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Fed Up takes a look at what the food industry CEOs don't want you to see.
One in three Americans will be diabetic by the year 2050, according to the Center for Disease Control. That’s a scary fact, and just one of the many harsh realities brought to light in Fed Up, the grim documentary produced and directed by Stephanie Soechtig, hitting theaters today featuring narration by Katie Couric, and shedding light on the corruption in the food industry that has led to the skyrocketing obesity rate in America.
Fed Up follows the lives of several obese children across America, who, despite eating three square meals a day and (in many cases), exercising regularly, tip the scales on the side of obesity and already have issues with diabetes and heart problems.The “worst health epidemic in our history” actually began in 1977 with the introduction of the first nutritional guidelines with recommended daily values for salt, protein, fat, etc. The guidelines used to have recommended daily values for sugar intake, but with pressure from large food companies, those guidelines soon disappeared from nutrition labels. From there, we began a downward spiral.
The answer, according to Couric, lies within the food industry, where marketing and capital interest has taken over, pushing addictive sweets and processed snacks into the grocery carts of families all over America. Why? Because commercial products sell and make more money for our government than the sale of raw, natural foods.
“I hope those who watch this film will see how we are being brainwashed at an early age by the food industry and the power of that lobby to prevent our legislators from making any meaningful changes,” said executive producer Katie Couric in an interview. “Our kids are the lab rats in this diet/experiment gone horribly wrong. And I hope people will get mad and demand change.”
See more in-depth coverage of Fed-Up from The Daily Meal here
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi
How Does the Film Industry Actually Make Money?
I’ve been trying to come to terms with two seemingly irreconcilable facts. First, “Men in Black 3” has made more than $550 million worldwide. Second, while a representative from the parent company of Columbia Pictures told me that the movie is now “in the win column,” it seemed until recently as if Columbia might actually lose money on it. How could that be? It’s not so complicated. Its production costs were close to $250 million worldwide marketing most likely added at least that much and a big chunk of the ticket sales go to theaters and distributors.
There must be an easier way to make money. For the cost of “Men in Black 3,” for instance, the studio could have become one of the world’s largest venture-capital funds, thereby owning a piece of hundreds of promising start-ups. Instead, it purchased the rights to a piece of intellectual property, paid a fortune for a big star and has no definitive idea why its movie didn’t make a huge profit. Why is anyone in the film industry?
All business requires guessing, but future predilections of moviegoers are especially opaque. If a large company wants to introduce a new car, it can at least base its predictions, in part, on factors like where oil prices are headed. Movie executives, on the other hand, come up with a host of new theories each summer about what audiences want — 3-D tent poles, 2-D tent poles, vampires, comics, board games and so on — then, sometimes over the course of a weekend, ricochet toward a new theory. Will the tepid economics of “Men in Black 3” spell trouble for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” this holiday weekend’s big release? Who knows.
Unlike other decades-old industries, Hollywood not only has a hard time forecasting, but it also has difficulty analyzing past results. Why was “The Hunger Games” such a big hit? Because it had a built-in audience? Because it starred Jennifer Lawrence? Because it was released around spring break? The business is filled with analysts who claim to have predictive powers, but the fact that a vast majority of films fail to break even proves that nobody knows anything for sure.
Making matters more complicated is that the industry is filled with professionals — starting with the lowliest junior agents — adept at explaining why they were responsible for a project’s success. This self-mythologizing has real economic impact. Most major brands spend lots of money ensuring that people have a positive association with them, but most people don’t even notice which studio made which movie. (Disney and its Pixar subsidiary are notable exceptions, “John Carter” notwithstanding.) In fact, movie studios are much better at helping brands they don’t own — certain stars, directors, producers and source material, like “The Hunger Games” — capture a huge chunk of the money.
The reason a majority of movie studios still turn a profit most years is that they have found ways to, as they say, monetize the ancillary stream by selling pay-TV and overseas rights, creating tie-in video games, amusement-park rides and so forth. And the big hits, rare as they may be, pay for a lot of flops. Still, the profits are not huge. Matthew Lieberman, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, expects growth over the coming years to be somewhere around 0.6 percent.
Hollywood is, somewhat surprisingly, a remarkably stable industry. Over the past 80 years or so, its basic model — in which financiers in New York lend money to creative people in Los Angeles — has been largely unaltered. Partly as a result, today’s biggest studios — Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Universal, 20th Century Fox — have been on top since at least the 1950s. This stability is initially puzzling because movie studios don’t have many assets. Worse, every one of their projects is a short-term collaboration between a bunch of independent agents.
A modern studio’s main asset, however, is its ability to put together these disparate elements. They know how to get Tom Cruise to do a film, how to get it into theaters around the country and whom to call to set up a junket in Doha. They also know the industry’s language of power, with its ever-changing rules about which stars, restaurants and scripts are cool and which are not. It’s the stuff of easy parody, but it’s worth billions.
Another reason these studios remain at the top is that for most entrepreneurs, taking them on isn’t worth the risks. (Even big hits often take years — sometimes a full decade — to break even.) “If I’m sitting on $2 billion, will I invest in a Hollywood studio?” asks Anita Elberse, a Harvard Business School professor who studies the entertainment industry. “Many other industries have a higher return on investment.” Billionaires like Anil Ambani, who is a partner in Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios, presumably invest because the glamour helps them with their other businesses.
People have predicted the demise of the film industry since the dawn of TV and, later, the appearance of VHS, cable and digital piracy. But Fabrizio Perretti, a management professor at the Università Bocconi in Italy, says that Hollywood is now actually destroying itself. Because it’s harder to get financing and audiences, companies are competing to make bigger, costlier films while eliminating risk, which is why ever-more movies are based on existing intellectual property. Eighteen of the all-time 100 top-grossing movies (adjusted for inflation) were sequels, and more than half of those were released since 2000.
Predictability might win the weekend, Perretti says, but it could eventually make people weary. Meanwhile, Lieberman, from PricewaterhouseCoopers, sees significant growth in another entertainment business that’s constantly experimenting with different models, distribution methods and ways of telling stories. Maybe TV is finally going to kill movies after all.
Fed Up: the Anti-Food Industry Documentary Released Today - Recipes
Origins and history of Breatharianism
Discussion of breatharianism would be incomplete without some sort of historical overview. So let us consult the books of
the ancients depicted here to our left and embalmed by bees and slip back into the pages of time.
Beginning with fasting as a phenomenon that is common to most spiritual traditions, I will follow with some words about starvation and caveats about healthy fasting, leading into breatharianism as opposed to starvation and then present what seems to be known and proven and what is mere conjecture about breatharianism. I will then come back around to a far less structured and far ranging discussion of my own experiences, in relation to the extant literature – taking care to separate that which is truly known from that which is more speculative and even including necessarily something about who I am and what motivates me – because you must, in these ill-defined borderline areas of human endeavor, take the measure of the teller as much as what is being said.
Fasting is an integral part of nearly all wisdom teachings and figures prominently at indigenous initiations and vision quests. It is a well-established discipline among anchorites and hermits within the many world religions and is central to nearly all monastic traditions. Even modern day Catholics will recall eating fish on Fridays in an admittedly minor symbolic mortification of the flesh by abstaining from ‘proper meat’ for one day in every week. Lent too, is a widely observed Christian tradition. Muslims fast as well - from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan. All across India the many Hindu sects espouse fasting and find substantive spiritual value and physical rewards in the practice, according great respect to those who do it consciously and with discipline. Several Chinese monasteries practice lengthy fasting that goes well into the range of breatharian practice in conjunction with rigorous programs of martial arts training. Fasting is thus clearly a promoted practice in modern-day religions, even for the common man and is an encoded recognition of the value in exercising temperance and even periodic abstinence.
Extensive and disciplined fasting is a widely accepted practice among those seeking to periodically cleanse the body shed redundant weight, sharpen the senses and attain to more subtle levels of consciousness. Done to excess, it can also lead to starvation through a well-documented concatenation of events that become continually more pathological as the body goes to greater lengths to husband its dwindling resources. After enough time has elapsed, truly pathological weight loss will typically take place. Strange metabolic pathways then predictably take over and dominate the physiology, which have their characteristic odors and tastes. Listlessness sets in. The starving person will eventually have neither redundant flesh left to metabolize nor energy resources to conserve for vital functions. Organs will eventually begin to atrophy and successively shut down, until nothing functions properly and death inevitable follows – unless, one intends to wean one’s self of food and learn to take one’s sustenance from the primary – the original source. Intent is key and it is demonstrably possible.
Fasting has an obvious endpoint unless one intentionally makes the graceful quantum change to something less easily understood, but practiced by certain people throughout history. A fasting person can intend to take their energy and mineral needs from light, air, Prana, divine grace…elsewhere. Words come up short and the mechanism of action is admittedly speculative, but it has been done by quite a few people before us and is well documented.
There appears to be another source of energy into which we can tap that supplants eating. Sun, air and water are the energetic and molecular building blocks of all life. They are clearly available and sufficient for the needs of other organisms. In some cases, it is demonstrably so for human beings as well. If one person can access this primal source without eating, why should it not also apply to others?
Most of us know deep within our gut that there is something far more primal than mere workaday life as Homo economicus that makes it all worthwhile. We know in our hearts that there is a benevolent something at play as an organizing principle behind all existence God, of you like. Accessing that something else is what allows this transition from mere fasting and eventual starvation to take place. Abstention from eating can become, at a certain point, something more than fasting – and indeed a quantum leap in capacities – a piece of one’s spiritual journey in the generally allotted three-score and ten years we typically spend upon this blessed green earth under the shining benevolent sun. Like entering rarified calm states of meditation, when we manage to drop into something as different mentally as a shifting of gears, we can make a quantum change in our practice, as non-eating evolves into something else. Some call this breatharianism. Others prefer to call what they do living from light or pranarianism (Prana is the Hindu expression for the life force.) Some even use the clinical sounding inedia (Greek for not eating).
What we call this phenomenon is not so important, but differentiating it from pathological psychologies such as anorexia, bulimia or even simple starvation is. This isn’t merely a matter of obfuscation or political correctness – renaming something problematic with a less negative sounding expression. Naming something makes it yours and brings the discussion back into your own more sympathetic court – displacing adversarial and dogmatic argumentation with polite and thoughtful discourse. Words help us understand the world. In the process of naming new phenomena or subsets of the familiar, we end up teasing apart shades of meaning as we look for ways to more accurately describe that which no longer fits comfortably into one single concept or expression. Contemplating breatharianism, we need to have some confidence that we’re engaging with clear-eyed reason in something potentially ennobling and taking a step forward in our development rather than just coquetting with plain old fasting – becoming in due course, starvation. People before us have confronted these issues and developed ways of thinking and speaking about them, which are based in experience and intelligent analyses.
Fasting isn’t stepping off a cliff with irrevocable repercussions. You can simply take a step back, if that proves necessary, and simply begin eating again. There does however, come a point of no return in the physical degradation attending the starvation process and one needs to be aware of this. One must use one’s God-given reason and be aware of what is taking place within his or her body. Still, the experience of those who’ve gone before helps allay one’s trepidations of how the process ought to be taking place.
Until recently, western literature on inediates was limited to the occasional Catholic saints who’ve appeared sporadically over nearly two millennia. They tended to live in isolation and often bore stigmata. It has always been seen as a sign of Divine grace – a charisma and something special, to which one does not aspire. This gift only appears here and there, among those whom God has chosen.
There have been other inediates from the more esoteric western traditions as well. They are the figures of legend, about whom little is known and even less is verifiable – typically said to have been long-lived, often with peculiar behavioral traits, who kept to themselves, who wouldn’t accept the shaking of hands, hugs, sex or the touch of others rarely sleeping or accepting visitors – and especially avoiding those from the office of the Holy Inquisition. Above all else, they were brilliant and quantum levels beyond the norm. Nicola Tesla comes to mind, as do Paracelsus, Nostradamus, Franz Bardon, John Dee, Hermes Trismegistus, Fulcanelli, St Germaine – the many masters of western hermetic teachings who inhabit a mist-shrouded and highly speculative alternative history.
There are yet far more records of inediates from among the saddhus of India as well as the mendicant monks, hermits, and purported immortals said to be living in the high Himalayas. Here it seems that extremes of longevity attract little attention – and long-term fasting, extensive entombment, and impossible-seeming physical feats don’t surprise people. Milarepa, the 11 th century Tibetan saint and sorcerer is recorded as having subsisted on nothing more than tea made from stinging nettles in the decade he lived in a cave – leading his skin to turn green with a waxy covering and hence the greenish color he is often depicted as having, in paintings and sculpture. I do wonder sometimes, about the accuracy of details in an oral transmission chain that is nearly a millennium old. Then again, many things from the ancient prophecies and writings of different cultures sound peculiar and a bit far-fetched, but do turn out to be real.
Those very Tibetans have, for instance, a tradition of saints and realized Bodhisattvas having within their anatomy ‘heart crystals’. When these extraordinary individuals die, they are cremated and their ashes carefully sifted in search of these crystals, which are among the signs that are taken to demonstrate that a monk was indeed of such high spiritual attainment. Collections of these crystals exist and occasionally go on tour. I have seen them all duly documented and labeled as to whom they were found in – where and when. They are modest little stones in pinks and yellow – often even colorless, but not flashy or large as one might suspect if a fabricated public show were the point. Why would such a phenomenon occur only there and why are there no mentions of crystallized masses being found occasionally within the cardiac tissues of the deceased in the extensive annals of western medicine? I have no answer, much as I have no mechanism of action to offer for living without eating – just that it seems to be so. There are many things between heaven and earth for which we cannot account – mysterious and enticing. Thank God for the beauty of it all – for the mystery – for those indicators that it isn’t all just death and taxes.
The contemporary breatharian scene
Breatharianism seems to be among the many unusual exotic phenomena of another world, with little more than an oral tradition to lean upon and a history of obscure saints somewhere far away as a lineage. And yet today, there are many more individuals abstaining from eating than ever before. They are not from just the above categories of peculiar and distant saints living up to impossible standards of perfection. They are clearly of this world and have learned to find their nourishment elsewhere than the dinner table. There are thousands of people, much like yourselves, who are breatharians and who carry on otherwise normal-appearing lives.
There are at this juncture, even workshops being taught on a regular basis – there to help any of us common working stiffs, who are hardly saints, who do not aspire to stigmata and who do not have servants or a monastery to fall back upon. Tens of thousands have purportedly gone through this training and some have subsequently stayed with the discipline for years. There are methods of changing over to extracting the necessary energy for sustaining life elsewhere than from food and they do indeed have their adherents and teachers with established track records.
At this point there have even been healthy births among breatharians. At least one such mother speaks openly of having conceived, gestated, given birth and nursed her children without eating. She had medical attention all throughout the process and her vital statistics were completely healthy at all times – substantially better than average, actually. Her children too, are healthy and said to be unattached to food – meaning they nibble at what tastes good, but get bored and soon stop. Eating just isn’t a normal part of their lives – a bother, more than anything else.
I also know a child who doesn’t eat, but for different reasons. He was born with a dysfunction of the intestines, which simply do not absorb food and pass it through nearly unchanged. The child must be fed intravenously or starve. He can eat, but simply derives no value from it. He will nibble on food occasionally and things do taste good to him, but for the most part, he too, seems to find food and eating a bother. I wonder if such children could be forerunners of what shall some day become commonplace – perhaps the norm – as they go from an early death sentence to the travails of intravenous feeding today and some day perhaps, with proper guidance, to deriving their sustenance from the primal source directly.
Living from Light – the experience of being Breatharian
I’ve also read accusations (often quite vitriolic) from the same critics, that the teachers are criminals who should be held accountable for misleading people into dangerous practices – that some practitioners even die as a result of having undergone the 21-day course. These criticisms, however, appear to all be traceable to the same three deaths. No more than that in a population said to number in the tens of thousands.
Any population of tens of thousands of people will contain unbalanced individuals who fail to act responsibly or who simply run into a spell of bad luck. Any population the size of a modest-sized town will have a describable age, sex, health and class distribution with a commensurate rate of births and deaths. We all die. The point must be to ascertain whether this dynamic among breatharians is significantly outside the usual demographic norms. I see no such evidence being presented.
We all know that this practice is an exception to the norm and the point is not what Joe Six-pack thinks about that but is it real? Can we believe these assertions? Are they based upon reasonably acceptable empirical evidence? I am writing here to testify that I too, have found it to be so. I base that assertion in having entered into the most intimate of all experiments – under my own control upon my own physiology and over the course of a time period lengthy enough, that under normal circumstances, I should not have survived.
The teachers of breatharianism appear to be otherwise normal and decorously behaving people, who publish rational sounding accounts of what they do. They do collect fees for their workshops, but not extraordinary amounts. I see nobody getting rich or misleading anybody about what is taking place and thus see no reason to question their motives. These teachers now have a body of knowledge based in the experience of having collectively initiated something like 50,000 people to breatharianism. That is a number I see repeated – admittedly self-reported and without much documentation, but a potentially valuable database.
Teachers of breatharianism are quite open about the low long-term success rate and seem to all be reporting a very high rate of recidivism. That too speaks against them being hucksters promoting a boondoggle. Those staying with the discipline appear to be only 10 – 20%. I find that believable, as the urge to eat is powerful. It is also curiously subtle, rather than overt. In that way only, I would liken the return to eating to the backsliding of those with addictions to tobacco and alcohol. Hunger is itself soon mastered and falls away as a problem. I feel nothing like I once did after a hard day’s labor and wanting to chew off my own arm from the need to eat. Quite the opposite. I feel seductively problem free – deluded into thinking myself a master, which I am decidedly not. Like the former addict who lulls himself into thinking that the taste of a nice Cabernet or cigarette could surely do him no harm, those seductive tastes of wondrous foods have that same potential to act as the wedge that takes us back to eating as much as ever.
Active breatharians who actually live that life may be quite numerous on the basis of all those who have undergone the courses or there may simply be a significant population of those who’ve taken a workshop, learned the lessons, had an otherworldly experience and mostly gone back to life as usual. There may indeed be relatively few who have actually maintained the discipline for years. Once the mutual support network of teachers and planned activities is withdrawn and people return to society, the rate of falling away is clearly large – perhaps overwhelming and inevitably so. But then again, that too can have been a valuable experience in one’s life.
Still, there are self-proclaimed and well confirmed, long-term, breatharians. Some of them are quite visible – maintaining blogs and publishing on their activities. Some are even well-credentialed scientists and physicians. Several of those have submitted to rigorous testing by western medicine.
Purported inediates from among Catholic saints have been rigorously examined by church authorities, as have saddhu inediates by Indian medical authorities. Where this testing has been done, some at least, were found to be demonstrably subsisting on something other than food and water in ways that the examining scientists confirmed, but with caveats, that they could neither explain nor understand how it is possible. These studies also include those conducted by well credentialed practitioners of contemporary western medicine –in Germany, Switzerland, Israel and the Czech Republic. Several well-tested breatharians have been subjected to severely rigorous protocols – in complete isolation, without access to fresh air or sunshine. That regimen itself, should have caused insurmountable stress to most anybody trying to stay reasonable calm, psychologically composed and physiologically balanced - rather like having a gun pointed at you with the demand of demonstrating an erection for the assembled press corps and cameras – now! I don’t understand how these people could possibly have performed under those conditions and yet they were undeniably, expending significant energy without caloric intake obtained in any ordinary way. Several of these advanced masters also required no water.
It seems counterintuitive and implausible, that this divergence from the human norm should be even remotely possible, but that is the way with what we’ve learned to take for granted - when things just plain and simply are what they have always been and always will be – biology. We don’t entertain the possibility of an exception to rules of life that seem self-evident. After all– ya gotta eat, right?
There is, however, always that Black Swan view of things which one occasionally needs to assume, if discovering new truths and that which is more than mere confirmation of the already known, widely presumed or self-evident is of any interest. It only takes the discovery of the first Australian Black Swan to disprove the earlier supposition that all Swans are white. We must at some point open our eyes – and when presented with adequate evidence, begin the process of opening our minds to the possibility that we really are seeing the exception that disproves our cherished rule.
My own experiences with the cessation of Eating
I have been living from Prana for two years. By any ordinary medical model, I should long be dead. Instead, I am doing fine and indulging in much the same activities as ever. I am hardly a saint living on a mountaintop. I am a self-employed, married artist and householder. I deal with the same travails of this world, as do any of you. Take heart and read on.
For me, the point is not to be a mere guinea pig for others defining my life and what is or isn’t up to their experimental standards or desires to test. I am not here to prove much to others and therefore I do not present myself for examination. I am also not rigorous enough with my practice to withstand the withering view and cross-examination of truly adversarial skeptics. But, neither do I believe in hiding my light under a bushel basket. Valuable and potentially paradigm-breaking realizations are to be shared and if my testimony becomes one more modest contribution among many, it will have served to make the unacceptable seem less dangerous or extreme – maybe even palatable and eventually normal.
Before embarking on this journey myself, I scoured the web and libraries for any information I could find. Available literature turned out to be highly varied in its quality, but seductively fascinating and also frustratingly scant and elusive. I will do my best, for your benefit to draw upon all I have read and filter it through my own experience of a two-year abstention from food. It will be a bit longish in my attempt to be comprehensive, but without the redundancy of repeating what others have written about the various available workshops and how teachers of the various 21-day processes and ten-day classes introduce others to the process. You can read that elsewhere on the web.
How did all this happen and why would I do such a crazy thing?
I’ve been fasting periodically and meditating for much of my adult life (I am 64 years old) and found myself extending those fasts to several weeks at a time – occasionally to as much as a month. I am rewarded for this activity by feeling in control of my body, shedding some of the excess fat that winter seems to deposit on my frame and enjoying the ensuing time period of heightened sensitivity. It really is not a pathological level of self-denial by which I am unnaturally suppressing my own human nature. Food still smells good and is clearly one of the blessings of human life on this beautiful green earth, but I am finding that it simply isn’t necessary. I have progressed from an obligate dependency on food and eating to that being a choice from among the many sensual pleasures available to me.
During the winter of 2015, I'd been reading some of the breatharian blogs and literature and felt due for a late-winter cleansing fast, when I was approached by students from Kalamazoo College to speak at a TEDx Talks event. The students had heard me lecture from time to time about art, bee keeping and environmental ethics and they seemed to find me inspirational or at least entertaining. I felt honored, but I wasn't sure I had anything to say that was a single pithy message worthy of TEDx Talks or of my spending the time to prepare an 18-minute presentation choreographed to that expected level of perfection– one which I’d be prepared to present without notes, gaps or running overtime. It seemed that I needed to break the mold and dare put myself on the line with a more chancy presentation.
I stopped eating the day I accepted the invitation to speak at the TEDx Talks event assuming that ten weeks later, I would have had adequate time to prove that I can or cannot withstand the rigors and would have things to say about the experience. It wasn't particularly difficult. Hunger itself is compelling for several days and naturally subsides soon after that initial stage. I sailed through the ten weeks and never went back to my old ways.
Like many of the publically visible people who have lasted as breatharians, I took no workshops, 21 day guidance classes or anything similar. I just stopped eating as a logical outgrowth of the way I'd been living and evolving up to that point and continued with my life much as ever. That does include many practices one might deign to call spiritual disciplines. I have been practicing shamanism for some decades and meditating far longer. I find my connection with the divine in nature and in my vocation as an artist, more than I do in a church or through scripture. These are all ways of living that aren't necessarily the norm, but hardly asocial or truly strange. Most any monk would find me to be a kindred spirit involved more in the mystical aspect of religion, than in running the store. Not that much else has changed in a visible way and people typically do not know this about me. I have never met another breatharian. They seem to all be in Australia, India, Israel, Russia – or some place other than a mid-sized, mid-western town in Middle America.
My TEDx Talk went well and was received to great applause and then censored. All the other talks that day were published to You Tube and mine was not. No refusal. No communication. No answers to my inquiries. I was just cast adrift with the feeling of being somehow inappropriate – an embarrassment. I felt accused of some transgression, which everyone else understands to be unspeakably wrong and grossly misleading, which only I do not understand to be misinformed and dangerous to impressionable young minds. Therefore the inquiry and decisions were presumably conducted by ‘expert’ witnesses in a secret tribunal about me, while I was unable to face my accusers unable to answer allegations that are not admitted to even exist. Strange, that it even bothers me, but it does – at least to the extent that a liberal arts college should be the very place where new and challenging ideas can be openly discussed.
Do I really – truly – not eat?
I eat much as do Ray Maor or Michael Werner and the many others who are clearly legitimate practitioners and not reliant upon food – visible spokesmen and of course, lightning rods for this phenomenon. That is to say I do eat, but only occasionally – mostly when it is inconvenient to abstain. If my mother invites me to Easter dinner, I eat. Typically it will be far less than I would have eaten in the past. But this is important – when I do eat, I also digest and excrete normally. My body has not atrophied from disuse. It functions utterly normally, but is simply not being used for those normal functions most of the time. Whether or not I eat, some level of excretion continues to take place because the body is always making new cells and eliminating old depleted tissue. Mucus flows continuously through us in a physiological house-cleaning process, eliminating dust and dirt being coughed up from the lungs and swallowed. One’s lymphatic system still functions to clean out invasive parasites or bacteria, exhausted lymphocytes and all else no longer useful. All these byproducts of our normal metabolic and physiological pathways are continuously being drained into the intestinal tract for elimination. I drink, sweat and take in moisture through the atmosphere and so I continue to eliminate urine. The process is the same as ever – just greatly reduced in volume.
Friends still invite me over for a meal and I will generally take a small portion and make it last – then go back to my peculiar way of life, without a lot of troubling explanations. My wife has much diminished her own food consumption, but still cooks for herself and I will often have a spoonful of whatever she's having – to be a participant at least in some small way of that fulfilling aspect of family life. Watching a film at night, I sometimes split a grapefruit with her, thinking that it might be healthy to occasionally have at least some minimal peristalsis take place so that organs of elimination do not atrophy. It’s the vestigial scientist in me - or perhaps the Doubting Thomas.
I detect no evidence of pathological atrophy. I engage in strenuous physical activities on many days - like running a chain saw and splitting firewood. I keep bees, do much of my own construction and home repairs, indulge in long walks, kayaking, bicycling, table tennis and cross country skiing. I keep up with others - even set the pace at times. I certainly have no more than five percent of my prior caloric intake to account for my expenditure of energy – usually far less. I am satisfied on most days with about 4 hours of sleep - half of what it used to be. I lost some weight and went from 175 lb (80Kg), to a low of 135 lb (68 Kg) and then went slowly back up to a plateau that hovers around 145 – 150 lb (67 – 69 Kg). I am 6 ft tall (183cm) and weigh the same today as I did at 25. I fit into clothes from my early adulthood and definitely lost muscle mass. My vanity is mildly tested to look so skinny, but I am not hindered in my activities by that diminution of body mass. I’m healthy and active for my years, while my weight is what it was at the age when most are at their peak health.
On inhabiting that middle ground – tasting occasionally, but not requiring food
It’s interesting that I gained nearly half my weight loss back in a year’s time and yet I really do eat negligible amounts that correspond to no more than an occasional taste when compared to my earlier culinary practices. It corresponds to my earlier observations when backpacking and camping, that I seem to require far less food under these regimes of far greater physical demands. The emotional stress is of course absent in the woods and the regime of being in close contact with the earth, fresh air and sunshine would explain much, but energy demands are certainly not less. Similarly, I recall noticing on occasion that a handful of wild strawberries – raw living food - would keep me going for days in the woods and in quantities that would hardly have whetted my appetite back home.
It seems that people who suffer weight problems always complain that they eat hardly anything at all or that they put the weight back on almost immediately after dieting. I suspect that these complaints should be taken at face value. Perhaps we all take the vast majority of our nutrition and energy needs from our environment – but that some do so more efficiently than others. Those with more efficient digestive systems may actually need less food than they’ve been led to believe. Restricting food intake by dieting may for these people be driving them inadvertently to becoming partial breatharians and deriving yet more of their energetic needs from the non-food sources in their immediate environment. That process would then logically make returning to their prior eating habits worse yet – having even less need of redundant caloric intake which will be deposited at yet increasing rates in adipose tissue (fat). Our accepted norms within a stressful social structure may be more at issue than all else. When life itself is actually satisfying, naturally balanced, non-threatening, stimulating and ultimately health-supporting, appetites may be more natural and extracting energy from actual food may be less important than it is to an organism undergoing unmitigated fight or flight responses that come of the insidiously debilitating anxiety that long-term social stress induces.
Here it is instructive to bring up P.A. Straubinger’s documentary film entitled “Light – In the beginning there was Light ” ( http://www.lightdocumentary.com /). Throughout the film one of his major points is to examine the phenomenon of breatharians who all seem to eat on occasion and ask ‘is this indeed legitimate or a fudge factor, to cover up inconsequential behavior among people who are essentially lying to themselves?’ His findings are in keeping with my own observations. It takes a certain number of very dedicated and consequential breatharians who really do eat absolutely nothing and live for years in that way to establish the unequivocal legitimacy of what is taking place, and do so under the most severe scrutiny of rigorous scientific protocols. But the truth of how we actually live is more nuanced. We are not all the same with identical aspirations, nor do we live in isolation. We mostly find highly personal – even idiosyncratic accommodation with food and social eating among friends and family that is a compromise. Food is still a pleasure, as are social interactions that seem to mostly take place around eating and drinking – which very few of us really want to forgo completely. We simply find it worthwhile to be free of eating as a driving physiological necessity.
I enjoy the occasional taste of food – mostly beer and wine or tea and coffee. I do still drink water, but far less. Drinking seems to have become a substitute for eating and more a physical or social pleasure than a need. I’ve never been much of one for fruit juices, but I do occasionally crave a swallow of the loose, clear liquid component of yogurt or Saur Kraut juice. I am unsure if my body needs an occasional shot of probiotics for maintaining optimal gut health or if it is the scientist in me that still cannot fully let go and thinks this would be wise prophylaxis – just in case. I no longer seem to get colds or other common maladies. When I have been exposed or tired and can feel the beginnings of a fever, it generally dissipates within a few hours. The nascent disease simply goes away in a day or two at most – and not the typical two weeks. It helps at this point to get more consequential about my breatharianism and not allow even a bit of sugar into my system. I tend to think this is about having an essentially alkaline physiology, which is not conducive to the survival of most human pathogens, but that is also conjecture on my part.
It is a curious thing, when asked, how to answer what I do in ways that are truthful and pre-empt the typical concerns of family and friends as well as skeptics. Many people hear me say that I don't really eat and close down. They don't want to hear more or they refuse to believe it – a-priori. I must be faking it, grandstanding or just drawing attention to myself by trying to prove something absurd. Some worry about me and what others have poured into my head – though that has mostly abated as the novelty wears off and months later, I seem to be otherwise normal. Others fish around for ways to catch me transgressing against what they think the point is (or ought to be) – setting up a straw-man argument. If they look long enough, they will indeed see me ‘transgress’ against what they think I should be doing and probably proclaim me a fraud. Much the same happened to Jasmuheen, the first well-known teacher of breatharianism living in Australia. Critics ‘discovered’ food in her refrigerator. Are her husband and guests also required to be food free? The point for me is not to prove anything to those severe skeptics and humorless inquisitors looking to trip me up. It is all about pushing myself into new experiences and expanding my consciousness – without causing harm to myself or having to continually prove myself to the idly curious, living with needless invasion of my privacy or suffering levels of anxiety aggravated by intrusive critics.
My turning away from eating has been a lifelong process that includes periodic alterations in my own life-patterns and which has organically led me to a point of no longer being dependent upon food. I was pretty thorough about my fasting for half a year, but have since then relaxed and become more kind with myself and easy on others about my discipline – especially in social situations. Still, it is absolutely negligible what I eat and unlike shipwrecked castaways found adrift at sea or inmates of prison camps, I do not seem to be wasting away or need the food I once consumed in normal quantities.
I have seen no evidence of atrophy beyond modestly reduced muscle mass - which tends to happen with age, even if disguised by layers of fat. My body is not in any obvious way shutting down the periphery, sleeping more or resting to husband its energies for vital functions – as happens to starving people. I have more and not less energy. When I do eat something, it goes through perfectly normal digestive processes. Meat, cheese and sardines still smell bad when defecating or passing gas. A grapefruit does not. People did mention twice early on, that I smelled bad, but it lasted very shortly and there has been no evidence of the ‘acetone’ smell or taste of ketosis, nor have people mentioned it in the last year. I just look thin and generate the normal smells of sweat after physical exertion.
Long-lived people and fasting
Among the most interesting reports on longevity I have encountered, come from the curious observations of Hilton Hotema in which he traced anecdotal records of extremely long-lived people from obituaries published across the world. These came from all continents and span several centuries. He simply took these obituaries at face value and compiled the mounting evidence. There have apparently been hundreds of people recorded as having lived to ages upwards of 120 years and quite a few who survived for several centuries. Among that extremely limited portion of the general population, it is apparently not that unusual to grow third and fourth sets of teeth. These extremely long-lived people also tend to have a history of periodic fasting – often extensive and rigorous – though most of them simply appear to be anomalies, about which little is otherwise known.
Other studies of long-lived populations were conducted by Soviet scientists soon after the Second World War. They were finding significant pockets of extremely long-lived people in rural regions and wondering what might be learned. In the Caucasian Mountains there were quite a few of those, whose age was clearly extreme but also ill documented and difficult to confirm. Many births went unrecorded and young men often doctored what records did exist to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic wars – which by then had been nearly 150 years in the past (1812-1814). The common denominator among those extremely long lived populations seems to be have been a hard life, lived in mountainous terrain with highly mineralized soils and water in a clean environment – but they’d also typically endured long periods of privation. They didn’t necessarily fast per se, but were subjected to suboptimal nutrient regimes that often lasted for years and thus may have inadvertently become something close to breatharians for lack of other alternatives.
Leonard Orr has made a study of the purported immortals living in the Himalayas. This is not something I feel competent to comment or question, but he does make claims for people who have been alive and active for centuries and even millennia and does a good review of the information available. He has even met and spoken with some of them. It is a portion of the literature that is rarely referenced and I find it fascinating enough that I’d be remiss in not mentioning it. Some of these people are relatively well known (in certain limited circles, at least). Most are recluses. Some appear in public on a regular basis or have ashrams where they teach. Thus there are records of their existence that appear to go beyond taking the author at his word. These too, are people with no need of eating. They eat if they want and do not do so otherwise.
I have read claims by breatharians for improved eyesight, increased acuity of hearing and dark hair regenerating in older age. I cannot claim to have had any unusual regenerative experiences myself in the short time I’ve abstained from eating, but then I have always been reasonably healthy. The only minor exception I can call to mind is that several of darkly discolored areas on the backs of my hands (commonly called liver spots or age spots) have diminished in size while one has disappeared completely. Otherwise I have never required medications and I have ceased taking vitamins or supplements. The obvious changes I have noticed in my life are that I require substantially less sleep, I don't get sick when colds and flues are going around – and my weight has stabilized at about the level it was as a young adult.
On breaking the mold and doing the seemingly impossible
There are many practices among various societies that appear to be far-fetched and hard for a modern person living in the scientific and materialistic paradigms to accept. Indian mystics are buried for months and unearthed without damage. Others puncture themselves with skewers in various trancelike or transcendent states of mind without bleeding, creating scars or leaving a trace. Yet others talk to the dead or remember past lives in extreme detail that can indeed be confirmed. Many societies celebrate holidays with fire-walks. The list goes on and does make one question why they can do what we, ostensibly, cannot. I have myself, tried fire-walking and it is afterwards, still as inexplicable as beforehand – but undeniably real.
I have indeed participated in several fire-walks with an experienced Cherokee guide – walking barefoot across a glowing-hot fire pit that could have melted beer bottles – slowly, back and forth over that searing bed of red-hot coals and suffering not so much as a blister. Others present on these occasions did so as well. One person, who did not take it seriously enough, was, however, badly burned. It’s not a joke and must be done with clear-eyed intent – in the right frame of mind. This was a life-altering experience for me, engendering the feeling of " If I can do this, what can I not do?" This empowering activity, is the closest of all that I’ve ever done to my cessation of eating – breaking the mold and proving to myself, that doing the seemingly impossible, is actually possible. I‘ve taken control of my body in a worthy discipline for which I feel well rewarded.
Science looks at contemporary breatharianism
Much like fire-walking, breatharianism is a practice people have often heard of and yet know little about. Despite their incredulity, I find they are often extremely interested in hearing details. I too, still want to know more – see what is really known – enough to depend upon it. So I continue to listen to interviews and keep up with what is being written. I am familiar with the usual cast of characters who present talks, publish and come out publicly as breatharians or eaters of light. I am particularly interested in Henri Montfort, Ray Maor and Michael Werner. There are quite a few more in Russia, Poland, India and elsewhere who seem to write in a more personal, anecdotal fashion. There are those who make no assertions and just state the obvious fairly simply. Others are more speculative and make assertions that I find harder to confirm or reject. Mostly, I don’t doubt the stated experience of anybody, but I come from a science background and crave the more rigorous-sounding evidence.
I've had some exchanges with Ray Maor and Peter Straubinger. They’re both rational and have spoken to all sorts of practitioners themselves. They aren’t mere navel-gazing lotus-eaters nor hair-brained whackos. These are serious thinkers, well anchored in their time and place. The German breatharian, Dr. Michal Werner is much the same. I recall mentions of Dr. Werner’s having undergone a second medical trial in a Prague hospital subsequent to the flawed clinical trial in Switzerland. In the Swiss trial he was subjected to a clinical protocol so rigorous that he was also cut off from fresh air and sunshine, human companionship, love and those aspects of his life from which he probably draws much of the sustenance that allows him to get by without eating. The Prague study purportedly demonstrated him to indeed be 'the real thing', but that study has been suppressed. I continue to look for mentions of this work and see no further references – even though I read Czech and look at those websites as well. It reminds me of my own experience with Ted-x Talks when those unwilling to confront uncomfortable material, found it more expedient to simply censor that, in which they do not believe. This is not honest, legitimate science nor open-minded intellectual inquiry. It simply won’t do.
The level to which one is or is not living on light is clearly difficult to ascertain. I understand the need for being accurate and not leaving much to the imagination, so that people do not end up feeling misled. One likes 100% solutions, which are indeed black and white and quite simply, either true or false. I was once a proper scientist and learned to think that way. It simplifies one's protocols and experimental design as well as the way one looks at the facts and comes to well-reasoned, defensible resolutions of unlikely seeming assertions. Life is, however, a bit more difficult and messy, if one is honest. If a study demonstrates that one who is kept rigorously separated from all food and water has survived that adversarial and unnatural regime far longer than others could, but has admittedly lost some minor but measurable amount of weight – we should, to be honest investigators, look less at winning the argument than parsing the truth of what is actually taking place. Those who have staked out radical or adversarial positions, generally like seeing clear results that entail winners and losers. Others from among us, however, are more interested in understanding what is actually taking place.
I abandoned zoology for the life of an artist and did so for many positive reasons, but it was also in part a result of disillusionment with the frequently simplistic and straight-jacketed thinking among my colleagues. As a would-be zoologist, one is furthermore typically looking at a lifetime of being co-opted to work against one’s own interests, which is often the lot of an academically trained scientist. The forestry graduate comes to mind, employed by logging concerns to direct the destruction and not the protection of the rain forest – or the pharmacologist, who ends up promoting wholesale, promiscuous commerce in drugs which he knows should be very parsimoniously administered under highly competent professional care. They do, after all, have very real and potentially harmful side effects.
As a graduate student, I accepted money from a nuclear power plant to run the avian aspect of their environmental impact monitoring. I did so for two years, until I looked more closely at the experimental design. Upon closer examination and reversing of the statistical protocols, I realized that the long-running baseline study, which I’d inherited and which had been designed by others long before me – the very experimental design – was profoundly flawed from the outset. By reversing the statistical model much as one might-reverse engineer a captured enemy weapons technology, I found that the environmental impact study appeared to have been purposefully designed, so as not to generate statistically significant results. I could not keep taking their money and be party to this bad science. I was being used to justify their ongoing slipshod activities with all the radiation leaks and ongoing security breaches. That's a long story, but getting close to the source, one gains great respect for truly good science and loses respect for the many who assume postures of false and immodest skepsis by doubting everything that is inconvenient or problematic and thus simplifying their lives to a point that they also become trivial.
The generally accepted view of science as a rigorously materialistic dogma with clear-eyed realists holding the line against weak-minded wishful thinking is becoming a bit shop-worn. Those popularly held views about rational materialism are falling left and right as modern physics enters unstable ground that looks more like philosophy than it does engineering. Biology too is proving itself to be as innovative and groundbreaking as any other discipline. Meanwhile industry-funded studies that prove what they were being paid to prove are losing credibility across a vast spectrum of fields as people realize that things are not so self-evident and that smart people can selectively present evidence to construct misleading arguments in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons.
Life and consciousness appear more and more to be universal attributes of all matter and non-localized phenomena. Recall the paradigm-busting work compiled by Peter Tomkins in The Secret Life of Plants first published in 1973. Here he chronicled the research being done with consciousness in plants and even fertile eggs. Polygraphs taken from plants being damaged or even merely threatened with damage recorded unmistakable reactions – essentially indistinguishable from those of human subjects. Plants in the lab were clearly communicating among themselves and appeared capable of reading the minds of researchers preparing the experimental protocols.
Other researchers report that human beings too, appear to have at least limited capacities for taking energy directly from sunshine through their skin.
In an article entitled Beyond mitochondria, what would be the energy source of the cell? (Published in CNS Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 15:32-41, 2015), Herrera et al, report that “… the chemical energy released through the dissociation of water molecules by melanin represents over 90% of cell energy requirements. Our finding about the unexpected intrinsic property of melanin to transform photon energy into chemical energy through the dissociation of the water molecule, a role performed supposedly only by chlorophyll in plants, seriously questions the sacrosanct role of glucose and thereby mitochondria as the primary source of energy and power for the cells.”
That is some strong stuff.
From Xu et al in J Cell Sci. 2014 Jan 15 127(Pt 2): 388-99. 2013 Nov 6.
“… the ability to convert sunlight into biological energy in the form of ATP is thought to be limited to chlorophyll-containing chloroplasts in photosynthetic organisms. Here we show that mammalian mitochondria can also capture light and synthesize ATP when mixed with a light-capturing metabolite of chlorophyll. The same metabolite fed to the worm Caenorhabditis elegans leads to increase in ATP synthesis upon light exposure, along with an increase in life span. We further demonstrate the same potential to convert light into energy exists in mammals, as chlorophyll metabolites accumulate in mice, rats and swine when fed a chlorophyll-rich diet. Results suggest chlorophyll type molecules modulate mitochondrial ATP by catalyzing the reduction of coenzyme Q, a slow step in mitochondrial ATP synthesis. We propose that through consumption of plant chlorophyll pigments, animals, too, are able to derive energy directly from sunlight.”
Well now, that puts your granny into quite another light, telling you to eat your greens and clean the spinach off your plate, before there can be any talk of deserts – does it not?
Gerald Pollack elaborating further on the basis of a newly described fourth state of water, writes “ Clearly, humans exploit light. I've described a water-mediated mechanism by which light energy gets transformed to other kinds of energy. The process bears some resemblance to photosynthesis, or at least the initial step of photosynthesis, in which light splits water into positive and negative components. Subsequent steps are less clear, and that's why, on the question of human photosynthesis, I suggested a definite "maybe." Herrera and colleagues might be on a productive course.”
These are parsimonious and conservative word choices coming from clear-eyed scientists, making no unwarranted claims, to be sure. But there is certainly also some tantalizingly suggestive ground being broken here.
These studies look mostly at the capacity for Melanin to absorb energy as well as a molecular ordering potential of a fourth phase of water. This is all quite new and details will clearly soon be evolving, but why should this be surprising? Did we not evolve under the sun, just as have green plants? And the big complex chlorophyll molecule that is central to photosynthesis? It is almost identical to the Hemoglobin molecule and the Hemocyan that sloshes around inside insects – but for a central atom of magnesium rather than iron. As mere co-incidence, that really would strain credulity.
And altruism is real. People do self-sacrifice for the good of others. It’s a human attribute with which every biologist grapples and finds himself examining with some doubts – all the convoluted kin-selection theories that just aren’t that convincing. It's one of the classic troubling aspects of strict natural selection and Darwinian evolutionary models. Altruism is moreover not just a uniquely human characteristic, but one shared by other mammals and social insects – even trees. That’s right. Trees have been shown to share resources, make room for their peers in the sunlight and to pass nutrients along to one another. Peter Wohlleben, a German forester near the ancient Carolingian city of Aachen, reports stumps in an old growth Beech forest still alive centuries after having been cut – because their siblings have been feeding them through their interconnected root systems over the course of all those intervening years. They appear to be conscious and caring. It may seem like science fiction, but the science is good and the evidence just keeps on piling up. Things aren’t as simple as we’ve been led to believe. Or perhaps they are, but at the level of love and caring in an essentially benign universe being universal attributes and not just limited to us.
Civilization and human evolution too, are not so clearly a simple pathway from primitive to sophisticated that is by now well understood and requires only finding the ‘missing links’. We are clearly far more ancient than once thought if one begins to reflect on all the remains of a global megalithic civilization, on maps, writings and inexplicable technologies that have turned up in odd places from improbable-seeming time periods.
There are simply more and more Black Swans out there which one need not be able to account for, but which keep pushing the limits of credulity for a merely mechanistic or materialist world-view. J ust how many human remains and artifacts found in strata that are millions of years old it will take to begin seriously questioning and reformulating our generally accepted thoughts on human evolution? There is even a growing interest among scholars in the Vedic view of civilization as a cyclically recurring phenomenon. Things appear to be less and less certain and not as we'd imagined them a hundred years ago, to be without mystery and thus mechanistically explicable, given enough time and information to fill in the remaining gaps.
For those of you to whom this whole argument is too strange for words, I ask that you recall how often looking at something with new eyes reveals new information. When you lose your fear of outliers and facts that don’t quite fit an old paradigm, you begin to learn important things. The approach of coming to truth through competing adversarial argumentation, with proponents and detractors (or debunkers) taking turns making their cases is ultimately false. This is merely an extension of a legal model and no way to arrive at any other truth than determining who is powerful, well funded and persuasive – and even determined or under-handed enough to successfully hide evidence and stack an argument in his favor or to bully a witness and confuse a jury. It is an article of faith, for which I see little evidence, that the truth always prevails in a fight. Sometimes there is quite another dynamic at play. If having top-flight (and very expensive) law firms in one’s own court played no significant role, because truth always wants out and will ultimately be recognized as opponents present its many aspects to a judge and jury, these law firms wouldn’t be in a position to command such astronomic fees. Excellent law firms and their equivalent advocates in other fields of endeavor do quite well and it is precisely because their services get results. There is the saying that, “ He who claims money can never buy happiness, never sat in a courtroom”.
Attaining to the Truth (with an upper case T) is a more subtle procedure and places a higher onus of responsibility upon us. I expect more from scientists in search of ‘Truth’, than I do from profit driven industries with explicit legal fiduciary obligations to investors, or from political spin-doctors and self-aggrandizing ego-driven debunkers. There is a higher, noble and unselfish purpose at hand and central to that investigation is the experience of those who are the outliers – who appear to disrupt the paradigms, which most others have come to accept.
Beyond science and into my own speculations
We learn a lot from the extremes of human behavior and adverse conditions. Imagine what the residents of deserts and arctic tundra know about getting through conditions most of us would never stand a chance of surviving. The biggest advances in medicine tend to go hand in hand with the greatest need – when modern industrial warfare inflicts horrendous wounds that require new ways of working with the calamitously traumatized bodies and minds that ever more efficient weaponry causes. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder never got much of a hearing until recently. Traumatized soldiers don’t speak easily of this, because they encounter disinterest and even disbelief. Quite reasonably, they fear being thought simpering, self-pitying whiners or even cowards. We get the information from those affected, as we are ready to accept that it might be real.
It is now becoming apparent that the many horrifying prison camps that are a hallmark of modern-day barbarity are also laboratories in which we have learned much about human psychology and physiology under extremes of duress. Many bits of information have only begun to come out, as the rest of us become ready to accept and digest them. Among those facts just coming out lately, is that while most people were being worked to death in the gulag and other such camps which were ultimately intended to serve as one-way destinations for ‘undesirables’ – not all die so conveniently or predictably. Certain people continue to thrive on starvation rations. Camp guards and doctors know how long prisoners can typically be expected to survive on any calculated caloric intake. Yet certain individuals live on for years as cohort after cohort of normal inmates arrives and dies out, to be replaced by the next batch and the ones after that. It’s an admitted outlier, but also real. Why?
The longest-lived people in India have worked out methodologies that help them get by and they include fresh air and sunshine on their skin, lengthy fasting, sleeping with open fire, running water, sun-gazing and many other fairly simple practices available to most of us. There is much that can be recounted from the literature and everything seems to inter-relate, but where I am heading with all this is that, it seems we live in a universe that is not inimical to our needs. We are actually well adapted by nature to the place we inhabit and typically get most of our needs directly from sources we don’t even acknowledge or know about. It happens much as a potato gets the energy it needs from the sun to fix molecules within the atmosphere into sugars and proteins and all else it requires for survival. We seem to do OK eating potatoes, digesting away the parts we don’t need and excreting the rest or conversely, for some at least, it appears possible to simply cut the potato out of the equation and not raise them, hoe them, water them, harvest, grade, package and distribute them and then gas up the car to drive to the store and purchase the potatoes, peel and boil them and eventually clear the table and wash the dishes – all as a way of creating expensive feces which must be flushed away in potable water, which must itself be subsequently processed in a sewage treatment plant to make the water wholesome again and suitable for being returned to the river – clean enough not to kill the fish. Wow. With adequate opening up of consciousness, we may be capable of simply taking the sunshine in as does the potato and not bothering with all the rest.
Perhaps we are not all equally constructed or conversely, we can all eventually learn to do better. Perhaps it is stress or something else that forces us to extract an extra dose of energy from the body just to get by and that for this extreme way of living life in the typical modern pressure cooker we are mostly forced to inhabit, we do perhaps require at least some food. Perhaps living without sunshine requires greater caloric intake from other sources. Perhaps, perhaps…It does seem that intent and imagination come into play as well. Those who live by materialistic doctrines, calories, money and the stuff you can weigh, measure, calibrate, count and for which you can charge interest – they seem also to die by them.
The Austrian breatharian, Omsa Rohrmoser, claims he must go back to eating at least yogurt or drinking almond milk when coming into Vienna. The press of people stresses him out too much. I have found that when I’ve had an argument with my wife – I too must eat. The shakes don’t easily go away after that level of emotional stress – for here we enter that unstable ground not just of conflict, but also of betrayal. I must get grounded – food, tobacco, alcohol, walking – something that brings me firmly back to planet earth. Apparently the military is among the few large governmental organizations interested in breatharians. I’m not surprised they’d love to have soldiers who don’t require field kitchens and massive supply chains, but something tells me that killing and being killed is a lot more stressful than having to endure a passing face-off with my wife over something petty. I’ll just bet you dollars to donuts, that the war department will always need to provide their embattled soldiers with beefsteaks and grog or face dispirited grunts ready to mutiny.
I am finding that food and eating are not such hard and fast things with obvious needs or rules attached to their use. It seems that the human being is subject to development all throughout life that is quite variable from one person to the next. Mother’s milk is the appropriate food for an infant and we do all eventually move on to solid food, yet we are not all weaned at the same time or even with the same sense of finality. Children come at solid food with quite differing levels of interest. I sense that there come analogous levels of developmental change later in life as well. Moving on to yet another level of maturation and absorbing one’s nutrient and energy needs directly from the environment would not give the lie to food and eating anymore than does eating solid food give the lie to a need for mother’s milk earlier in life. Everything about human nutrition, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and essential amino acids, the various food pyramids and metabolic pathways is as true as it ever was, but like the infant moving on in life, your needs and ways of satisfying them are also continually changing.
I believe we are learning to negotiate a reality that is far subtler than one might imagine – one for which there isn’t much guidance beyond introductions. Life of course, happens after initiations, which are little more than symbolic pivot points – much like a wedding. The life we must learn to negotiate after taking a workshop and beginning to live on our own, as breatharians, is complex and inevitably includes psychological and social constraints. Some of us are strong enough to charge out of the gates and never look back. Mostly though, we will live under continual scrutiny from people around us inspecting us under magnifiers and delivering well meant, but hard to stomach judgments on how we are living our lives.
In a stressful situation and on a rough day, you may, (like Omsa Rohrmoser), also be unable to extract all your needs from fresh air and sunshine, even after having thought that you’d made it past all of that cooking, chewing, swallowing and digestion. It may also be easier to live food-free in my modest-sized, human-scale, home-town of Kalamazoo and on my own schedule with a satisfying creative livelihood than going to a demanding nine-to-five job with an overbearing boss and co-workers whom you dislike, while dependent upon mass transit to cross a metropolitan area pursued by advertisers and beggars while keeping an eye peeled for muggers or con men. These are all things that will be coming out of the experiences of those who dare try this way of life and report back what their experiences have been – and we will know much more in a few years as others become capable of processing and even accepting this ‘new’ information.
So then back to eating or not eating. I am an artist and a lapsed scientist. Those are disciplines that attract spirited free thinkers daring to try on for size that which appears implausible or questionable to the normal citizen. We are the guinea pigs who experiment on ourselves and expand the realm of that which might be possible. There is that famous Maharishi effect, which I like to trot out on such occasions – that it takes only a small number of people, thinking congruently to change society and the way others think and behave. The outliers of the Gaussian distribution or social bell curve are where it’s at and not those who are in that big bulge and who make the trains run on time.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi went from India to the west in the 1960’s to spread consciousness and evolved a mass following of those having learned and practiced his system of Transcendental Meditation. By the mid 1970s his followers were numerous enough to put this technology to a test. They concentrated enough master meditators in several major cities of the world, until they achieved a tipping point. One percent of the population of these cities was meditating during that time. The result was that crime statistics fell measurably and in statistically significant numbers. The relatively small number of people generating calmness or coherence of thought through Transcendental Meditation in those selected cities throughout the duration of the trial, constituted a calculated critical mass that somehow influenced enough others to stop beating, robbing, raping and killing their fellow citizens in adequate numbers, to have a measurable effect.
That is an amazing thing and it gives me hope for us all getting along some fine day. Yet think to yourself how often it seems that the tenor of a society is influenced by small numbers of people. Just a few moral individuals can by their example turn a society around to one where you need not lock your house or conversely a small group of gangsters and thugs can divert the mass of otherwise decent, normal people to becoming a similarly mistrustful and fearful, thieving, self-serving and tax-evading bunch of gluttonous, slothful, racist, avaricious, opportunistic louts filling their days with television, snacking, violence, snarky backbiting and gossiping. I suspect most of us have had personal experiences of setting a higher standard at some enlightened moment in our lives and been amazed at how quickly others have followed suit.
I recall once being lured into a ‘meditation’ group at college. It was led by an East Indian guru making the rounds in the early 1970’s who had a following in several mid-western college towns. My first experience being led to the master’s lair was powerful. He emanated an energy I could feel several city blocks away and I was excited to be a part of something so sophisticated, so much grander than dreary hum-drum hometown mid-America. Inside, there were no explanations – just the ‘activity’ of lying down for sessions of trancelike ‘meditation’. Hours passed like seconds and I can’t say I know what went on for those hours, but having no memory of what was taking pace inside me for that long became increasingly disturbing to me. I kept attending these sessions for some months and enjoyed the power that was in the air as a fly on the wall - anonymously. I was accustomed to being a studious, pencil-necked geek whom nobody much noticed and thought nothing of it. People kept interacting with the guru and many were invited off to his place in the suburbs – especially the pretty girls. I just went to the trance sessions and then back to classes and labs.
After some months of regular attendance, the master did notice me and called me in for a personal session. That talk seemed far less about my spiritual development, than it was a thinly veiled examination of whom I know, what I own and what I might be good for. Things weren’t right and one day I just stopped going. No speeches. No grandstanding. Anonymous me simply stopped appearing from one day to the next. Curiously enough, the others started dropping out very soon as well and stopped signing over their cars and wills and possessions. The pretty girls stopped servicing the sleaze-bag realtors, lawyers and salesmen whose favors the guru required. I saw for the first time in my life that by my example, I did indeed hold some real power of moral suasion. I later heard back from others that they’d always regarded me as a barometer – one of those without a lot of flash, but just clearly possessing solid common sense capacities for discernment. When the last of that kind stopped attending, they too got the message and bailed. The false guru was eventually brought to heel by authorities on charges of immigration violations and financial fraud. But what really brought him down was something much like the Maharishi effect. The power of one unimposing little bookish sort, responding to the internal disorder he was feeling and walking away from that which quite simply, didn’t pass the smell test. Others too took the cue and had the courage to follow their own internal compass and everything shifted.
But now back to fasting. Long fasts have always been the norm for hermits, contemplatives, anchorites and saints, but this discipline has also traditionally required their being sequestered from society. As more and more people within ordinary social structures learn to go from fasting to taking their sustenance from light, this practice will increasingly enter into common public knowledge and become seen as just one of many things in that vast field of unrealized potential that does occasionally surface in time and three dimensions as a visible minority position in contemporary society. Rupert Sheldrake speaks of these fields of latent possibilities (which he calls morphogenic fields), becoming manifest as the world becomes conducive to their expression – as we become adequately conscious – or indeed, worthy. There is evidence for that sort of thing. That which was once impossible, becomes demonstrably possible and eventually the norm – when its time arrives. The hundred-monkey principal comes to mind and the, ‘oh so many’ other ways that change happens. It has to start somehow and somewhere and then it is no longer implausible, because it simply, demonstrably, is .
In closing I find myself wanting to remind anybody still with me, of things our grandparents once taught us – of knowledge that was once commonplace: moderation in all things. Eat and drink only to partial satiation. There was also the time-honored example of sitting down to home-cooked meals and making time for communion, prayer and digestion in a loving, forgiving and low-stress environment. These are hardly the ways of a fast food world that today just grabs something on the fly and wolfs down supersized portions of faux-food having a nearly eternal shelf life from being laced with a chemist’s shelf of abiotic compounds and composed mostly of genetically modified organisms, grown in depleted and demineralized soils with the promiscuous and nearly unregulated use of systemic and cumulative biocides.
Then I want to remind you of what your own children can teach you - the things you once knew yourself. I realize that I will here launch into that, which sounds a bit sappy. Sentimentality is, however, based in healthy emotional responses that are just difficult to bear precisely because they are reflections of another, less jaded reality – one, which we achingly – wish were recoverable. “Come on, get real”, is the very next phrase on your tongue, ready to let fly. The pain of sentimentality is very real and it is of ideals betrayed. Recovering what you can, of these values from back before you were even born, will have to be a second-order innocence, regained as an adult who has experienced fallibility. It is, however, a completely appropriate desire.
Think back to your childhood and speaking with kittens, perhaps even to invisible friends. How unrelenting was the sadness being felt by that empathic childish heart beating within your breast, when confronted with a crushed bug trying to drag its broken remains painfully off to some quite place to die in peace? It still has a pathos that can get to you – whoa - whoa, whoa… Let’s put a stop to that, before anybody sees the moisture gathering in the corner of my eye. As adults, we may have forgotten much, in our hurry to do what is expected of us, but it doesn't cease to be real.
The vegetarians I have known became that way when confronted with the pain of a slaughterhouse, hearing the doomed animals, being herded to their fate, pathetically bleating and crying over what they already know is to become of them. Fear not, I will release you from all this in a moment, but there comes a moment when you know. The sadness of it all is real and just too much. You stop suppressing it and just admit that it’s getting to you. I won’t be a part of this any longer. How am I so different from the sheep being led to the killing floor? You’ll find your compromises with the real world, as we all must, but it’s all a more conscious choice from that point forward and must be done with eyes wide open – and of course, with love in your heart.
So then imagine with me instead, a world in which we need not kill our fellow creatures to eat - in which we need very little and end up living as do the Lilies of the Field, who think neither of the morrow nor what they shall eat or wear. In a curious way I am here advocating for living a Christian life, as Christ himself addressed and lived it, though I am myself unwilling to reject other, non-Christian, wisdom teachings and think myself more an adherent of the perennial philosophy.
Breatharianism is not difficult, if you do not regard it as such. It cannot be accomplished as an arduous task of self-flagellation, involving just the denial of earthly pleasures. This must be a step forward into something alluring, mysterious and potentially life enhancing. Dare to be the child enamored of the beauty of it all. And the guardian angel you once believed in? What’s the harm? Go ahead and ask for help from guiding spirits or ancestors - perhaps Jesus. You may get answers from quarters you’d long given up on. I do. You need not be alone, nor advertise your sentimental notions to those cold-eyed skeptics who fear looking foolish. Your world can expand to a far larger stage and be a more inclusive place and not merely an eternal competition defined by winners and losers.
Be kind to yourself and those around you. Cease resisting and instead learn to pass through this earthly incarnation, lightly, gracefully – as witness, as an observer – sampling and enjoying the variety of experience if has to offer without excessively consuming things in all the many ways we do that. Enjoy being liberated from buying so many groceries, or from cooking as an onerous and unending, Sisyphean task. Savor a modest portion of a friend’s cooking with the same pleasure that you might have once devoured half a chicken and move on. Everybody stops eating at some point – when they are stuffed to immobility and hurting or somewhat earlier as a graceful act of volition. Think of life as gracefully moving in the flow, and that is what your experience of this too shall become – for now, for a while, maybe forever.
Chickens aren't the only ones getting mistreated
The most shocking thing Spurlock said he learned about the chicken industry wasn't how chickens are treated. It's how farmers are mistreated.
"The worst thing that comes out of this movie is how they (chicken companies) treat the farmers," said Spurlock. "These people are the backbone of feeding our country and you’ve never seen people get more used, abused and mistreated than these farmers by these corporations."
The majority of America's chickens come from farmers who are under contract with larger companies. Every few weeks, these farmers get a new flock of birds to raise. Farmers are paid via a “tournament system" which pits growers against each other to produce more pounds of meat per feed supplied.
But it isn't just the farmers who are suffering, said Spurlock. Flocks aren't faring that well either.
"Today's chickens are so big they can barely walk by the time they go to slaughter," explained the filmmaker. "It used to take months to get a chicken to full maturity, but now it's being done in six weeks." Mature chickens weigh about 6.5 pounds. That's a shocking amount of weight to gain in less than two months.
Contrary to popular belief, this larger-than-life scientific miracle isn't due to hormone injections or steroid usage. It's largely due to years of selective cross breeding. Labeling chicken or eggs as free of hormones is a total marketing ploy since the USDA has prohibited the use of all hormones and steroids in any chicken products since the 1950s. (Hormones are still used legally in beef production.)
‘Cowspiracy’ Team Dives Below the Surface: 6 Lessons From ‘Seaspiracy’
If you’re wondering how detrimental eating fish is, sea for yourself: In the new Netflix documentary Seaspiracy, director Ali Tabrizi lays bare how commercial fishing devastates marine animals—and what will happen if humans continue to consume fish. Created by the same team that made the illusion-shattering feature Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy goes below the surface to reveal the depths of cruelty in the global fishing industry.
Here are six eye-opening truths from Netflix’s Seaspiracy:
1. Fish feel.
Each fish is an individual with a unique personality and the desire to live. Fish experience pain in a way similar to humans, communicate in complex ways (herrings, for example, signal each other by farting), and can feel fear.
So, when massive commercial-fishing nets rip the animals from their homes, pack them so tightly that their eyes may burst out of their skulls, drag their sensitive scales along the ocean floor, and force them to undergo decompression—which often ruptures their bladders and pushes their stomachs out of their mouths—fish likely experience an excruciating, terrifying journey to the surface. Then, if they are still alive, fishers often cut their gills and leave them to bleed out or toss them onto ice to freeze or suffocate slowly. You wouldn’t want to be kicked, thrown, suffocated, or hacked to death on a chopping block—and neither do they.
2. There’s no such thing as killing fish “sustainably” for food.
Companies use deceptive labels (aka “greenwashing”) to dupe consumers into believing that killing certain types of fish for food are “sustainable,” but they’re all wet. For example, it’s estimated that the Scottish salmon-farming industry produces as much organic waste as the entire human population of Scotland does each year, yet the fish flesh that it sells is marketed as “sustainably produced.” Commercial fishing is even more damaging than oil spills—the fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico destroyed more animals in a single day than the largest oil spill in history, Deepwater Horizon, did in months.
There isn’t even an agreed-upon definition of the term “sustainable” among marine “conservation” groups, so the label is pretty much meaningless. There’s no way to decimate wildlife populations sustainably. The only real sustainable and ethical choice is to leave fish in peace and go vegan.
3. If fishing trends continue, oceans will be desolate in less than 30 years.
Yes, you read that right. Oceans will be empty by 2048 unless we take action now, and there aren’t plenty of fish in the sea. We must stop supporting the greedy and cruel fishing industry, which kills 2.7 trillion fish every year. Fish play a vital role in sustaining the ocean’s entire ecosystem. Without them, other animals—including coral reefs, whales, dolphins, and seabirds—would starve and die.
4. The “plastic straw” debate is a red herring.
Heartbreaking videos of sea turtles with straws stuck in their nostrils have persuaded many restaurants and consumers to switch to paper or ditch straws altogether. That’s a good thing, but it’s a drop in the ocean—plastic straws kill 1,000 sea turtles globally every year, but in the U.S. alone, fishing vessels capture, injure, or kill an estimated 250,000 sea turtles annually. Hardly anyone is addressing the trash heap in the room: Straws account for 0.03% of plastic in the ocean, while nearly half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of—you guessed it—fishing nets.
5. Commercial fishing is never “dolphin safe.”
“Dolphin Safe” labels on tuna cans may make consumers feel better, but they’re worth less than the paper that they’re printed on. Every year, 300,000 dolphins and whales are killed after being caught in fishing nets—and because overfishing has depleted so many fish populations, fishers in certain areas routinely slaughter dolphins they view as “competition.” One “dolphin-safe” tuna-fishing vessel slaughtered 45 dolphins to catch eight tuna—and no tuna is “tuna safe”! How can you know your eating habits won’t endanger the safety of any animals? Just go vegan. It’s that simple!
6. There’s no justification whatsoever for eating fish.
Eating fish harms marine animals, the environment, and yes, even you. A plate of fish flesh likely comes with a side of toxic heavy metals, dioxins, plastics compounds, and other pollutants. And as for omega-3 fatty acids? Fish don’t even make them. They get their omega-3s from the algae that they eat—and we can get omega-3s by taking algae oil supplements and feasting on fortified vegan seafood products.
“I realized the single best thing I could do every single day to protect the ocean and the marine life I loved, is to simply not eat them.” —Ali Tabrizi, Seaspiracy director
It’s not too late to start protecting fish who are killed by an industry that’s destroying the entire ocean. Start today by going vegan and taking PETA’s simple actions to help fish.
“Oh My God, This Is So F---ed Up”: Inside Silicon Valley’s Secretive, Orgiastic Dark Side
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Romans of the Decadence (1847), by Thomas Couture, as updated to parody Silicon Valley’s male-dominated sexual and sexist culture. Photo Illustration by Darrow.
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About once a month, on a Friday or Saturday night, the Silicon Valley Technorati gather for a drug-heavy, sex-heavy party. Sometimes the venue is an epic mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights sometimes it’s a lavish home in the foothills of Atherton or Hillsborough. On special occasions, the guests will travel north to someone’s château in Napa Valley or to a private beachfront property in Malibu or to a boat off the coast of Ibiza, and the bacchanal will last an entire weekend. The places change, but many of the players and the purpose remain the same.
The stories I’ve been told by nearly two dozen people who have attended these events or have intimate knowledge of them are remarkable in a number of ways. Many participants don’t seem the least bit embarrassed, much less ashamed. On the contrary, they speak proudly about how they’re overturning traditions and paradigms in their private lives, just as they do in the technology world they rule. Like Julian Assange denouncing the nation-state, industry hotshots speak of these activities in a tone that is at once self-congratulatory and dismissive of criticism. Their behavior at these high-end parties is an extension of the progressiveness and open-mindedness—the audacity, if you will—that make founders think they can change the world. And they believe that their entitlement to disrupt doesn’t stop at technology it extends to society as well. Few participants, however, have been willing to describe these scenes to me without a guarantee of anonymity.
If this were just confined to personal lives it would be one thing. But what happens at these sex parties—and in open relationships—unfortunately, doesn’t stay there. The freewheeling sex lives pursued by men in tech—from the elite down to the rank and file—have consequences for how business gets done in Silicon Valley.
From reports of those who have attended these parties, guests and hosts include powerful first-round investors, well-known entrepreneurs, and top executives. Some of them are the titans of the Valley, household names. The female guests have different qualifications. If you are attractive, willing, and (usually) young, you needn’t worry about your résumé or bank account. Some of the women work in tech in the Bay Area, but others come from Los Angeles and beyond, and are employed in symbiotic industries such as real estate, personal training, and public relations. In some scenarios, the ratio of women to wealthy men is roughly two to one, so the men have more than enough women to choose from. “You know when it’s that kind of party,” one male tech investor told me. “At normal tech parties, there are hardly any women. At these kinds of party, there are tons of them.”
I believe there is a critical story to tell about how the women who participate in these events are often marginalized, even if they attend of their own volition. One female investor who had heard of these parties before I approached her told me, “Women are participating in this culture to improve their lives. They are an underclass in Silicon Valley.” A male investor who works for one of the most powerful men in tech put it this way: “I see a lot of men leading people on, sleeping with a dozen women at the same time. But if each of the dozen women doesn’t care, is there any crime committed? You could say it’s disgusting but not illegal—it just perpetuates a culture that keeps women down.”
To be clear, there is a wide range of parties for experimental sexual behavior. Some, devoted entirely to sex, may be drug- and alcohol-free (to encourage safety and performance) and demand a balanced gender ratio. Others are very heavy on drugs and women and usually end in group “cuddle puddles,” a gateway to ever-so-slightly more discreet sexual encounters.
Men show up only if directly invited by the host, and they can often bring as many women as they want, but guys can’t come along as plus-ones. (That would upset the preferred gender ratio.) Invitations are shared via word of mouth, Facebook, Snapchat (perfect, because messages soon disappear), or even basic Paperless Post. Nothing in the wording screams “sex party” or “cuddle puddle,” in case the invitation gets forwarded or someone takes a screenshot. Besides, there’s no need to spell things out the guests on the list understand just what kind of party this is. Women too will spread the word among their female friends, and the expectations are hardly hidden. “They might say, ‘Do you want to come to this really exclusive hot party? The theme is bondage,’ ” one female entrepreneur told me. “ ‘It’s at this V.C. or founder’s house and he asked me to invite you.’ ”
“IT’S VERY RISKY—ONCE YOU’RE IN THAT CIRCLE, ONCE YOU DECIDE YOU WANT TO PLAY THE GAME, YOU CAN’T BACK OUT.”
Perhaps this culture is just one of the many offshoots of the sexually progressive Bay Area, which gave rise to the desert festival of free expression Burning Man, now frequented by the tech elite. Still, the vast majority of people in Silicon Valley have no idea these kinds of sex parties are happening at all. If you’re reading this and shaking your head saying, “This isn’t the Silicon Valley that I know,” you may not be a rich and edgy male founder or investor, or a female in tech in her 20s. And you might not understand, anyway. “Anyone else who is on the outside would be looking at this and saying, Oh my God, this is so fucked up,” one female entrepreneur told me. “But the people in it have a very different perception about what’s going on.”
This is how the night goes down, according to those who have attended. Guests arrive before dinner and are checked in by private security guards, who will turn you away if you’re not on the list. Sometimes the evening is catered. But at the most intimate gatherings, guests will cook dinner together that way they don’t have to kick out the help after dessert. Alcohol lubricates the conversation until, after the final course, the drugs roll out. Some form of MDMA, a.k.a. Ecstasy or Molly, known for transforming relative strangers into extremely affectionate friends, is de rigueur, including Molly tablets that have been molded into the logos of some of the hottest tech companies. Some refer to these parties as “E-parties.”
MDMA is a powerful and long-lasting drug whose one-two punch of euphoria and manic energy can keep you rolling for three or four hours. As dopamine fires, connections spark around the room, and normal inhibitions drop away. People start cuddling and making out. These aren’t group orgies, per se, but guests will break out into twosomes or threesomes or more. They may disappear into one of the venue’s many rooms, or they may simply get down in the open. Night turns to day, and the group reconvenes for breakfast, after which some may have intercourse again. Eat, drugs, sex, repeat.
These sex parties happen so often among the premier V.C. and founder crowd that this isn’t a scandal or even really a secret, I’ve been told it’s a lifestyle choice. This isn’t Prohibition or the McCarthy era, people remind me it’s Silicon Valley in the 21st century. No one has been forced to attend, and they’re not hiding anything, not even if they’re married or in a committed relationship. They’re just being discreet in the real world. Many guests are invited as couples—husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends—because open relationships are the new normal.
While some parties may be devoted primarily to drugs and sexual activity, others may boast just pockets of it, and some guests can be caught unawares. In June 2017, one young woman—let’s call her Jane Doe—received a Paperless Post invite for “a party on the edge of the earth” at the home of a wealthy venture capitalist. The invite requested “glamazon adventurer, safari chic and jungle tribal attire.” Ironically, the gathering was held just a week after sexual-harassment allegations against Binary Capital co-founder Justin Caldbeck had been reported, but that didn’t seem to discourage certain guests from indulging in heavy petting in the open.
“It was in the middle of the Binary thing,” Jane Doe told me, referring to the scandal at the V.C. firm. “And it was all so ridiculous.” Doe found herself on the floor with two couples, including a male entrepreneur and his wife. The living room had been blanketed in plush white faux fur and pillows, where, as the evening wore on, several people lay down and started stroking one another, Doe said, in what became a sizable cuddle puddle. One venture capitalist, dressed up as a bunny (it’s unclear how this fit into the edge-of-the-earth theme), offered Jane Doe some powder in a plastic bag. It was Molly. “They said it will just make you feel relaxed and you’re going to like being touched,” Doe recounted to me.
Nervous, she dipped her finger into the powder and put it in her mouth. Soon, her guard dropped. Then, the male founder asked if he could kiss her. “It was so weird,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Your wife is right there is she O.K. with this?’ ” The founder’s wife acknowledged that, yes, she was O.K. with it. Jane Doe, who considers herself fairly adventurous and open-minded, kissed the founder, then became uncomfortable, feeling as if she had been pressured or targeted. “I don’t know what I’m doing, I feel really stupid, I’m drugged up because I’d never taken it before, and he knew I’d never taken it,” she recalled. She tried to escape to a different area of the party. “I felt gross because I had participated in making out with him and then he kept trying to find me and I kept trying to run away and hide. I remember saying to him, ‘Aren’t people going to wonder?’ And he said, ‘The people that know me know what is going on, and the people that don’t, I don’t really care.’ ” Before dawn, she jumped into her car and left. “What’s not O.K. about this scene is that it is so money- and power-dominated. It’s a problem because it’s an abuse of power. I would never do it again.”
While this particular woman felt ambushed, if it’s your first time, a friend will normally fill you in on what you’re signing up for, and you are expected to keep it to yourself. You know that if you do drugs with someone you work with you shouldn’t mention it to anyone, and the same goes with sex. In other words, we’re not hiding anything, but, actually, we kind of are. You only get invited if you can be trusted and if you’re going to play ball. “You can choose not to hook up with [a specific] someone, but you can’t not hook up with anybody, because that would be voyeurism. So if you don’t participate, don’t come in,” says one frequent attendee, whom I’ll call Founder X, an ambitious, world-traveling entrepreneur.
They don’t necessarily see themselves as predatory. When they look in the mirror, they see individuals setting a new paradigm of behavior by pushing the boundaries of social mores and values. “What’s making this possible is the same progressiveness and open-mindedness that allows us to be creative and disruptive about ideas,” Founder X told me. When I asked him about Jane Doe’s experience, he said, “This is a private party where powerful people want to get together and there are a lot of women and a lot of people who are fucked up. At any party, there can be a situation where people cross the line. Somebody fucked up, somebody crossed the line, but that’s not an indictment on the cuddle puddle that’s an indictment on crossing the line. Doesn’t that happen everywhere?” It’s worth asking, however, if these sexual adventurers are so progressive, why do these parties seem to lean so heavily toward male-heterosexual fantasies? Women are often expected to be involved in threesomes that include other women male gay and bisexual behavior is conspicuously absent. “Oddly, it’s completely unthinkable that guys would be bisexual or curious,” says one V.C. who attends and is married (I’ll call him Married V.C.). “It’s a total double standard.” In other words, at these parties men don’t make out with other men. And, outside of the new types of drugs, these stories might have come out of the Playboy Mansion circa 1972.
I had a wide-ranging conversation with Twitter co-founder Evan Williams about the peculiar mixture of audacity, eccentricity, and wealth that swirls in Silicon Valley. Williams, who is married with two kids, became an Internet celebrity thanks to his first company, Blogger. He pointed out that he was never single, well known, and rich at the same time, and that he isn’t part of this scene, but recognizes the motivations of his peers. “This is a strange place that has created incredible things in the world and therefore attracts these types of people and enables these types of people. How could it be anything but weird and dramatic and people on the edge testing everything?” On the one hand, he said, “if you thought like everyone else, you can’t invent the future,” yet he also warned that, sometimes, this is a “recipe for disaster.”
Rich men expecting casual sexual access to women is anything but a new paradigm. But many of the A-listers in Silicon Valley have something unique in common: a lonely adolescence devoid of contact with the opposite sex. Married V.C. described his teenage life as years of playing computer games and not going on a date until he was 20 years old. Now, to his amazement, he finds himself in a circle of trusted and adventurous tech friends with the money and resources to explore their every desire. After years of restriction and longing, he is living a fantasy, and his wife is right there along with him.
Married V.C.’s story—that his current voraciousness is explained by his sexual deprivation in adolescence—is one I hear a lot in Silicon Valley. They are finally getting theirs.
There is an often told story that Silicon Valley is filled with women looking to cash in by marrying wealthy tech moguls. Whether there really is a significant number of such women is debatable. The story about them is alive and well, however, at least among the wealthy men who fear they might fall victim. In fact, these guys even have a term for the women who pursue them: founder hounders.
When I ask Founder X whether these men are taking advantage of women by feeding them inhibition-melting drugs at sex parties, he replies that, on the contrary, it’s women who are taking advantage of him and his tribe, preying on them for their money.
On their way up to a potential multi-million-dollar payout, some younger founders report, more and more women seem to become mysteriously attracted to them no matter how awkward, uncool, or unattractive they may be.
However many founder hounders exist, the idea of these women lives large in the minds of Silicon Valley founders, who often trade stories about women they’ve dated. As Founder X puts it, “We’ll say whether some girl is a fucking gold digger or not, so we know who to avoid.”
When I tell her this, Ava, a young female entrepreneur, rolls her eyes. According to Ava, who asked me to disguise her real identity and has dated several founders, it’s the men, not the women, who seem obsessed with displays of wealth and privilege. She tells of being flown to exotic locations, put up in fancy hotels, and other ways rich men have used their money to woo her. Backing up Ava’s view are the profiles one finds on dating apps where men routinely brag about their tech jobs or start-ups. In their online profiles, men are all but saying, “Hello, would you like to come up to my loft and see my stock options?”
In Ava’s experience, however, once men like this land a woman, they are quick to throw her back. After a few extravagant dates, Ava says, she will initiate a conversation about where the tryst is going. The men then end things, several using the same explanation. “They say, ‘I’m still catching up. I lost my virginity when I was 25,’ ” Ava tells me. “And I’ll say, ‘Well, you’re 33 now, are we all caught up yet?’ In any other context, [these fancy dates] would be romantic, but instead it’s charged because no one would fuck them in high school. . . . I honestly think what they want is a do-over because women wouldn’t bone them until now.”
Ava’s jaundiced view of newly wealthy moguls would be funny if their gold-digger obsession didn’t mask something serious. The claim of being stalked by women often becomes an excuse used by some tech stars to justify their own predatory behavior.
What that adds up to is a great deal of ego at play. “It’s awesome,” says Founder X. At work, he explains, “you’re well funded. You have relative traction.” Outside work, “why do I have to compromise? Why do I have to get married? Why do I have to be exclusive? If you’ve got a couple girls interested in you, you can set the terms and say, ‘This is what I want.’ You can say, ‘I’m happy to date you, but I’m not exclusive.’ These are becoming table stakes for guys who couldn’t get a girl in high school.”
Furthermore, these elite founders, C.E.O.’s, and V.C.’s see themselves as more influential than most hot-shit bankers, actors, and athletes will ever be. “We have more cachet than a random rich dude because we make products that touch a lot of people,” says Founder X. “You make a movie, and people watch it for a weekend. You make a product, and it touches people’s lives for years.”
At least on the financial level, Founder X has a point. The payouts of A-list actors and the wolves of Wall Street just aren’t that impressive among the Silicon Valley elite. Managing directors at top-tier investment banks may pocket a million a year and be worth tens of millions after a long career. Early employees at tech firms like Uber, Airbnb, and Snapchat can make many times that amount of money in a matter of years. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Jared Leto, and Leonardo DiCaprio have jumped on that power train and now make personal investments in tech companies. The basketball great Kobe Bryant started his own venture-capital firm. LeBron James has rebranded himself as not just an athlete but also an investor and entrepreneur.
Laurie Ellen Lennard was born and raised in a middle class Jewish family on Long Island.   Laurie was married for 14 years to Larry David from March 31, 1993 to July 13, 2007.   They have two daughters.  
In 2007, Laurie was awarded nearly half of the net worth of Larry David, following their divorce.  Laurie remarried in 2012 to Robert Thorpe. [ citation needed ]
Before working full-time on environmental and political issues, David worked in the entertainment industry. She began her career in New York City as a talent coordinator for the Late Show with David Letterman. Four years later she left to start her own management company, representing comedians and comedy writers.
David also produced several comedy specials for HBO, Showtime, MTV, and Fox Television. Upon moving to Los Angeles, she became vice president of comedy development for a division of Fox Broadcasting and developed sitcoms for 20th Century Fox Television. After leaving to raise her two daughters, she executive produced An Inconvenient Truth which won the Academy Award. She has since produced other social action docs including Fed Up, The Last Animals, The Biggest Little Farm and The Social Dilemma. David has written two popular cookbooks on healthy eating and the importance of family dinner including The Family Dinner, and The Family Cooks. She co-wrote The Down To Earth Guide To Global Warming which has since been reprinted in eight languages. Most recently she has co-written Imagine It! A Handbook for a Happier Planet published by RandomHouse Rodale. [ citation needed ]
Climate Change Edit
Laurie David has worked publicly on projects aimed at stopping climate change. She founded the Stop Global Warming Virtual March  with Senator John McCain and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Ms. magazine quoted Laurie David about the grassroots aspect of her campaign: "If everyone does one thing, they are likely to do two things, then three things. Then they are likely to influence friends and family, and that's how you build a movement."
In addition to the Virtual March, David has produced other projects to bring the issue of climate change into mainstream popular culture, including the release of her first book, Stop Global Warming: The Solution Is You!, and the comedy special, Earth to America! for TBS, which aired November 20, 2005. Aside from the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, David produced HBO's Too Hot Not to Handle (a documentary on the effects of climate change in the United States), which aired on April 22, 2006. Laurie David also appeared in Big Ideas for a Small Planet, an environmentalist documentary series on the Sundance Channel.
In an interview with The Guardian in November 2006, David acknowledged that owning two homes on opposite sides of the country and flying in a private jet several times per year is at odds with her message to others. In the interview she notes "Yes, I take a private plane on holiday a couple of times a year, and I feel horribly guilty about it. I probably shouldn't do it. But the truth is, I'm not perfect. This is not about perfection. I don't expect anybody else to be perfect either. That's what hurts the environmental movement – holding people to a standard they cannot meet. That just pushes people away." 
In 2005, and then again in 2009, David was cited by the Chilmark Conservation Commission for paving over protected wetland areas on her estate on Martha's Vineyard. 
As a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a founding member of The Detroit Project, David has spearheaded numerous public education and action campaigns urging Congress and auto-makers to raise fuel efficiency standards and make higher mileage cars. In January 2004, the NRDC opened the David Family Environmental Action Center. Endowed by the David family, the Center promotes activism to protect the environment. It features exhibits on issues such as global warming, ocean pollution, everyday toxins, and green building solutions. [ buzzword ]
In 2003, she was honored by the Riverkeeper organization. [ citation needed ] She also received the Los Angeles-based Children's Nature Institute's Leaf Award in 2003 for her commitment to the environmental education of young children. 
In October 2006, David was featured in Glamour as one of its "Women of the Year".  She received the Gracie Allen Award for Individual Achievement by the American Women in Radio & Television and the NRDC's 2006 Forces for Nature award for her work against global warming. [ citation needed ]
Laurie has received numerous other awards and honors, including the Producers Guild of America’s Stanley Kramer Award, a Humanitas Prize Special Award. Her environmental work has been honored with the National Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award, the Feminist Majority’s Eleanor Roosevelt Award, and Bette Midler’s Green Goddess Award in 2019. [ citation needed ]
David's book The Family Dinner was published in 2010, with recipes by Kirstin Uhrenholdt, a foreword by Harvey Karp and an afterword by Jonathan Safran Foer. The book advocates a return to the domestic tradition of an evening meal (sometimes called supper) shared around the family table. It also includes recipes, rules for an effective dinner system, suggestions for stimulating conversation, a survey of the ways different cultures say grace, and ways to include grandparents. [ citation needed ]
Her second cookbook The Family Cooks was published a few years later. She also co-wrote a book on climate for kids called The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming which has been published in 8 languages. In 2021 she co-wrote Imagine It! A Handbook for a Happier Planet published by Random House/Rodale. [ citation needed ]
Change Is Urgently Needed
Humans around the world have been slaughtering animals for food for centuries. For a long time, ethical arguments aside, this way of providing diets with protein seemed to work.
In the early 1800s, animals still roamed freely on small family-run farms before they ended up on the kitchen table. Humans ate relatively small amounts of meat compared to today, and industrialized farming didn’t exist.
Fast forward to the present and 99 percent of all meat consumed in the U.S. comes from a factory farm. For the most part, the days of green pastures and happy farm animals are behind us.
The system is not working and change is urgently needed. To do that, meat-eaters need to understand the impact of every bite and invest in seeking out alternatives.
Lab-grown meat is a sustainable option for people who want to make a positive impact, but not necessarily give up their Thanksgiving turkey or traditional hot dog at the ballpark. The plant-based meat industry can cater to those people too, but as Marshall pointed out, “the whole world is not going vegan or vegetarian.”
Lab-grown meat can give meat-eaters the very same products. The only change is in how they are produced.
Marshall explained: “Most of the world eats meat, so there need to be solutions that provide meat in a new way. This innovation is the next step in our evolutionary process when it comes to looking at food production.”
“Cell-based meat has the potential to really reach meat-eaters in a broad and vast way,” she added. “[Transformation] is the keyword for me. [It’s] how I view it and how I witnessed it it’s transformative.”
Cargill and Tyson invested in Memphis Meats.
The first film in the series, Seven Up! (1964), was directed by Paul Almond,   and was commissioned by Granada Television as a programme in the World in Action series.  From 7 Plus Seven until 63 Up the films were directed by Michael Apted, who had been a researcher on Seven Up! and was involved in finding the original children,  with Gordon McDougall. [ citation needed ] The premise of the film was taken from the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man".   The 1998 programme was commissioned by BBC One, although it was still produced for them by Granada Television. [ citation needed ]
|No.||Title||Director||Original air date||Channel||Length|
|1||Seven Up!||Paul Almond||5 May 1964||ITV (Granada Television)||40 minutes|
|2||7 Plus Seven||Michael Apted||15 December 1970||ITV (Granada Television)||53 minutes|
|3||21 Up||Michael Apted||9 May 1977||ITV (Granada Television)||100 minutes|
|4||28 Up||Michael Apted||20, 21 November 1984||ITV (Granada Television)||136 minutes|
|5||35 Up||Michael Apted||22 May 1991||ITV (Granada Television)||123 minutes|
|6||42 Up||Michael Apted||21, 22 July 1998||BBC||139 minutes|
|7||49 Up||Michael Apted||15, 22 September 2005||ITV||134 minutes|
|8||56 Up||Michael Apted||14, 21, 28 May 2012||ITV||144 minutes|
|9||63 Up||Michael Apted||4, 5, 6 June 2019||ITV||150 minutes|
The subjects are first seen on a group visit to London Zoo in 1964, where the narrator announces "We brought these 20 children together for the very first time." The series then follows fourteen of the children: Bruce Balden, Jackie Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, John Brisby, Peter Davies, Susan Davis, Charles Furneaux, Nicholas Hitchon, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligerman, Suzanne Lusk and Tony Walker.
The participants were chosen in an attempt to represent different social classes in Britain in the 1960s. Michael Apted states in the commentary track of the 42 Up DVD that he was asked to find children at the extremes. Because the show was not originally intended to become a repeating series, no long-term contract was signed with the participants. [ citation needed ] According to Apted, participants in the subsequent programmes since Seven Up! have been paid a sum for their appearance in each film, as well as equal parts of any prize the film may win. Each subject is filmed in about two days and the interview itself takes more than six hours.
Apted has said that it was a poor decision to include only four female participants. 
Andrew Brackfield was one of three boys chosen from the same pre-preparatory school in the wealthy London district of Kensington (the other two being Charles and John). The three are introduced in Seven Up! singing "Waltzing Matilda" in Latin. At the age of seven, when asked what newspaper he reads, if any, Andrew stated that he reads The Financial Times (although he later revealed he was in fact just repeating what his father had told him when asked the same question). All three could say which prep schools, public schools and universities they planned to attend (Oxford or Cambridge in all cases) two named the specific Oxbridge college they intended to join.
Andrew's academic career culminated in his studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. Andrew subsequently became a solicitor, married and raised a family. He is the only one of the three Kensington boys to have appeared in all the Up films. Both Andrew and his wife, Jane, are most satisfied with how their children have turned out, followed by their relationship.
Charles Furneaux did not get into Oxford, saying in 21 Up he was glad to have avoided the "prep school–Marlborough–Oxbridge conveyor belt" by going to Durham University instead however, he later attended Oxford as a post-graduate student. Charles has worked in journalism in varying capacities over the years, including as a producer for the BBC, and in the making of documentary films, including Touching the Void. When contacted to appear in 28 Up, Charles declined a subsequent phone conversation during which Apted, by his own admission, "went berserk", destroyed the relationship to the degree that Charles has refused to participate in all subsequent films, and even attempted to force Granada to remove archive images of him from the films in which he did not appear. 
During an on-stage interview at London's National Film Theatre in December 2005, Apted alleged that Charles had attempted to sue him when he refused to remove Charles from the archive sequences in 49 Up. Apted also commented on the irony that as a documentary maker himself, Charles was the only one who refused to continue.  
By the time of 56 Up, all references to Charles had been removed other than in fleeting glimpses of joint shots with Andrew and John.
John Brisby QC, who was vocal on politics by 14, attended Oxford and became a barrister.  He married Claire, the daughter of Sir Donald Logan, a former ambassador to Bulgaria.  Brisby devotes himself to charities related to Bulgaria, and hopes to reclaim family land there that had been nationalized. He is a great-great-grandson of the first Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Todor Burmov. 
Brisby said in 35 Up that he only does the films to give more publicity to his chosen charities. In 56 Up, he criticized Apted's decision to originally portray him as part of the "privileged upper class". He related that his father had died when he was 9 and his mother had to work to put him through private school. He attended Oxford University on a scholarship. As of 56 Up, he remains a litigator who feels very blessed in almost all aspects of his life.
Suzanne (Suzy) Lusk comes from a wealthy background and was first filmed at an independent London day school. Her parents divorced around the time of 7 Plus Seven. She then dropped out of school at the age of 16, deciding to travel to Paris. By 21, she had formed a strong negative opinion about marriage and being a parent, though this soon changed dramatically. By 28 Up, she was married with two sons, and credited her marriage with bringing her the optimism and happiness that was not evident in the earlier films. Her husband, Rupert Dewey, is a solicitor in Bath and they have three children, two boys and a girl. She became a bereavement counsellor. In the 7 Plus Seven she stated that she thought Apted's project was pointless and silly, a point that she restated in 21 Up. At 49 Up she was convinced that she wouldn't participate again, but in 56 Up she admitted that she felt an obligation to the project regardless of how she feels about it. Suzy did not appear in 63 Up aside from some footage from the previous films. 
Jackie Bassett was one of three girls (the others being Lynn and Sue) who were chosen from the same primary school, in a working-class neighbourhood of east London. She eventually went to a comprehensive school and married at age 19. Jackie went through several different jobs, divorced, remarried and moved to Scotland, divorced again and raised her three sons as a single parent. As of 56 Up, she had been receiving disability benefit for 14 years, due to rheumatoid arthritis.  Her family remains close and lives near each other in Scotland.
Lynn Johnson, after attending the same primary school as Jackie and Sue, went on to attend a grammar school. She married at 19, had two daughters, and became a children's librarian at 21. She later became a school librarian and remained in that position until being made redundant due to budget cuts.  At 56 Up she continued to believe her career as a librarian was of great value and it helped define her life. She was a doting grandmother with three grandchildren, and was still married to her husband Russ, whom she considered her soulmate. In May 2013, after a short illness, Lynn became the first participant of the series to die. She served as Chair of Governors of St Saviour's primary school in Poplar, London, for over 25 years after her death, a section of the school library was renamed in her memory. 
Susan (Sue) Davis attended the same primary school as Jackie and Lynn and following that attended a comprehensive school. Sue married at 24 and had two children before getting divorced. She has been engaged to her current boyfriend, Glenn, for 21 years as of 63 Up. She works as a university administrator for Queen Mary, University of London, despite not having gone to university herself, and is fond of amateur dramatics. By 63 Up, she is looking forward to retiring in the near future.
Tony Walker was chosen from a primary school in the East End of London and was introduced along with his classmate Michelle, who Douglas Keay, the narrator, stated was Tony's "girlfriend". At age 7, Michelle described Tony as a "monkey". He wanted to be a jockey at 7 and was at a stable training as one by 14. By 21 his chance had come and gone after riding in three races before giving it up. He was proud to have competed against Lester Piggott. He then gained "the Knowledge", and made a comfortable life for himself and his family as a London taxi driver. His later dream of becoming an actor has met with modest success he has had small parts as an extra (almost always playing a cabbie) in several TV programmes since 1986, including The Bill and twice in EastEnders, most recently in 2003. His wife Debbie was carrying their third child in 28 Up, and she reveals in 35 Up that she lost that baby but has since had another she admits that losing their third child placed a tremendous stress on their relationship. Tony admitted in 35 Up that being in a monogamous relationship was becoming a strain, and by 42 Up he had actually committed adultery, though he and his wife have got past it and are still together. By 42 Up, he had moved to Essex, and by 49 Up owned two homes, including a holiday home in Spain. In 63 Up, he and his wife had settled in the English countryside.
Paul Kligerman Edit
Paul Kligerman was at a charity-based boarding school at 7, his parents having divorced and he having been left with his father. Soon after Seven Up! his father and stepmother moved the family to Australia, where he has remained in the Melbourne area ever since. By 21, he had long hair and a girlfriend whom he later married and remains with today. After leaving school he was employed as a bricklayer and later set up his own business. In 49 Up he is working for a sign-making company. In 21 Up, 49 Up, and 63 Up, Paul was reunited with Symon, who had attended the same boarding school portions of their time together are included in all three films. By 56 Up Paul had started work at a local retirement village with his wife Susan. He does odd jobs and maintenance of the small units and gardens.
Symon Basterfield, chosen from the same charity home as Paul, is the only mixed-race participant.  He never got to know his black father, and had left the charity home to live with his white mother by the time of the 7 Plus Seven filming her depression is alluded to as the cause for his being in the home. As the filming for 35 Up was taking place, he was going through a divorce from his first wife and mother of his five children, and he elected not to take part in that film. Symon returned for 42 Up and 49 Up, remarried with one son and one stepdaughter. In 49 Up, he and his wife had become foster parents.  By 56 Up, he regretted his lack of formal education, which he felt limited his income over the years. He remains happily married and looks forward to the next chapters of his life. In 63 Up his relationship with his children from his first marriage is mending and he has 10 grandchildren.
William Nicholas (Nick) Hitchon was raised on a small farm in Arncliffe, a tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales. He was educated in a one-room school four miles' walk from his home, and later at a boarding school. He went to Oxford University (where, he mentions in 63 Up, Theresa May was a classmate) and then moved to the United States to work as a nuclear physicist. He married Jackie, another British immigrant, who participated in 28 Up but was displeased with how her comments were received by viewers, many of whom apparently concluded that the marriage was doomed. She declined to appear in 35 Up and 42 Up. By 49 Up the couple had divorced and Nick had remarried, this time to Cryss Brunner, who is ten years his senior and at that time taught in Minneapolis. Nick has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department since 1982.  Nick appeared as a guest on NPR's quiz show Wait Wait. Don't Tell Me aired 21 June 2014, and spoke briefly about his participation in the Up series.  By 63 Up, Nick developed a cancerous mass in his throat and had recently lost his father, leading him to contemplate mortality and the future of his family once he is gone.
Peter Davies went to the same middle-class Liverpool suburban school as Neil, who, like Peter, wanted to be an astronaut. Peter drifted through university, and by age 28 he was an underpaid and seemingly uninspired school teacher. Peter dropped out of the series after 28 Up, following a tabloid press campaign against him after he criticised the government of Margaret Thatcher in his interview. The director's commentary for 42 Up revealed that he later divorced, took up study of the law, became a lawyer, remarried, had children and moved back to Liverpool. He returned to the series in 56 Up to promote his band, the Liverpool-based country-influenced The Good Intentions. 
Neil Hughes, from a Liverpool suburb, turned out to be perhaps the most unpredictable of the group.  At seven he was a happy child, funny and full of life and hope, but by 7 Plus Seven he was nervous and stressed. By the time of 21 Up he was living in a squat in London, having dropped out of Aberdeen University after one term, and was finding work as he could on building sites. During the interview he was in an agitated state. At 28 he was still homeless, although now in Scotland by 35 he was living in a council house in the Shetland Islands off the north coast of Scotland, writing and appearing in the local pantomime. By the time of 42 Up he was living in Bruce's apartment in London and Bruce had become a source of emotional support.  He was involved in local council politics, as a Liberal Democrat in the London Borough of Hackney, and had completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Open University.  He was first elected to Wick ward on Hackney London Borough Council in 1996, and resigned his seat in 2000.  
By the time of 49 Up, he was a district councillor in the Eden district of Cumbria, in North West England.  He was first elected for Shap on Eden District in 2003.  He was a candidate for Eden Lakes on Cumbria County Council in 2005 and 2009, coming second to the Conservative candidate on both occasions.  In 2013, following new division boundaries, Neil was elected to Eden Lakes, and did not stand again for Shap. He was re-elected to Eden Lakes in 2017.  
He stood in the 2010 general election as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Carlisle where he finished third, receiving 6,567 votes.  Neil stood for Penrith and the Border—which covers the same area he represents as a councillor—at the 2015 and 2017 general elections. In 2015, he came fourth, whilst in 2017, he came third. At the 2019 general election, Hughes contested the Labour–Conservative marginal seat of Workington in Cumbria. Finishing fourth, he increased the party's vote share, but lost his deposit.
By 63 Up, Neil has married however, he and his wife have separated due to unspecified difficulties.  He is a lay preacher, district councillor and also has a home in France. 
Bruce Balden, as a child, was concerned with poverty and racial discrimination and wanted to become a missionary. He was attending a prestigious boarding school. At the age of seven, he said that his greatest desire was to see his father, who was a soldier in Southern Rhodesia, and he seemed brave though a little abandoned. Bruce studied mathematics at Oxford University and used his education to teach children in the East End of London and Sylhet, Bangladesh. Before 42 Up, he married, and Apted broke the seven-year structure of the series to film Bruce's wedding, which was also attended by Neil. Eventually becoming worn down by teaching in the East End, Bruce found work at St Albans School, Hertfordshire, a prestigious public school. Between 42 Up and 49 Up he had two sons and was happily married to a fellow teacher. In 56 Up he admits he still has a hard time expressing his innermost feelings, in particular to his wife, but is a happily devoted father and husband. Still teaching at a prestigious public school, he has no regrets at this point in his life about the development of his career path. 
A number of themes have appeared repeatedly over the course of the series. Questions about religion, family, class, happiness and psychological state dominate many of the interviews, as well as inquiries about the worries and concerns subjects have for their future.  In addition, questions often take a personal tone, with Apted noting that viewers often respond to his questioning of Neil's sanity or his perception of Tony's success in life as being too personal, but that he has been able to do this because of the friendship he has developed with the subjects over the course of their lives.  [ full citation needed ]
The series has received high praise over the years. Roger Ebert said that it is "an inspired, even noble, use of the film medium", that the films "penetrate to the central mystery of life", and that the series is among his top ten films of all time.  Michael Apted won an Institutional Peabody Award in 2012 for his work on the Up series.  In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, 28 Up placed 26th. 
The Up series has been criticised by both ethnographers and the subjects themselves for its editing style. Mitchell Duneier has pointed out that Apted has the ability to assert causal relationships between a character's past and present that might not actually exist.  Apted has acknowledged this fact, pointing out that in 21 Up he believed Tony would soon be in prison so he filmed him around dangerous areas for use in later films.  Apted also portrayed the troubled marriage of Nick earlier in the film, although his time frame for anticipating their divorce was premature. Apted has stated in interviews that his "tendency to play God" with the interviews was "foolishness and wrong."  In 21 Up, the women participants were offended that all the questions concerned domestic affairs, marriage and children, rather than politics.  A New Yorker article by Rebecca Mead noted "[Apted] can be unbearably patronizing toward his subjects, particularly the working-class women, while he sets his more affluent participants up to look ludicrous." However, she did note that "To his credit, Apted has shown participants arguing back against the show's premise and against his own prejudices. One of the most exhilarating moments in the series occurs in "49 Up", when Jackie [. ] rounds on Apted, castigating him for his decades of underestimating her. Apted's implied humility is ultimately, if belatedly, Jackie's vindication." 
Over the course of the project the programme has in varying degrees had a direct effect on the lives of its participants. [ according to whom? ] The series participants often speak of the series having become popular enough that they were recognised in public. [ citation needed ] For instance, in 56 Up, Tony related an anecdote about giving a ride to Buzz Aldrin, and being surprised when a passerby asks him, not Aldrin, for an autograph.
The participants' opinions regarding being involved in the series are often mentioned, [ citation needed ] and varied greatly among the participants. [ citation needed ] John refers to the programme as a poison pill that he is subjected to every seven years, [ citation needed ] while Paul's wife credits the series for keeping their marriage together. [ citation needed ] Michael Apted has commented that one of the big surprises between filming 42 Up and 49 Up was the impact of reality television—i.e., that the subjects wanted to talk about their contribution to the series in the light of this genre. [ citation needed ]
In addition, there have been instances of the interactions of participants being engineered by the programme's producers. [ according to whom? ] For instance, Paul and Nick were flown back to England at Granada's expense for the filming of 35 Up and 42 Up respectively. [ citation needed ] In addition, Paul was flown back again for 49 Up and visited Symon Symon and his wife were in turn flown to Australia to visit Paul in 63 Up. [ citation needed ] As well, Bruce was affected by Neil's plight and offered him temporary shelter in his home shortly before 42 Up, allowing Neil time to get settled in London despite Neil's eccentricities during his two-month stay, they clearly remained friends, with Neil later giving a reading at Bruce's wedding. [ citation needed ] In 56 Up, Suzy and Nick are interviewed together, having become friends due to their shared rural upbringing. [ citation needed ]
The series has also been satirised The Simpsons' 2007 episode "Springfield Up" is narrated by an Apted-like filmmaker who depicts the past and current lives of a group of Springfield residents he has revisited every eight years. The "37 Up" segment of Tracey Ullman: A Class Act, first aired in 1992, parodies the series. Harry Enfield parodied the series in a spoof titled '2 Up' with his characters Tim Nice-but-Dim and Wayne Slob. The Australian comedy TV series The Late Show satirised the series with a version in which participants were interviewed every seven minutes. 
The original hypothesis of Seven Up! was that class structure is so strong in the UK that a person's life path would be set at birth. The producer of the original programme had at one point thought to line the children up on the street, have three of them step forward and narrate "of these twenty children, only three will be successful" (an idea which was not used). The idea of class immobility held up in most, but not all, cases as the series has progressed. The children from the working classes have by and large remained in those circles, though Tony seems to have become more middle class. Apted has said that one of his regrets is that they did not take feminism into account, and consequently had fewer girls in their study and did not select them on the basis of any possible careers they might choose.
Although it began as a political documentary, the series has become a film of human nature and existentialism. In the director's commentary for 42 Up, Apted comments that he did not realise the series had changed tone from political to personal until 21 Up, when he showed the film to American friends who encouraged him to submit it (successfully) to American film festivals. Apted also comments that this realisation was a relief to him and allowed the films to breathe a little more.
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‘I’m 73 and fed up with California and want a gun-friendly, affordable city with good weather — so where should I retire?’
Pedestrian bridge in Big Ditch Riverwalk Park in Silver City, N.M.
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I’m 73 and looking for a location outside of California (I’ve had enough of living there). What I would like is a gun-friendly environment with moderate temperatures and a lot of trees, which may mean a somewhat higher elevation. Need a low cost of living, as my primary source of income is Social Security.
You’re not alone in wanting to flee California in retirement — and for you, the costs make it hard to live anywhere in California on your Social Security checks alone. Though you’ll be hard-pressed to find a state with weather as good as it is in many parts of the Golden State.
That said, I’ve found some affordable spots in gun-friendly states with decent weather where you can live mostly on your Social Security check. Some of them get a bit hotter than the 80s in the summer and can be chilly in winter, but most of the year, the temperatures are mild. Here are some spots to consider.
Bella Vista, Ark.
Arkansas has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the nation, according to CBS News, so you’ll be among like-minded folks in this state. And in Bella Vista — a town of roughly 30,000 in the Ozarks — you’ll also enjoy a cost of living that’s below average for the U.S. and plenty of trees — and the beautiful view its name promises.
Plus, you’ll get “cheap homes, lots of retirees, great weather” as well as “plenty of options for folks looking to stay active and get outdoors” including “seven lakes, a number of walking trails, and 36,000 acres of native streams and hardwood forests,” as well as a number of shooting ranges, writes Money magazine, which put this town on its own list of best places to retire.
The weather here isn’t as good as in many parts of California (summers are muggy, and you might see some snow in winter), and Money notes that “the nearest hospital, Northwest Medical Center, is in neighboring Bentonville, 10 miles away.”
Silver City, N.M.
The Big Ditch Riverwalk Park bridge in Silver City.
In its “Retire Here, Not There” series, MarketWatch highlighted this college town as a great place to retire, with one retiree telling us: “Everybody from every walk of life has a place here. And there’s always something to do.” The article also highlighted a “vibrant Main Street,” “friendly people” and interesting arts offerings.
For you, the fact that the town is nestled against the 3.3-million acre Gila National Forest is likely to be a draw, as is the fact that New Mexico has one of the highest gun-ownership rates in the country, according to CBS News. Plus, the cost of living is well below average for the U.S., and the median home comes in at only about $150,000, according to Sperling’s Best Places. The town sits at an altitude of 6,000 feet, so the summer heat isn’t as intense here as it is in other spots in New Mexico and Arizona.
The town is small (around 10,000 residents) and the airport is, too, with few flights, so many people drive three hours to El Paso, Texas, or Tucson, Ariz., for their larger airports.
Located on the shores of the 38,000-acre Lake Lanier and in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this city of about 35,000 offers you plenty of opportunities to get out in nature — from kayaking on the lake to hiking through the 1,440-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, one of the state’s biggest protected green spaces.
And AARP, which put the city on its list of 10 affordable retirement cities, noted that big perks also included “fast access to the Blue Ridge Mountains and their panoramic hiking trails, lush with rivers, waterfalls, and richly diverse ecosystems,” as well as proximity to “the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests, which comprise 843 miles of trails.”
For you, the state of Georgia’s gun stance will be appealing — Guns & Ammo calls the state one of the “most pro-gun spots in the nation” — as will Gainesville’s very low cost of living.
Plus, the Gainesville area offers “a Southern small-town feel … and a relatively pleasant climate,” Sperling’s Best Places writes (although summers can be muggy). And while there aren’t many arts and cultural offerings, you can take a trip to Atlanta (just about an hour’s drive) should you want more options.