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Pose-off with John Scalzi

ETA: While the overall response to the fundraiser and pics continues to be exponentially awesome, I’ve also seen a few areas where response has begun to shift from, “I say, those poses seem remarkably impractical, and how exactly does one do that without dislocating one’s ankle?” to “Hey, guys dressing or posing like girls are both ugly and hilarious!” Which misses the point so badly it’s not even funny. Please see this follow-up post for my thoughts on the context of these poses, the hotness of John Scalzi, and my apology for not better framing and presenting this post in the first place.


When I started the Aicardi Syndrome Fundraiser, I recruited bestselling author and ukulele prodigy John Scalzi to be a bonus goal when we hit the $1000 mark.

We raised that much on the first day. Which meant it was time to see once and for all (at least until the next round) who was the true cover-posing master!

I issued the challenge, offering him the choice of three book covers to imitate. With the help of his readers, he selected The Taste of Night [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], by Vicki Pettersson.

This was the big one. After warming up, I took a break to walk off the pains of the previous poses, and to mentally prepare myself. I meditated for three days and six nights. I purified my body with a diet of crushed ice, unbuttered toast, and green Skittles. I studied one of our cat to learn the true secret of flexibility. Unfortunately, all I learned was the secret of well-timed cat farts.

But my training period was over. I put the Rocky soundtrack on the stereo, changed clothes, and began Operation Sexy Leg.

My wife took eight photos, helping me to adjust my stance each time, then giving me a chance to fall down between takes. But I think it was worth it!

Dear Internet: I present to you my version of The Taste of Night!

I’d like to thank my daughter for letting me borrow her bracelet, and my wife for the shoes and for letting me sacrifice one of her disposable razors.

But John Scalzi wanted to win this thing as much as I did. I don’t know what master he trained with, but whoever that wise and sadistic sensei might be, they turned Mister Scalzi into a posing opponent to be feared. John went all out in his own, special way.

Over on Twitter, John offered his thoughts on the process, saying, “AAAARRRGH MY HIP!”

I’d like to thank everyone for their donations and generosity so far, and John in particular for his willingness to play along. Please remember that the fundraiser runs through the end of the month, and the money raised supports both research into Aicardi Syndrome and the biannual conference which helps to unite these families, connecting them to a much-needed network of support.

And remember, there are more goals to come, including the $5000 group pose with me, Scalzi, Stross, Rothfuss, and Kowal! You know you want to see this, and we’re getting so close!

Go. Donate. Make the world better, and force more authors to injure themselves in humorous ways for a great cause.

But first, it’s time to make your voice heard! (I’m crossing my fingers that the poll widget works!)



Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Dec. 11th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Actually, Scalzi's ankle-turn is much closer to the book cover -- somehow that model got her sole towards the ground, although Hines's straightened ankle is less unnatural-looking. (If 'natural' can be applied to any thing about this process).

However, Scalzi's left knee is totally out of place -- it should be facing the camera or slightly to his right, and his is canted to his left. The hallmark of an amateur, I'm afraid. I'll have to give this round to Hines.
Dec. 11th, 2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
A crouch stance with one's sole to the ground is pretty standard in many Chinese martial arts, and... I dunno. I haven't had trouble with it, and it's not one I've seen my more serious students struggle with. Now, doing it in heels... (It's kind of funny, because I have balls of scar tissue where most people keep their ankles. It's one of the least flexible joints in my body in terms of standard flexion. But the rotation has never been an issue.)

But yes, knee position (possibly both, I'm having trouble parsing the position of Scalzi's extended leg), head tilt, expression... not to mention overall visual presentation. I think the winner is clear. Though Scalzi get's a runner-up scary camp ribbon.
Dec. 11th, 2012 04:44 pm (UTC)
.... wait, are you saying that crouches with one leg fully extended are actually a thing martial artists do? Is this as a stretch or as a part of a combat manuever?


OK, crouch with one leg extended and sole flat is not a problem for me in flats, but with heel-up (as if in heels), much trickier.
Dec. 11th, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
Strength training more than stretch - or, at least, it might be a stretch to beginners, but once you're more into it it's about having the strength and stability to move in that space usefully.

My primary art, Chen Taijiquan* does push hands at that level. I really wish I'd gotten pictures of me doing it with Shifu a couple seminars ago - I meant to - but since I didn't, here's a short of Hong Yijiao (my master) doing fourth level push hands with Chen Zhenglei (her master, and general martial artist of stunning awesomeness).

Now, of course, push hands is a training exercise (though a more useful one than a lot of people realize, including a lot of push hands practitioners.) When sparring, I don't drop into crouch stance that often, but I do, sometimes, and I don't know if I've ever locked my knee. (Maybe, possibly, when sweeping someone, but then my low sweeps still kind of suck.) I do spend a lot of time in low stances - the advantages of having one's center lower than one's opponent's are pretty major, and there's a lot to be said for the combination of stability and that much lateral movement for close in work - but most of the time, going into crouch is going to limit me more than I'd like. But it's excellent training for low stance work generally, and of course when it is just the right thing it's really fun to be able to pull it off. (I've definitely had a few opponents who were all "I have never seen anyone actually pull that off in a match." I treasure those moments. Particularly since it often happens in the other direction ;-) )

So, yeah. I train crouch stance to crouch stance transitions (drop into crouch on one side. Then switch to crouch on the other without letting your butt come up in the middle and with your back straight and head suspended - then switch again, etc. etc. - I usually pair it with upper-cuts into head blocks on each side, but there's a lot of arm stuff you can do) every morning. And do a lot of crouch stance in forms work, since it comes up a lot in Chen. In practical situations, I've probably gotten the most mileage out of it in hiking - it's way useful when going overland to be able to drop down and go under things easily in a backpack, especially if you're in an area with a lot of dead fall. (For a while there my hiking buddy and I were having to hike mostly on weekends, when the trails are overrun. So we adopted a policy of "no trails, no people" - which was really fun, for a certain aesthetic of fun.)

* Not exactly your typical Taiji in the park ;-)
Dec. 11th, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
You realize that this does make the cover slightly less stupid, though? :)
Dec. 11th, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
Wasn't it you to whom I responded (at length - sorry about that) making more or less that point when this cover was suggested in the first place?

There are a number of details about the pose that strike me as pretty silly. The shoes. Oh, the shoes. But then my favorite dress shoes are actually cross training running shoes, and perhaps I'm biased. The dress... not so much. I have a number of little piece of nothing dresses I used to wear clubbing* that impeded my movement not at all. Though I learned to color coordinate my underwear, because apparently just can't limit myself to moves that are decent in a short skirt.

More to the point, the angle of her back and hips suggest to me that she's not able to settle into the pose, and her center of gravity relative to her hips suggests a lack of stability almost to the point of begging to be knocked over. I can't see why anyone who isn't well accustomed to working at that height would drop into that position while trying to keep a weapon at the ready - but then, the more stylized versions of these poses are used an awful lot by wushu artists, and I think a lot of the subtleties are lost on the more general audience.

* Not that I ever made it out clubbing that often. But a lot more than recently!
Dec. 11th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
I am pretty sure that she has her right knee forward on or almost to.the ground -- not sure that's possible given her body position -- and her right shoulder is rolled and extended forward to the point of dislocation, which would improve neither stability nor aim. No wonderful she loks cranky!
Dec. 11th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)
Huh. That's not how I originally read her knee position, but I think you might be right - hard to tell in a black dress with those shadows. I will have to try that when I get home, but yeah, that's going to tend to bring the pelvis forward and up, which is going to make it harder to keep balance, considering how much her shoulders are already forward.

I'll try that when I get home and see... (The irony here is that I just got back from an appointment with an orthopod who is predicting a high degree of likelihood of needing orthoscopic surgery, and who doesn't like my hobbies even if that's not how I hurt my knee. Anyhow, a pose like this is easier than my morning workout, and I'm not intending to stop them, but... grump. I hate breaking in new doctors.)
Dec. 11th, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Just be careful! seriously.

Martial arts posed and moves have been designed over the centuries to be efficient and ergonomically correct. Book-cover poses ... not so much. Some of them would require dismemberment!

Arthroscopy isn't so bad, with a good surgeon. My knee hurt less the day after my surgery than it had in years! Took a while to get full, safe use, nut it was absolutely worth it. (I had a fancy ice cooler with pump circulating cold water through a Velcro-on sleeve that really helped minimize inflammation and speed things up.)
Dec. 11th, 2012 11:10 pm (UTC)
I have a pretty good sense of what works for my body, usually - which means things not infrequently end in a "Nuh-uh - the fuck...!" But when I consulted the picture again on a better monitor, it seems pretty clear that the knee is up, and it's just drapery from the skirt. So, not sure how this would work in heels, and there's a lot about this pose that just seems ridiculous, but doable. Especially if you don't care about wobbling or falling over.

I had not dissimilar surgery on my other knee fourteen years ago - what they thought was a torn meniscus then (which is the best guess for the intermittently swollen knee now, even though my symptoms are less like a torn meniscus than they were last time.) turned out to be a bone spur on the back of my patella. Within a week I was on my bike, within three it was fine.

But... I had spine surgery earlier this year, and the recovery has been slower than I'd have liked. (Of course, I would have liked immediate - really, it hasn't been bad, but there's a lot on my plate atm. I probably should have taken a leave of absence somewhere in this process.) And the whole lecture about crepitus in my knee and how I should stop doing the low stances is just way more than I want to deal with right now. Especially since is doesn't really gibe with my experience of my knees. Whine, whine, whine. (I teach anatomy, and much of my doctoral work is on biomechanics, so I'm quite equipped to represent myself in this regard... but I doan wanna. And oh dear gods I don't want to break in new doctors right now.)
Dec. 11th, 2012 11:21 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it took me forever to find a sports med guy I really liked. And then he died. :-( If he were still around, I bet my ankle would be working a lot better by now.
Dec. 11th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
Low base, hell yes (I'm a grappler at heart) but in heals? Oh hell no. Aiming a crossbow from a low base with a locked elbow and one hand? Accuracy is going to suck.
Dec. 11th, 2012 09:20 pm (UTC)
And here I have to confess my ignorance. I have probably worn heels less than 30 times in my life. Very likely less than twenty. Twice I have obtained (once, bought, once was given) super cute lace up boots... but where would I wear them other than to a party? And then the moment I started dancing I'd be all "OMG, these are incredibly annoying!" and take them off. I finally made it a policy to wear wrestling boots or martial arts slippers to any such events. (That was before Merrell Gloves were on the market.)

So... while I know I'm not used to them, I don't really have much of a sense what people who are used to them can do.

Agreement on the locked elbow, BTW.Though I think I'd personally have more trouble with having the shoulder rolled forward. (Or maybe it's just that I'd be hearing Shifu call out "elbows shoulders dropped!" the whole time. Which'd throw me.)
Dec. 11th, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
Your seifu sounds like he'd get on well with my old master in Phnom Dom Phen Cambodian Judo and Wrestling. Sensi Tan would have been screaming MOVE FREELY and bitching us out in a combination of japanese, korean, cambodian, latin and english.

Dec. 12th, 2012 12:03 am (UTC)
She - Hong Yijiao, as featured in the picture above (though that's an old picture - for some reason that exhibition back in 2002 has become the standard source of web shots of folks doing 4th level push hands). Shifu does traditionally has a male feel to it... but Shimu isn't a feminine equivalent - it tended to mean the master's wife - and it's become common, especially for women coming out of the PRC, to use Shifu. I've been studying with her for 15 years now, and just made arrangements for the next set of private lessons when I'm back in Seattle in a couple of weeks. (Yay!)

That sounds excellent, though. What a great mix. It's kind of funny - Shifu is way tougher in her language when she's speaking Chinese - well, if she's speaking to a study who is young than her, anyway. Otherwise, it's pretty similar.


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