Sunday, April 30, 2006

STRIKE A POSE


There was a time when I would leave the house at five a.m. to drive out to Luneta. I would park in front of the Quirino Grandstand and from there brisk-walk three times around Rizal Park which would take me about 20 minutes to accomplish. It was a glorious way to greet the day. It also brought back some childhood memories.

I was a sickly child. However, an aunt who helped my mother raise me used to take me to Luneta every morning no later than seven where she would let me run around to my heart’s delight. We did this for a couple of years beginning when I was three until I began school. Filling my lungs with the air from Manila Bay and soaking up the early morning sun did wonders for my health. She always brought along a jug of calamansi juice, which is very nutritious and helps prevent respiratory diseases. Supposedly, it helps strengthen and stimulate the growth of bones of children.

Anyway, one can only imagine how much I enjoyed doing my early morning brisk-walking in Luneta. However, with the price of gas continuing to soar, I feel guilty nowadays to be doing all that much driving every morning by myself. I guess, if I had a car full of people with me it’d feel better about it, but nonetheless, I had decided to limit my driving only when it's extremely necessary.

I can do brisk-walking around my neighborhood, but the street dogs that roam around the area in the early mornings petrify me. Currently, the only time I would drive out to Luneta is on weekends and only if a number of nephews and nieces are staying over whom I could drag out of bed to come with me. But that comes with a steep price, though; they all expect to be treated to Jolibee’s for breakfast right afterwards.

However, about a week ago while channel surfing, I chanced upon an infomercial about David Blanchard’s Progressive Power Yoga DVD trilogy series on home shopping network. I was sure its breathing and stretching exercises can boost my endurance and athletic performance—a must in my game of badminton. I ordered one immediately which I received the following day. As recommended, I’m now reviewing the entire series prior to actually performing the exercises. Beginning tomorrow, Monday, I will start doing the workout for at least once or twice a week.

Yoga has been touted as an ultimate body-mind-spirit exercise system. Considered one of the safest and most efficient exercise regimens, it has attracted about 15 million Americans to practice it today. With more than 2,000 yoga poses available, what Mark Blanchard did was design three wildly innovative, diverse workout programs geared to burn more calories, build leaner muscles and reduce more stress than jogging, brisk-walking, or kickboxing. And by rotating the three DVDs at least each week, one can supposedly gain utmost strength and flexibility, which at my age I can certainly use.

I will post another blog about this after the summer to share my experience with doing this DVD-guided exercise regimen.


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Photo credit: David Blanchard’s Progressive Power Yoga


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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:53 AM | 22 comments


Saturday, April 29, 2006

BADMINTON, ANYONE? – Part 2


As soon as I had decided to take up badminton, I immediately signed up for lessons as I had done with the other sports I got into in the past. This way, I will learn all the proper techniques involved so as to better enjoy the game sooner. But most importantly, having a teacher helps avoid my developing any bad form or habits, which are often difficult if not impossible to correct later on.

The teacher or trainer costs me two hundred pesos per hour—a little less than four US dollars—on top of the usual court fees which vary anywhere from one hundred twenty pesos to two hundred and fifty pesos per hour depending upon which day of the week and time of day I choose to play.

However, even though I book and pay for the entire hour, I am yet to complete a full hour of instructions; only half an hour the most. The reason: the fundamental drills involved—from the basic footwork to the forehand/backhand swings—although modified and toned down for someone like me (an overweight middle-aged guy) can still be extremely exhausting. If the teacher were to bring it down a notch to make it even easier for me, I might as well just go back to golf; played more leisurely and getting a sunburn its only physical drawback. Be that as it may, I always listen to what my body tells me as a preventive measure against any injury. I know that trainers tend to push, but it’s still up to me to call the shots and stop as soon as I no longer enjoy the present experience.

It was never my intention to develop any astonishing skills to defy my true age and physical limitations. Rather, I just want to learn the proper form and techniques in order to become one with the game; much like turning it into a dance of some sort as I had done with downhill skiing and tennis.

Recently, I’ve been going for my appointed lesson/court time much earlier, as well as staying a while longer afterwards mainly to watch the advanced players. They are so limber and play with such grace despite of the intensity of their matches. One player I favor is no more than fifteen years of age yet his movements and strokes are impressive. We share the same teacher and I was told the kid hasn’t been playing badminton for more than a year. I was astounded. This proves the merits of taking lessons early on; hence, fully embodying the mechanics of this sport.

When I started, my mind perceived the oncoming shuttlecock as a deadly projectile and would involuntarily tense up. Oftentimes I would miss hitting it altogether or my stroke would be so constricted that I would fail to hit it over the net. I’ve also realized that constantly bending down to pick up the shuttlecock can be more tiresome than volleying continually for a couple of minutes. That in itself was a good enough incentive to keep improving my game.

Speaking of shuttlecocks, although the one made of real feather—which costs an average of fifty pesos each (a little less than a dollar)—rarely outlasts an hour of vigorous hits, it’s still much better to use it in the long run than its more durable plastic counterpart. The reason: plastic shuttlecocks have swifter flights and not used in standard matches. The feathered version, on the other hand, somehow slows in mid-flight; unless, of course, it was hit with a smash. A player who has learned to keenly gauge its flight is most often able to play the game in a more relaxed and graceful manner.

The only downside of my having taken up badminton is that I have to relegate my tennis to the backburner, so to speak. That’s because the techniques of swinging a tennis racquet clash with that of badminton. For one, a locked wrist is required in tennis for controlled and precise shots; whereas in badminton, snapping the wrist is a must in order to add power to a stroke, be it a forehand or backhand. I oftentimes swing my badminton racquet as if I were holding a tennis racquet; creating a high-arching slow shot, which gives the opponent an opportunity to smash it back at me. The culprit here is my muscle memory overruling my perception. So, part of my training is to retrain my muscle memory to unlock my wrist whenever taking a swing with a badminton racquet.

Incidentally, much to my delight, I was invited the other day by a more advanced player to play a friendly doubles match with his friends. Although I was elated, I declined and told him that perhaps, in another month I would be much more comfortable and ready to play with them. This is how I’ve always enjoyed all the sports I’ve participated in, as well as avoid any injuries or accidents — by always being comfortable and fully aware of my limitations; not jumping onto a higher level of play without being totally ready for it.

So, for now, I enjoy sitting by the sideline and watching the more experienced players at their game. I'm quite confident that someday soon I, too, will advance onto their level of play.



Picture credit: abc.net.au

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posted by Señor Enrique at 7:40 PM | 4 comments


Friday, April 28, 2006

BADMINTON, ANYONE?

Spurred by the Easter spirit of personal renewal, I had decided to put into action an idea I had been mulling over for some time now — to get off my butt and do something about the nasty feeling of sluggishness due to the excess weight I had put on.

This time, I opted against going through another fad diet as I’ve usually favored in the past. Surely, I shed off the unwanted pounds; it wasn’t actually that difficult an ordeal, but maintaining the weight loss was another story. It proved to be a tougher challenge than realized; virtually an impossible feat for me. Consequently, as always, I would regain the lost pounds and then some.

So, instead of once again practicing food deprivation in which my body would only interpret as starvation and slower my already dawdling metabolism, this time around, I’ve chosen to focus on some physical activity that I could stick with; something that’s fun, as well as induce profuse sweating so I could burn away this super-sized fat I’ve been lugging around. Badminton, I have decided, is it for me.

This sport is unlike golf or tennis where you have to attain a certain level of proficiency to really get into it. It’s a simple enough game to enjoy immediately as long as you have the basic eye-hand coordination; not to mention that you can play it with the entire family.

Nonetheless, as you become more competent with it, badminton can be a fast-paced sport that requires superb physical stamina and spontaneous tactical skills.

Interestingly, the indoor badminton courts in Metro Manila are not air-conditioned like the indoor tennis courts in New York. Even with only a few minutes of volleying, you’ll find yourself drenched in sweat and gasping for breath. However, with proper foot work and breathing techniques — like exhaling whenever you take a swing with your racquet and inhaling as you await your opponent to hit back the shuttlecock — you wouldn’t run out of breath as much. The heat inside the facility, on the other hand, eventually becomes favorable as you get used to it, for it stimulates further sweating, which is excellent for burning away those excess body fat.

In addition, all this sweating makes me crave more for water and less on solid food. Neither am I focused on losing weight, but more on improving my physical stamina and developing my game. This new mind set is truly more fun to deal with than agonizing over which foods to give up. As I get better at badminton, hopefully, my own mind/body will further cease craving for those foods that will only sabotage my goals.



Photo credit: Supreme Court Athletic Club

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posted by Señor Enrique at 7:08 AM | 4 comments


Monday, April 10, 2006

A CROSS TO BEAR


As far back as I can remember many of my mother’s friends, relatives and godchildren sought her counsel. They were usually about domestic disputes, marital infidelities, or recalcitrant siblings. For those with a seemingly insoluble dilemma, my mother would often suggest it may be their proverbial cross to bear; a test of faith, so to speak.

There came a time when I would say in jest that technically, Jesus carried his no more than three hours. And that there are people out there who enjoy wallowing in their troubles in perpetuity; thriving in the attention they receive, as well as justifying their martyr-like threshold for suffering as a trade-off for a glorious afterlife. Invariably, my mother would just wave me off as if I should know better.

However, as I got older, I became cognizant of the healing effects of this adage. Just like my mother, I would sometimes find myself consoling my friends with these same words; even adding that carrying such cross builds a stronger spirit and emotional resolve.

Perhaps, then, pain and suffering may be integral parts of the human experience, which lead us to higher realms of spiritual evolvement as we explore the many paths of our life's journey.



Art Credit:
Title: Crucifixion (Hypercubic Body) 1955
Artist: Salvador Dali (1904-1980



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posted by Señor Enrique at 10:16 AM | 6 comments


Friday, April 07, 2006

FUTURISTIC MOBILE HOMES


This is a picture of GMC's new concept truck—combination vehicle and residence—for Los Angeles called the "PAD." It is basically envisioned by General Motors’ designers as "an urban loft with mobility". While cars.com gives this an official "zero chance of production", the Institute for the Future (IFTF) sees it as a lot more realistic vision of the future than it may at first appear.

While some may perceive PAD as a culmination of America’s fascination with SUVs, IFTF’s Technology Horizons program which is focusing its research this year on the theme of "lightweight infrastructure, considers this as a viable lightweight alternative to the traditional home or apartment. Moreover, if the concept embodied by PAD really caught on, IFTF predicts the emergence of temporary cities; ushering in a whole new form of urbanism based on nomadism and reconfigurable cities.

These new infrastructure designs, according to IFTF, will emphasize smaller, smarter, more independent components that can be organized in ways that are more efficient, more flexible, and more secure than the capital-intensive networks of the 20th century. Lightweight infrastructure will allow urban planners to rapidly prototype new forms of settlement as needs and constraints shift from day to day.

Talk about trailer parks the size of a city!

The Institute for the Future is a non-profit research organization located in Palo Alto, California. Founded in 1968, the Institute conducts basic research on the futures of emerging technologies, health, and global business trends. It also works with clients on targeted research projects.



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posted by Señor Enrique at 11:08 AM | 3 comments


Monday, April 03, 2006

CRASHING PREJUDICE


Finally saw the movie, Crash, over the weekend. It definitely deserves its Oscar.

I was under the impression that the Movie of the Year upset was a backlash to the much-anticipated win of Brokeback Mountain, but seeing this provocative film made me realize why Crash won. It was storytelling at its finest; delving into the complexities of racial prejudice and at the same time challenges the viewers to question their own fears and bigotry.

Spike Lee had ventured into this arena of racial strife in most of his films, but they were unlike the way Paul Haggis wrote and directed Crash. He depicted racial prejudice from the various perspectives of his multi-ethnic characters as they weaved in and out of each other’s lives through coincidences and chance meetings. It was superb storytelling in the same vein as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia and Robert Altman’s The Player.

Mel Brook’s character in his 1968 movie, The Producers, said, “Without the Jews, Gays, and Gypsies, there’d be no theater.” Perhaps, this statement rings true of Hollywood as well; that unlike middle America, this moviemaking enclave has long enjoyed its own culture in which same sex love as poignant as in Brokeback Mountain has long been accepted a usual part of it. But, the post-9/11 volatile racial tension as portrayed in Crash was too disturbing to ignore; permeating the consciousness of most Academy members.


Racial prejudice in America is indeed a major issue that needs to be addressed. But then again, prejudice thrives among those suffering from deep-seated fear and anger, which are precipitated by one’s own inadequacies and feelings of powerlessness as portrayed by the characters in Crash.


Picture credit: eddx.com



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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:19 AM | 6 comments


Saturday, April 01, 2006

BILL & HILLARY


All I can say is that this couple is the quintessential civil servants.

I, for one, would like to see both of them back in the White House. Oh, yes, this time with Hillary as president. Why not?



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Related link:

Why not Hillary? She can win the White House
By Carl M. Cannon


Photo credit: Medal of Freedom


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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:56 AM | 4 comments


Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.

 
 

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