This new ‘Reality’ is scary. And it’s exactly what we all deserve.

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When my folks went out for the evening, my sister and I would make Macaroni and Cheese, share a can of coke, and tune into our two favorite TV shows: Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. Both had all the teen drama we could want in 1992, and we watched these California small screen idols play out soap-opera scenarios in ways that seemed completely surreal from our heart of the heartland, evangelical Christian upbringing in Wichita, Kansas. The “problems” of Jennie Garth and Luke Perry seemed so much larger than life, even if the poorly drawn situations now seem banal. But the show’s writers executed perfectly their goal, drawing in developing minds like mine and my sister’s.

When MTV’s now eponymous television series The Real World premiered in the late spring of 1992, it seemed the janus face to our favorite shows. We weren’t quite sure how watching real teen drama played out in a huge New York apartment could match the unpredictable twists and turns of those scripted shows. My sister and I mostly ignored the ‘Real’ and kept our gaze fixedly on the fictitious.

Then we heard that a Conservative Christian kid from Belmont University was a part of the “cast” of Season 2. Unbeknownst to my sister, I found a way to watch it. I didn’t quite understand what I was witnessing. Later in that season when Tami revealed that she was pregnant and planned to get an abortion, it was earth shattering. Nothing revealed about Kelly Taylor could ever match this kind of drama.

The sophomores I teach now never stop talking about The Bachelor. Try as I might to dissuade them with insider knowledge about how this type of unscripted drama actually works, they can’t get enough of it. And there’s probably a good reason for their ardor.

As a young actor learning about theatre in middle school, I could, at times, imagine myself living with all those hot neighbors in the Melrose Apartments. It also seemed a completely unlikely scenario. I realized even then that I would likely never have Luke Perry’s profile. Neither was I related to Aaron Spelling, as far as I knew. I did, however, audition for a season of The Real World. And it was extremely easy to receive a callback. In fact, all I had to do was show up with my very entertaining black friend, Jermaine, and utter a few somewhat offensive and witty statements about our relationship. With his winning smile and carefree attitude, the show’s ‘casting directors’ immediately took notice of both of us.

Neither Jermaine nor I appeared on any episode of the show. A young girl from that casting call did, however, and I remember her distinctly. She came into the waiting room and controlled it. She was loud. She was abrasive. You couldn’t help but notice her. She was exactly what the show’s producers wanted.

Most days, I simply wish that Marshall McLuhan were still alive. His insight would prove so helpful right now. ‘We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us,’ Marshall taught us. And here we are, staring at a presidential candidate in Donald Trump whose tools seem all at once sharp, dangerous, shiny and provocative, brand new and yet wielded with the precision of someone who has handled them for decades.

Not one of us should act surprised that ‘The Donald’ has risen to these heights in politics. Recall a time recently when you watched a show where an adorable couple so easily flips an unsalvageable home, a series when highly-skilled chefs are lambasted and berated for failure to season properly, a singing contest that scrutinizes young talent to the point of tears. These shows are the lighter side of that dark chasm known as ‘Reality Television.’ Think about Toddlers in Tiaras, 16 and Pregnant, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. These shows receive funding from television networks and people watch religiously.

It’s difficult to tell these days which shows falls under the heading of Reality TV and which are something else. While game shows have aired since the very earliest days of television, never before the early nineties did we find out so many personal details about their contestants. Donald Trump understands the power of celebrity. He understands the power of name recognition. And he understands that TV viewers only hear and see what they want. Or what they think they like.

That’s the reason he’s a viable candidate in this Presidential race. Because unscripted, loud-mouthed, off-the-cuff drama has beaten out the written word. It’s won out over the carefully planned platforms and speeches of traditional candidates. It’s beaten down ideology or even an understanding of how government and legislation actually work. And I predict there’s no slowing it down.

Oh, Kelly Taylor. Where have you gone? Come back and save me.

That’s a terrible ending, but I don’t have a better one right now.

LT 100 Training Cycle 4

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Things are really ramping up here in Cycle 4. Emily and I put in a solid 50 miles in three days out on the Leadville 100 course last weekend. I feel very confident after that outing.

In addition to my base schedule, I thought I’d also give you a taste of what my work with Adrian/lifting regimen looks like. Here is my schedule for this coming Tuesday and Friday.

*Tuesday: Deadlifts-5 reps at 72 kg, 5 @ 82 kg, 5+ @ 92 kg, 3 x 10 Lat pull downs at 100 kg, 3 x 15 Body weight rows, 1 x 25 pushups, 3 planks at :90 seconds.

*Friday: Back Squats-5 @ 70 kg, 5 @ 80 kg, 5+ @ 90 kg, 3 x 10 weighted hip extension with 25 lb weight, 3 x 12 Front Rack Walking Lunges with Barbell + 15 kg, 50 + situps.

As always, running times are in hours and minutes rather than miles.

Wk 9 June 22-28

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Adrian + 30
Wednesday: 15 EZ, 25 (10k)
Thursday: 70 Track-6 x 1600 @ 8k pace with 2 min. rest in between
Friday: 1 Hr. Lift
Saturday: 1:30 @ Start to Mayqueen pace Roughly 9:30 min/mi.
Sunday: 1:30 @ Start to Mayqueen pace

Total Time: 6:00

Wk 10 June 29-July 5

Monday: Rest
*Tuesday: Adrian + 40
Wednesday: 15 EZ, 35 (12k)
Thursday: 80 Stairs
*Friday: 1 Hr. Lift + 50 EZ
Saturday: 2:30-Tire Pull
Sunday: Rest

Total Time: 8:10

Wk 11 July 6-12

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Adrian + 40
Wednesday: 20 EZ, 40 (12k)
Thursday: 80 Track-7 x 1600 @ 8k pace with 2 min. rest in between each
Friday: 1 Hr. Lift
Saturday: 3:00 @ 100k pace
Sunday: 3:00 @ 100k pace

Total Time: 11:00

LT 100 Training Cycle 2

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Week 4 – May 18-24

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Adrian + 30
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 60 Track
Friday: 1 Hour Lifting
Saturday: 1:30
Sunday: 1:30

Total Workout Time: 6:30

Week 5 – May 25-31

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Adrian + 40
Wednesday: 20 EZ, 30 (10k)
Thursday: 60 Stairs
Friday: 40 Easy + 1 Hour Lifting
Saturday: 2:00-Tire Pull
Sunday: Rest

Total Workout Time: 7:10

Week 6 – June 1-7

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Adrian + 40
Wednesday: 55 Easy
Thursday: 70 Track
Friday: 1 Hour Lifting
Saturday: 2:15
Sunday: 2:15

Total Workout Time: 9:15

LT 100 Training Cycle 1 Summary

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After finishing off my first three week training cycle, I’m feeling pretty confident about my progress. Training with Adrian has really worked me over. We started off learning Back Squats and Dead Lifts as well as practicing plank technique and some exercises to open up my hips. While I’ve spent some hours in the gym over the years, that kind of training has mostly been sporadic and not very focused. With Adrian I’m learning proper technique and it’s already improving my alignment.

I had my first stair workout in week three of the cycle, spending 50 minutes on the stair climber at the gym. This kicked my butt especially when I followed it up with a nasty workout of back squats on Friday. Barely able to walk on Saturday, I ran for an hour and forty five minutes in the evening and followed it up with the same duration on Sunday morning on some crazy sand trails at the Indiana Dunes.

In addition to the Dunes trails, Emily and I got three hours of soaking wet, muddy, filthy, awesome single track in the previous weekend. After a day off yesterday, it felt great to get back into the gym today.

My mileage is definitely down from what I put in to train for Leadville last time but, I’m banking on being much fitter and stronger when I tow the line.

LT 100 Training: Cycle 1, Week 1

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Many of you have asked about my training for 100 milers so, here’s what I’ve got so far.

I’ve got 16 weeks of training until the Leadville Trail 100 “Race Across the Sky.” Week 17 is race week. I’ve broken the training up into 6 Training Cycles. Five of the six cycles are three weeks long with one being two weeks long to accommodate a trip to Colorado for some big mountain training.

I’ll be working with a strength coach once a week and doing some other strength training on my own. As I get a little older, I’ve found that I’m simply not as strong as I used to be and I want to feel strong head to toe at the start line. His name is Adrian Aguilar and he’s a beast of a coach. Here’s his website if you need some coaching: peopleschamppersonaltraining.com.

I’m going to try to update my training blog more regularly, if only to keep Joseph Bearss happy. Anyway, here’s a look at my first three week training cycle.

Week 1: Recovery from last weekend’s Marathon
Monday-30 Easy
Tuesday-Rest
Wednesday-Rest
Thursday-Rest
Friday-40 Minutes Track
Saturday-1:15 at 50k Race Pace
Sunday-1:15 at 50k Race Pace
Total Time: 3:40

Week 2:
Monday-Rest
Tuesday-1 Hour with Adrian + 30 Minutes Easy
Wednesday-40 Minutes Easy
Thursday-40 Minutes Track
Friday-Rest
Saturday-3:00 at 50k Race Pace
Sunday-Rest
Total Time: 5:50

Week 3:
Monday-Rest
Tuesday-1 Hour with Adrian + 30 Minutes Easy
Wednesday-50 Minutes Easy
Thursday-40 Minutes of Stairs
Friday-Rest
Saturday-1:45 at 60k Race Pace
Sunday-1:45 at 60k Race Pace
Total Time: 6:30

Thought. 1-21

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As I, my wife, and a good friend read excerpts from Obama’s State of the Union Address last night and sifted through the copious amounts of public opinion regarding the event, we noticed a lot of language about equality. Equal pay for men and women, equal rights for certain folks in our communities, equal consideration given to the dogmas of those on the left and those on the right. And, at first glance, many would believe that the idea of Equality is the most important tenant of our Republic. What’s that famous line? Oh yeah, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

But, I’m not sure it is equality is the most important value in the United States. Actually, I have this theory that our American notion of “Rugged Individualism” actually trumps any and all calls for true equality. “But, those two things aren’t mutual exclusive,” my brain chirps at the thought that perhaps individualism and equality are forever at odds with one another. However, this very clash could mark the fatal flaw in our country’s founding. And, because we’re Americans, we truly believe that we can have our cake and eat it too. After all, look at all the individuals who do this on a regular basis: Rich people, superstar athletes, home-based business entrepeneurs, other rich people, the CEO of your company, the VP of the marketing department of your company, that Hollywood actor whose super handsome, some rich people, etc.

What do all of these people have in common? Well, he came from a low-income neighborhood and pulled himself up by his bootstraps and invented a software that helps you take pictures on your phone. She kept working at volleyball even after her debilitating car accident that left her barely able to walk. And that guy lost his very influential grandmother right before he was about to get his big break. That’s right! These people all have a story of rugged individualism. Don’t these stories want to make you go out and ruggedly and individually conquer your fears and insecurities and become richer and smarter and happier and more well-liked and faster at your local 5k and tinier in your waist and… well, you get the idea.

Now, it may sound as though I’m speaking a bit facetiously here. I assure you I am not. Believe me, I want all the trappings of the well-off and highly-successful individuals whose stories I greatly admire. But, what might that success mean for my fellow man?

Oh yes. I did it. I thought about equality in the midst of my success. And that, my friends, may well be the most Un-American notion we know.

I’ll pose a couple more questions to you regarding this topic. Why did Daniel Radcliffe make immensely more money in the Broadway show How to Succeed in Business than any of his fellow cast mates? After all, those actors all belonged to the same labor union. Was it because he was supremely more talented?

Why is your manager less-competent than he was before his promotion took him out of sales? Is it because we have no clue how to identify what traits make someone successful at their job and that those same strengths may not translate up the ladder.

Why don’t we have CEO’s as members of labor unions the way they do in Germany? Why do we allow large corporations to finance political candidates? Why don’t we promote teachers and nurses out of their competencies and into high-paying, pencil pushing suit jobs? (Hint: this last question may hold the key to a balance between equality and individualism.)

I know these questions sound like a socialist’s. They are not meant to incite outrage from any one individual’s party. Rather, they are meant to get you thinking. And, I believe that thinking can always put you on equal footing with any individual, no matter how many times you’ve paid your rent late.

So, I’ll let you discuss. Is our fascinating country more disposed toward individualism or equality. And, which of these values should have greater importance going forward?

Thought. 1-3

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Here’s an old word for you that may bear some further investigation: endeavour. While most of its modern use indicates some type of undertaking or journey, it actually has a much more rigid etymology. Endeavour quite literally translates from the latin for “in duty.”
What implications might this word then have for the New Year? For me, while I have aspirations for new projects in theatre and elsewhere, my fears of what will not be already threaten to override the unknown possibilities for these enterprises. What to do when these doubts creep into our heads? I think endeavouring toward the future may hold a key.
Endeavour, because of its implications for a dutiful venture rather than just a step out the doors of comfortability, should allow us to hold fast to our hopes when things get difficult or when the future seems uncertain. And because we know that life if fraught with troubles and pain, endeavouring allows us to accept these difficulties from our first footstep.

Ben’s Breakfast Blend-6/19/14

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It’s interesting that the growth of the sport of running seems completely separate from any knowledge of the great athletes who participate in it. I think often about the 5,000 meter distance or 5k. Most people training to run their first 5k are attempting to simply finish the distance-to survive it. However, an elite athlete will run over 100 miles a week to survive the race. I would venture a guess that most casual runners have no idea of that reality.

A great story on what it was like to act as the late Tony Gwynn’s Bat Boy. Some athletes truly are heroes.

Here’s my take on all the uproar. Firstly, we have no idea how many times Sondheim “sold out” to have his material produced on Broadway. To think that Into the Woods or Assassins or any other piece of theatre arrived at Opening Night without compromise to story and song is naive. Read the interview with those idealistic High School students, he basically says that making art commercially is one big compromise. Even Sondheim does not have the funds to produce independently at the biggest theatres.

Secondly, look at Broadway. Actually look at it. Look past the bright lights and the self-touted notions about its being the place where dreams are born. I hate to say it, but Broadway is dead. Broadway has been dead for well over a decade. It’s, essentially, now only propped up by the enemy in this whole story: Disney. Try to prove me wrong. Make your argument that there is still art making its way to the venues of Broadway and surviving. Sondheim, in other interviews, has talked about discovering the joys of Off-Broadway. You see, he knows, that without a blockbuster film title, a show with music made famous by some pop or rock persona or group, or a… nope those are the two categories-you don’t have a shot at making it on Broadway. Sorry. That’s where we are. And no one will be outraged when that piece of unintegrated, poorly conceived musical known as Frozen is the next show to blow up Broadway. Let an old man get his Disney check. After all, everyone else on Broadway already has.

Ben’s Breakfast Blend-5/9/14

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Today’s Blend is all about running. We’ll start of with the most important link. My friend Joseph Bearss is running 6 marathons in 7 days next week out here in New England. Incidentally, my fiance is running two of those with him. He has started a fundraising campaign for a great organization called Girls On the Run. His oldest daughter is already an aspiring runner at her young age so, it seems very appropriate.

Who ran the first 4 minute mile? Roger Bannister’s record was set 50 years ago this week. But, I’m guessing many people have done it over the course of human history. Here’s evidence that may support that.

Thinking of running the Rim to Rim to Rim 48 mile trek in the Grand Canyon? This piece from ESPN might make you think twice.

And here is a video of Emilie Forsberg. Watch her turnover on downhill runs. Ridiculous.