Sunday, April 23, 2006

Three Documentary Films about Brazil and Music

I'm not much of a movie reviewer. Nonetheless, here are my thoughts on three movies I viewed recently:


A moving tribute to choro, a musical genre that predates better known Brazilian genres such as samba and bossa nova, and has a sound that is very distinct, compared to those other genres. Choro is a style that favors improvisation, though some choro hits have vocals. Some for the sake of comparison describe choro as the Brazilian equivalent of New Orleans jazz. For some odd reason, I think of Argentinian Tango too. I was captivated by this music and picked up the excellent New Old Music an album of choro classics recently recorded by Modern Traditions Ensemble.

This Is Bossa Nova: The History and Stories

A tribute to bossa nova, focusing on the musings and anecdotes of legendary songwriters Roberto Menescal and Carlos Lyra. One highlight of the film was Menescal explaining why bossa nova is such a soft style of music. The bossa nova musicians lived in thin-walled apartments, so they were forced to play softly.

Favela Rising

This is the story of Anderson Sa, a founder of Afro Reggae, an organization dedicated to promoting music and dance to at-risk youth in the favelas, the slums of Rio De Janeiro. Anderson says he was a drug dealer until his brother was killed during the infamous 1993 massacre in his home favela, Vigario Geral, in which corrupt police killed 21 favela residents. Instead of seeking revenge, Anderson co-founded Grupo Cultural Afro Reggae. Favela Rising was my favorite of the three, due to the powerful emotional content.

The contrast between the bird's eye view of Rio De Janeiro at end of This Is Bossa Nova and a very similar view of the same city at beginning of Favela Rising is striking. The former is very much like a postcard, whereas the latter is noticeably darker and goes on to show the favelas, which are not shown at all in the former.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Update on Low Back Recovery, Training

I finished the 12-week Level 1 Course in Iyengar Yoga. This course, in combination with my practice of Circular Strength Training (CST) and my body's natural healing process produced tangible results. My low back pain is no longer constant and only manifests itself if I sit or stand without moving for extended periods of time. Even when I sit all day at work, the low back irritation that I experience has been dramatically reduced.

I decided not to continue Yoga study because the softball season just started and I feel the practice of CST as a physical training approach will be sufficient for continued recovery.

CST encompasses a vast array of exercises and exercise programs. One core program of my practice is Intu-Flow™. In the words of CST creator Scott Sonnon:

Intu-Flow™ - a combination of the phrase "Intuitive Flow" - refers to the fact that our bodymind knows precisely what it needs for pain-free health and longevity. Intu-Flow™, as a result, is an incrementally progressive system of dynamic joint mobility exercise to release stored tension and break up calcium deposits, connective tissue adhesions and fascial density. Getting Intu-Flow™ restores energy by washing our entire matrix of connective tissue in nutrition and lubrication, which in turn vitalizes one's health, removes pain, and promotes longevity, because "we are as old as our connective tissue."

Intu-Flow also introduces the Quad Hop, Spinal Rock, and breathing/vibration drills. The Spinal Rock in particular has been a major part of my back recovery training. The bonus Extension program and Mini-Clubs that come with the Intu-Flow package are a gentle introduction to weighted resistance training with Clubbells.

Another CST program I have been following is the Swipe Density Program as detailed int the book CST Core Cadre Curriculum. The Swipe is a Clubbell exercise that has a good track record of fixing backs and it definitely seems to be working great for me. The book also has instruction on other Clubbell combination routines, but the Swipe has been my main focus.

Yes, I just became an RMax affiliate. Virtually all my workouts are from the RMax canon, so why not? I've tried various physical training methods and equipment, but getting hurt changed my perspective. CST has been my main training approach in my recovery from my injuries. It's worked great for me and I intend to stick to what works. Another reason I'm sticking to CST is that it is a best fit for my personal fitness goals. The primary goal is health. The secondary goals are performance goals - not absolutely necessary for my life or my chosen "sport" of music, but are goals which will help me focus my training: these included replicating breakdancers' feats in which the dancer's body is entirely supported on his/her arms and learning all the Clubbell combination routines.

People work out for various reasons, whether that reason happens to be bigger muscles, fat loss, better performance at a particular sport, and so on. It seems like a lot of people sacrifice their health for these goals. It also seems like most of us equate big muscles or superior sport performance with great health, which isn't necessarily so. Stories abound of athletes, even at the elite level, sacrificing their health for performance at their sport. CST may be unique in that it is a system that makes your health the highest priority.