Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reasons for liking the YMCA

About two years ago i joined the YMCA fitness centre and went to the gym there for nine months or so. i did get fitter. In fact i was fairly impressed given the amount of weight i was carrying then. Recently i joined again, and there was a pleasing difference. i could do twice as far twice as fast on the cross trainer, and i couldn't walk satisfactorily on the treadmill at all; i need to run or put it on the steepest incline. i need a new programme.

i always was sceptical about structured exercise, given that even now our South world sisters are getting their exercise carrying water for fifteen kilometres at dawn. And people who drive to the gym, well, good grief, it's an oxymoron. There is also something a bit soulless and atomising about rows of people on machines, in their own worlds, under fluorescent lights.

But i like the Y for the following awesome reasons:

1. No lycra

2. Wiry tough old guys who are way into their 70's and look like they've been places and all know each other

3. No lycra

4. Simple chunky machines i can understand

5. Not so many fierce skinny women who literally push me aside so they can shave a few seconds off their attempt to get to the changing bench

6. OK, hardly any lycra

7. You can put the YMCA song on your iPod and play it and that is really witty because, like, you're at the YMCA and you're playing the song

8. Very disabled people who come in with their caregivers, do five minutes on one machine, and leave, as i wonder about them and their lives

9. The rewards of a swig of water and lovely hot showers - our water pressure at home has been bad since the EQ's and getting worse, and so getting properly wet in the shower is a gorgeous luxury

10. Backpackers

11. Lots of plumpish middle aged women like me who just get on with it, without show or haste or silliness, and certainly

12. Without any lycra.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

All are fangle... and x rated

One of my favourite websites is, where the best in Asian English language mangling takes place. It is probably a dying art as English language hegemony advances and Asian cultures learn to speak it in a more conventional fashion.
Meanwhile, i found these in our local dollar stores. The robot one says 'all are fangle and in high quality'. i am not sure what they mean by fangle but i suspect they mean up to date as in new fangled. i suspect this has been translated by a computer, the same one that gave us, on a notice on a bus, the word 'gravid' for pregnant, when referring to women.
The next one, with the little planes like fighters, promise me 'unbelievable stimulation'. Funny, i have had some unpleasant dreams about scary little airplanes that pursue me from the skies and even fly around the corners of buildings to get me and - er - poke me? Hmm. Blogger dashboard confessional.
Anyway, if i wanted unbelievable stimulation i think i would want something a bit less small and sharp and pokey. These things should be x rated!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For bravery, King and country...

There are more young men in my life than usual and i have got to thinking about them, because they are so very different from me.

My two most recent influences on this are the book War by Sebastian Junger and the movie Warhorse, which i saw twice and the last time i didn't cry at all.

It is often commented on that young men thrive best when they are part of something bigger than themselves. The rugby team, the street gang, the political movement. An Iranian man remembers his youth in a Pakistani refugee camp. For the first time, in the absence of elders, his main links were with his peers. They played cricket and formed committees and he shows me photos of young men laughing and collapsing on each other and wrestling. They were his formative years, his friendship years, and he learned what sort of man he would be. On a far sadder note, a boy from a 'good' school plans to hang himself wearing his school uniform. When i ask about this he weeps and says, without a trace of irony, that he loves his school - even through his desperate sadness he feels part of something more than himself.

When young men join the armed forces they seem to feel very intensely that they are part of that something bigger, but it is not bravery, King and country, or the clash of civilisations. That's just the crap the rich chaps on horses say as they run you into battle. It's more immediately the lives of your friends that count. You shoot because the other guys are shooting at you and your friends. Your group is everything. If it fails you die.

There is also a state of care-lessness at the height of the adrenaline spike. At any moment in the street race your car could crash. At any moment you could be shot/knifed/whacked. At any moment you could get caught. At any moment you could fall off the mountain. All bets are off. Morality and convention and all your mother taught you is as nought.For now, just now, there are no consequences. At such moments there is a feeling of such freedom and purity that karma stands still.

The movie Warhorse features all that we know about the appalling waste that was World War One in Europe. The destruction of the countryside and the harrowing deaths of many thousands of horses. And the men, who died for their friends and for that fabulous young men's moment when you and your mates go over the top and karma stands still.

Traditonally, Junger says, young men get to do what old men no longer can. They carry loads, they run, they hunt, they swim, and they fight. Now we can see our young men as precious. As a society we must be very careful what we ask our young men to do for us.

Because they will do it.