World’s Strongest Man…Sunday

20 June 2021

Today, Sunday the 20th, was the final day of the contest. Ten men were competing and the top guys were extremely close, as measured by the point system that they use. I didn’t think I would be let in to the audience, as many people were expected to show up. But a kind lady who recognized me from Thursday called me over before the last event started and asked me if I would like to get closer, then gave me a wrist band when I said yes.

Log lift and Knaak deadlift

The first two events of the day were slightly unusual lifting events. (The last event is the most unusual.)

In the log lift, a weight shaped like a log must be hoisted and held above the head for a split second. Here is a demonstration of what that looks like:

Note that the “log” has bars on its ends where weights can be added to increase its weight in increments of 10 kilograms. Unlike a barbell, where its center of gravity can be kept very close to the body, the thickness of the log means it must be swung a bit away from the body, making it harder to control. The weight of the log is increased until only a couple of the guys can raise it all the way over their heads. Here is one of the taller athletes demonstrating two good lifts at different weights:

This event was held next to the “train station” where the park sells tickets for a short train ride, and a shed houses several train cars and at least one engine. People who were not part of the crowd did have the benefit of standing in the shade across from the station, instead of in the sun…

The overall scene looked much like the events held here on other days.

Knaak is a company that makes tool boxes of all sizes, designed for rugged professional use. The “Knaak Deadlift” uses toolboxes as the weights instead of regular barbell weights. The athletes have to repeatedly lift this weight to knee level until they run out of steam or out of time. I got no good photos of this event, as all the action was too low for me to see.

Atlas Stones

The last and crowning event of the competition is called “Atlas Stones.” Here is a view of the setup from after the event ended:

There are two sets of these balls, so the athletes compete in pairs. The event is timed, but if one guy can’t get all five stones up onto their pedestals, then the other guy wins.

Before I got in, the overall scene looked like this:

Here is my best shot of a guy actually lifting one of the heavy balls up onto its pedestal:

Here is a photo of the winner, Tom Stoltman. He elected to do the event without a shirt. They also get to use this gooey stuff called “tacky” on their hands and arms to counteract the tendency of sweaty skin to be slippery.

Tom’s older brother Luke also competed this year. But Tom did considerably better this year than his brother.

Here we see the pretty interviewer lady talking to Tom after he won this year’s competition.

The awards

Brian Shaw, long-time favorite of U.S. fans, talked to the crowd at the end of this year’s competition.

Then the awards platforms were set up, and all the ten finalists were called out and acknowledged.

This year, guys from the U.S., the U.K. and Canada were the top winners.

Father’s Day

Today was Father’s Day. Though several of the athletes are undoubtedly fathers, Brian’s kids were in the crowd, so he was specially acknowledged, along with all the fathers in the crowd.

There he is with his wife, showing his sons his award.

It was another hot day, somewhere near 100 degrees that afternoon. We were all happy to get out of the sun.

World’s Strongest Man…Saturday

19 June 2021

On Saturday there were three events for finalists and I attended all of them. So did a bunch of other people.

Barrel carry

I got to the morning event while it was in progress.

You can see one of the athletes back by the tents.

This event consisted of carrying a frame of four barrels on one’s shoulders, then another frame of two lifted with the arms.

With the crowd, I couldn’t really see the competitors. But here’s one having a conversation on camera.

This guy could probably see the scene a bit better.

It’s all set up so the cameras get the best views.

Turntable

They didn’t officially have an audience for the turntable event, but some of us peeked over the back fence…

Again, the athletes were difficult to see. This was a timed event. How fast could they turn the train on the turntable about 180 degrees? After every try, the turntable was returned to its original position using its built-in motor.

Here is a typical view of a contestant’s torso and legs.
My best picture of the cute interview lady.
Drone technician at work.
There are at least two guys who carefully watch each effort (white shirt, black hat).
Mr. Felix takes a short rest.
During each run, the mobile cameraman has to run to a new position.

Keg toss

The day ended with a keg toss. I got numerous photos of kegs in mid-air.

The above shot is from near the end of the event. Notice the height of the bar relative to the building.

The bar started out at 6.75 meters. Just about everyone made this toss.

Here’s a closeup of an athlete knowing that he made it over the bar, with the keg falling on the other side!

Above shows an intermediate position (7.25 meters?) and two guys watching from the roof. Later they took their canopy down and left.

Here I caught Brian Shaw just as he released a keg, on its way up.

Outside the fence

Several of us did not get tickets to be up close, or perhaps did not want them. I couldn’t help but photograph some of the others, most of whom braved the afternoon sun while I stood in the shade of a parked ambulance.

World’s Strongest Man…qualifiers

19 June 2021

Without an audience-eye’s view of the events, I didn’t expect to see much of the actual competition or competitors.

This is mainly a story of what it looks like behind the scenes, as that was my viewpoint.

June 15th, first day of qualifying events

I missed all the events on Tuesday, as I hadn’t studied their schedule at all, plus I got up late.

Here is a view from that day, with everyone deployed on the lawn.

June 16th, second day of qualifying events

I arrived too late to see the morning event. They were already moving that equipment into a truck.

As I walked around to the side, I found this little toy in the lawn and set it out on a manhole cover that for some reason sits in the middle of that lawn.

Over by the train station they are setting things up for the train pull. I don’t know…isn’t that car going to be too heavy?

The camera drone is tested, and then the competition eventually begins:

The first guy tries real hard. He can’t budge this train car.

Here is a shot of what the second guy looks like in his harness.

He can’t move it, either. They finally announce that the car wheels appear to not be free enough, possibly due to the brakes not being fully released. I think it was just too heavy.

Hours later, they have decided to use the little half-length engine, and they have switched to a push format, rather than a pull. This works, but I can’t see the athletes at all from where I am.

I try going round to the back and peering over the fence. But the view is pretty well blocked by the crowd, the crew, and a low fence.

June 17th, third day of qualifying events

Again I miss the earliest events, which are scheduled to start at 8, but usually start later. Between each event there is a rest period for the athletes. So it’s hard to squeeze in more than three events per day.

This day is HOT, so they have emergency personnel standing by.

A weight lifting event is taking place, but all I can see is camera equipment and bodies.

Here, two camera technicians have a conversation.

One of the athletes signals to the crowd as he finishes his attempt.

While others wait their turn.

Mark Felix was the only black man in this competition. Seen here wearing Boudreault’s shirt?

Here I catch one of the contestants lifting one of the huge barbells.

And then, another:

And one more:

The weight lifting ended. I missed the next event but returned later for the “stone off” event.

A security guard told me he thought they were letting extra people in. So I went over and asked. And they let me in!

This is what the equipment for the “stone off” looks like. There are five “stones,” each heavier than the last. Two men compete each time.

I stayed in the shade, so didn’t get the greatest view. Here, two competitors are near the end of their run.

And here another pair begin their round.

The Stoltmans figured prominently in this year’s events.

Friday was a day off, then come the two days of finals!

World’s Strongest Man…preparations

16 June 2021

World’s Strongest Man is a TV franchise and athletic competition that has existed in some form since 1977.

I had never heard of it.

However, on a recent walk to the park in Old Sacramento, I was greeted by this sign:

At first, I thought it was a competition sort of like the Olympics. But it isn’t. It is filmed like a TV “adventure” series, in line with many other similar shows that have sprung up, particularly since cable TV got all its channels. There are about 25 guys – really big muscular dudes – who operate basically as paid actors, even though they are also competing to win the annual title.

On Monday the 14th I came back to see what was going on, as the actual competition was scheduled to start the next day. I was surprised by the extended perimeter and all the camera equipment, as I hadn’t fully read up on it yet.

They had already placed the main “prop” for the weight lifting event to happen the next day.

There was lots of equipment and people moving around.

I went around to the back, as I had read they were going to use some train cars for some of the events.

They had parked several engines in a manner that seemed to be aimed at blocking the view from the rear.

However, there was one beautiful old engine on the turntable, which they were planning to use in one of the strength contests.

People who want to be in the audience that gets filmed have to sign up in advance, as there is a lot of paperwork involved in being an “extra” on a film set. There were only so many slots available, so they filled quickly (I was not aiming to be an extra).

The contest then started in the morning of the next day. As it is predicted to be over 105ยบ F on Thursday and Friday afternoon, they may adjust their shooting schedule a bit on those days. I am putting together some photos for a report on the contest proper, to appear later.

School of Rock Returns … and other events

9 June 2021

When I finally found the School of Rock Elk Grove’s Facebook page, I learned that they were having a third big concert on Sunday June 6th. It was scheduled for Noon to 9pm. I arrived just after noon, and only stayed a little while.

“Backstage” above, and below, from the audience.

They were playing under an amazing young jacaranda tree that currently looks like this:

Meanwhile, in the park…

I usually don’t walk through at lunch time on the weekend. All the picnic tables were taken!

The live artists that I had seen earlier in the week had left this behind:

Did he really mean “You’re” instead of “Your?” Probably.

Elsewhere…

The next day I took my weekly grocery shopping journey and found these amazing day lilies in Folsom.

I spotted this stand-up paddler on the Aquatic Park lake. Some geese swam right by him.

AA

And I saw a young buck further down the trail. As usual, he didn’t really want to pose for me.

Santa Fe Super Chief engine

On my next visit to Old Sac, a new engine had appeared in the yard!

The man who was handling this engine and the switches told me (because I failed to recognize it myself) that this was one of the “Super Chief” locomotives, a famous and iconic diesel engine of a slightly earlier era. He told me that they have the air brakes working on this one, but not the motor.

With the help of an engineer, they used a working engine to push this one beyond the track switch that leads to the shed. This is a rather unique switch in that it is both 3-way and manual.

After the man switched the lead-in track to the middle stall in the shed, the engineer moved over to a half-length engine, coupled it to the Super Chief, then pulled it into its place in the shed. I suppose they will work on it there, and perhaps get the motor operational.

This engine had been sitting in a shed at the Railyards, which is way over on the other side of the Amtrak station, and just today had been brought over here. So I was very lucky to see it while it was out!

Should we blame it on the humans?

This message, chalked onto the sidewalk between DOCO and the Old Sac Tunnel, is worthy of some philosophical discussion.

Say you were in a super-advanced rat colony where the rats had developed a full civilization, complete with philosophers and politicians and police. Something like Animal Farm (Orwell, 1945).

The colony, after some time, found that it was not doing so well. There didn’t seem to be quite enough food to go around, and the bedding was getting considerably soiled and stinky. The politicians tried to correct this by setting stricter rules, which the police rats dutifully enforced. But some of the philosophers became convinced that, as rats were “just animals,” there must be something wrong with them that makes, them, ultimately, suicidal as a species. Thus, the situation was, ultimately, hopeless.

Only one rat was brave, quirky, or insightful enough to ask this seemingly irrelevant question: “What about the humans who take care of our cages? Don’t they figure into our problem somehow?” The rats, being proud as rats tended to be, did not want to admit to themselves that they were actually living in cages and were therefore under the sway of “higher forces” who “took care” of them. His idea to teach everyone how to live in the wild, then stage a breakout, was roundly condemned, and he was put on half rations, socially ostracized.

And so, the rat colony did, in fact, die out. Except for the one philosopher rat who, in the end, managed to escape and live out the rest of his life as a “free” rat, under the house of the rat keepers. This was, of course, little consolation to him. He had not even found a female rat that would agree with him, and so his ambitions for Rat Freedom died with him…

Blame versus responsibility

Those rats were in a bad situation, no doubt about that. And so are we humans, here on Earth.

But the primary problem for the rats was believing they were “free” when in fact they were living in a cage.

And that is the same problem that we, as humans, are having.

Fortunately there are I would say roughly 100,000 humans on the planet right now who do realize what the actual situation is, and are trying to get themselves up to the point to where they could actually survive as “free beings.” But, they want to take ALL the humans here along with them to a new life of freedom. And many of those humans (even me!) are not convinced that a slave life is really worth changing into a free life. It takes a LOT of effort to learn how to live free! To look at the entire job, all the energy and time it requires, is just too overwhelming, even for a human like me who is completely aware of the situation and the consequences of inaction.

The difference is the difference between blame and responsibility. A person who wants to be free has to accept the responsibility level – the causative approach to life – that goes with being free. The ones who want to be slaves can continue to blame others for the situation they are in. They can even blame the prison guards – if they ever figure out that they are in a prison! But that, of course, won’t get them out. And if they did get out, they would flounder around, not knowing what to do, and eventually find some new way to get trapped, probably.

So this is the big challenge for all those who want a better future for themselves and everyone else, too. They have to get their fellow slaves (prisoners) to realize they are slaves, then to take the responsibility to free themselves.

The New Normal

5 June 2021

This is the Flatstick, a “theme bar” located across the street from my apartment building. I’ve never been inside. The humorous (?) sign to the left is what caught my eye today and what this post is mostly about.

If it hadn’t been for an event just down the street at Solomon’s Deli, I might have saved this post for a later date. But with three visuals and this much intellectual “meat” to try to digest, I figured I would try writing something this afternoon.

The “new normal” is full of cognitive confusions

Most of us want a better life and a better world. Some of us think everyone on this planet wants this. A few of us are very sure that assumption is incorrect.

Many then ask, well, why don’t we have a better world? Most have no real idea, so they are willing to go along with one of the many theories in current fashion about why this planet is still so messed up. A few of us are quite sure that all these theories are incorrect or incomplete.

Learn better behaviors

The theory being put forward, apparently, by “modern” psychology, is that we all need to learn to behave “better.” If a person can’t learn to behave better, they deserve to be shamed, hated or … killed? … in the hope that this will cause them to learn their lesson. Of course, if it seems that a mental illness is causing the problem, then the person belongs in therapy. Maybe our ideas about “right behavior” also need to change, so we can be kind to more different types of people.

The whole theory expressed – however imperfectly – above is full of assumptions that many not be (or aren’t) true:

  1. All our major earthly problems stem from not being nice (kind, considerate) to each other. (Really?)
  2. The way to make more people act kind is to train them to act that way. (Okay…)
  3. If a person can’t be so trained, he must have a mental illness of some similar condition requiring therapy. (Who makes this decision?)
  4. Mental illnesses respond to drugs because the mind is in the brain. (This is categorically incorrect.)
  5. Maybe the behaviors we used to think are bad (lying, cheating, stealing…) really aren’t that bad, because we’ve never been able to get anyone to stop doing them. Maybe we just have to accept these behaviors and learn to be kind to those people, too. Then the world would be a much better place. (This, of course, is totally insane.)

Faith, freedom and honesty

This encapsulates the approach of most who today call themselves “conservative.”

If a man of faith is given freedom, then he will do good, because he will be motivated by God, and God always does good.

You can tell a man of faith by his honesty level. Those who lie to gain advantage are not persons of faith.

God’s law is above civil law and guides the conscience. Civil law guides the day-to-day dealings of men and women. Abide by the first and enforce the second, and that should be all that is needed.

This approach has been somewhat useful over a long period of time, but is hard on real criminals, who are incapable of being honest. Thus, this approach is constantly being fought by criminals, who constantly seek to give religion and related subjects a bad name. This has led to the secular behavioral approach, given first.

Conflicts

Secular behaviorism is currently considered more “liberal” and enlightened than faith-based approaches such as classic conservatism.

The problem is that in faith, or in any religious belief, there lies a grain of truth which will never be forsaken by the faithful. And so the faithful will never, never, never be persuaded to embrace secular behaviorism in any of its forms, particularly in its current form, which seems to show “mercy” for criminals.

The grain of truth cherished by the faithful is that there is a power higher and more lofty than the powers of the physical universe; that this power, in fact, created the physical universe.

While it is technically incorrect to attribute this power to just a few beings, or gods, this mistake does not cancel the truth of the more basic assertion. And so a belief in Spirit lives on, and it will always be opposed to the denial of Spirit.

The traditionally faithful tend to gravitate to certain moral teachings for the reasons that they are part of their sacred texts and also seem sensible. In a more traditional moral system, sexual relations between same-sex individuals seems ridiculous, or wrong, because it does not forward God’s work of perpetuating the race. Similar arguments can be made against killing an unborn fetus or trying to change one’s body to match one’s fancied gender orientation.

But because the current “liberal” approach is so anti-Spirit, conservatives have had to make a place for people who are “socially liberal” but can’t stand the thought of handing power over to lunatics. This has given the Left the poetic license to brand conservatives as totalitarians. Currently, the Left is much more intolerant than most conservatives.

Is the “old normal” really that bad?

A bar run by a reasonably sensible conservative would not treat any of the “sicknesses” mentioned on that sign as good enough reason to kick you out of his (or her) bar.

COVID-19 is a treatable and fairly mild disease that most of us should now be immune to.

Racism is an archaic mindset that seems out of place in the modern world. But there’s no reason to assume it would prevent someone from being a perfectly civil bar patron.

Same with homophobia.

What we had with the “old normal” was a general agreement that truth was valuable and worth pursuing, and in a like wise, honesty was worth practicing.

We were discovering that politicians, news casters, scientists, even doctors, could play the role of criminal and lie to us. We discovered that we needed to trust our own sense of rightness more and question “authority” more. That freedom was workable in the context of human rights, but not in the context of absolute freedom for anyone to do anything they wanted. We were beginning to discover that a certain type of personality was trying to take over this planet and destroy all our progress towards real truth and understanding and replace it with a new updated sort of superstition and slavery.

So they decided to accelerate their efforts, and made great progress in that direction over the last year and a half.

Do we really want that to be our world? Will it really result in more kindness and generosity, less suffering and fear? Will it end war, sickness, pollution or global warming? If not, why should anyone support it?

These are my questions to you.

Birthday celebrations at Solomon’s

Hey, to me this was strange. But I could tolerate, I guess, a guy dressed in a rainbow skirt wearing a colored wig and way too much makeup hosting an event at my local Deli…

To be hugged by such a dude might be a bit much for me. But look, ma, no masks! Could we maybe inch our way back to the old normal?

Turtle

2 June 2021

Ever wish you were a turtle?

A few days later, I watched one turtle swim up and join the other turtle on the log. It wasn’t real easy. It took some real striving for the second turtle to join the first one. I imagined that they are in love…

Rock 101

29 May 2021

On Saturday May 29th, The School of Rock Elk Grove put on a concert at DOCO.

This was the first song in the first set. These students are the best of “Rock 101,” ages about 7 to 11.

Ads may appear as this song is still under copyright.

The School of Rock released a huge number of photos and videos on their own Facebook page on this concert. It was the first of 3 major wrap-up concerts for their 12th season. A really big deal for them.

Self portrait

In this photo, the lead singer of the first band, in the background in my video, is in the foreground and I am in the background! Can you find me?

My latest mini-video

28 May 2021

Larry visits…Walnut Creek

27 May 2021

Currently, the BART station is surrounded by construction work. My leading image shows the classic vista from BART, looking east to Mount Diablo. But if you look down, or west, you see new or recent construction.

Everywhere I see more apartment buildings going up around my city and the Bay Area. I hope there are young people who can still afford to live in all these posh new places when all the economic and political unrest settles down, if it ever does.

Parking structure next to BART.

And will people still be able to afford their cars? Currently the whole urban pattern in the Bay Area consists of people driving to BART stations from their suburban homes, then going into The City (or Oakland, or even San Jose) on the train. So every suburban BART station includes a huge parking structure.

On this day, I set off in what I hoped was the direction of Main Street. Many years ago I had visited here with parents and family friends to see the offbeat French film “La Cage Aux Folles” (Cage of Fools) in an artsy little movie theater, such as were popular in those times. Downtown Walnut Creek today is unrecognizable, but not unfamiliar.

At the outskirts of downtown, across from a Target and just up the street from some car dealerships, a lovely corporate park containing three nice buildings sits amid lush greenery.

Right down Main Street yet another apartment building is being put in.

A block or two further, and the downtown shopping / eating district starts for real.

The quaint-looking edifice in the distance is a real estate office that appears to have been built rather recently.

I then proceeded to walk down one side of Main, cross over, and walk back up the other side.

At first the cute little shops and eateries seemed familiar enough. A used book store. Some sort of art shop. Asian food.

All the eateries are very hip and want to “protect” their clientele while doing their best to stay open (thank goodness for the mild weather here!).

I had to include the photo below. This is an “old style” downtown building. It would have been a hamburger joint or dime store back in the day.

These sorts of shops continue for another block or two. Then the tony corporate stores begin to take over.

Tiffany’s
Anthropologie
Apple!

The Apple store heads up an extremely posh set of shops along a walkway. It reminds me a little of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Not shown: Neiman Marcus and Nordstroms. You have to have a very healthy cash flow to shop here!

… or eat …

Another view of the corner…

A bank with a bizarre piece of sculpture in front greets me as I return to the area with the little eateries and specialty shops…

Mel’s!

My visit was short, but the air was fresh and I got to see how yet another “old haunt” has transformed over the years.

I wish the Bay Area well. I doubt I will ever live there again, but who knows? Perhaps my affinity for the place will eventually lure me back.