Friday, April 26, 2013

Old School Billy Blanks

I have somewhat been keeping up with my workouts.  However, it pains me to say that I’ve put on about 8 pounds since last fall due to all of the eating and drinking I’ve been doing with CTF.  The wine flights at Bin 36 and Webster Wine Bar are killing me, as is CTF’s constant need to share dessert with me.  I love a good wine flight.  There is something very fun about having four cute glasses of wine in front of you on top of a placemat.  It brings more excitement into the whole drinking experience. 

The good news is that I’m still wearing the same size clothing as last fall.  My clothes are admittedly a bit tighter, but somehow despite the weight gain I haven’t moved up in size.  I have been working out on average three times a week since December.  I think it’s possible that I’ve put on some muscle, as I was doing Chalean Extreme with some heavier weights.  (I can’t believe how much stronger I am.)  I also kept up with my running about once a week, and ran the Shamrock Shuffle (8k) a few weeks ago.  It has been very, very hard to stay motivated, though.  It’s honestly been raining for the entire month of April here in Chicago.  Finally this week we are getting some sun and warmer temperatures.  Now that spring is finally hitting, I’m feeling a lot more motivated to up my workouts to six days a week, as I was doing last spring and summer.  I know I can drop the weight I’ve gained fairly quickly if I just put my mind to it.  (And really I’d be happy to lose about five pounds; I had gotten borderline too thin toward the end.)

Anyway, this morning I was feeling nostalgic, so I popped in a 1998 Billy Blanks Tae Bo DVD.  (I think maybe I’ve written about this one before, but I can’t remember and I don’t feel like searching.)  I bought this DVD when I lived in Los Angeles back in 1998.  That was when Tae Bo was brand new and huge.  Billy Blanks was the man.  I loved this DVD because it includes a short Basic workout, a longer Advanced workout, and an 8 minute workout for when you are really rushed on time.  This morning I did the Advanced.  I did this video so many times back in 1998, and it's amazing how even doing it now takes me back to my little apartment in Brentwood, where I would do this in the living room.  I can’t describe this workout without first showing you a portion of it.  Here is Part 1 on You Tube:

 (If you are so inclined, the rest of it is available on You Tube also.)

The red carpet!

The circus curtains!

Billy’s red tights!

The music!

The two short haired girls on the left!  (One of whom kicks higher than a Rockette.)

The Justine Bateman lookalike on the back left!

The blonde Priscilla Barnes lookalike with the abs on the right!

Oh my God, the hilarity of this video.

Now, despite how dated it is, this is a phenomenal workout.  I was dripping with sweat by the end of it.  He does floor exercises for the butt and legs at the end that are among the best I've ever done.  But during the entire workout I found myself wondering what had happened to these people.  Obviously Billy Blanks is still releasing DVDs (and dressing much, much better), but what about all the people in the background?  What are they doing now?  How does one become a background exerciser in a workout video?  Are they in other videos?  Are they still in great shape?  And wouldn’t it be fun if there was a reunion? 

God, the things I think about when I work out. 

Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Let's All Go to Cuba -- Under the Jay-Z/Beyonce License!

It takes some cojones for U.S. Citizens to take a vacation to Cuba in full view of the media.

I have to admit, part of me finds the Jay-Z/Beyonce trip to Cuba news story amusing. There they are, walking around Cuba, hanging out, eating, without a care in the world.

Oh, except that U.S. Citizens aren’t allowed to go to Cuba on vacation. Oops.

Why Cuba? Why not go to one of the many other places in the world – or even in the Caribbean general area – where it is perfectly legal for U.S. Citizens to travel? Jay-Z and Beyonce typically don’t put themselves in a position where they are getting bad press. So why do it?

Then the song came out.
Boy from the hood but got White House clearance
Sorry y'all, I don't agree with y'all appearance
Politicians never did shit for me
Except lie to me, distort history
Wanna give me jail time and a fine


Obama said "chill, you gonna get me impeached"
But you don't need this shit anyway
Chill with me on the beach
Ah, he’s bragging now. He’s got his buddy in the White House, and he wants us all to know. He gets special treatment now. So he throws it in our faces by going to Cuba and then rapping about it.

I bet President Obama is good and pissed off.

Here is the document that describes how to get a license (general or specific) to travel to Cuba. None of the licenses seem to cover a luxurious anniversary trip. I didn’t see any photographs of any educational activities, humanitarian projects, public performances, or other support for the Cuban people. All I saw was eating and sight seeing. I mean, consider this – Sean Penn has been to Cuba and no one complained – because he was clearly there under one of the legitimate reasons for legal travel. Many other celebrities (including Steven Spielberg and Kevin Costner) have also visited Cuba, again for legitimate reasons.

While the Treasury Department is indeed responsible for deciding who gets to go to Cuba, I find it hard to believe that President Obama – who is buddies with Jay-Z and Beyonce – knew nothing about it. This I particularly true when the Treasury Department has refused to identify under which travel provision they were allowed to go to Cuba. If it’s all perfectly above board, then why hide anything? Just tell us what they were doing there.

Apparently they can’t, because all they were doing was vacationing.

At the end of the day, I could give a crap where Jay-Z and Beyonce go on vacation. (I actually like them and thought her hair looked really cool in the pictures.)  The issue is why they get special treatment just because they happen to be good singers and are permitted to go somewhere no one else in the country is allowed to go. Can the rest of us peasants apply to the Treasury Department for the "Jay-Z and Beyonce License" for Cuban travel?  Isn’t the celebrity worship from this administration getting a bit out of hand?

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's Spring! Time for the Wildings to Begin in Chicago.

I've posted before about the wildings happening on  the Magnificent Mile, in the heart of the tourist district.  Every summer it's been the same thing.  Groups of teens take the red line train up to the Chicago Avenue stop, get off, and head over to the Magnificent Mile to either rob the stores or hassle the tourists.  They plan this out via Twitter and other social media, so there are groups of tens or even hundreds of them.  As you can imagine, this can prove overwhelming if a group of them rush a store. 

We had our first day of 50 degreeish weather over the weekend, and to no one's surprise, this brought out the obnoxious, law breaking teenagers.  Normally it is difficult to find reports of this in the news, but this weekend was different.  It was all over the media.  Apparently there was chaos on Saturday night:
CBS 2 has learned about multiple incidents in at least four different locations along the Magnificent Mile and in the Gold Coast, yielding a slew of arrests. In all, 25 juveniles and three adults were charged.

Many innocent shoppers and tourists became caught in the middle of a very chaotic situation. Hundreds of teens littered Michigan Avenue and State Street near Chicago.

Things started turn bad around 6:00 p.m. Saturday, with teens purposely bumping into people, and causing fights among themselves.
And let's not forget about this poor woman who was attacked by a group of teenage girls while riding the red line train that same evening:
"This girl started blowing smoke in my face, and she flicked her cigarette ashes at me,'' said the woman, who asked not to be identified. "I said: 'You need to put that out,' and the next thing I know there's all these girls that jumped on top of us.''
They began punching her face and then went for her hair. She believes their attackers had knives or box cutters and padlocks possibly placed inside socks.

"I put my head down between my legs so they would stop beating me in the face, but they were trying to pull my face up and hit me more,'' she said. "They ripped out chunks of my hair, and I've got a black eye and bruises on my face, and all over my back and shoulder.''
This isn't happening in the middle of the night.  It's happening at 6 or 7 p.m. at a major tourist area of the city, where people are shopping, going to dinner, and trying to enjoy the city.  This is an incredibly crowded area.  It's really infuriating to me that this subset of people wants to destroy the city.  Chicago is a place where I feel very safe; but hearing about this begins to chip away at that.   

I imagine the Mayor is furious that this is being splashed all over the news.  It remains to be seen whether the arrests will quell any of the behavior.  I doubt it -- looks like we are in for a long summer.