Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Another Poem: My Muse Has Left Me Desolate

My Muse Has Left Me Desolate

“… and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” – Galatians 3:19

My Muse has left me desolate this year.
October, not a single word from her.
My brush will hold no paint, my pen won’t stir,
And I sit trapped in uninspired fear.

Some friend will murmur to me (as a curse):
“No guide but Christ, and no Muse but the Church!”
But God through intermediaries works,
And all who say such things write rotten verse.

When God passed down His holy Law it came
Ordained by angels and through Moses’ hands.
Return, my Muse!  Release me from these bands,
And mediate God’s poems to me the same.

Come home, my holy angel, heed my call.
Return to me, thou “Moses” of my verse.
All other Muses make my writing worse.
I need your kindly succor, lest I fall.

Perhaps some other poet has you now,
And some more agile painter hears your voice.
Abandon them!  Come, make my heart rejoice:
Renew with me our old, truehearted vow.

And then shall heart, hand, pen feel no restraint.
Once more I’ll gladly follow; you shall lead.
The finger-graven tablets you shall read,
And I shall sing and write and dance and paint.

© 2013. Paul Erlandson

A New Blog Recommendation

I've just stumbled upon this blog which is written by Women's Physique and Bodybuilding competitor Lynette Wade.  I find it awesome!  In her most recent entry, Lynette explains what bodybuilding contest prep feels like from the inside.  Very, very accurate.

Beautiful Pain.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Poem: Let Everything that Hath Breath

I wrote this poem for Mr. Kenneth Sweetman, choirmaster and organist at Mariners' Church of Detroit, back in 1999.  (Mariners' Church also has another excellent organist and choirmaster in Mr. Kevin Bylsma!)

A word or two about the form of this poem.  I did not invent it; my (Anglican) friend Russ Smith did.  It requires that you create a poem which tracks well when displayed in two different ways:  as ten lines of eight syllables and also as eight lines of ten syllables.  And, each way, every pair of successive lines must rhyme.

So, it is a cramped, rigorous, and demanding form.  You might think it would sound very stilted when read aloud, but that is usually not the case.  Because the rhymes pass each other like a faster train passing a slower train, you get a sort of "beat frequency" phenomenon, which ends up sometimes lending it a jazzy feel.  Anyhow, without further ado, here is the poem, with a photo of the Mariners' Church organ, for a little traditional Anglican "eye candy."

Let Everything that Hath Breath
(for Kenneth Sweetman, Advent, 1999)

Let everything that owns a lung
give praise to God.  Let pipe and tongue
rejoice in phase.  The mighty King
of Instruments breaths out to sing
with pulmonary zeal, to shout.
The organist from his redoubt
commands the pipes like ranks of chess-
men by his hands.  And they confess
what each tongue here would say … but, nay,
the King takes all our breath away.

Let everything that owns a lung give praise
to God.  Let pipe and tongue rejoice in phase.
The mighty King of Instruments breathes out
to sing with pulmonary zeal, to shout.
The organist from his redoubt commands
the pipes like ranks of chessmen by his hands.
And they confess what each tongue here would say …
but, nay, the King takes all our breath away.

© 1999, Paul W. Erlandson

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The New Civility in Bodybuilding Radio

I've listened to a good many bodybuilding-themed "radio" shows in my time.  I use the scare quotes on "radio" because these are internet-based audio programs, not available on broadcast radio.

I think I have identified a new trend in how these shows go, and how the personalities on them interact.  I have seen a movement away from loud, arrogant, in-your-face meatheads (I do not consider meathead a term of derision, by the way), proudly putting forth their own bodybuilding theories as being superior to those of all others.  What has replaced all this is quiet, soft-spoken gentlemen, who happen to be experts in the field of bodybuilding (usually, high-caliber bodybuilders themselves), dispensing good advice and sharing knowledge in an understated and collegial manner.

Who'd have thunk it?

For some examples of The New Civility in Bodybuilding Radio, I invite you to click on the links below:

Blue Collar Radio (with Shelby Starnes and John Meadows)
Ben Pakulski and John Meadows talk with Brad Schoenfeld

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Recidivism and the Bodybuilding Diet

In four days, I can eat anything I want, because my bodybuilding contest prep diet will be over.  The contest is on Saturday, and for months I have been daydreaming about what to eat on Sunday.

Pizza?  Cheesecake Factory?  Blonde Brownies?

The possibilities are endless.  Infinite freedom!  No constraints!  No laws!  No dietary lords nor masters!

But, if past experience is a reliable guide, I will find that I cannot handle this amount of freedom.  I have come to lean heavily on the predictable structure of the bodybuilding diet.  It's 2:30 pm?  Chicken breast and green salad.  No questions, no debate, no hand-wringing, no doubt, no guilt.  It's easy, exactly because it leaves me no freedom, no wiggle room.

And do you know what?  The bodybuilding diet makes me feel safe.  Secure.  Big, bad obesity cannot come and devour me if I stick to the bodybuilding diet.  I feel very safe.

As I considered this language I was using to describe my relationship to the bodybuilding diet, I realized that I had heard it all before.  It took me only a few seconds to remember where:  in the mouths of ex-convicts who had lived a life of recidivism, in and out of prison, but mostly in.  Like me, they all dreamed about the day they'd get paroled.  All the girls they'd meet, all the cars they'd drive, all the food they'd eat.  But, like me, life on the outside was too wild, too free, to unstructured.  They didn't know how to survive in that world.  But they had spent years figuring out how to survive inside a prison.  So, they went back.  Back to where they could feel safe.

And, I reckon, so will I.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In Defense of the "Selfie."

I would like to say a word or two in defense of the much-maligned photographic self-portrait, or "selfie." A facebook friend recently made this comment about selfies:  
"You can pretty much tell how self obsessed, narcissistic and in love with one's self, by the amount of selfies they post in a day. Any more than 3 is just too many. It is no wonder these people are single."
Well, now first of all, it must be noted that some of us who are guilty of posting too many selfies actually ARE married, not single.  So, there's that.

But what of the charge of narcissism?  Of self love?  Are these charges valid?  I submit to you that they are not necessarily valid.  Without further delay, then, here are some reasons I think that posting selfies is okay.

1.  We are made in God's image.  How cool is this?  I think that we can be pardoned for occasionally letting this amazing fact overwhelm us, with the glorious fruition of that overwhelming being ... a selfie.

2.  Posting an image of oneself is not necessarily a comment on other people.  Folks take and post selfies for all sorts of reasons, I imagine.  One reason I do is for documention of how I look.  This is necessary for the hobby of bodybuilding.  Without it, one becomes lost.  Granted, not all of these documentary photos need to be posted.  But it is convenient to do so in an online journal, and so I consider it valid.

3.  Others actually may be interested.  I like (and on facebook, Like) the selfies my friends take.  The more the merrier.  Bring them on!  I also like pictures of what you are eating, clever words you spelled in Scrabble, etc.  I love it all.  Please continue to post it.

4.  Although some selfies are artless, this need not be the case.  We are all familiar with the one-arm-extended MySpace-style selfie.  But this does not define or limit the genre.  You would be amazed at the selfies you can take if you simply get hold of a tripod and a camera with a delay timer.
5.  There is a rich artistic heritage of selfies.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C

Exhibit D:

Exhibit E:

Q. E. D.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dads and their Daughters' Dates - How NOT to do it!

We've all seen this kind of ├╝ber-macho "Alpha Dad" displaying his "Rules for Dating My Daughter" ... whether on facebook, other social media, or in real life.  It masquerades as the loving concern of a father, but in actuality it is pathetic and cruel.

Here are a few examples, so that you know just what I'm talking about:


Let me outline for you some of the reasons I find this disturbing:

1.  Its opening volley is steeped in hostility and violence.  In the first image, the father is pointing a revolver at his daughter's prospective date.  In the second, the father states his dislike for the young man, and later promises to repay him for whatever the date does to his daughter.  I can imagine all kinds of hilarity stemming from a strict constructionist interpretation of Rule 10: "You shared a soda with her using two straws, so now I'm gonna ... uh oh."  But the main point is the hatred.   Is this the kind of society we really want to live in?  One ruled by fear of being shot?

2.  Whenever you, as a father, post something like this, IT IS AN ADMISSION OF THE CRAPPY JOB YOU HAVE DONE RAISING YOUR DAUGHTER!  Obviously, you've raised the kind of daughter who is attracted to crackheads and other criminals.  All your posturing proves this.  I'm sorry you've been an incompetent father.  MY daughter can actually be trusted to weed out the losers.  That's the way we raised her.  I'm sorry you were not able to do that.

3.  This method is counterproductive:  it only scares the good guys, the ones who respect adult authority.  Thugs are thugs.  They'd love the excuse to try and lay you out, and there is, of course, some chance that they are more of a badass than you are.  Slight, perhaps, but not zero.  In any case, the intimidation produced will be the strongest in exactly the type of young man you should be encouraging your daughter to spend time with.

4.  Once a few good young men have had a close-up look at your shotgun and the trunk of your car (you moron) the word will get around that your daughter is not worth dating ... because her dad is a psycho.  This is not going to help her in the long run.

5.  I want to tread lightly here, but there is some sense in many of these cases of the father seeing the boyfriends as rivals.  Maybe it doesn't have a sexual overtone, maybe it does, but it is at the very least a sick sort of possessiveness.  NEWS FLASH:  Your daughter never belonged to you.  She is not your property. She is God's, and you have simply been granted the privilege of caring for her and providing for her for a short time.

So, in summary, men:  KNOCK IT OFF!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My First Bodybuilding Contest of 2013

Well, I guess it depends on what you consider a "contest."  Nobody else showed up to compete in the Masters (over 40) or Grand Masters (over 50) bodybuilding classes, so I won both of them by default.

Here are some pics of how I looked on stage.  My weight that day was 175 pounds.  That means that I have put on about 23 pounds of lean muscle mass in just a little over 4 years. I am really happy with that!  

I will be competing again this weekend, October 5, and expect a much larger turnout, so I am quite confident I will have several other bodybuilders to compete against.