Monday, March 27, 2006

Primal Scream Therapy

Last Saturday I woke up in a foul mood for no good reason - this probably figured into my wife's decision to go shopping and leave me alone that day. After lounging around in my bath robe for a while in dire need of a shower and shave my outlook didn't improve - downing a cup of espresso didn't help either. This was all feeding into a general state of self loathing compounded by a total lack of motivation to do anything productive. Why? Just the usual mind games and frustration with work issues tantamount to middle aged apathy and whining, or am I being too harsh? This poor state of mind did lead to an interesting outburst though. At the peak of this angst I got up and started walking around the house swearing at the top of my lungs (my apologies to anyone with Tourette's syndrome). This was my version of primal scream therapy, and it actually worked. The forceful release of negative energy followed by disgust and shame at my childish behavior snapped me out of the funk. By the time my wife got home I was showered, shaved, and literally beaming with a new resolve to take on the day. Now I don't want anyone to think that my performance really had anything to do with proper Primal Therapy as shouting or screaming isn't necessarily part of the therapy. Professional primal therapists apparently undergo significant training, and patients are treated in a protected environment. The "Self-primalling" that I tried could actually be dangerous according to the pros. Oh well, it felt damn good at the time, and no I don't need a straitjacket - just a little anger management on occasion. I was going to recommend that others give this a shot, but after some research I now realize that it would be wrong to advocate self-primalling :-). How about just pounding on a pillow?

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Chess for Stress

Are you looking for a new activity or hobby that is challenging - one that can combat daily stress in your life? Chess is an ancient, universal game that has stood the test of time as a supreme test of strategy and intellect. This is not a revelation for anyone who plays the game regularly, or aspires to become an expert, but Chess has far more to offer than just pure intellectual gamesmanship. In the process of playing chess you can achieve a form of self awareness and concentration that is unique. You can exercise your mind and reduce stress in a healthy fashion. It also has parallels with sporting contests where determination, concentration, and competitive desire are important, but without a demand for athletic prowess. The simple appeal of the game is that once you learn how the pieces move you can begin to enjoy its mysteries. Forget about your skill level, and just enjoy the process of playing a game. You can learn and improve your game constantly without concern for ratings or contests, although if you have the ability and desire superlative competition is always available. In this internet age you can join an internet Chess club for a very reasonable membership fee. The beauty of a site such as The Internet Chess Club is that you can play a game at any time (24/7) with others from across the globe, including shorter speed Chess games for those with time constraints. The comprehensive software employed by the chess site records your games, calculates your rating, and takes care of the playing rules (no one can cheat or unintentionally break the rules). There are also tremendous learning resources including game libraries, and teaching sessions. You can play in tournaments, and observe chess masters playing in online events or even receive instruction from them. All of this was unthinkable in the days of physical chess board games only, where games could be few and far between unless you belonged to a club. You can also enjoy many online chess communities and resources while interacting with many others who enjoy the game. Now is your chance to brush up against royalty with Kings and Queens awaiting your commands by learning Chess!

There have been many movies made that include chess scenes, but there are two Chess movies that can be enjoyed by all. One is called Searching for Bobby Fisher released in 1993 that chronicles the real life struggles of chess champion Joss Waitzkin, and the Luzhin Defence released in 2000 that stars John Tuturro as an eccentric Russian chess master.

"The oldest recovered chess piece was found in Persia, and is dated to 790 A.D." This and other odd bits relating to the Oldest in Chess can be found on this page by Bill Wall.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Rize Up

If you are a prosperous, white, urban professional living a pleasant life in the suburbs you probably haven't asked yourself what's happening on the streets of South Central Los Angeles these days. In fact you'd probably prefer not to think about that tough, gang infested environment at all. Fortunately, I was visually yanked onto those streets while channel surfing when I discovered the best cultural documentary you could imagine called Rize.

In the midst of gang violence, drugs, and oppression you will see groups of young people searching for a higher meaning to their lives - dancing their hearts out in a spirited, aggressive, frenetic, athletic and passionate way that makes commercial hip hop look bland. Through their commitment to the dance group and each other they stay away from the pervasive drugs and violence. The "Clowns" and the "Krumps" are the colorful, energetic dance groups portrayed in the film, who paint their faces, and almost innately express their African American roots and heritage in the high paced dance routines. The film culminates in competitive dance scenes watched by a live audience at the Great Western Forum called "Battle Zone V" where the Clowns face off against the Krumps for dance supremacy. During the dance spectacle a contestant who founded the Clowns has his home broken into and trashed - a stark reminder of his neighborhood.

David Lachapelle has crafted a brilliant, gritty and timeless work that will inspire and challenge those who view it. These young adults and kids are a testament to those who can find community and creativity while in the throes of adversity.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Razor Blade Blues

Shaving has inflicted more than a few wounds on the human species over the years - not to mention the needless blood loss, and embarrassing mini bandaids used to hide unsightly nicks. Of course, I'm referring to the use of razor blades rather than electric shavers. I gave up electric razors - in my opinion they never give you that skin close shave, and they seem to increase the risk of ingrown hairs. Unfortunately the price both men and women pay for that razor close shave are the unavoidable nicks, cuts, and lacerations despite the technical wizardry that goes into the making of the modern blade.

The blade companies probably have armies of research scientists, engineers, and other geniuses trying to create the perfect blades - using all types of space age metals or alloys, and techniques to make the business end of a blade sharp and smooth at an extreme microscopic level - also using battery powered, vibrating blades (a hybrid electric?) - yet the blood letting goes on - Why? Well, one reason is that razor blades get dull, and lose that perfect edge - this fits nicely into ongoing revenues from blade production and sales, but is it unavoidable or could the companies create an indestructible blade? There must be some combination of iridium, gold, titanium, stainless steel, neptuno-urani-satur-jupitanium etc. that could be forged to make a blade that would last for life - wouldn't be good for razor blade sales though right? Of course you can buy two, three, four, or even five bladed razors (new from Gillette), and they might shave you a little closer, but still the bleeding continues. I've got it! They should put a thin layer of coagulant (blood clotting factor) along the edge of the blade(s), so it's right there waiting to go to work on any fresh nick. Probably too expensive - OK it's a dumb idea - they can keep using their aloe lubricating strips. It could be that nanotechnology (see recent Nanotechnology Revolution post) innovation will finally create the perfect cutting razor edge, but again that might not be in the best interest of shaving companies. Unfortunately it's not just blade quality that determines the risk of cuts. Your propensity to bleed also depends on skin thickness and smoothness, hair thickness and distribution, and so on. In addition to using relatively fresh or sharp blades shaving technique is also important. This includes wetting the hair thoroughly to decrease its tensile strength, stroking the razor along the lay of the hair, and frequent rinsing of the razor to decrease debris near the blade surface. If you would like a thorough scientific discussion of optimal shaving technique presented in the context of prep shaving for operations - the Derma-Safe company describes this in detail.

This all raises the question, as to why most men continue to shave despite the expense, time, and hazards involved. Of course, there are alternatives besides growing a beard if we borrow examples from ancient times - the following excerpt is from the Quik Shave site shaving timeline:

"In ROME, many men are following the grooming example of JULIUS CAESAR (101-44 B.C.), who has his facial hairs individually plucked out with tweezers every day. He also writes this same year that "the Britons shave every part of their body except their head and upper lip." In early Rome, POPPAEA, wife of the notorious EMPEROR NERO, uses depilatory creams to remove unwanted body hair on a daily basis. Depilatories are used as an alternative to the bloody mess that results from shaving with a blade. The latest available creams include some pretty wild ingredients, like resin, pitch, white vine or ivy gum extract, ass's fat, she-goat's gall, bat's blood, and powdered viper."

Maybe shaving with a modern razor blade isn't so bad after all.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006