If you like to march to the beat of a different drummer, and prefer to do it barefoot, then here’s some good news coming to you from quirky, and forward-thinking, Oregon…
Comics Grinder is always on the look out for the very best to enhance your life. Sometimes it might be a graphic novel or movie. For this post we explore a most comfortable and healthy treat for your feet. Soft Star Shoes are, without a doubt, one of the best places for minimal footwear on the planet. I’ve done my research. I refer you back to my review (read here) of Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run,” the eye-opening bestseller that makes the case for us to return to our bare feet. We need to trust our feet and our natural way of walking. All else follows.
You know that feeling when you discover something really cool? That’s what happened to me when I tried on a pair of Luna Sandals. It was inevitable that my feet would meet these sandals. I am usually barefoot and always game for a new sandal. But the big difference in Luna sandals is that you can run in them. Run? Really? If that were true, that would be quite a game changer, wouldn’t it? Well, the fact is, you’ll believe you can fly in these sandals, just as if they had wings.
Whatever your interest or background, there is something for you in Christopher McDougall’s book, “Born to Run.” Forget about whether you even like sports, this is one of those books that encompasses more than its subject and is simply a pleasure to read. This 2009 New York Times Best Seller has reached many readers. But there’s still a legion of couch potatoes who would benefit from reading this book. I know I did!
McDougall is a former war correspondent and brings a no-nonsense approach to his work. This is one sharp and vigorous guy. So, when he turned 40 and his body began to ache and stumble, he set out, like a guy, to fix the problem. He wanted to run. But his doctor told him that his large frame was not suitable for running. Instinctively, McDougall knew the doctor was wrong. As if by chance, McDougall discovered the story of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. This is a tireless group of runners, of all ages, who run 150-plus miles at a time, cheerfully in bright colored robes and sandals. If there could be a more whimsical scene, McDougall had probably not come across it before.
To find the free-spirited Tarahumara would require entering an area just as fearsome as any war zone. The Copper Canyons have everything going against you: wild animals, intense heat, narrow gorges, rocky mountainous terrain, and a crazy maze-like environment sure to swallow you up. If a snake or a coyote doesn’t get you, then maybe a drug warlord will. But what if McDougall could find himself the ideal guide? Sure that was easy enough. He just had to find Caballo Blanco.
Caballo Blanco is painted to be somewhere between legend and ghost. He could be a fright to the unaccustomed and was so elusive as to cast doubt on his very existence. McDougall plays with the mystery and serves up a slice of detective story narrative as he relentlessly tracks down his only hope of true contact with the Tarahumara. Caballo Blanco featues prominently in this book. McDougall spends a great deal of effort in unveiling this mystery. But, even after countless attempts, Caballo remains an enigma. This makes sense as you continue to read. Caballo had been out in the Copper Canyons for far too long to ever be fully understood, labeled, and set on a shelf. What McDougall does find out, however, is exactly what he needs to know. McDougall does justice to the man in this book. Caballo Blanco passed away last year.
With great care and enthusiasm, McDougall metes out facts to make his case which involves a leap of faith back to nature. With the sensibility of a novelist, McDougall dove tails from one scene and character to another. He switches back in time and focuses on one subplot and makes his way back to advance the main plot. What he seeks is nothing less than the truth and that runs the gamut from running shoes to all of humanity. He starts out with the idea that he, along with the rest of us, have settled for less. Once he has made contact with the mystical Tarahumara, he is convinced that their joie de vivre is the key to getting his own joy of life back on track.
It’s a question of finding patterns and confirming facts. As he gets to know more ultrarunners, including legends like Scott Jurek, one thing is clear. The best runners are the happiest runners. They run because they love to run. And what is it about running? It seems to be something so basic, primal. More investigating, and McDougall finds compelling information to back up the case that we humans evolved from hunters running in packs. And when did our naked feet lose their capacity to run? Again, the facts bare out a case for bare feet. We are at our best when we run and when we are not impeded by added padding and support. It appears to be a fairly simple truth. But sometimes the easiest truth is the hardest to expose. McDougall knows that.
Simple myths can be hard to overcome. Like the myth that you reach a point when you’re too old to run. The fact is that the human body regains its peak running performance over time. By age 64, you will be back to your peak of age 19. And, thanks to Nike, we can still be swayed by our fear of injury. Nike is always ready to provide pseudo-scientific remedies of added padding and support. But there is absolutely no need to be swayed by all the hype. A simple shoe is more than adequate. The pros train barefoot and some even run barefoot. The essential takeaway from this book is that we never needed running shoes before Nike “invented” them. All that padding and support keeps your feet from landing properly and, ironically, leads to the very injuries you are trying to avoid. Here is a quote in the book by Olympic coach Arthur Lydiard:
“Those sideways flexings of the ankles begin only when people lace themselves into these running shoes because the construction of many of the shoes immediately alters the natural movement of the feet. We ran in canvas shoes. We didn’t get plantar fascia, we didn’t pronate or supinate, we might have lost a bit of skin from the rough canvas when we were running marathons, but, generally speaking, we didn’t have foot problems. Paying several hundred dollars for the latest in high-tech running shoes is no guarantee you’ll avoid any of these injuries and can even guarantee that you will suffer from them in one form or another.”
Perhaps Caballo Blanco will just have to remain an enigma. But McDougall learned what he needed to know. Despite the fact that Caballo’s choice of actually living in the Copper Canyons was far more poetic than practical, McDougall can understand why that would have been enough for Caballo. Along the way, McDougall learned to trust himself and develop a light running technique. In the process of writing his book, he got his life back. He can run. He can run as much as he wants and not have to answer to anyone. That seems to have been all that Caballo Blanco ever wanted.
You can visit Christopher McDougall at his website here.
FAT, SICK, AND NEARLY DEAD, a documentary about what happens when a rich guy discovers he’s gone to the buffet way too often and put his life at risk, came out in 2010 and I totally missed it. In 2010, I also missed PASSION PLAY, starring Bill Murray and Megan Fox so, of the two, I’d be more inclined to catch up on that one. But there was something about this documentary that seemed like an offbeat take on Morgan Spurlock’s SUPER SIZE ME that I couldn’t resist. This is a person who has the means to indulge in a quest. The question is whether or not you should come along. Continue reading →
Comics Grinder is a place for creativity and wellness. Comics Grinder is all about Creative Living! In that spirit, we present to you someone who is a great supporter of that mindset, Kathy J. and SHIFT: WHERE HEAD MEETS HEART.
Kathy J. is a good friend. She has provided some essential craniosacral therapy for me and has proven to be an inspiration, a fabulous morale booster. I am thrilled to have her as a backer of my recent Kickstarter campagin for my collection of comics, A NIGHT AT THE SORRENTO AND OTHER STORIES. That Kickstarter campaign was a success! Kathy chose as her reward, a video interview, which I am happy to share with you at Comics Grinder.
Yes, Comics Grinder is obviously more than one thing as it covers a wide range of topics, none the least being wellness and creativity. You can’t get very far without your health!
If you’re in the Seattle area, please do stop by and visit Kathy. She has got you covered regarding your health and beyond. Stop by and check out her site here.
The following provides news on Kathy’s latest workshop plus more:
J.T. Yost is a very talented cartoonist who recently put together a unique comics anthology about food and eating, “Digestate.” He is a down-to-earth guy concerned with just making good work. Yost is a fine example of the patient artist exploring the process of making art. In his series, “Losers Weepers,” he takes found bits of notes and letters and combines them into a comics narrative. In our interview, J.T. confides that it’s just not as easy now to find written bits of things. However, his series continues at least for one more chapter. You can read a review here. “Digestate” grew out of a similar natural process. J.T. says that the idea for the anthology began with the fact that he’s vegan and he began to realize there are a lot of other vegan cartoonists, “a subculture within a subculture.”
Something Big by Victor Kerlow
Blammo #7 by Noah Van Sciver
J.T. runs his own micro-publishing house and distributor, Birdcage Bottom Books, which you can visit here. You can find, “Digestate,” other works by J.T. Yost, as well as other exciting comics talent like Victor Kerlow, a regular contributor to “The New Yorker,” and Noah Van Sciver, the author of the highly acclaimed debut graphic novel, “The Hypo.” And you can check out J.T. Yost’s professional site here.
In this interview, we talk about the comics anthology, “Digestate,” which you can read a review of here. And we talk a bit about Alex Robinson’s contribution dealing with his eating disorder. You can read the recent Comics Grinder interview with Alex here. J.T. talks about the Kickstarter campaign for “Digestate,” his feelings about living in NYC, and comics in general.
CI VEDIAMO by Hazel Newlevant
Towards the end of our interview, we talked about the future of comics which inevitably led to the great print verus digital debate. J.T. spoke to his love of hand-made mini-comics that make their unique case for print. He then mentioned a favorite cartoonist, Hazel Newlevant, who can be found at Birdcage Bottom Books. Her work incorporates overlays and die cuts which can only be achieved through print. Her mini-comic, "Ci Vediamo," is printed on vellum which allows for images to be created when one page is layed over another. Viva print!
You can listen to the Comics Grinder podcast interview with J.T. Yost here:
Eating disorders are not often the subject of comics. This comic by Khale McHurst is quite compelling. “I Do Not Have An Eating Disorder,” which you can read here, follows the author on her journey of dealing with her eating disorder. There is the denial. And there are the facts. Ms. McHurst does a beautiful job of expressing how difficult it is to reconcile the two. But she knows that the truth shall set you free and she depicts how she goes about finding the truth.
Khale McHurst knows that she has an eating disorder and she also knows that she can convince herself otherwise. It is a very tricky place to be. You can be educated about nutrition in theory but then you need to follow through in practice. What McHurst really gets is that each eating disorder is unique and there is common ground as well. Words can sometimes feel like they are inadequate somehow to fully describe what’s going on and yet words must be found and spoken. With comics, there’s also pictures. This is one of those instances where comics prove their mettle. With McHurst’s comics, you gain a unique insight and find a successful way to relate and it happens bit by bit. Each installment is a new revelation, a message in a bottle, an attempt to connect with others and with oneself. Like an ongoing conversation that you have with someone close, that is picked up and expanded upon with each new visit, so her comics take this or that thought and build upon them as you read page after page.
What is an eating disorder? Essentially, it is someone who is engaging in disordered thinking when it comes to food. Instead of thinking of food in terms of nutrition and appetite, a person is thinking of food in terms of how that person thinks of themselves and how they look. That would be it, in general, with a multitude of personal distinctions. It’s a very personal thing but also a thing that wants to be shared. No one wants to hold on to such a secret if they can find a way out. For Ms. McHurst, part of that way out is her comics.
Ms. McHurst’s drawing style is very inviting. With her gentle and caring approach, it is easy to relate to. This is a subject that really needs different vantage points. She does very well with her depiction of the metaphorical eating disorder voice, or voices, that lure one down the wrong path. It may prove helpful for someone with an eating disorder who was looking for another way to consider that concept. And, then, just the journal style approach itself is very engaging and informative. As we keep reading, we find other perspectives such as McHurts’s lover, who is not afraid to tell the truth; and McHurst’s nutritionist, who is always helpful and supportive. What McHurst makes clear is that we all need to speak our mind, when we’re ready, and we all value and cherish support. This is a very worthwhile comic that will educate and inspire.
The Comics Grinder meeting this morning at a convenient Starbucks for everyone resulted in our spotting Beautiful Existence in her challenge to only eat at Starbucks for an entire year. We had just posted about her (see post below) and so it was a pleasant surprise to see her in action. Once that excitement died down, we got to business. A consensus grew that there should be more Comics Grinder interviews when possible with much praise given to our interviews with such talents at Mark Z. Danielewski, George Clayton Johnson, and Alex Robinson. There was also an agreement that there is a growing fan base for Comics Grinder reviews. The meeting culminated in a doodle of a strange cartoon cat with the words, “Six Pack Abs” scrawled across its cartoon belly.
Comics Grinder wishes to assure you, all of you, that you don’t need to get caught up in the Six Pack Abs myth. Men’s Fitness is currently featuring a piece about one of its editors going on a regimen that produced the fabled abs. Truth be told, outside of the military, competitive sports or any job that requires intense physical work, there’s no need to worry about this. The guy who documents his abs journey looks just fine in the “before” picture. He’s healthy and there’s nothing wrong with him. If he wants to do some extreme working out, that’s his business but it shouldn’t be touted as his achieving something everyone else should seek out too.
Keep in mind, there’s a book about this regimen being sold. This article is a big sales pitch. Since when has the corporate media been your trusted friend? No, the idea is to keep the myth alive that you need this or that and then you need to buy this or that. You need, you really need, six pack abs and here’s what you need to buy so you’ll think you’re on your way to achieve this unrealistic goal.
Anywhow, if six pack abs were something sensible to aspire to, they would be more common. Sure, the ads say they are easy to achieve–but that’s the pitch. No reason to become a couch potato either but just follow common sense. Given the choice between attempting to get six pack abs and only eating at Starbucks for one year, Comics Grinder concludes that both are too extreme. But, if we had to choose, maybe Starbucks but only for one week.
Alex Robinson, a very well respected cartoonist, known for his graphic novel, “Box Office Poison,” published by Top Shelf Productions, recently contributed a moving four-page comic to the comics anthology, “Digestate,” edited by J.T. Yost, and published by Birdcage Bottom Books. The theme in that book is food and eating. Mr. Robinson’s piece is about his eating disorder. He describes it and explains how he deals with it. He uses the comics medium to great effect to discuss a complex issue. It’s not often enough that we, as a society, discuss eating disorders but we’re making progress. Add Mr. Robinson’s, “That Peanut Butter Kid!” to a healthy opening up on this subject.
I had the honor to interview Alex Robinson regarding his comic about his eating disorder through e-mail. Here is that interview:
Henry Chamberlain: You recently contributed a piece entitled, “That Peanut Butter Kid!” to the comics anthology, “Digestate,” edited by J.T. Yost, where you are publicly candid about having an eating disorder for the first time. What motivated you to participate and create such a personal work?
Alex Robinson: It’s funny because I told J.T. I was going to contribute but it was only afterwards that I reread the e-mail more closely and realized it was about food. When I look back I remember that a friend of mine did a Facebook post where he talked about being the victim of sexual abuse and the honesty of that really hit me, since I never knew that about him. I think that bravery inspired me to talk about some of my own issues.
It’s also interesting to me because it’s only recently that I started framing my own problem as an “eating disorder” since I think that makes most people think of anorexia or bulimia.
HC: Eating disorders are mentioned more in the media but the actual condition remains something of a mystery for the general public, and even for those dealing with it firsthand.
Do you think the media can play a helpful role in gaining a better understanding of eating disorders?
AR: I would think so. I remember being a kid and there was a made-for-TV movie about a girl with anorexia—which at the time was just coming into the public eye, I think—and the commercial showed a father angrily begging his daughter to just eat something. For a moment I was struck because this was as close as I’d ever seen to someone on TV talking about a problem that, as far as I knew, I was the only one who had. When I watched the movie I was very disappointed that it was about girls worried they were too fat, which didn’t seem at all connected to my own problem, so I still felt alone.
It’s tough because eating disorders are one of those problems where unless you or someone you love is suffering through them it seems dumb—“Just eat something.” George Carlin had that joke about only in America could people develop a mental disorder where they refuse to eat. It’s tough to make sympathetic if you haven’t experienced it first hand. For all of our claims otherwise, we’re generally not sympathetic to mental illness in America.
HC: Of course, eating disorders manifest in different ways. From your viewpoint, what do you see as healthy steps towards recovery?
AR: I can only speak for myself and for me it was years of therapy. I was lucky to find a woman who was and continues to be patient and prod me along.
I think just doing the story was also surprisingly therapeutic. It’s kind of a cliché but exposing your shameful secrets really does lift a burden off of you, if only because it’s one thing you don’t have to worry about anymore. I think it was within a month or two of completing the story that I stopped eating peanut butter altogether. I haven’t had peanut butter in six months, which is amazing considering that I probably never went more than a few days without it before.
HC: In “That Peanut Butter Kid!” you say that you’re concerned that you may come across as glib but the piece is truly nicely balanced. I’m sure you would agree that humor can be very good medicine.
AR: Since it was the first time I’d talked about it publicly I couldn’t trust my own judgment as to the tone. I’m inclined to be funny, especially when I’m nervous, and I also didn’t want to bring people down. I was trying to just explain what life was like for me and not be self-pitying about it.
HC: Would you consider turning “That Peanut Butter Kid!” into a graphic novel? It certainly has all the elements that would make for one.
AR: When I completed the story I found it very therapeutic and the thought crossed my mind to just keep going—a sort of stream-of-conscious rumination about different aspects of my life—but I was also very nervous about the story going public. I figured an alternative comics anthology was enough “under the radar” that it was like going public without going too public.
I also don’t think my life is all that interesting, otherwise.
HC: Any final thoughts or new projects that you are working on?
AR: I’m about halfway done with a new graphic novel that I still don’t have a title for. It’s about a group of guys in their late 30s who are sort of dealing with the issues of midlife—marriage, kids, career, etc. Fun stuff! I’ve been talking with Top Shelf about digitally serializing it so hopefully that might begin later this year.
When Ben Affleck grew out his hair, the entertainment press dubbed the hair covering his forehead, “man bangs.” They couldn’t just be bangs. And the same thing happens when a male celeb is seen with a bag. Instantly, that becomes a “man bag.” If it’s sandals on men, they become “man sandals” which doesn’t even make any sense. And it goes on. Just add “man” to about anything that has a guy treating himself to the finer things in life. “Manzilian,” anyone? Speaking for us guys, I believe we’re more than mere man skin.
Men will do whatever they want anyway. If we want to take care of ourselves, we will, because guys have evolved. That’s what leads us to an exciting new line of men’s skincare and grooming products, EvolutionMan.
The founder of EvolutionMan is Marco Berardini, a celebrity groomer whose clients include Patrick Dempsey, LeBron James and supermodel, Marissa Miller. His line of products are used by other celebrity groomers like Sonia Lee who gets stars like Neil Patrick Harris and Anthony Hopkins red carpet ready.
Visit the EvolutionMan Web site and you’ll find an assortment of skincare products to make you look and feel great. “Wash & Buff,” for instance, won the award for best face scrub in Men’s Health Magazine. And EvolutionMan products are packed with natural ingredients that make your skin more attractive and healthy.
Here at Comics Grinder, we’re all about style and taste. We just received a goodie bag from EvolutionMan and we thought we’d share with you what we found.
PURE BLING – We’ll start with the latest addition to the EvolutionMan line: nail polish for men. Again, no need to call this “man nail polish,” unless you really have to. With “Pure Bling,” a guy can test drive nail polish since this is simply a clear varnish, boosted with vitamins. All it does is provide a guy with more healthy and attractive nails. What could be better? I’ve found it to be just fine. My nails look and feel great and I have gotten compliments on them. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Maybe next time I’ll try a color.
CLEANSE & SHAVE, WASH & BUFF AND MOISTURE PROTECT — Yes, this could be your daily regimen. You “Cleanse & Shave” to get that close and refreshing shave. Follow this up with “Wash & Buff” to get rid of dead skin cells and reinvigorate your skin. And then complete the process with “Moisture Protect” to add moisture and protect yourself from UV rays with its SPF 20.
REVITALIZE EYE GEL – You could take things one step further and give your eyes a bit of a lift with “Revitalize Eye Gel.” Just a little dab under both eyes to give you a more refreshed look and up things in a more balanced and healthy place.
LIP BALM – And any guy should have some lip balm handy. Too many guys go around sporting dry and cracked skin in such a prominent place on the face.
That said, all guys should do themselves a favor and check out what EvolutionMan has to offer them. I am inspired by EvolutionMan and you guys will be too.