Maddie worked as a travel guide in Argentina and a teacher at several educational nonprofits in San Francisco before joining Mother Jones. She’s also written for Outside, the Bay Citizen, and the Rumpus. She manages Mother Jones' Ben Bagdikian Fellowship Program.
Call us greedy, self-centered, or overly idealistic, but no one should ever accuse Americans of being bitter: We devour more added sugar than people in any other country—30 teaspoons a day by some estimates. (Indians, on the other end of the spectrum, consume just one.)
"Now it's challenging to find a food without added sugar."
The reasons go back to the 1960s, when supermarkets proliferated in US cities and readily available corn-syrupy sodas and juice drinks supplanted milk on the dinner table. By 1996, the daily calories we got from added sweeteners had increased by more than 35 percent.
On top of that, during the low-fat frenzy of the 1980s and '90s, manufacturers replaced the flavorful natural oils in their products with sweeteners. "Now it's challenging to find a food without added sugar," says Dr. Andrew Bremer, a pediatric endocrinologist and program director in the diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolic diseases division at the National Institutes of Health. Indeed, today a full three-quarters of the packaged foods that we purchase—including everything from whole-wheat bread and breakfast cereals to salad dressings—contain extra sweeteners.
Food companies aren't required to distinguish on labels between added and naturally occurring sugars.
That's a problem: Naturally occurring sugars (the kind in fruit, for example) come with fiber, which helps us regulate the absorption of food. Without fiber, sugar can overwhelm your system, eventually leading to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. Given these risks, experts suggest dramatically cutting your intake of extra sweets. In March, the World Health Organization recommended that 5 percent of your daily energy come from added sugars, which for an adult of average weight comes out to roughly six teaspoons—about 25 grams.
The trouble is that it's hard to tell how much added sugar you're actually eating. You've probably learned to spot cane juice and corn syrup, but what about barley malt, dextrose, and rice syrup—and the 56 other names for added sweeteners?
What's more, food companies aren't required to distinguish on labels between added and naturally occurring sugars. The US Department of Agriculture used to list added sugars in an online nutrient database, but it removed this feature in 2012 after companies claimed that the exact proportion of added sugar was a trade secret.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration proposed changing nutrition labels and requiring companies to display both added and naturally occurring sugars. But industry giants like Hormel and General Mills are objecting—and even if a new label gets approved, it could still be years before packaging changes.
In the graphic above, we crunched the numbers on some everyday snacks and meals to discover just how easy it is to reach six teaspoons.
There is an eerie feel to this grove of lodgepole pines that I can't quite put my finger on as entomologist Diana Six tromps ahead of me, hatchet in hand, scanning the southwestern Montana woods for her target. But as she digs the blade into a towering trunk, it finally hits me: the smell. There's no scent of pine needles, no sharp, minty note wafting through the brisk fall air.
Six hacks away hunks of bark until she reveals an inner layer riddled with wormy passageways. "Hey, looky!" she exclaims, poking at a small black form. "Are you dead? Yeah, you're dead." She extends her hand, holding a tiny oval, maybe a quarter of an inch long. Scientists often compare this insect to a grain of rice, but Six prefers mouse dropping: "Beetle in one hand, mouse turd in another. You can't tell them apart." She turns to the next few trees in search of more traces. Pill-size holes pock their ashen trunks—a sign, along with the missing pine scent, of a forest reeling from an invasion.
Beetles are chewing their way through American forests, sometimes felling as many as 100,000 trees a day.
These tiny winged beetles have long been culling sickly trees in North American forests. But in recent years, they've been working overtime. Prolonged droughts and shorter winters have spurred bark beetles to kill billions of trees in what's likely the largest forest insect outbreak ever recorded, about 10 times the size of past eruptions. "A doubling would have been remarkable," Six says. "Ten times screams that something is really going wrong."
Mountain pine, spruce, piñon ips, and other kinds of bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the Rocky Mountains all the way to Mexico. Yellowstone's grizzly bears have run out of pinecones to eat because of the beetles. Skiers and backpackers have watched their brushy green playgrounds fade as trees fall down, sometimes at a rate of 100,000 trunks a day. Real estate agents have seen home prices plummet from "viewshed contamination" in areas ransacked by the bugs. And the devastation isn't likely to let up anytime soon. As climate change warms the North American woods, we can expect these bugs to continue to proliferate and thrive in higher elevations—meaning more beetles in the coming century, preying on bigger chunks of the country.
From 2000 to 2014, bark beetles destroyed large swaths of forests in the American West—and they're not done yet.
In hopes of staving off complete catastrophe, the United States Forest Service, which oversees 80 percent of the country's woodlands, has launched a beetle offensive, chopping down trees to prevent future infestations. The USFS believes this strategy reduces trees' competition for resources, allowing the few that remain to better resist invading bugs. This theory just so happens to also benefit loggers, who are more than willing to help thin the forests. Politicians, too, have jumped on board, often on behalf of the timber industry: More than 50 bills introduced since 2001 in Congress proposed increasing timber harvests in part to help deal with beetle outbreaks.
But Six believes that the blitz on the bugs could backfire in a big way. For starters, she says, cutting trees "quite often removes more trees than the beetles would"—effectively outbeetling the beetles. But more importantly, intriguing evidence suggests that the bugs might be on the forest's side. Six and other scientists are beginning to wonder: What if the insects that have wrought this devastation actually know more than we do about adapting to a changing climate?
A BUG'S LIFE
An adult mountain pine beetle lays her eggs under the bark. On her way, she disperses fungi that turn the trees' tissue into food for her babies, eventually killing the tree.
Though they're often described as pesky invaders, bark beetles have been a key part of conifer ecosystems for ages, ensuring that groves don't get overcrowded. When a female mountain pine beetle locates a frail tree, she emits a chemical signal to her friends, who swarm to her by the hundreds. Together they chew through the bark until they reach the phloem, a cushy resinous layer between the outer bark and the sapwood that carries sugars through the tree. There, they lay their eggs in tunnels, and eventually a new generation of beetles hatches, grows up, and flies away. But before they do, the mature beetles also spread a special fungus in the center of the trunk. And that's where things get really interesting.
Six focuses on the "evolutionary marriage" of beetle and fungi at her four-person lab at the University of Montana, where she is the chair of the department of ecosystems and conservation sciences. Structures in bark beetles' mouths have evolved to carry certain types of fungi that convert the tree's tissue into nutrients for the bug. The fungi have "figured out how to hail the beetle that will get them to the center of the tree," Six says. "It's like getting a taxi." The fungi leave blue-gray streaks in the trees they kill; "blue-stain pine" has become a specialty product, used to make everything from cabins to coffins to iPod cases.
A healthy tree can usually beat back invading beetles by deploying chemical defenses and flooding them out with sticky resin. But just as dehydration makes humans weaker, heat and drought impede a tree's ability to fight back—less water means less resin. In some areas of the Rocky Mountain West, the mid-2000s was the driest, hottest stretch in 800 years. From 2000 to 2012, bark beetles killed enough trees to cover the entire state of Colorado. "Insects reflect their environment," explains renowned entomologist Ken Raffa—they serve as a barometer of vast changes taking place in an ecosystem.
Under the microscope, Diana Six picks up a dead mountain pine beetle in her Missoula lab. Shawn Gust
Typically, beetle swells subside when they either run out of trees or when long, cold winters freeze them off (though some larvae typically survive, since they produce antifreeze that can keep them safe down to 30 below). But in warm weather the bugs thrive. In 2008, a team of biologists at the University of Colorado observed pine beetles flying and attacking trees in June, a month earlier than previously recorded. With warmer springs, the beetle flight season had doubled, meaning they could mature and lay eggs—and then their babies could mature and lay eggs—all within one summer.
That's not the only big change. Even as the mountain pine beetles run out of lodgepole pines to devour in the United States, in 2011 the insects made their first jump into a new species of tree, the jack pine, in Alberta. "Those trees don't have evolved defenses," Six says, "and they're not fighting back." The ability to invade a new species means the insects could begin a trek east across Canada's boreal forest, then head south into the jack, red, and white pines of Minnesota and the Great Lakes region, and on to the woods of the East Coast. Similarly, last year, the reddish-black spruce beetle infested five times as many acres in Colorado as it did in 2009. And in the last decade, scientists spotted the southern pine beetle north of the Mason-Dixon Line for the first time on record, in New Jersey and later on Long Island. As investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk put it in his 2011 book on the outbreaks, we now belong to the "empire of the beetle."
In a weird way, all of this is exciting news for Six: She is not only one of the world's foremost experts in beetle-fungi symbiosis, but proud to be "one of the few people in Montana that thinks bark beetles are cute." (She's even brewed her own beer from beetle fungi.) As a child, she filled her bedroom in Upland, California, with jars of insects and her fungus collection. But as a teenager, she got into drugs, quit high school, and started living on the streets. Nine years later, she attended night school, where teachers urged her to become the first in her family to go to college. And when she finally did, she couldn't get enough: classes in microbiology and integrated pest management led to a master's degree in veterinary entomology, then a Ph.D. in entomology and mycology and a postdoc in chemical ecology, focused on insect pheromones.
Entomologist Diana Six, who has devoted her career to bark beetles, believes that the bugs might hold clues to saving our forests in the face of climate change. Shawn Gust
Six, 58, has light-green eyes ringed with saffron, and long silvery-blond hair streaming down shoulders toned from fly-fishing and bodybuilding. As several fellow researchers stress to me, she is the rare scientist who's also a powerful communicator. "I think about what it means to be a tree," she told a rapt audience at a TEDx talk about global forest die-offs. "Trees can't walk. Trees can't run. Trees can't hide," she continued, her sonorous voice pausing carefully for emphasis. "And that means, when an enemy like the mountain pine beetle shows up, they have no choice but to stand their ground."
To a tree hugger, that might seem a grim prognosis: Since trees can't escape, they'll all eventually be devoured by insects, until we have no forests left. Especially since, with our current climate projections, we might be headed toward a world in which beetle blooms do not subside easily and instead continue to spread through new terrain.
But Six has a different way of looking at the trees' plight: as a battle for survival, with the army of beetles as a helper. She found compelling evidence of this after stumbling across the work of Forest Service researcher Constance Millar, with whom she had crossed paths at beetle conferences.
Millar was comparing tree core measurements of limber pines, a slight species found in the eastern Sierras of California that can live to be 1,000 years old. After mountain pine beetles ravaged one of her study sites in the late 1980s, certain trees survived. They were all around the same size and age as the surrounding trees that the beetles tore through, so Millar looked closer at tree ring records and began to suspect that, though they looked identical on the outside, the stand in fact had contained two genetically distinct groups of trees. One group had fared well during the 1800s, when the globe was still in the Little Ice Age and average temperatures were cooler. But this group weakened during the warmer 1900s, and grew more slowly as a result. Meanwhile, the second group seemed better suited for the warmer climate, and started to grow faster.
Pine beetles have increasingly attacked fragile whitebark pine trees, whose cones are an important food source for grizzly bears, Clark's nutcrackers, red squirrels, and other animals in the Yellowstone area. Maddie Oatman
When beetle populations exploded in the 1980s, this second group mounted a much more successful battle against the bugs. After surviving the epidemic, this group of trees "ratcheted forward rapidly," Millar explains. When an outbreak flared up in the mid-2000s, the bugs failed to infiltrate any of the survivor trees in the stand. The beetles had helped pare down the trees that had adapted to the Little Ice Age, leaving behind the ones better suited to hotter weather. Millar found similar patterns in whitebark pines and thinks it's possible that this type of beetle-assisted natural selection is going on in different types of trees all over the country.
When Six read Millar's studies, she was floored. Was it possible, she wondered, that we've been going about beetle management all wrong? "It just hit me," she says. "There is something amazing happening here."
Last year, Six and Eric Biber, a University of California-Berkeley law professor, published a provocative review paper in the journal Forests that challenged the Forest Service's beetle-busting strategies. After scrutinizing every study about beetle control that they could get their hands on, they concluded that "even after millions of dollars and massive efforts, suppression…has never effectively been achieved, and, at best, the rate of mortality of trees was reduced only marginally."
Six points to a stand of lodgepoles in the University of Montana's Lubrecht Experimental Forest. In the early 2000s, school foresters preened the trees, spacing them out at even distances, and hung signs to note how this would prevent beetle outbreaks. This "prethinned" block was "the pride and joy of the experimental forest," Six remembers. But that stand was the first to get hit by encroaching pine beetles, which took out every last tree. She approached the university forest managers. "I said, 'Boy, you need to document that,'" Six says. "They didn't. They just cut it down. Now there's just a field of stumps."
For the timber industry and its friends, beetle invasions have been a handy excuse to open wild areas for logging.
Six and Biber's paper came as a direct affront to some Forest Service researchers, one of whom told me that he believes changing forest structure through thinning is the only long-term solution to the beetle problem. Politicians tend to agree—and beetle suppression sometimes serves as a convenient excuse: "It is perhaps no accident that the beetle treatments most aggressively pushed for in the political landscape allow for logging activities that provide revenue and jobs for the commercial timber industry," Six and Biber wrote in the Forests review.
Take the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, proposed in 2013 by then-Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and championed by then-Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). The bill sought to designate "Revenue Areas" in every national forest where, to help address insect infestations, loggers would be required to clear a certain number of trees every year. Loggers could gain access to roadless areas, wilderness study areas, and other conservation sites, and once designated, their acreage could never be reduced. The zones would also be excluded from the standard environmental-review process.
Six and other scientists vehemently opposed these massive timber harvests—as did environmental advocates like the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, the latter warning that the harvests would take logging to "unprecedented and unsustainable levels." The bill passed the House but died in the Senate last year. But Daines, now a senator and one of 2014's top 10 recipients of timber money, vows to renew the effort so as to "revitalize Montana's timber industry" and "protect the environment for future generations."
This summer, Six plans to start examining the genes of "supertrees"—those that survive beetle onslaughts—in stands of whitebarks in Montana's Big Hole Valley. Her findings could help inform a new kind of forest management guided by a deeper understanding of tree genes—one that beetles have had for millennia.
If we pay close enough attention, someday we may be able to learn how to think like they do. University of California-Davis plant sciences professor David Neale champions a new discipline called "landscape genomics." At his lab in Davis, Neale operates a machine that grinds up a tree's needles and spits out its DNA code. This technology is already being used for fruit tree breeding and planting, but Neale says it could one day be used in wild forests. "As a person, you can take your DNA and have it analyzed, and they can tell you your relative risk to some disease," Neale says. "I'm proposing to do the same thing with a tree: I can estimate the relative risk to a change in temperature, change in moisture, introduction to a pathogen."
Signs of beetle invasion on a whitebark pine tree in Montana's Big Hole Valley Maddie Oatman
Right now, foresters prune woodlands based on the size of trees' trunks and density of their stands. If we knew more about trees' genetic differences, Neale says, "maybe we would thin the ones that have the highest relative risks." This application is still years off, but Neale has already assembled a group of Forest Service officials who want to learn more about landscape genomics.
Six, meanwhile, places her faith in the beetles. Whereas traditional foresters worry that failing to step in now could destroy America's forests, Six points to nature's resilience. Asked at TEDx how she wants to change the world, she responded, "I don't want to change the world. We have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable. I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains."
Diana Six in her lab at the University of Montana Shawn Gust
This story was supported by a Middlebury College Fellowship in Environmental Journalism.
Should the new Dietary Guidelines—the advice the federal government issues every five years on what constitutes a healthy diet—include recommendations about what makes for a healthy planet? The meat industry sure doesn't think so.
The industry started flipping out when it saw some of the language in the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's February report: "Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods...and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with a lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average US diet."
Big Meat takes issue with two main things:
1) That the committee's scientists dared to comment on environmental sustainability issues in a nutrition report.
2) That the report said (elsewhere) that a healthy diet should be lower in red and processed meats.
The film focuses on the health merits of meat, arguing that it trumps other foods because, unlike plants, "animal proteins are considered complete proteins, or ideal proteins." Never mind that plenty of other accessible and cheap vegetarian foods, including rice and beans, or buckwheat, also provide complete proteins.
One calorie of beef requires 18 times the amount of fuel to produce as one calorie of grain.
But the video does not try to refute the notion that meat's environmental footprint is cause for concern—the UN argues, for instance, that livestock produce 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Dietary Guidelines' committee points out that producing one calorie of beef requires 18 times as much fuel as producing one calorie of grain.
It's no coincidence that the committee chose to flag the carbon footprint of our food: The guidelines are ultimately about people's relationship with food, and the deterioration of the environment's health is a blow to our food security. "Meeting current and future food needs," the committee notes, will depend on changing the way people eat and developing agricultural and production practices "that reduce environmental impacts and conserve resources."
So will the Dietary Guidelines retain this responsible language when they are officially published this fall by the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture? On Wednesday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that he could not rule out the chance that the final version will mention sustainability, but he implied that he would steer clear of doling out environmental advice. He told the Wall Street Journal:
"Our job ultimately is to formulate dietary and nutrition guidelines. And I emphasize dietary and nutrition because that's what the law says. I think it's my responsibility to follow the law."
The law or the money? The AP has reported that meat processing and livestock industries spent $7 million on lobbying and donated $5 million to members of Congress during the last election cycle.
In March every year, the streets of India and Nepal come alive with color. Kids douse each other with water guns full of paint; ashrams explode with clouds of rainbow powder; friends lob water balloons bursting with chartreuse, ochre, fuchia, and violet. All to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival marking the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil.
Girls dance at the Pagal Baba Ashram in Vrindivan, Uttar Pradesh Deepack Malik/ZUMA
Holi in the Borobazar area of Calcutta KM Asad/ZUMA
But peaceful Holi revelry can be harder to come by for some Indian women. The wild celebrations often encourage sexual harassment; "it's almost like one gigantic frat party," says radio producer Deepak Singh, of KOSU. Some men see it as an opportunity to "get drunk and rowdy and grope women," he says. When I lived with a family in Jaipur, Rajasthan, we were warned away from joining the street mob during the Holi festival for fear of this type of behavior.
A girl at Pagal Baba Ashram in Vrindivan, Uttar Pradesh Deepak Malik/ZUMA
Three friends smear each other with powder in the Borobazar area of Calcutta KM Asad/ZUMA
And tens of millions of widows in India find Holi completely off-limits, as NPR's Julie McCarthy reports. "In some parts of the culture, the women are seen as the cause of their husband's death," she writes, and they are discouraged from partaking in the festivities. Still, many widows buck tradition and party anyway. This year, McCarthy observed a gleeful group of widows "cavorting in the chaos of color" during a Holi party in Vrindavan, known as the City of Widows.
Widows dance during a March 3, 2015 Holi party at Meerasahabhagini Ashram in Vrindivan KM Asad/ZUMA
A widow doused in colored powder celebrates Holi at Meerasahabhagini Ashram KM Asad/ZUMA
Remember your high school prom? Now imagine, for the slow dance, the class nerd—pale, big glasses, a little chubby—walked on stage and belted out the most exquisite Otis Redding cover you'd ever heard. That's what came to mind when I saw Paul Janeway, the lead singer of St. Paul & the Broken Bones, perform at the Fillmore in San Francisco over Valentine's Day weekend. Featuring Janeway's wrenching vocals plus sizzling guitar, horns, and rhythm, the tight and explosive seven-piece Broken Bones banded together in Birmingham, Alabama, and released their first EP in 2012. They've since appeared on Letterman and at Bonnaroo, and released a full album, Half the City, produced by the keyboardist from the Alabama Shakes.
Though his passionate tunes will surely inspire steamy encounters, Janeway's roots are pure: He learned to sing at his Pentecostal-leaning church. So it might come as a surprise that the band's song "Call Me" was included in Fifty Shades of Grey, the film based on E.L. James' erotic BDSM novel.
Decked out in a crisp navy suit, a red satin pocket square, and flashy gold shoes, Janeway charged through Redding numbers during his Fillmore set, as well as a dance-worthy cover of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" and a killer version of Paul McCartney and Wings' "Let Me Roll It." The Broken Bones' gospel-infused originals kept the audience swaying through the show, and delivered proof that classic soul lives on through more than just covers.
"I had no idea what it was. Then I saw a preview for it, and I was like, 'Oh shit. Oh no. What have I done?'"
I spoke with Janeway the morning after his latest San Francisco show.
Mother Jones: You've said: "My goal in life until I was about 18 years old was to be a preacher." What was your first reaction to learning that your song would be in Fifty Shades of Grey?
Paul Janeway: [Laughs.] All right, my first Fifty Shades of Grey question! When they presented the licensing opportunity, they presented it as: It's going to be a huge movie, they want to put a decent amount of the song in the movie in a nonsexual scene.
I knew it was a book, but I had no idea what it was. So I was like, sure, big movie, good exposure. I'll be in this romantic comedy. Which is what I thought it was: a romantic comedy. It's a good way to make money in the music business, you know. Then I saw a preview for it, and I was like, "Oh, shit. Oh, no. What have I done?"
To me it's kind of funny. I'm glad it's in a nonsexual scene to be honest with you, not for my sake but for my family's sake. I don't have any moral things about it. It's not like we're in the movie—it's just a song for a minute.
MJ: My friend had heard some of your songs but didn't know much about you. When we first walked in show, his first words were: "Wow, it's just a bunch of white dudes." Do you get that a lot?
PJ: Yeah, a little bit. It is interesting that people get kind of shocked by that, I guess. I don't ever really think about that because it's just music that we love. We're from Alabama, and if you look at the Muscle Shoals Swampers, that was just a bunch of white dudes. They wrote some of the best soul music ever written. I think if people don't know the musical history, I think they're like, "Oh?!"
MJ: I didn't realize you were so theatrical: You were humping the speakers at one point, throwing down the mic. Did that dramatic side start before you became a singer, or has music brought it out of you?
PJ: That's always been something I've been attracted to. I love Broadway musicals. Really for me, as St. Paul, it's an exaggeration of my personality put on to the max. It's just ridiculous. I don't typically climb on speakers in real life. It's an adventure within the show—like, okay, here's something to climb on. The first night [in San Francisco] I got on the really tall speaker and got really scared. I'm like, I'm not doin' that the second night!
In Dallas one time, it wasn't well-lit on the stage. I jumped in front of the horn mics and I couldn't see the stage or the monitor. So I tripped over the monitor and took out both horn mics, the trombone player broke his slide out. I thought I broke my ankle, but it was just really badly bruised.
MJ: You sing so much about love and affection: How do you get in the mood if your personal life is making you feel down or cynical?
PJ: I got married seven weeks ago. It's weird because I'm very happy, and some of the songs are about heartbreak. I'm not really heartbroken. When it's show time, when you have a song that's danceable, it's easy to sing about love and sex.
"'Try a Little Tenderness' is a monster of a song. I don't know why we have the guts to do it. It's sacred territory."
It's really the ones about heartbreak and sadness that are difficult to handle because I have to get to a place mentally during the song that's not really where I want to be. We have this song called "Broken Bones and Pocket Change": Sometimes I get really emotional, and I have to take a break, 20 seconds to be like, "Okay, we're done with that one." You want the song to have the same meaning it had when you sang it the first time.
MJ: You really belt. How do you take care of your voice?
PJ: A lot of Coca-Cola. [Laughs]. That's not really good for you, but I do drink a lot of Coke. I don't drink alcohol; I don't smoke. I never have in my 31 years on the planet. I do vocal warm-ups. I use this spray called Entertainer's Secret. And sleep. The thing is, I can sleep 12 to 13 hours. It's pretty vital to the rejuvenation of the voice. You do it night in and night out, your voice has to recuperate, it's key. I think if I was a hard partier, I think it would be a lot tougher. But I'm not; I'm pretty lame.
MJ: I think I heard you say on stage that Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" was the best soul song of all times.
PJ: It's definitely one of the best. As a song live, you can't follow it. I think Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," and then a William Bell song, "I Forgot to Be Your Lover." Those three songs to me—it's kind of like picking your favorite kid though.
"Try a Little Tenderness" is an old song. But as far as Otis Redding's execution, it's one of the best executions ever. Live, it's a monster of a song. I don't know why we have the guts to do it. It's sacred territory. I think when we were starting out, we were too stupid to think about that. We just loved the song. We were like, we know this is a classic: If you can't measure yourself to that, you don't need to be doin' this.
MJ: Let's talk about the art of the carefully selected pocket squares. Do you pick your own?
PJ: I do, I do. I've actually lost quite a few at this point. They end up in my book bag or somewhere else. There was a really great one, that was like lacy, almost like panties. It was pink. That was the best pocket square I've ever had, but I cannot find it. It was amazing.
I actually handle all that stuff myself. Those gold shoes are the only thing I like wearing—they are just flashy enough to make me feel good about doin' it.
MJ: What's the red pin you're always wearing?
PJ: It says Alabama. It's an Alabama football thing. It's my code way to stayin' real tied to the state of Alabama—a little piece of home.