Tuesday, April 26, 2011

10,000 Burpees: Day 26

Just past the one-quarter completed mark on my personal burpee challenge. The soreness is long gone, but doing them still takes my wind in a big way.

Today, instead of doing them in sets of 10 or 20 throughout the day, I did one set of 100 burpees to see if I might improve upon my personal record of 13 minutes and 13 seconds.

Result: 12 minutes and 37 seconds. Not as much improvement as I had hoped, but still a personal best. I'll take it! Perhaps I need to incorporate some other mode of training, however, if I want to achieve my ultimate goal of 100 burpees in eight minutes.

By the way, I am not alone in admiring the raw power of the burpee! Coincidentally, shortly after I began my 10,000 burpee quest, the New York Times published an article in which several physiologists and exercise scientists were hard pressed to top the burpee as the king of exercises. Awesome.


death is our lifelong companion
who greets us at our birth
treat him as your dearest friend
while you walk the earth

do not fear his icy touch
despair will help you not
trust that life will end one day
ere then do as you ought
In loving memory of Margaret Carr, 1949-2011.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Birth of a (Porno) Nation

The public sphere has changed in the last thirty-five years. I don't have any hard data at my fingertips to support this broad assertion. In fact, what makes me say this may surprise you: a fleeting scene in a lurid and rather inconsequential documentary - Inside Deep Throat - about the infamous 1972 porn film. In the scene, the original playboy Hugh Hefner is quietly humbled by feminist and activist Susan Brownmiller during a nationally televised discussion on pornography. These days, it is difficult for me to imagine bitter rivals having a civilized discussion about such a complicated issue on television or anywhere else; the airwaves are instead filled with shrill voices talking over one another, unwilling to bend or to concede a point. The 1970s were truly a remarkable time.

Remarkable indeed. I said just now that the documentary was inconsequential, but only because it was a box office failure and (to my knowledge) has not been widely seen or discussed. The film's subject material, however - pornography, censorship, and the American culture wars - is as essential as any social history. The film that spawned this documentary deserves some thoughtful review in its context, and Inside Deep Throat attempts just that.

Deep Throat was the first movie made about blowjobs. It was made for $25,000 over a weekend in Florida, and went on to earn more than $600 million - perhaps the most profitable movie ever made. Moreover, a cursory bit of research shows that the only 70s films grossing more than Deep Throat are Star Wars, Jaws, The Exorcist, The Sting, The Godfather, and Grease. Pretty heady company. This statistic alone should make social historians and film critics take notice. With those numbers, can one really have a meaningful discussion about 1970s cinema and culture without mentioning this blockbuster porno?

Inside Deep Throat follows the stories of the principle actors and filmmakers during the film's notorious heyday. Though it is difficult to imagine now, forty years ago, sex was not only counter-culture but almost subversive. Blue movies were financed by seedy gray-market forces, often with ties to organized crime. Actors were attracted to the industry not for the money, but more often because they were self-described rebels experimenting with new freedoms and definitions of morality. Late in the movie, the documentary even visits with the agents and prosecutors who sought to ban the film. Deep Throat benefited from the enormous drive to censor it, and it rode this wave of censorship. It is probably not much of an exaggeration to assert (as the documentary does) that Deep Throat almost single-handedly ushered in the adult movie industry as we know it today.

I don't know if I can say much more about this film - it is better discussed among people who have seen it, rather than written about unilaterally. It is definitely worth a look. Watch it as a double feature with This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a movie about the appallingly secretive MPAA and the fawning self-censorship of Hollywood.

Friday, April 1, 2011

10,000 Burpees: Day One

In November of 2010 I did 100 burpees per day, achieving 3,000 burpees for the month. At the time I thought it was a pretty ambitious goal, and I was pleased that I did it. The first few days were very difficult, but once I settled into the habit and overcame the initial soreness, I made it through the month. By the end, I noticed substantial improvements in the time it took to perform the exercise, and that I had a slimmer, leaner build, lower blood pressure, and a sense of accomplishment that bordered on complacency.

Today I set a new goal: 100 burpees per day for 100 days. This is a far more ambitious goal, because I struggle to stay focused and disciplined over long stretches. Admittedly, 100 days is not a great deal of time. But my hope is that striving for this goal will help me to hone a more expansive, process-oriented relationship to fitness. After all, in fitness, as in life, the destination is not as important as the journey. One can't have too many reminders of that. So here's to the journey!