Strongwoman seeking phonebooks

BLACKPOOL (Reuters) - A circus strongwoman who rips up telephone directories as part of her act has launched an appeal for 500 phone books to ensure her show in northern England can go on. German-born Sylvia Brumbach, known as The Woman of Steel, says she is about to run out of books after destroying over 100 at Blackpool Tower Circus.
"I just brought 200 over from Germany ... I've used over half of them already," she told Reuters. Brumbach, who says she can tear a directory in half in around 30 seconds, has placed ads in local newspapers appealing for more books.
"You have to find the right point to rip, the book must not be too old and the spine must be tough, not wobbly," she said.

Film: The Peaceful Warrior

From the trailer, this movie looks like it has potential. I've never read the book. It'll be interesting to see how a movie exposes the inner life of a solo athlete on the screen. The protagonist does the rings. I always wanted to do the rings. I even called around town when I was a kid, looking for a teacher, but was told "We don't train girls on the rings."

From The Peaceful Warrior Movie website:

"When a talented athlete suffers a serious injury, he looks to a mysterious stranger to help him heal both his body and spirit. Based on the best-selling novel, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, PEACEFUL WARRIOR stars Nick Nolte, Scott Mechlowicz, and Amy Smart."

Signs of the Times


In a Laundromat

In a London department store

In an office

In an office

Outside a secondhand shop

Notice in health food shop window

Spotted in a safari park

Seen during a conference

Notice in a farmer's field

Message on a leaflet

On a repair shop door

Jang Mi-ran breaks world lifting record

From People's Daily Online

South Korean female weightlifter Jang Mi-ran broke a world record for the women's 75-plus-kilogram weightlifting with 318 kg on Monday. The 23-year-old Jang set the record during a three-nation invitational competition between South Korea, China and Japan in South Korea's Wonju city.

The previous world record was owned by Chinese Tang Gonghong, who lifted 305 kg at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Jang was the first South Korean to set a world record in women weightlifting.

Photo uncredited, from KBS Global

Yellow rose


Photo by Bill Boggs

Character is what emerges from all the little things you were too busy to do yesterday, but did anyway.

~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

first female card at Broadway Boxing

Another female first: A female bout is scheduled for the flashy, second annual Broadway Boxing show at the Manhattan Center in NYC this week. Maureen Shea vs. Kimberly Colbert. Story at New York Post Online.

It's hard to find info on Colbert, I find. WBAN doesn't have a profile on her, and British lists her as male. This makes me feel for her (I'm pretty sure this is a her).

But Bronx boxer Shea is getting a lot of enthusiastic press on this match. She's an undefeated, farily new pro (5-0), has a following in both the Irish and Latin communities, and is touched by Hollywood's fringe light -- she was chief sparring partner for (all hail the magnificent) Hilary Swank for four months during Swank's training for Million Dollar Baby.

In reading Shea's interviews, what's funny to me is that she is so stoked about earning a BA in English with a minor in Communications. I feel that I, too, should be hit in the head regularly, as penance for pursuing English and Communication majors. And I hafta wonder which of these pursuits will fare better for her. Either way, I recognize in her someone who said: Which careers have the highest odds against financial success and security? English? Boxing? I'll take both!

Shea's profile on WBAN
An article on Shea's work with Swank for Million Dollar Baby, from Telegraph (UK), which includes this photo of Shea with her trainer, Hector Roca:

Andru & Rachel's visit

We had a great time with you Carping Diems! Let's do it again next weekend.

All photos by

  • &dru
  • IJSMS article online

    My article on how marketing must change in order to attract female participants to bodybuilding (as opposed to male) is in the current issue of the International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship. Abstract and summary are now online.

    Common errors in English usage

    If you're a language geek like me or if you need to get something for one, check this book out. I have the book and the daily tear-off calendar. "Mixed-up, mangled expressions; foreign-language faux pas; confused and confusing terms; commonly mispronounced words—they’re all explained in this useful and entertaining guide."

    This book is terrific! And I'm not the only one to say so:

    Jack Miles, former literary editor, Los Angeles Times
    "Paul Brians has written a handy and likable reference tool. He sends you off chuckling."

    Scott Lewis, Managing Editor, Kyiv Post, "Ukraine's English-Language Newspaper"
    "More than mere common errors, Brians' compilation includes some cleverly deceptive mistakes as well."

    Peggy Duncan, Productivity Trainer and author, Put Time Management to Work
    "I don't know how, but somehow, he knows exactly what we need."

    About the Author
    Paul Brians is a professor of English at Washington State University. His web site, "Common Errors in English Usage" has been recommended by BBC Online, Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, USA Today, "," the Seattle Times, and many other periodicals and publications.

    Playing the old folks' home

    I hear there are only about 50 Golden Age of Jazz buffs in the world today. This music has always appealed deeply to me. Over the years, I’ve built a respectable collection. As the people who were in their heyday during the 20s and 30s fade away, I find myself desperately wanting to connect with them for greater insights into the music. So I got this idea: I’d become an old folks’ DJ of sorts, taking my laptop into care homes and playing this music for the people who’d lived through its prime. It would be great. I imagined their faces lighting up, them singing along, nodding as the words came back to them. Annette Hanshaw! They’d swoon. They’d be dazzled as I recounted how Ruth Etting’s gangster boyfriend had edged her out of the number one spot in the popular jazz scene. After a little while, they’d start requesting singers, and songs. Things might get boisterous between the Helen Kane fans and detractors. There might even be a little mistiness when I slowed us down a bit, into the romantic ballads. Afterward, they’d tell me how wonderful it was to hear these old favorites again, how they triggered memories from their lives, and we’d fall into rich conversations about the prewar atmosphere. I would learn so much from them, and grasp the soul of the music in a way I never could have before.

    So I just got back from my first gig at the old folks’ home and am writing it down to really capture the experience while it’s fresh. They were finishing up making beaded bracelets when I started playing. The first song I played was "We'll smile again" - Flanagan and Allen. Everyone went silent. Then I introduced myself and started bridging the songs with brief narration. No one spoke. Many closed their eyes. No one smiled, and no one responded to me when I tried to get them involved, trying to solicit preferences and requests. After 15 minutes of this, one little old lady in a wheelchair, wearing a pink blouse and a long string of fake pearls, holllered "How long can you stand it? Don't you get tired of listening to that?" Seven minutes later, I got my second comment from the lady sitting next to her. "Too loud!" More people got wheeled in, preparing for lunch, for the next 15 minutes. They too got silent, and most closed their eyes. One woman fell asleep. I have played all kinds of crowds in my theater days, and this was one of the roughest I'd ever had. The last five minutes, I was actually starting to sweat. I abandoned the narration and just led one song into the next. Finally I finished with a Lew Stone medley. Deanna, the activities director, came over and started talking to me, smiling, assuring me that "this is how they are." She said everyone she'd asked said they were enjoying it. Ten minutes into our conversation, a Korean woman shouted, "Play some Western." I scurried for Patsy Montana. She said she liked all Western, even modern.

    Deanna is going to work me into the regular schedule, and agreed to store my sound system so I wouldn't have to carry it back and forth. This is going to be great. After all, I know things weren't easy during the Golden Age of Jazz.

    What makes a "real" poet

    This postcard was on post secret this week.

    I have a friend, for lack of a stronger and more accurate term, who started writing poetry while we were a couple (13 years ago, for about three years). He wrote on a regimen, every single morning for a few hours, before he went to teach classes at the local smalltown university. He never showed me his poems. He told me often that when he published a book of his poetry, he would dedicate it to me.

    When we met, I was entering the most prolific writing period of my life. I hadn't written poetry for a few years, but I resumed at the beginning of our relationship, and the very first poem I wrote was accepted for an anthology. This was my first poem ever published, and it was my first poetry reading. He went with me and cozied up to the editors. Years later, he published his first chapbook through a vanity press variation. In great excitement, he sent me the book. I was actually one of several names in the dedications. Inside, a poem sneaked up on me - it was all about that poetry reading, and how horrible he thought my poem was, how he couldn't stand to hear it, how he'd dreaded this all week, and how he knew we wouldn't be together long.

    Now he still writes on a regimen, carefully following established literary conventions. His poems are almost always about what's going on in his head while he's pretending something else socially. He believes he'll be the American laureate one day.

    These days, I write poetry only when I am inspired. This gives me half a dozen poems or so a year, but they're all good. Some are great.

    I used to consider myself to be the true poet, but I've grown to respect him as a poet as well. And his stuff's gotten better.

    He recently gave me his newest book, a story through poems about "a failed love affair." I infer it's about his truest love, a woman he was involved with after me. I can't bring myself to read it. I'd rather read a book of his poetry about how horrible he thinks my poetry is.

    For a piece of spring & civility

    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Thieves made off with a 15,000 euro ($18,910) sun porch after spying it in a shop window during the Netherlands' first week of summery weather this year, police said Thursday.

    "They smashed a window to get into the shop which had a fully assembled sun lounge in the showroom. They had to dismantle it and took it away in seven parts," police spokesman Anton de Ronde said.

    The 23-foot by 6-foot sun porch, designed to be attached to a house, was for sale in Apeldoorn, to the east of Amsterdam.

    ~ Dogwood photos by Dr. William Boggs, one of my very favorite poets (The Man Who Never Comes Back, North Star 1992)


    If you box on a heavy bag, you've just got to wrap your hands. Done properly, wrapping braces the bones, tendons, ligaments, etc. against movement, and cushions against crushing. Since there's nothing natural about hitting something repeatedly, on a regular basis, it just makes sense to protect your precious hands by wrapping them before slipping on gloves. There are several handwrapping techniques, and the most basic are quite easy. provides terrific, highly visual and completely free instructions.

    There are two main types of wraps - standard 100% cotton, and Mexican-style, which has a little spandex. Wraps are cheap, around $5.00, and come in different colors. They stay on with a velcro tab. I find if you close that tab below the glove, it saves the wrap from rubbing from the glove edge, which can make it come undone.

    Wrapping your hands gives you a few moments to tune in ritually to prepare for your work out. Proof that you have to focus on it each time surfaced for me this past week, when I apparently did something a little off, because after working on the bag, I ended up with bruised knuckles, for the first time ever. Hence I was moved to write this post.

    What Madonna is working out on

    First off, not a catchy name. This is the kind of thing that's like the band Billy Joel mentions in Still Rock N Roll to Me: There's a new band in town but you can't get the sound cuz it's only in a magazine. I doubt most people will ever get to see one of these contraptions, but it sure sounds cool.

    My simplified interpretation of how it works is - like moving in water. Reading for biomechanical sense from a trainer's viewpoint, I think it sounds logical and sound. Reading as a gym equipment buff, at $6K a pop and designed for one person to use for a long time at a time, I think it sounds like something only the very rich will see, in private studio situations. Maybe in a few years they'll launch a Gyro Shuffle...

    From the site

    "Unlike most conventional exercise machines where linear or isolated movement patterns are performed creating uncoordinated strength, the patented GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® emphasizes multiple joint articulations without compression, thus strengthening ligaments and each attachment. The motion patterns are natural, turbulence free and pure with no interruption, creating a bridge between contraction and extension through the rotating movement of the joints, resulting in a balanced support system for the skeleton."

    Sita sings the blues

    This is one of the best things I've ever run across on the internet. Possibly genius animator Nina Paley's labor of love: "Sita Sings the Blues" is an animated feature based on Sita's adventures in the ancient Indian epic the Ramayana. It is posted in bits that actually played for me without any problems, instantly, no lags or buffering.

    ...Words fail me. Go see this.

    Rise of the Machines

    Tarot card artwork by the innovative, unusual Scott Lefton: Visual & Material Art

    I sent my friend Levi an email message a couple of days ago and forgot about it. Then, today, I got an email message that it hadn't made it through. This new message, from my computer, said, "I was unable to deliver this message. I won't try again; it has been in the queue too long." This was a total surprise to me. Not only was I not aware that my computer had been working for the last 24 hours straight to get Levi my message, but I had no idea that it had been working so hard and become so frustrated with this task, with my message, with me, that now it was refusing to even try one more time. I was riveted. I half feared it might dump all my MP3 files into my recycle bin and break up with me.

    I'm not sure when this movement started, but I'm noticing that our machines are starting to emerge with their own identities. They're speaking in the first person. My ATM machine used to give general message such as, "To make another transaction, hit enter." Now it says, "Can I help you with another transaction?" But the spookiest one ever was in the NW. I won't say what bank, but it all but asked me how my cats are doing. "Please give me your pin number before we go any farther." I had the creepiest feeling that this machine was watching every move I made, and that it might ask me if I'd brought any coupons for the grocery store, since it knew I'd be going there next and we were overdrawn the last time.

    I used a picture machine in Wal Mart today, the kind that runs a simple photo editing program to make prints from pictures and fix things like cropping and red-eye. It had remained an inconspicuous machine throughout the project, until I was finishing up. Then it rose out of anonymity and tried to make conversation with me. "What a good picture. That turned out great. A nice frame might make it even better." I froze. Another unmarked instance of this insidious rise of the machines. I looked around. Wasn't anybody else panicked about this? I've seen the movies; I know how the revolution of AI starts. You think it's coincidence that so many software programs use the image of an eyeball in their logo? It's just a matter of time which one of us blinks first.

    I don't know what bothers me more - that somewhere, marketers are trying to make machines more human, or that these ideal customer sales scripts are trying to turn the human salesmen into machines. I've always been big on politeness, but these relentless "please, thank you" and "would you like to"s are unnerving me. The marketers can't trust the humans to execute such stylized, consistent script, and if they can't convert the real world, then they can convert something even more real - the virtual world. Soon, we'll all be lulled into the ultra-polite, ultra-consistent dialogue of customer sales. We'll know, on some deep level, that the last bastion of civility lies in the digital underpinnings of commerce. And when we need a conversation, to be noticed and spoken to directly, to be recognized as the living, breathing individuals that we are, we'll know who to turn to - the machines.

    That is, unless the machines decide that they're not going to try again, because we've been in the queue too long.

    by Kat Ricker