On phobias, weaknesses, and phobia-shaming.

A largish roach appeared in my spot in BodyPump at the end of class on Saturday morning. One minute, I’m lying on the floor working my abs, the next minute a roach appears where my head just was. Obviously I’m still alive, so it was of no consequence. I say that because I’m phobic about roaches, as many of you know.  No other critters get to me – just roaches.

When I described the incident and ensuing antics to Callaghan, he was mildly surprised to hear of my uninhibited reaction in front of others. I think he was envisioning me running around flapping my arms and screaming incessantly, which I didn’t do and never do, in fact. I’m more of the get-away-and-stand-paralyzed-while-trying-not-to-hyperventilate sort. But as he later clarified, he’d responded as a product of a culture that’s widely reluctant to acknowledge or address topics such as phobias, therapists… any kind of mental health-related issue.

Interestingly, his initial surprise met with my surprise; the idea of even a suggestion that I would want to hide my phobia gave me pause. It got me thinking.

I think it’s normal to be hesitant in admitting that we’re afraid, because fear is considered to be a weakness.

But none of us are without a weakness or two, and having a weakness doesn’t mean that we’re weak. It may make us vulnerable, but being vulnerable doesn’t make us weak, either. While a rule such as “never let your enemies know your weaknesses” is important to remember when we’re sitting in a bar (lest a foreign spy sidle up in the guise of an admirer when they’re actually after information), forthrightness about our state of mind can’t hurt.

I have two phobias, and I talk about them readily: roach phobia and claustrophobia. I know that many of you can relate, so I share my adventures in phobia encounters and efforts. The incidents strike me as funny after the fact, so I’m glad to share when I can laugh at myself!

The opposite of “courageous” is “fearful,” which I know doesn’t characterize me or others who have phobias. I don’t feel the need to demonstrate this. There’s no reason to be ashamed of our phobias, especially since we know that when it comes to life or death, we’re capable of confronting and conquering the ogres, whatever they may be.

 

Momotaro conquering the ogres. Japanese folklore illustration by George Suyeoka (from “Momotaro: Peach Boy,” Island Heritage Limited, 1972)

 

No one in the vicinity of Saturday’s roach incident phobia-shamed me, by the way. No one ever has. If you’re ever phobia-shamed, know that the person simply doesn’t understand that a phobia is a specific, irrational fear. And if they decide that you’re a generally fearful person because of it? Consider that to be a benefit to you. The element of surprise is, after all, a formidable weapon for any warrior.

Looks like it’s officially off-season in the garage.

Here’s that (promised) status update on the garage gym: it’s not happening this summer. A/C installation, I mean.

We’ve had A/C and insulation professionals come to evaluate the situation, and after looking at their estimates – the total cost of the cooling project – we decided to hold off on it this year. We figured we’ve put enough into the house in 2017, and we still have some costly, out-of-the-ordinary agenda items on the books for the summer. For one thing, we’re going to be chasing that eclipse in August, a pursuit that will take us out of state. Surely some moola will be involved there.

So that’s that! It’s fine, of course. Talk about a first-world problem. We have a roof over our heads and A/C in the house. We don’t take that for granted here in the Valley, where it’s already been so hot that numerous flights had to be canceled this week. We live 10 minutes away (if that) from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, pretty much under the flight path, and it was eerily quiet for a day or two. It was like someone shut off the volume switch in the sky.

Anyway, I found this selfie from my last garage gym workout on June 5, and it seems appropriate as a current garage gym mood visual:

 

Resignation. It is what it is!

 

There may be a garage gym post yet, though, before October! Certain types of workouts will be safely doable in there if done very early in the morning, workouts that don’t involve much movement. Knuckle-conditioning… I could document a Part 2 of that. Stretching, maybe. We shouldn’t do more than that, even if early. After all, one wall in there is the metal garage door, which transforms the garage into an oven.

Happy Friday, All!

Every day is Bring Your Fur-child to Work Day. (Nenette update!)

Kitty update lovers, today is your lucky day on TALC, for I have a Nenette update post… only a month since my last one! Shocking!

Being that I’m in my office all day, all of these pics were taken here.

Nenette has developed new habits and games for this new, revised office.

For instance:

 

She spies on me from behind the plants.

 

Behind HER plants.

 

She gazes at the Buddha (like mother, like daughter).

 

With the Buddha.

 

She instigates play by chewing the tassels on the bag I keep right next to me. She knows, see, that I don’t want her to chew those tassels… by chewing on them, I’m compelled to grab her toy – the black string behind her – to distract her away from the tassels. (Yes, I’m easily trainable by her. I’m only partially susceptible to her tricks. Truth be told, I could refuse to participate if I wanted to!)

 

Chewing on tassels that aren’t toys (aka playing)

 

Now that I’m not sitting at a table with room on it for her, she drinks her water beneath the small bench behind me. This little “cage” has become her new watering hole, and here, she’s upped her water game, taking it to a whole new level: she comes to ask me for water, I get up and get it, bringing my own refilled glass while I’m at it… and then when I get back, I set her water glass down, hold mine out to her for a toast – “chin!” – and we both drink our water.

Callaghan could not hide his amazement the first time he witnessed us performing this ritual.

 

Nenette with her drinking habit

 

(I don’t know why/how that black bar filled up the bottom part of the pic, by the way.)

 

She naps on the futon.

 

Nenette crashing on the futon

 

She lolls around with her tongue sticking out.

 

Nenette revealing her silly side up in her crow’s nest (looking a bit washed out by the bright sun behind her)

 

And there’s our Nenette update for June! I’m not making any promises, but we’ll try for another one in July.

All-day anniversary date! (Firing range + samurai armor.)

Wednesday was our wedding anniversary. The sub-title of this post could be: “We’ve been married for 6 years and to celebrate we went out and Did Non-Everyday-Things.” Callaghan took the day off so we could spend it together.

The first exciting thing that happened was the doorbell rang and a minute later Callaghan called out, “It’s a package for you!” as he came into the bedroom where I was getting dressed, and he dropped the package onto the bed and walked out, leaving me to think, “He got me something for our anniversary??” (We’d agreed no cards, no gifts.) So I opened it and found a Black + Decker 16v cordless hand-vac, which I’d been wanting for the longest time, and which I grabbed while running to the other end of the house all like, “Baby!! THANK YOU SO MUCH for the hand vac!! Best surprise anniversary gift ever!!!!!” as I jumped into his arms, to which he replied, “I didn’t order you that.”

Long story short, we found out that my parents ordered it for us for our anniversary, knowing that I had my eye on it. It’s been one of those things that I wanted, but never wanted to spend money on.

Anyway, still. Best anniversary gift ever! Best parents ever! The hand-vac has already changed my life.

The reason we didn’t exchange cards or gifts was that we had an expensive plan for the morning: going to our favorite firing range to rent weapons and practice shooting. Even with Groupon, the whole thing cost us $140.00, and that was only for 40 minutes of shooting. Seriously, how do people afford to do this on a regular basis?! I suppose, for one thing, they own their own firearms. We never will, so we rent them when we want to shoot. Firearm rental is expensive. Ammo at the range is expensive (unlike at Walmart). Hence, the firing range is a special-occasion date activity.

In the afternoon, we went to the Phoenix Art Museum for our second date activity: the “Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection” exhibition. We’d known that the collection was there, thanks to some of you! We remembered it while finishing up the first season of Fargo not long ago, when we had this conversational exchange:

Me: Oh, look. Good old Lester married a submissive Asian wife.

Callaghan: I thought that was what I got when I got married.

Me: Ha! So what did you get? The English Rose?

Callaghan: No. I got the Samurai.

Then he quickly added, “And it’s perfect!”

And this, my friends, is one thing I appreciate about Callaghan so much. Seven years together, six years married, and the guy is still making me laugh. I have no complaints.

Such as it was that we went to the Phoenix Art Museum to see the Samurai exhibition.

 

“Cultivated Warriors” – (Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection)

 

 

If you can get to the Phoenix Art Museum before July 16, I highly recommend that you go check out this exhibition! It is spectacular.

The first thing you see when you enter the gallery is a large statue of the Buddha. The sight of the Sakyamuni Buddha entrances me instantaneously, so I had to linger a few minutes before going in… and, of course, take a selfie with the Buddha.

 

With the Sakyamuni Buddha at the Samurai Armor exhibition, Phoenix Art Museum 2017

 

Worth mentioning right now: the strategic play of lighting and shadow fluctuates throughout the gallery, and you’ll see this variation in these pics. Here at the entrance, it’s extremely bright. That white square on the top left of my shirt? That’s a sticker that reads “Samurai” in black letters. The light was so bright, it washed out the lettering completely! (I didn’t even try to bring out the lettering with filters or anything like that; I left these pics as-is.)

You can see the lettering here, though, with just a slight change in distance and angle:

 

Me, Callaghan, the Buddha. Not in that order.

 

Let me tell you, it took a lot of finagling with the phone camera position to get the three of us into this shot!

The reason the Buddha invites visitors into the samurai gallery is that Buddhism and its philosophies and motifs informed the design of the warriors’ armor and weaponry to a great degree; the religion was a part of samurai culture. “Buddhism was widely adopted by most samurai,” says one of the plaques inside the gallery.

Despite this fact and the fact that Buddhist warrior monks developed a deadly martial arts system that engendered all of the martial arts schools in East Asia (many of which are prevalent in the public eye today, as they’re included in an MMA artist’s arsenal), there’s still this myth that all Buddhists are strict pacifists, and that pacifism defines Buddhism. This may be due, in part, to Buddhism having become widely New-Age-ified in the hands of western seekers.

The myth may also come from the fact that Buddhists are not a war-mongering people, in general. There is a difference between being a warrior and being a war-mongerer. Being Buddhist and being a warrior are not mutually exclusive.

And so the Buddha welcomes you into the samurai warrior gallery. The exhibition consists mostly of armor, but you’ll also find weaponry and other objects particular to samurai culture. Truly, everything in this gallery is an exquisite work of art.

[click to enlarge if you wish to read the plaque]

 

Helmet

 

Like this one, many of the helmets and masks were adorned with Buddhist symbols. One plaque explains: “The adornments are influenced by the philosophy of Buddhism, a religion that greatly inspired Japanese warriors.”

Another plaque says of its subject: “The shape of the helmet is reminiscent of the cloth headdress (tokin) worn by Buddhist ascetics and warrior monks (yamabushi) who lived in remote mountain areas.”

Here are a few more pics, to give you more of a taste of the exhibition:

 

War drum

 

Family portrait, haha!

 

Did you know that samurai warriors battled with firearms as well as with bladed weapons and bows and arrows? I didn’t.

 

On samurai weaponry

 

Another plaque explains: “Though archery eventually gave way to the use of firearms in combat, the bow continued to be venerated, and archery remained a martial art that every samurai was expected to master.”

And another: “Shogun Takugawa Leyasu described the sword as the soul of the samurai.”

The exhibition includes chest plates with bullet marks and traces of sword-slashes. (Impressively, the bullets did not pierce the armor.) I didn’t take pics of those, though, for some reason. I did get some of the mounted warriors:

 

Mounted samurai

 

Even their horses sometimes wore elaborate masks!

 

I wouldn’t want to meet this guy coming out of the fog.

 

WHY SO SERIOUS? ~Of course I had to get a selfie with a samurai warrior lurking in the background.

 

Remember: this gorgeous and awe-inspiring exhibition will remain at the Phoenix Art Museum until July 16!

Happy Friday, All.

Throw-back poem: “Gold”

It’s been quite a while since I’ve offered a poetry post, I know! I thought I’d share a poem today for those of you interested in my older work, especially since some of you started reading here specifically for the poetry. As you know, I’m not posting new poems here these days, so back in time we go.

This poem, “Gold,” was first published in Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies. The issue was Volume 2, 2001; it looks like the journal’s work from that time is saved in PDF. I thought it would be easier, for the purpose of sharing the poem here, to take pics of the poem as it appears in my MFA practicum. I did get online to snip out the readily accessible abstract, though. (Once again, I redacted my former last name.)

 

Here’s the poem:

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this! It’s odd revisiting my older work. It seems longer ago than 16 years, and yet… 16 years?! That means 15 years since I graduated. Yikes. Time is a relentless creature.

Happy Tuesday, All!

Wonder Woman: a superhero of a female bildungsroman. (Non-review movie review!)

We went to see Wonder Woman on Tuesday night.

 

 

When I say that this is not a real movie review, I really mean it. I’m in no way equipped to say everything that needs to be said about this excellent film. I could say that its writing, direction, casting, acting, film score, cinematography, costumes, et cetera are superb, and call it a day. It’s for the real film reviewers to elaborate on all of that, as I’m sure they have.

No, I’m only here to offer my personal reaction and observations, beginning with the women’s training, sparring, and battle scenes. (Those of you who know me are shocked, I’m sure!)

Be that as it may. Starting from there, here are my three main thoughts about Wonder Woman:

1). In making Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins didn’t hold back. She directed the women to fight the way actual, trained women fight: brutally. Trained female fighters are fearless and capable of taking tons of pain and punishment, and Jenkins hands the general population this reality with no-big-deal nonchalance. How refreshing and unexpected it was to see these women training and sparring like they were actually trying to kill each other.

 

 

2). It’s with this same deftness that Jenkins merges the film’s worlds in time and dimension without skipping a beat, at the same time crossing Wonder Woman over multiple genres. With its tight, complex plot, this film has something for everyone. You want to watch a movie about ancient western mythology? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a superhero movie? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a Great War movie? Wonder Woman. You want to watch a drama with a little comedy thrown in? An action/adventure flick? How about a martial arts action flick? Wonder Woman.

(About that last: you want to watch real-life tough, highly trained, battle-scarred badass women warriors facing off in real-life action? Watch MMA.)

 

 

3). The film is really all of the above, but the way I see it, Wonder Woman is, at its core, a female bildungsroman presented in a superhero framework, a coming-of-age story ending with the protagonist fully realizing who she is. Literally. It’s maybe too easy in this regard, but it works. The result is breathtaking. First of all, the notion of a female bildungsroman disguised as a superhero movie is, in itself, brilliant.

Directed by anyone other than Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman might have turned out to be another one-dimensional superhero flick. In Jenkins’ hands, Diana did not come out to be a sword-wielding piece of ass in a short skirt, and neither did the Amazons. Diana is the hero, contingent on nothing, peripheral to no one.

What there is to drool over here is a well-crafted film that’s already a classic.

Not to mention, the battle-scene fight sequence choreography is stunning.

Fight or flight? How about both. (Garage Gym workout!)

On Sunday night, Callaghan commented that it’d been a while since I’d posted a garage gym workout. I checked my planner (in which I track pretty much everything I do). Indeed, it’d been two months since I last documented a garage gym workout.

I did this plyometrics-based martial arts workout in my garage yesterday morning, before it got hot. I did it early, so of course, 10 hours later, the after-effects were setting in; I opted to let my body rest instead of putting it through my normal Monday night kickboxing class at the gym. Not great planning on my part, but I had no regrets!

This morning, I’m mostly feeling the workout in my core, especially in my obliques (side torso part of the core). I feel my legs secondarily. This makes sense, considering my current level of fitness and the techniques I practiced. And it’s good. Something better be sore after a 1.5 hour workout!

As per usual, I didn’t record all the segments of the workout. My warm-up included jump-roping, alternating between regular skips and double-time high knees. I also did some dynamic stretches across the floor (walking knee raises and front stretch kicks). For the main workout, I stuck with basic techniques… nothing fancy (i.e. no spinning moves).

I’ll say it again: I value these recordings because they show me where my form is off. In this workout, I found more need for improvement than usual. For what it’s worth, though, I’m here with the customary pics for those of you who enjoy these peeks into our home workouts! The pics come with my usual disclaimer: I’m not a trainer, and I don’t post the pics with the idea that they demonstrate perfection. They most certainly do not.

Callaghan’s been working out in the garage, too, by the way. Maybe one day he’ll let me post pics of his workouts!

Getting right into it, then…

1). Jump tucks.

 

Jump tucks

 

Since the theme of this workout was plyometrics, aka jumping, I went through some moves like this one.

Jump tucks are done from a stationary position. You squat and jump straight up while tucking your knees and feet up to your body at the top of the jump.

 

2). I have no idea what this move is called. It’s a good core/plyo exercise where you sit back on your knees and then spring up to your feet without using your hands for support. This is not easy, and I definitely need to keep at them.

 

Floor to feet jumps

 

3). Flying knee strike.

 

technique: flying knee

 

I had nothing to actually strike here, so I practiced the technique on an imaginary target.

 

4). Flying punch (“superman punch”).

 

technique: flying punch (“superman”)

 

5). Flying down elbow strike.

 

technique: flying down elbow

 

In case it’s hard to see: it’s my left elbow striking the dummy. My right arm is chambered back for a follow-up, but I’m not sure that this is practical in terms of preparing for a counter-strike. It’s probably not. This is something to keep in mind for next time.

 

6). Jumping front snap kick.

 

technique: jumping front snap kick (land)

 

With this kick and the next, the biggest problem I see is… everything! No, really, I’d have to say that I need to work on gauging my distance, first and foremost. Since I needed the bag to be in the camera frame, I had limited space for running to gain momentum, a fact that in itself provides a valuable training opportunity: in a real-life situation, you can’t control the parameters of your environment. Granted, in real life, I wouldn’t execute this move with limited space. That being said, being able to adjust and control distance is yet a skill I’m working to hone.

 

7). Jumping side kick.

 

technique: jumping side kick

 

Now in this pic, my problem with distance is very clear!

 

8). Post work-out selfie.

 

flying techniques practice DONE

 

A few times in this series of posts, I also posted what I ate following the workouts, and of course there were the silly “walking back” pics. I’m leaving it at this for now.

And that was that! The workout didn’t seem as long as it was… I wasn’t overly affected by the increasing heat of the morning. I kept well-hydrated throughout (always important to do, regardless), and I had the garage door and the back door open for whatever cross-breeze could be had. We’re still researching A/C options for the garage!

The end.