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A Living Doll

Before and After

Before and After

There is a healthy confront for me upon discovering this Ukranian woman who underwent multiple cosmetic surgeries to look like a Barbie Doll. Valeria Lukyanova has become famous, her pictures are on the internet, she is a fashion model, all following her transformation into a living toy lookalike.

Obviously many people (myself included) want to change their appearance through exercise, diet and fitness to come closer to some aesthetic ideal they/I value and respect. Others resort to cosmetic surgery to alter a nose, a chest, a mouth to achieve a similar goal. I wrote about Orlan , who had various body parts reconstructed through surgery to look like the women in famous paintings and sculptures–the chin of Botticelli’s Venus, Mona Lisa’s forehead, etc.

So what should we think of Valeria’s unusual choice of looking like Barbie? Silly? Or smart? She has achieved notoriety, fame, money. She has perfected the glazed stare. She certainly stands out from the pack. I just wonder if she has violated any copyrights that the manufacturer has…maybe she agreed to give Mattel royalties. BTW I know this is a big change of pace from the sublime beauty of Zen Archery. Well a life can have many parts, and they don’t all have to be serious and admirable.

Living Barbie Doll

Living Barbie Doll

Is looking like a child's doll really worse than looking like a famous painting?

Is looking like a child’s doll really worse than looking like a famous painting?

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More Japanese Archery

In addition to Kyudo archery, there are two other kinds in Japan I learned about. One is called Toshiya, and is a contest each January at Sanjusangendo, a temple I visited in Kyoto in 2012. I wrote about it here . Although it was originally a competition to see how many arrows could hit a target and also in a specific time period (12 or 24 hours), it is now just two arrows per contestant and seems to be more of a celebration by enthusiastic amateurs than a serious competition. Just watch the first minute or two of the video above.

I also found two videos about archery from horseback, called Yabusame. Most interesting in the bottom one is how the rider practices on a moving, wooden simulated horse. And that the rider was part of a family that had excelled for 1000 years.

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Kyudo Is The Way Of The Bow

Kyudo is another sport I encountered during my recent visit to Japan. It was very slow, deliberate and even a meditation, as time slows down for the archer and the observer.

You can test your own patience level by watching the video above. It takes five minutes from the time the archers come on stage before the first one even begins to shoot an arrow. This will illustrate immediately–or maybe I should say eventually–how the experience felt when I watched it. If you know you are too impatient to wait so long, there is a shorter video second from the bottom.

Spiritual Japanese archer with 6.5 foot bow

Spiritual Japanese archer with 6.5 foot bow

During my visit last week, perhaps six archers were on an identical indoor “stage” as in the videos firing outdoors into rain-protected targets. After launching just two arrows, each archer slowly left the wooden dojo floor in a specific, ritualized manner. In fact every movement and gesture on the stage is choreographed minutely: moving on and off the floor, notching the arrow, drawing the bow, releasing the arrow. Hitting the target isn’t even the primary goal, although if the archer carries out the movements perfectly and has the correct spiritual development, the arrow will pierce the 14-inch-diameter target, which is 92 feet away.

the draw is high, above the head

the draw is high, above the head

There are many steps to learning this ancient sport, and beginners must pass a number of tests, before they are even allowed to move to the dojo stage and, I assume, wear the traditional clothes. The techniques of the eight stages of shooting are meticulously prescribed here , and it is nothing like Western-hemisphere archery and Robin Hood-movie shooting. Although I had seen still photos for years, and noted the extremely large bow, above-the-head draw, and that the arrow was released from the bottom third of the bow, rather than in its center, I had no idea how slowly and deliberately the whole motion was.

A German who didn’t speak much Japanese, Eugen Herrigel, studied Kyudo and wrote a book (1948) I read in college, Zen and the Art of Archery, that changed my life forever. It was a huge influence in bringing Zen philosophy to the west, even though some of the translations may have been misunderstood or inaccurate.

The bottom video is of a Japanese Hawaiian who couldn’t hit the target until he spoke in a dream to his samurai ancestors who told him to shoot with his eyes closed. It worked, and he and the target became one…

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Kendo Is The Way Of The Sword

Before Japanese warriors (samurai) learned how to fight with real swords, they used bamboo and wood versions. A lot less dangerous. The shinai is made up of four flexible bamboo strips bound by leather, and we used these in my first-ever kendo class in Osaka, Japan a few days ago. I loved the beauty of the form and the warlike shouting that is part of the sport. The moves and precision are a graceful, but deadly, ballet. The advanced practice and organized kendo competitions require protective masks and body armor. In my beginner class was a boy under 12 and a woman over 60. Also in the advanced group was a white haired, Japanese man who had lived in Manhattan when Eisenhower was president (1953-1961), so he was easily in his 70′s. I was very tired after this workout…

kendo contest

kendo contest

Wooden swords can be deadly, and you see them used here in this movie version above of a fight.

Real kendo matches are nothing like this. I have included a super high-speed, slow-motion clip that shows the winner might be 0.009 second faster than the loser. I can’t grasp how the judges see these slight differences. It doesn’t appear they need to look at a replay.

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Achievement For The Birds

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This is an incredible athletic achievement…by birds. How do they do it? Not bump into each other? Know which direction to turn? Who decides first?

Seems miraculous.

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851 Days Of Exercise But No Burpees Yet

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Just did some barbell bent over rows on my 851st day in a row of some kind of exercise…not counting the 2-10 hours of tennis each week. A satisfying disciplinary achievement.

Also read about the benefits of HIIT: high intensity interval training. I was out of breath just yesterday doing some painful push ups—I really resist doing them. Here are some excerpts from this article , which suggests burpees as the best exercise to do.

I don’t do them, but I should start. Here are two burpee videos. The first shows a modified burpee that is less stressful on your back. The second one is amateurish, kind of sexist, but I included it because it was shot at Flamingo Park in Miami Beach, where I played as a kid, won tennis trophies at ages 11 and 12, and was just at the exact spot in the video, before competing on the tennis court last November at my high school reunion. So it’s pretty nostalgic for me.

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The secret to shedding fat fast is exercise intensity, study after study has found, including a recent one from the American Journal of Health Promotion.

In the study, investigators tracked 4,511 adults ages 18 to 64, assigning participants to four workout groups: high-intensity long bouts, high-intensity short bouts, low-intensity long bouts and low-intensity short bouts.

Both groups of high-intensity workouts lowered their body mass indexes, which lowers risk of being overweight or obese. Neither of the low-intensity workout groups showed the same benefits.

Additionally, each extra minute of high-intensity physical activity was linked to a decreased obesity risk of five percent for women and two percent for men.

This means that even if you’re short on time, you can still get a great workout — that may even help maintain your health over your lifetime.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the way to lose body fat, build lean muscle and increase your metabolism.

“HIIT is an all-out effort followed by a short period of rest,” he explained. “It should leave you out of breath and breathless, not like a slow, steady session of cardio.”

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Athletics When You’re Tired

After last Sunday’s push on the bike, I was pretty tired and felt a bit weak in the legs. So I planned to rest. But I played tennis four days out of five for a total of 10+ hours and did ok, winning 7/12 sets. The playing is so much fun and challenging, regardless of who wins. My game was fairly decent, serve improving…I would like to be perfect. I think my brain makes my body keep going. I rarely feel tired when I play. Sometimes I lose focus in the third set.

Interesting to me how each time I wondered if I was going to feel pain or strain or injure myself on the court. The player ranks at the club are often decimated by colds, illnesses and accidents. I am constantly looking for subs or subbing in other games. I only have two games scheduled regularly each week, yet I am often playing three times. In January, I played four and five times each of two weeks. And the injuries are frequently to younger guys (that means 40′s or 50′s), rather than just 60′s and 70′s.

I watch the old man’s daily game each time I play and keep hoping I can be one of them in my 80′s. Love the game…

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Super Achievements!

Anne and Perry--super duo

Anne and Perry–super duo

I wrote in 2012 about Anne Zimmerman’s eight-hour, extreme ride at the Cycle for Survival event. This year I learned that of 16,000 riders, around 50 did it for four straight hours (with breaks at hourly changeovers), and only 3-5 rode for eight hours.

Just reconnected with Anne and learned that she did four hours on Saturday and then another eight hours on Sunday!!! This has to be a record achievement. I know she spins a lot during the year, but still…

Way to go Anne! Her many-cities teams raised $530,000, the most in the country. And best of all, her 12-year-old daughter Perry has apparently beaten all three of her cancers. Great news. They are both tremendously inspirational…

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This Year I Survived The Cycle For Survival Event

cycling away

cycling away

For the fourth year I—and 16,000 other cyclists—made it through the Cycle for Survival annual fund raising event. Over $19.6 million was raised this year, up from $14 million last year. Over $50 million has been raised since 2009. And these funds go 100% for rare-cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Thanks to all of you for your cheers and caring and generous contributions to my particular ride. It was a bit difficult for me, because I couldn’t adjust the bike properly…and then I am never in shape for this challenge, given that I don’t cycle other times. My wind was fine, but my quads and butt and palms were hurting.

There is lots of cheering, people waving arms and towels and pom poms to pounding and eardrum-breaking music, the instructor urging cyclists to stand up to climb a pretend hill or sprint. It’s impossible to not respond enthusiastically. So you push and exert and make some pain. I really love it, but am welcoming some rest.

Evan with son Ryder (wearing headphones) held by my daughter Josslyn

Evan with son Ryder (wearing headphones) held by my daughter Josslyn

Evan was one of just 50 who rode four hours. A real inspiration, and Team Evan raised over $43,000, up from $26,000 last year. We were the #1 team at our gym in the morning and #3 in dollars/bike for the entire day.

One woman in her 40′s did two hours just before me, and I was so impressed at her stamina. After my hour was done—and I had been watching the clock this year, hoping the time was passing swiftly—she informed me that she has been spinning 2-3 times a week for the last year! No wonder she floated through her two hours so enviably.

You gotta practice these things. But I made it. I had to. One friend said he would only donate if I completed the ride. And of course I felt responsible to everyone who gave to the cause without any conditions.

Thank you all for your faith in me and your willingness to help Evan survive, as well as the many other rare-cancer patients like him. You did a good deed…

BTW Evan wore his San Francisco Giants shirt, because he is such a devoted fan who lived there for years. I wore a Miami Dolphins cap, because my high school classmate Steve Ross owns the team and also the 17 Equinox gyms that host the Cycle for Survival event. Ahhh these little connective touches to make the cycling a tiny bit easier.

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Extraordinary Dance-ish Routines By Talent Show Applicant

Sounds like Kenichi Ebina is self-taught. Well he learned how to move in an extraordinary manner. This video has received over 25 million views! So original, so powerful.

He ended up winning the 2013 Season 8 competition of America’s Got Talent.

Here are all his different performances in the competition. Just skip past the first one, which is the same as above, and go right to 2:25.

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Building Up Stamina For The Big Cycling Event

Getting in shape for a sport you haven’t done in a while can be a real challenge sometimes. Especially when there is lots of pressure to do things faster and harder.

On Monday the 17th in 10-degree weather, I went to the garage and brought my bike inside the house to start training in-place for the annual Cycle for Survival event (see February 18 post). It’s the only time I ride a bike all year. Knowing that the snow was going to soften from predicted warm weather, I went cross country skiing in the afternoon, my second time this season. We had 18-24 inches of snow. Tuesday I spent an hour shoveling snow off the roof. Wednesday morning I played tennis for two hours and then that afternoon had my first cycling session: two 13-minute rides separated by a five minute rest.

Uh oh…I could feel some strain just walking up the stairs afterward. The legs were rubbery. Next morning was tennis again, but I made it through all sets without a fall, and my game wasn’t that bad. The legs still worked ok.

Friday I biked 27 minutes nonstop, and Sunday was a 50-minute ride. So I am almost there.

How do people cycle for 4-8 hours with minimal breaks?

But this Sunday March 2nd, I will be pedaling beside them, trying to keep up. The hard part is when the spinning instructor yells that “We are going up a hill now, so out of the saddle and pump those legs ’til they burn,” as if that’s a desirable condition. I get so competitive that I do my best, in spite of the relatives who worry that I am going to pass out from exhaustion. However in the midst of all the young people around me, I can’t imagine staying seated and simply poking along as if I were on a quiet and level country road.

As my 23-year-old daughter chided me, “it’s only an hour Dad, so I don’t need to train for this.” And a friend who made a sizable donation wrote that she now “expected” me to do two hours. I hope she was joking, because that seems pretty daunting right now. Let’s see if I can cycle an hour without much more effort…and still be able to play tennis 8+ hours a week, ski and shovel snow without aching.

Mice Are Helping Save My Son-in-law’s Life

On March 2nd, I will again be riding with hundreds of others on stationary bicycles for one to four hours near Grand Central in Manhattan. All to help raise funds for rare cancer research that is poorly supported by major charities. Over the last seven years, the annual Cycle for Survival events have raised $43 million, and all of it goes for experiments and loving care at Sloan Kettering in New York.

You may know that I cycle to help keep my son-in-law Evan alive, because he has a cancer so rare that there are only 100 cases like his in all the literature. The great news is that the research and hospital support have been working. Evan’s total laryngectomy in 2012 was followed by a special prosthesis that allows him to talk softly, and just recently with no hands! And when his neck tumor was removed, some of it was grafted onto mice that were then given different medical cocktails to see what worked best. Amazingly one combination of meds has affected some of his current tumors positively, so that he is still able to work, ride, and enjoy raising his three-year-old son. All very good news. But the fight is not over.

Evan gives me a good luck kiss before I start my ride last year, while daughter Josslyn laughs at my nervousness

Evan gives me a good luck kiss before I start my ride last year, while daughter Josslyn laughs at my nervousness

This year there will be 16,000 of us riding on eight days on 3950 bikes in 13 cities. We will all be cycling away to music, speed and terrain cues from the spinning instructor and the encouraging shouts of hundreds of friends and family members. It’s a very thrilling ride. Evan has again signed up for four hours, while I struggle to make it through for one hour.

If you would like to help support this event, a donation of any amount—no matter how small—would be greatly appreciated and help treat rare cancers (less than 200,000 cases in America), which include cervical, stomach, brain and all pediatric cancers. Most of the money raised through other programs goes for the common cancers, like lung, breast and prostate.

The people I contacted last year were very generous as a group, and my son-in-law and daughter were astonished by how many of you gave and sent good wishes. Evan wouldn’t be alive if he hadn’t had his laryngectomy, and your contributions really helped keep him going. Sloan Kettering is a very supportive community for its patients. Forgive me please for writing about this again, but this is the only non-profit I raise money for…and it’s for a great cause that I can relate to and then see direct results. So thank you with much gratitude.

BTW if you are in New York and want to actually cheer us on and experience the excitement of the event, or if you want to donate yourself, contact me at ira@irasabs.com for more details. We’d love to have you shouting along

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If Only This Were Possible

What’s athletic about this video is that it has adorable and unexpected dancing in it. Makes you smile to watch it and head for a magical mirror.

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Newlywed Dies BASE Jumping When Chute Doesn’t Open

Amber Bellows prepares to jump

Amber Bellows prepares to jump

After showing so many clips and videos of dangerous sports, I feel obliged to remind everyone that even experienced jumpers take life-threatening risks that sometimes don’t work out at all. Sad also that this woman had just married her BASE jumping husband. The video above gives you a slight taste of the thrills Amber and her husband sought and enjoyed when jumping.

Amber loved to jump

Amber loved to jump

the risks did not deter her

the risks did not deter her

A Utah woman attempting a parachute jump near Zion National Park died when her parachute failed to open, park officials said.

Amber Bellows fell about 2,000 feet to the ground Saturday afternoon, February 8th. The 28-year-old had been attempting the jump from Mount Kinesava, in the southern part of the park famous for its soaring red rock formations.

Bellows hiked to the top of the mountain Saturday morning with her husband, 29-year-old Clayton Butler. The Salt Lake City couple had married just two weeks before.

Bellows jumped first, around 4 p.m., but her parachute did not open. Her husband jumped after her but could not reach her body. It took him two hours to hike down the mountain and notify park officials.

Officials began a helicopter search on Sunday morning and found Bellows’ body by 10 a.m.

Park officials said Bellows had been an experienced BASE jumper. BASE stands for Building, Antenna, Span, Earth — the different platforms used by jumpers.

BASE jumping is banned in Zion, and this is the first time a jumper has died.

The videographer and manager of Bellows, Joshua Lloyd, called both Bellows and Butler experienced and conscientious, saying her death was a “tragic accident.” He also stated that Bellows was one of the world’s best BASE jumpers. In hopes of furthering her career and becoming a professional BASE jumper, Lloyd was hired by Bellows and Butler to record their jumps, which numbered in the hundreds before the accident at Mount Kinesava.

“It is just really sad and our condolences go out to her family and friends,” Acting Superintendent Jim Milestone said in a statement. “BASE jumping is so dangerous. Even for those that are experienced, like Amber Bellows. That is one of the reasons it is not allowed in the park.”

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Dynamic Bits Of Incredible Action Videos

I can’t seem to get enough of these clips that show such beautiful, accomplished and dangerous moments in real people’s lives. Watching the Olympic skiers racing downhill at 80mph, I accept easily that I am not of their ilk. These people are from a different species.

One frustration is that I want to see more of the snippets. Fortunately the editor, Luc Bergeron, published this link to all 187 videos that he cut from. Fantastic…just find the number of the video you want to see more of, and you can be entertained for hours and days…

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No Certainty About Causes Of Weight Gain And Loss

I gained three pounds the other week. Puzzling, because I played tennis 10 times in 12 days. Should have burned more calories. Normally I play 4-6 times in two weeks. I wondered if it was all the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I was eating—maybe 1000 calories a sandwich. Or the pumpkin cake gift I finished in a week.

Within two weeks, I had cut back on dessert and skipped a few meals, lost the three pounds and was back to the same 175 pounds I carried when I graduated high school.

But a therapist I spoke with said most people gain back the weight they lose…especially obese people. They are too tempted by the tasty foods available to them.

Then today I read this article that really wonders why people gain it back. “Is this a failure of willpower or of technique? Was our chosen dietary intervention—whether from the latest best-selling diet book or merely a concerted attempt to eat less and exercise more—doomed to failure?

“Since the 1960s, nutrition science has been dominated by two conflicting observations. One is that we know how to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight. The other is that the rapidly increasing rates of obesity and diabetes suggest that something about the conventional thinking is simply wrong.

In 1960, fewer than 13 percent of Americans were obese, and diabetes had been diagnosed in 1 percent. Today, the percentage of obese Americans has almost tripled; the percentage of Americans with diabetes has increased sevenfold.

Meanwhile, the research literature on obesity has also ballooned. In 1960, fewer than 1,100 articles were published on obesity or diabetes in the indexed medical literature. Last year it was more than 44,000. In total, over 600,000 articles have been published purporting to convey some meaningful information on these conditions.

It would be nice to think that this deluge of research has brought clarity to the issue. The trend data argue otherwise. If we understand these disorders so well, why have we failed so miserably to prevent them?…”

All these studies, all these papers, and people keep gaining weight! So much for the impact of knowledge on some irrational human behavior. But what the author went on to say is that it is not yet certain what diets are necessary to lose weight—or which foods created the gain. So take your best guess and keep trying…

Some Athletes Actually Kill Themselves To Win

This article asks if female long distance runners are prone to depression and even suicide. They may be too hard on themselves, as they try to be perfect at everything in an obsessive, unbalanced and unhealthy way. Is this what it takes to be a winning athlete? This is drive for victory I have great difficulty relating to. But then I think my tennis-playing is a game, and I am amazed by those who view it as a war that takes no prisoners.

Here is an excerpt:

The women who succumb to those impulses are consumed by the need to win a battle that simply cannot be won; a battle to be the best at everything, all at once.

Like the gymnast and the ballerina, the distance runner is often defined by drive and compulsion. She is an endurance athlete. As such, her days revolve around the demands of her sport: 50, 60, 70, 80-mile weeks, weights, cross-training—and, above all, a complete focus on her body, its abilities, and its inabilities. Hers is a sport without mercy. Every race has one, and only one, winner—often determined by a fraction of a second. In running, results are clearly defined and indelible. Unsurprisingly, the distance runner has a tendency towards obsessive-compulsive behavior. She is willing to spend every day fretting over the extra mile or half-mile, the quarter of a second, the extra hour of sleep, and the infinitesimal margin of victory. She is competitive, driven, and, sometimes, crazy. She is Captain Ahab, and victory is her white whale.

Perhaps even more than their male counterparts, female distance runners are perfectionists and control freaks. This is hardly unusual in a society where the woman is expected to do it all. But it is particularly apparent—and, often, destructive—among the already-driven and already high-achieving population of distance runners. Stories of eating disorders abound. In many cases, those are only the tip of the iceberg. For women like Holleran, Ormsby, and Wazeter [ed note: who all committed suicide], the obsession is not just about training. Nor is the compulsion solely about food. The drive for success—or, rather, victory—extends to the classroom, society, and every other aspect of life. In the same way that the woman on Wall Street is expected to be a perfect mother, the woman on the track is often expected to be a straight-A student, team leader, social role model, and everything in between. Kathy Ormsby was known for taking her class notes to workouts. Madison Holleran’s depression was apparently triggered by what she considered a sub-par 3.5 GPA.

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240 Glorious Sports Clips

This an amazing assemblage of sports clips–240 of them– that show the beauty and grace of all kinds of sports. The editor, Luc Bergeron, has created many similar videos that you might want to look at here .

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Living With Aches And Pains

If I play tennis tomorrow and Sunday as scheduled, I will have played 10 times in 12 consecutive days. I am now aching slightly somewhere most of the time. My friend Joe says he is ALWAYS aching. And I imagine the pros are as well, even though they are 40-50 years younger.

I am not at all used to pain, discomfort and illness. Blessed with good genes and avoiding many of the foods/drinks/drugs that are bad for humans (my chiropractor father said, “you are what you eat”), I am totally spoiled by continual good health. So aches are an unfamiliar experience. And though I can attribute them to the extreme activities these days, when I am playing tennis 2 1/2-4+ hours each time, I still mind that there is any ache at all. Totally irrational and unreasonable.

If I were a pro or a lifetime athlete, I probably wouldn’t give it a thought. I am remembering an earlier article about Matt Hoffman, who said “If I died with a body that wasn’t completely wrecked, then I’d feel like I completely wasted it.”

I am very conscious that if I make it to age 80, and I am in good enough shape to still play tennis, then my game is likely to be weaker than it is now. That is only seven years away. These days I am still improving, on the upswing. Just learned a new stroke today from Joe (the slice backhand…rotate those shoulders and throw the racket like you would a frisbee). Yet at some point, a downhill slide of poorer performance will take over. It is inevitable, and I can see it in older players at the courts.

Should I push hard, while I am able? Or start taking it easier?. Not accept so many extra matches, where I am asked to sub for traveling or ill players? But I love the game so much right now. I know, I know…it’s a high-class problem. Hopefully I will not seriously damage any body parts. And in the meantime, I am having fun…

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Contemporary Dance Mockery

A friend sent me this razzing video breaking down contemporary dance moves for better understanding and to help newbie choreographers. It’s all ridiculous and funny buffoonery, so you might enjoy this putdown and ribbing of modern dance. An unfortunate possible result is that you will see your next performance with a new brain that doesn’t take any of it seriously.

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Confusion In Tennis And Life

Although I only have two scheduled tennis games a week, I just subbed in three others…so I played five times in five days (twice in one of those days). A total of 13 1/2 hours including serve practice. I was so tired that I slept 10 hours one night. Exhausting. Worse than that, my team generally lost. So I still need lots of work.

To help out, five different players volunteered on their own to tell me the “right” way to hit a serve. I was amazed by a video I was sent that showed the way professionals serve, and this one broke it down, so that for the first time I understood what I am supposed to do. Or at least what a professional is supposed to do. One coach told me to ignore it all. Another coach told me there is no such thing as muscle memory. Someone said hit harder. Someone else said just place it accurately. Rotate this way…no that way. Stand like this…no do it like that.

Pretty confusing…I decided that all the suggestions sounded good, took pieces that I liked from each person’s advice , and will practice some mongrel approach to see what happens. Oddly enough, my serve was going pretty well before the video arrived by email. I am just trying to improve it.

Of course I think life has the same challenges. People live it different ways, with different abilities, and most will not hesitate to tell you what should work for you. Everyone is after the same goals: enough money, good health, satisfying relationships, career success, fun, various degrees of excitement and adventure, and maybe a tiny bit of wisdom that makes it easy to deal with daily problems. It’s taken me decades to reach some of these goals and objectives. Yet it is often a struggle to handle the latest issues…like the abdominal pain that concerned me a week ago…which may just be a strained muscle and not a deadly disease.

At least I am still in the tennis game, striving to be one of those guys in his 80′s who plays a few times a week. And good enough now to keep on being invited back to fill in with players who are better than I am. Lucky me.

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Pictures Of Beauty Are A Marketing Lie

I bumped into three videos by the Dove soap company about how women see themselves and don’t like what they see. Studies show that there are certain desirable standards of beauty in each culture, and if you don’t measure up, then you use make up, clothes, plastic surgery, exercise, diet to change how you look.

The first two Dove videos below show how the ad/marketing world manipulates pictures to meet those desired standards. Of course there is no truth in advertising rule that requires these digital changes to be declared. So the average viewer concludes she is imperfect, misses the mark, and spends dollars buying products to make herself more closely aligned with the cookie-cutter ideal of her particular culture.

even Barbie dolls reflect our culture's obsession with thinness

even Barbie dolls reflect our culture’s obsession with thinness

Then I found two more about how the standards of beauty for American women have changed over the years. Even the Barbie doll became thinner. The video above says it plainly: no one looks like the pictures in the magazines. Not even the models. It’s a complete lie.

The last video shows how ridiculously thin some models and people are. Looks dangerous to their health to me. Like concentration camp prisoners. Not my ideal of attractiveness at all.

I am guilty myself of expending considerable energy to have abs, defined muscles, a more youthful look. So as much as I scorn the low self esteem of the women who have been tricked for money, I have no right to be overly critical. But it’s easy to understand why women spend half their annual wages in some South American countries to have plastic surgery enhance their breasts and butts, and women around the world spend billions on clothes, lotions, make up and other beauty products.

What do YOU think?

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Cosmetic Surgery For 13-Year-Old

before and after nose job

before and after nose job

So many of us exercise to build muscle or lose weight. And one of the benefits we strive for is to look better in the mirror, on the beach and to others. These positive body changes affect our self-esteem, our love lives, the partners we attract.

I have written before that plastic surgery is a short cut to achieve the same goals…and in a few cases–like a nose job–it may be the only way to come closer to your physical ideal. After all, no one can exercise your nose to look thinner.

The video questions the morality of whether or not such cosmetic surgery is okay for a 13-year-old, who in this case was bullied by cruel schoolmates and called Big Nose Taylor to her face. What do you think?

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Jenny G. Perry Loses Friends After Losing Weight

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Here is a sad and unexpected result from exercise and weight loss: the jealousy of others you hang out with, and the lustful looks from guys who think your hot. Change can be very confronting for others.

Ten years ago, I was almost 60 pounds more than I am now.

I had cut my hair short, added a few highlights and really had this frumpy vibe going on. I had two kids at the time, ages 6 and 2. I was trying to be taken seriously as a good mommy and had let myself go. I was eating a ridiculous amount of sugar. I cared way too much about what other women thought of me. I formed new friendships with the moms from school and they frequently revolved around food. I hated the way I looked, but I fit in. After seeing the pictures from a trip to Disney with my family, I wondered how I let it happen. I knew I was wearing a size 14 and at five feet tall, it looked like I was wearing an even bigger size. I had a double chin and knew if I didn’t stop this weight train, I’d be even bigger.

I lost 50 pounds in six months. I changed how I ate and worked out like crazy. It was great and I felt pretty… except for a few ugly things. First of all, one of the moms joked that if I lost any more weight, no one would want to hang out with me. I already felt that. There was a judgment thing going on and of course jealousy could have been behind it. Also, people don’t like when we change. It bugs them out. It makes them confront certain parts of themselves they think they can’t change. Many times when a woman would see I lost weight, she would tell me how they should lose weight or give me excuses why they haven’t. I never knew what to say. I’d offer tips, but the conversation never really seemed to be about weight in the end.

The other side effect I was not ready for was that creepy guy stared at me randomly, making me feel uncomfortable and naked. I had gone from one person people saw, an overweight woman, to the cute young thing. I had also started growing my hair longer and dressing younger, and so I looked more my age. It was bizarre. This kind of attention was a double-edged sword. Seeing younger guys glance my way, checking me out at the gym was very flattering and motivating to keep me going on the Stairmaster. But getting out of the car at the convenience store and feeling someone’s eyes on me in a negative, disgusting, weird way felt awful. I didn’t know how to act. I could see why someone would want to hide their body. I didn’t want to have to wear baggy clothes out of fear and change who I was because of others. I was still trying to figure out who I was and wouldn’t know her for quite a few more years. I actually felt like guys took me more seriously when I was overweight and treated me like a ditz when I was thinner. The whole thing was a mind trip. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shamed And Confronted By Matt Hoffman

Looking for Netflix dance movies, I was directed to a documentary about BMX pioneer, Matt Hoffman. At 14 he came out of nowhere Oklahoma and won competitions that earned him magazine covers and stardom. He was 38, when the film was made, and is now 42. He invented many tricks that other pros imitated, took more air than anyone, and even did stunts that impressed Evil Knieval: like being pulled by a motorcycle to 50 mph, so he could fly up a 24-foot half pipe and rise 26 feet higher! The video above shows that record…and also him crashing a few times in the attempt.

Matt invents amazing  tricks

Matt invents amazing tricks

Watching all his crashes is awful. But most poignant for me is his attitude about his body, which a buddy said he viewed as just another bike part: “If I died with a body that wasn’t completely wrecked, then I’d feel like I completely wasted it.” He also said that he wakes up knowing that each day there is a good chance he will die.

23 surgeries. 100 concussions. 300 stitches. 2 comas. 60 broken bones. You see him doing his own suturing to a pedal gash on his leg, so he doesn’t have to waste time going to the hospital. AND WITHOUT ANESTHESIA! Like Rambo.

So here I am trying to be as healthy as possible, to live as long as possible in good shape. Matt is trying to reach some unprecedented level of physical performance and has no fear about death or injury. His father and wife accept that there is no stopping him. In fact the dad built early half-pipes to support Matt’s passion.

Really confronting. Not just food for thought, but a huge feast to digest.

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