Wang Deshun

Posted: August 28, 2016 in Personal
Wang DeshunWe all need a little pick-me-up from time-to-time and let this be yours! In all seriousness, this made me day, if not my month or year.

Sisyphus

Posted: June 20, 2016 in Health & Fitness, History, Literature, Personal
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Le Myth de SisyphusAlbert Camus penned an exploration of the absurdity of life titled The Myth of Sisyphus. In it, Camus examined the essential absurdity of life (that we look forward to tomorrow even though tomorrow brings us closer to death).

One of the 4 chapters of the book covered the Greek myth of Sisyphus who was consigned to punishment in the underworld of rolling a boulder up a hill until, right before he reached the top, it rolled back down. Forcing him into a perpetual punishment of never completing his hellish task.

Camus essentially argued that, despite the unceasing toil, Sisyphus would actually be contented because he recognizes the absurdity of his fate and is thus able to reach a state of acceptance. This is similar to the theme found in many religions in which the acceptance of death is the precursor to satisfaction in that it removes all vanities so that one can focus on the joys of life.

Royal-Guercino-Sisyphus-1636We each need our mindless task, a continuing struggle that makes us confront our vanities and fears. This is not a call to sink into negativity but, rather, a call to action. Mine is kendo, specifically suburi and hayasuburi. In my daily practice each swing is done fully with as much as focus as I can muster until I can almost smell the wood of the shinai or bokken and the sound of the strike.

“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

 

 

In kendo there is an emphasis on group unity in the warm-ups and initial drills. In my dojo (NW Kendo), our sensei is looking for us to have loud and powerful kiai in unison early on so that, by the time we are in jigeiko (individual bouts) our spirit is powerful and the kiai remain loud and sharp because that keeps one’s energy up so as to maintain performance and have a tactical edge over the opponent.

If that sounds esoteric or just not compelling enough, consider this lesson on group unity from Jocko Willink (@jockowillink). When his unit was deployed in Iraq and were going out on a patrol or assignment, they had a tradition of starting up their truck and jeeps at the same time. According to Willink, that sound created a powerful feeling and sent shivers down their spines; creating a sense of power over their enemy.

So start your engines!

Sumi Sensei instructing on kiai:

 

Jocko & Louis

Posted: May 27, 2016 in Entertainment, Personal
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Life. It’s full of questions and the answers can be approached in multiple ways. In my search I am open to those multiple approaches and this is why I am hooked on a few podcasts and the FX show, Louis. My podcast of choice right now is the Jocko Podcast with Jocko Willink and Echo Charles.

Jocko_EchoWillink is a retired Navy SEAL but his show covers everything from the expected to the unexpected. Case in point, his recitation and review of the WWI memoir by Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel, was both insightful and touching. Willink discusses a lot of subjects including his military experience, his life now as a consultant, and his love of fitness and MMA.

Polar opposite to that is Louis C.K. who tackles the same subjects through his portrayal of an insightful schlub who embraces and yet hates his life and his persona.

Despite the huge difference between the two, both Jocko and Louis tackle issues that range from the singularity of human existence to the mundane. Their shows help me answer my questions and I enjoy them in the process. Really can’t ask for more than that.

Though Louis really should consider going to a gym…

Musketeers

Posted: May 25, 2016 in Entertainment
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the_musketeers_headerBBC is running its 3rd, and final, season of Musketeers. It’s an enjoyable series to watch and it can be found on Hulu and is worth your time if you want a fun diversion and if you like swords and leather. I know I do.

The show quickly moves away from the original book which is good because it allows for more exploration and creativity and it allows one to be surprised.

The female characters are given more agency than their book counterparts (except for the character of Milady who was already a powerful protagonist in Dumas’ version) but it doesn’t get to the point where we lose sight of the core of the story, which is the friendship and travails of 4 close friends.

Ryan Gage Louis XIIISupporting actors are all quite good, including Ryan Gage as Louis XIII and Hugo Speer (awesome name!) as Treville.

The settings and filming locations in the Czech Republic are simply beautiful and you can tell that this is a European production. One gets a fine backdrop to an adventure story and I hope there are more like this.

Some images below and closing with an illustration of what actual Musketeers looked like.

location musketeers dobris chateau 1 White Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Musketeers

Elementary

Posted: February 4, 2016 in Entertainment

elementary headerMy appreciation of intelligent but damaged protagonists continues, with Elementary filling in for the now-departed Hannibal.
This show is far more nuanced and real than its’ UK counter-part, helmed by Benedict Cumberbatch. In Elementary, Sherlock Holmes is brilliant to the point of Aspergers with all the passions that only an imaginative, high-IQ, drug addict could have.

The episodes are “crime-of-the-week” and serve to showcase the brilliance of the actors who play Holmes and Watson (Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, respectively). Miller is excellent as the “nutty professor” that is Sherlock Holmes, using his talent for physical comedy and clearly displaying that he is a well-read actor.

elementary_dejavuLiu matches Miller with an understated but poised approach to the role of Watson. She is striking but restrained, showing glimpses of emotion in ways that make the viewer want more. She is in no way the bumbling Watson of other series. In Elementary, Joan Watson is the equal to Holmes in ways that challenge and complement both characters and that make the show so compelling to watch.

Both actors are also physically interesting, with Lucy Liu bringing her background in stick-fighting to the fore and Miller demonstrating his physical fitness from his passion for extreme sports and ultra-marathoning with his ability to move effortlessly in comic scenes or just going about shirtless.

Depending on your taste, you may enjoy either or both of the images below:

 

 

Elementary airs on CBS.

Masks By Mishima

Posted: January 7, 2016 in Literature, Personal
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Mishima Mask BookI don’t know what Mishima’s goal was, and maybe he didn’t either, but his actions signaled his understanding of the many masks that we all wear. Suicide pulled the last mask from his face.

Whenever I get bored or frustrated, I think of Yukio Mishima because he is the example of a truly less-than-heroic person who had nothing special except for an rich mind and inner life and he was able to externalize that life in some spectacular ways, including his own death.

I have no such need to die quickly or even spectacularly but I can learn from someone who did.