The Breakfast Table

Debunking and Resolutions


One of my grad students, Anuj Vaidya, from the documentary issues seminar I taught last semester, has a wonderfully elaborate theory about debunking, the backbone of which is that the debunking of people prominent in the public spotlight is akin to planned obsolescence. That is, people are torn down and others built up in regular cycles to provide material for the entertainment industry. Each individual cycle may sound like a morality play, Anuj argues, but those morals are often only a proud costume worn by the debunker seeking his or her own fame.

I feel less cynical about DNA particularly because in Illinois we’ve had a number of innocent people, who had been wrongly sentenced to death, freed from death row due to DNA testing. I’m a big fan of DNA testing.

On a lighter note, are you making any New Year’s resolutions this year or rising above that sort of thing? I do have a New Year’s resolution. It has to do with getting to the gym often, but after that it gets vague. The deal I make with myself normally and which is part of my plan for next year is that I just have to go to the gym–I don’t have to do much once I get there. While other people are jogging three miles on the treadmill, I’m fast walking a mile and a half; while other are lifting humongous weights, I’m doing untaxing repetitions with five and ten pound hand weights. And I spend a long, luxurious time on the abs and stretch portion of my workout. Especially the stretches.

Not everyone shares my exercise philosophy, let’s call it “moderate” (although “indulgent” also works). This is why I’m happy to discover a kindred spirit in whomever laid out the Health & Fitness pages of today’s New York Times. This person had a good time, I’m guessing. In the profile, page D6 top of the fold, of Dr. Dean Ornish who preaches a rigorous regimen for a healthy heart, we learn, “Dr. Ornish’s ‘Caesar salad’ was simply a handful of leaves of Romaine. His main course was a plate of steamed vegetables surrounding a scoop of plain white rice. No butter. No oil. No salt. Not even any spices. He drank water. No coffee. No dessert.”

Just as I’m thinking “No way,” I travel down the page to Jane Brody’s article, “Choosing Right to Make Healthiest and Tastiest One and the Same,” and I feel happier. Jane, the moderate, advocates fruits, vegetables, fish fillets and chicken breasts with seasoning, and the occasional dessert, and she labels as fanatics people who feel cake, candy, and ice cream are poison. Across the page, Andrea Higbie, even more moderate, vows to stop exercising every day and instead to exercise less often and enjoy it more.

Which brings me to a long-held question: Do you know what Jane Brody looks like? I picture her very trim with excellent bones. The trimness is conjecture, but the bones I’m sure about since she has written about getting them tested and acing the test due to her habit of drinking a quart of skim milk a day. I would be glad to learn, though, that while fit and all, her body does show signs of other equally admirable habits, like eating M&Ms.

Yours in indulgence, Maud