Saturday, December 12, 2009

Interview with Bodybuilder Janelle Gallo

I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to interview bodybuilder Janelle Gallo.

Hi Janelle. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Janelle Gallo
Years bodybuilding: 17 years
Years competing: 9 years
Height: 5'3"
Competition weight: 120lbs
Off-season weight: 150lbs
Occupation: Certified personal trainer (NASM), certified nutritionist (ISSA)

Competition History:
2001 NPC Natural NY State-1st place (heavyweight)
2001 NPC Natural Eastern Classic-2nd place (heavyweight)
2002 NPC Bev Francis Atlantic States-1st place & overall (middleweight)
2002-Musclemania Superbody-1st place
2002 NBI NY State Championships-1st place (Open short class)
2003-Musclemania Superbody-2nd place
2003 NPC Team Universe-5th place (MW)
2006-Musclemania Superbody-1st place
2006 NPC Team Universe-6th place (HW)
2007 NPC Bev Francis Atlantic States Championships--3rd place (MW)
2007 NPC Team Universe Bodybuilding Championships--2nd place (MW)
2007 NPC Nationals--16th place (LHW) 2008 NPC Nationals--13th place (MW)
2008 Nationals--13th place (MW)
2009 Team Universe--5th place (MW)

So, it looks like you trained for several years before you actually competed. During those early years, was it your goal to eventually step onstage as a competitive bodybuilder?

Not at that time. I was really enjoying working out. I liked the way I felt afterwards. I was more concentrating on being strong with the weights and doing cardiovascular exercise to keep lean. I wasn't even thinking that during that time I was resculpting my body.

You've competed both as a Middleweight and as a Heavyweight, with some success in each division. I think you last competed as a Middleweight. Do you consider that your true "home", or do you see yourself moving back up in weight?

I consider the middleweight division my true "home". It is there that I feel that my body shows the best package. I come in more conditioned. Being in the heavyweight division, I sacrifice my conditioning and bring more of a fuller look. I don't see myself going back up in weight unless my conditioning is on point.

Where do you train?

I train at World Gym in East Setauket, NY. It is on Long Island. The equipment there is old, but I get a sense of the old school feeling atmosphere. There are bodybuilders, powerlifters, boxers, MMA fighters and even fitness models that work out there. It makes it more motivating to train there.

Do you have any particular training philosphy that you follow?

I tend to do low-rep training with heavy weights. I enjoy it a lot. I love feeling strong! The only time I do high-rep training is when I work with my trainer, Jerry Scalesse once a week. I don't really enjoy high-reps. I hate it!

What is your diet like?

Since I am insulin-resistant (pre-diabetic), carbs just don't agree with me. I get very bloated, and store excess bodyfat even if I am doing my cardio. So, I follow a high-protein, low carb diet. I incorporate healthy fats, such as olive oil (lots of it!) and almonds. My carbs are only from green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and green beans. Protein sources are eggwhites, chicken, turkey, and fish. I don't do shakes or bars. I like to eat whole foods.

How did you first discover bodybuilding? Was it something that appealed to you immediately, or did it have to "grow" on you?

Bodybuilding kind of "grew" on me. I have been going to see bodybuilding shows since 1996. My two friends always competed and I always said I could never do what they do. They pushed me to try competing since they felt that I had the physique for it. It was then I got into training different bodyparts and learning more about bodybuilding. I competed for the first time in 2001 at 23 years old, and I loved it. I have been competing ever since then, with a 2 year hiatus in 2004 & 2005. Then I knew that bodybuilding is where I fit nicely. I loved the training and having a muscular, fit body.

What kinds of feedback and reactions do you get from friends and relatives, regarding your bodybuilding? What about from random strangers?

My friends have always been supportive of me with bodybuilding as well as my clients. They come to the shows and understand when I am dieting and getting ready for shows. My family is a little different. They don't really pay attention to it. My dad always loved me competing and shows my pictures to his friends but my mother doesn't really support me, which is fine. That is just something we don't talk about when we are together. As far as strangers go, I get compliments all the time. They even say they want to be fit like I am. It is always positive. But, sometimes I get stares from people and whispers behind my back. I don't care because I like how I look!

A couple of questions with regard to your desire to win your Pro card. First, what is behind that; what drives this dream of yours? And, second, do you see winning a Pro card as the "finish line" for your competitive career, or the start of a new career competing as an IFBB Pro?

I have always been an overachiever and competitive person. I want to be the very best at everything I do. The drive for the pro-card stems from this. Getting a pro-card, to me is the highest honors in the sport. You can't get any better than that! So, that is what I want to achieve. However, through the years I have not liked the direction of female bodybuilding. I am more in favor of the classic physique. So, I don't see myself competing in the pro ranks. I may try out the Figure division. Not sure yet. Will decide when that day comes.

What is your favorite body part to train?

Legs! It is my strongest bodypart. I love training them really hard. I spend 1 full hour on my legs and don't leave the gym until they are shaking. Then I know that I trained them good.

You've competed multiple times in the same year. How do you manage to peak for multiple contests like that? Do you give yourself a break in your diet between contests, or just keep it strict the whole time?

After each show I cheat that night and the next day and then it is back to strict diet again. I feel that this sparks my metabolism and helps me to peak for the next show. It is tough mentally competing several times a year but now I try to do 1-2 shows a year and give my body a rest.

Have you had any significant mentors in the sport? People who pointed you in the right direction early on?

I have to say my 1st nutritionist, Eric Huner, inspired me. He is so knowledgeable about nutrition that it is so intriguing. It is from him that I learned all about nutrition. In terms of bodybuilding, John DiFazio helped me out with my mandatory posing and the old school way of training. So, I learned a lot from him about the training aspect. Now, I have Jerry Scalesse (1987 Mr. Universe) helping me with training. He is great because he has that old school training technique that I love!

I would like to add that I currently work with John O'Reagan for my nutrition plan and feel that he is very knowledgeable and knows what is the best diet for my body type. Anyone wishing to contact John for nutritional planning may reach him at

Is there any current or past female bodybuilder whose physique you see as something to aspire to, or who has inspired you in some other way?

Definitely Cory Everson, Lenda Murray, and Valentina Chepiga. I love their classic physiques. They inspire me to sculpt my body to look more like them and take it to it's genetic potential. I loved the female bodybuilders of the 1980s. I wish female bodybuilding today would revert back to that look. They just had more aesthetically pleasing physiques that were like an art form but still feminine.

What are your plans, if any, for a next bodybuilding competition to enter?

To compete in the middleweight division at the 2010 NPC Team Universe Bodybuilding Championships. I have been competing in that show since 2003. I enjoy that show and always have a lot of fun there.

Best of luck to you, Janelle!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview with Bodybuilder Lisa Boushard

I am pleased to be able to present this interview with bodybuilder Lisa Boushard.

Hi Lisa! Can you give us some background on yourself?

Hi Paul, I started competing in 2001 and got my national qualifier in 2005. I recently placed 2nd at the Masters 2009 and then 4th at the USA's 2009. I am a Light Heavyweight, and plan on doing the North Americans and Nationals next year. I had hernia repair surgery October 5th which has to be in recovery until the end of December before I can hit the gym again, but can do cardio right now. I am 43 years old and live in St. Louis, Missouri. I work at the Powerhouse Gym of St. Louis as a operations manager and have a website: I am married, with 3 cats. I work with Dave Palumbo for show prep and am a sponsored athlete and featured on his website.

What was it that first attracted you to bodybuilding?

The thing that attracted me to bodybuilding is the amazing physique you can transform with hard work and dedication to the sport. I also like the way it builds one's self esteem and confidence.

You’ve been doing this for a little while now. How have you seen bodybuilding change over the years you’ve been involved with it?

I feel that when I first started competing in 2001 the look was: the bigger and harder you were the better. Now it has changed to be more soft but yet conditioned, and they want a fbb to have a more complete package with pretty hair and make up to make the presentation the best one she can offer.

What sort of work do you do as Operations Manager for Powerhouse? Are you actually in the gym, or doing planning sorts of tasks from an office?

I do everything at the gym. I train people, enter all new members, changes to their accounts and settle all payments due. Daily transactions with balancing the payments and sales for the workout day. I also enter all the products we carry in the pro shop. We all go the extra mile to make everyone's experience at our gym a good one.

Do you have any particular training philosphy that you follow?

I have been following the DC style training for sometime now. This is a high intensity low-rep style of training that is a rest pause program with a 2 day split. I love this type of workout because you are in a contest with yourself. I keep a journal and with each training session I have to either beat my weight or reps I did in the prior workout. This drives me to do better each time.

What would you say is the high point of your bodybuilding career so far?

Well, I have a few but I guess the best one so far would be winning 2nd place at the Masters Nationals this year. Then placing 4th at the USA's with 16 in my class. Some of the other competitors were half my age. This gives me great pride and drive to get better and better.
The other point was in 2005 when I won the “Most Conditioned Award” given by 4 time Ms. Olympia Kim Chizevsky at the Missouri State Bodybuilding show where I also won the Masters and the Overall award.

What is your favorite bodypart to train? Your strongest bodypart?

My favorite bodypart to train would be my back. I feel that this is my best asset to my physique. I would say it is a toss up on the strongest between my back and legs. I have surprised myself with what I have been able to do in the gym.

What kinds of feedback and reactions do you get from friends and colleagues, regarding your bodybuilding?

I get really good feedback from friends and colleagues the same. I feel that during contest prep and during the time that I get really lean for the show I tend to get a lot more stares from people, and that is simply because the average person does not walk around that lean and they haven't seen a female bodybuilder in person. Guys are usually “thumbs up and think it is great”. Women sometimes snarl at me, simply cause they are jealous. It all comes with the territory. You have to hold your head up high and know you look your best and you are very proud of your accomplishments. No one else matters really.

Do you try to stay close to contest weight in the off-season, or allow yourself to "bulk up"?

I am always trying to build my body for the next year's competitions. In my off season I try to stay within 25 pounds of my show weight. I do allow myself a bulk up time to build more muscle in the areas that need improvement.

Do you have a favorite muscle-building food or supplement that you can tell us about?

I usually eat the basics in the muscle-building food area. Mostly lean proteins, essential fats and carbs are a minimum for the workout fuel and recovery. I use all of the supplements that are made from Species Nutrition and Dave Palumbo. I use protein powder, joint formulas, omega fish oils, Juice Plus and Vitamin E to complete my nutritional formulas daily.

What advice would you give to a woman who is just now thinking of beginning to compete in bodybuilding?

I would say to stay true to yourself and create a work of art with your body that you love!! Not to do anything they will not be proud of or regret. Bodybuilding is so unique and the physique can be so beautiful if created properly. Find someone to help you with your contest prep that has experience working with female bodybuilders and that will listen to your goals and concerns in every aspect of the sport. I feel that this sport takes a special type of person with a lot of drive and dedication to become the best they can be.

Thanks, Lisa. We wish you a speedy recovery from your surgery, and a great year competing in 2010!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Interview with Bodybuilder Sherri Gray

It is my pleasure today to interview bodybuilder Sherri Gray. Hi Sherri! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am 38 years old, married with 2 children, ages 10 and 7. I work full time and stay pretty busy with the kids' activities and my training. I started competing 3 years ago but started in Figure. I did win a show and placed 2nd in another, but the following year I was being told I was too muscular for the physique they were trying to direct Figure to. They suggested Bodybuilding. So, I started training to compete in BB and did my first show this past April. I won my class and the overall. I also did Jr.USA and placed second.

Anyway, I truly enjoy the challenge of BB and watching my body change by how I train and eat excites me! I love it and hope it sets a good example for eating clean and staying healthy for my kids, family and friends.

Wow, you look amazing for someone who only discovered Figure/Bodybuilding 3 years ago! Were you already in good shape before that?

I suppose you could say I was in good shape. I would say I looked “average”. I wasn’t overweight, I went to the gym, and played in a recreational softbalI league. I have always been athletic and stayed active. When my son was about 5 years old, he began to get involved in sports and other activities so I decided it was time to hang up my cleats and support and cheer him on! Now my daughter is also involved in different things, so I love watching both of them in their activities. I stay pretty active and love going to the gym.

I sure didn’t look like I do now, but I like to think I do not look like the “Average” woman any more either, and I like that. I love having muscle and as I approach 40 years old, I feel like I am in the best shape of my life!

As a mom of 2 kids, how (and when!) do you find time to train?

I try to plan my training around family time. I get up at 5:00 am to do some cardio so I can get ready for work and see the kids off to school. Luckily, my husband gets the kids up and ready for school so that is a big help. My job is fairly flexible so I do my weight training on my lunch break. That leaves my nights to spend with my husband and children. I may run up to the gym to do cardio at night if I don’t get there in the morning but that is after the kids go to bed usually.

Saturdays, I get up so I can be at the gym when it opens and go ahead and knock out my workout and cardio so I can get back home to spend the day with them. Sundays are usually my day off, so we relax, run errands or whatever we need to do. I love to train but I also don’t want to take time away from my family. I never want them to think that bodybuilding is more important than they are to me. Luckily, they do know how much I love it and they all support me, which means a lot.

I think they benefit from my training as well, it keeps me sane, lowers my stress level, and hopefully will help me live a longer, fuller life to be able to watch them grow up.

Where do you train?

I train at the Gold’s Gym here in town. There are actually 3 locations here and one happens to be right across the street from my neighborhood. It’s convenient to run over there in the morning to do my cardio and my Saturday training. I mainly do my weight training at the larger Gold’s. With it being bigger, it has more equipment and some newer pieces that I like to use for certain exercises. There are quite a few competitors that go to that gym, so it’s good to keep each other motivated.

Do you have any particular training philosophy that you follow?

My training usually stays pretty consistent because I think I have found what works for me. Although I do change it up with different exercises and such, I tend to stick to the following training regimen. I rotate between lifting heavier with fewer reps for a few weeks and then switch to doing an initial set of 20 reps with lower weight, then follow it with a drop set. I do this for almost every exercise. This has been a good change for me that hopefully will help me continue to put on the size I am trying to achieve. As competition gets closer I try to keep my weights as high as possible with a mid-rep range to continue to stress the muscles. I also like to throw in supersets to change things up a little.

How important is eating/nutrition for sculpting your body as you have?

Nutrition is the key, I believe, to any good training program. Taking in foods that your body can use when it needs it is very important. If you don’t keep your diet clean, all the hard work you do in the gym will not be seen. I have changed my body so much I think over the past 3 years and most of it is due to changing my eating habits. I still like to have a cheat meal every now and then, but I feel the best when I eat clean, and I know it’s the best thing for my body. I know my body is using the nutrients to grow and help me achieve the physique I am striving for.

What sorts of foods are you allowed to eat when you are prepping for a contest?

The nutrition plan changes about every 4-6 weeks depending on how I look. It also depends on how far away from contest date I am. It may add in something, take something away, or just rotate things to be eaten at different times. It really just depends. Luckily, by the rotating every 4-6 weeks I rarely get tired of eating the same old thing.

My diet usually consists of proteins such as eggs, fish, chicken, flank steak, or other lean red meat. Vegetables are normally asparagus, green beans and spinach. Fruits, typically I stick to blueberries, grapefruits and apples. Healthy fats come from peanut butter, almonds or flax seeds or the fish, did I mention PEANUT BUTTER?? Carbs are sweet potatoes, rice cakes, brown rice, oatmeal, cream of rice or wheat or even English muffins with sugar free jelly.

I sometimes also get to eat Sugar Free Pudding or Popsicles; that helps curbs my sweet tooth!

How did you first discover bodybuilding? Was it something that appealed to you immediately, or did it have to "grow" on you?

I would say that bodybuilding was something that I was interested in, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. I never knew anyone who competed and had no idea what all was involved. Not until I changed gyms and met a few new people who had competed, did it start to intrigue me more. After my experience with figure, I knew that switching to bodybuilding was the right choice for me. I feel more comfortable with it and if fits my personality much better. I feel I am truly being judged on my physique, conditioning and symmetry.

What kinds of feedback and reactions do you get from friends and colleagues, regarding your bodybuilding? Do they ask you for training/nutrition advice?

I get a mixture of reactions. Friends will ask me how my training is going and when my next show is. The big question most of the time is… “Can you eat this or are you dieting?” That one really starts to get to me. Most of the time, the stuff they want me to eat, I wouldn’t eat now anyway because I have changed my eating habits so much that it just doesn’t appeal to me any more. I enjoy and feel good about the way I look, therefore I choose to eat the way I do and that is fine with me. Others are the ones who seem to have an issue with it. I haven’t quite figured that one out yet.

I do get a lot of questions about nutrition, and I really don’t mind answering them and telling them what kinds of foods I eat. I just wish more would listen and try to eat healthier to make a change for themselves. You definitely have to want it for yourself; no one else can do it for you.

When it comes to training, people do approach me and ask me about certain exercises and what would be the best to develop certain muscles. I’m always happy to answer them and I hope it motivates them to try something new. I try to switch up my training routine every other week or so with different exercises. I enjoy seeing people doing some of the exercises we do and then telling me, hey that really works.

You started in Figure, and in such a short time at Bodybuilding, finished 2nd at the Jr. USAs in 2009. That has to be considered a successful crossover. Did you initially have any doubts about switching from Figure to Bodybuilding?

After competing in Figure for 2 years and getting the feedback from the judges that I was too muscular, and actually telling me I should consider bodybuilding, I thought it was time to make the change. I was nervous about it because it seemed so much more involved, coming up with a routine, learning more poses, I had no idea where to begin. Once I got settled down and learned the poses I really had fun with it. I’m definitely glad I made the change and it fits my personality and physique so much better. I would consider it a successful crossover and I hope it continues to be successful in the years to come. Finishing 2nd at Jr. USA’s was a thrill and I hope with the hard work and dedication I put into my training it will continue to be successful.

What is your favorite body part to train?

To be honest, shoulders used to be my favorite to train because they seem to respond quickly, but actually I enjoy training legs more so now. They are what I have been focusing on lately to bring up, mainly my hamstrings and glutes, so I put a lot into my leg workout. Due to an old back injury, there are a few exercises I can’t do so trying to come up with something to hit certain muscles in different ways keeps me challenged. When I see changes, it excites me and keeps me motivated to train even harder!

Growing up I really didn’t like my legs. I thought they were big and ugly for a lack of any other words… Now that I have gotten into bodybuilding, they are an asset and I love to work them to make them even better. When I get compliments on my legs now it brings a smile to my face. It may sound funny, but when guys tell me they would love to have legs like mine, I am speechless.

Do you try to stay close to contest weight in the off-season, or allow yourself to "bulk up"?

My nutritionist believes that “Off-Season does not mean Out of Shape”. I love that line!! I have done a pretty good job at staying somewhat lean in the off season while still putting on quality muscle. I am usually about 20 pounds heavier than contest weight in the off season.

What are your plans, if any, for a next bodybuilding competition to enter?

I am planning on doing the Arnold Amateur in March 2010.

I would love to do one of the National shows during the year, maybe USA’s, or North Americans possibly, but don’t have one set yet. I like to play it by ear and see how the first one goes and if I need more time to make improvements, then I want to take that time. I want to bring my best physique to the stage and make an impression! 2009 was a great year for me but I’d like to make 2010 a year to remember.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Encounter with a Fast Woman

In case you didn't already know: as men grow older, they tend to retain their vanity, expanding it whenever possible. Though greying or balding, with ridiculous bags of fat hanging pendulously from every section of their bodies, they retain the fantastic notion that they remain attractive to women. Even young women.

I recall an episode from my days in The Episcopal church. Our parish Men's Club was enjoying an evening of billiards and food. Our waitress was a hot, young Asian girl of perhaps 23. Many of us aging male Episcopalians were ogling her beauty. The more circumspect among us might have described this activity as opening our eyes to behold God's gracious hand in all his works; that rejoicing in his whole creation, we might learn to serve him with gladness (1928 BCP, p. 596). But one among us put it in more earthy terms: "Just because there's snow on the roof, it doesn't mean there's no fire in the fireplace."


Which brings me to this morning's frantic dodge down I-696 and the Southfield Freeway, in which I flatter myself that a very attractive woman flirted with me. Given what has been discussed above regarding the vanity of old men, I accept that the entire episode may have been a fabrication of my own vain mind.

She had jet black hair and raven eyes that looked directly into mine as she slid her low-slung silver Mercedes into an empty pocket in the traffic, directly to the left of my menacing black Marauder. Her features struck me as being Italian in origin. As our eyes locked, she gave me a mischievous grin. I was thinking how the two of us would look in a black-and-white movie ... her glistening black hair, her silver coupe, my silvering hair, and my big black Mercury. We played tag in the slow crawl on I-696, and on the faster jaunt down M-39. Sometimes I pulled directly behind her, to look at her in her rearview mirror. Sometimes, she pulled up behind me to do the same.

We were both advancing through the traffic. Not racing, not taking chances, just efficiently cutting through the sea of Toyotas and other similarly soulless automotive appliances. Once, on Southfield, as I roared down the left lane, she pulled left to follow, but an ancient red Aerostar minivan cut her off. She'll catch up, I thought. And by Warren Road, there she was, right on my bumper again. I pulled over to let her past. She didn't go past, but tucked in behind me.

I was impressed by her driving. Fast, but not showy. Efficient, calculated, immensely confident, but always safe. Competence is sexy, I think.

I managed to maneuver myself behind the sleek silver Mercedes one more time before she pulled off at Ford Road. I got behind her to look at her license plate number, to see if she had a vanity plate.

No. All the vanity was with me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The R. Crumb Genesis!

I don't have this volume in hand yet, but I plan to soon. Yes, that icon of Lowbrow Art, R. Crumb, has published an illustrated volume based on the Biblical book of Genesis. For a number of reasons, this is tremendously exciting to me.

For those who don't recognize the name "R. Crumb", this might refresh your memories:

I knew from a pretty early age that R. Crumb and I were kindred spirits in a lot of ways. His description, in word and drawing, regarding his career as a school kid, made me like him right away.
In high school, the cartoonist was a nerd who could not get a date. As his autobiographical drawings of his high school days illustrate, he was permanently wounded by his adolescent peers' rejection.

Later I learned that, like me, he had experimented with LSD, and was a fan of female bodybuilders.

So, I have a lot of reasons to be interested in the work of R. Crumb. And I love the Bible, including the book of Genesis. So, the confluence of these two streams in the release of an R. Crumb Genesis Illustrated is just an amazing thing to me.

I will be very interested to see how he treats subjects like the destruction of Sodom.

Crumb's reasons for being interested in Genesis are probably complex, but would certainly include the lurid, earthy nature of the stories in Genesis:

HUGHES: Is God going to look like Mr. Natural?

CRUMB: Nah. He has a white beard but he actually ended up looking more like my father. He has a very masculine face like my father. My problem was, how am I going to draw God? Should I just draw him as a light in the sky that has dialogue balloons coming out from it? Then I had this dream. God came to me in this dream, only for a split second, but I saw very clearly what he looked like. And I thought, ok, there it is, I've got God.

HUGHES: And what did she look like?

CRUMB: I went through that whole thing too; maybe I'll draw God as a black woman. But if you actually read the Old Testament he's just an old, cranky Jewish patriarch. It's a lot of fun doing Genesis, actually. It's very visual. It's lurid. Full of all kinds of crazy, weird things that will really surprise people.

I will give a report on this volume after I've had a chance to look it over for myself.

A Re-run, But Well Worth Watching!

I've posted this before, but I cannot help posting it again. It is SO good!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thingie Fest 2008 - Slot Car Drag Racing

I am only about 11 months late in processing this drag racing video, a grudge match between my Anglican Beach Party Anglia, and Eliot's Royal Oak Public Schools S'Cool Bus.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lying and Evangelism

Before I "asked bodybuilding into my heart" I used to be a runner. I did a lot of 5K and 10K races, and even ran the Los Angeles Marathon one year. To get ready for the races, of course, I had to train a lot. This meant running on local streets.

In those old days, despite having no gift for running, I used to push myself pretty hard, certainly to the point of discomfort, on every run. But I developed a habit of smiling as cars or pedestrians passed me. My idea, which seems crazy to me now, was that I didn't want to be a "bad witness" for running. I didn't want pain on my face to dissuade anyone from taking up this healthy activity.

I believe that we Christians often do the same thing in our lives. When in the presence of unbelievers, for whose conversion to The Faith we pray, we often mask our pain, our disappointments. We want our unsaved friends to know that if they follow Jesus, they will be well taken care of, free of trouble and concern. Sometimes, though, this amounts to lying. Just like I lied with my face when I was running.

I now believe that more good would be done were we to be always authentic with our friends, believers and unbelievers alike. The fact that God's will for us may be to be in difficulties and pain does not refute His lordship. If we lie to make converts, and we succeed, what will our friends think of us or of God when they face difficulties as new Christians ... difficulties we pretended not to face?

My sense of this is that you cannot advance God's kingdom by deception.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

TEc Re-Imagines Itself

As you know, I rarely have anything good to say about The Episcopal church ... but this time I must applaud them.

As this video signals, they have re-defined themselves. No longer are they a church. They are now an International Health and Wellness Advocacy Group.

Congratulations on their new mission. It is a good fit for them. They were no good at trying to be a church.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

YouTube Schadenfreude ... RUINED!

There. He did it again.

God, as is His wont, has once again ruined for me a perfectly good moment of schadenfreude.

I was just minding my own business, watching this most excellent YouTube offering, in which a foul-mouthed fatty "goes off" on some fast-food restaurant workers.

And just as I was thinking what a loser this guy was, and how beautifully he had PWNED himself by angrily yelling "a whole ... half hour" God taps me on the shoulder. I hate it when He does that. "Umm ... son?" He didn't even really have to say what came next:

You are the man!

But, you see, when the Almighty says this to me, it is not like your sports buddies lauding you with "You da man!". It is, rather, a recapitulation of the prophet Nathan's words to King David.

You see, while I might not share the YouTube fatty's level of Gluttony, there is another sin I have shared with him: Wrath (a.k.a., Anger). Just last night, I flew into a similar (though, mercifully, shorter) rage against my son, because he forgot some Geometry fact I had taught him.

This kind of sinful display is not nearly as much fun to watch once you realize you have done similar things yourself. And then, I thought: What if my daughter had been there, and had captured my wrath on her cell phone camera ... and posted it on YouTube. It is a chilling thought.

And then, I thought about Andy Warhol, and how he famously said that in the future (we now live in his prophesied future!) everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. And I wondered to myself: Did Andy also imagine the corrolary: that each of us would have our 15 minutes of photojournalistic fame, behind the camera, as well as the 15 minutes in front of it?

And then, my thoughts flew to Flannery O'Connor, and her story A Good Man Is Hard To Find, in which the character called The Misfit says about the grandmother he has just murdered:

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

And then, I thought: What if there was someone to take video of me every minute of my life? Would I, perhaps, be a better man? As Christians, we all tend to laugh at the notion of Jack Chick's Big Screen, but we forget that it is, at root, true. My resolution for today is to live as if my daughter is filming my every word and action, and will post it all to YouTube.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Interview with Figure Competitor Shelly Howard

It was my pleasure recently to interview Shelly Howard, a Figure competitor who I saw compete at the 2009 IFBB North American Championships in Cleveland, Ohio.

Hi Shelly. My son and I were at the IFBB North Americans in Cleveland (August 29, 2009) and saw you compete. I thought you looked great! I would have had you 2nd (after Silvana Salvati) in the Masters Figure class.

How many Figure contests have you entered in all? (Also, did you compete in bodybuilding before that?)

My first show was the Galaxy (obstacle course/physique show) in 1996 in Venice, California. I had no idea about diet or training back then, just knew I liked competing. There were 200+ girls in that show, and I didn’t even make the top 150! I then pursued my Personal Training degree and did the Galaxy again in 1999, where I placed in the top 15. After that I did 2 bodybuilding shows and placed in the top 5 of each show. Then in 2001 I did a Fitness Show and was hooked on the Figure look, which took hold of me in 2002 until the present.

What made you want to compete in Figure competitions? Do you like being up on stage on contest day, or do you use it as a motivational goal? Or, perhaps, some other reason?

Figure is a more attainable and pleasing look for women, in my opinion. I like being small, tight without too much muscle (AKA, looking “in shape”). I use competing as a way to keep myself in shape. For half the year I’m training and dieting, and then the other half is an “off-time” to enjoy food and my family.

What is your training like? How would your training differ from that of a bodybuilder, if at all?

I used to train exactly like a bodybuilder would; heavy compound movements (bench, squat, rows,etc.). Then about 5 years ago, after the Figure judges kept telling me I looked too much like a bodybuilder, I changed my training technique to more high rep, circuit movements like super-setting lunges with pushups, etc. Since I’ve already put on enough muscle for my frame, I don’t have to lift heavy at all anymore. And during competition prep, my cardio is high: 1.5 to 2 hours per day, 5 days a week.

What has been the reaction of your family and friends to the changes in your physique? I know you are currently living in Okinawa, Japan, so I am particularly interested in knowing the reaction of people there.

My husband has always known me to be a workout fanatic, so he’s not shocked at anything I do! My family gets a little concerned when my body fat gets low (under 10% for my shows) but overall, they are proud of my achievements. In Japan, they are impressed and very respectful of muscularity, especially on women. They always say “Sugoi” which means “great” when they see my arms. Plus being 5’9” here, puts me in the spotlight most places we go off-base.

Do you find that people (outside of competitors and fans) can understand the distinction between Figure and Women’s Bodybuilding? For many, I’m sure you must fit in with their conception of a bodybuilder.

NO! All my friends from high school always ask how my bodybuilding is going. When I try to explain Figure, they ask, “so what do you DO?”

Some Figure competitors have expressed confusion over judging standards for this class. Do you find it confusing, or do you lose any sleep over “what the judges are looking for”?

I used to get very depressed (and angry) after my shows. Especially back when Figure was new, and they kept telling me that I was too big, and too lean. I couldn’t imagine being too IN SHAPE?! But now that I’ve been in it over 8 years, I see the distinction, and frankly don’t like it anymore. The older I get, the more vascular and lean and hard I look when I diet. I cannot fit into the “soft, shapely” look of a 20-something year old. But I’m also not upset anymore. Every year, I get into BETTER shape for my shows. My pictures from show to show improve in my eyes, and that’s all that matters. If I were only doing this to impress the judges, I would have quit years ago.

What can you tell me about your personal training business? It look like from your website ( that you train other Figure competitors. Do you also train non-competitors who just want to get in better shape?

I started out training only non-competitors. Now, the majority of my business are competitors or athletes. My time is very important to me. I need clients who are willing to go “there”… eat and train like I do, or at least give me 110%. I don’t have the patience or time for anything else. Plus, it gives great results and makes my job easier!

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out in Figure, what would it be?

Research how to eat and train correctly! There’s a lot of information out there. I see so many women doing hours of cardio in the gym without results – wasting so much time and getting frustrated. Find someone who knows how to help get you into shape. Check out their reputation and previous clients. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their experience. There are too many “trainers” out there who don’t know what they are doing.

Do you have any other notable interests or hobbies outside of Figure competitions and personal training?

I have two sons; 6 and 3 yrs old. My 6 yr old is now in first grade so we’re experiencing all the extra-curricular things he’s into: gymnastics, karate, boy scouts, etc. I want to be a good, involved mom, so that’s my other passion!

What would you consider as one of your greatest successes in life so far?

Being married for more than 13 years now, and having 2 well adjusted, healthy children. Plus being almost 40 and in the best shape of my life.

What are your plans for the future? Do you have a "next contest" picked out?

After my last show, it was clear to me that my body isn’t what the judges like for Figure. So I’m going to tackle Fitness. If I can get my flexibility where it needs to be, my next show will the Emerald Cup in Seattle WA in 2010. IF I can qualify for a national Fitness show, there’s a MUCH better chance of getting a pro card in Fitness.

Thanks, Shelly! I wish you much success in all your future endeavors.

(Shelly also has a blog: )

Friday, October 2, 2009

2nd Annual Hot Rod Anglican CafePress Awards

Is it October again already? It seems like just yesterday that I announced the 1st Annual Hot Rod Anglican CafePress Awards !

To review the rules: I go to , type the word "Anglican" into the Search field, and click "Go!" ... then I report back on what I find.

Here are the winners of the 2009 competition.

The Church and State Award goes to this fine trio of entries:

For Best Imaginary Super-Power, our winner is:

The Truth-in-Advertising award goes to:

In the Worst Visual Mixed Metaphor category, the clear winner was:

The Famous Anglican Name-Dropper award goes to:

For Slogan Least Likely to Actually Be Ordered On a Feed Cap:

The Unintentional Proclamation of Truth award went (unanimously!) to this design, proudly proclaiming the entire absence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit from The Episcopal church:

The Best Use of Redundant Redundancy award was very close, but the winner is:

In the T-Shirt I Would Actually Wear division, this entry emerged victorious:

In the Best Gift for your Bishop category, this winner is a must-buy item!

In the Best Adaptation of the Radioactive Fallout Symbol competition, this was the clear winner:

In the Best Use of Soviet Style Art, this won by a kilometer!

And, finally in the I Hope That Is A Heart And Not What I Think It Is category, this "Made in the USA" Gene Robinson thong was the decisive winner:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deliver Us, Obama!

You know, I used to think that when people on my side of things (politically) criticized President Obama's followers for viewing him as the Messiah, that they were exaggerating a little.

Well, I am man enough to admit that I was wrong. If anything, they were understating the case.

Here, Obama worshippers pray to him that he will deliver them from all woes related to health care:

I guess this campaign ad for Obama should have given me a clue, eh?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Leftist Economics @Trinity Wall Street

Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street (yes, the folks who brought you the Clown Eucharist) are apparently going to run a socialist economics institute next January.

Here, participants will apparently be taught of the foolishness of the notion of Private Property (a Biblical principle, without which "Thou shalt not steal" is a commandment without meaning).

Listen as University of Chicago Divinity School Professor Kathryn Tanner explains (0:29) that the notion of Private Property (not sloth or other sin) is what causes scarcity. She goes on (3:08ff) to explain that, because God gives us His grace without our meriting it, we should distribute money to people without regard to merit. She neglects, of course, the fact that with God's grace He sovereignly changes our ways of behaving, while socialism leaves the recipient of (other people's confiscated) money no less sinful in the ways they act.

And for the climactic statement of the video (5:43), Prof. Tanner deduces that because none of us partakes of the body of Christ in a private way, and because Christ never becomes scarce through the partaking ... therefore we should treat the things of this world in the same way: they are not scarce, and we should not have such a thing as Private Property.

The Clown Eucharist has now been joined by Clown Economics. And, as is so often the case with clowns, these smiles are painted on. Because these Leftist economists and theologians are intensely bitter people.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FaceBook and the New Personal Integrity

Joining FaceBook has done an odd and somewhat unexpected thing to me: it seems to have strengthened my integrity. And by integrity, I mean two things. I mean it first in the common sense of "adhering to an ethical code". But I also mean it in the sense of "having internal consistency".

How has this happened? And why is the title of this blog entry not "The Internet and the New Personal Integrity"?

The answer these questions lie in the fact that FaceBook has, for me, become a place where I interact with a very diverse group of friends, many of whom do not know my other friends. Granted, there are clusters of friends (Anglicans, bodybuilders, car guys, family, ex-students, etc.) who know each other. But people from one cluster don't know or share the same interests with people in the other clusters.

Elsewhere on the internet, things tend to be specialized. There are entire websites (nay, pairs or trios of rival websites!) dedicated to a single model of automobile. For example, I belong to the Fairlane Club of America, and the Motor City Marauders. These are special-interest sites, each with a laser focus on a particular tiny sliver of the automotive hobby. Likewise, I participate in the forums of several bodybuilding websites. That is a small sub-culture with dozens of rival websites.

The specialization, on the good side, allows one to let his or her hair down (not literal hair, you understand; I don't have enough of that to let down). One knows that one is among, if not friends, then at least a set of people who share a very narrow, common interest. The same specialization, on the negative side, allows one to lead a sort of "double life". For example, I can potentially post something on a bodybuilding site that would be shocking to my friends in other circles, with the near-certain knowledge that none of them will ever stumble upon it. (Here's a hypothetical: On a fitness-related site, it might not raise eyebrows to post something derogatory about fat people.) This allows for, at least, the possibility of presenting different personae on different forums, which doesn't really meet either definition of "integrity".

I am finding that, because my collection of FaceBook friends is so diverse, I am forced toward a greater integrity in two complementary ways:

(1) Refraining from giving offense. On the specialized sites, one has greater latitude in expressing himself in ways that will not give offense. (Hypothetical: On a muscle car site, I might be tempted to say that anyone who drives a Honda is an irredeemable loser.) But on FaceBook, because of the diversity of the audience, one has to truly refrain from making statements that one is not willing to defend to any and all friends.

(2) Sometimes, my most heartfelt opinions (ones I am willing to live or die by) will still give offense to some subset of my friends. These may be controversial beliefs and opinions, to which I cling so tenaciously that I am willing to lose friends over the issues, should it come to that. Here, the diverse FaceBook audience causes me to choose my words carefully, so that any offense may come from the substance of the statement, and not simply from its insulting form. If I truly believe the controversial statement, making it in front of the FaceBook audience requires much greater courage than posting the same statement in a special-interest forum.

Thus, when thinking of some single-line status update zinger, I naturally seem required to "bin" it into one of the two categories above. If it falls into the first, I restrain my hand in Dr. Strangelove manner, and do not post it. If it falls into the second, I post it and brace myself for the shock to come, if any.

A more purpose-driven individual (I am chaos-driven, myself) might have foreseen this turn of events before plunging into the wilderness of social networking. But I did not. I have to say, it is a pleasant thing. I can almost feel the integrity build inside, as I present what I feel is a much more honest picture of myself to the world.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Satelliters - Lost In Time (Suddenly, it's 1965!)

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when you are old, he will send you links to stuff infinitely cooler than you ever could have imagined ...

That came to me by way of my 15-year-old son.

Watch for the Vox Phantom guitar in this video. And the Farfisa organ! And the Jim McGuinn haircut. Some of these poses seem to be taken straight from early Byrds publicity stills.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Diocese of Michigan - Lost and Adrift

I received my regular e-mailing of the Diocese of Michigan's "The Record Weekly" in my Inbox this morning. And, even though I spent 6.5 years inside the belly of the beast, what I read from Herb Gunn in that email still managed to stun me.
A comprehensive visioning project is underway in the Diocese of Michigan. The project grew--actually shrank--from the Extended Ministries Fund (EMF) Task Force that began two years ago to study the appropriate use of the ministry fund. Funds in the EMF are unrestricted, but the EMF policy states that the corpus is not to be used without specific authorization from Diocesan Convention. Approximately five million dollars in market-driven appreciated value has been used for operating expenses over the past eight years, but as the financial markets have declined, the appreciated value has disappeared.
It was somewhat refreshing to see Herb admit that things are shrinking in the Diocese of Michigan. (As the joke goes: How do you make a small fortune in the Episcopal Church? Answer: Start with a large fortune.) And it was not news to me that EDOMI is using a "Ministries" fund to cover operating expenses.

Nor did it surprise me overly much that an outside consultant was being funded from this same "Ministries" fund (all failing organization hire outside consultants when the answers given by insiders to "Why are we failing? do not satisfy them):
In October 2008, Diocesan Convention voted to allocate $325,000 for a comprehensive survey and visioning exercise for the diocese. Diocesan Council created the Extended Ministries Fund Phase One Steering Committee (POSC) and empowered it to find the project manager and launch the study that would help clarify ministry priorities to which EMF resources might support. That steering committee worked through the winter and spring to discern and define a strategy for the project. A proposal seeking an outside consultant was created and candidates were interviewed for the project.
Good taste (what little I have of it) prevents me from commenting at length on the decision to name something the POS Committee. The surprise was this next bit:
The new Diocese of Michigan project is called RSVP--Revitalization and Strategic Visioning Project--and formally kicks off this month. The project will identify core values of the Diocese of Michigan, a fresh mission statement for the diocese, and a set of specific vision areas. The aggregate of this work will form the foundation of short and long-term planning; will affect program, ministry and budget decisions, as well as provide clarity of purpose and identity for the diocese.

Core Values of the diocese help articulate, "This is who we are, this is what we are all about, and this is why we do the things we do." A Mission Statement answers the questions: "What is our purpose and why do we exist?" The Vision Areas are statements that paint a picture of a desired future that can be realized in the next five to 10 years.
Now, is it just me, or should any member church within the body of Christ already know its Core Values?? This is astounding. And as far as a Mission Statement, what say we begin with ... I dunno, just thinking out loud here ... the Great Commission?

I already knew that the Diocese of Michigan (nay, the entire Episcopal Church) was lost and adrift. What floored me was their extreme candor in admitting the same.