Friday, November 30, 2007

Ninja Warrior

Maria, the lovely and wise, did humanity a great service while I was gone and ordered a bonus cable package that will last us a meager six months. I've always been against cable TV, it's like inviting a black hole into your living room. A black hole that makes you stupid. But, invariably, I watch. I'm on my mandatory 100 day break from working at Microsoft... It's this horrible headlock they grapple you with should you choose to seek their employ. A huge percentage of the Microsoft work force is made up of contractors like myself, and to get around giving us things like good wages and benefits, we are forced to take a "vacation" every 9 to 12 months. While I relish my work at MS / Bungie, I also love not working. Either way I'm a winner and a loser. A woser?

So anyways, my days are filled with excrutiating trips to the gym, drinking brutally strong coffee, typing on the lappy toppy, playing guitar, watching TV, and lots of Halo 3. The coffee-Halo combination has been pretty fun as I can get pretty worked up. The other day I was drying off in the shower and noticed a fist sized bruise just over my right knee... a bruise made from punching myself in caffeine induced frenzies of anger after being Needler'd or losing the melee hit coin toss.

Daytime TV kind of blows a lot. But, for dudes like me there is a savior. A gistening golden messenger of health and prosperity, a cupid, a perfect package of entertainment. Her name is G4, and watching her is like eating pizza. Complete, rampant indulgence. For those who don't know, G4 is a channel made for nerds. Most programs revolve around gaming, others will show off the latest tech gadgets, movie previews, graphic novel reviews, and one show called Cinematech just feeds 30 minutes of game footage. No commentary, just games. I'm watching it right now. They just played a commercial where a unicorn vomits a PSP. I can say with absolution that I have never seen a unicorn vomit a gaming system anywhere else, and it is unlikely that I will ever go back on that statement.

However, if I can recommend anything to you few friends who read this, it is a program called Ninja Warrior. To sum it up, average Japanese dudes run through ridiculous obstacle courses to try and push a giant red button before the clock runs out. The obstacles vary from simple jumps over a water pit, to rope swinging like Tarzan (it's actually called the "Tarzan Ropes"), to trampolining over more water pits to grapple onto rope nets, to hanging onto a rolling log that spins and knocks the contestant into, yes, a water pit. The failures are nothing short of hillarious, awkward crashes into the muddy depths below, limbs completely splayed, rendering any and all athleticism moot. The victories are butt clenching. I actually flex and squirm watching the poor Ninja hopefuls grapple that last climb up the rope to the shiny red button, arms weak, straining, the clock ticking away the last ten seconds. The subtitled commentary is of course priceless, as can be expected from most Japanese game shows.

But truly the most enamoring element to the show are the contestants themselves. They are serious. Some dish it out with a garnish of humor, but many of them are motivated and passionate. About ninjas. Or I guess, about being a ninja. These people are entering the competition years and years in a row. They are training in their free time, building elaborate reconstructions of the challenges that thwarted their last attempt. I understand the drive to succeed, the passion needed to return to a potentially ruinous situation at the behest of ones pride, only to best yourself. But these people are running full kilter across foam rocks for the titlee of "ninja", largely useless in today's world of commerce and business. They are dressing like ninjas. They are dressing like superman and spiderman. They are dressing in their work outfits, their sports uniforms. It's like they are meelding their identity with the challenge. My favorite contestant so far owns a gas station. He has competed five years in a row and never gotten past the first challenge. He competes in his work uniform: red shirt with name tag, hat, dark slacks. The previous year he made it to the last rope climb, mere feet from the almighty button, and dislocated his shoulder in a freak twist. I just watched him fail again, timing out on the same rope climb that doomed his last attempt (I was flexing!), and I'm sure he'll be back next season.

I leave you with OCTOPUS as a teaser. The guy is 57.

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