Friday, July 18, 2008

`Clone Wars' revives old-style `Star Wars' fun

By DAVID GERMAIN, AP Movie Writer Thu Jul 17, 8:02 AM ET

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - A tinge of Anakin Skywalker's coming dark side clearly is visible in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." Yet the animated adventure mostly harks back to the fun, swashbuckling times of the original "Star Wars" trilogy.

Lucasfilm Animation, which screened the movie Tuesday for The Associated Press in advance of its Aug. 15 theatrical release, has crafted a movie nicely tucked in to Anakin's early heroic days, before his transformation into the evil Darth Vader.

Along for the ride are noble-hearted clone soldiers with the camaraderie of Marine grunts, inept android warriors as idiotic as the Three Stooges and a young protege who rivals Anakin for cockiness and affectionately calls him "Sky Guy."

Dave Filoni, director of the movie and supervising director for "The Clone Wars" animated TV show debuting this fall on TNT and the Cartoon Network, said the idea was to return to the wisecracking tone of the original "Star Wars" in 1977, before the gloom of Anakin's fall.

"I wanted this to have the banter. I wanted this to be funny," Filoni said in an interview at Skywalker Ranch, home to Lucasfilm Animation, a division of "Star Wars" creator George Lucas' filmmaking empire. "Telling that dark story of Anakin Skywalker was important for George, but this was a chance to show Anakin before that. Anakin as a hero, Anakin as the good guy, Anakin more like his son," Luke Skywalker, of the original trilogy.

The Anakin in "Clone Wars" is a hybrid of Luke and his rascally ally, Han Solo, Filoni said.

"He's cocky like Han, he can do a lot of things like Han, he's clever with machines like Han. But he's naive like Luke. The whole galaxy is a bit overwhelming," Filoni said.

The movie presents all of the key characters from Anakin's world: Jedi masters Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu and Yoda; Anakin's future wife Padme Amidala; androids R2-D2 and C-3PO; gangster Jabba the Hutt; villain Count Dooku; and Palpatine, the galaxy's evil emperor in waiting.

Characters not seen in the live-action movies include conniving assassin Asajj Ventress; Jabba's sinister uncle, a giant slug that speaks with a Truman Capote-like Southern drawl; and Captain Rex, a loyal member of Anakin's clone crew.

The main newcomer is Ahsoka Tano, a teenage girl from an exotic alien species who's assigned as Anakin's Jedi apprentice. With mischievous wit, Ahsoka breaks down Anakin's stiff facade and reluctance to take on a student, the two establishing a flippant rapport as they slice up droids with their light-sabers, scale a daunting summit on a rescue mission and play nursemaid to Jabba's kidnapped baby son.

"She definitely brings a fun side out of Anakin. I think they have such a great relationship," said Ashley Eckstein, who provides Ahsoka's voice. "Ahsoka is very eager to prove herself, and I don't think she would allow Anakin not to accept her."

The movie offers a glimpse of the inner turmoil that contributes to Anakin's turn to the dark side. Crash-landing on his home planet of Tatooine, Anakin momentarily bears a haunted look as he's asked about the desert world, where he exacted a savage revenge over the death of his mother in "Attack of the Clones."

"I was hoping I'd never have to lay eyes on this dustball again," Anakin says.

Opening with a variation on John Williams' familiar "Star Wars" theme, the movie is heavy on humor. Anakin devises an amusing low-tech way for him and Ahsoka to sneak inside a droid energy shield. Obi-Wan engages in a witty surrender negotiation with a general who speaks in a Sean Connery brogue. When a droid falls off a cliff and smashes on the ground, his superior leans over and barks, "Get back here, sergeant."

A few veteran "Star Wars" performers provide voices for the movie, including Samuel L. Jackson as Mace, Christopher Lee as Dooku and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. Taking over from Hayden Christensen as the voice of Anakin is Matt Lanter, while James Arnold Taylor does Obi-Wan, who was played by Ewan McGregor in the prequel trilogy.

Anakin remains a bit rash, but he has graduated from apprenticeship to Obi-Wan to take the lead on his own missions as an equal to his former master.

"With this movie and also the ongoing series, we're going to see the banter between Obi-Wan and Anakin. We're going to see them as comrades, as buddies," Lanter said. "It is reminiscent of some of the original `Star Wars.' It's got that comic relief in it and has kind of that old-school feeling."

Mentioned briefly in the first "Star Wars," the Clone Wars are depicted fleetingly in "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," the second and third episodes in the prequel trilogy.

The new movie and the TV show take place in the three years between those films, as the Jedi lead the galactic republic's clone army against the robot forces of a separatist movement headed by Dooku.

It was a murky epoch in the "Star Wars" universe, ripe with stories about Anakin and other central figures but also minor characters and new ones never seen before.

"That was the impetus of that, this whole period of time we could run around in,"

Lucas said in an interview earlier this year.

Lucas initially planned just a TV show. But as he viewed the first footage, "he said, `This looks great. The fans should really see this on the big screen,'" said Filoni, who came to "Clone Wars" after working on the animated series "Avatar: The Last Airbender."

Filoni and his collaborators reshaped a story arc developed for the series into a stand-alone tale they could tell as a theatrical movie.

The computer animation borrows from the striking panoramas of Japanese anime, while the characters have a chiseled look and movements vaguely reminiscent of the 1960s puppet adventure series "Thunderbirds."

Though animated, the world is recognizably "Star Wars," from Yoda's twitching frowns to the hum of the light-sabers.

"A lot of people have said to me that have seen it — well, the few people that have seen it at this point — that they feel like they're watching `Star Wars,'" Filoni said. "They feel like they're seeing those characters again. Even though we've done this style that's painterly, if you want to call it that, it's still `Star Wars.'"

Ben & Jerry's makes 'Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road'

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Ben & Jerry's has done it again: Hoping to honor rocker Elton John before his first-ever Vermont performance, Vermont's crazy-cool confectioner has whipped up a flavor just for him — "Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road."

The limited-batch ice cream, made from "an outrageous symphony of decadent chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks," is a take-off on his 1970s album and song Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

It will be available from July 18 to July 25 in the company's Vermont scoop shops, with proceeds going to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, officials said Tuesday.

It'll also be doled out in cups, cones and dishes at John's sold-out Champlain Valley Expo show Monday.

The Burlington-based ice cream maker — whose rock 'n' roll-themed products have honored late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia ("Cherry Garcia") and Vermont-bred jam rockers Phish ("PhishFood") — wanted to toast John because he was finally getting around to playing the Green Mountain State.

He's performed in every other U.S. state.

"It's hard to cram 50 years of musical history that Elton John brings to the table in one pint," said Sean Greenwood, a spokesman for Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings Inc.

John collaborated, and has given his stamp of approval to the ice cream, even though he hasn't actually tasted it, Greenwood said.

"He said, 'Chocolate and peanut butter, guys, if you can make something like that work,'" said Greenwood.

Tickets for the show — priced at $75 to $135 — are sold out.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

How to Reach Age 99: 100 Essential Habits

Are you competitive? Maybe you just want to beat the odds of the average lifespan for most Americans? The average lifespan of an American born today is between 77.5 to 80.0 years of age, so you would live almost a full quarter century past this average if you make it to age 99. The first step you might want to take is to move to Australia, where life expectancy is, on average, age 81. Or, you might examine the life of Jeanne Calment, a French woman who reached the longest confirmed lifespan in history at 122 years and 164 days. We did discover that all the habits that would contribute to a long life don’t take a fortune, so you don’t need to be rich.

No matter what you do, you must know that the odds of living to age 99 are against you. While living to experience age 99 isn’t an easy task, it can be done. One huge factor that can decrease your chances dramatically is heart disease. So, our focus is on that issue. But, your risk for heart disease can be reduced drastically with small measures, and the majority of habits listed here coul help you realize your old-age potential. The reason the ‘tips’ listed below are called ‘habits’ is because they are life-changing skills that must be repeated throughout your life to realize the possibility of reaching that age 99 goal.

Of course, there are some things you can’t change. Your age, your gender, your ethnicity and your heredity will have a bearing on whether or not your odds of reaching old age are for or against you. But, even though you can’t change these factors, your ability to live a longer life could increase if you change some current habits, such as smoking, overeating and lack of exercise.

To that end, the ideas listed below will provide you with useful and credible links for more information. Although these links are numbered, they are not listed by value.

Your Heart | Ethnicity & Heredity | Blood Pressure | Cholesterol | Diabetes | Altering Habits | Diet | Exercise | Emotional Aspects | Aging

Your Heart

In previous generations, accidents, poor sanitation and childhood diseases were the big three that contributed to a shorter life span. Today, a full third of all Americans will cut their life short with heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 696,947 people died of heart disease in 2002, and fifty-one percent of those deaths included women. The total equaled twenty-nine percent of all U.S. deaths. If you want to live to age 99, your heart’s health is an important ingredient in meeting your goal. The habits listed below, therefore, can help you take the first steps toward your goal:

  1. Learn more: This link will take you to the American Heart Association, where you can continue to learn about heart disease as long as you live. Basically, diseases of the heart an circulatory system are called cardiovascular disease, or CVD. CVD comes in two main forms: heart disease (CHD) and stroke. A heart attack occurs when an individual develops a blockage in one of the arteries supplying blood to his or her heart. A stroke is the result of a blockage in one of the arteries to the brain. In either case, the story is the same. Lack of blood stops the heart or brain from working so the body shuts down. CVD is the number one cause of death in America.
  2. Learn the symptoms: Almost a full half of cardiac deaths occur before emergency services or transport to a hospital. When you learn the symptoms of heart disease, you may prevent a fatal occurrence. If you feel that you fit any of the profiles listed on this link to WebMD, then contact your physician immediately for more information, no matter your age.
  3. Ethnicity matters: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Native Americans, Alaska Natives, African Americans, Hispanics and Caucasian individuals. But, this picture is general, as scientists have found over the past few decades that some groups of people seem to be spiking in heart disease. The other factors to consider include income level, physical activity, eating habits and more.
  4. Heredity matters as well: In a study concluded in 2007, a team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health found that, regardless of age or lifestyle factors, if any sibling, brother or sister suffers a heart attack or chest pain from blocked arteries, the chances of any healthy brothers developing similar problems rises within ten years by twenty percent. If your siblings, parents or grandparents have a history of heart disease, don’t ignore the possibility that you inherited their problems.
  5. Check your blood pressure: Of the 50 million Americans who have high blood pressure (the leading contributor to heart disease) thirty-five percent don’t know they have it. High blood pressure is easily detectable and usually controllable. An inexpensive blood pressure cuff and gauge, available at most drug stores, can be used regularly to monitor your blood pressure.
  6. Control your ‘bad’ cholesterol: It’s proven that the higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack. Studies among people with heart disease have shown that lowering high blood cholesterol can reduce the risk of dying of heart disease, having a nonfatal heart attack, and needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty. Studies among people without heart disease have shown that lowering high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
  7. Avoid or control diabetes: More than sixty-five percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. With diabetes, heart attacks occur earlier in life and often result in death. By managing diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, people with diabetes can reduce their risk.
  8. Avoid or quit smoking: Cigarette smoking accounts for about one-fifth of all deaths from heart disease in the United States. Smokers have a two- to fourfold increase in coronary artery disease and about a 70 percent higher death rate from coronary artery disease than do nonsmokers. Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, as former smokers have the same risk levels as nonsmokers after five to fifteen years.
  9. Increase physical activity: Physical inactivity is estimated to cause 1.9 million premature deaths worldwide annually, and a lack of exercise or physical activity contributes to an increase in heart disease, Type II diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and premature aging.
  10. Maintain a healthy weight: This link will take you to the Texas Heart Institute, where you’ll learn that obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. When you consider that one out of every three Americans are “obese,” you may realize that the numbers of Americans who will die from heart disease will increase drastically from the 2002 numbers listed previously. Lose weight, so you won’t become a statistic at an early age.

Ethnicity & Heredity

More and more health sites have focused on ethnicity and heredity as factors in longevity. Although you cannot control these factors, your ability to live a longer life can increase if you develop a habit around learning about your risk factors. The following links will lead you to more information so that you can begin to try to live a longer life. Much more study is anticipated in this arena, so it might help to stay abreast of any news. Much can change in the next 99 years…

  1. Lose inherited bad habits: According to Rowe and Kahn, authors of Successful Aging, genetics count only for thirty percent of an individual’s ability to achieve longevity. Sometimes, the habits that individuals “inherit” are the culprits behind a short lifespan. “People tend to live and eat the same as their relatives.”
  2. Know your cancer risks: African Americans are 50 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer than whites. Most esophageal cancers in African Americans are the squamous cell type. In contrast, adenocarcinomas are the most common form of esophageal cancer in whites. These ethnic differences might be attributed to interaction between genetic and lifestyle factors, such as genetic susceptibility to carcinogens and ethnic variations in exposure to certain pollutants.
  3. Learn more about cancer: Cancer is the leading cause of death for Asians and Pacific Islanders accounting for 26.1 percent of all deaths. But, while cancer may be selective in some cases, but it can strike anyone. Learn more about all types of cancer and about your risks at this link to the American Cancer Society.
  4. You can inherit high blood pressure: You have a higher risk of high blood pressure if you have a family history of the disease. High blood pressure also is more common in African Americans than in Caucasians. Take advantage of the tips listed below to learn more about how to manage this deterrent to longevity.
  5. Learn about familial hypercholesterolemia: Your genes influence how high your LDL (”bad”) cholesterol is by affecting how fast LDL is made and removed from the blood. One specific form of inherited high cholesterol that affects 1 in 500 people is familial hypercholesterolemia, which often leads to early heart disease. But even if you do not have a specific genetic form of high cholesterol, genes play a role in influencing your LDL-cholesterol level, no matter your ethnicity.
  6. Understand diabetes risks: Some ethnic groups, particularly African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanic Americans, have higher risk factors for diabetes. But, if you don’t belong to any of these ethnic groups, don’t act smug just yet - if you have a parent or sibling who has diabetes - no matter your ethnicity - your risk level just went up as well.
  7. Learn more about your ancestry: Many people know very little about their grandparents or great-grandparents. Yet, these individuals may hold the key to your longevity. Begin to learn more about how to research your ancestry at RootsWeb or through Cyndi’s List - two other sites that hold valuable information.
  8. Test your DNA: Prices on DNA self-testing have fallen dramatically since this concept was introduced several years ago. While DNA testing is fairly accurate, be aware that some tests are erroneous. But, some tests are very accurate, so be prepared to learn that you may not be who you thought you were. DNA testing can cut through traditional family oral histories like a knife and reveal genetic secrets that may have been hidden for generations.
  9. Look for risk factors: This link will take you to a story about a certain drug used to treat epilepsy that is distributed in Canada. It seems this drug may create an increased risk of serious skin reactions for patients of Asian descent. This is the type of news that can help you to avoid health risks, but only if you know your ethnicity and heritage.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer,” as the symptoms are invisible. The only way to survive high blood pressure problems is to test yourself regularly and to change your habits to fit those listed below:

  1. Learn about this silent killer: High blood pressure that goes undetected or isn’t properly controlled can lead to heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke or premature death. Yet, high blood pressure often goes undetected as it shows very few symptoms. Learn more, otherwise this ’silent killer’ may thwart your ‘live to 99′ goal.
  2. Learn about risk factors: If you have kidney disease, are obese, inactive or if you drink alcohol frequently, you might want to check your blood pressure on a regular basis. Diabetics and women who take oral contraceptives also need to be aware of their risks for high blood pressure.
  3. Learn how to take your own blood pressure: The information contained at this link will help you get started with self-monitoring at home.
  4. Learn about healthy blood pressure rates: Now that you know how to take your own blood pressure, you can compare your blood pressure rates among other people in your age group with these charts.
  5. Learn about hypertension: Hypertension is the term that doctors use to describe high blood pressure. Some factors are easily controlled, while other factors - like heredity and ethnicity - can’t be changed. But, awareness of these factors can alert you to maintain vigilance on checking your blood pressure.
  6. Learn which medicines to take: Some doctors may put you on medicine to help regulate your blood pressure if you have hypertension or prehypertension (warning signs of high blood pressure). Be aware that you may not be able to take some medications, and that you may not be able to mix other prescription or over-the-counter meds with your blood pressure pills. Once you begin to take medication for high blood pressure, you may need to take it for the rest of your life. So, ask your doctor about a trial period first to see how you might react.
  7. Lose weight: Although some folks find it difficult to lose weight, a matter of just ten pounds can decrease your risk for high blood pressure. But, crash diets don’t cut the cake. Learn how to lose weight safely through this link.
  8. Watch your sodium intake: Even if you aren’t overweight and if your blood pressure is normal, you can decrease your chances of developing hypertension if you watch your sodium intake (frozen food often is a culprit) and use spices on your food instead.
  9. Say hi to the Dash Diet: This diet was created specifically for people who suffer from hypertension. This plan, which is endorsed by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, has been proven to lower blood pressure in just two weeks through an increase in fruits, vegetables, grains and low-fat dairy foods to help keep your blood pressure happy.
  10. Limit alcohol intake: Studies have shown that moderate drinking can raise levels of “good cholesterol,” which helps prevent harmful blood clots and helps keep blood flowing smoothly through our bodies, reducing risks of heart attack and stroke. But, anything over a glass or two daily can create problems for some individuals. It can interfere with medications, add calories and increase blood pressure.


High cholesterol is another silent killer. Learn more how to manage this disease, which you can reverse once you’ve been diagnosed.

  1. Learn about cholesterol: All humans have cholesterol. But, some cholesterol is ‘good,’ and some is ‘bad.’ Learn about the difference so you can live longer.
  2. Learn about symptoms: Surprise. There’s not much to learn here, because - like high blood pressure - high cholesterol shows no symptoms. Like blood pressure, you can learn about your cholesterol levels through routine testing. Unlike blood pressure, this test something that you cannot do at home yourself.
  3. Get the most out of your tests: If you’ve never been tested for high cholesterol, it might be best to obtain a complete lipid profile. This test can perform a base for future tests. The best time to have this series of tests done is when you’re healthy (wait a few weeks after any illness). But, if that’s not possible, do it anyway so that you’ll have something to work with in the future.
  4. Test your body fat: Although this test will not provide the precise information that a lipid test will offer, you can bet your cookies that this self-test will let you know if your weight is a factor in possible cholesterol problems. This link, by the way, will take you to the Cholesterol Network, a great resource designed to prevent and reduce high cholesterol.
  5. Learn what cholesterol levels mean: This concise list will provide all the information you’ll need to know about how to decrease your “bad” cholesterol.
  6. Meet the NCEP: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) launched the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) in November 1985. The goal of the NCEP is to contribute to reducing illness and death from coronary heart disease (CHD) in the United States by reducing the percent of Americans with high blood cholesterol. If you seriously want to increase your longevity, you will visit this site.
  7. Avoid medication when possible: Cholesterol-lowering medicine often contains statins, which have side effects that can include intestinal problems, liver damage and muscle soreness for some people. Instead of jumping on the medicine bandwagon, work with your physician to try a remedy of diet and exercise for six months to a year first. If that doesn’t lower your cholesterol levels, then talk with your doctor about the possibility of symptoms before you take any medication. Or, talk with your doctor about other alternatives.
  8. Link health issues together: If you have high blood pressure, then you may have high cholesterol as well. A 2006 study suggested that high total cholesterol may also contribute to the development of high blood pressure in men.
  9. Women should watch HDL levels: In one study, at total cholesterol levels above 200, women with HDL levels below 50 had a higher death rate than those with levels above 50, regardless of their LDL cholesterol levels. Testing, diet, exercise and a doctor’s advice can help women overcome this problem.
  10. Learn your fats: Not all fats are ‘bad,’ and you need some fat in your diet to maintain a well-lubricated circulatory system. Read about the ‘good’ fats that will help you live to age 99.


The incident of diabetes, especially Type II, is on the rise. You can measure how well you’re doing with your goal to reach age 99 if you haven’t developed this disease, as Type II diabetes is the result of doing everything you can do to shorten your lifespan. Read on…

  1. Learn about diabetes: This simple tutorial on diabetes explains Type I and Type II diabetes. The latter type usually occurs in adults over 35 years old, but can affect anyone, including children. The National Institutes of Health state that 95 percent of all diabetes cases are Type II, which is triggered by obesity, a lack of exercise, increased age and to some degree, genetic predisposition.
  2. Learn your risk: Take this simple test to see if you’re at risk for diabetes. Even if your risk factors are low, you’ll learn that some factors like age, race, and family history of diabetes cannot be changed. In this case, there are things you can do to avoid developing full-blown diabetes.
  3. Learn the symptoms: The American Diabetes Association states that diabetes often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms seem harmless. But, if you’re aware of the symptoms (and there are seven of them), then you can decrease your chances of developing complications from this disease.
  4. Scare yourself silly: If the symptoms above aren’t enough to motivate you to prevent diabetes, learn more about how this disease can affect you. You can lose your eyesight, lose entire limbs, your kidneys can fail (yes, we’re talking dialysis) and it causes almost a full half of all fatal heart attacks.
  5. Learn about tests: If you develop any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor to schedule a test for diabetes. You can learn about all the tests at this link.
  6. Test at home: In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the first over-the-counter test that measures glycated hemoglobin in people with diabetes to help monitor how well they are managing their disease (glycemic control). Now, individuals can obtain test kits without a prescription. These kits provide immediate results of blood sugar levels, but the person who uses home testing must understand what the test reveals.
  7. Exercise, no matter what: Results from a 19 year international study with 3,708 patients with Type II diabetes, men and women, 25-to-74 years old, has shown that increasing physical activity reduced the risk of death for men and women of all ages, smokers and nonsmokers alike, regardless of body mass index, blood pressure or cholesterol level.
  8. Create a healthy diet plan: For most diabetics, a ’special’ diabetic diet means eating in moderation, at regular times, and choosing a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
  9. Go ahead, dine out: The American Diabetes Association provides some simple guidelines to eating out at restaurants for those who need to watch their diabetes (or for anyone who wants to make healthy food choices).
  10. Lose weight: Even people who have prediabetes (people at risk of developing full-blown diabetes) and who are obese can stop the progression of this disease if they lose weight. The healthy diet plans outlined in the links above will help anyone lose weight if he or she normally doesn’t eat a healthy diet.

Altering Habits

Changing a lifestyle is not easy, and new habits sometimes are difficult to learn. But, the following habits can help you reach that age 99 goal with some degree of fun, excitement and ease.

  1. Sell yourself on lifestyle changes: Some dietary (or physical) changes may need to be conducted immediately, especially if you discover that you have dangerously high blood pressure or prediabetes. Otherwise, you may need to sell yourself on lifestyle changes to avoid life-shortening problems down the road. This article will give you a leg up on making those moves.
  2. Find help: The site linked here is just one of many sites that can provide valuable information on various diseases and healthier living. The mission mission for this site is to empower you and your loved ones to understand, prevent, and resolve life’s challenges in mental health, relationships, lifestyle and aging.
  3. Find support: While this link points to a ‘weight loss buddy’ site, you can find other sites that have forums or other means to contact people who may share your goal of making it to age 99. These sites may include those that focus only on people who have high blood pressure, or on those who are living with cancer. When you’re making lifestyle changes, it’s always easier to reach your goals when you’re not alone.
  4. Set goals: One of the factors for successful eating changes is to set a goal first. If you need to lose weight, then determine how much weight you want to lose. If you want to cut sugar or salt intake, then learn about the foods you’ll need to eliminate from your diet. Small goals, or ‘one step at a time’ goals will help you feel more successful and more willing to tackle the next goal.
  5. Make healthier choices one step at a time: For instance, if you’re making a trip to the grocery store, then plan ahead, eat before you shop, and shop around the perimeter of the store where the healthiest foods are located. This is just one step in the path to creating a healthier lifestyle.
  6. Keep a journal: This link is to just one of many sources online where you can keep track of what you eat. Other journals might help you to keep track of what you eat as well as your exercise routine. No matter what you use, journals can help you keep track of small successes and setbacks. If you keep a journal, you can learn more about yourself and why you succeeded in one instance and failed in another.
  7. Laugh more: Laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, and boosts immune function. Some research suggests that laughter may also reduce the risk of heart disease. If you surf to the link attached to this tip, you’ll learn that laughter does much, much more - and the results are all positive. If you’re planning to live a long time, then you might want to laugh - and laugh often.
  8. Reward yourself: It’s a good idea to reward yourself for your lifestyle changes, but, don’t do it with food. Instead, take yourself to a movie or spend time relaxing in a hot bath. Read a book, visit friends or do whatever it takes to feel like you’ve just patted yourself on the back. If you don’t know how to reward yourself, you might learn - after all, you’re going to live until you’re age 99, right? Long time to go without some sort of self-indulgence!


If you’ve read through this list to this point, then you know that good nutrition is a cornerstone to a healthy life. And, a healthy life can be a longer life. The following habits will help you reach this goal.

  1. Avoid fruit juices: Unless you own a juicer, it’s best if you avoid fruit juice. Many brand juices contain up to ten teaspoons of sugar per cup. The exception is some organic or natural juice products that contain only juice. This is especially true for children. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children who drink too much juice can become obese, develop cavities, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems such as excessive gas, bloating and abdominal pain.
  2. Eat more fresh fruit: Canned fruits often contain sugary syrup and dried fruits often are high in calories. Fresh, or even frozen, fruit is a much better choice. Eat a variety of fruits to get the full impact of their healthy contributions.
  3. Avoid fried foods: Fried vegetables are not as good as raw, baked, steamed, grilled or broiled vegetables, so don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re eating healthy when you eat fried brocolli. Fried foods, depending upon the oil used for frying, can cause obesity and cancer.
  4. Eat whole grain foods: Just because a bread package contains the words, “stone-ground, multi-grain or 100% wheat or bran,” this does not mean that the product is whole grain. Look for the words, “whole grain” or “100% whole wheat.”
  5. Switch to healthy oils: Choose vegetable oils such as olive, canola or peanut oils, avocados, fatty fish such as salmon, nuts and seeds to build up your ‘good’ cholesterol.
  6. Avoid red meat: Red meat does contain immense amounts of protein, but eating a lot of red meat may increase your risk for colon cancer. Also, red meat contains unhealthy fats. If you eat red meat daily, a switch to other forms of protein can improve your cholesterol levels dramatically. Finally, a new study conducted in the UK indicates that a high level of red meat consumption is an independent risk factor for inflammatory arthritis.
  7. Eat alternative protein: You might be surprised at all the choices you have to obtain protein. Choose black beans, navy beans, garbanzos and lentils. Or try nuts like almonds, walnuts and pecans for your protein. Soy products, such as tofu, also provide all the protein you might need on a daily basis. But, avoid salted or sugary nuts and refried beans, as salt, sugar and fried foods don’t add to a healthy bottom line.
  8. Choose healthy animal protein: Omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish can reduce your risks of heart disease. Other meats that can help in that regard are chicken, turkey and eggs. At all times, choose lean white meat, egg whites, fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, canned light tuna and wild salmon.
  9. Limit sodium to 2,300 mg per day: This is equivalent to one teaspoon of salt. Look for hidden sources of salt in canned soups, frozen meals and other package foods. The more salt you consume, the higher your risk for high blood pressure problems.
  10. Avoid fish high in mercury: Those choices include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and albacore tuna. This is especially true if you’re a heavy fish eater. Reduce your consumption to about once per week. It has been shown that mercury levels from fish eating can be reduced, but it usually takes about six months.
  11. Drink more water: But only if you drink less than eight cups (not glasses) of water per day. You may need to drink more water if you’re physically active, pregnant or breastfeeding, live in a warmer climate, or have certain health problems. Heavy people may also need more water to stay hydrated.
  12. Learn how to read food labels: Don’t trust food companies to keep you living to age 99. You will need to take responsibility to learn how to read labels and to understand which ingredients will harm you and which ones will keep you healthy.


You’ve heard it one-thousand times, right? Lack of exercise will shorten your life, make you feel horrible and prevent you from enjoying life to its fullest. But, you don’t need to develop the habits of a professional weight lifter. Instead, the following habits will help you stay healthy without hurting your body or your attitude.

  1. Get medical clearance [PDF]: If you haven’t exercised in a long time or if you’re in poor health, you’ll need to get your physician’s approval for any type of physical activity. Additionally, if you intend to use an exercise center or a gym, they may include a permission form in your membership papers. This link goes to a form used by the O’Connor Recreation Center (Johns Hopkins), and it’s a fairly standard form designed to protect you and the center from any possible injury and lawsuits, respectively.
  2. Start slow: Exercise will tax your heart and it also will raise your blood pressure for a short period of time, so starting out slow is the key. Plus, when you start slowly, you can help to avoid possible injury or strain from pushing yourself too hard and too fast.
  3. You can gain results without pain: In fact, exercise shouldn’t be painful. Granted, if you haven’t moved a muscle for a while, you might experience some pain for a day or so after a workout, but the “no pain, no gain” theory is a myth. If you do experience pain while exercising, it might be a warning sign that you’re injured - so stop and check out the source of your pain before you go any further.
  4. Avoid sitting for long periods of time: By definition, sitting in a chair all day is against Mother Nature, and you know what happens when you go against her…This is just one way to tell you to get up and move. This article, however, will provide you with numerous other reasons to avoid sitting for a long period of time.
  5. Move, move, move: This article provides you with 25 ideas that will help you get started with moving more, or with ideas that will supplement your regular exercise program. Short ten-minute bursts of movement during the day can add up, and these activities will move you to do more!
  6. Find an enjoyable activity: It’s harder to make an activity more enjoyable than it is to enter into an activity that you already enjoy. If you’ve always loved dancing, or if swimming turns you on, or if walking across the country like Forest Gump has always been your ideal way to fit in some aerobic exercise, then do it. Your willingness to keep moving will increase tremendously if you approach your exercise with enjoyment.
  7. Use exercise to quit smoking: According to a recent UK study, even light exercise can help smokers quit smoking. So, when you get a craving, get up and take a five-minute walk. Not only will you burn calories, but you’ll reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  8. Get good shoes: There’s really no need to splurge on special exercise clothing unless you plan on a gym romance. But, do get a good pair of exercise shoes. A good pair of shoes can help you to avoid pain and injuries that could be avoidable. Outfit states that a good rule of thumb is to replace those shoes every 300-500 miles (as in walking, etc.) or every three months if you exercise as recommended below.
  9. DIY home gym: Speaking of gyms, you can create your own at home. This project not only will save you tons of money on that sexy exercise clothing (you can exercise in your pajamas or in much less) and the cost of a gym membership, but it may increase the value of your home if you’re a home owner. A home gym will be there every day, too, taunting you to get up and move. Since you don’t need to trek down the street or to the next neighborhood to visit the local gym, you’ll also save money on gas.
  10. Enjoy the benefits: Exercise, even moderate and light exercise, will improve your mood and your sex life. Beyond this, exercise will strengthen you and your heart and lungs and can help you live a long, long time.

Emotional Aspects

Why are you planning to live to age 99? If you’re planning to live a long life to enjoy all that life has to offer, then you’ll learn at some point that joy often is balanced with pain. If you live long enough, you’ll experience the deaths of loved ones, accidents, injuries, illnesses and more unpleasant experiences. Your attitude and ability to roll with these emotional punches often will determine your longevity as well as the quality of your life. The following links will help you get through trying times.

  1. Know the signs of depression: We all have moods that are less than pleasant, and this is normal. But, when a low mood persists, and it interferes with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun, it’s no longer normal. You’re now dealing with depression. Learn the signs and symptoms of depression and how this emotional problem can affect people at different ages.
  2. Improve your outlook: Although it’s wise to get professional help when you’re depressed, this link leads to an article that lists several ways you can help improve your perspective on life, even if you’re just feeling low.
  3. Help others: Nothing will help you feel better than to get outside yourself and focus on others’ needs. Look for volunteer opportunities, help an elderly neighbor or offer a free babysitting service to a young couple who cannot afford a sitter for a little time alone. All these little gestures will provide you with some space so you can get away from your issues as well.
  4. Don’t carry grudges: Although 99 years is a long time to live, life is too short to hold onto a grudge. Smoldering over a real or imagined slight or injury can prevent you from feeling peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Life is filled with enough pain, so stop inflicting it on yourself by learning how to forgive.
  5. Learn how to cope with grief: Grief is the feelings you experience when faced with loss. Although the loss of loved ones can bring the deepest and most long-lasting grief, other incidents can engender the same feelings. Rejection by a loved one, illness that causes you to miss out on activities that you enjoy, or other missed opportunities all can bring on a period of grieving. Learn how to cope with loss through articles like the one linked to this tip.
  6. Learn the stages of grief: There are five stages of grief, and each stage is well defined. If you understand that grief often arrives on the heels of a sudden tragedy (death, the knowledge of a fatal illness, etc.), the ability to draw on information like this may help you cope with your losses.
  7. Try alternative healing: Traditional western medicine often deals with emotional issues separate from physical problems. Alternative therapies often include the whole person - physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. This link will steer you to CAM, or a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. This page succinctly explains complimentary, alternative and integrative techniques that can help heal the whole person, rather than a part of the whole.
  8. Learn how to meditate: This site is run by a person who prefers to use the term, “conscious relaxation,” in place of the word, “meditation.” This skill can help you learn how to relax, to take time to reflect on things you want to change in your life, and to create a space where you can slow down and feel some peace. You can’t keep going ninety-to-nothing for 99 years, after all…
  9. Get into creative therapy: You can’t work for 99 years, and we doubt you would want to keep working all you life. Art therapy provides one way to enjoy creative skills while turning your anger and pain into something beautiful. If you’re not into art, try therapeutic/creative writing instead. The point is to stretch yourself so that you can be the best person you can be during this lifetime.
  10. Don’t discount nutrition and physical activity: If you’ve neglected your diet and ignored your exercise routine while feeling low, or if you never have taken care of yourself, you may be surprised to discover that nutrition and exercise can affect your frame of mind. Learn more about how to balance your boy so you’re ready to take on all life has to offer.


Did you think that you would stay 29 forever? Getting to age 99 will take some work. Aging in itself is a process that requires constant physical, emotional, mental and spiritual adjustments. The better you take care of your body, the more chances you have of dealing with the aging process. But, it never hurts to be prepared; so the following links will help you develop some habits now that will help you deal with aging later.

  1. Woman and aging: Women have special aging problems when they encounter menopause. Learn more now about this stage of life so that you’ll know what to expect. This knowledge can help you live longer as you deal with issues that affect your physical and emotional health.
  2. Men and aging: Men may experience problems with erectile dysfunction (ED), and many times this problem is a symptom of a disease such as diabetes. In addition, many common medicines used to regulate blood pressure, allergies, depression, stress and ulcers can produce ED as a side effect. No matter the cause, ED can serve as a warning sign that something is physically or emotionally out of whack. While ED may not be thrilling, its presence can save your life.
  3. Develop healthy sexual habits: Good sex can prompt the release of substances that bolster the immune system. Plus, it releases endorphins that act as painkillers and reduce anxiety. It benefits the heart and lungs by increasing breathing and circulation and it helps us to relax and feel good about ourselves. So, don’t let aging hold you back. Unfortunately, diseases like diabetes and heart disease can cut your life - and your sex life - short. So, stay healthy, and learn more about healthy sex habits now so that you can enjoy sex as long as you live.
  4. Remain active, especially after age 50: Regular exercise will help protect you from chronic disease, improve your mood and lower your chances of injury. The older you are, the more you have to gain from exercise. All it takes is 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. You even can take your exercise in three ten-minute sessions on weekdays with weekends off!
  5. Exercise for your brain: Two studies released in 2004 showed that regular exercise, including walking at an easy pace, seems to protect the aging brain from erosion in thinking ability — and even from Alzheimer’s. If you want to remember living to age 99, then get up and move!
  6. Check your ears: Hearing loss is not prevalent, but it does become an issue with aging. Between 25 and 40 percent of the population aged 60 and older is hearing impaired. Learn more about different types of hearing loss and how to cope with this disability now.
  7. Check your thyroid: Approximately 25 percent of the elderly population suffers from some form of mental illness. A significant number of these cases may be related to thyroid disease. And, many times this condition goes undetected. So, make it a habit now, no matter your age, to ask your physician about thyroid issues.
  8. Check your eyesight: This habit begins before you can make your own eye appointments. And, an eye care professional should see your baby blues (or browns, or greens) at least every two years. The reason for this is that many health issues can be diagnosed through eye problems. Learn more and be diligent, as a loss of eyesight would be a huge loss, especially when many sight problems can be rectified if caught early.
  9. Keep track of sleeping patterns: Sometimes, sleeplessness will not affect your daily living. In this case, perhaps you have entered the “I need less sleep during this time of my life” zone. If lack of sleep is interfering with your memory, your ability to maintain concentration or with your daily life, then you have issues. Disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, and other symptoms of insomnia are not a normal part of aging. Instead, poor sleep habits and conditions such as untreated sleep disorders, medications, or medical problems can accumulate and compound to result in sleeplessness. Learn more about healthy and unhealthy sleep patterns and what you can do to get a good night’s rest.
  10. Challenge your brain: No matter your age, you can begin this habit now and carry it with you to the next life. Mental exercises can strengthen and enhance cognitive functions over time. This link will take you to a page that contains exercises for your brain that you can use even without a computer!
  11. Learn about Alzheimer’s disease: Even if you don’t develop this disease, if you live long enough you may know someone who will. This link provides a checklist to help you recognize the difference between normal age-related memory changes and possible warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding this disease may not help you live longer, but you may relax when you learn that it’s normal to experience some memory issues no matter your age.

What's making us fat?

CALL IT Fattergate. Americans are getting scandalously big for their britches (and shirts and skirts and dresses and suits). And scientists would like to know why, so they can make it stop. After all, this sharp trend toward a well-rounded population has some pretty hefty (and heinous) consequences for public health.

There's a simple explanation for the weight gain, of course: People consume more calories than they burn. The favorite explanation: They eat bigger portions of less nutritional foods at easier-to-get-to fast food places, even as they hunker down more and more faithfully in front of their TV and computer screens. "Most of us say it is a combination of reduced energy expenditures plus dietary intake not declining enough," says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
But why does that happen far more often now than 30 years ago? It's not obvious, says Susan Roberts, a senior scientist at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston: "There is definitely no definitive answer on 'what went wrong.' "

Even as researchers try to refine the eat-too-much-move-too-little theory, some are entertaining other ideas (obesity virus, anyone?). Read on for some of their theories, as well as a weigh-in from our panel of obesity researchers.

A girl needs to be pampered every now and then. After a long week at the 9-to-5, few things sound better than a relaxing massage and a bubbly drink. Clearly, I’m not alone—there are spas popping up all over the world, each one’s sole purpose to cater to our every desire. Papaya-scented body scrub? No problem. A mani-pedi-Botox package? Standard these days. Bull semen in your hair? You betcha!

The proliferation of spas has created a competitive market. Some of these spas, like the ones listed below, are coming up with the wackiest, strangest services to lure us in through sheer curiosity. Apparently pampering isn’t enough anymore—it’s got to shock us, too.

1. Snake Massage

Photo source: Dano on flickr

A spa in Israel has put a unique spin on the standard massage. While some masseuses use soothing music or scented candles to supplement massages, owner Ida Barak prefers to use snakes; she believes that they have a calming effect and can alleviate joint pain. Imagine—lying facedown on a bed, strong hands rubbing oil on your back as a few snakes slither up and down your body. What could be more relaxing? Try anything.

2. The Geisha Facial

Photo source: Wikipedia commons

At the Shizuka Day Spa in New York, they use (according to the Web site) “traditional and natural Japanese ingredients” to make skin vibrant and soft. Traditional and natural sounds so purifying … until you realize that the treatment includes nightingale excrement. The treatment, uguisu no fun, incorporates powdered (and sanitized) nightingale feces into a facial mixture that revitalizes skin. Nightingale droppings contain natural enzymes that act as exfoliants and skin brighteners, so what looks unsightly on the ground actually makes your face look great.

3. Aberdeen Organic Bull Sperm Treatment

Photo source: Wikipedia commons

As much as I hate untangling my dry, frizzy hair, there’s no way I’m smearing it with bull sperm. No way—ain’t gonna happen. However, if you don’t have an aversion to sperm in your tresses, go to Hari’s Salon in London and get their infamous treatment. The protein in this ingredient moisturizes, brightens, and repairs your hair like nothing else. It’s combined with Katera root, another protein powerhouse that does amazing things for hair. Considering its nickname (“Viagra for hair”) and the state of my own ’do, I may need to retract my previous dismissal.

4. Fish Reflexology

Did you ever see a whale being cleaned by tiny fish on the Discovery Channel and wish that were you? Singapore’s Sentosa spa can make your dream come true. People who pay for this service (which is called Fish Reflexology) sit in a bath while tiny Turkish spa fish (also called doctor fish) swim around and eat the dead skin off your feet. After the fish nibble (a painless process, according to the Web site), you’re left with softer, healthier feet. Watch the above YouTube video to see a fish reflexology session in action.

5. Bathe in Your Favorite Beverage

Photo source:

I enjoy a good glass of wine, but I’ve never considered bathing in it. At the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun spa in Japan, you can soak in a big pool of red wine. If alcohol’s not your thing, how about green tea, coffee, or sake? Each liquid offers therapeutic benefits for the skin—for example, green tea contains immune-boosting antioxidants, and red wine has skin-restorative properties. I’m not sure how refreshing the treatment actually is, but standing under a huge, pouring bottle of vino sounds mighty relaxing.

6. Chocolate Fondue Wrap

Photo source:

Going to a spa is an indulgent act already, so why not step it up a notch and indulge your sweet tooth, too? The spa in the Hotel Hershey (possibly the most delicious-sounding hotel ever) offers a plethora of cocoa-infused treatments designed to both soothe you and make you really hungry. The sweet, seductive smell can be relaxing, but what products do they offer for the stomachache you’ll surely get after “sampling” the Chocolate Sugar Scrub?

8. Corona Beer Face Lift

Photo source: merfam on flickr

First chocolate and now beer—I guess we’re all looking for new, non-caloric ways to experience our favorite things. If you love Coronas, but hate the subsequent bloat, head to the Esperanza Resort Spa in Mexico and experience the healing power of beer for a change. The beer treatment is supposed to clear your pores, tighten your skin, and give your face a fresh “glow”—quite different from the glow you get after drinking a couple of Coronas.

9. The “Other” Face Lift

It’s not enough that we have to worry about how toned our legs or arms are. According to Phit, a spa in New York dedicated to pelvic health, we should also be mindful of our vagina’s muscle tone. The clinic offers pelvic services for mothers who’ve recently given birth, women with bladder control issues, and those who are dedicated to fitness on all levels. The Web site claims that the “Other” Face Lift, which is geared toward older women worried about wrinkling or sagging in that area, can “restore labial and vulvar contour to a plump firmness” with a process involving lasers. Since even the thought of lasers near my eye scares me, I think I’ll steer clear of this lift.

10. The Fanny Facial

Facials aren’t just for our faces anymore. All of our body parts need equal love, including our derriere. The Smooth Synergy Day Spa in New York offers the Fanny Facial, a process involving exfoliation, microcurrent therapy, and a spray tan for your booty. The microcurrent therapy helps reduce the appearance of cellulite and tones your backside, and the spray tan enhances the tone. If it saves me a trip to the gym, I’m all for it.

With all of these spas trying to one-up each other with unique (read: bizarre) services, it’s exhausting just trying to find one that offers the basics! I think I’ll just stay home and make my own spa services. It’ll be cheaper, save time, and most likely be excrement-free.

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