Banks County Opinions...

OCTOBER 23, 2002


Column

By: Jana Adams
The Banks County News
October 23, 2002

Atari, anyone?
If you are around my age, you’ll remember being called “Generation X” and puzzling over what that meant. I still don’t know, really.
What are we now, “In Transition?” “Getting Older?”
Sure, you still sometimes sing and “dance” to music in your car — when you aren’t feeling too tired from work, “adulthood,” et al. So what if the music that revs you up is not the same music the teenager is listening to in the sports car next to your “I hope it lasts forever” sensible vehicle. It’s a feel good thing, remember?
But, sadly, and weirdly, time really does fly — there’s no denying it. When another feel good thing, one of your childhood toys, is labeled a “collectible,” you are officially no longer a member of the “Younger Generation.” (Just in case you hadn’t already figured that out from a hundred other daily reminders — yes, ma’am, yes, sir, for example.)
Yes, sir, Atari is now a “collectible.”
If you were anything like me and my sister, as Christmas shopping time rolled around “back then,” you began the chant.
(Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari.)
Do you think they didn’t understand?
(Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari.)
We didn’t know the proper term for “subliminal messages,” but we practiced them anyway, or tried to.
“Would you pass the potatoes, please?”
(Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari.)
“I’ve already finished my math homework, would you like to see it? I’m ready to work on my book report next.”
(Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari.)
We didn’t have a huge collection of games — they were cassettes that looked similar to big 8-track tapes, for those of you who don’t remember them. And if you don’t remember those big 8-track tapes, well, yes, ma’am, they’re a thing of the past. Probably collectibles.
Combat. Remember the wonderful anxiety as your opponent slowly maneuvered that tank around, aiming at you, as you slowly maneuvered your tank around? Slowly, slowly, no matter how much you jerked on that joystick and pounded on the red fire button and squealed at the TV screen.
I am amazed when my nephew shows me his Game Boy games. They are so elaborate and fast — and small, fitting nearly in the hand — and he knows every labyrinth, every character, every move to be made.
Of course, we were pretty adept at Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Frogger, some of the better known video games that were adapted for Atari. And we had some more obscure games, too, like Dragon Fire, where your character crossed a bridge over a castle moat, running and jumping and dodging fireballs from dragons as he raced to gather treasures in a hidden room (that’s if you were skillful; otherwise, his little legs shriveled up as the fireball decimated him).
And my friend Elizabeth had Space Invaders – you remember that rhythmic sound (wahntwahntwahntwahnt) as the invaders descended steadily from the sky and your lone “cannon” had to fight them off?
Friend and neighbor Phillip had the best collection of all, ranging from Defender, my personal favorite, to a jungle game in the later Atari days. I can’t remember the name, but your character swung on vines over crocodiles and pit traps, seeking treasure (I believe now that this surely must have come out around the time of Indiana Jones).
We didn’t keep our Atari, of course. I believe we passed it along to younger cousin after we “outgrew” it. And now it is a collectible. (So are Barbies and we cut all the hair off of most of ours.)
Today you can download Atari games onto your computer, but I don’t guess it’s quite the same, because you lose the co-player, opponent factor – that person who shouted and bumped shoulders alongside you in the floor or on the couch in front of the television.
Actually, I heard that you can order Atari through Internet auctions and that it’s becoming popular again — not only for those of us who remember it fondly from our childhood, but also as a sort of “retro” fad for the “younger generation.”
Christmas is coming up in a couple of months, you know. It’s not too soon to be thinking ahead.
(Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari, Atari.)
Look at it this way, you can always say you want to show your children the kind of toys you played with when you were a kid.
Jana Adams is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers and features editor of The Jackson Herald.

Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
T
he Banks County News
October 23, 2002

Society encourages weight gain
Is it too many carbs? Or is it too much fat?
For years, “experts” have been urging America to cut this or avoid that in order to slim down; yet the truth is cutting one food group out of your diet is not good for your body. The only way to shed extra pounds is eating a variety of foods, cutting portion sizes and exercising.
America’s waistline is ever expanding because calorie consumption has risen while exercise levels have dropped. Between 1987 and 1995, U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary intake surveys show a 236-calorie-per-person-per-day increase which translates into an average 24-pound weight gain per person every year.
And society is fueling the changes.
Our food comes from a different source than our grandparents’ food did. Before World War II, food was produced on family farms and sold locally.
Changes in farming practices led to an abundance of food and innovations in processing, packaging, preservation and refrigeration. These changes gave us a dependable low cost food supply, but food is so overproduced that there are 3,800 calories per person per day. (Most Americans should eat roughly half of that.)
And our food packs more punch because processed foods have added sugar and calories. In fact, processed foods and sugary drinks translate into 20-33 teaspoons of sugar per day for every American, according to the U.S.D.A.
As Americans work longer hours, they have less time to fix meals from scratch so we turn to processed foods which cut the cooking time in half or to restaurants and fast food chains which do all of the cooking for us; but prepared foods are half the problem.
Restaurant meals generally contain more saturated fat, less fiber, more cholesterol and more calories than homemade meals. And restaurants have increased portion sizes slowly over the last 15 years in order to promise the consumer a good value (think Buffet style restaurants-how many trips do you have to make in order to feel you got the most for your money?).
Super Size, Biggie Size, any way you put it it adds up to more calories. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese “Extra Value” meal super sized contains 1,550 calories. And when it is there, there’s a complex that comes with not finishing it.
Pennsylvania State University professor Barbara Rolls has proved that people will eat more if it is put in front of them. She studied lean young men who were known to eat healthy. They were given different portions of macaroni and cheese for lunch on different days. When served 16 ounces, they ate 10 ounces, but when they were given 25 ounce portions, they ate 15 ounces, 50 percent more than what had satisfied them on another day.
Survey after survey proves that Americans recognize that people are getting fatter, but they do not see that portion sizes are increasing or that the amount of food eaten directly corresponds to weight gain. In an article in the August 19, 2002 issue of U.S. News and World Report, Amanda Spake said one reason Americans are so clueless about weight is because they still see obesity as an individual moral failing and not an environmental one.
In a Harvard University study released in May 2002, two out of three people said the obesity epidemic could be explained by overweight people lacking the willpower to diet and exercise. University of Colorado’s James Hill says the only way Americans will become thin and stay thin is to think about what they are eating all of the time. (And that’s depressing.)
He said the problem is that few people know how to balance what they are eating against the calories they are using up in exercise. Many suggest these skills be taught in school health education classes.
And that may be a good start. Today a quarter of kids’ calories come from snacks; the typical snacks are cheesy crackers, sugary fruit bites or rolls, snack cakes or chips. Foods with very little or no nutritional value.
And TV contributes to the phenomenon, according to the Centers for Disease Control, prompting children to snack as they watch. U.S. children see about 10 food commercials during every hour of TV they watch. But rather than promote healthy eating, schools are reinforcing bad snack choices with vending machines that feature high calorie sodas, chips and candy bars.
A king size Butterfinger has 680 calories. The healthier choice? A quarter cup of raisins at 120 calories, but its not featured in Lance vending machines. And while teenaged boys are drinking an average three cokes per day, a whopping 750 calories, most are seriously dehydrated, drinking less than the recommended eight glasses of water.
Schools really need to shape up. Literally. Schools should allow students to carry closed water bottles into class, but not sodas. Snack machines should feature healthier items. Schools should reinforce eating a variety of foods by providing more fruit and vegetable choices and fewer starches and fats.
Parents should do the same. Offer fruit or nuts to snack on. Encourage exercise and make physical education classes a priority.
Unlike Mr. Hill, I don’t think we need to constantly think about calories in order to lose weight and stay thin. I do think it is important to eat healthy. It’s not hard.
Replace non-nutritious snacks with an apple or a cup of yogurt. Stop drinking so many flavored beverages. Drink ice water. It’s necessary for a healthy body. It won’t happen overnight.
Farming practices evolved over decades so the changes will take time. And slowly, by recognizing what is good for you and what is not, I believe Americans can take control of their waistline.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.
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