The “New Year’s Resolution” must be one of the most ridiculous of human customs. You identify a problem you’re having, and then you wait until January 1 of the next year to address it, in the spirit of a group-participation event that nobody completes and nobody approaches seriously. You decide that you’re going to quit eating chocolate or stop scratching your feet. You stop until January 5. You’re typical.
In the gym business, New Year’s Resolution business used to be a bigger factor than it is now. Twenty-five years ago, fewer people participated in the fitness industry during the regular course of the year, so more people were free to buy memberships in January they weren’t going to use. Back then, New Year’s business was a significant percentage of the year’s gross, and the leveling off of this spike is really a good thing for everybody. The gym isn’t as crowded with amateurs for the three weeks after their hangovers are gone, and more people are using the gym more of the year.
But if you fall into the category of die-hard NYRers that insist on giving it a shot this year — again — let me suggest a different approach this time: strength training.
Training is the systematic approach a person employs to improve a physical ability. Preparing for a marathon, a football season, or a weightlifting meet are examples of training. They require an analysis of the specifics of the task, an assessment of where you are now in relation to where you want to be, and a plan for getting there. The plan and its constituent components are the training. The constituent components are the workouts, and each workout is important because together they produce an accumulation of increasing physical capacity. The plan that controls and directs the process is what makes training different than what you did last year.
Exercising is what you did last year.
I’d like to thank my PJ colleague David Steinberg for his great work in developing and editing these excellent fitness articles from the indomitable Mark Rippetoe. I was skeptical of Rippetoe’s approach at first — he challenged my routine — but it didn’t take many articles for him to win me over. I’m not running anymore and our recent move from the San Fernando Valley to Inglewood reminded me that it would be useful to have much more strength in my emaciated, workaholic writer’s skeleton frame.
In planning my next year’s Resolutions list, I’ll be formulating my own fitness and strength routine based on Rip’s books and these articles. Anybody want to join me?
- Strength vs. Endurance: Why You Are Wasting Your Time in the Gym
- Squats, Presses, and Deadlifts: Why Gyms Don’t Teach the Only Exercises You Need
- The 1 Reason You Aren’t Getting Stronger
- Forget What You’ve Heard: 4 Reasons Why Full Squats Save Your Knees
- Maybe, You Should Gain Weight
- The Deadlift: 3 Reasons Why Just Picking Up Heavy Things Replaces Most of Your Gym
- 3 Reasons Why You Need to Lift the Barbell Over Your Head
- ‘Training’ vs. ‘Exercise’: What’s the Difference?
- Why You Should Not Be Running
- You Only Need These 6 Things For a World-Class Home Gym
- Why Being Sore Doesn’t Mean You’re Getting Stronger
- Strength Training for People My Age
- Bodyfat and Age: Just How Important Is Thin?
- The 3 Most Effective Ways to Waste Time in the Gym
Also don’t miss David’s 3-part video series where he received some first-hand coaching from Rippetoe to put his method into practice, embedded on each of the next 3 pages:
Time is money.
Money is scarce these days, everywhere but D.C. You want to be stronger, so you go to the gym. The best use of your time there is the simple progressive barbell training program we have discussed before, one that drives an upward strength adaptation with a programmed increase in load over a full range of motion using as much of your muscle mass as possible. This approach allows you to lift a gradually increasing amount of weight, thus making you stronger. Stronger means only one thing: you can apply more force with your muscles. The process of getting stronger improves the capacity of every aspect of your physical existence. So, getting stronger in the gym is the best reason to go there.
But it is incredibly easy to waste precious time once you’re inside.
Here are the top three ways:
Long regarded as the first thing you should always do inside the gym, stretching — for most people, and by “most” I mean you, probably — is not only unnecessary, it may be counterproductive.
What a way to start an essay, eh? The most fashionable aspect of modern fitness is the newly rechristened “mobility.” Same thing as “flexibility,” except that it sounds more Californian.
And here I go again, pooping on the most popular thing in the gym. It is a part of every trendy approach to fitness in existence, from CrossFit and “functional training” to Pilates and yoga. In fact, Pilates and yoga are mobility/flexibility/stretching, and that’s about all.
It has been assumed by almost everybody for the past 40 years that every workout should begin with the physical preparation known as “stretching.” Stretching is an attempt to increase the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, like the knee, hip, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or around a group of joints like the spinal column. The common method used is to force the joint into a position of tolerable discomfort and hold it there for a while, thus hopefully increasing the ROM.
More recent approaches to increased flexibility have used techniques that affect the muscles themselves, which actually control the ROM around the joints. Massage, Active Release Therapy, “foam rolling,” and other techniques applied to the muscle bellies themselves are actually much more effective for increasing a tight ROM than stretching. The Hip Bone’s Connected to the Thigh Bone, the Thigh Bone’s Connected to the Knee Bone, etc. So stretching is really all about the muscles, anyway. Every operating room professional knows the truth here: perfect “mobility” is obtained only under general anesthesia.
The assumption is always that your current ROM needs to be increased. Here are some Facts, cheerfully provided without citations, so that you can look them up if you want to:
1. Hypermobility is a medical condition – a Pathology, in fact – that often involves defects in the proteins that form the ligaments, the connective tissues that connect the bones to each other at the joints. The problem with being too flexible is that it results in unstable joints, which can assume positions they are not anatomically designed to occupy. A subsequently injured joint is not healthy: it is injured. This is not good. And here you are, trying to become hypermobile.
2. Tendons and ligaments do not “stretch out.” You cannot make them longer, and it would not improve their function if you could. Their function is to transmit force; in the case of tendons, which connect muscles to bones, the force of muscular contraction is transmitted to the bone it’s attached to, thus moving the bone. Tendons are indeed elastic, in that a sudden dynamic load causes a very small temporary change in length and a subsequent rebound, seen typically in the Achilles tendon complex. But during normal muscle contraction, if the tendon stretched excessively not all of the force would move the bone — some would be lost as the tendon changed length. Like a chain, a tendon pulls the bone with all the force of the contracting muscle because it does not stretch during the contraction.
Ligaments behave likewise. They anchor the joint as it moves, so that the bones which articulate at the joint change their relationship only with respect to their angle. This allows the joint to serve as a fulcrum in a system of levers. When ligaments move enough to allow the joint to change from its normal inter-articular arrangement, it is said to be “dislocated.” You’ve heard of that, right? When tendons and ligaments are stretched excessively, they rupture.
Most importantly, you cannot change the length of either a tendon or a ligament with stretching of any type, massage of any type, or therapy of any type. And why would you want to? Tendons and ligaments are force transmission components. They are very very tough, and they cannot be permanently lengthened by non-invasive means. The only connective tissues that you can affect with stretching are the fascias, the thin “silverskin” that covers the muscle bellies. If they become a problem, usually caused by tiny scars called “adhesions” that form between them and their underlying muscle or between adjacent fascias, they can be stretched with the previously-mentioned forms of therapy.
3. Since neither ligaments or tendons are designed to stretch, an increase in flexibility primarily involves the muscles that control the position of the skeletal components they operate. Sometimes, but not that often, the muscles behave in a way that requires you to teach them to lengthen more readily. And the best way to do this is with the aforementioned Full Range of Motion Barbell Exercise. Since full ROM is, by definition, all you need to do, anything beyond that is either a simple waste of time, or a counterproductive waste of time.
4. Stretching does nothing to a.) prevent soreness, b.) alleviate soreness, c.) or improve strength or any other measure of fitness. In fact, the vast majority of the studies done on stretching not only support this summary, but also indicate that stretching prior to either training or performance produces a significant decrease in power production. That’s right: tighter muscles can contract harder and faster, and even you can see the application for this in performance athletics.
The upshot is this: if you are already flexible (okay, “mobile”) enough to operate efficiently within the ROM of your required training and performance movements, you are flexible enough (your “mobility” is sufficient). And you don’t need to stretch. If you want to, go ahead and enjoy yourself, but you are not using your time wisely.
After spending a few hours with Mark Rippetoe and two members of his coaching team — John Petrizzo and Nicholas D’Agostino — I’ve learned that online strength training information, though often of high quality, takes a distant second to an in-person session from a top-notch coach. And you simply cannot find one at a corporate gym. Maybe you have found one, or thought you had, but my experience from this project has been that years, dollars, and perhaps time spent recovering from injuries could have been saved had I originally sought out the advice considered to be the best by those who train for a living.
For more detail on that, I asked Petrizzo why he was drawn to Rippetoe’s methods and chose to become an affiliated coach:
All through high school and college I read everything I could get my hands on in regards to training for enhanced strength and athletic performance. Starting Strength stood out. I had never seen a comparable level of analysis applied to the barbell lifts in terms of their application and execution. Prior to SS, everything I had read in regards to lifting technique was merely the author’s opinion. I had never read anything that applied a sound biomechanical rationale for every aspect of the movements included in the program, and why they should be coached and taught in the manner they were presented in the book.This was sorely lacking in my formal undergraduate education as an Exercise Science major.
Coach Rippetoe has been writing introductory strength training articles for PJ Media this year. I called him to suggest we do a “video coaching” project, wherein I would follow the advice from his Starting Strength, record each training session, and then send him the video to critique. He didn’t like that idea, explaining that top-level coaching needs to occur in-person.
A few weeks later, Rippetoe, two coaches, and a cameraman were in my lifting partner’s basement gym, showing us everything we’ve been doing wrong all these years.
There’s a reason potential Olympians move to Colorado Springs, and why talented youth tennis players move to Florida. Serious improvement comes from a trained eye watching your every move, giving immediate and correct feedback. This doesn’t happen online, and the trained eyes who can do this at the highest level are few. The difference between Rippetoe, his colleagues, and every other trainer I have worked with? They are meticulous: they always noticed flaws immediately, they gave me the proper fix, and I felt an immediate improvement in performance. If you want improve your strength for any reason — the best being long-term well-being — then you should consider a visit with the best.
We’re breaking the video from that training session into five parts, which we will publish over the next few weeks at PJ Lifestyle. On the following page is the first video: “The Squat, Part One.” Topics covered:
Weight gain: As Rippetoe has previously covered here, the big, strong guy is both self-sufficient and healthier than the waif. You need to eat if you want to get consistently stronger on a strength program — sometimes those plateaus occur from an insufficient diet. What kind of weight gain might someone pursuing greater strength expect?
Foot placement: How far apart, and at what angle?
Back angle: Rippetoe displays, with a simple hands-on test, that a less vertical back angle instantly helps you move more weight.
Eyes on the floor: With another simple test, Rippetoe shows that the typical eyes-forward squat taught by corporate gyms represents weaker positioning.
Bar placement: You are probably placing the bar too high on your back, which can lead to that more vertical back angle. Dropping it down — where it doesn’t feel so comfortable at first — shortens the lever and gives you a mechanical advantage over the high bar position.
Peter Parker’s life hasn’t been easy and as everyone knows, it wasn’t made any easier after he received the proportionate strength of a spider in Amazing Adult Fantasy #15 (reprised in Amazing Spider-Man #1). When we first meet him on the opening splash page of his origin, Peter is in the process of being mocked by his peers including long time scourge Flash Thompson. Walking away in tears, Peter’s shoulders are slumped in dejection as he makes his way to the science hall for an exhibition that’s destined to change his fortunes forever. But being granted super powers does Peter no good as he soon discovers. They only complicate his life as he’s forced to hide his identity beneath a full face mask and becomes the object of fear and suspicion by the general public.
Thus is launched an exciting secret life as a super-hero but one that further alienates the lonely teenager from the rest of society. Unable to share his secret with anyone and fearful that if his identity as Spider-Man were ever revealed, it would be too much for his Aunt May’s weak heart, Peter lives a life apart, his powers at once cutting him off from others while granting him a kind of personal freedom that only anonymity can provide.
Created in 1962 for Marvel Comics by writer/editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Steve Ditko, the Spider-Man character was imbued with fully human feelings and failings right from the start. Lee had begun the trend with the Fantastic Four the year before but really turned up the heat with Spider-Man as he and Ditko turned Peter Parker into a real hard luck charlie whose shoulders often seemed too narrow to bear up under the weight of the problems he was given.
But it was those problems that proved to be the key to the character’s popularity and one that has driven a string of recent films to huge monetary success. But those films have been a mixed blessing for fans of the comics. While managing to endear Spidey to general audiences, their jumbled continuity has only served to rob the original stories of the power of those special moments. So, as a special service to PJ Media visitors, here are the most significant, life altering events in Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s life, events that over the years have served to enrich the character while keeping his life from becoming too ordinary. Some have been featured in the movies while some still wait their chance at being adapted:
If you are a competitive distance runner or cyclist who is serious about your sport, this article has not been written for you. This highly informative discussion is intended for those people who have taken seriously the advice of doctors, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, and the popular media’s dutiful reporting on these sources of common misinformation about what kind of physical activity is best for your long-term health and continued ability to participate in the business of living well.
Endurance exercise is the most commonly recommended form of activity for health and “wellness.” Every time you see an exercise recommendation denominated in minutes, you are seeing a recommendation for long slow distance exercise — LSD, or “cardio” in the modern vernacular. Running, bicycling, rowing, or their health-club analogs on machines at the gym are what they mean when they say “exercise.”
Depending on who you listen to, 20 minutes per day, 3 hours (120 minutes) per week, or any permutation thereof as a prescription for fitness/health/wellness is the standard in both the fitness and health care industries, and getting stronger is always of secondary importance.
The endurance exercise approach ignores several basic facts:
1. Strength is the ability to produce force with your muscles against an external resistance, like those with which we interact in our environment as we go through our days, living our lives productively. And endurance exercise is directly antagonistic to strength, because an endurance adaptation occurs at the expense of strength.
The body’s basic response to a stress of any type is to recover from that stress in a way that makes it less likely to be a stress when next exposed to it. In other words, we adapt to stress by becoming better able to withstand it. This means that the adaptation to the stress is specific to the type of stress. An endurance stress is low-intensity and highly repetitive, meaning that each of the individual physical efforts that make up the run is easy — none of them are physically difficult from a strength perspective. If they were, you couldn’t do them over and over again for an hour. This means that the hard part is the cumulative effects of the run, not the strides themselves, which are easy.
Since the individual efforts that compose the run are easy, they do not depend on, nor are they limited by, the runner’s strength. Therefore, running cannot make you stronger, since it does not stress your ability to produce increasing amounts of force. Rather, it only depends on your ability to keep producing small amounts of force for an hour.
But more importantly, since running for an hour requires a different adaptation from the muscles, that adaptation will be favored by the muscles and will actively compete for precedence over a strength adaptation — especially if you’re not doing any strength training, or doing it wrong.
Quite literally, the more you run, the better you are at running and the worse you are at being strong.
Last Tuesday, a winter storm made its way to the Deep South and paralyzed cities like Atlanta and Birmingham for 30 hours. Atlanta found itself woefully underprepared when hundreds of businesses and school systems closed at nearly the same time. Motorists became stranded on crowded interstates as commutes ground to a halt. My own family experienced the harrowing “winter hell” – to use the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s term. My cousin had to spend the night in his truck in conditions so cold that the screen on his phone shattered, and my sister-in-law ventured out Wednesday morning to encounter other drivers stuck in a day’s worth of traffic.
There’s plenty of frustration all over Atlanta as a result of the storm. Abandoned cars sat for over a day, out of gas and left behind on highways and side streets alike. Students spent the night at schools when school systems chose not to allow buses out in the worsening conditions. City and state officials have played a sort of blame game (even as Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed whizzed past jammed motorists in the emergency lane en route to a Weather Channel interview), and citizens, members of the media, and officials at all levels of government struggle to figure out what went wrong. Some conspiracy nuts have mused that the government created a fake snowstorm to paralyze the South.
While the South revels in its frustrations with the storm and other areas of the country have some fun at our expense, Snowmageddon 2014 has given us some shining examples of the better side of human nature. Southerners cared for each other in the freezing cold, some of them in clever and ingenious ways.
1. The Unabashed Heroism of the American Military—Even During a Screwup
Since the title gives it away, I don’t need to issue a SPOILER ALERT to say that Lone Survivor is about a mission gone wrong, in which only one SEAL makes it out alive.
Hollywood action movies tend to go one of two routes—the heroic cartoon, or the “realistic,” ironic, fatalistic film, where violence doesn’t solve anything and soldiers are forced to re-evaluate their former gung-ho attitude, and even the justness of their mission.
The second route is the way to the Oscars.
(Too many commentators put The Deer Hunter in that category, but I defy you to find one act by an American soldier in that film, or even by the officers or staff at the VA hospitals, which is less than valorous. Conservatives should embrace the movie, but that discussion is for another day.)
Lone Survivor is Black Hawk Down on a more personal level. After a botched mission to take out a terrorist commander, outnumbered American warriors face overwhelming odds of survival and kill an unbelievable number of enemies while trying to keep from being overrun.
Instead of a whole city coming after a couple of dozen soldiers, in Lone Survivor four Navy SEALs take on a whole al Qaeda militia, while stuck on the side of a mountain.
Steven Boone writes:
The film opens with a long montage of real-life Navy SEALs in training and ends with a slide show of SEALs and soldiers living full, happy lives off-duty, set to an emotional power ballad. What’s in between amounts to “The Passion of the Christ” for U.S. servicemen: a bloody historic episode recounted mainly in images of hardy young men being ripped apart, at screeching volume. Though Berg’s source material isn’t the New Testament, he often handles Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell’s account (via ghostwriter Patrick Robinson) of his doomed 2005 reconnaissance mission with the thunderous reverence Mel Gibson brought to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
That’s not even factually correct. The film ends with a montage of the characters in their real lives before the mission, while letting you know what they sacrificed to be there. Showing the photos of the real characters in a film is a common enough final-credits sequence, as can be seen in such movies as Gettysburg and Argo.
And enough with the The Passion of the Christ references already, as though it is some nadir of filmmaking to be trotted out whenever a liberal reviewer wants to mock a movie but can’t quite admit why it bothers him so much. But nearly every negative review of Lone Survivor brings up Gibson’s epic. (Hey, Bernie Goldberg, are you SURE these people don’t get together and determine the narrative?)
Boone goes on… and on:
“Lone Survivor” means well, but what it has to say about the costs of modern warfare is nothing new or especially illuminating. It’s cut from the same cloth that was once fashioned into the Pat Tillman legend and the Saving Private Lynch saga, honoring sacrifice in imagery that the American war machine can easily fashion into a recruitment commercial. “Lone Survivor” makes political interests superfluous to the religion of the warrior, which is all about enduring whatever hardship is thrown at you while protecting the brother at your side.
This is the cheapest of shots, associating the true story of Marcus Luttrell, which has held up and been vetted over the last seven years (George W. Bush awarded the Medal of Honor to mission leader Lt. Michael Murphy), with fog of war stories put out by the Defense Department before all the facts were in.
If Lone Survivor has a fault, it’s that it’s too authentic, with enough jargon and tactics talk to satisfy the military buff, and almost, but not quite, getting so caught in the details that an average viewer will drift off or get lost.
Admitedly, the account of the final rescue and the Pashtun villagers who act heroically is a bit synthesized (I actually thought the book’s account was even more dramatic), but that was probably for reasons of length.
For the most part, however, Lone Survivor deserves a place alongside Black Hawk Down and Zero Dark Thirty as a well-acted, superbly directed, and very well-done depiction of modern warfare and the Americans who get the job done.
In case you think I overstated the case of Boone’s agenda because we disagree about the merits of the film, check out this reply to a reader who took him to task for reading politics into a movie that avoids politics (unlike the book).
Ah, but politics *are* in every facet of life, including the movies. You might mean partisan politics, but filmmaking that glorifies the American war machine and its employees (let’s remember that, whatever their passions and sense of brotherhood, soldiers are paid to do a job) isn’t really a right or left proposition. It’s a weary Ho’wood tradition, carried into the new century with a jolt of Private Ryan/Black Hawk Down caffeine. A great many filmmakers at Berg’s level might be liberal on domestic issues but take a post-9/11 stance on such matters as the War on Terror: whatever it takes, whatever it costs to eliminate the threat….
So, yes. Not a movie for twits.
*Disclaimer: This article is intended for entertainment and exercising-your-inner-MacGyver purposes only. The weapons in this article are potentially dangerous and should only be used on the living dead or surplus pumpkins.*
I have an obsession with everything Zombie-related. I love The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead – hell, I think I’m the only one who liked World War Z (I’ve always wanted a Macro zombie movie that focuses on the global ramifications of a worldwide outbreak instead of focusing on a small group of survivors). Now I know that there is no likelihood of the dead reanimating, but I think it’s a great mental exercise to prepare yourself for a disaster situation. On slow days at work I often wonder what I would do if a zombie outbreak occurred at work and I was stuck with only my bug-out bag and pistol that I leave secured in my car, while the heavy artillery is locked in a safe at home 35 miles away.
So you’ve survived the initial outbreak and are looking for a secure location to hole up for awhile and ride out the worst of it. You find a hardware store that is defensible, probably close to a grocery and drug store, and chock-full of goodies to aid in your survival. The only problem is that uncreative looters have taken the most apparent weapons: machetes, hatchets, crowbars, and hammers. But you haven’t survived this long without some ingenuity. It’s time to build up an arsenal for you and your small band of post-apocalyptic warriors.
Steel Bar Stock Machete
A machete is a great tool for dismembering the undead hordes. While this homemade version may not be as graceful as Michonne’s katana, it will definitely get the job done.
Supplies: 24″ x 2″ x 1/8″ piece of steel bar stock, Angle grinder or metal file, Dremel with metal grinding cone, jigsaw or hacksaw with a metal cutting blade, honing stone, 5gal paint stir stick, duct tape, black spray paint
When I start a new project I often dive in head first and make a big mess in the process. Paint splatters, sawdust, motor oil, spilled glue, calf’s blood, dismembered limbs–you know the usual workshop messes. So after I’m done digging wells and building hospitals for the underprivileged in Africa, I need a bunch of paper towels to clean up the aftermath of my construction destruction.
Sure I could just buy a cheap plastic paper towel holder for my workshop and be done with it, or I could build an everlasting testament of testosterone for my man cave. Using 3/4″ iron pipe and some rust preventative you can build a beefy bar for your towels that will one day be discovered by future archeologist, inspire them to power down their construction bots, rediscover their masculinity, build something awesome, and stop making babies in the lab and start making them the old fashion way, thus reintroducing genetic diversity to the world and saving the future of mankind.
So for the sake of humanity I need everyone to to build their own beacon of badassery, to ensure they are found for future generations. Here’s how you do it.
- Material: 3/4″ Iron pipe: Flange base, 12″ pipe, 2 1/2″ nipple, 90º elbow, cap. 1″ Fender washers
- Hardware: Toggler wall anchors, Screw (wood, metal, concrete),
- Tools: Pipe Wrench, Power drill, pencil.
- Miscellaneous: Scott’s Paper Towels, E6000 glue, JB Weld Epoxy putty, Rustoleum spray paint or clear coat.
1. The first step is to secure the fender washers to the end cap and base so the paper towels don’t move around or slide off the bar. I used a combination of E6000 automotive glue–which works great on metal–on the contact surface of the washer and cap. Then I wrapped a bead of JB weld epoxy putty around the outside. The last step is overkill for the amount of stress put on this project, but hey, if you’re building something to survive the apocalypse why not? Make sure you clean any glue over run out of the pipe threads before it has a chance to set, otherwise you will have a hard time fitting the pieces together later. Clamp the parts overnight to let the glue and epoxy cure fully.
2. I advise coating the iron pipe with a protective finish to prevent rust. Either a clear acrylic finish or rust-inhibiting spray paint (black is the only acceptable manly color). Tape off the thread areas of the pipe before you spray or it could interfere with joining the pieces.
20 Tips for Talking with Your Anti-American Acquaintances When They Say Dumb Things on 9/11 (Part 2)
Click here for Part 1 of this online dialogue I had about the causes of the September 11 jihad terror attack with a pack of secularist, postmodern progressives.
20 Tips for Talking with Your Anti-American Acquaintances When They Say Dumb Things on 9/11 (Part 1)
Why Benghazi Is a Crime More Evil Than Anything a President Has Done in Our Lifetimes… in 60 Seconds
I published this on November 4, the conclusion of an article titled “The 15 Best Books for Understanding Barack Obama’s Mysterious Political Theology,” and a summation of my conclusions after more than three years spent investigating the president’s ideology full time:
Sitting here on this Sunday morning before the election, the Sun now up, reflecting back on these years scouring through dusty old Marxist books, trying to understand a president who built his career on a mountain of lies, I confess a peace with either electoral result on Tuesday. A part of me almost wishes that Obama
stealswins reelection (as I anticipate he will). The thought of him quietly retiring to a mansion in Hawaii in January to live out the rest of his life in comfort and adoration should inspire nausea. Only if Obama wins reelection do conservatives have a chance to hold him accountable for Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and all the crimes we don’t even know about yet. The man has blood on his hands and we can’t let him get away with it.
An ancient dictum popularized in recent years by the late Christopher Hitchens on the path forward, should Tuesday disappoint:
Fiat justitia ruat caelum
Do Justice and Let the Skies Fall
Happy Memorial Day! Have you heard the greeting on TV or seen it on Facebook this weekend? It always bothers me when I see it because the word “memorial’ generally connotes something other than “happy” — or at least it ought to. I understand that most people who proffer the greeting do so perfectly innocently, wishing upon their friends a pleasant holiday weekend spent barbecuing or shopping for mattresses. But whenever I hear the flippant greeting, my mind goes back to the trip our family made to our local national cemetery last year on Memorial Day. We went there to visit the grave of my husband’s grandfather, Ivan Kerr, a WWII veteran who had marched across Europe during the Battle of the Bulge, and also to pay tribute to those who had paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
It was a gorgeous Ohio day with a cloudless blue sky and row upon row of grave markers decorated with small American flags, courtesy of the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We arrived several hours after the official Memorial Day ceremony, after the crowds had dispersed. People were wandering around the cemetery, some looking like they had a purpose and others, like our family, reading the headstones and thinking about the individual lives and families and stories they represented. In the distance we heard a lone bugler playing “Taps.” There were no funerals or ceremonies going on, so we were left to wonder whether he played to honor a fallen friend or if he just played as a simple act of patriotism to pay tribute to all the fallen heroes, unknown to him, who lay beneath the tiny flags and white marble markers.
Last week I wrote about my “evolution” on guns during the Boston manhunt:
In the middle of that night listening to the Boston police scanner, I evolved. I realized right then that if I were holed up in my house while a cold-blooded terrorist roamed my neighborhood, I wouldn’t want to be a sitting duck with only a deadbolt lock between me and an armed intruder. There are not enough police and they cannot come to my rescue quickly enough. They carry guns to protect themselves, not me. I knew at that instant if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev showed up at my door while I was “sheltered-in-place” and aimed a gun at my head and only one of us would live, I could pull the trigger.
Once I made the decision that I would not be a victim, I began to research my options for home protection. I plan to share the experience of choosing my first gun in a future post but first I’d like to deal with some of the moral implications of the decision to purchase, own — and potentially use — a gun.
I wrote about one of the reasons I refrained from owning a gun for many years:
The other thing holding me back was my belief that if you’re going to own a gun, you must be willing to shoot to kill…I searched my heart and realized that in the heat of the moment of an attack, I wasn’t sure what I would do with a gun in my hand. I knew that could be more dangerous than being unarmed; it wasn’t worth the risk.
A gun is an inanimate object and as such is morally neutral. Lying on a table, tucked under a mattress, or locked in a gun safe it cannot kill, inflict harm, or protect its owner. However, the fact that a gun is in one’s home creates the potential for both danger and protection depending on many variables, including the training, skill, and temperament of the residents of the home and the mental capacity and willingness of the gun owners to use the weapon, whether in self-defense or to inflict intentional harm.
While I understand that many who grew up around guns accept them as a normal part of life, for me, it’s a decision that requires serious introspection and moral evaluation. Though I passionately support the Second Amendment, I confess that I had never taken the time to earnestly contemplate its practical applications. Perhaps this is because I’ve mostly lived in safe, virtually crime-free neighborhoods and have never experienced violent crime. Whatever the reason, it’s not an excuse to jump into gun ownership without first embarking on this intellectual exercise.
Action movies are just as American as motherhood, apple pie, and capitalism. Movies like Unforgiven, Gladiator, Rooster Cogburn, Conan, Dirty Harry, Die Hard, The Dark Knight, High Noon, Man on Fire, Red Dawn, Tombstone, and True Grit speak to men in a primal language that transcends the story line on the screen. Men like these films because they capture qualities we’d like to think we have ourselves. We like the idea of being billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and fighting crime in our spare time, pointing a gun at a punk and asking him if he feels lucky, or responding to the question, “What is best in life?” with “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!“ While there are dozens of deserving action movies, there are seven that are particularly good at revealing parts of the male psyche.
1) First Blood
John Rambo is a damaged character. His fighting in Vietnam left him with mental problems, made him ill-equipped to fit into society, and led to him ultimately having a difficult and lonely existence. However, there are two things about him that make the character click with men. The first is this:
Teasle: Are you telling me that 200 men against your boy is a no-win situation for us?
Trautman: You send that many, don’t forget one thing.
Trautman: A good supply of body bags.
Rambo doesn’t pick the fight, but when he is backed up against a wall, he is a one-man army. This theme is repeated over and over in action movies because it’s something men aspire to all the way down in their souls.
The other, more subtle thing that makes Rambo appealing is that he shares a grievance that most men have on some level or another: his sacrifices are largely unappreciated. He went through hell to do what had to be done, paid a terrible price for it, saw his suffering shrugged off by men unfit to say his name, and was left holding the bag. There are millions of men who feel the exact same way. They’ve provided, they’ve struggled, they’ve done things they didn’t want to do for other people, and, ultimately, they found that it wasn’t valued. That makes it easy to relate to a character like Rambo, even if you’re not planning to shoot at anybody with a machine gun.
Week 4 of my second 13 week season; low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy and follow my daily exercise.
I haven’t published new charts recently, so I think it’s time. Here’s the first one, my weight.
OH, NOOOOOES! My weight is going up! I’m a failure! Eeeek!
Well, maybe not, although certainly if all I was tracking were my weight I’d be mildly hysterical. (And I have to admit I get qualms looking at it this time, even though I swear I’m not primarily interested in my weight. But 50 years of dieting doesn’t go away quickly.)
The thing is, that weight in general isn’t really our primary interest. I asked whether weight itself was a primary concern over at my Facebook page, and got a lot of different interesting answers; almost none of them included weight. “Feel better”, “better health”, “more attractive”, “sexier” all did show up. Now a couple of people with bad knees and backs did say weight in itself was a problem, but for most people it’s more a symptom of something else that troubles them. Certainly so with me — blood sugar, health in general, and as I realized during the first 13 weeks, simply feeling ugly and disgusting were my major issues.
What people use as a proxy for all this is weight, of course, and especially with daily weighings, this can be very disheartening.
What’s worse, I’ve been at least as diligent with the diet — in the last full week, according to LostIt!, I’ve been 8200 kcals in deficit, with an average of about 9g carbs a day net of fiber. Being diligent with the diet isn’t so awful, but still I’d sure like a chocolate bar or a plate of spaghetti sometimes. In anything, I’m doing better with the diet plan that in my first 13 weeks.
Add to that I’ve been pretty diligent with the exercise — not every day but at least five days a week (I’ve got more to say about the exercise, below) so I’m lots more active than I was in the first 13 weeks — and probably more than I’ve been in the last 13 years.
But still, I’m actually gaining weight.
Most people think Marv is crazy, but I don’t believe that. I’m no shrink and I’m not saying I’ve got Marv all figured out or anything, but “crazy” just doesn’t explain him. Not to me. Sometimes I think he’s retarded, a big, brutal kid who never learned the ground rules about how people are supposed to act around each other. But that doesn’t have the right ring to it either. No, it’s more like there’s nothing wrong with Marv, nothing at all — except that he had the rotten luck of being born at the wrong time in history. He’d have been okay if he’d been born a couple of thousand years ago. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield, swinging an ax into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman Arena, taking a sword to other gladiators like him. They’d have tossed him girls like Nancy, back then. — Sin City
Ever watched a classic action flick? Of course you have. Movies like Die Hard, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lethal Weapon, First Blood, and 300 have become fixtures in the American psyche. All these movies feature either a lone man or a small group fighting in a desperate, violent struggle and yet, somehow, coming out on top. Throughout most of America’s history, the average man could more easily relate to the experiences in those movies the way someone who shoots hoops at the park could relate to watching an NBA game. Sure, they might not have been able to do what they were seeing on the screen, but they were well-acquainted with violence. Either they had inflicted it, suffered it, or seen it up close and personal. We’re a nation that was birthed in a bloody revolution, where feuds and dueling were frequent occurrences, where intermittent battles with Indians occurred until the twenties, where roughly twenty percent of the male population served in WWII, and where fist fights and brawling were relatively common.
The average man may have seen hundreds of thousands of murders on his TV screen and committed tens of thousands more playing video games, but he has also probably never struck another human being in anger in his entire adult lifetime. In other words, he may be captivated by the imagery he sees at the movies, but he goes home knowing that he will never even live out a pale imitation of what he’s just seen.
America’s muddle in Afghanistan is not merely an unwise policy. Two prominent American authors — one a serious analyst (and former badass warrior), the other a bestselling novelist (who created one of our biggest badass heroes) — worry that it is an affront to American manhood as well.
For years Bing West has argued that our carrot with no stick approach to counterinsurgency and nation building in Afghanistan is sapping the “martial spirit” of our armed forces. Recently, he even wrote a column titled “We’re Too Nice to Win in Afghanistan,” detailing how a wimpy approach to a truly savage enemy is making victory impossible.
West proposes we change from a counterinsurgency protocol (winning hearts and minds in order to recruit allies against the terrorists while building a civil society) to a counter-terror strategy (kill them whenever and wherever we can find them and let the Afghan government build its own society).
Vince Flynn, in his new book The Last Man, has his fictional alter ego, Mitch Rapp, take a very direct approach. Upon being introduced to a former Taliban official the CIA has recruited to be part of the Afghan security infrastructure as America prepares to leave the country, and who is certainly playing both sides, he sees only one incentive structure that can work:
Pistol-whip the sneaky bastard and threaten to kill him if he doesn’t cooperate.
So, based on West’s superb book on the war in Afghanistan, The Wrong War, and Flynn’s best thriller to date, here are 5 ways that Obama’s approach to Afghanistan is an affront to American manhood.
For 2013 at PJ Lifestyle we’re going to try to organize the seemingly endless abyss of “Lifestyle” topics with a general theme each day. These appear on the About Us page and include links to some of the articles we’ve published this past year:
We try to blog on seven general subjects each week from a variety of perspectives that do not always agree. The topics include:
Every Tuesday, we post career advice, self-improvement tips, product reviews, and how-to guides as well as blogs on entrepreneurship, disaster preparation, gardening, and self-sufficiency.
The middle of the week requires some laughter. That’s why every Wednesday we’ll have humorous pieces featuring satire, viral videos, goofy images and amusing photoshops, cute animals, slideshow galleries and other memes from across the Web.
On Thursday, PJ Lifestyle is your go-to place for the latest info on pop culture – ranging from movies, TV, novels, music and celebrities – as well as posts about other cultures – like military culture, counterculture, California culture, traditional culture, international culture, odd subcultures, geek culture – and more.
Spend Saturdays finding new recipes and cooking tips, learning about new ways to exercise and stay healthy, reading medical stories, and keeping up with sports and outdoor life.
And on Sundays, you’ll find content featuring interfaith dialogue, religion-based commentary, and posts on spirituality, ethics and morality.
One of the most important contributors to PJ Lifestyle this year has been Charlie Martin. His Thirteen Weeks diet and and exercise regimen has been an inspiration. This past fall Charlie has updated us every week on his progress to improve his health and live a long, long life. We’re going to try to provide more content like this — but on all seven subjects. Not just blog posts pontificating on what should be, but articles documenting what we do. Too often as writers and bloggers we forget that these New Media tools aren’t the end. They’re merely the means to whatever end we want to pursue and achieve. And at PJ Lifestyle that end is a happier, more fulfilling, richer life appreciating all the possibilities of what it means to be free.
I’ve decided on 7 New Year’s Resolutions this year, each corresponding with one of these themes and inspiring my daily blogging. I invite others to join me and offer their suggestions.
Victoria Soto, the Sandy Hook Elementary teacher slain in the Newtown massacre is being praised the world over as a hero – and rightly so. But is America being taught the true lesson of Soto’s sacrifice?
The reactions to the massacre in Newtown do not illustrate our culture’s value of human life so much as our desire to engineer the society in which we live. Whether the call for more gun control or less, the root of the argument is the same: human beings can create a perfect society through government, despite the fact that history has repetitively shown the exact opposite to be true.
Social engineering, an outgrowth of the industrial revolution, values human beings as assembly-line manufactured cogs in a wheel. Designed for a specific task, these human cogs are trained through government programming to follow bureaucratic blueprints for the creation and maintenance of a perfect society. This Marx-meets-manufacturing perspective may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it continues to emerge over the course of human history. Ideas that sound innocent in theory are enacted with deadly results. Take, for example, one of the most grossly influential theories of social engineers in the late 1800s: Eugenics. This mad “science” that sprouted from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution posited that human beings could be determined “inferior” or “superior” based on their genetic makeup. This racial theory had as much influence on Margaret Sanger as it did Adolf Hitler. Both sought to engineer a “perfect” society and whether abortion or Holocaust, the result has been the same: A deadly lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.
It took less than an hour after we first learned about the events in Newtown for commentators to begin pontificating about gun control laws. We were never given an opportunity to mourn the dead. Those murdered were not valued as human beings, but as cogs to be used in the mechanical argument over the definition of a government-created perfect society. Even later arguments regarding mental health services were voiced under the auspices of government-funded programming more so than removing the stigma from, and promoting treatment for mental disease. Little to nothing has been said about the violent video games the shooter played, or the fact that his mother was a “Doomsday Prepper” like those seen and mocked on reality television. I wonder, when those comments finally make their way around the round tables, will that conversation also be guided by the advocacy of greater government regulation on media as well?
In the meantime, a nation mourns in silence, taught by example to channel their emotions into angry demands for government action, leaving little room for the comprehension — let alone teaching — of personal responsibility for the life of another human being. The real lesson of Newtown is the one that is being missed: Individuals are responsible to make the choice to value the sanctity of human life.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
I’ve resisted this for awhile. The past three years I’ve readily identified as an ideologically conservative, pro-Tea Party, ex-leftist. But I resisted joining the Republican Party, preferring to focus on the war of ideas, the battles of Left and Right, Marxist vs Classical Liberal, rather than Democrat vs Republican.
When Mitt Romney secured the nomination I naively thought, “well, he’s got that corporate competence. Surely they’ll be as smart at growing a campaign as they would building a business, right? Even if they can’t articulate Americanism at least they’ll maximize on the basics of Get Out the Vote and fundraising and all the boring, professional stuff, right?”
Wrong, as Bethany Mandel reports at Commentary. Turns out we’re not looking just at the broader cultural problem of a 5% raise in nonreligious voters, but also a Republican Party unable to compete in the technological arms race or even run a competent Get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operation:
The story of how monumental a failure Project ORCA was on Election Day was first reported by a volunteer, John Ekdahl, on the Ace of Spades blog. After tweeting the article, I was contacted by several other volunteers who were eager to explain in greater detail just how many things went wrong with Project Orca on Tuesday.
I spoke with one volunteer in a rural Virginia county who had a similar experience to the blogger on Ace’s site. Shoshanna McCrimmon signed up to volunteer on Romney’s website several months ago. She was contacted by Dan Centinello of the Romney campaign and underwent online and phone training that lasted for several hours in order to volunteer locally on Election Day. Because of secrecy concerns, the application itself was inaccessible until the morning of the election. From the outset there were failures of organization.
Was ORCA’s failure the reason why Romney lost Virginia by almost 116,000 votes, Ohio by 103,000, Iowa by 88,000 or why Florida is still, days later, too close to call? It’s impossible to know what a Romney campaign with working GOTV technology would have been able to accomplish. Ekdahl explained that with the failure of Project ORCA’s organization and its later meltdown on Election Day “30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc.” The possibility that all of the efforts of Romney’s campaign, all of the enthusiasm, went unharnessed and dormant on Election Day when they could’ve at least led to a closer election result, if not a victory, is becoming beyond frustrating for thousands of his staffers, for the millions of Americans who gave their time and money to elect Mitt Romney president as they come to learn just what a disaster ORCA seems to have been.
This is my tipping point. Will it be for anyone else?
1. Today I’m joining the Republican Party because I recognize that it’s not enough to take back the culture. We could spend four years pushing the culture and expanding the base and then it would be all for naught because incompetent GOP campaign operatives cannot run a campaign.
2. Today I’m joining the Republican Party because over the coming years as ideological factions compete for influence the antisemitic elements within the party — Ron Paul’s Paleo-Libertarian, Old Right, Anarcho Capitalist, Conspiracy Theory cult coalition — threaten to gain greater influence.
3. Today I’m join joining the Republican Party because as I’ve returned to Bible-based religion and a faith in God during the past year I’ve come to understand the story of the ancient Israelites rebelling against slavery and idolatry as the basis for Western Civilization, our ancestors’ flight from Europe, and the founding of this nation. The Republican Party was founded as the anti-slavery Party. It still is today.
shutterstock images courtesy patrimonio designs limited /
Cross-Posted from the PJ Tatler.