Briefly Noted: Books, Movies, Magazines, and More

Refuting Morgan Spurlock, Garden & Gun, the Lionel train legacy, and Godfather diplomacy

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Downsize Me

"I don't like what you're proving here," Tom Naughton's doctor tells him toward the end of Fat Head, his sharp, funny rejoinder to Morgan Spurlock's 2004 fast food exposé Super Size Me. Naughton has just spent a month eating nothing but fast food, mostly at McDonald's, and emerged 12 pounds slimmer, with his cholesterol counts essentially unchanged.

Spurlock's month-long McDonald's diet, by contrast, left him with 25 extra pounds and alarming blood test results. Naughton did not skimp on the sausages, cheeseburgers, or fried chicken, but he eschewed sugary beverages, consumed about 2,000 calories a day (compared to Spurlock's 5,000), and started walking for exercise six days a week instead of three.

Naughton refutes the thesis that fast food per se, rather than people's choices, is responsible for the "obesity epidemic." He interviews several critics of the government-led War on Fat (including me) and highlights the weaknesses in the theory that saturated fat and cholesterol contribute to heart disease.—Jacob Sullum

The Southern Lifestyle Will Rise Again

Garden & Gun is not a practical, down-home magazine with ads for handguns and advice columns on coaxing that stubborn rhododendron to bloom. The Charleston-based magazine, founded in 2007 by a former publisher of The New Yorker, is a chic Southern lifestyle magazine devoted to seeking out the best handcrafted boots, skillet cornbread, and quail lodges.

Inside, you'll find stories like the tale of a displaced Southerner so homesick for sweet tea that she got a tattoo devoted to "the real hillbilly heroin." But because this story is in Garden & Gun, the tattoo is understated and done in a hip letterpress font. "Now that I have moved home," she writes, "it serves less as a touchstone and more as a drink order." The narrative tone blends self-conscious folksiness with a Southern patrician drawl and meshes surprisingly well with the slick photography and layout. With a little luck, Garden & Gun will do for hillbilly what Wired did for geek.—Katherine Mangu-Ward

We Often Dream of Trains

Although its text is thin (and, according to some aficionados, error-prone), Robert S. Schleicher's coffee table history The Lionel Legend: An American Icon (Voyageur Press) suggests why industries grow more politically potent as they become less important to the economy. The rapturous color photos reveal an enchanting world that a generation of man-children yearned to enter during the postwar period—the very time when cars permanently displaced trains as the real world's ground transportation.

As a style, a sentiment, and an idea of how small-town America ought to look, railroad culture is hard to top—something worth remembering as the tentacles of Vice President Joe Biden's high-speed colossus enfold an unwilling nation. Mostly bypassing Lionel's century-long corporate history, Schleicher gives voice to the romance of rail—a romance that depends on those limitations that make trains suboptimal in reality.—Tim Cavanaugh

A Foreign Policy They Can't Refuse

Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 film The Godfather has become a cultural landmark, referenced in everything from The Simpsons to The Sopranos. With The Godfather Doctrine (Princeton), John C. Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell have applied the differing views of mob boss Don Corleone's three sons (excluding the hapless Fredo) to differing schools of American foreign policy. The hotheaded Sonny is a neocon, while adopted son and family consigliere Tom Hagen represents what the authors call "liberal institutionalism." Michael Corleone represents the authors' preferred model of realism, since he senses that a shift is under way on the streets toward a more diffuse power arrangement.

The analogy works up to a point, especially with Sonny, for whom violence is always the first option. But the authors stretch the idea beyond its limits. America's alliances and enmities around the globe are too complex to be successfully squeezed into the template of three fictional gangsters dealing with Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo.—Clark Stooksbury

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  1. I first saw Garden & Gun in my doctor’s office a couple of years ago.

    No ads for your of-the-shelf Savage or Mossberg here. These laddies and ladies tastes run to personally fitted double barrel side-by-sides from custom gunmakers in England or Italy that start at around 12 large. The perfect gun for that Argentinian (no Sanford jokes) quail hunt in a lodge that runs a thousand a day.

    None of the guys in my gun club move in these circles that I know of.

  2. Argentinian quail hunt

    So that’s what they’re calling it these days…

    Now I have to watch that movie, I always knew Ronnie McDonald had my best interests at heart!

  3. These laddies and ladies tastes run to personally fitted double barrel side-by-sides from custom gunmakers in England or Italy that start at around 12 large.

    That’s the way my tastes run, too. Too bad my wallet doesn’t run in the same circles.

  4. Garden & Gun must have some bitchin’ pest control tips.

  5. The Godfather Doctrine excludes using Fredo Corleone as a metaphor. Personally, I see aspects of Fredo in the current administration’s foreign policy, particularly its inability to deal with foreign thugs in a realistic manner.

  6. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that New Haven, Connecticut, discriminated against a mostly white group of firefighters who were denied promotions, overturning a decision by high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090629/pl_nm/us_usa_race_court_5

  7. Isaac, my parents live near a skeet range that caters to that crowd. When I get some money, I think I’ll buy a Saiga 12 and a few drum mags and go there just to see what kind of looks I get.

  8. The perfect gun for that Argentinean (no Sanford jokes) quail hunt in a lodge that runs a thousand a day.

    Right. Meanwhile the garden back home is under the care of the gardener.

    None of the guys in my gun club move in these circles that I know of.

    True here as well. If you want a real women and guns magazine, look for Women & Guns. It’s been around since 1989.

    OTOH given that most national women’s magazines have for the past several decades treated gun owners with they same empathy they reserved for rapists, I hope Garden & Gun signals a reversal.

  9. I hate gardening.

  10. Up yours, Epi, you Sword of Shannara-reading fuck. Growing incredibly hot peppers is a sublime joy.

  11. I prefer The Elfstones of Shannara, Warty, you colossal douchebag.

  12. Saw an issue of Garden & Guns in my doctor’s office. It had one outdoor advertiser, an optics company, no gun ads.

    There is fierce competition among publishers for the upper end gun market and the ad budgets of most of the upper end manufacturers and importers are tiny.

    Best of luck to Garden and Guns but don’t look for it to get significant revenue from firearms advertising.

  13. “I hate gardening.”

    I’d generally agree. But somehow the idea of gardening with a shotgun sounds a little more palatable.

    Tulips?

    PULL!

  14. The romance of rail-a romance that depends on those limitations that make trains suboptimal in reality.

    Trains are only suboptimal if you want to carry people from A to B. They are close to optimal for carrying stuff, though, especially heavy, bulky stuff. But a carload of winter wheat isn’t very romantic, I’ll give you that.

  15. BILLY MAYS HERE I’M STILL DEAD BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

  16. Much as i hate to be on the same side as Warty on anything, up yours, Epi. Gardening is awesome.

  17. I remember reading a review of a Lionel model of the Southern Pacific “Daybreak Express” steam engine, which cost $800. The magazine said the engine Lionel sent them looked great, but wouldn’t run. So they went out and bought one, and it didn’t run either. It what was probably a first for any consumer magazine of any kind, they advised against buying that model.

    Online you can read about the business of model trains, which sounds pretty goddamn ruthless here–a large chunk of text from Janet Souter’s “Modern Toy Trains.”

  18. Epi just has a black thumb. It’s jealousy.

    Harvested one of my first serrano peppers the other day. Insanely hot.

  19. Gardening is awesome.

    Really? Digging around in the dirt and having rabbits and gophers eat your plants is awesome?

    Thanks, I’d rather buy the stuff from someone else, like the elitist shithead I am.

  20. I prefer the more urban counterpart to Garden & Gun.

    Pumps Up, Hoes Down

  21. I have some nice habaneros and jalapenos, but I’m really excited about my Thai peppers. THEY POINT UP OMG

  22. Epi just has a black thumb.

    I can grow things! Like…mint, or weeds. And grass! I’m very good with grass.

  23. Real men can make the very earth bring forth the stuff of life, that’s all i’m saying.

  24. “I prefer The Elfstones of Shannara”

    i was going to say “ha ha good one” but apparently this exists.

    🙁

  25. “I prefer The Elfstones of Shannara”

    i was going to say “ha ha good one” but apparently this exists.”

    Sad to say I’ve read it. I was a troubled & confused teenager.

  26. people are into lots of stuff; berets, prog rock, books about getting teabagged by a dude with pointy ears…

    the market is truly a wonderous place of horrors!

  27. i was going to say “ha ha good one” but apparently this exists.

    That’s the joke, Acid Damage. That it exists. See? If I wanted to be ultra-awful I would have mentioned The Elf Queen of Shannara.

  28. I have that issue of G & G on a table in my office right now. I got it free at the World Shooting Complex last year (which is scheduled for 3.5 million bucks of public pork – money well spent if you ask me…). It’s a very good magazine. It has nature, women, fishing and hunting, luxury living – that’s everything a guy needs. I’d like a subscription if somebody else would like to subsidize me one.

  29. Really? Digging around in the dirt and having rabbits and gophers eat your plants is awesome?

    Think of it as putting out bait for rabbits and gophers, Epi. Thus, Garden & Gun.

  30. I have some nice habaneros and jalapenos, but I’m really excited about my Thai peppers. THEY POINT UP OMG

    “Warty” mia coy yu sai?

    You just described our garden – funky Thai peppers and all. I’m suspecting you might be my wife. If so, I was only kidding when I made all those sexist comments. I really respect women and think men should do more to carry their own weight. And there was nothing wrong with throwing away my New Balance shoes to make room for 3 more pairs of flip-flops.

  31. “That’s the joke, Acid Damage. That it exists. See? If I wanted to be ultra-awful I would have mentioned The Elf Queen of Shannara.”

    wikipedia is like, well, i guess it’s like a window into one of those terrible lovecraftian things. not that i’d stoop to reading the natterings of a dude who was afraid of seafood, but still, you get the idea.

  32. I was very disappointed to find that G&G is just a rich people lifestyle magazine. It was exciting to see a magazine which apparently combined two of my favorite things. OH well.

  33. Think of it as putting out bait for rabbits and gophers, Epi. Thus, Garden & Gun.

    There ya go. A blind at the one edge and your all set.

    I was seriously considering sitting out with my air rifle to see if I could shoot me some grub in my suburban garden one year. But damned if Florida squirrels aren’t such runty little bastards you’d have to shoot about twenty to get one meal.

    That and the fact the neighbors might not understand.

    That’s what stopped me from loading up my black powder pistol with just powder and wadding the one year I thought it would be such a splendid idea.

  34. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke

  35. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets

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