Conditioning Improvements

As some of you may know I’ve been going to this boxing conditioning gym for the past two months. It’s been great! Today, I passed to the second level of workouts and thought I’d share the results. We do three sets of each activity, hit the heavy bag in between different exercises and take thirty second rests after each boxing round.

May 20, 2009

Half mile run: 3:47
Standing chest press: 10 lbs – 32, 22, 26
Sit ups: 36, 16, 12
Squats: 31, 37, 44
Pull downs: 31, 35, 23
Tricep push downs: 34, 23, 27
Bridges: 22, 34, 52
Chin up pull down: 41, 30, 39
DB shoulder press: 8 lbs – 40, 14, 8

August 19, 2009

Half mile run: 3:27
Standing chest press: 8 lbs – 52, 42, 44
Sit ups: 40, 40, 40
Squats: 62, 57, 58
Pull downs: 56, 55, 54
Tricep push downs: 47, 43, 43
Bridges: 77, 79, 98
Chin up pull down: 59, 58, 56
DB shoulder press: 8 lbs – 50, 43, 44

To pass to level 2 I had to get 40 reps for each set. 🙂

— Mobile Post

Review of Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest by B.H. Fairchild

To be honest, I have no idea how I came across this book. Was it the title that caught my eye, or had I seen a friend mark it as “to read” online? Either way, I’m thrilled it passed into my life. The collection is full of beauty and delves into the worlds of blue collar life, masculinity, the ebb and flow of life in the Midwest. I find writing about poetry collections to be difficult. It’s a shotgun blast of poems and ideas, some of which are similar, but mostly they vary to a degree that it’s impossible to be general. Instead, I’ll point to some poems that stood out for me.

From “The Potato Eaters”

They unwrap the potatoes from the aluminum foil
with an odd delicacy, and I notice their still blackened hands
as they halve and butter them. The coffee sends up steam
like lathe smoke, and their bodies slowly relax
as they give themselves to the pleasure of the food
and the shop’s strange silence after hours of noise,
the clang of iron and the burst and hiss of the cutting torch.


From “Weather Report”

The divorcée coming from the laundromat
knows the cycles of laundry and despair:
back then, the towels they shared, but now a basket
filled with someone else’s underwear.


From “History”

Wired tight on No Doz and coffee, I’ve cut iron
for two straight days and nights, and the white cowbird
drifting down the sun blurs through my rankled eyes
and the grease-smeared windows above my lathe. There,
toward the vanishing point where the cowbird dips
and hovers, is history: a ghost town, the least of all

untitled poem 3

It’s not laziness, there is effort
in remaining still
legs not locked but loose
arms rested but ready, unconsciously
shifting weight, absorbing shocks
like a sailor out to sea, or a commuter
jostled over steel rails
with a pulse steady as the beat
before a dancer springs from a pose
steps into motion as eyes
track the action, movements link moments
fractions of time forgotten in the grace
of limbs pushing against gravity
a gentle geometry no more complex
than the heart’s cadence
at rest, the rise of lungs,
or pupils dilating with the dark
as an afterimage flares from retinas
translates the inverted into the language
of our bodies, a cascade of nerve signals

[Early draft – was captivated by the idea of stillness, or the inherent effort required to be still, both physically and mentally. Got sidetracked toward the end, but might be onto something interesting.]

To Creve Couer Park

After days at the gym, playing tennis, and cycling I had one request for this weekend’s ride. Keep it short. When I scoped out the trek, it seemed like a nice route biking north on Midland and following it all the way to the park. Maps and reality do not always go well together. The road turned into highway with no shoulder, lots of traffic and single lanes. For the most part it was okay, but not that pleasant. The bright side was making it to the park; it’s a large amount of land and offers a lot to see and do. We biked around the lake, had flashbacks to the 90’s due to the number of rollerbladers and nearly hit a few small children weaving around like drunks on their tiny bikes. Be prepared for slow, congested riding on the trail around the lake. In the end, I won’t be repeating this ride again, the traffic is annoying and biking past strip malls, gas stations, and fast food places lacks the aesthetic I usually go for (giant Jesus signs and adult novelty shop billboards are a popular addition to most Missouri roadways). What made the trip exciting though is that I tested out my road tires. Speed rules!

Route Map

— Mobile post

West County Ride

Meant to post this much sooner and actually have a compelling write up involving lightheadedness, jerks in a Porche honking and giving us the finger, the smells of fresh cut grass and diesel gas, never ending ascents, fast descents, spasmodic quads, beautiful weather, the taste of lemon-lime Gatorade on a parched throat, sprawling strip malls and gated communities, followed by downing water on my front porch, laying down in the sun with the breeze blowing and exhaustion solidifying my muscles. But all you get is this short description and a map of our ride. Next time will be better.

Riverfront Trail – Completion

This Sunday I revisited the Riverfront Trail. It was gorgeous weather, nothing like last week, and an all around fun ride. Biking from U. City we covered roughly 43 miles and crossed the river into Illinois. There are a few spots full of debris, and some ugly crossings over the roads, and this delightful obstacle where the path washed away. Made me think of Shel Silverstein and Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Review of the Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abé

There’s an appeal to disappearing, a romantic idea of starting all over again, leaving a shared past for others to interpret and understand while new possibilities stretch out. What would it be like to step from the restraints of one’s identity? Kobo AbĂ© approaches some of these ideas in The Woman in the Dunes, but from a perspective that is more Hitchcock or Poe than anyone else.
The novel opens with a middle age teacher out collecting insects for the week along an obscure coast of Japan. He’s told no one his plans in an attempt to cause jealousy among his co-workers and so that they will fall into the bland trap of gossip. Nobody knows where he has gone. He’s kept it from his mother, and from the woman with whom he is in a relationship. The teacher has decided to search this area for insects because it is remote and he has also developed a theory of the shifting nature of sand, which appeals to his world view. It’s along these dunes that he discovers a village in struggle with the sand. The people are poor, isolated, and mistrustful. The dunes threaten their small village and pile around the perimeter. Looking for shelter, the teacher is taken to a place where he can spend the night. The night turns into days and weeks.

The survival of the town depends on these homes beyond the perimeter where the poorest villagers live in the bottoms of steep bowls shaped from the winds. Each night the men and women must dig out the sand while the villagers haul it up. The teacher has become a slave. He resists, he plots his escapes, he lashes out at the woman with whom he lives and questions his life and identity.

From a creative perspective, this is an interesting novel. As a fan of Haruki Murakami, I wondered if The Woman in the Dunes influenced his writing at all. Following the vein of magic realism or the bizarre, it is an easy progression from writer to the next. Granted, this is the first novel I’ve read by AbĂ©, so my ideas may be completely unfounded. Full of tension and terror, the reader begins to question what their own actions may be in similar situation (think kidnapping alone, and not kidnapping and life living in the bottom of a strange, shifting, dune village). The writing is not full of beauty, but this may be because it is a translation. It is a quick read though, and if you are looking for something a little different, this book will provide a haunting narrative.

Review of Eventide by Kent Haruf

Eventide follows the lives of the people from Holt, Colorado three years after the happenings of Plainsong. Haruf again demonstrates his ability to describe the relationships and worlds which old and young people share each different and nuanced in ways that do not always make sense to someone outside that age. It’s the overlap that is beautiful, those moments of friendship shared by children and adults. This novel picks up with the McPheron brothers, and follows their lives as tragedy strikes.

Added to the mix of characters are a disabled married couple dependent on social services, and trying to raise their children as best they can. This family is taken advantage of by a dead-beat relative who abuses the family and manipulates them into taken care of him. While this was well written, the antagonist is heavily painted as an ugly, despicable man. There were complaints of that in Plainsong, but to me this characterization was on display to a wider degree in Eventide. There is nothing redeemable about this character, and while it may speak more to my own view of the world,I found it short sighted and false. There was not a single scene where the character is portrayed in anyway other than evil. Perhaps, Haruf has difficulty with the ambiguity of people. Most of the other characters are full of goodness and their negative actions often don’t seem to bad, or at least do nothing to make the reader call into question their moral integrity. Among the McPherons, Victoria, Tom Guthrie and Maggie Jones, moral standing is a shared quality and though they might occasionally let go of their tempers, they become a little bland as the reader rarely sees any inner thoughts and when those thoughts are shown they don’t dwell on the doubts, or hypothetical situations that plague richer characters. Survival is the key, and it seems that the people on Holt have a bunker mentality.

One new character that best bridges this gap, is a young mother who has been abandoned by her husband. In the start of the novel, things are fine and the woman does her best to help out a young boy who lives with and takes care of his grandfather. Throughout the novel, her life descends into alcohol abuse and a dead end relationship with a local man. She goes from being a great mom to one that has trouble taking care of herself, let alone her children. As the novel ends, she takes control over her life again, and the reader is left with the image that she will pull through.

If you read Plainsong and enjoyed it, then you should read this book. It goes fast, is enjoyable and fills that craving to know more with which Plainsong leaves a reader. However, keep in mind this is a sequel that seems driven to tell a little more while not being all that original. It is a lesser work and Haruf follows some of the same patterns in writing the narrative. The instance that stands out is the character of Rose Tyler, who seems to be this novel’s version of Maggie Jones, a female character who is never fully focused on yet seems to navigate between the worlds of people whose stories would tend not to overlap. Haruf is able to pull together a sense of landscape and the affect that landscape has on people. His writing is full of beauty and heartbreak and that tends to outshine the narrative failings.