Thursday, December 29, 2011


Moliere’s Tartuffe parodied the idealization of soothsayers and seers who sell salvation. Tartuffe was for all intensive purposes trafficking in indulgences by which money would be paid for grace. Moliere’s play was not an attack on Catholicism, but surely it was characters like Tartuffe that Luther was complaining about when he tagged his 95 Theses up on the door of the church in Wittenberg. Today the lingua franca of salvation has shifted from the mind or soul to the body and it’s fitness instructors who are our new gurus. Devotees chase spinning instructors around gyms in Chicago, New York and LA, in the way they once sought out major chefs like Ducasse, Bouley, Batali or famous doormen like Marc Benecke of Studio 54, seeking out the grail of propreoceptivity. Near riot conditions have prevailed outside of some popular spin classes and there was even a legal suit when one agitated rider threw another off a bike at the 85th branch of Equinox. Devotees of boot camps are willing to endure extremes of pain doled out by their drill sergeants while acolytes of great weightlifters practice their power clings, dead lifts and dips. Power lifting is what it’s called and if you feel that mass is for the pope you might go to see one of the practitoners of plyometrics (jumping and fast movements that are used by those training for the decathalon), pilates which employs a suspicious sounding instrument called the reformer or yoga. Naturally yoga has its own crowds of bona fide Indian gurus who practice Ashtanga Vinyassa. If that’s not enough for you, then you’re going to have to practice jiu jitsu, karate, thai boxing or MMA (mixed martial arts) where you will be seduced by the promise of submission. In von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel(1930), Professor Rath (Emil Jannings) falls in love with a beautiful cabaret singer Lola Lola (Marlene Dietrich) and sacrifices his dignity as his unrequited love turns him into a pitiable creature. A modern day sequel of The Blue Angel should be made about the aficionados of celebrity trainers teaching what in high school used to be a hated class called “gym.”

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