Sep 29 2006

Two Years Isn’t Soon Enough

I usually don’t get political on this blog, but right now, I’m experiencing some stomach-churning combination of disgust, embarrassment, and anger regarding the passage of the terror detainees bill.

I believe Bush should be impeached. I believe the validity of the terror detainees bill should be evaluated, particularly the portion regarding ex-post facto exemption of the executive branch. If unconstitutional, Bush, Cheney, and those involved should be tried in court.

America should be leading by example, but right now, we’re pulling an international “do what I say, not what I do.”

I am deeply ashamed.


Sep 29 2006

Existential Morphology

As I mentioned before, I don’t really feel any older – I suppose that just sneaks up on you – but I’ve taken the opportunity to re-evaluate where I’m going and what I’m doing. Overall, I think I’m doing pretty well, but there’s always room for improvement. I suppose I haven’t addressed the Big Question: What do I ultimately want out of life?

Let’s start with the standard ones: Fame? Nope. Fortune? It’d be nice, as an enabler to allow me to do other things, but ultimately I believe such excess is more of a hindrance. Love? Well, of course, but I don’t think that’s a “goal” so much as something that you’re just lucky enough to be able to participate in. What about my martial arts? Do I aspire to get a 127th degree black belt? No, unless it came with a matching level of comprehension. I want my art to accompany me through life, not replace it. Just like love.

How about changing the world (for the better)? How so? That seems a noble goal, but it’s a little vague. What about learning and exploration? I’m always open to learning new things, in fact it’s a driving force in me. But to what end? Is it reasonable to be expected to know?

Perhaps a good way to find what I want is to examine my fears.

Am I scared of failure? Nah, I’ve had plenty of those so far, and I haven’t slowed down yet. How about success? No, I’m had some of those as well and I’m still rolling. Death? Ultimately, I think not. Confinement or isolation? Physical confinement would be horrible, but I think I’d find a way through it, as people do – even the Hanoi Hilton guests had cockroach races. What about mental or emotional confinement? Hmm, we may be getting closer here. My mind requires activity, evolution. I’m scared of stagnancy, or rather, I have no respect for it. However, I don’t really see myself ever lacking stimulation for lack of exposure – there’s always something to explore. So what would prevent me from evolutionary stimuli? Oppressive, exhausting environments, draining my motivation. Continually compromising myself too much. Too much work, too many obligations, too much time with girl, too much … anything.

If my fear is lack of having something to do, of something to learn, of something to explore or ask questions about, of not meeting new and interesting people, then perhaps my ultimate goal is connections. People, inter-personal relationship, exploration, learning.

Travel.

Of course, I’m looking forward to traveling, but I don’t think the concept necessarily requires geo-relocation. Last night after class, as I was leaving the park, the sprinklers popped on. As some parents watched from afar, two little girls ran laughing through the water, playing tag and playfully pushing each other around, screaming with delight when hit with a surprise burst of water.

Yeah, I think that’s traveling too.


Sep 28 2006

Three Decades Deep …

… and counting. Yup, I’m 30 now.

Feels the same, but it’s a damn good excuse for partying this weekend.

I’ll see if I can manufacture some existential crisis soon.


Sep 21 2006

Condohell

A friend who was formerly in the real estate market came over last night to assess what needs to be done to our place before we sell:

  • New carpet in both bedrooms
  • Paint my room
  • Stain my bathroom cabinets
  • Make my bathroom “girly” (his words, not mine)
  • Finish various paint jobs around the house
  • Clean out the garage

Now the rub is that I’m gone/occupied for the next three weekends, and immediately after that Roommate and Fiance are gone for three weeks. We’re not going to have much time to do this before then. So we won’t be on the market before November. The thought of staying here through the holidays and beyond strains my sanity. Furthermore, if Roommate and Fiance are really shooting for preggers next month, and we’re going to be in this place for a while, we need to have another talk. Starting a family and all that is great if it’s time for you to do that, but I really don’t want to live with the drama that is a Hormonal Pregnant Woman. However, I don’t have the socially acceptable high ground here. Society would frown on my attempting to deny a couple the right to procreate just because I don’t want to live with that. But considering neither of us can leave this place at will, we should probably hash this out, ‘cause, you know, that was never part of the deal.

If I were of the histrionic persuasion, I’d be tearing my hair out about now.


Sep 20 2006

Before I Die

In the spirit of yesterday’s post, here’s a small list of things I’d like to do, try, or do more often:

  • Run through sprinklers with my clothes on
  • Visit Hawaii
  • Spend a week drinking coffee and writing in an outdoor cafe someplace I don’t understand the local language
  • Sell a 20” x 30” print to a complete stranger
  • Wander Angkor Wat
  • Eat a candlelit dinner on the beach in Ko Tao
  • Call in sick to work when I’m not
  • Study martial arts – in China and Japan
  • Learn something non-trivial that has no discernable value
  • Eat food from some country I’ve never been
  • Drive around America
  • Save a life
  • Learn to fly a plane
  • Watch the sun rise once a month
  • Learn to salsa
  • Bath in the Blue Lagoon and play in Porsmorck Park
  • Learn to play the piano
  • Teach something
  • Publish a novel / novella
  • Revise this list
  • Change the world (for the better)

Sep 20 2006

Everyone Wants to Date a Ninja

I’ve been dubbed “The Ninja” by more than a few girlfriends. I’ve never asked for the moniker, but I understand where it comes from. It’s because martial arts are central to my life, because I train intensely, because Ninjitsu/Ninjutsu still carries and aura of mystique, and it is, compared to other things, relatively rarely studied.

I imagine anyone who’s enthralled by some “sexy” activity or job, be it formula car racing, rock climbing, firefighting, or something else, will experience some involuntary reduction of name to nickname – all you have to do is check various blogs on the ‘net: you’ll see more than a few entries that start with “So last night I went out with The Cowboy / Climber / Ninja / Whatever….” There’s also the physical aspect – all the above also generally imply an association with some moderately good physique (mine is decent, but I’m certainly no model), but I believe the biggest pull is is that the concept of “ninja” is ensconced in supernatural mythos, and one of the few that is so intimately associated with life or death scenarios.

Of course, I study Taoist internal arts as well, but that doesn’t have near the same effect. I’ve never had the nickname “Lo Han” (thank god) or “Jet Li.”

I don’t typically get into conversation about the arts I study unless you ask me and seem genuinely interested. (Even then I can be hesitant – the question you ask are so much larger than you think, and I may not even be qualified to answer them yet.) However, the subject invariable comes up when she asks why you’re so frequently unavailable at the same day and time, week after week. After the disclosure, “The Ninja” usually pops up sometime early in the relationship, and she’s usually doesn’t even use it in my presence. I’ll typically hear, upon meeting one of her friends, “So you’re The Ninja.” And the cat being out of the bag and all, “The Ninja” spreads as a nickname amongst her friends, in my presence and out of. It’s always accompanied with a sly smile and youthful exuberance.

Being early in the relationship, everything is new and exciting: the sex is novel, the old old stories are new again, and you discover whole new worlds of passions and cute idiosyncrasies. “The Ninja” is just another one of the latter, for her.

But after the novelty fades, martial arts are still there. I never studied them to pique anyone’s curiosity, they’re a part of me, or at least have been since I was 16 or so. This is when being “The Ninja” loses it’s attractiveness. She’ll begin to realize that if I’m ever to reach the heights of mastery, or perhaps even just competence, it’ll take even more training than what I do now. The dedication she once admired from afar now translates into years filled with me arriving home late, exhausted and hungry, after training for hours directly after work. She’ll notice we don’t get to cuddle every morning, as I’ve got to get up and do my morning Taiji and Chi Gong. She’ll wonder why she’s not invited when I just “sit” in the park and meditate.

She’ll get annoyed that I always take the seat in a restaurant facing the doors and windows, and that I’ll shuffle the condiments, flower vases, and silverware to the inside of the table. When she asks for a glass of water at night, she’ll appreciate that I don’t turn on the light but she’ll be annoyed that it takes so long since I’ve take an extra lap around the apartment testing my night walking. She’ll wonder about my commitment to her when I’m forced to choose between going on a martial arts retreat in the woods going to her mother’s place for brunch. She’ll be doubting my commitment to the art when I back down from the loudmouth at the bar, because she doesn’t understand the Life-Giving Sword. She’ll find it childish and silly that half the time you walk on her right, where it’s more comfortable for her, and half the time on the left, when you tell her it’s so you’re on the street-side of the sidewalk.

Suddenly dating The Ninja doesn’t seem so neat anymore. There’s all these … things … I do, and they don’t seem to make that much sense, or seem overly paranoid or without purpose, and, all in all, are organized in order to minimize the chance that I’ll actually have to get into a physical confrontation. You know, so I won’t have to “use” my martial arts, or at least in the sense most people conceive of martial arts being used.

I don’t mind the nickname – I actually find it kind of ironic, as some city-slicker kid studying martial arts part-time is about as far from true Ninjutsu as you can get – so I have no issue with it. And there’s a ton of benefits she’ll realize from as a result of her training – among other things, I’ll usually know exactly where she’s misplaced her keys or purse, I keep in pretty good shape, I have a reasonably good handle on reading her non-verbal communication, she knows she can trust my word and my discipline to act on it, I don’t lose my head when we fight, she feels safer around town, and a good sense of awareness and certain breathing exercises translate directly into better … other activities.

But she never has any idea what she’s getting into.

Just like me, when I started training in martial arts fourteen years ago.


Sep 18 2006

Missing

I’ve been getting a lot of “where have you been lately” messages, so in the interest of full disclosure, know that I haven’t been ignoring you.

  • Aug 25-27: Chicago
  • Sep 01-03: Home Improvement Weekend
  • Sep 08-10: Wedding, LA
  • Sep 15-17: Family Reunion
  • Sep 23-24: Bachelor Party, Vegas
  • Sep 29-30: Birthday Weekend (TBD)
  • Oct 06-09: Wedding, LA

So yeah, I’ve been kinda busy. Regular programming will resume shortly.


Sep 12 2006

Chicago, Photos

Slacker that I am, I don’t get any pics from Chicago up until I’ve been back for a couple weeks. Anyway, here’s the one’s that aren’t going on osbornphoto.

Rob's Place

My friend’s place in Chicago, and his upstairs neighbor hanging out on the stoop.

I Have Dance

I have no idea who this is, but he apparently likes to dance in front of a bank in Bucktown. How can you not take a pic?

Porches

Almost everyone in Chicago has these back porches. Remember that fatal porch collapse a few years ago? Yeah, a friend of mine used to hang out on that same porch all the time, but just by chance didn’t go to that party that night.

Not a Phoenix Sign

Signs you never see in San Diego (or Phoenix).

Huxtables?

The street my friend lives on. Are you kidding me? I expect the Huxtables to come trotting out at any minute.

Exit

This one’s for L—-.

Again, the “good” shots will be popping up on osbornphoto periodically, so keep an eye out there.


Sep 8 2006

Unexpected

It’s late Thursday night, after 11, and I’ve just driven a half-hour South after training for three hours. I haven’t had a bite to eat in since lunch so I stop by my local pub for a beer, food, and a chance to scribble down some notes from class. As I finish, a girl bounces up the the bar beside me to grab another round of drinks.

“Paris! Hey, how’ve you been? I haven’t seen you quite a while!”

We do the obligatory small-talk catch-up and invites me over to her table where she and her friend are sitting. There’s an extremely drunk and annoying guy hitting on her friend – we’ll call her Reeses for the shirt she’s wearing – and he’s pressing into her space and just generally giving people the jibblies.

Paris whispers in my ear, “She choked him out earlier. With a rear-naked choke, he was completely out. In the bar.”

“Wow, it looks like it kinda’ turned him on, ‘cause he’s coming back for more.”

I think no more of Annoying Guy, as he appears relatively harmless and apparently Reeses take care of herself. Paris and I resume our conversation. When Reeses excuses herself to powder her nose, Annoying Guy locks on to a new target: Paris. Now, keep in mind that Paris is married to a Navy SEAL (inactive). She’s obviously not interested, but Annoying Guy is so spun he doesn’t realize it. We spend fifteen minutes playing “give Annoy Guy hints as to what Paris’ name is because he can’t remember it.” Shares her name with a famous dilettante? Is a major city in France? Starts with “Pa”? What does he come up with? “Pasquale.” (I give him points for coming up with the last name of a French tennis player.)

Regardless, he’s edging in on her, she’s exuding “back off” body language, and even goes as far as say “come any closer and I’ll punch you in the face” while cocking her fist back. He’s still not dangerous, but he’s definitely a little creepy. I say at my end of the table, within arms reach, but I don’t think he’ll do anything. He’s just drunk and horny.

I see Reeses returning from the bathroom – both she and Paris are a little tipsy at this point, but not too bad – and I point at Annoying Guy, make the universal “he’s cut off” hand gesture, and cross my arms like they’re in a rear naked choke. I’m trying to indicate that she should do something like tell him she’ll choke him out again if he doesn’t bail. Of course if Annoying Guy steps too far, I’ll act, but I don’t think it’ll be necessary. This is totally resolvable with a few words from the girls, I don’t need to swing my dick around and act like a big man.

Reeses walks up behind me and slides her arms around me in a loose rear naked choke. I tap her arm, and point Annoying Guy again. “No, not me, him.”

I feel her clutch her arms in tighter.

I tap her again, “No, not me, him. I’m friends with Paris.”

Tighter.

I tap her again. “I get it, you proved your point.”

Tighter.

I know at this point I’ve got about two second before I lose consciousness. I also know that I don’t know who this girl is, even if she’s friends with my friend, and I don’t know what her objective is. Even if she’s playing around, I don’t know if she’s sober enough to hold me if I let put me to sleep – what if I collapse and bash my head on the ground?

It happens really fast. One elbow to her sternum, shift right, rotate into her to give myself a gap, suck, tuck, and duck, rotating around and down, she’s still hanging on trying to get the choke back – no games here – and she hits the ground hard on her back. I’ve got my right knee on her stomach, my left elbow pinning her brachial on the ground and the edge of my left hand digging into her neck. My right hand half-way to a throat strike when something else triggers: nothing more is necessary. She’s not looking toward me, but she has confusion in her eyes. She more shocked and scared than violent.

I freeze. The bouncers are pull me off without a a struggle and drag her out. She’s kicked out; I can sit and finish my beer.

Paris doesn’t know what happened, no-one really does, so I give the girl time to cool down outside before I see if she’s open to a little chat. As soon as I get the news that she’s outside and feels bad about the whole thing, I approach (cautiously) and we have our chat. Short story is that she was joking around, she didn’t feel me tap, and she tends to take things too far when she’s been drinking. I let her know I’m not pissed at her, but since I don’t know her from Joe, so I’m not very going to let myself be choked out. (And I notice she’s already got a decent bruise developing on her arm.)

I smooth things over with the bouncers, and catch a third-party interpretation of events from a friend of mine who happened to see the whole thing.

Lessons? There’s a ton, both mistakes and of correct action, but I’m not going to list them all. I will list some, though:

  • My art works. Even from a well-applied rear naked choke that’s already under the chin.
  • It happens incredibly fast.
  • I didn’t have to think about what I was doing, I was thinking about what was appropriate. The physical actions came without thought, the mind was what reigned me in at the proper time. My friend said he saw the moment when I was in motion to strike her on the ground, then something clicked, and I didn’t follow it. My life was no longer in danger. I just kept her pinned.
  • She disclosed she trains under Chuck Liddell – so my assumption that I don’t know her background or intent is both correct and valuable.
  • She’s choked out upward of ten different guys (not friends, but people she’s just met) in bars over the years, and including the ones that fought back, no one’s ever gotten out before. Why did I get out? Probably not because I’m better than the rest, but because when the switch is flipped, there’s no half-assing it. The other guys probably didn’t want to make a scene, or thought it wouldn’t be acceptable to fight a girl. Fuck that, I don’t need to know she’s an MMA fighter to engage – just the chance that she may be, and that my life may be in danger – is enough. Surprise and violence of action.
  • It was ego that got me into trouble in the first place – she was cute, so I thought (or hoped) that her arms coming around me from behind constitued a hug, not a choke, even though I knew she’d choked someout out earlier. Mistake.

So, who’s taken a chick to down and to the ground in a bar?

I have. Never thought I’d say that.

Oh, I almost forgot the best line of the evening, said to me by a guy that saw it all go down: “Dude, you’ve got to stop wearing that Tag body spray.”


Sep 6 2006

Unattached

There’s a phrase I hear quite frequently, under the guise of countless masks and permutations. Both guys and girls use it, and they’re almost always sincere when they say it, and it’s generally applied to our friends. Sometimes, though, we even say it about ourselves:

“I don’t know why he/she doesn’t have a line of guys/girls begging to go out with him/her….”

It’s an innocent enough phrase, and it may be true – we truly don’t know why. But there’s a sense of fatality there I don’t like. It reeks of either apathy or futility, it pushes “blame” to others. It’s everyone else’s fault, there’s nothing wrong with my friend. He/she is perfect.

But your friend is not perfect. You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. There’s two ways to deal with that: accept it, or change it. I know I’ve got plenty of shit to work on; I know why my past relationships have failed. You know why there’s not a line of girls waiting to date me? I’m difficult. I’m tough to live with, I’m not around enough, I have a few priorities in my life that are ahead everything else right now, I’m not spontaneous enough, and although I’m not frequently wrong (because I tend not to claim authority on things I don’t know about), it’s takes a hell of a lot to prove it to me when I am.

And I’m working on that.

So when you look at your friends (or yourself), can you see why they’re single? Perhaps because they don’t want a relationship now? Or do they have self-destructive tendencies, do they go for the type of person that’s just wrong for them? Are their priorities currently elsewhere? Do they keep going for people out of they’re league? Is it difficult to get to know them? Does he or she have some superficial quality that you don’t notice anymore, such as huge gut, crooked nose, or annoying laugh, that distracts from everything that’s great about him or her, at least until your get better acquainted? Are their standards unattainably high? How about once they’re in a relationship? Do they not put effort into it anymore, or perhaps go overboard and fall too hard too fast and scare the other off?

None of this is categorically wrong, but when we look at ourselves and our friends, we tend to gloss over those unattractive bits and focus on what we love. Which makes sense, why dwell on the things we dislike? It’d make for a terribly dreary existence. However, when you want to know “why,” that’s one place you should definitely include in your excavation. I’m not saying it’s an easy process, nor one that even ever ends, but that’s the only way you’ll get closer to your answer.

Of course if you’re playing matchmaker, you’re probably not going to say to a prospective match, “Yeah, he’s a really great guy, but he spits a lot and tends to wipe his nose on his shirt. Oh, and he’s emotionally unavailable. Interested?” You obviously want to focus on your friend’s positive qualities right then and there – but that doesn’t mean you can’t approach your friend privately and note that spitting and nose-wiping aren’t the best of strategies. (The emotional unavailability might be a wee longer discussion, but you catch my drift.) I suppose the whole point is, would you rather your friend tell you your fly is open, or discover it during the first date? Friends should be able to bring these things up, but we can’t bring them up unless we see them. And it’s usually easier to see in others than it is yourself, although ultimately you’ll probably end up reflecting on yourself more that your friend.

Why aren’t there people lining up to date your friend?

Why aren’t there people lining up to date you?

I think you know. Or, I think you have to ability to find out.

Update: I got a very apropos response to this, over here: I think this bears repeating