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Thursday, June 20, 2013

No. You can't work in.

In fact, why don't you just F*#K OFF!

So there I was, at the gym, sitting there, on a piece of gym equipment, in between sets, taking a short break, a moment's rest, a slight breather, and along comes this guy, looking all gym-y, wearing his gym clothes, with his gym attitude, and he walks right up to me, in his gym shorts, and he's all up in my grill, while I'm sitting there, and he's all, "Can I work in?"
Excuse me?
No. You can't work in. That would be impossible. Because I'm here. Occupying, you might say. I'm occupying this space. It's mine. I'm using it. The pause in action that you see? That's all part of the plan. All part of my strategery. I work. Then stop. I work. Then stop. This is how I regain my energy to continue working. It is a strategy that works, so to speak.
There is no 'working in' here. Only working out! Your working in would necessitate my moving, getting up, walking away, robbing me of precious moments of Zen-like focus, disturbing my rhythm, breaking my concentration, destroying my ongoing (and clearly) chill vibe. I don't want to get up. I don't want to move. I don't want to walk away. That would mean I would have to come back. That's a lot of coming and going. I didn't come here for all that.
Let me propose a different course of action for you. You wait. You wait right over there. Right where you are. Don't move a muscle. Don't say a word. Just wait there, patiently, until the time comes when I've finished my work-rest-work-rest-work-rest cycle. You'll know the time has come when you see me get up and, in a purposeful manner, leave the area, without returning. That's when you should pounce. Then, the time will be right. At that moment I would like nothing better than for you to step into the area which I have vacated and commence using it yourself. Because I will be done. And.... 
No. I don't want a spot. I don't want you hovering over me. I don't want you kneeling behind me. I don't want you mirroring my own motions, only inches away from me, with an intense look on your face, your hands hovering just off the bar, ready to grab it at the slightest hint of hesitation on my part. I don't know you. I don't want to feel you anywhere within my personal space. It's nothing personal. I just don't care to have your existence intruding upon my consciousness now. Or ever. I have calibrated the amount of weight on the bar specifically to obviate the need for a spotter. I have made sure not to take that one extra rep attempt that will result in disaster. I have chosen, very purposefully, to accept a slower rate of progress in my training in exchange for not having a stranger perched above me, urging me to "Push it! Push it!" It's just my way. So... 
No. I don't want any tips from you. I don't want to hear your analysis of my form. I don't want to hear how I could "do that a little better". I don't want to hear "one little thing that will really help me out". I don't want to hear "what I'm doing wrong on that lift". I don't want to hear anything from you. I don't care if you're a personal trainer. I'm a Personal Trainer! I don't care if you're a Crossfit coach. I don't care if you're a football coach. I don't care if you're a kung-fu, TRX, or Tae Bo coach. I don't care if you've been "doing this stuff for a lot longer than me." You may notice that I did not approach you and ask you any questions. That is because I am uninterested in your thoughts. You may indeed be a wise, learned, hardcore ninja warrior and teacher of the utmost quality. I bet that someone out there will extend a warm and sincere "thank you" of grateful appreciation to you for your unsolicited but valuable advice. But I am not that person. I am just me. A girl, who is here, at this gym, stone cold doing my thing. So leave me the F@*K alone!!!
Of course in real life I let the guy work in. But gee, I was really annoyed about it ;-) 
And yes. We're going to need a montage. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Still Mad As Hell... Why "Network" Still Matters Today

The Summer Movie Blockbuster season is upon us – and there is no better time to be a movie geek. I’m not talking about being a film geek. Sorry. I mean, cinephile (sounds fancier), or a fan of the latest foreign documentary that’s the darling of the film festival circuit. I’m talking about being a pure-hearted movie geek in search of their latest fix of big explosions, science fiction, and 3D mega entertainment.

I like to think of myself as a cinephile at times, but the truth is I am right there with the rest of the movie geeks who flock to those midnight screenings. Sometimes, I'm even there in costume. 

Don't judge. 

As much as I enjoy a few hours of mindless entertainment every now and then, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if any of these movies I’m watching through my 3D glasses will stand the test of time. Will any be relevant ten, twenty, or thirty years from now? Will any lines still resonate like this one?

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

It's been 37 years since a crazy television news anchor delivered one of the most famous movie lines in history when he ordered us all to go shout that out our windows during an on-air rant. That line has become more than just a movie quote over the years. Its become a succinct and powerful expression of anti-establishment outrage. I'll bet most people can't remember many lines from the summer blockbusters they saw over the weekend - let alone one that will still resonate almost four decades later. 

For those of you familiar with the line, but not the movie – it comes from “Network” (1976). Directed by Sidney Lumet, and written by Paddy Chayefsky (who won his third best screenplay Oscar for the script), “Network” is a scathing attack on the television industry and how the pursuit of ratings leads to exploitation, insanity, and ultimately to an assassination orchestrated by a major network. 

I saw it for the first time as a journalism student and rediscovered it again channel surfing over the weekend. The performances! Paddy Chayefsky’s words! Wow!!! I must have been sleeping that week in class, because  “Network” is quite simply, brilliant.

The film tells the story of Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch in his Academy Award-winning role), the primary news anchor at the fictional UBS network. Near the beginning of the movie Beale, who has been told that he’s been fired because of low ratings and will be leaving the network soon, announces on-air he will commit suicide during his nightly national newscast. His announcement causes a media stir and panic within the network. But Howard doesn’t end up committing suicide. Instead, he goes on to become “a mad prophet of the airwaves,” articulating the desperation felt by millions of average, hardworking Americans – becoming a ratings sensation in the process. Howard eventually gets his own show, which has more the look and feel of a game show than a nightly news program.
Hey. I think I recognize that show.

When it was released, Network was billed as a far-fetched and satirical look at the television business. After re-watching it I believe it has as much prophetic relevance today as it did in 1976 – maybe even more in our “anything for ratings” media–driven world. It predicted our increased obsession with reality TV. It predicted the practice of exploiting and co-opting people for the sake of ratings. It raised the question of who owns the media and what impact that answer might have on the free press and American democracy. It even predicted the rise of future “mad prophets of the airwaves” (feel free to insert the name of your “favorite” one on air today here).

I couldn’t help but think while I was watching the movie unfold about what’s happening in television today. TV is facing its most challenging business model crisis in decades. Will the quest for ratings, for advertising dollars, the influence of corporate interests, the impulse to turn everything into mass entertainment and "must see" TV lead to some of the same interesting results you see unfold in “Network” ? 

In interviews at the time of the film’s release, "Network’s" writer, Paddy Chayefsky maintained that while the film was a satire, it is also "the truth". In Time magazine he said, “Television coarsens all the complexities of human relationships, brutalizes them, makes them insensitive... When the [dirigible] Hindenburg blew up, the reporter [witnessing it live] broke down on the radio [as he described it]. I can't imagine anything like that happening today. I imagine a detached, calm description of the ship going up in flames: ‘I do believe there will be no survivors.’ We have become desensitized to things that are usually part of the human condition. This is the basic problem of television. We've lost our sense of shock, our sense of humanity.”

What’s that, Paddy? You say the basic problem of television is that we’ve lost our sense of shock, our humanity?

Watch “Network” again – or for the first time during this summer’s blockbuster season. See if you don’t find some tears welling up behind your laughter.