2011 Spring Fitness Goals Log: Week 2

Pull-ups: 66%
Dips: 92%
Seated Dumbbell Reverse-raises: 70%
Shrugs: 60%
Sit-ups: 100%
Yoga: 1 day - short session
Short Run: 3 miles (speed)
Long Run: 7 miles (speed)


2011 Spring Fitness Goals Log: Week 1

Bench Press: 82%
Squat Press: 65%
Standing Curls: 80%
Military Press: 67%
Indo Balance Board: 5 minutes
Yoga: 2 days - short session
Short Run: 4 miles
Long Run: 10 miles


Movie Editing as Gender Construction

Editing can have HUGE implications for how one experiences a film/video. When Peter Ramus divided invention from what he thought were the ornamental elements of rhetoric, he failed to see the constitutive powers of arrangement and style. To illustrate my point, I'm going to contrast two trailers for the surfing documentary Step Into Liquid. In each trailer, notice who speaks first, who speaks most, and note the way that the genders are portrayed.

In the first, more gender-balanced trailer, note how the title of the movie is derived from an interview with Rochelle Ballard, one of the best professional surfers on the tour. She distills the joy of surfing by describing it as stepping into liquid. In the trailer, you see her discussing surfing in philosophical and intellectual terms. There is a moment where she descibes it more sensually. In this first trailer, you only hear her at this moment, and see her during her more serious moments. The gender balance in this trailer is also much more obvious, with cuts between male and female surfers. Women are portrayed in active poses, with the climactic scene of a woman doing a backflip off of her surfboard.

In the second trailer, there is a hyper-masculine narrator using an aggressive and superlative tone ("the Browns have done it again"). Men are the first people you hear (rather than the woman whose interview inspired the title). The same footage of Ballard shows the moment when she's discussing surfing more sensually ("it just feels good") with her scrunching up her shoulders and appearing a little more flaky. The footage of the surfers is more segregated by gender, and there is a marked difference between the ways that men are described (men are identified as parts of groups, and doing more aggressive and accomplished feats--"strapped crew," "the Maverick's crew," "the war veteran," "surf legends," "The Malloys, etc.") vs. the women (who are described individually, and as being part of a setting-- "in beautiful Tahiti").

The addition of the throbbing music to the more masculinized soundtrack merely serves to underline the gender posturing in this short piece. While the additive elements of the voiceover and the soundtrack underline the difference, the editing is really what does the heavy lifting. Segregating different gendered surfing footage and featuring the more sensual, slow motion, and closer shots of women, while featuring the more active men through the use of helicopter "God's eye" shots of men skating across the face of larger waves in real-time constructs the binaries of men as active and aggressive and women as soft and more passive. The declaration that "the Browns have done it again, and this time they're showing the simple truth about surfing" (with the images of exclusively-male images of big-wave surfing), followed immediately by spliced audio explaining "big wave riding is like an inner desire" only cements the naturalized ordering of big wave riding (done by men as "the truth" of surfing) as the top of the hierarchy.

Subtle differences to the untrained eye, but unmistakable compositions that cement associations between gender and activity through image. Splicing flickering signifiers in particular sequences creates the multiple gendered truths of surfing from the same raw material.


Running into a Blizzard

When my partner and I were interviewing for our two jobs at NDSU, we asked a graduate-school friend from Minnetonka, Minnesota about the chances of us surviving up here on the northern plains; “you are moving to a cold, dark hole, but the people who live there are really nice.” Foreboding description, but we took the leap anyway. Since we moved, we have found he description apt for the most part, and have been learning to embrace life up here. We’ve picked up cross-country skiing, run through blizzards, and even built slide-distance into our driving calculations. Still, we have never been stranded in a car during a blizzard. Correction: we hadn’t been stranded in a car until December 30, 2010.

As you already know, we survived this seemingly-shocking event, and have emerged pretty much unscathed. Perhaps the weirdest part of being in a car that slides into a snow bank during the middle of a blizzard is the strange mundanity of it. What went through my head was really something more like a combination of confusion and of comfort. The bizarre juxtaposition between the almost-unimaginable slide of a 2-ton car on a dark, icy road and the almost cheerful camaraderie of three friends going into the unknown still jars my imagination. There was no question what was driving us—the chance to spend this belated birthday celebration eating incredible Korean food with an old friend (it was going to be two old friends, but one was quite sick at home) and two new friends was too much to pass up.

When the snow settled, and the requisite attempts to free the car using drive and reverse failed, my friend Dayna, my partner Miriam, and I looked at each other for answers. Luckily, both of the other people stuck in this absurd situation with me are can-do folks--within minutes, we were all out trying to push the car off of the snow berm and back onto the road. We hacked away at the snow with both hands and an ice scraper. Our gregarious driver asked a police officer to call a tow-truck (none of the 18 tow-truck services would come down as far south in Moorhead as we were), called her insurance company, and flagged down a fellow stranded motorist to help free us; Miriam and I took turns pushing, gunning the car, and digging. Ultimately, the combination of near-gale winds and ice-rink surface of the road forced us to call our dinner hosts to see if we could make a run for their apartment. After a few calls back and forth (what did we DO before cellphones?), we made a run for it, and was met by one of our hosts (a Texas native, but surprisingly adept running through the snow) about 1/4 mile from the car.

As you may suspect, we made it to the dinner (which was even better than I imagined). The food, conversation, and hospitality were amazing, especially considering the circumstances; still, I can’t help but think back about what my Lake Minnetonka friend told me. Most people think of place as something that gets characterized by its natives. Although Dayna is from here (and has been a delightful guide in discovering both basic and urbane aspects of the culture), our hosts are from South Korea and Houston. Miriam and I hail from Florida and Arizona. Despite (or maybe because of) our diversity, we were able to get to the dinner, have a great dinner, survive an impromptu sleepover, and get home. The combination of difficulties and friends to face them have only cemented my feeling that Fargo is now my home--a place where even the worst of circumstances can add to my love of place.