Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cut and Bulk

Torchwood is back on, which is a better-than-average thing. Yes, it's very American this time around (what with being filmed in America, set in America, mostly concerned with Americans and co-produced by Starz, the people who brought us Spartacus: Blood And Sand) but it's still very clearly Torchwood. It's lost none of its Welshness, its inherent Daviesness... it still misses Ianto, but don't we all?

Last week somebody asked me to clarify: what does Torchwood have to do with Doctor Who? It says a lot for the maturity of a spin-off, that people now watch it without actually realising it's a spin-off. While its parent is so longlived because the format has great breadth, Torchwood has lasted well because the format is infinitely malleable.

I've been cutting recently. By this I mean reducing my body fat through judicious dietary choices and weightlifting. I don't want to call it dieting - this word conjures up images of cabbage soup diets, ridiculously-titled pseudo-scientific books and fat people whining about having too slow a metabolism to lose weight. Anyway, three months of cutting took me from 23% bodyfat to 11%, which is not bad going - this is roughly 16 pounds of flab gone, and a few pounds of muscle gained to boot. So, now I am bulking, which is to say eating more calories than I need and lifting like crazy to build up muscle and keep fat gain to a minimum.

The cycle of cutting and bulking is a slow, hard, laborious process, time-honoured and traditional among bodybuilders and army basic training instructors. Like most things that are traditional and difficult, it works. This is a fact of which I have had trouble persuading others. Humanity cannot help but suspect that there is always an easy way of bypassing the hard work, some trick that vested interests are trying to keep secret for their own nefarious ends. Humanity has invented many incredible technologies through this unending suspicion of hard work: of course, much of humanity has also died of heart disease and other indolence-related medical conditions, so, swings and roundabouts really.

The funny thing about this kind of hard work is that it never gets easier, but it quickly becomes habitual. The human body is an adaptive mechanism, a device designed specifically to change itself to match circumstances: give it work to do and before long it adapts. This is why cutting and bulking work. It's why the job that enthralled you a year ago leaves you bored and restive now. It's why Torchwood has to keep changing format.

So why are we so afraid of our own skill of adaptation? Is it sheer ego, the belief that we are superior to the events around us, that we should remain unchanging and transcendant? Or are we just fundamentally lazy creatures? I'm actually inclined towards the latter theory. That laziness is why we have mobile phones and air travel and the internal combustion engine. But the laziness alone isn't enough: it must be coupled with drive, with ambition sufficient to find a solution to our work-dodging problem. There are very few people who can couple these opposed drives successfully, which is why there are so few Edisons.

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