Tuesday, September 13, 2011


How could I not include a Star Wars reference/piece of wisdom?

And my tribute to LRH and B-grade sci-fi...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Short Interlude...

I have found a wonderful little program on the internet that allows one to custom design church signs.  I have been having a whole lot of fun with this brilliant application!  Below are a few modest examples of my attempt at humour.

There are a couple that are a little more cryptic than the others, so comments are encouraged...


You can make your own signs here, just make sure that they aren't funnier than mine.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9/11

We've all got our 9/11 stories.  To me, it's this generation's equivalent of a JFK moment - I remember so much of that night and morning (Australian time), waiting for news of my sister-in-law who was in New York that day, watching it all unfold on live tv like some kind of sick Dantean reality show.  Like so many other people around the globe I was, of course, filled with terror and rage about the act itself, but I was also deeply affected by what the attacks meant in terms of the potential US (and by obsequious proxy, the Australian) response.  I remember saying to my wife just after the second plane hit, "Everything is different now.  This is going to be an excuse for a lot of change to how we live."  I do not qualify as a prophet for simply stating the bleeding obvious.

One event that sticks in my mind from the day is the footage of George W. Bush at the kindergarten.  Booker Elementary School.  Before I continue, let me say this:  I am certainly no Bush apologist.  As far as presidents go, I consider him to be about as inept and loathsome as they come.  That is why I feel so angry about being made to feel so sorry for the man.  And the reason is:  Andrew Card.  At the time of the air attacks on New York and Washington he was the White House Chief of Staff, the President's number one man on all things to do with the organisation and running of day-to-day presidential operations.  That guy was the prick that came out and whispered in the C-in-C's ear that yes indeed, a second plane had hit the WTC, and that now the  South Tower was ablaze, and that it was indeed looking like a deliberate attack on the US.  And then he walked away.  That fucker just left his boss hanging, in shock, with his ass blowing in the wind.

Andrew Card.  Fuckwit.
This week I saw the documentary Remembering 9/11, an excellent account of the day's events with interviews with such people as Barbara Bush, the most evil Dick Cheney, the revolting Don Rumsfeld (who was at the Pentagon and personally assisted in helping some of the casualties after the building was hit by AA Flight 77), the most excellent Rudy Giulinani, and other military and civil personnel directly involved with the events of the day.  And there was an interview with the illustrious Mr Card.  He explained that he retreated from Mr Bush after giving him the news so that he had time to digest the information, that he could come up with a response.  In front of the news cameras of the world and a classroom full of Booker Elementary five year olds (and, I must add, a very lovely and understanding teacher).  You can see by the look in Bush's face as he nods along to the rhythm of the story the kids are being read that he is shocked beyond compare.  At the very time when his staffers should have said, "Sir, there's a situation.  You must come with us now," the president of the United States is abandoned.  In front of a room full of kids and news cameras, for chissakes!!!  It was this scene that demonstrated not just to me, but to the world, the United States had no real idea what was going on and had no idea how to react to such an immediate and lethal threat.  And Andrew Card...  Jesus, what a dickhead.  Bush should have fired him on the spot once he was taken from the classroom and into a back room for updates.  I have read some unfortunate and pathetic conspiracy reports about prior knowlege of the attacks, and I will not flatter such rubbish with recounting their poison and stupidity here - what is certain about the day is that Andrew Card fucked up big time, and it amazes me that the man was in the job (a job that he was clearly woefully inadequate for and inept at) a further five years after the attacks!  A further damning testament, perhaps, of Bush's flawed government.

Regardless of Card's inhuman stupidity, regardless of the subsequent errors made in policy and action by the Bush administration, we remember those that died for no good reason, nearly three thousand people from ninety different nations, and we must pause to honour their memory and mourn for a future that is now darker without them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recovery, and Other Thoughts

I have just completed my week-long karate workshop, conducted by Masafumi Shiomitsu-sensei.  'Intensive' doesn't quite describe the experience, neither does 'illuminating', but it was certainly at the very least a combination of both.  To see a master - and a relatively (forgive me, Sensei!) old one at that - execute movement and technique with such elegance is a wonder and inspiration, and, considering the recent path my own martial arts studies have taken me of late it is a great way to press the metaphorical reset button and gain a good deal of renewed enthusiasm.

I take stock of my body, a kind of injury audit:

Knees - very sore after day 3, patella tendons giving me a little grief, but overall they lasted very well.  The main issue is the sharp pain I get from floating cartilage or scar tissue or whatever the hell that's making them hurt.  (This is my next restorative project once I've attended to my elbow)  It was bearable.  6/10

Elbows, esp. right elbow - well, they lasted and survived.  Half-way through day 2, during pairwork involving locking and throwing, I realised why the right elbow has been such a problem for me over the last couple of years - the orthodox attack involves striking with the right fist, therefore the 'receiver' (who in theory 'wins' in the exercise) locks and throws that side.  Ouch!  The effects of the cortisone had pretty much worn off the week before the workshop, so I didn't really get any true benefit from the injection.  By day 6, after three hour sessions every day, the right elbow was feeling pretty ordinary.  3/10

Back, esp. herniated discs at L5 & S1 -  actually went very well.  Every morning was difficult getting out of bed, and the first few steps were painful at the site, accompanied by the referred pain down the legs - but once I had warmed up and moved around a bit it was as good as it can be.  The additional movement and stretching, with some good recovery exercises like swimming and walking, made a HUGE difference.  And having the time off from work was also a massive bonus.  There was no restriction in movement for training itself, and I was very happy with the range of my technique, especially with mae geri (front kick), mawashi geri (roundhouse kick), sokuto (side kick) and gyaku zuki (reverse punch), which are each quite demanding in regards to hip movement and generating torque and energy.  6/10

Soft tissue - no injuries.  Right hamstring was tight at times, and I had the occasional twinge in my right shoulder (very high up the biceps brachii, and back of the deltoideus), but no tears or strains.  Very happy.  8/10

The author with Shiomitsu-sensei, 9th dan hanshi.
Diet - I made a conscious decision to be very aware of my diet in the weeks leading up to and during the seminar.  I have a terrific diet anyway, but I was mindful of stepping up the fruit and water intake during the day, having lots of carbohydrates, especially late morning to early afternoon, and making sure that I had only small high-protein meals at night when I came home (usually around 22.30ish).  I managed to keep the flu bugs away that had been plagueing the family for the last several weeks (I did have about a 12 hour gastro bout on day 1 of the seminar, but recovered quickly and only missed the first session), and now, three days after the workshop (and having just returned home from a massage treatment) I feel great!

This year has seen me officially cease studying under one instructor and begin training with another school.  This is a pretty big deal within the world of Japanese budo.  Generally one doesn't do this kind of thing without there being serious consequences, ie. expulsion from the school.  Budo does not allow for the chopping and changing of instructors - when one commences study, in the traditional sense, one stays with their instructor for life.  That's just how it is.  Or rather, how it used to be.  Circumstances forced my hand in my case.  I suppose in that traditional context I am a bad student. Without going into the details, I felt that it was no longer possible to continue training under my previous (chief) instructor.  My usual instructor understood and had no problem with my decision whatsoever, which I greatly appreciated.  The difficulty came in transferring to another school, where (Shiomitsu-sensei aside) the standard of training, instruction and understanding is quite different, there is a distinct lack of etiquette in the dojo, and training is geared more towards a curriculum involving tournament events than the pure study of the art.  I understand completely the reasons for this - my new dojo is a larger, more commercial operation with a genuine focus on training for kids, and kids need that constant carrot of the next tournament, the next grading.  I, however, have never been interested in such stuff.  Having said that, I greatly respect the new club, and at the Shiomitsu seminar I witnessed a genuine interest in, dedication to, and love of the art of Wado.

The other thing that I have had to deal with has been a demotion of rank.   At my previous club I was a shodan for 8 years, and just prior to my leaving I had been informed that this year would see my grading for nidan, or second level black belt.  However, I had never received a certificate of grading for my first black belt, and the grading itself is not recognized by either Wado International Karate Federation (WIKF) or the Japan Karate Federation (JKF).  When I trained (all too briefly) in Japan in 2005 I was told that my dan grade was referred to as a 'dojo-dan', as opposed to an authenticated and official grading.  I felt a bit miffed by this at the time, although now, of course, I understand exactly where the Japanese comment was coming from.  Regardless, no one can take away the training I have done.  As there is no official record of my grading at either WIKF or JKF headquarters, and having been looked at by the instructors at my new dojo, they have allowed me to begin my training as a 1st kyu, to undergo grading for shodan in Wado-Ryu Karate-Do next year.  So, I am now a brown belt.  Again.  But no matter, I would be training anyway, and at the end of the day, that's what it's all about.  I am confident in my technique, and feel that I am coming to a better understanding of the art.  More study.  More training.