Sunday, January 31, 2010

Monkey in Hawai'i

I haven't been posting for a couple of weeks because I was away from the internet. It felt great, and I recommend the experience to anybody at least one week a year, to get a better sense of your own alienation to the cyberworld. Mine being dangerously elevated, postings will resume shortly.
Also, Hawai'i is totally awesome.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Film Noir

In the past few months, a few groups of unrelated friends all decided to go into filmmaking. Not so unusual in this day and age, if they were not all doing Film Noir stories. The first one comes from Miami, FL, starring a bunch of very talented traceurs from APK and the Tribe in a classic tale of heist and deceipt:

Once you made the equation 'film noir + parkour = success', why stop? Ben Cunis in DC didn't hesitate, and piled up zombies and ninjas on top of it:

Finally, Trammel Hudson has been working on several 'make an entire film in less than 72 hours' competitions where you build everything from beginning to end in a very very dense week-end. One of his latests is another slightly atypical turn on film noir:

All this spontaneous film noir trend must be a sign of the times: dust off your pin-striped suits, borsalino hats or retro cocktail dresses, and start investigating!!

Monday, January 11, 2010


Quadrupedal Movement (QM) is an integral part of Parkour training, because it involves:
1) looking funny,
2) while being in an awkward position,
3) while in front of other people.
Oh, and it also improves strength, coordination and flexibility of the arms, legs and core all at once. So here's one of my current favorite QM moves: the Inchworm (and yes, it involves steps 1 to 3 above). The inchworm is actually as hard as you make it, so it's a great exercise to scale up or down.

The principle is very simple: start standing, reach down in front of you until your hands reach the ground, flat.Then, walk you hands without moving your feet, as far as you can. Then walk your feet in, keeping your hands in place. The hard part is to keep your legs straight, and of course to not touch the ground with anything but your hands and feet, both flat (no fingertips!). After that, it's all about how much you can spread out and fold back in, like an inchworm. Decide beforehand of a distance to cover, nothing too long at first (that's a pretty slow way to move, and body parts will start complaining pretty fast). The further you can spread out and fold in, the fewer moves you need to make to cover a given distance. But it's harder. Trade-offs, trade-offs.

I recommend warming up your shoulders before doing it as this requires a good range of motion (e.g. do a few shoulder circles or pull-ups). It's a great exercise for building up core strength, but you should figure that out pretty quickly!

And did I mention it looks funny?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lhasa is gone :(

Here's some sad news: the excellent singer Lhasa de Sela passed away.

For those who don't know her music, she blended traditional music from Central and South America with her own modern style, telling beautiful, entrancing ballads in three languages (Spanish, English and French) on sparse but warm melodies. I had the good fortune to see her play live; she introduced many of her songs with a personal story and completely possessed the stage (not a simple feat for a quiet singer in front of Parisian concert goers, one of the worst behaved crowds you can get). Her albums La Llorona and The living road have been continuously on my playlist for years. Even though she was a stranger, I realize I will miss her.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Alcool de vieux garçon

For some reason, I have become well-known for my "special berry alcohol beverage", a treacherous drink that has been known to provoke undesired shirtlessness, extreme reddening of the skin, voluntary loss of memories or inability to operate shoelaces. Today, I will share with all of you the incredible secret recipe of this entertaining drink (you've read about some of the risks, so consider yourself warned of possible disastrous effects):

  1. Acquire fresh fruits of the -berry family (rasp-, straw-, blue-, black-, boysen-) or other delicious fruits (peaches, cherries, etc) in season. Quality is the key here, because a flavorless fruit will not improve with age. I recommend going to a pick-your-own farm for added fun.
  2. Make a pie first, because you picked too much anyway and it would be a shame to waste all those freshly picked fruits into something you'll have to wait half a year to enjoy.
  3. Fill a small bottle with the rest (I like iced tea bottles of maple syrup bottles; you want glass, a large enough neck to stuff the berries in, and a tight cap) to the rim, but without mashing them.
  4. Add a single spoon of sugar, white or brown, to help start the fermentation process.
  5. Top with your favorite alcohol (vodka, rum, possibly gin or whisky depending on the fruit and your taste, other strong but neutral alcohols can work). As blindness is not a fun side effect for this recipe, choose some good quality alcohol, not the cheap stuff. Cheap booze may pack all sorts of unusual stuff that do strange things given time. Stick to the good stuff.
  6. Tighten the cap, write the name of berries (they sometime become hard to identify, especially after a glass), alcohol (it soaks so much of the fruit flavor it's difficult tofind that hint of pepper or sweet cane) and year (most important part) on a piece of paper and tape it on the bottle.
  7. Put the bottle in a cool place far from your eyes, and wait a full year.
  8. Drink in small quantities among select friends.
As you see, the only hard part here is step 7. It takes a solid few months for the fruits to start losing their color and blend their flavor with the alcohol, and then the taste grows in power over time. Wait at least until the year on the bottle doesn't match the one on the calendar, it's worth it. With more time, the alcohol turns sweet and fruity, and the fruits become unbelievably alcoholised. I said it's worth it, so screw that cap back on and put the bottle back on the shelf.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Take a walk on the Weak Side

Have you ever noticed how bilateral symmetry is a bit of a myth? When training parkour, how everything is easier on one side, sometimes to the point you can only do a move confidently from one side of your body? time to change this! Through our lives, we usually pick a side and stick with it. We write with it, we cook with it, we use it to jump, to land, to pull our body around. Traceurs, go have a look at your shoulders in a mirror: are they the same size and shape? probably not..

So if like me this state of things bothers you, here's a few ideas to strengthen the Weak Side. Basically, they come in three categories: forcing your brain to use the weak side (and improve its neural pathways); building up strength assymmetrically (on the weak side); training moves specifically on the weak side.

1. When sitting cross-legged, cross your legs the other way. Same for the arms.
2. Brush your teeth with the other hand. Try with shaving next.
3. Switch your computer mouse settings to the other side.
4. Reverse your hand posture when cooking, etc.

5. Work on assymmetric push-ups and pull-ups; you can start with shifting your weight to one side when doing a rep, then progress to lift part of your hand off the ground or bar; if you're really motivated go to one arm.
6. Perform unequal numbers of reps for one-sided exercises: leg raises, balancing, hopping, T push-ups, side push ups, side QMs, rolls, safety and speed vaults, tic-tacs, etc.

7. Control your footing on symmetric moves: if you do a straight vault (e.g. a kong vault), you probably jump and land almost always the same way. To force yourself to use the weak side, count two or three steps before the jump and always start from there, remembering which foot went first, so you can then use systematically the weaker of the two options.

With regular practice, you might discover that you can be symmetrical if you choose to be.