Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 144

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 144

We’ve been talking about thoracic mobility for years and most of us train it in some way or another, but how do we know how much is enough? In this week’s OTPbooks.com long read, Taylor Lewis goes deep.


Today is a quiet day between a wonderful little date to Disneyland with my wife and a Russian Kettlebell Certification for the next three days here in Murray.

My wife and I both travel a lot, so we pencil in dates to meet up. Tiffini has been in Denver, so we decided to meet up at “The Happiest Place on Earth.” As most know, my favorite ride is in California Adventure. It is the winery and I enjoy sitting there and watching the people walk by as I drink overpriced wines. If you read “Sideways,” a great book, you will get some insights on at least one of the wines they sell, but I digress (as always).

If you are concerned about the fate of the United States, and I am, one only needs to spend a day here. Hey…I LOVE coming here, but when you see boys as old as perhaps eleven being wheeled around in a stroller (!!!!) by their mother, I think I am allowed to be concerned. Not about the kid nor the parent, but that brat’s future spouse! Moreover, the number of adults in motorized vehicles who pop up to join the rides without any apparent limp or injury is staggering.

My little phone app tells me that I average 13,000 steps a day at Disney. I also focus on eating soups and always order extra veggies at the restaurants. I’m not a hero, but I think the secret to health, wealth and wisdom has always been the advice I got from Coach Maughan:

“Little and often over the long haul.”

Like we learned in that great story in The Brothers Karamazov where the woman asks the priest about losing her faith. The Priest responds “how did you lose it?”

Little by little.

He points out that this is exactly how it will come back: Little by little.

I know everybody is looking for a miracle pill or lotion to curb the obesity crisis in America, but, honestly, I think the answer will be “little.”

Quit giving kids sugar every few hours and then insist that they walk around in Disneyland.

I am welcoming a number of people into my home this week to stay for the RKC. I’m sure I will have stories.

This week, I found myself spending way too much time on Youtube. It all started when R. Stevens, Jr. sent this.

The numbers on bed rest are stunning: Fourteen days of bed rest are worse than a decade of aging! The answer might simply be bodyweight exercises.

Which sent me here.

·      Hydration, most of it, is a marketing trick.

·      Fatigue is in your brain. You can always exercise harder.

·      A vegan with no science background wrote the official American diet.

·      Eat fat.

·      50% of what we teach is wrong…we just don’t know what 50% it is!!!

And then here!

Food Desert alone is worth the time watching this…plus the information on numbers of people eating at once. 25% of diabetes comes from drinking soda! (True???)

This article was then the lead when I returned to check my emails.


While high fructose corn syrup in particular was flagged, Keatley says your body can’t really tell the difference between fructose, table sugar, and even honey. “If you’re looking to cut back, it can be from all sources,” she says.

If you know you eat too much sugar, there are a few things you can do to scale back. Adimoolam recommends avoiding processed foods whenever possible (they tend to be sugar traps) and choosing foods with natural forms of sugar, such as fruit, whenever you can.

Mashed bananas, dates, prunes, or applesauce can also be used as sweeteners in baked goods, Upton says. It also might help to slowly cut back on the amount of sugar you add to things like coffee to give your taste buds time to catch up, Warren suggests. Keatley agrees. “Slow and steady looks to be best for people,” she says.

End quote

Everybody online is an expert at everything, but Stu McGill is an actual expert.The real kind. This article makes it clear: Do your suitcase carries. (And, if you wonder where the name comes from…ahem…I blush).


For a football player, the ability to do the job is not limited by pull or press strength—it’s limited by being able to hold the pelvic platform up on one leg, plant, externally rotate and go.

The best way to enhance that is a suitcase carry.

How many people have you seen do that in the weight room? The suitcase carry is the number one way to do it. It’s a unilateral exercise.

Don’t do too much. Do perfect quality.

Make it count. Get rid of the music. Work like hell and go have a beer.

End quote

I love that last line.

This recording of Flannery O’Connor is my favorite piece of her work. The story is one of the great modern parables. We should all have a gun pointed at our heads.


In April of 1959–five years before her death at the age of 39 from lupus–O’Connor ventured away from her secluded family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, to give a reading at Vanderbilt University. She read one of her most famous and unsettling stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The audio, accessible above, is one of two known recordings of the author reading that story. (The other, from a 1957 appearance at Notre Dame University, can be heard here.) In her distinctive Georgian drawl, O’Connor tells the story of a fateful family trip:

The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey’s mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports section of the Journal. “Now look here, Bailey,” she said, “see here, read this,” and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. “Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did.”

End quote

Tiffini sent me this article. Last week, I include an interesting generational article and this one fleshes out the basics a bit more.


The philosophy of the boomers, their general outlook and disposition, which became our culture, is based on a misunderstanding. In the boomers, those born after World War II but before the Kennedy assassination—some of this is less about dates, which are in dispute, than about sensibility—you’re seeing a rebellion. They’d say it was against Richard Nixon, or the Vietnam War, or the conformity of the 1950s, or disco, but it was really against their parents, specifically their fathers. It was a rejection of bourgeois life, the man in his gray flannel suit, his suburbs and corporate hierarchy and commute, the simple pleasures of his seemingly unadventurous life. But the old man did not settle beneath the elms because he was boring or empty or plastic. He did it because, 10 years before you were born, he killed a German soldier with his bare hands in the woods. Many of the boomers I know believe their parents hid themselves from the action. In truth, those World War II fathers were neither hiding nor settling. They were seeking. Peace. Tranquility. They wanted to give their children a fantasy of stability not because they knew too little but because they’d seen too much. Their children read this quest as emptiness and went away before the fathers could transmute the secret wisdom, the ancient knowledge that allows a society to persist and a person to get through a Wednesday afternoon.

We are the last Americans to have the old-time childhood. It was coherent, hands-on, dirty, and fun.

In this way, the chain was broken, and the boomers went zooming into the chaos. Which explains the saving attitude of Generation X, those born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, say. We are a revolt against the boomers, a revolt against the revolt, a market correction, a restoration not of a power elite but of a philosophy. I always believed we had more in common with the poets haunting the taverns on 52nd Street at the end of the 30s than with the hippies at Woodstock. Cynical, wised up, sane. We’d seen what became of the big projects of the boomers as that earlier generation had seen what became of all the big social projects. As a result we could not stand to hear the Utopian talk of the boomers as we cannot stand to hear the Utopian talk of the millennials. We know that most people are rotten to the core, but some are good, and proceed accordingly.

Though there never were enough of us to demand the undivided attention of advertisers and hitmakers, we have been happy in our little joint, serving from can till can’t astride the Sahara. We have been witnesses, watching and recalling. Not the children of the boomers, but the little brothers and little sisters. We do not believe what they believe but can imitate them if necessary. If I’m overly cautious with pronouns, for example, if I occasionally express sentiments that I do not believe, if I’m careful not to always say what I know—that the long arc of history does not in fact bend toward justice—that’s why. We watched them at play, studying them as you study an older sibling. They blew pot smoke in our faces at parties and called us “little man,” but we persisted. We could hear them, as we lay in bed, racing up and down the street in muscle cars. The boomers at leisure were pop culture, but it was still the old America at school and at home. Our teachers and parents had grown up in the 30s and 40s and 50s—the Silent Generation, Korean War vets who still spoke the language of exceptionalism, which does not mean we are better, just different. It might not be true, or might be, but it’s a story—we knew that. We knew that you choose your story or a story is chosen for you. The past is as unreal as the future, so why not invent one that makes sense, that gives you the illusion of being on a train moving down the track?

End quote

I might be a little light on articles this week, but I really found those Youtube videos to be interesting. One thing I should probably always add is that I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with the materials I post on WW each week. I post information that got me to think…at some level. I find that reminding myself occasionally that I don’t know everything and certainly can learn a lot more is a path to clarity.

So, until next week, let’s keep lifting and learning.

At one point in the Assessing Movement conference at Stanford, one of the audience members asked Stu McGill if he uses unilateral exercises for people who have back pain. This is his response. 

Picking up on The Sword in the Stone:

Sir Ector said, “Had a good quest today?”

Sir Grummore said, “Oh, not so bad. Rattlin’ good day, in fact. Found a chap called Sir Bruce Saunce Pité choppin’ off a maiden’s head in Weedon Bushes, ran him to Mixbury Plantation in the Bicester, where he doubled back, and lost him in Wicken Wood. Must have been a good twenty-five miles as he ran.”

“A straight-necked ‘un,” said Sir Ector.

“But about these boys and all this Latin and that,” added the old gentleman. “Amo, amas, you know, and runnin’ about like hooligans: what would you advise?”

“Ah,” said Sir Grummore, laying his finger by his nose and winking at the bottle, “that takes a deal of thinkin’ about, if you don’t mind my sayin’ so.”

“Don’t mind at all,” said Sir Ector. “Very kind of you to say anythin’. Much obliged, I’m sure. Help yourself to port.”

“Good port this.”

“Get it from a friend of mine.”

“But about these boys,” said Sir Grummore. “How many of them are there, do you know?”

“Two,” said Sir Ector, “counting them both, that is.”

“Couldn’t send them to Eton, I suppose?” inquired Sir Grummore cautiously. “Long way and all that, we know.”

It was not really Eton that he mentioned, for the College of Blessed Mary was not founded until 1440, but it was a place of the same sort. Also they were drinking Metheglyn, not Port, but by mentioning the modern wine it is easier to give you the feel.

“Isn’t so much the distance,” said Sir Ector, “but that giant What’s-‘is-name is in the way. Have to pass through his country, you understand.”

“What is his name?”

“Can’t recollect it at the moment, not for the life of me. Fellow that lives by the Burbly Water.”

“Galapas,” said Sir Grummore.

“That’s the very chap.”

“The only other thing,” said Sir Grummore, “is to have a tutor.”

“You mean a fellow who teaches you.”

“That’s it,” said Sir Grummore. “A tutor, you know, a fellow who teaches you.”

“Have some more port,” said Sir Ector. “You need it after all this questin’.”

“Splendid day,” said Sir Grummore. “Only they never seem to kill nowadays. Run twenty-five miles and then mark to ground or lose him altogether. The worst is when you start a fresh quest.”

“We kill all our giants cubbin’,” said Sir Ector. “After that they give you a fine run, but get away.”

“Run out of scent,” said Sir Grummore, “I dare say. It’s always the same with these big giants in a big country. They run out of scent.”

“But even if you was to have a tutor,” said Sir Ector, “I don’t see how you would get him.”

“Advertise,” said Sir Grummore.

“I have advertised,” said Sir Ector. “It was cried by the Humberland Newsman and Cardoile Advertiser.”

“The only other way,” said Sir Grummore, “is to start a quest.”

“You mean a quest for a tutor,” explained Sir Ector.

“That’s it.”

“Hic, Haec, Hoc,” said Sir Ector. “Have some more of this drink, whatever it calls itself.”

“Hunc,” said Sir Grummore.

So it was decided. When Grummore Grummursum had gone home next day, Sir Ector tied a knot in his handkerchief to remember to start a quest for a tutor as soon as he had time to do so, and, as he was not sure how to set about it, he told the boys what Sir Grummore had suggested and warned them not to be hooligans meanwhile.

It will be a chore for me to find ways to cut up some of the conversations in this book. Sir Grummore is going to be hard to edit and his joust in a later chapter with King Pellinore is often considered the funniest “skit” in the book (Chapter Seven). There are many dialogues that have stunning moments worth reflection, but this scene needs to be seen in the light of the whole conversation.

Let’s begin with a fun thing…if you like Ghostbusters and Arthurian legends. Sir Bruce Saunce Pité is the “go to” bad guy in much of Sir Thomas Mallory’s work on Arthur. He is the master of sneak attacks and all around bad behavior. In the animated series, Ghostbusters, he reactivates from a tapestry where he had been imprisoned by Merlin/Merlyn.

If you take a moment to say his name out loud, you will hear “sons pity,” in the English (from the French), “without pity.” This is NOT what we think of our glorious knights.

In the rest of the White books, Sir Bruce will represent the opposite of the Round Table ideals. He will be the object of many quests.

Questing is an interesting term. The root of “quest” is, basically, the same as “quarry.” Questing is seeking.

St. Anslem’s famous “Fides Quaerens Intellectum (Faith Seeks Understanding)” was the foundation of my academic career. In White’s book, following the lead of his mentor Thomas Mallory, knights quest as part of their daily routine. In the story of Parsifal, we (and he) will be told that the way to learn knighthood is to quest. To quest is to seek.

The other foundation I have stood on for my career is athletics.

“Athlete” literally means “one who seeks a prize.” I don’t think it is a large leap in logic to equate our modern games to the Jousting Tournaments of Mallory…or the Gladiator games of Rome.

In my life, my quests have been athletic…and academic. There just haven’t been a lot of dragons and giants in my life that need a good joust.

Each of us “quests.” My favorite song might be “The Impossible Dream,” from The Man of La Mancha.

This is my quest, to follow that star,

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

To fight for the right without question or cause

To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest

That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this

That one man scorned and covered with scars

Still strove with his last ounce of courage

To fight the unbeatable foe, to reach the unreachable star

Richard Kiley’s original Broadway rendition still brings me to chills. “To reach the unreachable star” defines much of what we do in the process of goal setting. Our hero in this story, Don Quixote, tries to make the world better by clinging to the ideals of knighthood…by questing.

There is something beautiful and lovely about a world where people will “fight for the right without question or pause.” Arthur’s greatest lesson from Merlyn will be: “Not Might Makes Right, but Might FOR Right.”

I can dream.

Back to the story: To truly “set the table” on this discussion, let’s get back to that image of Holmes and Watson in front of a fire drinking a bit too much. The BBC show, Sherlock, has some fun with Watson’s bachelor party running amok and I can’t think of a better starting place to understand this dialogue.

If you “Pass the Port” this many times, the conversation is going to meander a bit. Note how the conversation concerning questing overflows into and out of the importance of getting the boys an “eddication.” The following line is how my wife, Tiffini, and I talk much of the time:

“But about these boys,” said Sir Grummore. “How many of them are there, do you know?”

“Two,” said Sir Ector, “counting them both, that is.”

“Two, counting them both” just makes me laugh. White’s humor slides from the extreme to the subtle and I enjoy most of it…and, as we will see later, it has taken me multiple readings to follow every point, nuance and jab….at least, I think I have discovered most of them.

White is very helpful in this part of the book telling us that the character mentions Eton, but it couldn’t be Eton and that Port is actually Metheglyn. White wants us to understand the “feel” of this conversation and doesn’t worry about the absolute historical accuracy.  He is both narrating here and tutoring the reader to understand that this book is going to be about something OTHER than another knights in shining armor book.

White’s fans include J. K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman. Rowling’s epic Harry Potter series nods to The Sword in the Stone throughout and Rowling has been very clear that Albus Dumbledore is based on Merlyn. Gaiman, who has written Stardust and American Gods among many other things, once noted that he and J. K were obviously using White:

“And I said to her that I thought we were both just stealing from T.H. White: very straightforward.”

I’m not sure I can point and say that White invited the modern fantasy adventure and you will find reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and John Carter of Mars series to have some of the same themes. And certainly, Mary Poppins and Peter Pan have layers of magic in them, too, but White’s ability to blend the adventure, magic, and fantasy might be a first. Rowling and Gaiman agree.

Let’s get back to the scene. You might miss an important point: both characters have a buzz. Toward the end, we return to Latin, but it is deeply embedded in cheap humor.

“This” joke is all about “this:” Hic, Haec, Hoc are all part of the Latin way to say “this.” “Hunc” is the accusatory tense and I can imagine Grummore raising his glass to “this.”

You would need to spend more time drinking alcohol heavily if you don’t see the joke: the character has the hiccups. Drunken people often get the deep “hics” just before the evening comes to an end.

There is also a funny joke between the characters and the narrator, White:

“Hic, Haec, Hoc,” said Sir Ector. “Have some more of this drink, whatever it calls itself.”

Ector must have heard White’s comment about the fact that they weren’t actually drinking Port.

The conversation flows exactly how conversations flow when people are drinking: the topics pop up, slide back, and pop up again.

If you read the later versions of The Sword in the Stone, you will not find the chapter on Galapas. I find the story delightful. In the 1958 version, where the four books of The Once and Future King are arranged in one text, the publishers made some decisions. There WAS a fifth book, later published a decade after the death of White. This book, The Book of Merlyn, came out in 1975. In The Book of Merlyn, we find two stories that eat up a large portion of the book: the story of the ants and the story of the geese.

In 1958, it was decided to stick those two stories in a revamped The Sword in the Stone; moreover, it was decided to delete some of the interesting adventures of the original.

I have always thought this was a mistake. The ants and geese stories fit The Book of Merlyn perfectly as the aging Arthur needs a different vision of the world to deal with the rebellion.

So, in the 1958 version, a few things “dangle.” As we go deep into the forest with Wart searching for the falcon, he will shot at by an arrow with a “Wasp” band around the feathers. This is never again addressed in the 1958 volume, but it becomes a massive story in the original. I will highlight the major changes:

Chapter Two: the “Wasp” banded arrow that almost hits Wart; in the 1938 version, Chapters Nine through and including Twelve take an entirely different approach to Robin Wood (and “Wood” is the correct spelling) and we will find the owners of this kind of arrow.

Chapter Six: Madam Mim (The animated version’s best scene, in my opinion. In addition, there is a foreshadowing, by a goat, of the eventual status of Wart/Arthur.)

Chapter Eighteen: Meeting Athene and the dreams of Trees and Stones (These are fascinating stories about time…something White returns to over and over in this book. Also, “Cohere” is such an interesting choice of a word to explain stones.)

Chapter Nineteen: the Giant, Galapas (If you can’t see Harry Potter and Dumbledore in this story…you need to read Book Six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince again.)

The Disney movie adaption from 1963, which thudded at the theaters (having a movie about King Arthur and Camelot immediately after the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy was unfortunate) includes Madam Mim. The movie sticks closely to the 1938 original scene…save that Mim dies of the diseases in the book. Moreover, the producers included a long scene with squirrels that made O. C. Harbison call the movie “The Disney Chocolate Éclair Machine.”

The animated movie is usually considered a disappointment to fans of the book; I have mixed emotions. The underwater scene with the Pike (Luce) is an excellent retelling of the first of Wart’s transfiguration adventures.

But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Next week, it will be time to meet the boys.

Two of them…if you count them both.



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