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Five foods to be avoided by moustache brothers

Five foods to be avoided by moustache brothers


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For all of those gents growing or attempting to grow a venerable moustache for Movember, we have compiled a list of foods which you may wish to avoid.

Movember is a global campaign to raise male awareness for the need to have regular prostate checks to reduce cancer rates, by asking men to grow a mo, however daft it may look on them.

So in no particular order…here we go:

Cappuccino – milk and milkshakes can be drunk through a straw, cappuccino from your Shoreditch grind house most definitely cannot. Men with moustaches look good with a takeaway cup, really good, but ignore froth at your peril.

Garlic soup in a mug – because your mo will smell and no-one will want to kiss you!

Candy floss – which is floss and which tash? Not only might you end up with pink fuzz on your facial furniture, but you could also end up accidentally eating your mo. Definitely not cool as you parade your upper-lip efforts around the local fairground!

Oysters – to enjoy the delicacy, you must slurp. Therefore, countless mishaps could abound, so many terrible things that can befall your pride and joy; you may end up cultivating more than just a mo on your lip.

Cheap lager – a man with a moustache is a dignified figure, worthy of strutting confidently on any pavement in any town, so why would you want to be found sprawled on one with a can of cheap lager in your hand? Not cool. For guidance on the best beer and moustache matches, subscribe to The Craft Beer Channel.

Let’s be careful out there brothers, follow the rules to a healthy mo and watch the lovely vid from Lucky Seven on the appropriate headgear to accentuate your new sub-nasal wingman.

Lucky Seven Movember 2013 from Lucky Seven Caps on Vimeo.


Myanmar Mix

Mustaches—traditionally the preserve of Polish cavalry officers, Indian patriarchs, 20th century dictators and swarthy pubescent boys. Myanmar, by and large, is a clean-shaven nation, and, with the exception of the Muslim population, even a thin moustache or wispy goatee is considered fairly daring.

In fact, the mustache has a strong local legacy—classic illustrations of Burmese soldiers often show their strong moustaches. The British colonists, too, brought their top game, perhaps the most famous being Orwell’s top lip tea-strainer. Indeed, legendary Burmese General Maha Bandula is generally portrayed with a mustache. Either way, when a new bar mysteriously named and themed around the mustache came to Yangon, we knew it needed investigation.*

The bar is tucked a little way down a side street close to Junction Square. The inside is spacious but dimly lit, and decorated with a dizzying array of moustache related photographs, drawings and sculptures—a seriously impressive commitment to the mustache aesthetic that also extends to the service staff, as well as the owner, Maung Chaw, who was inspired to open the bar by an Englishman he met while working as a bartender in Japan. We also enjoyed the mariachi music, which set the tone perfectly and at a reasonable volume.

The prices at Mustache Bar are seriously good. A Bawdar beer costs 1,500 kyats, the same price as a plate of BBQ wings or some pork belly skewers, meaning you can get a beer with a plate of meat for under five dollars. In fact, the whole menu represents incredible value for money.

Things got off on a shaky note when our Caesar salad (3,500 kyats) arrived. This was less of a Caesar, and really just a green salad. However, on asking for Caesar sauce, it was transformed into, well, a Caesar salad. Possibly the famously clean shaven Julius Caesar offended the bar’s hirsute aesthetics? While the sandwich was let down by sweet and unpleasant bread, this is more a problem endemic to Myanmar than a particular fault of Mustache Bar. Overall, though, the food was more than good enough to keep you going as the booze flows.

Like all writers, your humble reviewer is a medium-functioning alcoholic, staggering from bar to bar under the thin veneer of being a “critic.” So it was that I began to drink away my powerful spiritual thirst. Keen to enable my alcoholism, Maung Chaw presented me with a free beer for my scruffy facial hair, which he was generous enough to call a mustache (mustache = one free beer). As you can see by my untucked t-shirt, soulless and dissociated eyes and bizzare hand gesture, the booze had begun to take effect.


Burma: Moustache Brothers keep on telling jokes

The Moustache Brothers comedy trio paid a heavy price for poking fun at Burma's military junta. Now, despite moves towards a civilian government, they have no plans to stop lampooning the authorities.

"All I did was crack some jokes. But for that, I was sentenced to hard labour," says Par Par Lay. "I didn't revolt against the government but I was charged with a political crime."

At 64, he is the eldest of the Moustache Brothers - two brothers and a cousin whose music and comedy act is something of an institution in Burma's second biggest city, Mandalay.

They perform to small audiences of foreign tourists in the empty shop space on the ground floor of their home.

The slapstick of their show and the long, droopy moustaches belie their experiences at the hands of Burma's former military government.

"The situation in jail there was really terrible. I was handcuffed and shackled, and I had to break rocks. There was never enough food to eat and if the guards didn't like a prisoner, they would shoot them dead. I saw that happen with my own eyes. I'm still feeling bitter about it."

Par Par Lay and his clean-shaven cousin, 60-year-old Lu Zaw, were sent to prison after they performed outside the house of Burma's most famous political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi and made the military government the butt of some jokes.

Par Par Lay's brother, 62-year-old Lu Maw, avoided prison, apparently after they drew lots to decide who would actually deliver the controversial jokes.

That was in 1996. They came out of prison in 2003 and then seven years later, Aung San Suu Kyi herself was released from house arrest by Burma's new, nominally civilian government.

And it's against this backdrop that the three men - together with several other family members - take to their improvised stage each night.

They still aren't allowed to perform in public places without permission from the government, which they have not been granted so far.

The show itself is geared towards tourists. It is part-politics, part-history lesson, together with a demonstration of traditional dance and a bit of clowning around thrown in. The rest of the show is made up of singing, some music on a scratchy cassette tape, and a few old video clips of Hollywood stars campaigning for their freedom.

Their shows certainly provide a steady income. At this time of year - peak tourist season - all the seats are full. At $10 (£6) each, the group can make up to $300 (£186) a night now.

"⟪sy money! You are sitting ducks!" jokes Lu Maw, the only member of the troupe who speaks English.

Some of the jokes hit the mark but it's an uneven performance and a few members of the mainly French and German audience look utterly bemused.

The Moustache Brothers say their comedy is still relevant in a Burma that is making the transition to civilian rule. Most, but not all, political prisoners have been released from jail, censorship's been lifted, protests are allowed, and even President Obama has visited the country.

So has all that taken the sting out of the brothers' act? Isn't it time they updated their show?

Lu Maw compares the military government's move toward civilian rule to a snake shedding its skin - in the end it's still a snake.

As evidence, he points to the fact the troupe is restricted to where it can perform. Because of that the show has not changed and, he says, many basic issues facing the people still have not been addressed.

"Education is not free. Lights go off and on. In hospitals there is no medicine. Many die of HIV, the government says nothing. Everyone is corrupt - on the take!''

Although they cannot perform outside their home, the brothers are well-known in Burma as dissidents and local media speak to them regularly for their views on the reforms. And they haven't given up politics.

Par Par Lay says although there is more freedom in general, in the countryside people still live in fear. He says he travels to remote districts and tells people not to be afraid.

"We will keep on campaigning until Aung San Suu Kyi becomes president. We believe she must win."

In the meantime, there's no plan for the Moustache Brothers to retire.

"Comedy runs in our family. My grandfather and my father were both comedians," says Par Par Lay. "I like to crack jokes and want to see people smile and be happy. I'm 64 years old now, but I always feel young when I'm cracking jokes."

The Moustache Brothers were interviewed by Newshour on the BBC World Service.


The Mustache Brothers

Moustache Brothers Lu Zaw, Lu Maw, Par Par Lay (left to right). Photo courtesy of www.traveladventures.org.

Lu Maw is in pain. A toothache has robbed him of food, sleep and sanity only a health professional can bring relief. Summoning the last of his strength he escapes across the Burmese border to Thailand, hoping that there he’ll find the treatment he desperately needs. Finally Lu Maw finds a clinic. The dentist is perplexed. “Why have you come this far?” he asks. “Surely they have dentists in Burma.” “Sure they do,” replies Lu Maw, his face stretching to a grin. “But in Burma we’re not allowed to open our mouths”.

The audience gathered in Lu Maw’s living room erupts into laughter. Relaxed, smiling and carefree, it’s hard to believe that he could be killed for telling these jokes in Burma. On this evening six or seven tourists line a bench seat meters from the small raised platform that serves as his stage. It’s a small group, but crammed as we are between the marionettes that line the walls and the larger than life presence bursting from the stage, it feels like the room is packed.

Lu Maw belongs to the Mustache Brothers, a comedy troupe that performs a blend of standup comedy and political satire for tourist audiences in Mandalay, Burma’s second city. With his brother Par Par Lay and cousin Lu Zaw, Lu Maw takes to the stage in an obscenely colorful silk costume adorned with small bells that jingle as he leaps around the stage. You’d be forgiven for thinking they were younger than their sixty odd years. Their wispy grey moustaches are so long that they appear to trail behind them as they move.

The performance this evening shifts between singing, slapstick skits and stand up comedy routines – each sprinkled with liberal doses of politics and a call for change. Such sentiment can easily lead to a lengthy prison in Burma, but the brothers have little fear about being provocative.

“You have no democracy in the United States,” says Lu Maw. The audience pauses, not sure whether to laugh. “You wait four years before electing a new president. Even Thailand is more democratic than you,” he continues. “They’ve had five new Prime Ministers in four years!”

Unfortunately for the Brothers their authoritarian leaders don’t share their sense of humor. For the past decade the group has been blacklisted by the ruling military regime – the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) – because of their anti-government, pro-change message. After three generations of touring the country and performing on the stage, the family has had their license revoked and is now consigned to performing in their own home.

A powerful narrative of injustice drives the Mustache Brothers’ humor. “In every house there’s no light, no 24 hour electricity,” says Lu Maw. “There’s no education for the children. The country has many natural resources…gas, gemstones, teak wood, even opium. Where does all the money go?”

This is a country where there are no independent newspapers and even song lyrics must pass a censorship board. Those that do speak out can expect a violent backlash. During the 1988 and 2007 uprisings, the military junta has killed thousands of Burmese, including hundreds of the monks that lead the 2007 protests.

The Brothers have also paid their fair share of dues for speaking out. In 1996 the comedy troupe performed a show for 2000 guests in the grounds of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s home. On that occasion Lu Maw stayed home, “holding the fort…keeping the home fires burning” he says, proud of his idiomatic English. Par Par Lay joins us Lu Maw and I talk. He doesn’t speak English but seems to understand what we are talking about.

Two days after the show soldiers came and arrested Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw. “Trumped up charges” says Lu Maw. “I began to wonder who the real actors were” he adds, joking almost as if he wasn’t talking about a trial in which his relatives were tortured, sentenced and imprisoned before he could even say goodbye.

Par Par Lay’s eyes look to the floor as Lu Maw describes how Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw were forced to work in shackles and chains for twelve hours per day, digging up gemstones in the mines of Kachin State. Numb from a combination of exhaustion, disease and malnutrition, Lu Maw describes how one and two inmates died per week.

Despite the adversity, comedy lived on in prison for his brother and cousin. “They used to joke with the guards,” says Lu Maw. “How can we dig up lots of gemstones”, they would say, “if you only feed us dirty rice water?”

International pressure from United States and British comedians helped win their release after five years. It wasn’t long before they were spreading their message once more, albeit from the confines of their living room. Asked how they keep from getting caught, Lu Maw responds that they must know who is in their audience at all times. At the slightest hint that a potential informant is watching, the Mustache brothers drop the politics in favor of a politically-correct version of their show. So far it’s worked. Lu Maw later confesses that international attention also stops the authorities from locking them up again.

If it’s so risky why do they do it? “Tourists are our Trojan horse” explains Lu Maw. The tourists that visit Burma provide one of the few means of telling their story to the outside world. “We can’t fight the government by ourselves” Lu Maw pleads, a rare moment of solemnity crossing his face. “We need your help”.


The Moustache Brothers

MANDALAY, Burma -- Despite the military junta's authoritarian rule, the Moustache Brothers are keeping a Burmese tradition alive -- scathing political satire. Lu Maw, Lu Zaw and Par Par Lay, better known as the Moustache Brothers, say that their form of a-nyeint folk performance is as old as the city of Mandalay. It's too bad the ruling generals don't share their sense of humor.

In 1997, authorities jailed Lu Zaw and Par Par Lay after a now-legendary performance, given at the invitation of Nobel Prize-winning opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The two brothers spent an hour dancing and cracking jokes. Sympathizers videotaped Ms. Suu Kyi giggling in the crowd, but authorities sent the two brothers to a labor camp for their crime of joking about politics. An international human rights campaign led to their release after five years.

In impoverished Burma, a-nyeint folk comedy -- which weaves humor around dancing women -- is still in style. On special occasions, families host all-night performances for whole villages. Performing troupes travel from town to town. "In the old days, we went to Kachin State, Shan State, all over. We built a stage and slept on it at night," Lu Maw recollects. "If it rains, we sleep underneath."

Today they are blacklisted, and may perform only in their living room for tourists. The show walks a fine line: The brothers mostly stick to old-school folk dance, but they throw in the occasional jab at corrupt traffic cops, deposed generals and government spies. Such humor is part of a grand tradition for the Moustache Brothers, whose father and grandfather were all a-nyeint comedians. "We keep the tradition, the old customs, we are old fogies," says Lu Maw. "Watching a-nyeint used to be like reading a newspaper." Lu Maw, squatting with an old radio microphone and puffing on a cheroot in the dark, says that the authorities have cut off his electricity tonight because they know it's showtime. "Never mind!" he screeches, in English. "We have generator! We make own power!" He waves his hand: With a thump, the lights come on, and the foreign audience cheers.

The joke is bittersweet. Today, visitors enjoy many privileges that are unimaginable for most Burmese. Free speech is one of them. Inadvertently, the Moustache Brothers have become a human rights minstrel show, mugging for foreigners in their home.

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A Day In The Life of my Supposedly Frugal Stomach

Kicking Ass with Money is much like healthy eating and joyful living. It’s a series of daily habits that get you ahead, rather than a one-time heroic effort that fixes all your problems so you can go back to whatever you were doing before.

Because of this parallel, the subject of food is one of the nicest examples of Mustachian living, and one of the most powerful and efficient things to master.

Your eating choices will drastically affect your budget (especially if you are raising a family), but they also affect your health, energy levels, productivity, and happiness. The path to a great life goes directly across your dinner plate, so it is important to take this shit seriously and not mess around with your nutrition.

I’ve written about food several times before, sometimes with a focus on recipes or costs or general principles. But people often don’t believe me – they think I am either lying about my family’s grocery spending, eating a diet that is poor in nutritional value, or at least spending an inordinate amount of time on meal planning and preparation.

The truth is none of these things, although the actual story may still surprise you. So I thought that instead of issuing vague commandments like the preacher I am, I could share my functional and (somewhat) affordable eating style, even though it’s unusual and surely not for everyone.

So I’ll lay out a single day’s nutrition strategy, and why I think it is a good one. And then you can choose whether to ridicule it on Reddit, or adopt any tricks from it that you like for your own family. Are you ready? Then let’s take a trip into the MMM kitchen!

Alongside the Table Saw, the Cutting Board is also a favorite tool.

The first bit of crazy is that when I’m home, I eat almost the same thing every day. My son eats exactly the same thing every day* for now, and Mrs. MM runs her own show, perhaps with a bit more variety than either of us. This is a unique situation in our family that is different from most, and it adds extra complexity but fortunately not extra cost. You play with the cards you are dealt.

Most Important is your Eating Philosophy

For most people, food is just an automatic routine. They eat whatever seems tasty whenever they are hungry. People with stronger passions (sometimes known as Foodies), spend a large part of their day and mental energy seeking out perfect ingredients and flavors and meals. And for many, eating is an addiction – food calls to them (especially desserts and snacks), and they fight this addiction with varying degrees of success. People with a busy urban social life like New Yorkers get most of their food from restaurants, which throws both the nutrition content and the monthly cost into a randomizing hat.

The problem with all of these philosophies is that each is a huge gamble, with your life as the stakes. Because depending on your body chemistry and the foods you choose, you can end up anywhere on the health scale – I have met sweating car bound 25 year-old office workers who could barely stroll from the parking lot to the building, and also know a ripped 65 year-old carpenter who can still frame a three-story house by himself. The difference in the diets of these two men is as stark as the contrast in their physiques.

So my eating philosophy has always been that of the Engineer/Robot. Design each meal and each day’s food intake, according to my body’s current needs. Since my activity level changes drastically (yesterday’s mountain hike requires several times more calories than today’s work on this blog article), the food intake has to change accordingly. And since I don’t always get things exactly right, the mirror tells me when it’s time to make adjustments.

And finally, I’m a big fan of high standards and not fooling yourself. Stay lean and keep your body in condition to work hard. Learn to use the mirror, the measuring tape, and the scale as allies rather than generators of guilt and fear. If you’re not there yet, keep yourself moving in the right direction rather than being complacent. For example, if my abs get paved over with fat, I’ll adjust the variables below to go into fat loss mode until the problem is corrected. On the other hand, if I’m getting too skinny and trying to put on strength and weight, I’ll add the extra meals back in.

The Weird MMM Meal Plan

I have come to think of Breakfast as the time of Breaking the Fast.. but by now we all know that fasting is good for you, right? So the design of your breakfast presents an interesting life-boosting opportunity: When you wake up, you’re already in a nice low-blood-sugar state, which means your body is beginning to think about burning fats as a source of energy (ketosis). This means that you can just prolong the fast by skipping breakfast and just enjoying some coffee or water, or take a softer approach and at least have a breakfast that is very low in sugar. So I do this:

  • Espresso Coffee with Whole milk and Coconut oil
  • A handful of mixed nuts
  • A few squares of dark chocolate (85%)

Subjectively, I find this breakfast is satisfying and delicious, but also keeps my body in low-sugar mode so I can begin a day of physical labor without hunger – and potentially work as long as I want, even skipping lunch and running on stored bodyfat if desired. (Note, I make the espresso with this cheap but good espresso machine and heat/fluff the milk and coconut oil together to get the result in that picture).

The end result is this nutrition profile:

note: all nutrient weights are in grams

At this point, you may be asking, “Wait, does Mustache really weigh and analyze his food?” – and the answer is “sorta.” While I endeavor to lead a relaxed, hippy lifestyle, the Engineer/Robot side is always in the background running the numbers. If you have at least a rough idea of the nutrition content of what you are eating, you will have a far easier time getting the results you want.

Mid Morning Snack

After breakfast, I usually bike downtown to a mixture of construction and weight training in the back “prisonyard” of the MMM-HQ Coworking space. After a few hours of this, I am ready for a bit more nutrition:

These big salads are a big part of my daily food expenditure and effort, but probably an even bigger part of my health. So they are definitely worth it. I make it easier by making salad in bulk every few days, and starting with a base of a pre-made $2.28 Kale Salad Kit from Sam’s/Costco. This provides a bunch of greens and saves much chopping. But I discard the crappy sugary dressing that comes with the kit and use my own olive oil-based dressing, also made in bulk from high quality ingredients also bought in bulk, (like 3 Liter Jugs of olive oil!)

I may throw in a protein bar (30g protein, $1.00) to this snack, depending on the intensity of the work.

After the midmorning snack, I am back out for quality time with the saws and ladders for a few more hours, which feels great on a relatively light load of food because the body is burning clean and lean. The low carbohydrate nature of everything I have eaten so far keeps the hunger level so low that I could even work right through and skip lunch if needed, or if I were trying to lose fat. But since I’m currently at roughly right fat level and not wanting to be any lighter than I am, I break at around 2PM for something like this:

I have been on a bit of a Tilapia binge in recent months, because they are almost too convenient and tasty and easy to prepare. So much so, that I jokingly refer to them as “marriage savers” – there is no need to fret over whose turn it is to prepare dinner, if something with such a good nutrition profile is always in the freezer and just 15 toaster oven minutes away from your tongue.

While the nutrition profile is good, they are still a bit of an expensive source of protein. $2.00 sounds like chump change, but the same protein can be had for under fifty cents from other sources like bean and rice combinations, eggs, or even whey protein supplements.

A cost difference of just $1.50 per person per meal, multiplied over a four-person family’s 372 meals per month makes a difference of $558 per month, or about $96,000 per decade after compounding.

Yes, that is a hundred grand, and this is just the difference between a semi-frugal $2.00 meal component and a fifty cent equivalent from, say, your crock pot.

Imagine, then, the effect that impulse grocery purchases like those little $7.49 packs of sushi would make, if you casually toss them in the cart on a regular basis? A decade of a family’s innocent-seeming Whole Foods indulgence could pay for a house outright, while leaving them no better nourished than wiser meal planning with bulk ingredients.

Put a crock pot and a Costco membership to good use, and just watch what happens to your bank account.

Now, I took that sushi picture on my own kitchen table, so we too are guilty of this indulgence. But we are long past financial independence, and even then it is a rare purchase. The overall lesson is just, again, to take this shit seriously – make sure you appreciate every food purchase above beans-and-rice level as a conscious luxury rather than just a habit. And if you are in debt, no sushi for you!

Another typical dinner – main dish is based on potatoes/veggies plus fancy sausages baked into a cheese-laden casserole.

Around 3:30pm in the afternoon, I’ll walk or bike home from “work”, so I can be there when my son returns home from school – one of the biggest rewards of early retirement. One of us parents will cook him a homemade pizza at this point (I pre-make the personal size shells and keep them in stacks in the freezer), so he can recharge with about 480 calories from a delicious meal that costs only about 50 cents to make.

Then us Adults will usually collaborate to make something like pulled-pork tacos:

On the side, we might add chopped fresh vegetables, more salad, or something more substantial as the appetites require. Like the filets, it’s not the cheapest possible way to get a meal, but at least it is reasonable. Also, we are omnivores, which is a more expensive and polluting way to get protein – but if you’re not badass enough to eat vegetarian you can at least make a substantial dent in your eco footprint by making beef your last choice of meats.

Adding it All Up

Although it took me quite a few hours to collect all this data on what I eat and add it up in a spreadsheet, the results have been quite interesting because I had never done it before. With just the stuff described above, I arrived at this point:

And the numbers were a bit surprising to me, in the following ways:

  • I am spending a lot more on food than I thought. If all three of us ate the way I do, our annual grocery bill would be $8600, not counting additional indulgences or food for parties. Since our real bill is closer to $6000, you can see that I am doing more than my share of the spending. Then again, I do weigh more than both Little MM and his mother combined , so perhaps this is fair.
  • My base calorie level is about right for my age and height for a moderately active person, but on active days I need closer to 4000 calories (if you look up a 185 pound male “athlete” for the baseline)
  • My base protein level is also about right for moderate activity, but on highly physical or weight training days I like to boost that to one gram per pound of bodyweight.
  • So while everything in this article is detailed and accurate so far, I tend to eat a variable amount of additional food to meet hunger needs, scaling it all up and down depending on what the mirror says. I use one or more of the following boosts.

  • Handfuls of Nuts (1 ounce worth, 160 calories)
  • Protein Smoothie (banana, peanut butter, plain yogurt, tiny bit of milk, ice, water, and vanilla protein mix – about 1000 calories and 40 grams protein)
  • 2-3 simple eggs cooked in olive oil with a bit of cheese: 500 calories, 20 grams of protein, 50 cents or so.
  • Avocado toast: 3 eggs, some shredded cheese, avocado, all on a piece of whole wheat toast with butter. A truly decadent weight gainer of a snack, although quite cheap. Leave out toast if you are not trying to maintain or gain weight. 1000 calories, plenty of nutrients about a buck.

*and while I won’t explain this in detail here, parents of children with his personality type will understand without question. It is something people do tend to grow out of as they get older and gain confidence with new experiences.


Myanmar Magic: Tell a Joke, and You Disappear

MANDALAY, Myanmar — U Par Par Lay goes to India to have his toothache treated. The Indian dentist wonders why the Burmese man has come all the way to India.

“Don’t you have dentists in Myanmar?” he asks.

“Oh, yes, we do, doctor,” Mr. Par Par Lay says. “But in Myanmar, we are not allowed to open our mouths.”

That’s a favorite joke by Mr. Par Par Lay, a third-generation practitioner of a-nyeint pwe, Myanmar’s traditional vaudeville, featuring puppets, music and slapstick comedy tinged with in-your-face political satire — all in a country where cracking the wrong joke can land you in jail.

Mr. Par Par Lay, the 60-year-old leader of the Mustache Brothers troupe, is paying dearly for it.

About midnight on Sept. 25, his relatives say, the police raided their home-cum-theater here and took him away. On the same day, at least one other popular comedian who had previously been imprisoned for his political jokes, a man named Zargana in Yangon, the largest city, was arrested, according to Amnesty International and local residents.

The tightening of the gag on dissident voices occurred as the ruling junta conducted a bloody crackdown on the first major pro-democracy uprising in this country in 19 years, led by Buddhist monks.

“I tried to find him, but I don’t know where he is,” said Mr. Par Par Lay’s wife, Daw Ma Win Ma, 56, a dancer. “If the past is an indication, he must have been beaten a lot. I am worried about whether he is alive or not.”

The Mustache Brothers are a family troupe of 13 comedians, dancers and musicians. Mr. Par Par Lay and his brother U Lu Maw, 58, favor handlebar mustaches, the source of their group’s name. They used to travel from village to village, performing at weddings, funerals and festivals. In former days, Burmese kings would watch a-nyeint pwe (pronounced ah-NYAY pway) to gauge public sentiment couched in the comedy.

But it seems the current junta never developed a taste for it.

In 1990, when the military government rejected the decisive victory of the National League for Democracy led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the country’s first election in 30 years and placed her under house arrest, Mr. Par Par Lay was thrown in jail for six months for his political jokes.

In 1996 his troupe performed before an audience of 2,000, including Yangon-based foreign ambassadors, at the lakeside compound of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, by then a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. A videotape of the event shows Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi laughing, clearly entertained.

The generals apparently were less amused. Mr. Par Par Lay and his cousin U Lu Zaw, also a comedian, were sentenced to seven years in a labor camp. Mr. Par Par Lay was released after five and a half years.

Afterward, the government scratched the Mustache Brothers from the list of state-licensed artists that residents of Myanmar, the former Burma, were permitted to hire. Determined to keep their tradition alive and to make a living, they turned to performing for foreigners.

Even with Mr. Par Par Lay gone, his family has kept the theater on a run-down street, which Mr. Lu Maw proudly likened to the West End of London and Broadway.

“We are artists: we believe in ordinary people, not in the government,” Mr. Lu Maw said in English. “We need light, but in Myanmar, light on and off. Not enough electricity. No water supply. School — money, money, money! Ordinary people no money.

“So we joke. People need a good joke. But the government don’t like us because we joke.”

Mr. Lu Maw, the only English speaker in the troupe, whose spoofs the government has appeared not to mind too much as long as they are performed only in English, said he learned the language from tourists.

“My favorite English is American and English slang,” he said. “My brother in the clink, up the river, in big house.”

His street-side theater can accommodate barely 10 red plastic chairs. Marionettes are hung against a wall. On display was a picture of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi visiting the Mustache Brothers in June 2002. Outside, Mr. Lu Maw’s nephews kept an eye out for the police.

Mr. Lu Maw said Mr. Par Par Lay had strong opinions about the generals who have mismanaged this resource-rich country into poverty.

As one story unfolds, a general has died and become a big fish. As the tsunami rolls toward Myanmar, the fish surfaces and admonishes the wave: “Stop! I have already done that here.”

But Mr. Lu Maw said the recent crackdown on the monks by soldiers was “no good for jokes.”

“People are sad,” he said. “Man kill man, you go to hell. This Buddhist belief. Now they are killing monks! They go beyond hell.”

Mr. Lu Maw said everyone in Myanmar was busy trying to keep up with rising prices, which is what originally drove people onto the streets to protest in August. International pressure has helped his family, he said. When Mr. Par Par Lay was arrested in 1996, he said, British and Hollywood comedians and actors wrote to the Myanmar government in protest.

“We need their help again,” Mr. Lu Maw said. “Richard Gere’s support is especially important because he is a Buddhist. We need a Rambo.”

Despite Mr. Lu Maw’s tireless optimism, his theater was permeated with sadness. In recent weeks the family has struggled to make ends meet because of the dearth of foreign tourists. Mustache Brothers T-shirts are collecting dust. Older members of the family were lying listlessly on a wooden bed on the mud-brick floor.

“If the government comes and takes his clothes and food, then I will know he is alive,” Ms. Ma Win Ma, Mr. Par Par Lay’s wife, said. Mr. Lu Maw said that when Mr. Par Par Lay was in prison camp, he used to perform for other inmates before bedtime. “Maybe he is performing in prison somewhere,” Mr. Lu Maw said. “Yes, we are afraid. But we keep on going. We just joke. This is our job, our family tradition.”


Part 4: Sober times for Myanmar's comics

MANDALAY, Myanmar — Par Par Lay goes to India to seek relief for a toothache. The Indian dentist wonders why the Burmese man has come all that way to see him.

"Don't you have dentists in Myanmar?" he asks.

"Oh, yes, we do, doctor," says Par Par Lay. "But in Myanmar, we are not allowed to open our mouths."

That's a favorite joke of Par Par Lay, a third-generation practitioner of a-nyeint pwe, the traditional Burmese vaudeville featuring puppets, music and slapstick comedy tinged with in-your-face political satire - all performed in a country where cracking the wrong joke can land you in jail.

And Par Par Lay, the 60-year-old leader of the Mustache Brothers troupe, appears to be paying dearly for it.

About midnight on Sept. 25, his relatives say, the police raided Par Par Lay's home-cum-theater here and took him away. On the same day, at least one other popular comedian who, like Par Par Lay, had previously been imprisoned for his political jokes, a man named Zargana in Yangon, was arrested, according to Amnesty International and local residents.

The tightening of the ruling junta's gag on dissident voices came as the regime conducted a bloody crackdown on the first major pro-democracy uprising in this country in 19 years.

"I tried to find him, but I don't know where he is," said Par Par Lay's wife, Ma Win Ma, 56, a dancer. "If the past is an indication, he must have been beaten a lot. I am worried about whether he is alive or not."

The Mustache Brothers is a family troupe of 13 comedians, dancers and musicians. Par Par Lay and his brother Lu Maw, 58, wear handlebar mustaches, hence the group's name. They used to travel from village to village, performing at weddings, funerals and festivals.

In times past, Burmese kings would watch a-nyeint pwe to gauge public sentiment. But it seems the current junta never developed a taste for it.

In 1990, when the military government rejected the decisive victory of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in the country's first election in 30 years and placed the pro-democracy leader under house arrest, Par Par Lay was thrown into jail for six months for his political humor.

In 1996, his troupe performed before an audience of 2,000 people, including foreign ambassadors, at the lakeside compound of Aung San Suu Kyi, by then a Nobel Peace laureate. In one skit, Par Par Lay demonstrated a "government dance," a comic rendition of a wily public servant stealing money from the poor.

A videotape of the event shows Aung San Suu Kyi laughing, clearly entertained. The generals were apparently less amused. Par Par Lay and his cousin Lu Zaw, also a comedian, were sentenced to seven years in a labor camp. He was released after five and a half years.

Afterwards, the government scratched the Mustache Brothers from the list of state-licensed artists Burmese were permitted to hire. Barred from performing for ordinary Burmese but determined to keep their tradition alive, and to make a living, the troupe reinvented itself, performing for foreigners who would come to the home they had turned into a makeshift theater.

Even with Par Par Lay gone, his family has kept the theater going on Mandalay's run-down a-nyeint street, which Lu Maw proudly likened to London's West End and Broadway in New York.

The street looked deserted, with foreign tourism having been sharply curtailed since the crackdown. Creaking taxis and pedicabs maneuvered around potholes and stray dogs on a sun-baked street. Lu Maw's family waited for tourists who never came.

"We are artists: we believe in ordinary people, not in the government," said Lu Maw in English. "We need light, but in Myanmar, light on and off. Not enough electricity. No water supply. School - money, money, money! Ordinary people no money.

"So we joke," he said. "People need a good joke. But the government don't like us because we joke."

The Mustache Brothers are an unlikely tourist attraction in a country where few people dare to criticize the government. But the government appears to tolerate the troupe's spoofs as long as they performed only in English.

Lu Maw, the only English speaker in the troupe, said he learned the language from tourists.

His rapid-fire English words seldom form a complete sentence. In performances, he supplements them with gestures and sign boards. One sign read "KGB," Lu Maw's allusion to the secret police in Myanmar.

"My favorite English is American and English slang," he said. "My brother in the clink, up the river, in big house."

His street-side theater could barely accommodate 10 red plastic chairs. Marionettes hung against a wall. On display was a picture of Aung San Suu Kyi visiting the Mustache Brothers in June 2002. Outside, Lu Maw's nephews kept an eye out for the police.

Lu Maw said he believed that Par Par Lay was arrested because he was a "good organizer" among the many a-nyeint comedians in Mandalay. He had strong opinions about the military generals who have mismanaged this resource-rich country into poverty, and joked about why Myanmar largely escaped the worst of the deadly 2004 tsunami:

A general died and became a big fish, the joke goes. As the tsunami was rolling toward Myanmar, the fish came to the surface and told the wave: "Stop! I have already done that here."

But Lu Maw said the recent killing of monks by soldiers was "no good for jokes."

"People are sad," he said. "Man kill man, you go to hell. This Buddhist belief. Now they are killing monks! They go beyond hell."

Lu Maw said that everyone in Myanmar was busy trying to keep up with rising prices, which is what drove people onto the streets to protest in August. He noted that Par Par Lay was sentenced in 1996 to "seven years for one joke" at Aung San Suu Kyi's place. Now, thanks to inflation, Lu Maw cracked, you make "two jokes and get 100 years in prison."

"We are dead meat already," he said.

International pressure has helped his family in the past, he said. When Par Par Lay was arrested in 1996, he said, British and Hollywood comedians wrote to the Myanmar government in protest.

"We need their help again," Lu Maw said. "Richard Gere's support is especially important because he is a Buddhist. We need a Rambo."

Despite Lu Maw's tireless optimism, his theater was permeated with sadness. In the past month, the family has struggled to make ends meet with a dearth of foreign tourists. Mustache Brothers T-shirts are collecting dust. Older members of the family were lying listlessly on a wooden bed on the mud-brick floor.

"If the government comes and takes his clothes and food, then I will know he is alive," said Ma Win Ma, Par Par Lay's wife. "That is enough. I believe one day he will come back and we can perform together again."

Lu Maw said that when Par Par Lay was in prison camp, he used to perform for other inmates before bed time.

"Maybe he is performing in prison somewhere," Lu Maw said. "Yes, we are afraid. But we keep on going. We just joke. This is our job, our family tradition."


Grocery Shopping With Your Middle Finger

The Grocery Store is the only retail establishment that I visit more than once a month. But even then, we have a bit of a love/hate relationship.

I LOVE the grocery store, because it is the source of almost all of my food. Under its roof lies a world of unlimited possibilities. It can help me cook up almost any recipe on Earth, and by selecting the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones, I can ensure a fantastic level of health for myself and my family.

But I also HATE the grocery store occasionally, because about 90% of the products in there are pure crap. Colorful boxes and disposable plastic packages containing mostly ridiculous chemicals, colors, and artificial flavors, all mixed over a base of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, and refined white flour.

These things are big contributors to our country’s startling waistline, and while I believe we should still be free to make, sell, and eat these products at our own discretion, it saddens me to see such incredible effort and environmental resources going into creating things that logically should not even exist.

The grocery store also earns my rage with its ever-tricky pricing scheme. Besides the mental filtering required to seek out that Healthy 10% of items not covered by the previous paragraph, there is also a wildly fluctuating game of price-gouging going on at my store (which happens to be Safeway).

Lucerne Organic eggs are sometimes $2.99 for a dozen when they are “on sale”, otherwise they are $4.59 and a competing brand becomes $2.99 instead, or some amount in between. Apples can usually be found for a buck or so per pound, except when you grow complacent and they jack them up to $2.49, resulting in you buying yourself a $15 bag of apples if you aren’t paying attention.

Today I needed tomatoes and they had temporarily risen from 99 cents to $3.99 per pound, so my little handful cost me $5.69! Later I learned there is not a nationwide Tomato Embargo as I had assumed – they are still 99 cents at the other grocery store, but Safeway just decided to give ol’ Mr. Money Mustache the shaft in the name of profit. (But now they’re paying for it in the form of bad PR, aren’t they? Take that, you $3.99-a-pound-chargin’ bitches!)

At least you can take comfort that some prices are always stable. Specialty items like little packages of Basil leaves and gluten-free bread mix and the comedically priced fitness supplements depicted in the headline picture of this article follow a year-round ridiculous shaftola pricing scheme.

So what’s a Mustachian to do in a situation like this? I like to call it Grocery Shopping With Your Middle Finger, and here are the main ingredients:

Know the Right Price: I’ve been the family’s main grocery shopper for years, so I know exactly how much all of my main staples should cost. Interestingly enough, I’ve hit grocery stores all across the US on road trips, and I find the prices are surprisingly consistent across the land. That makes it easy to shop efficiently, even while on vacation.

If prices are ever significantly above the “right” range, I discreetly stick up both of my middle fingers, swear under my breath, and move on to a substitute good if possible. Conversely, if prices are below the normal range, I’ll stock up like crazy.

For items with a long shelf life, this can lead to some interesting results, like the time I bought 20 jars of Classico pasta sauce because it had dropped from $3.50 to $1.50 per jar, or 20 boxes of Quaker Oat Squares cereal because it had temporarily been marked down from $4.50 to $1.00 per box. The cashiers raised an eyebrow each time, but each of these purchases saved me about $50 over the regular price for these products… and gave me a nice inventory at home to help reduce future trips to the store.

I like to think of it as a little algorithm:

  • If a food is overpriced, buy zero or the minimum possible amount you can live with
  • If a food is regular price, buy an amount to last until your next grocery trip (minimum 1 week supply)
  • If a food is underpriced, buy at least enough to last until the next expected sale at this level (4 weeks?)
  • If a food is drastically underpriced, buy a near-infinite amount, limited only by shelf life of food and available stock on shelves. If Bananas go to 1 cent per pound, you can’t really benefit aside from maybe freezing a few. But if my favorite cashews and almonds mix dropped to an all-time low, I’d probably buy at least a year’s supply (twenty of the two-pound jars or more).

Use Healthiness and Cost Per Calorie to decide what to eat:

I love blueberries and raspberries, and they are good for you. But for most of the year, they are ridiculously expensive – as much as $5.99 for a tiny handful in a 4-oz container. Those 64 calories are costing you 9.35 cents per calorie. To live solely off blueberries at 2000 calories per day, you’d spend $187 per day ($68,255 per year).

On the other hand, I also love old-fashioned rolled oats*. These can be had for about 70 cents per pound in 9lb boxes at Costco. A pound of rolled oats contains 1714 calories – and fantastic ones too, rich in fiber, protein, and iron. This cost per calorie is 0.041 cents.

In other words, Blueberries are about 229 times more expensive than Rolled Oats!! If I lived solely on rolled oats at 2000 calories per day, it would cost me 81.6 cents per day to eat, or $298 per year.

You can use this cost per calorie strategy to optimize your eating – not compromising on health, of course, but just shuffling around healthy foods so that cheaper ones get eaten more.

As a few more examples, I personally eat loads of

  • mixed nuts at about $5 per pound (2720 calories per pound, yielding 0.18 cents per calorie)
  • natural (peanuts-only) peanut butter ($2.50/pound, 3000 cals = 0.08 cents/cal)
  • Whole milk ($4/gallon ,1760 cals = 0.22 cents/cal)
  • Bananas (0.69/pound, 500 cals per pound = 0.138 cents/cal).
  • Basmati rice (0.60/pound, 1600 cals = 0.0375 cents/cal)

Meat is more expensive, for example steak or chicken breast at $5.00/lb for 560 calories yields 0.89 cents per calorie – about 11 times more than the natural peanut butter, which is just as good for you in many ways.

Protein, of which I’m a big fan, can easily be supplemented with beans and rice, cheese and eggs, and 6 lb bags of whey protein powder that you can mix into shakes (also from Costco).

Avoid Cutesy little Containers of things that cost $8.00
Nowadays, organic and healthy food has caught on in a big way, especially among the affluent 20-to-40something crowd. When you combine a desire to do the right thing, with the typical free spending middle income earner, you get a highly profitable Sukka Consumer. And Whole Foods and Natural Grocers are right there to make the most of it, with tiny little jars of Mrs. McFancyPants’s Natural Ostrich Feather Butter for $18.99 and Jack McGillicuddy’s Organic Maple Elven Unicorn Syrup Crisp cereal for $77.59 for a 2-serving bag. When I visit the homes of middle-income people these days, I find the pantry absolutely loaded with these big-ticket small-quantity items, and then I understand why their grocery bills are $1000 per month.

Buying luxury health foods from small companies is a great thing to do if you can actually afford it – you’re stickin’ it to the unhealthy factory food system and Monsanto, while supporting the growth of healthier small companies. But if you’re not yet retired, you can’t afford it yet, so why not compromise by buying any reasonably priced organic food you can find at a regular grocery store, build up your ‘stash for now, and then switch to the boutique stuff after your first million?

I also eat fruits and vegetables at every meal, despite their higher cost per calorie, just for the sake of deliciousness and having a healthy balance. I just lean towards things like cucumbers, carrots, apples and bananas, rather than out-of-season blueberries and raspberries from New Zealand, except for special occasions.

To put it all into perspective with an example, let’s review the typical MMM family grocery list for one week. In the earlier “Exposed!” article , I found that we spend an average of $74 per week. Here’s the breakdown. Most foods listed are organic when available at reasonable prices.

Milk: 2 gallons at average $3 (since I only buy organic part of the time): $6
Eggs: 2 dozen at $3.50 each: $7
Bananas: 6 lbs at .70: $4.20
Apples: 3 lbs at $1.50 each: $4.50
Misc. fruits and vegetables: 4 pounds at $2 each: $8
Spaghetti (rice noodles gluten free): 1 lb at $3.50
Spaghetti sauce: 1 jar at $3
Chicken, Beef, or Fish: 2 pounds at $6: $12
Cereal, including oats: 2 pounds at $1: $2
Cheese: 1 pound at $3
Coffee: 1/2 pound at $7: $3.50
Various kinds of Beans, rice, whole wheat flour: 3 pounds at 0.60: $1.80 (I make my own bread, yum)
Apple Sauce: $2
olive oil: 4 oz at 0.25: $1
Miscellaneous stuff like dark chocolate, protein powder, spices, recipe ingredients, occasional ice cream, whatever: $10.

This is just a typical list, and it’s an estimate based on buying some things weekly, and other things on the quarterly gigantic $300 stock-up at Costco. The main things I might find noteworthy is that it adds up to the mid $70s weekly for a family of three, it’s mostly organic food and meat, and there is pretty much zero processed prepackaged stuff or desserts in there. It could be cut in half if we switched to non-organic food and dropped the luxury meats and coffee, but hey, as I always say, the MMM family leads a luxurious and decadent life despite the below-average overall costs :-) )

* Mr. Money Mustache’s Amazing Save $100 on Cereal Per Year Trick. Not everyone loves cereal, but some of us are addicts and could eat it all day. You know who you are. I have at least a couple bowls daily myself. Four years ago, I invented a trick where I substitute 50-75% of the cereal for plain rolled oats (uncooked, straight out of the container), then pour regular sugary cereal (like honey bunches of oats or raisin bran) on top of that. Mix it up, add some bananas, and you have a super-nice bowl of the good stuff! I actually prefer the texture and taste of this over regular boxed cereal. For every pound of oats you use up doing this, you save about $2.00, since cereal in boxes costs around $2.70/pound and oats are only .70. I kept track for a year, and found I had used 50 lbs of oats. I’ve saved $400 so far with just this trick, and it helped me sharpen up the abdomen as well due to the reduced sugar and higher fiber!

An update, two years later: Since writing this article, the adults in our family have switched to a lower-carbohydrate and higher-fat style of eating, with even better results. Instead of cereal, I have a heartier breakfast with eggs and avocados. Less pasta and more stir-fried vegetables. If your current plan works for you, stick with it. But if you ever need to lose fat, try dropping all bread and sugars (including most fruit juice – eat the fruit instead) and see what happens.


When healing’s needed, seek out these immunity-boosting foods

My daughter is in the midst of three surgeries that will span five months. She seems much less anxious than I, but children often remain carefree while their parents worry. Before her first surgery, I wanted to make sure she was prepared emotionally and physically. There is only so much you can or should tell a 6-year-old about anesthesia, surgeons, operating rooms and recovery, so as advised by the experts, we kept it simple.

In terms of her physical preparation, my daughter simply needed to warm up her immune system. Surgery increases inflammation and causes stress in the body, both of which a healthy immune system can reduce.

I wanted her to be as fit as possible so that it could heal the damaged tissue, build new tissue and fight off any infections that might come her way in a hospital. We also didn’t want her ailing before surgery because any inkling of a cold meant we’d have to postpone.

Nutrition plays a meaningful role in how tissue repairs and rebuilds, as well as how the body fights off infection and regains energy. There are many nutrients that help with these tasks, including collagen, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Collagen and its amino acids are essential to healing because they build tissues such as skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, blood vessels, bones and more. Antioxidants remove the harmful free radicals from the bloodstream that can impair the immune system, and vitamins and minerals play specialized roles in healing.

Focus on these foods to help boost a child’s immune system, whether for surgery or just to stay healthy all winter. The same goes for an adult. Just as cross-training keeps the body healthy by working many different muscles, eating a variety of these foods promotes health by benefiting many different parts of the body.

● Protein helps the body repair tissue and fight infection. Certain amino acids (arginine and glutamine ) found in protein have been shown to increase surgical-wound healing and decrease bodywide inflammation. Eat lean meats, bone broth, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and avocado.

● Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that supports the immune response and helps to rebuild collagen. Choose citrus, leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli and berries.

● Vitamin A boosts immunity, lowers the risk of infection and supports wound healing through collagen strength. Snack on carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, salmon, eggs and grass-fed beef.

● Vitamin D plays a big part in immune health and can be found in milk, salmon and eggs, and from sunshine.

●B vitamins aid in tissue repair, immune support and cell metabolism. Make meals from dark leafy greens, whole grains, fish and chicken.

●Vitamin K aids the body with healthy blood clotting and is abundant in dark leafy green vegetables.

● Zinc helps to create and activate our immune system's white blood cells. It is important in collagen production and essential in the enzymatic reactions that transpire when wounds heal, and it is a protective antioxidant . Serve oysters, red meat, chicken, beans, spinach, nuts and pumpkin seeds.

● Selenium is a potent antioxidant that protects the immune system. Enjoy Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, halibut, grass-fed beef, turkey and chicken.

●Water keeps a body from becoming dehydrated. When patients are well-hydrated, they report less pain and nausea after surgery. It is easier for a nurse to insert an IV when veins are hydrated, and hydration can help prevent post-surgical constipation. Be aware that the sodium in sports drinks can cause the body to retain water, so stick to straight water.

Here are a few other recovery tricks we discovered thus far during our time in and out of doctor’s offices. A patient may not feel hungry, especially during the first few days after surgery, so try packing the vitamins, phytonutrients and antioxidants into drinks such as smoothies and fresh vegetable juices, nurses at the hospital explained.

Skip the processed-sugar-filled beverages Ensure and Boost, and instead whip up a chocolate smoothie that delivers healthy fats, protein, vitamins and antioxidants. When the immune system is down or overworked, it is best to avoid sugar and other inflammatory foods that will further suppress the immune system and divert the body's attention from healing.

Cold foods such as fruits and vegetables often taste better to a recovering patient than warm or hot foods. And if the patient must take an antibiotic post-surgery, as my daughter did, probiotics can help support digestive health and repopulate beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Getting nutrients through healthy foods is a no-brainer, but consult your doctor before taking supplements, medications or herbs before or after surgery, as some can interfere with the surgical process and healing.

Before my daughter’s first surgery, I stocked our fridge with colorful fruits, a variety of vegetables and lean proteins I made smoothies (some she and her brothers rejected after one sip, while others they devoured) and I made bone broth for soups such as lentil, chicken tortilla and miso.

I feel in control when I am feeding my kids well. Who knows whether my efforts are partially responsible for her skipping back to school two weeks after surgery, and for keeping my boys from succumbing to the winter sicknesses surrounding them, but nevertheless, we are in great shape for whatever lies ahead.