Sunday, May 24, 2009

Relaxing, the Hard Way

In the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" [sic] the protagonist describes a period of his life as "Riding the Bus", where he seems to constantly be going somewhere on the bus or chasing after it as it pulls away from the curb.

Right now I am writing this blog while on a bus. And I am also running up against a deadline - my battery is only at 17% and I have to finish this before the battery light flashes orange and the short, determined beeps signal an imminent shutdown.

But is forcing a shutdown so bad? Sometimes, during the hectic life I seem to lead, it is good to "shutdown" once in a while. By that I don't mean collapsing in a heap on the couch, unable to move because every bone in your body aches. Nor do I mean the type of shutdown that comes at the end of one's life. I'm talking about the type of shutdown that is followed by a "restart".

Thinking about it, it is probably a good idea to turn off, once in a while; to detach yourself from life for a short period of time - recharge your batteries, if you will.


I do that sometimes by watching movies. Just sit back, relax and watch other people run around the screen, solving the problems of the world. But actually, that type of relaxation is not entirely beneficial. Heart-racing thrillers, intense drama, suspense-filled action - movies that leave you breathless until the last scene. It doesn't seem so relaxing now, does it?


So how can you safely switch off from the world? How about renting a yacht and sailing into the deep blue? Extricate yourself from the world, disconnect from all forms of external stimulation. Sound idyllic? Not really. What happens when the ocean swells suddenly overtake the boat - or you run out of food and have to spend all day fishing with a broken line and a single Doritos for bait, just to stave off hunger? What if you are overrun by pirates who steal your compass and so you end up sailing to some unfriendly country where they strip you of your yacht and sell you to wealthy landowners who use you as a whipping boy for their recalcitrant child? How relaxing could that be?


Here's an idea - stay home. You can spend your time sleeping, and hope you don't get a cramp from not moving enough. Or you could sit and play online games against strangers in another country who will ask no questions before violently slicing thorough your avatar with magical swords. Or you could just sit on your balcony and hope that you don't get skin cancer from the UV rays that apparently shine through the clouds, only to penetrate deep into your cells.


So it seems that the only real way to relax without any negative consequences is to-

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Hairy Situation

As you can see from my profile picture, I used to have a beard. It was a good beard. A thick, solid, bushy thing. That beard and I spent many years together. It kept me warm and was an amusement for children. But now it is gone and I am beardless.

It was a snap decision that I mulled over for a number of weeks. One morning I decided to trim my beard and then I just couldn't help myself - I went too far and there was no going back. Everyone says that I now look 20 years younger. Someone mistook me for my younger brother. My daughter's friend didn't recognize me. It's like a new lease on life.

They may say that the clothes maketh the man, but I think it's the facial hair. In fact, it may be so fashionable to "mow the lawn" that some don't stop at the face. They keep going north.

According to Wikipedia, "Head shaving is much more common among men. It is often associated with religious practice, the armed forces and some competitive sports such as swimming, running and extreme sports". I thought the armed forces and competitive sports are religious practices...

But being clean-shaven isn't a sure-fire recipe for success.

Bruce Doule, an iconic Aussie Rules Football player used to sport a beard. Take a look at his picture and you will see why he was nicknamed the "flying doormat". Doulle was a half-back flanker for the Mighty Blues and, despite his scraggly appearance, was considered a very accomplished player.

Not a full beard, but Robert DiPierdomenico ("Dipper") has a trademark mustache that makes him instantly recognizable, on and off the field. Here's a great photo of Dipper, looking nice and unkempt. Dipper was also considered a champion Aussie Rules footballer in his day and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

According to The World of Beards, the greatest bearded sportsman of all time was Sergio Batista, "Sergio Batista is the only man to have held the [Soccer] World Cup aloft his facial furniture and therefore unrivaled as the World of Beards greatest sportsman". Yeah, but he wasn't an Aussie footy player.

And there are those to whom beards are sacred.

If you have a beard, you might want to make your way to Santa Barbara on 23 May 2009 for the Annual World Beard and Moustache Championships (not sponsored by Gillette). If you think your beard or Mo can stand up to the competition, you might want to sign up for Beard Team USA. Here's one member, Eric Brown from New York, NY, who will probably win, if they can find him under all that hair.

The World of Beards, which I must say seems more like a support group for hairy men, reports the following:
Each year King Williams College on the Isle of Man quizzes its pupils with possibly the hardest quiz ever devised by man. This Christmas the school has asked its pupils a number of questions about BEARDS! Clearly the future leaders of the country are being prepared for a life where a facial companion is a friend that will bring power and influence.
Perhaps beards are in and smooth faces are out. I should have done my research before putting shaver to face. I'm clearly out of whack with facial hair fashion. At least on the Isle of Man.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Man from Down Under Goes Down Under

I went kayaking the other day. Although the circumstances around how the boat capsized may be entertaining, I will keep them aside in my dubious collection of heroic stories to tell my children and grandchildren.
But the truth of the matter is that the kayak overturning took me completely by surprise. One moment I was quite happily paddling along in a boat with a crew of four and the next moment I found myself under the water. Thinking back on that event, I realize that when accidents happen you really are quite unprepared for them.

Let's analyze my little dip in the river. Firstly, I remember very clearly that the boat was suddenly no longer underneath me, the place where it was supposed to be. In a few microseconds my brain processed the fact that I was under water and so my eyes shut automatically, like "shields up" on the Starship Enterprise. I held my breath and I kicked my legs, expecting to surface. I shot myself upwards, my head colliding with the upturned boat. That's when I started panicking - I was under the water, stuck under a boat. Looking back, I would have expected my life to flash before my eyes. Perhaps some last thoughts or images of family or a prayer or two would skim across my brain.

Not so.

In that moment of panic, a big red flashing sign lit up in the electric pathways that comprise my brain, which read, "Survival Mode!" All thoughts, subconscious processes and unessential activity instantly snapped closed like a safety switch to a short circuit. All energy was immediately routed to the parts of my mind and body dedicated to getting me out from under that boat.

Using the palms of my hands, I pushed up against the capsized boat, propelling myself further underwater. I scrambled to the left. My eyes were shut tight and I was aware of, but could barely hear, my fellow boaters flailing similarly beside me. In a matter of seconds I had cleared the obstruction above. My head broke through the surface of the water and my arms worked overtime to free me of the current that had seemingly wrapped itself around my legs, still trying to pull me down.

And then the flashing light stopped flashing. Power was restored to all parts of my brain, which was now functioning within normal parameters. The electrical signals resumed their usual course through the gray matter. Eyes open, I could finally take stock of my situation and once again use rational thinking and logic to plan my next move.

I almost want to do it again just to see if I would react differently the second time around. Life-jacket, anyone?

POSTSCRIPT: 6 May 2009
I just heard on the radio that Israel kayaking champion, Yasmin Feingold, is recovering after a serious accident on the Yarkon river. We all wish her well. See this Jerusalem Post article for more information.