The Confessional, Part II

<!– Field notes for becoming Fitter Happier –>

A few quick notes that I will fill in shortly:

  • J., my fitness consultant, didn't even know the name of her certification, though she did know it was administered by CanFitPro
  • we had a discussion of my background
  • height, weight, body fat, resting heart rate, and anthropometric measurements were taken
  • a photo was taken of me, shirt off (asked by J. if I would like to, ultimately my choice)

  • the body fat monitor is electric: it sends a current through your body and measures the time it takes to travel from hand to foot against the conductivities of fat and lean body tissue
  • J. is so tiny there is no way she could ever be "fat" … how can she be empathetic in her role?
  • though the confessional is a Foucauldian concept, most of the "expert" knowledge comes from the computer — J. is simply a circuit
  • this process seems less like a "consultation" and more like a "diagnostic" — which is what the heading on the final printout read
  • I am reminded of Baudrillard's observations of cybernetic society — indeed, I am simply in a cybernetic loop with the "expert" computer that measures my fat and tells me how much to lose, how fast in order to be "normal"
  • the exercise bike is another cybernetic device providing "expert" feedback on my performance
  • the appraisal room is separate from the main gym
  • it also has black-and-white "artistic" shots of disembodied "ideal" body parts: a male biceps and pectoral, a female breast and torso, and a male back
  • J. was not supportive at all

The Confessional, Part I

<!– Field notes for becoming Fitter Happier –>

Today is my Fitness Evaluation and Consultation at the club. This evaluation is mandatory for all new members of PF, and anyway, it probably will be useful to have some sort of benchmark from which to chart my "progress" towards the neoplatonic ideal of the 99th percentile.

The process begins before I arrive at PF, when I am at home completing a five page questionnaire for my consultation, which includes the PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire) published by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Other sections ask me to divulge my fitness background, my medical history, my nutritional and wellness status, and my lifestyle habits.

The final section, entitled "Desired Results You Wish To Achieve", offers a series of checkboxes in which I may check the areas I wish to "work on or improve". They include:

  • Weight loss
  • Aerobic capacity
  • Muscle toning
  • Body building
  • Intensity training
  • Flexibility
  • Sport Specific Training
  • Stress management
  • Knowledge/Education
  • Nutritional wellness counselling
  • Development/Implementation of a rehabilitation program
  • Other ___________________

Right after that I am asked to check the goals I wish to achieve, but now there are only boxes for Fat Loss, Weight Loss, Muscle Tone and Weight Gain. I check the first and third boxes and move on to the final question:

"On a scale of one to ten, how important to you is achieving these goals that you have set for yourself?"

My reply: 7.

It is always interesting filling in a questionnaire like this, particularly when it is purported to be a precursor to expert advice. Interesting thoughts run through your head …

Why do they ask me about every damn pain I feel in my body? I'm aging — of course there's going to be aches here and there…

What — tobacco, alcohol and caffeine are the only vices they are concerned with? Fine by me…

Am I normal?

The Sports Guy Holds Court

Q: Do you think that Corey Dillon goes home every night, fires up Madden 2004, and plays through a season with himself traded to any team other than the Bengals, muttering to himself as he breaks every rushing record in the books? — Derek, Washington, DC

SG: Is that a rhetorical question? That reminds me, have you ever wondered what someone like Jon Kitna does when they're playing a game like "Madden"? I mean, you would have to play yourself in a video game, right? So what happens if you suck? Would there be anything worse than having a crummy rating, or watching your character make terrible plays and repeatedly let his team down? It's like a constant reminder that you're a failure at your own possession.

Information Systems

From the advertorial for NBA Live 2004 by EA Sports:

"10-Man Freestyle is a revolutionary addition to NBA LIVE 2004 that provides the most realistic movement for all ten players on the court. Thanks to extensive motion-capture sessions using ten players in real game situations, the NBA LIVE 2004 team captured lifelike positioning, technique, and movement for each player on the court. The motion-capture data allowed designers to build individual players from the ground up, as single data points morphed into wire-frame figures, which were then shaded and textured to produce amazing player reproductions. The result is a fluid, seamless reproduction of life on a real basketball court, where all ten players work both independently and in conjunction with each other to produce dynamic and intelligent offensive and defensive play."

A Proposition

  1. The standard model of communications: Sender –> Message –> Receiver
  2. Unlike a tangible industrial product (eg. a widget), an image-sign does not exist without a receiver to decode its meaning
  3. Therefore, both firm and customer produce the image-sign, in ever-escalating oscillations of meaning
  4. The customer then consumes goods associated with/attached to that image-sign
  5. In this sense, the customer is a prosumer of the image-sign's meaning, while the firm simply takes a producer role
  6. However, the customer/prosumer has few, if any, legal rights with regards to the creation of meaning of these image-signs
  7. Thus the transfer or transaction of meaning is primarily one-way towards the customer/prosumer
  8. This is problematic if individuals increasingly communicate with one another using the image-signs produced by popular culture: language is essentially being privatized
  9. Prosumers must seek ways to assert their fundamental human right to communicate by injecting meaning into image-signs — through fair use or other legal mechanisms, or by illegal means if necessary

The Layout

<!– Field notes for becoming Fitter Happier –>

A quick overview of the geography of Premier Fitness, from my tour on Wednesday and a quick visit today:

The main workout area is divided into three sections: the first is a cardio section composed of treadmills, etc. that faces a bank of televisions (I haven't seen what is playing on these televisions yet … perhaps the 99th percentile?); the second features basic universal weight equipment, designed to work all of the muscle groups; the third offers free weights as well as machines specifically devoted to leg exercises.

There are five satellite areas from the main gym area: a fitness testing area for new members to the club; a women-only workout area; an aerobics/kickbox studio; a spinning studio replete with stationary bikes; and a boxing studio that includes heavy bags, peanut bags, a full canvas ring, and a hard-ass-looking instructor.

From my visit to Krystal's office, and after walking by the open door to the women-only gym, I noticed that there are giant billboards in the women's workout area that exclusively feature a thonged female posterior. While I am a big fan of thonged female posteriors, I can only imagine the sort of "encouragement" this provides for the women working out in this area. The aerobics studio also offers billboards of idealized and disembodied breasts, triceps and glutes, both male and female alike.

The main gym area smacks so strongly of Foucault's disciplinary technologies it is bracing. However, there are elements of Baudrillardian hyperreality here as well: the order (odor?) of consumption is strong, since everyone is really here to purchase sex, no matter how diluted the form in which it is represented/commodified. The simulacra is that everyone is beautiful and that sex is readily available, when that is most far from the truth. As a matter of fact, the patrons (conveniently enough) appear to be tripolarized into those mawkishly thin, desperately obese, or humorously hypermuscular — none so beautiful as to warrant an appearance on one of the facility's billboards.