Friday, August 5, 2011

A step forward for mankind, a step backward for me

See if you can spot the number of ways the word "step" has relevance to this post ...

As you may know, I watch a lot of bad movies as part of my reviewing gig. One of the ways I've gotten around making this such a time suck is killing two birds with one stone when I watch them. And one of the primary ways I have of doing that is to watch a movie -- or more realistically, watch half a movie -- while on the stairmaster at the gym. I favor the type of stairmaster that looks kind of like an escalator, where you are constantly "stepping up" (there's one) instead of just moving up and down in place like the other kind of stairmaster.

But I haven't gotten to the gym much in recent months. I used to like to go on my way home from work, but that's precisely when my wife needs me to relieve her of baby duty, so she can focus on doing her work for at least two hours before my son's bedtime routine begins. That has pretty much axed the after-work gym session, and after the baby's gone to bed, I'd usually rather wind down with some TV than motivate to get to the gym. In fact, several times we've considered canceling the gym membership. We probably would have by now if it weren't so affordable, only $26/month.

Well, now that my son has started going to daycare -- he's about a month in -- we've come up with a new system for getting me to the gym. He goes on Mondays and Fridays, so those days, my wife can focus on work almost all day. That means she doesn't need me to relieve her when I get home from work. So I can pick him up on my way home, and she's more than happy to be his sole caregiver until feeding time on those days. Which frees me up for gym trips two afternoons a week.

Score. Bring on the bad movies.

Except I've been gone for a pretty long time. In fact, in the time I've been gone, the gym closest to my house has been massively renovated. Now it looks like the kind of gym that would truly belong in an upper-crust area like Santa Monica. (To be clear, that's not where I myself live -- but it is the closest gym to my house.)

I saw these renovations for the first time last Friday, and my jaw dropped. Gorgeous. I had to restrain myself from letting out a little squeal of glee when I saw the place, and imagined a major renaissance in my gym-going life.

One of the most impressive changes was that the stairmasters I like now come equipped with their own flat-screen TVs, one per unit. Wow. Talk about luxury. I was so wowed by the innovation that at first I decided not to watch the movie I'd brought with me, Step Up 2: The Streets (there's another), and to instead just plug my headphones into the TV and go. There was a baseball game on and everything.

But after about five minutes of watching the game, I decided that I really did want to kill those two birds. So I paused the machine and went down to get my portable DVD player.

Here was the problem.

With the old units, there was a flat surface on top of the machine, where I could attach my portable DVD player with a rubber band. (Two, actually, to make the player extra secure atop the machine.) Now, however, the TV was taking up that spot, leaving me nowhere to attach my player. I had a wild moment of optimism when I wondered if the TV came equipped with its own DVD player, but of course, that would just be ridiculous.

The TV screen was too wide to take my rubber bands. So I tried to hang the DVD player in front of the TV in another way, so that the rubber bands went from top to bottom and cradled the DVD player on either side of its screen. It worked, sort of, but the player was swaying back and forth, and at least one of the rubber bands looked like it was fraying as a result of the strain. I couldn't risk having the player fly off suddenly and fall to the ground. It might survive that particular tumble, but it might not.

Then I tried wedging the player into the crook between the bottom of the TV screen and the handbar to the left. Part of the screen would be blocked, but it looked like it might sit in there. Giving it a quick shake test, however, I decided that the natural vibrations of the machine would eventually dislodge it. See the end result of Scenario A.

So then I decided to try holding it. This might work at very low stepping speeds, but at the speeds I wanted to go, it was decidedly prohibitive. I gave that up after about 30 seconds.

And eventually returned my attention to the game.

So now I've got a bit of a quandary. There's another gym I can and do visit that most likely has not been upgraded -- it's in the other direction from my house, the not-so-nice direction. This other gym is a better option if I'm stopping on my way home from work, but it's a significantly worse option when I'm actually leaving from my house, as I will be under the current scenario. (Don't forget, I have to pick up my son from childcare first, then deliver him home.) Plus, how can I not go to the renovated gym, which is so much better in all other respects, and has that thrilling sheen of newness to it?

I'm not sure how this will resolve itself. In the short term, somehow it seems like a step backward (there's three) to me.

Well, I missed my gym trip this past Monday because of a slight foot injury, but I'm planning to go again on Friday. And my plan for this week: Watch a movie on my ipod, which can sit along the little rim below the computer interface on the stairmaster. I've got a bad movie to watch -- Agent Cody Banks -- and I've already rented it and downloaded it. Unfortunately, as described in this post, renting movies from itunes is a less-than-ideal option. Since it's an older title, the rental is $2.99 rather than the $4.99 rental price for new releases, but that still seems like a lot to pay for Agent Cody Banks, just so I can be paid $20 to review it. Then there's that little detail of making sure I'll have the time to finish watching it within 24 hours of starting.

So stay tuned, readers. We'll have to see what my next step (there's four) will be.

Oh, and for the record ... when I did finally end up watching Step Up 2, it didn't turn out to be a "bad" movie after all. I quite enjoyed it, for what it was.


Mike Lippert said...

2.99 to rent Cody Banks? Couldn't you just about buy it for that? I liked Step Up 2 as well. Certainly the best in the series.

Vancetastic said...

You're not kidding. The itunes price structure is totally ridiculous. They throw us a bone by featuring *one* movie per week that rents at 99 cents. This past week it has been My Best Friend's Girl, starring Jason Biggs and Dane Cook. Talk about bad movies ... (full disclosure: I haven't seen it.)

I have yet to see Step Up 3, but I thought the original Step Up was pretty bland. This was much more fun. I hear Step Up 3 is awful.