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The Whippet #20: Paprika fight

McKinley Valentine — 10 min read

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Good morning black witch moths.

Update for people who don't follow me on facebook: I didn't get selected for jury duty. I am now officially on the side of injustice. Consider this my face/heel turn.*

The Solicited Advice piece this issue is quite a long one about fighting and passion in relationships, so I'm gonna keep this opening pretty neutral and impersonal. Do you know that the scientific consensus is don't do sit-ups or crunches? (tl;dr do planks). I thought everyone knew this, but apparently not. If you do, just scroll on down to the Interesting Articles section, but if you don't:

Never do crunches or sit-ups! For real, Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, did an extensive series of studies, and they're just trash for your back. They cause stress on the disks of your spine, and they're not very effective at increasing strength.

They also tend to worse anterior pelvic tilt (the posture problem where your back arch is exaggerated and your butt sticks out and you maybe get lower back pain).

If you're genetically blessed with a good spine, maybe you'll never have issues, but all that means is they're harmless at best.

There are some exercises, like "what's better, bench press or push-ups" where people have their pet theories about what's best and why, and there's upsides and downsides and it gets complicated. Crunches aren't like that. They're just the worse option, always.

The other reason is related to 'functional fitness' which is like, what are you actually using your muscles for? A barbell squat teaches you how to pick up a heavy thing off the ground. That's functional. Bicep curls, yep, that's how you contract the muscle when you're carrying groceries.

But when do you ever have to lift a weight with the top half of your torso and you do it by bending? That's not what your core is for. Your core is a stabiliser. If someone tries to push you over, your core stops you being pushed. If you push someone else over, your core helps you transfer power from your legs to your upper body.

Your core's usefulness is in staying still, preventing movement. Not in bending sixty times. So, exercises that make it better at staying still and being a stabiliser:

1. Planks, this is the obvious one. Front, sides, back, hollow hold.
2. Dead bug (harder than it looks)
3. Bird dog (v. easy)
4. Glute bridges (both legs or single leg)

(there's heaps more if you have access to weights or gym equipment, search for 'anti-rotational exercise'. farmers carry, Pallof press, suitcase deadlift, etc etc)

* (I'm never sure what's well known already and what's not? 'face' is a good guy in professional wrestling, 'heel' is a bad guy, face/heel turn is a good guy becoming a bad guy such as because they feel like they're not being done right by their good-guy partner or because they didn't get selected for jury duty).

Speaking of professional wrestling

(Click image for 3 minute video on Facebook)

If you have ever thought "I would like pro wrestling a lot better if they were tough, working class Bolivian women with multilayered petticoats that form a perfect arc of colour whenever they do cool flips, which is a lot" then I have a documentary you might want to watch. (Full documentary: 25 minutes)

(To be clear, this is cool, but there are also some very obvious class issues - much the same ones that are in usual pro wrestling. It's theatre, but it's tough on the body and people do get injured, and they are not rich people, and they do not necessarily have a lot of choices available to them. Can't share this without acknowledging that.)

The two best pies: official ruling

1. Stargazy pie

A Cornish fish, egg and potato pie in which whole fish stick out of the pastry, face up, gazing at the stars. (Originated in a town called Mousehole!)

“But McKinley, surely this pie is sort of horrible?”

I said the best pie, not the tastiest pie. This pie can be enjoyed without even eating it. It’s actually probably most enjoyable when you get to hear about it, but don’t have to eat it. The best pie, surely, is one whose enjoyment is not limited by time, distance, or oven ownership?

2. Bedfordshire Clanger

This one is best in the normal meaning of the word. Imagine a pastie, about a foot long, a packed lunch big enough to feed a labourer. Except instead of being meat/potatoes/veggies all the way through, the last quarter or so is dessert. Apple pie, or jam-filled. Main and dessert in one! With some hashes on the pastry so you know which end to eat first. I've made this and it's predictably marvellous. I've also heard of more modern versions such as curry with a mango end. I'm sure you have your own ideas.

Wikipedia category page: British pies

Shark tracker

This is super neat, it's a world map with a pin for all the sharks with GPS trackers on them. You can click on a pin, 'Shark Profile' shows you a few photos of them and 'View Track' shows you their recent history - dang Cyndi has gone from the Cape of Good Hope, all the way up to Madagascar, circled Mauritius and Reunion, and come back. Cyndi is a terrible name for a shark but that is an impressive journey.
Shark tracker

Sky burial

Sky burial is a funeral practice in areas with frozen, rocky ground, in areas where wood is a scarce resource, making both burial and cremation impractical. Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia, parts of India and Nepal - especially places above the treeline. It means, as you might have guessed from the painting above, leaving a body to be eaten by wild creatures, usually vultures.

Among Buddhist people, this fits with values of compassion. The actual word for it translates to 'alms for the birds'. It's also obviously massively important to avoid spreading disease.

In Zoroastrianism, the bodies are left on top of squat stone towers, called Towers of Silence, where I suppose they would be out of sight from passers-by. They're surprisingly complicated - for example, they have filters of sand and charcoal so rainwater that passes over the bodies won't be contaminated.

Sky burial in India has been massively threatened by the Indian vulture crisis - a massive die-off caused by pesticides. Vultures aren't as pop-culture friendly as bees, but they're as important to the ecosystem. Without vultures, stray dogs and rats have stepped up their scavenging (and breeding). But "these newly abundant scavengers are not as efficient as vultures. A vulture’s metabolism is a true 'dead-end' for pathogens, but dogs and rats become carriers of the pathogens.'

Sky burial on wikipedia. (There are a couple of disturbing images).

photo: Antoine Taveneaux

Penguin Bomb


Solicited Advice

"Is there something wrong with couples who don't fight? Does it mean my partner and I lack passion?"

My first answer is OH MAN this is some garbage. You kinda know it’s garbage, right? But you’re feeling a bit worried anyway because who the fuck ever knows if you’re doing relationships right, right? and the “healthy couples fight” trope is very pervasive.

I would agree that normal couples fight but please remember that about 90% of couples should probably break up. Hurtful words are normal in relationships, so is bringing up old arguments for the sake of wounding your partner. Normal relationships are pretty toxic.

(Here is a good resource for ‘fighting fair’ – if you or your partner can’t follow these rules, you need to break up and/or get help learning how to follow them before you date again. They are non-negotiable minimum standards. #1, #3 and #4 are one strike and you’re out, the rest are like, if it slips out and you immediately back-pedal and apologise, okay, but if it’s habitual, no, you gotta break up.)

And passion! What does that even mean? I reckon if you love someone enough to fight, you can also love them enough to curb your aggression, calm down, examine your feelings, and talk about them openly? Restraining your first impulse is harder than giving into it, so I don’t know why restraint somehow got classified as less romantic.

Passion is men who say they’ll do anything to get you to stay, so long as “anything” is a grand quest on their own terms. They’ll fight a bear, but they won’t be honest with you. They’ll run up and down a mountain six times, but they won’t do any serious self-reflection. They’ll wait on you hand and foot like a devoted knight, but they won’t go to therapy, give you some space, or do the difficult, unglamorous work of personal growth.

What is unhealthy is never having any difficult or painful discussions. If you don’t bring up your needs or state boundaries because you’re afraid of causing a fight, that’s unhealthy. If you just swallow stuff that hurts you instead of telling your partner, that’s no good. Partly because the only way to swallow that stuff is to shave off a little sliver of your love for your partner, and if you’re committed to them, you have a responsibility not to shave off those slivers.

You know how, if you fall over in public, you do this laughing along with it thing in an attempt to save your dignity instead of just crying and refusing to get up for the next ten minutes which is what you’d really prefer to do?

You can’t try to save your dignity with a partner. You have to say “that thing you said in front of our friends embarrassed me” even though it’s even more embarrassing to admit that. That guy I always get confused with Anthony Bordain says that your ego is a ridiculous baby that needs coddling or it will get resentful, and you kind of have to accept that fact, and not try to be better than it.

You’re still responsible for your ridiculous ego baby, but taking responsibility means saying “hey, I know it's silly, but I felt ignored yesterday when you interrupted me” and giving your partner the chance to say “oh shit, sorry, I was worrying about work. Please tell me the story again now, I’m listening" (or "I can't talk right now but let's make time on Friday”). It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it does have to get sorted, or it builds up. (If you don’t trust your partner to say “oh shit, sorry, I’m listening now” then you’re in the 90% who should break up.)

You can’t be like “it was silly of me to feel upset, I won’t bring it up.” You have to be okay with looking silly to your partner.

I’m going to define “fight” as a disagreement where you’re looking to win or make a point (instead of resolve the situation with both of you as happy as possible). As opposed to a difficult conversation about conflicting needs (“I want to live overseas, but you want to stay close to your family” should never, ever be a fight. It will be a very hard conversation, but not a fight.)

Fights happen because you’re tired and stressed, not because you’re overwhelmed with love for your partner. This is extremely obvious if you look at the pattern of when your fights tend to happen.

I have had a few fights with my partner, and they’re always dumb. They’re never about issues of any actual importance to our relationship. The last one, I wish I was joking: I put heaps of paprika in our dinner and it turned out to be hot paprika and the food was too spicy to eat and he was like “why would you put so much of a spice in without tasting it first” and I was like “because I know what paprika tastes like, you should have told me it was hot paprika not sweet paprika, sweet paprika is the normal kind!”
“No, hot paprika is the normal kind!”

This is not a fight that needed to happen. It wasn’t borne out of passion. And it ended because we caught ourselves and realised this didn’t need to be decided in anyone’s favour and we could just drop it. (That is: we remembered, in a non-glamorous, non-passionate way, that we love each other a ridiculous amount).

(Note: there is a strong chance that one of you will realise this first and the other will still be fuming. If you're fuming, try to trust your partner and agree to drop it for a few hours and check if you still think it matters then.)

Official ruling: it’s a red flag to have a fight with your partner more than once every three months (unless one or both of you is going through a particularly difficult time).

  1. If it’s a paprika fight, catch yourself as soon as possible and drop it without declaring a winner.
  2. If you have a conflict about something that matters then here’s a good resource for ‘fighting fair’, i.e. in ways that won’t damage your relationship.
  3. If your partner says it’s a paprika fight, and you think it’s a fight that matters, and you've calmed down and definitely aren't just in a mood, then you’re right, it matters (because it matters to you). You will need to explain to your partner why it matters to you. See the link for fighting fair.

If you want solicited advice, send questions to or just reply to this email.

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