Friday, March 14, 2014

The Winning Strength | Sony PROduction Awards

From my favorite Fitness competitor, Oksana Grishina!

If you like the video, you can vote for it here:

The Winning Strength | Sony PROduction Awards

Sunday, February 16, 2014

70 Year Old Bodybuilder

This guy is my hero.

I saw a different iteration of his video on YouTube in which some of the commenters tried to say it was just his good genetics that enabled him to be in this kind of shape at 70 years old.  Some of them even played the race card, saying that only black men could age this well.  But Sonny himself has the right answer, and it has to do with his work ethic and his dogged determination to outrun age for as long as he can.

Well done, sir!

Friday, February 14, 2014

SAVED by the Electric Prunes and Easy Rider!

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that I am a Christian today because of the use of the Electric Prunes' Kyrie Eleison (from their amazing album, Mass in F Minor) in the 1969 film, Easy Rider.

I was in high school when I caught this film (5 years after its debut) on my parents' little black-and-white TV.  It changed my life.  Soon, I borrowed a book of the Easy Rider screenplay from the North Babylon, New York Public Library.  And then, I borrowed the Easy Rider soundtrack from the same library.  I kept renewing both of them as long as they would let me.  Finally, I splurged and bought my own vinyl LP of the soundtrack.

On the Easy Rider soundtrack LP were these musicians: Steppenwolf, the Byrds, the Electric Prunes, the Band, Roger McGuinn, the Holy Modal Rounders, and Jimi Hendrix.  This is the album that led me to discover all the music I've loved since then, with very few exceptions.  It was the trunk of my musical "family tree."

But, I digress.  This blog is supposed to be about the appearance in the soundtrack of Kyrie Eleison, by the Electric Prunes.  Below, I will post the relevant scenes for you youngsters who may not have seen the film, or you oldsters who were tripping too hard when you saw it back in '69.  But first, some background.

Recall:  George Hanson (the Jack Nicholson character) had just been murdered by rednecks.  Our heroes Captain America (Peter Fonda) and Billy the Kid (Dennis Hopper) have not yet met their similar fates.  They are having dinner when the song starts, and Hopper is trying to talk Fonda into visiting the New Orleans whorehouse which Nicholson had recommended to them:  Madam Tinkertoy's House of Blue Lights.

Fonda is protesting, being the spiritual one of the pair, but Hopper (the carnal one) wins him over with the argument that George "would have wanted us to."  So, they zip off to the brothel, and it appears to be housed in an abandoned church, because the place is adorned with high religious art, interspersed with pin-up style nudes.  It is an interesting juxtaposition, given that the Electric Prunes are psychedelically chanting:  "Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy" in Latin.

There has never in the history of the world been an album quite like Mass in F Minor. Everyone with any interest in popular music and/or Christianity should hear it at least once.  When I first saw the above scene, this song affected me very powerfully, along with the images of the film.  After spending some time in the brothel, and hooking up with two prostitutes, Karen (Karen Black) and Mary (Toni Basil), they decide to head out to Mardi Gras. 

They wind up in a cemetery, and decide to drop acid (I've written a bit about my experimention with LSD here and here). The deliver method of the acid is important.  Fonda places it on the tongue of Karen and then of Mary, like a priest giving the consecrated host.

During the cemetery scene, after the acid begins to kick in, the words of the Apostles' Creed are recited in the background.

So, what do we have here?  We have sin:  drunkenness, fornication, and drugs.  We have the cry for mercy (Kyrie Eleison!).  We have high church art juxtaposed with pornography.  We have a mimicry of Holy Communion. We have the historic Christian Creed being recited.  These scenes from Easy Rider happen at the intersection of sin and redemption, of transgression and mercy.  And it is all bound together in one by the psychedelic chanting and mesmerizing guitar and organ of the Electric Prunes.

This scene made me feel powerfully, for the first time, the pull of the beauty of the historic Christian faith.  It was not the Christian tradition cloistered away in safety, but bursting out of every seam of the universe to meet, confront, challenge, and possibly even convert these drug smugglers and prostitutes, even in the very midst of their intoxication.

It gave me hope of the same thing happening to me.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pretty Boy Floyd and the Quintessential Leftist Mistake

I woke up this morning with Woody Guthrie's song Pretty Boy Floyd running through my mind.  Specifically, it was the Byrds' version of the song.  Roger McGuinn once introduced this song as being one that others had called Guthrie's "socialist anthem."  McGuinn then said the song didn't seem socialist to him.  But of course, it is.  Because it makes the same basic mistake that almost all Leftists make in their thinking, which is to assume that being generous with money stolen from law-abiding citizens is a virtue.  It is not.

Hear also what Pretty Boy Floyd saith:
"You say that I'm an outlaw; you say that I'm a thief.  But here's a Christmas dinner for the families on relief."
But Guthrie had no right to bestow honor on the outlaw simply because he had given to one set of people goods he had stolen at gun point from another set of people.  And modern Leftists make this mistake all the time.  They truly feel that they have done a charitable act when they force other people to cough up their money and hand it over.

This explain the statistics  one so often sees on the miniscule level of almsgiving by Liberals, such as the one about Al Gore about a decade ago.  Their method is so often to be generous with what they have forced others to send in to the government.  They are brothers in crime with Pretty Boy Floyd.

But of course, it is hard to call any one of Woody Guthrie's songs a "socialist anthem," because nearly all of them are, to one degree or another.  Consider this gem, from This Land is Your Land:
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;

But on the back side it didn't say nothing;

This land was made for you and me.
In other words:  Feel free to trespass on anyone's private property or even (I suppose) take it.  Because private property was an evil notion for Woody Guthrie, as  I suppose it is for all thieves.
Guthrie did get one thing right, however.  It is this:
As through this world I've wandered,
I've seen lots of funny men.
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.
We have a name for the latter set of thieves:  we call them Democrats.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Aging and Beauty (Part 2: The Joy)

In Part 1 I talked about the sadness that comes with the loss of physical beauty as we age.  In Part 2, I want to discuss the joy that I have found in this process.

For many young people (and here, I am thinking mostly of teenagers) the thought of old or even middle-aged people expressing attraction for one other is a chilling and grotesque one.  My daughter regularly upbraids me and my wife for kissing each other.  It disgusts her.  I am not completely certain that her view is the normative one for modern teenagers, but it is that old people (by which I think she means anyone over the age of 40) should cease to have fun, cease to pretend that they could ever be physically attractive to another person, and basically just shuffle off to the old folks' home to patiently await death.

But that is not what we old folks actually do, much to the consternation of the youthful.  We continue to find each other attractive.  But there is more.  I can say without reservation that I find a greater percentage of women (and men, for that matter) attractive today than at any time in my life.  When I was young, I too failed to see the beauty in older women.  But now I can see it.

Now, this could be true in part because older women actually are more attractive today than forty years ago.  It is possible that increase in the practice of healthy eating and regular exercise have made older women objectively more attractive than the older women of decades past.  But I do not believe that this is the main effect.  I think the main effect is manifold, and that each component of it has to do rather more with my sight than with the physical appearances of the people I am seeing.

On the one hand, with age, I think that there normally comes a sort of healthy humility:  a realization that we ourselves are shot through with flaws, pimples, warts, annoying asymmetries, and aesthetic aberrations.  This often can have the effect of causing us to leave off scrutinizing the flaws of others, including flaws in physical beauty.  If we notice them, we tend to forgive them.

But, beyond that, certain "flaws" inherent in aging actually seem to enhance the beauty of the other.  At our ages, we are all to be congratulated (a bit) for merely being survivors of all we have endured.   And the crinkles around the eyes, the crease lines in the forehead ... these are the emblems of our heroic survival.  We know it to be true of ourselves.  We have these age lines because we have worried much, and we have worried much because we have loved deeply.  Our scars have all become beauty marks.

But the last part of the effect which I'd like to discuss is perhaps the most important:  as we age, we learn to see inwardly.  That is, we learn to read a person's soul in his or her visage.  We learn to recognize extremely subtle hints in the physiognomy (the narrowing of the eyes by 0.5 mm, or the transient twitch of a nostril, or the tiniest upward curl at one edge of the mouth), things which are definite clues to the character and beauty of the soul within, but which we would have missed in the days of our youth.

The observation of beauty, as it happens with age, is a great and seemingly solitary counter-example of the overwhelming trend for humans to become jaded with the passing of time.  This "unjading" is a remarkable thing.  In almost every other area, our tolerance for a thing becomes greater, and we must have ever and ever more of it in order to become excited.  But not with beauty as observed by an older man, at least one who has (under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit) been paying attention and carefully honing his observational skills.  He breaks the rule.  He is like a man who at 21 needed twenty drinks to become drunk, but who now can become intoxicated by a mere sip.  Beauty is in all people.  Only now, we can see it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Aging and Beauty (Part 1: The Sadness)

My ex-Brother-in-Law used to describe the loss of beauty in an aging person by stating that he or she had been "hit over the head by the Ugly Stick."  It is obvious that our appearance changes as we age and that, on average, it decays quite a bit.

The decay usually happens slowly, especially to ourselves or others that we see on a daily basis.  On the other hand, when we see a current photo of someone we've not seen in twenty years, the aging effect seems stark and sudden, and brings us up short.

I actually want to talk here about the opposite effect, that of suddenly seeing an old photograph, taken in youth, of a person we have seen gradually age for years or decades.  It, too, brings me up short, but in a different way.  It could be a celebrity, a friend, or even an enemy, but the sudden glimpse back in time to see the image of that person, brimful of youthful beauty and energy ... well it has an odd effect on me.

In the first two seconds after seeing such an image, I am almost always overcome by the beauty of the person.  I had totally forgotten how great they had looked back in the day.  Over the years, I gradually came to accept as normal and "real" the ever more tarnished image I saw, and the sudden return to the untarnished state brings with it a rush of joy, an exhilaration that has to do with the energy of life at its very core.

As this exhilaration fades, I feel a few seconds of kinship with the person.  I won't say "love", for people accuse me of using that word to easily, but I will say that I have a warm, fond feeling for the person, and a wish for him or her to be happy and young again.  I am "rooting" for him.  I am "on her side" in the struggle against beauty-robbing age.  I want blessings to fall on them, perpetually.   And the odd thing is, this effect happens even with my enemies (e.g., political opponents).  I am not very good at keeping Christ's commandment to love my enemies, but seeing youthful photographs of them seems to allow me to do so, with nothing held back.  It is a nice feeling.  I think, "Sure, they did this or that harmful thing to me, but ... oh, my, how splendid they looked back then."  Or, something like that.

And then, the awful Third Wave comes:  A debilitating and paralyzing sadness, sweeping over me like a wave and pulling me under.  Look what has happened to us, what we have become!  Look what time has done to us!  Behold, in a human face, what the curse pronounced on "the two orchard thieves" (as Herman Melville described our first parents) has done to us.  How sad it all is, living in a fallen, decaying world.

The image of the youthful face reminds us of what might have been, and of what can never be again.  And this last wave of emotion stays with me longer than the first, more joyous two.  We have sinned.  We have fallen short.  And God has bludgeoned us with the Ugly Stick.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gym Shoot with Jeff Sygo

A bodybuilder only looks his or her best for a few weeks out of the year, and so it is advisable to take lots of photographs during these periods (usually around the dates of competitions).  It helps us to remember how good we can be, and allows us to cherish the results of our months of hard work long after returning body fat has come to obscure the underlying muscles.

Here are some photos by Jeff Sygo of SymiPhotography, shot at the Powerhouse Gym in Fenton, Michigan.