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Push-hands: The Handbook For Non-Competitive Tai Chi Practice With A Partner”  —  book review
Today’s book review is for “Push-hands: The Handbook For Non-Competitive Tai Chi Practice With A Partner” (1997©), written by Herman Kauz.  This is one of those learn martial arts by pictures books.  Having said that, which makes my review sound disparaging – this is a valuable / useful book.
This is a very short book.  It is 128 pages (in my hard-bound edition), and the second half of the book has images on almost every page (at least a hundred images over the 50 pages).  If you are reading this book straight through, you can easily complete it in a day.  Unfortunately, you will get almost nothing from the book if you do this.  To borrow from Francis Bacon: this is a book to be “chewed and digested”.
I first became “aware” of push-hands as a teenager, when my uncle (who was taking Kung-fu lessons) demonstrated it to my brother and me.  Unfortunately, if you don’t have a partner close at hand for a LONG period, it is (IMHO) very difficult to get the prolonged experience necessary to learn from this practice.  I’ve never had such a partner.  At any rate, I have been a life-long dabbler / dilettante in several martial arts: boxing, wrestling, Hapkido, Judo, and Aikido.  I spent the most time playing Aikido, but even with almost a decade of intermittent practice, I was never very advanced.  With advancing age, I recently have become interested in Tai Chi as a form of exercise. I primarily wish to strengthen my ligaments and improve my balance.  “Push-hands” is one of the “forms” of practice which helps improve the Tai Chi students awareness of self and of others.
The author states early in the book, that one must have practiced the Tai Chi “first form” for a minimum of six months before attempting push-hands.  This is to establish the sense of self which will serve as your foundation for sensing others and establishing balance. I found this assertion to be very much in accordance with my own Aikido experience and from then on the book (author) had me “hooked”.  One note here.  The “balance” which I was seeking is not the same “balance” being used by the author.  I don’t want to fall down.  He wants more.  The author wants the reader (practitioner) to balance their personality and life – as well as – understand “balance” for martial purposes.
If the second half of the book is a picture-book tutorial of a martial art technique, what is the first half about?  History, philosophy, society and economics.  Huh??  Yup!  There are chapters on society, economics and history, the positive and negative aspects of competing, how we change what we think and why we should want to, the difficulty of doing so, seeing the world differently and then (finally) how we can use push-hands to develop ourselves as responsible / caring beings.
So, is this a good training / instructional manual?  Yes.  I believe it will be if you can find a partner to work with.  Is it interesting and / or well written?  Yes.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find it much better than (the many) martial art picture tutorials / books I’ve read in the past.  Final recommendation: highly recommended.  Of course, I do have qualifications, but they are mainly about trying to learn any physical activity by reading about it.  Having said this, I think most anyone who is willing to do the pre-training (the six months on the first form) will find this a valuable addition to their library and a source of material for deep thought about society and about Tai Chi tactics as a martial art – beyond it’s calisthenics / health usefulness.
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On This Day In:
2019 I’m Still Struggling To Rise
2018 Once Suddenly Free
2017 What Is Childlike
2016 The Latter A Lot Quicker Than The Former
2015 Notes On My Nightstand
2014 Generations
2013 Two For One
2012 Seen And Heard
2011 The Hazards And Vicissitudes Of Life

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Amateur (2018©)  —  book review
Over Christmas, my daughter gave me a couple of books as prezzies.  One of them was “Amateur“, written by Thomas Page McBee.  The premise of the book is that the author has gone from being a woman to a man and is seeking to become the first transgender person to box in Madison Square Garden in New Your City.  He is fighting in a charity event against a non-professional fighter (like himself), who is presumably non-trans – at least there is no mention of the male opponent being transgender as well.  Anyway, the book is autobiographical and describes the training and preparation leading up to the match.  The book also relates background information about the authors parents and siblings.  It also has a small amount about the stages of being / becoming transgender.
I asked my daughter why she got me this particular book and if she had read it.  She replied she had not read it and she just wanted to expose me to different perspectives.  The other book she gave me was the Michelle Obama bio, which I have not read yet.
Anyway, I found the book difficult to “get into” because I didn’t (and don’t) care for the author’s writing style.  I found the ideas being expressed unclear and the sentences “stilted”.  Several times I had to re-read a sentence or a paragraph because I wasn’t sure I understood what the author was saying or how it added to or followed on with whatever else was being said.  Eventually, I got the hang of the writing and had fewer problems reading along.
Although the book is “about” boxing and preparing for a fight, it is also about aggression and “being male” – or at least what the author believes is being male in modern society.  I found much of this to be “interesting” even if I don’t necessarily agree with everything the author was trying to relate.  That is, much of it makes sense / rings true, but I’m not sure it (the points being made) are uniquely “male” or modern.  I also don’t know if they are unique to western / American society.  “Interesting” because I am not transgender, did not grow up as a “tom-boy”, and have not spent a great deal of time thinking about being a “straight” “male” as opposed to being “gay” or “trans”.  To this extent, my daughter was successful in getting me to think outside the box.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  It is difficult for me to know who the target audience for this book is, so it is equally hard to recommend it to anyone stumbling on this post / review.  I don’t know that LGBQ folks would want to read about someone who is “trans” or about boxing and preparing for a fight.  I (personally) did find the writing about the training and preparation for the fight to be pretty interesting, enjoyable and well described.  In one way, the book made me chuckle.  Although I personally participated in a boxing tournament as a teen, I went into it completely unprepared, untrained and unfit.  LOL – and the results showed.  I guess, my question is would another trans person (female to male) find this book interesting.  I am not sure they would, except maybe to know there are others (like themselves) out there and they are adjusting to being their “new” selves.  And, maybe that’s enough…
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On This Day In:
2018 Feeling Both
2017 Just Start
2016 Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall
2015 Restraint At The Inn
2014 To Not Discovering
2013 I Have Less To Say
2012 Not The Best Prediction I’ve Ever Read

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I like rom-coms and I like fantasy movies.  Today’s reviews are for two movies which combine the rom-com and the guardian angel (fantasy) genres:  “Here Comes Mr. Jordan” and “Heaven Can Wait“.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan  —  movie review
This movie came out in 1941 and (as far as I know) was one of the first movies where the idea of an angel or guardian angel featured as a prominent plot point in the film.  The movie stars Robert Montgomery as Joe Pendleton / Bruce Farnsworth (a boxer and the “hero”), Rita Johnson as Julia Farnsworth (Bruce’s wife and “bad-guy 1”), John Emery as Tony Abbott (Farnsworth’s personal secretary and “bad-guy 2”), James Gleason as Max Corkle (Joe’s friend / trainer / manager), Evelyn Keyes as Bette Logan (the love interest for Joe / Bruce), Edward Everett Horton as Messenger 7013 (the angel in training) and Claude Rains as Mr. Jordan (the main angel in charge).
The premise is a convoluted “love will find a way”, “angels make mistakes too”, and “our fates are predetermined but the details are flexible”.  Basically, a boxer dies before his championship fight because the angel takes his spirit out of his body to avoid the person suffering the pain of death.  But, somehow, the person (Joe) wasn’t supposed to die and so he needs to go back to earth to complete his destiny (becoming champ).  The problem is his friend (Max) has had his body cremated so there is no body to return Joe to.  The head angel (Mr. Jordan) assumes control of the case and places Joe in another body of someone physically suitable.  The “someone” is Bruce who has been recently killed by his wife and secretary.  Blah, blah, blah, laughs ensue; the guilty are found out and love blossoms.  And, of course, Joe wins his title and lives happily ever after with Bette.
This is a black-and-white film which is overacted and simple to follow, but also genuinely funny and enduring.  I am quite certain I’d seen this movie in my youth, but I have no idea when it would have been.  I watched this with my wife, (who likes old movies but doesn’t normally like comedies,) and she both enjoyed it and actually laughed a couple of times.  You could knock me over with a feather…  Her reaction:  “This is the kind of movie I would have watched with my nana when I was young.”  Final recommendation: strong.  While not intended to be a “period piece”, this certainly is one – and it’s a pretty good one on that alone.  Throw in the rom-com and you’ve got a movie worth watching with your family.
Heaven Can Wait  —  movie review
This movie came out in 1978 and is a pretty straight forward remake of the original with minor character changes.  The movie stars Warren Beatty as Joe Pendleton / Bruce Farnsworth (a American football quarterback and the “hero”), Dyan Cannon as Julia Farnsworth (Bruce’s wife and “bad-guy 1”), Charles Grodin as Tony Abbott (Farnsworth’s personal secretary and “bad-guy 2”), Jack Warden as Max Corkle (Joe’s friend / trainer), Julie Christie as Bette Logan (the love interest for Joe / Bruce), Buck Henry as “the Escort” (instead of “Messenger 7013” – the angel in training) and James Mason as Mr. Jordan (the main angel in charge).  I have no idea why two Brits were chosen to play the main angels in both films.  I think it was for the accent – to make them sound more heavenly.  (LOL)
The premise(s) remain a convoluted “love will find a way”, “angels make mistakes too”, and “our fates are predetermined but the details are flexible”.  Basically, a quarterback dies before his championship game (the Super Bowl) because the angel takes his spirit out of his body to avoid the person suffering the pain of death.  But, somehow, the person (Joe) wasn’t supposed to die and so he needs to go back to earth to complete his destiny (winning the Super Bowl).  The problem (again) is his friend (Max) has had his body cremated so there is no body to return Joe to.  The head angel (Mr. Jordan) assumes control of the case and places Joe in another body of someone physically suitable.  The “someone” is Bruce who has been recently killed by his wife and secretary.  Blah, blah, blah, laughs ensue; the guilty are found out and love blossoms.  And, of course, Joe wins his Super Bowl and lives happily ever after with Bette.
This is a color film which is somewhat overacted (particularly by Cannon and Grodin – for laughs) and not as funny as the original (Warden isn’t as funny as Gleason), but it was nominated for seven Oscars (including Best Actor and Best Picture) and won one (not one of the main Oscars).  I saw this movie in my youth during its original release.  I did not watch this version with my wife who felt she didn’t want to “spoil” the memory of the original by watching the updated version.  Final recommendation: strong.  While not quite up to the original, it’s a pretty good remake.  And, again, a family film.
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On This Day In:
2017 All Greek To Me
2016 Judgment
2015 I Love Bacon, Too
2014 The Wee Bit
2013 Reading Rules
2012 Cadet Prayer
2011 Easy To Tell
2010 A NEW Lion In The Senate (Channeling Mr. Smith)
Inception Redux
A Quick Hit Of Stats

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