>Badassery Carries a High Price

>I decided a few weeks ago that I would try and do the 20th Annual Grizzly Triathlon. That was a mistake, because now I can’t back out and maintain any self respect at all. I came to this realization last night as I was laboring around the indoor track at the gym, when if I had half a brain I could have been home ogling a basement full of bellydancers who were training at my house. That was the second night in a row I traded exercise (Monday was my indoor soccer game) for eye-fulls of flesh. What is wrong with me?

This year the big projects Julia and I are taking on are health/physical in nature. I’m doing the triathlon, which is April 12th, and probably the 10K Riverbank Run (April 26th). Julia’s project is some special week-long bellydance training/certification thing that I don’t really understand, but is pretty hardcore, provided by some high speed dancer/instructor named Suhaila Salimpour. She will spend a week in Berkeley, CA, and if she passes the course she will have Level 2 certification. Or something like that, it all sounds vaguely D&D to me. A friend of ours, Geneva Bybee, took these courses, got all the certification, and now literally travels the world training people; that is who was in our basement leading some dancers through some training. When I got home last night after 4 miles on the track they looked more spent than I felt, and I felt pretty friggin’ spent. The whole thing is pretty awesome, and intense when it comes to difficulty and conditioning.

Besides the physical part of getting ready for my events is the gear requirements. I swam a mile in the pool yesterday for the first time, and realized I’m going to need some of those funky little goggles to keep my contacts from washing out. Maybe even some noseplugs. I refuse to wear the goofy cap though. The swimming part of the triathlon is 1000 meters. I can do that, just not very fast, yet. The bike part I can also do, I have been hitting the bike hard at the gym, and it’s only 12.something miles. I can probably even do that part pretty fast, especially if I make a point to run any of those skinny, lanky types in the garish spandex off the road when they try and pass me. Thing is, Sid took my bike somewhere last year and it was stolen, so I will need to buy a bike before long. And the running part . . . I need some shoes. I have been running in my hiking boots, and they just don’t do the trick. My last pair of running shoes wore out last summer and I’ve been exclusively in hiking boots since. At least this is all stuff I’ll be able to use a lot. Still, it’s a pain in my ass.

The other thing I’ve been doing is a weekly yoga class. How I allowed myself to get talked into this one is beyond me. I feel like a total idiot, and I’m nowhere near a point with it yet where I am feeling any benefit. I hide way in the back corner. Some of the poses have everyone turned my way, and there is a mirror right there, and I’m certain everyone is staring at me and ridiculing my poor form and horrific flexibility. I’m the largest, fattest body in there; the crotch on my shorts is half blown out, my frayed workout shirt rides up over my belly, my face is red, my hair is half in, half out of its ponytail, and I’m usually wielding a haven’t-shaved-since-Monday-Friday-evening face. Goddamn. I know few of the forms by name, so I always have my head up to watch the instructor, and I’m paranoid a woman in front of me is going to think I’m totally looking at her ass while in a compromised position. It is the most stressful hour of my week, I think. And humiliating. I feel like inviting the whole class out to the weight room afterwards so I can show them how much I can bench press. Thing is, pound for pound they are probably all stronger than me too.

I hate fit people.

>An Amazing Blog Post, Perhaps the Best Ever

>Hyperbole

Now that the friggin’ super bowl is over, maybe I can stop hearing about it. I say with pride that I did not choose to watch a single down of the NFL this year. Yeah, I saw some when at restaurants and a game was on, but that was more distraction than anything else. And yeah, I had the Yahoo updater thing on for the final moments when it was down to the wire, but that was as much bored distraction as anything else too. What amuses, and annoys, me, is the degree of hyperbole that gets rolled into this. All the debate about the Patriots being the “Greatest Team Ever” or “Greatest Sports Team Ever of Any Sport, All Time!” I’m not even going to bother to link those stories, if you care enough you’ve already read them. Then of course there were the stories about if they lose, it would be the “Greatest Upset Ever!” or “Greatest Upset Ever of Any Sport, All Time!” Phhvvvvvt. Whatever.

It happens in the music world as well. Here is the first line from a band biography for a band that sent my band a friend request on MySpace:

Combining intense incendiary live shows that will leave you open-mouthed in awe. . . .

Please. I realize jaded bastards like me aren’t their target audience, but whatever. I haven’t seen anything music-related that left me “open-mouthed with awe” in ages, if ever. I’m not so jaded that I can’t see something that I think is really cool, but “in awe” is an emotion usually reserved for when I witness someone doing something really stupid. I giggled all through the Skeletonwitch show just because it was so freakin’ over the top. And High on Fire gave me a fantastic pummeling. But neither of those bands left me in awe.

And since I am bitching, “amazing” is the most over-used adjective in the world these days. When I hear something is amazing, I almost feel like I have to think it sucks just on principle. I’m sure someone somewhere this morning referred to the skiff of fresh snow on the ground as being in some way amazing. I hope the person who heard them say that kicked them in the shin.

One final gripe, now that I have a full head of steam. When writers throw in the word “well” unnecessarily. I don’t mean something like, “I am going to throw my editor into the deepest, darkest well.” I mean when they say something like, “My editor is really, well, annoying.” That makes me want to gouge my eyes out (not, “that makes me want to, well, gouge my eyes out”)! I actually read an interview in the new New West preview magazine where the writer used that technique and it almost ruined the entire reading experience for me. That annoyance is up there with ending a sentence with multiple exclamation points, or when people speak in such a way that every sentence ends in a question. As in, “I hate to sound a little negative? I don’t usually bitch about stuff so much? But sometimes things just rub me the wrong way?” Gah!!!!

There Will Be Blood

Went and saw this movie Sunday. We chose a matinée, thinking it would be a good time because everyone would be watching the super bowl. Good idea, bad timing. Not only did we not realize the super bowl didn’t start until later, but we also didn’t realize that goddamn Hannah Montana movie thing started this weekend, so we had to wait in a line of parents taking their kids to that. I don’t have anything against that whole thing (besides it being an evil corporate-driven enterprise that seeks to enslave the souls of all of our young children and get them to buy more and more useless junk while listening to shitty music on their good-for-a-year-then-throw-it-away MP3 player of choice), but I sure hope that girl doesn’t end up on the cover of People magazine someday after a young adulthood of booze-fueled coke benders. We’ve had enough of that.

The movie (“There Will Be Blood” in case you lost track) was good. The last 15 minutes or so probably keeps it from being great, at least in my mind. I knew very little about it, didn’t even know it was based on Upton Sinclair’s “Oil.” Daniel Day Lewis definitely deserves the best actor award. Not only is his performance brilliant, but he’s in every freakin’ scene. That takes some effort, and he nails it. Worth seeing for that alone.

In closing, I will point out that this Amazing beast really was The Best Dog Ever:

>I’m Not Hip

>I know the title of this post may come as a surprise to many of you, but it’s true. I think I’m actually pretty friggin’ cool, of course, and most days my kid would probably vouch for that (at least when I am in ear shot). Every now and then I’ll do something ridiculous that in retrospect I think to myself I probably crossed some line of coolness (I mean, would The Fonz do something like this?), but what the hell.

It’s never more apparent to me how behind I am than when I am a spectator at rock shows. Local rocks shows, in particular. Local rock shows where I meet people who know me. Other musicians, to be specific. The problem is that I don’t know fuck-all about the special handshakes.

Tonight I went down to The Other Side to show some support to my friends in BLESSIDDOOM. They were playing in the opening round of this year’s Pabst Blue Ribbon Band of the Year contest (more on this in a later post, trust me), and I went down to catch their set and vote for them. A lot of other guys from local metal bands that we cross paths with in the Magnificent LAZERWOLFS were there, and so copious greetings and f-bombs were being tossed about. Every guy who came up to me had a different combination of ways to shake my hand, though, and I was dumbfounded. I don’t get that, because I don’t ever know which grip comes next. It’s worse than trying to pick up a new riff at band practice — if Jimmy is showing me something, I’m watching his hands to see what comes next and it feels all awkward because I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m a nanosecond behind. But at least with a riff he can say, “Well, it’s in dropped-d and we go to the F, to the G, then the root and back to G, kinda like all our other songs,” and I can follow that a little. With the handshake, I don’t know what is coming next. Will it be fist-to-fist, or like an open slap with a slide across the palm, or, even worse, when guys make the devil horns thing and you are supposed to somehow lock your fingers together like that. I’m telling you, it stresses me out.

Frankly, I’d rather just hug the other guy, if a simple handshake won’t do. Then again, I’d hate to come across as some kinky Bearfighter guy, though.

Best case is to use the same philosophy with greetings that we use with our music: Keep it Simple, Stupid. The other night Jimmy and I met with Bob Wire at the Missoula Club for a few beers and rock talk, and that greeting was just the simple dry, firm clasp that has served humankind for as long as any of us remember. No awkward fumbling around, no embarrassment. I prefer that.

Put ’em Up, Not-My-Mom!

Last night I was sitting on the floor in the hallway of Meadow Hill Elementary school with Jimmy’s wife, Liz, and their two youngest kids. We were the first ones on hand for our indoor soccer game; we were lacing up various ankle braces, strapping on shin guards, popping ibuprofen . . . you know, all the preparations adults have to go through before engaging in any kind of serious physical activity. We were just outside the door of the gym where our game would take place. At the moment there was a youth basketball game going on. Suddenly the door burst open and this woman came staggering out and about fell onto Liz and her kids. Immediately in her wake was an older woman who had clearly shoved the first woman out. They were jawing vehemently at each other. Down the hall, another gym door burst open and this guy came charging down the hall, “You don’t talk to her like that, mom! You never talk to her like that!” and he had to be restrained by the first woman. It was quite exciting . . . and more than a little embarrassing.

I walked off down the hallway a short distance while they sorted out their disagreement. 10 minutes or so later the younger couple were back in the hallway, joined by another guy. From their conversation this was the gist of what was going on: apparently, the game was some kind of AAU girls’ team playing a boys’ team from the school. The girls were pretty high speed — they had fancy uniforms, knew the game, and were apparently putting quite a whuppin’ on the boys. It looked a little mismatched; the boys were a motley-looking bunch, one looked like he was only about 5 or so. The family disagreement was complex. There was the husband and wife, his parents (the mom was the one going mano e mano with the wife, his dad was apparently doing a lot of screaming and yelling inside the gym), and apparently a brother on the other side of the contest being waged on the court, or maybe he was the coach of the boys, I don’t know. The whole thing was a classic case of parents taking a youth sporting event waaaay too seriously; throw in that families were involved with different ideas about how things should be handled and we had all the ingredients of a bru-ha-ha.

The crux of the disagreement was that these poor boys should not have to endure getting their asses handed to them by a bunch of girls. Quotes were along the lines of “don’t they know what these boys will have to endure at school if they lose to girls?” and “their egos will just be crushed!” I actually had to walk away because I was amused by the absurdity of it all. Look, if these poor boys couldn’t handle losing to girls because the girls are better players, then the parents are the ones who should be ashamed. I think losing a basketball game is a perfect introduction to the kind of rejection and humiliation that (most of) those boys are going to suffer at the hands of women in the life stretching before them (with parents like the ones described, the boys who are actually gay are going to have an entirely different set of problems to deal with).

So, clearly, misogyny is still being practiced in our nice little city, and our boys are being indoctrinated into it early. Not that I’m surprised, I see misogyny all over the place. It almost makes me want to vote for Hillary. Unfortunately, I’ve read one or two things too many about her that make me just not able to get on that bus. I mean, I’d cast a vote for her to make McCain or Romney cry when they get mocked back at the country club, but I’d rather not have to do that. Then again, I do like to point fingers and laugh now and then. . . .

>What Was I Thinking?

>Saturday afternoon we went and saw the new Stallone, movie, Rambo. I had actually been looking forward to seeing it; I loved Rocky Balboa, and hoped that this movie would put a decent bookend on the Rambo franchise. Back in the day I loved the original movie, First Blood, and a recent re-viewing of the flick showed it has held up pretty well for me. The two sequels after it quickly degenerated into awfulness, even when they first came out. But I’ve always been something of a fan of Sly, so I thought it might be cool.

A glance at Rotten Tomatoes showed it wasn’t doing too well. Sid and his buddy, Will, were eager to see it, so I swallowed my last minute reservations and decided to go after all. I even gave Julia an out to just drop the boys at the movie and we could go do or see something else, but she said she was fine with going. About 1/3 of the way through the movie I was feeling horrible guilt that I’d brought these people to see this goddamn film.

Here’s the premise. Rambo lives in Thailand now. A group of Christian missionaries ask him to guide them into Burma (the word “Myanmar” is not uttered a single time in this flick). He grunts a denial. The pretty woman in the movie guilts him into guiding them anyway. Along the way he has to kill a boatload of river pirates. Missionaries are appalled, but decide to press on. He leaves them at the river and goes back to his shack. Meanwhile, the village the missionaries are helping is brutally attacked by soldiers. Head of church group was from hires mercs to go after them, and gets Rambo to lead them. They follow the soldiers to prison camp. Mayhem ensues. Rambo saves the woman amid even more mayhem. The leader of the Christian expedition who tells Rambo early on that killing is “never justified” even gets into the killing-by-big-rock-to-skull-of-bad-guy, and presumably “gets how the world really works” after all. No big surprises.

What turned my stomach was the level of violence of this movie. We see people — innocents as well as villains — blown up by land mines, stabbed, machine-gunned to pieces, bludgeoned to death, etc. I spent probably half the movie with my eyes averted. It was awful. And what made it awful is that this shit is real.

I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading about just these types of events and where they are actually happening (for a quick and dirty trip through these subjects I highly recommend “50 Facts That Should Change the World” by Jessica Williams; it’s a good starting point). Whether it is the statistics of people killed and maimed every year by land mines; armies attacking villages and forcing children into guerrilla armies; rape and torture, you name it: any horror that you can imagine one person doing to another is being done, whether it is in SE Asia, Africa, Iraq, or anywhere else. It breaks my heart. And here I was in this movie theater, half-filled with fratboy types in backwards ballcaps and t-shirts with either some sports logo or skateboard logo, laughing and cheering whenever some particularly vivid atrocity was depicted on screen — and every horrible one of them was depicted! It could have been the blowing apart of some wicked soldier’s skull or some villager forced to run through a mine field disappearing in a red spray, or women being gang-raped by soldiers, it didn’t matter — they loved it. Many of the people I “associate” with in my various music-related forum wanderings love it. And if the brutal atrocities weren’t enough, they had to make sure and show the lead villain as a homosexual pedophile as well. For me, it was the most disturbing thing I’ve seen in a long time.

What was Stallone’s purpose in making this abomination? Was he trying to show people what is going on in this part of the world, and make a statement that only through violence can we stop these awful atrocities? If that was his intent, he failed utterly. I don’t think the average male American of 15 – 30, which is probably the demographic this movie is aiming for, even knows where Burma/Myanmar is, let alone has a clue that that shit is real, and the movie does nothing to rectify that. If Stallone was just trying to make a big budget splatter flick to get the people off who like that kind of thing, then he succeeded. But he did so by exploiting a very real, very terrible situation in the world, and that sickens me. People argue that “it’s just entertainment” but I don’t buy that. I used to argue that movies and video games and such things are not part of the problem. I don’t think I feel that way anymore. It is just too ubiquitous, and too graphic.

Okay, so I’m the idiot for thinking this just might be a cool action movie, I’ll take responsibility for that. And it did give me an opportunity to talk to the boys about how all that shit — minus the badass “heroics” by machete-armed superheroes — really happens, and that it sucks. I could tell they understood from the looks on their faces. But those fratboy types sure didn’t get it as they stalked out of the theater with their arms all stiff out to their sides. It was disgusting. So fuck you, Sylvester Stallone, fuck you and your views on testosterone.