a page when a customer orders a copy. (I assume they mean 20 cents for each side of the page, although the Web site they have up now is so annoyingly sketchy that they don’t specify that. But I’m deducing that if they say a magazine is, say, 52 pages long and they charge $10.65 for it, that means 26 sheets of paper printed on both sides plus cover.)

I found this very exciting to read about, even if it’s just an opportunity smelled by H-P to sell more ink. People in fat acceptance have been saying for years that they crave a four-color fat-related glossy magazine with fatshion pictorials in it. Well, maybe this is an opportunity for someone to put one together! (Or any other fat-related magazine where full-color artwork would be a major feature.) It doesn’t have to be a huge investment any more to try it and see how it works, maybe even do a one-off, or an annual, or a quarterly…whatever anyone wants.

No advertising means that fewer pages are needed for content, too. (Their terms of use say the site is for “personal use” only and that work on behalf of “third parties” is “strictly prohibited.” Once again, somewhat sketchy writing, but “no paid advertising allowed” is strongly implied.) Obviously that makes it a more expensive item for individual purchase than one that is supported by advertisements, but then, as a publisher you don’t have the headaches involved with dealing with advertisers and the reader doesn’t have to wade through them, so maybe that’s a good thing.

If you’ve tried this, or think you might, let me know! I’d love to see what you put together. If I didn’t have minus-zero photography skills, I might try it myself.

Health Scares R Us

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So. The day after I posted last, I had an appointment to see my doctor to do a Pap smear so I could get my Mircette. Only a funny thing happened on my way to the drugstore: He didn’t like the looks of my cervix.

Now, my doctor is not the kind of person to freak out about nothing. This is a guy, after all, who when I mentioned proactively that I’d gained some weight on Remeron, just shrugged and said, “Yeah, that causes the most weight gain of all the antidepressants.” So if he didn’t like the looks of my cervix, I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be wrong with it. I used to be the kind of person who owned her own speculum and looked at her cervix every month, but I’ve moved so many times in adulthood that I couldn’t possibly tell you when the last time was I saw that damn speculum. Somewhere between L.A. and Bakersfield, I lost it. Therefore, I had no idea what my cervix was “supposed” to look like now, not having actually seen it in over a decade.

He said my cervix was “friable”; that is, it bled easily to touch. He would send the Pap out, but he also wanted me to go for a colposcopy (an exam where they stain the cervix and look at it microscopically) at my gyno’s office. I’m just at the age when deaths from natural causes start to become statistically significant, although not nearly as much so as after age 65. Plus I’ve typed and edited thousands of medical reports in my life, in every health care discipline there is; I know perfectly well you can be “healthy” one minute and terminally ill (or at least having a life-threatening health issue) the next, and not have any symptoms to tip you off that you’ve gone over the line. (Which is one reason the epi-panickers blowing a gasket about people being “unhealthy” just makes me kind of snortlaugh to the point of sinus pain; in the vast majority of people, you SO can’t tell by looking.)

So of course, my first thought was yikes, cervical cancer. Which actually has a very high rate of survival, because it grows very slowly, and usually doesn’t even require chemo and radiation unless you have a very advanced case or you are one of the very few women with adenocarcinoma of the cervix rather than the far more common squamous cell type. (And it’s thought to be caused by a virus spread by sexual contact — human papillomavirus, or HPV — so, completely unrelated to fat.) At worst, then, I was looking at some unpleasant surgery, that’s about it. And also I had a urinary tract infection, my first, oh joyous Noel. So I got antibiotics plus some Diflucan to ward off yeast infection. But I was hardly even thinking about that. The doctor said if there were any cancer cells they’d probably show up on the Pap, and thus began what felt like the longest week of my life: waiting for the Pap results to come back. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.

I ask you, does this sound like the mental contents of a self-destructive person? A fatty who just wants to eat herself to death? Why would I take the fucking Remeron in the first place if I just wanted to slip away into nothingness? It would have been so easy to do. Instead, here I am taking the fucking Remeron, getting fatter, and hoping desperately that I don’t have the big C.

So I scheduled the colposcopy, which he wanted me to have even if the Pap was negative. Oh, and while I was at it, I scheduled that mammogram too, for the day after the colpo. Might as well get all my health scares over with at once, I figured.

And then I missed my period. For the first time ever. I’d had late periods before I was on birth control pills, but never, ever did I miss one. But that Saturday, when I’d normally get it, I had one or two tiny little red streaks, and that was it. I’m going to die, and I’m pregnant at age forty-fucking-five. And we haven’t even gotten to how diseased my boobs are yet.

The net result of this is, I set my digestive tract on fire. I gagged on and then vomited up my Bactrim. (Why do they have to make such giant uncoated horsepills out of the stuff, anyway?) I couldn’t eat anything but soup. C. mentioned ordering a pizza, and my colon screamed, “NO! DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.” When the very thought of cheese makes me gag, I know I’m ill. Raw vegetables were out. Citrus fruit was out. I hiccuped like a cartoon stork and farted hard enough to blast me clean out of my chair and on to the floor. Gastritis. I haz it.

Anyway, the bottom line was, everything turned out to be negative. The Pap was totally negative, which my doctor said “surprised” him, given the frightening appearance of my cervix. They gave me a pregnancy test too. Negative. The labs were all negative. Even my cholesterol was better. The only thing wrong was my vitamin D level, which, as with almost everyone who lives in this part of the country, was too low. The colposcopy turned up nothing but some inflammatory changes which my gyno said were probably from a series of yeast infections. Nothing cancerous. Nothing pre-cancerous. She didn’t even want a biopsy. Whew. She said, “You kind of have to take what he says with a grain of salt when he does a Pap smear. He might do one every couple of months; I do several every day. He doesn’t know cervixes the way I do.” The missed period, she said, probably signaled the start of perimenopause, although it’s possible I could get periods on and off for the next decade, and you’re not technically considered to be in menopause until you’ve had no periods at all for a year. I think I’m going to her for my next Pap.

The mammo wasn’t that bad either. As it turns out, my boobs flatten out pretty easily, so they didn’t need to take multiple pictures. The side views were kind of pinchy, but only for a few seconds. And today I got the results of that. Negative.

Yay, negative. Everything negative. Blood oranges, here I come.

The only problem I still have left is this damn UTI. Two rounds of antibiotics and I can’t get rid of it. I’m on the home remedies now — cranberry juice, and cream of tartar dissolved in water, the latter of which tastes kind of like flat Alka-Seltzer. If that doesn’t work, I’ll have to go get a urine culture and more targeted meds.

But really, with all the freaking out about fat in the media, one thing you don’t see all that much people freaking out about that they should be freaking out about is antibiotic abuse. For decades, in Western society, we’ve taken antibiotics, or given them to our kids, for every little thing. People get a cold and they want antibiotics for it; this story, by Dr. Dean Edell via KGO-TV, quotes an ER physician as saying “doctors write for antibiotics over 40 percent of the time when someone comes to them with a cold.” That is just ridiculous. This piece (and another of Dr. Edell’s about antibiotic abuse) puts the focus on the danger to the individual patient of taking unnecessary antibiotics (i.e. if you take them when you don’t really need them, they won’t work so hot when you do really need them).

But Dr. Edell, in his book Eat, Drink, & Be Merry: America’s Doctor Tells You Why the Health Experts are Wrong, goes even further in describing why this is dangerous: People swilling antibiotics at random creates strains of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which then go on to infect other people. Given that sepsis (infection that spreads to the blood) is an extremely common and very debilitating problem for people over 65, especially, if Obama et al really want to reduce Medicare costs, that seems to be what they should be concentrating their efforts on, not hounding people to lose weight. Some bouts of sepsis can cost people serious poundage; when you get that sick that you can’t keep anything down for months, you’ll be glad to have the padding to spare.

So I beg of you, don’t beg your doctor for antibiotics. Ever. If s/he thinks you really need them, s/he will say so. Unless, of course, you have a complete assbag of a practitioner on your hands who thinks your abscess will go away if you diet.

On Hotel Housekeepers, Roseto, and the Junking of Needless Stress

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On Saturday, Living400LBS had an excellent post about the widespread prejudice that people who have physical-labor-intensive jobs are thought to be “not exercising at all” if they don’t go the gym or participate in some sort of leisure-time “workout.” Apparently, gardening is exercise if you do it yourself, but it’s not exercise for someone you’re paying to do it. Or, as Living400LBS so cogently put it, “By this measure, Marines in boot camp probably get ‘no physical activity whatsoever.’”

I could go on for the next six or seven weeks about the classism implicit in this assumption. But for once, I won’t. Because Stef, in comments on this post, mentioned that she had seen a study that claimed hotel housekeepers who were told that what they did for a living counted as exercise had better health indices than those who were told their jobs were not exercise. This was the first I’d recalled hearing of it. Later, on the same thread, ShannonCC provided a link. (The story is about 2 years old.)

Sure enough, the study was conducted by a Harvard psychologist named Ellen Langer, and here’s what it said:

She divided 84 maids into two groups. With one group, researchers carefully went through each of the tasks they did each day, explaining how many calories those tasks burned. They were informed that the activity already met the surgeon general’s definition of an active lifestyle.

The other group was given no information at all.

One month later, Langer and her team returned to take physical measurements of the women and were surprised by what they found. In the group that had been educated, there was a decrease in their systolic blood pressure, weight, and waist-to-hip ratio — and a 10 percent drop in blood pressure.

(ETA: Yes, I know they said “blood pressure” twice. So does every other account of the dozens I’ve read, which leads me to believe that this was how the press release phrased it.)

I can’t believe this is the first I’ve heard of this.

For that matter, I can’t believe this is the last I’ve heard of this.

(Aaaaand as it happens, it probably wasn’t: Mo Pie wrote about it here on Big Fat Deal. I can’t imagine I didn’t see it then; for whatever reason I must have been having a Bad Mirror Neuron Day and it just didn’t register with me.)

But anyhoodoovoodoogrisgrisgumboyaya (sorry, had to get that out of my system), the study did get some coverage in the New York Times magazine. Interesting pull-quote here:

Langer sees the study as a lesson in the importance of mindfulness, long a subject of her research, and which need not involve Buddhism or meditation, she stresses. “It’s about noticing new things; it’s about engagement,” she says.

Really? I’m all for meditation and mindfulness, but I could swear it’s really about not heaping tons of needless stress on people about what they’re supposedly not doing right.

Think about it. Remember the Roseto study, which examined people (most of them inarguably fat) in a small, close-knit community who despite having anything but “heart-healthy” habits lived longer than average, had less heart disease than average, and didn’t record a single heart attack for someone under 45 years old until 1971, when the community started breaking up? (And lest anyone think these folks have some sort of magic genes, the study also showed that when people moved away, the Roseto effect disappeared, and succeeding generations born outside of Roseto didn’t demonstrate it either.)

According to the study (which Sandy also wrote about on Junkfood Science), Rosetans experienced just as much routine stress as most Americans did, but one thing they didn’t have to stress out about was whether they belonged or not. They came of age at a time when Italian immigrants were often heavily discriminated against in America, but in their own community they didn’t have to worry about being shunned for eating the “wrong” things, being the “wrong” weight, doing the “wrong” amount of physical activity, having the “wrong” hair texture or skin tone, or whatever other stupid bullshit “upwardly mobile” Americans just love to snub each other over.

I gather things in Roseto might not have been as utopian as it might appear on the surface, or the close-knit town might still exist. But still, every once in a while they might mention this study, or something like the maid study, or the Women’s Health Initiative studies, which tell you over and over again that we are not machines, that the reasons for health and weight go way, way beyond people’s staggeringly oversimplified assumptions…and these stories just get buried. Again and again and again. Imagine a culture where people women people weren’t shamed and blamed for every little thing they did or allegedly failed to do, where they actually felt good enough as is. Everything would be different. Everything. And it’s widely assumed that in such a culture, our economy would collapse, because people mostly buy products to save face with the people surrounding them, and if they felt no need to do that, they’d just drive the same 10-year-old cars and wear the same 10-year-old clothes and nobody would spend $150 on moisturizer or upgrade their computers when their old ones worked perfectly well.

People who believe that haven’t talked to any fat people, though. If we felt better about ourselves as a group, more of us would DEMAND more money, DEMAND more clothing choices, DEMAND more respect, and instead of feeling like we were battling the tides, instead of feeling like we’re the only fat freaks in town who don’t care about weight loss, we’d have the numbers on our side. That doesn’t mean every demand would be met; fate plays a role, too. But we’d have a way better chance if there were more of us — not more fat people, but more fat people (and, for that matter, people who are not fat who live their lives in mortal terror of becoming so) who believe they have a right to all those things, that it’s not their fault if they don’t get them. Whatever money you’d lose by someone skipping the $150 moisturizer because the $5 bottle of Vaseline Intensive Care is good enough for her, you’d gain back from a size 20 chick (me?) showing up in the store of her choice and buying the outfit of her dreams at last. People buy stuff to affirm themselves, too.

In any case, our culture’s heaping needless amounts of stress on people for not measuring up is something the health mavens of America will HAVE to address, if they really want to see results that mean anything. Sometimes I wonder if they really do, or whether they care more about people needlessly freaking out about their health continuing to be a major profit center.

Girls Rock…And So Do You

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

The above is a three-minute preview of Girls Rock! The Movie, a documentary that came out last year about Portland’s Rock and Roll Camp for Girls (which has now spread to other cities besides Portland). I just got the DVD from Netflix.


Boy, do I wish something like this existed when I was ‘twixt 8 and 18 (the age range of girls in the camp). Over a period of five days, girls break out into groups based on musical tastes, form bands, pick up instruments they’ve (mostly) never played before, have lessons, write songs, and get mentored and watch performances by the likes of Beth Ditto, Carrie Brownstein (formerly of Sleater-Kinney), and local guitar goddess LKN (that’s her flipping her hair around in the preview). And a week later, there they are onstage, performing these new songs on these new instruments with these new people they didn’t even know the week before, and who they’ll remember forever.


And here’s the real reason this belongs on a fat blog: They tackle the body image stuff. Spectacularly. Not just by exposing them to Beth Ditto (although I’m sure that doesn’t hurt), but by raising their awareness of how the culture does a number on them, and teaching them how to treat themselves and others with more compassion. One of the most engaging people in the film is a size 14-to-16-ish Korean-American teenager named Laura who loves “bunnies and death metal,” not necessarily in that order, and you can see her in the preview, saying she doesn’t even think much about how she hates her body, it’s just always there, and she’s used to it. Obviously five days in camp isn’t going to magically transform a girl’s self-image, Beth Ditto or no Beth Ditto. But you can see her self-loathing start to melt away as she finds out more about what she has to offer. It’s gorgeous.

And the filmmakers fill us in on factoids about how the biggest desire of teenage girls (according to surveys) is weight loss, and how ridiculously young most girls are when they start dieting. Also, they mention that when boys are asked about their “best feature” they are more likely to name a talent, while girls asked the same question tend to name a body part. Shit, I would have too, maybe even last week. Not anymore.

Folks, this is what I want for all of us. I want us all to think we’re the shit, that we have as much to offer as anyone else does, that the narrower-than-a-guitar-string standards of what is “beautiful” shouldn’t keep anyone from creating or force us to hide our light under bushels because we’re not “attractive” enough. It’s bad enough when they do that shit to performers, but it can affect even the non-entertainers among us, the painters and writers and filmmakers who don’t develop their talents because they don’t think they are telegenic or magazine-friendly in appearance. So many problems in the world come from people taking their crappy self-esteem (and the often-attendant bloated egotism) out on other people and on themselves, and that’s just ass. And not the good kind.

Not that I think Rock Camp for Girls is going to save the world or anything. I doubt any one thing can ever do that. But it’s getting girls to talk back to a culture that hates them, and boy, do we need that in this day and age. So see this movie. It will let people know we want more like this.

And if reading the above is making you wish you were between 8 and 18 so you could go to Rock Camp, guess what? You can. Yes, there’s a Ladies’ Rock Camp (for anyone female-identified 19 and up). I’m seriously considering attending the October session. Anyone wanna come with?