Archive for June, 2008

Riding High

So, here’s an unfortunately much-abused photo of my mom, riding atop the fancy convertible.

Queen (or Princess) Sharon in Wirt County Parade, c. early 1960s.

Too bad about the quality of the photo. It was already overexposed (the photo, not the girl 🙂 ), being a bright day and light colors everywhere; it really sucks that it wasn’t better protected for all those years. Ah well.

At least we still have a cute girl on a convertible. In those sexy horn-rimmed glasses, no less… 😉 . I sort of expect her to break out, “We love you, Conrad, O yes we do…!”


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What is it about taking a bike ride that calms the soul? I had a good day, but for some reason in the evening I was starting to feel a little “blah,” or edgy or something. There were a couple of things on the docket I could have done, but really the mood left me–I didn’t want to travel any distance up through traffic (which I had done all week, and even yesterday as we went through our sweets tour of Fburg).

So I headed out on a ride on the Strom.

I got out to the bike just as neighbors James and Patricia rolled up from a trip to see a grandkid at a recital. James saw that I had helmet in hand, and offered to go with me. I accepted.

It was a fairly easy ride, going East, taking some back roads. I led, and went quickly, but not ball-hair-burning or anything. Just enough to feel the wind and keep the bike leaned over. Not too long either, maybe 30-40 minutes, if that.

It felt like some weight I didn’t even know about left my shoulders. I don’t know why that is, but it seems to relax and energize me at the same time better than (just about) anything I know. Ahhhhh…

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So–I’ve been enjoying the SEAL Training vids quite a bit. After a couple of viewings, they’ve grown on me–again, my only problem with the two “Stamina” routines is that they are fairly complicated, or will probably seem so until I have them memorized.

Not that you really need to do so; much like karate kata or kung fu forms, the routines are there as a shape to contain what you’re really trying to accomplish. So once I have them pretty much mastered (sequencing-wise), it won’t matter if I follow the routine precisely or not. I’ll accomplish the same thing–which is just to have a basic intensity/recovery dynamic, keeping the heart rate up and engaging all areas of the body at one time or another throughout.

Already, of course, I’ve added my own twist. I’ve been enjoying combining the ISO workouts from the SEAL Training Camp series with kettlebell stuff. Good fun.

Yesterday was a good example, where I went for a 45 minute brisk walk outdoors, then inside for the Upper Body (Chest and Shoulders), finishing off with several sets of swings. In addition, I went to a friend’s birthday party where we spent a good hour or two frolicking in their pool. I love the water, being in and around (“Amphibiman?” Gee, who’d a thunk it? 🙂 ). Plus, part of the frolicking involved the sport of female tossing for distance (no worries–in the water), a sport at which I excelled, I must say 😀 . So, that finished off a good day of physical activity.

Today’s fun this morning and early afternoon involved an even more brisk 30 plus minute walk followed by the De Vany protocol type of kettlebell; 24 kg bell jerks followed by the 32 kg bell jerks, then swings in the same fashion, followed by a few plyo squat thrusts. Sweating definitely by that point, though I have to say, I wasn’t worn out, but rather, energized.

So, with no ado, I went right into the lawn mowing with my electric push mower. Hey–might as well get something worthwhile actually done, rather than just generating watts for no reason, eh?

One thing about the SEAL workouts I’ve noticed, perhaps this is odd, perhaps not–I can bust through the legs no problem at the Advanced level and complete the whole thing. With the upper body workouts, though, the Advanced really hit me hard, and after a short period of time I quickly drop down to the intermediate and then sometimes to the beginner level on some of the moves. I try to finish the whole sequence, but by that time I’m smoked and am just barely cranking through.

Oh, well, room to grow I guess. And I learned I’m going to have to get a pad or something to do some of the exercises on. His pyramids and drop sets involve going down on your knees for certain types of push-ups, and though I didn’t notice it while I was doing them, when I was done, I had some nice new rug burns down there. They didn’t bother me too much, but I did notice the sting when the sweat has run into the skinned spots (or the wet shorts rub against them). Now I know…

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So, my buddy who I practice medieval longsword with has finally gone over to the dark side. 🙂

He joined my other friend’s academy as an instructor, and they’ll be charging money for classes in it.

Daniel Brown founded the academy, and it’s a good place, well run, if a bit out of the way for me. I went there last night for a first class, and to be Chris’ tackling dummy, so to speak, because he doesn’t really know the who or what he was going to face for the class, and he figured a familiar face would help him stay on track and feel less outnumbered.

He did quite well, and knows his stuff and would’ve done just fine without me there.

So, I dunno, I may sign up. Well, I probably will. I’ve been needing to get back in the swing (heh, heh) of the fencing club kind of thing, because as much as I enjoy working out, due to time and play constraints, I don’t get to “play” that much with others (except for moto rides, which are great).

I would love to just go and grab some folks and throw frisbee for an hour, or canoe or such, but my schedule makes it somewhat difficult, and the fact that a lot of my friends are quite far from me at this time.

My friends Nancy and Walt mentioned they’d like to take up tennis for an activity, and would I like to join in. I might, though I know very little about it, and it means trekking way out there (yet again). We’ll see, though I will probably grab racket at Play It Again Sports or something anyway.

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Ride Today

Nice ride today. Just me and my neighbor James. We headed down to Earl’s first, where I dropped off my small amount of plastic to recycle (see–those side cases come in handy 🙂 ), and then over to the tobacco store, which was closed.

Oh, well. I was looking to get a couple of cigars, as I smoked my last one last night, out on the deck before the storm. Nice one, too. The last one out of the bunch my brother Cristo had gotten me. It was a nice night for it, last night, as the wind came in, and the clouds roiled, and the lightning flashed. Cool, no insects, and a nice cigar (my first in a couple months). A Fuente Gran Reserva, if I remember correctly. Smelled great.

Anyway, we had heard about a HOG rally, and headed over to the Expo center, but, alas, that was closed down too. So then we went down 95S to the Thornburg exit, where there was a huge accident with a tractor trailer, and headed out by the Stonewall Jackson Shrine and intercepted Rt 2 North. Right before 2 North, we stopped at a filling station and got some water; James got some petrol:

James and me at Guinney Station, VA, 20080622.

Then we headed back up to Fred Vegas, and on home. Nice ride. The only thing better would have been to jump into the ocean afterward. One of these days… 😀

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I got in two more “SEAL Training” videos from the late Scott Helvenston’s company, Amphibian Athletics. Basically, two DVDs, each with the equivalent of three VHS videos on it. It was relatively cheap, and I wanted to see if there was any difference in information in the two, and if they were much different from the original set I had bought a while back. Plus–I don’t have the original set (which I really liked) in DVD, or even in VHS, and I as far as can tell, they don’t have them in DVD yet.

So, I’ve watched through most of both of them, and–they’re okay. I think I still like the originals better, and I wish they were in DVD. The production values on the “True Fit” set are a bit higher, and you can tell he was trying to evolve, and evolve away from the plain ol’ hardcore military style and audience, and appeal a little more to the fitness crowd, whilst still carrying the “SEAL” or “Bootcamp” panache.

In fact, I read one review of the originals I think, and the reviewer said that the way he counts is “strange” or something (“A-one, two, thuh-ree.”). But that’s just the actually military instructor way of counting and motivating, sort of a cadence and a rhythm all together. And I could see how it could get annoying. But having actually been in the Navy, it just sort of seems… homey, I guess, and gets you back into the mood for exercise. Like I said, motivating, in a way. Funny how training affects you.

(Update: watching the True Fit Quick Sessions, “Lower Body Session,” he actually jokes around that he got viewer email about the counting thing. He says that if you do these enough that you start saying “three” wrong, like he does, you’ll be a real hero. He said that his only excuse is that that’s the way *his* instructors did, so that’s how he learned it. 🙂 )

There’s not really much difference in the basic movements and sequences he does, as far as I can see, though in the SEAL Training Camp ones, the cardio includes kick boxing moves (a la Billy Blanks) that the originals didn’t have. I guess that means that the basics work for him, and so that’s why he keeps them. I will say that by watching them, and seeing he changes things around–a little, you can see that it doesn’t reallly matter how you string things together, except for short bits of time for supersetting, drop setting, and pyramiding.

For upper body strength, for example, it’s one kind of push up, a stretch, another kind of push up, stretch, etc. I’m glad to see all this though, because I was wondering what he was doing for the legs. I didn’t remember the sequence from the original video set. I will bet, however, that I got the original set’s cardio routine still ingrained pretty well, because it was so daggone simple. Which is good–he was trying to make it “sailor proof,” as we say… 🙂

Of course, if you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know that I also integrate them into my kettlebell work, and/or mix in other types of training, such as sword work or heavy bag, Systema, etc.

But they also included two pocket-sized booklets for them, which I think is pretty handy for remembering the sequences. I also got a nice little card thanking me for supporting Scott and Tricia’s two kids. Which sounds kinda strange until you remember that Helvenston was one of those four contractors that famously got killed Iraq a couple of years back. Then it’s pretty cool.

I was one of those that was struck, and particularly saddened by the news of his death. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but it just struck a little more home to me because of him being in my barracks rooms and later my home’s living room working out along with me via video. Maybe that’s strange, but there it is.

This was my original set, which I can’t find at home, and don’t want to buy another in VHS.
This is the “SEAL Training Camp” set.
And this is the “True Fit System.”

Thanks, Scott. We have the watch, now.

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From an email I sent some friends, as a reply to my brother’s email that included this link to a Golden Compass review.

The Golden Compass:

I did finally watch it (I finally joined Blockbuster), but it took me two sessions. So maybe that contributed to the feeling I had of not getting too much out of it. On the other hand, I thought it was perhaps the most beautiful film I’ve seen in a while.

I didn’t read the books, so I don’t have any comparisons for that. After all the stuff I’ve read in my life (and I’ve read some wild stuff), I wouldn’t worry too much about the anti-Catholic/religious themes in books or movies, etc. (In general, I mean, for young readers and the “corrupting” of). But I will say that heavy-duty smackdown of real religions are a bit much for a real “kid’s movie”–*I* think, anyway. But not for an adult movie. For an adult movie where you really want people to think, then it shouldn’t have been cut or diluted at all.

For something marketed *as* a “kid’s movie,” while at the same time wanting to make money, it would be just stupid to make it unpalatable to parents, most of whom have religious (or want to have) leanings. I mean, it’s the nature of humanity at this time, so to attack and/or sabotage the structure of the western world is not wise. Whether or not you agree with it…

It would be rather different if you were just trying to get the message out in an artistically beautiful way, and weren’t at the same time trying to make money.

Hands down, LOTR is the best of the bunch. Narnia was okay; I was a little disappointed with the first one and actually liked the second one much better. But I totally disagree on two points that people always bring up when talking about Lewis; that– 1) the Narnia stories were “allegory,” and 2) he was trying to push or convince or “sneak in” religion or faith into his works.

No! If you want to see allegory, look at LOTR. An allegory is basically one story that parallels another, that is–it is used to represent the other. The story of Gandalf is plainly and completely the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and rather niftily and well done, I’d say. Lewis did write an allegory, called “Pilgrim’s Regress,” which of course is a take-off of John Bunyun’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

(From Wikipedia:
C. S. Lewis wrote a book inspired by The Pilgrim’s Progress called The Pilgrim’s Regress, in which a character named John follows a vision to escape from The Landlord, a less friendly version of The Owner in Pilgrim’s Regress. It is an allegory of C. S. Lewis’ own journey from a religious childhood to a pagan adulthood in which he rediscovers his Christian God.)

For Narnia, as in “The Space Trilogy,” rather than ignore God, or try to sneak him in somehow, Lewis just presupposes “His” existence as matter-of-fact, and simply proceeds from there. It wouldn’t make any sense to him at that point to not have Him involved in some way, according to His rules. And as he makes the point in the Space Trilogy, God is represented by one species or another, depending on the need at the time–as a human on Earth, for example. As a lion in Narnia, etc.

He also throws in a bunch of other mythos for good measure, which makes sense, because he loved ALL that stuff, Greek and Roman myth, northern Euro, etc. It was just one big smorgasbord of fantasy and adventure, and to include his own vision of faith and God was just natural.

So there’s not really any allegory or trying to push religion in those stories, as I remember them. I will say that when he has Aslan act, Aslan acts in ways that reflect how Lewis thought our relationship with a Christian God would act. You’ll notice that Aslan sacrifices himself for Edward, as Jesus did on Earth. That’s the closest thing you could call allegory, but in Lewis’ Space Trilogy books, he makes it a point to say that parallel things happen in other worlds, for similar reasons. In other words, if God’s representative had to sacrifice himself for humanity on Earth, there’s a good chance that it would happen in other worlds. If I remember correctly, he explicitly states that in “Out Of The Silent Planet,” where God was represented and sacrificed as one of the natives of that planet (Mars).

And it’s not like He wants it that way, but it seems to need to happen as a result of free will, and the sacrifice is the ultimate example of the collision of love and free will–giving your life for another.

So while the story parallels, it’s not a matter of some “hidden” meaning. As for the rest of it, you may also notice that as the kids get older, as in Prince Caspian, Aslan does less and less directly, and waits longer before intervening (or interfering, if you’d rather). He doesn’t intervene unless you’ve given your portion of effort to your cause, and it’s still easiest for the youngest to see Him.

My problem with the Narnia movies was simply that since I had read the books, I was not satisfied with the explanations and motivations for the characters. Everything just seemed to come out of nowhere.

That’s my similar problem with Golden Compass, but worse, because I didn’t have the knowledge of the books to back me up, and fill in motivations and context. I think they did a little better job in Compass with some context than the first Narnia, though. But I still sort of felt like I was a stone just skipping across this beautiful lake. I will say that the actors did a fine job, and the girl was really good. I was especially impressed after having read that she had zero acting experience, and just showed up at the audition.

(The wiki article kept saying that she “had beaten 10,000 girls for the the part.” That gave me a chuckle; I imagine her with a jawbone of an ass standing up on the director’s table as all these young chicks are laying around her holding their faces or arms, etc., and general moaning and groaning of 10,000 “beaten” girls…).

But the world of the Compass is finely realized as a slightly post-Victorian Britain somewhere between My Fair Lady and WWII. Sort of steampunkish, too. And it was humorous to me to see Daniel Craig and Eva Green in a movie together right after Casino Royale.

Anyway, some of my cents worth…

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