I did a Mass for Shut-ins Minicast – the third so far – on Steve Allen, the original host of the Tonight Show.

Some people don't like long podcasts, so the minicasts are short (this one's four minutes) and intended to share something interesting that doesn't benefit from being drawn out. You get the point and you can appreciate something and go about your day. Minimal commitment.

Sorry for the slow posting this week. Being back from the unreality of vacation has been hard on my brain.

On that note, one final "I noticed a thing" thought from Europe. On the one hand, I'm familiar with the common (and accurate) argument in the US that smaller food and beverage portion sizes are one of the reasons Europe doesn't struggle with affluence-based obesity like Americans do. Indeed, soft drinks in particular are almost cartoonishly small in Europe – what we'd call a Child's Size here. But conversely, Europeans drink staggering quantities of beer compared to Americans – more than 37 GALLONS per capita annually in the Czech Republic, for example. And while I hardly did a scientific double-blind study on the matter, big portions of heavy food – the Balkans do not seem to have heard of vegetables yet – were plentiful.

So, while the argument always made perfect sense to me in the abstract, it didn't seem so plausible in person. Whatever they're not drinking in Coke and Pepsi they're more than making up for (on average) with beer and wine, and a steady diet of bread, meat, cheese, and potatoes hardly seems like a ticket to carrying around less body mass.
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Not a data point. Merely an observation.

23 thoughts on “NPF: STEVE ALLEN”

  • schmitt trigger says:

    And of course in Italy, and mostly in France, they consume copious amounts of extra-fatty foods.

    My brother has a theory: Red wine consumption helps metabolize the fat.

    My own theory; people are far more mobile. People walk or bike everywhere, every single day.
    Even taking the subway, or other public transportation, one has to take a significant walk, climb stairs, etc.

    Her in the USA, we drive a couple of blocks to purchase a gallon of coke in the local 7-eleven.

  • Schmitt Trigger is probably right but I think another major difference is that by and large the food Europeans eat is fresh and not processed for shelf-stability. I mean, yes they gave cookies and chips. But I think based on a limited sample size directly experienced, that eating fresh fruits and vegetables and reasonable portions of meat, combined with other lifestyle elements, is largely responsible.

  • Another factor relevant to the argument about excessive American reliance on manufactured "foods:" most dietary caloric sources do not undermine healthy metabolic processes the way sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup do. HFCS, being consistently cheap, is added to nearly all manufactured foods (even salad dressings!) "to increase palatability." MF ingredients are of dubious quality and never fresh. They need the sweet to disguise the shit.

    On the beverage front, daily consumption of wine or traditional continental beers (low-ish alcohol liquid bread) might make you fat, but not as fat as sugary soft drinks.

    Also, yes, the daily exercise.

  • Also: For his national show, Steve Allen stole a lot of comedy skits from Ernie Kovacs' local TV show (Philadelphia). Kovacs would present an original skit and literally the next night, Allen would do the same bit. Most of the nation never knew.

  • All of the above, plus, none of the soda alternatives mentioned in the post contain anywhere near the amount of simple sugars delivered by soda (nor the craving-inducing sweetness of artificial sweeteners). There's simply no substitute for "the real thing".

  • When I retired in 2001, I consciously moved to a country that is by large an an agrarian society. I no longer consume 'factory' foods loaded with sugar and salt, or drink 'dead milk' and its by-products. My health as an adult has never been better.

  • Europeans, as a general matter, also don't snack the way Americans do. I've noticed this over a couple decades traveling there for business. Most Europeans would eat a tiny breakfast and a smallish but balanced lunch. Yes, they have more alcohol at dinner than we do and a dinner that is comparable to what we wolf down… but at that point they have not also had a 600 calorie bagel with a 500 calorie frappacoffee, followed by a fruit bar at 11, followed by a calorie-bomb lunch, afternoon snack, etc.

  • Babe E. Buggybumpers says:

    I recall that Steve Allen had a recurring bit in which he was dressed up like an English professor & read the lyrics to current pop songs using overly precise diction, as a way of signalling his superior intellect. Geo. Frickin Will used the same approach in attempting to mock B. Dylan after he (Dylan) was awarded that prize, I forget which one. No sense of humor, any of them.

  • While I was living Scotland, they placed a tax on alcohol to curb consumption and Irn-Bru (the #1 soft drink there) redid their recipe so that there was less sugar, as well. That's not to mention the numerous NHS adds talking about diet and exercise.

    @scmitt trigger is right on about how Americans want to drive EVERYWHERE no matter how close. I was going to five guys for lunch on day. I have an hour lunch and it's maybe a 10 minute walk. One of my co-workers was taken aback when I said I'd rather walk than drive. Like they straight up looked confused when I said I was walking there. It was weird.

  • @Buggybumpers – Allen played rock lyrics for laughs, not for intellectual superiority; it was always any- and everything for laughs. His "man in the street" segments were my favorites, with Don Knotts, Louis Nye and Tom Poston, a recurring format that I guess predated the comic "correspondents" on later shows like Colbert, the Daily Show etc. Kovacs was the stealth 15 minutes by an innovative genius, the Buster Keaton of TV, and if Allen stole from him, it should be forgivable. You can still hear the Nairobi Trio on YouTube, but don't go there unless you want that damn jingle in your head for hours.

  • I experienced the same thing in the Baltic republics. I could finish my meal (which usually involved some combination of pork, potatoes, sauerkraut, dough, and rye bread), but it took discipline and determination. Fortunately, I've had years of training here in the US.

  • I was similarly shocked by the diets I observed in Japan. I was expecting super-healthy, but mostly what I saw was fried pork and noodles in a salty broth, with nary a fresh veggie or salad to be found.

  • I am guilty as any other American.
    Walking in suburban America to get to the store/work/park is relatively dangerous because cars/trucks and the way that roads are designed for driving not walking,everything is sprawled out so much that walking is rarely practical, if you don't live in the city.
    I drive my dogs to the park for a walk because I cannot walk them without the fear of a F-350 running us over. When my wife and I lived in Chicago (North Park neighborhood), we were ten steps for an extensive trail system know as 'sidewalks' and three parks only a couple of blocks away. The dog got walked miles and miles everyday.

  • I'll co-sign onto what Schmitt trigger and Greg said. I would not be at all surprised if American health stats are much better in the few large American cities that have really good public transportation, and infrastructure – especially housing stock – that pre-dates the automobile. I'm talking, NYC, Boston, DC, The Bay Area, Philly to a lesser degree. Maybe Chicago. Maybe Minneapolis (I've never been there so I don't know how walkable it is).

    Most European towns and cities are still pretty much designed to make pedestrianism the easiest way to get around at least in the city-centre and inner-ring areas. The streets are narrow, parking is extremely limited, and housing is very dense – with no space at all between one residence and the next for blocks on end.

    Large swaths of all the aforementioned cities in America have the same characteristics, and people walk a lot in those cities. It's not rare to see fat people here in DC but obesity seems a lot less prevalent here than "back home" in Michigan, or in rural PA where I just was this weekend. Eating a more traditional, unprocessed diet also helps, I'm sure. So it's a combination of that an not redesigning everything around automobiles, which makes walking and biking a better option. The population density means grocery stores and other services need to draw from a smaller geographic area to make a go of it (if you need 300 customers a day you can draw them from a half mile radius rather than a 3 mile radius if population density is higher), which in turn means it is much easier for a lot of people to run their daily errands by foot or bicycle.

  • You overlook one thing. Children don't drink beer. But in Europe they also don't get in the habit of swilling down soda with meals, and their portions are smaller. From what I've read, it seems the inclination to obesity is established early. European children don't lay that foundation for obesity that American kids do, and that carries over into adulthood (except in the UK, which has always been a culinary outlier in Europe, and where people are about as fat as you'd find in the US).

  • My only experience in the USA was at Miami airport on the way home from the Caribbean a couple years back. My wife and I were hungry so we grabbed some fast food (Wendy's, I think). I asked for two small lemonades and got given about 6 fucking litres of the shit. I had to double check she'd heard me right. They were comically enormous.

    You can quit vegetables today and eat nothing but meat for the rest of your life and it won't cause anywhere near the endocrine problems you've got in store if you regularly drink softdrinks the size of small trash cans.

    I'm curious – were they always that big?

  • Steve Bottoms says:

    Hi Sam,

    No, they were not always that big. 30-40 years ago, a small was 8oz, medium 12oz, and large was 16oz. Now, a small is normally 20oz. Soda super cheap (profitable), and psychologically-speaking making everything bigger seems to blind people to how much they are paying (even inflation adjusted, the price has soared).

    PS Schmitt Trigger! Hey, I just had a flashback to my first year of electrical engineering! Nice! :D

  • @ Sam & Steve Bottoms.

    I can remember the coffe and hot chocolate cups that had the little fold-out handle and held maybe 5-6 oz. That was THE size.

    I never took any engineering courses; I do have flashbacks!

  • Using the Czech for comparison on beer drinking wasn't a good choice. They have the highest beer consumption per capita in the world, with a good lead on the second place, and almost 1.5 times that of the Germans, who are still comfortably in the top 5. So yeah, they drink a lot of beer (and considering how good it is, it's no surprise).
    Also as another data point, I remember hearing about studies that Europeans (and Asians, too) walk a lot more than Americans. Most larger European cities have well developed mass transit systems, and when you have to move to and from the station, and often in between, you walk a hell lot more. I live in Germany, and I purposely chosen to go to work by bus and train instead of a car, so just my commute includes walking of 2-3 kilometers. Add to that walking the dog in the evening, and I walk 5-6 kilometers a day easily.

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  • Thanks for recognizing Allen. Comedian, song-writer, author, original mind. "Meeting of the Minds" was brilliant, if you can find it.

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