Day 14 of 90: Improving

Well, last week hasn’t been too bad. Got through all three sessions of push-ups (though still thinking it’s going to be a tall order to try to do more tomorrow morning – but I’ll worry about tomorrow when it comes). Missing the green smoothies, but I’ve noticed that I have less cravings for junk food than I used to.

On the whole, this is not too bad and I’m feeling more confident about future weeks.

Film Review: The Phantom Carriage


1001 Films review. Swedish films are a bit in at the moment, aren’t they? What with Stieg Larsson adaptions and As It Is In Heaven, more people are looking at this country’s cinema.

Well, I’ve jumped back in time to 1921 to watch one of the classics of Swedish cinema – The Phantom Carriage. The carriage of the title is the carriage that collects souls when someone dies. If you have the misfortune to die at the stroke of midnight on New Years’ Eve, you get to bet the coachman for the next year. (Ironically, I didn’t realise about this New Years twist when I sat down to watch this on 31 December 2010…)

However, this is more of a device to give us a Scrooge-like tale of a man called David Holm (played by director Victor Sjöström) and how his encounter with the coach changes his life. Basically, this is like a darker version of A Christmas Carol and will feel familiar.

Already, this early in the history of film, you can tell the difference between American and European filmmaking. DW Griffiths’ films were melodramatic blockbusters – large in scale with breathtaking finales. By contrast, this story is slow, deliberate and intimate. There are some clever special effects (well, clever for 1921 – they’re not going to really bowl over anyone who’s been watching films post-Jurassic Park). And the grittiness of the story is quite effective (especially combined with the soundtrack on the version I watched – a constant grinding never-tonal industrial sound from a group called KTL).

In the end, I think it’s too slow to stand up as a movie today, but for those interested in early film and the developing genres that were springing up, this is well worth a look.

3 out of 5.

Day 10 of 90: Broken Blender

I forgot to mention this yesterday, but we broke the blender. We’d had it for all of two weeks from Bing Lee and the thing broke on us. Very disappointing.So no green smoothies for the moment.

Today’s Australia Day BBQ went quite well, and I found I managed to eat heaps of food without feeling ill afterwards. What did do me in was the pizza that I had at another friend’s house. I don’t know what it is about pizza, but I just felt bloated and lethargic for an hour or so afterwards. I feel more sensitive about these things now – as if I can tell very quickly if I am ingesting lots of toxins. Interesting.

I shall look forward to tomorrow.

Day 9 of 90: Starting to Enjoy Myself

Hi all,

I didn’t get to blog yesterday (Day 8), but I decided on a whim to switch the pushups to Monday, Wednesday and Friday and start again from Week 1 Day 1. And definitely on a lower strand this time, which meant less push-ups per set.

So I tried out the second strand (there’s a lower one again if you really struggle with push-ups) and, while still challenging, it was a heck of a lot easier than what I attempted last week. And to my surprise, when I’d got through it all, I’d actually performed 26 push-ups in under 10 minutes. That, to me, is not too bad. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

I got my walk in today, which was nice. And I’m still avoiding junk food during the week. (Except for the birthday cake on Monday which turned out to be cupcakes instead … they were awesome.)

I’m steeling myself that I’m going to have to be prepared for tomorrow, because it’s Australia Day and we’re invited to a barbecue. I love barbecues but (like most people, I think) I find that I tend to eat way more at a barbecue than I should. And I’m not just worried about that from a health perspective – it’s usually the equivalent of getting a horse tranquiliser and I don’t feel like doing much more than curling up in a ball and sleeping while nursing my stomachache.

Nah, not really my ideal plan for the day. So tomorrow I’ll try to be a bit more restrained. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes.

Day 7 of 90: Getting Ready For Next Week

Hi all,

Sorry, I realise I haven’t posted since Thursday. Here’s what happened. Friday I slept in. I know, it’s slack. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t get out of bed on Friday for some reason, so I only got a very short walk. So it wasn’t quite the week I expected. And Saturday which was meant to be a pushups day, I still decided to let my arms recover a bit longer, plus I was busy finishing off a sermon to deliver on Sunday morning. And Sunday is my day off.

But, looking back, while it’s tempting to look at the things I didn’t do, compared to the previous week, I:

  • Ate no junk food during weekdays (other than office birthday cake), and not nearly as much as normal on the weekend
  • Did more pushups in one hit than I’ve ever done before (albeit with consequences)
  • Went for some walks
  • Walked home from the train station a couple of times.
  • Feel a lot better physically than I did the week before.

That’s not a bad start. Here’s to the second week coming up.

Day 4 of 90: More Pain

I hate to say it – but I did not get any more pushups done today. I was hoping to, but I woke up this morning with quite nasty pain in my upper arms. It seems that I’m still recovering from Tuesday. I might have pushed it worse than I at first thought. So my current plan is to try again next week on a much milder level to start with and see how it goes.

Now to go see if there’s enough ingredients for a green smoothie …

Day 3 of 90: Pain

Forget what I said about the pushups yesterday – how it felt yesterday is nothing to how it compared today. So to go for a gentle walk for some exercise seemed rather mild in comparison. We’ll see how things go for the second round of pushups tomorrow…

Day 2 of 90: Hundred Pushups

When you start the hundred pushups program, you’re asked to do a test lot of push-ups and then, based on that, you’re put in one of three streams.

I got through all of 12 the other day and so was dropped into the first stream, which had about 5 sets of pushups. First 10, wait for 60 seconds, then 12, wait for 60 seconds … there were another three to go after that, but I sort of collapsed on the floor in a heap after that.

I’ll just pretend I got through 8 the other day. Don’t get me wrong – I’m keen to try again – it’s just that for today, my arms are saying, “Nooooo…..”

Also, despite my best intentions about food – I found myself eating (on autopilot almost) chocolate chips out of the fridge. (Once the packet gets opened in our house, it’s on for young and old…). I pulled myself up, but it does go to show how much these things are in the subconscious.

DVD Review: Rome – Season 1

One of the more unusual shows I saw on DVD last year was the first season of Rome. As soon as you pick up the box, you realise that it’s not designed for everyone. It shows a pair of Roman-sandalled feet standing on cobble-stone streets running with blood and (in Australia), it has a rather large R rating on the front warning you about the sex and violence.

This clever series weaves a mixture of fictional/non-fictional events starting with Julius Caesar’s victory in Gaul all the way through to his eventual assassination in the Senate. The very fact that there is a long rise and fall arc in the series immediately makes it more interesting than a regular TV series, with its “let’s fix all problems in the one episode” set-up.

It follows all the famous true-life characters in this drama: Julius Caesar (Ciarán Hinds), Pompey (Kenneth Cranham), Mark Antony (James Purefoy), Marcus Brutus (Tobias Menzies) and Co. Then there’s the fictional characters: a couple of Roman soldiers, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson). In addition, there are some spectacularly revenge-driven women in the story: Atia (Polly Walker) and Servilia (Lindsay Duncan). There are lots more characters (it’s quite a large ensemble), but these are the main players, whose lives connect and intersect over 13 hours.

If you’ve got the stomach for it, you can enjoy this for the convoluted, twisting plot. Or you might enjoy the historical detail – especially if you have the DVD, where you can turn on a feature called “All Roads Lead To Rome”, which puts up informative historical facts on the screen while you’re watching.

On the whole, I found it a show that gave me mixed emotions – primarily because of the writing. The two main creators of the show, Bruno Heller and Jonathan Stamp point out many times on their commentaries and extra features that they deliberately set out to create a world where Judeo-Christian morality did not exist. And so they have written their Romans to sometimes act like us (e.g. wives, romance, business intrigue) and then sometimes not (e.g. beating slaves, killing people with no compassion). Because all the actors speak with perfect English accents, this enhances the feeling that these people are real, so when they suddenly turn savage, it’s quite a shock.

I think Heller and Stamp secretly like the Romans unbridled way of living (especially the sex), but obviously feel uncomfortable with the violence that went with it. To my mind, don’t the two go hand in hand? If you have unrestraint in one area of society, why would you hold back in another? To be honest, what this series did do for me was explain quite clearly how Christianity ripped through Rome and took hold. It would have only taken a few Christians committed to caring for people around them and looking after those less fortunate than themselves, and they would have stuck out like a sore thumb, and caused major social change.

4 out of 5.

Day 1 of 90: Why I Hate Doctors

I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago that I was thinking of setting myself a small, achievable health challenge starting today. Well, I have started, and I decided that I would blog about it as I went. I’m normally not one for sharing health concerns left, right and centre, but nonetheless I have discovered after I tackled the Couch to 5K last year that there’s something about putting my intentions out into cyberspace that makes me stick to things longer than normal.

I’m not that great at sticking to things, you see. I think my personality type likes starting things, but finishing things is not my strong point…which is, oddly enough, the exact opposite of my wife, who loves finishing things.

Anyway, before I start to waffle any further, here’s where things are at:

I want to feel more fit. I don’t have a target weight I want to be, or anything like that – but for the last couple of years, every time I go to the doctor, my blood pressure creeps up a bit worse; every time I get a cholesterol test, it looks worse than it did before. In other words, on the scale of things, my health is in decline. To be honest, it’s gotten to the stage where I’m rather terrified of going to the doctor for fear that they’ll diagnose that it’s so bad that I’ve got six months to live. Yeah, there’s issues of mortality there which I probably need to tackle, because I’ve got a limited run on the planet one way or the other.  I know this. But part of me thinks that shortening that run because of something as stupid as, say, liking corn chips is really stupid.

So I’m trying for 90 days to see if I can bring about some changes. I don’t want to set up a huge, daunting routine, and also I’m currently in need of a new pair of running shoes (ruined by aforementioned Couch to 5K), so I don’t want to get into running again right at the moment. So I’m going to try three things:

1) Doing some exercise six days a week. I’m thinking a half-hour walk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, I thought I might have a crack at one hundred pushups, because I’ve usually focused on walking/running and haven’t really done much muscle work and it sounds like a good challenge. More on that tomorrow.

2) Avoiding junk food on weekdays. This is not an easy one. I hate to admit it (I much prefer looking perfect – don’t you?), but junk food tends to call me, on average, every two days. Sometimes every day. We have a bit of a love/hate relationship, but that’s another story. Either way, I want to see if I can avoid it on weekdays. (We’ll see how we go on weekends.) The exception to this is the traditional office birthday cakes, which are always awesome. But only one piece.

3) Having a green smoothie every day. If you’ve never had one, they are the most phenomenal invention. You take some greens (lettuce, spinach, etc.) add slightly more fruit than greens, a bit of water, and blend it into a drink in a blender. Because there’s more fruit than greens, it takes like fruit and not like spinach. But because there’s so many greens in there, you get a much bigger hit of vegetables than you would if you were eating a salad. It’s quite ingenious.

Anyway, so far the walk is ticked off, so is the junk food (but it was cake day – so that probably didn’t help) and I’m about to go and drink the green smoothie that I just blended up. And because this blog post is long and banal enough, I shall go post a review I wrote a while back that I haven’t had a chance to get up, just to break the monotony.